Review: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

secret history of wonder woman by jill leporeFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: nonfiction
Length: 432 pages
Publisher: Knopf
Date Released: October 28, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A riveting work of historical detection revealing that the origin of one of the world’s most iconic superheroes hides within it a fascinating family story—and a crucial history of twentieth-century feminism

Wonder Woman, created in 1941, is the most popular female superhero of all time. Aside from Superman and Batman, no superhero has lasted as long or commanded so vast and wildly passionate a following. Like every other superhero, Wonder Woman has a secret identity. Unlike every other superhero, she has also has a secret history.

Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore has uncovered an astonishing trove of documents, including the never-before-seen private papers of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator. Beginning in his undergraduate years at Harvard, Marston was influenced by early suffragists and feminists, starting with Emmeline Pankhurst, who was banned from speaking on campus in 1911, when Marston was a freshman. In the 1920s, Marston and his wife, Sadie Elizabeth Holloway, brought into their home Olive Byrne, the niece of Margaret Sanger, one of the most influential feminists of the twentieth century. The Marston family story is a tale of drama, intrigue, and irony. In the 1930s, Marston and Byrne wrote a regular column for Family Circle celebrating conventional family life, even as they themselves pursued lives of extraordinary nonconformity. Marston, internationally known as an expert on truth—he invented the lie detector test—lived a life of secrets, only to spill them on the pages of Wonder Woman.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman is a tour de force of intellectual and cultural history. Wonder Woman, Lepore argues, is the missing link in the history of the struggle for women’s rights—a chain of events that begins with the women’s suffrage campaigns of the early 1900s and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later.

My Review:

Wonder Woman has often been presented as an icon of feminism. Admittedly, she looks like feminism for the male gaze, with her abbreviated and skin-tight uniform of bustier and increasingly short shorts, but the principles that she espouses, at least when she is being drawn by someone who cares, are generally considered feminist.

If Wonder Woman’s history in the comic books is often convoluted, as DC Comics continually revises, retcons and retools the origin stories for their superheroes, the story of how she was created was possibly even stranger.

There’s also an amount of “small world” feeling that surrounds her creation. She was created by a man who believed that what he was propagating were first-wave feminist values, in spite of the life he lived being something rather different. At the same time, everyone seems to have known everyone. There’s a weird straight line between the creation of Wonder Woman and the invention of the birth control pill. In this history, that line has a couple of kinks in it.

Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston in 1942 during the Golden Age of comic books. Marston’s life was somewhat of a comic book all by itself, but no one seems to have been aware of it at the time, including his children. That’s part of what made this story so fascinating.

In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Marston lived at the head of an extremely unconventional household. His wife, Sadie Holloway, embodied the feminist principles that he inserted into Wonder Woman. She was the primary breadwinner, working at the executive level in various industries, including insurance, and was also an editor.

In addition to supporting Marston and their children, Sadie was also supporting the other woman in Marston’s life, Olive Byrne Richard, and the two children Marston had with her. In return for her involvement in this unusual arrangement, Olive Byrne became the caretaker for Holloway’s children with Marston in addition to her own.

Olive Byrne was the niece of Margaret Sanger, the famous (sometimes infamous) birth control advocate, so Marston knew Sanger.

Marston was also the originator of the lie-detector test, even though his design was not the one that went into widespread use.

The story in The Secret History of Wonder Woman is not a publication history of the comic, although there is a bit of that. Instead, it is a biography of the eccentric group of people who made the original Wonder Woman, and a fascinating look at how their unconventional lives and Marston’s unusual psychological theories about love and dominance made their way into the iconic character of Wonder Woman.

Reality Rating B: This is one of those stories that can only be true, because an attempt to fictionalize it would run past anyone’s willing suspension of disbelief.

As narrative, it takes a while to get into, but the journey is definitely worth the ride. At least partially because it’s such a surprise.

Marston certainly believed that the ideas he was promoting in Wonder Woman were aligned with first-wave feminism. After reading this book, I can’t say that I believe it, but I can see that he did. He also had a lot of very strange theories about the power of love and submission both being ultimately stronger than violence and dominance and being what women really needed. Again, not saying I believe it, or that anyone outside his immediate household believed his theories very long, but he did embody those theories in Wonder Woman.

On that other hand, he used both his wife and his mistress as models for different aspects of Wonder Woman’s personality and some of her costume and gadgetry. It also seems like Wonder Woman is the only thing he managed to succeed at, and the rest of the time he was a supposedly enlightened despot overseeing the household that was maintained for his convenience by his two “wives”.

