The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 2: Squirrel You Know It’s True

I’ve had a run of really good days lately, but this past Tuesday and Wednesday, to put it bluntly, blew chunks. If any of you are educators, you likely know why. (The end of every school year is always difficult, especially when the kids are pretty much done and state testing is on the horizon.) So, Wednesday night, I needed a break from all the chaos and seriousness in my life. Enter Squirrel Girl, stage right.

You may recall that I read the first volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Squirrel Power, way back on January 17th. For whatever reason, I stopped there for a while. (I did read Shannon and Dean Hale’s Squirrel Girl novel in February, so I didn’t abandon Doreen Green completely.) But Wednesday night, after looking at the hundreds of books (yes, hundreds) in the various TBR piles around my house, there was only one book that really called to me. I knew that Squirrel Girl could get me out of my rotten mood quickly, and I was right. She was just what the librarian ordered.

Volume two of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Squirrel You Know It’s True, combines issues 5-8 of the serial comic book by Ryan North and Erica Henderson. It essentially picks up where #4 left off, and Doreen is still attempting to balance being the most likable superhero ever with being a college student. It doesn’t always work out.

Squirrel You Know It’s True begins with a hostage situation at the Statue of Liberty. Dinosaurs with laser eyes are attacking, and the various Marvel heroes appear to be outmatched. One of the hostages, Nancy (who happens to have insider information), is convinced that Squirrel Girl will eventually save the day. This leads to a series of stories about Squirrel Girl’s supposed exploits, each one more outlandish than the next. None of the stories are accurate, but it does help to pass the time until, of course, Squirrel Girl–also known as Doreen Green, Nancy’s roommate–comes to the rescue.

After this heroic rescue, Squirrel Girl and Nancy spend a little time guarding the outside of a bank. (The bank may have gotten a little damaged during a previous heroic rescue…but that’s totally not Squirrel Girl’s fault.) While on watch, the two come face-to-face with a new threat, Hippo the Hippo. Hippo is trying to rob the bank to pay for his extraordinary food bills. (It’s tough for a half-human, half-hippo to find a decent-paying job in the city.) As they’re facing off with Hippo, Squirrel Girl and Nancy also encounter a couple of new heroes, Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi. It’s Squirrel Girl, though, who ultimately saves the day–again–when she convinces Hippo the Hippo to pursue a path he had not considered. No muss, no fuss.

After all that, Squirrel Girl and Nancy realize that they know Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi. They actually all go to college together. While the heroes discuss how they communicate with various animals, Nancy laments that she doesn’t communicate with anyone but regular, boring humans. Maybe she just hasn’t found her animal yet, the others surmise. That leads Nancy and Doreen to a rather memorable trip to the zoo and an encounter with yet another super-powered individual, Girl Squirrel.

Squirrel Girl is not terribly thrilled that Girl Squirrel is getting all the squirrel-related attention. She’s also not totally convinced that this squirrel is a hero. Something weird is going on here. After this super-powered squirrel arrives on the scene, everyone in the city is at each other’s throats, including the heroes in Avengers tower. They’re obviously going to be no help, so it’s up to Squirrel Girl and friends to figure out what’s going on. They eventually determine (with an assist from Wikipedia) that there’s a bit of Norse mythology at work here, and this newcomer is none other than Ratatoskr. So, who do you go to when you’ve got a Norse squirrel problem? Thor, of course!

Squirrel Girl and company team up with their friendly Asgardians to put an end to this madness, but, as is so often the case, there may be more to this story than is being revealed.


I realize I’ve given entirely too much away here, but I’m not even sorry. I could go on for much longer if I really wanted to. Squirrel Girl makes me happy, and couldn’t we all do with a little (or a lot) more of what brings us joy?

