Kate’s Review: “Batwoman (Vol.2): To Drown The World”

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Book: “Batwoman (Vol.2): To Drown the World” by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman, Trevor McCarthy (Ill.), Rob Hunter (Ill.), Pere Pérez (Ill.), Richard Friend (Ill.), and Guy Major (Ill.)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, January 2013

Where Did I Get this Book: The library!

Book Description from Goodreads: Six lives, inextricably linked in the past and present, each on a collision course with the others: Batwoman, fighting for duty and vengeance against a threat of arcane power. Detective Maggie Sawyer, investigating a case that could end her career. DEO Agent Cameron Chase, commanding a vigilante she despises. Colonel Jacob Kane, clutching at a life that’s slipping away. Maro, a new villain corrupting Gotham City. And Kate Kane, wrestling with decisions that will test her loyalties.

J.H. Williams III and W Haden Blackman continue their stellar BATWOMAN run, joined by senational artists Amy Reeder and Trevor McCarthy! Collects BATWOMAN #6-11!

Review: We’re going back to Gotham, folks, and we are still ignoring the obvious Caped Crusader in favor of his female, lesbian counterpart. I am, of course, talking about Kate Kane, also known as Batwoman. We’d left her off at something of a crossroads, as she had joined a group  called the D.E.O., whose goal is to take down another secretive group called Medusa. Medusa has been kidnapping children in Gotham, and Batwoman hopes to find them and return them home…. And then there’s Maggie Sawyer, Kate’s lover who is a detective for the Gotham police department… And then there’s Jacob, Kate’s father, who is keeping vigil by his niece Bette, who is in a coma after her stint as Firebird went awry… AND THEN there’s Maro, an agent working for Medusa, who is doing a lot of the kidnapping dirty work….

What I’m getting at here is that there are a lot of perspectives. Specifically, six. With jumping timeframes and scenarios that told the story out of order, or deviated from the story completely to keep tabs on other past stories! And that was a bit much to follow, if I am being quite honest. Just as I would be getting into one perspective, we’d suddenly jump to another one, which made it very hard for me to get invested in any of the storylines that were being presented. Not to mention that I would find myself having to go back and remind myself what the linear progressions were so that the stories would make sense in the end. It felt like most of my time was spent turning pages back to remind myself just where I was in the plot, and then have to skip back AGAIN to remind myself of how we got to THAT point in the first place.

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I hear ya, Boone. (source)

And the biggest problem with this was that it took a lot of the focus off of Batwoman herself. I am reading this because I want to know what is going on with Kate Kane. Sure, it’s nice getting some background on what Medusa’s endgame is, or what the D.E.O is thinking in regards to the whole situation, but not nice enough to keep on hammering it into the plot line like a puzzle piece that just doesn’t quite fit, no matter how hard you try to make it fit.

There are positives though. I really enjoyed the use of Urban Legends in the origins of the Medusa plans. As a huge fan of stories like The Man with the Hook and Bloody Mary, it was super neat to see them thrown into this story and given a neat and creepy little twist. Plus, the art continues to be absolutely gorgeous, with vibrant and bright colors and stark, dour shades of grey and black. This matches the tone to this series quite well, as it’s mostly very dark and edgy, with moments of sweetness and light, specifically between Kate and Maggie. Normally I am the first to complain about the darker tones and grittier stories that some of the DC Universe has applied to it’s stories. But I feel that it works really well for Batwoman, if only because it’s a deliberate contrast to what she was when she was first created in the 1960s. To go from a glamorous and somewhat incompetent love interest to a tough and complicated crime fighter in her own right, the darkness and edge suits Kate Kane very well, and I’m glad that she has the chance to explore it.

I’m going to hope that things go a bit better in the next volume, and that the perspectives die down a bit. Just get back to Kate.

Rating 5: The origins of the villains was very original and the art is still gorgeous, but the story gets muddled with too many perspectives.

Reader’s Advisory: 

“Batwoman (Vol.2): To Drown the World” is included in these Goodreads lists: “The New 52” and “Fantasy and Sci-Fi Featuring Lesbian Characters”

Find “Batwoman (Vol.2): To Drown the World” at your library using WorldCat!