There was a certain amount of bravery on everyone’s part in living a very unconventional life-style, but it seems as if it mostly benefitted him, which doesn’t seem feminist at all. Marston also used the Wonder Woman narrative as a way of poking none too gentle fun at various academics and officials who had derided his theories in the early part of his career.

Whatever he may have voiced regarding the power of women, Marston described all the many and varied ways in which Wonder Woman gets chained and bound, over and over, with a little too much loving detail to sit comfortably with readers who equate Wonder Woman with feminism. It feels like a disconnect between what he said and what he did, and one wonders why no one pointed it out at the time.

All in all, the way that Marston’s real life and theories inserted themselves into Wonder Woman is strangely compelling. The way that first-wave feminism was both promulgated and ultimately rejected by Wonder Woman when it changed hands reflects the change in women’s status after World War II. The backdrop history of the fear of comic books’ influence on children and the rise of censorship is reminiscent of the trials of both television violence and video games that have occurred in more recent times. Some things that have happened before are happening over and over.

This book reads much more like a biography of Marston than a history of Wonder Woman. Still, where those two intersect, and how, is fascinating.

Reviewer’s note: This book is not as long as it initially appears. While reading on my Kindle app, I was 65% completed when the narrative ended and the extensive footnotes began. It’s great to see how well researched the book is, but I thought it had a lot longer to go.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Dual Review: Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

dreams of the golden age by carrie vaughnFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genre: Superhero romance, Urban Fantasy
Series: Golden Age #2
Length: 318 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: January 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Like every teen, Anna has secrets. Unlike every teen, Anna has a telepath for a father and Commerce City’s most powerful businessperson for a mother. She’s also the granddaughter of the city’s two most famous superheroes, the former leaders of the legendary Olympiad, and the company car drops her off at the gate of her exclusive high school every morning. Privacy is one luxury she doesn’t have.

Hiding her burgeoning superpowers from her parents is hard enough; how’s she supposed to keep them from finding out that her friends have powers, too? Or that she and the others are meeting late at night, honing their skills and dreaming of becoming Commerce City’s next great team of masked vigilantes?

Like every mother, Celia worries about her daughter. Unlike every mother, Celia has the means to send Anna to the best schools and keep a close watch on her, every second of every day. At least Celia doesn’t have to worry about Anna becoming a target for every gang with masks and an agenda, like Celia was at Anna’s age.

As far as Celia knows, Anna isn’t anything other than a normal teen. Still, just in case, Celia has secretly awarded scholarships at Anna’s private high school to the descendants of the city’s other superpowered humans. Maybe, just maybe, these teens could one day fill the gap left by the dissolution of The Olympiad…

Our Review:

Cass: After the Golden Age was better.

Sidney-Harris-MiracleMarlene: (refers Cass to Sidney Harris cartoon). Not that I don’t agree with you. After the Golden Age was better. But I think we need to be a little more explicit in our reasons. (and for anyone who is wondering, no, Sidney Harris is not a relative. And DAMN)

Cass: FINE. I can work with that. If you insist.

The primary issue with Dreams of the Golden Age was Anna. As a protagonist she left me utterly cold. I do not mind teenage narrators, so it wasn’t an issue of youth. She was just so damn boring. I didn’t care about her powers, or her typical teenage drama. For example, after a (SARCASTIC SPOILER ALERT) very bad thing happens, she immediately jumps tracks to talk prom. Seriously? There aren’t more important issues for you to deal with right now?!

More Celia and Arthur! The whole book should have been about them.

Marlene: I’m with you on Anna. So much of Anna’s angst is about her power being such a boring kind of power. It’s not showy, and it’s not offensive. It’s not even defensive. The problem is that her endless internal whinging about how dull a power she got dealt also gets boring.

Celia and Arthur? Now there’s a fascinating story. Also Celia and Mark, for that matter. Celia is dealing with so much very real and heart-rending “stuff” during the whole book. If it had been all her again, I’d have been much happier.

Cass: Absolutely! Anna’s “wah wah my powers are terrible” just made me want to reach into the book and slap her. Really? Your mother and sister have no powers at all. Remember how your mom spent her teenage years being abducted and held hostage? Maybe use your brain and figure out how to capitalize on what you’ve got. Which is so much more than 99.99% of the boring humans out there get.

