Review: Marine Sniper by Charles Henderson

There have been many Marines. There have been many marksmen. But there has been only one Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, a legend of Marine lore. He stalked the Viet Cong behind enemy lines. His record has never been matched: 93 confirmed kills. This is his story. Powerful, chilling, and all true.

Review

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. The life of Carlos N. Hathcock II reads like the plot summary of a summer block buster movie. Hathcock resurrected the shunned and despised art of sniping and held off an entire company of enemy soldiers for five days with only the assistance of his spotter. He infiltrated deep behind enemy lines to assassinate an enemy commander with a single shot and then escaped undetected and he sacrificed his life and body to save his fellow soldiers. He was feared and respected by his comrades and adversaries alike, he never gave up and fought incredible odds time and again and each time surmounted them.

Continue reading

Review: Cabbage, Strudel, and Trams by Ivana Hrubá

Cabbage, Strudel & Trams is a story of a young girl’s turbulent journey from childhood to adulthood, of adolescence begun behind the Iron Curtain, continued in a West German refugee camp and coming to a glorious end in the land Down Under.

Narrated by Franta, an ancient wise wizard inhabiting the inner world of our young heroine Vendula, this satirical coming-of-age story depicts the trials and tribulations of an ordinary Czech family living in a small mining town in communist Czechoslovakia in the early 1980s, their escape to West Germany and their resettlement in Australia.

Review

What grabs me, keeps me reading, in Cabbage, Strudel, and Trams is the use of language (follow the link to read an excerpt and see some of the illustrations I mention further down). It’s the language, the descriptions, the play with words, and that Ivana Hrubá not only tells a story in a unique way, but also has fun with what could otherwise be a morose tale in the reading. Continue reading

Comic Review: Harry Houdini

This is the life story of Ehrich Weiss. If you don’t recognise this man’s name, that is because the world came to know him as the one and only Harry Houdini.

George Bernard Shaw once remarked that Harry Houdini is the third most famous name in history after Jesus Christ and Sherlock Holmes. While that might be a bold and debatable statement, there is no doubt that Houdini is the most famous magician to have ever lived. Almost a hundred years after his death, his name is still synonymous with death-defying stunts and unimaginable escapes.

His ability to get out of seemingly impossible situations, along with his knack of dealing with the public and the press, made him a legend in his own time. Some of his most notable escapes, which still cannot be explained, were the Mirror Handcuff Challenge, the Milk Can Escape, the Chinese Water Torture Cell and the Suspended Straitjacket Escape.

How did a poor, uneducated boy rise out of poverty and become the greatest illusionist of the 20th century? The story of Houdini’s life is not only entertaining, but also educational. His struggles in life and his determination to succeed are a lesson to all.

For such a famous figure in history and for someone who finds performance artists, especially magicians, fascinating I really do not know that much about Harry Houdini. That is until I read this graphic novel and now I know a bit more.

I love it when something you read is not only enjoyable, but it can inform and educate you as well, such as Harry Houdini has. I haven’t been able to read that much lately due to writing, but when I was able to read it I found it quite well written and presented, enough for it to draw me in. I am also a sucker for biographies, but it does have a lot to do with how it is told and who the figure is.

I think the art suits the story and time setting as well. The figures are well drawn, the panels are neat which I think suits the time period, and I really like the interspersion of journal entries in the story. The story is told in Harry Houdini’s perspective, but the journal entries are in another’s perspective which I think gives it a nice touch.

Given those aspects of it and the fact I learnt several new things about Houdini himself (such as how he died and it’s true I didn’t know it was from a ruptured appendix), and the inclusion of explaining several magic tricks with fun factoids at the end make it an enjoyable graphic novel to read, especially if you are a Houdini fan.

  • Created By: C.E.L. Welsh and Lalit Kumar Singh
  • Genre: Biographical
  • Comic or Graphic: Graphic Novel
  • Published: 2009 by Campfire
  • Adapted/Based: Harry Houdini
  • Rating Out of Five: 5
  • Challenges: The Two Month Comic Challenge

Review: Godspeed, The Kurt Cobain Graphic Novel

Godspeed: The Kurt Cobain Graphic takes Cobain’s story and plays it out as a totally unique graphic novel. From the luminous colours of an idyllic childhood through the flamboyant hues of success and stardom, Cobain’s story inevitably declines into a much darker palette.

The script draws from the singer’s tortured self image as well as straight forward biographical fact so that the tone of the book fluctuates between subjective dream state and objective reality

In the beginning there is an introduction saying that Godspeed: The Kurt Cobain Graphic starts with suicide and ends in suicide, but don’t think of failure, think of heroism. It tries to make you see it in a positive light, but how can someone when they’re reading about a child who does not see himself with a future? How can you see a positive when you’re reading about a child who sees his end in self inflicted death at such a young age? He hasn’t even lived yet and he is already dreaming of dying.

