Tag Archives: horror

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 Lockwood and 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…
Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase is one of my most anticipated books of 2013.  I love ghost stories and horror for kids and teens, and The Screaming Staircase sounds absolutely fantastic.  I’m looking forward to diving into this one and losing myself in the story.  I’ll post my review later this month, along with some copies to give away.  Check out these videos of author Jonathan Stroud talking about his new book.

Book Trailer

Jonathan Stroud talks about Lockwood and Co.

Jonathan Stroud and the characters in Lockwood and Co.

Jonathan Stroud talks about Lockwood and Co. – Book Two!

Jonathan Stroud on ‘The Problem’ in Lockwood and Co.

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Derek Landy talks about Last Stand of Dead Men

War has finally come. But it’s not a war between good and evil, or light and dark – it’s a war between Sanctuaries. For too long, the Irish Sanctuary has teetered on the brink of world-ending disaster, and the other Sanctuaries around the world have had enough. Allies turn to enemies, friends turn to foes, and Skulduggery and Valkyrie must team up with the rest of the Dead Men if they’re going to have any chance at all of maintaining the balance of power and getting to the root of a vast conspiracy that has been years in the making. But while this war is only beginning, another war rages within Valkyrie herself. Her own dark side, the insanely powerful being known as Darquesse, is on the verge of rising to the surface. And if Valkyrie slips, even for a moment, then Darquesse will burn the world and everyone in it.

The second to last book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, Last Stand of Dead Men, is finally here!  The last couple of books are going to be pretty epic and it will be really interesting to see how the series ends.  I’ll post my review very soon and there will be a copy to win.

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Department 19: Battle Lines by Will Hill

Will Hill is one of those authors that just keeps impressing me.  I was blown away by his first Department 19 book when it came out in 2011, then he took things up a notch last year in Department 19: The Rising.  Now Jamie, Larissa and Department 19 are back and even more awesome than ever in the latest installment, Department 19: Battle Lines.

As the clock ticks remorselessly towards Zero Hour and the return of Dracula, the devastated remnants of Department 19 try to hold back the rising darkness. Jamie Carpenter is training new recruits, trying to prepare them for a fight that appears increasingly futile. Kate Randall is pouring her grief into trying to plug the Department’s final leaks, as Matt Browning races against time to find a cure for vampirism. And on the other side of the world, Larissa Kinley has found a place she feels at home, yet where she makes a startling discovery. Uneasy truces are struck, new dangers emerge on all sides, and relationships are pushed to breaking point. And in the midst of it all, Department 19 faces a new and potentially deadly threat, born out of one of the darkest moments of its own long and bloody history. Zero Hour is coming. And the Battle Lines have been drawn.

Department 19: Battle Lines is full of everything I loved about the previous books – vicious blood-sucking vampires, cool weapons and technology, suspense, action, violence, and Frankenstein.  Battle Lines is the biggest book yet (at 702 pages) and there is so much happening.  I’d love to know how Will keeps track with everything that’s happening.  You finish a chapter and just want to go straight on with the next one to find out what’s happening with the other characters. 

Like the other books in the series, there are lots of different threads of the story and many characters whose story we’re following.  If the Department didn’t have enough problems dealing with the attack on The Loop and the imminent rise of Dracula, they have another crisis to deal with.  Patients from mental institutions around the world have been ‘turned’ and escaped, leaving incredibly powerful and unpredictable vampires running loose.  It’s up to the Operators, including Jamie and his new recruits, to hunt down and terminate them before they create havoc.  While Jamie is out hunting vampires, his friends are busy with their own important tasks.  Kate helps carry out interviews to try and find the leaks within the Department, Matt works on a cure for vampirism as part of the reformed Lazarus Project, and Larissa is sent to NS9 in America to help them and select a team to bring back to the Department.  A descendant of of the founders of Department 19 is also out for revenge and threatens to blow the Department wide open by exposing them.  All of this is happening while Dracula bides his time in a chateau in France.

Will’s range of characters is great, from the members of Blacklight to the vampires and the minor characters.  With each book you find out more about the main characters and get introduced to new ones.  One of the things I really liked about this book was that Will is introducing new characters who will go on to play a greater part in the series. 

The pages of the book are dripping with vampire blood and you can almost smell the charred vampire flesh.  Will’s vampires explode like a balloon when staked in the heart and they burst into flame when shot with a UV gun.  There’s more than enough blood, gore and violence to keep any horror fan happy.

I can’t wait to find out where Will takes us from here.  I know one thing for sure – whatever happens, it will be epic!

Win Department 19: Battle Lines

Thanks to HarperCollins NZ I have a copy of Department 19: Battle Lines to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Friday 17 May (NZ only).

