Tag Archives: Jonathan Stroud

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud #Brainfluffbookreview #TheEmptyGravebookreview

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It took me a while to summon up the courage to listen to this slice of Lockwood & Co’s adventures, because it’s the last book in the series – and I so very much didn’t want the awesomeness to end…

BLURB: Five months after the events in THE CREEPING SHADOW, we join Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and their associate Quill Kipps on a perilous night mission: they have broken into the booby-trapped Fittes Mausoleum, where the body of the legendary psychic heroine Marissa Fittes lies. Or does it? This is just one of the many questions to be answered in Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co. series. Will Lockwood ever reveal more about his family’s past to Lucy? Will their trip to the Other Side leave Lucy and Lockwood forever changed? Will Penelope Fittes succeed in shutting down their agency forever? The young agents must survive attacks from foes both spectral and human before they can take on their greatest enemy in a climactic and chaotic battle.

As is apparent from the blurb, this isn’t a series you can easily crash into. As each of the stories, while standalone for each of the mysteries they pose, adds another piece of the puzzle that Lockwood and his young associates are struggling to solve – what caused the Problem in the first place, some fifty years ago. Why did ghosts suddenly take to infesting the world of the living, causing fear, havoc and so many countless deaths?

By now, I am thoroughly at home with Lucy, the main protagonist whose dry humour leavens the creepier moments, and her companions – the dashing young Anthony Lockwood, clever, spiky George, precise and poised Holly and acerbic Kipps – not to mention Flo Bones and the Skull, who Lucy carries about in a rucksack in a jar. While this apparently a children’s book, there are plenty of moments that are genuinely creepy – sufficiently so that when my grandson was listening, he decided that he’d rather hear them during the day rather than when he was trying to get to sleep. In my opinion, this series is definitely more suited to the eleven to fifteen age-group, though this rather picky granny absolutely loved it.

There is a layering in the characterisation, a real sense of poignancy when dealing with Lockwood’s loss of his family and a depth of scene setting and worldbuilding that is a solid delight throughout. While I loved the Bartimaeus series, I’ve enjoyed Lockwood & Co even more, given those footnotes got a bit annoying halfway through.

As it is the final book in the series, there isn’t much to say that won’t immediately lurch into Spoiler territory – but don’t start at The Empty Grave, please do begin with the first book, The Screaming Staircase. Right now, I wish I had a timeturner so I could give it a twist and begin allll over again. I’m feeling drained and a tad emotional… the way you do when a world has sunk its hooks right into your heart and you know that even if you reread the story, you can’t ever experience it in quite the same way again. Highly recommended for everyone and an outstanding ending to an outstanding series.
10/10

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Review of AUDIOBOOK The Whispering Skull – Book 2 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud #Brainfluffaudiobookreview #TheWhisperingSkullaudiobookreview

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I loved Stroud’s Bartimaeus series – so tucked into the audiobook version of the first book, strongly encouraged by The Cap, who loved The Screaming Staircase – see my review here – to find it a joy. So it was only a matter of time before I treated myself to this, the second book in the series…

BLURB: 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…

That is as much of the blurb as I’m willing to share – but I would say that if you have encountered this book without having yet had the pleasure of reading The Screaming Staircase, then don’t go any further. This is a complex, layered world and Stroud has designed these books to build on the narrative arc, therefore you’ll miss far too much that is important if you crash midway into this series. And yes… I regularly crash midway into series, so when I say ‘don’t’ I mean it.

This alternate contemporary world, where if someone dies violently or in unhappy circumstances, their ghosts can linger and at their most lethal, kill those unfortunate to encounter them. Adults and most children cannot see or sense these dangerous spirits, but a handful of children gifted, or cursed, with the ability to see, sense or hear these ghosts are employed by agencies to help neutralise them. Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins and Lucy Carlyle are three such teenagers, who prefer to work on their own instead of being directed by adults who can no longer take part in the really dangerous part of the work.
Artefacts which are strongly associated with a death can be possessed by one of these dangerous spirits. The authorities charged with trying to find a solution to The Problem, as this sudden widespread haunting is called, are keen to possess all such artefacts – but there is also a thriving black market in such objects. Lockwood & Co are aware of the fact, but when the job they are working on ends in sudden chaos and danger, they are charged to track down a particular artefact. Though it rapidly becomes apparent that this is a very dangerous undertaking.

