Genre: Ghosties

Ominous October – The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud

October 5, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2017, YA 6 Comments

Ominous October – The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan StroudThe Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #5
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 12th 2017
Pages: 448
Genres: Horror, Ghosties
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Also by this author: The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy

five-stars

After the dramatic events of The Creeping Shadow, the Lockwood team (plus Quill Kipps) deserve some well-earned rest.

So naturally they break into the Fittes Mausoleum, on a perilous mission to discover the truth about London's top ghost-hunting agency, and its sinister leader.

What they discover will change everything.

But there's little time to ponder. A near-miss at a haunted fairground is only the start - as the Fittes agency closes in on the team, an epic struggle commences.

With the help of some unexpected, and rather ghostly, allies, Lockwood & Co must battle their greatest enemy yet, as they move ever closer to the moment when the earth-shattering secret of 'the problem' will finally be revealed.

Jonathan Stroud once again delivers a rousing adventure full of danger, laughs, twists, and frights. The revelations will send readers back to Book 1 to start the series all over again.

Lockwood & Co. Series

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase|Review]
The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase|Review]
The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase|Review]
The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase|Review]

“It was a time of beginnings, and a time of endings.”

After the events of The Creeping Shadow, the group set off to prove the Skull’s story right: that Marissa Fitts hasn’t actually been laid to rest and she’s been posing as her granddaughter Penelope for years. As the title implies, they do indeed find an empty grave. How Marissa could possibly remain alive and looking as young as she does remains a mystery. The mystery of the empty grave isn’t the only thing occupying their time though. They’re battling the Fitts agency to remain in business when Marissa announces that all small agencies will be absorbed into one and they must also deal with a fairground haunted by La Belle Dame Sans Merci (The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy) who psychically enchain her victims after alluring them with her beauty. Never a dull moment with Lockwood & Co.

“We’ve worked wonders to get here, and we won’t panic now. If we’re right, there won’t be anything to worry about. If we’re wrong, we deal with it, as we always do. […] But we won’t be wrong. We’re on the verge of something big here. It’s going to be good!”

Kipps adjusted his goggles dolefully. “Since when has anything good happened in a crypt? It’s going to be bad by definition.”

It seems rare that a series possesses such a fantastic story in addition to a brilliant cast of characters. It always makes me cringe when books are constantly being compared to Harry Potter, but the friendship dynamic in Lockwood & Co. is certainly comparable. Of course, it also has that Ghostbusters/X-Files angle that sets it apart. Lockwood himself is quite the complex character with a growing death wish that comes to a peak in this final story. His dark backstory gets dealt out in small servings involving a sister that was ghost-touched at a young age and parents that both died under mysterious circumstances. We see all this through the eyes of Lucy and while the two have been developing an almost reluctant romance since the start of the series, it deserves mention that it never overwhelms the story itself or any of the supporting characters. I originally picked this series up because of my love for a good ghost story and while I’m not often scared by them these days, Stroud still manages to include lines that’ll leave tingles down your spine.

“Her jagged mouth opened in welcome; she was like a deep-sea fish swallowing her prey. As she hugged him close, blue veins of ice ran swiftly down his skin. [Name omitted] limbs jerked and thrashed; he tried to speak, but could only make a gargling sound as he was drawn back into the dark.”

Being that this is the series finale, there’s always the issue with wrapping up all loose ends. What happened to Lockwood’s parents? What caused the rampant increase in hauntings in recent years? How has Marissa Fitts managed to retain her youth for so long? Who is the skull in the jar and what will become of him? And of course, what will become of Lockwood & Co.? I’m notoriously displeased with the majority of series endings but I’m so relieved that this wasn’t the case with The Empty Grave since I’ve been a diehard fan from the very beginning. It retained the perfect balance of creepy and humor (with help in that department from Skull) and resolved unanswered questions without giving it that “and they all lived happily ever after” type of ending that I so dislike. I started Ominous October back in 2014 and The Screaming Staircase was one of the first books I posted about. It’s always heartbreaking to see an amazing story come to an end but I was so pleased to see these fantastic characters get the story they deserve. Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and even Kipps… but I’ll still miss Skull the most.

