Book Review: The Remortal by Ramsey Isler

The Remortal by Ramsey Isler

Immortality is boring. This is one of the aspects of stories about immortality that I enjoy, but not many of the stories I’ve read deal with this. Or rather, they don’t focus on the desire of an immortal to move on. I was attracted to The Remortal specifically because this was the plot of the book. An immortal, Van Giles, is tired of his life on earth and wants to ascend to something greater in the unknown beyond. To do so, he needs a successor to kill him and take his place as an immortal. In a street teen named Telly Gonis, Van sees a good person in a bad situation and determines Telly to be the perfect choice.

There are other immortals in the book, each descending from a noble line, including the White Lotus Society, Julius Caesar and Spanish nobility. They are not entirely pleased with Van’s choice of successor. Nor are the pleased with Van’s choice to ascend in the first place. Or with Van in general, for that matter. There was potential for the story to focus too much on the concept of upper class versus lower class but, while the other immortals do have concerns, I really liked the way Isler let the others deal with Telly personally and come to their own conclusions beyond mere snobbery. I also liked the way Telly is torn over his loyalty to Van and all the choices that became wrapped up with the ascension process.

Van begins as a mostly likeable character with rational motivations, but once Telly agrees, Van’s “training” process reveals a cruelty that the other immortals already knew existed and fear will pass on into the afterlife. Van’s influence, along with the training and abilities Telly gains during the ascension process, change Telly from the innocent young man he was. Again, it would have been easy to turn this into a simple case of “Van is actually evil and Telly must free himself from that evil influence!” but I appreciate that Isler made things more complex than that.

Telly has to come to terms with his new self, his motivations, the choices given him by the other immortals, and Van. He also has to deal with the fate of his best friend, Mattie. Telly is presented as a reasonable character who does have a good heart and is able to show emotion without the story dwelling longer than necessary. There is one particular plot point with the Tree of Life that I’m not entirely certain was necessary to Telly’s progress, but otherwise, I enjoyed Telly’s journey and liked that I wasn’t entirely sure what Telly would choose to do in the end. I also didn’t expect the other immortals to make certain decisions in the end, though I suspected Telly’s friendship with Mattie and the circumstances of Mattie’s health would play a role.

Not Available in Canada

This morning, I wanted to buy a new book when I saw it featured on Goodreads and was intrigued by the description. I clicked the link which took me to Amazon.com, but was greeted with a now familiar message:

I dutifully obeyed the implied instructions and went to Amazon.ca:

Oh.
Kobo.com didn’t have the title at all, which is something I’m also used to dealing with. I dealt with the same issue just last week, going through the author directly. He offered to give me the books for free after I explained the hassle, but I refused, paying him through Paypal instead. I want to support authors. I want to legally purchase their products but someone won’t let me and I don’t understand why.
Since Amazon.ca opened its virtual doors at the beginning of the year, it was made clear  that we Canadians might have problems with content. There have definitely been issues, but they are so inconsistent. I, who do not own a Kindle, have still been able to purchase some digital books for my Kindle for PC and Kindle app for Android through amazon.com. Other ebooks are met with the detour and sometimes the subsequent wall displayed above. Supposedly, the problem isn’t with Amazon, but with publishers and how they choose to distribute through Amazon – but that doesn’t seem right. I suspect that, like me, the .ca introduction is forcing publishers to jump through some hoops too and either through choice or ignorance, they are missing the opportunity to reach a broader audience.
While I find it strange that digital products have such distribution limitations, I accept that there are rules and regulations behind the scenes that I just don’t know about. In my ignorance, I can’t help but think “People around the world want to buy your books, so why not make the digital versions available worldwide on the worldwide web?” Piracy remains a major concern for so many products, yet customers who legitimately want to purchase items are being prevented from doing so.
I’ve spent the morning discussing the issue with friends and doing some research, but the internet has been strangely quiet on the subject since the introduction of amazon.ca in the early months of the year. Fellow blogger Tiara has had numerous discussions with authors and others on various publishing topics and the conclusion I’m getting is that no one really knows what the answer is. Presumably the problem is being addressed, as digital rights – well, digital everything – is a huge topic that has changed many industries. Hopefully, someone will figure out something soon enough so that when I say “just shut up and take my money!” it can actually happen.