However, the threat of death is never far away in this job, anyway… Stroud’s vivid, darkly threatening world once more pulled me in and Katie Lyon’s narration, while not quite as brilliant as Miranda Raison, is still gripping and effectively portrays Lucy’s first person viewpoint. I would add that as well as being genuinely creepy in places, Lucy’s sharp-edged observations are also very funny. All in all, this series is turning into one of the highlights of the year to date and I’m thrilled to discover that I have the other three audiobooks just waiting to be read. Lucky, lucky me!
9/10

Sunday Post – 18th August, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

On Monday, my daughter came over to pick up my grandson and take him back home – the house seemed a lot emptier without him, as it always does when the grandchildren first go home.

So I got down to work. It’s been a really good week. I’ve been sending out arc copies of Netted after revealing the wonderful cover that superfriend and fellow writer Mhairi designed. I then completed formatting the updated paperback version of Dying for Space, uploaded it and am currently waiting for the proof copy. Hopefully this time around the spacing on the spine will be perfect.

I then started work on the revisions for Mantivore Prey, bracing myself for all sorts of major plot anomalies… poor characterisation… clunky dialogue – and to my delighted surprise, apart from some small alterations necessary to ensure one of the main antagonists is already suitably sneaky right from the start of the book, it read quite smoothly. It took me two days to work through the manuscript, fixing any major problems and by then I was sufficiently fired up to start work on the plot outline for Mantivore Warrior. I’d known the character and some of the main plotpoints, as well as more or less where I wanted the book to end. Now I’ve worked out the whole narrative arc, who all the major characters are and the beginning, the middle and the end. It’s been wonderful to know that this creative upsurge is not going to be hampered by having to break off and produce Creative Writing handouts for the coming term. In fact, it’s going so well, I am seriously considering bringing forward my soft launch of Mantivore Dreams, the first book in the series, to the last week in August.

Yesterday, I took a break from all this work to meet up my sister and have a coffee together and a catchup. Though we didn’t go walking along the beach as it looked like rain – again… The long hot spell we’d enjoyed all through July is a distant memory. The wind and rain we’ve had throughout the week finally snapped off the top two feet of my tallest echium, though fortunately it has more or less finished flowering – I’m grateful that is the only damage we sustained!

Last week I read:

Bright Shards – Book 2 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick
Linguist Avery Alcott has spent three months proving herself to her Vardeshi companions and earning their respect. She arrives at Arkhati, the space station halfway between Earth and Vardesh Prime, eager to continue her adventure. But the next stage of her mission brings its own challenges. In the months to come, new alliances and old friendships will be tested. Avery will question her purpose and her place among the Vardeshi, and she will discover that the most memorable journeys are the ones we can’t predict.
I loved the first book in the series, which I’ve reviewed this week, and this sequel doesn’t disappoint.

 

The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
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.
I’ve been putting this one off… Because once it’s over, I will have finished this cracking paranormal ghost-busting series which has been one of my listening highlights of the year.

 

Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Sun is bloated, diseased, dying perhaps. Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapur, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, surviving on the debris of its long-dead progenitors, Shadrapur is a museum, a midden, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity.

Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new, is Stefan Advani, rebel, outlaw, prisoner, survivor. This is his testament, an account of the journey that took him into the blazing desolation of the western deserts; that transported him east down the river and imprisoned him in verdant hell of the jungle’s darkest heart; that led him deep into the labyrinths and caverns of the underworld. He will treat with monsters, madman, mutants. The question is, which one of them will inherit this Earth?

As ever, the sheer versatility of this gifted author impresses as this grim, dystopian vision of a dying society struggles to come to terms with itself held me right to the end.

