The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

lockwood and co.My amazing coworkers. I can’t say enough good things about them. But one of their best qualities, I find, is their ability to find books I’ve passed up and make me want to read them. The Screaming Staircase (book one of the Lockwood & Co. series) is one such book. When L came to work raving about it, I knew I should give it a shot. But I kind of wrote it off because she branded it “horror.” Not only that, she did a creepy impression of a ghost who had “almost had it’s neck snapped” that stayed with me for days. I digress. When another coworker came in and said she’d finished the book in record time, I took notice. She’s a known horror-phobe… especially in children’s books. She worries for the characters. That’s when I knew.

In a parallel universe, where The Problem (ie hauntings) runs rampant, Lucy Carlyle begins working for Anthony Lockwood. He’s the proprietor of the smallest Psychic Detective Agency in London, competing with the likes of the Fitz Agency that have been around since The Problem began.

Oh, and did I mention? The only ones who can see the ghosts, ghouls, spirits, and mayhem-makers are children, adolescents, and teenagers. Lucy was trained in the art of psychic detection from the age of five.

Now Lucy, Lockwood, and their dry companion George are off to Combe Carey Hall, for what promises to be the most terrifying night of their lives.

The one critique we all had was that perhaps it might be a bit scary. Does anyone out there have similar thoughts?

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The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Publication Date:

August 18, 2015

Review:

Absolutely stunning. This novel takes on the idea of ghosts, both real and emotional as they affect an entire family. Cara’s family struggles to survive during the accident season every year. From October 1-31, there’s an increase in scrapes, broken bones, and other more fatal injuries. Like when her dad drowned. Or her uncle. This accident season, even more odd things are happening. For one, Elsie (the weird mousy girl from school) is in every one of her photos. Not just the ones she’s taken in this last few weeks, but in every photo on her phone and in the photo albums at her mom’s house, Elise is there… watching. When she tries to confront Elise about everything, she’s not at school and nobody knows where she is. Or who she is, for that matter.

Then there’s Bea. Her best friend has been acting extra weird around her sister Alice, and she and her ex-stepbrother Sam are both starting to notice. Speaking of Sam, he’s looking at her differently these days too. Just as it’s about to come to a close, Bea reads (in her Tarot deck) that this accident season will be one of the worst.

Filled with ghosts and monsters straight out of a fairy tale, this novel set in rural Ireland was a real treat of a ghost story. It’s anything but typical, and I can’t wait for someone to please please please read this so that I can actually talk to them about it!

Verdict:

Holly Black meets John Green meets Ireland. Boom. (That’s an “I would recommend to anyone” for all of you not familiar with my weirdness).

Have you read this book? Is there anything similar out there that I can read before I lose my mind? Can we start a support group? 

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

This is a children’s picture book, yes, but it was so unexpected. I honestly don’t know where I first heard the title, but the book was overall very much about depression and coping/living with someone who suffers from depression.

Plot

Vanessa’s sister Virginia has woken up feeling quite wolfish. She finds no joy in her friends stopping by or the birds singing. Her art box remains unopened. So Virginia sits with her and listens to what she could possibly want. From here she decides to paint a magical world on their bedroom walls that can transport Virginia to a happier place. Virginia notices. The two talk together and eventually Virginia starts to feel less like a shadowy wolf and more like a sunshiny little girl.

Verdict

It’s hard to find a book that deals with mental illness in a positive way. This is nothing like the brusque titles like My Mommy Has Depression (is that a title? I should hope not, but I would not be surprised at all). This one handles the issue with respect and dignity while at the same time giving examples of how to help: listen, talk, be there for that person. It’s a beautiful book.

Bonus

I fell in love with Isabelle Arsenault when I read Jane, The Fox, and Me during grad school. I believe it was for my class, “Art in Picture Books.” In it, a young girl struggles with her weight and feeling inadequate. The manner in which the story is told is both whimsical and heartbreakingly real. I’ve been planning on getting her fox tattooed on me for a while now. At any rate, if you’ve got a minute you should head over to Arsenault’s blog. Since she’s from Montreal, there are both English and French captions on her lovely pictures.

