Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud: A Review

Book Review:
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud


Hello, lovebugs!  Lately I've been in the mood for a new middle grade book or series, so I decided to go browse the children's section at my local Barnes & Noble last week.  I've always been a huge fan of Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Sequence, so when I saw his name and a brand new book behind it, I knew this was the book for me.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Bartimaeus Sequence...

1. The Amulet of Samarkand (2003)
 2. The Golem's Eye (2005)
3. Ptolemy's Gate (2006)
4. The Ring of Solomon (2010)
 
This four-book series tells the tale of young magician-in-training Nathaniel and the 5,000 year old djinni he summons named Bartimaeus.  It's all about magic, power, and revenge with political undertones and very strange friendships.  (This was originally a trilogy but Stroud wrote a fourth book back in 2010 and voila!  It became a sequence.)  I'm not going to give you an elaborate overview of the series since I'm writing a review about something entirely different, but know that these books are awesome.  Awesome.  Read them.

Back to the story! 

Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase was staring at me from the shelves when I rounded the corner at Barnes & Noble and my hands reached for it before I knew what was happening.  I was ecstatic!  I had no idea that the amazing Jonathan Stroud had begun a new series!  The Screaming Staircase was published last year and its sequel is already due to come out in two months!  The fates were surely smiling upon me during that shopping trip.  I headed to the cashier, drove straight home, and hopped in my bed to begin my new book.  Do I even have to tell you?  I finished it in one sitting.

PLOT: 
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud is the first book in a new paranormal/mystery/horror series that takes place in an extremely haunted version of our modern day London.  In this world, ghosts have been a huge problem for the past fifty years.  No one knows what caused "The Problem", but the sudden onset of ghostly appearances across the country has created a sudden need for Psychic Investigations Agencies to take care of these spectres.  Naturally, not every ghostly presence is dangerous; however, there are more powerful, angry spirits who are known to cause a ton of trouble or even death.  These spirits require the attention of child agents to find and destroy the cause of each haunting.  These jobs are extremely dangerous, and, because adults cannot see ghosts, children who show a proclivity to the profession are often trained from a very young age by ex-agents.  One of these children is the young Lucy Carlyle.  Lucy heads to London in search of a job within the bigger agencies of the city.  After many failed interviews, Lucy gets a job at the small firm of Lockwood & Co. lead by the charming young Anthony Lockwood.  They quickly land a case with a very dangerous spirit that goes awry and leads to the burning down of their client's house.  Their carelessness with the ghost of Annie Ward makes finding work nearly impossible with the bad publicity they receive.  They find themselves desperate for work and a way to turn their luck around. 
*SPOILERS* What's worse for the agents of Lockwood & Co. is that Annie Ward's ghost continues to cause trouble.  Confident they did their job correctly and bound her spirit, the young agents are eager to finally put her to rest.  When they begin looking into the Annie Ward's murder for answers, they are suddenly hired by a rich philanthropist who owns Combe Carey Hall, perhaps the most haunted house in the world.  Desperate for money and a case to save their reputations, the agents are torn between what's best for the agency and the best for their lives.  Is this a stroke of good fortune or could it be the death of them?  Lockwood makes the executive decision to take the case, bringing them face-to-face with the Screaming Staircase and the Red Room, two of the most haunted areas of Combe Carey.  They agents of Lockwood & Co. find themselves fighting for their lives as they take on hundreds of disgruntled spirits in the most dangerous battle they have ever known.

OPINION:
This book was non-stop excitement and mystery.  There is constant action and intrigue that leaves the reader dying for more.  Jonathan Stroud is so freaking good at laying out a book in a way that guarantees his readers come back for the rest of the series.  On top of the excitement and mystery, this book was TERRIFYING.  These ghosts, especially the ones of Combe Carey Hall, are frightening!  It was a ton of fun to read at night, but it was also something I probably wouldn't recommend to those faint of heart like myself.  I called Josh to ask him to come home from the library after I finished this late at night because I didn't want to be home alone.  What I loved about this was the fact that it wasn't just scary.  I actually do not like to be scared.  I don't like scary movies, I typically stay away from scary books, I don't go to haunted houses, etc.  It just isn't my thing.  That being said, this book had so many other aspects going on that I really enjoyed the horror too.  I was eager to find out what would happen next and I just couldn't put this book down!  There was a ton of character development but also unanswered questions.  We get to see a lot of what these characters are growing into, but there's still so much to learn about their past and families.  This book gets a 5.0/5.0 stars from me!
 
 My only issue with the book was the title The Screaming Staircase.  The book is more than half of the way over before the staircase is even mentioned.  Yes, it does become a huge part of the ending, but until that one specific part, the majority of the story is about Annie Ward.  This doesn't take away from the story AT ALL, I just thought it was oddly named.

CHARACTERS:
Lucy Carlyle and Anthony Lockwood are also teamed up with George, a pudgy, annoying character who constantly reminds me of Ron Weasley eating chicken legs in the Great Hall, except that I love Ron.
 
