Denton Little’s Deathdate

What would you do if you knew the exact date of your death? I like to think I’d do all the stuff I was too scared, inhibited, or lazy to do normally, but I know myself well enough to realize that’s probably not how things would play out. The more likely scenario is that I would read as much as possible and take lots of naps. Know thyself, my friends.

I say all that to introduce my latest read, Denton Little’s Deathdate. In this morbidly funny book, our title character ponders what to do before he kicks the bucket. As a matter of fact, most people in the world deal with this big question. Thanks to an “advance” in medical technology, everyone knows his/her deathdate. They don’t know the exact minute or how they’re going to die, but the date appears to be set in stone. For seventeen-year-old Denton Little, that date is just a couple days away, and he’s got a lot to process before the big day.

Two days before his deathdate, Denton Little wakes up in a strange bed with his very first (and possibly last) hangover. Why is he in his best friend’s sister’s bed? He remembers flashes of the previous night, but most of it is a blur. Did something awesome happen with Veronica, or did he embarrass himself completely…or both?

Eventually, Denton Little manages to piece together some semblance of last night’s events, but he’s got other things to worry about today. For one thing, he has to get ready for his funeral. Oh joy. A night for everyone to say how sorry they are that he’ll no longer be with them. A night in which he has to make a speech and dole out hugs to relatives, friends, and treasured acquaintances. Denton can hardly wait.

Another thing worrying Denton in his last hours is the weird purple rash that is spreading all over his body. Did his activities with Veronica give him some sort of disease, or is it something else? Whatever it is, his entire body is turning purple, and it seems that he’s spreading this unknown virus to anyone he–ahem–shares saliva with. (There are a couple more people on that list than there should be, especially considering that Denton has a girlfriend whose name is most definitely not Veronica.)

To make things even more confusing for Denton, a weird guy shows up at his funeral, claims to have information about Denton’s mother, a woman who died shortly after giving birth to Denton, and warns Denton to beware of government officials. What could this guy want now, and how could this make any difference to Denton when he’s only got hours to live? And what could the government have to do with Denton or his mother? It’s quite the puzzle, and Denton’s running out of time to solve it.

Join Denton as he and his friends try to piece together what’s going on around them. What’s up with the weird purple rash? What does Denton’s mom have to do with his deathdate? And is there a way for Denton to cheat death when no one else has managed to? It’s a mystery…


Here’s a major spoiler if you’re still reading this post: Denton lives. I don’t feel too bad about revealing that since there is a second book to look forward to. The title itself could be considered spoilery to those who haven’t done their homework. It’s Denton Little’s Still Not Dead, and it was released in February. Given that book one ended on a pretty large cliffhanger, I’m hoping to make time to read book two as soon as possible.

Denton Little’s Deathdate is a nominee for the 2017-18 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award. Often, titles on this list are appropriate for middle grade readers. In my opinion, this is not one of those titles. Denton Little’s Deathdate is an awesome book, but I don’t think it’s a good fit for tweens and younger teens. It has a fair amount of sexy times and innuendo, alcohol and drug use, and irreverent humor (which is my favorite part of the book), and all of those things combined make it more suited to a mature teen audience. Before you recommend this book to younger teens, read it for yourself. You likely know best which of your readers are ready for a book like this and which aren’t.

To learn more about Denton Little’s Deathdate, visit author Lance Rubin’s cool, fun website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter and Instagram. For an extra bit of fun, check out the video below featuring Lance Rubin singing a lovely song about Denton Little’s Deathdate. The song alone makes me want to read everything this guy cares to write. Enjoy!

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!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World

I think I established a couple of weeks ago that I adore Squirrel Girl. Well, that’s even more true now that I’ve read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World. This novel, written by Shannon and Dean Hale, gives readers a look into how Doreen Green became one of the funniest, most optimistic, and most lovable superheroes to hit the Marvel scene.

