Thursday, December 29, 2016

Greetings from Somewhere, Book 6 - The Mystery of the Suspicious Spices

Ethan and Ella Briar return in their sixth globe-trotting adventure, this time in the exotic land of India. In The Mystery of the Suspicious Spices, author Harper Paris takes her mystery-seeking siblings to the markets in Mumbai, where they stumble upon their latest mystery at the spice shop of their grandfather's friend, Deepak Singh.

This story has a bit more "mystery" to it than the previous two books, which makes for a nice change (since this is supposed to be a mystery series for young readers).  It seems that something strange is happening to Deepak's spices - - until just recently, his spices were known throughout the area as being the best there was. Lately, though, customers are returning with complaints that the spices they purchased are not just bad; they are ruining recipes and taste absolutely awful! On a fateful visit to the store, Ethan and Ella witness first hand the unhappy customers, who scare off future customers - - all of whom decide to take their spice-shopping to the new shop, Spice Palace, which just so happens to be owned by Deepak's brother (who was mighty upset when their father left Deepak the family business on his death).

Obviously, any reader over the age of 8 is going to see exactly where this is going (particularly readers of the recent Nancy Drew series, which seems to focus solely on sabotage as the premise for every mystery). I do have to give Paris credit, though - she manages to provide a rather creative mystery, and while older readers will find it somewhat simple, I think it hits the age mark of its intended readers rather nicely. Using color-dyed salt to change-up the spices in order to sabotage Deepak's business was pretty unique, I think, but not something so complicated that children Ethan and Ella's age would never be able to figure out.

Marcos Calo continues to provide his amazing illustrations on if not every page, then at least every other page (although I do admit that I noticed for the first time in this book - perhaps it was like this in previous books and I just didn't pay it any attention - but Ethan and Ella's heads are quite large, and their necks rather lengthy - no one else is drawn this way, so unsure why these two have these characteristics, unless it's simply to make them stand out).

RATING:  7 salty spices out of 10 for giving the young readers a taste of what fun mystery stories can be to read!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Jackaby, the First Novel

"R.F. Jackby Investigative Services.  Assistant Wanted. Must be literate and possess a keen intellect and open mind.  Strong stomach preferred.  Inquire at 926 Augur Lane.  Do not stare at the frog."

The tagline on the back of the book had me hooked. That, and the tagline on the front that compared the book with "Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer." I love a good mystery, and I'm a sucker for the supernatural element, so combine the two, and you can pretty much guarantee I'll give it a try.  I'm certainly glad I did!

I've been extremely fortunate recently with the number of new series I've tried out.  The Lilly Long mysteries.  The Change of Fortune mysteries.  And now the Jackaby mysteries.  Interestingly enough, all three are set in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, leaving me to wonder if perhaps we have become so modern with our technology and ability to find things and learn information about people that a mystery is much better when it is set prior to any of that. Whatever the case, I thoroughly enjoyed Jackaby, and I'd have to add just one thing to the front cover tagline - "Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a bit of Doctor Who thrown in for fun!"

While the title may be Jackaby, the main character is actually Abigail Rook, a young English woman from a well-to-do British family. Only, she is less than satisfied with her mother's desire for her to attend balls and seek out an upper class husband; she would much rather be off with her father on archaeological adventures. The only problem is, while he supports her desire for higher education, he refuses to allow her to join his expeditions. Determined to make her own adventure, Abigail absconds with the funds her parents left her for her higher education and spends a year with a paleontologist, only to find that months and months of digging is not all it's cracked up to be.  With little money left, she sets sail for America and ends up in New Fiddleton, New England.

And that's where her true desires for adventure come true - - only not in any way she could have ever expected.

Jackaby is a quirky, distracted private detective that "sees" things in the world that others don't.  Things that every day men and women would probably not want to see if they could.  At first, Abigail thinks he may be just a bit off his rocker - - but when she follows him to a crime scene and sees how quickly he is able to discern things the police do not...sees how he is able to calm a disturbed witness's complaints of cries that no one else hears...and sees how much he truly cares about helping others with little thought to himself - - well, she knows she has to work for him.

Then, of course, there's the ghost that lives in his house and the duck named Douglas that lives in the pond that is impossibly in the third floor of the house - - a duck who used to be human when he first began working for Jackaby, but who now prefers his life as a duck. And we can't forget Hatun, the seer (of sorts) who lives in the forest outside of town, just on the other side of the bridge, under which lives a troll.