Though I like Squirrel Power a bit more than this second volume, Squirrel You Know It’s True is still awesome. It snapped me back into a good mood, and that’s no small thing. Is volume two, like it’s predecessor, okay for kid readers? I don’t see why not. I have both volumes in my school library, and I’m trying my best to convince all of my Marvel enthusiasts–as well as many others–to give The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl a try.

As for me, I’ve still got three more volumes of Squirrel Girl comics to read. I already have volumes 3 and 4 sitting on my coffee table, and I plan to pick up #5 at my local comic book store on Free Comic Book Day on May 6th.

For more Squirrel Girl fun, check out the Squirrel Girl Tumblr site. You can also follow both Squirrel Girl, her roommate Nancy, and Tippy-Toe on Twitter!

Advertisements

The Hammer of Thor

It might be a good idea to read The Sword of Summer and Hotel Valhalla: Guide to the Norse Worlds before proceeding with this post. At the very least, it is absolutely necessary to read The Sword of Summer prior to starting The Hammer of Thor. You’ll be all kinds of lost if you don’t.

Last night, I skipped all of my shows so that I could finish reading The Hammer of Thor, book two of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan. If you follow this blog at all, you’ve probably figured out that I really dig anything Riordan cares to write, and this book didn’t change that at all. If anything, I love this writer even more because of his inclusion of diverse characters in his books–this book in particular. Add in loads of action, suspense, humor, and sarcasm, and I’m completely sold. Many of my students are with me on that.

In The Hammer of Thor, Magnus Chase and friends are on the lookout for Thor’s missing hammer. But Thor hasn’t just misplaced Mjolnir this time. No, the mighty weapon is now in the hands of the giants, and Magnus and company have to get it back before one of their own, Samirah, is traded for the weapon. If they fail, giants are set to invade Midgard (Earth) and will lay waste to everything in their path. (Life can never be easy for a bunch of demigods, can it?)

As Magnus, Samirah, Blitzen, Hearth, and newcomer Alex try to find Thor’s hammer and avoid war and/or Ragnarok, they will face family difficulties, Norse zombies, a super-dangerous sword, a rigged bowling competition against giants, and–worst of all–a wedding. As if that’s not enough, in their quest to find Mjolnir, they may just play into their worst enemy’s hands.


As you’ve likely surmised, I’ve left out a crap ton of details. That is intentional. Like all of Riordan’s books, you really need to experience this one for yourself. The cover alone, though, makes it pretty obvious that a lot of the conflict in this book involves Loki. (This version is not to be confused with the Marvel “villain” played by Tom Hiddleston.) He’s a wily one, and his hand is in most of what happens in this book–including totally failing at being Parent of the Year. We’ll just have to wait and see if things work out for him in the end.

The next book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, The Ship of the Dead, is expected to be out on October 3rd, 2017. You can probably guess from the title that this book will involve a bit of sea travel, and, based on how The Hammer of Thor ended, may even feature an appearance from a noted Greek demigod. (Hint: His name rhymes with Smercy Thackson.)

If you can’t wait nearly a year for the next Riordan book, you’re in luck! The second book in The Trials of Apollo series, The Dark Prophecy, will be out in May. (Still a long wait, I know.) If you haven’t read book one, The Hidden Oracle, you’ve got plenty of time.

For more information on The Hammer of Thor and all of Riordan’s other fantastic books, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with him on Twitter, Tumblr, Blogspot, and Facebook.

Finally, check out the official trailer for the Magnus Chase series. It doesn’t give away much (and the narrator’s accent is a little weird to my Southern ears), but it’s worth a watch or two.

Hotel Valhalla: Guide to the Norse Worlds

If you’re a fan of Rick Riordan’s books, you likely already know that he has a new book coming out tomorrow. It’s the second book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, The Hammer of Thor. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have lost quite a few details since reading the first book–and I don’t have time to go back and re-read it–so a little refresher would be helpful. Luckily, that’s where my latest read steps in.

