Not Just Books: June 2018

The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and summer reading programs have started in libraries. It must be June! Between vacations and friend time, cook outs and hang outs, we have been enjoying our book piles and all sorts of other things. Here are our non-book picks for June!

Serena’s Picks

mv5bzgjinju3ztutn2mxnc00ythjltgwn2etnmvmzjkxytuxnjfhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkzoduwnzk-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: Masterchef

I probably highlighted this last year too, but I’m too lazy to check. Either way, I always look forward to summers and the return of yet another cooking competion show. While “Top Chef” and “The Great British Bake Off” are still my favorites, this one has been running strong for several years and I’ve watched faithfully the entire time. The judges have been rotating quite a lot, so I was surprised to tune in for the beginning of this season and see the return of Joe and the lost of Christina. It was a mix of feelings as I always liked Joe’s utter lack of f’s to give about doling out harsh criticism. It wasn’t a true season until he threw someone’s plate of food into the trash can. But Christina had also warmed to me quite a bit over the last few seasons, and I appreciated the show’s attempt to try to bring baking into it a bit more through her expertise. Ah well, change happens. I’m intrigued by the new format of the three judges each having teams, so we’ll see where this ends up going!

mv5bmdeyn2u1ytitndy1zi00yjljlwi5yzitnwu3ywviyjhiztgxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjg4nzayota-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: “Elementary”

OMG, it’s been FOREVER since this show was on! And by “forever,” I mean an entire year. For a show that had regularly started each fall, this was a big disappointment when I started scouring TV schedules last September and couldn’t find it anywhere only to realize that it had been pushed back until May. I mean, I guess if the choice was cancellation or turning it into a summer show, I’ll take this, but man, the wait was long. I need me some Johnny Lee Miller! It also feels like the show has been revitalized during this delay. I was never a fan of the whole Shinwell arc last year and was more than happy to hate on the character even more now that we can blame him for Holmes challenging mental health condition. I’m also excited to see the show introduce what hopefully will be a season-long through line about this mysterious villain lurking around in the background. I like the procedural elements of this show, but I’d also be happy if it added a few more “Dexter-esque” serialized villains, too.

rs-130097-snood-1800-1394566664Arcade Game: “Snood”

Let’s go back in time! As you will see later, Kate is following the more cutting edge games while I seem to be traveling back to the good ole 90s where gaming was much more simple. This wasn’t my own choice but instead that of my husband, while on several long plane rides this last month he insisted on downloading this old game and having us play it obsessively for hours at a time. And I have to say, it was quite addicting for being such a simple concept. I was also terrible at it. While he quickly pulled off complicated bank shots off the walls, I was lucky if I even hit the target I was aiming for that was straight ahead of me. Ah well. We can’t be good at everything. But I still had way more fun than one would expect. I mean, who needs inflight entertainment when you have this gem?

Kate’s Picks

unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-s4-poster-932x1140Netflix Show: “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” Season 4 Part 1

You know that this show was going to be on my list again, because every year I look forward to Kimmy, Titus, Jacqueline, and Lillian getting into dark and goofy hijinks all over New York. This season the show tackles a number of relevant issues in its own absurd, yet shrewd, way, from white privilege to sexual harassment to certain streaming services that make a WHOLE lot of money off of true crime documentaries, and I was laughing the entire way. Sadly, it is a short season with the first half out now and the second half coming out in the future, as it’s also the last season of this amazing show. I’m sad, but also ready to see where all of my favorite characters end up (please oh PLEASE let Titus and Mikey end up together!!!).

pokemon-go-news-942620Video Game: “Pokemon Go”

YEP THAT’S RIGHT, I FELL BACK INTO THIS GAME!!!! When it was announced that there was going to be a new Pokemon game on the Switch, I was pretty stoked. But then when they said that there was going to be a tie in to Pokemon Go, I felt a need to dive back into that addictive game. What I like about Pokemon Go is that it lets me fulfill my collecting desires, and that it makes it so (in good weather) my husband and I can go for walks and collaborate together on tasks, be it tracking Pokemon or teaming up to take on a gym. It’s just a fun little game. And while I may not know really any of the new generation Pokemon, going out and taking the steps to evolve the friggin’ flying dragonbeast Gyarados made the game TOTALLY WORTH getting back into.

70153390-1TV Show: “Criminal Minds”

Oddly enough, I only watched “Criminal Minds” on and off in college and didn’t really watch any more of it beyond then. You’d think that I would have been all over that show given that it’s about serial killers and the quirky and damaged people who hunt them. So I decided to jump in and watch the show on Netflix, and I must say it’s been a pretty breezy experience. While I have to imagine that it’s kind of lost it’s luster (it’s STILL ON), the older seasons are still chilling and highly watchable. I like trying to figure out the real life inspirations for some of the storylines, and I like watching the members of the Behavioral Analysis Unit track the killers. My favorites are ALWAYS going to be bubbly computer hacker Garcia, earnest wunderkid Reid, and no nonsense and sarcastic Prentiss. We’ll see how long I can keep going on this show (thirteen seasons, y’all), but for now I’m all in.

 

The Great Animorphs Re-Read #32: “The Separation”

Animorphs #32: “The Separation”

Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, August 1999

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Book Description: Rachel is falling apart. Literally. Her newest morph the ability to regenerate its limbs, but when Rachel demorphs there’s a lot more Rachel than when she started out. One more Rachel, to be exact. Rachel is an okay person to have around. But two could be considered overkill. Especially two Rachels with completely opposite personalities: one is pathetically weak; one is super strong and super nasty.Now the Animorphs have to figure out a way to put Rachel back together again. Because if it’s up to the “twins, ” Rachel the weak will surrender to Visser Three. Rachel the super bold will try to single-handedly take him down. And twice the trouble may be twice as much as the other Animorphs and Ax can handle….

Narrator: Rachel

Plot:

giphy6

Can that be my plot description? Just not continue? No? Ugh.

Rachel is out on a field trip when she drops a piece of jewelry into the ocean. Of course, this means she must morph the starfish she spots. On her way back out, some rude little kid cuts her in half with a shovel (that kid needs to be hunted down, just like Mean!Rachel thought, but mostly it’s due to the fact that he’s the reason we had to be exposed to this book). From there the chapters alternate between Mean!Rachel and Nice!Rachel. Mean!Rachel meets up with Tobias to go flying, as she had planned. Tobias immediately thinks something is up when she hunts and eats some prey on their trip. Cassie, too, notices that something is up with Nice!Rachel on their trip to the mall. For one, she admits to having skipped out on Tobias, and for two, after getting into a bit of a spat with another customer, she flees the mall crying.