Book~Film Comparison: Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

This book, along with the movie, was chosen for February 2012’s book club read based on the praise of some members who really loved the film.

The premise involves the existence of supernatural beings, “Others,” who choose to ally themselves with the Light or the Dark. Both sides, through the Nightwatch and Daywatch respectively, keep a close eye on each other in order to maintain the uneasy truce between them. The story takes place in Russia, but indicates that the watches exist worldwide.

Anton, the main character, is a member of the Nightwatch who’s assignment, a young boy named Igor, is being hunted by vampires. Igor is an Other who has yet to come into his powers and therefore has not yet chosen a side. Anton crosses paths with a woman named Svetlana whom he realizes has been cursed. In this story, curses, even the little ones we utter in moments of frustration or jest, can be deadly if left unchecked. Whatever curse has been inflicted on Svetlana has the potential to destroy the entire city and it becomes the goal of the Nightwatch to find the source and stop it, while protecting Igor from the Daywatch.

This is one of the few cases where a movie far outshines the book. Lost in translation is always a problem when a book is literally translated into another language and culture, but that was not an issue for me here. I felt that the book spent a lot of time with convoluted plots that Anton would figure out without actually letting the reader in on the process. The characters weren’t particularly interesting or well developed. The purpose of the whole mystery  seemed to change and lose focus along the way and, well, I eventually just got bored of the plot twists

The movie, on the other hand, was very interesting. It boiled the story down to its essence, gave it far more purpose in a pithy manner and strengthened several other elements, including the main character and his motivations. The movie was more focused than the book with the overriding issue of the curse and the conflict between Dark and Light, allowing far greater character and relationship building, even within the time constraints of a film setting. The end result was a truly engaging story with an unexpected ending.

The only issue I had with the film was that, initially, it was very visually chaotic. I assume the goal of this was to shock and frighten, as the opening scenes involved a gory battle between Anton and a pair of vampires. It helped that I’d read a few chapters of the book before watching, so that I could piece the chaos together a bit better. Fortunately, the visual chaos settled down after this.

I finished the rest of the book after watching the movie, but it was a struggle to do so because of how often the plot meandered off in various directions.

Book Rating
Movie Rating

Character Appreciation Post: Phèdre no Delaunay de Montrève

Phedre
As painted by Lee Moyer for the 2013 Literary Pin-up Calendar

Who is Phèdre no Delaunay de Montrève? Born flawed by a scarlet mote in her left eye and given an ill-luck name, Phèdre was sold into indenture at Cereus House when her parents, traveling merchants, ran out of funds. Her flaw and her rebellious nature made others certain that she would amount to very little, until Anafiel Delaunay recognized her as an anguissette, one who derives pleasure from pain. It is said that the gods use their chosen hard – an understatement for Phèdre, chosen by Kushiel, the punisher.   Beginning in the book Kushiel’s Dart, Phèdre’s adventures would take her across the world, through wars, conspiracies, violence and love to become the most desired courtesan in all of Terre d’Ange and beyond. But who is she? As a child, Phèdre could never accept her apparent fate. She constantly ran away from Cereus House, intent on seeing what was beyond the walls of the Night Court and reveling in the danger. When the Dowayne of Cereus House discovered Phèdre cutting herself and taking pleasure in the pain, the Dowayne obeyed her instincts and summoned Anafiel Delaunay. As a member of Delaunay’s house, Phèdre truly came into her own. Delaunay allowed her every opportunity to learn and her inquisitive and brilliant mind gobbled it all up. As long as she did not defy him or common courtesy and protocol, Delaunay encouraged her willingness to speak her mind. She came to understand the power of knowledge, as this was all part of Delaunay’s plans. Where best to learn the secrets of men and women but in the bedroom and, as an anguissette who chose to study Naamah’s arts, Phèdre was highly desired. Circumstances painfully removed Delaunay from her life and whisked her away to the northern wilds. Despite being raised in a lifestyle of indulgence in the Night Court, Phèdre is an incredibly adaptable woman and her will to survive ensured that she not only endured her exile in Skaldia, but ensured that her then protector, Joscelin Verreuil, survived too. For those she loves or considers to be under her protection, there is no end that Phèdre will not go for her friends. Whether she is forced by fate or it is of her own choosing, she is an unstoppable force when it comes to those she cares for. Being chosen by Kushiel could be considered a curse by many, but Phèdre embraces it and its responsibilities, no matter how cruelly fate leads her. If Phèdre makes a promise, it will be kept. I consider Phèdre to be warrior woman – not one that wears armour or bears a weapon. Phèdre’s armour and weapons are her mind and body. She earns loyalty and respect through her compassion and willingly submits when she deems it necessary. Through all things, Phèdre endures.