I really wanted more of Celia and Arthur. I just skimmed through the Anna Chapters looking for references to them. Celia’s troubles were so much more engaging than Anna’s, I couldn’t even figure out how Carrie could stand to write Anna’s perspective alongside Celia’s.

After the Golden Age by Carrie VaughnHell, even stories about how they dealt with all the trauma from After The Golden Age would have been better. Also, will no one EVER acknowledge the serious PTSD Celia has to be rocking due to her horrific childhood?

Marlene: In Dreams of the Golden Age, so much of what felt like the “true” story rested on Celia. And Celia’s story was a bigger and stronger story than anything focused on Anna’s point of view. Anna’s perspective was just too small. I think one of the differences between After and Dreams is that in After, Celia was an adult. She still had tons of trauma that she had to get over (and probably never got therapy for) but she had some perspective on the scope of the events taking place that was beyond her headspace. Even if some of that perspective might have been her version of the mutation.

Anna doesn’t feel mature enough to carry the story.

Cass: I didn’t think the problem was with Anna’s lack of maturity – I really blame the problem on the writing. Showcasing Anna’s perspective could have provided a very interesting counterpoint to Celia’s decisions to keep things from her children, or how Celia and Arthur’s parenting was so clearly superior to what Celia was subjected to.

The problem was that Anna’s chapters read like someone had studied teenagers by watching The WB and the Cartoon Network without ever interacting with real young people. Just because kids are hormonal doesn’t make them useless, stupid, or oblivious to the world around them. Anna’s limited perspective would have made more sense for a child much younger. Someone who was say, 10 or 12.

However, I did really enjoy the glimpses we got of what it was like living in a City of Superheroes/Villians. From both the idiotic child and elite businesswoman perspectives.

Marlene: It may be that I just plain didn’t like Anna. There were times when her younger sister Bethy seemed to have a more sensible head on her shoulders, powers or no powers.

There are plenty of totally immature adults, and mature teenagers in real life as well as fiction. Anna’s perspective just didn’t work for me in the same way that Celia’s did in the first book.

It still felt like Celia was the real central character in this story. It was her plan to arrange for all the children and grandchildren of the original experiment to get into Elmwood Academy one way or another and for her to see if the Olympiad recreated itself by, what, spontaneous generation?

She’s still obeying her own mutation, and giving her all, and it very nearly is absolutely everything she has, to see that Commerce City flourishes.

And the poor woman manages to get kidnapped. Again.

Cass: We’re definitely in agreement. Celia was the true protagonist and star of the show. I admit that I started laughing when she got kidnapped. You’d think after so many years, people would learn.

I hope that if the author returns to Commerce City, she sticks with the real movers and shakers (namely, Celia and Arthur) rather than forcing us to spend too much time with what is properly the supporting cast.

I did love Celia’s long term plans to regenerate the Olympiad. It was great to see her acknowledged for her intelligence, something that I felt most people overlooked in After the Golden Age. Brilliance may not be as flashy as setting shit on fire with your mind, but I’d rather have a Celia in my city than the (old or new) Olympiad any day.

Escape Rating C: This is hard. I want to give Anna an F, and Celia an A. So I’ll split the difference.

I would not recommend anyone read Dreams unless they’ve already read After. Too much of the plot and character development depends on knowledge of what took place in the first book.

Marlene: Let’s get past the “Up with Celia, Down with Anna” rant to talk about the overall story just a minute. And for that, I need to quote Battlestar Galactica. “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again,” with a dose of Euripides by way of Star Trek, “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”
The plot in Dreams has a ton of recycled elements from After, starting with using the daughter’s perspective, which is why we got so much Anna shoved at us.

But the crisis is kind of the same; a secret attempt to take over Commerce City’s halls of power, hidden behind a smokescreen. The smokescreens are different, but the baseline concept feels the same. Celia’s kidnapping is just the icing on that cake.

Cass: Excellent point! “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Though I’m loving the Cylon reference, it’s not working for me, since they have thousands upon thousands of years to repeat their mistakes. This is only one generation!)

Would it kill a supervillain to crack a book on occasion? Maybe not fail at taking over the city the exact same way their predecessors did?

Marlene: The Cylons are quoting J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. A historical footnote that perturbs me no end.

It would also be a terrific thing if all the supervillains didn’t have the same parent-child rivalries, but that’s not necessarily something they could prevent by cracking open a book. Sometimes the apple does fall pretty far from the parent tree. And in a really good way.