My posts last week:

Review of INDIE Ebook Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga series by Meg Pechenick

Friday Faceoff featuring The Devil’s Feathers by Minette Walters

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Warehouse by Rob Hart

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman

Teaser Tuesday featuring Bright Shards by Meg Pechenick

Netted Cover Reveal & Extract

Sunday Post – 11th August 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

What is a K-drama? https://perspectiveofawriter.com/2017/08/03/k-drama-primer/ Perhaps you already know what a K-drama is – I didn’t and this excellent, entertaining article told me all about it…

Top Ten Tuesday: Book characters I’d Befriend https://hamletsandhyperspace.wordpress.com/2019/08/13/top-ten-tuesday-characters-id-befriend/ I thoroughly enjoy reading the various TTT articles – but this one was particularly entertaining – though Sarah’s choice of Reichis, a certain squirrelcat had me scratching my head. And she wasn’t the only one to choose the ferocious little beast!

Favorite Books A-Z – Male Writers http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2019/08/13/favorite-books-a-z-male-writers/ A great list – and in the interests of fairness, I would add that at the top of the article, Tammy also adds the link to her list of Female Writers, too.

Short Story Review: THE DEAD, Michael Swanwick https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2019/08/13/short-story-review-the-dead-michael-swanwick/ And I make absolutely no apologies for including a link to this site two weeks running – for here is another marvellous, mind-bending short story to wrap your head around…

Frozen Wavelets – summary of July submissions https://earthianhivemind.net/2019/08/11/frozen-wavelets-summary-of-july-submissions/ For those of you who read and enjoy short stories and those of you who write them – spare a thought for the hapless editor who had to wade through all those submissions…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

Sunday Post – 2nd June, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been half term. I had the children to stay for the first three days, which was a treat as I haven’t had them for a while. It’s always enjoyable to be able to touch base with them and catch up on their doings. Sadly Himself was working throughout, but my sister and I took them out for a meal at our favourite Chinese restaurant. Other than that, they weren’t keen to go out and about, but seemed to enjoy relaxing in their rooms and reading.

I’ve also been catching up on a backlog of reviews and some paperwork. I also submitted my short story ‘How Vine Leaves Stuffed Nemesis’ to an anthology called Fight Like a Girl about battling women, after getting valuable feedback from my Writing Group on Thursday evening. Yesterday, Sally and I spent the day editing her book – we are now nearing the end of the first volume, which is exciting. Today, Himself and I will be tackling the garden…

Last week I read:
The Janus Stone – Book 2 of the Ruth Galloway mysteries by Elly Griffiths
It’s been only a few months since archaeologist Ruth Galloway found herself entangled in a missing persons case, barely escaping with her life. But when construction workers demolishing a large old house in Norwich uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway—minus its skull—Ruth is once again called upon to investigate. Is it a Roman-era ritual sacrifice, or is the killer closer at hand?
This is one of those series that I’ve always promised myself that I’d tuck into – I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and am looking forward to the next one.

 

The Switch by Justina Robson
In Harmony, only model citizens are welcome. A perfect society must be maintained. The defective must be eradicated. For orphans like Nico and Twostar, this means a life that’s brutal, regulated and short. But Nico and Twostar are survivors, and when they’re offered a way out of the slums, they take it. Unfortunately, no one told Nico the deal included being sentenced to death for the murder of one of Harmony’s most notorious gang leaders. Or that to gain his freedom, first he must lose his mind.
This was a delightful surprise that I found nestling amongst the library shelves, so scooped it up. I’m so glad I did!

 

The Whispering Skull AUDIOBOOK – Book 2 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
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.
The wonderful, creepy world invented by Stroud is just a joy – and though this is supposedly written for children, I am absolutely loving the quality of the writing and the layered characterisation.

