Book Review – Invincible Ultimate Collections Vol 7

Title: Invincible Ultimate Collection Vol 7

Author/Illustrators: Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn  FCO Plascenicia

Format: Hardback

Published:  2012

 

As promised the follow up review for the next book in the Invincible series, and I’ll start off with saying “Wow”.   There is so much packed into this one book that it is hard to believe and with that in mind I’m not sure where I stand on this installment.  Don’t get me wrong this was another great book and I enjoyed it, the art is fabulous as always and everything was vibrant and it popped but there was so much and it’s just I don’t know maybe too much in some ways and in others I just – I don’t know.

 

This time I’m going to be diving right into the spoilers of the previous books and so if you don’t want to know you want to go read the books and then come back.  Again as always you have been warned.  So Book 7 is the Viltrumite war as promised and so much more.  We are given action right off and the book flows more like a movie than a comic book I know both are visual media but I think the way the war effort was presented would be better on a big screen rather than in comic book format, particularly when the title character is not in action for a good portion of the story.  I won’t tell you why that is the case as that is for you to read. It was a good read, and it was neat getting to know Oliver and Mark’s dad a bit more but at the same time it read a little flat after the action as we prepared for the war.  That isn’t to say it wasn’t important to see it, it was needed to see the preparation it gave it a sense of reality.  Again visual audio media might have been more gripping than just images on a page but that is simply my opinion.

 

Anyway the action picks up and Mark comes back into play.  I will start by saying this is probably the most bloody of the books considering that this is a war and really how things progress and the conclusion of the war was really unique and it was kind of exciting to me because there is so much potential for future stories and really it was interesting, I really liked the imagery that went with it as well.   This gets us only halfway through the book and then things become a little episodic with small things here and there but at the same time these small things are of epic size and portions.  It was weird to me and it was different.  I think it was probably good in the overarching story to go with episodic moments instead of crafting such a large story as the series has been doing things for a while.   The characters deal with emotions from the war and it is true to human nature but it is certainly lacking in emotion.  In conjunction with this Mark is continuing to deal with the idea of who he is and what he will and won’t do – how far he is willing to go and the guilt of all the lives lost because of his failures and his actions.  Really, in a lot of ways Mark’s story bored me a little bit but it makes senses at the same time.

 

I will admit, that for me the most interesting part of the story was Robot now known as Rex and Monster Girl and what their alluded story is all about, something I very much want to learn about more because there is a lot of issues and emptions involved with that, but not much was alluded to.  I think the most bothersome and disappointing part of this latest installment was the end, it left it sort of flat and open, what Mark is doing makes sense and I like but everyone’s reactions at the same though in character just seems crazy and really it doesn’t leave a promise for a whole lot of action and I just have no clue what the next book will hold.  I always had thoughts and ideas and I was always left clamoring for more wanting to know what happens next but not this time.  Sure I’m curious and I want to know and when I can get my hands on the next installment I’ll pick it up to read but it won’t be agony to wait for the first few days/weeks after finishing the book like it usually is in the past.

 

With everything in mind, I will say the story is still good I still love invincible and there were some great moments but not enough to push this book past a 3 out of 5 pages.  Really this was a lot like the middle story in a trilogy a lot of stuff that needed to happen but not a whole lot to it.  Not to say the Viltrumite War conclusion wasn’t action enough but the war itself was maybe 1/3 of the book as the rest was the resolution and repercussions and one off stories that will I’m sure lead to bigger and better things in further installments.

Writer Wednesday – Tiffini Johnson

Who are you?
My name is Tiffini Johnson

What type of stuff do you write?
Writing anything is my passion! I’ve been known to use paper napkins, Kroger sacks and even my own hand to write on. But at my core, I am a relational activist: my heart hurts for abused and neglected children. Almost all of my books are categorized as YA and deal with societal issues like domestic abuse, neglect and child abuse.