Cass: I forgive it in this case – if only because the genesis of Commerce City Powers stems from a very limited genetic pool – it’s not uncommon for relatives to have the same mommy/daddy issues.

Marlene: This is my case of not forgiving the writing as much. It makes sense that families have similar dynamics, although we don’t know that the supervillain family in After is the same as the supervillain family in Dreams. It’s only speculation. And since family dynamics are nurture as much as nature, and there was no contact that we know of, that stretches it even further for me.

Also it’s part of the cascade of repeats. Daughter perspective, supervillain has same plot to take over Commerce City, and supervillain family has the same kind of parent/child breakaway issues.

But the grand scenes at the climax where all the supers, old and new, got together and used their powers could have been part of a climactic battle for an Avengers franchise movie.

Escape Rating B: In spite of having too much Anna and not enough Celia, the parts of Celia (and Arthur) that I got were awesome. I loved the bits about “getting the band back together”. Celia’s angst was real and heartfelt, I could feel her being pulled in every direction and never sure if she was doing the right thing.

Like Cass, I would love to see the “stories in the middle”; how Celia and Arthur managed to heal after the big mess of After the Golden Age. Or a future now that Celia is going to have to let go a little bit. And poor Mark, he’s an unsung hero in all of this. And someday, Bethy is going to be awesome.

Cass: My grade stays the same! In case anyone was wondering. There was just not enough awesome despite all the potential. (Bethy is counted amongst all the potential.)

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-19-14

Sunday Post

We live in Seattle…and the Seahawks are in the NFC Championship game this afternoon. I had this brilliant idea to watch the football game today, but there’s a funny stumbling block.

Seattle Seahawks logoWe don’t have cable. We don’t watch enough TV while it’s being broadcast to justify it. We stream everything, but next day or later. I think we use the Amazon Prime subscription mostly for the cheaper streaming.

Galen is still trying to figure out whether we can watch the game live without paying for the view. So to speak. So maybe we’ll watch the game. Or maybe I’ll just read!

Current Giveaways:

Steal Me, Cowboy by Kim Boykin; ebook copy
Tourwide Giveaway: $50 Gift Card from winner’s choice of etailer and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers gift basket from Crista McHugh
Tourwide Giveaway: $50 Gift Card or Spectra Nova necklace, winner’s choice courtesy of Cindy Spencer Pape

After the Golden Age by Carrie VaughnBlog Recap:

B Review: Steal Me, Cowboy by Kim Boykin + Giveaway
B+ Review: Ashes & Alchemy by Cindy Spencer Pape
Guest Post by Author Cindy Spencer Pape on Escapist Fiction + Giveaway
B Review: The Sweetest Seduction by Crista McHugh + Giveaway
B+ Review: Gossamer Wing by Delphine Dryden
A+ Review: After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn
Stacking the Shelves (74)

forward to camelot by susan sloateComing Next Week:

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (review)
Forward to Camelot by Susan Sloate with Kevin Finn (blog tour review)
Late Last Night by Lilian Darcy (blog tour review + giveaway)
Deeper by Robin York (review)
Chenoire by Susannah Sandlin (blog tour review + giveaway)

Review: After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

After the Golden Age by Carrie VaughnFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: Hardcover, paperback, ebook
Genre: urban fantasy, superhero romance
Series: Golden Age #1
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: April 12, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

It’s not easy being a superhero’s daughter….

Carrie Vaughn has captured legions of fans with her wildly popular Kitty Norville novels. Now she uses her extraordinary wit and imagination to tell a sensational new story about superhuman heroes—and the people who have to live with them.

Most people dream of having superheroes for parents, but not Celia West. The only daughter of Captain Olympus and Spark, the world’s greatest champions, she has no powers of her own, and the most exciting thing she’s ever done is win a silver medal in a high school swim meet. Meanwhile, she’s the favorite hostage of every crime boss and supervillain in Comemrce City. She doesn’t have a code name, but if she did, it would probably be Bait Girl, the Captive Wonder.

Rejecting her famous family and its legacy, Celia has worked hard to create a life for herself beyond the shadow of their capes, becoming a skilled forensic accountant. But when her parents’ archenemy, the Destructor, faces justice in the “Trial of the Century,” Celia finds herself sucked back into the more-than-mortal world of Captain Olympus—and forced to confront a secret that she hoped would stay buried forever.

My Review:

Why did I wait so long to read this?