The Art of Noticing: Rediscover What Really Matters To You by Rob Walker
Distracted? Overwhelmed? Feel like your attention is constantly being pulled in different directions? Learn how to steal it back. Accessible and inspiring, this book features 131 surprising and innovative exercises to help you tune out white noise, get unstuck from your screen and manage daily distractions. Make small yet impactful changes and bring focus to the things and people that are most important to you.
I look forward to having a go at some of these exercises during the summer holidays, when Life eases up a little…

 

 

Rough Magic: Riding the world’s wildest horse race by Lara Prior-Palmer
The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. An outrageous feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the army of Genghis Khan, the Derby sees competitors ride 25 horses across 1000km, and it’s rare that more than half of the riders make it to the finish line. In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, wildly underprepared and in search of the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Finding on the wild Mongolian steppe strength and self-knowledge she didn’t know she possessed, even whilst caught in biblical storms and lost in the mountains, Lara tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. She didn’t just complete the race: in one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she won, becoming the youngest-ever competitor to conquer the course.
This gripping account of a young woman struggling to discover who she is while in the middle of a major test of endurance and courage kept me up and turning the pages far later than I should have.

Fields’ Guide to Abduction – Book 1 of the Poppy Fields’ adventures by Julie Mulhern
Poppy Fields, Hollywood IT girl extraordinaire, agreed to a week at the newest, most luxurious resort in Cabo. After all, what’s better than the beach when a girl is feeling blue? When Poppy is abducted, she’ll need all her smarts, all her charm, and a killer Chihuahua, to save herself in this new series from the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Country Club Murders.
Dead body #1 found in bed, with me. That was a shock.
Dead body #2 found in bed, not with me. That was a relief.
Dead body #3 died telling me I’m a lousy actress. I already knew that.
Dead body #4 died trying to kill me.
Dead body #5 died kidnapping me.
Dead body #6 died guarding me.
Dead body #7 was a really bad man.
Dead body #8 was an even worse man.
That’s a lot of dead bodies for a girl looking for a week’s relaxation in Cabo. And, I’m probably leaving a few out—math isn’t my thing. Unless I can escape the cartel, I might be the next dead body.
Poppy is a wonderful protagonist. Sparky and funny, with some battle scars of her own that make her sympathetic – and unexpectedly good in a crisis. I really enjoyed blowing through this one in one sitting…

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Art of Noticing: Rediscover What Really Matters To You by Rob Walker

Friday Faceoff featuring The Green Rider series by Kristen Britain

Review of Children of Blood and Bone – Book 1 of Legacy of Orïsha series by Tomi Adeyemi

Review of Within the Sanctuary of Wings – Book 5 of the Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan

Tuesday Teaser featuring The Switch by Justina Robson

Review of In Evil Times – Book 2 of the Imperials series by Melinda Snodgrass

Sunday Post – 26th May 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

BRIGHTON FRINGE: An Adult Dr Seuss – The Warren: The Nest https://www.thereviewshub.com/brighton-fringe-an-adult-dr-seuss-the-warren-the-nest/
Circumstances conspired so that I was unable to watch this enjoyable show by Geoff, who is a member of my critique writing group – but I did have the pleasure of watching the dress rehearsal and loved it…

10 of the Best Poems about Women https://interestingliterature.com/2019/06/01/10-of-the-best-poems-about-women/ This is an interesting and eclectic mix…

When Your Story Hits Too Close to Home https://writerunboxed.com/2019/05/30/when-you-story-hits-too-close-to-home/ Interestingly, I was grappling with some of these issues when editing my friend’s memoir yesterday…

OTT: All the ways I will kill you if you dare to interrupt my reading https://thisislitblog.com/2019/05/30/ott-all-the-ways-i-will-kill-you-if-you-dare-to-interrupt-my-reading/ This is hilarious – I’d like to say that I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing – but when I’ve got to a good bit in the book and you decide to crash in…

#Creative #Children #Writing #Friends, and a New #Publishing #Adventure https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/05/30/creative-children-writing-friends-and-a-new-publishing-adventure/ Such are the obstacles and roadblocks in the life of a writer – I am awed at the resilience and strength of writing colleague Jean Lee…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wondering week!

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Screaming Staircase – Book 1 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud #Brainfluffaudiobookreview #TheScreamingStaircaseaudiobookreview

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This is a series I’d downloaded for my granddaughter, which had thoroughly gripped her – and after starting the story, I could see why…

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in…. For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions. Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

This is set in an alternate reality where fifty years ago, ghosts of people who had died in difficult circumstances are now feral. Mostly, they are annoying, manifesting as cold spots, bright lights and leaving uneasy feelings in their wake. But some of the stronger types are able to kill with a touch – and it’s only some ‘gifted’ children who can actually see or sense them clearly. This premise is a brilliant one, producing this dark, clever and often funny ghost story brilliantly narrated by Miranda Raison, who vividly portrays Lucy’s first person narration.