“These spirits are a bit showy,” the skull said. “All that hooting and cackling. You don’t see me doing that. I ask you, where’s the class?”

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Waiting on Wednesday – The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) by Jonathan Stroud

May 18, 2016 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 2 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) by Jonathan StroudThe Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #4
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 13th 2016
Pages: 464
Genres: Ghosties, Horror
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy

After leaving Lockwood & Co. at the end of The Hollow Boy, Lucy is a freelance operative, hiring herself out to agencies that value her ever-improving skills. One day she is pleasantly surprised by a visit from Lockwood, who tells her he needs a good Listener for a tough assignment. Penelope Fittes, the leader of the giant Fittes Agency wants them--and only them--to locate and remove the Source for the legendary Brixton Cannibal. They succeed in their very dangerous task, but tensions remain high between Lucy and the other agents. Even the skull in the jar talks to her like a jilted lover. What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving Steve Rotwell and Penelope Fittes just may do the trick. But, in a shocking cliffhanger ending, the team learns that someone has been manipulating them all along. . . .

About Jonathan Stroud

Jonathan Anthony Stroud is an author of fantasy books, mainly for children and youths.

Jonathan grew up in St Albans where he enjoyed reading books, drawing pictures, and writing stories. Between the ages seven and nine he was often ill, so he spent most of his days in the hospital or in his bed at home. To escape boredom he would occupy himself with books and stories. After he completed his studies of English literature at the University of York, he worked in London as an editor for the Walker Books store. He worked with different types of books there and this soon led to the writing of his own books. During the 1990s, he started publishing his own works and quickly gained success.

Jonathan is the author of the bestselling Bartimaeus Trilogy as well as Lockwood & Co. from Disney-Hyperion.

It’s rare that I’m able to keep up with series releases these days but these books are so damn good that I’m willing to drop everything when a new one comes out. The summary kills me though. ANOTHER cliffhanger?! Stroud, come on man. You’re killing me.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Ominous October – The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3) by Jonathan Stroud

October 29, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2015, YA 5 Comments

Ominous October – The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3) by Jonathan StroudThe Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #3
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 15th 2015
Pages: 385
Genres: Ghosties, Horror
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Goodreads

Also by this author: The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Creeping Shadow

four-stars

As a massive outbreak of supernatural Visitors baffles Scotland Yard and causes protests throughout London, Lockwood & Co. continue to demonstrate their effectiveness in exterminating spirits. Anthony Lockwood is dashing, George insightful, and Lucy dynamic, while the skull in the jar utters sardonic advice from the sidelines. There is a new spirit of openness in the team now that Lockwood has shared some of his childhood secrets, and Lucy is feeling more and more as if her true home is at Portland Row. It comes as a great shock, then, when Lockwood and George introduce her to an annoyingly perky and hyper-efficient new assistant, Holly Munro.

Meanwhile, there are reports of many new hauntings, including a house where bloody footprints are appearing, and a department store full of strange sounds and shadowy figures. But ghosts seem to be the least of Lockwood & Co.'s concerns when assassins attack during a carnival in the center of the city. Can the team get past their personal issues to save the day on all fronts, or will bad feelings attract yet more trouble?

Danger abounds, tensions escalate, and new loyalties form in this third delightfully terrifying adventure in the critically acclaimed Lockwood & Co. series.

Lockwood & Co. Series

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud [PurchaseReview]
The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase Review]


The trio are at the top of their game and their camaraderie has never been better, so it comes as quite a disappointment when Lucy arrives home one day to find the boys have added a new member to the team: Holly Munro. On top of dealing with the new member of the team, Lucy is struggling to come to terms with her developing powers of being able to communicate with spirits and is torn between the desire to investigate them more and in keeping herself and her team safe. In addition to all that’s going on with the group, a recent surge of supernatural activity has all the psychic agencies in London joining together in the fight, including Lockwood & Co.

