Tag Archive: book review


I’m later than I wanted to be on this. No excuses there, I just didn’t get it done on time. That aside, this one is thanks to Entangled Teen. Here is A. M. Rose’s Breakout. Enjoy!

Breakout cover

Lezah doesn’t know what landed her in prison, or really much of anything else about herself. With six days left before her execution the only chance she has to find out is to escape. And her only chance of escaping requires relying on strangers, possibly dangerous ones, and her former school rival. Can she trust anyone long enough to get out or will they all fall prey to the prison’s formidable defenses?

A. M. Rose’s Breakout is a book that I bounced around on how I felt about it, especially early on in reading it. But once it hit its stride, it worked really well.

The start was a little rough, with what’s nearly a new world entirely in the form of a California that’s been separated from the rest of the US by earthquakes. Special standouts on that were the WALTERS or Walking Computers, essentially robots that are meant to have free will, and the SOULS that everyone is supposed to have that are ID and phone and personal entertainment all rolled into one. SOULS do everything from let their users keep in contact to changing their appearances pretty drastically to being the main way the government kept tabs on citizens. It was all fed to the reader pretty bluntly at the start, which was necessary to a degree but also felt incredibly clunky.

I had a bit of a similar issue when the male characters, Trip and Seph, were introduced.  It quickly became clear that Seph was our designated love interest, with his history with Lezah and his sad sad eyes and super competence. The build up to that felt like it took away from the immediacy of escaping the prison for a good bit. It felt like there were big neon signs telling me that this was going to be a huge part of the experience.

Here’s the thing though, both the rough bits from the start and Seph and Lezah’s whole thing, both worked out. The blunt early explanations felt weird because it was stuff that Lezah knew and wouldn’t have had much reason to explain to, essentially, herself but that smoothed out later once the characters were more in the action and things felt more focused. As to Lezah’s crushing on Seph? It wound up feeding character stuff for both of them as well as feeding in some bits of Lezah’s missing memories. The book hit a point in the action where the mystery and the full cast were more important than just those two characters, so it made the moments between Lezah and Seph feel more impactful. It wasn’t just the two of them and a world of card board cutouts.

This all said, the thing that made the book for me more than anything else was one of the antagonists. They were written in so well that I was genuinely caught off guard at the reveal. It was built in really well and makes me want to see how Rose handles other antagonists.

That’s about it. While I’m left wanting to see where things go for Lezah and company from the book’s ending on, it was still a satisfying ending that worked for the story. The things that didn’t work did well by the things I enjoyed. And, at the end of the day, I even wound up appreciating the romancey bits. So, Breakout earns a four out of five from me. I’m interested in seeing what A. M. Rose does in the future.

Not much to say here this time. It was really hard to write this without including spoilers and I have enough left that I want to talk about that I might do an “And Another Thing” post about it some time. That said, this one is thanks to the nice folks at Entagled Teen. Here is Rachel Rust’s 8 Souls. Enjoy!

8 Souls cover

Villisca, Iowa is known for murder. For the deaths of eight people in 1912. For the Ax Muder house.  The house that seventeen year old Chessie has been dreaming about her entire life, sometimes new and lived in, sometimes as it is now slowly falling in on itself across the street from her grandparents’ house. Across the street from where she’ll be spending the entire summer while her parents work out the details of their divorce. Amid nightmares and ghostly voices, Chessie finds herself stuck trying to figure out her connection to the Ax Murder house and David, the mysterious boy who knows more than he lets on and so, so many secrets.

So, I make no secret of the fact that I love haunted house stories and horror in general. The promise of a small town with dark secrets and a house that can’t forget pulled me to Rachel Rust’s 8 Souls. It’s a book that was pretty good for what it is and than just misses the mark for what I wanted it to be. Notable differences there.

This being a book published by Entangled Teen, I knew to expect a fairly large romance side plot. That’s just what they do as a publisher. The mysterious boy is mentioned in the blurb. It’s something that I was going to have to roll with. My issue, of course, comes not from the existence of this romance plot but from how much feels underdone in the face of and about it.