I had previously read and enjoyed Stroud’s wonderful Bartimaeus Trilogy – see my review of The Amulet of Samarkand – featuring an emotionally abused young warlock and a trapped djinni, whose withering and very funny commentary on human behaviour gives this book welcome shafts of humour. Lucy’s sharp-edged observations about her mysterious and brilliant young employer, Anthony Lockwood and his equally brilliant sidekick, George, often had me sniggering aloud as I listened to this one.

But that didn’t stop it being really creepy and utterly gripping when the trio were locked into a lethally haunted house – and very glad that I was listening to this one during the mornings when houseworking. There is the depth of characterisation I have grown to expect from Stroud, along with an exciting and well-paced adventure. The fact that I had already figured out who was doing what to whom before the denouement really didn’t matter – because the mystery was far more about how the heck they were going to survive the experience, anyway.

I’m thrilled to report that I already have the second book in this adventure ready and waiting to be heard – yippee! Far better for my blood pressure and mental health than listening to the catastrophic struggles in Parliament over Brexit…
9/10

Sunday Post – 24th March, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

This week was the last week of the Spring Term at Northbrook, so I am now on Easter holiday until 23rd April… The final sessions went well on Monday and Tuesday – it’s always a pleasure having a one-on-one tutorial with each student to discuss their writing progress. On Wednesday, Mhairi and I got together – they actually moved to Lincolnshire on Thursday, so we had lunch together in Haskins and spent the afternoon talking. She will be coming to stay next Tuesday, so it wasn’t too much of a wrench, thank goodness…

On Thursday and Friday, I got up late and pottered a bit – did some really pressing admin and answered urgent emails, etc. But other than doing a bit of tidying – nothing much, other than listening to Jonathan Stroud’s The Screaming Staircase which was gripping and fun. On Friday night, I had some amazing dreams and woke up fizzing with creative energy. So after posting my blog, I got down to work and wrote a couple of shorter pieces – one life writing article about our holiday in Venice, back in 2015; and a short story set on Mars and then tucked into the novel. It went reasonably slowly, but I’m pleased with what I wrote – and that’s the main thing.

After a week of gloomy, dank weather, today is glorious, so Himself is outside, painting the fence. Spring is finally here – thank goodness!

Last week I read:
Starseers – Book 3 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
The mysterious and powerful Starseers have Captain Alisa Marchenko’s daughter, and she will do whatever she must to get her back, even if it means traveling to their stronghold and confronting them personally. Unfortunately, her strongest ally, the cyborg Leonidas, may become a liability since the cyborgs and the Starseers have a long history of hating each other. It doesn’t help that Leonidas and Dr. Dominguez have a mission of their own, one that could jeopardize all that Alisa is fighting for.
I am thoroughly enjoying this series – I like the fact that the narrative powering the story is Alisa’s hunt for her lost daughter. There is plenty of action and snark in this entertaining space opera adventure and I look forward to read the next book very soon.

 

The Porpoise by Mark Haddon
A newborn baby is the sole survivor of a terrifying plane crash. She is raised in wealthy isolation by an overprotective father. She knows nothing of the rumours about a beautiful young woman, hidden from the world. When a suitor visits, he understands far more than he should. Forced to run for his life, he escapes aboard The Porpoise, an assassin on his tail…
This is a retelling of the tale of Pericles – I’m glad I didn’t know the original before I read this, because in many places it follows the story quite closely. Review to follow.