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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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The Maleficent Seven by Derek Landy

One of the things I love the most about Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series is the cast of brilliantly named characters.  The series focuses on Skulduggery and Valkyrie as they fight to save the world from the forces of evil, but I’ve often wished that I could see more of particular characters.  I can imagine them getting in to all sorts of trouble when Skulduggery isn’t around.  I’m obviously not the only one who wished for this, as Derek has written a stand-alone book that focuses specifically on Tanith Low, once a hero but now a villain with a Remnant inside her.  Tanith and her gang of evil-doers go up against a group of rogue Sanctuary agents in Derek’s latest book, The Maleficent Seven.

This time, the bad guys take the stage. Tanith Low, now possessed by a remnant, recruits a gang of villains – many of whom will be familiar from previous Skulduggery adventures – in order to track down and steal the four God-Killer level weapons that could hurt Darquesse when she eventually emerges. Also on the trail of the weapons is a secret group of Sanctuary sorcerers, and doing his best to keep up and keep Tanith alive is one Mister Ghastly Bespoke. When the villains around her are lying and scheming and plotting, Tanith needs to stay two steps ahead of her teammates and her enemies. After all, she’s got her own double-crosses to plan – and she’s a villain herself…

There is no Skulduggery or Valkyrie in sight in The Maleficent Seven but I loved it and it’s got everything that makes the Skulduggery books so great.  Some of my favourite minor characters in the series are major players in this book, especially Tanith and Billy-Ray Sanguine. Tanith and Billy-Ray have an unusual relationship – you don’t expect villains to use the word ‘love’ and be cutesy with each other.  There are other characters who have also popped up in the other books in the series that you find out more about too, and not all of them make it to the end of the story (which is pretty normal for a Derek Landy book).  I like that this book focuses mostly on the villains, rather than the heroes.  You don’t often get to see things from their perspective so it makes a nice change.  The major villain is, of course, Tanith Low, who we haven’t seen much of in the last few books, and the whole story centers around her.  As well as the main story of tracking down the God-Killer level weapons, Derek gives us a glimpse of Tanith’s origins.  You see her as pre-Sanctuary Tanith as well as Remnant-host Tanith.

The main reason I love Derek’s writing is because of his wicked sense of humour.  The dialogue is great and his characters have some very entertaining conversations.  There are some hilarious lines in this book and I just have to share a couple.

‘There are plenty of things I’d insult before getting to your intelligence, Johann.  Your beard for one.  It looks like the beards of Fu Manchu and Ming the Merciless mated, and their bizarre offspring crawled on to your face and died on your chin.’

‘”You zapped your own brain?”

“And it didn’t do me any harm apart from the dizziness and the vomiting spells and the weirdly persistent ringing in my ears.  Also the blackouts and the mood swings and the creeping paranoia.  Apart from that, zero side effects, if you don’t count numb fingertips.  Which I don’t.”‘

If you’re a fan of the Skulduggery Pleasant series I’m sure you’ll love The Maleficent Seven as much as I did.   You don’t have to have read any of the other books in the series to enjoy this one, so it would be a great book to hook kids in to the series.

5 out of 5 stars

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Introducing The Department 19 Files by Will Hill

I’m a huge fan of Will Hill’s Department 19 series.  I love them because they’re action-packed and gory, and there are vicious, blood-sucking vampires galore.  If you haven’t come across the series you can read my reviews of Department 19 and Department 19: The Rising here on the blog.

The third book in this awesome series, Department 19: Battle Lines will be released in April in New Zealand (March 28th in the UK).  In the lead-up to the release of Battle Lines, Will Hill is publishing three Department 19 short stories as ebooks.  The Department 19 Files is a trilogy of new stories, set in the same world as Jamie’s, but further back in history.  Will describes the stories as:

“…some of the darkest, most painful stuff I’ve written, and are full of all the action and gore you’ll be expecting. They shed light on the early years of Blacklight and how it became the organisation that Jamie and his friends are parts of, and they allowed me to write about one of the most fascinating periods in history, a period of mechanised death and devastation on a scale that is almost unimaginable in these days of drone strikes and laser-targeted bombs.”

The three stories are being released over the next three weeks in the lead up to the release of Battle Lines, and you can buy them from Amazon.com or Kobo in NZ.  Will explains what each of the stories is about on his blog:

“if you want to read about Quincey Harker and his horrifying adventures in the darkness of the Western Front, pick up The Devil In No Man’s Land. If you want to see a younger Valeri Rusmanov doing what he does best as Europe is gripped by the flu pandemic of 1918 (and read some of the nastiest stuff I’ve ever written!) then stick around for Undead in the Eternal City. And if you want to know what happened when Quincey Harker returned home and discovered the truth about what his father and his friends really do, then The New Blood contains the answers, along with some characters that fans of Dracula will be very familiar with!”

