Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Waiting on Wednesday – The Burning Maze (The Trials of Apollo #3) by Rick Riordan

Posted March 14, 2018 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 4 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The Burning Maze (The Trials of Apollo #3) by Rick RiordanThe Burning Maze by Rick Riordan
on May 1st 2018
Pages: 448
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: The Son of Neptune

The formerly glorious god Apollo, cast down to earth in punishment by Zeus, is now an awkward mortal teenager named Lester Papadopoulos. In order to regain his place on Mount Olympus, Lester must restore five Oracles that have gone dark. But he has to achieve this impossible task without having any godly powers and while being duty-bound to a confounding young daughter of Demeter named Meg. Thanks a lot, Dad.

With the help of some demigod friends, Lester managed to survive his first two trials, one at Camp Half-Blood, and one in Indianapolis, where Meg received the Dark Prophecy. The words she uttered while seated on the Throne of Memory revealed that an evil triumvirate of Roman emperors plans to attack Camp Jupiter. While Leo flies ahead on Festus to warn the Roman camp, Lester and Meg must go through the Labyrinth to find the third emperor—and an Oracle who speaks in word puzzles—somewhere in the American Southwest. There is one glimmer of hope in the gloom-filled prophecy: The cloven guide alone the way does know. They will have a satyr companion, and Meg knows just who to call upon. . . .

About Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over twenty novels for young readers, including the Percy Jackson series, the Kane Chronicles, the Magnus Chase series and the Trials of Apollo. He is also the author of the multi-award-winning Tres Navarre mystery series for adults.

For fifteen years, Rick taught English and history at public and private middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas. While teaching in San Antonio, Saint Mary’s Hall honored him with the school’s first Master Teacher Award.

While teaching full time, Riordan began writing mystery novels for grownups. His Tres Navarre series went on to win the top three national awards in the mystery genre – the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus. Riordan turned to children’s fiction when he started The Lightning Thief as a bedtime story for his oldest son.

Today, eighty-six million copies of his books are in print in the United States, and rights have been sold into more than 37 countries.

Rick Riordan now writes full-time. He lives in Boston with his wife and two sons.

I’ve only just started reading The Dark Prophecy but I already know I’m going to need this one like air.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Early Review – Unearthed (Unearthed #1) by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Posted January 6, 2018 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2018, YA / 7 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.

Early Review – Unearthed (Unearthed #1) by Amie Kaufman & Meagan SpoonerUnearthed by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner
Series: Unearthed #1
on January 9th 2018
Pages: 336
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Illuminae, Hunted, Sherwood

three-stars

When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying's advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study... as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don't loot everything first. Mia and Jules' different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.

In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race's secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race...

“The worthy will rise into the stars . . .”

In a time when resources on Earth are limited, power grids are failing, and families are only allowed to have a single child, the discovery of an extinct alien race possessing the technology to make life a little less uncomplicated is a shining beacon of hope. Of course, traveling to a different galaxy to a planet named Gaia is the only requirement. Amelia Radcliffe is a scavenger, on Gaia illegally with the intent to obtain as much tech as she can to not only buy herself a ticket off the planet but to also buy her sister back from the servitude contract she’s locked in. Jules Addison is a scholar and is on Gaia with the hopes of decoding more of the alien language. His father, Dr. Elliott Addison, was the first to decode the message received from the alien race, and the first to realize that while their technology may benefit life on Earth, it may not be for the best in the long term. Jules seeks to find evidence that his father was right and to find out what dangers lie with the technology left by this race of mysterious beings. The two end up teaming up to work their way through the alien temple in hopes of uncovering a solution to both of their issues.

