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review 2017-06-26 20:57
Please Don't Tell My Parents I Have A Nemesis
Please Don't Tell My Parents I Have A Nemesis - Richard Roberts

[I received a copy of this book from the publisher.]

I remember being disappointed with the previous instalment. This one, although not as strong as the first volume in the series, I felt was better—probably because it deals less with slice-of-life/school moments, and tackles more seriously the matter of Penny wanting to come clean to her parents about the Inscrutable Machine. Well, ‘seriously’ being a tentative word, because her plan is, as Ray and Clair put it, just crazy enough to actually work. (On the other hand, well, it’s a plan crafted by a 14-year-old mad scientist, soooooo... why not!)

... And you can sense this plan smells like Eau de Backfiring from the moment it is formulated, and can’t help but wait for the train wreck to happen, and... I admit, I liked that part of the plot. Even though it didn’t cover the whole book (too bad). In a twisted way, the mistakes Penny keeps committing seem to me like they’re actually her subconscious, or perhaps her power, acting her to act: she wants to be a hero, she regularly tries to help people and do good deeds, but somehow she seems more cut out to be an ambiguous hero at best. More suited to be filed with the likes of Lucyfar than Marvelous.

(I’m also thinking that IF this is what the author is indeed going for, then it might also explain the Audit’s lack of insight about her daughter: maybe the Audit does know, has known for a while, and isn’t saying anything because she wants Penny to realise by herself what her true decision will have to be.)

What I regret:

- Like in the previous two books, we don’t see much of Ray and Claire, both in terms of development and sidekicking (summer camp kind of gets in the latter’s way). Hopefully the last volume will take care of the whole ‘Ray’s family’ issue. Or maybe it’s not worth it? I don’t know, I’ve always felt there was something off to them, and not merely as in ‘they don’t like superheroes/villains so I can’t tell them I’m one now.’

- The coming back of a friendtagonist: I was expecting it, I wanted to see it happen, yet at the same time, the way it was dealt with felt like a plot device. Kind of ‘this character is needed to help Penny build one specific machine, and then will be unneeded for the rest of the book.’ Meh.

What I’m in between about:
- The ending. It is fairly depressing, and a cliffhanger... yet at the same time, I’m glad the whole thing wasn’t solved just like that, since it would’ve been too simple, and... ‘too clean?’

Conclusion: Not on par with volume 1, howeve it did leave me with a better impression than volume 3.

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review 2016-04-01 21:43
Please Don't Tell My Parents I've Got Henchmen
Please Don't Tell My Parents I've Got Henchmen - Richard Roberts

[I received a copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.]

I have been following this series from its first volume, which I really liked, so I'll admit to being slightly biased. I like the main characters, the world of superheroes and villains developed here—everybody knows they exist, with more or less admiration and acceptance of what they do, and with a subverted Masquerade trope (supers don't hide per se, but there's an unspoken rule about “not getting personal”, that is, not revealing people's day-to-day identities).

And I'm feeling torn, because I liked this third volume, yet also found it kind of weak in terms of plot. Perhaps because it's more focused on a part of Penny et al.'s life we hadn't really seen yet, that is, growing up, and finding out that dividing one's life between villainous activities, trying to become a hero, and just good old norma activities, is time-consuming and difficult.

In that regard, it was interesting. Other kids are making their coming out, refusing to hide their powers any longer, and a wind of acceptance is blowing over the school. The club activities, the new lair, those were both fun to read about, and also leading to more thoughtful considerations.

I quite liked Marcia's development, although I wish we had been given some more information about how exactly she turned out like that (“she has the scrolls” is a bit of a shortcut: how did she survive them?). Her powers are of a kind that I find fascinating, that is, would you stay sane if nothing could hurt you, or not for long? Or would you start experimenting, looking for the one thing that may do you harm? It made me think of Claire's experiments at the beginning of the “Heroes” series, only in a more.. unhealthy way. But then, I much prefer this Marcia to theuppity girl from book 1.