Fourteen-year-old Doreen Green has a tail, she’s fast and super-strong, she understands Chitterspeak (squirrel language), and she loves nuts. She’s basically a human with lots of squirrely qualities. She and her family have just moved to New Jersey from California, and she’s looking to make some new friends–both human and squirrel.

It’s not easy, though, when you’re new in town. At first, the neighborhood squirrels don’t know quite what to make of her. They’re not used to people like Doreen. (To be fair, there are no other people like Doreen.) Eventually, Doreen forms a friendship with Tippy-Toe, a feisty little tree squirrel.

Making human friends proves to be even more complicated than connecting with the squirrel community. The popular kids at school don’t want to have anything to do with Doreen. They even make fun of her backside. (Doreen knows they’d probably love her big, beautiful squirrel tail, but she has to hide it at school. You’d have a large, curvy backside too if you had to stuff a huge, furry tail in your jeans all the time.)

Doreen does find one (rather reluctant) friend in Ana Sofia, a deaf, Latina girl who’s been investigating the increasing crime levels around town. When Doreen puts together the alarming number of squirrel traps in town, Ana Sofia’s investigations, and some weird buzzing things that are making the neighborhood dogs crazy, there’s only one logical conclusion. Her new town has a supervillain at work!

Well, when there’s a supervillain causing chaos, a superhero needs to save the day. Doreen knows what she must do. She finally becomes who she was always meant to be–Squirrel Girl! She helps humans and squirrels alike, and she works to figure out who is behind the pandemonium in town. She seeks help from a couple of Avengers, but, in the end, it’s up to Squirrel Girl, her new best friend, Ana Sofia, and an army of extremely helpful, talented squirrels.

Does Squirrel Girl have what it takes to be a real superhero? Can she and her new friends stop a criminal mastermind before everything goes nuts? Find out when you read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World!


In a world that is increasingly dark and depressing, Squirrel Girl is a glimmer of light and happiness. When I was reading this book, it immediately put me in a better mood. Doreen’s voice is totally charming, and I dare anyone who reads this book not to like it…or want more.

This novel is told in third-person, but the reader gets a better glimpse of the awesomeness of Squirrel Girl through first-person footnotes. These notes add to the hilarity of the book and are sure to make readers chuckle.

Squirrel Meets World will be released to the masses next Tuesday, February 7th, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that every school and public library should add it to their collections. It’s great for all ages, and I think it will encourage a whole new brood of readers to pick up the Squirrel Girl comic books. I’m also really hoping that we’ll see more Squirrel Girl novels in the future. I’ll definitely be on the lookout.

For more Squirrel Girl goodness, check out the Squirrel Girl Tumblr site. You can also learn more about author Shannon Hale here.

Finally, many thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this book a little early. I love it!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power

If you’ve never heard of Squirrel Girl, I strongly urge you to remedy that situation immediately! Until this weekend, I didn’t know much about this unbelievably wonderful superhero, and I’m so glad that I decided to learn more.

In Squirrel Power, the first volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl, is off to college. She’s attending Empire State University as a computer science major, but her crime-fighting is getting in the way of the whole college experience. What’s a girl to do, though, when robbers and assorted super villains attack her fair city? She simply has to act, and she does so with humor, wit, and, of course, squirrels.

Whether she’s going head-to-head with Kraven the Hunter, Galactus, or Whiplash, Squirrel Girl approaches each super villain with the expectation that she–and her squirrel sidekick, Tippy-Toe–will emerge victorious. Does that always involve some epic battle? Not exactly. Sometimes it simply means convincing the bad guy to use a bit of common sense or directing him to a different, less destructive goal. Sometimes, however, it means using all of the squirrel power at her disposal–and maybe some “borrowed” technology from a certain man of iron–to show her nemesis the error of his ways.

Whatever happens, the planet can count on Squirrel Girl when bad stuff goes down. Now, if only she can find some way to balance being a superhero with being a freshman in college!