There were a lot of ideas that could have been fantastic if they’d been given more room or if they’d been introduced earlier. Most of the stuff about the haunting and David’s whole deal could have worked fantastically if they’d been worked in earlier and given more page space. Make that a thing alongside Chessie thinking that David and Mateo were pranking her with the whole ghost hunting deal. Spend more time with Chessie trying to figure out what’s going on instead of avoiding David and watching Netflix instead of looking into the thing haunting her. Even the romance itself felt rushed along once Chessie decided that she could trust what David was saying.

The antagonist gets hit with this harder than most other details. There’s a thread throughout the book about these little girls having gone missing and that there’s more disappearances and strange deaths in Villisca than most cities its size. But there isn’t much done with that until right at the end. It was almost to the point that I’d forgotten about it in a couple of places. There were a couple of characters who might have been antagonists or, in a more horror focused book, solid red herrings. But nothing came of them and the antagonist was left feeling like they’d been brought in out of left field. A last minute, one more thing, secret that David hadn’t bothered to mention yet. It was an idea that got introduced and used within pages so the story could rush on to the climax. That was frustrating for me, because the antagonist and the climax both could have been so, so good with a little tweaking and a little more page space.

That’s pretty well where I land on 8 Souls. Rust did a good job with the setting, a small town that’s losing people as time goes on. The real world Villisca, Iowa was actually the scene of an ax murder of eight people, so that’s something that could be interesting to look more into after reading this. But it is very much a book that wants for a little more. A little more to the horror, and the characters, and the buildup. As a YA romance with supernatural elements, it’s functional. With more time to percolate it could have been fantastic, and for that I give it a three out of five. I would be willing to read Rachel Rust again, but I also want to see what she would do in another genre.

So, this wasn’t the review I intended to post this week, but I really didn’t like the idea of not posting one at all. This is one that I picked up awhile back after enjoying the first one and just didn’t get to until recently. In any case, here’s Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Worship. Enjoy!

Heroine Worship cover

It’s been months since Aveda Jupiter and her best friend/personal assistant turned co-heroine Evie Tanaka saved Los Angeles and the world from a demonic invasion and subsequent apocalypse. Months with no demons. No monsters. No need for Aveda Jupiter, especially with how in love with Evie’s fire powers the people of LA are. Months of feeling more and more like she’s obsolete. A sudden rush of rampaging bridezillas and Evie’s engagement might be just the thing to help Aveda set herself back to rights. At least it might if it doesn’t destroy her first.

Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Worship feels very much like a middle book. The stakes feel a lot lower than in the previous book, Heroine Complex, and things feel much more focused on characters’ feelings and Aveda as a conflicted person rather than a diva boss. It’s a needed slow down, but one that made the book go a little slow in places for me.

So, a big issue with my reading Heroine Worship was that I didn’t really like Aveda Jupiter for a big slice of it. A part of that is a holdover from Heroine Complex, where she’s this complete diva and more than kind of a control freak. That’s not the greater share of things though, in that book it was a little tiring that she was like that but she was also this larger than life character versus Evie being a normal person forced to become extraordinary. Here though, Aveda is the protagonist and the stakes feel so much lower so there’s more focus on who she is as a character. This is Aveda’s story about coming back to herself from being just Aveda Jupiter the super heroine diva perfectionist and learning to embrace the parts of herself that are Annie Chang the regular woman.

That actually lands the book in an interesting place for me. The reader sees Aveda trying so very hard to shed her diva tendencies and to be a good friend to Evie, just on the terms she understands. We see her being bad at communication and making assumptions about what’s best and a hundred other things, and that’s so frustrating even as it does a really good job of humanizing her. We also get the occasional mini chapter seeing what other people think of her behavior, and the outside perspective is also frustrating because of course the characters from these bits don’t have the whole story and of course they’re written as being extra antagonistic. As frustrating as some of this was, especially her running off assumptions, it all made me like Aveda a lot more. All the frustrations and the trying to do the right things and wanting to be her best self but not having the best handle on who that is, that worked really well for me. It baked in the understanding that Aveda and Evie’s friendship wasn’t magically all fixed up after the last book. It baked in that Aveda needs to learn to let herself be a person instead of always a super heroine. It filled out the cast a little, giving Aveda other characters to work with and react to. All that I really liked.