What do you want to pimp right now?
The work I am most proud of right now is “Dance For Me.” “Dance For Me” is 11 year old Maelea’s story. Maelea lives a poor life in Cambodia with her parents and her little sister. When her sister becomes ill with dengue fever, Maelea is sold to a brothel. The next two years, Maelea is tortured and sold to men on a nightly basis. Escape is impossible until one horrific act of torture becomes an unlikely saving grace.

This book is special to me because of the research that went into it. Child sex trafficking is an atrocity that breaks my heart, the torture, an evil I can’t fathom. I hope this story awakens my readers to what these kids go through and helps us realize that we are the only heroes these girls have.

What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
My favorite books are “The Book Thief,” “To Kill A Mockingbird” and anything by Faulkner.

What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
In addition to being a writer, I teach, speak as an advocate for RAINN, volunteer and, most importantly, I am a mother to two beautiful girls.

What link can we find you at?
You can find me at storiesthatmatterblog.com and Facebook at Stories That Matter and @tiffinisstories at Twitter

 

*****

Ashes

There are ashes all around. There are ashes in the air, ashes on the ground, ashes on the hands. They are spread everywhere, all over the earth. When eyes are open, I smoke comes from the chimneys; the dreams, breaths, hopes, fears, families inside are disappearing, melting to the ground, until all that is left is a mound of ashes. I smell it; that bitter, foul smell of flesh burning, day in and day out. The smoke gets in the nostrils, blows up into the brain, until it marks an impression no amount of time will erase. The men in their shiny black boots, ironed uniforms with red armbands, have ashes on them too. They shake it off their hands but it clings to their hair. Those standing stock still for hours and hours in the snow, ignoring the burning in near frostbit fingers, they have the ashes on them too. Whether you have a number on your arm or not, whether you are paid a few coins to ferry papers back and forth or your last name is Mengele, ashes fall upon your head here. There is no escaping. There is nothing but hunger and a constant, subconscious, need for fresh air, to breathe without inhaling the ashes floating around, to know what it is to live away from that smell.

Is there life without ashes?

Is there, really? There are ashes around you, too. The tears you cry are coals from the fire surrounding you. When the tears stop coming, where do they go? When you dry your eyes and rise, you move on, but if I am deep enough, I create a scab you carry around with you for the rest of time. Divorce, loss of a job, death of a dream… no matter how much time goes by, you don’t forget me. If you poke at the scab I form, if you talk about it or something makes you remember it’s there, it’s as though you’ve moved a mound of ashes and found a live ember, one that’s still burning. The ashes cover our lives with a black cloud.

I breathe and move the ashes from town to town, from house to house. Before long, I find my way into Hitler’s home, into the President’s, into the soldier’s, into the widow’s, into the peasant’s, even into the child’s. I’m selfish like that, I want everyone to know who I am. My goal is to teach everyone that fairy tales aren’t real and that hope is nothing but a cleverly disguised fairy tale. Until her brother, five-year-old, mischievous Kaplan, was ripped from her arms moments after stepping onto the train’s platform near the barking dogs and screaming men, Adele hadn’t really believed in me. It wasn’t until she watched her brother walk in one direction, while she was ordered to walk in the other, that she saw me for the first time. When she lay on the wooden planks, crammed between other girls, praying for sleep, I hung around. She cried, wanted to know where Kaplan was.

“He’s nothing but ash now,” one of the women said. “He’s in the chimney.”

There’s an exact moment when a child’s heart breaks for the first time, when her eyes are opened to all the lessons I teach, when she stops wanting to climb trees and instead finds herself scared she will fall. I am always there when this happens. If I could capture every spark as it fell from a child’s eye, I would be brighter than the Sun. And yet, it fascinates me. I still watch as it happens instead of turning my eye away. This moment, this moment in which they learn who I am, should keep them from ever smiling again. I should scare them so much they never play or laugh or love ever again. But it almost never happens. Every once in awhile, someone will decide they can’t handle me. Several people a day run into the electric fence surrounding this place, on purpose, because of me. More jump from windows or slit their wrists in an effort to finally be free of me. The vast majority, though, never give serious credence to the idea death might be better than finding me again. The vast majority continue to work, go to school, talk, eat and drink, thereby deliberately prolonging life. It should bother me, make me jealous, how resilient Hope is. It should make me angry. But I’m not. Instead, it amazes me.