Previous Reviews of “Batwoman”: “Hydrology”

Kate’s Review: “The Fifth House of the Heart”

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Book: “The Fifth House of the Heart” by Ben Tripp

Publishing Info: Gallery Books, July 2015

Where Did I Get This Book: The Library!

Book Description from Goodreads: Filled with characters as menacing as they are memorable, this chilling twist on vampire fiction packs a punch in the bestselling tradition of ’Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.

Asmodeus “Sax” Saxon-Tang, a vainglorious and well-established antiques dealer, has made a fortune over many years by globetrotting for the finest lost objects in the world. Only Sax knows the true secret to his success: at certain points of his life, he’s killed vampires for their priceless hoards of treasure.

But now Sax’s past actions are quite literally coming back to haunt him, and the lives of those he holds most dear are in mortal danger. To counter this unnatural threat, and with the blessing of the Holy Roman Church, a cowardly but cunning Sax must travel across Europe in pursuit of incalculable evil—and immeasurable wealth—with a ragtag team of mercenaries and vampire killers to hunt a terrifying, ageless monster…one who is hunting Sax in turn.

From author Ben Tripp, whose first horror novel Rise Again “raises the stakes so high that the book becomes nearly impossible to put down” (Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother), The Fifth House of the Heart is a powerful story that will haunt you long after its final pages.

Review: If there is one thing that you need to know about me when it comes to my love of horror, it’s that I am supremely picky about my vampire fiction. I love vampire lore, and have always enjoyed a vampire tale if it is done right. What do I personally define as ‘right’ when it comes to vampires in my pop culture? Oh, let me tell you.

  1. The Lost Boys
  2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  3. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
  4. Martin
  5. Dracula
  6. The Hunger
  7. Lestat as a whole

And of course….

8. What We Do In The Shadows

What don’t I define as right?

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I will beat this dead horse forever. (source)

I am happy to report that “The Fifth House of the Heart” is going to be able to be used as one of my personal good examples of what I look for in vampire fiction. I will admit that I had to sort of have a jump start as I was reading, because I found myself skimming more than I wanted to and not appreciating the writing. So I jumped back about a hundred pages, and really delved deep into the narrative.

The vampire world and mythology that Tripp has created is a familiar one, but he puts his own spin on his vampires and his vampire hunters. While vampires have generally the usual characteristics and tropes that has become a part of the collective narrative, Tripp adds things and twists things to make them unique to his world. For example, in this world, vampires take on the form of their prey over time, so there are encounters with vampires that look like giant spiders and malicious frogs. He also gives a lot of time to theories on metallurgy and chemistry in relation to vampire weaknesses, giving garlic some potency through means of scientific explanation and silver weapons enhanced by blacksmithing. I really enjoyed that Tripp gave such deep thought to his story that he made stalwart themes completely new and creative. I also really enjoyed our rag-tag group of vampire hunters, as they felt like they were coming right out of an “Ocean’s Eleven”-esque heist movie. Sax is a very fun protagonist, because he’s by no means a brave man. Hell, he kills vampires because he wants their antiques for his collection, and doesn’t get his hands dirty unless he absolutely has to. And even then he really doesn’t want to out of sheer cowardice. But in spite of that you can’t help but really like him and root for him. His team consists of a paramilitary badass, a sociopathic assassin who has a tragic link to vampires in her past, an obnoxious burglar type, and a blacksmith and metal specialist who is far more interested in banging women than hunting vampires. Not to mention the Bollywood actress who is suffering from a vampire bite. It is seriously charming!

Tripp’s writing is also something that gels with me completely, as I found it laugh out loud funny, but also really scary at times. There were many scenes that had me on the edge of my seat, and his descriptions are vivid and evocative. I could picture everything so easily, and the change of place never felt awkward or choppy. There are a few flashbacks in telling Sax’s story, but they were always clear cut and put in at just the right times. And the shifts from really funny scenes to scenes that had me on the edge of my seat were never jarring, as the comedic elements were just a part of the characters and always felt like they were in place, no matter how tense the situation was. And his descriptions of gore and vampire things of that nature were just the right amount of brutal without making me squeamish. Granted, my threshold for that stuff is pretty high, but it never felt supremely exploitative or graphic to me.