Honestly, the only thing that bothered me and kept me bothered was the romance. Even then it was, more than anything, a combination of second hand embarrassment from Aveda clearly not knowing what to do with feelings  and just feeling like it was there just for it to be there. The love interest, Scott, was a perfectly decent character, the surfer dude spell caster who’s been friends with Evie and Aveda since childhood. But, I feel like I’d have wanted to see Scott and Aveda end things moving towards acknowledging their mutual attraction rather than that being a thing that ate so many words where it didn’t need to. They’re clearly good for each other and I could have been totally behind it, if it hadn’t felt quite so wedged in and if it hadn’t largely followed Heroine Complex in using sexual attraction to short hand the characters being romantically into each other.

Heroine Worship is an interesting one for me to review. I’m already planning on reading the final book in the trilogy, but there are absolutely aspects that I’m expecting to roll my eyes over when I reach them. I mean, the romance issues are pretty set in the series so far. But it was also a book that I legitimately enjoyed the majority of. While at the end I think I remember the things that I didn’t like more than the things I did enjoy, those same things are absolutely bits that other readers are probably going to be here for. So, I think I tend towards giving Heroine Worship a three out of five. I don’t know that it isn’t better than that, I’m certainly going back for more after all,  but there are certainly aspects that are just not for me.

So, I’m late getting this posted, but it is still technically Wednesday. I’ve written and rewritten this at least four times. I think this one is as close to something I’m happy with as this is going to get. This series was one that I really enjoyed and I’m hoping to see more from Roberts in the future. This one is thanks to Curiosity Quills Press, here’s Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents You Believe Her. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents You Believe Her cover

As part of the Inscrutable Machine Penny Akk, Bad Penny, has faced heroes and villains and threats from the very moons of Jupiter. She’s faced enemies turned friends and friends turned enemies. But when she was ready to face the thing she feared the most, telling her parents about being Bad Penny, she found herself trapped in a robot body by her own power. With her friends away and her parents believing the fake Penny her powers built instead of her, Penny will have to find new allies and pull off the biggest heist of her whole career. Bad Penny is going to have to steal her own life back. A super villain’s work is never done.

As would be expected of the last book in a series that I really enjoyed, I have thoughts on Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents You Believe Her. A number of them in fact. This is a book that was split between opening up the world it’s set in for later stories, giving the reader more on some of the side characters and how things work, and also tying up Penelope Akk’s story. That’s where I get a little bit frustrated.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents You Believe Her is the book it needs to be more than the book I would have hoped it would be. It’s the tie up novel. The place where Penny finally gets to shed Bad Penny for a chance to be a hero. But first she has to beat the most dangerous super villain she’s ever faced, herself. And yet, even with the stakes as high as they are for Penny, I found myself more interested in what was going on with Ampexia or Cassie or what was going on with the other Penny at the Akk household.

That’s actually something that I would have really liked to have seen with how far the other Penny takes things. How did Penny’s parents react to that? We see the Audit reject Bad Penny early on because she defaults to believing the flesh and blood Penny over robotic Bad Penny. Never mind that the Machine stubbornly sticks to Bad Penny. This drove me up the walls, because it feels like it should have been a bigger thing all around. Like, we get the letters from super villain camp that Penny writes to cope with what’s going on but I wanted to see more of the parents being worried of if they made the right choice. Which is an odd stand out, because we see her friends trying to split time between the Pennys.

But then there’s all the support Penny gets early on from, mostly new, side characters who deal with robots. She gets to team up with the mascot from her childhood favorite pizza place, Gerty Goat. Ampexia shows back up as a team mate and makes for some really enjoyable scenes of Penny getting to know  her and learning to take a chill between bouts of villainy.

There’s a lot of early on heist stuff, since Penny’s lost most of her gear. Between that and the bits with other characters that feel like they could have been expanded, kind of makes me wish that this had been split between two books. One with Penny adjusting to her robot body and gathering her allies and a second with the heists and the build up to the big fight with other Penny. It could make the expansion of characters and the whole robot deal feel like it had more room to breath while also allowing more space for Penny to deal with and question her current state of being. But, I also say that as someone who enjoyed the series and would really like to read more of it.

That’s really where I come down on this I think. It was an enjoyable book and it tied up the series exactly the way the series needed to be tied up for character stuff. But it also leaves room for more stories and showed a lot of characters who’s stories I’m really interested in reading. It’s the book that it needed to be, but that also leaves me wanting more from this setting. So, Please Don’t Tell My Parents You Believe Her gets a four out of five from me. I’m going to go find the prequel.