First things first, I read very little YA these days but there was something extremely fun about this book that I enjoyed right off the bat. I found positive and negative aspects both in this story but I felt they balanced each other out, still making this an entertaining tale. It was very Mission to Mars (2000) meets Indiana Jones and while there was a budding romance that built up quickly, it never overtook the plot like some YA romances tend to do. I honestly didn’t buy how quickly they reached the point that they do by the end of the novel, but for some reason, it didn’t lessen my enjoyment as a whole. The characterization was nicely balanced with snarky, badass Amelia and prim and proper Jules, although at times it was hard to differentiate between the two because each would tell the story from their point of view in alternating chapters. The inclusion of puzzles as the duo worked their way through the alien temple was a ton of fun, although it was often vaguely written and hard to visualize exactly what they were dealing with. There was a lot of internal dialogue that I felt could have been cut out a lot, resulting in more actual conversation, and towards the end, I felt like stuff started getting to be a bit repetitive and/or drawn out for no particular reason leading to that inevitable cliffhanger. My overall enjoyment certainly lessened by the time I finished but the cliffhanger ending was incredibly curious without that predictable reveal of “I knew that’s what was happening” sort of reveal.

Despite this being yet another typical “teenagers save the world” sort of story, this puzzle of a plot is enough to get a reader invested into sticking around for the second part of this novel that won’t be released until 2019.

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Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel [Review]
Fortune’s Pawn (Paradox #1) by Rachel Bach [Review]
Warcross (Warcross #1) by Marie Lu

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

Posted October 5, 2017 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2017, YA / 8 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 Creeping Shadow

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

Posted May 18, 2016 by Bonnie in 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 Creeping Shadow

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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Early Review – Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

Posted July 9, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Early Review, Middle Grade, Read in 2015 / 1 Comment

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 – Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert BeattySerafina and the Black Cloak on July 14th 2015
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
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three-stars

Disney Hyperion presents an exciting new novel for children & adults: a spooky historical mystery-thriller about an unusual girl who lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore Estate.

"Never go into the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul."

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There's plenty to explore in her grand home, but she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate's maintenance man, have lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. She has learned to sneak and hide.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore's corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore's owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak's true identity before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina's hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

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“…our world is filled with many mysteries, things we don’t understand. Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, both dark and bright, and they will ensnare your soul.”

Biltmore Estate is large enough to have kept a secret for over a decade: deep within its basement lives a man and his daughter, named Serafina. Serafina’s father is in charge of the building’s maintenance but he would be tossed out in a heartbeat if it were discovered he also resided there. And Serafina is a whole different matter. Curious about the world around her and of her own past, she’s no longer able to keep herself confined to the basement, especially when she witnesses the murder of a young girl. Her body was never discovered and by the following morning, another child was missing. Serafina is determined to help these people find their lost children, even if it means disclosing her secret.

Beatty created a most mysterious girl with Serafina, who is described as having golden eyes and strangely enough, four toes instead of the normal five. Those differences only add to the air of mystery surrounding her and keep you wondering what it is that makes her so special. She’s a girl with a good heart and a kind soul that you can’t help but admire. Befriending the owner’s of Biltmore’s nephew, Braeden, makes this story even more charming. The two quickly hit it off, despite their obvious differences in social class, and they both team up convinced that they’re going to be able to find these children. Through her friendship, Serafina starts seeing the world through a new set of eyes, only seen before through the pages of books. She sees the good in the world but because of the man in the black cloak, she’s also uncovering the bad as well.

‘She was beginning to see how difficult it was to determine who was good and who was bad, who she could trust and who she had to watch out for. Every person was a hero in his own mind, fighting for what he thought was right, or just fighting to survive another day, but no one thought they were evil.’

Serafina possesses a definite horror but isn’t quite as terrifying as it is charming. The unique heroine is definitely the spotlight of this tale with her most uncommon story of her life and how she came to reside in the Biltmore Estate basement. While some parts of the book did seem to creep along very slowly and some aspects weren’t left sufficiently explained, it was still ultimately a satisfying supernatural tale of mystery that will no doubt delight children and adults alike.

