Category Archives: Recommendation

Where I discuss things that I would recommend for others. This could be a book, movie, series, or what have you that I think someone could find interest in.

Recommended Reads for Pride Month

With how big my yearly reading goals on Goodreads, I will occasionally do particular theme or topic for an entire month.  For instance, in March, most of the books I might read may involve Ireland in some way, since St. Patrick’s Day is on the seventeenth.  Or for May, a number of the books I read could involve mental health for Mental Health Awareness Month or I’ll read Star Wars novels because May is essentially Star Wars Month.  Not all books in a month will fit into a theme, nor will I do a theme every month of the year.  It’s just a way for me to find new books that I will enjoy and/or learn from.

This year, for the month of June, I have decided to read books with LGBTQ+ related in honor of Pride Month.  I’ve read a few books over the years with LGBTQ+ characters over the years, whether they be main or side characters, and I have a few I plan for this month, which I may do a recommendation blog at the end of the month.  Today, however, I thought I would discuss some books that I have read in case you are looking for something to read this month.

Apologies now if it seems like my recommendations mostly involve lesbian/bi women.  It was purely unintentional since I picked these up because they either sounded interesting or were part of a series I was reading (and enjoying).  My current reads and what I plan to read this month will be a bit more diversified.  

The Avatar Kyoshi Duology by F.C. Yee

Avatar the Last Airbender is one of my favorite animated series.  I’m not the only one to say that, I am sure, but it is a good series.  The themes, animation, story, and characters are all things that made it such a beloved show.  Characters like Zuko, Iroh, Toph, Azula, Aang, and Katara are just some of the characters that people have grown to love.  It got a sequel in the Legend of Korra and several comic tie ins.  The Rise of Kyoshi and The Shadow of Kyoshi are two books that are also included and focuses on one of the most popular Avatars, Kyoshi. 

Kyoshi became a pretty popular Avatar most likely for her stark contrast to Aang, the titular Avatar.  Aang was traditionally shown as being nonviolent and diplomatic (as much as any twelve year old in his potion can be) with a moral compass that could make certain decisions, like killing Ozai, difficult.  Kyoshi, meanwhile, had a moral compass and some level of diplomacy, but was willing to do what needed to be done.  With Chin the Conqueror, for example, she didn’t care if he died the day she separated Kyoshi island from the mainland.  It wasn’t really her intent, but she wasn’t opposed to it either since it got rid of a corrupt ruler.  

The Kyoshi duology by F.C. Yee goes over Kyoshi’s early years and finding out what it means to be the Avatar.  When her friend gets confused to be the next Avatar after the unexpected and sudden death of Kuruk, the revelation that it was actually Kyoshi is a secret and unexpected one.  During the books she will go through a series of trials and tribulations while trying to escape the people chasing her.  She even joins a gang that her airbending mother used to be affiliated with, who would be the beginning for Ba Sing Se’s, Dai Li.  This is also explains why Kyoshi used the two fans.  

As she makes allies and enemies, one person who stays by her, Rengi, a firebender who’s mother gets caught up in the conflict and eventual love interest for Kyoshi.  Meanwhile, her friend, who had gotten confused for her, becomes more of a threat than Kyoshi would have hoped for.

The Rise of Kyoshi and The Shadow of Kyoshi are books I would recommend if you like fantasy, are a fan of Avatar the Last Airbender, and/or are looking for a good YA book.  They build on an Avatar who viewers knew a bit about through her appearances.  And while a tough protagonist, these books humanize Kyoshi and let her have moments of reflection and emotion.  There is also a forward by Avatar co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino.

F.C. Yee did a great job bringing Kyoshi to life and has a novel on Yangchen, the Airbending Avatar before Aang, coming out in July of 2022.

Poison Ivy: Thorns by Kody Keplinger

I’ve read a few of these YA what if styled graphic novels.  The one I really enjoyed include Lost Carnival, a Dick Grayson story taking place during his circus days, Shadow of the Batgirl, a Cassandra Cain (Batgirl/Shadow Bat/Orphan) story, Oracle Code, a Barbara Gordon story taking place after she was paralyzed by the Joker, and this one. 

There are some good ones out there, like Shadow of the Batgirl, and some bad, like Gotham High.

I would say that Poison Ivy Thorns is one of the better of these YA what if comics, if not average depending on who you ask.  And similar to the other YA graphic novels in this line, this does take place with the cast being teenagers.  Which isn’t a problem per say, merely a common theme with these graphic novels regardless of it’s about an established character like Ivy or a new character like Tai Pham from the Green Lantern: Legacy story.  Regardless, Poison Ivy: Thorns is an interesting retelling of Pamela Isley’s story with a eerie mystery that hits close to home for our protagonist.

Pamela is a social outcast at school, who enjoys working with plants in the school’s greenhouse and is an avid environmentalist.  Her mother has been sick for as long as Pamela can remember, but for those who don’t know, it would seem as though her mother is out of the picture.  When she’s not at school, dealing with the day to day life of a teen, she’s at home with her father who performs a series of tests and experiments on Pamela.  She has a hard time trusting people, men especially, so she usually keeps to herself.

After an incident at the park, she meets Alice Oh, who she starts to open up to.  And as the two grow closer platonically and eventually romantically, the truth about Pamela’s mother starts coming to light.  And while Pamela is hesitant for change, she realizing how problematic her father’s treatment of her and the situation with her mother.  As Pamela’s life seems to be changing around her, there is more to Pamela than she may have even realized. 