Alright, so right after talking about being close to back to a schedule I’m late again. That’s all good though, it’s a day this time instead of months. This one was an enjoyable read for the most part, but it did feel a bit scattered. This one is courtesy of netGalley, here is John Dixon’s The Point. Enjoy!

The Point cover

Scarlett Winters is a screw up. A troublemaker. After blowing off her high school graduation and, unknowingly, the party her parents had planned for her she finds herself backed into a bad choice. Go to West Point, something she’s never wanted, or be blamed for a terrorist attack and be sent to jail. West Point isn’t what Scarlett expects though as she’s thrown in with other misfits. Other misfits with superhuman powers and backgrounds a lot like her own. Threats from the Point’s troubled past leave Scarlett with a choice, stay the same as she’s always been or buckle down and learn to control her ability to manipulate energy and help save the Point and her classmates.

I’m not entirely sure what to do with John Dixon’s The Point. Left to itself, the book is a bit of a mess that jumps between having really well done moments and leaving me wondering how it reaches certain points. This is largely a matter of character motivation feeling lacking or just strange. The Point itself feels like a good place to start.

The Point doesn’t entirely seems certain if it wants its military element to be a balancing force in Scarlett’s life or a force for negative over all. There’s a fair amount of talking up all the good being at the Point has done for Scarlett in helping her get a handle on herself and making her feel like part of something more than herself, at least in the second half of the book. But then the cadets of the Point were nearly all brought in as opposed to being incarcerated. All of them were forced to go through normal West Point initiation before inevitably losing their tempers and failing out. And they’re kept in line through threat of what amounts to literal torture in addition to hazing from older cadets. And we don’t really see much of Scarlett building towards feeling like being at the Point is a good thing. She spends time getting tormented by this one older Cadet and his flunkies, then her powers are finally triggered and suddenly she’s moved into a better room and being treated much better. She’s suddenly got friends and a degree of freedom if she sneaks out. It’s that combination that helps her start dealing with things at the Point, but not really the Point itself.

Nothing really progresses from there until the antagonists make a move. Then it’s go time, things are personal for Scarlett so she absolutely wants to figure out how to use her power to be allowed to fight these guys. And it feels disjointed here, because you have to wonder if Scarlett would have cared enough to get serious if it hadn’t been personal. But it’s like flipping a switch, that’s how the troublemaker who only just chose the Point over prison is brought in line. That’s how we get from Scarlett barely treading water to Scarlett digging in her heels and pushing herself further and further.

The characters are, by and large, static. Scarlett changes some, but it feels forced. It’s the same for the student that’s supposed to be mentoring her. The love interest starts off hating Scarlett for being given special treatment, but he’s so obviously the love interest that that hardly counts. But then, that’s about it. Her fellow cadets are at best sketches of characters.

I would have liked to see more of the antagonists throughout the book. Just, more of them building towards their plan and letting it feel as dangerous as it’s supposed to be. It makes it hard to care about most of what’s going on because the stakes feel non-existent. Like, in the very lead up to the final confrontation, we get told that the big bad is super powerful and amazing and the most dangerous man to have come out of the program prior to the Point being cooked up. Everyone is just super doomed. But the reader hasn’t really been shown how good this guy is, it was touched on at the beginning and then he just sort of disappears until the climax. There’s this big confrontation at the end. It’s huge and flashy, like summer blockbuster flashy, but the impact is lost because it’s just so out of place. It took me out of the book in a bad way with just how badly out of place and over done it felt. More than that, I found myself asking why I should care about the chaos that was happening.

So, conclusions here, The Point has some scenes that work really well but it has a number of issues with character work and pacing. I’m left feeling like this was originally meant to be the start of a series, but then Dixon changed his mind and just didn’t go back and account for that. I would have liked to have seen more done with the characters overall. I think I would have also liked to have seen more of Scarlett and her fellow cadets daily stuff rather than the romance sub plot. That said, I would read John Dixon again, which leaves The Point with a three out of five.

I return! This is one of the books from Odd Voice Out’s Kickstarter back in December and I was lucky enough to be invited to review it. So with a big thanks to the awesome folks at Odd Voice Out publishing, here is K. C. Finn’s Fallow Heart. Enjoy!

