Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #63

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) by Samantha Shannon
Released: January 27th 2015
Find it on Goodreads

Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal penal colony of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the fugitives are still missing and she is the most wanted person in London.

As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on Paige, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take center stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner.

Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided. Will Paige know who to trust? The hunt for the dreamwalker is on. (from Goodreads)

Looking forward to The Mime Order! I liked The Bone Season and I'm interested to see what happens next after the way things ended. The description doesn't reveal much but I am wondering what happened to Warden. And what Paige will do to avoid being captured.

What are you waiting on this week?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Doubleday Children's
Released: September 11th 2014
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Think you know magic?

Think again.

The Magisterium awaits . . .

Most people would do anything to get into the Magisterium and pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt.

Call has been told his whole life that he should never trust a magician. And so he tries his best to do his worst – but fails at failing.

Now he must enter the Magisterium.

It's a place that's both sensational and sinister. And Call realizes it has dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning. Call’s biggest test is still to come . . .

From the imaginations of bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a heart-stopping plunge into the magical unknown.
 (from Goodreads)

The Iron Trial was a really enjoyable book, and I can see it becoming very popular with a lot of younger readers.

Callum was a likeable protagonist and not what I was expecting. I really liked that initially, he didn't want to go to the Magisterium. He was afraid of magic after growing up with his father who drilled it into him that magic was dangerous and the Magisterium only wanted to use people and risk their lives. I was very intrigued as to why Callum's dad was so afraid of the Magisterium (the prologue definitely got me wondering why Callum's mother left that message) and I enjoyed the way things were revealed to us throughout. Callum was a bit impetuous and sometimes acted on some bad ideas, but he was only twelve so I can't really blame him for that.

Tamara and Aaron were initially not really sure what to think of Callum. Tamara was very clever and a bit hostile towards him at the start, and Aaron tried to be kind but didn't really understand why Callum acted the way he did. They eventually became friends and each had their own backstories and hardships, which enabled them to bond and become closer. I have to admit, while I did like all the characters, and especially the reveal about Aaron which I didn't expect, I did feel that their friendship was maybe a little rushed? I don't know, I just wanted more interaction between them all. This book has been compared a lot to Harry Potter, and I guess there were similarities, but I didn't feel the same level of closeness and understanding that I did with the Harry Potter trio (I know that's a hard thing to achieve, so it wasn't a huge problem). In this book it was just more "and then they were friends" and I didn't really feel why they suddenly trusted each other so much. That being said I did really enjoy the time they spent together when they were learning and doing magic-y things.

Plot-wise - I don't know how to explain without spoilers, but I really liked the main storyline. I'm so looking forward to seeing how Callum is going to deal with what he's learnt, especially concerning Aaron, in the future books. It actually sort of reminded me more of the Simon Snow series in Fangirl than Harry Potter - though Simon Snow was inspired by HP so there is that. The most HP part was that the Enemy (the villain) had the main goal of trying to "conquer death" which was very Voldemort-esque. But then I'm sure lots of stories have similar themes. The mini-prophecy towards the beginning of the book came into play by the end and it was clever how it connected. And I absolutely adored Havoc, the Chaos-ridden wolf cub who was just so cute. I definitely want to find out more about the elements and how they work, and also more about Warren, because he was a curious character indeed. There were a few things that I thought were a bit unbelievable and unnecessary - the whole eating lichen and mushrooms and having it taste like normal food was odd. Why didn't they have access to normal food? And I'm sorry, but the texture of lichen and mushrooms is never going to be like a hamburger, even if it does taste like one. I also found the test to get into the Magisterium a bit unrealistic. I mean, if the parents didn't know their kids were applying for a magic school, wouldn't they find the whole method of testing odd? They just let their kids leave for this place as soon as they passed the test! They just got on a bus and left that same day. And they all seemed to come from the same place - though maybe other tests were happening simultaneously around the country? Hopefully we'll find out more in the next book, which I am really looking forward to.

Overall, The Iron Trial was a great start to a new series, and will definitely appeal to fans of magical stories.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Review: The Hit by Allen Zadoff

The Hit (The Unknown Assassin #1) by Allen Zadoff
Publisher: Orchard Books
Released: September 4th 2014 (first published May 23rd 2013 as Boy Nobody)
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school, in a new town, under a new name, makes few friends and doesn't stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend's family to die -- of "natural causes." Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, and moves on to the next target.

When his own parents died of not-so-natural causes at the age of eleven, Boy Nobody found himself under the control of The Program, a shadowy government organization that uses brainwashed kids as counter-espionage operatives. But somewhere, deep inside Boy Nobody, is somebody: the boy he once was, the boy who wants normal things (like a real home, his parents back), a boy who wants out. And he just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program's next mission.
(from Goodreads)

The Hit was very different to anything I've read before and I will very likely be reading the next book in the series.