 If you like Poison Ivy, you might like this.  I know I did as someone who enjoys Ivy from time to time.  The art is really neat to.  It has a neat almost sketchy line-art and though the color palate may appear simple, it really suits the style they were going for.  The art also kind of reminds me of something Tim Burton-esque with maybe a pinch of anime and/or art from Greek mythos.

The Witches of Thistle Grove Series by Lana Harper

The second book of this trilogy, From Bad to Cursed, came out on the 17th of May of this year.  Meanwhile, the third book, Back in a Spell, is expected to be released in January of 2023.  I’m currently making my way through it now (I own both books) and thought now would be as good of a time as any to recommend the series.  That way, if any of you wanted to give it a try, you could get started before the third book is released.

So far, each book will focus on a different witch from Thistle Grove.  In Payback is a Witch, our lead, Emmy Harlow returns to Thistle Grove after several years of self-exile.  While her magic isn’t as strong as it used to be due to her time away, Emmy finds herself pulled into a competition against her ex, Gareth.  Teaming up with her friend Linden and the dark magic expert Talia, both of who were involved with Gareth around the dame time and want some good old fashion revenge, the trio works together to come out on top.  Along the way, Emmy finds herself drawn to Talia, and not just in a magical sort of way.  The two end up spending time together and developing feelings for each other.

While both Emmy and Talia could be considered bisexual, since they dated Gareth before getting together, I’ve noticed a number of reviewers on Goodreads have this tagged under the Lesbian sub-tag in the LGBT shelf/tag.  Of course, I’m not trying to imply that the characters aren’t lesbians, who maybe dated a guy before realizing they preferred women, just that they could be interpreted as bisexual to some people.  Personally, I interpret them as lesbians, and I am assuming that was Lana Harper’s intent.

Payback is a Witch is a spellcasting romance that is charming and enjoyable.  The only critique I would have is how some of the dialogue comes off.  The deliver of some the more sassy/cursing phrases seemed a little weird.  Not always, because in some instances I enjoyed it, but other times, it felt a little weird.  Either way, it doesn’t hinder the overall enjoyment I had with the book.  Also note, this is an adult romance.  And while not happening every chapter, there are at least three “spicier” scenes in it.

I just started on From Bad to Cursed recently, so my thoughts on it aren’t set in stone yet.  That said, I think I will enjoy this installment.  When it starts off with such a fun opener about how you have to think outside of the box sometimes when summoning demons, I think that says something about what to expect.

From Bad to Cursed will focus on Isidora Avramov, a thrill chasing demon summoner.  She dreams of one day leaving Thistle Grove to pursue an indie fashion designing career.  However, when trouble brews the Beltane festival, resulting in the injuring of one of the Thorn family members, the Avarmov’s rival family.

Fun Fact: The Beltane Festival is a Gaelic/Celtic celebration 

Because the Avramov family and Thorn family are rivals, suspicions fall on Isidora’s family.  To save her family’s name, Isidora works alongside Rowan Thorn to get to the bottom of it.  Along the way, Isidora will realize just how little she knows about Rowan, and a relationship will start to grow more with each day.  

That’s how this book can be summarized.  Or at least my summarization of the synopsis provided.  Since I am only starting the book, I can’t exactly say what their relationship will be like.  And from what I’ve seen on Goodreads, there are a few people who have tagged the book with the LGBT sub-tag.  And given how Emmy and Talia from the first book were apart of the LGBTQ+, I’m assuming that Isidora and Rowan’s relationship will fall under the LGBTQ+ as well.  And since I’m just starting and don’t know what Isidora will learn about him, what Rowan’s sexuality is has yet to be seen.  While I can’t confirm, I am speculating that Rowan might be a trans man.  I can’t confirm yet, but given how this series does have LGBTQ+ mains in the first and third book, I don’t think it’s a stretch to make that speculation.  Whatever is revealed, this is looking to be as fun of a book as Payback is a Witch, and I have a feeling I will enjoy it.

Readers may have to wait until 2023 for the third and final book, Back in a Spell, but I think it’ll be worth it.  What do know about it, outside of it’s title is that the lead will be a woman named Nineve “Nina” Blackmoore, who was left at the alter by her fiancée.  Once back on the dating market, she meets with Morty Gutierrez, a nonbinary individual who owns a business called The Shamrock Cauldron.  They get off to an awkward start that turns rocky when Morty (He/Him according to the synopsis), but finds out Nina’s last name.  Nina’s family, it turns out, is trying to acquire Morty’s company.  Then one day, Morty starts exhibiting magical powers alongside Nina, and it’s up to Nina to figure out what’s going on, how to help herself and Morty as well as navigating their growing romance. 

The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley

One series I have found myself enjoying is Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sister series.  It is about six sisters adopted from all over the world.  Each one is named after one star in the Seven Sisters constellation, hence the series’ name.  When Pa Salt dies, he leaves each daughter with a letter, a name, and a set of coordinates to where he found them.  As well as the eventual location of the seventh sister that they never found.  The reason for this was to give each sister a chance to find out where they came from, if they were interested.  The Pearl Sister is the fourth book and focuses on CeCe (Celaeno).