My adoration for this fantastic series continues and I dread the day when the trio grows up and subsequently loses their ghost hunting abilities. The Hollow Boy is once again another solid installment that continues some fantastic character building and even adds a new character to the mix. I’ve seen a lot of readers express displeasure in Lucy’s attitude towards Holly, calling her catty and petty, and while I also originally felt disappointed in the immediate girl-hate, I could also understand it. Lucy is upset at the immediate change the house undergoes with Holly’s presence as well as the immediate closeness Lockwood shows her. She’s understandably jealous which quickly puts the brakes on any closeness the two girls could share. Jealousy, while hard to control, is alas a fact of life. Holly’s presence managed to throw a proverbial wrench in the comfort and familiarity Lucy was just beginning to feel and I don’t think it was unreasonable for her immediate response not to be “Hi, you’re a girl and I’m a girl! We’re going to be the best of friends.” It is what it is and I don’t like Lucy any less because of it.

The aspect of these novels that has been most satisfying is just how creepy they can be. Stroud’s writing is on point and because the entire novel isn’t a creep-fest the sections that do terrify really sneak up on you making them all the more effective. The descriptive detailing is enough to sufficiently get under your skin. Here’s just a taste of what I’m talking about:

‘I watched that notch of darkness.
I watched as something moved into it.
It came from the right-hand side beyond the arch, a human figure crawling on all fours. Scarcely blacker than the blackness all around, it dragged itself along on knees and elbows with a series of slow, slow, jerking movements. Now and again it advanced in swift scuttles, as a hunting spider might…’

I think it’s quite possible the word scuttle makes anything terrifying. Nothing should scuttle. *shudders*

This series is quite the underrated gem possessing a fantastic set of characters (plus a talking skull that adds a layer of comedy to this haunted tale), an intriguing alternate reality of sorts, and a subtle horror that is woven throughout the story. The ending sets up much anticipation for the next installment and I for one will be eagerly awaiting it.

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Ominous October – Welcome to Dead House (Goosebumps #1) by R.L. Stine

October 23, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2015, YA 4 Comments

Ominous October – Welcome to Dead House (Goosebumps #1) by R.L. StineWelcome to Dead House by R.L. Stine
Series: Goosebumps #1
Published by Scholastic on July 1992
Pages: 123
Genres: Ghosties, Horror
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Party Games: A Fear Street Novel

three-stars

Enter at your own Risk: The first ever Goosebumps.
Now with creepy bonus features!

11-year-old Josh and 12-year-old Amanda just moved into the oldest and weirdest house on the block--the two siblings think it might even be haunted! But of course, their parents don't believe them. You'll get used to it, they say. Go out and make some new friends.
But the creepy kids are not like anyone Josh and Amanda have ever met before. And when they take a shortcut through the cemetery one night, Josh and Amanda learn why.

Guess what time it is, guys? Time for a walk down memory lane. It’s October so naturally I’ve been immersing myself in all things scary and one night I was reminiscing about where my love of horror began and I started thinking about revisiting Goosebumps. Well, it happened. First off, do you realize the first Goosebumps came out in 1992?

No, it was not, thus making me feel officially fucking ancient I’ll tell you what. I love the idea of re-reading my childhood favorites, but what happens if its horrible? Your entire childhood becomes a lie, that’s what. But I had to take a chance, even though I took a chance on Stine last Ominous October and it didn’t exactly pay off so instead of reading his newer stuff I decided to go back to the very beginning. And you know what? It wasn’t bad at all.

“It’s really dead around here, huh?”
He chuckled. “Yeah. I guess you could say that.”

