Ghost Squad

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Halloween freebie

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week is a Halloween freebie meaning you can do any Halloween-related top ten you like. I’ve decided to go for my top ten spooky-ish creatures in books. These can be creatures or animal companions that are evil, helpful, mysterious, mischievous, or combinations of all of the above.

Pocket – The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet
Pocket is sort of a gnome/elf like character and while they might say they’ll help you solve all your problems; they have a high price.

Salome – Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman
Salome is a Mummified cat. Yes, you read that right. They don’t do a lot besides scratching furniture and people and generally being a pain – like a lot of alive cats can be – but I just really like the idea of an undead cat hanging out in an apartment.

Ren – Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
While I didn’t really like the Monstress comic much, I did like Ren. A cat with two tails that has lying and double-crossing down to an artform.

Solembum – Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
Solembum is a werecat so sometimes he looks like an average cat albeit with red eyes, and sometimes he looks like a young boy – even though he’s definitely older than a child.

Bassareus and Horatio – The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen
I’m currently reading this book and nimkilim are talking animals that once were messengers of the Gods but now deliver the post for humans and can appear as any type of animal, it just depends on where they live. In The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy the main nimkilims are a crass rabbit called Bassareus and a posh owl called Horatio.

Lying Cat – Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Cats sure seem to be the go-to for unsettling but sometimes helpful creatures. I love how Lying Cat looks and it sure would be handy to have someone (or something) around that could tell when people were lying – though might be a bit uncomfortable at times.

Baba Yaga – Foxfire, Wolfskin and other Stories of Shapeshifting Women by Sharon Blackie
In Slavic folklore Baba Yaga is a supernatural being who appears as a deformed and/or ferocious-looking woman. There are obviously many different interpretations of Baba Yaga in different works but the most recent version I read was in the short story “Meeting Baba Yaga” in Foxfire, Wolfskin and other Stories of Shapeshifting Women. I just loved the different spin on the character and the fact that the narrator didn’t seem to know/believe she was in the presence of Baba Yaga while the reader does, meaning there’s a sense of unease throughout all of their interactions.

Chunk – Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega
Chunk is mostly a normal tubby tabby but he’s also a witch’s familiar and when ghosts attack, he can become something far larger and more vicious.

Mogget – the Old Kingdom trilogy by Garth Nix
Mogget is like the definitive unearthly animal companion to me. He may look like a white fluffy cat but there’s definitely more than meets the eye with him. I love how he knows so many things because he’s so old and how he’s cryptic with everything.

Disreputable Dog – Lirael by Garth Nix
So Disreputable Dog isn’t as potentially evil/disruptive as some of the others on this list. But she’s definitely not a normal dog, has certain powers and is secretive with them too. The Disreputable Dog definitely falls on the more helpful end of the scale compared to the rest of the characters.

What are some of your favourite spooky/unsettling creatures? Have you read any of these books before? It does amuse me that over half of these creatures are cats – or at least take on the appearance of cats.

REVIEW: Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

Shortly before Halloween, twelve-year-old Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late.

I haven’t read a middle grade or children’s book since I was the intended demographic for such a book, but when I heard about Ghost Squad, I knew I had to check it out and I’m very pleased I did. Yes, the humour is naturally more juvenile than my kind of thing as an adult but there’s still some moments that made me smile to myself and Syd especially had some witty observational one-liners.

I read Ghost Squad in two sittings and it was a great way to spend some time. I got pulled into the story almost immediately and Lucely and Syd’s friendship was so great. I liked both girls a lot and they have a proper ride or die friendship and there’s pretty much nothing they can’t say to one another. I liked that a lot actually, that they weren’t afraid to ask each other tough or potentially personal and uncomfortable questions and the other never getting upset with those questions. Instead, it was a sign of how deep their friendship was as they could be so open with one another even when it was about something that could hurt them.

I really liked how present the adults in Lucely and Syd’s life were. Yes the girls go on a lot of adventures on their own and figure things out together, but it’s nice that when adults are made aware of what’s happening, namely Syd’s grandmother Babette and Lucely’s dad Simon, they’re supportive and help the girls solve the problem. As I said, I haven’t read much middle grade but with YA there’s often a lot of dead, abusive, or emotionally or physically absent parental figures in the main characters lives. This tends to be so the main characters can have their adventure and story without worrying about the pesky adults getting in the way but Ghost Squad shows how your child hero characters can be the heroes of their story but still have love and support from the adults in their lives when they need it.