FHcover2

Lorelai Blake was on the way to work when she was attacked by the creature with the massive antlers and breath that stank of rotting meat. She should have died. With something demonic growing within her and a murderer on the loose Lori will have to learn everything she can about what’s happened to her. Will she decide if she can trust the organization that supposedly treats conditions like hers, the DC, or if she should follow Kasabian, the mysterious fellow who seems to have escaped his demon? Something is stalking Lori, waiting to harvest her. Can she control her burgeoning demonic powers in time to find out what’s going on? Can she escape it?

K. C. Finn’s Fallow Heart is a solid supernatural story with some really nifty ideas. The concept of people being infected by demons, like it’s a cousin to lycanthropy, is particularly cool. Plus I like the idea of the various groups that are trying to deal with the demon problem.

That said, Fallow Heart is very focused in on its protagonist, so let’s talk about Lori.  A lot of the early stuff in the book involves Lori being bothered by the fact that she’s over weight, it affects her self esteem deeply.  She thinks of herself as being ugly a number of times. This is, in fact, something that one of the murder victims uses when he’s bullying her. It’s something mentioned in the blurb and I admit that I was concerned that it would be over used, but Finn did a really good job with it. It isn’t a constant thing, but does crop up when Lori is already second guessing herself. It isn’t the sole non-demon issue Lori has, and it doesn’t eclipse the other issues. It does make the bits where she’s clever and resourceful or confident, feel more solid. The balance makes Lori feel more real.

The flip side of the focus on our protagonist is that since Lori is out of her depth things can feel confusing or disjointed. We’re introduced to everything from Lori’s point of view and follow things with her biases. So if she isn’t interested in or can’t follow up on something, that’s not going to be explored. I’m hoping that a lot of what was introduced here will be built on in later books.

There’s some really good horror elements here. Finn does an excellent job with atmosphere. There’s this really good emotional feel for some of the places, a low creeping fear. I’m hoping for more of that too.

Honestly, the only thing I have an issue with is the ending. I’m not going to go into spoilers. It was just something that’s fairly common to stories that are billed similarly to Fallow Heart that I really hoped wasn’t going to be the end point. A thoroughly expected disappointment if you will.

So overall, I’m left with a really positive experience with Fallow Heart. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series and reading K. C. Finn again. It does lose a little for the ending just because I feel like more could have been done there within the theme. That leaves Fallow Heart with a four out of five. Check it out if you get the chance.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a review, hasn’t it? With any luck it won’t be another long skip before the next one. I’ve really enjoyed these books though, so it’s a little odd that I haven’t been talking about them super animatedly. In any case, this one’s thanks to the folks at Curiosity Quills Press. Here’s Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Have a Nemesis. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents I Have A Nemesis cover

After dealing with heroes and villains and upper level math it’s summer time for Penny Akk and the Inscrutable Machine. Well, maybe, she’s still got homework thanks to her parents finally giving in and showing her the super hero ropes. Too much of that and they’ll catch up before she can shed her Bad Penny persona and confess. Add to that an angry Jovian, a sniveling villain wanna be, and a ghost seeking a future and things get a little complicated. Penny has a lot of threads to tie up before she can go full hero but where there’s a will, and a body swapper, there’s a way.

The penultimate book in the Please Don’t Tell My Parents series is a pretty solid setup to the finally and generally does a good job of tying up loose ends. We get the return of previous characters and wrap up for their stories. Things that have been hinted at are coming to fruition. It works.

A lot of this comes from the fake Bad Penny plot line getting dealt with and the return of the Apparition. This one ties into Penny’s need for emotional growth and more attention to empathy. She wants to do the right thing, but can get really wrapped up in the things she wants to do or being given attention for her power. Our favorite tiny mechanic from beyond the asteroid belt, Remy, has followed Penny and company back to Earth to deal with their villainy once and for all. She can’t trust Penny due to their friendship being broken, but she also really wants to trust the friend she nearly had. The Apparition wants a full life again, to go back to being Polly Icarus and experience the world properly again. It’s a good moment seeing Penny try to step up for both of them even as she fumbles some to do so.

