Reviews: Going Rogue and Burn Bright

January 20, 2014 2014, 3.5 star books, mystery, Robin Benway, Wendy 47 ★★★★

Reviews: Going Rogue and Burn BrightGoing Rogue by Robin Benway
Published by Walker Books on January 14, 2014
Genres: mystery
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonIndieboundBarnes & NobleGoodreads
Being permanently based in a local New York City high school as an undercover operative has its moments, good and bad, for 16-year-old safecracker Maggie Silver. Pros: More quality time with her former mark-turned-boyfriend Jesse Oliver and insanely cool best friend, Roux. Getting to spend quality time with her semi-retired and international spy honorary uncle, Angelo. Cons: High school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. But when Maggie's parents are falsely accused of stealing priceless gold coins, Maggie uses her safecracking skills to try and clear their names. Too bad it only serves to put her and everyone she loves in danger. Maggie and her "new team" flee to Paris where they must come up with a plan to defeat their former allies.

The Also Known As series is like a good-humored blend of Rachel Hawkins’ + Ally Carter’s books. These light-hearted capers are quick, entertaining reads, and I’m pleased to say that the latest installment Going Rogue carries on the fun and funny vibe of the first book. In between breaking and entering, safe-cracking, stealing, and other assorted duties as a spy, Maggie’s also now dealing with boyfriend and BFF troubles. Along with, you know, her parents being targeted by the operation they work for, which leads to the entire family going underground and on the run.

Things I enjoyed:

  • Going Rogue is like a love letter to New York. From the Cloisters to the secret platform beneath Grand Central Station to Washington Square Park and more, it’s really fun to tool around the city with Maggie as she zips from one assignation to another.
  • Fun action sequences
  • Adults who aren’t a drag, including Maggie’s memorable mentor Angelo and her parents
  • A cute, light romance with her former assignment (now boyfriend) Jesse
  • Wealth and spy activity described in believable ways
  • And above all else, the humorous narrative and dialogue that keeps you grinning through the whole story.

Here’s a brief moment in which Maggie’s best friend explaining Faberge eggs, for example:

Roux leaned over to peer at it. “Oh, that’s the designer’s initials. They would stamp them in before firing it in the oven. Like a business card or the Nike swoosh or something like that.”

It just tickles me that something so priceless and revered is treated in such a matter-of-fact, offhand kind of way.

I do think that once they all got to Paris, things became a little less focused, particularly because there are three new characters introduced who have a very similar energy to those we’re already dealing with.  But the book is so much fun, those quibbles don’t even matter. I don’t know if there are going to be more books in this series, but I certainly hope so–I love it when YA books have a sense of humor, and this series has it in spades.

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The second book I’m reviewing today is another sequel I enjoyed! I’m always excited when sophomore books keep me interested, and in some ways I like both these books even more than the originals.


Burn Bright Bethany FrenetteAudrey Whitticomb saved her entire city.

Well, kind of. The superhero Morning Star (who just happens to be Audrey’s mom) might have played a small part, and her sidekick, Leon—Audrey’s sort-of boyfriend, who is gorgeous… and frustrating—maybe helped, too.

But after two peaceful months, there is a vicious new threat in Minneapolis. Her name is Susannah, and she’s a Harrower, a demon hell-bent on destroying people like Morning Star, Leon, and Audrey—the Kin. Like others before her, she seeks the Remnant, a Kin girl who has the power to unleash the inhabitants of the Beneath. But to what end?

Audrey already has a ton on her plate: dealing with her best friend Tink’s boy drama, helping her other best friend Gideon figure out his nightmares, and exploring the highs and lows of “dating” Leon. But when she develops a powerful new ability, Audrey seizes on the chance to fight, despite her mother’s protests and Leon’s pleas.

As Audrey gets closer to figuring out Susannah’s motives and tracking down the Remnant, she’ll uncover more than she bargained for. The terrible truth is staring Audrey in the face. But knowing the truth and accepting it are very different things

Title:                           Burn Bright (Dark Star #2)
Author:                       Bethany Frenette
Links:                         Amazon, GoodReads
Release Date:             February 25th, 2014
Publisher:                   Disney-Hyperion
Pages:                        352 pages
Rating:                       3.5 stars
Source:                      ARC from publisher

I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty hard to resist the idea of superheroes. The premise just satisfies the Wonder Woman-loving kid in me, and I enjoy that the Dark Star series is more focused on drama than on action. Besides, wouldn’t it be handy to have a boyfriend who could teleport?