 

 

Knight: A Chronicle of the Sibyl’s War by Timothy Zahn
Nicole Hammond was just trying to survive on the streets of Philadelphia, then she and her partner Bungie were abducted by a race of mysterious moth-like aliens and taken to a strange ship called the Fyrantha. Now she is a Sibyl, a special human that has the ability to communicate with the aliens and their ship, and no one is happy.
And that’s putting it mildly. It is the classic story of the underdog, where an outmatched outsider somehow has to prevail and put right a lot of injustices with insufficient information… I quickly got pulled into the story and really enjoyed it. I’m going to go back and get hold of the first book, Pawn.

 

AUDIOBOOK – The Screaming Staircase – Book 1 of the Lockwood and Co series by Jonathan Stroud
For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions. Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.
This may be presented as a children’s book, but the writing and premise kept me gripped throughout – and it was quite creepy enough, thank you very much… I’m delighted that I already have the second book in this excellent series to tuck into. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 17h March 2019

Review of Satellite by Nick Lake

Review of Bloodfire – Book 1 of the Blood Destiny series by Helen Harper

Review of Nimbus – Book 3 of the Psi-Tech novels by Jacey Bedford

Friday Face-Off featuring Death of Kings – Book 6 of The Saxon Stories series by Bernard Cornwall

Review of Dreadnought – Book 2 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

The Art of the Book Event: 9 Tips https://writerunboxed.com/2019/03/23/the-art-of-the-book-event-9-tips/ I’d like to think that authors take this on board – to avoid disappointing long-suffering book fans and so that they, too, enjoy these events…

Midspring https://inesemjphotography.com/2019/03/23/midspring/ And why wouldn’t we celebrate the coming back to life of the countryside with Inessa’s fabulous photos?

Shiver Me Timbers! A Series Shake-Down – Part 1 https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/20/shiver-me-timbers-a-series-shake-down-part-one/ As the Cap gives a rundown on outstanding book series, I’m sure we can all relate. How do you handle it when you realise you have started faaar more series than you can ever complete?

A Short Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s ‘Wild Nights! Wild Nights’ https://interestingliterature.com/2019/03/18/a-short-analysis-of-emily-dickinsons-wild-nights-wild-nights/ A poem I didn’t know from this accomplished poet…

Throwback Thursday: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgeson Burnett https://lynns-books.com/2019/03/21/throwback-thursday-the-secret-garden-by-frances-hodgson-burnett/ I really like the sound of this meme. We spend a lot of time discussing new books or more recent releases – I love the idea that we can now also highlight and celebrate gems we read years ago that someone else might also like…

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I am still trying to catch up – thank you for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

Friday Faceoff – Hell is Empty and all the Devils Are Here…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week we are looking at covers featuring demons. I have chosen The Amulet of Samarkand – Book 1 of the Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud. Though strictly speaking Bartimaeus is a djinni, not a demon…

 

theamuletofsamarkandThis offering was published by Disney-Hyperion in 2003. You get a sense of the creature’s age (he is 5,000 years old) and his sharp, sly humour that pings off the page. I love the fact he is sideways on and evidently taunting us with the precious amulet. Pity about the lettering.

 

theamuletofsamarkand1This version was produced by Corgi Children’s in 2004. Again, Bartimaeus dominates, this time looking very much like a gargoyle. I’m not sure I like the sepia look, but I do love the lettering on this cover.

 

theamuletofsamarkand2This edition was published in 2004 by cbj Verlag. The overall design is the same as the previous version, but I far prefer the dark colour palette, which I think gives the cover more eye appeal, though this time around I think the font is disappointing.

 

theamuletofsamarkand3This edition was published in 2007 by Le Livre de Poche. This is the runner-up for me. I love the drama of the backlighting and the backdrop of the library as Bartimaus appears in Nathaniel’s circle for the first time. My favourite is the first cover – it’s the wicked grin that sells this one for me. A suitably memorable cover for a wonderfully memorable series. Do you agree?

Favourite London Spec Fic Tales – Part 2

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There are a number of science fiction and fantasy – mostly fantasy, it has to be said – which are set in London, an amazing city, thick with history and yet still buzzing and vibrant. I have already suggested a number of well-written, quality series that use London as an effective backdrop in Part 1 and here is now the next section of the article, which would have been far too long had I published it in one go.

The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
This is another ongoing series that is a solid favourite – I love the way this long-running series has theatrocityarchivesdeveloped to date.