“That which yields is not always weak.”

Image Comics: You’ve Come a Long Way Baby

Shiny!

Shiny!

I maintain a sordid, lovehate relationship with Marvel Comics, but back in the 1990s, there was a time when we kind of sort of broke up. That is to say, I cheated on Marvel. With Image Comics. I know I know, but you have to understand that I was young and naive and easily swayed by the shiny!

I followed my favourite X-Men artists, Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri over to Wildstorm and jumped head first into Cyberforce and WildCATs. Some intelligent part of me was aware that these books were just X-Men with shinier costumes and bigger boobs, but I persevered, picking up other titles like GEN13, Wetworks and Witchblade. I became a Disciple of the Blade, I moderated Top Cow message boards for Fathom (RIP Michael Turner), designed outfits for Pez and I was (am) hopelessly smitten with Ian Nottingham.

But eventually, I grew up.

The thing is, so did Image.

Over the past few years, I’ve slowly been getting back into the comic book scene and more often than not, Image books are popping back up on my radar. Long gone are the days of extremely perky nipples and spine-adjusted women. Image now boasts Eisner Award winning titles. A friend recently stubbornly spoke about how he’d never read another Image comic after he too had woken up from the foil covered ’90s. But when my friends and I started listing off some of the fantastic titles Image has been pushing out for the past while, he realized he’d been reading and loving Image Comics all along.

A lot of credit goes to their push for creator owned comics. A lot of comic companies accept original submissions, but I doubt you’ll ever see that happening with DC and Marvel. Image has opened its doors and as a result, we’ve gotten some really amazing and off the wall books. Not all of them are good, but all of them feature some fantastic ideas. Yes, even Ziggy Marley’s Marijuana Man has its merits. Here are just a few of the goodies that we’ve reviewed here at The BiblioSanctum.

Not to mention Saga, Mind the GapFatale and a little something called The Walking Dead. These days, its hard not to make a list of critically acclaimed comics and not find a few Image titles on there. Image still has some of its old titles like Witchblade and Cyberforce, but even those books have matured. I’ve not read the new versions yet, but I definitely want to.

Worlds without End

As if I need another book-related site to belong to, I’ve recently discovered Worlds Without End, a fan-run community site for award-winning science fiction, fantasy and horror books. Their motto is “We don’t want you to ever have to read a bad book again.” In theory, I don’t agree with that notion because not all award-winning books are to everyone’s liking and not all non-award winning books are bad. Focusing only on award-winning reads means missing a lot of gold!

Not that choosing to focus on award-winning, recognized books is a bad thing. What the site chooses to focus on is, of course, their prerogative. Says Dave Post of Worlds Without End:

“The goal of the site is to give you the tools to find the best books for you. We’re not suggesting that you only read the award winning books but the awards do give you a glimpse into what was considered the best or at least what was popular for any given year. We cover a bunch of different awards so you can find the ones that you like and compare the awards and best of lists to see what rises to the top. From there you can read reviews and excerpts and talk to other folks about the books you’re interested in and hone in on the likely ones for you. Time has not been kind to all the award winners and there are more than a few right out stinkers in there too. We hope to help you avoid those where we can.”

WWE is a well organized and active site inviting you to discover great books. Sign up and you gain access to their BookTrackr that tracks your reading history, highlighting your statistics towards reading all the award winning/nominated books and/or books on various lists of recognition. There are the typical book giveaways, interviews, podcasts, forums and a lot more.

