A Sickness in the Family by Denise Fuso

A Sickness in the Family by Denise Mina. Art by Antonio Fuso
Vertigo Crime series

Pages: 180
First Published: Oct. 19, 2010
Publisher: Vertigo
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

So she’s finally dead?

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I love that the pure mystery/thriller/crime genre is so much more easily found in the graphic novel format now. I’ll always take a look when I see one and the plot had me on this book.

They could be your typical family: Ted and Biddy Usher, Biddy’s mom Martha, and the three grown children, with the youngest in his last year of his school, William, Amy and Sam. But they are not, typical that is. It is Christmas and in the basement flat they rent out a horrendous murder takes place. Ted quickly makes plans to incorporate that portion back into the house as he’d been wanting to for years. Then family members start to die. One by one. Is it because of the wrath of a witch who was burnt at the stake there in the 1500s? Or has one of the remaining family members decided to get rid of the rest, each of whom has a surprisingly good reason for wanting the others dead?

An incredibly creepy murder mystery. Well-written with a plot that picks up suspense as it goes along and is quite difficult to solve since suspects keep getting killed themselves and the pool of possible suspects to pick from gets smaller and smaller. A delightfully tense and surprise ending with a final shocker on the last page. This is Mina’s first graphic novel. She has previously written mystery novels and one series of comics. I am quite interested in reading something else by this author if this is an example of her technique. The artwork is done in black and white with a lot of shadows which I think is particularly suitable to this story (and others of its sort) as it captures the noir feeling that wold be missing if the gruesome scenes were shown in full colour.

Just the sort of thing I like in a murder mystery, gruesome, creepy and a shocker at the end.


Lola, A Ghost Story by J. Torres

Lola, A Ghost Story by J. Torres. Illustrated by Elbert Or

Pages: 102
Ages: 12+
First Published: Jan. 13, 2010
Publisher: Oni Press
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

The Tagalog word for grandmother is “Lola”.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Interlibrary Loan.

Reason for Reading: This was a Cybils ‘10 nominee and as a panelist for Graphic Novels was required reading for me. The panelists did not receive a review copy from the publisher and like most other panelists, I, unfortunately, was unable to find a copy before our nominations were due. My copy from Interlibrary Loan request had just now come in.

This is a great ghost story told in the classic tradition and very worthy to be read by all ghost story aficionados. Jesse sees dead people, goblins, demons, monsters, etc. but he’s learned to stop telling anyone since his parents’ and teachers’ reactions have been less than accepting. Now he and his family are traveling “home” to the Philippines; Jesse’s parents immigrated to Canada when he was four and this is his third visit here. He hates it here. They have come for the funeral of his grandmother, “Lola” in Filipino. The culture of his Filipino family is quite hard for Jesse to accept, they are devout Catholics, carrying Rosaries, with beautiful shrines of worship in the house and yet they are steeped in the superstitions of tradition. Lola had the “gift” and he’s heard all the stories of how she’s helped the community and even defeated demons. Jesse fears what it will be like here now that Lola is gone.

A fabulous story with lots of creepy moments. The tension mounts slowly through the story. Things start happening right away and the reader becomes unsettled knowing something is not quite right. Gradually we learn what is going on, and Jesse realizes the truth as well. His cousin easily figures out Jesse’s gift and berates him for hiding it, telling him it is a gift from God and he must use it. He has something he must do before he leaves. Then like any really good ghost story the book ends with a really fantastic heart-pounding shocker of an ending where one can only imagine what comes next. Loved this one!


The Zabime Sisters by Aristophane

The Zabime Sisters by Aristophane. Translated from the French & Afterward by Matt Madden

Pages: 85
Ages: 14+
First Published: Oct. 26, 2010
Publisher: First Second
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

What, are you still snoozing?

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from First Second Books.

Reason for Reading: The plot. I enjoy stories of childhood and the setting of Guadeloupe certainly piqued my interest.

This is the story of a day in the life of the three Zabime sisters on the first day of summer vacation. Set on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe it has a unique setting of barefoot children amongst tropical flora and fauna. The girls start their day teasing one another with the most outgoing of the three, M’Rose, pulling a prank that scares the other two. The girls meet up with a couple of boys they know and lounge around taking mangoes from an orchard owned by a mean man. Here the story also divides and starts telling us a little of what has been going on so far in the boys’ day. M’Rose separates from the other two sisters as a fight between the school bully and an unknown boy has been called at the crossroads at noon and the other two girls don’t want to go, but M’Rose is just the type to want to watch a fight. The girls divide into two groups and both end up watching and participating in typical acts of childhood misbehaviour, neither satisfying them in the end.