Bob Howard is a low-level techie working for The Laundry, a super-secret government agency. While his colleagues are out saving the world, Bob’s under a desk restoring lost data. None of them receive any thanks for the jobs they do, but at least a techie doesn’t risk getting shot or eaten in the line of duty. Bob’s world is dull but safe, and that’s the way it should have stayed; but then he went and got Noticed. Now, Bob Howard is up to his neck in spycraft, alternative universes, dimension-hopping nazis, Middle Eastern terrorists, damsels in distress, ancient Lovecraftian horror and the end of the world. Only one thing is certain: it will take more than control-alt-delete to sort this mess out…

The first book in this series is The Atrocity Archives.

 

 

Spellcrackers.com by Suzanne McLeod
thesweetscentofbloogThis is a sparkling series with a fantasy PI who pings off the page. I need to get back and catch up with this series!

My name is Genny Taylor. I work for Spellcrackers.com. It’s a great job, pays the rent, lets me do the thing I’m good at – finding magic and cracking it – and the bonus is it’s run by witches, which stops the vamps from taking a bite out of me. When Mr October, a sexy calendar pin-up vamp, is accused of murdering his girlfriend, an old debt is called in and Genny is forced to help prove his innocence, risking her job and the protection it offers – and threatening to expose her own dark secrets. Searching for the killer plunges Genny deep into the hidden heart of vampire society. It’s not long before she realises that she and Mr October are both unwitting pawns in a centuries-old power struggle between London’s non-human communities . . . and it’s not just her own neck that’s at stake, but the lives of all London’s supernaturals. My advice is to start with the first book The Sweet Scent of Blood.

 

The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud
Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five theamuletofsamarkandand sent to live as an apprentice to a master. Powerful magicians rule Britain, and its empire, and Nathaniel is told his is the “ultimate sacrifice” for a “noble destiny.” If leaving his parents and erasing his past life isn’t tough enough, Nathaniel’s master, Arthur Underwood, is a cold, condescending, and cruel middle-ranking magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The boy’s only saving grace is the master’s wife, Martha Underwood, who shows him genuine affection that he rewards with fierce devotion. Nathaniel gets along tolerably well over the years in the Underwood household until the summer before his eleventh birthday. Everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him.

Nathaniel vows revenge. In a Faustian fever, he devours magical texts and hones his magic skills, all the while trying to appear subservient to his master. When he musters the strength to summon the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Lovelace by stealing the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, the boy magician plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything he could ever imagine.
This intelligent, well written trilogy may feature a wise-cracking genie, who is the main protagonist – but it is for older children, as the jaw-dropping climax left me wrung out… The first book is The Amulet of Samarkand – see my review here.

 

The Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann
theaffinitybridgeThe entertaining steampunk detective series has also grabbed me as I’ve enjoyed the progression of the characters.

Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London, a city teetering on the edge of revolution. Its people are ushering in a new era of technology, dazzled each day by new inventions. Airships soar in the skies over the city, whilst ground trains rumble through the streets and clockwork automatons are programmed to carry out menial tasks in the offices of lawyers, policemen and journalists. But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side. For this is also a world where ghostly policemen haunt the fog-laden alleyways of Whitechapel, where cadavers can rise from the dead and where Sir Maurice Newbury, Gentleman Investigator for the Crown, works tirelessly to protect the Empire from her foes.

When an airship crashes in mysterious circumstances, Sir Maurice and his recently appointed assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes are called in to investigate. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is baffled by a spate of grisly murders and a terrifying plague is ravaging the slums of the city.

The first book in the series is The Affinity Bridge.

