Monday, September 18, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY | Books At The Top of My List This Fall

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for bloggers who like books and lists. It's awesome and is graciously hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  

This week's topic is straightforward - Top Ten Books on the Fall TBR.  This type of topic is usually focused on books that are being released but my list will mostly just be books that are at the top of my list to be read in the next 3 months. I did try and throw in some up-and-comers that I am particularly excited about!  It's always fun for me to look back on these well-intentioned "this is what I'll be reading" posts and see how I so totally did NOT follow the list!  Doesn't stop me from makin' 'em.  On with the show!

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1) The Empty Grave (Lockwood and Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud

I'm reading book 3 of this series right now. It's about teenaged ghost hunters in England and book 3 is the best in the series so far.  I've already checked out book 4 from the library and I know I'll want to immediately jump into this book which finishes the series.

2) All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells

I am distressingly far behind on my reading goal for the year and I need some shorter, fast moving fiction to help move things along.  I am dying to read this novella and it seems to fit the bill.  Bonus: Murderbots!


3) Penric and Desdemona Series by Lois McMaster Bujold


See above my desire for some shorter fiction, and I've been meaning to read this series of 5 fantasy novella's set in Bujold's World of the Five Gods since the first one, pictured above, was released.  


4) Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions (Kopp Sisters #3) by Amy Stewart

I completely adore, with all my heart and soul, this lovely historical crime series.  This third installment just came out earlier in September and no way am I leaving it for several months like I did book 2.  I mean, why would I want to postpone the impatient longing for book 4?


5) Akata Warrior (Akata Witch #2) by Nnedi Okorafor


I can't wait to catch up with Sunny and the Leopard Society.  It has felt like a long wait!  This is Okorafor's YA series about a teenaged Nigerian witch.  It's out on October 3rd. 


6) City of Lies (Counterfeit Lady #1) by Victoria Thompson

I'm a fan of Thompson's Gaslight mystery series that features a turn-of-the-20th-century midwife in New York so I'm excited to see her starting a new series with a very interesting sounding female protagonist! It's out on November 7th. 


7) Stiletto (The Checquy Files #2) by Daniel O'Malley

I am truly disappointed and dismayed with myself by my lack of promptness in reading this follow-up to The Rook.  I'm gonna fix this, this Fall. 


8) Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3) by William Ritter

Samesies as the above.  I love this YA fantasy series so not sure why I am two books behind!


9) The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms #3) by Cinda Williams Chima

Like with the Lockwood and Co. series above, I am currently obsessed with this YA fantasy series so there's not a power in the 'verse that will prevent me from picking up book 3 in the near future. 


10) Hallowe'en Party (Hercule Poirot #36) by Agatha Christie

It's one of Dame Agatha's books that I haven't read and tis the season!

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That's my list of Autumn reading list sorted.  How about you?  What are you most excited about diving into this Fall?

REVIEW | The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Cathrynne M. Valente

Publication Year: 2013
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Series: Fairy Land #3
Awards: Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book, 2014
Format: Audio (from Library)
Narrator: The Author

SYNOPSIS:  September is now 14 and she has waited a whole year for her birthday to roll around and her 3rd trip to fairyland to begin.  But her birthday comes and goes, and she is afraid she will never go back until, when she least expects it, an irascible Blue Wind shows up and grudgingly allows her to hitch a ride to the moon above fairyland.  After a happy reunion with L and Saturday, September and her friends must go on a journey to find a Yeti who is terrorizing the moon's citizens.  

THOUGHTS:

I should really give Cathrynne Valente credit for at least co-writing this post because a big chunk of it will be in her own words.

Why?  I love this series though they are not the most riveting books in the world and they take forever to read, especially for a middle grade book.  They sometimes feel like they are just a collection of creative ideas Valente had  - really, really creative with beautiful imagery - but with a barely-even-there plot.  They are dreamy and odd.  The characters took me a bit to warm up to though I must profess that I do now adore September, A-through-L and Saturday.  Here's the thing, though. The reason I love them. I'll be listening-reading along, feeling ever-so-slightly bored and then this will happen:


“A silent Library is a sad Library. ... A Library should be full of exclamations! Shouts of delight and horror as the wonders of the world are discovered or the lies of the heavens are uncovered or the wild adventures of devil-knows-who sent romping out of the pages. A Library should be full of now-just-a-minutes and that-can't-be-rights and scientifick folk running skelter to prove somebody wrong. It should positively vibrate with laughing at comedies and sobbing at tragedies, it should echo with gasps as decent ladies glimpse indecent things and indecent ladies stumble upon secret and scandalous decencies! A Library should not shush; it should roar!” 

