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!

Serena’s Review: “Morning Star”

Morning StarBook: “Morning Star” by Pierce Brown

Publishing Info: Del Rey, February 2016

Where Did I Get this Book: The library!

Book Description from Goodreads: Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied – and too glorious to surrender.

Unavoidable spoilers for “Red Rising” and “Golden Son.”

Review: This is it! The final book in Pierce Brown’s “Red Rising” trilogy. For me, from past experience with YA trilogies, the last book is what makes or breaks the series. And sadly, more often than not, they fall in the category of “breaks.” I’m looking at you “Allegiant” and “Mockingjay.” But not so with “Morning Star.” It’s good, guys, it’s really good!

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Yes! Nailed it!

“Morning Star” picks up pretty much where “Golden Son” left off. Darrow has been betrayed and captured by his enemies. Cue pain and suffering. It goes without saying that eventually he is rescued, otherwise there would be no book here, so I don’t think I’m spoiling much by acknowledging that yes, he does eventually escape. But only after his confidence has been shaken. This book is the culmination of Darrow’s journey towards leadership. One of my complaints from “Golden Son” was Darrow’s tendency towards over-confidence and arrogance. In this book he has to re-make himself and discover what it is that he really has to contribute to the uprising. It’s no longer as simple as “Darrow: magical leader fighting guy.” His journey through this book is so incredibly satisfying.

All the right character beats are hit exactly. And moreover, not only do we get more time and character expansion for favorite characters from past books (Sevro, Victra, Mustang) but yes, even more awesome characters are added, like the Queen of the Obsidians. I can’t write this review without dedicating at least a few sentences to my girl, Mustang. This series has come so far from its roots where I was skeptical as to the treatment of the few female characters. In this, Mustang comes into her own as equally important to the success of the revolution as Darrow. They’re the definition of a power couple.

Believe it or not, the world building expands even further in this final book. It’s incredibly impressive how creative, well-thought out, and organized this massive world is. We get to spend time in a variety of new settings and, specifically,  the politics of the Obsidians and Moon Lords are more fully explored.

The most impressive part of this story, for me, is the fact that Brown doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of a revolution of this nature. Darrow is forced to make heartbreaking compromises and, in the end, his “rising” looks much different than the one he imagined as the idealistic sleeper spy from book one.

My few criticisms of the book: I mentioned in my review for “Golden Son” the odd balance Brown strikes between writing shocking revelations and dealing with the boundaries of a first person narrative. There was some improvement in this area, but ultimately, I still found some of these reveals a bit awkward in the context of how the reader is viewing the story. I’m starting to think that Brown could also make it as a screenwriter given this tendency. There are also several grand speeches (ala “Independence Day” style) throughout the book which are easy to picture going over well in a summer blockbuster. Perhaps a few too many, honestly. However, it is ultimately saved by a couple of self-aware jabs at Darrow’s tendency to speechify which play well for humor’s sake.

Ultimately, I think that Brown nailed the landing on this one. While the end was slightly predictable, Brown’s complex world, engaging characters, and talent for writing fast-paced, exciting action scenes make this book (and series) a must for sci-fi lovers.

Rating 8: Highly enjoyable. Am waiting for the movie announcement to come any day! How could it not?

Reader’s Advisory:

“Morning Star” is included in these Goodreads lists: “Best Science Fiction of the 21st Century” and “Best Grimdark.”

Find “Morning Star” 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!

April 2016 Highlights

Hey everyone! It’s the start of the month, and that means that a bunch of new books are going to be published across many genres. Because of that, we have decided to share with you the books that we are the most excited about, across our favorite genres.

Serena’s Picks

Flamecaster Book: “Flamecaster” by Cinda Williams Chima

Publication date: April 5, 2016

Why I’m interested: I read and loved Chima’s “Seven Realms” series. That story featured dual protagonists, a young woman and a young man set in a creative fantasy world. This book takes place in the same world following the stories of Ash, a trained healer with a tough of magic, and Jenna, a young woman with a mysterious past. This series is set a generation after the original, so I’m looking forward to returning to this world and seeing what’s what!