Book Review – Invincible: Ultimate Collection Vol 6

Title: Invincible Ultimate Collection Vol 6

Author/Illustrators: Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, Cory Walker, Cliff Rathburn  FCO Plascenicia

Format: Hardback

Published:  2011

 

So it has been a while since I have done a review and I am not going to make excuses about that at all.  I figure they don’t matter and you probably don’t exactly care to hear them, so I’ll get down to the brass taxes and present you with Invincible Ultimate Collection Vol. 6.  It has been a while since I picked up an Invincible book simply due to cost and the ability to find it at the library/willingness to take the time to go to the library but I happened to be in the library and saw this sitting on the shelf.  It was a no brainer to grab it and hope I was remembering the last number I read correctly.

 

Fortunately for me I was correct and I eagerly dug into the book and was not disappointed to say the very least.  I will say straight up I love Invincible.  I have found most comics that I read by Image (the publisher) are always strong comics.  I would say that Invincible is close to one of my favorite comic stories second only to my first comic love of the Red Robin/Batman.  I have always loved Batman from the start and then quickly fell in love with Tim Drake the Red Robin after that but that is beside the point.  To say this comes close to this love is actually saying something to be very honest.

 

What I love so much about Invincible is the powerful story – there is pretty much nothing that the comic is scared to do and I appreciate that it gives a realistic story the super heroes in this series are just as real and human as humans they are super powered and have the same problems as real people of the world only worse because they have super abilities, instead of these abilities making them immune to certain things and making life better, in a lot of ways abilities make things worse.

 

If you have issues with spoilers when it comes to this series I would advise you stop this review here and go get the books and read them, I always give this series a strong review and they continue to stand up to the test of time if you want more information about the series then I advise you go back and find my review for the first book in the series which got a rave review from me because I intend to give some spoilers from this point on.  Don’t say you weren’t warned if you continue to read!

 

This story picks up giving us a bit of a flash back to a previous story that was featured in vol. 4 or 5 where Mark aka Invincible faced again Angstram Levy an thought he had killed him and the regret he felt for doing what he did.  After this flashback the story picks up with the world being invaded with various versions of Invincible destroying the world.  There is a lot of clean-up and repercussions of the destructions and yet all this aftermath is made interesting as you find yourself worried about the health of Eve then to have Viltrumite come to attack set on destroying Mark and his world – it is a gritty battle as Mark as no wish to push on as he blames himself for the destruction that happened though he didn’t cause it himself to Eve waking up and getting involved which brings the fight back into Mark all the more and there is a tone of gore which is odd for me to say this but it is awesome.  The visuals are bright and vibrant the art work is always amazing something I have always enjoyed about these books, clean and vibrant and well done.

 

Any way aside from the reactions the book sets up very nicely for the next one which will be my next review.  Over all, the story was strong and good and there were a few additional surprise twists that I was not expecting that I will not reveal because I don’t want to spoil everything.  So I would strongly advise you go out and get your hands on this series because it is amazing, the characters are strong and endearing and the story is pretty much always gripping.  Over all I would give this a 4 out of 5 page review.

Writer Wednesday – Lee Martindale

Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
Lee Martindale

What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
Short stories. More fantasy than anything else, but I do, on occasion, commit space opera and a little horror-lite.

What do you want to pimp right now?
Just released in trade paperback (and coming soon to Kindle & Nook), Bard’s Road: The Collected Fiction of Lee Martindale.  Twenty-nine of my stories, including hard-to-find reprints and four never-before-published works. Available from HarpHaven Publishing and Amazon.com

What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
Elizabeth Moon’s Heris Serrano and Vatta’s War series
Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series

What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
Anthology editor – I’ve put together two so far: Such A Pretty Face: Tales of Power and Abundance, and The Ladies of Trade Town.
Nano-press publisher – I own HarpHaven Publishing.
On the Board of Directors of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (2nd term))

What link can we find you at? (One or two please; don’t go overboard here!)
http://www.HarpHaven.net

 

*****

Rejection is the Advice of the Day

What’s the best advice I can give new writers? Come to terms with rejection or find another hobby.