I’ve just read the first story, The Devil in No Man’s Land, and it’s bloody brilliant!  Set in the muddy battlefields of the Western Front, it tells the story of Quincey Harker (a character you’ll be familiar with if you’ve read any of the other Department 19 books) and the members of the Special Reconnaissance Unit.  They fought relentlessly for their country and were given medals that they could never be officially awarded, but none of them were prepared for the horror that they would discover in Passchendaele.  Will Hill is brilliant at building suspense and having you on the edge of your seat, waiting to find out what Quincey and his squad will come across next.  The gore that I love in the Department 19 books is certainly here in this compact little story and Will portrays the horrors of war very well.

One of the things I like the most about the Department 19 books are the historical chapters that give you background to the story and the organisation, so it’s great that Will has written these ebook short stories.  The great thing about The Department 19 Files is that they can be read separate from the rest of the books, so even someone who hasn’t read the others would enjoy these.  They would be a great way to hook readers into the series too.

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Win a signed Spook’s Apprentice book

2013-02-21 07.40.17We were lucky enough to have Spook’s Apprentice author, Joseph Delaney, visit us in Christchurch this week.  I’ve been a huge fan of Joseph’s ever since the very first book in the series was released in 2004 so it was great to hear all about the series from the man himself.  It was great to watch the children in the audience reacting to Joseph’s stories and the creepy pictures from his books.

Thanks to Random House New Zealand and Joseph Delaney I have 4 signed Spook’s books to give away.  Four lucky readers will win a signed book each.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address, and answer this question: Who is your favourite character or creature of the dark in the Spook’s series? Competition closes Thursday 28 February (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winners are Ali, Loraine, Julia and Tokhuor.

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Meet Joseph Delaney in Christchurch

Joseph Delaney, the author of the Spook’s Apprentice series, is one of my favourite authors.  The Spook’s books are dark, spooky and creepy, and are full of witches, boggarts and creatures of the dark.  If you like spooky stories, with a bit of history, mystery and adventure you’ll love Joseph’s Books.  The movie based on the series, Seventh Son, is due out later this year and I’m sure it will be fantastic.

I’m excited to announce that Joseph Delaney is coming to Christchurch on Wednesday 20 February.  You can come and meet him at Upper Riccarton Library, from 7:00-8:00pm on Wednesday 20 February.  He’ll talk about his books, you can ask him questions, and even get your book signed.

It’s a free event but you need to book a space.  Just call Christchurch City Libraries on 03-941-7923 to book.

To find out more about Joseph Delaney and the Spook’s Apprentice series, visit www.spooksbooks.com

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Zom-B Underground by Darren Shan

Warning: may contain spoilers.

The first book in Darren Shan’s Zom-B series was an explosive book that introduced us to Darren’s zombie horde.  Like many of Darren’s fans I’ve been eagerly awaiting the second book in the series to find out what happened after the cliff-hanger ending of book one. Zom-B Underground certainly doesn’t disappoint and takes you deeper inside Darren’s zombie-infested world.

Can you hold on to your humanity when you’re a monster?

How do you face the present if you’re haunted by the past?

Where can you turn when you’re trapped in a living nightmare?

For B Smith, death is not the end!

 

One of the things I like the most about Darren Shan’s writing is that he doesn’t waste time.  After a quick recap (which I always find really helpful) we’re thrown right back into the action, with B surrounded by chaos and not knowing where she is.  There are zombies everywhere and what seem to be soldiers with various weapons, including flame-throwers.  Darren’s writing is fast-paced and he certainly keeps you on your toes with lots of twists and turns.

While not as gory as the first book, there is still plenty of skull-cracking and brain-gobbling to make readers cringe. Not since Wobblebottom in Barry Hutchison’s Doc Mortis has a clown freaked me out so much as Mr Dowling.  Darren’s description of this sadistic clown is absolutely terrifying!  He seems to appear out of nowhere and shows up at the worst possible times in the story.  A lot of mystery surrounds Mr Dowling and it’s clear that he plays an important part in the overall story of the series.  Unfortunately, it won’t be the last we’ll see of him as he seems to grace the cover of book three, Zom-B City.

The thing that really stood out for me in Zom-B Underground is the way Darren portrays life as a zombie.  There are so many intricacies of zombie life that I’d never thought about before, like issues with eating and sleeping, and even zombie privates.

Once again Darren leaves you on a cliff-hanger so that you can’t wait to rip your claws and teeth into the next book.  Luckily, we only have to wait a couple of months, as Zom-B City is released in March (with 2 more books coming after this in 2013).

4 out of 5

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