 

Every Heart a Doorway Book: “Every Heart a Doorway” by Seanan McGuire

Publication date: April 5, 2016

Why I’m interested: What happens when you return from Oz? Or tumble back out of the wardrobe? In this novella, Seanan McGuire explores what’s next for children whose magical experiences have come to an end and they’re back in the boring, old, regular world. I haven’t read too many novellas, but I have liked the first few books in McGuire’s “Toby Daye” urban fantasy series. Will definitely be checking this one out.

 

The Raven King Book: “The Raven King” by Maggie Stiefvater

Publication date: April 26, 2016

Why I’m interested: This is one of those series that everyone raves about, to the point where you almost want to not read it just because you want to save the whole experience. At least, that’s been my approach. I have absolutely loved the first two books in this series and have intentionally been pacing myself reading the third one waiting for this to be published in case of any unbearable cliff hangers. But it’s almost here! Stiefvater’s beautiful examination of friendship and family make this series an amazing read. The magic is just the topping on the cake.

Kate’s Picks:

26030697Book: “Fellside” by M.R. Carey

Publication Date: April 5th, 2016

Why I’m Interested: I actually wasn’t that impressed with M.R. Carey’s last book, “The Girl With All The Gifts”, his take on a zombie story. While the zombies were interesting in their origin story, the plot itself didn’t thrill me. But it sounds like his newest book, “Fellside”, is a ghost story, one that takes place in a women’s prison. I’m really happy that the ghost story is coming back into fashion, and I’m hoping that he’ll bring an original twist AND bring a really spooky story.

 

28204534Book: “Paper Girls (Vol. 1)” by Brian K. Vaughn

Publication Date: April 5th, 2016

Why I’m Interested: Let me get this straight. Brian K. Vaughn, writer of both “Saga” and “Y: The Last Man”, has another comic collection coming out? And that comic collection is about a bunch of paper girls in 1988 who uncover a huge story that sets off a lot of drama and mysteries? I am SO in!!!!

 

 

25241697Book: “Wonder Woman Earth One (Vol. 1)”

Publication Date: April 6th, 2016 (expected)

Why I’m Interested: As a huge fan of Wonder Woman, and still feeling pretty good about her most recent film debut in “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” (but more on that later), I am really having high hopes for this newest Wonder Woman comic collection from DC. I wasn’t a fan of her New 52 run, so let’s hope that this time around she’s going to have some fun stories that are actually about HER, and not about some random person she has been assigned to protect.

 

What books are you guys excited for that are coming out this month? Let us know in the comments!

Kate’s Review: “Secret Six (Vol 1): Unhinged”

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Book: “Secret Six (Vol 1): Unhinged” by Gail Simone, Nicola Scott (Ill.), and Doug Hazelwood (Ill.)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, September 2009

Where Did I Get this Book: The library!

Book Description from Goodreads: The Secret Six are back in an all-new ongoing series that promises to deliver some of the darkest, most twisted action-adventure the DC Universe has seen since…well, the last time the Secret Six got together!

Join Catman, Scandal, Deadshot, Ragdoll, and their two newest members as they hit the road on the run from some of the world’s most dangerous killers! A contract has been put out on the lives of the Six, but the sly team has some tricks – and a whole lot of bullets – up their own sleeves! Prepare for an adventure that will take them through a gauntlet across the seediest parts of the DC Universe, and will ultimately pit them against a foe more monstrous and murderous than any they’ve ever had to face!