Jackaby is a whirlwind tale that takes its reader on a roller coaster ride from the very first page until the very last.  The reader sometimes feels just as overwhelmed, in awe, and as excited as Abigail does as she learns something new every time she turns around.  Jackaby is an oddity, and like Doctor Who, he seems to do his best when he has a companion (or in this case, an assistant detective) who helps keep him grounded.  Also like Doctor Who, while he never comes right out and says it, he  values his companion (assistant detective) and will do anything to protect them from harm (although sometimes, harm finds them anyway).

The mystery itself in this first novel involves a murderer who kills his victims, rips open their chest and soaks up their blood.  Jackaby quickly discerns that this first murder is not truly the first, but rather the latest in a series of murders in surrounding towns and cities.  The victim was a reporter who happened to discover the link between the murders, so the murderer killed him.  And then kills his neighbor.  And then kills the old woman upstairs (who also happens to be a banshee, but we won't go into that here).  And while Jackaby and Abigail are at first considered suspects, they are soon released when the rather unbelieving, terse inspector of police realizes the only way he's going to catch this killer is by trusting in the most unconventional methods of all - those of R.F. Jackaby.

This is another definite must read for fans of the mystery genre, the supernatural genre, and the "just plain good ol' storytelling" genre!  I can't recommend this book highly enough!

RATING:  10 black leather notebooks out of 10 for a rip-roaring good mystery with a cross-genre tale of murder, supernatural, and suspense!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Star Power - TBP Vol 2 - Star Power and the Search for Black Hole Bill

Last year at DragonCon, I picked up the first volume in the Star Power graphic novel series.  This year at DragonCon, the creators were back and they had volume two of this series out.  Since I enjoyed the first volume so much, it didn't take much arm-twisting for me to pick up this second book.

The Search for Black Hole Bill picks up shortly after the end of the first volume.  Our heroine, Danica Maris (a/k/a Star Power) is unable to call upon the star power any more.  Her friends - Grex, Kaylo, and Shi Lalis - remain by her said, determined to help her figure out how to reboot her star power.  But all hell breaks loose when the space station's prisoner, Black Hole Bill, escapes during a transport to a prison, and the two escorts are gravely injured - one of them being Grex!  Danica finally makes contact with "Mitch" (her name for the star power) and finds the only way to reboot her power is to remain in close proximity to a star for a one-month period.  They find what they feel to be a relatively quiet, backwood star system where they won't be bothered for her recoup period - but unbeknownst to them, Black Hole Bill has teamed up with the vigilante Supernova Dragon Lords, and they are headed to the very same system.  Throw in a void angel bent on revenge and you've got the makings of another big battle brewing!

While the first book was pretty much action from the get-go and non-stop throughout the entire story, Terracciano (author) and Graham (artist) set a different pace in this book. We get to see a lot more character interaction and development as we learn not only more about Danica and her past, but also about the lives of Grex, Kaylo, and Shi Lalis.  Heck, when Grex is attacked and left for dead in the first chapter, I admit to feeling a bit shocked and angry, thinking, "How could they kill her off like that?"  And, as soon as I thought it, I realized how much Terracciano had made me feel for the character that I would even get angry at the thought of her being dead.  That is truly the mark of a great writer (and artist), when he or she can make you feel so passionate about a character that you are reading.

This is not to say there is no action in the book.  Sure, we get the contemplative moments when Danica is recharging near the star and during the times she is trying to communicate with Mitch to reactivate the star power; but, we also get the moments when she and her friends are facing off against Black Hole Bill and the Supernova Dragon Lords.  In fact, the final battle of this book is quite fast-past and action-packed, and it even has its humorous moments with Grex's attempts at revenge on Black Hole Bill for having killed her compatriot.  And Danica learns something surprising (and fortuitous) during the battle that will likely have an impact on future stories.

All-in-all, a very satisfying read, one that will definitely have me coming back for more. Here's hoping they have volume three ready by next DragonCon!

RATING:  10 renzalon junior telescopes out of 10 for breathing more life into these characters and driving them forward, even though the craziness of Black Hole Bill.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Haunted Mystery, Book Four - The Black Heart Crypt

Chris Grabenstein's last foray into the world of Zack Jennings and his haunted mysteries is definitely the best in the series.  The Black Heart Crypt is everything a young adult supernatural mystery should be.  It takes everything that has come before, builds on it story-wise and character-wise, and crafts a fast-moving, page-turning mystery that reveals more about Zack's family and leaves readers feeling utterly satisfied by the end of the tale.