Back in the barn, Cassie lets the group know that something is up and Rachel isn’t acting normal. This is confirmed when Mean!Rachel strides in the door wanting to kick Yeerk butt. Both Rachels are horrified by the other, but through their pieced together story, the group realizes that happens. The starfish DNA somehow allowed Rachel to demorph into two separate people, splitting her personality between them. Before they can figure out what to do next, Erek shows up and announces that the Yeerks are testing a new Anti-Morphing Ray gun. Jake tells the two Rachels to go home and sit this one out.

At home, Mean!Rachel is having none of this and immediately sets off after the Animorphs. Once she finds them, she barrels into the situation with a truck, ramming through walls and getting in fights with Hork Bajir. In the madness, the group manages to escape, but the plan to get destroy the gun is ruined. Back home, Wimpy!Rachel doesn’t know what to do with herself, so she decides to call her dad for comfort. After a very confusing conversation, she arranges to meet with him at the airport the next day and confess everything to him. Mean!Rachel shows back up rather put-out by how “unappreciative” the team had been to her escapades and promptly kicks Wimpy!Rachel onto the floor to sleep.

The next day, Wimpy!Rachel goes to school where both Marco and Cassie test her to see if they can figure out more about what aspects of the original Rachel is in each half of her. Mean!Rachel, of course, doesn’t go to school, but does decide to morph fly and spy on the group when they meet up in the barn at the end of the day. Ax says that he may have a plan to put her together again, but that it could also kill her. Cassie is vehemently against this. But Marco points out that the current situation won’t work either, that Mean!Rachel is too psychotic to left running around. Mean!Rachel flies into a rage, demorphs, grabs Tobias and threatens to strangle him if the team doesn’t agree that she should now be the leader. Jake sidles up and punches her in the face followed by a quick smack from Ax’s tail blade that knocks her out. Wimpy!Rachel shows up in the midst of this and flies into crying hysterics.

After Mean!Rachel wakes up, she heads home. But she’s begun to realize strangeness in her own ability to think, that she can’t figure out what to do next or plan. In her room, she sees the note that Wimpy!Rachel left to remind herself to meet her dad at the airport. With a new mission, Mean!Rachel takes off after her. At the airport restaurant, Wimpy!Rachel tries to suss out whether her father is a Controller, but before she can tell him the whole truth, Mean!Rachel shows up and forces her to leave. Mean!Rachel takes her place and is quite rude the her dad and the staff. She starts a food fight to prevent Wimpy!Rachel from showing up to ruin things and her dad finally has to leave for his next flight.

Back in the barn, the team meets up once again. They still need to deal with the Anti-Morphing Ray. The Yeerks are now up on the game that the Animorphs know of their plans (what with Mean!Rachel’s display the other day), so they have arranged for three trucks to transport the ray which means the team needs to split up. Cassie tells Wimpy!Rachel that they need her to come. Mean!Rachel demorphs and insists on coming along. During these exchanges, it’s made clear that the team doesn’t trust either of them and had been following them when they went to the airport. Ax once again knocks out Mean!Rachel to stop her from coming. And Jake invokes Wimpy!Rachel’s sense of duty to get her to come along, pairing her with himself so he can keep an eye on her.

During the mission, Jake has to continuously threaten and bride Wimpy!Rachel through every morph she has to make since she’s too scared to do most anything. After an “exciting” car chase, Jake and Rachel morph roaches as the truck they’re riding enters a building. They are quickly gassed, however, and knocked out. It turns out that Mean!Rachel woke quite quickly and morphed owl. She then followed the group, specifically her twin and Jake, and ends up in the same building.

Wimpy!Rachel and Jake end up captured. While Jake tries valiantly to keep Wimpy!Rachel calm, she ends up breaking and calling out to the Yeerks that she’ll do anything to be let go. In the mean time, Mean!Rachel had morphed Hork Bajir and casually marched into the room where Jake and her twin were being held. She attacks the Hork Bajir around her, but as she takes them down, the wall slides open and she sees even more Hork Bajir outside the room and Visser Three among them. After the remaining Controllers retreat, Visser Three orders the door to slam and turns on a machine that begins moving the walls and ceiling slowly down, taunting them that they must give themselves up or be crushed.

The boxes that Wimpy!Rachel and Jake had been in were crushed during the madness, so once free, she quickly demorphs. She doesn’t see Jake and Mean!Rachel casually comments that she may have stepped on him during the fight. Wimpy!Rachel can see a plan for escape, but she needs Mean!Rachel to carry it out with her bravery.

Wimpy!Rachel morphs Hork Bajir and calls out to Visser Three, threatening to cut her own throat rather than be infested. The door quickly opens and fly!Mean!Rachel swoops towards Visser Three. From within his ear, fly!Mean!Rachel calls out to Visser Three saying that he must give them their freedom or she will begin to demorph in his head, killing them both. Visser Three flies into a rage but quickly agrees and walks them both out. He leaves in a huff, saying that next time he’ll just kill them.

Jake demorphs next to them. It turns out he had been stepped on, but had been able to crawl his way to Wimpy!Rachel and hide out on her for the journey out. He says that this experience was necessary for both Rachels to realize that they need each other. That Wimpy!Rachel has the ability to think ahead and plan, but Mean!Rachel has the bravery to act. Back in the barn they go forward with the process to merge the two back together. Standing with the hands on each others shoulders, they begin acquiring each other and then morphing one another while Erek jolts them with electricity. It works and the newly reformed but shaken Rachel looks to Tobias to move forward with the knowledge that she is made up of two extremes.

Xena, Warrior Princess: I hate almost everything about this book. The entire plot is ridiculous, but my main frustration comes down to the way that this book mangles Rachel’s character. What always made her one of my favorites was the complexity of her character. In her we have a beautiful blonde who both loves gymnastics and shopping but is also the strongest and most fierce of this entire team. And she is never shamed for her “girly” pursuits. Those aspects of herself are never portrayed as silly or worth nothing when held up against her more heroic aspects. She’s an excellent example of how to write a strong, female character without feeling the need to throw traditionally female aspects out the window.

But here, both parts of Rachel are portrayed in truly despicable ways. For Mean!Rachel, this side should have had her bravery, her recklessness, and yes, her ruthlessness, all tempered with a high sense of practicality. She is willing to make the tough calls when the tough calls are also the most practical call. She’ll set aside emotional moralizing for this, yes. But here, she’s simply violent and there is no direction to her violence. She is just as likely to want to kill her friends as the Yeerks. As we’ve seen in book after book, Rachel is the character who is the first one to jump to the aid of her friends at risk to herself. She would never, NEVER want to kill her friends, not matter how ruthless she becomes. And for all of this, the reasons she wants to kill her friends are for stupid, petty reasons. Again, two more traits that we never see driving the real Rachel.