In it, CeCe has left Star (Asterope), who was searching into her own heritage, in order to find out more about her own.  Her investigation brings her to Australia, where she finds out more about Kitty McBride, the person Pa Salt had left for her to learn about.  Part of the story, which is a common style with this  series, does focus on Kitty’s story from Kitty’s perspective.  As CeCe learns more about Kitty and her Aboriginal roots, she finds her creativity returning and meets new people.  This includes Chrissie, an Australian who helps her in her journey.  Though officially confirmed in a later book, CeCe and Chrissie do end up together.  CeCe was curious about her sexuality with Chrissie being who she thinks she might have feelings for.

With that in mind, she would be questioning at first and a lesbian when she does end up with Chrissie.  It’s been a while since I read The Pearl Sister, so I don’t recall CeCe having relationships with anyone other than Chrissie, so I can’t say she is bisexual.

The Pearl Sister might not be one of my favorites in the series (my favorites being The Seven Sisters and Moon Sister), but it is a good read in my opinion. You don’t have to read the entire story to understand this book, since each story focuses on one sister and the only times the others are referenced are sparsely used and you don’t need to read every book to know that Pa Salt died.  However, reading the rest won’t hurt either, and if you are interested, I would say go for it. 

The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

Let me just start of that the LGBTQ+ context is more so implied.  This book was written in 1967 by a gay man, who I believe was closeted at the time.  Fun Fact: Thomas Savage may have had a relationship with Tomie dePaola, a children’s author who wrote books like Strega Nora and The Art Lesson.  The Power of the Dog is listed as a western, which isn’t my usual genre, but after seeing the Netflix adaptation, I checked it out and really enjoyed it.  

Going into this book, the only disclaimer I feel is necessary is that Phil Burbank is a bit of a sexist and racist towards Native Americans.  As well as terms used that may be considered problematic today.  This book does take place in the 1920’s, so while I won’t say there isn’t problematic elements, it’s a timepiece where that kind of thing was normalized more.  Phili is also the character that is implied as being gay given how he talks about his friend Bronco Henry and how he grows to like Peter Gordon, his sixteen year old step-nephew.  People like to speculate if Peter Gordon was gay and/or ace, and that he might have had autism, but it’s never fully stated.  

 

I would consider this a western where details and their implications/nuances are well written and interesting.  That might be why I enjoy it when compared to other westerns.  The movie has a similar air, but with more ambiance/quiet moments.  It’s also a book on how people are not always what they seem.  This is especially true with Phil and Peter.

The story itself is pretty straight forward.  After the death (suicide) of Rose Gordon’s husband, she remarries George Burbank, one of two brothers who owns a ranch.  She and her son, Peter, are tormented by Phil, George’s brother.  The torment is mostly directed to Rose, but Peter does make snide remarks towards Peter.  Peter Gordon is a quiet, sickly young man who’s dream is to become a doctor one day.

After returning to the ranch for the summer, Peter is living in the guest bedroom.  And after several less then stellar run ins with Phil, something seems to change.  Phil offers to teach Peter how to ride a horse and show him how 

to tie a rope, the one Phil is working on Phil plans to finish before Peter goes back to school.  

Initially this could be seen as Phil trying to isolate Rose, much like she had with Phil when she married George.  However, that seems to be less of the case as readers get closer to the end.  Readers also find out that Peter will do whatever it takes to keep his mother safe, especially with how his father died.  Even if he doesn’t seem physically imposing.

Though the LGBTQ+ context is more subtextual in nature, it is something that can be inferred upon.  Of course, since this was written in the 60’s, Thomas Savage probably couldn’t have been as forward with that message as much as he might have liked.   With that in mind, the author was a gay man.  So even if it doesn’t have a straightforward gay character, it was written by a gay author.

As someone who doesn’t like westerns, I would recommend this book and it’s Netflix movie adaptation.

Conclusion

These are a few books I would recommend if you are looking for LGBTQ+ centered reads.  I should have a few more at the end of the month when I do a blog on LGBTQ+ books I’ve read this June.  Books that I might have forgotten had LGBTQ+ aspects didn’t make it onto the list since… well I couldn’t remember which books those were.  I also didn’t include the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  While it does have a one or two gay background/minor characters, I honestly prefer the other series in that universe, Alpha and Omega, from a story perspective.  

Regardless, I hope I was able to help find a book for you to check out.  And if you have any suggestions for me and/or would like to mention an LGBTQ+ book that you enjoyed, feel free to include it in the comments below. 


When Genres Compel Me: Five Books I Enjoyed From Genres I Don’t Normally Read

Has you ever read a book in a genre you don’t normally read that you found yourself enjoying? With so many genres out there, no one is going to like all of them. And sometimes, the genres we do enjoy may shift over the years.

Personally, I tend to enjoy fantasy, historical fiction, and general fiction with the occasional science fiction and nonfiction read. Fantasy has been a staple for me, having read and watched it since childhood. Historical fiction is a genre that I read when I find an interesting synopsis, though I typically will avoid World War 2 since I was never really a fan of the older WWII movies as a kid. Fiction, in my opinion, is a simple one that can’t go too wrong.

Genres I typically don’t read because they never really catch my eye include, westerns, romance, mystery/thriller, the aforementioned World War 2 historical fiction, and horror. All of these are good genres I’m sure, just not my cup of tea. And if you enjoy them, that’s great. Just because I don’t enjoy it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

With that said, I’d be remiss if I said I haven’t found at least one book in a genre I don’t particularly fancy. In fact, I have found a few books from genres I don’t normally read that I actually enjoyed.

