The Hollow Boy – Jonathan Stroud

Lockwood & Co: The Hollow Boy – Jonathan Stroud

24397043As a supernatural outbreak baffles Scotland Yard and causes protests against the psychic agencies throughout London, Lockwood and Co. continue to demonstrate their effectiveness in exterminating spirits. Anthony is dashing, George insightful, and Lucy dynamic, while the skull in the jar utters sardonic advice from the sidelines. There is a new spirit of openness between the team now that Anthony has shared his childhood story, and Lucy is feeling more and more like her true home is at Portland Row.

It comes as a great shock, then, when Lockwood and George introduce her to an annoyingly perky and hyper-efficient new assistant, Holly Munro. Meanwhile, there are reports of many new hauntings, including an old school where bloody handprints and a glowing boy are appearing. But ghosts seem to be the least of Lockwood and Co.’s concerns when a living assassin makes an attempt on Fittes’s and Rotwell’s lives.

Can the team get past their interpersonal issues to save the day on all fronts? Danger abounds, tensions escalate, and new loyalties form in this third delightfully terrifying adventure.

Last year, when I read book two, The Whispering Skull, I told myself to take the third book slowly so that I wouldn’t be quite so impatient for the next installment.

Apparently, I forgot my own advice because I could barely function for the two days I was reading this (I had to be an adult and go to work otherwise I’d have finished it in a day!).

Jonathan Stroud continues to be one of my favourite authors. His characters are sarcastic and smart, brave and bold, and realistic.

Lucy’s jealousy over new-girl Holly is understandable: Holly’s character is presented in such a way that you, as a reader, can’t help being a little suspicious of her too. Also, as a Lucy/Lockwood shipper, I was just as frustrated as Lucy whenever Lockwood seemed to express more interest in Holly’s opinions than in the stalwart Lucy’s.

George’s character has also evolved. I remember him as being more annoying in the first book, but I think he’s “growing up”. Either that, or Lucy isn’t as bothered by his quirks, which means she’s presenting him in a more favourable light than before. Sometimes I feel like George is the Ron Weasley of the group: he’s a main character and a huge part of the story, but he can sometimes be pushed into the background because of Lucy and Lockwood’s stronger personalities (no offense to either George or Ron, I love them both).

This installment also felt a little scarier. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s common knowledge that poltergeists are terrifying – and that’s exactly what Lockwood & Co are up against. Stroud’s writing continues to shine, drawing you into the story and creating vivid scenes that leave you holding your breath.

Once again, it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and while it’s not as dramatic as the end of the second book, it perfectly whets the appetite for book four (and, hopefully, a fifth book?). And, to be honest, it left me more than a little worried about Lockwood’s fate (I would not put it past Stroud to kill a main character again).

Rating:

5 interrobangs

Divergent – Veronica Roth // Odd and the Frost Giants – Neil Gaiman // The Whispering Skull – Jonathan Stroud

Divergent:

“In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions – Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is-she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are-and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.”

It’s possible that, up until this week, I was the only YA-addicted person who had not read Divergent. But I finally read the first one! Admittedly, it was because Veronica Roth was coming to my office and I felt I should at least pretend to know what was going on, but still, I read it.

I didn’t know what to expect, but it was better that I thought it would be. Initially, I didn’t want to read it because a) dystopian’s not really my thing and b) ever dystopian novel I’ve read has always reminded me of the first dysptopian novel I ever read (Lois Lowry’s The Giver which I remember liking when I read it in grade six). Both of those reasons remain true even after reading Divergent, but it wasn’t bad at all.

The problem with reading something popular, of course, is that you occasionally already know what’s going to happen. For example, I already knew who “Four” really was, so the Big Reveal wasn’t as surprising (sidenote: I liked Four, but I cannot take him seriously because the guy who plays him in the movie will forever live in my mind as the Turkish ambassador in Downton Abbey who  – SPOILER ALERT – is felled by Mary’s feminine wiles). Plus – though this didn’t really affect my reading of book one – based on the general angst over the end of the series, I guessed what will eventually happen to Tris (and Wikipedia confirmed it for me). So while I’ll probably read the rest of the series, I’m not in any rush.

Odd and the Frost Giants:

“In this inventive, short, yet perfectly formed novel inspired by traditional Norse mythology, Neil Gaiman takes readers on a wild and magical trip to the land of giants and gods and back.

In a village in ancient Norway lives a boy named Odd, and he’s had some very bad luck: His father perished in a Viking expedition; a tree fell on and shattered his leg; the endless freezing winter is making villagers dangerously grumpy.

Out in the forest Odd encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle—three creatures with a strange story to tell.

Now Odd is forced on a stranger journey than he had imagined—a journey to save Asgard, city of the gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it.

It’s going to take a very special kind of twelve-year-old boy to outwit the Frost Giants, restore peace to the city of gods, and end the long winter.

Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever . . .

Someone just like Odd.”

I needed something short and light-weight to read on Friday (because I had left my actual book at work), so I went with Odd because it’s only 117 pages and I really wanted to read it.

It was super cute! Well, I thought so, anyway. Odd, in my imagination, was just adorable, all precocious and clever. Just over one hundred pages doesn’t give you a lot of time for extraneous words, but Gaiman still managed to throw in plot and character development. I also liked the way the Norse mythology was presented. Short, but cute.

The Whispering Skull:

“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 theTimes 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.

Back home at Portland Row, Lockwood accuses George of making too many careless mistakes. Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in the ghost jar. Then the team is summoned to DEPRAC headquarters. Kipps is there too, much to Lockwood’s annoyance. Bickerstaff’s coffin was raided and a strange glass object buried with the corpse has vanished. Inspector Barnes believes the relic to be highly dangerous, and he wants it found.

Even though my “To Read” pile is literally half my height, I could hardly wait to get my hands on this book. When the first Lockwood & Co book – The Screaming Staircase – came out last year, I could barely put it down. The same goes for this one; I paused it to read Divergent, and then waited anxiously for the moment when I could pick it back up.

I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Stroud for years. The other day, I realized that, since I have the original cover (you know, the one that doesn’t match the rest of the series? Not that I’m bitter about that or anything), I probably read The Amulet of Samarkand when it first came out – in 2003. It’s been 11 years, but The Bartimaeus Trilogy is still high up on my list of “books that are awesome that I want to re-read”.

Though my memories of Bartimaeus and Nathaniel are a little fuzzy, I still absolutely love the adventures of Lockwood and co. Their dry humour occasionally makes me laugh out loud, and some scenes are quite scary, considering it’s a middle-grade book. Sidenote: I just want Lockwood and Lucy to end up together…I know it’s going to happen, their colleague George knows it’s going to happen…I can’t wait.

Also, HOLY FRACK, THAT CLIFFHANGER ENDING. I gasped so hard, I almost choked.

I sort of wish I had waited longer to buy this because then I wouldn’t have to wait so long for book 3.