I really enjoyed seeing from the point of view of our nameless assassin (who I will refer to Benjamin from now on as that was his fake name for the majority of the book). He was a curious character and I found myself empathising with him, despite the fact that he killed people for a living. He had such a messed up life, I'm not even surprised he turned into an emotionless killing machine. He basically got people to trust him and then ruined their lives. He was trained to think nothing of it, but you could tell (especially later on in the book) that it affected him more than he liked to admit. While I did like Benjamin as a character, I can't say I liked him in the sense that I'd want to be his friend in real life, but he was definitely interesting to read about, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does next, since he can't just go back to the way things were after what happened at the end of this book.

I wasn't really a massive fan of Sam's character, but then I'm not sure she was supposed to be particularly likeable (I swear she and Benjamin both had massive egos). She challenged Benjamin and made him question what he had been doing over the past few years, and while I think the "romance" was just weird and a bit unbelievable (they had known each other FOUR days) I actually like the way things ended because it wasn't the "I met a girl and she changed me!" sappy love story I expected. I was actually surprised by what happened, but think it was fitting.

Howard was...definitely a strange guy. Again, I didn't really like him, but I'm interested to see what role he will play in the future. Benjamin never had an outside source of help before, so I'm curious to see how he will make use of Howard's tech skills, and whether they'll actually become friends (or whether it will end in unpleasantness).

Plot-wise, I was always a bit suspicious of the Program and I never really understood why Benjamin's parents were killed, but I was intrigued right from page one. There were some good twists and I liked seeing Benjamin's thought processes and all the things that went through his mind when he was on a mission. I definitely still have a few questions about Benjamin's family and about Mike, but not knowing created suspense instead of making me frustrated, and I'm looking forward to finding out the truth in the next book. One thing that did make me laugh was the way private school was portrayed. All the kids were way overly enthusiastic about going to classes and every lesson was some weird intellectual debate that everyone was excited to take part in. I can only speak for myself here, but that's not what it's like. I spent half my time doodling, zoning out or copying from a textbook and nobody was ever THAT enthusiastic about classes or debates.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by The Hit and definitely recommend it to people who enjoy action/thriller type books.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Back to School/Uni Essentials

I, like many people, will shortly be leaving the comfort of my nice warm house to return to shoddy student housing (where the living standards are so subpar that having working lights is a luxury). To everyone who managed to get rare nice housing, I am insanely jealous, don't speak to me. In order to cheer myself up and avoid thinking about living with people I don't want to live with, I have decided to make a list (as an avid list-maker, this alone already makes me happy) of the back to school/uni essentials I will (probably, if I get round to buying them) be taking with me to university.

List of Back to School/Uni "Essentials" (using the word "essentials" lightly):

1) Bag - you obviously need a bag. I mean, if you're going for that American teen movie look where people for some reason carry around all their folders and textbooks in their arms instead of conveniently putting them away in a bag, then sure, but if you want to avoid injuring yourself and/or dropping everything on the floor constantly, I recommend a proper bag. I am very fond of backpacks - so fond, in fact, that I bought two. Here they are below; feel free to judge, I'm sure I have terrible taste.

2) A sense of humour - yeah, this really is essential. Classes can be very, very dull. People can be very, very annoying. You won't get by without some humour in your life. You might get lucky and have a lecturer who tells jokes - my Equity & Trusts professor was actually quite funny and I'm pretty sure he's the only reason I ever paid attention in those lectures.

3) Stationery - more pens then you will ever need, more highlighters than can ever be used, a pencil case, a calculator if you're a clever clogs who does mathsy type things, a ton of notepads because I'm too lazy to lug my laptop around so I handwrite all my notes (which isn't great for me as I have THE worst handwriting, I'm not even joking, every teacher I've ever had has voiced concerns), those little sticky-tab things and a bunch of other stuff that looks really pretty in the shop and you promise yourself you will put to good use but actually just ends up lying on your desk unopened. Like I plan to buy these fineliner pens below but I know I'll probably just use them once and then only ever pick them up again if I feel like doing some colouring...

4) Motivation - you'll need this if you want to do well, but this is unfortunately something I severely lack. To be fair, my degree is horrendously boring. I'm supposed to be coming up with an idea for my dissertation right now and I've got nothing. Nooo idea what to do it on. How bad do you think it would be if I wrote a ten thousand word essay on how much the law sucks?

5) Nail varnish - I like to paint my nails as a way of procrastinating. You can never have too many nail varnishes, and at the moment I'm really liking Barry M's Gelly Hi-Shine range because they don't chip as much as normal ones. Like really, they don't chip for DAYS. As I mentioned, I'm super lazy and I never bother with base coats or top coats, and these nail varnishes still last for days without chipping and even when the do chip you can still get away with it for quite a while longer. I like most of the colours but they've recently released some more autumnal shades I'm looking forward to trying out (I don't know why they needed the picture of this woman doing some strange, supposedly alluring look to advertise nail varnish, but whatever).

