Tag Archives: ghosts

Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

I love a good ghost story, something that will scare me a bit.  Children’s horror is one of my favourite genres and I’ll snap up anything new that comes along.  When I first heard about Jonathan Stroud’s new series, Lockwood and Co., I knew that it would be exactly the sort of creepy ghost story I would love.  The first book in the series, The Screaming Staircase takes you inside the world of the ghost-hunters of Lockwood and Co. and once you’ve entered you won’t want to leave.

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.
The Screaming Staircase is one of the most exciting books I’ve read this year. Jonathan Stroud had me on the edge of my seat, anticipating a ghost to jump out at me around every twist and turn of the plot.  Jonathan has created such a chilling atmosphere in the book that you hear the creaks and groans of the old houses and almost feel the temperature drop in the room as the characters get closer to the ghosts.  You get caught up in the mystery of the lives of the living and the dead and Jonathan keeps you in suspense.
I love the world that Jonathan has created in the book; one much like ours but one plagued by ghosts of all sorts.  There are different types of ghosts, from a Type One Shade to a Type Two Wraith.  There are Physic Investigation Agencies (of which Lockwood and Co. is one) which specialise in the ‘containment and destruction of ghosts.’  These are run by adult supervisors but rely on the strong physic Talent of children.  It is only children who can see and hear the ghosts so it is up to them to capture them.  There is no mention of when the story is set (which I think just makes the story even better), but there is a mixture of both old-fashioned clothes and weapons, and modern technology.  The ghost hunters’ kit includes an iron rapier, iron chains and magnesium flares, all of which prove extremely necessary when facing the spectral threats.  Jonathan has even included a detailed glossary of terms and types of ghost, which I found really interesting to read after I had finished the book.
The three main characters, all members of Lockwood and Co., are all fantastic characters who really grew on me as the story progressed.  They each have their quirks, especially Lockwood and George, but they make a brilliant team and have each others’ backs when it counts.  There’s no love triangle here, just good old-fashioned camaraderie and getting the job done (if it doesn’t kill them first).  Lockwood, George and Lucy are building their relationship in this book, so there are some tense moments between them (especially George and Lucy) but Jonathan’s dialogue is brilliant.  I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationships develop in the further books.
I can’t wait for more Lockwood and Co.!  If you want a book that you won’t want to put down, that you’ll want to read with the lights on, then Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase is perfect.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Jonathan Stroud talks about his new series, Lockwood & Co.

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.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again.

The first book in Jonathan Stroud’s new series, Lockwood and Co., The Screaming Staircase, is one of my most anticipated books of 2013.  It sounds absolutely fantastic!  I loved Gareth P. Jones’ Constable and Toop and The Screaming Staircase sounds like a similar sort of story.  Ghosts and supernatural detectives – what more could I want?
The Screaming Staircase is due out in NZ on 20 September 2013.

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Through Dead Eyes by Chris Priestley

One of my favourite genres of stories for children and teens is horror.  There weren’t many of these types of book around when I was younger, but there is plenty to choose from these days, from Derek Landy and Joseph Delaney, to Darren Shan and Barry Hutchison.  Chris Priestley is an author of spooky, chilling and creepy stories that I’ve been reading more of lately and his latest book, Through Dead Eyes is a new favourite.

Alex joins his father on a business trip to Amsterdam. During the day he hangs out with the daughter of a family friend. They visit the usual sights but also coffee shops and flea markets off the beaten track. At one of these markets Alex spots an ancient-looking mask. Before he knows what he’s doing he buys it. Later, in his hotel room, he feels compelled to put the mask on. Alex is sucked into a parallel Amsterdam, one from centuries before which begins to reveal the dark past of both the building he is staying in and the little girl who once lived there edging stealthily towards the terrible twist.

Through Dead Eyes is a chilling ghost story that haunts you long after you’ve turned the last page.  I read it on a wet and dreary day which added to the chilling tone.   Chris Priestley really knows how to keep the reader on edge throughout the story.  The thing I love the most about Chris’s writing is that there are lots of twists that you don’t see coming, especially towards the end of the story, and he leaves you with a feeling of unease.  You know that, even though the story has finished, things are not right in the life of the characters.  Like any good ghost story you get pieces of the puzzle as the story progresses and you’ve got to figure out how they all fit together.  You just hope that the main character solves the puzzle before it’s too late.