This fourth and final Haunted Mystery finds Zack facing a whole new slew of ghosts, probably the deadliest and most vile villains to date.  It's Halloween, and as everyone knows, the veil between the living and the dead is at its weakest on All Hallow's Eve.  So to be safe, Zack and his friends, Malik and Azalea, plan to attend the festivities in downtown Main Street, figuring Zack will be safest among crowds of living people.

Of course, nothing ever goes quite as planned...

First, Zack's adventure into the local cemetery awakens some long-dead ghosts who are hungry for revenge...

Second, a local young woman who fancies herself a witch falls into an evil trap set by the ghosts to lure one of their descendants to the cemetery...

Third, Zack's three great aunts come to town to help him cope with his newfound "gift" of seeing and communicating with ghosts...

Fourth, Zack's friend, Malik, unwittingly solves a 3-D puzzle that actually breaks the curse that was holding those thirteen ghosts in their crypt in the cemetery...

And that's just the beginning!  This doesn't even include the appearances by his real mother's sister, his grandfather's ghost, a number of the ghosts from the previous three mysteries popping in to say hi, and of course, the very unexpected visit by Zack's deceased mother - you know, the one who hated him and basically blamed him for killing her?  Well, she's back, and Zack fears she may be coming back to seek her own revenge.  You'd think it was enough that the Ickleby clan of ghosts seeking revenge on the Jennings generations for what his three great aunts did to him years ago was enough - but now his mother, too?

All of this, plus Jack the Lantern is back from the dead to wreak havoc on the Connecticut community.  Just how in the world can Zack, his friends, his great aunts, and his step-mom (not to mention Zipper, his dog) put an end to all of these ghouls and save the day?  Well, Grabenstein manages to wrap everything up nicely in the end, although there it is certainly open-ended so if he ever gets the gumption to tell more stories about Zack and his haunting mysteries, the opportunity is there.

Personally, I think there are plenty more stories to's just a matter of getting Grabenstein to write them!

RATING:  10 big black ravens out of 10 for providing some much needed Jennings family history before ending this magnificent series.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Change of Fortune Mystery, Book One - Whispers Beyond the Veil

Lately, I've been taking a chance on some new, period mystery series (such as the first book in the Lilly Long series that I recently read).  Whispers Beyond the Veil, the first book in the new A Change of Fortune Mystery series, is one of those chances.  As with that first Lilly Long book, this book turned out to be a very good choice!

Whispers Beyond the Veil introduces readers to Ruby Proulx (yeah, I have no clue how to say that last name either!), the daughter of a con artist who has picked up a lot of her father's talents for not only conning others, but in reading them and discerning cues from their non-verbal movements.  Ruby is definitely not your typical protagonist.  She is far from innocent, and in fact, the opening chapter shows just how far she has fallen when she follows through with her father's plan for a new scheme, despite that voice inside of her telling her not to do it, and she ends up killing the one man in her father's company of people who actually treats her as a real person.  It is this horrific incident that leads Ruby to seek out her aunt, her deceased mother's sister, and puts her on the path to discovering that the little voice inside of her is more than just a conscience!

Author Jessica Estevao definitely creates a world that draws the reader in, with characters you immediately want to know more about.  When Ruby reaches Old Orchard, Maine, she and readers meet a cast of characters as different and unique as any I've ever seen.  Officer Warren Yancey is an honest police officer in a department that from all appearances has some corruption starting at the top of the chain.  Ruby's Aunt Honoria Belden (and no, she's not related to Trixie - at least, not that I'm aware of!) is a lovable, old woman who has a lot of inner strength and who cherishes family above all else.  The cook and housekeeper at her aunt's inn, Mrs. Doyle, is a stern woman who trusts little but is loyal to Honoria and will do anything for her.  Officer Yancey's sister, Lucille (Lucy), is a free-spirited and determined young woman who has learned to stand up for herself in the absence of both her father and her brother.  There's also the rather questionable police chief, the skittish young maid at the inn, Officer Yancey's widowed mother, and the numerous guests at the Hotel Belden.