Welcome to Dead House is the very first in the original Goosebumps series (I don’t care what Amazon says trying to list this as #13 and Night of the Living Dummy as #1). It has all the makings of what scared me the most as a child and what still manages to freak me out still to this day: ghosts and things that go bump in the night. Josh and Amanda have just moved to a new town after their father received an old house from the will of a great-Uncle he never even knew existed. It’s a dark, creepy, and cold house but it’s huge and is a fantastic opportunity for their family. The kids aren’t sold. Amanda is constantly seeing things but keeps convincing herself that her mind is playing tricks on her. Her curtains move as if caught in a breeze even with the window closed and she hears footsteps in the hallway at night. But all of that is just her imagination running wild, right?

I can’t recall how long it took me to read these when I was a kid, but I ended up finishing this in a single night. It’s more of a novella for the mature reader, but it was certainly fun. While it didn’t exactly give me goosebumps because I’ve certainly read far scarier at this point in my life, it still managed to put a smile on my face taking that walk down memory lane and seeing once again what I loved so much about these when I was a kid.

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Classic Curiosity – The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

June 27, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Read in 2015 4 Comments

Classic Curiosity – The Turn of the Screw by Henry JamesThe Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Published by Penguin Classics on October 13th 1898
Pages: 96
Genres: Classics, Ghosties, Gothic, Horror
Format: eBook
Source: Freebie
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three-stars

A chilling ghost story, wrought with tantalising ambiguity, Henry James's The Turn of the Screw is edited with an introduction and notes by David Bromwich in Penguin Classics. In what Henry James called a 'trap for the unwary', The Turn of the Screw tells of a nameless young governess sent to a country house to take charge of two orphans, Miles and Flora. Unsettled by a dark foreboding of menace within the house, she soon comes to believe that something malevolent is stalking the children in her care. But is the threat to her young charges really a malign and ghostly presence or something else entirely? The Turn of the Screw is James's great masterpiece of haunting atmosphere and unbearable tension and has influenced subsequent ghost stories and films such as The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr, and The Others, starring Nicole Kidman.

“No, no—there are depths, depths! The more I go over it, the more I see in it, and the more I see in it, the more I fear. I don’t know what I don’t see—what I don’t fear!”

Being a fan of horror novels and especially ghost stories, I’ve been eager to make my way to more of the classics so as to see for myself where horror originated. The Turn of the Screw is one those, featuring two children who appear to be consorting with ghosts and a governess who’s sole purpose in life has become to save the children from these evil spiritual entities. Intriguing, but the incredible dense writing really killed this for me despite its short length.

“Here at present I felt afresh—for I had felt it again and again—how my equilibrium depended on the success of my rigid will, the will to shut my eyes as tight as possible to the truth that what I had to deal with was, revoltingly, against nature. I could only get on at all by taking “nature” into my confidence and my account, by treating my monstrous ordeal as a push in a direction unusual, of course, and unpleasant, but demanding, after all, for a fair front, only another turn of the screw of ordinary human virtue.”

Interestingly enough though, upon reflection, I realized that it’s more impressive novel than I originally thought. The story is less straightforward than it would appear, where the children may or may not be seeing ghosts and the governess may or may not be going mad. Were the children lying all along about not being able to see the ghosts? If they were, did that in effect push the governess over the edge, believing herself to be seeing something and then being told that no one else sees it but her? That would be enough to twist anyone’s mind. But if the children were being honest all along, the governess was, in fact, the only horror the children were witnessing.

“I was a screen– I was their protector. The more I saw, the less they would.”

Considering that our narrator is, in fact, the governess, working with an unreliable narrator leaves the reader in charge of separating fact from fiction. And James’ continued ambiguity to the very end of this short tale subsequently leaves it up to the reader to decide what was truly happening all along. I’m a bit on the fence myself, believing that both circumstances are believably terrifying and equally likely.

classic curiosity
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Early Review – The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

March 13, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 5 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren SumaThe Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on March 24th 2015
Pages: 336
Genres: Ghosties, Magical Realism
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Imaginary Girls

four-half-stars

“Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices--one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.

We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture--which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.

Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other.