In the second book of the series, Burn Bright finds Audrey learning more about her powers, as well as how the secret world of the Kin works. There’s a nasty new demon named Susannah hell-bent on wreaking havoc on the city, and Audrey has to figure out the mystery before it’s too late.

Things I enjoyed:

  • More superpower fighting
  • Audrey’s solidly believable relationship with her mom
  • More make-out scenes with Leon
  • An emotional back story with Drew, a Guardian whose fate is entwined with Susannah’s
  • And most poignantly, scenes with Audrey’s previously absent father Adrian View Spoiler »

A few quibbles:

  • I don’t love the capitalization of ordinary words that have been appropriated as key terms for this world. Reading about Audrey’s Knowing and things she’s Seen kind of made me snicker.
  • I wish Tink, one of Audrey’s best friends, was a little more interesting.
  • I wish the fight scenes were better choreographed and weren’t so quickly over.
  • There are too many name that begin with the same letter. Elspeth, Esther, Drew, Daniel, Gideon, Greg, Verrick, Val, Isobel, Iris…it’s hard to keep track of, particularly when most of them aren’t major or memorable characters

But making up for that are a couple of unexpected things that could easily gone another way, one involving Gideon and the other involving the Remnant, a Kin girl upon whom the fate of their kind rests. Spoiler alert: View Spoiler »

If you enjoy superhero stories that aren’t quite as fast-action-oriented as scifi thrillers like Mila 2.0, you should give this series a try. It’s interesting to see stories like these that are more character-driven without being angsty, and I’m looking forward to the next book later this year.

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Advance copies were provided by the publishers for these reviews.

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47 Responses to “Reviews: Going Rogue and Burn Bright”

  1. Sarah J

    I’ve read a book by Benway before and I adored it. I think her writing is just fun to read. I haven’t gotten to her spy series yet. I don’t know but I’m always weary about spies. Maybe I’ll finally shake that hesitation. I think superhero books are fascinating. Of course, I haven’t read any that I absolutely loved, just liked.
    Sarah J recently posted…Looking for Alaska by John Green

    • Wendy Darling

      I am about halfway through AUDREY, WAIT! and it’s really fun! The writing style is just as humorous in these spy books, so I don’t think it’s difficult to like the one if you like the other.

  2. Kate Bond

    Oh, I need to read the AKA series. Going Rogue sounds fantastic! I spend so much time in New York for David’s job–I’ll have to read it next time I’m there if I get a craving for something without a lot of angst.
    Kate Bond recently posted…Cruel Beauty: review

  3. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    I completely agree with your assessment of Going Rogue. It’s a lot of fun, low on angst, sweet romance, great parents and Angelo, and NYC! I agree that their trip to Paris wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped it would be. I wanted Roux, Jesse and Maggie to form their own spy group. I didn’t mind the new people, but we didn’t spend a lot of time with them before it was all over. I agree, though, I hope there are more of these!
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

    • Wendy Darling

      Exactly–we just didn’t get to spend much time with the newbies, so they all blurred together and seemed too similar to the other kids, imo. I also missed Angelo and her parents’ presence in Paris as balancing factors! But the book was very fun despite that.

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s never a bad idea to go to Paris! I wish we’d spent more time there, though, it felt like that portion was over really quickly. They might just as well gone to Philly or something.

      I’m glad to see you’re a fellow fan, Jen. Fingers crossed we get another one.

  4. Tanja

    I still haven’t read the first books in these series but I did have heard great things about them. I love the sound of adult character in Going Rogue as usually they annoy me. And also the humor, that’s great. I love the sound of fights in Burn Bright but at the same time it’s sad to hear that they end quickly. Anyhow I hope to get to read both series. Great reviews, Wendy :)
    Tanja recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist

    • Wendy Darling

      Reviewing sequels is always a little tricky, I always feel a double responsibility: providing good feedback for people who are waiting for the next book, as well as trying to entice new readers! Oh, maybe a third responsibility, too: good talking points for people who have already read the book.

      I bet you’d like both these series, Tanja–when you get around to reading them, I look forward to finding out if I’m right!

  5. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    Both of these books sound like they’re filled with light fun! I think I’m adding both series to my TBR, as I’ve been reading a lot of dark fiction lately. To be able to sigh, cheer for the right people in a fight, and have to fun seems like just what I need! And Spy-stories are great! There is the mystery and the intrigue of going undercover that puts a different light on a lot of scenes that way.