Oh, yes, and in case I didn't mention - the Hotel Belden caters to a very specific clientele - those individuals who believe in and practice the various psychic crafts.

The psychic twist to this tale is what really sold me on this book (along with the title).  I love Kay Hooper's Bishop/Special Crimes Unit books, which deal with a whole federal department of psychic investigators.  So, I was looking forward to reading a new series about a psychic who solves crimes.  Unfortunately, Estevao spent more time on Ruby's other talents (namely, the con-artist aspect she learned from her father) than that inner voice that she inherited from her mother's side of the family.  I really would have liked to have seen more of that inner voice, but since this is only the first book, and Ruby is just coming to terms with the fact that the voice is real and she is not crazy, perhaps there will be more of that developing as the series continues.  I supposed that's one of those "we'll have to wait and see" kind of things.

There are definitely some ongoing threads that will be seen throughout this series.  What happened to Officer Yancey when he was away in the military?  How long will Ruby be able to keep the death of Johnny and her part in it a secret?  When will the chief of police be outed for his illegal dealings?  What really happened with Officer Yancey's father when he was in prison?  And just when will Ruby's father show up in Old Orchard (which is bound to happen sooner or later)?  So many questions give rise to so many potential stories, so I hope that this first book does well so that we'll see more in the future (no second book is listed on Amazon yet...)

Otherwise, the mystery is so well-plotted that I found myself going back and forth with my thoughts on who the murderer was, and Estevao was quite cunning herself in how she ultimately revealed it (and who got blamed, or took the blame, for the murders along the way).  A definite recommended book for mystery lovers!

RATING:  9 flickering candles out of 10 for melding a bit of reality into a whole lot of fiction to create a great little mystery with a wonderful new crime-solver!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files - Wild Card

Harry Dresden, Chicago's resident Wizard, is back in an all-new story, written by creator Jim Butcher, with the assistance of Mark Powers.  The characters and story are brought to life with the wonderful art of Carlos Gomez.  Wild Card is a new tale that takes place after the last comic mini-series, Down Town, and before the novel, Small Favor.

As with any Dresden story, poor Harry gets caught up in yet another battle - only this time, nothing is exactly what it seems.  Two girls end up dead, and it appears they were killed by Marcone's forces.  The girls were of the White Court, who wants revenge.  Meanwhile, Marcone thinks the cops have taken out some of his men, so he is looking for payback.  And the Chicago PD has seen one of their own killed and another injured, and they want someone to punish for it.  It's a three-way war that is brewing, ready to do God-only-knows how much damage to the city.  And, as usual, Harry is the only one that can see through all the nonsense to know that someone is setting everyone up.  Who benefits from a total chaos war like this?

While I love seeing Dresden brought to life (I still miss the old Sci-Fi television series), I will admit that I don't necessarily like having my own visuals of these characters taken from me.  Dresden and Murphy aren't really too much off from what I had imagined in my mind; other characters...well, they are nothing like I imagined.  Butters (the coroner), for example.  The glasses are spot on, but I for some reason imagined him as a short, geeky guy with red hair (for the life of me, I can't recall if they ever give his hair color in the books).  Perhaps I've always seen him that way, as I see a lot of myself in him.  And Molly.  Well, I expected Molly to be a lot more "goth" than how she is depicted in the comics.  Then there's Leanansidhe.  Harry's faerie godmother.  She was nothing like I envisioned.  A lot more sexier, a lot more faerie-like, and a lot meaner is what I had always imagined.

Now, Harry's brother Thomas - there's not too many ways you can mess up tall, dark-haired, and sexy.  Gomez got this Adonis pretty much dead-on!

With Butcher's involvement, the characters remain consistent with the books, and the stories build on the books, filling in gaps and providing some great life-threatening, world-endangering battles that further test Harry and his friends.  This time around, we get to see how Harry fares against a demon powerful enough to do damage to his faerie godmother, someone Harry had always thought to be all-powerful and unstoppable.  But this new threat (Puck) turns out to be something entirely new - everything he does, every life he destroys, every destruction he causes - it's all out of boredom.  He simply does it for fun, for something to do.

I have to say, the manner in which Dresden comes up with to put an end to Puck's shenanigans is pretty ingenious and most definitely pure Dresden-style.  It brought a smile to my face, and I cheered inside (just like I do with pretty much every Dresden story when he wins in the end).