‘She was coming. She was the next thing to come, after the locks. Once she was here, everything would go wrong. Of that I felt certain.’

Amber is an inmate at Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center who hasn’t seen freedom since the age of thirteen when she was arrested for murder. One night, much like all the rest, something changed though and all the doors of the prison were open and the girls that resided there briefly tasted a freedom that they never thought they’d witness again. Violet is a successful ballet dancer headed to New York City to attend Juilliard. Her story involves her best friend Ori and how after one life altering afternoon, Ori was taken away to Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center. Violet, Amber, and Ori are all linked together, intricately, with isolated secrets just waiting to be revealed.

The Walls Around Us is told in alternating points of view by two unreliable narrators: Amber and Violet. Amber is a convicted murderer yet her story of how she got to where she convinces us to see past straight black and white and to the gray that exists in-between. The amount of time she’s spent behind bars has caused her to lose her individuality, taking comfort in seeing herself as a piece of the consolidated unit of girls that share her fate. Violet is a pretentious prima donna; the narcissistic rich girl. Rather than feeling upset over the loss of her best friend three years past she only sees her flawed history with Ori as something that may pose as a deterrent on the road to her pristine future. The voices are vastly different and easy to keep separate, however, the stories of both girls seem they couldn’t possibly fit together. Keeping the facts straight as well as the intersecting timelines that occur can be trying, but the payoff is incredible. This is only my second Nova Ren Suma story and I must say that her stories are something remarkable. She writes characters with such conviction that you quickly lose yourself in classifications of ‘fiction’.

What was most incredible about this book was the realistic view of juvenile delinquency and the discrepancies in the criminal justice system. The harsh reality of discrimination was never more evident when one suspect is immediately excused of guilt while the multi-racial friend is immediately accused without much question. While it would be easy to remain focused on the horrible situation of the innocent victim, I found myself focused on the atrocious sort of person that could stand back and watch a friend be accused of a crime they weren’t responsible for. It should come as no surprise that a story as haunting as this could credibly pull off shades of the supernatural as well. The line between fantasy and reality is muddied turning this story of juvenile delinquency into an eerie story of guilt and innocence. Beautifully written, completely enthralling… I can’t seem to find the words to do this one justice. It’s definitely a must-read.

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Early Review – Shutter by Courtney Alameda

January 30, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 2 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Shutter by Courtney AlamedaShutter by Courtney Alameda
Published by Feiwel & Friends on February 3rd 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Ghosties, Horror, Paranormal
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
Goodreads


three-half-stars

Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat -- a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She's aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera's technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn't exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she's faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

“Hand for a hand, and tooth for a tooth – 
Chain down the souls of Abraham’s youth.
Eye for an eye, and life for a life – 
Down stabs vengeance, swift as a knife.”

Shutter brings to life a world where the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage continue the family tradition of battling the supernatural. Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat, someone that possesses the ability to see the ghostlight of the undead. Being able to see them allows her to use modified analog SLR camera to capture the ghostly energy with each flash. Most ghosts could be captured by this method with a couple of photographs, however, their latest assignment refuses to go down so easy. When it infects Micheline and each member of her team with a Soulchain, finding out how to destroy it is more imperative than ever after they learn they have a mere 7 days before the Soulchains take their lives.

Alameda has created a most impressive world in her debut novel. The concept is an amalgamation of Ghostbusters and the video game Fatal Frame with the historical fiction addition of the Helsing and Stoker families that allied in the late 1800s to defeat Dracula. It would have been easy for this combination to go wrong but Alameda makes it all seem quite ideal. The concept behind Micheline’s weapon was impeccably detailed backed by an immense amount of obvious research. It was all fully fleshed out and inevitably sounded completely logical, however it reached a point where I found myself getting lost in the details. Normally I would say that too much detail vs. not enough would be preferable but that wasn’t the case here. An explanation that was spread throughout the story would have been more desirable than the near info-dump in the books beginning. There was a point where so much time was spent on the detailing that I lost focus on the story itself and actually put the book on hold only to come back to it later.