Vampire fans really need to try out “The Fifth House of the Heart”. It was a true joy to read it, and I think that it should take it’s rightful place of honor in modern vampire fiction.

Rating 8: A solid vampire mythology with some really fun characters. The mix of humor and horror really gives in a bite and the creatures Tripp has created are fabulous.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Fifth House of the Heart” is included in these Goodreads lists: “Best Picks: Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror Novels of 2015”, and “Hugo 2016 Eligible Works”.

Find “The Fifth House of the Heart” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Shadoweyes (Vol.1)”

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Book: “Shadoweyes” by Sophie Campbell

Publishing Info: SLG Publishing, August 2010

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description from Goodreads: In the futuristic, dystopian city of Dranac, moody teenager Scout Montana is an aspiring vigilante, but her first attempt to beat up a mugger is halted when she’s hit in the head with a brick and knocked unconscious. When she awakens, she discovers that she’s able to transform into a strange, blue, clawed, superhuman creature! In this new body she becomes the vigilante Shadoweyes… but, she’s unable to return to her human form, and is lured into a homeless superheroic life on the streets by her inhuman appearance – forced outside of society yet still bound to it. Scout’s new life as Shadoweyes is just getting started!

Review: When we started this blog, I knew that one of the things I really wanted to do was to try and find books that had diversity in them. I think that it’s important as librarians that we find books for all people from all backgrounds, and to promote them and show them off. I asked my friend Tami for some recommendations, and one of the first ideas she came up with was “Shadoweyes”. I had never heard of this series, and am glad that it was brought to my attention. So thanks, Tami! Scout/Shadoweyes is a character that stands apart from a number of other superheroes, if only because her personality is both very chill and subdued, while also having a very strong sense of what’s morally right, even if sometimes what’s right can be murky. I liked that she wasn’t necessarily a quirky teen girl, nor was she really an outcast. She has her best friend Kyisha, she has a supportive and loving mother, but she also has a frustration with the society she lives in that pushes her to try and make the world at least a little safer. She doesn’t have lofty goals; lofty goals are thrust upon her when she starts shape shifting into Shadoweyes, a strange reptilian humanoid creature.

I really like Scout/Shadoweyes, as she felt very real as a teenage girl in a very violent and dangerous world. I also liked her circle of friends/acquaintances, namely Kyisha and Sparkle. Kyisha is a very fun and cynical character, while Sparkle is over the top in her optimism and naïveté (and her love for a card game that is very reminiscent of “My Little Ponies”), so having them both provide companionship to Shadoweyes and her story was a nice balance. As for world building, Dranac is a place that we don’t know much about, setting wise. The concept of a dystopic future world is one that we’ve seen before, but what I liked about “Shadoweyes” and the setting of Dranac is that the dystopic world is not really the focus of the story, it’s just the setting. True, Dranac isn’t a good place to live, hence the reason Scout/Shadoweyes is so interested in being a vigilante, but as of right now Dranac’s setting is environmental only. Given that so much dystopic fiction for teens usually ends up with an overthrowing of the system, I’d be curious if “Shadoweyes” is going to go that route. It may not have to, and set itself apart that way.

I also really like how diverse this world is, and how that diversity is not treated as a strange anomaly. Not only is Scout/Shadoweyes an African American teenage girl, her friend Kyisha is a POC and trans, and Sparkle is representing another demographic that I don’t really want to give away because of a spoiler that really needs to be saved for reading it, just in relation to emotional impact. Campbell also draws all of these characters with differing looks, body types, and personalities, so they all feel very representative of different kinds of people who don’t usually get a lot of focus in a graphic novel setting. Campbell herself is a writer that I’m happy has a voice in the comics world, as she is a trans woman. There was one instance where the moral of tolerance and understanding felt a little bit on the nose, with characters starting to lecture a bit, but it was very quickly pulled in and never trotted into unbelievable territory. On the whole, all of the diversity and representation was very organic and believable, which was so refreshing and good to see. As someone who knows she still has a lot to learn when it comes to a lot of these things, I don’t know if I can say that it was a be all end all place for diverse representation, but I do think that at the very least it’s a good start.