Shatter Me (Series) by Tahereh Mafi

Okay so now that I’ve read the whole series and have time to reflect on these books, I can’t even handle how wonderful they are. Here’s my two cents:

Shatter Me:

For a series with super feminine covers, Juliette is such a badass chick. She’s been locked up for nearly a year in what she can only assume is an asylum all because she touched a little boy and apparently killed him. 245 days of not speaking to a soul, of looking out the window and wishing to be free, of praying she would die just so she could be spared the loneliness she feels every day.

Until Adam comes along. Harsh at first, he soon warms up to Juliette and starts treating her with respect. After Adam, it isn’t long before she is taken to Warner, the chief officer of Sector 45 (a sector of the Reestablishment, a movement to unite the world after ecological disaster). He’s cold and unpredictable, and he soon reveals that Juliette has been very, very wrong about Adam. But when Warner pushes her too far, will Juliette finally snap? Will she touch Warner to try to escape?

This selfless character really reminded me of Valerie from V for Vendetta, suffering for something she couldn’t control. And yet while Juliette seems weak, there are glimpses of a character that is loyal enough to let her ferocity shine. Here is a character who has a haunting past. Here is a girl who might fight for what she believes in.

Might I also comment now on Tahereh Mafi’s prose? It’s a rare thing when I just want to take a book and memorize pages and entire passages so I can remember them when I’m feeling sad or just feeling feelings, but she is absolutely out of this world. I know people have been comparing Shatter Me to The Hunger Games & Divergent, and I get that. I do. Because they’re all dystopian and trilogies and bla bla bla. But honestly this book is on another level entirely. For a much more mature audience because of the emotions going on between Adam and Juliette.

Unravel Me:

I never thought I’d be team Warner, but I’m team Warner. Let me just say.

Warner Warner Warner. Le Sigh.

Ignite Me:

HA!

You made the right choice, Juliette.

Verdict

As you might sense by my digression from analytical and hands-off to complete manic pixi dream fangirl, I’m definitely 100% in love with this series. I’m buying it. And that never ever happens because everything is free at the library. However I need to re-read this series at least twice more before I’m satisfied.

It’s also a rare thing for me to call my best friend in the middle of the night and gush about character development. Juliette is one of those women who really had several “aha moments,” to borrow from Ms. Oprah Winfrey. She listened to Kenji when he told her she needed to stop feeling sorry for herself and pulled herself up out of her self-loathing.

Great friendships, families, and relationships. If you haven’t yet, please get on this series.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I highly contest this tagline,

Graceling meets The Selection

not unlike many of the other readers out there that I’m seeing. I can honestly say that ____ meets ____ meets ___ is just as much of a cop-out as “the next Harry Potter” and might be nearly as problematic.

That being said. Mare’s narrow world has her pegged as the underdog, and there’s nothing she can do about it. When she bleeds, she bleeds red, unlike the upper-class Silver elite who bleed silver blood. Side note: This leads to interesting problems later because when she blushes, she blushes a rosy pink color unlike her silver counterparts. A well-developed part of the plot that made it seem more believable. That’s not the only thing that keeps the reds down. Nope. The Silvers have special abilities like telepathy, the ability to control the will of others, or the ability to control elements and objects around them.

So when Mare is offered a job at the Silver palace in order to get out of being conscripted as a front-lines solider in a war she has no interest in, she jumps at the opportunity. Who wouldn’t when you don’t want to die for a lost cause? She soon finds out, however, that she has an ability too: she can make electricity, including controlling the many security cameras in the castle.

With her new found ability comes new responsibility.

Soon Mare finds herself deep in the life of the Silver royals, whether she wants to or not.

All she knows is she better not bleed.

The Diviners (part 2)

I started my blogging journey on Libba Bray’s The Diviners on Sunday December 14th. As of right now, I can finally say I finished the book/audio experience and I have to say, although this book is so beautifully written, I actually prefer the audiobook version, read by January LaVoy. Her voice is so dynamic–accents and the taking-on of both male and female voices enhanced the story rather than taking away from it (like those kinds of things so often do).

This book also has an awesome website with photos of the characters and news on possible sequel(s) and the forthcoming movie.