That’s not a coherent review, but it was my first thought. I poured through this in an afternoon, barely stopping for breath or meals. After the Golden Age is awesome stuff.

It’s a superhero story. But really, it’s a post-superhero story. It’s the origin and the aftermath all rolled into one glorious exploding KA-POW!

It also reminded me a little bit of The Incredibles. What do the superheroes do when they aren’t out there fighting crime? How would they raise a non-superpowered child?

How would you feel if you were the mundane child of the Fantastic Four? If everyone around you had a secret identity, and you were just “original recipe human”?

It’s pretty easy to walk in Celia West’s shoes, and feel that every day would be a major blow to her self-confidence. If most people either emulate their parents or choose lives in reaction against them, well, without superpowers Celia’s choices were limited. Emulation was out.

She chose reaction. Instead of a spandex uniform, she became a forensic accountant, a job most people consider the most boring option on the planet. Of course, that was after a teenage rebellion where she tried the path of evil. For two whole months.

After having been kidnapped. Again. Celia gets kidnapped a lot. It happens so often she’s a bit bored by the whole thing.

As an adult, Celia has tried to create a life that doesn’t reflect the glow of her parents’ super-shininess, no matter many assumptions people make about how wonderful it must have been to grow up in the Olympiads’ inner circle, or how often people try to use her to get close to her famous parents.

But then her boss asks her to bring her accounting skills to bear on the latest “trial of the century”. (There’s always a trial of the century, haven’t you noticed?) The world’s greatest supervillain, The Destructor, has finally been called to account for his misdeeds, not for his heinous destruction, but for his financial chicanery. (This is classic, Al Capone was finally convicted for tax evasion)

But The Destructor is a combination of Kryptonite and Achilles’ Heel for both Celia and The Olympiad. As Celia unravels the winding trail of his black ops’ funding, she finds an origin story she never expected to uncover. And with it, the birth of a conspiracy theory that will bring down the foundation of everything that the good people of Commerce City have ever believed in.

But she will also discover the truth about herself.

Escape Rating A+: After the Golden Age is about the creation and destruction of legends. We find it so easy to put people up on pedestals, and even easier to pull them down. While it’s amazing how quickly the population is manipulated to turn on their heroes, it’s also easy to understand. We’ve seen it happen in real life.

Celia West is the main point of view character, a normal person in a family of supers. She is still recovering, almost atoning, from one act of teenage rebellion. She has had to define her own self-worth from a perspective where nearly everyone, including her own parents, has always judged her as “less-than” because she isn’t super.

So many people have tried to use her to get close to her family; she’s accustomed to it. But when her boss does it, her research deconstructs the legend. Her process of discovery is meticulous without ever being dull, and it occurs on two layers. For each scrap of history she uncovers, she also finds reaches a bit more of her own truth.

After the Golden Age reads like myth creation. And like the best myths, it feels true.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-12-14

Sunday Post

I was hoping to come up with something really profound to say today, but it’s been a wet, gloomy weekend here in Seattle. While this is terrific reading weather, the constant drip does not inspire!

Rex Regis by L E Modesitt JrHowever, this was one of my best weeks ever for review books. So many grade A reviews! Even the B+ book was a load of fun. And although I was sad to see the end of this “chapter” of Modesitt’s Imager Portfolio, he has said on his blog that there will definitely be another series in that world. That news made this reader very happy. Except…I have to wait for it. Darn.

Winner Announcements:

Big Sky Secrets by Linda Lael Miller; the winner is L Lam.

Sharp by Alex HughesBlog Recap:

A Review: Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson
B+ Review: Beg Me to Slay by Lisa Kessler + Giveaway
A Review: Rex Regis by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
A+ Review: River Road by Jayne Ann Krentz
A+ Review: Sharp by Alex Hughes
Stacking the Shelves (73)

ashes and alchemy by cindy spencer papeComing Next Week:

Steal Me, Cowboy by Kim Boykin (blog tour review)
Ashes & Alchemy by Cindy Spencer Pape (blog tour review + giveaway)
The Sweetest Seduction by Crista McHugh (blog tour review + giveaway)
Gossamer Wing by Delphine Dryden (review)
After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn (review)

Review: Seductive Powers by Rebecca Royce + Giveaway

seductive powers by rebecca royceFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Superhero romance
Series: The Capes, #1
Length: 164 pages
Publisher: Fated Desires Publishing
Date Released: November 3, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Wendy Warner is a bit of an oddball. Raised in an orphanage, she’s found solace and friendship by watching the television show, Space Adventures, and participating in its fan clubs. Twice a month, Wendy comes to work dressed in a costume from the show that she wears to charity events. She’s been able to ignore the looks of distain from many of her coworkers, but when the president of the company gazes at her with something more, she knows she’s in deep.