Review: This summer the movie “Suicide Squad” is coming out, and while a lot of people are already making fun of it (as many people are wont to do when it comes to DC movies), I’m intrigued by it and will probably go see it. I like the idea of villains being the anti-heroes and stars of the story, so “Suicide Squad” appeals to me. But along with Suicide Squad, there is another team of villains turned (sorta) good in the DC Universe, and that is the Secret Six. The Secret Six first appeared during the Silver Age of DC Comics, but they tapered off and didn’t reappear until Gail Simone (comic writer extraordinaire) brought them back from the dead with a new team and a new, edgier image. Though they started with a couple miniseries (which I AM getting from the library and will address in a later post), I started with their first stand alone volume, “Secret Six: Unhinged”*. In which our intrepid and jaded group of anti-heroes find themselves breaking former baddie Tarantula (Catalina Flores edition!) out of prison, and the target of a very scary crime boss named Junior. Because Junior is interested in something that Tarantula has in her possession….

I’ll admit that I was a little confused at first, as I inadvertently jumped in kind of in the middle of the story. But Simone does a really good job of getting newbies up to speed, and the new arc starts quick and takes over right away. All of the characters are drawn in many shades of grey, but they are all very likable even when they are doing pretty questionable things. What I liked the most about The Secret Six was that while they were all pretty snarky and had their own quirks, there was always a dangerous, and sad, vibe about each and every one of them. Scandal Savage is their sort of unofficial leader, but she is mourning the loss of her girlfriend, and that makes her fragile and unpredictable. Catman is going through his own traumatic memories, but that doesn’t stop him from snarking at Batman while they come to fisticuffs on the rooftops of Gotham (I was cackling hysterically when Catman was convinced there was a taco place around due to the scents in the air and would just. not. let. it. go.). Ragdoll is a weirdo who can contort and shift his limbs, but he may have a sadder backstory than he’s letting on. Deadshot is a tough guy with a mean streak, but you can tell he does care about his teammates. Jeannette is gorgeous and sexy, but has a mysterious power that goes back centuries. And then there’s Bane. A very conflicted, paternal Bane who has sworn off Venom because he doesn’t want to be an addict anymore. Which is weird. But along with thinking it was weird, I really, really loved it and was totally on board with it. Bane without Venom? Sure! Let’s do this!

All of these personalities combine to make a very likable team, and in turn a very likable series. It isn’t all snarky and espionage-ridden sunshine and rainbows, however, as Simone does bring in a lot of darker themes. The villain (well, the actual antagonistic villain, I should say), Junior, is seriously one of the most disturbing creations I have seen come out of DC comics. Heck, maybe even in all of comic-dom, at least for me, and that’s coming from someone who dabbles in lots of other twisted comics as well (Hellooooo “The Walking Dead”). Junior was a very depraved and upsetting villain, but even Junior has a lot of character and a lot of history that gives the reader no other choice but to feel some empathy for how this really scary villain got this far gone. That said, it’s hard to forget that the first thing we see of Junior is an unfortunate victim being pulled into a small wooden box and destroyed in ways that is only left to the reader’s imagination. And let’s just say my mind went to really awful places.

I also want to mention that there are laugh out loud hilarious moments in this first book. The aforementioned Batman vs Catman fight, some of Ragdoll’s eccentricities that put the rest of his teammates off, how exasperated Scandal gets with Bane’s misguided, if not sweet, attempts to be a father figure to her, and the snappy dialogue that Simone is known for. As someone who likes her superheroes with a little bit of edge, this team of ne’er do wells tickled me absolutely pink.

While I’m wondering how long this can sustain itself, and while I already found myself a little weary of the potential for constant double crossing, as of right now I am really digging Secret Six. This is a great example of why I am a DC girl at heart. It’s all about the villains, baby.

*NOTE: Simone’s original Secret Six run has been re-released as of late. I’m reading the original trades, which may be harder to find. If you want to read this series in the new trades, the titles are as follows: “Villains United”, “Money for Murder”, “Cat’s Cradle”, and a yet unnamed final trade, according to Goodreads.

