4 star, YA

Review: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Chaotic Good Comps14.inddCameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

4 Drink Me Potions

Everyone, be prepared to get your nerdiness on! And be proud of it! ‘Cause Chaotic Good brings out the inner geeks for a wild celebration of cosplay, D&D and superhero fandoms.

While I can’t say the main subjects covered in the book may be something relevant to all readers – (like I’ve never tried sewing my own costumes before!), the themes embodied by Chaotic Good are universal that should tug at our empathy. How many of us have been bullied – or at least teased – for the things we love that may not be fully mainstream or “cool”? How many can say that we wanted to try something new that others thought wasn’t fitting for us?

Here, we follow Cameron, a girl who loves to sew cosplay costumes and buy comics. A world dominated by “true” fans of mostly the male variety. While I’m always for girl power, I loved how the author doesn’t quickly lump every guy as all bad or every girl without her own flaws. We see cool guys who do like Cameron the way she is, and her hobbies to boot. And girl besties who may not be fully sympathetic to her predicament.

Aside from the themes, each character was fun and unique. The inner boy sanctum of Dungeons & Dragons players were filled with people I absolutely adored. From easygoing Why and Cameron’s writer twin to not-always-likeable Brody, they made a ragtag group that felt like everyday people you’d meet or want to meet.

And this also features a story within a story! For those who haven’t played D&D before, it’s definitely a huge role playing kinda game and my, the storytelling for their game characters was just as unique and adorable. Including the beautiful comic drawings inside. Imaginative and wildly creative, I flew through these pages not just for the main story with Cameron, but for the unfolding plot within their game.

For those who also love a cute romance, this book’s got you. While I’m not fawning madly over the love interest, I still enjoyed this element as it added more than subtracted from the story. It also helps that this book features the girl-dressed-as-a-boy trope that makes the romance more fun!

So yes, my inner nerdiness was awakened as Chaotic Good brought out the best of all that is geeky. Whether you also love to cosplay, read superhero comics, play D&D or just love a good contemporary, this novel was both fun and endearing. And the ending was the perfect cherry on top!

Overall Recommendation:

Chaotic Good represents the best of geekiness, featuring a relatable protagonist who loves cosplaying, reading comics and playing D&D. Balancing between the serious issues such as the internet bullying Cameron was facing and the fun aspect of D&D role playing, this book has a little something for everyone. Imaginative and empathetic, there’s no other contemporary I can think of that meshes the realistic mess of everyday life with the fantastical of other imaginary worlds we wish to live in as well as this one. Please do yourself a favour and give this book a shot!

Have you heard of this YA book before? Are you as excited as I am about the premise of the story?

4 star, YA

Review: Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

Series: DC Icons #2

batman nightwalker -marie luBefore he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.

One by one, the city’s elites are being executed as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he’s forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most brutal criminals.

Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope.

In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.

4 Drink Me Potions

Out of the many superheroes out there, I must admit, Batman is by far a character I struggle with. His vigilante-ism and need to do everything on his own because he thinks he can do it better? Yeah, that totally rubs me wrong.

Yet, Batman: Nightwalker showed me a side of young Bruce Wayne – before he was the Dark Knight who embodied certain characteristics I admire less of – that I actually loved.

Marie Lu created a version of Gotham City that yes, still crawled with bad guys and corruption, but seemed redeemable with a couple of hardworking good guys protecting it. Here, young Bruce – oh my goodness, teenager Bruce – seemed almost human. Not your deep voiced, not-scared-of-anything Batman yet.

The Nightwalkers are a mysterious gang that’s threatened the rich of Gotham City. Much like the kinds of people Bruce’s family associated with. It may seem like the story is your simple stop the bad guys at whatever cost campaign, but the intriguing antagonist (OR IS SHE?) Madeleine definitely delivered a whomping punch that left me wanting more and more.

My favourite parts were definitely the conversations between Bruce and Madeleine. The way she read him, while he in turn tried to figure her out in order to stop the madness that’s happening to his city. Oh, and the subtle underlying (romantic) tensions were absolutely delightful!

“We’re not a very smart match, are we? I can’t think of a story where the billionaire and the murderer end up happily ever after.”

I find romance doesn’t have to always be explicit – this isn’t your regular love story either – and this was the perfect amount to include in a story that focused on a step in Bruce’s journey to becoming a strong protector against a corrupt city.

As a side note to those he are actually avid superhero fans (I’m sorry to admit I’m not the hugest one), fun (and younger) versions of familiar Batman universe characters made appearances too. Just to name a few to get your blood boiling, Harvey Dent and James Gordon may be familiar to most of you.

Equal parts hopeful (I never thought I’d say that about anything related to Batman) and thought provoking, Batman: Nightwalker delivered a brilliant story of a boy on the cusp of manhood and heroism that may have changed his life’s path forever. Full of action scenes and witty conversations with intriguing characters, I loved this book more than I could’ve imagined and raced through it in one short sitting. I’m so glad you don’t even have to read all the books in this series in order either! Jump right in to the world of the Dark Knight, before he has fully figured himself out. I dare you.