    Thanks for the great reviews, Wendy :)
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…Teaser Tuesday #16 – The Edge of Never

    • Wendy Darling

      Yay! As my friend Lauren at Love is Not a Triangle said, Going Rogue is a really nice palate cleanser, and I thin Burn Bright satisfies if you’re not necessarily looking for anything too heavy-handed, too.

      We could all use a little more fun with our books, really.

  6. ashley

    I agree with you on AKA #2. While once they hit Paris it kind of sort of lost focus and became scattered, I still found it to be an enjoyable book. Because Roux! And Jesse! And Maggie! And man, how awesome is it to have parents in a book that care and are actually IN the book!?
    ashley recently posted…Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, I wish the Paris parts had been more developed, but the book is so fun that it didn’t really matter that much to me in the end. And YES, it’s nice to have parents who are actually around and invested and caring. And then we have the bonus adult with Angelo, too!

  7. Rachel

    Both of these books sound like a lot of fun, Wendy. Just the right blend of action, adventure, suspense, romance and a dash of humor. I love humor in my reads, especially when it’s witty.

    Superheros and also a win for me, I was a HUGE fan of Wonder Woman growing up, then came Buffy. I’m sure there are more in between, but I’ve always be drawn to a woman who can kick ass on her own!

    Nice to see these are still strong in the 2nd book. Great reviews! :)
    Rachel recently posted…Cover Fever #5

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh yes, these both seem like Rachel books! I know you’d like the AKA series’ humor, and I know you’ll love Leon, too.

      Hooray for Wonder Woman love! I used to wear red rubber boots and jump from chairs holding a gold cord that I pretended was her lasso. Good times. Our love of kickass heroines has been brewing for a long time, eh? ;)

    • Wendy Darling

      Both of these books are super fun, Andrea! Benway is awesome, AKA was the first book of hers I read, but she became a favorite immediately.

  8. Lucy

    We are review twins today, Wendy! And I agree and hope that the AKA series continues. It makes you want to go to NY, doesn’t it?

    I haven’t tried the Burn Bright series yet but I can see why you paired the review with Going Rogue. I like that it’s character driven and less action-y. And yay for sophomore books that don’t disappoint!
    Lucy recently posted…Going Rogue by Robin Benway Book Review and Giveaway

    • Wendy Darling

      You were totally right on the review twins thing! I nodded along vigorously as I was reading your review just now. :) And yes, Going Rogue totally made me want to go back to NY. I had never heard of the secret platform thing, but I was tickled to find out it was real.

      I bet you’d like the Dark Star series. It’s not hugely complicated or anything, but I still find the books enjoyable. And I kind of like finding commonality among mini reviews when I can, but sometimes that means things languish on my “to be reviewed” shelf for awhile before I get to them. :P

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeessss, you would really like AKA, Candace! And omg, the visits around New York are fantastic, I had to take out about a half a dozen landmark locations that I’d jotted down. :)

  9. Melliane

    Oh I love when you’re doing multiple reviews, it’s fun to know more about different books. I didn’t know the first one I confess bug I’m really intrigued and now I want to read it. I knew book 2 but I haven’t read it. Maybe I should look at book 1.
    Melliane recently posted…Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis

    • Wendy Darling

      I like reading multiple mini reviews, so it’s been fun to do more of them! The first book is very cute, Melliane–and book two might hold your interest since it’s written a little bit like urban fantasy.

  10. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I totally forgot about Burn Bright! I read the first book but wasn’t a huge fan, but perhaps I should pick up the sequel because of Leon! ;) Going Rogue seems like the perfect feel-good read but I haven’t been too drawn to it recently. I’ll definitely have to give a try soon, though. Wonderful reviews, Wendy!(:
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…Review: Roses by G. R. Mannering

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh Keertana–I think both of these might be a little on the lighthearted side for you. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m discovering that the only fluffy books you seem to enjoy are romance ones…everything else has to be meticulously well built and thought out, hah. It’s good to have standards! I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to light entertainment, though. I don’t know, these may not be up your alley.

      Leon is pretty cute, though.

      • Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

        Wendy, you’re absolutely right – light books aren’t really my cup of tea. Even with romance, I’ve DNFed three PNR Series within the past four weeks, so even there I seem to be a little too picky. I do remember Leon fondly, though I doubt I’ll get to this sequel soon – if at all! – and Benway’s Audrey, Wait! wasn’t a favorite of mine either though I know a lot of readers loved it, so I’ll likely take your advice and skip these. Thanks a bunch, Wendy – you know me too well! ;)
        Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…Review: Roses by G. R. Mannering

        • Wendy Darling

          Ah hah, I have cracked the Keertana code! :D Yeah, these probably aren’t your thing. It’s kind of sad that you had to DNF some paranormal romances, those must have been really lightweight. I’ve had the same experience with some historical romances recently as well. Onto better reads!

