Black Widow: Red Vengeance

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t read Black Widow: Forever Red, turn back now. I promise this post will spoil parts of this first book (and possibly the second) for you. This will be your only warning.

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I recently finished reading the sequel to Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl. The second book, Red Vengeance, will be released to the masses next Tuesday, October 11th, though I have seen it in stores already. I got to read the book a little early thanks to NetGalley, and I thought it was wonderful. It was action-packed, convoluted at times, horrifying, and entertaining. Like the first book, I loved seeing some of my favorite Marvel heroes–aside from Black Widow–in a different light.

If you enjoyed the first book, Black Widow comic books, or her appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I think you’ll definitely appreciate getting a closer look at this enigmatic character in Red Vengeance.

Red Vengeance picks up several months after the events of Forever Red, and it once again focuses primarily on Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow) and Ava Orlova (Red Widow). Both are still reeling after the death of Alexei, Natasha’s brother and Ava’s first love. Ava is training with Natasha, trying to learn to use and control her new powers. Natasha is attempting to come to grips with everything that has happened and find some way to regain her confidence in her instincts. Soon enough, both Widows will have to put all of their training and instincts to use to face threats both old and new.

While following a tip about Red Room activity in Brazil, Natasha and Ava come into contact with a girl in a green dress. After that initial contact–a stellar brush pass–everything begins to go haywire. Someone manages to hack and erase all of Natasha’s secure files. Who could possibly have the ability to do such a thing, and why would they target the Black Widow?

Natasha and Ava attempt to escape to safety only to have Natasha’s Widow’s Cuff–and her motorcycle–blow up. They seek refuge in one of Tony Stark’s many homes, and they call in SHIELD to help figure out what’s going on. They confer with Phil Coulson, Maria Hill, Tony Stark (Iron Man), and Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) to see who could possibly have pulled off such a genius hack. Nobody really knows, but it’s clear that something serious is afoot. Red Room serious.

Natasha knows that Ivan Somodorov is dead, but it seems that someone else is trying to continue his evil work. Someone who has it in for Natasha and her rather explosive apprentice, Ava. The two Widows follow the clues into the Amazon where they discover something truly appalling. Not only is the Red Room’s work continuing, but whoever is running the show has five nuclear missiles at their disposal as well as a terrifying new drug called Faith.

Natasha and Ava do what they can to minimize damage, but even the Widows can’t totally stop the catastrophe that’s coming. Someone–a person with a connection to Natasha’s past–has their own agenda and will do whatever it takes to see it come to fruition. Does that mean deploying nuclear missiles? Does it involve distributing a gruesome, mind-altering drug? (The answer to both questions is a resounding “YES.”) How can Natasha, Ava, and their assorted friends possibly eliminate such a threat? And what if this is only the beginning of what’s in store for the Widows?


I probably should have stopped writing a few paragraphs ago. I feel like I’ve given way too much away. Let’s just be grateful I called a halt when I did. I could seriously go on and on about this book and its predecessor. Black Widow is one of my favorite Marvel heroes, and I adore both of these books.

I also really appreciated the appearance of Captain Marvel in this story. She’s another favorite, and I loved that both she and Black Widow were part of a “Women of Power” poker night. Oh, to be a fly on the wall. From what I understand, there’s a possible Captain Marvel novel in the works, written by Shannon and Dean Hale, but I don’t have any details on a possible release date.

Speaking of future Marvel books, given the way that Red Vengeance ended, we can be sure that at least one more Black Widow novel is on the horizon. Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on when we can expect the next story. Bummer.

For more information on Red Vengeance and other books by Margaret Stohl, visit the author’s website and Twitter page. These are probably the first places you’ll find an announcement on book three. Given that book two hasn’t been officially released yet, though, you could be in for a long wait.

Be sure to pick up Black Widow: Red Vengeance on October 11th!

Black Widow: Forever Red

After the success of nearly every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, many people–myself included–have been clamoring for a Black Widow feature film. Sure, she’s one of the Avengers, and she played a vital role in Captain America: Winter Soldier, but where’s her movie?! Where’s the story of Natasha Romanoff?

