Book Review: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Book Review: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Series: Lockwood & Co. (#2)
Shelved: Children’s fiction (fantasy, paranormal – ghosts, mystery, horror)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Challenge: Halloween TBR – #2

I forgot how much I love Lockwood, George and Lucy. They’re one of my favourite trios in children’s fiction at the moment, rivalling the most famous of them all. Each character shines, from Lockwood’s inexplicable ability to act and think both like a teenage boy and an old man, George’s chaotic dedication to researching archives and consuming biscuits, and Lucy’s impressive intelligence and determination to solve even the most dangerous of cases and support her argumentative friends. She’s been working at Lockwood & Co. for a year now – and they’d be lost without her.

The Whispering Skull shares a lot less backstory than The Screaming Staircase because the reader is already familiar with the Problem and different types of ghosts, meaning we’re thrown straight into the mystery. This time, powerful supernatural artefacts across London have been stolen, and their warders brutally murdered. Lockwood & Co. have messed up yet another case and are feeling dejected after their triumph solving the mystery of the screaming staircase. That is, until they are called to investigate serious paranormal activity at Kensal Green Cemetery. A suspicious grave of a Victorian doctor has been discovered and inside it, a mirror made of bones with mysterious powers. It has been stolen in the night and it’s up to Lockwood & Co. to solve the case. They must reluctantly work alongside fellow detectives – the Fittes Agency – with a little healthy (and humiliating) competition. And with help from the mysterious whispering skull, housed in a jar in the Lockwood & Co. residence – one of the strongest characters in the book!

The Whispering Skull is a worthy sequel to The Screaming Staircase. It’s full of mystery, adventure, humour – and lots of ghosts! I loved getting to know the trio even more, especially the reserved Anthony Lockwood. I enjoyed watching Lucy’s crush on Lockwood develop, with tension that rivals young adult contemporary romance! It is such a fun series – with the character interactions being a memorable highlight – and I have heard that the third book, The Hollow Boy, is the best so far. I should probably pick it up soon, yes?

“Well, I make that one murder victim, one police interrogation and one conversation with a ghost,” George said. “Now that’s what I call a busy evening.” Lockwood nodded. “To think some people just watch television.”


Published: September 2014
Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishers (UK) Disney Hyperion (US)
Pages: 496
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

Books On My TBR / Halloween

Book Review: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Book Review: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Series: Lockwood & Co. (#1)
Shelved:
Children’s fiction (fantasy, paranormal – ghosts, mystery, horror)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I just love ghost stories, don’t you? I don’t often read horror, but as I said in last year’s Books for Halloween post: I’ve never really done ‘scary’. I’m all about creepy, spooky and eerie. And Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase is the perfect horror/mystery/fantasy novel for me. Its ghosts create a tense, eerie atmosphere because they are really quite chilling. But it’s not all about the ghosts – The Screaming Staircase has three brilliant teenage characters too: Lucy Carlyle, Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins. I picked up The Screaming Staircase because everyone had raved about it. I cannot resist books that all my friends love – I’m too curious – and thankfully it didn’t disappoint.

The Screaming Staircase begins with Lucy and Anthony in an alternate London, knocking on the door of a house containing a ghost. It’s all part of the Problem that has swept the country. It’s dangerous business – a ghost’s touch can kill you – but as one of the most dedicate ghost detective agencies in London (plus, they need the money), Lockwood & Co. are there to get the job done. I loved being thrown into this recognisable, alternate London. Jonathan Stroud is unafraid to provide the reader with lots of detail: When did the Problem start? What are the different types of ghosts? How do you remove a ghost? It’s believable because Jonathan Stroud has all the answers.

Not only do we learn the history of the Problem, we also head back to when Lucy first met Anthony. I expected to enjoy The Screaming Staircase because of the ghostly mystery, but I cannot imagine it without our three protagonists. Each teenager has a distinctive voice and is incredibly likeable – smart, passionate, funny. They are fantastic characters to spend time with and they make the book what it is, so I appreciated stepping away from the present and finding out how Lucy came to visit London, from discovering what led to her downfall in her previous role to her interview at Lockwood & Co. I could almost feel the cold, ghostly atmosphere while sitting here reading the book in chilly London, imagining the witty banter between the three teenagers, through their triumphant victories and deadly mistakes.

It’s been a month since I finished The Screaming Staircase and even though my memory is foggy, I sat here before I started writing this review, thinking about all the plot points. I definitely feel like the reader goes through a lot with these characters! The Screaming Staircase is not fast-paced and full of action, but it’s never slow or tedious. It’s eventful, but it doesn’t rely on constant action and adventure to keep the reader interested; we love fighting ghosts alongside the trio, but we also snigger at George and Anthony explaining the ‘no more than one biscuit at a time’ rule to Lucy. It’s so wonderfully British and I couldn’t fault it, if it weren’t for the simple reason that we don’t actually come across the haunted house with the screaming staircase for quite a while. As I was reading the eBook, I did worry that I had started with the sequel by accident! But then, I began the book expecting to be instantly thrown into a haunted house and what we get is much more. Of course I’ll be reading the next book!

‘In our experience,’ Lockwood said sweetly, ‘adults just get in the way.’

 

Published: 29th August 2013 (UK) 17th September 2013 (US)
Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishers (UK) Disney Hyperion (US)
Pages: 464
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

Book Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

Book Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

Series: Bloodlines (#4)
Shelved:
Young adult fiction (paranormal – vampires, magic, romance)
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Published: 19th November 2013
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin Books
Pages: 448

The Fiery Heart is the fourth book in the Bloodlines series, so you might not want to continue reading this review if you’ve not read the first book.

Well, I think we all can say that Sydney Sage’s life has well and truly changed. Sydney’s discovered what the Alchemists – who she has trusted her whole life – have been hiding from her. She has accepted defeat and has thrown herself into a serious relationship with Adrian, that is, until her sister Zoe turns up. Sydney Sage is still the smart, cautious, resourceful and witty young girl that we’ve all come to know and love (if you don’t, why are you continuing with this series?!), but she’s opening herself up to new experiences. It’s dangerous, but Sydney knows that if she can discover the secret of the indigo tattoos, she can save people from being turned Strigoi – and change their world as they know it.

The Fiery Heart is the only time we’ve had a perspective from Adrian, but it’s like he’s been here the whole time. We finally get to see how much Sydney means to him – and we finally see the proper romance that Sydney and Adrian shippers have been waiting for. Sydney and Adrian, I think, are both occasionally controversial, but we see that they are genuinely good people who makes mistakes and do not necessary know what’s best for themselves. I think this is why they work – they’re opposites and can see each other’s faults and try to protect each other

I still love the paranormal-contemporary mix that Bloodlines offers. Sydney may be on a caffeine break, but she is struggling to give up anything else in her life. It essentially is a contemporary series – tackling mental illness, privacy and family issues – but occasionally dabbling with magic and vampiric characters. Sydney is being pulled in one direction by Adrian, who just wants to run away with her, and another by her undercover work, attempting to discover the secret behind the indigo tattoos, and in another by her sister, who despises vampires like Sydney used to, and who just wants to spend time with her older sister. (I couldn’t help but intensely dislike and feel sorry Zero at the same time!). The Fiery Heart is another compelling novel in the Bloodlines series – we’ve over halfway through! – and I cannot imagine what will happen in the next installment, Silver Shadows, when it’s published this summer.