The Power of the Dog

By Thomas Savage

Western

This is probably one of the most recent examples of a book that I found interest in from a genre I don’t normally read. Westerns have never really been my thing. I think I can pinpoint that to me not really liking John Wayne movies as a kid. I can understand why people like westerns (and John Wayne movies), but I do believe that my disinterest in John Wayne movies, at least in part, resulted in a disinterest in westerns as a whole.

However, a few months ago, while browsing social media, a person I follow was kind of discussing the Netflix adaptation of Thomas Savage’s The Power of the Dog. In it, she was inquiring about a particular scene, specifically a scene towards the end of the movie, and how much one of the characters might have known about the situation. It got me curious and I am thankful that she didn’t spoil it for me in the comments.

So I checked it out. The movie first and then the book. And let me just say, I really enjoyed it. It’s not a typical western, a.k.a. what you might picture when you hear western. Rather, a western that explored things like appearances not always being as they seem, the cruelty of one man, and the implications of being a closeted gay man in the 1920’s.

It’s a book that I can enjoy as I really appreciated how the author broke down the characters and how you shouldn’t judge people based on what you see. I would recommend giving it a read and/or a watch, though I know it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

The Star and the Shamrock Series

By Jean Grainger

World War 2

Here’s my World War 2 series. Much like westerns, I think I was never really a big fan of them because of John Wayne movies, and war movies in general not being my favorite in general. The history of wars is important, no doubt about it. However, when it comes to historical fiction, books centering around war don’t typically catch my interest.

The reason I picked this one up was because it sounded interesting and I have a bit of a soft spot for books involving Ireland, Irish culture, Irish history, and so on. When Liesl and Erich Bannon, the children of a Jewish German woman, are sent to live with family via one of the last Kindertransport, they must learn to get used to their new lives. Elizabeth, their aunt, does whatever she can to keep them safe. Though it’s not as peaceful as they would have hoped. Meanwhile, their mother stays behind trying to do what she can to survive.

As the series progresses, we get to see how the family grows. How they may one be reunited with their mother. As well as what Liesl and Eric’s lives are like years after the war ends.

The series is a bit of a quick read with there only being four books and roughly two hundred to two hundred and sixty or so pages per book. While it might not be as action packed as some World War 2 centered books, this is a series that is a nice read.

Sherlock Holmes

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Mystery

Mysteries, fiction, and romance seem to be the big three when it comes to sections. Especially at libraries, which I can confirm given I work at two. While fantasy and science fiction may be lumped together (not always, but I’ve seen it). If I had to rank fiction, mystery and romance in which I would be most likely to read, it would probably be fiction than mystery than romance. I can say that I’ve tried more mysteries than I have romances, but even so, it’s not a genre that I actively enjoy. Finding the right mystery is part of the problem. The overabundance of James Patterson releases is another.

Sherlock Holmes seems to be the one I am drawn to the most. After checking out the third season of BBC’s Sherlock (yes, I watched it out of order, but it couldn’t be helped), I got hooked. So I ended up checking out the all in one book as well as some of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes DVDs (which I would recommend) and enjoyed every bit of it. I also plan to add the complete collection to my leather bound classics collection because I’d rather have the whole series together instead of the individual volumes (Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow, and The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes).

I may not read a lot of mysteries but this is one I would go back and read. Sherlock Holmes is a classic and I would recommend it.

Atlas of the Heart

Brené Brown

Self-Help

Nonfiction is a genre that I’ll occasionally read. Typically about animals, biographies/autobiographies, psychology and mental health, entertainment, and writing. Self-Help books aren’t normally on my radar for no other reason than none appealing to me. Along came Brené Brown’s book “Atlas of the Heart” and after reading the synopsis, I was curious.

It’s a book that I personally enjoyed. It’s set up in a way that didn’t seem condescending or overly positive and provides insight from the author. I enjoyed how it breaks down several emotions and seeing the author’s perspective on them. I ended up purchasing the book after finding it in a shop while at the airport since it was a book that I wanted to ad to my collection.

It’s a book that I personally enjoyed. It’s set up in a way that didn’t seem condescending or overly positive and provides insight from the author. I enjoyed how it breaks down several emotions and seeing the author’s perspective on them. I ended up purchasing the book after finding it in a shop while at the airport since it was a book that I wanted to ad to my collection.

Dracula

By Bram Stoker

Horror

This might be cheating a little since I haven’t started Dracula yet, but it is on my To Read list and I own the leather bound edition. However, I wouldn’t say horror is a genre I really read. Not because I don’t enjoy horror, but because I’d rather watch horror instead of reading horror.

I will admit I was that kid who hated horror as a kid because I never liked “scary” movies. Chucky freaked me out and I don’t recall liking Jurassic Park or Jaws for how gruesome they were. Though looking back, they aren’t that gruesome on a technical level, but kid me perceived it as such.

Since then, I’ve grown to enjoy horror and will watch the occasional horror flick as they play on tv or through streaming services. Especially around Halloween. So the enjoyment of horror isn’t lost on me.

But watching it is different than reading it. And I feel the essence of horror is different between reading it and watching it. Watching it gives viewers a spectacle. The ambiance and tone gives off a chilling and unexpected experience. Reading it, I feel, lends itself to chilling and more detailed descriptions and scares. However, that difference could be how I am perceiving it at the moment.