They also run challenges, such as the 2013 Woman of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge, which resulted in me staying up too late last night adding books to my reading list and selecting the authors I want to read for the challenge. Twelve authors for twelve months, including reviews. Gee, how ever will I manage? Challenges like this will help me chip away at that massive to-read pile, helping me to focus on what to read next. Since I’m starting five months late, I don’t feel guilty using some of the books I’ve already read this year.

And here are my plans for the rest!


New Author Spotlight: Ramsey Isler

Ramsey Isler has figured out how to keep himself busy, balancing his professional techiness and column writing with his many novel writing projects. Somewhere in there he also finds time to blog about the geekier things in life, publishing and more.

1. What are your favourite books and how have they influenced your writing?

When I was 12 years old, I committed to reading Stephen King’s The Stand during my summer break from school. My much older brother had read it and I decided, as little brothers often do, to take interest in the same things he liked. The Stand is a massive book at around 1200 pages (I read the uncut edition), and to my twelve-year-old self it was the equivalent of trying to scale a mountain. But I did it. I’m sure many would question whether King’s graphic tales are “appropriate” for a kid that age, but I was mature enough to understand and enjoy the way King created a realistic fantasy (and the nightmares only lasted a couple days; no problem). That book really started my interest in writing and reading contemporary fantasy.

As a bona fide geek and engineer by training, I’ve also always been a fan of sci-fi. Shortly after college I really got into the Star Wars expanded universe novels, and discovered a book called Traitor by Matt Stover. Most people probably wouldn’t expect something as seemingly trivial as a Star Wars story to have a huge impact on a writer’s life, but this one really changed the way I write. It was more than a sci-fi story — it was filled with complex, mature philosophy and raw emotion. The plot focuses on Han and Leia’s son Jacen, a young Jedi trying to find his place in the universe as he struggles with reconciling his Uncle Luke’s teachings with a violent and cruel alien enemy. Jacen eventually becomes an unwilling student of Vergere, an avian alien who was a member of the Old Jedi Order back before Palpatine took over. She takes Jacen on a far different spiritual path than his Jedi teachings ever did — a journey that deals in many moral gray areas — and she does so through remarkably cruel tutelage. Throughout the book, you’re never quite sure what her motives are, but there’s a definite method to her madness. In the end, Vergere is on the side of the protagonists, but it’s not clear if you can call the protagonists the “good” guys, or if the antagonists are really the “bad” guys. It’s all a matter of perspective, and each character has elements of both light and dark. That book has become my guide for writing stories that go beyond simple black and white morality tales. I strive for something more thought-provoking instead.

2. What authors have inspired you?

As mentioned above, King and Stover definitely had an impact on me. Although King is often classified as a horror writer, he really is a master of many types of speculative fiction and he’s done some remarkable work in my favorite genres. The Dark Tower series is another of my inspirations.

Neil Gaiman has also been a big influence through what he does beyond his novels. He is a remarkable speaker and a wise tutor with plenty of practical advice that has guided my writing career.

Maya Angelou has been an inspiration since I was in grade school, but I came to appreciate her work more as I grew older. Her work taught me that you can say something extremely profound with only a few words. There’s an art to telling a big story in small passages. Her poetry provides many lessons on efficient storytelling.

3. Describe your writing process. How do you handle writer’s block and other challenges?My writing process is very cinematic (in my mind, at least). All my stories start out as cool ideas that I envision as “scenes” in my head. Then I develop these major scenes in the manner of a theatrical director choosing a setting, moving set pieces around, and guiding the actors to deliver the best performance. Then, once I have a series of juicy scenes that encompass the main plot points, the rest of the story develops organically from them. I very rarely know what a story will be from beginning to end when I start writing. It all develops during the process of coming up with these scenes and connecting them to each other.

I don’t really get writer’s block in the sense of not knowing what to write next. My writing challenges come when I know exactly what I want to say, but I have to ensure that it all make sense and fit in with other parts of the story. I despise plot holes, and I really dislike speculative fiction where elements aren’t explained adequately or the rules of the world aren’t consistent. But I also understand why so many writers are guilty of these things, because it is HARD. It’s hard to create fantastical worlds and fill them with believable characters, events, and inventions that just intuitively make sense to the reader without having them think too much about it. Much of writing is actually about thinking, and the most difficult parts of my writing come when I just have to sit down and hash out all the logical and factual issues with a part of my story. It can take a lot of time, but the story always comes out better because of it.

