I rarely read Graphic Novels for the simple reason that they are more Graphic than Novel. I think this is my fourth one so far. The others are Maus, Ghost World, and Daytripper. All were really good but Mid-Life by Joe Ollmann is my favorite of the four. Perhaps it is because I can identify with the subject matter. John is a 40 year old husband. He is the father of two grown daughters from his first marriage. He is currently married to a younger woman, Chan. They have an infant son and a few cats. His home life is a bunch of work with little reward. His body is changing for the worse, and he is frustrated and bored at work. John also has a wandering eye.
Enter Sherry Smalls. She is a “Children’s Performer.” John discovers her from a CD that he listens to with his son. He likes her picture on the cover and becomes obsessed with her. Sherry does alright with her job. It pays the bills, but she is unfulfilled and yearns from something more. Sherry’s band-mate and sometimes boyfriend, Ric, is a junkie and a big problem for her. Thus, the stars are aligned for John and Sherry to meet. Will they ever really meet face to face? Or will Sherry just remain a distant fantasy that helps John get through his humdrum days?
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When someone tells you not to blink, you follow the rules. In the suspense packed novel Don’t Blink by James Patterson and Howard Roughan, you will not be able to turn away, let alone blink. What starts out as the interview of a lifetime for magazine reporter Nick Daniels, turns into a gripping tale of whether you should or should not always believe what you hear. This book is packed with love, baseball, and the mob. Go figure! If you have never read a novel by James Patterson, this is a good one to start with that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
After reading this book, it made me realize why I continue to return to James Patterson novels to get me going. He has a way of capturing your senses and keeping you enthralled in a story that makes you want to devour its contents in one sitting. The suspense alone makes you love to hate Patterson as he tangles you in one web after another of gruesome intensity. Word to the wise: don’t sit down to read this book with a plate of food in front of you. You will totally lose your appetite.
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In 2008, Terry Moore returned from a year long hiatus from comic publication. His absence was due to completion of his previous comic series of 13 years, Strangers in Paradise (SIP). SIP, a much beloved indie comic, was a complicated tale told in a realistic style with a dedicated fan-base addicted to the intensely personal quality of the main characters’ interaction. It mixed several sub-genres – romance, crime drama, and autobiography – while always feeling fresh and compelling.
Needless to say, expectations for Moore’s new series, Echo, ran very high. Moore would go on to easily meet them over the course of thirty issues. That he managed to do so despite Echo being a science fiction drama with a main character that is – for all intents and purposes – a superhero was quite an achievement.
Here is a brief summary of the plotline:
“Julie is in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes an unwilling participant in a web of murder and deceit that becomes nuclear! She is forced to find the maker of the atomic plasma that has rained down on her. As the plasma grows, she gets closer and closer to answers with the help of the original owner of the atomic suit she now wears. A lunatic with powers from the plasma is determined to take Julie and her suit for his own and destroys everything that stands in his way. Julie’s mission becomes too hot for her to handle alone and along with Ivy and Dillon, she must stop the makers of the suit from harnessing the plasma for their own destructive use.” - http://www.amazon.com/Echo-Complete-Ter ... 1892597489
The same loving attention to the interactions between characters that were the hallmark of SIP can be found in Echo. The art is rendered in a deceptively simple, crisp black and white style but each character is detailed and the composition is such that you want to linger over each page, sometimes even a single panel. At the same time, Moore keeps the action moving so that you cannot help but turn the next page.
One of my favorite sequences in Echo is close to the end when Julie, Dillion, and Ivy are closing in on their final destination. Ivy has been affected by prolonged contact with the strange radiation and is actually growing younger by the day. At this junction, she has reverted to being an impulsive, snarky teenager. Julie, something of an emotional wreck due to care for her sick sister and an impending divorce, is thrust into the role of the organized adult. The banter between the two characters is not only hilarious but rings true with regard to the antagonistic relationship between teens and adults.
This edition collects all thirty issues but is not just a trade paperback collection. Weighing in at 590 pages and telling a complete story, Echo clearly deserves to be called a “graphic novel” in the full sense of this often misused term. It includes all covers plus some sketch work that shows the visual development of various characters.
Click here to reserve a copy.
If you are interested in learning more about Terry Moore’s works - including his newest series, Rachel’s Rising - you can click here.