Well, thanks to the brilliant Margaret Stohl (co-author of the fantastic Beautiful Creatures series), I think we have a pretty amazing basis for a Black Widow film. Black Widow: Forever Red takes a look at what–or who–made Natasha into the kick-butt assassin we know and love. (This was briefly alluded to in Age of Ultron, but this book gives a much more in-depth, gritty peek into Natasha’s disturbing past.) Now, though, there are two more people Natasha has to worry about, a girl who shares remarkable similarities to the famed Black Widow and a boy who is somehow connected to both of them.

Natasha Romanoff didn’t have a typical childhood. Very few other girls know what it was like to be trained by the evil Ivan Somodorov in his infamous Red Room in Moscow. This horrible man taught Natasha how to be lethal, how to lie with conviction, and how to follow orders blindly.

Natasha is not that girl anymore. She’s moved on from her life as one of Ivan’s girls, and she’s done all she can to put things behind her. Unfortunately for Natasha, the past has a way of catching up to her…

Ava Orlova once encountered the woman the world now knows as the Black Widow. After Ava was rescued from the clutches of Ivan Somodorov, Natasha Romanoff promised to look out for Ava. That was the last time Ava saw her. After escaping SHIELD custody, Ava is now on her own, virtually homeless on the streets of Brooklyn. She fences at the Y, sketches the boy who haunts her dreams, and takes care of Sasha Cat, a stray like herself. Like Natasha, though, the past that has always haunted Ava is about to become a very real part of her present…

Alex Manor is a normal kid. He goes to school, he hangs out with friends, and he argues with his mom. Typical stuff, right? So what if he often feels like he’s being watched. So what if his instincts completely take over when he fences or fights. So what if he doesn’t seem to fit in his own life. Well, Alex will soon realize that “normal” is not a word that should ever be used to describe him. Especially not after he encounters Ava, a girl he’s immediately drawn to, and Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow herself.

Natasha, Ava, and Alex come together at a fencing tournament…and nothing is ever the same. Almost immediately, they must escape an enemy threat, unravel a convoluted mystery, and figure out just what they mean to each other. None of them are truly prepared for the answers they find…or the sacrifices they’ll have to make to get out of this alive.

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I don’t want to give away too much more about this book, so I’m going to wrap this up. I think it’s enough to say that this Black Widow fan is ecstatic about this book–which will be released next Tuesday, October 13th–and I hope to see more Black Widow (or Red Widow) novels in the future. (There may have been a spoiler in that last sentence. I guess you’ll just have to read the book to find out.)

Many thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book a little early. I loved everything about it, particularly the awesome female characters (who displayed many different kinds of strength) and appearances from Agent Coulson and Tony Stark. Black Widow: Forever Red whetted my appetite for all things Marvel, so I see a movie and comic book marathon in my immediate future.

If you are a Marvel nerd, I strongly urge you to read Black Widow: Forever Red (which I think is fine for libraries that serve middle grade and teen readers). You will not be disappointed.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about this wonderful book, check out the video below for an interview with author Margaret Stohl.

Hero

It’s no secret that “dog books” circulate heavily in my school library. Most of the time, all I need to do is display a book with a dog on the cover, and it doesn’t stay on the shelf very long. Well, thanks to Sarah Lean, I now have one more “dog book” to share with my students. That book is Hero, and it was released to the masses this past Tuesday.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Hero through Goodreads First Reads, but I didn’t make time to finish it until last night…and I did read the bulk of the book in a single evening. It was a quick, engaging read suitable for anyone–young or old–who has ever imagined themselves to be extraordinary, struggled with fitting in or standing up for what’s right, or had a special bond with a beloved animal. (I’m pretty sure that covers everybody.)

Hero highlights heroic actions–from both humans and canines–in everyday situations…and in circumstances that defy even the most vivid imaginations.