The setting of Amsterdam adds to the eerie feeling of the story, because Alex is surrounded by so much history.  The buildings are hundreds of years old and they would hold many stories.  Alex is drawn to the history of the hotel he is staying in and the strange feelings he has inside his room.  This history and the connection between the mask and the paintings draw you in to the story.

The cover is fantastic and captures the tone of the story perfectly.  It was the cover, with the mottled and cracked surface, and the creepy eye, that grabbed my attention and made me pick it up.

Through Dead Eyes is great for readers aged 11+ who like to give themselves a good scare.

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Interview with Gareth P. Jones + giveaway of Constable & Toop

Garth P. Jones is the author of the creepy, gruesome and funny new book, Constable & Toop (you can read my review here).  After finishing Constable & Toop I wanted to find out what else he had written and I discovered that we had his Dragon Detective Agency series and The Thornthwaite Inheritance sitting on our library shelves.  I love his writing style and I now want to go and read all of his other books.  Gareth very kindly answered my questions about his writing and his fantastic new book.

  • What inspired you to write Constable and Toop?
I was sitting in a coffee shop in Honor Oak (which is not far from my flat). The coffee shop is opposite an undertakers called Constable & Toop. At the time I was trying to come up with a new idea. I wrote down the name of the undertakers, which I found especially evocative. By the time I had finished my coffee the bare bones of the idea were down on paper.
  • Are any of the ghosts in Constable and Toop based on real ghosts?
As a non-believer, I am amused by the idea of real ghosts, but yes – some are. The Man in Grey is the best example. A tour guide by the name of David Kendell-Kerby (also an actor and writer himself) told me about several ghosts who haunt Drury Lane (apparently the most haunted theatre in the world). I liked the story of the Man in Grey best. The stuff about him being bricked up in the wall and possibly killed for discovering accounting irregularities is all ‘true’ although his name was unknown so I borrowed David’s. The part about him whispering to lines to actors is ‘true’ as well – a kind of spiritual teleprompter.
  • In your story there are different types of ghosts, including Enforcers, Prowlers and Rogues. What sort of ghost would you be?
Well, I have certainly worked for large organisations like the Bureau where you can hide the fact you’re not doing much behind all the processes and procedures so maybe I would be a clerk – although a far less conscientious one than Lapsewood .

  • The story is set in Victorian England and you really feel immersed in the period as you read. While researching and writing your story what was the most interesting thing that you learnt about this period?
I think mostly I was struck by how similar it was. I was interested in the South-East London suburbs where I live and where most of the action is based and, although there has been a lot of development, it’s not that different in terms of how connected to London you feel. One of the formative moments in writing was standing at the top of the hill between Honor Oak and Peckham Rye and looking down at London and I realised that the view probably wouldn’t have been dramatically different – give or take a few buildings here and there. There were lots of moments while wandering around London when I felt very connected with the city’s history.

  • One of the things I like the most about Constable and Toop is the mix of the creepy and gruesome with the lighter moments and witty banter between your characters. Was this how you originally planned the story or did you set out to write a more traditional ghost story?
I had a very tight deadline with this book and how no real time to stop and consider what I was doing. Happily the story flowed very quickly from my pen. Gruesome and creepy were necessities of the story and I always intended it to be funny. My editor had told me that she didn’t think my previous book (The Considine Curse) was very funny so I was determined to make sure this one was.
  • What exciting stories can we look forward to from you?

Hm, I’m not sure I’m ready to tell anyone yet. It looks like it will have a Victorian setting again though – at least in part. And It will probably have elements of supernatural and humour – but not ghosts again. I’ll save ghosts for when I do a sequel to Constable & Toop… if I ever do that is.

Win a copy of Constable & Toop!

I have 2 copies of Constable & Toop to give away.  To get in the draw just enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Wednesday 21 November (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  This competition is now closed.

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Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I love creepy stories of all kinds.  Ghosts, werewolves, zombies, vampires, and other creatures that live in the dark are often featured in the books I love.  I’ve been reading many of the first titles from Hot Key Books (a brilliant new publisher based in the UK) and when I read about Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones I had to get my hands on it.  A ghost story set in Victorian London, featuring a boy who could communicate with ghosts, sounded absolutely fantastic!  Constable & Toop was even better than it sounded.