This is a poignant and candid story of childhood unlike most such stories; it is not nostalgic nor does it leave one with a sense of warmness. The author has captured that grain of malice that is inherently found in children and captures it perfectly throughout the day as it surfaces through normal interaction between children and when they find themselves in distress. While the book explores this meanness, it isn’t a mean story, and likewise, while the story is set in a luscious tropical environment the themes of childhood could take place anywhere, rural or urban. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found it to be a remarkable tale that will be unforgettable for me. The book is suggested for young adults but I think adults are going to enjoy the book on a different level, already having experienced youth and now seeing this acrimony in their own children and recognising it for the seed that a child grows out of with the proper nurturing.

The art must also be mentioned as it is spectacular. It is done heavily in black ink and very expressive and realistic. Though the book is oversized, I only wish it could have been bigger as some of the panels seem too small to contain this type of art as the thickness of the black brush strokes sometimes lose the detail in other areas as they are squished into a small frame. The true beauty of the art is visible in the larger frames.


The Boy Who Conquered Everest: The Jordan Romero Story

The Boy Who Conquered Everest: The Jordan Romero Story by Katherine Blanc with Jordan Romero

Pages: 72
Ages: 9+
First Published: July 30, 2010
Publisher: Balboa Press
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Jordan Romero was a regular 9 year old boy.

Acquired: Received a review copy from the book’s publicist.

Reason for Reading: The book sounded inspiring and like something my son would enjoy.

This little book is a treasure and a treat to read! Graphically, the book has been designed in a scrapbook style with each page a pleasing layout of photographs, handwritten and typewritten fonts. The text is minimal at times, presented in chunks at others, and is not a hard read at all but still full of information. This is the story of Jordan Romero, who at 9 years old, wanted to climb the Seven Summits. These are the tallest mountains on each continent, which, of course, includes the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest. Jordan’s father and stepmother were amateur mountain climbers, so this goal wasn’t a complete impossibility and with their support and agreement to come along with him his dream became reality. For the next 4 years Jordan trained, gained sponsors and threw fundraisers as he traveled the world completing each summit, until at age 13 he had one left, the tallest, Mount Everest. This climb would make him the youngest person ever to climb the Seven Summits beating the previous holder of the title who completed the climbs at age 17.

An extremely interesting and fascinating story told through text and photographs. Very inspiring and leaves one with a sense of accomplishment and feeling of what one could do oneself. Kids will realize that it is OK to have big dreams and that through hard work one can make dreams, no matter how big or small, come true. A very good, “feel good” story with a positive message for children. The emphasis is on achieving your goals but never does the book lose focus of the hard work and feelings of giving up one must experience to achieve those goals. A good read!


Call Me Russell by Russell Peters (Nicola)

Call Me Russell by Russell Peters with Clayton Peters & Dannis Koromilas

Pages: 229
First Published: Oct. 26, 2010
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

When I was growing up, I hung out with mostly black kids, but every now and then, some white kid would come and hang out with us, and we’d be like, “Wow! A white kid! I’ve heard so much about you!”

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I don’t usually read current celebrity’s (who are in the prime of their careers) memoirs but Russell Peters is a bit different. I think he’s the best Canadian stand-up comic out there; and he is 100% Canadian born and bred but if you’ve never heard of him and notice the book cover there you’ll notice he is also Indian. His humour is based on race and I thought his story would be interesting.

Russell Peters memoir didn’t disappoint my expectations. Some may be expecting a funny book, but this is not an extension of his act. Besides a couple of chapters beginning with a famous routine, the book is a straightforward narrative of Russell’s life experience so far. He has some funny stories to tell here and there, like when he was punk’d by the King of Jordan, but this is not a funny book in the way you might expect from a comic.

The most interesting part of this book is Russell’s childhood, which is the source of a lot of his material. His experience as a first generation Canadian to his immigrant Indian parents is as entertaining as I had expected. Russell even explains his particular cultural background of Catholic Anglo-Indian which he frequently refers to specifically and how it differs from other Indian heritages. He is proud of his race yet identifies as “Canadian”; he also identifies himself as Catholic but shows no signs of practicing. He recounts the racism he met growing up in the Canada of the 70’s and 80’s when the word “Paki” was used frequently as derogatory slang for anyone of brown colour from Indian/Arabian countries. (In fact, the word was so much a part of our culture that I admit to using it myself as a child/teenager, though never directed to a real-life person (as opposed to those on TV) as I lived in a completely white little town, with the only non-whites being the three Saudi Arabian doctors. However, personally I just thought the P- word (which is never used anymore in decent company) was a short form for Pakistani and I would correct anyone if they used it for someone I knew was from a different country, ie. our three doctors. I know, I was naive about those things.) The stories of his Dad who had more of a British accent than the Indian accent he uses in his act and his mom, who was a fair skinned Anglo-Indian who never really dealt with racism. People always thought she was what they were: Italian, Filipino, German, etc. I wish Peters had expanded on this part of his book and perhaps ended the book when he finally got his first big break in the US.