Seriously. If a rejection ruins your whole day, sends you into the doldrums, makes you swear you’ll never write another word again, then you probably shouldn’t. If you react with anger, nastygrams to the rejecting editor or publisher, or long diatribes about how the rejecting entity doesn’t understand your vision or recognize your brilliance, you definitely shouldn’t. You don’t have the temperament for it.

Writing is a business. Publishing is a business. The decision to buy, or not buy, a story is a business decision, one with more components than whether or not a story is good. Perfectly good, sellable stories get rejected all the time for any one or more reasons. It may not fit the guidelines. It may not fit well with other stories already selected. It’s too similar to an already-selected story. The editor has two good stories that perfectly fit a particular slot, and the name of the writer of one of them on the cover will result in more sales. The reasons are many, all equally valid.

If you take rejection for what it is – that this particular story doesn’t fit this particular slot at this particular time for this particular editor – and get the rejected story out to the next potential market with no more than a “well, darn”, you’re in good company. We’ve all been there, will doubtlessly be there again many times. It’s part of the business.

 

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Book Review – Planet Banksy Unauthorized

TITLE: Planet Banksy unauthorized : the man, his work and the movement he inspired
AUTHOR: KET
IMAGES: unknown
FORMAT: HARDBACK
PUBLISHED: 2014

Okay, so Planet Banksy unauthorized : the man, his work and the movement he inspired is a book about a graffiti artist we only know as Banksy and the artists that have been inspired by (or just copy) his mojo. I caught this one on the new shelf at my library and grabbed it. I do have to say though, I don’t really travel in artistic circles, so I have no idea if you should just generally know who this dude is or not. I totally didn’t.
It didn’t take long to look through it. It’s basically a bunch of color pics and a little bit of text. I thought it was interesting, but a lot of the art isn’t quite my thing. Most of it is some sort of political commentary on the world. Maybe it works as a call to action for somebody, but I sort of went “hrm, interesting” and moved on to the next picture. And, because it’s art, I don’t have much to say about it.
The layout had the same sort of vibe as the pics, so in all, I wasn’t disappointed in that for a change.

And because I don’t really have that much to say about this book, here’s the blurb from my library’s website:

A full-color showcase of some of Banksy’s most innovative pieces, offering thought-provoking comparison with the works of his students Banksy is the world’s foremost graffiti artist, his work adorning streets, walls, and bridges across nations and continents. His stencil designs are instantly recognizable and disturbingly precise in their social and political commentary, flavored with subtle humour and self-awareness. More popular than ever, Banksy has spawned countless imitators, students, and fans alike, his fame–although unlooked-for–inevitably transmitting his ideas and work to the international arena. Highlighting both the relevance of Banksy’s work and how his impact has continued to spread, this book brings together some of the very best pieces of art from all corners of the world that have been inspired by Banksy, as well as some of Banksy’s own innovative, profound, and controversial work. Showcasing graffiti with a range of topics and coming from a variety of inspirational sources, this book provides an overview of how the man’s work is changing the face of modern art, as well as that of urban landscape.

 

.

So how to rate this. I mean, unless you’re really seriously into this dude’s artwork, there’s no point in buying it. Find it at your local library and just look at it there.
I’m giving it a 3/5, but I could see how some people would make it a 4.

Book Review – Left Behind by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins

Title: Left Behind
Author: Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins
Format: 
Paperback
Written: 
first published 1995
Published: 
(unclear, after) 1998

Left Behind is Christian speculative fiction that builds on the idea of the rapture followed by seven years of tribulation.  This first book in a series of twelve focuses on the initial rapture and immediate aftermath.  For those of you unfamiliar with the terms, it’s the idea Christ’s followers will be snatched up instantaneously, right before an apocalyptic period of great turmoil which will end with the battle of Armageddon and Christ’s restored rule on earth.