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Early Review – Trollhunters (Trollhunters #1) by Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus

Posted July 3, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA / 1 Comment

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 – Trollhunters (Trollhunters #1) by Guillermo del Toro & Daniel KrausTrollhunters Series: Trollhunters #1
on July 7th 2015
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
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three-stars

"You are food. Those muscles you flex to walk, lift, and talk? They're patties of meat topped with chewy tendon. That skin you've paid so much attention to in mirrors? It's delicious to the right tongues, a casserole of succulent tissue. And those bones that give you the strength to make your way in the world? They rattle between teeth as the marrow is sucked down slobbering throats. These facts are unpleasant but useful. There are things out there, you see, that don't cower in holes to be captured by us and cooked over our fires. These things have their own ways of trapping their kills, their own fires, their own appetites."

Jim Sturges is your typical teen in suburban San Bernardino—one with an embarrassingly overprotective dad, a best friend named "Tubby" who shares his hatred of all things torturous (like gym class), and a crush on a girl who doesn't know he exists. But everything changes for Jim when a 45-year old mystery resurfaces, threatening the lives of everyone in his seemingly sleepy town. Soon Jim has to team up with a band of unlikely (and some un-human) heroes to battle the monsters he never knew existed.

From the minds of Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus comes a new illustrated novel about the fears that move in unseen places.

“It’s a terrible thing, isn’t it? To be dragged under?”

In San Bernadino in the late 1960s, almost 200 hundred children went missing in what became known as The Milk Carton Epidemic. Children weren’t allowed on the streets past sunset, but on the day of Jack Sturges birthday, he and his little brother Jim were having too much fun on their bicycles to notice the sun was slowly making its exit. When Jack raced ahead towards the Holland Transit Bridge, Jim quickly lost sight of him. From the shadow of the bridge came a sight so terrifying that Jim could only run away in fear. Black fur, horns, claws, and massive teeth chased him home that day and while he managed to survive, he never saw his older brother Jack again.

Years later, Jim’s son, Jim Sturges Jr. is fifteen years old and lives alone with his paranoid father. Ever since he lost his older brother, his father has been terrified of the dark. Steel shutters cover their windows, ten locks secure their front door, and the flood lights and security cameras pick up anything that lurks outside. Jim never quite understands his father’s paranoia, that is until the day that he’s dragged through a hole beneath his bed and sees his first troll. And his lost Uncle Jack who is somehow just as young as he was the day he went missing. He’s told that the Sturges family belongs to a line of trollhunters, that the battle between humans and trolls has been going on for ages, and that he’s the next in line to step up to the task. Jim’s life is never quite the same again.

“This is the only thing I’m good at. There are times when you have to do the right thing, no matter how scary. […] If I don’t fight now, right now, when am I supposed to fight?”

Trollhunters will appeal to fans of Percy Jackson, The Blackwell PagesThe Kane Chronicles, and the multitude of series’ that center around kids/teenagers burdened with the task of saving the world. Trollhunters is tagged as YA but the goofiness that is typically present in Middle-Grade fiction is flying high in this one. But there are also several instances of profanity (asshole and bastard are two I remember off the top of my head) so it’s clear this author-duo was possibly trying to entice an audience of various ages. I’m just not sure the way they went about it is necessarily a recipe for success. The fact that it’s marketed as horror doesn’t necessarily help either, especially since it’s really not. Children stolen from their beds at night (by monsters nonetheless) should be straight nightmare fuel but it never quite reached the level of terror I would have expected since the intensity was constantly lessened by the presence of goofy humor.

I’m a huge fan of del Toro, so this became an immediate addition to my TBR, but what most intrigued me about this one is the difference in the fantasy focus: trolls. I’ve read plenty of vampire, werewolf, and faerie stories but a troll story? Can’t recall a single one. But these aren’t the trolls of my generation either.