And this...


 “Marriage is a wrestling match where you hold on tight while your mate changes into a hundred different things. The trick is that you're changing into a hundred other things, but you can't let go. You can only try to match up and never turn into a wolf while he's a rabbit, or a mouse while he's still busy being an owl, a brawny black bull while he's a little blue crab scuttling for shelter. It's harder than it sounds.” 

And this...
“Listen to me. Love is a Yeti. It is bigger than you and frightening and terrible. It makes loud and vicious noises. It is hungry all the time. It has horns and teeth and the force of its fists is more than anyone can bear. It speeds up time and slows it down. And it has its own aims and missions that those who are lucky enough to see it cannot begin to guess. You might see a Yeti once in your life or never. You might live in a village of them. But in the end, no matter how fast you think you can go, the Yeti is always faster than you, and you can only choose how you say hello to it, and whether you shake its hand.” 
And yet again, this...
 “September tried to show her sternness. It was becoming a habit. She could show her sternness and think about this another time, when it was quiet and no new red Moon turned somersaults in the sky.
But when she reached for her sternness, all September found in her heart was the bar of a trapeze, swinging wild, inviting her to catch it.
...She leaned up and kissed her Marid and hoped it was the right thing. Her heart caught the bar and swung out, swung wild, over the lights and the gasps below, reaching for a pair of sure blue hands in the air and willing them to find hers.” 
 And finally, a whole lot of this...
“Oh, aren't you just the rottenest wet blanket whoever spoiled a sport.” 
In other words, whenever I start to get a little bored or dismiss the books for having too little plot and flow, Valente hits me with a sentiment which is made of beautiful words and a unique perspective that makes my brain stretch.  And occasionally laugh out loud.  That's why I keep coming back to this beautiful middle grade series.

FINAL VERDICT: It's always good to visit with September and her friends and this installment has a lot of great imagery and thoughts about growing up. 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Monday, September 4, 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY | Books that Took Me a While to Love

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for bloggers who like books and lists. It's awesome and is graciously hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  

The topic this week allows some leeway in how to approach but I decided to go with the first suggestion, i.e. books (or in a couple of cases, book series) that started off slow but which I ended up really liking.  Here's the official topic listing:
Ten Books I Struggled to Get Into But Ended Up Loving or Ten Books That Were A Chore To Get Through or Ten Books I've Most Recently Put Down (the theme is...books you had a hard time with...tweak it how ever you need)
Without further ado, here's my list:


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1) The Fairyland Series by Cathrynne M. Valente


This series is charming and delightful but it took me a while to see these qualities because it is also wildly creative, purposely odd and somewhat dream-like.  It's reminiscent of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with the same strange characters and topsy turvy logic and reality.  These qualities are in most ways an asset however, the world-building tends to slow down the storytelling and the oddness sometimes gets in the way of getting to know the characters.  Glad I persisted because the books are lovely and really worthwhile!

2) The Demon King (Seven Realms #1) by Cinda Chima Williams

It took half of this book before it really started to click for me and now I'm completely obsessed with this series!  It felt like the two main characters took a bit to develop into the awesome characters they are and in fact the book started to work for me when these two characters finally meet.  

3) Cormoran Strike Series by Robert Galbraith

This one bends the rules a little bit because I did like this series right from the start.  However, while I didn't hate them, the two main protagonists, Cormoran and Robin, didn't  endear themselves to me in the first book.  As the series has gone on, they've really grown on me and now I love them and this series. 

4) The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett

This series is somewhat infamous for having a first book that can be daunting for newcomers.  However, persistence is richly rewarded.

5) The Passage by Justin Cronin

I had a hard time getting into both this and book 2 of the series (The Twelve) but they do both pick up and become exciting and marvelous. Marvelous, I tell you!

6) The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes

I love this series, which is a fantasy heist story with a fun and charismatic gang of characters,but the first book took a good long while to get going.  This is not an uncommon complaint I have with heist stories simply because, you first have to bring the gang together before they can embark on the heisty goodness.  Once the heist gets started though everything's aces!

7) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Another fantasy heist series!  And this one is unique because it was really only the first chapter that threw a road block.  The chapter is just a generic set up and for some reason it really turned me off so it took me a week to get through it, simply because I'd read a little bit, get bored and drift off for a couple days, lol.  Once the main characters showed up, however, I was completely addicted and zoomed through it in record time.

8) Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan

It's hard to believe now, after I have devoured this series and loved it, that I had picked up the first book previously and put it down after a couple of chapters, bored.  I picked it up again and persisted because I couldn't believe that I wouldn't end up loving a book series that plays with Greek mythology.  And I was right!


All three books in this series started off a little ho hum for me but by the end of the books everything came together and I really enjoyed them!

10) A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

I had a hard time getting into this first book and I really struggled with the female lead.  In the end, it worked though and book two was fantastic!

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That's my list this week!  Did any of you have similar experiences with any of these books or do you totally disagree?  

Thursday, August 31, 2017

REVIEW | A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde

A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Historical Mystery
Series: Rosalind Thorne Mysteries #1
Awards: None
Format: Audio (from Audible)
Narrator: Sarah Nichols

WHY?: It was on sale at Audible, I love historical mysteries and the Regency era is one of my favorite time periods, primarily because of Our Lady, Jane and all the romances inspired by her that are set in this era.

SYNOPSIS:  Rosalind Thorne is a useful woman in Regency Society.  While no longer considered part of the Haute Ton, she has managed to hold on to enough of her respectability, after a scandal, to be able to support herself by advising and doing small favors and jobs for the society ladies.  Her life suddenly gets more complicated when she finds a corpse in the famous ballroom of Almack's and her help is solicited in finding out what happened.  

THOUGHTS:

I was really chuffed to stumble upon this book on Audible, the first in a new historical mystery series.  The Regency time period is always fun to visit and I was especially excited that this series featured a woman detective.  I was interested to see how Wilde would manage this, given how hemmed in by society's rules women of this time were.  I think ultimately she manages it pretty well primarily by opening up Regency society to include what we would now call the middle class but then is probably more accurately termed the working class.  This is a class of mostly educated men and women who perform work that is above the blue collar and servant classes but they must work and earn a living unlike the gentry.  

When we meet Rosalind Thorne she is a genteel and wealthy young lady, not noble but high enough to have achieved an Almack's invitation. She's met a boy of similar station and fallen in love and all seems right with the world.  Then disaster strikes within her family and the book skips ahead a few years.  With the fall in Rosalind's prospects, she lost her beau and her family, but she has landed on her feet in a pretty unique way.  She was taken under the wing of a relatively influential society lady who kept her afloat until she'd made herself, with her good sense and taste, an indispensable asset to many of the ladies of the Ton.  It's quite unique to see an independent, spinster lady during this time period and I'm unsure just how realistic this was but the scenario is plausible.  

Rosalind is a fine protagonist, if a tad on the vanilla and boring side.  I like that she's pretty independent and believably brave about tracking down a murderer (i.e. she's not foolishly reckless but she doesn't back down).  She has two love interests in the book, one of which I clearly prefer but both of which pose interesting relationship conundrums.  One represents her past and the other the woman she is evolving into.   It's a pretty decent set-up for a fairly low key love triangle.

The story itself is okay.  Wilde does get a little too bogged down sometimes in the minutiae of Regency custom and life but I generally dig that stuff so it didn't bother me much. However, if you're looking for a cracking, page turner of a mystery this isn't going to ring that bell.  The mystery story isn't inconsequential but it won't win any awards for inventiveness or suspense.  

I liked the book and I intend to read on in the series though I won't obsessive about it.  Rosalind is an engaging enough protagonist and has great potential as a character. I'm also pretty interested in how her romance works out. 

It's been a few weeks since I listened to the book and I don't really remember the narrator which is generally a good thing.  She was fine and a good pick for this type of book. 

FINAL VERDICT: This is a perfectly fine and low key historical mystery with a dash of romance set in one of my favorite time periods to read about; Regency England.  I'll be picking up the sequels.  3 out of 5 stars


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Saturday in the Garden | Squirrels in the Attic

Night Time
I like to garden and generally putter around in my yard and my Saturday in the Garden posts serve as my pseudo- garden journal, plus round-up of my week in reading, watching and blogging.  Occasionally, I'll whine, rant or gush about something in a GAK section. 