I cannot say enough good things about this first volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. The art is lively, colorful, engaging, and fun. The writing is brilliant, witty, and totally captures the essence of this vibrant character. (Make sure to look for even more hilarity at the bottom of each page!) And I really, really hope Marvel eventually produces the “Deadpool’s Guide to Super Villains” cards that Squirrel Girl uses for reference. I would totally buy those.

Props to writer Ryan North, artist Erica Henderson, and everyone at Marvel for not making Squirrel Girl some unrealistic bombshell. We see enough of those. Squirrel Girl is athletic, muscled, and curvy, and I think someone with her build is much more likely to defeat a beefed up bad guy than a 100-pound woman with all of her business hanging out.

If you’re wondering whether or not to purchase this volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl for your library, I would have to give you an emphatic YES! This book/character has wide appeal and is sure to be a hit with comic book readers of all ages. I’m putting a copy in my elementary library, and I would do the same if I were in a middle school, high school, or public library. Having read and reread this first volume, I don’t think there’s anything remotely objectionable about it, and I feel confident recommending it to my students. I think you’ll feel the same.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a serial comic book. This volume, Squirrel Power, combines books 1-4 (plus Marvel Super-Heroes 8) into one graphic novel. I recommend purchasing this volume–and any others you decide to buy–for a library or classroom because the individual comic books aren’t exactly durable and aren’t produced for multiple users.

If you decide that The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is perfect for your personal, classroom, school, or public library, there are more volumes already out and one coming soon:

  • Volume 2: Squirrel You Know It’s True
  • Volume 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now
  • Volume 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It
  • Volume 5: Like I’m the Only Squirrel in the World (published April 4th)

Will all of these volumes be suitable for elementary or middle grades? I can’t say that for sure, but I will definitely be reading them to find out.

There’s also a middle-grade novel about Squirrel Girl coming soon. Shannon and Dean Hale have teamed up to write The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World, and it comes out on February 7th. I have a galley copy of this book that I’ll be posting on here soon. Stay tuned!

For more Squirrel Girl goodness, check out the Squirrel Girl Tumblr site. Enjoy!

Zero Hour

If you haven’t read the following books in the Lorien Legacies (I Am Number Four) series, go no further. You will be all kinds of lost if you haven’t read the entire series up to this point.

So…I guess it’s fairly obvious that I’ve been catching up on the Lorien Legacies series. The series as a whole is now complete, but I had to read the last collection of novellas before moving on to the seventh and final full-length novel, United As One. I’m hoping to conclude this series sometime in January, but let’s turn our attention to Zero Hour for now.

Zero Hour, like the collections before it, is comprised of three novellas that provide a little more insight into the Loric Garde, their allies, and the Mogadorians that seek to take over Earth. In this particular collection, we see things from the perspectives of several characters we’ve met before–some friendly, others not so much.

The first story in Zero Hour is Legacies Reborn, and readers are reintroduced to a character we met in The Fate of Ten. Dani Morales is a girl living in New York City. Her biggest concern is dealing with her horrible stepdad…until she realizes that aliens have invaded her city and seem determined to wipe out all traces of resistance. Separated from her mom, Dani tries to get across the city and reunite with the only person that really matters to her. She soon learns that this task won’t be easy, but she may get some help from some allies…and from some newfound powers of her own.

Next up, we have Last Defense. In this story, we learn a bit more about Malcolm Goode, otherwise known as Sam’s dad. Malcolm is still dealing with being held captive by the Mogadorians for years, reuniting with his son, and doing whatever he can to help in fighting this alien invasion. Malcolm has information that very few people on Earth are privy to, and that inside look at how the Mogadorians operate makes him valuable to those looking to combat this threat, particularly the President and his closest advisers. But how does Malcolm reconcile assisting the President with his need to keep his son safe?