This blog isn’t the place for theological discussion, but I think it’s important to note that even the authors have admitted this is an iffy area of scripture.   Even when taken literally, there’s a lot of room for interpretation on the specifics of end time prophecies and in many cases whether the prophecies in question actually refer to the end times or simply a time of great hardship.  But it’s an interpretation that makes for dramatic storytelling.

For metaphoric purposes, the rapture and tribulation work as parallels to death (which can come suddenly and without warning) and hardship (particularly under a controlling regime).  I went through a period of fascination with various apocalypse films during middle school, and in a burst of nostalgia, stopped midway through the book to watch the four Thief in the Night films on YouTube.  While essentially PG as far as language and violence go, that series is still one of the most conceptually terrifying things I’ve seen.  I was struck on my most recent viewing by the similarities between the regime in the film and the repression from Reading Lolita in Tehran which I reviewed a few weeks ago.

I bring up Thief in the Night because it was an inspiration for the Left Behind series, and while hokey in a way distinct to films of the 1970s, I still like it a lot better.  More on that in a moment.

If I take it purely as a thriller, Left Behind struck me as rather mediocre.  It takes about a hundred pages before it starts to get interesting.  And despite lots of potential for action, most of the book seems to involve waiting in lines, phone tag, meetings, and arranging meetings.  The plot structure and sentences are often clunky; many times several scenes were used to do what could easily been done in one.  And way too much time was spent on characters thinking about their feelings.  I really have no problem with head hopping as long as the thoughts reveal new information, but too much of it was redundant.  Actions and scenes that might have been dramatic, even heart wrenching if they had simply been played out, were bogged down by detailed descriptions of obvious thoughts like a character crying because he was really sad.

There are some explosions and enough drama that they might pull a decent film out of this.  So I am curious enough now to watch the movie, one of them at least.  The story is often preachy, but it is Christian speculative fiction so at least that’s relevant to the genre and plot.

Thief in the Night is also preachy with slow bits.  I think what elevated it to awesome in my preteen mind was the protagonist Patty outwitting a soldier, stealing his gun, then staring down the next soldier until he drops his.  The first two films pass the Bechdal test, but aside from that, there’s a general sense of gender equality.  Women are presented as equally competent, equally strong, equally spiritual but also equally flawed and devious as their male counterparts.  Left Behind on the other hand has an underlying thread of misogyny.  It’s not just that the book is told between two alternating male viewpoints, but the three main women portrayed fall into stereotypical female roles: the good wife, the ditzy but attractive flight attendant, the educated but cold college girl/daddy’s girl.  I could write an essay detailing the subtle and not so subtle gender imbalance, but I think this particular incident sums it up:

Our young male protagonist, ace newspaper reporter Buck, warns Hattie the not-so-bright flight attendant that she should avoid meeting an attractive but potentially dangerous man, not because people connected with the man have died or disappeared or that he was at the center of dangerous political entanglements but because he didn’t think Hattie was “that kind of girl”.

There’s nothing openly critical of women as a gender, and towards the end, there was some hope of character growth.  So perhaps later books get better.  But particularly with the abrupt ending, I’m not inspired to continue.

I can understand how certain moments could speak directly to someone having their own spiritual crisis, so please don’t think I’m knocking anyone who found the books inspiring or encouraging.  While the end times details are iffy, many other aspects are theologically or at least Biblically sound.  But I feel a measure of concern when a good Christian is portrayed as someone with a hyper focus on end times prophecy; hyper focus on any aspect or portion of the Bible to the point of downplaying or ignoring other parts is generally not a healthy sign.

This was my attempt to write a short review, and it is the sort of book you could write books about dissecting.  So I give it a solid 3 out of 5.  The writing could be much tighter, but at least I wasn’t bored.

Writer Wednesday – H. David Blalock

Who are you?
H. David Blalock

What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
I have published everything from novels to non-fiction articles, but I mostly write short stories in the speculative fiction genre. I know that’s a broad term, but it covers the majority of my fiction quite well.

