Category Archives: Kat’s Reviews

Read-Along Special: Best Man By Kristen Brand

Kristen Brand’s novella, Best Man, takes us back in the day with some of our favorite heroes and villains from White Knight and Black Valentine’s world.

Title: Best Man
Author: Kristen Brand
Series:  The White Knight & Black Valentine #.5
Release date:  March 28, 2017

Publisher’s Description: Harris Holt has one job: to make sure his best friend’s wedding goes smoothly. But when his friend is a retired superhero marrying a former villainess, that involves more than just remembering the rings and making a good speech at the reception. Especially when a guy with a gun turns up at the wedding venue.

Now Harris has to keep a supervillain with a grudge from offing the bride and groom—and keep it quiet, or else the cops will crash the ceremony. With his own rusty superpowers and a murderous maid of honor for help, Harris needs to stop the bad guy before the happy couple gets cold feet…on their corpses.

The Best Man is an action-packed short story prequel to The White Knight and Black Valentine series. If you’re a fan of superhero fiction or action/adventure, try a sample or download now.

Kat Mandu says…

Welcome to day three of our Superhero Spotlight, which features one of my favorite series, White Knight and Black Valentine.

This time I’m focusing on the novella, which I decided to review in between the first two books and the remainder of the series. It takes us back to when Dave and Valentina were first getting married, while also introducing us to two side characters, Lady Nightmare and Supersonic. These characters are people you learn about in the first two books, so I thought it’d appropriate to review it now that we’ve had time to get to know them.

Lady Nightmare, Valentina’s sister, is mostly a villain, but working on her good side. Like Valentina, she’s got psychic prowess, but instead of just reading minds, she also has the ability to project nightmares onto their consciousness. Creepy, but cool.

Supersonic is Dave’s friend and best man at his wedding, hence the name of the title. He’s got super-speed powers and is just trying to figure out whether or not he really wants his best bud to marry someone and then have to live with that regret. It all stems from his first and failed marriage, but regardless, Harris is trying to be supportive.

On the day of Dave and Valentina’s wedding, Supersonic and Lady Nightmare team up to stop an uninvited guest from wreaking havoc and ruining Dave and Valentina’s big day. This story has laughs and drama and shows a new perspective on two new characters you’ve never seen before in the previous novels (or the ones to follow). I really enjoyed this insight and can’t wait to see if there will be similar novellas later.

Today’s special feature puts a spotlight on superhero fiction! Check out some other great reads by authors here!

Read-Along Special: Villainous By Kristen Brand

White Knight may have been a long-time hero, but lately, he’s been getting into some bad guy trouble. Luckily, his wife and former nemesis, Black Valentine, has a history of villainry and just may be what he needs to escape capital punishment.

Title:  Villainous
Author: Kristen Brand
Series:  The White Knight & Black Valentine #2
Release date:  September 28, 2015

Publisher’s Description:

Valentina Belmonte isn’t evil any more—honest. She’s hung up her supervillain costume, retired to Florida with her family, and hasn’t committed a crime in years. (Well, not a felony. What’s a misdemeanor here and there if you don’t get caught?) This time, she’s not the one in trouble with the law—her goody-two-shoes, former superhero of a husband is.

He saved her life two months ago but committed a spectacular amount of assault and property damage along the way. The feds plan to press charges…unless Val does something for them in exchange. Apparently, an old friend of hers is importing a deadly drug that gives people temporary psychic powers. The feds want to send in Val with a wire to get evidence to bring him down. Sounds simple enough, but things turn deadly fast, and Val finds herself up against another supervillain—one who can out-play her at her own game.

Val’s worried she’s gone soft since retirement, but if she doesn’t get the feds the evidence they need, her husband will end up rotting in one of the most hellish prisons in the country…

Kat Mandu says…

It’s day two of our Superhero Spotlight and we’re featuring Villainous, the second in the White Knight, Black Valentine series by Kristen Brand. Dave Del Toro and Valentina Belmonte are back in the sequel that takes off right where the first left off—with Dave in big, big trouble.