Being a huge fan of horror novels I had some high expectations going in (but mostly because, holy crap that cover.) Alas, I was, for the most part, left disappointed. Although the proper elements were all in place and excellent use of description was used effectively, it didn’t ever truly frighten me. Nonetheless, this was still an action packed page-turner even if the mystery itself was easily foreseeable. Two things I did not foresee: 1. the inclusion of a Romeo & Juliet style romance (“My father’s rules kept us imprisoned in adjacent cells; we were able to reach through the bars, but we couldn’t ever by truly, madly, inseparably together.”) and 2. it’s fairly clear that this is the start of a new series. I’m not absolutely certain, but there were enough loose ends left that could definitely lead to the continuation of this tale. I can’t say I’m against this idea though. I think with all the world-building details out of the way this could be a solid supernatural series that I would definitely be willing to pick up again.

Mild on horror, mild on romance but definitely an entertaining thrill ride of a story.

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Ominous October – MARY: The Summoning (Bloody Mary #1) by Hillary Monahan

October 23, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2014, YA 5 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Ominous October – MARY: The Summoning (Bloody Mary #1) by Hillary MonahanMARY: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan
Series: Bloody Mary #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 2nd 2014
Pages: 256
Genres: Ghosties, Horror, Mystery
Format: Hardcover
Source: the Publisher
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
Goodreads


three-half-stars

There is a right way and a wrong way to summon her.

Jess had done the research. Success requires precision: a dark room, a mirror, a candle, salt, and four teenage girls. Each of them--Jess, Shauna, Kitty, and Anna--must link hands, follow the rules . . . and never let go.

A thrilling fear spins around the room the first time Jess calls her name: "Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. BLOODY MARY." A ripple of terror follows when a shadowy silhouette emerges through the fog, a specter trapped behind the mirror.

Once is not enough, though--at least not for Jess. Mary is called again. And again. But when their summoning circle is broken, Bloody Mary slips through the glass with a taste for revenge on her lips. As the girls struggle to escape Mary's wrath, loyalties are questioned, friendships are torn apart, and lives are forever altered.

A haunting trail of clues leads Shauna on a desperate search to uncover the legacy of Mary Worth. What she finds will change everything, but will it be enough to stop Mary--and Jess--before it's too late?

‘Mary moved fast. One moment she was distant, the next her hands smacked against the mirror. Her fingers flexed, and then the clawing began, a shrieking squeal of razors cutting across glass. I jerked back, forcing myself to maintain the handhold. There’d been no noise during the last summoning. Now, the sound was undeniable.’

When Jess uncovers the secret to properly summoning Bloody Mary, she convinces her three friends Shauna, Kitty and Anna to join her to see if it will indeed work. The candle is lit, the salt is poured beneath the base of the mirror, hands are linked and her name is called three times. None except Jess expected her to actually appear, but she does. Being unable to see her clearly during the first summoning, Jess convinces the girls once more but makes slight modifications to the ritual beforehand. When the girls bound hands are broken mid-ritual, Mary has an instance of freedom and marks Shauna’s back with her razor sharp claws. Mary is no longer bound by the mirror and appears in any and all shiny surfaces, eager to drag Shauna in with her. The girls must uncover the story of Mary’s life before she began haunting and murdering anyone who dared called her name before a mirror.

‘Mary’s face tore through the mirror, twisting and writhing feet away from me. Her jaw snapped like a rabid dog’s, a string of green saliva hanging from her maw like she hungered for flesh.’

MARY: The Summoning manages to draw up memories of my teenage years when sleepovers consisted of horror movies, Ouija boards and attempts to summon Bloody Mary in the bathroom mirror. Fortunately, those summoning’s never quite panned out since my friends and I were not aware of the salt trick. The creep level of MARY is fathomless and only gets worse as the book progresses, but it never fully frightened me. Maybe I’m desensitized to scary due to too many horror novels or maybe I’m just older and know better not to go say Bloody Mary’s name in a bathroom three times so I have nothing to truly fear. What was definitely on par though were the incredibly detailed descriptions of Mary and her gruesomeness that will definitely give you the heebie-jeebies.