Quite a few things that left me frustrated, though:

- This is really more a “slice of life” book, without any real plot apart from the loose “teenagers gathering and developing their powers”. As mentioned above, it allowed to delve deeper into our three wannabe-heroes (or wannabe-villains?) problems and potential choices for the future, and to reveal more about existing characters, like Bull and his family. On the other hand, there was no real main plot here, ideas would spring up and unfurl into short events that would then die down, and good plot devices were lost in the middle. What about the robot? (Having her around more would've been fun... and I think we could do with a new Vera by now.) What exactly happened to Barbara to make her another kind of unpredictable, but perhaps still as dangerous as her sister? Also, we're having many secondary characters introduced (the club) and this is screen time may have been better used on the Inscrutable Machine (who didn't do enough villainy to my liking—I want to see them dostuff back together more often!).

- Still no real insight as to Ray's family, which makes his position hard to relate to: it seems his parents would hate him if they were to learn he's a super, and so he both wants to stay and to leave... but that's only what we're told. We never get to see his family. We don't know what they're like. Regular people, from what I rememberfrom book 1... or not so much? Are they heroes or villains in disguise? Or maybe people who got badly hurt in the past by some hero or villain, and now they despise everything “super”? I really, really want to know, and I really hope there's more to Ray's folks than the little we'vebeen told so far. It can't be so simple. And if it has to be “that bad”, then I want to see it, too.

- Are the Akks so blind as to their daughter's activities? Or are they pretending not to know? Deluding themselves? By now, this is more than troublesome. Maybe Penny's father might get away with this (scientist more focused on his own inventions, and all that), but it's difficult to keep seeing the Audit as this calculating, probabilities- and statistics-wielding ex-hero, as this sort of human computer, when she's so oblivious to what's so obvious. The “bumbling blind adult” trope isn't working.

Honestly, I don't like giving less than 3 stars to this book. But...

Nevertheless, this novel raises some interesting questions and potential future arcs at the end, and I'd still want to see those in a next installment, if it meant more antics from the trio. Among other things: what is the Inscrutable Machine to do, to choose, considering that they seem to be really talented at villainous stuff (with the good deeds backfiring), yet still find themselves instinctively helping people as well as causing mayhem? And what is Spider up to?

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review 2015-02-19 08:51
Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon
Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon - Richard Roberts

(I got a copy from the publisher, as part of the review tour, in exchange for an honest review.)

I read the first installment of this series, Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm A Supervillain, last year, and thought it was a pretty good novel. So, of course, I couldn't pass up on the invitation to read the second one.

I found it weaker, though I still liked it. It contains a lot of good ideas and concepts, and it's perfect if looking for a wild adventure in space, with alien technology and bio-weapons, lost space stations hidden on asteroids, and a steampunkish flavour to boot. Those parts were highly amusing, in terms of Weird Science, and Penny's power developed in a way that clearly forced her to rethink a few things and decide whether she wanted to go (too) far or stop while it was still time. Archimedes, for instance, was both fascinating and creepy in its uses and in the possibilities it introduced.

Remmy's character, too, was an interesting counterpoint to Penny: two girls with similar powers, with a basis for strong friendship, but also for jealousy and competition. I could se where Remmy came from, why she eacted the way she did, out of stubborness more thananything else, probably... but then, she's also only eleven. I'd certainly like to see her appear again later in the series, if only for a chance to see how that relationship could develop if given more time and more distance.

On the other hand, the fast-paced plot sometimes left me dangling, as I wondered "wait, when did this character walk into the room?" or "why aren't they paying more attention to the fct that [character X] has basically done a huge mistake?" It made me feel like the story carried the characters where they needed to be, but not always with a clear reason.