Because he had to prove Valentina’s innocence, Dave had to break a few laws. Now, in order to keep him out of supermax prison with all the foes he put in there, Valentina makes a deal with the DSA to help them track down a drug supplier in exchange for Dave’s freedom. Not that she’s all too thrilled to be working for the people that once wanted her in jail, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And Valentina isn’t one to back down from a challenge, after all.

There’s so much excitement in this book! Telepathic battles, explosions, body possessions, and assassination attempts, with Valentina in the midst of it all, trying to be a do-gooder while being oh-so-very bad. Valentina’s family is known for their villainous habits, so she’s got a lot of competition when it comes to being the worst.

This book gets another five from me, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts on the remaining books in the series (see the original Villainous review).

Until then, here’s something fun and special I made in honor of Villainous. Inspired by a scene in the book where Valentina and Jean Baptiste are having drinks in a restaurant that features mixed drinks named after famous superheroes, I decided to take my culinary and bartending experiences and have some fun with it.

Below you’ll find some mixed drinks I invented based on the heroes and villains in White Knight & Black Valentine.

The White Knight: With Dave, I automatically thought of beer and tequila, especially since I compare him to Bruce Willis. So I did some digging and found something raw, strong, sweet, and beachy (because they live in Florida after all) that I could see Dave drinking if he decided to have something besides a draft.

1 1/2 oz Gran Centenario Resposado tequila
1 oz white creme de cacao
1/2 oz Stolichnaya vanilla vodka
2 oz cream
Toasted coconut
1 Maraschino cherry

Mix all ingredients except for cherry and coconut, with cracked ice in a shaker or a blender and served in a chilled cocktail glass. Sprinkle toasted coconut on top and garnish with the cherry.

The Black Valentine: In my head, Black Valentine can be equally as rough and as smooth as whiskey, so I had to involve some whiskey in her drink.

3/4 oz Irish whiskey (I prefer Tullamore Dew, but hey, it’s your preference)
1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz kummel
3/4 oz lemon juice
Several dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon peel

Mix all ingredients in a shaker or blender. Serve in an old-fashioned glass straight up or over ice.

The Fire & Ice: For Freezefire, I wanted to get a little bit more fun. With the ability to control both fire and ice, here’s a colorful drink that’s served ice cold but will warm you up fast.

1 1/2 oz of raspberry vodka
1/2 oz Bombay gin
1/2 oz blueberry or blue raspberry vodka
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
1 oz lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
Club soda or lemon-lime soda (like Sprite)
Maraschino cherry

Mix all ingredients, except club soda and cherry, in a tall, chilled cooler glass. Add several ice cubes and fill with club soda/lemon-lime soda. Stir gently and garnish with a cherry.

The Agent: I named this one after Agent Lagarde, who comes into play during Villainous. She’s tough as nails and carefully hides her telepathic abilities until absolutely necessary so that she can kick ass at the right time. So I made something cool and collected in her honor.

2 oz apricot brandy
2 oz amaretto
4 oz orange soda
1 scoop orange sherbet

Please enjoy responsibly! Like what you see here? Have any ideas for drinks based on your favorite superheroes? Leave comments below, I’d love to share ideas.

Read-Along Special: Hero Status By Kristen Brand

Superhero fans, come hither, for in Kristen Brand’s Hero Status, there’s plenty of action, romance, mystery, and spandex to enjoy.

Title:  Hero Status
Author: Kristen Brand
Series:  The White Knight & Black Valentine #1
Release date:  November 25, 2014

Publisher’s Description:  David Del Toro used to be a superhero. Now he’s retired and happily married—to his former nemesis, Valentina Belmonte, better known as the Black Valentine. The two have settled in sunny Miami and left the past behind them. No more masks, capes or handcuffs. At least, not outside of the bedroom.