And then there’s the villain, the unnamed-as-of-yet zombie/mummy/whatever girl. She is just super unsettling, and I am very curious as to what her deal is because she gave me a serious case of the willies. I don’t know why she was holding onto Sparkle, I don’t know why she was buried, and I don’t know where she is going in terms of plot. But I am really, really intrigued to find out, because her presence is easily one of my favorite things about this comic. While the city itself has a lot of injustice that Scout/Shadoweyes is trying to sort out, I really hope we go back to this girl and the mysteries that surround her.

After doing a bit of digging, it looks like the original run of “Shadoweyes” only went for two graphic novels. But as of now, it looks as though it’s being rereleased as a web comic that you can find online, starting HERE. Online it’s in full color, and I found a kickstarter that Campbell set up that, I think, is re-releasing “Shadoweyes” in full color. So maybe we’re going to get some new adventures of “Shadoweyes” beyond what has been in black and white print form already. I, personally, am very excited about that, and hope that it comes to fruition.

Rating 8: A fun comic that has it all: action, solid friendship, representation, humor, and heart.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Shadoweyes” is included in these Goodreads Lists: “Booklist for Trans Teens” and “Supernatural (Not Superhero) Comics”

Find “Shadoweyes” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Secret Six: Villains United”

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Book: “Secret Six: Villains United” by Gail Simone, Dale Eaglesham (Ill.), and Brad Walker (Ill.)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, February 2015

Where Did I Get this Book: The library!

Book Description from Goodreads: Collecting the series that led into INFINITE CRISIS! Six of justice’s deadliest enemies band together to start a revolution. Together, they want to take a stand to stop the super-heroic community from tampering with their minds and to prove how deadly they can be! But not everyone agrees to this agenda. Six rogues are recruited by the enigmatic Mockingbird, charged with opposing the Society and given assignments to thwart their rivals and even help their enemies. Who is Mockingbird? Could it be one of the six? The status quo is rocked by the Society’s formation and the revelations along the way make certain that when the Secret Six are done, nothing in the DCU will ever be the same!

Review: Remember how I screwed up when I started reading the Secret Six trades? Remember how I jumped into “Unhinged” and felt like I’d missed something, and came to understand that I had missed the entire backstory comic miniseries “Villains United”? Well guess what! I went back and read not only the prequel series, but two other prequel arcs that were included inside the collection “Secret Six: Villains United”. Let me tell you, so many things make so much more sense now. And being reintroduced to these characters in their original introductions was a bit surreal, though very helpful.

Like the summary says, the Secret Six was originally formed in opposition to Lex Luthor’s group the Secret Society of Supervillains. The recruits included Scandal Savage, Deadshot, Ragdoll, Parademon, and Cheshire. Catman joined after Luthor had his pride of lions killed. The group isn’t exactly doing this of their own volition, as Mockingbird is using blackmail as a weapon against them. Secret Six has to help their enemies as ordered by Mockingbird, and has to contend with the fact that they may all betray each other. As far as a set up series goes, I liked “Villains United” for what it was. Sometimes it felt muddled when it came to motivations, and the plot got a little bloated for a six issue arc. But the fact of the matter is that this story was far more about the characters and less about the mess that surrounded them. Finding out why each of these villains joined made me love many of them even more. I was probably biased going in, given that the team has switched up between this story and “Unhinged”. I unapologetically love the current line up, and when the line up didn’t involve them, I stubbornly refused to be on board (mainly because I just love Jeanette, and Cheshire didn’t do anything for me outside of irritate me. Yes, I know that Jeanette didn’t even get introduced until “Unhinged”, but I never said I was rational).

But I really liked Catman again. Seeing his pretty tragic backstory and seeing why he would be so resentful for his current situation shed some serious light on his character. I like that he’s a villain, but is also very conflicted about being one. I doubt that he will become a hero by any means, but he’s a breath of fresh air in how sarcastic and crabby he is, while having a good heart that he resents. I also liked seeing Scandal’s own back story, from her love story with Knockout to her broken relationship with her assassin father who is ashamed that his daughter is a lesbian, and wants her to produce an heir to their line. Deadshot is still just a snark machine who makes questionable decisions, and Ragdoll is definitely the quirky weirdo that I loved in “Unhinged”, but this time he has an adorable friendship with Parademon, who is convinced that he’s a clown that must be protected AT ALL COSTS. Their friendship even got my misty-eyed at one point, a sign of Simone’s writing skills. She does such a good job of humanizing these villains while still making them, ultimately, villains. I just wish that it hadn’t been so convoluted at times.