Leo Biggs often imagines himself as a gladiator, fighting in the Roman amphitheater and trying to win the favor of Jupiter. In real life, though, Leo is a bit of an outcast. He only has one real friend–at least, just one human friend–but Leo longs to be seen as brave, popular, and extraordinary. And one day, he thinks he has his chance…

After a rather interesting episode at school, Leo gains the notice of Warren Miller, probably the coolest guy at school. Warren invites Leo to hang out after school…but Leo has to prove himself worthy of being in Warren’s crowd. Even though Leo is hesitant about what is asked of him, he’s willing to do just about anything to be popular. Leo couldn’t know, though, that his actions would lead to more trouble than even his powerful imagination could conjure.

One day, Warren and his crew try to convince Leo to have a little “fun” with Jack Pepper, his neighbor’s dog. Leo knows what’s going on is wrong, and he doesn’t really want to participate. What happens next changes everything Leo feels about himself and what the people in town think of him. Leo takes credit for saving Jack Pepper’s life (even though it was really the other way around), and now everyone thinks he’s some kind of hero. Only Leo, Warren and friends, and little Jack Pepper know the truth…but none of them are talking.

Leo is enjoying his new status as a town hero, but part of him knows that he’s living a lie. One day, however, something happens that puts Leo’s vision of himself as a hero to the test. A catastrophic event hits the town, and Jack Pepper is put in real danger. Leo knows it’s up to him to save this little dog, but what can one boy do in a truly perilous situation?

Will Leo finally step up and be the hero that Jack Pepper needs? Will Leo–or anyone else–ever reveal what actually happened when he “saved” Jack Pepper to begin with? And will Leo ever discover what it really means to be a hero? Answer these questions and many more when you read Hero by Sarah Lean.

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Hero is a good book for illustrating the importance of being true to oneself and standing up for what’s right…even when it’s not easy. This book also emphasizes the value of all types of friendships–those with kids, adults, and even animals. As the story progresses, Leo begins to realize that real friends are loyal, even when he doesn’t deserve it, and he needs to do whatever is necessary to prove his loyalty as well. Sometimes, that simply means being upfront and honest about his mistakes and doing whatever he can to make things right.

I think Hero is a good fit for most elementary and middle grade readers. It deals with issues like bullying, honesty, popularity, imagination, bravery, friendship, and, of course, caring for animals. I’m sure this book will be a big hit in my own school library.

For more information about Hero and other books by Sarah Lean, check out her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @SarahLean1.

 

 

The Blood of Olympus

So, the final book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, The Blood of Olympus, was released on Tuesday. As you may have guessed, I rushed to the nearest book store immediately after work and picked up several copies–one for me, one for my library clerk, and a few for my school library. (Honestly, if I’d gone to work on Wednesday without this book, a couple of my students probably would have rioted. Luckily, I was able to avoid that.)

I started reading The Blood of Olympus as soon as I got home. I would have liked to finish the book in one sitting, but, alas, my job and the need for sleep got in the way once again. At any rate, I finished the book two days ago, and I’ve been processing what happened ever since.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail in this post because I want to avoid spoilers at all costs. I will say, though, that The Blood of Olympus delivered on all counts. It was action-packed and full of twists and turns, it contained a fair amount of the snark and humor I’ve come to associate with Rick Riordan, and it even tugged at the heartstrings a bit. I think fans of this series will be totally satisfied with how things concluded for Percy Jackson and the other heroes we’ve come to know and love. I know I was.

I’m pretty sure the first of my students to check out The Blood of Olympus probably finished it this weekend. I am really looking forward to geeking out with them about what happened. I’m also hoping that other students will see us getting so excited about this book, and they’ll want to see for themselves what the big deal is.

Since I’m not going to give any plot details away here, I’ll go ahead and start wrapping things up. If you’re reading this and wondering what’s so special about this series…well, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Here’s a handy reading list to get you started!

For more information on The Blood of Olympus, the thrilling conclusion an amazing adventure, from Rick Riordan himself, check out the video below…and read this book. You won’t be disappointed!

Still want more? Click here for all things demigod!

The Lost Hero

Well, Rick Riordan has done it again.  After the travesty that was the movie adaptation of The Lightning Thief, I thought I was done with the antics at Camp Half-Blood.  How wrong I was.  I just finished reading The Lost Hero, the first book in Riordan’s new Heroes of Olympus series, and I am absolutely hooked.  I loved how this new story and these new characters interact with the characters and events of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.  There is a wonderful sense of continuity, but readers are also introduced to a new story line with its own characters and challenges.

