I recently finished reading Blender 2.5 Hotshot by John Herreño. This book includes 8 different projects and 2 downloadable projects (which anyone can download on this page). For each project there is a description of what you will do in the chapter (the planning stage) and the steps you will take to get to the final render. Then after you going through all the steps, there is a nice review of the key points of what you did in the project and how you could make the final outcome even better.
I liked a number of things about this book. The big one is that many different parts of Blender are used. There’s modeling, shading, UV unwrapping, animating, compositing, video sequencing, the game engine, and other stuff I am not remembering at the moment. This is fantastic for early Blender users. Many new users don’t realize just how much there is included in Blender. It is apparent that there was some serious thought into what each project would focus on in order to cover as much of Blender as possible. Also, the projects create most of the things beginners are just aching to do. The chapter list could probably double as the most requested tutorials from early Blender users.
Something else I liked is that every project starts fresh and clean and it ends with the final product. You will have a render or animation at the end of every project. I think having the reader do all the steps helps give an idea of everything it takes to go from a clean slate to the final vision. If the final render doesn’t meet your standards, there are pointers on how you can take your project to the next level at the very end of the project. In my opinion, if you want really good renders going ‘Gung HO’, as he puts it, is absolutely necessary.
On the other hand, there were a couple things that were inconvenient. For many of the chapters you are asked to go to a website to download them yourself. While everything worked out fine for me, I worry that if a site becomes unavailable (like the one in project 5) then a reader might run into problems. Including all of those into the support file would prevent that. I also had to download Project 9 and 10 separately. I am not sure why it isn’t included with the rest of the book, but it’s only a minor inconvenience if you at least know that those chapters exist.
That leads me to another thing that might have been handled better too. Project 10 goes over modeling a character and Project 7 animates that character and has you use the character you model in Project 10 to do so. For me, going out of order wasn’t a big deal, but it was a little odd when I got to Project 7 and was told to use a character I had previously made. If you are going in order, like I was, you won’t have the character made and will have to jump to Project 10 first and then go back.
Overall, as long as the websites stay up, you’ll be able to find everything and these negatives are probably going to be fairly minor. In the end, I would recommend this book for beginners and maybe intermediate users who want to get the basics of a handful of parts of Blender they have yet to use. Someone who has used Blender for quite some time may not get much out of it and probably won’t be happy with the outcome of each project as they want because a lot of it is just going over the basics of a given part of Blender.