Two things I regret:
- The somewhat lackluster presence of Claire and Ray. Their antics are funny, and they make good sidekicks. However, at the end of the first novel, we had been given more to see about Ray, in particular, and I had hoped this arc, among others, would be explored. However, apart from playing sidekicks, those two didn't really get much development.

- The very feeble involvement of Penny's parents and other adults (although I laughed at the Audit's interpretation of the situation, because... it did make sense, in a "I'm a parent who cannot imagine my daughter is evil, so I'll unconsciously find another solution"). In the first book, I really liked the "please don't tell my parents..." concept, and how the Inscrutable Machine had to go to various ends to hide their identity, make people think they weren't Penelope, Claire and Ray. Here, since most of the story unfolds in space, the pressure of not being discovered was much less a problem (even though Penny's realisation at the end—how to make a Hero appear—gives me good hopes for the next installment's potential plot).

In general, it is still a pleasant story to read, though its predecessor will remain higher on my list.

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review 2014-07-18 18:13
Sidekick - Auralee Wallace

(I got a copy of this book throuhg NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

OK for the most part, in that it provided me with a fluffy, fast, light reading, but nothing I'll remember much, I'm afraid.

I liked the basic idea of the ex-rich girl deciding to tackle on the role of a hero's sidekick: I thought it held a lot of potential for funny situations as well as superhero gadgets à la Batman. However, those situations were either not exploited enough to my liking, or too ridiculous to be actually funny. I smiled a few times, but after a while, Bremy's membership in the Too Stupid To Live club reached such epic proportions that I would just roll my eyes and wonder why anyone even bothered with her, from her shady landlord to Ryder and Bart. Smaller doses of such clueless behaviours would've been funny in my eyes; here, there were just too many for me to care enough to laugh.

The characters in general weren't fleshed out, and remained at face value level. While normally, this could work in humorous stories, at least in my own reading experience, a little depth is still somewhat needed for me to fully appreciate a cast. There wasn't much of an explanation for Queenie's involvement, for instance, and the whole thing with Jenny indeed seemed to have moved way too fast (one month?). Some elements remained unexplained, some loose ends weren't tied, making the novel seem like it's begging for a sequel. The villain's plan also felt too stale. The love interest sparked zero interest here on my part. Again, it was supposed to be funny, I know. Only it just didn't work in my case, owing to Bremy's TSTL quality and Pierce's naivety. That combo was a deadly one (not in a good nor amusing way).

Overall, this novel felt as if it was trying too hard to be funny, and in the end, it became sort of... tiring. Much to my dismay, because it's one of the genres (humour + loser heroes) I'm usually attracted to.

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review 2014-06-24 14:00
Shield and Crocus
Shield and Crocus - Michael R. Underwood

(I got a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

3.5* for an interesting read. Quite special at first: I must admit I was expecting more classical fantasy, yet this novel deals in fact more with superheroes in a fantasy world than with a typical "band of brothers" à la Robin Hood. So, with this in mind, it depends on the reader's take on such stories: if superheroes aren't your thing, getting into Shield and Crocus might be difficult. For instance, the characters have their normal identities and their heroes' identities, which can be confusing in the beginning before you get used to Wonlar being also called First Sentinel, Rova being Sapphire, and so on. (Of course, I only noticed the presence of a glossary at the end after I had finished reading the novel. The beauty of ebooks on a Kindle app on a smartphone...)