In The Lost Hero, we are introduced to three new demigods:  Jason, Piper, and Leo.  At the beginning, they have no idea who they really are or what they can do.  After a treacherous field trip to the Grand Canyon, however, things begin to change–especially when their gym coach turns out to be a somewhat unpredictable satyr.  The three teens are spirited away to Camp Half-Blood where, one by one, they are claimed by their godly parents.  Even this is not without its conflict.  (I won’t tell you who their parents are.  That would really ruin things for you.  You’ll just have to read to find out.)

Shortly after Jason, Piper, and Leo arrive at Camp Half-Blood, they are sent on a quest–and we all know how wonderful those usually turn out, don’t we?  They must stop something truly evil from coming to life and destroying Olympus and the world as they (and we) know it.  This could prove to be a bit difficult, especially since Jason has a touch of amnesia, Piper and Leo are hiding some pretty important details, and all of the gods of Olympus have gone silent.  To sum up, things are bad, and they’re about to get much, much worse.

Can our heroes succeed in their quest?  Why were these three demigods chosen for this all-important task?  Why does Jason constantly refer to the gods and goddesses by their Roman names?  How are these events connected to Percy Jackson and his actions in the Titan War?  What will they have to do–or give up–to defeat the evil that is rising?  Read The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan for the answers to these questions and more.  (I will warn you that some of these questions may be answered, but about a million more will pop up to replace them.  Awesome.)

Just like the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Lost Hero (and the rest of the Heroes of Olympus series, I hope) is great for upper elementary, middle, and high school readers.  Adults will enjoy it, too!  I’m looking forward to the next book in this series, The Son of Neptune, due out in the fall of 2011.

For more information on Rick Riordan and his wonderful books, visit http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx.

Suck It Up

Those of you who regularly follow Knight Reader (all both of you) know that I am a fan of both superheroes and vampires.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because reality is a real downer most of the time, and I like to escape into a world of fantasy.  Maybe it’s because I wish I were a superhero or a vampire.  I’m leaning toward the second option.  Anyway, in my latest read, Suck It Up by Brian Meehl, the main character, Morning McCobb, is a nerdy vampire obsessed with superheroes.  Except for the whole vampire thing, I can totally relate.

Morning McCobb was sixteen when he was accidentally turned into a vampire.  Imagine if you will being sixteen forever.  (Shudder.)  Now imagine being a scrawny, nerdy, sixteen-year-old vegan for the rest of eternity.  (You’ll have to read the book to understand how Morning is both a vampire and a vegan.  It’s a little too odd to get into here.)  Morning has just graduated from the Leaguer Academy, a kind of training facility for vampires.  Leaguers are members of the International Vampire League, and they want nothing more than to live openly in the world and be seen as yet another minority group with “special needs.”  Now, Morning has resigned himself to an eternity of reading comic books, watching Star Wars, and becoming a member of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion.  (Sounds pretty good to me.)  But the powers that be in the IVL have a different path in mind for Morning.  They want him to be the first vampire to “come out of the closet” and reveal himself to humans, or Lifers.

As you may imagine, Morning is a little skeptical.  He barely passed most of his classes in the Leaguer Academy.  Why in the world was he chosen as the first vampire to reveal himself?  What happens if he suddenly realizes the guy next to him would make a great snack?  And what about Morning’s dreams?  Is there any hope to make them into a reality?

These answers and more are revealed as we journey with Morning McCobb as he “comes out” to the world.  The big reveal is not without its missteps or people wanting to put a stop to it, but Morning just might discover that he’s not who he always thought himself to be.  Will he like the person he becomes, or will he become the monster he’s always feared he could be?  Read Suck It Up by Brian Meehl to find out.

While I kind of liked this book, I did think the point of view changed too much.  It was hard to tell who was speaking or narrating some of the time.  There was just too much back and forth.  Aside from that, Meehl introduced a whole new vampire mythology, and I think it’s interesting to compare it to what we think we know about vampires.

To learn more about Brian Meehl and Suck It Up, visit http://www.brianmeehl.com/.