Overall Recommendation:
As superhero stories go, I generally stay pretty far away from Batman but Batman: Nightwalker surprised me with its intelligently crafted characters – both heroes AND villains – and excellent pacing that drove my heart racing as I flipped through the pages. This shorter novel was the perfect prequel into Bruce Wayne’s life, and perhaps some events that led him down the road of heroism/vigilante-ism. I couldn’t put it down! Whether you’re a DC superhero fan or not, I think this book is worth checking out for anyone familiar with the name Batman.


Review: Powerless by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs

Series: The Hero Agenda #1

powerless-tera-lynn-childs-tracy-deebsKenna is tired of being “normal.” The only thing special about her is that she’s isn’t special at all. Which is frustrating when you’re constantly surrounded by superheroes. Her best friend, her ex-boyfriend, practically everyone she knows has some talent or power. Sure, Kenna’s smart and independent, but as an ordinary girl in an extraordinary world, it’s hard not to feel inferior.

So when three villains break into the lab where she interns, Kenna refuses to be a victim. She stands her ground. She’s not about to let criminals steal the research that will make her extraordinary too.

But in the heat of battle, secrets are spilled and one of the villains saves her life. Twice. Suddenly, everything Kenna thought she knew about good and evil, heroes and villains is upended. And to protect her life and those she loves, she must team up with her sworn enemies on a mission that will redefine what it means to be powerful and powerless…


3.5 Drink Me Potions

Powerless was a very entertaining story, the kind that gives you a couple of laughs and some cheap thrills as you watch the characters assemble from simple nobodies into who they’re meant to be: heroes.

Honestly, this isn’t the kind of book that’s dark and deeply moving or truly thought provoking. If you’re looking for that kind of grit to your stories, then this may not be your kinda of thing. Better turn around now.

No, Powerless was more of a predictable story about a girl without powers in a world where you’re either a superhero, villain or a simple nobody. Defenseless. Weak.

Of course, nothing is ever quite as simple as that, now is it?

Anyway, this whole world building was a little cliched, I will admit. Heroes vs. villains? Haven’t we heard about this like, in EVERY comic book that’s ever lived? So does this make Powerless Kenna’s origin story?? Hmm, something to think about.

I liked Kenna well enough. She didn’t let being powerless all her life prevent her from being brave and wanting to do the best she could for a world that overlooked people like her. Her attitude and personality was overall easily likeable, although not too memorable as I feel I’ve seen a version of Kenna in many other YA stories.

The plot was fun. There’s really no other word for it. Villains come crashing into your lab and your world turns upside d0wn, ’cause guess what? They’re not as scary or bad as you grew up hearing them as. And of course, it helps that they’re pretty darn hot looking too.

The story flow was at a good pace, never quite stalling in one area too long. Rebel, Kenna’s bestie, is one awesome sidekick type character (if this was actually like a comic book), and their opposite personalities balanced each other well. She also kept things more entertaining whenever there was a lull in villain problems.

As with the romance (’cause every good hero story should have a romance arc, right?), it was okay. I dunno, it wasn’t amazing or anything in my opinion. The plot and fun characters were what kept me happy and reading, but the romance with bad-boy Draven just…wasn’t ringing any chemistry bells in my head. He’s your typical “bad” boy who seems all tough and gruff on the outside but all gooey and sweet on the inside if you just dug deep enough and was able to strip away all that exterior aside (somehow). I didn’t see anything too special about him. Sure, he’s nice, but that doesn’t really stir any deep feelings, to be honest. And yeah, he had been on the run practically his whole life (kinda have to when the League of Superheroes puts you on the hit list of villains), but beyond feeling bad for him, I don’t love him.

Frankly, I don’t love any of these characters. The villains we’ve been introduced to, and the mash of heroes that surprisingly learn there’s another side to what they grew up hearing, make a good team together. But each one of them? There wasn’t a whole lot of character development. Their interactions are what kept things more exciting. If there was a dialogue scene between two characters for too long in the book, it just starts dying down a little.

There also wasn’t many female characters here either. I don’t know if that would piss some people off, but I felt a little uncomfortable that the only “powerful” girl was Rebel, while most of the time we’re surrounded by very unique powers from all the boys. Not a single one of them was powerless.

Lastly, the powers themselves were pretty awesome. I like the superhero genre and for that reason alone, I wasn’t too picky about Powerless. There isn’t a lot of YA novels out there filling this gap right now (as comics seem to do well enough on their own as it is), but overall, this novel was a fun read mixing the good elements of an origin story into a solid book. I am looking forward to seeing what comes next for Kenna and the ragtag team.

Overall Recommendation:
Powerless filled a gap in the YA genre for me, bringing forth a fun story about superheroes and villains thrown together as they realize the world isn’t quite what they all thought it was like. Kenna and her team of superpowered friends were a good mix, balancing each other out with their powers and their personalities. Together, they made the story interesting with a good mix of action thrown in as well as they battled to find out the truth and rescue those they love. Altogether, it wasn’t the most unique book ever written (frankly, it’s like a written comic book), but I wasn’t feeling picky and it satisfied well enough. If you’re looking for a lighter read with some super powers mixed in, I would suggest you give Powerless a try.