The ghosts themselves and the monsters they can create were excellent and suitably spooky. The action sequences and the magical items the girls and Babette use to capture and fight the ghosts were fun too. Ghost Squad really captured the sort of childlike wonder of a situation full of ghosts, like the items used to fight ghosts could only be found in a children’s book and it was great.

I found how Ghost Squad delt with death and family really interesting and effective. Lucely can still see pretty much all of her dead family members thanks to their spirits being connected to her home while her dad has lost that power and can only see them as fireflies. So, for Lucely no one is truly dead and gone so when something threatens them, and her grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins start to get almost sick even though they’re already ghosts, it’s a really scary time for her. On the flipside to that, her mother left Lucely and her father and that grief and sadness is there unlike the grief of losing a loved one to death. It’s a really interesting parallel and shows the difference between losing someone due to something out of their control, and losing someone due to their own choices.

I’m really pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Ghost Squad considering middle grade isn’t something I read. I liked the characters, the adventure, the spooky vibes, and that there was a fat cat called Chunk that was more than meets the eye. It’s a fast-paced and fun story that has some depth to it. It’s definitely a book well-suited to Halloween season. 5/5.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Autumn 2022 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. I’m actually really excited about this TBR as this is the first one in years where I don’t have any books for my Read the World Project as I’ve completed it! I still have a couple of reviews to post and am planning to do a wrap-up post as well talking about the project but that book-related chapter of my life is done! I still have two books for the 12 Books from 12 Friends challenge but besides from that I have no more compulsory reads. It’s going to be feel very weird to be a proper mood reader with no restrictions and to read books that feel seasonal and everything.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
This 12 Challenge book is one I don’t think I’d even heard of before it was recommended to me which is half the fun of the challenge. It looks to be a contemporary YA about a teen who’s struggling with his cultural identity and mental health. I don’t read contemporary YA that often so I’m looking forward to seeing what I make of it.

John Dies at the End by David Wong
This 12 Challenge book I had heard of before – I think it’s also a film? – but besides from the title presumably giving away the ending I have no idea what it’s going to be like.

Babel by R.F. Kuang
I have a hunch that this is going to be on a lot of people’s TBRs. I got a very pretty copy from FairyLoot and while I’ve yet to read The Poppy War trilogy (I do have the first book) I’m interested to see what I make of Babel. I also want to read it sooner rather than later as it is so hyped/popular and it’d be nice to be a part of those conversations while they’re at their peak rather than being late to the party as I usually am. Plus, though I’ve heard that generally everyone loves Babel, I know little about the plot so hopefully the general excitement won’t cloud my own judgement much.

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega
I got this book a year ago and I still haven’t read it! I don’t tend to read middle grade at all (probably the last time I read a middle grade book was when I was a child) but I liked the sound of this one especially as it is kind of spooky but I think it’s also about grief.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
I think the sequel is released soon and this is a book I’ve heard a lot of good things about – it’s even my pal Brin’s favourite book of the year. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten properly into a YA fantasy series so maybe this will be the one.

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
I love films about investigative journalism but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about it before. She Said is a non-fiction book by the two New York Times investigative reporters who exposed Harvey Weinstein’s history of abuse and sexual misconduct against women. This’ll no doubt be a tough and uncomfortable read at times but I’m interested to see how these reporters put everything together and got people to trust them enough to go on the record.

Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga
October is Black History Month here in the UK so that’s extra motivation to read this. Over the years I’ve learnt more about Britain and its racism and though I think what I learnt in my history classes wasn’t whitewashed, there’s probably a lot I don’t know. Also, so much news or information on racial injustice that I hear about day to day via social media seems to come from America but there’s still a lot of issues here in the UK that I should be more educated on.

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen
Another book I got via FairyLoot and this one I hadn’t heard before which is always fun. I think it might be a romcom with the undead? Or at least there’s bones on the cover which clashes with the cutesy colour scheme on the cover so that should be interesting.

The Sisters Grimm by Meena van Praag
Pretty sure this has been on a TBR before but now might just be the time I get to it. It’s set where I live and seems to have spooky/autumnal vibes so if perfect for this time of year.

The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
I have heard nothing but good things about this book and the entire trilogy. I have The Bear and The Nightingale in paperback and the other two on my kindle as I got them super cheap, like for 99p each or something and it’d have been stupid not to get them even though I hadn’t read the first book and didn’t know if I liked the story or not. Hopefully I do and then I have the whole trilogy to read.

What books are on your TBR for the end of the year?