And then Wimpy!Rachel. For some reason, throughout this entire cluster of a book, we have to listen to Wimpy!Rachel insert the word “like” into every sentence. Real Rachel never spoke like this, so what aspect of herself is this, other than just a poor attempt to make this version of Rachel sound stupid? Her love of shopping and the mall are also reduced to the most basic stereotypes. In past books, we’ve seen Rachel approach shopping as a challenge to be accepted and conquered. Here, there’s none of that, just silliness. Further, her boy-craziness is based in nothing more than even more horrible stereotypes about “girly girls.” Real Rachel never gave even the slightest hint at having boy craziness in any part of her.

Both versions of Rachel are terrible and neither reflects most of the parts of the real Rachel that makes her such an excellent, complicated character. This book does a terrible disservice to all of the character building that has gone into Rachel for the last 30  books and basically it can die in fire for that.

Our Fearless Leader: Jake is clearly at his wits end with both Rachels by the end of the book. He pretty much says they have to agree to try to join back together or he’ll turn them over to Visser Three (a pretty empty threat, however, given their knowledge of the group). He also implies that part of the final mission was to convince both Rachels that they needed the other to help them to agree to the process. I’m not so sure about this, as it seemed pretty hap-hazard that they ended up in a situation that conveniently forced them to rely on each others’ skill sets. It’s not like Jake really engineered that situation. Sure, it worked out well, but I’m sure it wasn’t part of the plan since, in the end, dealing with the Anti-Morphing Ray was a bigger priority, and they failed at that.

A Hawk’s Life: Poor Tobias. In the very beginning, Wimpy!Rachel just ditches him for shopping and then Mean!Rachel hunts and kill some animal in front of him. And then tries to strangle him later in the book! But it was interesting to see that Mean!Rachel continually referenced having respect for Tobias because he was also a predator. To analyze that more than it probably deserves, it’s an interesting clue into part of the reason these two are drawn to each other. They each recognize the need for violence and have to reconcile it with their more peaceful other halves. And, unlike Cassie or even Jake sometimes, both are a bit more at peace with this balance overall. It’s also nice that in the end, once Rachel is back to being herself, she immediately looks to Tobias for support and he immediately picks up on the reason: that he too is made up of two very distinct selves.

Peace, Love, and Animals: Cassie has some good stuff in this book. She’s one of the first ones to notice that something is up with the version of Rachel she’s hanging out with. And then she’s the one to correctly analyze what portions of original!Rachel is in each version, giving Jake the hint that Wimpy!Rachel could be manipulated using her sense of duty. In the end of the book, she immediately asks Rachel is she’s ok and whether she wants to talk about her experience, another example of the solid friendship that these two have.

The Comic Relief: Marco is the other one who is sent to test Wimpy!Rachel to see what’s what. I think he was a bit more subtle about it than Cassie and was able to get some useful information out of Wimpy!Rachel regarding her inability to think quickly in the moment or have much short term memory. He also has quite a few good lines in this book.

E.T./Ax Phone Home: Poor Ax has very, very little in this. I hardly remember if he even spoke. He was the one to come up with the plan for getting the two Rachels back into one, but, again, Erek was the one who really pulled it off, leaving not much for Ax to do. Was he even in this book??

Best (?) Body Horror Moment: I mean, the whole concept of the book really? Being split in half and morphing two of herself? It does bring up some interesting ideas about just how much of one’s body can be lobbed off before demoprhing is a problem. So far, it seems that as long as you’re living, the demorphing process naturally regenerates any lost limbs/body parts. So I’m not sure how the starfish part lines up with this. Best not to think about it too much.

Couples Watch!: This is like adding insult to injury. I always love the Rachel or Tobias books because of the two couples, they often have the most in their books and I prefer their romance to the wishy-washy version that Jake and Cassie have. But what do I get here?!?! Mean!Rachel literally trying to strangle Tobias to death! Great. Just what I want to see. It was interesting to see that Mean!Rachel was much more into Tobias than Wimpy!Rachel.

Adding fuel to my secondary ship, Wimpy!Rachel admitted to Cassie that she could be into Marco. Marco, of course, took full advantage of this, saying at one point that Mean!Rachel could go with Tobias, leaving Wimpy!Rachel to give it a go with him.

But then she has to go too far…

Jake was there. He’s my cousin. He’s cute. Kind of big. I mean, if we weren’t cousins. . ..

george-michael-maeby-kiss-arrested-development
Ah, cousins in love.

If Only Visser Three had  Mustache to Twirl: You’d think by now Visser Three would have finally, FINALLY, learned his lesson about trying to trap the Animorphs rather than just killing them when he gets a chance. But no, still too egotistical for all that, wanting to bring in more valuable hosts. I’ve said it before though, this plan also makes no sense for a Yeerk who revels in being the only one with a morph-capable body. He is selfish and self-centered enough to want to keep a distinction like that for himself. So why he’s still hesitating to take them out when he has the chance is beyond me. He makes a comment towards the end about next time just killing them. But sure, Visser Three, whatever you say. Empty words and all of that.

Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: Again, another book during which I wept to remember the good books that came before and how far we have fallen to reach this point. There might have been some good stuff in there about Rachel’s seeming estrangement from her mother and need for her father, but there was too much other stupidness going on to even focus  on that.

What  a Terrible Plan, Guys!:  Their last plan to go forward with tracking down the Anti-Morphing Machine in the midst of the Rachel crisis was just a bad idea. Not only did they leave Mean!Rachel behind, knowing full well that she’d simply follow them and they’d have no idea what type of damage she could do (I mean, at this point she was out-right threatening the lives of several of the group, so it’s not out of the realms of imagination to think she could have taken a few of them out, especially when they were all split up covering different trucks). But beyond this, manipulating Wimpy!Rachel to do what was necessary was also a risky choice. We saw several times that Jake barely managed to get her to do what was needed as they went along and he was spending by far more time watching out for her than on the mission itself. All told, they were way too vulnerable and weakened to be attempting a mission like this, and in the end, they failed anyways. And it was STILL probably the most lucky outcome they could have hoped for.

Favorite Quote:

Rachel loses yet another arm in her grizzly morph:

“So you know what I do? I reach down, pick it up, and use it like a club to beat him over the head.” [Mean!Rachel said]

As they’re holding shoulders to start the merge process, finally a moment that sounds like the real Rachel either way:

“Do you, Dr. Jekyll, take Ms. Hyde, to have and to hold -”

“Shut up, Marco, you’re already on my list!” Mean Rachel snapped.