I do feel like Penny’s solution to her Bad Penny problem and all its odd complications are a reflection of the same sort of emotional immaturity that Remy’s issues with her come from. Just, deciding that literally fighting herself would be easier than telling them is such a fantastic young protagonist thing. She’s so nervous about how her parents would react and what they’d think that that is the easier solution. It drags a little in places, but it’s a fantastic character note. Bonus, when her robot double shows some of the same issues she does while also feeling like she’s the more good Penny.

Heart of Gold is really interesting to me because of how very not Penny she can be. She’s like this paladin of heroism, detached from human worries and conflicts, just this force driven to do good regardless of her own safety. More conflict between Penny and Heart of Gold could have been awesome, give time and space to build things up to their big fight. Let Heart of Gold’s conflict show more.

That’s sort of a thing with the series, conflict doesn’t tend to feel like it’s quite simmered long enough so things can feel like they’re coming out of nowhere. It’s usually in service to the plot, but it can feel like a mini in medias res moment. The other character knows where they’re coming from but neither Penny nor the audience has caught it. The flip side to this is that the reveal for the book is fantastically built up. It isn’t something I would have expected, but it worked and was well supported. I do feel like the mechanism for it is a little iffy though. Again, a sort of weak spot in service to a really good plot point.

I continue to enjoy this series and really want to see what comes next. There are bits I wish were a little more ironed out. Penny’s weirdness over Cassie’s crush on her is something I could do without. Little things mostly, things that are understandable from a character stand point but not something I’m here for. Nothing that would make me not want to keep reading. I really want to see some of the side characters expanded on, possibly getting their own series. The world seems big enough for it. Overall, Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Have a Nemesis does a good job gathering things together for the finally and tying away the bits that have reached their conclusion. It gets a four out of five.

I return! I’m pretty happy with this one, hopefully I’ll be just as happy with the next one. This one’s thanks to Curiosity Quills Press, here is Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’ve Got Henchmen. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents Ive Got Henchmen cover

Teen super villain Penny Akk has bested adult heroes and villains, been to Jupiter, and caused a super hero to start heroing just to stop her. She’s super successful at villainy. But it isn’t what she wants. When she takes up a classmate’s challenge in an attempt to solidify herself as a hero she fails but opens the doors for her classmates to reveal their own powers. Suddenly it seems that every super powered kid wants to join the club Penny and her friends started to cover for their Inscrutable Machine activities or fight her, sometimes both. With a ton of kids suddenly looking up to here, a wanna be rival sparking for a fight, and a relationship building it’s going to be an odd semester.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’ve Got Henchmen returns to the familiar world a super hero inhabited Earth and to the closer setting of the characters’ middle school. This works massively to the book’s advantage though as it gives a good basis for the characters to know each other and interact, putting the new characters on a solid footing right from the start. It also brings things back to the level of Penny worrying about her parents discovering her secret identity while trying to work out a way to ditch Bad Penny for good.

That’s a bit of a double sided thing here. It feels in a lot of ways like the Audit, Penny’s mom and retired hero, is either willfully deluding herself or not nearly as perceptive as she’s meant to be. But it’s still fun to see Penny interacting more with her parents again after not seeing them for most of the last book. Plus it sort of feeds into this family aspect that’s started off early on with the Inscrutable Machine being called on to help convince a retired villain to rejoin his family and be the father he wants to be.

A lot of things sort of echo down in this one and let the reader in on more of Penny figuring out who she wants to be. Her parents forbid super activity early on, leading to her also being unable to do things as Bad Penny, which slows things down a little. It also gives us this fun space for development though. We see Clair getting more into her cat burglar thing, following in her mother’s footsteps, and Ray is working out what he wants to do with himself and his powers.

There’s also this fantastic thing with the other super powered kids, they want what it seems like Penny has. They want to be able to practice with their powers and not to have to hide them. So, suddenly the club that our protagonists started to hide their super villainous exploits is full of all these kids who have seen what they’ve done and want to learn. That gives us room for all these scenes with these characters first seeing things like the Chinatown super villain weekends or even just meeting some of the various supers for the first time. It’s a nice reminder of how awestruck Clair and Ray were back in the first book as well as being a cool way to introduce some of these new characters’ personalities and abilities.