Hotel Valhalla: Guide to the Norse Worlds isn’t a recap of the first Magnus Chase book, The Sword of Summer, but it does go a long way in re-introducing readers to many of the characters we either met or heard about in book one.

This guide, intended for einherjar new to Valhalla (Magnus Chase in particular), is a handy intro to the gods, goddesses, and other “mythical” creatures one may encounter. While providing information on the various beings, including powers and appearance, it also gives a behind-the-scenes look at the who’s who of the Nine Realms. Some things may be surprising, but the entire book is sure to entertain and inform.

If all you know of Norse mythology comes from Marvel comic books and movies, this book is a great reference (especially the pronunciation guide and glossary). It alludes to some of the events in the first Magnus Chase book, and it gives a glimpse into the second. I plan to keep it very close when I begin reading The Hammer of Thor (which will be delivered to my house tomorrow).

To learn more about Hotel Valhalla, the Magnus Chase series, and the other fabulous books by Rick Riordan, visit the author’s webpage.

Happy reading!

The Sword of Summer

I’ve been a huge fan of Rick Riordan’s books since I first picked up The Lightning Thief nearly six years ago. (Notice I said “books.” The movie adaptations of The Lightning Thief and The Sea of Monsters are horrible and should be avoided. I’m pretty sure Mr. Riordan agrees with me.) Since then, I’ve devoured the entire Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Kane Chronicles, and The Heroes of Olympus. (I still have Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods and Greek Heroes in my to-read pile. I’ll get to those soon.)

Anyhoo, I say all that to introduce Riordan’s latest book–the first book in a new series–The Sword of Summer. Previous series gave us tastes of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology. This one, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, provides readers with a closer look at Norse mythology. As you’ve likely guessed, this series focuses on Magnus Chase (notice the familiar last name) and the realization that he’s got a pretty major role to play in preventing the end of the world, or Ragnarok. No biggie, right?

For the past couple of years, Magnus Chase has been on his own. Following the traumatic death of his mother, Magnus left his home behind and survived on Boston’s streets, relying only on the help of friends Blitz and Hearth to get by.

Magnus always feels as though he’s being watched, and he soon realizes that people are actively searching for him. His Uncle Randolph eventually does track him down only to saddle Magnus with some rather huge pieces of news: Magnus is a Norse demigod, he must find his father’s sword–the Sword of Summer–and do whatever he can to delay Ragnarok. No pressure.

As soon as Magnus learns the truth about his father (or some of it, at least), he knows a huge target is on his back. It quickly becomes abundantly clear that he’s absolutely correct. The fire giant, Surt, is determined to get the Sword of Summer, and he’ll do everything in his considerable power to obtain the weapon, including kill Magnus.

For Magnus, though, death is when the real adventure begins…

_______________

I’m going to stop here before I give too much more away. A lot happens in this book, and it’s really something you need to experience for yourself. Suffice it to say that Magnus Chase is everything we’ve come to expect from one of Rick Riordan’s heroes. He’s sarcastic, brave, and totally real…and he’s only one of the amazing characters in this book. I haven’t even touched on the wonderfully diverse cast of this book. I will say, though, that it includes a fashion-savvy dwarf, a deaf elf who doesn’t let his “disability” slow him down, and a Muslim Valkyrie. (Yes, you read that last bit right. It’s awesome.)

Now, I must confess that most of what I know about Norse mythology comes from Marvel, both comic books and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I had to throw a lot of that out the window almost immediately. I’m only a little sad about that. I do love Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki…so much so that I’m looking at a stand-up of him as I write this. Don’t believe me?

2015-12-22 20.01.38

The view from here…

At any rate, even though I had to forget most of what I thought I knew about Norse mythology, that didn’t slow my reading down at all. Riordan is great about explaining unfamiliar phrases (and there is a handy glossary in the back of the book), so it didn’t take very long to become familiar with the Norse gods and other assorted creatures. (After reading The Sword of Summer, I have to say that I’m particularly intrigued by Ratatosk, the immortal squirrel that terrorizes people in Yggdrasil, the World Tree. Makes me think twice about making the squirrels in my yard mad at me.)