I don’t think failure when I read this, but I also don’t think of happiness. Sure Kurt Cobain made an impact on the music world, but this is not a pretty or happy story. Just because a man was born who made a change and a difference to so many people, does not mean that his story will ever be a happy one so how can I think positively?

It’s not as if I don’t know about Kurt Cobain’s short life. I was obsessed with Nirvana myself, had a Cobain t-shirt which I wore to pieces, and have even read plenty of books about him so I don’t expect a pleasant story. None of this story is a surprise to me, but it’s different seeing it visualised and told from such an early age. Images can make such a huge difference when they accompany words and this is one of those cases.

In this interpretation music was really his life line, but at the same time it is his death sentence. And it’s interesting how one moment everyone hated the young musicians and then the next they loved them. People think they don’t like change, but really we change our minds so fast that it’s not funny. This is a perfect example of the fickleness of the human mind.

I like how the art and panels are set out on some of the pages. There is one page dedicated to Kurt sharing visions of what his future is going to be where he’ll be a rock star and then die. There is a series of panels depicting the band’s rise to fame, a full page of Kurt tripping on acid and crowd surfing, and I really love the page where he discovers as a child how dreams can be an escape and how close they can be to the surface of sleep.

There’s a page dedicated to him beginning his heroin addiction which I love (even though I’m against drugs)  because it is such a lethal act taking place, but it ends on an embracing note as if the heroin is nurturing him. It’s quite depressing, but shows how he feels he needs it and I guess that’s what those images set out to do. I’m quite impressed with the artist and the writer. I don’t necessarily love the art, but the combination of the art and the words make it quite poignant.

I recommend this graphic novel even if you don’t care for Nirvana or reading yet another interpretation about Kurt Cobain’s life, but at the same time I also recommend reading it when in the mood because there are no happy endings in this story and it really makes one reflect on unpleasantness.

Old School Thursdays: Shortened Reviews Part I

These are a collection of reviews from 2008 that are shortened because they were posted on a review site (not all my reviews were shortened, but quite a few were, and I didn’t end up posting all of them on a blog) and seeing as I posted anything for Old School Thursdays in awhile I thought I’d share them.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

If literature was food, then this would be the starving persons feast. Well for me it would be anyway because I devoured this and like all great books you enjoy it was over far too quickly (understandably, seeing as it’s a novella).  And yet if it went on any longer I don’t think it would have been anywhere near the same.

There’s an introduction by Stephen King (at least in my copy) with a line that I found to be very true “he will leave you wanting more” and if you watch the movie, do yourself a favour, read the book because in my opinion a movie could not do justice to this book especially with that ending.

1984 by George Orwell

I must be having a good run with books because this is another one I couldn’t seem to put down. I was glued to it. It was so well written and the story still has a place in this day and age.

My only problem with it was the part where the “book” came along. That wasn’t exactly boring, but it was enough to make me want to go to sleep (or perhaps it was just late at night and I’d literally been reading for hours) and yet I think that the story couldn’t have done without it, well for some people anyway. In any case it didn’t last long and the book carried on perfectly as it had prior to it. Even the ending was really well written and impressionable.

The Castle by Franz Kafka

I feel like I’ve been reading this book for 6 months when in actual fact it has been just under a month and after much struggling and determination I just can’t keep reading it anymore and yet a part of me wants to keep reading it even though it’s a torment. I feel as though if I stop reading I’m letting myself down and missing something. Perhaps it’s because I want to know what’s so good about Kafka. Why do I always seem to hear Kafka praised and nothing badly said about his writing? I have no idea, especially after reading this. I won’t go as far as to say this was a waste of my time or a bad read it’s just after reading 250 pages you’d like there to be some sort of point reached or what seems like a way to the point being made but I didn’t feel like that. The characters are all mental and I felt that they were all just going around in circles. Then there’s the dialogue. These are the longest conversations about the same thing said in a different way every few lines that I have ever read. Torment is the word for it and torment isn’t the reason I read.

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

There’s a comment on the back of the novel that says it’s remarkable. I tend to agree although it’s not remarkable in the sense you would say a book is. It’s not remarkable in the writing style, the character work, the story line. Remarkable to me is 1984 and this is no 1984. Yes I’m aware that I’m comparing a non fiction to a fiction but I honestly can’t think of any remarkable biographies.
What is remarkable about this novel is how it came into being. You can’t help but think about this man lying there being unable to move except for one eyelid. You have more of a tendency to appreciate his every word and the effort that went into it knowing how he dictated it. For those that don’t know about Bauby, he had Locked in Syndrome and was only able to communicate via blinking which is how he “wrote” this book. By blinking through the alphabet (or his version of the alphabet) to someone who would take down every letter. That’s pretty much what is remarkable about this book.