What do you want to pimp right now?
My latest novel is the third and final volume of the Angelkiller Triad, Doom Angel. It wraps up the story begun in Angelkiller and Traitor Angel. I believe this series gives a reasonable answer to the age-old question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” in that it explains how, in the war between the Angels of Light and the Angels of Darkness, it was really the Dark that won. Since then, humanity has been conditioned to believe the opposite and has suffered for that illusion.

What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein is probably my all-time favorite. Then there is The Traveller in Black by John Brunner and the Slan series by A. E. Van Vogt. I enjoy how each of these writers took ideas of basic human need, greed, and ambition and turned them into something visceral.

What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
For the past 5 years or so I have been trying to help other writers through the Imagicopter network (www.facebook.com/Imagicopterand www.imagicopter.com) by keeping them informed of events and new venues for their writing. Hopefully, Imagicopter has been useful to the hundred or so members we have across the country.

What link can we find you at?
My personal website is www.thrankeep.com and I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Writer.HDavidBlalock.

*****

On Rejection, And Stuff…

As a writer for the better part of 40 years and editor of my own and others’ work for at least that long, I’ve been on both sides of the rejection issue. For those of you who are just starting out, there are a few things I’d like to pass along.

  1. You cannot publish what you do not finish. Before anything else, finish what you write. Don’t consider anything else until then. Not who will publish it, not how will it get reviewed, not what will your family think of it. Nothing else. Finish the piece, but remember one thing: finish first, then edit.
  2. Don’t edit your piece until it is finished. Editing as you go along prevents you from doing what you want most, that is, have a piece ready for submission. Even the great masters could ruin a piece by constantly making “just one more improvement”. Trust your instincts. Only critique and edit your work after it’s done.
  3. Do not trust spell check as your only proofreader. There are several ways to double-check your spelling and grammar. I recommend reading your work aloud to yourself. This will give you an idea of the flow and readability of the work. Make changes as you go at this point.
  4. Have a disinterested reader look over the work before submitting it. Don’t give it to your mother, father, sister, brother, or even your best friend. And don’t trust writers’ groups to give you more than a cursory idea of what needs to be done. Most of all, remember that whatever feedback you get from proofreaders is just their opinion. You should carefully consider whether their suggestions will improve or hurt your work.
  5. Research the markets for your work and read the guidelines carefully before submission. I cannot stress this enough. You can hurt your ego and sometimes your reputation by not reading the guidelines. Editors do talk among themselves. They will relay information about writers who do not follow guidelines to other editors. It’s a smaller community than you might think.
  6. Be professional! You are going to receive rejection letters. This is part of being a writer. Not every publisher is going to want your work. This is not personal. Publishers have a business to run and to make that business successful they need to cater to their audience, meet deadlines, word limitations, budgets, any number of other factors. Your work may hit them at a bad time or simply may not be what they want. Do not take rejection as a personal attack. Most of all, do not react unprofessionally to rejection by sending the editor a nasty or snide response. I can guarantee this will be passed along to other editors as evidence of your lack of professionalism.
  7. If and when your work is accepted for publication, check the contract closely and don’t sign anything immediately.It’s easy to get excited about the prospect of seeing your work in print but remember that writers get paid, not the other way around. If the publisher expects you to pay to be published, best pass on that one. Unless you are self-publishing for personal reasons, avoid that kind of contract.
  8. Expect the possibility of further editing for word count or content from the publisher. At this point, it is important to remember the publisher’s job is to sell your work. However, you still have the right to remind them you are the writer and your name will be associated with it. Most reputable publishers will work closely with you to find a satisfactory compromise.
  9. Once your work appears, send a note of thanks to the publisher/editor. A good working relationship is based on courtesy and communication. You have built a bridge. Don’t burn it first thing out.
  10. Finally, be prepared to promote your work yourself. Even the big publishing houses do very little promotion for their authors. Learn about book signings, events, conventions, anything that will get your name and work before the public. Make yourself as available as possible. The success of your career as a writer is, in the end, up to you.

 

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