The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon & Dean Hale

squirrelI’ve really enjoyed the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comics, so I was SUPER PSYCHED when I saw that Shannon and Dean Hale were writing a sanctioned novel about Squirrel Girl. I love all of Shannon Hale’s works, including Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack (graphic novel fractured fairy tale retelling), and I knew that she would be the perfect author to write a full novel of Squirrel Girl.
This did. not. disappoint.  SG was witty and charming and so funny and eager. I loved how much backstory this novel gave me and how it really flushed out the character for me. A great origin story, if you will. And explaining her tail and everything I’d wondered about.
I had truly forgotten that as she’s part of Marvel there is some funny interplay with the Avengers. SG’s texts with them and fandom (Thor! Black Widow!) are hilarious.
So here in this novel we have SG, new in town, meeting her new bff, Ana Sofia, and  doing some sleuthing to find out what was up with all the bad stuff happening in town, and coming into her own as a superhero.
This was just all around terrific good fun and I sure hope they are working on more.

Advertisements

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert

coconutIt’s the premise of You’ve Got Mail + involves a coconut cake and lots of food descriptions-a winning combo for me! I really enjoyed this a lot. No, there was nothing wildly unexpected or surprising about the storyline, but I enjoy a good You’ve Got Mail scenario and I especially enjoyed how this one played out.
Lou is a chef with a fledgling restaurant that is on the cusp of success.  Al is newly arrived from England and is a restaurant critic (for an actual physical paper and writes often enough that it is a full time job that supports him and he goes into the office for a full day. I found all of that most surprising in the whole book!) Lou is a wonderful chef, but after discovering her revolting and smug fiance in a compromising position she’s nutty and cooks the worst meal of her life. Which of course is the night Al is dining at her restaurant. He skewers Louella’s and to say it was bad for business would be an understatement. They meet, they hit it off, and due to a “let’s never talk about work” agreement, each never knows the truth about how they are connected. Until of course it all comes crashing down, as it always does. But meanwhile… the two get to know each other as Lou shows Al around all her cherished favorite spots in Milwaukee, her beloved hometown.  And she does such a good job of it, that she made me want to go visit. And eat at every place she describes. I mean, it just sounds awesome.  And the food descriptions! Sometimes food writing can be a bit too much, but for the most part all the food parts just made me want to eat whatever was being described and I liked how often food showed up in it.  I thought Al and Lou were also genuinely nice people (even if they are fictional) and very likable. I also really liked the timeline of this book. Lou and Al may have hit it off right away, but their relationship develops over many months, and that just seemed more realistic that many romances. Clearly this would make a WONDERFUL movie and rights have probably already been snapped up. Perhaps Amy Adams as Lou?

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day

dayIn this book Day talks a lot about being “situationally famous”-that at certain places and among certain crowds she is hugely famous, but anyone out of that setting just doesn’t know who she is. So as you read this entry you either know who she is, or don’t. In a nutshell, Day is an actress/writer/producer best known for creating (and starring in) the web series The Guild, and also co-starred in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog (a Joss Whedon production), and then she headed up a big YouTube channel called Geek & Sundry. She’s known for being a big part of the gaming/geek world and HUGE in the Twitter world.  Somehow I never looked at a single thing on Geek & Sundry and I kind of hate Twitter so I miss out on her there, but I was a fan of The Guild and Dr. Horrible. She runs with the Wil Wheaton/Joss Whedon crowd (and in the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of the new slayers!) And add to that list of things she does, talented writer. Because this was a super enjoyable, engaging, funny book. I hesitate to say memoir, that term doesn’t seem right, though it is about her and it is in the Biography section, so there you have it.

So yes, it is a memoir in that Day recounts growing up as a weird homeschooled kid and her rise to fame. But what I think makes this good and enjoyable for all, is that she tells the stories and anecdotes as a way to embrace her differences and show how being weird and different is totally ok and makes you who you are. I’m kind of in total awe of her now after learning that in addition to all the stuff I already knew about her, it turns out she’s super smart and a violin prodigy as well. She went to college at 16 and ended with a 4.0. So she’s brilliant and funny, but you get the feeling that in real life she wouldn’t be intimidating but could be your friend. Although maybe not, because you also find out that she’s pretty neurotic and her drive to succeed led to some pretty serious depression and mental health problems.