Scorecard: Yeerks 8, Animorphs 12

I’m going to give this one to the Yeerks. In all the Rachel craziness, the Animorphs failed to destroy the Anti-Morphing Machine, so that’s a pretty big hit. Plus, I feel bitter about this book and will unfairly take it out on my scoring.

Rating: The lowest of all ratings. Not only does nothing in this plot make sense with regards to how the starfish thing worked, or, worse, how getting put back together worked, but the character assassination that is done to Rachel is unforgivable. I always look forward to Rachel’s books, and in my mind, this doesn’t even count as a one since neither version of her that we’re given is even remotely familiar to the character we’ve spent 30+ books getting to know. I really have nothing good to say about this book. I had a very clear memory of hating it the first go around and reading it a second time has not changed things.

Note: I’m not going to rate these books since I can’t be objective at all! But I’ll give a one sentence conclusion and you can take from that what you will!

Kate’s Review: “DC Bombshells (Vol.6): War Stories”

35939533Book: “DC Bombshells (Vol.6): War Stories” by Marguerite Bennett, Aneke (Ill.), Mirka Andolfo (Ill.), Laura Braga (Ill.).

Publishing Info: DC Comics, April 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: The ultra-popular statues from DC Collectibles come to life in their own ongoing hit comic book series, now in its sixth and final installment!

The Bombshells face their final battle as a supernatural Nazi invasion begins! On top of that, Hugo Strange unleashes his failed lab experiments on Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s circus and Lois Lane has her chance to avenge her family on the villain — will she take the shot? Amid the chaos, discover Lex Luthor’s true colors as he reveals which side he’s really on, and what that means for the future of the Bombshells!

The incredibly popular DC Collectibles line is brought to life in these stories that reimagine the course of history! From writer Marguerite Bennett (BATGIRL, EARTH 2: WORLD’S END) and featuring artists including Marguerite Sauvage (HINTERKIND), Laura Braga (Witchblade) and Mirka Andolfo (Chaos) comes DC COMICS: BOMBSHELLS VOL. 6. Collects DC COMICS: BOMBSHELLS #25 and #30-33.

Review: I didn’t realize it when I reviewed our previous “DC Bombshells” Collection that “War Stories” was the last in the first large series within this alternate historical universe starring the awesome ladies of DC. I also didn’t realize that the second series, “DC Bombshells: United” was cancelled about a year into it’s run. Trust me, if I had known these things when we last visited this series, I would have gone on a long rant. In fact I’m pretty sure that I will be ranting before this review is through. But for now I’m going to try and focus on the big finale and pretty solid wrap up that was “DC Bombshells: War Stories”. Let’s see how long it takes me before I start going off. I’ll try to keep my cool.

giphy
Don’t mind me, I’m totally calm. (source)

When we left off, Ivy and Harley were in Russia helping civilians out, Raven had stowed away with them to try and find her father, Zatanna and Constantine were trying to find her, and Kara and Lois Lane had tracked down Hugo Strange and found that he’d used some of Kara’s DNA to make a clone of her, whom he called Power Girl. Also there was another captive they rescued, named Superman. And The Suicide Squad showed up, led by Batgirl and including Frankie, Killer Croc, Enchantress, and Ravager. So in this volume, all of these stories come to a head. Sadly, this means that Wonder Woman, Batwoman, The Batgirls, and Mera are all absent from this final volume in this large arc/first series, and to me that didn’t sit right. I know that all of them are going to have more to do in “DC Bombshells United” as the focus turns to the home front and the ills the American Government commits against it’s own citizenry, but this was a significant end and shift, and I think they should have shown up in some capacity. But the stories here as they are are all pretty satisfactory in spite of this glaring absences. I especially enjoyed the Suicide Squad mission, which took our team into a German Sub in hopes of finding Luc, Batgirl’s long lost paramour. I liked this storyline  because while it continued the themes of Nazi occultism and mystic plotting, we got to see Edward Nygma and a few Lovecraftian-esque threats. Plus, this Suicide Squad is pretty excellent, all of them with a 1940s flair, which means that in my mind Killer Croc has a Mid-Atlantic accent and that just tickles me. Along with this already bonus storyline we get another one involving some of the Batgirl of Burnside characters, mainly Frankie, Qadir, and Nadimah dabbling in some magical mischief. It was a one off and didn’t really add much to the overall plot, but it was still enjoyable and fun to see more characters appear in this alternate timeline.

The climax of this series, however, comes with the Battle of Leningrad, as the Bombshells have to come together to not only fight Hugo Strange, Killer Frost, and the Nazis, but to try and save Leningrad and the people there. I liked seeing all of the ladies come together in one place, and I felt like they all got some decent moments to shine within this final battle. That said, it wouldn’t be a pivotal battle of a series if there wasn’t some sadness and sacrifice, and while it never reaches levels of Stargirl loss here, there are definitely repercussions and moments of sadness for some of our characters, which all were executed with deft emotion and feeling. What I love about this series is that it shows that sadness and pain are not weaknesses in our characters,, and it’s refreshing to see that some characters do get lost in their emotions, both in good ways and in bad ways. But even when it’s in bad ways you never get the sense that these emotions are bad to have, just that they need to be used in less destructive ways. Its a theme we see a lot in these stories and it makes me wonder if a comic that was starring the males of DC would be so bold as to take that stance. I think I know the answer to that, sadly.

And finally, there is a whole new threat that comes from the Russian side and brings more storyline to Kara and her origins: Faora Hu-El from Krypton has arrived once more (seen previously WAAAAAY back when Supergirl and Stargirl were being used as Russian Propaganda), and boy has she brought some serious baggage to our finale. And since I want to discuss it here, this is our SPOILER ALERT moment that almost always pops up in this series. One of the things that “DC Bombshells” has done is made this universe and it’s characters and storylines very female centric, and that has altered some backstories here and there. The biggest alterations to date are pretty Kryptonian centric. Not only is Superman a clone of unknown origins created in Strange’s lab (as far as well know at this juncture), Kara’s own origin story is shaken up with the arrival of Faora, who tells her that she is a perfect being created by Faora, Alura, and Lara. It’s pretty neat and ballsy to reveal within this final battle that Supergirl, the last true Kryptonian (given Superman’s new origin) and most powerful being in the story,  is the product of three women and Kryptonian science. I have this image of ‘well actually’ toxic nerdboys pitching a HUGE fit about this. But that’s what “DC Bombshells” has always been about: it’s about women at the forefront, women supporting and loving and fighting women, and women as the main components of a story, with guys playing the traditional roles that women have played in comics for years. Frankly, it’s genius.