Now, when exactly is Butcher going to sit down and write the next Dresden novel????  His website lists the 16th book, Peace Talks, but still no word on its release.  UGH!!!!!

RATING:  10 full houses out of 10 for giving Dresden a true "wild card" of a villain, one that could be a worthy nemesis for our favorite wizard!

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Curious Cat Spy Club, Book 4 - The Secret of the Shadow Bandit

Linda Joy Singleton knows how to tell a good mystery, there can be no doubt about that.  She also knows how to stay consistent with her characters and to have them grow naturally within the stories.  With her fourth Curious Cat Spy Club Nove, Singleton also shows once again that she knows how to maintain relevancy to a current generation of young readers, while at the same time, giving nod to all of us "older" collectors and readers of yester-year.

The Secret of the Shadow Bandit was a wonderful read for so many reasons.  First, the story provides a superb setting: a faux castle with turrets and grand rooms, with a "dungeon" in the basement.  The fact that Kelsey and her family live in the cottage on the grounds of the castle, and her father works as the chef for the man who owns the castle pretty much guarantees a whole host of possible stories in the future!  Second, there are several smaller mysteries that all connect in one way or another to the overall mystery of the missing chess piece - from the coded message in the tree house the kids discover, to the mysterious nature of the unfriendly butler, to the sudden disappearance of the prior inhabitants of the tree house.  Plus, why does the owner of the castle, one Mr. Bragg, the king of resorts, refuse to talk about his family and the former inhabitants of the cottage?  Third, and probably the biggest attraction for a children's series lover like me, are the fun little in-jokes, if you will, and nods to the mysteries of days gone by:

p. 31 - I sigh too, because I'd hoped to find something mysterious.  Unfortunately real life isn't as thrilling as the plots in my mystery books, where an old clock reveals a hidden will, a brassbound chest hides love letters, or a haunted attic holds dazzling jewels.  (Can you spot the Nancy Drew books in that list?)

p. 53 - We're all so different but we've become best friends, I think, smiling to myself.  (who else do we know that were always described as being "so different," yet you'd never know they were cousins?)

p. 126 - "Make a right turn on Melody Lane," Gran Nola says as she hurries to catch up.  (Lilian Garis would be so thrilled to know her books are still remembered today)

And the cover itself - anyone who remembers the early digest books from Simon & Schuster from the Nancy Drew series might see a similarity between the cover to this book and the first cover art for Nancy Drew - The Double Horror of Fenley Place.

The characterization of Kelsey, Leo, and Becca continues to strengthen in this book, and it seems Singleton is getting more and more of a feel for the three of them.  Kelsey, over the course of four books, has become less insecure and more determined.  Becca has learned that that is much more to people than their style and status.  Leo still resembles a younger version of Sheldon (c'mon, don't tell me you don't watch Big Bang Theory?!), but he does something that is very, VERY surprising in this book that has been building over the past book or so (if you noticed the signs).  And while Frankie only gets a brief mention in the book, it is nice to see the regular cast of supporting characters growing and staying in the picture.

And, last but not least, the "Bandit" from the title actually turns out to be a cute little ferret that was left behind by the previous owners of the tree house - a female ferret with a penchant for stealing items to build a nest (leading our spy club members to wonder if perhaps Bandit isn't the one who has been pilfering items from the area).  I'm amazed at how much information there is in this book about animals (such as the fact that ferrets do not survive in the wild, as they are more domesticated animals, and the fact that wild cats have their ears clipped when they are fixed, so that animal control will know they won't be reproducing), and it's great that a book written to entertain can also provide some useful knowledge.

(Just one side note - something I thought was a bit funny is on page 67, it reads "When we start back up the stars, King Bragg pauses..." Clearly, it was meant to say "stairs" and not "stars," but I guess the editor missed that one!)

All in all, another successful mystery for the Curious Cat Spy Club - Singleton can definitely count this as another win for her writing career.  Now, we just have to wait until book five comes out...

RATING:  10 global positioning finders out of 10 for expanding the CCSC's world and continuing to provide mysteries that are fun and engaging!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Virginia Mysteries, Book 4 - Secret of the Staircase

It turns out that this is NOT the final book in the series.  When I initially bought this series of books, there were only four of them, and I had thought that it was a complete set.  So, as I sat down to read the Secret of the Staircase, I was expecting it to give some kind of finale to the adventures of young Sam and his older brother, Derek.  Turns out, though, that author Steven K. Smith was not quite finished with his adventurous duo, as lists a fifth book that has come out, one I have yet to get but will eventually have to do, if for no other reason that to have a complete set (and those who know me, know that I am definitely anal-retentive about having complete sets!  once I start a series, I have to get them all).