  11. kimbacaffeinate

    While the sophomore book left you with a few quibbles I am glad you enjoyed it. I too love superheroes. Going Rogue sounds like such a fun read and the quote you shared regarding the Fab egg-hilarious! Wonderful reviews Wendy :)
    kimbacaffeinate recently posted…Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough

    • Wendy Darling

      You know what’s funny? I read two books in a row that had to do with Faberge eggs, although they’re both very different–I’d never read books about them before! (The other was TSARINA by J. Nelle Patrick, and it is amaaaaazing.) I’m glad you liked that quote, I wasn’t sure if it would be as funny on its own, but it still makes me laugh when I see it.

  12. Hafsah

    I think I would have snickered at the capitalization of senses and other normal words, too. And yes! I find it so hard to keep track of names when they begin with the same letter – especially when they have nearly the same number of letters too. All in all though, I am pretty intrigued by BURN BRIGHT, I might have to pick it up (along with the sequel, obviously)!

    And I LOVED Ally Carter’s HEIST SOCIETY, so GOING ROGUE is right up my alley. Great reviews, Wendy!
    Hafsah recently posted…A Riveting Conclusion: A Review of INTO THE STILL BLUE by Veronica Rossi

    • Wendy Darling

      I mean, she could just know things instead of Knowing them, if you know what I mean. :P

      Both series are really fun, I hope you like them.

    • Wendy Darling

      Yesss. There weren’t any big zingers in AKA or Going Rogue like with the Hex Hall series, but I chuckle throughout the whole book. We don’t get too many humorous YA books, so I always enjoy them when I can find them.

  13. Rashika

    I am so so glad you enjoyed Burn Bright, Wendy. It’s definitely an anticipated sequel and I am worried that the fact I read the first book back in 2012 might change how I feel about it. I enjoyed the superhero elements of the book the first time around and Leon :P I loved her relationship with her mother and.. definitely want to get to know more about her father. I think a re-read of the first book would help.. because I might have gaps in my memory :P

    Also Known As was definitely an enjoyable book but I am actually not that excited about the sequel. AKA was fun and light but some of the things just didn’t work for me. As someone who loves the idea of spies, I really wish there was a lot more of that going on. It seems that the sequel does take care of that problem so I cannot wait to what it has in store for me.

    Lovely mini-reviews, Wendy! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I actually had the same fear about both these books, Rashika–we read so many books that the details can sometimes be a little fuzzy with these things, but both the authors did really great jobs of catching you up with what happened in the first books without resorting to hugely boring info-dumps. I didn’t feel lost without re-reading at all, so don’t worry about it if you don’t have the time.

      Yes: more Leon. :)

      Let me know what you think of Burn Bright, too! I understand the want for more spying, there’s definitely more of that in the sequel.

  14. Mary @ BookSwarm

    You just never know about sophomore novels — they could be awesome, like the first, or really fall flat. Despite the few quibbles, Burn Bright sounds like it worked pretty well. And I haven’t yet checked out the AKA stories but I’m thinking I should! I love when humor permeates the whole story but doesn’t overwhelm it.
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Lost in Spaaaaace: AVALON by Mindee Arnett

    • Wendy Darling

      Yep–I’m always pleasantly surprised when book twos work out well, for some reason a lot of them turn out to be so disappointing, but I’m happy that wasn’t the case for either one of these. AKA is really fun–snarky and cute and zingy, and it just puts you in a good mood. Burn Bright had some really nice and unexpected moments in them, too.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, Mila is fun! It’s got some plot holes and it’s definitely a “first in a series,” if you know what I mean. But I approached it like I would an action movie, and enjoyed it as some fast-paced entertainment.

  15. Emily

    These sound like several great reads! :) I actually have Burn Bright, but I’ve not managed to get around to it yet! Spy and espionage reads (to me) are always the most intriguing! Especially if the romance is weighed out nicely and it’s relatively light :) I’m glad you enjoyed these, Wendy! Fantastic review, or rather, reviews! ;D
    Emily recently posted…Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

    • Wendy Darling

      I always like espionage books when they’re done well, too–it’s hard to pull off for YA, but sometimes the author strikes just the right/believable note. If you enjoy lighter stories that aren’t shallow, the AKA series definitely fits the bill. I hope you like Burn Bright when you get to it!