 

The Skyscraper Throne series by Tom Pollock
This gritty, urban fantasy has London singing off the pages as a magical personification that I found thecity'ssonenthralling.
Running from her traitorous best friend and her estranged father, graffiti artist Beth Bradley is looking for sanctuary. What she finds is Urchin, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London’s mystical underworld. Urchin opens Beth’s eyes to the city she’s never truly seen-where vast spiders crawl telephone wires seeking voices to steal, railwraiths escape their tethers, and statues conceal an ancient priesthood robed in bronze. But it all teeters on the brink of destruction. Amid rumors that Urchin’s goddess mother will soon return from her 15-year exile, Reach, a malign god of urban decay, wants the young prince dead. Helping Urchin raise an alleyway army to reclaim his skyscraper throne, Beth soon forgets her old life. But when her best friend is captured, Beth must choose between this wondrous existence and the life she left behind.

The first book in the series is The City’s Son – see my review here.

 

 

The Magnificent Devices series by Shelley Adina
magnificentdevicesThis is a steampunk, alternate history romp, featuring a feisty protagonist – and if you think it starts off reading like a typical period romance, do keep reading because it suddenly turns into something so much more intriguing…

London, 1889. Victoria is Queen. Charles Darwin’s son is Prime Minister. And steam is the power that runs the world. At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire’s talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. The first book in the series is Magnificent Devices – see my review here.

 

 

 

The Night’s Masque series by Anne Lyle
This is an historical genre mash-up, with a dash of science fiction thrown into the alternate world, whichalchemistofsouls gives an intriguing backdrop to the storyline.

When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods–and a skrayling ambassador–to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital? Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally–and Mal his soul.

The first book in this entertaining series is The Alchemist of Souls – see my review here.

 

 

Triumff , Her Majesty’s Hero by Dan Abnett
triumffThis is standalone genre mash-up swashbuckler has a premise that doesn’t bear too much close examination – but I found I didn’t really care, because it’s such fun…
Sir Rupert Triumff. Adventurer. Fighter. Drinker. Saviour? Triumff is a ribald historical fantasy set in a warped clockwork-powered version of our present day. A new Elizabethan age, not of Elizabeth II but in the style of the original Virgin Queen. Throughout its rollicking pages, Sir Rupert Triumff drinks, dines and duels his way into a new Brass Age of Exploration and Adventure. Read my review here.

Review of The Amulet of Samarkand – Book 1 of The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

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This book was recommended to me by my niece as one of the best YA fantasy series that she’d read.

A young magician’s apprentice, Nathaniel, secretly summons the irascible 5,000 year old djinni, Bartimaeus, to do his bidding. The task is not an easy one – he must steal the powerful Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace, a master magician of unrivalled ruthlessness and ambition. Before long, Bartimaeus and Nathaniel are caught up in a terrifying flood of magical intrigue, rebellion and murder.

Katherine was right – this book is excellent. The world Stroud depicts is actually a grim one – magicians are ruthless and deeply amuletunpleasant as they rule over the commoners with a sense of entitlement that is creating widespread dissatisfaction. One of the reasons they are that way, is because they are plucked out of their family surroundings at five years old and apprenticed to a magician, who may be sympathetic and understanding of a young child – or may not… Which is what happens to Nathaniel, who ends up living with Arthur Underwood, a magician of middling ability. But when he says the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong people – there are catastrophic consequences…

The humour in the book is supplied by Bartimaeus, a djinni, who is summoned by Nathaniel and whose first-person cynical commentary on the human characters in the book extend to a series of amusing footnotes. It is a measure of the strength of the characterisation and story arc, that Stroud mostly manages to make this particular device work – despite the fact that Terry Pratchett has made it his trademark since he started writing the Discworld series longer ago than I care to remember…

A lot of the tension in the story is provided by the anger and dislike Bartimaeus feels towards Nathaniel, who has enslaved him by summoning him to do his bidding – and Nathaniel’s own fear caused by the fact that Bartimaeus has learnt his name, and can use it against the young magician. Nathaniel is no Harry Potter – he is precocious, ambitious and vain. It is his pride that causes the initial mess which spirals out of control – and that same dogged determination that also drives him to continue forward, whatever the consequences. He is an intriguing anti-hero and I found the ending interesting, with a couple of compelling dangling plotlines leading me to turn immediately to the next book in the series, The Golem’s Eye.

And if the sequel is the classy, accomplished read of The Amulet of Samarkand, then I will be settling down to devour the book in one demon-like gulp…
9/10