I would say that The Sword of Summer is a must-purchase for libraries that serve middle grade and teen readers. Upper elementary may be a bit of a question mark, depending on your population. There are a couple of instances of cursing, but it’s really nothing gratuitous. I made the decision to place a couple of copies of this book in my elementary library, and I’ve had no complaints. It’s mostly 4th and 5th graders reading the book, and they’re gobbling it up. My students who love all of Riordan’s other books love The Sword of Summer just as much, and they’ve only had positive things to say. I call that a win.

The next book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series is The Hammer of Thor. (One guess what that focuses on!) It’s slated for an October 4th, 2016, release. As usual, we’ve got a wait ahead of us.

Never fear, though, my fellow Riordan fans! There’s another series to look forward to! On May 3rd, we’ll get our hands on The Hidden Oracle, the first book in The Trials of Apollo. In this series, the god Apollo is made a human teenager after angering Zeus. (The horror!) He has to navigate the human world and try to find a way to be welcomed back to Olympus. And where does he go for help? Camp Half-Blood, of course! Exciting stuff!

If you’d like to learn more about The Sword of Summer and the other outstanding books by Rick Riordan, check out the author’s website. You can also catch up with him on Twitter, Tumblr, Blogspot, and Facebook. Additionally, here’s a trailer for The Sword of Summer produced by Disney Books. It doesn’t give too much away, but I hope it whets your appetite for this wonderful book.

Endure

A word to the wise: If you haven’t read the first three books in Carrie Jones’ Need series (Need, Captivate, and Entice), it might be a good idea to do that now.  And if it’s been about three years since you’ve read these books, a refresher might be in order before proceeding with the fourth and final book in the series, Endure. (Should have taken my own advice on that one.)

So, I’m spending part of my reading this year catching up on various series. It’s hard to keep up when most of what one reads is part of a series.  Three years ago, during a week-long snowstorm here in South Carolina, I read the first three books in the Need series by Carrie Jones.  Fast forward a little over three years, and I finally started reading the fourth book, Endure, during yet another freak snowstorm in South Carolina.  (When I say “freak” here, I’m talking like 6 inches of snow…which basically shut down the entire state.  It was a big deal, and I didn’t leave my house–or my pajamas–for days.) It seemed to fit as this series takes place in Maine, and pixies have brought on some sort of super-winter as a prelude to Ragnarok. (Don’t know what Ragnarok is? Look it up. That’s my sassy librarian answer for you.)

Anyway, I say I started this fourth book during Snowpocalypse 2014, but I didn’t finish it until a bit later.  It was difficult to get invested in the series again after spending so much time away from it.  To put things in perspective, it took me about three weeks to get through the first 30 pages of Endure…but I read the last 230 pages in the span of a single evening. Once I refamiliarized myself with the characters and story, I was enthralled, but it did take some time…and a mention of my favorite Norse god, Loki (who I will always and forever picture as the glorious Tom Hiddleston).

Zara White is not exactly a normal girl. Not anymore, anyway. After turning pixie to save Nick–her boyfriend and a werewolf–from Valhalla, Zara has hopes that things can return to some kind of normal.  But normal’s not really possible when you are tied to a pixie king, being hunted by another one, your grandma–a weretiger–is missing, people all over your town are being abducted, and you’re at the center of it all.

As if Zara didn’t have enough to deal with, Nick wants nothing more to do with her now that she’s a pixie–a pixie queen, as a matter of fact–and Zara’s growing feelings for Astley, the good pixie king, are more confusing than ever. It’s quite the conundrum, but Zara will have to put her love-life on the back burner for now…especially if she is to have any hope of halting the apocalypse. No pressure.