Just to note as well, Doomsday showed up, and I’m still not totally over “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice”, so I was both happy to see him and also suffering teary flashbacks.

Now that I’m all caught up in Secret Six I’m going to charge on through the series. Simone has a great group of characters, and a lot of heart and humor with edgy stories.

Rating 7: A good origin story with fun characters, but sometimes felt a little bloated and muddled.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Secret Six: Villains United” is included in these Goodreads lists: “Current DC Titles”. Yep, that’s it. You can find more on my initial “Secret Six” post here.

Find “Secret Six: Villains United” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Dear Daughter”

 

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Book: “Dear Daughter” by Elizabeth Little

Publishing Info: Viking, July 2014

Where Did I Get this Book: I own it.

Book Description from Goodreads: As soon as they processed my release Noah and I hit the ground running. A change of clothes. A wig. An inconspicuous sedan. We doubled back once, twice, then drove south when we were really headed east. In San Francisco we had a girl who looked like me board a plane to Hawaii.

Oh, I thought I was so clever.

But you probably already know that I’m not.

LA It Girl Janie Jenkins has it all. The looks, the brains, the connections. The criminal record.

Ten years ago, in a trial that transfixed America, Janie was convicted of murdering her mother. Now she’s been released on a technicality she’s determined to unravel the mystery of her mother’s last words, words that send her to a tiny town in the very back of beyond. But with the whole of America’s media on her tail, convinced she’s literally got away with murder, she has to do everything she can to throw her pursuers off the scent.

She knows she really didn’t like her mother. Could she have killed her?

Review: Two years ago, Serena and I (and a few of our near and dear library friends) took a trip out to the American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Many happy memories, valuable lessons, and crazy stories to whip out at cocktail parties were cultivated there, but one of the best aspects was having access to many, many books. And a number of these books were ARC copies of upcoming (as of June 2014) publications. In the flurry and excitement, I got a copy of “Dear Daughter” by Elizabeth Little. And then it sat on my bookshelf until, oh, three days ago. It was always there, waiting patiently, and I knew that I was going to get to it eventually. Which I finally did.

Boy oh boy is Janie Jenkins an unlikable person! That’s the first thing I noticed about this book. Janie joins the ranks of anti-heroine protagonists who have started flooding thriller fiction, who have more baggage than a fully booked Boeing. This time we have Janie, who has just been released from prison on a technicality. She was convicted of murdering her mother ten years prior, and even though she’s out no one actually believes that she’s innocent. After all, she spent a lot of her teenage years making headlines for courting controversy while her nouveau riche mother just let it happen (usually with cutting insults and cruelty). She’s earned the chip on her shoulder, but then, it sounds as thought she’s always been this way, even before her stint in the slammer. I suppose that I should be happy that we are getting more realized female protagonists who neither virgins nor whores, but the trope is kind of overstaying it’s welcome. That said, I did like Janie, at least for how entertaining that she was and how delightfully bitchy she was. Sometimes I like watching a crazy train wreck character, usually if he or she makes me laugh.

I was pleasantly surprised that I liked a lot of the side characters almost as much as I liked(?) Janie. I feel like it’s sometimes really easy to just have side characters fulfill minimal plot progressions, or be people that the main character can bounce off of, especially in thrillers like this one. But many of the side characters were enjoyable, and I liked getting information about all of them. It’s true that sometimes they were a little two dimensional, but the small town connections meant that everyone had some association with each other and made way for good interactions. One character I especially liked was Leo, the town cop that is on to Janie as she makes her way through the town history in an effort to figure out who she is. He was certainly abrasive, and probably would be considered problematic in how they interacted with each other, but I liked that he gave Janie a run for her money when it came to her nastiness.