That said, there are a few weird characterization moments where it sort of feels like this one character wasn’t meant to be antagonistic but then part way through just sort of remembered that she really didn’t like Penny. It’s a little jarring. There was also this bit towards the beginning regarding super villains Rage and Ruin’s relationship that felt super awkward and unnecessary, it didn’t add anything or do much for the scene.

Those bits were really the only things that took away from my enjoyment of the book though. I really enjoyed the new characters and want to see more done with them in future books. And it left me excited to see what’s going to happen next. So, that earns Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’ve Got Henchmen with a four out of five.

I had a hard time writing this one. It gets minorly spoilery, due in part to the official blurb itself . This one’s thanks to netGalley for providing me a copy for review. Here’s Sean Grigsby’s Daughters of Forgotten Light. Enjoy!

Daughters of Forgotten Light cover

Oubliette, prison city, population: forgotten. Unwanted. Worthless. The women society doesn’t want. It’s been Lena Horror’s home for the past ten years. A flimsy truce keeps everyone from killing each other. Keeps the gangs mostly in line. At least, until something unexpected arrives in the quarterly supply drop. Back on Earth, Senator Linda Dolfuse has been ordered to find an excuse to wipe the prisoners off of Oubliette to allow good, honest citizens of the United Continent of North America a chance at a better future away from the frozen Earth and its endless war. Seems like a smooth enough job until she sees something on the drone footage that shouldn’t be there, the baby she’d given up.

This is one of those books that I started reading ready to love it. The concept of a prison world ruled by motorcycle gangs where unwanted and misbehaving women are sent to be forgotten, that’s something that has a lot of potential. Unfortunately the writing just doesn’t stand up to the concept.  Similarly, the Earth side portions, where corrupt politicians live big while their constituents are often forced to sell their children to Oubliette or the massive unending war just to survive, could have been fascinating. That concept could have carried a book on its own if it had been done well. It just doesn’t. And then, of course, we have the mess with the baby.

The baby thing bothers me, in part because it could have been done so much better, but largely because it lands the book with a bunch of hardened prisoners who all want this helpless kid for what feels like no reason. Each gang is only allowed six members and, even with the treaty keeping outright murder from happening, none of them should be willing to give up one of those slots for something that’s such a handicap against the other two gangs. Of course this means that all three gang leaders want the kid, because reasons? I keep coming back to that. I don’t want to say that they all want the baby because women, but it feels an awful lot like that. The cannibals want her, the all black gang wants her, and Horror wants her. Horror wants the kid mind, not the Daughters as a whole. It also isn’t even like the baby was a secret test and the drone was sent to see how the prisoners would react to her, the drone came way later in the book and existed just long enough to force the two stories together.

The time line is super vague. Three months pass between our introductory supply drop and the one the drone shows up on. That’s three months for both Senator Dolfuse on Earth and the prisoners on Oubliette, with it being repeatedly mentioned that there is nothing to do on Oubliette except fighting or having sex. Three months where Horror and the Daughters of Forgotten Light seemingly do nothing except get their new member, Sarah, her motorcycle and her weapon. Then it’s like Horror remembers that the cannibals have that baby she wanted and she’d been itching to break the truce her mentor set up anyway, let’s go take the kid despite having not prepared for a fight at all.

The worst of this is, the three month gap was taken up with Senator Dolfuse’s adventures in ill defined guilt and getting the drone on the shipment. She’s probably the single character we spend the most time with, but she feels way less important than the others. The Earth bits would have probably served better as shorter segments that attempted less with the world building, as is, they just felt like they dragged on forever without showing anything for it. It could have been great to see Dolfuse checking in more actively with the Vice President, or having her interact with characters that are against shipping, showing her growing awareness and how she changes as a result. That could have been aces.

If we had seen any character development, that would have been great. Most of the women on Oubliette are terribly static, which isn’t helped by the vague timeline because there isn’t really anything for them to grow from. Horror we see being aggressive and murdery, but it feels empty because she’s just like that, either ready for violence or ignoring everything because baby. The new girl goes from being afraid of everything, including the other Daughters, to being jaded and nearly as violent as Horror in the space of something like three paragraphs. She gets what feels like way too much page space talking about how Oubliette has taught her not to trust anyone when we don’t see Oubliette teaching her not to trust. It doesn’t work, especially given that early on Sarah feels like she’s meant to be the reader’s view point into the workings of Oubliette, and we never really get that either.