Sam Toop lives in a funeral parlour, blessed (or cursed) with an unusual gift. While his father buries the dead, Sam is haunted by their constant demands for attention. Trouble is afoot on the ‘other side’ – there is a horrible disease that is mysteriously imprisoning ghosts into empty houses in the world of the living. And Sam is caught in the middle – will he be able to bring himself to help?

Constable & Toop is a creepy, gruesome story, with plenty of mystery, and a good dose of wit and humour.  Gareth can have you cringing one moment and laughing the next, which is why I liked the book so much.  He has given us a glimpse inside the ghost world and it’s not what you would expect.  It’s the ghost world and the witty banter between his characters that provide the comic relief of the story.  There is also plenty of throat slitting and stabbing for those who like their ghost stories gruesome.  The story is set in Victorian London and from the first page you are immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the period.

There are several different threads of the story, following different characters, which Gareth weaves together perfectly.  Gareth shows us the lives of the living and the dead, and the ‘Talkers’ allow them to communicate with each other.  Characters whose lives seem quite separate from each other in the beginning become increasingly intertwined as the story progresses.

The thing I liked the most about Constable and Toop was the way that Gareth portrayed the ghost world.  It’s very bureaucratic, with each ghost having a role, like Enforcer or Prowler, and there are lots of rules and regulations that ghosts must follow.  If they don’t do as they are told they’re labelled Rogues and are hunted down.  There is an incredible amount of paperwork that needs to be filled out to do anything, and you must have a license in order to be a Poltergeist.  In order to go to the physical world and find out what your unfinished business is (so that you can step through the Unseen Door and cross over) you have to apply for a research license.  Lapsewood is my favourite character because he’s a very likeable guy, who just wants to get away from all the paperwork and get some adventure out in the real world (while impressing the girl of his dreams).  He has some of the best lines and has some incredibly strange conversations with his superiors, who can never seem to get his name right.

If you want a ghost story with a difference grab a copy of Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones.  I would recommend it for fans of Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series, Joseph Delaney’s Spook’s Apprentice series, or Barry Hutchison’s Invisible Fiends series.

5 out of 5 stars

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Guest Author: Joseph Delaney’s Top 5 Scariest Creatures in the Spook’s Stories

Joseph Delaney is the author of one of my favourite series, The Spook’s Apprentice.  It’s seriously creepy and full of all sorts of horrible creatures.  As the Spook’s Apprentice, Thomas has to keep the County safe from the evil that lurks in the dark.  The latest book in the series, Spook’s: Slither’s Tale, has just been released, and to celebrate Joseph has joined me today to talk about his Top 5 scariest creatures in the Spook’s stories.

The Haggenbrood

This creature is used in ritual combat to determine the outcome of disputes between citizens of Valkarky (See ‘Slither’).  It has three selves which share a common mind and they are, for all intents and purposes, one creature. It is fast and ferocious with fearsome teeth and claws.

Grimalkin

This is the witch assassin of the Malkin Clan (See ‘The Spook’s Battle’ and also ‘I am Grimalkin’). She is deadly with blades and stores powerful dark magic in the thumb-bones that she cuts from her dead enemies with her snippy scissors in order to wear around her neck.

The Bane

This creature from ‘The Spook’s Curse’ is trapped behind a silver gate in a labyrinth of dark tunnels under Priestown Cathedral. It is a shape-shifter with a terrible power; the Bane is able to press a victim so hard that his blood and bones are smeared into the cobbles.

Golgoth

This ‘Lord of Winter’ from ‘The Spook’s Secret’ has the power to plunge the world into another Ice Age. If summoned from the dark he can freeze you solid and shatter you into pieces like an ice stalactite falling on to a slab of rock.

Morwena

She is the most powerful of the water witches (See The Spook’s Mistake). Fathered by the Fiend, she has a blood-filled eye which is usually closed, the lids fixed together with a sharp thin bone. But anyone she gazes upon with that eye is immediately paralyzed and she is able to drink that victim’s blood at her leisure.

Best wishes,
Joseph Delaney

Get a copy of the latest book in the Spook’s Apprentice series, Slither’s Tale, from your library or bookshop now.