But then the famous hero Supersonic turns up dead, and Valentina is arrested for the murder. Dave knows she’s innocent, but he has to find the real killer if he wants to prove it. Investigating on his own, dodging the law, he gets tangled in a web of conspiracy that will take more than super-strength to break. If Dave wants to save his wife, he’ll have to cross lines no hero ever should…

Fans of character-driven genre fiction will enjoy this action-packed thriller. If you like superheroes in movies, TV, or comics, don’t miss out. Download Hero Status and start reading now!

Kat Mandu says…

Welcome to Part One of my special Superhero Week where we’re spotlighting the White Knight & Black Valentine series. And I LOOOOOVEEE this series! It’s one of the first requests I ever took here at One Book Two as a reviewer, and I was so excited when it landed in my inbox. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked. Hero Status and all the sequels are action-packed and full of the good stuff I love. But let’s focus on book one, shall we?

First off is Hero Status, which introduces us to Dave Del Toro, a retired superhero with a bum knee. He’s married to the infamous villain, Black Valentine, who’s a telepath and a sexy badass all rolled into one. He’s also got a daughter named Elisa who discovers she’s inherited powers from both sides of the family.

When Valentina takes the rap for a murder she didn’t commit, Dave’s gotta investigate so he can save his wife from supermax prison. But finding the real killer is going to test lines he’s never crossed. How do you catch the bad guy without breaking a few laws along the way?

This setup is perfect for those looking for a little mystery along the way, as you follow along with Dave as he’s trying to figure out who framed his wife, who the real killer is, and how to stop him before he tries again. And it’s so well written that it always keeps you guessing!

The characters feel so real and ordinary despite all the exciting, villainous things happening around them. And when I say ordinary, I mean that it’s nice to have characters that I’m able to relate to in human ways. These are people that I’d invite over to my house (which would probably be a great time for game night) and hell, I’d probably be a groupie/fangirl in their world. Dave is probably my favorite in the series; he’s tough but kind, passionate, and always looking to do the right thing. Valentina is a badass, but I guess I have a soft spot for gentle giants.

All in all, this has always gotten perfect marks for me. You can read my original review here but I wanted the chance to reread this book and share my updated thoughts.

With this Superhero Spotlight, I wanted to share something special about every book in the White Knight and Black Valentine series. And since I’m such a fangirl, I came up with the idea to “Hollywood cast list” this book in particular. See who made the cut below, and see my Pinterest board for all the pics.

David Del Toro – Casting this guy was a toss up for me. If you read in my first review way back when, I always visualized Dave as Bruce Willis, the perfect action star to play the White Knight. After all, he’s tough, he’s a little bit older, and he’s always (okay, well, mostly) playing the hero. But I figured if we stuck a little bit closer to what Dave would actually look like, I chose Adria Collado for his muscular, sexy, and Spanish features. I think he rocks the gray and I feel like Dave does too.

Valentina Belmonte – So she may not be Italian, but Kate Beckinsale in my head is perfect for the choice of Black Valentine, whether she’s rocking the leather in costume or out of it. Ms. Beckinsale has always been one of my favorite actresses and she’s a great action star with all the skills, grace, and lure of a sometimes good guy, sometimes bad guy.

Elisa – So I wanted someone young to play the teenage daughter of Valentina and Dave of course, so I went with Dafne Keen, who played Laura in the movie Logan. She may be a little younger than Elisa, but I feel like now that she’s a little bit older, I could slide with my choice because this girl is fiercely protective, agile, and has the perfect teenager bored stare.

Other Cast Picks –
Starla Strauss – played by Anna Faris (goofy, blonde, and overdramatic)
Lady Nightmare – played by Nina Dobrev
Harris Holt/Supersonic – played by Aidan Gillen
Giordano – played by Bobby Cannavale
Dr. Sweet – played by Rober Knepper
Trick – played by Alden Ehrenreich
Treat – played by Alice Englert
Eddy – played by Alan Alda
Irma – played by Christina Ricci (because a creepy bodyguard portraying a housemaid just makes my day when visualizing her like that)
Maureen – played by Summer Glau (especially in season 2 of Arrow)
Agent Lagarde – played by Kat Graham
Freezefire – played by Diego Luna

*See Pinterest board for photo credits.

