Friday, October 13, 2017

Hush by Jeph Loeb

Batman: Hush book cover It’s just another night for Batman, leaping across Gotham rooftops, rescuing a hostage from Killer Croc, when someone intercepts the ransom money and cuts the line to his grappling hook, leaving him for dead in Crime Alley. In trying to uncover the culprit, he finds himself tangled in a web with all his greatest enemies: Poison Ivy, Clayface, Joker, Riddler, Scarecrow, Ra’s al Ghul, and others. They all talk as though it’s a game, but innocent lives are on the line, including some of Bruce Wayne's oldest friends. Working closely (very closely, hint hint) with Catwoman, the Dark Knight fights to uncover who is at the root of this tangle of crimes, mind control, disguise, and deception.

This is a great Batman comic for new readers and old fans alike. It has cameos from almost every Batman enemy and ally you could think of, along with plenty of little explanations of the continuity (Like what happened to the original Robin, or why Barbara Gordon is Oracle). There’s action on nearly every page, and you get to see Batman in his detective mode as well as his “punching Joker in the face” mode. If you like the Batman shows and movies, especially the darker, grittier Batman, Hush is a great introduction to his comic book incarnation. If you like your Batman even darker, try The Killing Joke as well. For a lighter read, try Batman Adventures.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In book cover
It’s been 25 years since the world was rocked by the “Haden’s Syndrome” pandemic. About 1% of those infected became permanently “locked in,” completely paralyzed but fully aware. This new "Haden" demographic spurred a technological boom, and many now walk around with their consciousness embedded in robotic “threeps” (think C-3PO). Chris Shane, the only child of a famous and obscenely wealthy family, grew up as a poster child for Hadens. Now an adult, unwilling to sit back and leech off the family fortune, Chris joins the FBI and is partnered with the secretive and acerbic Van. Chris's very first week on the job involves investigating a string of murders, corporate espionage, body hijacking, Haden civil rights riots, and a scheme that could change the lives of all Hadens forever.

This is a delightful mix of sci-fi and mystery, as Chris navigates a world where people can disguise themselves in robotic bodies or those of human “integrators.” It’s a fun story with great worldbuilding, enjoyable characters, and plenty of action, but it also has a special, subtle gimmick: Chris’s gender is never stated or even implied. You can read the whole book without actually noticing, but it definitely adds a unique layer to the story. To facilitate the illusion, two different audiobooks were recorded, one with a male narrator (Wil Wheaton), and one female (Amber Benson). This is a definite must-read for fans of Ready Player One and other near-future sci-fi.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian

The Ruin of a Rake Lord Courtenay never expected to move back to England, but he made the sacrifice to be close to his nephew, Simon. Now Simon’s father refuses to allow him to see his uncle, owing to Courtenay’s reputation as a dissipated rake. Courtenay is desperate to change his image, even if it means spending time with Julian Medlock, a bland, uptight man but one who commands high society’s respect. Julian is resentful of his infatuation with Courtenay and assumes Courtenay deserves his bad name for scandalous behavior. Nevertheless, as a favor to his sister, Julian agrees to try to reverse Courtenay’s legendary infamy. Slowly, Julian discerns Courtenay is not the reprobate he imagines, while Courtenay discovers Julian’s dull fa├žade hides a clever and passionate man. The charm, vulnerabilities, and hidden depths of Courtenay and Julian are infectious, and the chemistry between the two is both tender and steamy hot.

Sebastian (The Lawrence Browne Affair) might use the well-worn opposites-attract trope to get her lovers together, but her mastery of conflict, tension, and timing along with flawless characterization and sexual attraction turn The Ruin of a Rake into a unique and entrancing romance that touches the heart deeper than most.

This review was originally published in Library Journal Xpress Reviews: E-Originals, July 7, 2017.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Scarlett Dragna has never left the island where she lives with her beloved sister, Tella, and their spiteful father. Her father has arranged a marriage for her to a man she’s never met but who will benefit her father politically, yet this forced marriage is her only hope of escaping the island with her sister to safety away from their abusive father. 