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My Favourite Seriously Spooky Authors for Halloween

Some of my favourite stories are ones that creep me out and send a chill down my spine.  When I was a kid there weren’t many authors who wrote horror stories or ghost stories.  R.L. Stine’s books were about the creepiest I could find and he’s still writing them today.

If you like horror stories, ghost stories or stories about the supernatural there are now lots of authors who write these stories.  My favourite seriously spooky authors are:

I also have to add Michelle Harrison, even though she writes all sorts of books.  Her recent book, Unrest is one of the creepiest books for kids or teens that I’ve ever read and I highly recommend it!

Who are your favourite spooky authors or spooky books?

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The Spook’s Blood Book Trailer

If you’re a fan ofThe Spook’s Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney, you’ll be excited to hear the latest book in the series, The Spook’s Blood is released in NZ this month.  I love this gripping, creepy series and I’m always excited to read the next installment.  Grab your copy from your library or bookshop now in July.

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Unrest by Michelle Harrison

Have you ever read a book that sent chills down your spine and made you want to sleep with the light on?  I’ve never read anything as haunting and spine-tingling as Unrest by Michelle Harrison.

Seventeen-year-old Elliott hasn’t slept properly for six months. Not since the accident that nearly killed him. Now he is afraid to go to sleep. Sometimes he wakes to find himself paralysed, unable to move a muscle, while shadowy figures move around him. Other times he is the one moving around, while his body lies asleep on the bed. According to his doctor, sleep paralysis and out of body experiences are harmless – but to Elliot they’re terrifying.

Convinced that his brush with death has opened up connections with the spirit world, Elliott secures a live-in job at one of England’s most haunted locations, determined to find out the truth. There he finds Sebastian, the ghost of a long-dead servant boy hanged for stealing bread. He also meets the living, breathing Ophelia, a girl with secrets of her own. She and Elliott grow closer, but things take a terrifying turn when Elliott discovers Sebastian is occupying his body when he leaves it. And the more time Sebastian spends inhabiting a living body, the more resistant he becomes to giving it back. Worse, he seems to have an unhealthy interest in Ophelia. Unless Elliott can lay Sebastian’s spirit to rest, he risks being possessed by him for ever, and losing the girl of his dreams…

Unrest is one of the creepiest books I’ve read, and Michelle Harrison had me considering leaving the light on at night.  It should come with a warning: Do not read at night!  Michelle’s writing is so descriptive that you feel like you’re in the room with Elliot, seeing and feeling everything that he does.  Michelle mentions in the author note that Elliot’s experiences are based on those of one of her relatives, and it is knowing that her story is based on fact that makes it even scarier.  One thing that I especially like about her writing was the way that she builds up tension, making you feel very on-edge as you read.  There are several strands of the story that Michelle weaves together like the Witch’s Ladder that becomes an important symbol for Elliot.

I thought both Elliot and Ophelia were really interesting characters.  Elliot has no idea why these horrible things keep happening to him while he is asleep and he has to deal with it by himself as nobody else believes him.  You experience everything that Elliot does because you’re inside his head and you empathize with him because you wouldn’t want to be in his situation.  I don’t think I’d be particularly sane if I woke each night to find myself paralysed and a dripping ghost was sitting on my chest.  Ophelia was a character that really grew on me.  At first, she’s quite snobbish and doesn’t want anything to do with Elliot.  She seems to have put barriers up to everyone and doesn’t want to get close to anyone (with good reason as we later find out).  As Elliot gets to know Ophelia he starts to break down her barriers and she becomes someone he can confide in.  The more I found out about Ophelia the more I liked her, and so does Elliot.

Unrest has the most shocking, unexpected ending of any book that I’ve read (I wasn’t even sure it would end on a positive note).  When I finished I could finally take a breath and marvel at the spine-tingling story Michelle had just told me.  If you like to be scared by the words on a page, you can’t go past Unrest.

5 out of 5 stars

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Michelle Harrison talks about Unrest

Michelle Harrison’s new book, Unrest, is my latest obsession.  It’s one of the creepiest, spine-tingling books I’ve read and makes me consider sleeping with the light on.  It’s out now in NZ.  Check out the creepy book trailer for Unrest and hear Michelle talk about her book and her top 5 ghost stories

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