Oh, no. These trolls are nasty, ugly things that like to snack on humans like they were tasty kernels of popcorn. While the horror was somewhat lacking (except for that bit about the troll fetus that takes up residence inside humans for the night? oh. my. god. Wire my mouth shut, I’ll just breathe through my nose, thank you very much), the gruesomeness is actually pretty intense. For a glimpse of what these disgusting trolls actually look like, check out some of the artwork by Sean A. Murray. One thing I have to note about the artwork, and due to the fact that I read an ARC I can’t be certain this is necessarily the case in the finished copy, but the artwork never coincided with what was occurring in the story. A certain scenes artwork would be shown 20 pages later which kind of threw you off from the scene that was currently happening.

Naturally, this is a start to a new series since various questions were left unanswered. I hope that some thought is put into future installments because at this point I can’t see how they can be anything but repetitive. Trolls try to take over, battles happen, people die, good wins. The story often dragged at times and lacked any twists that would have helped keep me (or any reader) engaged. Less goofiness, more horror, and much more excitement are all I’d like to ask for in the next installment. Still worth the read, but not nearly as thrilling as I had hoped for from an author duo like this.

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

Posted October 23, 2014 by Bonnie in 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 Series: Bloody Mary #1
on September 2nd 2014
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
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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

Posted October 16, 2014 by Bonnie in 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 Series: Lockwood & Co. #2
on September 16th 2014
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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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

Posted October 7, 2014 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2014, YA / 9 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 Series: Lockwood & Co. #1
on August 29th 2013
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


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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Book Review – All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1) by Cristin Terrill

Posted October 11, 2013 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2013, YA / 4 Comments

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

Book Review – All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1) by Cristin TerrillAll Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Series: All Our Yesterdays #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 3rd 2013
Pages: 368
Genres: Sci-fi, Time Travel
Format: ARC
Amazon
Goodreads


three-half-stars

"You have to kill him."

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She's tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present-imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America's most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James's life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina's hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

“Time travel isn’t a wonder; it’s an abomination.”

Em and Finn are the only two that can stop the creation of a time machine; a machine that will destroy the world. They’ve succeeded in traveling back in time fourteen times but those trips have only resulted in failure. This is their fifteenth trip and Em has finally realized exactly what is required to stop it for good. The note she finds written in her own handwriting tells her: “You have to kill him.”

This was a breathless thrill-ride with a few twists I didn’t see coming. The alternating points of view between the present-day Em and her past self, Marina, was my favorite part of this novel and I loved being able to see the vast differences between the two and how the harsh realities of the world transformed her and those close to her. The two storylines were slightly hard to follow until they came together in the end but was still a delight.

The characters themselves felt like cardboard cutouts at times and I thought it was a bit far-fetched the things they were capable of (geniuses creating time machines and all that). My main gripe is Em though. She wakes up in a prison and is tortured for information each and every day. She finds the note that she wrote herself the last time she traveled back in time and knows what she has to do to right all the wrongs and to keep her and Finn both from winding back up in a prison cell. She has to kill him. But she wastes several opportunities she had to kill him and I realize that she cares about this person she’s supposed to kill but it just seemed reckless. Obviously if she’s gone back in time 14 times and hasn’t been able to change things any of the other times, she’s gotta do what she’s gotta do.

The time travel concept was definitely interesting and seemed to be fairly unique however I couldn’t help but have issue with a few possible holes in the concept. Foremost is that Em and Finn continued to go back in time yet it never seemed that their actions were having any sort of impact on the past (and at the same time the future). When they kept going back in time trying to correct past wrongs and they failed to succeed they inevitably seemed to go back to the same future as if everything they had done was etch-a-sketched out. That seemed entirely implausible especially considering the note. In each instance that Em went back in time she would write herself an update letting her know what she had planned to do so that she would know what not to do the next time in case she failed. I understand that time travel isn’t a concrete science but the concept did provoke a bit of disbelief.

I really loved the idea of the concept but there were a few holes that I couldn’t overlook. If you’re able to read this without over-analyzing things I can imagine this would be vastly more enjoyable. Setting all issues aside, this was a fun read and was definitely thrilling. I have absolutely no idea how a sequel will work considering how things ended but I’m still interested enough to read and see.

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