Sure, he had his own contributions and minor character development in the story, but I'm going to leave him out of this because that isn't what interests me.

Let's chat about Lucy.  Lucy Carlyle comes from a considerably nasty background where she isn't really loved or valued among her many siblings, but she has always had a gift when it comes to "hearing" the spirits in her town.  This leads her to a job under an ex-agent that leads to a grizzly event and her decision to leave home.  What we see with this story is Lucy returning to a team that she loves and trusts.  She really begins to come into her gifts and we can expect to see a lot from her in the next novel.  *SPOILERS* It was heavily hinted that, though no one has been able to in fifty or so years, Lucy is able to hear the ghosts much like another beloved, notable female agent of the time.  She isn't able to hone in on this power until the very end of the book when she converses with the skull, which brings us to the next book in the series entitled The Whispering Skull.  The ending tells us that we can expect great things from Lucy in the next installment.  Lucy also has yet to share with Lockwood what became of her last team of agents.  Surely that is going to lead to some dramatic moment in the near future.

Anthony Lockwood is a mystery.  He is an incredibly charming and gifted agent who takes initiative and always seems to have himself together.  *SPOILERS* He is also surrounded by a huge, empty house that once belonged to another generation of Lockwoods, about whom he refuses to speak.  Clearly something terrible happened to his parents that will be revealed before the end of the story, but, as for now, your guess is as good as mine. 

Further Speculation: Will romance bloom between the two?  It's hard to say at this point.

WHAT'S NEXT?
Well, if you read the spoilers, there are a few secrets that will hopefully be shared by both Lucy and Anthony.  We may even get to find more about George now that we know he isn't totally useless.  The biggest thing, of course, is the development of Lucy's gift.  Surely this next book will focus on her abilities and how they will change the course of ghost-hunting in its entirety.  Also, at some point they need to discover what happened to start the ghostly appearances in the first place.  What began "The Problem" and how can it be reversed?  I would love to see more focus on the WHYs behind the hauntings versus just getting rid of the problem without asking questions.  

For now we must wait on book two, Lockwood & Co.: The Whispering Skull that comes out on September 16th of this year.
It goes without saying that I can't freaking wait.

I hope you all enjoyed this review!  Please feel free to leave and questions of comments down below.  If you've read this book, did you enjoy it?  How about the Bartimaeus Sequence?  I'd love to hear from you!

I hope you all have a fantastic day, and, as always, thanks for reading!

- Jess

P.S. Further questions or book suggestions can be sent to me at: thejessdujour@gmail.com



Saturday, July 5, 2014

Meet River

Hello, folks.

For the two of you who read this blog, you've probably noticed that I haven't been around for awhile.

Well, this is why.

Meet River, the newest addition in the Tibbs clan:





















This beautiful bundle of joy is our recent rescue and the absolute love of our lives.  She is a golden retriever and, as of today, is fifteen weeks old!  Yes, she's going to a big girl!

We adopted River from a shelter in Louisiana where she was due to be euthanized within the next twenty-four hours.  We made contact with someone in Mississippi who met us half-way and hopped in the car at once to get her.  Adoption has become such a huge blessing and we are thankful for all of our adopted/stray babies.  

House-training and training a puppy in general is time-consuming, especially when added into our already busy school and work lives.  Imagine all of this with five cats as well.  Yep.  It's no wonder that I've been busy as hell.

The bigger and smarter that River gets, the more time I'll have to focus on blogging, filming, and reading.  I've missed it but I'm also happy spending my time with my furry family.

I hope that the stories of my furry rescues will influence you all to look into adoption before shelling out hundreds of dollars supporting the business of breeding animals.  Goldens are my favorite breed and River looks pure bred; we were able to save a puppy in need and get our dream dog at the same time.  There are plenty of "designer breed" puppies and kitties in need of adoption at your local shelter.  You can also check websites like petfinder.com if you're in search of a specific breed.

I hope you have a beautiful day and thanks for reading!

- Jess

Good Morning, Universe!



Good morning, beauties!

It's been awhile.  How have you all been?  Hopefully as spectacularly as me. 

I've become one of those people who wakes up at 5:30 every morning (for reasons that will appear in my next post) and I get to see a lot of early morning beauty.  Today I wanted to share my morning with you. 


This is the view over Tuscaloosa, Alabama (5:45 AM) and it is a lovely sight.

I've always been a sucker for sunrises and sunsets - so many of us are!  I have tons of sunset photos that I took when I was a child with my coveted disposable cameras. They've always meant so much to me. 

Life has begun shifting in unexpected ways lately, so the rebirth of this day will undoubtedly become the theme in my near future. I'm not sure what is planned for me and Josh, but we are on the edge of something in both our occupational and educational lives. 

I know that's awfully vague, but I don't know much more than that myself. Change is building. Graduation is in sight. Relocation is inevitable. 

What comes next?  No one knows but Him, and I can't wait to find out.  Until then, I'm waking up with the dawn and rejoicing in every day I have in my sleepy town. 

I hope you all have a fantastic Saturday. 

- Jess