Rating 8: Interesting characters and the right balance of action, pathos, and humor.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Secret Six (Vol 1): Unhinged” is included in these Goodreads lists: “Graphic Novels that Rocked My World” and “Comics Starring Villains”

Find “Secret Six (Vol 1): Unhinged” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Rev-Up Review: “Golden Son”

Golden SonIn anticipation of my up-coming review of the recently released “Morning Star,” the final book in Pierce Brown’s “Red Rising” trilogy, I thought I would go ahead and post reviews for the two previous books in the series. Just so we’re all caught up and ready for what promises to be an action-packed conclusion! Here’s my review of the second book in the trilogy.

Book: “Golden Son” by Pierce Brown

Publishing Info: Del Rey, January 2015

Where Did I Get this Book: Bought

Book Description from Goodreads: With shades of “The Hunger Games,” “Ender’s Game,” and “Game of Thrones,” debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation.

“Golden Son” continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.

A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart.

Inevitable spoilers for “Red Rising.”

Review: Oh, look! Publishers have now added “Game of Thrones” to the list of books this series resembles! Except for space. And a color-based hierarchy. And set in the future of our current world. And a single, first person narrator. Wait…

“Golden Son” starts with a significant jump in time. This was very unexpected. As the series was initially marketed as young adult, it is usually customary for the story to pick up immediately where the previous book left off. However, for this series, I think it really works. “Red Rising” ends with Darrow being fully accepted into the Gold society, triumphant after his overthrow of the battle school system, and moving on to the next level of his training under the tutelage of his nemesis, Nero au Augustus. I suspect that Brown may have caught on to the lessons learned by “Catching Fire:” readers don’t necessarily appreciate “Sequel: Battle School 2.0.” So the decision to skip the majority of Darrow’s time going through this process is not only unexpected but appreciated. We are introduced to a recognizable, but extremely more confident and assertive Darrow who has fully come into his own without needing to experience every growing pain along the way.

The downside of this decision is that readers are immediately plopped into the middle of a very complex story. There are new characters everywhere (this isn’t helped by the use of difficult, Roman-inspired names like “Victra” and “Pliny” who are hard to keep track of). The story is also much more firmly set within a science fiction landscape. While “Red Rising” was considered a science fiction work, the majority of the plot took place on the planet and in an environment that resembled Earth in many ways, advanced technology aside. This story takes place in space with a capital “S.” There are battles between space ships, scenes set on different planets and moons, and space jumps similar to the kind seen in the 2009 remake “Star Trek.” If you were hoping for more sci-fi, Brown delivers.

Darrow remains an interesting protagonist. There are a few times in this book, however, where he makes decisions and acts in a way that, as a reader, you’re just shouting “Darrow, noooo!” It’s like when you’re watching a horror movie and you just know that that character shouldn’t go down into the basement. Why won’t they just listen to good sense? And Mustang? Mustang is the good sense Darrow doesn’t listen to. My concerns from the previous book regarding the use of female characters are addressed here. Mustang continues to be my favorite character, and there are several other female characters introduced who play vital roles to the story. Victra, especially, is a great addition as a scathing, broken Gold who, clearly against her will, befriends Darrow.

One other odd bit: the book is written in such a way that it seems like it would be an effortless translation from page to screen. However, the types of revelations that come naturally to film play oddly within the structure of the book. There is a moment later in the book when a shocking plot point is introduced in a way that feels a bit unnatural. It should, and does, come out of left field for those around Darrow. But we’ve been living in his head for the past 200 pages with no reference to this information, even though facts that tie into it have been mentioned often. So it reads like a great movie reveal. But it’s weird when you’re reading a first person narrative where information should be as known to the reader as it is to the narrator (unless the author is writing an unreliable narrator, but that’s not the case here). The plot point is fun, it’s just the way it’s introduced that feels strange.

“Golden Son” expands Brown’s world in every way. The reader’s understanding of how this society operates and spans a solar system is grown and the political mechanisms at work to sustain such a web are fully explored. A final downside? Cliffhanger alert. But, luckily, “Morning Star” was published early this year, so that’s a relief.