OUTSIDE

I apparently have a squirrel (or two) living in my attic.  My neighbor had to inform me of this because SHE STUDIES MY HOUSE (but that's another story) and saw them going in.  I haven't confirmed yet - my attic space is not easily accessible - but it does not surprise me.  I like wildlife and encourage their presence but squirrels and attics are likely not the best combo.   My plan is to live trap the squirrels and release outside and seal up the holes they are using to get in.  Timing will be key. Wish me and the squirrels luck!

While dealing with this situation isn't what you'd call fun, it does give me good perspective and empathy with people who call my work with some kind of a wildlife damage complaint or issue.  I can feel their pain but will still always counsel for trying to live as peacefully with the natural world as possible. This means taking a little trouble on ourselves to adjust our homes and landscapes to prevent or mitigate conflict rather than wanting to obliterate all living things in our immediate environs for daring to try to share "our"space. We're all just trying to get down the road of life and deserve the chance to travel it as we need.  

WATCHING, READING and BLOGGING

Watching 


Finished up Shetland. It's an atmospheric and pretty well done mystery series. It has made me desperately want to spend a month (or so) hiking and exploring Scotland.  Anybody wanna go?  

I also got back to and finished the last season of Father Brown.  

Reading 

FINISHED SINCE THE LAST TIME I POSTED

Nada.  I am reading, I promise!  I have a few too many books going right now so it's slowing me down.  
    CURRENTLY READING
    • The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms #2) by Cinda Chima Williams: The continuation of the story started in The Demon King!  
    • The Likeness by Tana French: The second in the Dublin Murder Squad mystery series. This one features Cassie from In the Woods in the lead role.
    • Spirit Animals: Hunted by Maggie Stiefvater: The second in this middle-grade series, each written by a different author.  
    • The Fatal Flame (Timothy Wilde #2) by Lyndsay Faye:  The last in a trilogy of historical mysteries set in mid-19th century New York.  
    • The Whispering Skull (Lockwood and Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud: This is an awesome YA/middle-grade series about ghost hunters in Britain. 
    • Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch:  Non-fiction about eating psychology and biology.  I've been dipping in and out of it for the last few months!

    Added to the TBR:

    This is a list of books that I have added to my Goodreads TBR list this week.  It helps to burn the books I want to read a little more firmly into my mind, maybe get them on some other folks TBRs and gives me a chance to recognize a lot of the awesome bloggers that add stuff to my TBR!
    • Birdman (Jack Caffery #1) by Mo Hayder:  A Crime/Mystery/Thriller series starter that my Book bub subscription brought to my attention.
    • Think of a Number (Dave Gurney #1) by John Verdon:  Ditto the above but I think this one is set in the U.S. and not Britain. 

    On the BLOG since I last Posted:

    Nothing here either.  I was traveling last weekend and had a number of busy nights this week.


    HAPPY NATIONAL DOG DAY!

    Monday, August 21, 2017

    Saturday in the Garden | Special Disappointing Eclipse Edition

    Cloudy, Rainy Eclipse Day
    I like to garden and generally putter around in my yard and my Saturday in the Garden posts serve as my pseudo- garden journal, plus round-up of my week in reading, watching and blogging.  Occasionally, I'll whine, rant or gush about something in a GAK section. 

    OUTSIDE
    I'd like to say this post is two days late because I wanted to do a special eclipse focused essay but alas, it is socked in cloudy and rainy in Iowa today. And really I'm late because I was traveling this weekend.  I hope you are having more eclipse related luck where you are!  I plan on watching NASA's livestreaming.  Yay for days off!

    Recently, I've been revamping and reinvigorating my composting system.  I want to try and compost as much as possible and I really needed to start thinking about it with the addition of Ella to the household.  (Y'all may have heard I have a rabbit named Ella? Ha, Ha, Ha! I mean I never talk about her or anything....) Anyhoo, part of my excitement about having a rabbit is that they produce manure to die for from a gardening point of view.  They also produce SO MUCH of it.  I'm drowning in rabbit poop, ya'll (um...ewww - sorry for that imagery). I also have her litter, the kitchen scraps and leaves and grass clippings. All in all, it's quite a lot that can be composted and handling it all poses a challenge in a small yard like mine. There is the additional issue, that I have dogs and don't want them (or any other critters) to get into the food scraps.  