Finally, there’s Hunt for the Garde. This novella is actually three stories in one, all from the perspectives of Mogadorians (or bad guys).

  • First, we hear from Phiri Dun-Ra, a loyal Mog officer who has messed up in the past and is looking to make up for it in the eyes of the Beloved Leader, Setrákus Ra. She now has her chance.
  • Second, we see Vintaro Üshaba, another loyal Mog who delights in war, inflicting pain, and furthering Mog Progress. Vintaro is merciless, and he will do whatever is necessary to bring in anyone believed to be a threat to Setrákus Ra’s plans. He thinks little of his targets, and that may be his ultimate undoing.
  • Third, we are reintroduced to Rexicus Saturnus. This young Mog, who grew up on Earth and once helped Adam escape from a Mog stronghold, is having doubts about everything happening around him. (Note: Read the other books if you don’t know who Adam is. He’s pretty important.) Maybe Adam was right about everything, including fighting against the Mogadorians. Maybe Setrákus Ra isn’t as all-powerful as he claims. Rex isn’t sure which way to turn, but he’ll have to decide which side he’s on very soon.

So, that’s Zero Hour. It definitely whets my appetite for United As One, and it hints that things are going to get much worse before they get better. I guess we’ll just have to see. At the very least, it should be interesting to see how the characters and storylines from Zero Hour play into the final chapter of this exciting series.

For much more information on the Lorien Legacies series, go to the I Am Number Four Fans website. Enjoy, and I’ll be back for my 2016 wrap-up in a couple of days.

Happy New Year!

A Darker Shade of Magic

It’s extremely rare for me to take more than a month to read a book, but that’s what happened with A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. This book took so long partly because it’s been a crazy busy time at work. (November is looking to be no better.) When I get home, it’s all I can do to stagger to the couch and stare blankly at the TV. When I do make time to read, I want something light and fluffy, and those words definitely do not apply to this book. Also, I’ve had several other books that, for whatever reason, took precedence over A Darker Shade of Magic, so I had to put it on the back-burner.

During the past week, though, I devoted a fair amount of time to this first book in Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. While it took me a while to really get invested in this book, once I did, it was full steam ahead. I was captivated by the characters, their complicated personalities, and the worlds that both drew them together and very nearly tore them apart. As a long-time comic book reader, the concept of multiple or parallel universes isn’t exactly unfamiliar, but A Darker Shade of Magic had a different spin on the concept, and I look forward to exploring it further in the rest of the series.

Kell is one of the last of his kind. He is an Antari, a blood magician with the ability to travel between the different versions of London. Kell is from Red London, a land of prosperity and magic. He travels to Gray London, a city without magic, and White London, a brutal place ruled by the sadistic twins, Athos and Astrid. Only Black London, a city consumed and destroyed by magic, is closed to him.

Kell was raised in the palace of Red London, alongside Rhy, the heir to the throne, but he’s not exactly a member of the royal family. Kell knows he’s useful to the throne, but he also uses his power and position for his own ends. You see, he’s something of a smuggler, and he’s been known throughout Red, White, and Gray London to provide glimpses of magic for a price.

During one particularly dangerous and sobering trip to White London, Kell comes into contact with an object that should not exist. It’s a piece of Black London, and the power within this artifact is both repulsive and seductive to Kell. He knows he must be rid of this object–even as he thirsts for its power–but he’s also determined to find out who placed it in his hands…and what their endgame is.

Before Kell can get the answers he needs, however, he travels to Gray London and comes into contact with Lila Bard, a girl whose greatest aspiration is to be a pirate. Lila, brilliant pickpocket that she is, steals the piece of Black London from Kell, not knowing what she’s nabbed or the events she’s set in motion.

When Kell and Lila reunite, it becomes clear that they’ll have to work together to do what needs to be done. But what treachery lies ahead? Can they trust those around them or each other? Who is pulling strings to harness the power of Black London, and can Kell and Lila stop them in time to save their worlds…or themselves?