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At just 163 pages, The Sense of an Ending, winner of the the 2011 Man Booker Prize (a British literary prize for fiction), packs a lot into a small package. The use of language is sublime, and the characterizations are very finely crafted, with an economy of carefully chosen words. The book begins with apparently disparate memories of the now retired main character, Tony Webster, as he is thinking back over his life. He recalls an exchange between his history teacher at the end of his last year of secondary school and one of his friends, Adrian. The history teacher remarks that, "...historians need to treat a participant's own explanation of events with a certain skepticism. It is often the statement made with an eye to the future that is the most suspect."
Webster's memories of events from his young adulthood portray him as a very ordinary and likeable fellow. The ways in which the memories alter and twist as new information is divulged, now that he is in late middle age, are a fascinating commentary on how anyone's history (whether that of a nation or an individual) is plastic and malleable based on viewpoint and the unreliable nature of memory. Along the way, Webster shares other musings about life, about the human condition.
Some of these musings just make you want to pause and digest. Think back to your own adolescence and tell me if this does not resonate: "In those days, we imagined ourselves as being kept in some kind of holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives. And when that moment came, our lives--and time itself--would speed up. How were we to know that our lives had in any case begun, that some advantage had already been gained, some damage already inflicted? Also, that our release would only be into a larger holding pen, whose boundaries would be at first undiscernible." (p.10). Here again, Webster comments on the tenuous nature of historical accuracy: "...my desire to ascribe responsibility might be more a reflection of my own cast of mind than a fair analysis of what happened. That's one of the central problems of history...The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us." (p. 13) I admit, I marked a lot of interesting passages to which I mean to return.
Perhaps I am something of a naif, but I absolutely didn't see the ending coming. I was quite surprised at how the pieces all fit together. I have heard that the mark of a good book is when it lingers in your mind. This one certainly has done that.
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Ten years ago Alexandra Fuller published her first book, a piece of non-fiction about her childhood in Rhodesia as it transitioned, with lots of chaos and bloodshed, into today’s Zimbabwe. If you haven’t read that book, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, by all means, put everything down right now and check out a copy. Ms. Fuller’s mother refers to her daughter’s earlier publishing success as “that Awful Book”. We find in this current offering the ways in which her mother nourished and encouraged her daughter’s future calling as a writer. When the author was quite young, her mother advised her:
“Look Bobo”, she reasoned, “numbers are boring. Anyway, you can always pay someone to count for you, but you can never pay anyone to write for you. Now,” Mum paused and gave me one of her terrifying smiles. “What do you think you are going to write about?” Then she took a long sip of tea, brushed a couple of dogs off her lap and began to live a life Worthy of Fabulous Literature. (p. 5)
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness purports to be a sort of background as to how on earth her parents happened to be caught raising their children in the midst of an African war for independence. It is ostensibly about the beginnings of each of her parents, but the focus is really mostly on her larger than life mother, “Nicola Fuller of Central Africa”. There is a sense that this book is a sort of peace offering between mother and daughter. Ms. Fuller, now mature and with three children, can look back at the woman her mother was with great compassion and empathy. There is a clear-eyed respect for the courage with which her mother faced so many tragedies and challenges.
Ms. Fuller’s parents now live on and work a fish farm/banana plantation on the Zambezi River in Zambia. They never gave up on Africa and now, in their “golden years”, are living their dream, farming on the continent they so love. This book is the story of a family, a family with British roots but with a love of Africa in their blood. And it is the particular story of Nicola Fuller, who, while she considers herself one million percent Highland Scottish, has lived most of her life in Africa. The book is so richly written that parts of it twisted my soul into shreds, and other parts had me laughing aloud. The significance of the title comes from the fact that the Fuller’s current house in Zambia is built under a tree the native Africans call the “tree of forgetfulness”.
Mr. Zulu shook his head, “No, Madam. This is the Tree of Forgetfulness. All the headmen here plant one of these trees in their village.” Mr. Zulu held his forearm steady as if to demonstrate the power of the tree. “You can plant it just like that, from one stick, and it is so strong it will become a tree. They say ancestors stay inside it. If there is some sickness or if you are troubled by spirits, then you sit under the Tree of Forgetfulness and your ancestors will assist you with whatever is wrong.” He nodded and took another drag of his cigarette. “It is true---all your troubles and arguments will be resolved.”
“Do you believe that?” Mum asked, but before Mr. Zulu could reply she waved her own question away. “I believe it’s true,” she said. “I believe it two million percent.” (p.215)
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