As for why Dracula, I guess it just sounds appealing. It’s a classic and one that I feel like I would really enjoy reading. And since I enjoy the occasional gothic classic (Hunchback of Notre Dame and Phantom of the Opera), Dracula feels similar in style.

Conclusion

While these five genres are not genres I usually read, they are genres I have found at least one book that I enjoy. Are there any books that interest you from genres that you don’t usually read? Are there any you would recommend?

Alpha and Omega: A Guilty Pleasure Read and Why I Prefer This Series to Mercy Thompson

A while back I had created a post discussing one of my favorite guilty pleasure reads, the urban fantasy series Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs. While I may no longer have that blog around, I thought I would revisit this series, why I enjoy it, and why I like it over the author’s longer running and more popular Mercy Thompson series set in the same universe.

Urban Fantasy: a Subsection of Fantasy

I’ll admit, I am not much of a reader of the Urban Fantasy subgenre. Not many really caught my eye with the exception of Patricia Briggs’ two series on-going series. For those of you who may not be familiar with this subgenre, Urban Fantasy can be defined as a type of fantasy taking place in a more modern day and, well, urban setting.

What kind of Clichés Might Urban Fantasy be Guilty of?

Like any kind of genre or subgenre, Urban Fantasy does fall victim to tropes/clichés.

  • Heavy reliance on romance
  • How the romance is developed
  • Love triangles
  • Usually focusing more on vampires and werewolves
  • Age gaps
  • Leads who readers can’t help but wonder how they stay together

Why I consider it my guilty pleasure genre

I consider this a guilty pleasure because, while I enjoy fantasy, this is a subgenre that I mostly avoid. And while I’m sure there are plenty of good Urban Fantasy series, I feel like it is a niche subgenre. Meaning, it’s a subgenre that, feels like it has a set target audience. At least that’s how I see it, as I don’t see Urban Fantasy being a genre everyone will whip out.

Alpha and Omega: Why I Like it. Flaws?

The Alpha and Omega series is a series that branched off of the Mecy Thompson series. Both take place in the same universe (the Mercyverse as it has been dubbed), but rather than focusing on Mercy, her romance, and the creatures around her, Alpha and Omega focuses on Anna and Charles (the son of the North American Alpha and adopted father of Mercy). Anna was saved from her abusive pack by Charles and it is soon discovered that she is a rare breed of werewolf: An Omega, who are known for their calming presence and being able to soothe the pack.

Along the way, she alongside Charles, who is her partner/husband, go on various adventures usually with Charles tasked to keep an eye on or handle issues his father needs enforcing. Like Mercy Thompson, this series explores various fantasy staples with Anna learning more about herself, love, and overcoming her traumas from her previous pack. As of right now, this series currently has five books and a prequel novella that can be found in collections like Shifting Shadows as well as the hardcover copy of the first book, Cry Wolf.

What are the Flaws?

I would say that it’s biggest flaw may come in the form of it fitting into a savior complex trope and some scenes either feeling odd or unneeded. While maybe not an overemphasized trope, one could see Charles as being this savior to Anna. Saving her from her previous pack was important for the story and her character, however, readers could find some aspects of their relationship fitting into this trope. I don’t interpret it that way, but I do feel like it could be interpreted that way.

When it comes to odd scenes, I can think of one from the fifth book, Burn Bright. This scene is actually one that seems to be generally critiqued when it comes to what reviewers didn’t like about the book. Basically, the scene in question has to do with a comment made between Anna and Charles about Bran and his relationship with Mercy. Specifically how Bran might have developed something more than just a parental feeling towards her. I agree with this critique as it does feel weird and out of place.

Those are my main critiques. While some people might find the clichés annoying, they don’t bug me enough to turn me away. It doesn’t feel like it goes too overboard, for me anyways, and I would know when it does. That scene in Burn Bright, however, I can see why it would turn readers away. It hasn’t turned me away, though it does hinder my enjoyment of the fifth book.

Why Do I Like Alpha and Omega More Than Mercy Thompson?

While Mercy Thompson has the longer run and appears to be the more popular of the two, you may be wondering why I enjoy the Alpha and Omega series more. It took me a minute, but I’ve narrowed it down to three main reasons.

Reading Alpha and Omega First

The Alpha and Omega series was the first of the two I picked up. I believe I decided to give it a try after I saw Burn Bright when it was first released back in 2018. And since it was the fifth book, I ended up reading the entire series. Then again when I was reading the Mercy Thompson series, since the two intertwine without really interacting with the other series. Cry Wolf, the first book in the series excluding the prequel novella, is my favorite. It’s also the book I’ve read the most. Because while it might not be perfect, I think it was a great first book to the series. It set everything up in a neat way.

Had I read the Mercy Thompson series first, I may have liked that one more. However, when I was introduced to both series isn’t the only reason I like the Alpha and Omega series.

Length of the Series

So long as the series is good, how long it runs might not matter. Shows like PBS’ Arthur and Doctor Who are examples of longer shows having typically positive responses. One Piece and Boxcar Children would be examples for longer running book series that are enjoyed.

That said, longevity can either make or break a series. If there is enough material to last without feeling repetitive or stale as well as having a foreseeable end goal, that’s great. But not all series have that grace. For example, Once Upon a Time, the ABC original series. While seven series might not sound like too terrible of a run, there were times where it could have ended. While some people might say it started going downhill earlier, I personally think that it could have ended on season six. Yes, the stories were formulaic and maybe a but predictable, but the sixth season felt like a great place for the series to end in my opinion.