Draco Powers rather likes the way the uniform hugs all her curves in the just the right places. He’s also a real-life Guardian who told the world that, yes, some people had superhuman abilities, but, no, they wouldn’t work for free or without health insurance. Some people refer to him with derision as the “Capitalist Guardian.” While Draco doesn’t care what he’s called, he’s also being hunted by a group called the Organization, whose motives are unclear and yet still cause death and destruction wherever they go.

The Organization has decided that Draco’s biggest weakness is the way he cares about his employees and has chosen Wendy as their next target. To save her, Draco will have to come to terms with his real feelings and the reason he’s long resisted complicated relationships…but he’s running out of time.

My Review:

This is just plain fun. Just way too much fun. And absolutely adorkable.

Now that I’ve read it, I have to say that the worldbuilding makes complete sense. To the point where I can’t get it out of my head. Bruce Wayne inherited a fortune, so he didn’t have to worry about having a day job to support being Batman. Reporters do work alone a lot, or did when the Superman comic was first written, and Lois and Jimmy seem to have covered up for Clark Kent’s absences fairly often.

Tony Stark, well, Iron Man owns his own company, and everyone knows who he is anyway. But if you really are attempting to keep your secret identity secret, and you don your cape and mask every time somebody needs saving, how do you hold down a day job?

Not all superhero backstories come with unlimited funding.

(I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I disappeared every day for a couple of hours, even if it was to save the world, I’d get fired. And that would certainly put a crimp in the family budget.)

So the idea that someone with superpowers might want people to pay for their services makes sense. We pay everyone else for their services, so why not? We even pay for services we really hope we’ll never use, like insurance, so why not pay for “super” services?

But some people would resent it. Then again, some people resent everything.

And the idea that “normal” or non-super people would work in the infrastructure of that superhero corporation and that they would need to be paid and have insurance then follows from the rest. I like my worldbuilding to have internal consistency, which this does.

Very cool.

If you were the personal assistant to a superhero, would you be in danger of developing a crush on your boss? Now that’s the stuff that romances are made of.

And Wendy Warner has a crush on her boss, the head of Powers, Inc., Draco Powers. What Wendy doesn’t know is that her boss is interested in her, too. However, Draco is keeping that feeling to himself, because he’s all too aware that letting it be obvious that he has feelings for anyone makes them a target for his enemies.

It all goes smash when he discovers that just by being his personal assistant, Wendy already has a target painted on her back. His last PA was murdered by his evil nemesis; “The Organization”.

And Wendy is next.

Escape Rating A-: This is just a terrific superhero romance. And a great geek romance too. Two hits in one!

Wendy is the geek, and I love the casting against type. Wendy plays MMORPGs in her spare time (massively multiplayer online role playing games) and her involvement in the cooperative world of the game and in geek culture is a major subplot.

I did figure out at least part of the whodunnit, but not all of it, and it didn’t matter. I was having too much fun with the way things were put together. The reason that Draco’s nemesis was his nemesis turned out to be a bit weak, but again, still too much fun. The story was way more about how the Powers were the Powers and Draco and Wendy’s love story.

In spite of not being a superhero, Wendy gives Draco as good as she gets. She may think he can do better, but she still doesn’t let him walk all over her. And when I say do better, some of that again has to do with her being a “normal” and him having superpowers. He can fly like Superman, that might make a lot of people feel inadequate.

But her job is to keep him organized, and to be his interface with the world. She tells him what to do and he does it. She argues with him on a regular basis. There’s a lot of give and take in their relationship, and it’s good for them both, it just takes a while for them to see it. That’s part of what makes this story work.

They both need to recognize what love is, because neither of them has a whole lot of experience with it. When they finally figure it out, it’s fantastic.



Rebecca is giving away a $50 gift card for Amazon! To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:

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Paranormal Cravings Book Tours

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Stacking the Shelves (65)

Stacking the Shelves

In this week’s stack I want to make a few shout-outs.

I’m always overjoyed to see a new book by Ruthie Knox. I’ve been absolutely tickled to death by every single thing she’s written, so I’m always thrilled when Library Journal sends me one of her books to review. YAY!