‘She was more spider than ghoul right now, one of her elbows bent in instead of out, her feet flat to the ground so she scurried instead of walked. Her back was arched too low. Her head dangled at an unnatural angle while her white serpent tongue thrust out from between her lips, licking our scent in the air.’

Aside from the typical cheesy horror film antics of four teenage girls being complete morons trying to summon serial killer ghosts, a fascinating aspect of MARY was the details that were uncovered about the time when Mary was still alive and kicking. The book is interspersed with actual letters from Mary Worth to her sister Constance detailing her day to day life between 1863 and 1864 when she died at the age of seventeen. The letters paint a horrific picture of her life before she died and certainly makes sense when she considers her current existence. There were still many questions to be answered, the full story is still largely unknown, and will hopefully be explored much more in the next installment. I’m hoping for additional character development in the next installment as well. The girls all felt very stereotypical, just acting out their requisite parts as being there just to be haunted by Mary, and their history is only briefly explored. Jess definitely garnered the most interest from me and I’m intrigued to learn more about how the author chooses to portray her motivation behind the obvious obsession with Blood Mary.

MARY: The Summoning is perfect for fans of supernatural horror stories that will thrill you but not leave you completely terrified. But you might not look at mirrors the same for a while.

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Ominous October – The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud

October 16, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2014, YA 2 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Ominous October – The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. #2) by Jonathan StroudThe Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #2
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 16th 2014
Pages: 448
Genres: Ghosties, Horror
Format: Hardcover
Source: the Publisher
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Screaming Staircase, The Hollow Boy, The Creeping Shadow

four-stars

In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn't made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood's investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper.

Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George's curiosity attracts a horrible phantom.

Back home at Portland Row, Lockwood accuses George of making too many careless mistakes. Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in the ghost jar. Then the team is summoned to DEPRAC headquarters. Kipps is there too, much to Lockwood's annoyance. Bickerstaff's coffin was raided and a strange glass object buried with the corpse has vanished. Inspector Barnes believes the relic to be highly dangerous, and he wants it found.

The author of the blockbuster Bartimaeus series delivers another amusing, chilling, and ingeniously plotted entry in the critically acclaimed Lockwood & Co. series.

Lockwood & Co. Series

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The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud {PurchaseMy Review}

 

“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.”

Lockwood, Lucy, and George are back and at it again, diving straight into another perilous assignment this time involving the most dangerous Visitor they have yet to go up against. After a recent job goes awry and the recently excavated burial site has been looted, including a most peculiar bone mirror, Scotland Yard hires the trio to track down the object as it seems to leave nothing but death in its wake. In addition to that adventure, the strange skull in the corpse jar is talking to Lucy much more frequently and he seems to actually be of some help with their latest case, but whether he can actually be trusted is the real question.

‘There are other things in the house to fear, besides me.’

The skull’s communications with Lucy added a strange and mysterious side story to The Whispering Skull since this skull seems to know a bit about the secretive door that Lockwood has forbidden everyone from entering. It arouses her curiosity and she has enough on her mind as it is and can’t afford to be distracted. This case involving the bone mirror is far more intricate than any of them seem to think, and will involve many close calls before the final page is turned. I’m constantly enthralled with the cases of Lockwood & Co. and this one was no exception. Not quite as scary as I found their Screaming Staircase case to be, but it was certainly no less engrossing and was actually quite a bit more fascinating.

​​‘And a quick word of advice. No cheap comments at her expense. She’s easily offended and would probably disembowel you.’
‘Story of my life,’ George said.