Looping back around to Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega, the former has a bigger, and still ongoing run as of this post. Alpha and Omega has six books, a prequel novella, and a handful of vignettes. It’s not a long series, and outside of maybe the prequel novella, Alphas and Omega, readers can stick to the main story. Mercy Thompson, on the other hand, twelve books, five vignettes, and a thirteenth book expected to be released in August of this year.

And while there are books in the Mercy Thompson series that I enjoy, I do feel like it has kind of dragged on. After a while, for me once the series got to book ten, it didn’t feel as engaging as it used to. It started to feel repetitive, running in a cycle of, Mercy getting into trouble, Mercy feeling like she has to take on whatever it is her own way, feeling distant from Adam and noting her relationship with Bran’s pack, everything coming out fine. Rinse and repeat. Could Alpha and Omega have a similar issue? Maybe, but it isn’t one I’ve noticed as glaringly so as I have with the Mercy Thompson. Of course, I’ll still read the thirteenth book when it comes out since I’ve been keeping up, but I feel like I would be lying if I said I was wholeheartedly excited.

With Alpha and Omega being the shorter series with books being released every one to three years, it at least feels like it isn’t cycling through similar stories. The creatures and people may feel the same, but not the atmosphere.

The Characters

Both series have enjoyable characters, be it the main and/or secondary characters. Mercy Thompson had some neat side characters and for a time I enjoyed Mercy. However, I like the overall cast in the Alpha and Omega series more.

I feel more drawn to Anna and Charles than I do with Mercy and Adam. In my opinion, Charles and Anna feel like they have a more natural. I don’t know if I would say they feel more developed since technically Mercy and Adam had more time to develop, but there does feel like there is some form of development there that Mercy and Adam may be lacking for me. There’s also the fact that there isn’t any conflict with a third party like there is with Adam and Mercy. While the ex-wife plotline can be enjoyable when done right, I wasn’t sold on it in the Mercy Thompson series. I didn’t particularly care for Christy, Adam’s ex-wife, and she ended up being at the center of one of the book’s main conflict. Overall, Charles and Anna’s relationship feels a bit more natural, simpler maybe, and it’s the one that feels more likeable.

Looking at the leading ladies, both Mercy and Anna have some similarities like having their own trauma and being with their packs’ alpha, but their personalities. Mercy has a more independent and headstrong personality while Anna is more calm and introverted. And while I wouldn’t say the “strong, independent woman” angle is bad, something about Mercy specifically doesn’t feel well done. Maybe it’s the fact that the Mercy Thompson series has been going on for as long as it has, but Mercy whole demeanor feels stale after a while. Some of her inner monologues feel very repetitive too. First person is a perspective that can be enjoyed, but I think after a while, Mercy stating how she always finds herself in trouble, her relationships with Bran and Samuel, and how she feels different because she is a coyote skin walker feels repetitive after a while. I won’t say that Anna is without flaws, as her submissive demeanor and maybe letting others doing more of the fighting (which partially has to do with how omegas are more so support/comfort than fighters), but it doesn’t feel as blatantly repetitive as it does with Mercy. Which may fall on perspective as much as portrayal.

When it comes to Charles and Adam, both are enjoyable. Adam is a good father and husband as well as a solid pack leader. Readers can tell that he cares about family and is reliable. And he knows when to let Mercy do what he needs to. Charles is also very supportive and caring of Anna. While Anna might not be a brawler, Charles understands why Anna needs to be involved with situations. They have good communication and with how the series treats Charles and his werewolf side (it’s set up as his human side and wolf side share a body but have their own thoughts) connects with Anna well. He also understands the abuse that Anna went through in her previous pack, and doesn’t go overboard with protecting her and knows what she’s been through. Of course, Charles does feel a need to keep her safe, but it’s not an overly possessive kind of desire. Between the two, however, I like Charles more. This could be a constraint of first person, but Charles feels a bit more developed. Adam does have development, but since the Mercy Thompson series is told from Mercy’s perspective, it’s a little harder to see from a perception perspective. With third person, like in Alpha and Omega’s case, it’s able to build both Charles and Anna up in a way that feels easier to pick up on. It also gives readers the chance to understand Charles’ history and character from a way that doesn’t feel one-sided.

As for background and secondary characters, both series have enjoyable characters. Stefan, Mercy’s vampire ally, Zee, a fae and Mercy’s former boss, and Warren, a werewolf and close friend to Mercy, are interesting characters. Jesse, Adam and Christy’s daughter is also a neat character, who works well with Mercy. There’s also Samuel and Bran, who appear in both series, who bring their own stories with them, with the former at one point having romantic feelings towards Mercy. As for the Alpha and Omega series, it has its fair share of enjoyable side characters too. Asil, who’s deceased wife was an omega, has knowledge about omegas and has given Charles advice. He is also shown going through grief of losing his wife, feeling a similar presence in Anna in the first book. Leah Cornick, Bran’s current wife, though usually cold, goes through some development and learns to warm up to Anna. There are plenty of side characters in both that readers might connect with.

Conclusion

Even if the Alpha and Omega series isn’t a masterpiece, there is a lot that I enjoy about it. When I started it and the length helped as well as an enjoyable story and characters. It may have its flaws, like scenes that feel odd, clichés, and/or some repetitive things, it has qualities that I found likeable. It’s a guilty pleasure series of mine and it is a fun read more than anything.

