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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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Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes

Blood keeps spilling as the third book takes it up a notch and ushers in a whole new line of secrets, romances, and deadly twists.

Title: Gathering Darkness
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Series: Falling Darkness, Book 3
Publish Date: December 9th, 2014 by Razorbill
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionWar brought them together. Love will tear them apart.

Alliances form across Mytica and beyond as royals and rebels alike race to hunt down the Kindred—the four elemental crystals that give their owners god-like power. The stakes have never been higher for Magnus and Cleo, who are brought together by a life or death decision that will lock their fates and change the course of the kingdom forever.

THE REBELS forge ahead. Princess Cleo slays with sweetness—and a secret that might control Lucia’s magic—as she and vengeful Jonas lead the hunt for the all-powerful Kindred.

THE KRAESHIANS join the fray. Ashur and Amara, the royal siblings from the vast kingdom across the Silver Sea, prove to be just as ruthless as they are charming as they manipulate their way to victory.

THE WATCHERS follow Melenia out of the Sanctuary. They ally, in the flesh, with King Gaius, who vows to use Lucia’s powers to unveil the Kindred.

And which side will Prince Magnus choose, now that everyone he’s been betrayed by everyone he’s ever loved?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

Magnus has been betrayed by his father, who harbors secrets about his true lineage and also had his mother killed, and by his sister, who knows the truth about his feelings and now feels nothing but repulsion from him despite their old bonds.

Cleo has a goal in mind—befriend Lucia, gain power over her and her magical abilities, and win back Auranos. And for the most part, it works until Lucia discovers the truth and goes berserk.

Jonas, with Cleo’s help and a shady new friend, is trying to find the kindred before anyone else and save his friends in the meantime. But trusting the wrong people is only going to get him in big trouble.

Lucia is awake, alive, and ready to get control over her elementia. But when the boy she loves is killed by all the machinations of the people she loves, she’s ready to go dark side.

So all these characters have their own agendas right now, and it makes for a very interesting mix. This is the first book in the series that really gripped me to my core so that when I was working away from the book, I found I really wanted to get back to it, wanted to read more to find out what would happen. I almost thought it was a five-star book.

But the romance just didn’t do it for me. At this point, Magnus seems to be throwing his love around anywhere the wind blows. He still cares for Lucia, though in honesty, he’s almost over her. He decides to sleep with Amara, who turns out to be his enemy. And then at the end, he and Cleo kiss at random. Like, what the hell? Plus, Lucia gets her own romance in Alexius, sleeping with a guy she barely knows and will probably be the end of her (which he is, who could have guessed?). And Nic, who wants Cleo and Ashur? Ashur, who kisses him, confuses him, and suddenly he’s in love with him?

Man, half of it just seemed… forced or there just to be a simple plot. I know for certain that the other half of it was there for plot twists. Like Magnus sleeping with Amara. That much I knew was a mind game. But the rest? Predictable and sometimes unnecessary. It distracted me from the main plots of the book.

But it still gets a four from me anyway!

Series list and reviews…

Some links will become active as future reviews are published.

Other recommendations…

Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse; Renee Adieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn; Jodi Meadows’s The Orphan Queen series.

Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes

Limeros is victorious – but Auranos and Paelsia now have to deal with the consequences of their actions in book one. Now Jonas and Cleo must take a stand against some very powerful enemies. And Magnus will have to decide what is more important to him – love or duty – as he’s forced to marry a woman whose life he destroyed.

Title: Rebel Spring
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Series: Falling Kingdoms, Book 2
Publish Date: November 27th, 2013 by Razorbill
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: After a bloody siege, Auranos has been defeated, its young queen orphaned and dethroned. The three kingdoms—Auranos, Limeros, and Paelsia—are now unwillingly united as one country called Mytica. But the allure of ancient, dangerous magic beckons still, and with it the chance to rule not just Mytica, but the whole world over…

At the heart of the fray are four brave young people grappling for that magic and the power it promises. For Cleo, the magic would enable her to reclaim her royal seat. In Jonas’s hands, it frees his nation, and in Lucia’s, it fulfills the ancient prophecy of her destiny. And if the magic were Magnus’s, he would finally prove his worth in the eyes of his cruel and scheming father, King Gaius, who rules Mytica with a punishing hand.

When Gaius begins to build a road into the Forbidden Mountains to physically link all of Mytica, he sparks a long-smoking fire in the hearts of the people that will forever change the face of this land. For Gaius’s road is paved with blood, and its construction will have cosmic consequences.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

Jonas becomes the leader of the rebels and a very, very wanted man. Cleo has just lost her family and throne and is now a prisoner in her own home, forced to marry Magnus. Lucia slumbers deeply for mysterious reasons. And Magnus is trying to figure out where his loyalties really lie.

The plot is still thickening in this one as people really start to see new sides to new characters. Lo and behold, the Limerian king actually had a magical guide, telling him to slaughter everyone that stood in his way, a guide that has ties to Alexius, who visits Lucia in her dreams, and Lucia has the ability to do practically anything with her powers. Hmm… the mysteries surrounding this one deepen.

Plus, here’s a kicker. Jonas and Cleo are trying to set aside their differences (Jonas kidnapped Cleo in the first one and he does it again in this one) and team up. But of course, things don’t always go according to plan. Jonas isn’t the best strategist, and so he often leads his comrades into very dangerous, unlucky situations. Cleo may be getting better at lying and faking her way through most of the things she’s facing, but even she can’t silver-tongue the King of Blood.

