Review: ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley

Charlotte Usher is friendless. She wants to be noticed, but her classmates, including handsome, popular Damen Dylan, don’t know she’s alive. And then she chokes to death. Charlotte has unfinished business, though, and she ends up in Dead Ed with other teenage ghosts. She is sure that going to the Harvest Ball with Damen will resolve her issues, but that’s a challenge, since she’s dead. .

Charlotte is pathetic, but she isn’t sympathetic. She admires popular and beautiful Petula, whose main personality traits are vanity, viciousness, and super-sized ego. She uses her ghostly invisibility to stalk Damen, and she even convinces Petula’s defiant goth punk sister, Scarlet, to let Charlotte possess her so she can use Scarlet’s body to get close to Damen. But Damen turns out to have a little more going on under the surface than the standard popular jock, and Scarlet actually starts to like him herself.

Readers with a dark sense of humor will enjoy ghostgirl. Occasionally subtle, often sharp, and in places, almost slapstick (Scarlet’s bizarre tryout for the cheerleading team while possessed comes to mind), ghostgirl has subversive appeal. The story is seeded with descriptive details and contemporary references teens will appreciate. The book’s design is unusual and visually striking, with a “ghostgirl” in silhouette on the cover, and elaborately framed epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter. Hurley is also an independent filmmaker, and as the events speed along, with acrobatics, car accidents, and ghostly antics taking center stage, it’s easy to see that the book could translate well to the silver screen. The growing depth of Scarlet and Damen’s characters, and the awkward beginnings of their friendship are probably the most interesting part of the story, but it is Charlotte’s first attempts at real friendship that take the story beyond satire. Ghostgirl is not a book that needed a sequel, but Hurley managed to leave a door open for one, and ghostgirl: Homecoming is due out this summer. Recommended for high school library media centers and public library teen collections.

Contains: mild sex, lighthearted treatment of death, destructive behavior, possession.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski

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Justice League Season 1 Episode 13


“The Brave and the Bold Part 2”

When Central City vanishes Wonder Woman, Jo’nn, and Hawkgirl go to investigate, unaware that Green Lantern and Flash are already in the thick of things. Following the trail to a similar energy signature  in Africa (with Batman’s help) they end up in just as much danger as Flash and Green Lantern–in xenophobic Gorilla City.

With each part of the League only getting part of the picture they have to stop Grodd from destroying Gorilla City as well as protect the secret of existence of an entire race.

The only question I have is, how do the gorillas not know of who the Justice League is? One would think they’d stay up to date on the news of the creatures all around them, which is easy t find since we blare it through the air waves all around them.


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Review: Demon Queen by Richard Lewis

Jesse has grown up in the foster care system, never knowing his real parents. Unfairly seized by Homeland Security, he is released to the Mindells, a foster family living in the town of Longview. As Jesse begins to settle into his new community, Honor Clarke moves to town, dealing with the death of her father in a freak accident. Jesse feels a mysterious connection with Honor. He suspects that Honor is behind a number of strange occurrences, including a rogue pig interrupting a funeral, a student suddenly being attacked by a wasp, and an unexplainable illness contracted by Jesse’s friend. It is up to Jesse to find out what is going on and put a stop to the bizarre events.

Demon Queen is a very high quality, well written bit of young adult occult horror. The plotting is well done, and Lewis does an excellent job of making Jesse a likable and sympathetic protagonist. The characters have depth and are interesting, avoiding the stereotypes that often populate y/a literature. As an added bonus, the book may appeal to both male and female readers. Highly recommended for public and school libraries.

Contains: minor gore, references to the occult and witchcraft, animal mutilation and killing

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Review: Birds of Prey volume 2 by Chuck Dixon

birds2 ISBN: 9781401260958

Still hunting down the sleaze of the world Black Canary (with Oracle at the assist) stumbles into a slave ring with a twist. These slaves are also kidnapped heiresses, business moguls and other member of the One Percent. The scheme is a good one (forced labor and ransom? Score!)