The worlds within A Darker Shade of Magic are rich, stark, complicated, and convoluted…much like the characters that inhabit those worlds. I’m actually glad it took me so long to read this book because I feel like I really got to know and spend time with Kell, Lila, Rhy, and the entire supporting cast–some of whom I think I’ll see again. I’m also looking forward to seeing more of each version of London in this story, perhaps even Black London as well. We shall see.

The second book in this series, A Gathering of Shadows, is already out, so I’ll hopefully make my way to that book soon. Book three, A Conjuring of Light, is expected to be released on February 21st, 2017.

For those wondering if A Darker Shade of Magic is suitable for purchase for school libraries, I would say it’s okay for high school collections. Not so much for middle schools. This series isn’t a YA series*, but I think many teen readers, particularly fans of fantasy, will enjoy it.

*According to the author, if her books are written as V.E. Schwab, they are written for an adult audience. If the first name is Victoria, it’s for middle grades or young adults.

If you’d like more information on A Darker Shade of Magic or other books by V.E. (Victoria) Schwab, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

Atlantia

Atlantia, a stand-alone novel by Matched author Ally Condie, had been sitting on my bookshelf for while. A few weeks ago, I decided to finally read it. It was not quite what I was expecting. I wanted to like it as much as I did the Matched series, but something held me back…and I’m not even sure what it was. For whatever reason, I just didn’t connect to this book. Maybe I’ll be able to work that out throughout the course of this post.

Rio longs to be Above. She’s lived Below, in her underwater home of Atlantia, for her entire life, but she’s never really felt like she belongs here. Even though she’s promised her sister, Bay, that she’ll stay with her Below, a part of her longs for the sand, sun, and sky Above.

It’s understandable, then, that Rio feels a sense of betrayal when her sister makes the stunning decision to go Above herself. Left Below alone, Rio is adrift, torn from the last person who truly knew her and her secrets. You see, Rio is a siren–one of the last of these powerful beings–and she’s always hidden her true voice from those around her. Could this secret have something to do with her sister’s abrupt departure? And could it be the key to Rio finding her way Above?

Eventually, Rio comes to realize that she’s not as alone as she thought. Her aunt, also a siren, is determined to help Rio find her voice and get in touch with her true power. Why though? Can this woman, who was never before part of Rio’s life, be trusted? Does Rio even have any choice in the matter if she wants to be reunited with her sister? What exactly is her aunt’s agenda?

As Rio comes to terms with her own power and her family’s actions, she uncovers some terrible truths about Atlantia itself. It seems that terrible forces are at work that will ensure the destruction of not only Atlantia but every siren who still exists. It also appears that Rio may be the only hope to stop these horrible events from occurring.

What can Rio do to turn the tide? How can she, an untried siren, possibly thwart the powers that would seek to destroy her? Who can she rely on to save herself and the only home she’s ever known?


I would categorize Atlantia as science fiction…even though it’s billed as fantasy. It seems obvious to me that the entire concept of this underwater city comes about because of the damage done to the environment Above. The societies in this book found a way to build a fully-enclosed, underwater city where people could live free of pollution. Once there, sirens–and others with special abilities–evolved due to their new surroundings. Industry revolved around keeping the city intact, and there was a certain amount of interdependence between Above and Below. Even religions changed (or were formed) to explain these new dynamics. Now that I’ve had time to reflect on all of this, I find it fascinating, and it helps me to have a more positive outlook on this book as a whole. (I’m still not overly fond of Rio or the somewhat forced romance in the book, but that’s probably my issue.)

Atlantia, in my opinion, is a good fit for libraries that serve middle grade and teen readers. There are some interesting family dynamics, a decent mystery, supernatural elements, and a bit of romance…something for everyone, I guess. It may not be my absolute favorite book, but it makes me think, and that’s all I can really ask for.

To learn more about Atlantia and Ally Condie, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.