Even leaving aside the character issues, the world building really isn’t there for me on this one either. There are so many things that feel like they need explanations that just get breezed by. Why are only men sent to the army? Why wasn’t an eye already being kept on Oubliette to make sure that they weren’t just dropping prisoners into an airless void? Why not provide something for the women on Oubliette to do with their lifetime of being stuck in the middle of nowhere? How can the UCNA afford to ship these women to space and fight this massive war, but then food is horribly scarce and the average citizen is in real trouble of needing to sell one of their kids to survive? It’s all very forced feeling, things need to happen so that the plot can exist, but they can’t be gone into deeply enough to feel solid because reasons. I really feels like the author was trying to fit two or three books worth of information and ideas into half a plot.

Daughters of Forgotten Light is a book that I really, really wanted to like. I was excited to start it despite the baby thing in the blurb. I mean, really, space motorcycle gangs and a plot from Earth to wipe them out, that falls right in my wheel house. It just didn’t have nearly enough substance to it, everything felt half done and under baked with a rush to the end that leaves neither a satisfying conclusion nor the possibility of a next time. There were a lot of cool ideas. But then they felt wasted when nothing came of them. I finished the book not caring if anything changed for the better, if anything changed at all. I feel like Sean Grigsby could be a really decent author with a couple more books under his belt and a better feel for character and flow. After this, I’m not likely to be there for it though. Daughters of Forgotten Light gets a one out of five.

This came out later than planned. This one’s thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quills Press. Here’s Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon cover

Bad Penny and the rest of the Implacable Machine are bored out of their minds. Going back to school after a break full of super villainy and fighting heroes both their own age and grown up will do that. So of course they jump at the chance to visit Jupiter and see things no human has before. No human except the ones who already live there. With a homemade space ship and the help of a giant spider the Implacable Machine will see everything from alien invaders to robot overlords and the colonies trapped between them. With any luck, they’ll be able to help the rebels and their new friend get their homes back and be on their way towards heroism.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon follows Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain pretty directly with the Implacable Machine trying to settle back into day to day school lives. It’s got a really strong start there, giving the reader a taste of how dull things are after Penny and company have gone toe to toe with some of the best of the best but then have to go back to being just kids. It gives the reader one of a number of good reasons why the team is so ready to take up Spider’s offer to see what lies beyond the asteroid belt first hand. But it also pulls back a little to anchor things back in the reality of the setting, which is good because the book goes way out there.

This one feels a lot slower than the previous book, largely due to the necessity of doing all the world building for the Puppeteers and the Jupiter colonies and, and, and. This is unfortunate because it slows the book down just enough that it makes it easy to put down. There are all these places being introduced and their rules and culture and it leads to things feeling a little flat. The Puppeteers are scary aliens that can take over people and force them to do whatever. One of the colonies is very steam punk flavored and people are constantly being told what to do by the automatons that functionally rule the place. It feels sketched out but not quite filled in.

There’s a similar problem with some of the characterization. The new friend character bounces between being totally cool with Penny’s powers and how they work and then freaked out about it and jealous over how her brothers and everyone else react to Penny’s power. It’s like a switch flips when Roberts felt the situation demanded it. It doesn’t tend to feel like it fits, like there should have been more build for it and more awareness on Penny’s part. The final boss of the novel has a similar issue, though I can’t really go into that without spoilers.

There are parts that are a ton of fun, especially early on before they reach the Jupiter colonies. The whole bit surrounding the Red Herring being built is a lot of fun. Plus the little bits of Penny and company in class and their classmates’ reactions to Penny’s power manifesting make for a couple of nice notes that what she’s got going on is out of the ordinary. I’m also interested in seeing how the workings of her power continue to develop, given the way Mourning Dove reacts to it and how much it seems to be capable of when given free reign. I’m really excited to see more of all that as the series continues.

As and over all thing, I enjoyed Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain more than Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon. While both needed world building it flowed much better for me in the first book, likely due to being set in our world but with supers.  I would have liked to see more put into the new characters introduced, but I feel like at least a couple of them are going to show up again later, so it seems pretty reasonable that they would get more development then. Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon is nowhere near a bad book though and I am very much looking forward to reading the next one, so it gets a three out of five.