4. What are your future writing plans?I’m currently finishing up my new novel, Clockworkers. Here’s the plot in a nutshell: an entrepreneurial young woman inherits a special gift from her father – an elf. She puts him to work building products for her luxury watch company, but she soon discovers that there are certain dangers involved with employing elves. The book puts a brand new perspective on elf tales. The European-based work of Tolkien and the Grimms dominate what we think of as “elves”, even though almost every culture in the world has some sort of native folklore about mystical little people. Part of my motivation for writing Clockworkers was to show a more diverse elf cast, but I also just love creating modern folklore, and elves are a topic I’ve always wanted to explore and reinvent. Plus, I always wanted to write “scary” elves; there’s always a tiny bit of Stephen King in my writing.

I’m also working on a sci-fi novella. This one is about video games, artificial intelligence, death, and what happens when all three collide. Look for it on digital book stores in Summer 2013.

There’s also an impending sequel to my second novel, The Ninth Order. Sequels can be tough to write, and I want to spend a lot of time getting this one right, so it probably won’t be out until next year. But so far it’s proving to be very fun to write, and that usually means it will be very fun to read too.

Comic Review: Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan

It’s the year 2076. After all the information we’ve ever uploaded online is suddenly released for everyone to see, privacy has become a sacred right valued by everyone. Well, almost everyone. Where there are secrets, there will always be paparazzi. In this case, the paparazzi  become private detectives, hunting the secrets behind the secret identities that everyone is now wearing. The story follows P.I., a private detective hired to dig up any information on his client who happens to be involved with a very dangerous man.

This comic will make you think twice the next time you make a payment online or save something to a cloud. And the irony is that this comic is only available online. In a trendy move, the creators behind Panel Syndicate have made their comic available in digital format only, for the low low price of whatever the hell you want! Funds from sales will be used to publish future issues, which have been made available worldwide, with increasing translations available.

The Private Eye is a futuristic throwback with generous nods to the detective stories of yesteryear. Technology exists and pops up in unexpected places, but with everyone now fearful of revealing who they really are, all the things we take for granted now, like cellphones and driver’s licenses, are dangerous commodities to own. The world presented is recognizable as a very possible, not so distant future. I’m reminded of the recent #Nymwars that occurred when Google+ demanded that users give up their pseudonyms. Many of us ended up conceding, despite knowing full well that the purpose behind Google’s decision is all about marketing to advertisers who want to market to us.

Normally, I am very lenient when reviewing the first few books in a new comic. I allow a grace period for the stories and characters to present themselves and develop. But sometimes, the creators really nail everything in the first go. That’s the case here with the characters, the society and then the mystery pouncing on the reader and firmly taking hold. Toss in some sleek art, and I was sold.
b1dbb-new4stars

Book Review: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Libriomancer by

Jim C. Hines

This was a book I had high hopes for, ever since finding out what it was about. At some point in our childhoods, I’m sure all of us bibliophiles have wished that the worlds in our favorite books were real, and wondered what it would be like to interact with with its characters and objects.

This book features a magic system that plays around with the general basis of that idea. The protagonist Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of a secret organization who possesses the ability to reach inside books and pull out objects in their stories. One day Isaac is attacked by a group of vampires, and discovers that they have been targeting other magic users as well. Together with the dryad Lena, Isaac finds himself tasked with solving the mystery of the attacks as well as the kidnapping of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the movable-type printing press…and Libriomancer founder and leader.

First of all…ugh, why did it have to be vampires?

Seriously though, this was a good book. Even with the vampires. My issues with it, however, have more to do with my hangups with the Libriomancy magic system. Not to sound disparaging, because I don’t deny it’s a great idea and sounds awesome on paper (it’s what first attracted me to the book, remember) but the application of it here was just…messy.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the challenges here. After all, the Libriomancers’ ability to reach into books and pull out objects has got to be like the most over-powered superpower ever. This story must have been a plotting nightmare with all the deux ex machina moments just waiting to happen. It just makes sense that logically with so many books in publication, someone somewhere sometime must have written something that would be able to get our hero and his friends out of any and all troublesome situations the bad guys throw at them.