Rating 7: Very good, slightly lower than “Red Rising” due to a challenging balancing act between so many new components and character motivations

Reader’s Advisory:

“Golden Son” is included in these Goodreads lists: “Best Picks: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Novels of 2015” and “Can’t Wait Sci-Fi/Fantasy of 2015.”

Find “Golden Son” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: The Kind Worth Killing

21936809Book: “The Kind Worth Killing” by Peter Swanson

Publishing Info: William Morrow, February 2015

Where Did I Get this Book: The library!

Book Description from Goodreads: A devious tale of psychological suspense involving sex, deception, and an accidental encounter that leads to murder. This is a modern re-imagining of Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Train from the author of the acclaimed The Girl with a Clock for a Heart.

On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. But their game turns dark when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.”

From there, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they plot Miranda’s demise, but soon these co-conspirators are embroiled in a game of cat-and-mouse–one they both cannot survive–with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

Review: What I am about to admit is probably considered sacrilege, but I am really not a fan of “Gone Girl”. As a fan of thrillers and someone who would consider herself a feminist, I had been told that I would really like it. Heck the popularity of it made me think that it was going to be up my alley. And then… it wasn’t. So as I’ve wandered through the jungle of thriller fiction, I’ve approached the books I’ve read with “Gone Girl” in my mind, in the sense of ‘is this the kind of book is what I wanted “Gone Girl” to be?’ Whenever I find a book that measures up to my mind’s perception of what “Gone Girl” was, I rejoice. I’m happy to report that “The Kind Worth Killing” is one of those books. I had initially picked it up as a fun vacation read, thinking that it was going to be fairly predictable as well as entertaining. So imagine my surprise when it suddenly took a sharp turn from the narrative I’d assumed, and sucked me in so completely that I finished it in about one day.

The plot is simple and sinister; a man is approached by a beautiful stranger while waiting for his flight. He is Ted, a computer mogul who saw his wife Miranda sleeping with the contractor of the house he’s building for her. She is Lily, charming and filled with mystery. And when he confides his marital woes, she says that not only should he kill her, but that she will help him get away with it. But any expectations that I went in with were tossed out the damn window as I read this book. Without giving anything away, as you NEED to be surprised by it, I can assure you that this doesn’t go the way that you think it’s supposed to. While Ted is a fairly opaque character in his own right, Lily is the true shining star of this twisted and devious thriller. The chapters alternate perspectives between multiple characters, and I found myself most looking forward to those that were from hers. While Lily has a lot of despicable baggage and qualities, Swanson wrote her in such a way that I not only understood where she was coming from and what motivated her, I found myself rooting for her a lot of the time. As creepy as that probably is. Swanson made her very likable, or at least fascinating, even if you knew that she was a devious and dangerous person underneath everything.

That isn’t to say that this book didn’t have weaknesses as well as strong points. I was dissatisfied with the character of the detective, whose purpose was certainly clear, but at the same time seemed superfluous to the story. His plot points were the weakest and his portrayal was by far the most two dimensional of all of the characters, along with perpetrating some distasteful sexual objectification of Lily (when at that point as far as he knew she had nothing to do with the crime) as if to further turn ‘what’s good vs what’s bad’ on its head. It felt heavy handed to me at best, and lazy writing at worst. That along with some hastily plotted out aspects of the ending made part of this book feel like it fumbled a bit by the conclusion, but since the ride getting there and getting to know Lily was a sinister delight, I am more than willing to give these minor details a pass.

“The Kind Worth Killing” is a thriller that I hope picks up some notice and interest from the thriller loving community. It’s a very fun read that will keep you on the edge of your seat. And also make you root for some shady, shady characters.

Rating 8: A thriller filled with twists, turns, and some very fun, and despicable, characters.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Kind Worth Killing” is included in these Goodreads lists: “Female Psychological Thrillers/Suspense” and “If You Enjoyed ‘Gone Girl’ You Might Also Like…”

Find “The Kind Worth Killing” at your library using WorldCat!