Dating a Cougar by Donna McDonaldAnd even though I haven’t reviewed them (yet), I adore Donna McDonald’s Never Too Late series. Her Dating a Cougar is one of the best older woman/younger man romances I’ve ever read. She does a great job of making it realistic and dealing with the issues while not making a joke of the trope. I’m looking forward to this one.

Last but certainly not least, I want to give a big “THANK YOU” to Decadent Publishing and their recent Happy Birthday 1Night Stand Giveaway. Their 1Night Stand series is one of my not so secret vices, so it was definitely a wow to win 2 ebooks of my choice in their birthday giveaway.

For Review:
The Accident by Chris Pavone
Bittersweet Magic (The Order #2) by Nina Croft
Blue Lines (Assassins #4) by Toni Aleo
Cold Comfort (Ian Rutledge #0.5) by Charles Todd
The Emperor’s Blades (Unhewn Throne #1) by Brian Staveley
Roman Holiday 1: Chained by Ruthie Knox
The Seduction of Miriam Cross by W.A. Tyson
Seductive Powers (Capes #1) by Rebecca Royce
Serafina and the Leprechaun’s Shoe (Serafina’s #3) by Marie Treanor
The Spirit Keeper by K.B. Laugheed
Take Me, Cowboy (Copper Mountain Rodeo #4) by Jane Porter (review)
Thrown by Colette Auclair
Wild Hearts (Justiss Aliance #0.5) by Tina Wainscott

Won from Decadent Publishing:
Cinderella Dreams (1Night Stand) by Cate Masters
Escape to Me (1Night Stand) by Diane Alberts

Dating a Cougar II (Never Too Late #6) by Donna McDonald


Review: To the Fifth Power by Shirin Dubbin

To the Fifth Power by Shirin DubbinFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Series: Powers, #1
Genre: Superhero Romance
Release Date: July 29, 2013
Number of pages: 87 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Ever After
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Publisher’s Website

Three years ago, Zola Noite’s nemesis killed her sidekick and forced her to watch. The guilt drove her to hang up her cape. Zola knows one thing for certain. She will never be a superhero again.

Psychologist Dr. Arturo “Fort” Forte specializes in super-powered mental health. He’s the only reason Zola can once again call herself sane—although, truth be told, the heat between them is slowly driving her back to mad.

When three mega-villains escape the prison Fort oversees, all Zola’s best laid plans go up in flames. Fort asks her for help, and she can’t turn down the man she’s secretly come to love. As battles ensue and clues add up, the one thing Zola trusts is called into question: Fort’s true agenda and which side he’s on.

My Thoughts:

I’m not too sure about the costume, or her pose on the cover, but I really liked the story. Then again, I love a good superhero romance. Actually, I kind of enjoy a good supervillain romance too, but that’s not what this is.

One of the neat things about the worldbuilding in this one is that everyone knows that there are both superheroes and supervillains in the world. Some of the heroes hide their secret identity, and some don’t, but the general populace knows that big evil is out there, and that there are people who protect them.

Batman wouldn’t get arrested for protecting the Gotham City from the Joker in this universe. It would be his choice if he hid behind Bruce Wayne, or not.

Zola Noite, the heroine of this story, is a bit like Batman. Her power as The Watcher is in her ability to assess and strategize. It’s not that she’s not strong, but she out-thinks her opponents long before she comes to fight them.

At least she used to. The story is that she’s an ex-superhero, or she’s trying to be. It seems to be a gig that you can’t really retire from. Three years ago a supervillain named Charlatan forced her to watch as he killed her sidekick. After years of therapy, Zola is still only partially functional.

And she’s fallen in serious lust with her gorgeous psychiatrist, Dr. Forté, otherwise known as Fort.

However cured Zola is, it has to be enough. Three of her enemies have banded together and broken out of the superhero psychiatric institute and are coming after her. They’ve made it their personal, pet, mega-villain project to make her relive every failure in her life, just so they can break her down and take her out.

Even if they have to destroy the city to do it.

Fort needs Zola to get better, because he’s been in love with his patient since the first time they met. But he can’t step over that professional line until she’s out of his care. So he’s hoping that a lot of tough love will put The Watcher back together.

No matter how many rules he had to break to make it happen.

Verdict: Check your logic at the door and hang onto your seat. To the Fifth Power is one hell of a fun ride.