    I already have a wooden box compost bin for yard waste, a large tumbler composter which is currently taking kitchen scraps but which I'm going to switch over to rabbit waste, and a pretty pathetic homemade trash can which will take a mix.  I bought another small tumbler to help with rabbit waste and most exciting, decided to revitalize my vermicomposter for kitchen waste!  A vermicomposter, if you don't know, is a worm composter and it's pretty cool.  I may need to get a second and even third one to handle the amount of fruit and vegetable waste I produce but for now the worms are going to town!


    In other news, the city is going to take down one of my street trees.  I had contacted them about it a couple of months ago because a pretty big, dead limb came down during a storm and several other big dead limbs hang over the sidewalk.  I am afraid they are going to come down and seriously injure someone and I wasn't sure if it was my or the City's responsibility to prune the tree.  Apparently, it is theirs if the tree has to come down but I am responsible for trimming.  Anyway, they came and checked it out and indicated that they thought the tree was mostly in good shape (which I was a little skeptical about) and that I should get it pruned.  Fast forward a couple months and I get a hang tag on my door saying they'll be taking the tree down.  Not sure what changed, if it was a staff change or the original fellow had second thoughts.  I have mixed feelings because I do like trees and it's an oak BUT it will open up a patch of sun in my front yard!  North facing sun but still.  

    Also, I picked another round of beets that I am super excited about!

    GAK

    This weekend, I took a quick trip to Baltimore, MD to meet up with family and friends, catch a ball game and snarf down some steamed crabs.  

    It was a very short trip but I had some time to kill on Sunday and decided to take a tour through the National Aquarium - I hadn't been there in years and years.  If you ever want to be astounded and impressed by the beauty and diversity of life on Earth, this is a good pit stop.




    WATCHING, READING and BLOGGING

    Watching 



    Caught up on a few episodes of Shetland while traveling.  

    Reading 

    FINISHED SINCE THE LAST TIME I POSTED

    Nada
      CURRENTLY READING
      • The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms #2) by Cinda Chima Williams: The continuation of the story started in The Demon King!  
      • The Likeness by Tana French: The second in the Dublin Murder Squad mystery series. This one features Cassie from In the Woods in the lead role.
      • Spirit Animals: Hunted by Maggie Stiefvater: The second in this middle-grade series, each written by a different author.  
      • The Fatal Flame (Timothy Wilde #2) by Lyndsay Faye:  The last in a trilogy of historical mysteries set in mid-19th century New York.  
      • The Whispering Skull (Lockwood and Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud: This is an awesome YA/middle-grade series about ghost hunters in Britain. 
      • Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch:  Non-fiction about eating psychology and biology.  I've been dipping in and out of it for the last few months!

      Added to the TBR:

      This is a list of books that I have added to my Goodreads TBR list this week.  It helps to burn the books I want to read a little more firmly into my mind, maybe get them on some other folks TBRs and gives me a chance to recognize a lot of the awesome bloggers that add stuff to my TBR!


      I also got to visit a HUGE Barnes and Noble in the harbor area of Baltimore and I couldn't help but pick up a few books...


      An Oath of Dogs is one I have no idea about but the blurb mentioned eco-terrorism and sentient dogs so I said, WTH.  Wild card pick!

      On the BLOG since I last Posted:



      HAVE A GREAT WEEK!

      Wednesday, August 16, 2017

      REVIEW | The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

      The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
      Publication Year: 2011
      Genre: Middle-Grade, Paranormal Mystery (Urban Fantasy?)
      Series: Lockwood & Co. #1
      Awards: It did not win any but was nominated for a couple
      Format: Audio (from Library)
      Narrator: Miranda Raison

      WHY?:  It's about kids who hunt ghosts.  Who doesn't want to read that?

      SYNOPSIS: In an England that has been overtaken by spirits that only children can see, Lockwood & Co. is one of the many agencies that people can hire to rid themselves of ghostly problems.  When one of their cases goes spectacularly wrong, Lockwood, Lucy and George, who make up the agency, must take on an extremely deadly assignment; to quiet the spirits in the most haunted house in England.   