Once again though, I find myself completely smitten with this cast of characters. The stories themselves are phenomenal and will no doubt keep you entertained, but Lockwood, Lucy, and George are characters you will wish could come to life and befriend you. The Whispering Skull succeeded in expanding our knowledge of the group and leading to tremendous growth in the characters themselves. The new addition to the trio was a surprising new favorite, but you can never go wrong with a hilariously snarky character even if he is a skull trapped in a jar. The skull had his malicious moments and certainly complicated things occasionally but really added a welcome level of hilarity to the story. I’m hoping we continue to see him in future installments.

Such fun and entertaining stories, I look forward to more tales of the group’s thrilling adventures and hope they take their time growing up. It will be devastating when they are forced to retire from ghost hunting. Once again, I must highly recommend this undervalued series that is perfect for all ages and for fans of mysteries, ghost stories and anything Victorian.

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Ominous October – The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud

October 7, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2014, YA 8 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Ominous October – The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan StroudThe Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on August 29th 2013
Pages: 416
Genres: Ghosties, Horror, Paranormal
Format: Paperback
Source: the Publisher
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy, The Creeping Shadow

four-half-stars

A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren't exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see-and eradicate-these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business.

In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall's legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day?

Readers who enjoyed the action, suspense, and humor in Jonathan Stroud's internationally best-selling Bartimaeus books will be delighted to find the same ingredients, combined with deliciously creepy scares, in his thrilling and chilling Lockwood & Co. series.

“My view is: with you and George on my team, nothing can stand in our way.” […]
“Thank you,” I said. “I hope so too.”
​Lockwood laughed. “There’s no ‘hope’ about it. With our combined talents, what can possibly go wrong?”​

Lockwood, Lucy, and George are a talented team of psychic investigators living in an alternative type of London where the young carry rapiers and hunt ghosts, otherwise known as ‘Visitors’ for a living. With their combined talents nothing should go wrong, but as that wouldn’t be any kind of fun, things do go terribly, terribly wrong. The bottom line: they’re in debt after their client sues them because the team unintentionally burned down her house after they tried to rid it of its ghostly inhabitant. This debt must be paid in a timely manner or they risk losing everything, including the disbandment of “Lockwood and Co.” When a dangerously risky but lucrative job falls into their lap, they immediately accept not stopping to consider the dangers.

This series introduction is basically Ghostbusters if they were teenagers and if Dan Akroyd’s part was played by a girl. Or if Harry Potter and the gang were ghost hunters. In other words, the whole dynamic of this story and its characters is off the charts wonderful and is easily one of my favorite reads of the year. The world this group lives in is one where the young start their careers early since the side effect of aging is also losing any psychic ability they possessed when they were young. Their work is forever perilous and in addition to their rapiers, they carry other basic forms of protection: salt, iron, and silver. Salt bombs and magnesium flares are often useful as well. It’s an easily imaginable world where the dead never quite stay dead.

The Screaming Staircase is told from the point of Lucy, the newest member of Lockwood & Co. She possesses an unusually heightened sense of hearing when it comes to Visitors and comes to London hoping to join an agency where she can put her skills to good use which is how she ends up employed at Lockwood & Co. Lucy is a headstrong girl that believes in her talents but is never boastful about them, Lockwood is a charismatic leader that is often rash and fails to contemplate situations before diving into danger and George is the often grumpy and moody but skillful researcher of the group. An affinity is quickly formed between the three despite all odds and the fact that they live and work together.

What was most enjoyable about The Screaming Staircase was how smart and well-refined it was written. The world was built up sufficiently and without any sort of info-dump, the characters were given an adequate amount of back story to keep the reader interested while still leaving us with questions and the subsequent answers to look forward to and the level of eerie was completely on point. This ended up being the perfect combination of entertaining and haunting and the mystery even kept me guessing. A most impressive first installment in a brand new series from Stroud, I will not only be picking up the next installment (okay, to be honest, I’m actually already reading it) but I’m now anxious to pick up his Bartimaeus series as well. Highly recommended for readers of all ages that like their mysteries just a bit eerie.

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