America, Vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez, by Gabby Rivera

34380219America, Vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez
Gabby Rivera
Goodreads

At last! Everyone’s favorite no-nonsense powerhouse, America Chavez, gets her own series! Critically acclaimed young-adult novelist Gabby Rivera and all-star artist Joe Quinones unite to shine a solo spotlight on America’s high-octane and hard-hitting adventures! She was a Young Avenger. She leads the Ultimates. And now she officially claims her place as the preeminent butt-kicker of the entire Marvel Universe! But what’s a super-powered teenager to do when she’s looking for a little personal fulfi llment? She goes to college! America just has to stop an interdimensional monster or two first and shut down a pesky alien cult that’s begun worshipping her exploits before work can begin. Then she can get on with her first assignment: a field trip to the front lines of World War II – with Captain America as her wingman! COLLECTING: AMERICA 1-6

Review

I was really looking forward to this since I really liked America in Young Avengers, but…it tries too hard. It tries SO hard, in so many different ways, that it ends up being nonsensical and falling flat on its face.

There are one or two really good moments — usually when America is reflecting on her past or her parents — but they’re overshadowed and beat into submission by the fact that America is kind of an asshole and every other character in the book is some kind of shallow tumblr stereotype. Representation matters, but it doesn’t help in this case.

So disappointing, but at least it provided one of my favorite comic covers of the last few years:

america

And and this beautiful variant cover by Jen Bartel:

tumblr_otbg9gko1r1qerie7o1_1280

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The Child Finder, by Rene Denfield

32223884The Child Finder
Rene Denfield
Goodreads

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Review

I started this on a whim and ended up reading it late into the night in one sitting. What a magical, wonderful, powerful, painful, engrossing piece of work.

Every character touched on in this is fascinating. Though there are two main characters that the book surrounds, each secondary character feels like a fully developed and real person despite some having very little page time.

I do have to warn that this novel is dark and doesn’t stray from the darkness that surrounds the topic it covers, but…it’s a beautiful way of writing about it, with absolutely none of the sleaziness that a lot of slash-and-kill thrillers write about crime and violence. Every character makes sense. Every scene is beautiful, even when painful. The ending is optimistic without losing any of it’s realism — which is a bit amusing to write, considering half the novel deals with the power of imagination in dealing with trauma.

The last time I can remember wanting to immediately re-read a novel when I finished the last page was with Burial Rites, another novel that deals with cold and dark themes but is beautiful and treats them with respect and weight.

I want everyone to read this book even though I know the topics within are very tough to deal with. IT’S JUST SO BEAUTIFUL, OKAY???

Miles Morales, by Jason Reynolds

32793053Miles Morales
Jason Reynolds
Goodreads

“Everyone gets mad at hustlers, especially if you’re on the victim side of the hustle. And Miles knew hustling was in his veins.”

Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider Man.

But lately, Miles’s spidey-sense has been on the fritz. When a misunderstanding leads to his suspension from school, Miles begins to question his abilities. After all, his dad and uncle were Brooklyn jack-boys with criminal records. Maybe kids like Miles aren’t meant to be superheroes. Maybe Miles should take his dad’s advice and focus on saving himself.

As Miles tries to get his school life back on track, he can’t shake the vivid nightmares that continue to haunt him. Nor can he avoid the relentless buzz of his spidey-sense every day in history class, amidst his teacher’s lectures on the historical “benefits” of slavery and the importance of the modern-day prison system. But after his scholarship is threatened, Miles uncovers a chilling plot, one that puts his friends, his neighborhood, and himself at risk.

It’s time for Miles to suit up.

Review

I gave this a solid three stars on Goodreads because that’s what it feels like – I like the book, but it’s nothing incredible or mind blowing. It’s an important book that will mean a lot to many people (I wish I’d had this when I was still a teen growing up in NY!), but for me right now, it’s just a solid like.

The book follows Miles as he deals with being a high school kid, having a crush on a girl, worrying about his parents’ financial issues, wondering if he has bad blood in his veins like his uncle Aaron. Oh, and being Spider-Man, of course.

I found this book presented a very different take on the Spider-Man dilemma: it’s not just about Miles’ personal life, but his personal life in that it represents an entire livelihood, his way out and up. I really liked this aspect of it, which made the actual super villain (if you can call it that?) plot fall a little flat for me. I can absolutely see where Reynolds was coming from and going with the idea, but something about it rubbed me the wrong way.

Like I said, I gave this three stars overall because I liked it for what it is – an important book with some good storytelling that kind of falls flat in the end for me.

Triple Threat, by Gwenda Bond

31632115Triple Threat (Lois Lane #3)
Gwenda Bond
Goodreads

For the first time, Lois Lane has almost everything she wants. Non-temporary home? Check. Dream job? Double check. Incredible BFFs? The absolute best. And now, her online crush, SmallvilleGuy, is coming to Metropolis. If all goes well, they’ll turn their long-distance friendship into a some-kind-of-fairy-tale romance. But when does all ever go well? Before she can check boyfriend off her list, Lois must take down a mad scientist plus a trio of mutant teens, protect the elusive flying man from the feds (including her dad), and navigate her very first date with SmallvilleGuy. In the follow-up to FALLOUT and DOUBLE DOWN, Gwenda Bond’s reimagination of DC Comics’s first leading lady takes on her toughest challenge yet: Love.