      THOUGHTS:

      I am fascinated by ghosts but, strangely, I haven't found many books featuring them that I really love.  I'm happy to say that the first book in the middle-grade Lockwood & Co. series is a book about ghosts that really worked for me.  It is exciting, has a multi-layered plot and a distinct take on ghosts and the hunting of them.

      The story is told from the perspective of Lucy Carlyle.  In the England the book is set in, something has occurred that has caused spirits to manifest all over the country and these ghosts are not just a spooky nuisance.  If one touches you, you don't just feel a chill, you die.

      Children under a certain age (15 or so) are the only people who can actually see the ghosts and some kids are more adept at it than others.  Lucy is one of the more talented ones so she is recruited at a young age to become a ghost hunter.  Ghost hunters usually work in a group supervised by an adult who can't see the ghost but takes feedback from the children and develops the plan of action.  When Lucy's handler loses his nerve and makes a bad call during an assignment, sending all but she to their deaths, Lucy decides to strike out on her own and heads to London to see if she can find a better situation.

      She ends up being hired by Lockwood & Co. which is unique in that it employs no adult handlers.  In fact, it is just Lockwood and his confederate George.  Adding Lucy makes them a threesome working out of Lockwood's large house left to him by his parents who are mysteriously missing.  Each of them brings something different to the table.  Lockwood is very smart and bold, a good planner, strategist and leader and is also very good at seeing ghostly phenomena.  George is a science and research dork who spends his time tinkering with ghostly artifacts and doing background research for their cases.  Lucy is very talented at hearing ghostly phenomena and at getting emotional readings and flashbacks from the dead and objects associated with them.  All together they make a good team and they are all glad not to have the supervision of adults.

      Normally, that whole idea of kids doing dangerous things and not involving adults, is a barrier when I reader literature aimed at a younger audience.  What for a younger reader is empowering, I find unrealistic and frustrating.  However, there was none of that in this story.  Lucy's experience with her adult mentor at the start of the story and the maturity of Lockwood and all of the gang really convinced me that they are better off taking care of themselves.  It's a fascinating power structure to explore, with kids having a useful and necessary skill that adults don't, and the story does a good job of imagining what this would mean  - it both empowers the kids as well as making them vulnerable for exploitation.

      The idea of kids having this "superpower" denied to adults is only one of the very interesting things in the universe Stroud builds.  At first I thought the book was set in a historical setting, likely Victorian, as some of the trappings of the story and setting suggest but actually the book is set contemporarily or even slightly in the future.  There are television sets and other modern things but the phenomenon of the ghosts appearing has scrambled society in many ways.  And that's one layer of the story that will likely be a constant in the series; what happened to "awaken" the ghosts and how can it be stopped once and for all.

      The specific plot of the book is also pretty great.  It is a little slow to get started but it builds to a really exciting and pretty scary climax.  Lockwood & Co. are trying to keep the agency open after a disastrous case and partially as a ploy to get positive publicity they are trying to track down who murdered a young socialite who has become a very restless and murderous ghost.  Their involvement in the cold case brings to them the business of an enigmatic millionaire who wishes them to "clean" out his house which is reputed to be the most haunted in a very haunted England.  The night they spend at the house is chilling and exciting!  My only complaint is that Lockwood has information/suspicions that he does not share with his colleagues and there doesn't seem to be any reason for him to do this except to build suspense and conflict in the story, but I'll let it slide because it leads to a great reveal in the end.

      Finally, all three of the main characters are great.  George is the least developed of the three but his peculiarities and bickering with Lucy and Lockwood add much of the humor in the book which lightens up what would be a completely dark tale otherwise.  Lucy, as narrator is the one we get to know best and she's a great character, being both traumatised and extremely brave and empathetic.  She's got attitude and her narrative voice is engaging and provides interesting perspective.  Lockwood is charming and immediately likable but he is also a huge mystery and I expect that also to be one of the plot threads that carries throughout the series.

      Taken as a whole this was a really good start to a series and I think it would go over really well with all age groups.  It doesn't shy away from the scary parts so if your young reader is on the easily frightened side I might be a little wary.  I listened to the audio and the narrator, who I think is new to me, was great.  She is essentially the voice of Lucy and I think she did a great job bringing her to life.

      FINAL VERDICT A nicely creepy, complex and ultimately exciting ghost hunter story aimed at middle-grade readers though it als entertained my middle-aged brain. Will definitely be continuing the series.  4 out of 5 stars.