And there’s a lot of blood. That’s for sure. Lots of action in this, plus I’m finally starting to lean towards certain characters more, which is what the author was probably trying to do. Get readers to root for certain characters, root for a certain side. I find that I’m actually the least fond of Lucia. Because she hasn’t witnessed a lot of hard times in her life (she was the favored child, spoiled by her father but hated by her mother), she seems like a naive brat who throws tantrums whenever she doesn’t get her way. And now she’s giving whatever darkness she has within her time to play.

Four stars for this one – I’m really starting to get hooked at this point.

Series list and reviews…

Some links will become active as future reviews are published.

Other recommendations…

The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard; Snow Like Ashes series by Sara Raasch; and Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas.

If Souls Can Sleep by David Michael Williams

If Souls Can Sleep introduces readers to a world of dreams, nightmares, and plenty of things in between. In David Michael William’s new fantasy series, lucid dreaming entangles with the real world as two rival factions bring their war into his life and change it forever.

Title: If Souls Can Sleep
Author: David Michael Williams
Series: TBA But I Know There’s A Sequel 😉 

Summary: 

First he lost his daughter. His mind may be next.

After years of being haunted by the day his little girl drowned, Vincent faces a new nightmare — one that reaches into the real world and beyond the grave.

If Souls Can Sleep introduces a hidden world where gifted individuals possess the power to invade the dreams of others. Two rival factions have transformed the dreamscape into a war zone where all reality is relative and even the dead can t rest in peace.


Kat Mandu says….

In this fantasy novel, we meet Vincent, a man who’s trying to forget his past. His past, however, has different plans for him. As he’s trying to move on with his life, he finds himself ravaged by dreams and nightmares that suck him in even when he’s awake. In his dreams, he’s “Valenthor” and a chosen one to fulfill an ancient prophecy to save a foreign and fantastical land.

The author’s characters are always so filled with life and personality that readers like me can’t help but feel for them in every way. Vincent’s past life is filled with tragedy and heartbreak. His family is also interesting (for most of the story, his mother and him are practically estranged and his half-brother Danny is in a coma. Plus there’s Leah and Jerry, friends of his that play pretty big roles in his life, especially when he begins lucid dreaming and searching for answers.

The plot is great, not giving too many things away. It blends contemporary genres with fantasy elements (like Elven rebels and magic), plus there’s always touches of romance, action, and mystery. It jumps around a lot, varying from narrator to narrator, though Vincent is the main character it follows. I wasn’t quite sure what the first chapter/prologue had to do with anything at first, but the more I read, the more I understood. I should add that it jumps frequently from real world to dream world and it took a bit for me to accept that mentally.

Also, excellent writing and editing. It has a pleasant and ongoing theme related to how one overcomes grief. In which case Vincent lost his daughter, Clementine, in the real world. It goes to show that everyone grieves differently and some can’t completely get over such a loss without some help. So friendship and family, complicated as they are, are common themes in this as well.

Very intriguing, so I’m looking forward to the next installment. This gets a four from me!

I received an ARC from the author. This does not affect my opinion, as they are my own. 

 

If you like stories involving lucid dreams, you’d also love…

Arkwell Academy – Mindee Arnett
Lucid Dreaming – Cassandra Page

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will dig this sassy, smart heroine who faces all the creatures that go bump in the night.

Title: Strange Angels
Author: Lili St. Crow
Series: Strange Angels, Book 01
Publish Date: May 14, 2009 by Razorbill
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionDad? Zombie.
Mom? Long gone.
Me? Well, that’s the scary part.

The Real World is a frightening place. Just ask sixteen-year-old orphan Dru Anderson, a tough girl who has taken down her fair share of bad guys. She’s armed, dangerous, and ready to kill first and ask questions later. So it’s gonna take her a while to figure out who she can trust . . .

Dru Anderson has been ‘strange’ for as long as she can remember, traveling from town to town with her father to hunt the things that go bump in the night. It’s a weird life, but a good one – until it all explodes in an icy, broken-down Dakota town when a hungry zombie busts through her kitchen door. Alone, terrified, and trapped, Dru’s going to need every inch of her wit and training to stay alive. The monsters have decided to hunt back – and this time, Dru’s on their menu. Chances of survival? Slim to none.

If she can’t last until sunup, it’s game over . . .

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

Dru and her creature-hunting dad are staying in a small town, trying to live a somewhat normal life despite their knowledge of the Real World. When her dad goes to investigate a lead and returns a zombie, Dru is left with no choice but to defend herself as her world flips upside down.

Now, she’s being hunted by some supernatural baddies, and her only allies are the enigmatic Christophe and the chatty, awkward Graves, who’s recently been turned into a half-werewolf. If she can escape the city before an old enemy gets to her, she’ll have to find out who’s really targeting her and if she can survive the encounter.

I really enjoy the characters in this one. Dru is tough and very reminiscent of Buffy Summers for me. She’s very protective, sarcastic, and not afraid to stand up for herself. Sometimes she does things that scare her and poor Graves, her new best friend, who gets bitten by a wulfen. The story mostly focuses on the two of them and their situation, and it’s a nice setup for a best-friend-forever or possibly more.

I only rated this a four because there were certain scenes I struggled with, mostly action scenes that threw me off. I didn’t really get the water fountain scene in the mall or how Dru managed to kill off the hellhound. And the chase scene in the van also confused me with its sporadic, unclear details. Besides those two parts, everything else was kosher.

It’s filled with sincere, tender moments that clash wonderfully with the intense action and supernatural tension.I really enjoyed it and I imagine many others would too.

Other recommendations…

Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead; Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine; Madison Avery trilogy by Kim Harrison.

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