A Review of Red Robin

One of my favorite DC Comics reads is Red Robin by Fabian Nicieza and Christopher Yost, alongside artists Ramon Bachs and later Marcus To. It’s a twenty-six issue long Tim Drake run from 2009 to 2011 and is his second solo run starting off around the time of Dick Grayson’s time as Batman and Damian Wayne as Robin.

I will be going over what the pros and cons are of this series, followed by why I would recommend it. However, before I do, I would like to briefly go over who Tim Drake is and why he took up the Red Robin moniker. Because while I know anyone familiar with DC and the Batfamily (the characters associated with and/or members of Batman’s family, by blood or adopted) will know who he is, not everyone will.

Who is Tim Drake?

Tim Drake is the third Robin introduced in 1989. After Jason’s untimely death in the four part Death in the Family story, Tim was brought in. Due to Batman becoming more volatile after Jason’s death, Tim believed that Batman needed Robin. Initially, he tried to convince Dick Grayson, who has been going by Nightwing since 1984, to become Robin. Dick refused, due to some previous tension and Nightwing being his preferred mantel, but agreed to try to approach Batman. At one point, even Bruce refuses the notion of taking in another Robin after what happened to Jason.

Tim would later get involved in a case that Batman and Nightwing. And after helping with getting them out of a tough spot, Bruce agrees to train him as Robin. During this training, he would learn what he needed to and lost his mother due to a business trip gone wrong involving his parents. His father would live, but not his mother, and his father would later remarry.

Tim, unlike his predecessors, was the first Robin who had living parents, and at first bounced between normal life with them and working alongside Bruce/Batman. During this time, Tim would also work alongside Young Justice (a group of young heroes similar to the Teen Titans, but much smaller) and eventually the Teen Titans alongside his Young Justice teammates, including the likes of Conner Kent (Superboy) and Impulse (Bart Allen). Tim would also have to deal with a recently resurrected Jason Todd, who wasn’t fond of Tim becoming Robin, nor all to pleased with Bruce. He and Tim would have a rocky relationship, though Tim never outright hated Jason.

However, Tim’s father would find out about Tim’s Robin duties and have him retire for a time. During this time, Stephanie Brown, then girlfriend of Tim’s, briefly took over. It wasn’t until after her supposed death that Tim returned as Robin, with his father’s approval.

Unfortunately, Tim would go through a slew of loss. After Stephanie’s supposed death, Conner would die during the Infinite Crisis while trying to fight Superboy Prime. His father would also die during this story, murdered by Captain Boomerang. These three characters would be people he would later contemplate reviving with the Lazarus Pit (pools of green water-like fluids that can restore injuries and revive the dead). However, he would decide against it and Stephanie Brown and Conner Kent ultimately returned alive and well later.

Unfortunately, Tim would go through a slew of loss. After Stephanie’s supposed death, Conner would die during the Infinite Crisis while trying to fight Superboy Prime. His father would also die during this story, murdered by Captain Boomerang. These three characters would be people he would later contemplate reviving with the Lazarus Pit (pools of green water-like fluids that can restore injuries and revive the dead). However, he would decide against it and Stephanie Brown and Conner Kent ultimately returned alive and well later.

Why Did Tim Become Red Robin?

Depending on the continuity, Tim Drake becomes Red Robin for one of two reasons. In the New 52, it had to do with him respecting Jason’s memory. However, before the New 52, where the Red Robin comic took place, Tim became Red Robin after Bruce’s supposed death (he wasn’t actually dead, just shot back in time from Darkseid’s Omega Beam). Dick took over as Batman and promptly took Damian Wayne as his Robin.

There are a few things that contribute to it. One being that Damian was made Robin. Tim was not counselled about it, but the reason for this was because of Damian’s history in the League of Assassins and needing someone to lead him in the right direction. Another being because he thought he could do more if he was not Robin. This is a reason that is further addressed in the latter part of his solo Robin run.

In the New 52, it was out of respect for Jason (his predecessor) and I don’t recall if Rebirth went in depth with it, but it may have been similar to the pre-New 52 continuity or a mix of the pre-New 52 and New 52 continuity. Funnily enough, Jason used the Red Robin moniker very briefly before Tim around the tail end of his Robin run. It was also used by Dick Grayson in the Elseworld story Kingdom Come. Neither used it for long, so Tim ended up taking it, and neither used it after the New 52 relaunch/reboot/timeline.

The Review

Now that I have addressed who Tim Drake is and why he became Red Robin, I would like to get into the review. I will go over some positives and negatives, followed by a conclusion. While this series may not be everyone’s cup of tea, nor am I expecting everyone who reads this to read the series, I would recommend anyone who hasn’t read Red Robin to check it out.

Positive: A Solid Tim Drake Solo

Out of the Robins, Tim Drake is probably the most underrated. The same could be said to Jason in the grander scope of the Batfamily, where the more utilized characters in it are, Batman, Nightwing, and Robin (Damian Wayne), as well as maybe Batgirl (barbara Gordon). However, since Jason has had his own series since the beginning of the New 52, and Tim Drake has been relegated to mostly team comics since (up until recently), I would argue that Tim Drake is the more underrated of the two and one that isn’t utilized as much.

With that in mind, the solo series Tim does get, are usually good. His solo Robin runs are some of the more fondly remembered series of the Modern Age and Red Robin is no different. Though a short series, only running for about 26 issues, what this series did for Tim were great.