Which is ALL THE MORE REASON THAT IT SUCKS THAT DC HAS PULLED THE PLUG. Representation in comics is so important because representation in all types of media is important. With women being in the lead, women of all races, religions, and sexual orientations, “DC Bombshells” has been one of the best comic series DC has when it comes to representation (especially since apparently “Batwoman” is ALSO getting axed! Sure, I wasn’t a fan, but BATWOMAN IS IMPORTANT)! DC is still going to toss a whole lot of bank into it’s middling AT BEST movies (“Woman Woman” not included, and holy SHIT is THAT ironic given the context of this rant) and keep rebooting Batman and Superman over and over AND bastardize Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” universe for funsies, but it can’t throw a bone to a series where women are at the forefront and aren’t sexualized and objectified through a male-only gaze? IT’S UNACCEPTABLE!!!!

giphy1
Hey, I lasted awhile before I full on lost it, right? (source)

Well, regardless, this first arc of “DC Bombshells” comes to a solid close in “War Stories”, and while I know that “Bombshells United” isn’t as long, I’m going to really, REALLY savor it as I make my way through. These DC women continue to create a better world filled with compassion and justice, and I know that even though it’s ending that won’t change the importance of this series as a whole.

Oh, and is Black Canary going to show up in this next series? Asking for a friend.

Rating 8: A solid and mostly satisfying end to the first major arc of the “Bombshells” comics, “DC Bombshells: War Stories” is a wrap up with most of the characters we love, though a few notables were missing and it was very noticeable.

Reader’s Advisory:

“DC Bombshells (Vol.6): War Stories” is included on the Goodreads lists “2018 Lesbian Releases”, and it would fit in on “Diverse Heroes in Comics/Graphic Novels”.

Find “DC Bombshells (Vol.6): War Stories” at your library using WorldCat!

 

Serena’s Review: “Buried Heart”

29750595Book: “Buried Heart” by Kate Elliott

Publishing Info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, July 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!

Book Description: In this third book in the epic Court of Fives series, Jessamy is the crux of a revolution forged by the Commoner class hoping to overthrow their longtime Patron overlords. But enemies from foreign lands have attacked the kingdom, and Jes must find a way to unite the Commoners and Patrons to defend their home and all the people she loves. Will her status as a prominent champion athlete be enough to bring together those who have despised one another since long before her birth? Will she be able to keep her family out of the clutches of the evil Lord Gargaron? And will her relationship with Prince Kalliarkos remain strong when they find themselves on opposite sides of a war?

Previously reviewed: “Court of Fives” & “Poisoned Blade”

Review: This review is a long time in coming given how much I enjoyed the first two books in the trilogy since we’re coming up fast on a years since it’s been out! But I will blame my audiobook library queue. I had this one almost finished months ago, and then had to return it to the library and had to wait in line patiently to get it back. Yes, yes, I could have just read a physical copy or done any number of things to get it sooner. But my dedication to one format and the library knows no bounds! Even if that leads me to nonsensical places like writing a review months later and then dedicating an entire paragraph to these very trials and tribulations. Anyways, on to the review!

Things are coming to a head in the fight for the future of Jes’s homeland. And not only are her parents on opposing sides of this battle, but her beloved Prince Kal is finding himself more and more likely to be called upon as a leader in these trying times. While Jes’s prowess as an athlete and the star-power she has won for herself there has gotten her this far, what role will she play as events greater than she ever imagined begin to unfurl?

The story picks up immediately following the events of “Poisoned Blade.” I always like books that could be read as one, continuous story, but coming after a long break between reads, it did prove a bit challenging for me to fall back into this world. There is just so much here! After two books already, Elliott has set up not only a complex and believable world, but one that is peopled and driven by two different cultures with very different outlooks on life, and, importantly, history. That’s not to mention the ever growing cast of characters, all of whom have been slowly revealed to have their own motives in the ongoing conflict. Once I caught myself up again, all of these details fell neatly into place and this same complexity reestablished itself as firmly a plus for the series.

Especially the history aspect of the book. Throughout the series, Elliott has done a thorough deep-dive into what it really looks like to have a history that has only been told by the winners. Through all three books we have begun to see just how thoroughly retold and rewashed events of the past have been, and how now, in the third book, people are trying to reclaim these lost bits of history. This also was carefully crafted and presented. There are no easy pathways and correct decisions that can be made to right the wrongs of the past. And Elliott explores how the choices made in the present will continue to play into this narrative as the future of these two peoples continues to unfold.

Jes, as always, is a great character through whom to view this conflict. As a girl from both worlds, we are given front row seats to her own harsh realizations about what actual change would entail. Throughout the first two books and a large portion of this one, Jes’s outlook on the future has been, frankly, pretty naive. Here she is forced to truly confront her own ignorance of the political powers at play and the limitations that exist for even rulers themselves.

The action takes a swing away from the excitement of the court of fives games that has made up much of the other books. With stakes as high as these, there simply isn’t room for these type of trials as often. However, even with that being the case, I was impressed by how neatly Elliott was able to tie this aspect of the story into the greater conflict as a hole. Don’t get me wrong, Jes’s skill as a competitor is still important and relevant to this book, and the few races we saw all had incredibly high stakes and were just as thrilling as always.

However, the real action came back to the conflict itself. We saw more battles, more personal struggles in Jes’s ongoing conflict with Lord Gargaron, and a epic resolution to the entire chain of events that was both heartbreaking and incredibly satisfying. Elliott doesn’t back away from the ugliness that would take place in an overthrow of this kind, even with the most benevolent and wise of leaders at its head. Further, Jes and Kal’s romance does not get the “magic wand” treatment and they, too, much confront the challenges of any future they may have together.

I thoroughly enjoyed this final installment in the trilogy. I did knock it down one point from the previous two, simply because there were portions in the beginning and middle of the book where the pacing seemed off (events would move quickly, only to suddenly lag for several pages). This book had to fit a lot into one story and there were times where I felt like it had a few missteps simply due to the challenges of getting it all in there. But that said, this was still a thoroughly enjoyable read and very gratifying end to a solid fantasy trilogy.

Rating 8: An epic conclusion to a high stakes fantasy trilogy, full of action, heartbreak, and an introspection on what it means for a nation to rediscover its history and reclaim its future.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Buried Heart” isn’t on many Goodreads lists, but it should be on “The Games We Play” and “Best Books About Family Relationships.”

Find “Buried Heart” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Providence”

35226186Book: “Providence” by Caroline Kepnes

Publishing Info: Lenny, June 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: A propulsive new thriller about the obsessive nature of love when an intensifying relationship between best friends is disrupted by a kidnapping.

Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other, though they can never find the words to tell one another the depth of their feelings. When Jon is finally ready to confess his feelings, he’s suddenly kidnapped by his substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.

Mourning the disappearance of Jon and facing the reality he may never return, Chloe tries to navigate the rites of entering young adulthood and “fit in” with the popular crowd, but thoughts of Jon are never far away. 

When Jon finally escapes, he discovers he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to protect Chloe and find the answers to his new identity–but he’s soon being tracked by a detective who is fascinated by a series of vigilante killings that appear connected. 

Whisking us on a journey through New England and crashing these characters’ lives together in the most unexpected ways, Kepnes explores the complex relationship between love and identity, unrequited passion and obsession, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two.

Review: I wish to extend a thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this novel!

You all know that I love me some Joe Goldberg from the “You” series by Caroline Kepnes. I love how sinister, creepy, and yet hilarious Joe is, as an obsessive stalker and serial killer who takes us into his mind and judges others in both deadly, and incredibly superficial ways. So when I heard that Kepnes had a new book coming out, this one called “Providence”, I figured that it would be similar in tone and execution. True, it wasn’t about Joe and his ongoing adventures in murder, but it was billed as a thriller with Lovecraftian themes. I went in with some very clear expectations of how this book was going to go down, expectations that were not met. But they weren’t met in the best way possible, because “Providence” is my first perfect 10 of 2018.

giphy
This was me as I finished this book. So many happy and sad tears. (source)

“Providence” has sort of framed itself as a dark fantasy thriller, but at its heart it is a story about love and what love can do to a person, be it good or bad. Our three narratives we follow are from the perspectives of Jon, Chloe, and Eggs. I’ll start with Jon and Chloe since they are the heart of the book. Their deep and intense friendship really propels this book, as they truly and totally get and understand each other, even when others may not. So when they are split up because of Jon’s kidnapping, and then the dangerous ‘powers’ he is left with afterwards, the injustice of it all just hits you right in the gut. Their love definitely treads the line between obsession and devotion, but I always found both of them giving equally and taking equally so it was never a problem for me. I also loved seeing their own personal journeys in the novel, from Jon trying to survive and figure out how to reverse his deadly powers without drawing too much attention to himself, or harming others. His captor experimented on him, and driven by an obsession with Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” Jon now is completely toxic to those he physically encounters. His slow realization that he is toxic was so upsetting, and the lengths that he goes to try to reverse it all because of Chloe is so heartbreaking that I just felt my heart breaking for him every step of the way. Chloe, too, has her own difficult road she’s travelling, as she knows that she should forget about Jon (as she’s under the impression that he wants nothing to do with her) but just can’t get him out of her head or her heart. Things become all the more complicated when she turns to her high school boyfriend in hopes that he can help her forget about Jon. It doesn’t help that Car was also one of Jon’s main tormentors, and has always resented her attachment to her long lost friend.

Eggs is the third perspective in this book that I was prepared to find underwhelming. After all, juggling three perspectives and doing them all justice is hard enough as it is, and when you add in the obsessive detective trope it can come off as old hat and unoriginal. But Eggs also had such a rich narrative that I found myself juts as compelled by his sections. They way that he approaches Jon as a threat, and gets fed stories and perceptions that don’t match the actual realities of what happened, just adds to the dread for Jon and also the injustice of it all. But Eggs is no villain. He’s a man who is trying to find sense in senselessness, his motivation partially being because he can’t find the sense in his only child’s autism. This whole aspect of his background, as a father who loves his son but can’t connect with him and therefore stays away from him, gave his backstory the same level of sadness that Jon and Chloe each had. They are all looking for solutions, and none of them can find any.

But there is always hope in “Providence”. The goodness of the protagonists is always apparent and all of their hearts are in the right places, even if they sometimes make mistakes that hurt others and themselves. They are all written in such a way that I completely believed all of the choices that they made, and I understood their motivations. I was rooting for all of them, even if my rooting came in direct conflict with what each of them wanted and needed from each other. Caroline Kepnes had already convinced me that she knew how to write a darkly funny thriller novel with an entertaining monster for a protagonist. Now I know that she can also write people filled with goodness, even if their circumstances may hinder it once in awhile.

I loved “Providence”. It’s my first 10 rating of 2018, and I can see myself revisiting it again and again as I do with the Joe Goldberg series. Caroline Kepnes is amazing, and I continue to be in awe of her story telling abilities.

Rating 10: A powerful and bittersweet thriller about love, friendship, obsession, and fate, “Providence” is not only entertaining and engaging, it’s also touching and emotional.

Readers Advisory:

“Providence” is brand new and not on many GoodReads lists yet, but I think that it would fit in on “Counter-Lovecraft”, and “Star-Crossed Lovers”.

Find “Providence” at your library using WorldCat!

Beach Reads: Summer 2018

Back for 2018, here is a list of some more favorite beach reads! “Beach read” is a very fast and loose term for books people read over the beautiful summer months when we really should be outside “doing things” but are instead reading…maybe outside. Some people see these months as an opportunity to slog through long classics (we’re looking at you “Moby Dick”) before the busy-ness of of the fall starts up, but for the sake of this list, we’re limiting our choices to stand alone, mostly feel good books (though there’s some obvious leeway here for Kate’s horror tastes!) that could be easily brought along on vacations. So, still a very loose definition, but hey, we had to start somewhere! We will select one title for each of the genres we most read.

Serena’s Picks:

 22544764Fantasy Title: “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

This book is a few years old now, but I always go back to it when I’m asked about favorite stand alone fantasy fiction. It’s one of those magical unicorns of a book that somehow walks the line between being a fairytale retelling (“Beauty and the Beast”) but blurring the events and twisting things around so thoroughly that by the end of the book, you’re questioning whether this wasn’t just an entirely new fairytale on its own and any similarities were just happen chance. I didn’t have a single criticism of this book when I read it, with its strong main character, beautiful writing, and complex magical world. What’s more, while it is a standalone novel, Novik will be releasing another fairtyale-esque book, “Spinning Silver,” in July and I can tell you right now, that one’s amazing, too!

24100285Science Fiction Title: “Space Opera” by Catherynne M. Valente

I haven’t actually read this title yet, but I have much love for Valente’s “Fairyland” series as has been well documented on this blog. I also have two librarian bookclub friends whose judgement I trust who gave it high ratings, so on with the recommendation! The description of this one is about as wacky as it gets: intergalactic Olympics, but not so much the sports and more singing and dancing. And Earth has just made its first grand entrance. Will there song and dance numbers have enough glitter and air guitar to make the final cut? I don’t even know what more to say, but that the human band is called “Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes.” I mean, c’mon, this has to be a hellava ride!