This book also could be classified as partially epistolary, as some of the story is told in texts, news reports, blog posts, and other forms of correspondence, which really worked in this book. The notoriety of Janie Jenkins in this world makes her a prime target for gossip sites and bloodthirsty news organizations, and getting that whole other side of the story as the paparazzi closes in on her was great and effective at building the tension. For me the best mystery was the identity of one of the obsessed and relentless bloggers that was hounding Janie and convinced of her guilt, as the way that he was harassing her and practically stalking her made me very uncomfortable. I like being uncomfortable when I read books like this.

My main critique with this book is some of the dialogue that Little gave to Janie, be it outward or inner monologue. There were a number of times that I actually rolled my eyes because it went from being slick and snide to overdone and overcompensating. I’m sure that it was very over the top to show just how snarky and wicked she is, and that was hard to stomach because of the ham fisted way that it skewed a good amount of the time. I get it. She’s unpleasant and mean but vulnerable too. No need to oversell the point.

“Dear Daughter” was a book that I practically couldn’t put down, and I really wish that I’d thought to pick it up sooner. I hope that Elizabeth Little keeps writing thrillers, because this was a zippy read that I would definitely recommend to those who like books in the genre. Consider me a Janie Jenkies supporter through and through, and I think that I wouldn’t be the only one.

Rating 7: A solid mystery and an interesting protagonist, but sometimes on the nose and unsubtle with its dialogue.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Dear Daughter” is included in these Goodreads lists: “Books for Serial Podcast Lovers” and “If You Enjoyed ‘Gone Girl’, You Might Also Like…”

Find “Dear Daughter” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Batwoman (Vol. 1): Hydrology”

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Book: “Batwoman (Vol. 1): Hydrology” by J.H. Williams (Writer & Ill.), W. Haden Blackman (Writer), Amy Reeder (Ill.), Richard Friend (Ill.), Dave Stewart (Colorist)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, June 2012

Where Did I Get this Book: The library!

Book Description from Goodreads: As a part of the acclaimed DC Comics—The New 52 event of September 2011, Batwoman’s new series finally begins! The creative team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman launch the ongoing Batwoman series, as Batwoman (a.ka. Kate Kane) faces deadly new challenges in her war against Gotham City’s underworld–and new trials in her personal life.Who or what is stealing children from the barrio, and for what vile purpose? Will Kate train her cousin, Bette Kane (a.k.a. Flamebird), as her new sidekick? How will she handle unsettling revelations about her father, Colonel Jacob Kane? And why is a certain government agency suddenly taking an interest in her? These are some of the questions that will be answered in this long-awaited series!

Review: Batwoman is a character who has gone through a lot of changes since her introduction in the 1960s. When she was first introduced, her alter ego was Kathy Kane, heiress and love interest for Batman (because DC felt that there were too many people joking that Batman and Robin were gay lovers). She was more of a thorn in Batman’s side than an equal, as she was his competition, but wasn’t terribly competent at being a superhero. Not to mention Kathy only donned the cape and cowl so she could woo Batman. She kind of disappeared as time went on, making occasional appearances but not having much to do beyond her original intention. So when she came back for Infinite Crisis, she was given quite the makeover. She was darker and grittier. She was the daughter of a military man and was at West Point for some time. That is, until she was kicked out because she is a lesbian (before the death of DADT). The New 52 decided to give her her own series, and while it was eventually cancelled in 2014 (noooooooo!), Batwoman lived on her own terms an in her own series. I wanted to give Batwoman a try because I’d read enough peripheral comics to get a taste of her, and “Hydrology” seemed to be the next logical step in my exploration.

There were multiple strengths about this story arc that I greatly enjoyed. Of course I love where they have taken the character of Kate Kane, as back in the sixties when she was Kathy Kane she was a sexist stereotype of womanhood who was fawning over Batman like no tomorrow. So obviously I love that not only are she and Batman on tenuous terms at best, she has no romantic interest in him because she is a lesbian. I also liked her relationship with Maggie, a no nonsense detective who is trying to figure out who the mysterious Batwoman is. Maggie and Kate have a tentative romance going at first, and I enjoyed seeing them interact. As a huge fan of the La Llorona myth, having an iteration of it being the antagonist (as a ghost that is kidnapping the children of Gotham) was a neat change of pace and really intrigued me. La Llorona was legitimately scary, but also sympathetic in her own way. The other major plot line involves a mysterious group, and while it hasn’t been completely explored, it’s been set up pretty well, enough so that I’m quite interested in how this is going to develop. The artwork is also very beautiful, with lots of vibrant colors and different styles for different scenes with different tones about them. It isn’t very often that I am awestruck by artwork in comics and graphic novels, just because I don’t have an eye for art. But with “Hydrology” I was consistently impressed, sometimes having to pause just to take it all in.