The story's set in an intriguing city by the name of Audec-Hal, a city that developed within the skeleton of a fallen Titan, twenty miles from head to toe. Its inhabitants live in his ribcage, along his legs and arms, streets are called "veins" as if they were still carrying his blood, and so on. Some fifty years ago, it was protected by the City Mother, a being whose power was however enslaved by a tyrant; since then, the faith and compassion bestowed on the inhabitants have turned to fear and servitude. The place is also regularly stormed by, well, literal storms (Spark-storms), possibly magical in origin, since they turn people and even buildings into strange things, mostly living. The lucky ones end up with couple of physical changes and/or a specific power; the others lose their humanity, so to speak—the people of Audec-Hal are humanoid in looks and behaviours, but their races aren't called "human". Six of them dwell in the city, all with their specific characteristics: the fast (and fast-aging Pronai); the Ikanollo, who can see the threads of emotions bonding people (oh the possibilities); the Freithin, created through alchemy to serve as slaves, empowered with empathy with their blood-kin; the Jalvai, who control stone; the Millrej, sharing features with animals (bear-kin, fox-kin...); and the eyeless, mouthless Qava, who feed on thoughts and communicate and feel through telepathy and telekinesy.

This may seem complicated, and it was in the beginning, but the novel's detailed enough in its descriptions to make it clear after a couple of chapters. At least, I didn't find it so complicated that I had to stop reading or check the glossary (as said, I didn't even notice there was one). It was imaginative enough to my liking, and different from the usual elves-like, dwarves-like, and others-like species seen in fantasy in general.

In fact, the diversity is one of the reasons I liked this novel. Three of the six Shields are women, two of them are an item... and it just "is." Not a major plot point, not a plot device, not a way of passing a message. I didn't feel any judgemental attitude nor any preaching to the choir, which is pretty refreshing, and fits with my own take on people in general. (I consider people first as human beings, not as gendered beings. This is exactly how it felt here.) What mattered were those heroes' strength, their ideas, their fight, their wishes for a better city for their fellow inhabitants. Species, gender, sexual orientation: those weren't important, just background elements that happened to be, and didn't take precedence on more intrisic, fundamental qualities.

The "super-hero fantasy" aspect beckons for an action-filled narrative (told mostly from First Sentinel's, Sapphire's and Aegis's points of view); however, political undertones still permeate the story, in that five tyrants seized power decades ago, are keeping the city under their thumb, and are trying to gather for a summit that, if it succeeds, would make their stranglehold on Audec-Hal even stronger that before. They're all vying for power, and are definitely not above striking alliances only to backstab their new allies at the first opportunity; on the other hand, the six Shields have to take their moves into consideration, anticipate, and as always in such cases, sometimes you're victorious, and sometimes you get played. Consequently, although action and fights still make up two thirds of Shield and Crocus, the story's a little more complex than "a group of heroes fight crime/one evil overlord". This is something I tend to appreciate, especially since the Shields have to plan around, and are sometimes forced into moves that lead to loss of life (they can't be everywhere to save the people who support them).

Speaking of the tyrants: the Smiling King. I so, so want to call this guy Hastur. Or the King in Yellow. Or something to that extent. I have no idea if it was the author's intent, it's just the way he resonated with me.

The writing was somewhat redundant. I didn't have any problems when it came to picturing the city and the fights, but regularly, I found the style repetitive, probably because of names/nicknames that were dropped too often. (You can only read "First Sentinel" so many times in two paragraphs.) The book could've done with some tightening in that regard.

Another thing: the story didn't leave that much room for character development, and I would've liked to see a little more of this as well. Mostly because of what revolution-related themes tend to involve: people dying. And their death usually impacts me more when I've gotten to know those characters first, not just see them in action. It's not a big turn-off in this specific story, but it's worth mentioning.

Although it seems like a standalone for now, the ending is open enough for a follow-up, so if there's one, I'd gladly pick it. A few things were left wanting in my opinion—not enough to diminish my enjoyment of the story, just enough to make me wonder. Fahra's existence, among other things, could pave the way to some interesting scenario about the Spark-storms. I'd also like to know more about the Titans, the storm's origin, the world outside Audec-Hal. (As a microcosm, it works fairly well; only I tend to be curious about what's outside "pocket-worlds" in general, so to speak.)

To be honest, I think this novel would shine more as a graphic novel/comics. Nevertheless, it wasn't such an easy mix to come up with at first; it's imaginative; and as it is, I still enjoyed it.

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