Review:

I’ve loved this series since book one came in as a breath of fresh air after one disastrous comic book tie in novel experience I had years ago. It’s like someone decided to write a Teen AU fanfic starring Lois Lane, but took only the best parts of what make Lois tick and wrote the hell out of it. We don’t deserve Gwenda Bond, truly.

Triple Threat builds on the first two books, showing a Lois who is finding her place in Metropolis, doing her best to be a good friend, excelling (or trying to) at her career as a junior reporter, and finally tackling an IRL meeting with SmallvilleGuy, aka CLARK KENT.

Look, I’ll be the first to say that I felt the novel dragged on a bit with the actual plot seeming extremely insignificant in the grand scheme of things. (What really happened, in the end? It’s like nothing changed whatsoever.)

But. But!

Lois and Clark finally meet. THEY FINALLY MEET.

I was something like ten years old when Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman aired on one of the two main television stations we received in Kenya. They were the epitome of cool and I used to watch the show with hearts in my eyes, wanting to be like them. I have a very clear memory of the moment Lois finds out Clark is Superman. I never got to watch too much of the show, but they made such a huge impression on tiny me that I got excited right alongside Lois in Triple Threat when she finally meets Clark. The meting itself, the way they’re awkward and adorable around each other, the way things move slowly and LOGICALLY for kids their age who’ve only had an online relationship until now…it’s incredibly sweet and satisfying.

Back to the plot…honestly, there were some threads of interest here and there, but like I said before, ultimately nothing really happens. I did love the mature and different look at a teen relationship going on with Maddy and Dante, and I love that Lois has a really good relationship with all her friends and her family. (As good as it can be with her dad, really, which is really good here.)

Oh oh oh, one thing I did love: Lois turned around and did one of the most frustrating, stupid things a Strong Female Character can do, but then turned it around and became a truly strong character by realizing she was dumb and apologizing for it. I don’t need my female characters to be Strong and take on the world on their own – I need them to be whole. Which Lois is, and which I appreciate wholeheartedly.

This book is perfect for teen readers and adult Superman fans alike. I can’t recommend the series enough.

PS. I went looking for Lois & Clark gifs when writing this review and W O W I forgot the humongous crush I had on Dean Cain before I even realized what crushes were.

tumblr_mldl3nvf0e1rnw80to5_r1_250(I mean, COME ON.)

Time to scour the internet to see if I can do some re-watching and relive some childhood memories.

All Systems Red, by Martha Wells

32758901All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1)
Martha Wells
Goodreads

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Review

The blurbs for this novella claim that All Systems Red is a sci-fi adventure that blends Iain Banks’ Culture series with HBO’s Westworld and whatever, if that matters to people, so be it. I haven’t read the Culture series but I have watched and loved Westworld, and saw very little of this in it, beyond the obvious “robots with human emotions” angle. Murderbot is more Robocop than Dolores, anyway, so whatever, book blurbs, whatever.

THIS NOVELLA IS FANTASTIC ALL ON ITS OWN.

Murderbot is fantastic. Team Humans is fantastic. The adventure and mystery is tightly written with enough suspense to keep things moving but not so much that I got frustrated. Honestly, Murderbot’s apathy, social anxiety, and confusion made for a very interesting and often amusing POV. And that ending!!!

I want more Murderbot.

I need more Murderbot.

2018 IS MUCH TOO FAR AWAY FOR MORE MURDERBOT.

Gwendy’s Button Box, by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

34430839Gwendy’s Button Box
Stephen King & Richard Chizmar
Goodreads

The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

Review

I’m a sucker for anything Stephen King, so I picked this up the second I saw it at the library. Like most King novellas it’s not quite a horror story, but one that involves children dealing with Big Issues that involve fantastical elements. Thankfully I wasn’t expecting much in terms of horror for this, because it read like a breeze, with little to no suspense. I wanted to know what the Button Box was, but at the same time I didn’t much care.

I haven’t read anything about how this story was written, so I have no idea what the distribution of work was between King and Chizmar, but this reads like someone wrote King fanfic and King himself polished it up a little bit. There are no stakes at all, even when we get a glimpse at what the Button Box does.

Overall this was nice, but ultimately forgettable.

Final Girls, by Riley Sager

32796253Final Girls
Riley Sager
Goodreads
★★

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Review:

What the hell? I was promised a thriller and all I got was a character study that wasn’t that great, terrible decisions made by boring and awful characters, and a plot twist that came out of nowhere and didn’t really make any sense.

I ended up skim reading the last half of the book because I wanted to see how it all played out, but I really disliked Quincy and Sam. I can kind of see where the author was going with their relationship leading down toxic paths, but I don’t think making me hate both characters to the point where I didn’t want to read the book anymore was intended.

As for the reveal of what happened at Pine Cottage…okay, sure, I’ll buy it. I buy Quincy’s actions and some of the stuff that went on, but the overall action of the actual murders didn’t make sense in my head. But I didn’t really care at that point so I didn’t even bother trying to make sense of it all.

So disappointing.