Zara is facing some tough choices. How can she train her human friends to fight evil pixies? Can she retain her humanness while taking her place as Astley’s queen?  What does that even mean, and what will Zara do when some things are completely taken out of her hands?  Will she still be a strong leader? Will she still save the world from certain destruction? How? What sacrifices will Zara have to make to protect those she loves the most…and will those sacrifices be enough? There’s only one way to find out. Jump headfirst into trouble…

_______________

Now that I’ve finished the entire series, I must say that the first book was probably my favorite, and this last one came in a distant second. (It would have been a close second, but it just took me way to long to get re-invested. The perils of loving to read serial fiction.) The entire series turns pixie lore on its ear, and it pays homage to Norse mythology. That’s something I appreciate.

On top of all that stuff, the Need series features some very strong female characters. Yes, Zara is the protagonist and is seen as the strongest of the series’ female characters–which I think she is–but there are many other strong women and girls given time in this series, and each one has her own brand of strength. From Zara to her grandma to Issie to Cassidy and several more, the females in this book do not depend on men to do their fighting for them. These ladies go out and make things happen, and they are fully capable of stopping the end of the world on their own, thank you very much. (The guys do help some, but the action definitely centers on the girls in the group, in my opinion.)

All in all, the Need series is a great read if you’re into supernatural stuff with a bit of good, old-fashioned mythology thrown in. You may need to look up a few things if you’re unfamiliar with Norse mythology, but that’s part of the fun! (Granted, my idea of “fun” may need a bit of work.)

For more information on the Need series and author Carrie Jones, check out her website at http://www.carriejonesbooks.com/. You can find links to all of Carrie’s social media pages there.

Frost

Read Stork, the first book in this series, before proceeding!  (For those who have read Stork, you might want to skim over it before starting book two, Frost.  I forgot a lot between the two books.)

Most of what I know about Norse mythology comes from old Thor comic books.  (I’m not saying this is a bad thing.)  Whenever I read something that features a fair bit of Norse myth, I have to break out my trusty reference books so that I can really understand what I’m reading.  I had to do this when I read the first book in Wendy Delsol’s Stork trilogy, and I consulted my mythology books a little when reading the second book, Frost.  I also had to look through my school library’s copy of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, the driving force behind this latest installment in the Stork trilogy.  I read The Snow Queen way back in eighth grade, but I had forgotten a lot of it.  The refresher—along with Thor and learning more about Norse mythology—helped me sort of understand what was going on in Frost.  I’ll admit that the main characters’ special abilities still confuse the crap out of me, but I have a better grasp of what’s going on that I would have otherwise.

Katla LeBlanc finally seems to be adjusting to life inMinnesota.  Her dad is moving to town, her mom and future stepdad are planning for a wedding and a baby, her boyfriend—the living embodiment of Jack Frost—is just dreamy, and she’s coming to terms with her role as a Stork, or soul deliverer.  A freak snow storm—brought on by Katla’s desire to have a white Christmas and Jack’s desire to please her—throws everything into chaos.  A little boy loses his life in the storm, and both Katla and Jack are inconsolable.  They know the storm was their fault, but how can they possibly fix things that have gone so wrong?

Katla calls on her Stork abilities to right her wrong, but Jack seems to withdraw from her and become deeply depressed…until a mysterious, beautiful stranger comes to town with what is seemingly the opportunity of a lifetime.

Katla hates Brigid on sight.  Brigid is tall, gorgeous, accomplished, and she catches the eye of (almost) everyone she encounters—male or female.  Brigid claims to be investigating the weather anomalies in the area, and she wants Jack’s help, even going so far as to offer him an internship at her research facility in Greenland.  Jack jumps at the chance, but Katla fears that there’s more to this trip than meets the eye.  She doesn’t know what sort of hold Brigid has on Jack, but Katla knows that she’s on the verge of losing Jack forever.  How right she is.