It continued to develop Tim as a character and let him grow. It gave him cases that suited him and antagonists worth his skills. There were also characters that did really well in here, like Cass Cain (Batgirl and later Black Bat), Ra’s al Ghul, and the Teen Titans. And even Tim himself.

Negative: Some Arcs Weren’t as Good

While this series certainly has some good arcs and action, some arcs are certainly better than others. One area I wasn’t too fond of was the whole reaction to Tim having a contingency plan for Damian. While these two have a history of butting heads, I just wasn’t to invested in this arc. It was in character to a degree and I can understand both sides, fighting about it while on patrol wasn’t the place to have this issue brought to light.

Another arc I thought was weaker, was the Firefly arc. It certainly utilized Tim’s intellect and strategy, and utilized Miss Martian’s abilities well. However, I don’t think it was as strong as some of the other arcs.

Positive: The Art

This series transitioned from one artist to another. The first few issues were done by Ramon Bachs and the rest (for the most part) by Marcus To. Personally, I’m more of a fan of Marcus To’s work in the series. It’s sleek, the colors are bold, and I like the style. His style is what gave the series that added personality, giving each character the look that they needed, and didn’t look out of place.

Art is certainly a subjective area, and just because I like this style, that doesn’t mean everyone else will. That said, Marcus To is certainly a talented artist, and is certainly one of my favorites.

Negative: Some Characters Felt Out of Character at Times

While I do think that the characters were done really well for the most part, I would be lying if some characters felt off or out of character at times. I feel like this is more of an issue in the earlier issues and how some characters approached Tim in regards to Bruce’s “death”. Mainly, Dick Grayson.

On the one hand, it can be argued that Dick was trying to help Tim come to term with Bruce’s death. From his perspective, it could be seen as Tim denying the reality of it and not thinking straight. And in Dick’s mind he wanted to help him accept it. That said, how he approached it could be considered questionable or out of character. He approaches Tim a bit too bluntly and doesn’t seem to want Tim to come to term with it on his own terms. He even has Cassie (Wonder Girl) try to talk to him, but still doesn’t get through to him.

Once again, this could be seen as Tim being stubborn, being in denial, and teenaged angst. However, how it was went about could have been better. It also might have partially contributed to Tim getting in contact initially after he asks Dick to trust him. And when it was revealed that Bruce was in fact alive, there was no apology. No “I should have believed you” or “I shouldn’t have been so antagonistic with you”.

Positive: The Ra’s al Ghul Arc

If you ask anyone who has read the series what their favorite arc was in this series, they’ll most likely say the Ra’s al Ghul arc. I, personally, agree. It was also the arc I first jumped into after being strictly a manga person for years (which I still enjoy to a lesser extent). Bias aside, however, this arc is probably its strongest.

It has it set up where Tim finds himself working alongside the League of Assassins for a brief amount of time. He deals with the Council of Spiders and works alongside League of Assassins member, Pru. But when he goes against Ra’s, the centuries old assassin takes it personally and decides to take it out on everything and everyone Bruce holds dear.

Tim is not about to let that happen, and with the help from a few allies, including Batman (Dick Grayson), Robin (Damian Wayne), Conner Kent (Superboy), and the Teen Titans, Tim formulates a plan. This plan comes to a head when Tim finds himself fighting Ra’s al Ghul, a man he knows he does not have the physical strength to beat. Not that that won’t stop him from trying.

And while Ra’s al Ghul has gone up against the Robins in different ways, I would say that the rivalry/antagonistic role he has with Tim is one of, if not the best. Ra’s respects each of the Robins and is the one behind Jason’s revival and the maternal grandfather of Damian, as well as having an antagonistic approach to Batman (think the Moriarty to Batman’s Sherlock). However, his and Tim’s confrontation is a great one, and I’d even argue that Ra’s is Tim’s best villain.

Ra’s notes how Tim just how different he is from Bruce, Dick, and Jason, once noting how Tim already knew he won a particular fight. Tim also has an underlying respect for Ra’s, noting how Bruce had for how resourceful he is. Tim also knows that Ra’s isn’t one to take lightly, which was why he took Ra’s’ threat so seriously. It’s also worth noting that Ra’s refers to Tim as Detective at the end of their fight (before kicking him out of a window). “Detective” is an honorary term that only Bruce holds, and was Ra’s’ way of showing Tim respect. Because, while not able to beat Ra’s’ in a one v one (physical) fight, the fact that Tim was able to outwit him, was enough for him to respect Tim’s skills.

With this arc also taking up around the first half of the series (issues 1-12, which also tackles Dick approaching him about Bruce’s “death”) it certainly had time to develop the story it wanted to. Ra’s al Ghul was also a pleasure. He’s a villain who never gets used as often as say the Joker, Catwoman, or even the Riddler. So seeing him used was a great addition to the series. I only wish that they used Tim and Ra’s’ dynamic more.

Conclusion

Red Robin (2009-2011) is a wonderful series that appreciates one of Batman’s lesser appreciated allies and is a great title for Tim Drake. While there may be some instances of out of character moments and some arcs that aren’t as good as others, the art, Ra’s arc, character development, and being an overall solid story, makes this series a great read.

It was one of the first series I picked up after an age long stint in manga and was what helped me come to love the character. So, if you are looking for a good Batman/Batfamily read, I would recommend this series.