Apparently, the solution to that is to put in rules. Rules like Libriomancers can only pull out smaller objects, no bigger than the size of the open book which is the magical “window” to the world of the book. Or that certain books with dangerous or disgustingly powerful objects are magically “locked” which prevent Libriomancers to bring them into existence. Hermione’s Time-Turner device in the Harry Potter series would be a perfect example.

As a result, every chapter you’ll get an info dump, Isaac guiding and explaining the nuts and bolts behind the Libriomancy magic system — what you can do and what you can’t do. It’s unfortunately very distracting, and I started to wonder after a while if I wouldn’t have preferred to put all that out of my mind and simply enjoyed the story, plot holes and all. I love cool magic systems, but Libriomancy just doesn’t seem to be one that lends itself to grow naturally in a reader’s mind. Like I said, great idea, but it’s not so fun when you’re always finding inconsistencies and then waiting for the narrator to explain them.

Other than that, this book wasn’t bad. I liked the main character, even though for a smart guy Isaac has a terrible habit of not thinking things through when he does them. He has a very single-minded way of looking at a problem and isn’t above threatening his hostages with remotely-activated exploding brain implants in order to get his way. Oh, and he’s constantly distracted by Lena and ogling her like a horny adolescent.

Okay, so I didn’t like those aspects of him so much. But what I did like was his sense of wonder and motivation to learn new things. When Isaac isn’t constantly distracted by Lena, he’s constantly distracted by his curiosity and desire to find out why or how things work, which makes him instantly relatable. His love for books comes through, and also reinforces his character and makes him seem more real. When he goes into a bookstore he claims the books “speak” to him, but the way he describes it makes me doubt Libriomancy has much to do with it; every book lover can tell you how walking between the shelves of a store or library and seeing all those books can make them feel giddy and happy. There’s no real magic in it, but I think it’s something magical nonetheless, and the author captured those emotions very well in his characterization of Isaac.

Anyway, if you enjoy books with plots that are fast-paced and constantly driven forward by a whole bunch of things happening at once, then Libriomancer definitely fits the bill. I’ll admit a lot of it was too convoluted and outrageous for me (and this coming from a diehard fan of The Dresden Files series) but if action-packed and bombastic urban fantasy stories are your thing, this book might be worth checking out.
679d6-new3stars

Review Bites

I love writing reviews. I love discussing what I did and didn’t like about a book, but sometimes, I may not want to write out a full review on some of the books I’ve read. I may have a few thoughts I want to share on something all the same, but I may not feel like it’s worth posting every individual one considering the short length. I figured that a post compiling short reviews/thoughts of what I’ve recently read but don’t feel like doing a full review could work just as well. They’re fun sized.

The Crow: Death and Rebirth by John Shirley

Jamie, an American student in Japan, searches for his girlfriend when she turns up missing. He finds her, but she’s different somehow. After she tells her father and Jamie that she never wants to see them again, Jamie begins investigating and starts to uncover some startling information. For his efforts, he’s killed, but comes back to avenge himself and his girlfriend. This wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, but it wasn’t that great (to me) either. I enjoyed some of the new elements Shirley added to the Crow mythos, and I really liked some of the dialogue. But then parts of it started feeling really kitschy, and there’s one scene where I almost just closed the book and walked away because no one can be that utterly stupid.

Comics for the The Crow are usually hit or miss (mostly miss) for me. I’ve enjoyed many of the novels and, of course, the movie, but the comics and I often don’t get along. I can only give this a 2.5 at best because it just wasn’t really my cuppa, but it gets an A for not turning into the mess I feared it would be.

Final Verdict
2.5 of 5 stars

Polarity #1 by Max Bemis

One day, Artist Timothy Woods wanders into the streets naked from the waist down and raving like a lunatic. The next day, he’s admitted to the psych ward and put on meds. Once he’s better and released from the hospital, the art he’s created during his period of madness reaches critical success. However, because he’s “stable,” he also finds that he can’t create as he used to. Clarity also makes him numbingly aware of hipster hypocrisy and just how mundane things are around him. He doesn’t like the mild-mannered man he’s become on his medicine. He felt he was bold, provocative, and inspired before medication. The medicine only deflates him. He wonders if losing that part of himself is worth the “sanity.” He decides it isn’t and stops taking his medication. But not only did the medicine suppress what he felt was his true self, it also inhibited his latent super powers. Now, there are evils lurking, but what’s a real danger and what’s just a product of his illness?