As this series progresses, it seems the mystery aspect becomes less and less and the adventure part becomes more and more the focus of the story.  I'd almost have to compare these stories to the Hardy Boys, who always seemed to spend most of their time in their books stumbling through a mystery by having one grand adventure after another.  Sam and Derek seem to be following in their footsteps.

Secret of the Staircase finds the brothers heading to The Jefferson, a famous hotel in Richmond, Virginia.  Smith integrates a considerable amount of true history into the story with regards to the hotel, its founder, the fire that nearly destroyed it back at the turn of the 20th century, and the rather unusual pets that were kept on the premises for many years - alligators!  Even the famous guests that Smith mentions in the book as having stayed in the hotel actually did stay in the real hotel in Richmond.  And Smith's descriptions of the lobby and ballroom are spot-on with the actual image of the hotel today (as can be discerned by taking a quick look at the hotel's website online).

The only real mystery in this book is who is stealing things.  First, Nathan's Gameboy is stolen (and he blames Sam for it), and then the bride and groom's wedding rings are taken from their room.  Could it really be the mysterious alligators that used to reside on the hotel premises?  Or does the hotel have a thief on their hands?  While Derek and Sam, along with Caitlin, never really search for the stolen items, they do stumble upon the secret door under the grand staircase in the ballroom, which leads them on a rather frightening adventure under the city of Richmond, where they come face to face with a most dangerous and unexpected guest!

Ultimately, though, the boys do happen upon the true thief, and the stolen items are returned to their owners.  And while Derek and Sam do end up in trouble once again for their escapades, they (as well as the readers!) do end up soaking up a bit more of Virginia's rich history along the way.

RATING:  7 rusty oil lanterns out of 10 for keeping the history lessons fun, the characters real, and the boys always inquisitive.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

DC Super Hero Girls, Graphic Novel No. 2 - Hits and Myths

Those rambunctious little superhero girls from DC Comics are back in their second graphic novel - Hits and Myths.  I am thoroughly enjoying this whole DC Super Hero Girls line of stuff - cartoons, action figures and dolls, and the comics.  I personally love the fact that DC is not only showcasing their female characters (in an effort to reach out to more of their female audience), but providing them fun, easily accessible stories that are not bogged down with decades of continuity and history and are not all dark and gritty.  The stories are light-hearted, there's always humor here and there, and somewhere along the way, there's a bit of a moral to be found as well.  In a lot of ways, these stories remind me a lot of the old Super Friends comics and cartoons.

Writer Shea Fontana and artist Yancey Labat are back, and this time, they are giving the super hero girls a bit of history in mythology, as well as demonology!  Everyone's favorite rhyming demon, Etrigan, is the school's poetry teacher, and Wonder Woman is having a difficult time finding an opportunity to read the assigned story, The Odyssey.  But when a surprise birthday party for Etrigan causes a rather surprising reaction, the girls have to put on hold their plans for a sleep-over on Paradise Island and find their missing teacher!

Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Katana, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Bumblebee, Miss Martian, and Hawkgirl are all back, along with Flash and Beast Boy (and for me, the fun is always looking at the backgrounds in each and every panel to see what other little cameos Fontana and Labat throw in for good measure - from Blue Beetle to Killer Frost to Hawk and Dove to Elasti-Girl, and even a poster of my personal favorite, Captain Carrot!).  And there's a battle of the bands that brings together some rather odd, but honestly very fitting, combination of characters to see who can be the best band and win Batgirl's Batplane (which is another subplot within the tale).

Ultimately, the gang heads to the underworld and faces off against Trigon (and meets Raven, his daughter) in order to rescue their beloved teacher.  And along the way, Miss Martian has to face her fear of fire and shyness in order to save the day and free all of her friends who were captured by Trigon and his minions.

All in all, a very satisfying and enjoyable read - this is definitely one comic / graphic novel series that I would recommend to any and all comic fans, regardless of age.  Wonder when the third graphic novel will be solicited...

RATING:  10 keys to the invisible jet out of 10 for proving that comics can be fun and for everyone!  A definite, solid hit!