My one complaint with this story arc had mainly to do with Flamebird, aka Kate’s cousin Bette. I feel that the plot line of ‘sidekick with something to prove who ultimately gets in over their head’ is one that is overdone. Bette is fine, but I had little patience for Kate underestimating her, and then Flamebird in turn overestimating herself out of anger, so when she found herself in a perilous situation I wasn’t so much worried as I was irritated. Why is it that when sidekicks have to impulsively prove themselves, it invariably goes wrong? And why did the “Batwoman” story have to go down this route when it is so original in other ways?!

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Alexa said it, we were all thinking it.

I was especially frustrated because there was a weird juxtaposition between Flamebird’s peril and a romantic interlude between Kate and Maggie. Couldn’t we have just had a lovely romantic scene without tossing in some pretty gritty and upsetting violence? It just didn’t work for me, and seeing that as of now I have no investment in Flamebird outside of Kate’s affection for her, this storyline didn’t do much for me and took me out of the book.

But overall I think that the Batwoman series is going to be strong. It’s a bummer that it ended, but I think that means that I will be able to follow it to its completion. Definitely looking forward to more Kate Kane in my reading life!

Rating 7: Beautiful artwork and coloring, and a solid start for the new and improved Batwoman. It could probably remove some of the drama with her cousin, though. 

Reader’s Advisory:

“Batwoman (Vol. 1): Hydrology” is included in these Goodreads lists: “Graphic Novels with GLBTQ Themes” and “Kickass Women in Superhero Comics”.

Find “Batwoman (Vol.1): Hydrology” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Perfect Days”

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Book: “Perfect Days” by Raphael Montes

Publishing Info: Penguin Press, February 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description from Goodreads: A twisted young medical student kidnaps the girl of his dreams and embarks on a dark and delirious road trip across Brazil in the English-language debut of Brazil’s most celebrated young crime writer.
 
Teo Avelar is a loner. He lives with his paraplegic mother and her dog in Rio de Janeiro, he doesn’t have many friends, and the only time he feels honest human emotion is in the presence of his medical school cadaver—that is, until he meets Clarice. She’s almost his exact opposite: exotic, spontaneous, unafraid to speak her mind. An aspiring screenwriter, she’s working on a screenplay called Perfect Days about three friends who go on a road trip across Brazil in search of romance. Teo is obsessed. He begins to stalk her, first following her to her university, then to her home, and when she ultimately rejects him, he kidnaps her and they embark upon their very own twisted odyssey across Brazil, tracing the same route outlined in her screenplay. Through it all, Teo is certain that time is all he needs to prove to Clarice that they are made for each other, that time is all he needs to make her fall in love with him. But as the journey progresses, he digs himself deeper and deeper into a pit that he can’t get out of, stopping at nothing to ensure that no one gets in the way of their life together. Both tense and lurid, and brimming with suspense from the very first page, Perfect Days is a psychological thriller in the vein of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley—a chilling journey in the passenger seat with a psychopath, and the English language debut of one of Brazil’s most deliciously dark young writers.

Review: I honestly could not tell you what gave me the idea to pick up this book. I think that I saw it on a list on upcoming thrillers and when I perused the description I thought ‘sure, let’s give that one a go’. I’m also always on the look out for works that are of a more diverse kind, so when I saw that the author, Raphael Montes, is from Brazil, I was extra intrigued. But thriller? This is listed as a thriller? Because to me, as a woman, this is pure, unbridled horror. So I am going to call this book as such, this is a horror novel. This is a book where a crazy man, WHO IS THE MAIN PERSPECTIVE WE GET, stalks, kidnaps, and holds a woman prisoner in hopes that she will fall in love with him. Who decided this is a thriller? Lies. False. Now I’m someone who can take a lot of messed up twisted nonsense in her books. Hell, I read “A Clockwork Orange” when I was fourteen years old, not to mention a LOT of the Stephen King catalog at that age as well. But even this book gave me lots of moments of pause, and one moment where I just had to set it down and walk away after yelling out in pure, unadulterated unsettlement.