28186322Mystery Title: “A Curious Beginning” by Deanna Raybourn

This was a no-brainer pick for me. I just discovered this historical mystery series this spring, and have absolutely loved the two I have read (the review of the second book to come shortly!). With its light tone, witty leading lady, and grumbly but endearing romantic interest, there’s nothing left wanting for a mystery title to while away the hours outside in the sun. Veronica Speedwell is right up there with Amelia Peabody and some of my other favorite female sleuths. The mystery itself was strong, even if the ending was a bit rushed. But who really cares. I was just there for the snappy banter and blistering romantic tension!

33574143Historical Title: “The Beautiful Ones” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Technically, this one has magic in it, too. But its such a non-integral part of the story, in my opinion, that I’m throwing this one in here anyways. Mostly, this book has been criminally under-recognized and I want to do my part to bring it to the attention of readers who enjoy British manners and society books. In many ways, it reads the way a modern Jane Austen novel would. The primary crux of the story is one of relationships and the roles that women are expected to play in society in a time period where their options were limited. Here we see two very different women who have chosen different paths. One, giving up one dream of the future in order to conform to the expectations of family and society. The other still rebelling and pushing back against what is expected of her. And between them, one man who is still not sure of his own place in the world. This is a sure hit for fans for historical romances.

Kate’s Picks

7466727Horror Title: “The Amityville Horror” by Jay Anson

So I just want to say straight away that this book is advertised and technically classified as ‘non-fiction’, but it’s pretty common knowledge now that the Amityville Haunting was a big ol’ hoax. It was all a huge distraction and cash cow to make some bank for some people and to provide a legal defense for another (specifically Ronny DeFeo Jr, who killed his entire family with a shotgun). But the story of the Lutz Family moving into the large house on 112 Ocean Avenue is a VERY entertaining read, even if it is a big lie. Anson tells a haunted house story with a certain matter-of-factness and a fast paced vigor, and the now notorious story is truly best on the page. From flies to a ghost pig named Jody to the sounds of a MARCHING BAND stomping through the house, this novel hits all the cliches, and yet feels fun and fresh in spite of it. If you want a quick beach read that is just fluff and fun, “The Amityville Horror” is the way to go when you let go of the illusion that it’s true.

5886881Thriller Title: “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn

So unlike everyone else in the world, I was NOT impressed by the book “Gone Girl”. I didn’t find any of the characters likable, I called the twist early but didn’t enjoy the journey to the reveal, and I hated the ending. So if people ask me what Gillian Flynn I do like, I will ALWAYS say “Dark Places”. Libby Day survived a family massacre that her own brother was arrested for. Her notoriety dried up when media interest went elsewhere, and now she’s worn out and dysfunctional as an adult. But when a group of armchair detectives approach her with the theory that her brother didn’t do it, she is pulled back into her past, and starts to wonder if everything she remembers about that horrible night is actually untrue. This is a fast paced and well done thriller, and unlike “Gone Girl” there are characters here that you can absolutely root for. I remember devouring it in a couple sittings. If you hated “Gone Girl”, this is proof that Gillian Flynn still may have something to offer you.

22040598Graphic Novel Title: “The Sculptor” by Scott McCloud

If you are looking for romance, despair, a meditation on artistry, a very readable story, and a beautiful art style, “The Sculptor” will be a good pick for you to take on your vacation this summer. Don’t be daunted by the size; while it is a thick book, it reads very fast just because it’s so engrossing. It’s the story of a struggling sculptor named David who makes a deal with Death: he will be able to use his hands to sculpt and manipulate any kind of material and matter, but he will die in 200 days. David accepts, thinking that’s plenty of time to make his mark on history as an artist. But then he meets Meg, and love becomes a true problem for a man with so little time. While the characters in this are grating (ESPECIALLY David and Meg), the story itself is filled with such emotion and raw expression that I couldn’t put it down when I read it.

29780253

Non-Fiction Title: “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah

If you are a fan of “The Daily Show” you know who Trevor Noah is (and even if you aren’t a fan you probably know too). He’s a very dry, observant, and intelligent comedian who has taken over one of the great satirical platforms of our time. But in “Born a Crime” he goes back to his childhood in South Africa during and after Apartheid. The product of a bi-racial relationship (which was illegal in South Africa at the time), Noah tells stories from his childhood that run the gamut of funny, scary, and very, very devastating. Noah’s voice is quite witty and down to Earth as he recalls these various stories, and his love for his mother is powerful and leaps off the page. Plus, you will probably learn about South African history and culture, as well as a first hand account of what Apartheid did to Black South Africans while it was in place.

What books are you bringing to the beach, the cabin, or the pool with you this summer? Let us know in the comments! 

Serena’s Review: “Burn Bright”

35839437Book: “Burn Bright” by Patrica Briggs

Publishing Info: Ave, March 2018

Where Did I Get this Book: from the library!

Book Description: They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.

With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn…

Review: This is going to be a really challenging review to write. For one thing, I have read all of the other books in this series, but they were all before Kate and I started this blog, so the progression of my feelings for this particular series isn’t already documented. I’ll try to discuss that a bit in the beginning to lend some context to this review. My feelings are also all tied up because a very small moment in this book has a massive effect on not only this series, but also the Mercy Thompson series which I have been reviewing here. I’m still not even completely certain if my ultimate rating is accurate. So with that super clear and stellar intro, let’s get into it, shall we?

This story takes place directly after the events in the last Mercy Thompson book, thus Bran is still away overseas. This leaves Charles and Anna in charge of managing the pack back home in Montana. All seems well until the some of the more dangerous members of the pack, those so wild that they live removed from the others out in the wilderness, begin to report being pestered and attacked by strangers with powerful magical tools. But how are these strangers even aware of these far and removed wolves and what do they ultimately want?

As I said, I’ve been reading this series right alongside the Mercy Thomspon books, as Briggs seems to release one book from either series almost yearly. I’ve had my up and down moments with the Mercy books, but overall, I’ve always enjoyed her as a character and had a fun time with those books. Not so with this series. For some reason, Anna’s more passive character has never seemed to translate well for me, and combining her with the often stoic and reserved Charles does nothing to add any more energy to the story. What’s worse, I’ve felt that the books previous to this have been pretty light on the action over all, leaving most of the story to be carried by characters alone, something that I never felt either Charles or Anna were up to.