One week before her wedding day the invitation she’d been waiting for her whole life arrives, an invitation to attend Caraval for Scarlett, Tella, and one guest. But going would mean missing her wedding, the one certain way Scarlett knows she can rescue her sister from their father. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella kidnaps Scarlett. Only when they arrive at Caraval,Tella is abducted by Legend, the mastermind behind the show. Whoever finds Tella first will win this year’s Caraval. While Scarlett has been told everything in Caraval is a performance, she falls into a game of intrigue, love, and magic. Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of Caraval are over or her sister will disappear forever!

This story takes you through a fantastic magical world, where you never know what is real, magic, or performance. But the heart of the story is love, Scarlett’s love of her sister and Scarlett falling in love. By the end of the story you believe you have finally unraveled the game to realize you had no idea.

Caraval is the first installment of the "Caraval" series; the second installment is slated to be out in 2018.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda is a story about a very smart young girl. Sadly, Matilda’s parents are quite negligent of her, seeing Matilda as a burden. As a result, Matilda finds unique ways to punish them for their treatment, whether it is with a bit of superglue on her father’s hat or hair dye in his hair tonic. Fortunately, they do at least enroll her in school, and Matilda has a wonderful teacher, Miss Honey, who sees the intelligence in her young pupil. In fact, Miss Honey tries to get Matilda advanced to a higher grade level, but the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, does not allow it. As a matter of fact, Miss Trunchbull despises all children. She bullies them and hands out the most severe punishments. What can a young girl do with a brute like Miss Trunchbull?
Listening to the audio version, read by Kate Winslet, really brought the story to life. Each character was given a unique voice, making it very easy to follow the story. While a little over the top with some of Miss Trunchbull’s actions, children will enjoy the justice one young girl is able to bring about on unsuspecting adults. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle
Father and charming handyman extraordinaire, Rex Walls is also an argumentative alcoholic who can't keep a job. Mother and artist, Rose Mary Walls puts herself and her art first, especially before the welfare of the family. From Jeannette's toddler years and on, her family moves around a lot, often doing the "skedaddle" in the middle of the night. Frequently going without food, supervision, and any sort of bathroom facilities, Jeannette and her siblings are left to fend for themselves, shunned and labeled "dirty urchins" by townspeople and classmates alike. But Jeannette's story takes a positive turn once she leaves her depressing home for New York City.

The Glass Castle is a page-turner, with the reader wondering how things will turn out for Jeannette and all her siblings after perpetual family dysfunction. The tone throughout the book clearly shows how much Jeannette loves her family, but that love is not enough to save everyone close to her. Despite the frequent downward spiral of Jeannette's parents, this memoir is ultimately uplifting, showing how resourcefulness, a determined attitude, and hard work can result in positive changes in one's own life.

Now a major motion picture. Check out the movie version from the library later this year.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry
Federal Agent Aaron Falk has not been back to his remote Australian hometown since he and his father were run off twenty years ago. Aaron thought he would never go back until his childhood best friend, Luke, murders his own family and kills himself. Aaron receives a note from Luke’s father that reads simply: “You lied. Luke lied. Be at the funeral.” Reluctantly, he attends the funerals in the claustrophobic, drought-stricken farming town of Kiewarra. The locals, already on edge and starting to turn on each other in the relentless heat, are determined to hound Aaron out of town for a second time. He is more than happy to go until Luke’s father asks him to look into the murder-suicide that his son has been blamed for, and Aaron starts to suspect that Luke was framed. Along the way, Aaron must also confront the secrets buried in his and Luke’s past, where another murder lurks.

The Dry is a gripping, atmospheric page-turner. Secrets are revealed piece by piece with perfect timing that will leave you unable to put the book down. Harper’s characters and setting are so well-drawn that you will be able to feel the heat and you’ll be looking over your shoulder for suspicious locals. A summer must-read for mystery fans.