The next part of the book that lists the gigs at clubs and improvs, then theatres and eventually moving up to touring on the road, then making it in the US, touring around the world, making DVDs etc. could be educational I expect for other inspiring Canadian comics. But otherwise was quite boring for me, except for the stories Russell threw in that were funny. As Russell describes his lifestyle as an adult and a stand-up comic he is fairly candid, never going into any details, but still letting us know his lifestyle was the typical male star’s life of free women wherever he looked and he shows no shame or remorse for this part of his life though he does say he is engaged now (in fact married as of the writing of this review) and wants to settle down. I sure hope the girlfriend knew about all that before she read it in the book! There is language in the book, mostly dropping the f-bomb as if it were a common adjective and the sh- word, but this should be expected from anyone who knows his act which also contains adult language but not to the point of vulgarity, imho.

All in all, an interesting story of how a Canadian kid of immigrant background and a visible minority made it big using his race as the basis of his humour and making a connection with all races in the end. As he says in the book (to paraphrase) he has lots of people from different ethnicities coming up to him and saying they totally relate to his immigrant father, *their* dad was just like him, they too had an “Indian dad”. I can relate to this myself, having immigrant parents in the late 60’s, even if they only came from England. It was the mindset of those parents to give their children a better life in Canada (not to Australia: too far away, not to the US: the civil rights violence was going on) and they brought their old-world values with them. I can soooo relate to Peters’ famous “Beat Your Kids” routine which includes the “Somebody’s Gonna Get Hurt Real Bad”. I got quite a few of those “just in case” ones myself and my dad’s words of choice were “someone’s looking for a knuckle sandwich” or “someone’s cruisin’ for a bruisin’”. He added the humour but I knew enough to smarten up! I’m glad to have read the book, but I wish he had stuck to his pre-famous days, expanded on the stories of his childhood and his parents, saving the rest for when he was old & gray and had more to tell.

Warning, this has language! But is hilarious!


Torment (Nicola)

Torment by Lauren Kate
A Fallen Novel, Book 2

Pages: 452
Ages: 14+
First Published: Sep. 28, 2010
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Daniel stared out at the bay.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: next in the series.

First I’ll mention that this is one of the most stunning covers I’ve ever seen. I love b/w photography and the design here is breathtaking. Now on to the book.

I can’t really give a summary as not much happens in Torment. Luce is sent to an exclusive boarding school which just happens to have a special class for Nephilim and amongst the Nephilim Luce can be hidden from those who seek to destroy her. In the meantime Daniel and Cam have made an 18 day truce between the angels and demons to work together to kill those who seek to kill Luce. Thus the book takes place over those 18 days. There’s a lot of Daniel and Cam getting the bad guys, the bad guys trying to get Luce, Luce getting herself into trouble by disregarding the rules she’s been given and Luce learning more about the shadows, the Announcers, and how to control and use them.

There is a lot of “Twilight syndrome” going on here in Torment. Daniel has become demanding, giving Luce rules and instructions to follow without reasons, he orders her around and isn’t telling her everything. He has become the dominant male species. While Luce, when she is away from and gets close to Daniel feels the overwhelming passion, desire, pull and love for him. Regardless, she is no Bella. Luce starts questioning Daniel’s behaviour and doesn’t take kindly to being pushed around even though she can’t get past the inhuman passionate bond they share. What all this amounts to is a bunch of not much happening, making the book a slow read leading up to an anti-climax that ends in a “to be continued” manner with no resolution.

I did really enjoy the two new characters introduced that befriend Luce, both Nephilim. Shelby her roommate, a no nonsense type of girl who at first resents Luce for her infamous reputation. And then Miles, a watered down Nephilim, with the Angel in his heredity in the distant past. Miles is a friend Luce can count on and one who might become more than just a friend.

My problem, same I had with the couple of Twilight books I read, is that I don’t like Daniel. I’m not rooting for Luce and Daniel. I want him to turn out a bad guy and in the end I want Luce and Miles to end up together, just a couple of regular people (well almost) in real love, not some earth shattering, passionate, end of the world, meant to be, for infinity, lust-love. Won’t happen though. Just like it was obvious Edward would win in the end, Daniel will also.

I had thought this was going to be a trilogy but they are calling book three “the next book in the Fallen series” which sounds ominously like there are plans for a 4th book and so on. If this does conclude in a trilogy I will read the third book when it comes out to see how it all ends. If more are planned, I’ll just wait until the series is done and see if I still feel like reading them when that time comes.