Zola and Fort have sizzling hot chemistry from the very beginning, the BAM! and POW! come from watching them negotiate how they’re going to have a relationship when the power situation starts out unequal, not because she’s a superhero but because he’s her shrink and knows way too much, where he’s been the king of secrets. There’s sexual attraction but not a lot of trust. It takes a chunk of story before they negotiate that minefield, and it should. Then ZOWEE!

The reader can guess how the supervillains got loose, but it took awhile for me to figure out who they were. I’ll admit that it was a cool idea.

I loved the concept of the Society of Superheroes. They were all really tight, and they seemed like the best of friends. An awesome case of the “family you make” as opposed to the “family you’re born to” who in Zola’s backstory sucked major rocks. The S.O.S. were her brothers and sisters.

I also adored her best friend Keiki. The concept that there were “meta-naturals”–people who had an extra something but were not at the level of the supers–helped make things make sense, too.

Read this one for the pure fun of it.


I give  To the Fifth Power by Shirin Dubbin 4 purple stars! (read the story and you’ll understand)

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

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Stacking the Shelves

It’s summer. It’s kind of hot out, even here in temperate Seattle, to the point where we’re debating between more fans and just breaking down and getting an air conditioner for the bedroom.

But I’m seeing (and getting) not just winter review books from NetGalley and Edelweiss, but books for next Spring! The Revenant of Thraxton Hall has a publication date of March, 2014. I’ll admit to being puzzled. If it’s complete enough for even an eARC, why wait nearly 8 months to publish?

Sometimes, ours is really not to reason why. Just to read and review.

Stacking the Shelves Reading Reality July 27 2013

For Review:
Blind Justice (William Monk #19) by Anne Perry
The Boleyn Deceit (Boleyn Trilogy #2) by Laura Andersen
Choose Your Shot (Long Shots #5) by Christine D’Abo
Dangerous Seduction (Nemesis Unlimited #2) by Zoë Archer
Deadshifted (Edie Spence #4) by Cassie Alexander
Dreams of the Golden Age (Golden Age #2) by Carrie Vaughn
Getting Rowdy (Love Undercover #3) by Lori Foster
Heaven and Hellsbane (Hellsbane #2) by Paige Cuccaro
I Only Have Eyes for You (Sullivans #4) by Bela Andre
Lord of Snow and Ice by Heather Massey
Never Deal with Dragons (DRACIM #1) by Lorenda Christensen
The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle
Shadow’s Curse (Imnada Brotherhood #2) by Alexa Egan
Soul of Fire (Portals #2) by Laura Anne Gilman

Checked Out from the Library:
Baskerville by John O’Connell

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 2-24-13

Sunday PostThis is the last Sunday in February. Yay! Spring is almost here. Double Yay!

In honor of the shortest month, I’l try for a short Sunday Post.

Celebrating St Valentine Blog HopSaint Valentine shot his arrow at the winner of the Celebrating Saint Valentine Blog Hop. The winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card was Sandy Borrero. Have fun spending that gift card, Sandy!

The winner of one book from Victoria Vane’s backlist is Gaile Kennedy. Whichever title Gaile picks, it’s bound to be deliciously decadent!

Holding Out for a Hero book coverSpeaking of winners, there’s still plenty of time to enter the giveaway for an ebook copy of Holding Out for a Hero! Four, count ’em, four terrific superhero romances by Nico Rosso, Adrien-Luc Sanders, Tamara Morgan and Christine Bell and Ella Dane. The book was terrific, so read Nico’s interview and throw your hat (or cape) in the ring for a chance at winning the book.


In other happenings last week:

Anything for You book coverB Review: Escorted by Clare Kent
B- Review: Maiden Flight by Bianca d’Arc
Review: Holding Out for a Hero: A-Review: From the Ashes by Adrien-Luc Sanders, A Review: Ironheart by Nico Rosso
Interview with Author Nico Rosso + Giveaway
A Review: A Good American by Alex George
A+ Review: Anything For You by Jessica Scott
Stacking the Shelves (35)

And what’s coming up this week?

Chosen book coverTeresa Meyers is on tour with the final book in her Book of Legends Chronicles, The Chosen. She’ll be stopping at Reading Reality on February 28 for an interview and I’ll finally review the last book in this spectacular western steampunk series. It’s been an action-packed adventure so far, so I’m looking forward to the thrilling conclusion.

I have some other reviews on my plate, well, my iPad. I’ll just have to surprise you this week!