As Kat deals with her Stork duties (which are becoming more complicated by the minute), a distant boyfriend, performing in the school production of The Snow Queen, her mother being placed on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy, and accompanying her grandfather on a trip to Iceland, she’s beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed.  And when Jack and Brigid go missing in the Arctic, yet another weight is added to Kat’s shoulders.  For she knows she’s the only one who can bring Jack back.  Kat will cross realms and face mysteries she never expected—some helpful, some not-so-much—to save the boy who holds her heart.  Will it be enough?  Or will Jack—and the world as Kat knows it—be lost forever in the cold?

Katla’s world in Frost delves deeply into Icelandic and Norse myth, and it is also a bit of a retelling of The Snow Queen.  I enjoyed how Kat was participating in a school production of The Snow Queen while she was preparing for an eventual battle with the real thing.  (The author presents a great argument for reading a prologue.  If Kat had done that for The Snow Queen, she might have figured out what she was up against a lot sooner.)  Like with Stork, I would have liked a pronunciation guide for the Scandinavian words in this book.  If I’d been reading it aloud, I’m afraid I would have butchered each new word I encountered.

Even though Frost ended on an upswing, things are far from over.  Katla must deal with decisions she made in her quest to save Jack, and those decisions may have consequences that are too horrible to bear.  Look for more of Katla’s story in the third and final installment in the Stork trilogy, Flock, on September 11, 2012.

For more information about author Wendy Delsol and the Stork trilogy, visit http://www.wendydelsol.com/.  You can also follow the author on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Entice

Danger, danger!  Stop here if you haven’t read both Need and Captivate by Carrie Jones.  You simply must read these two books before reading this post about book three, Entice.  You’ve been warned!

Another day, another book finished.  I think Entice by Carrie Jones is the seventh book I’ve read in the past week.  I am made of awesome.  (Of course, it’s certainly helped that school has been cancelled all week because of snow…but I’m still pretty awesome…and humble.)  I think I may take a little break after this post, partly because I have to go back to work next week, and partly because, quite frankly, I’m kind of tired.  Not to fear, though, I will still do my best to bring you the best in young adult literature–just not as much of it in one week.  Sorry.  Now, on to Entice, the third installment in Carrie Jones’ Need series.  This book picks up mere minutes after Captivate leaves off, and things in Bedford, Maine, are about to get a lot more dangerous…

Zara never thought she would be a pixie, but it seems she’ll do anything to bring her boyfriend, Nick, back home and save the people that she loves.  So she’s now a pixie.  But she’s not just any pixie.  She’s a pixie queen.  Astley’s pixie queen.  Can she convince everyone she loves that not all pixies are evil (just like not all people are evil)?  Will they ever truly trust her again?  Will Nick if she ever finds him?

More and more people are dying and going missing in Bedford, and Zara, Astley, and all of Zara’s friends must put aside their differences and work together to stop this evil from spreading.  Who is behind it all?  Is the other pixie king, Frank?  Or is there a larger force behind it all, one who no one really suspects?  The answers, I’m afraid, are not easy.  It is not always apparent who can be trusted or when trusting the wrong person will lead to even more death and destruction.

As Zara works to stop the violence from spreading in Bedford, she must also find a way to get to Valhalla to rescue Nick.  But how?  What will she have to do if she ever makes it there?  Will Nick want to come back with her once he realizes that she became a pixie just to rescue him?  Will he accept that she is Astley’s queen?  And how can Zara reconcile her love for Nick with her growing feelings for Astley?  There are no easy answers, but join Zara as she tries to discover who she truly is when you read Entice by Carrie Jones.

As you can see, there are a lot of questions to be answered in the Need series.  I’ll go ahead and warn you that not all of them are answered in this book.  I have high hopes that the fourth book will clear things up a bit, but we’ll have to wait on that.  It’s not scheduled to be released until early 2012.  In the meantime, there are many, many more books to read, and I must get to them.  So long for now…