Kill Them All by Kristen Brand

Valentine Belmonte is back with a die-hard vengeance when her family is attacked on their vacation, leaving her former-superhero husband, Dave, in a coma. But without the morals of the White Knight to back her, will she fall back into her old and villainous habits?

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Title: Kill Them All
Author: Kristen Brand
Series: White Knight, Black Valentine, Book 4
Publish Date: September 15th, 2018
Genre: Superheroes
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionValentina Belmonte walked away from her supervillain career years ago. Having peaked at the top of the national Most-Wanted List, she now lives a quiet life with her husband and daughter, enjoying the Florida sun. Sure, she has to curb her violent and illegal instincts to stay under the radar, but her family is worth it.

Until they’re attacked. With her husband—a retired superhero and the closest thing she has to a conscience—hospitalized and on the brink of death, she’s done playing nice. She doesn’t know who attacked them or why, but she’ll wreak bloody destruction until she finds out. Nobody does revenge like a supervillain, but as her single-minded pursuit grows more violent, it threatens the only family she has left…

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat Mandu says…

The White Knight and Black Valentine books continue to be one of my favorite superhero series. There’s action, intrigue, lots of sexy innuendos, and plenty of superpowers to play around with. And in this particular book, it’s all about Valentina, a powerful telepath from a family with a penchant for psychic abilities. She’s sassy, sneaky, and damned near unstoppable – especially if she gets her mind-controlling hooks into you.

In Kill Them All, Valentina deals with the ultimate betrayal and the “loss” (Dave’s not dead, but he’s not exactly functioning and able to help) of her husband. With danger lurking around every corner and her past coming back to haunt her, Valentina is slowly being pushed back into her old life – back to committing crimes, back to dirty deeds, and back to killing people. The whole idea is that she’s gotta figure out what lines can be crossed on the path to getting her husband back… and which ones she can never come back from.

This has a lot of intensity as Valentina is faced with multiple foes and backstabs from her so-called friends. But she’s smart and sassy and she begins to figure out the game she’s apart of….which may end up being the death of her, but I won’t spoil too much.

There are plenty of other heroes and baddies that join the fray – like Freezefire, who is Dave’s best friend and former trainee, plus a goody-two-shoes who plays an important role in reminding Valentina who she is. Lady Nightmare, Valentina’s sister who can mentally trap people in their worst nightmares. Oh, and you get to meet Ember, who is technically a bad guy with obsidian armor and some pyrotechnic skills. A few others are mentioned but don’t play as big of a role (until the end, that is, for one of them).

Overall, I really enjoyed this! Can’t wait to read the finale!

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

…you might try some other superhero favorites like Lexi Dunne’s Superheroes Anonymous, Jennifer Estep’s Bigtime series, and the Heroine Complex series by Sarah Kuhn.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Red Hood And The Outlaws, Vol. 1: Redemption

Former Batman-sidekick-turned-vigilante, Red Hood is an antihero with scores to settle. When he teams up with Starfire and Arsenal, the trio start taking out the bad guys while dealing with their bad histories and “family” drama.

Title: Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 1: Redemption
Author: Scott Lobdell (Writer), Joshua Williamson (Writer), Kenneth Rocafort (Illustrations)
Series: Red Hood and the Outlaws (2011) series
Publish Date: Aug 1, 2012 by DC Comics
Genre: superhero, graphic novel
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: No sooner has Batman’s former sidekick, Jason Todd, put his past as the Red Hood behind him than he finds himself cornered by a pair of modern day outlaws: Green Arrow’s rejected sidekick Arsenal, the damaged soldier of fortune, and the alien Starfire, a former prisoner of intergalactic war who won’t be chained again. As a loner, Jason has absolutely no interest in this motley crew of outlaws. So what’s he going to do when they choose the Red Hood as their leader?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat Mandu says…

I admit I don’t read a lot of comic books. Bring on the boos and insults, I know. A lot of my superhero fandoms and knowledge stems from the MCU or DCU (movies) and other various sources. And then I get curious and read into them with the comic books. Plus, if I find a character I really love but isn’t in the movie universes, I tend to look up information on the character and go from there.