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This was basically me for about 2o minutes after the fact.

Teo is the worst, and he is supposed to be the worst, so Montes got his point across. But as much as he was worst and as much as reading this book gave me a serious case of the icks, I really, really appreciated what Montes did with it. Nay, I would go so far as to say that I even liked it. I liked it a lot. It wasn’t a pleasant experience reading it by any means, but it was visceral and it was scary as hell, and I really see what Montes was doing with the whole thing. Bully for me, I guess. What I liked about this was that by seeing this all through the eyes of Teo, we see his perspective and what he’s thinking and why he’s thinking it. But, along with that, Montes does it in such a way that you never, EVER, feel anything but disgust and contempt for him, and for everything he does to Clarice, the supposed girl of his dreams. I feel the need to put out there right away that what he does to her is awful and extensive, so I am going to set out a TRIGGER WARNING for violence against women and men alike, and a rape scene. You’ve been warned. Clarice, however, is a very interesting character even when seen through the unreliable eyes of Teo. She’s certainly a victim of a horrible crime and unspeakable acts at the hands of a psychopath, but what I liked about her was that she wasn’t merely a victim; she has moments of manipulation, moments of power, moments of getting the best of Teo and the upper hand. While initially I was worried that she was going to be one of those ‘I’ll save you with how interesting I am’ characters, and while she was at first, she very early on made herself her own person who is not anyone’s sex object, be it through the eyes of a blatant stalker sociopath like Teo, or even through just a nice guy who needs a jolt in his boring life. The brilliance of this was that Teo completely bought into the idea that she was going to be the one to save him from his dull life (A life, I might add, that involves spending waaaaaay too much quality time with a cadaver at his medical school. That he has named GERTRUDE), and exposes this ‘wonderful interesting savior girl’ fantasy for the harmful and misogynistic nonsense that, at its heart and in its most extreme form, it is. I would even go so far as to say that Montes rips it to shreds. The moment that clicked for me, my mind was blown and I had to have another moment of stepping away for a short while. I saw Clarice through Teo’s eyes, but I also saw her through my own, and the character that I got from her was very, very satisfying and someone that I cared about. I think that had this been a two hundred-some page book of her just being abused, I would have had to put it down. But there were a lot of mind games going on and power plays that simmered below the surface, which gave me hope that somehow she would eventually, totally, find that moment of empowerment and revenge.

I need to talk about that ending though. Without spoilers, of course. But I need to talk about it because I’m not really certain what to make of it. A lot of the reviews and notes I’ve read about this book say that the ending is incredibly, poetically unjust. And while part of me is inclined to agree with that, another part of me wonders if there is a bit of a glimmer of hope to it. I’m waxing poetic here, I realize, but there was one thing thrown out there that, if my own personal theory/interpretation is right, could completely turn the meaning on it’s head. I don’t know if it’s because I need to cling to hope in a book that is basically hopeless, but I see something there that makes me think that all isn’t what it seems by the time we turn the final page in this book. I think that Clarice is going to surprise Teo one last time, even if we as the readers don’t get to see it.

“Perfect Days” was a difficult read, and I wouldn’t recommend it willy nilly to just anyone. But while it made me feel gross and upset and deeply disturbed, I really, really liked it. Raphael Montes, I’m going to keep my eye on you.

Rating 9: A very well plotted and scary book, but not for the faint of heart. Trigger warnings all over the friggin’ place. Skip this unless you are prepared to be very upset.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Perfect Days” is included in these Goodreads lists: “Amazon Best Books of February 2016 – Combined Fiction” and  “What Women Born in the 90’s Have Read in 2016”. (Note: Okay let’s be real, it’s not on many lists yet. Tell you what, if you liked ‘Misery’ this will probably be reminiscent.)

Find “Perfect Days” at your library using WorldCat!