So that’s what makes this story particularly hard. For the most part, action-wise at least, I enjoyed this book way more than I have other entries in the series. Particularly the one that came directly before this, “Dead Heat,” which I barely made it through out of sheer boredom. Here, the action takes off almost immediately and the tension and mystery remains interesting throughout the story. While I still did get to a point where I was over halfway through the book and wondering when the main plot was going to get going, I still had had enough action in smaller moments to keep me on board. I particularly liked the addition of a few new wolves in the half-crazed wildlings that live on the periferary of the Montana pack. One in particular, a crux point for the entire story, had a very compelling back story and new take on how one becomes a werewolf and how ones life prior to this change can affect their life going forward.

I also liked the way witchcraft was brought into this story. There were some new magical weapons that were introduced, and an longer story arc was referenced that I could see continuing to play out in exciting ways in both future books in this series as well as in the Mercy series.

Charles and Anna, too, were fairly strong in this one. While I still don’t enjoy them nearly as much as Adam and Mercy, they were interesting enough here. Anna’s passivity still makes her not the most interesting character, but her unique Omega powers were used in a new way that lent some new depths to her character. We also had some ties to her past that reinforced some of the challenges that she still struggles with. Charles was…Charles. Not much changed there, but oh well.

So, with all of that, I would rate this book on its own around a seven. I probably would have rated most of the other books in this series around a 5 or 6, so a 7 is a marked increase for me in general enjoyment. And yet, as you can see, it has a 4.I really can’t discuss the reason for this drastic drop without spoilers. So for those who still want to read this book, spoiler free, just know that there is a particularly conversation that massively retcons a certain character that has, in my opinion, a dire impact on both this series and, maybe even more so, the Mercy series. But for those want to know, spoilers below!

tk8e85y
It’s bad guys, it’s real bad.

Apparently, Bran has had romantic feelings for Mercy since forever. And both Charles and Anna, and probably Leah, and pretty much everyone but Mercy (AND THE READERS) have known about this the entire time. I have so many problems with this, let me list the ways:

  1. First and foremost, we have had ZERO indication that this is the case through two entire series made of 14+ books. That’s a whole lot of writing in which this was never referenced in even the slightest way. Every discussion about Bran and Mercy’s relationship has firmly framed it as a father/daughter relationship. Nothing Bran has done or said has indicated anything else. Nothing Mercy has said or thought has indicated anything else. And no other character, even in passing reference, has even hinted that there is a romantic element to all of this. It’s a retcon in the most clear way.
  2. This is hugely upsetting and pretty much ruins Bran’s character. Up to this point, Bran had been one of my favorite characters in the series. He is supremely powerful, but has hidden it successfully for centuries. His love (fatherly!) for and loyalty to Mercy were always touching moments, especially for a character whose own real parents were largely absent from her life. Now he’s a pedophile. There’s just no way around this fact. Bran sent Mercy away from the pack when she was a teenager, fifteen or sixteen I think. He did this to prevent his own son from pursuing a relationship with her, knowing that the age difference and differing motives (Sam just wanting kids who will survive) made it an almost predatory situation for Mercy. She then spent the rest of her growing and adult years removed from Bran and the pack. So what this entire conversation between Charles and Anna sets up is a horrible, pedophilia-based interest from Bran in Mercy. Charles and Anna discuss that Leah’s poor treatment (abusive in its own right) of Mercy was largely due to her own knowledge of Bran’s feelings for Mercy. From what we know, Leah was terrible to Mercy almost always, meaning that Bran had romantic interest in Mercy from when Mercy was a very young child. Even in the best light (which again, doesn’t work with the Leah timeline), Mercy was only 15 when she and Bran were living in the same pack and had a relationship together. 15!!! And he’s thousands of years old!!! And the entire reason he sent her away in the first place was presumably  because of his own son’s age (and the child stuff).
  3. This entire thing also puts a horrible spin on Leah’s treatment of Mercy. It was always bad and cast probably the darkest shadow (up to this point) on Bran’s character that he didn’t stop it. Again, Mercy was a child and Leah tormented her to the point where Charles, in this book, admits that he followed Mercy when she was alone to make sure Leah didn’t try anything, hinting that he had legitimate concerns that Leah could do something extreme to Mercy. This book proceeds to try and make Leah a  more sympathetic character by setting up this “Bran having feelings for Mercy” thing. As if Leah has some sort of right to be angry AT A CHILD for inspiring wildly inappropriate feelings in her mate, and in some ways Mercy had the bad treatment coming.
  4. Anna, too, is ruined by this, because at one point she says she “understands” Leah and would “feel the same way” had Charles had similar feelings. Anna is supposed to be a character whose empathy and social awareness makes her unique among a species prone to emotional denseness. And this is terrible, to at all relate to essentially a mother who abuses her child (to the point that others fear for the child’s life) because the father has an inappropriate fixation on said child. For Anna to be on the wrong side of this situation, to be casually talking (and smiling!) about it as if no part of it is that big of a deal, other than pack gossip, pretty much ruins what is supposed to be her “super power.”
  5. This is a small thing in the grander scheme of disgustingness that is this entire situation, but we now have almost every male character in this series falling in love with Mercy. It was bad enough before with Samuel and Stephen, but now it’s just gone to a crazy level. As if no man is capable of having a healthy, platonic relationship with her without succumbing to wanting more.

I really can’t say enough about how upsetting this turn of events is. It’s truly going to make it difficult to continue with either series. If taken as fact, it makes Bran a despicable character, a predator in the most base sense, and someone who can only be seen as a villain going forwards. Any interaction between him and Mercy has now retroactively been made cringe worthy to read, and going forward impossible to support. I honestly don’t know how Briggs can fix this or if she even will try. I’ll probably read the next Mercy book just to find out, but I don’t really have any hope for the situation. Other than killing off Bran, I don’t know what can be done. And even that still leaves it very difficult to go back and re-read the other books in the series without feeling incredibly uncomfortable and put off. If I could just tear these pages of dialogue out of the book and pretend I had never read them, I’d be so much happier.

So, that’s my feelings on that. As you can see, I massively downgraded this book because of what is only a short conversation, but one that has dire consequences for this and the Mercy Thompson series as a whole. And it’s too bad, because on its own, I liked this book the best of all the others in this specific series. But if I could, I’d rather have not read it at all and kept my good feelings about Bran and the Mercy Thompson series instead.

Rating 4: Honestly, if you’re a big fan of the Mercy Thompson series, I wouldn’t read this. It does more damage to those books than the good it does for its own series, in the end.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Burn Bright” is a newer title so isn’t on many relevant lists, it should be on this list (like many of Briggs’ other books are): “Best novels with Native American main character.”

Find “Burn Bright” at your library using WorldCat!