Plot:

it’s the 1920’s and 17-year-old Evie O’Neill is known in her small Ohio town for starting trouble. She’s perfectly okay with that, thankyouverymuch. After all, “well-behaved young ladies rarely make history.” One night, however, she takes it too far. She uses her gift, called “divining,” to read an item belonging to a young man in her circle of friends. When she tells the people at the party that the golden boy she’s “reading” knocked up a chamber-maid, her parents send her to New York City to stay with her Uncle Will for fear that she’ll be charged with slander.

This is the moment Evie has been waiting for. Once on the train, Evie meets Sam Lloyd and her big New York adventure begins. Although this series is primarily about Evie, there is a beautiful cast of characters that have their own abilities and well-drawn backstories. Miracle Memphis Campbell, the Harlem Healer, is another Diviner featured in the story. He and Evie’s new friend Theta Knight turn heads as one of the first biracial couples in NYC’s club scene. And then there’s Maybel, Evie’s longtime friend and pen pal who is in love with Jericho (Uncle Will’s mysterious assistant).

Everyone in this cast of characters is put to the test when New York City is struck by The Pentacle Killer (Naughty John Hobbes). The city knows him as a ruthless, methodical killer, and no one is safe. Uncle Will, Evie, Jericho & Sam, along with Theta, Maybel and Memphis are all in grave danger as Naughty John stalks his next victim.

I fell in love with these characters and I’m truly sad to have to stop hearing their story. Apparently The Diviners is being picked up by Paramount and is in the developing stages of becoming a movie (EXCITING!). As I said before, I listened to this book on audio, and I really loved the experience. I ended up buying a hard copy (I loved the book that much), but I was still sitting in front of my laptop for hours on end listening to this beautiful story.

Subject Headings:

Paranormal, Romance, Historical Fiction, New York City, 1920s

Appeal:

fast-paced, breakneck, thrilling, suspenseful, well-drawn characters, beautiful language, open-ended, multiple plot lines,

Favorite Quotes:

“‘There is a hideous invention called the Dewey Decimal System. And you have to look up your topic in books and newspapers. Pages upon pages upon pages…’
Uncle Will frowned. ‘Didn’t they teach you how to go about research in that school of yours?’
‘No. But I can recite “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” while making martinis.’
‘I weep for the future.’
‘There’s where the martinis come in.'”

“I’m not interested in being polite. It’s false.”

Cinder

I started reading this series for my GSLIS Young Adult Literature class, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I love, love, love fairy tales. And there has never been a story more beloved and retold than the classic underdog story of “Cinderella.” It’s told in every culture. It’s been retold in some of our favorite adventure stories (Harry Potter, anyone?) and yet it’s never been retold with such a Science Fiction twist.

So yeah, when I started reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer I was a bit skeptical. I know this story could get me on the protagonist’s side like no other or I could really not like the way this book takes place in a futuristic society. I really loved it, though. I just finished Scarlet, which features Cinder and Emperor Kai along with Wolf and Scarlet, who are loosely based on the classic “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Plot:

Cinder CoverThis book takes place in New Beijing in a completely new era, where cyborgs (humans that have been modified with robot parts for medical purposes) are marginalized and spit on by society. Enter Cinder, a part-cyborg who’s only friends in the world are her adopted sister, Peony and a robot named Iko who she works with in her family’s mechanic shop. One day, Peony comes down with the plague, a disease that has been rampant in the Eastern Empire for decades. It is the same disease that has the current emperor in the hospital.

So imagine Cinder’s surprise when Prince Kai shows up in her mechanic’s shop (in a disguise, of course. He is the prince of everyone’s dreams) with a robot in desperate need of repair. Kai tries to woo Cinder but is unsuccessful at first. Eventually he asks her to the ball to which Cinder has been specifically banned by her stepmother from attending.

How will Cinder deal with Peony’s death? Will the emperor formerly known as Prince ever find out the truth about Cinder? Why does Cinder black out when she sees the Lunar visitors who have come to Earth in want of peace?

Read Marissa Meyer’s Cinder to find out.

Subject Headings:

Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Young Adult, cyborg

Appeal:

compelling, bleak, chilling, gritty, suspenseful, romantic, eccentric characters, recognizable characters, action-oriented, layered, open-ended, plot twists, futuristic, urban, accessible, engaging, vivid.

Favorite Quotes:

“Even in the Future the story begins with ‘Once Upon A Time.'”

“I’m sure I’ll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.”