Also included in this volume is a semi-romantic interlude with Nightwing, and the adventures of the female mercenary group, The Ravens, who cross paths with the Birds off and on. And sea monsters, for good measure.

Dixon expands all of our troubled favorite ladies and challenges them in less than physical ways. Oracle dodges the military and Batman’s babying. Black Canary tries to help people who really need it, sometimes even if they don’t deserve it. It’s nice to see them come together to a place where they’re standing up for people because it’s what’s right, not because they’re invincible or martial arts masters.

bop2Dixon also touches on the issues that super powered people would bring, like people suddenly becoming weapons in the nuclear arms race.

This volume has its fun moments, but also has a more sober tone that the first book. Still, it’s a fantastic read, very recommended for comic fans, and public libraries wanting to build a collection.

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Justice League Season 1 Episode 12


“The Brave and the Bold Part 1”

After the seriousness of the last few episodes we get this one, starring the stubbornly joking Flash. Not that Flash doesn’t take his job seriously, but his role as “heart and soul” of the Justice League is evident and even younger viewers can tell sometimes he’s joking and happy to protect his fellow heroes from the mental stress that facing the crappiest parts of the multiverse can inflict.

Green Lantern is less than amused, though, as he ends up being the one to help Flash break up a science robbery. Even as silly as “a gorilla escaping the scene by driving a car away” sounds, he knows to take Flash seriously. Someone puts a whammy on Flash and he wakes up hours later in jail.

Green Lantern, though skeptical, supports Flash when the police show them video of Flash finishing the robbery that he earlier thwarted. They track down the talking, driving gorilla and discover just another intelligent being trying to save his city. (We already know that superheroes come in many forms, right? And though a lot of the Justice League LOOKS, or can look, human, this season has already taught us that being, or looking human does not equal good guy. Likewise being or looking military, or police, or even looking like a superhero doesn’t make you a good guy.)

This plots bad guy? None other than the hyper-intelligent, mind-controlling Gorilla Grodd. He’s promised to destroy the city of peaceful, hyper-intelligent Gorillas because they too stood up against his evil.

Can I just say we need more “animal” and outright non-human-looking super heroes in these stories?

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Soul Eater Season 2 Episode 7


se2-6“The Black Blood Resonance Battle! – A Small Soul’s Grand Struggle against Fear?”

Black Star and Maka go against Stein’s commands when they come against Crona. Maka is determined to face Crona and Ragnarok alone. Maka seems to feel a kinship with the tormented meister, or maybe she is just determined to figure out the puzzle of Crona’s magic.

Medusa reveals to Stein that Crona is her own child, twisted and corrupted from a young age to become the Demon Sword. Meanwhile Soul tries to fight the call of the black blood inside him, only to have Maka agree to let it take her instead, in the hopes she can solve the riddle of Crona’s madness and defeat the Demon Sword, maybe even undo it.

But can Maka handle the insanity that black blood brings?

A lot of this episode is slow because it’s in Soul’s head. But there’s a little part of me that hopes that Maka and Soul can detangle the Demon Sword and save Crona. No one deserves the torture that Crona has seen.

(Side note: Crona is ambigiously asexual and which gender Crona is is never revealed. So sometimes if wording gets odd this is why.)

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Review: Weregirls: Birth of the Pack by Petru Popescu

Tor Teen, 2007
ISBN: 0765316412
Available: New

Lily Willison and her friends Nikki, Arielle, and Grazia start up a girls’ soccer club at her school called the Weregirls.  When the new girl, Andra Hewlit, senses that Lily has supernatural powers, she seeks to co-opt them and creates her own soccer club.  Lily finds out from communications with her deceased father that Lily and her friends have special powers granted by spirit wolves that allow the girls to take on the properties of the wolves.  As Lily uses her new powers, an evil force called the Breed is summoned and the Weregirls must battle this new enemy. Although the girls are able to change into the form of their wolf spirit equivalent, Birth of the Pack is really a supernatural tale. Readers hoping for a werewolf story will be disappointed, but those open to an unusual supernatural adventure series will enjoy this book.