I loved this book so much, and given the premise dealing with Timothy’s mental issue, it can make you a little afraid that this book will derail itself because the writer will either try too hard or they won’t try hard enough because this can be such a touchy, controversial topic. However, I think Bemis did a fair job, but I can only speak as someone who’s never dealt with a mental illness. I don’t feel like he overplayed or underplayed Timothy’s illness. He didn’t villanize him for making the decision to go off his meds. He did show how this is detrimental to Timothy’s stability and the relationships he maintains, but it wasn’t tsk-ing him. It also didn’t make him seem like he was weak for making the decision either which is another thing people who write about mental illness are typically guilty of. It’ll be interesting to see how Timothy navigates through the world and his own mind. I do hope in the end there’s some middle ground that allows him to be the person he’s meant to be while giving him peace of mind.

Final Verdict:

Julio’s Day by Gilbert Hernandez

This is a slice of life comic that opens up with the birth wails of Julio and ends with his death rattle 100 years later in the same house and in the same bed. Even though there are many iconic things that happen from 1900 to 2000, the comic kept the impact of such events insular, choosing to focus on the small scale impact of these events and how they did or didn’t affect Julio’s family. Things like the stock market crash happened and the family acknowledges it, but what does it mean to a family that’s already poor? What does it mean to a family already used to just getting by? This book also focuses on the people in their communities and how they impacted Julio and his family’s life, as well.

This story was filled with dark family secrets, loneliness, betrayal, mental health issues, racism, turning sexual tides, and many other things. While that seems so much for one graphic novel, the pains and joys in this story are told with such simplicity, often times without words or with only dialogue that says so much without the characters ever going into full details such as Julio’s sister telling him, “I don’t feel so sad when somebody dies, Julio, because they fly away to explore the stars and planets. When it’s our turn we join them in exploring the universe.” The art, the pacing, everything was just right for this story.

Final Verdict:

Revival, Volume One: You’re Among Friends by Tim Seeley

A one day “miracle” of sorts happens in a small Wisconsin town. The dead come back to life. No, they’re not plucky zombies who want your brains, and some of them are in better physical shape after coming back to life than before they’d died. However, not all of them are quite right, and the town has been quarantined until it can be decided if really was a miracle, a hoax, or some biological process that needs to be understood and tested because what would something like that mean for humanity. Then, a murder occurs, and everyone becomes a suspect–both the living and the revived. Dana Cypress, an officer in town, finds herself on the case.

Even though this is not a zombie story, it was refreshing to see a take on the dead, perfectly normal human beings that died, coming back to life without being ambling, shambling zombie or a lot of magic and dimensions and alternate realities somehow altering the course of life. I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean. They’re just as confused as everyone else about what happened, and some of them aren’t quite sane anymore and feel cheated that they were robbed of death and can’t do anything that will end their own lives… almost… And one among them does seem to be a bit more special than the others and seems to have a purpose that hasn’t been revealed yet. And maybe that’s true of all of them. I just know at this point the story is dark-ish, complete with bible verses being quoted in creepy ways.

I didn’t rate this higher because I wasn’t really feeling all the scenes where some of the characters would break out with the hip slang/terms or AAVE. Reading characters saying things like “baby mama” and “playa-playa” was dumb. The only exception to this might be when the professor quoted Martin Lawrence. That was paced well and kind of funny. Other than that, it felt so out of place in the general context of the story. I’m not against humor in stories like these, but it has to be done just right. And this hip talk broke up my reading experience and made me shake my head. And I swear on all that is holy, if anyone in this comic says anything close to, “You got me straight trippin’, boo,” I will rage quit this comic and not look back. Marvel did this to me one time. I refuse to read anything else with anything similar.
Final Verdict:
3 of 5 stars