I loved finding out how The Guild came about and how it was created. Fascinating details! The book ends on a bit of a downer when she talks about #GamerGate, a terrible phenomenon that I hadn’t even been aware of happening, but makes you lose your faith in people.

So, would you enjoy this book if you are not part of that world? Absolutely yes. It’s funny, thoughtful about the internet, and also an interesting look at a particular moment in time when web series were new and YouTube was also brand new.  And perhaps also if you enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s memoir Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? or Tina Fey’s Bossypants, this would be up your alley as well.

Rapture Practice: A True Story about Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family by Aaron Hartzler

raptureI admit that I began reading this with undisguised fascination for the inner rules and workings of an evangelical Christian family. But it really ended up being more than that. Hartzler is a good writer and manages to convey his genuine love and affection for his family, all while beginning to question the very tenets of his faith. He is also gay, something he is slowly realizing (though never comes out and acknowledges during the book.) I did find myself fascinated and horrified by his parents’ strict rules and thought it was pretty amazing that raised as he was he was able to question the logic of the actions of God (for example, if everything is preordained, why would God bother to create a world that would require the bloody sacrifice of his son? and, best of all, if his parents felt he was damaging his soul by listening to an Amy Grant cd, how could it be that serial killer Ted Bundy could accept Jesus before being put to death and get into the same heaven?)
Well written, but it definitely left me wanting more (something he acknowledges in the afterword. Though I will add a different question I want answered-did he remain friends with Bradley?)

The Royal We by Heather Cocks

royalThis was highly anticipated, described as a fictionalized version of Will & Kate and looking to be a pretty fun read and it absolutely delivered. It was a surprisingly thick and long story, covering (just like Will & Kate in real life) several years from when they first meet in college, all the way up to the wedding. It’s so beyond anyone’s reality-the luxury and lifestyle of the royal family, that it just is delightfully escapist.  The heroine, Bex (Rebecca) is an American who meets the prince when she goes to study abroad for a year. They hit it off immediately and eventually become a (secret) couple.  There are plenty of details of what it’s like to be in the royal family, the practicalities and rules, as well as how the royal family are not perfect.  This was such a fun book. I loved it and was completely entertained.

*I’m going to edit this having just had a very good book discussion with my friend Melissa. She did not really care for it and I had to say, I agreed with all of her points. So thinking critically about the book-it’s very unevenly written and the pacing is not great. It’s a long book and some years are covered in slow thorough detail, while others fly by, without any particular reason for either. My biggest gripe would probably be that the drama of the story was pretty unnecessary-I think most readers would have been happier with a shorter time frame in the book and more details about that transition to being accepted by the royal family, having a team of people make over your image, and things about that. (Some of that was definitely there, but there could have been more. I can think of at least two major scenes where that was glossed over rather dug into.) I’m still going to give it 4 stars (out of 5, Goodreads) because I was entertained, did find it fun, and loved it when the stuff I wanted was included.

The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz

I wasn’t even sure if I’d read this one or not, and at times I thought “maybe I did read this?” because it is quite similar to the previous two books. It’s got the same wonderful style, gleeful delight in the gore of Grimm, and absolutely engaging storytelling. And then a wonderful meta-surprise that did indeed make this a wonderful conclusion to the other two books.
I would love to share these with my 4th grader, but honestly even though the gore and and violence is tempered by the humor, I think it may actually be too much for him. I thought this was funny, touching, and clever.
This final installment is about Jorinda and Joringel, whom I vaguely remember from the Andrew Lang fairy tale collections. It doesn’t matter what you remember about the original Grimm tale, though, because in the must-read afterward Gidwitz tells you that it was mostly their names that he liked and used.

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett

terribleWe are big fans of Mac Barnett in our house and when I saw this I knew we’d have to read it. Since our library was slow to get it I spontaneously bought it at the bookstore as a nice treat. As usual, Barnett did not disappoint.  Miles is a new kid at school, while Niles is the class goody-goody assigned to help him navigate the school.  Problem is Miles is pegged on the first day as a troublemaker, accused of parking the principal’s car on the front steps.  Miles actually loves being a prankster and had planned on having that be his “thing” at this new school, but he didn’t do it.

Funny, silly, outlandish, this was lots of fun and a very quick read.  I am hoping there will be some more installments.