Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Graphic Novel Review: Grimm Fairy Tales Volume 13 by Mark L. Miller

This is the story of Sela Mathers, a woman who’s in jail, though innocent, and who wishes to remain there. Sela is not your usual prisoner or your everyday woman, when it comes to that. She’s special, as she’s gifted; her gift though is a blessing and a curse at the same time, since it was it that landed her in prison in the first place.

This volume (out on March 12) explores Sela’s life in captivity in vivid images and bursts of action. One would think that her life would be boring but it’s anything but. First she has to keep her distance from the others in order not to reveal her enormous powers; then she needs to protect her weak friend-of-sorts, the Princess, and try to keep a nosy lawyer called Deena Durbin from visiting her; and at the same time she has to put up with some supernatural beings that seem to inhabit the very walls of the building.

Sela has a deeply troubled psyche, as her life not too long ago has fallen apart. Her husband had died, her daughter was taken by Venus and she’d been thrown into jail. Could things get any worse? If they couldn’t, there wouldn’t be a need for this volume. Sela, whether she likes it or not, has a gift to use and a future to explore, and no matter how much she thinks about dying, deep inside her she knows that she has to live.

Her mental instability is her worst enemy though. She wants to lay low, but when she tries to do that things don’t go very well. But what can she do? Escape? She could do that, but then what? And for what purpose? She’s lost her daughter, for that she’s certain, so what’s left out there for her to fight for?

The deeper she dives into her personal abyss, the worse things become in the real world, and before too long she comes to the point of no return, where she has to decide whether she’s going to live or die, fight or surrender. It won’t be such an easy decision to make but the path that will lead to it will packed with action, secrets and lies, dilemmas and many layers of multicolored mystery.

This is a good story, enriched by beautiful illustrations that can keep the reader asking for more. Since this is the first volume of the series that I’ve read, I don’t know much about this Grimm universe yet, but I do look forward to finding out more.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Graphic Novel Review: War Brothers by Sharon E. McKay and Daniel LaFrance

This graphic novel is one of those special books that act like a punch-in-the-stomach when it comes to the story that they have to say. And the story at hand is one of war and hatred, ignorance and blind belief, hurt and retribution. There’s so much agony, and so much pain contained in these pages, that can make a tender or simply human soul feel sick.

The subject matter of War Brothers is bleak, as it tackles one of the most important issues of our so-called modern era: child soldiers. As we read, at the moment, there are more than 250,000 of them, fighting and dying in 35 countries around the world, a number that could be far larger, since the cases of children that go missing and end up with arms in hands is not actually too well documented.

Anyway, to come to the story, this book describes the adventures of Jacob Kitino, a member of the Acholi tribe and resident of the city of Gulu in Uganda. Jacob, who comes from a rich family, studies at the local seminary for boys and just loves to play football. The civil war that ravages his country is very distant to him, a reality that only the other people have to live through. His best friend is Tony, a boy with a great sense of humor, who loves football as well. Let’s read what he has to say: “The nuns who are paying for my schooling told me that if I fail it is because I am an ungrateful boy. But if I pass it is God’s work and I should repay God by becoming a priest.”

Becoming a priest is not something he really wants to do, but he doesn’t want to be a soldier either. However, fate has already made its plans for him, as well as for many other the boys, as one day the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels attack the school, and take 38 of them as hostages. They are to become soldiers, or die, unless they can be used otherwise.

So Jacob and Tony, all of a sudden, find themselves marching through the jungle towards a yet unknown destination. The journey is long, and exhausting, their strength, as they are practically famished, seems to slip away from them by the day: “I need to rest, but to rest is to die,” Jacob says.

This long and tiresome journey will change their lives forever, and not for the better. They’ll see heinous crimes committed in the names of country and god, they’ll make friends and create enemies, and they’ll see that their future is something they have to shape themselves. What they don’t know yet is that victims and perpetrators, when it comes to situations like these, are treated by the people in almost the same way; a veil of doubt and suspicion covers them both.

War Brothers is a disturbing story told in a deeply humane manner. The words and the illustrations convey convincingly to the reader all the thoughts and emotions of the main characters, and they bring to life their dreams and fears, their resolutions and failures. I’d highly recommend this exceptionally good graphic novel to simply everyone who gives a dime about the world around him.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Book Review: Cold, Cold Heart by Karin Slaughter

Cold, Cold Heart is an old story that came to life anew thanks to the eBook single format. This is the story of Pam, a lonely woman and a teacher, who’s heading to California from Georgia, to deliver something. But, if you want to know what, and to whom, you’ll have to read the tale.

Pam is one of those unfortunate souls, whose lives look at best cursed. She’s never had enough joy, and she’s never lived up to her potential, and for that she mostly blames, her ex, and now dead husband, John. The latter had a complete control of her life during their twenty years together. He set the rules, and she followed. He ordered, and she obeyed. She was a good woman, and he was a bad man. And yet, he was the one that was destined to live the big life; a life we learn about through her mental journeys down memory lane.

As one would expect Pam feels wronged, and bitter. Everything could be different, better, if she had the courage to stand up to him, to make him realize that he wasn’t the center of her universe, or of any universe when it came to that. But she didn’t, and things just followed a downward spiral for her, an upward for him.

However, right now, and for the first time in ages, she’s in full control of her life. She’s changed, the smiles have returned, and even though she’s over fifty, she feels rejuvenated. What was it that changed everything? A simple act; a spontaneous reaction to some facts which gave her the opportunity to have the last laugh, when it came to her relationship with John.

His cruelty, his superiority, his sarcasm, had followed her for many years, but right now it’s payback time, and whether things go right or wrong, nothing can change that; she’ll have her revenge.

This reads as a quite plain story at first, but as the narration moves on it becomes more and more interesting, and the final twist wraps everything up in a brilliant way, taking the reader by surprise; just the way it should.

Reviews of other books by the same author:

Thorn in My Side