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Review: Birds of Prey volume 1 by Chuck Dixon

birds1 ISBN: 9781563894848

In the beginning there was Black Canary and Oracle. One is fresh out of a break up with Green Arrow (that Green Arrow, yes) with a passion for kicking evil butt and a somewhat short attention span. The other is wheelchair-bound, hopeful and determined to find a way to still save the world from her clock tower. Oracle might be a Charlie, but Black Canary is not an Angel.

I really enjoyed this book. Really. Black Canary is sassy without being annoying, strong without being obnoxious. She’s on the right side of confident. There’s a strong sense that she’s trying to not just take back her life, but also take back crime fighting for herself, instead of fighting to support someone else.

bop1Oracle struggles with the same. She’s lucky enough to have big Bat brothers watching out for her, but she’s tired of being coddled. They, for all their differences and arguing, find a friendship together, while also fighting tyrants, terrorists, and… soda reps?

These characters have certainly been around a while, but you don’t need to be a die-hard fan to enjoy this book. It’s a great place to start if you want less super powered, more secret agent style comic tales. With only a butt joke here or there it’s a great place for young teens to start too. Highly recommended.

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Justice League: Season 1 Episode 11



“War World Part 2”

Superman’s defiance of Mongul sets a bad precedence, so Mongul sets out to make sure Superman is killed on War World, no matter what it takes. The other gladiators, however, come to admire his resolve to treat them like actual people (including using their attempt to help him escape to instead rescue his foe, Draaka. Draaka, however, struggles with other opinions of his escape/rescue, showing a serious side effect of Mongul’s manipulations.)

Mongul sets up a final fight between he and Superman, swearing to destroy Draaka’s home planet if Superman doesn’t fall in battle. Meanwhile J’onn tries to disarm Mongul’s regime and Draaka tries to reclaim his honor by killing Superman before Mongul can.

Even Draaka, as angry and violent as he is, becomes a sympathetic character, making this a more complicated story than you usually find in kids’ cartoons these days.

I’ve mentioned before that this series takes viewers more seriously than a lot of cartoons. This story line is positive proof of that, seeing as we have forced battles to the death, government rulers manipulation people to keep control of them while they starve and their basic needs in life aren’t met, not to mention the complications of Superman trying to remain a “good guy” while also fighting others for no good reason, and Draaka’s PTSD after having been forced to kill so many people for Mongul’s cause. While none of these themes monopolize the short episodes, they are brought up and laid out without being hidden from “young eyes”.

It’s hard not to see similar themes in the politics and the news media these days.

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Soul Eater: Season 2 Episode 6


1280x720-8sz“The Underground Battle Commences – Break Through Medusa’s Vector Arrow?”

With the lead characters off to stop Medusa before she can wake the kishin sleeping under the academy Lord Death, Sid and the rest of the students wait trapped in the academy and Lord Death comes clean about why he started the school, why he never leaves it, and what is beneath it. The other students, not main characters, but not helpless NPCs either, decide to try to find a way to see through the witches’ “Soul Protect” spell so they can defend themselves if another witch tries to hide among them again.

Asura’s story is rather brutal, so at this point it’s more a show for older teens (not that Blaire’s penchant for nakedness isn’t reason enough). Speaking of Blaire, she is also trapped outside of the academy and even she is not unmoved by the destruction the witches are reigning down on Death City.

Personally I really like the dynamic between Stein and his weapon–Maka’s Father, the Death Scythe. They work really well, and are quite powerful, but they also have a mutually abusive relationship going on. It’s odd how they can both be pretty twisted people (Death Scythe is a womanizer with tons of anxiety. Stein’s science brain is missing a big chunk of morals to balance it out.) Not to mention this is the first male-male meister-weapon team so far.

The themes of those two characters mesh well with  the student’s attempts to find their own footing, mentally and physically, against the kishins and the bad guys Crona and Ragnarok, who clearly represent magic completely corrupting a human soul. When moments of silliness are set aside, you see this beautifully disturbing story of people, imperfect people, fighting against corruption for the sake of themselves, and the helpless around them.

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