Red Hood (and Moonstone, but that’s another story) has always been different. Granted, I first came across his story by watching the animated movie Under The Red Hood. But after that, I became hooked. I recently attended the Wizard World Convention in Chicago and bought the entire Outlaw series (not 52) with glee.

Red Hood is the first DC character I truly adore and care about. Maybe it’s because I have an affinity for young characters who die and are reborn as something else. Maybe it’s because he’s got plenty of one-liners that make me giggle. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t suck *cough, cough Aquaman.*

Long story short, Red Hood was originally the second Robin, Jason Todd, a sidekick trained by Batman. He was murdered at a young age by the Joker and then came back (there are alternate versions of how he was reborn). He felt enraged that his death was not avenged and then donned the Red Hood, becoming a vigilante in the city of Gotham, promising to do better than Batman.

Regardless of the crimes he commits, Jason Todd is a hero at heart, protecting the innocent and getting the bad guys. His methods are far more justified than his mentor’s, even though he kills off the men he thinks are deserving—”let the punishment fit the crime.” He may not have the acute moral compass that Batman does when it comes to killing, but regardless, he mostly gets his revenge.

I’ve read Death In The Family, Under the Hood, and Lost Days, so now I figured it’s time to catch up on his Outlaw days.

I really enjoyed this first installment, too. Jason is smart, angry, and badass as he gets caught up in a rivalry between the All Caste (which is the assassin “school” he’s sent off to at the end of Lost Days) and The Untitled. While in the meantime, he’s teaming up with Starfire and Arsenal.

*On a side note, does anyone else hear Jensen Ackles’s voice as Jason’s? After watching Under The Red Hood, I totally still do.*

I don’t know much about Starfire beyond what I’ve seen in Teen Titans and other comics, so I wasn’t quite sure why she was hiding out on an island until she explained that it was because humans didn’t understand her, and vice versa. She’s quite a fire show with her emotions, pheromones, and powers.

I do know a lot of readers think the way she is portrayed by the writers/artists is sexist, but I don’t really buy into that. From EVERYTHING I’ve seen, Starfire has always been beautiful, has always tossed her feelings around, and has never been shy or uncomfortable about her body or feelings. She’s on an island where she’s free to do as she pleases and went there to escape restrictions. I don’t know what her sexuality has to do with sexism, because sexism is defined as prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women. So, how are the artists and writers being sexist? By drawing a beautiful woman who is a badass alien princess and has feelings? Come on, people. Be real here.

Arsenal is pretty damn funny. In one point of the story, Jason says something along the lines of Arsenal/Roy having the type of humor that is still funny but underlines a lot of things that are very true and very real, and I like that about him. Although I’ve never read the story where he does, I know that at one point, Arsenal goes up against the Justice League and Oliver Queen’s corporation. And I know that somewhere along the line, he loses everything—including himself. So he’s a sarcastic, sassy, angsty bastard, and I love it.

All in all, all these broken characters come in to team up and face down a series of undead, scaly, and very deadly foes and still come out victorious. Cue the applause.

Couple things before I wrap it up: I’d love to learn more about Essence. She seems like a badass too, and I’d never even heard of her before I read this series.

I’d love to see if this first book’s plots still has ties in the future books, or if it’s left unfinished. I guess I’ll find out!

And I love that, despite everything, Jason has learned, he’s still the same, angry person who wants to kill the Joker and who loathes Batman for not avenging his death. Learning new tricks and new saintly mantras doesn’t always make you a saint, and I like that Jason, though good at heart, isn’t going to be swayed one way or another. He’s going to do what he wants.

Overall, this gets a four from me.

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