6) Tolerance - unfortunately, there are a lot of ridiculous people in the world that you're just going to have to put up with. An absurd amount of these people turn up at school/uni and yes, you may want to shout at them for their ridiculousness and yes, you may just end up doing so at those few extra-ridiculous people, but for the most part, you're just going to have to sit tight and wait for them to leave.

7) Hair bands and bobby pins - if you have medium-length or longer hair, you'll need these. I have long hair and I don't remember how I used to get through a day without plaiting my hair or putting it back in some way, especially when it's windy. Even if you don't usually tie your hair up, it's worth carrying some of these on you anyway just in case, because you never know what's going to happen.

8) A printer that works - so let me tell you a little story. First year, day before coursework is due in. My very expensive printer that was perfectly fine up until THIS DAY decides to break. I am panicking. I try to fix it. I fix it temporarily. It breaks again. I lament my life. I call many people to see who will let me use their printer. Someone luckily agrees. Hand in coursework in the nick of time. Fast forward to year two. I don't have my own printer, I use a flatmate's expensive printer and contribute to ink and paper. The actual day my coursework is due in. Flatmate prints her work. I think all will be well. Just as I go to print mine - the printer BREAKS. Flatmate abandons me. I try other flatmate's printer. She is out of ink. I panic. I call people. No-one answers. I go the library as a last resort. Cannot get past stupid library card-swipe barriers (this is why it was a last resort). After about eight attempts and severely agitating everyone behind me, I finally get into the library. Every computer on all FIVE floors is full. I leave. I panic some more. I call people again. A friend luckily answers and says I can use her printer. I rush over. End up handing in my coursework fifteen minutes before the deadline. After these two very stressful experiences, I refuse to ever have printer issues again. Since two expensive printers ended up breaking after less than six month of use, I ended up buying the cheapest, crappiest printer I could find, and honestly, it's the best printer I've ever had.

9) Lip balm - I have so many lip balms. I need lip balm. If I go a day without it, my lips crack. It's a curse. I even carry one in my pencil case so I can reapply whenever. I like Nivea the most, but the Vaseline stick ones are pretty good too.

10) Books - books are of course an essential. I pretty much always carry around a book (or my Kindle) in my bag, for in between lectures or if I have some time to kill while on campus. Just avoid laughing out loud, because people WILL look at you. I have had people give me some very odd looks while I was sitting in my university's campus cafe/restaurant place. Though I always get strange looks anyway because you have to climb a mountain of stairs to get to this place and usually by the time I reach a seat I'm so out of breath you'd think I'd just run a marathon. I am not good with stairs. One time, my friend made me go up all 193 steps at Covent Garden and by the time I reached the top, I was practically dead and ready to kill her too.

Aaaand that's all I could think of. I'm sure there's more (especially if you're off to uni, don't forget cutlery and toiletries and stuff like that), but I didn't really want to do more than ten. Hopefully this list has been semi-useful and good luck to everyone going back to school/uni!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Review: Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis

Stitching Snow (Stitching Snow #1) by R. C. Lewis
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Released: October 14th 2014
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it Goodreads

Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back-but that's assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane's arrival was far from accidental, and she's pulled into the heart of a war she's risked everything to avoid.

In her enthralling debut, R.C. Lewis weaves the tale of a princess on the run from painful secrets . . . and a poisonous queen. With the galaxy's future-and her own-in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.
(from Goodreads)

Stitching Snow was a really fab book. It has been compared to Cinder quite a lot, and while it may not be quite as good (how many books are, really?), I still enjoyed it and am definitely looking forward to the next book.

I really liked Essie, the main character. She had done well to make it as long as she had by herself, especially considering all the horrible things that happened in the past, and she had to go through a lot just to stay alive. Her days were spent working on drones and fixing stuff for the miners, who all just resented her, and the only other way she could make money was by fighting. And while she did win her matches most of the time, she had to deal with constant injuries. But despite everything, she never grew bitter (I mean, she was sarcastic but that was funny and not the same) and she eventually realised she wouldn't be able to live with herself if she didn't try to help Dane. She was really, really intelligent - like, the first person to create such advanced drones - and she hated being patronised by others who thought that everyone living on Thanda was an idiot. I like that she stood up for herself, and for the people of Thanda, even though she hadn't been treated well by a lot of them.

Dane was not as boring as I initially thought he'd be. I thought he would be the typical prince rescuing the princess type (this is a retelling of Snow White, so it's not really a spoiler, it was obvious Essie was Princess Snow) but he actually turned out to be a lot more interesting. I did like his chemistry with Essie and the romance parts of the book were generally good, but I do wish characters would stop announcing their love for each other after five minutes. Why can't people just LIKE each other? I'm never going to believe that characters love each other after knowing each other for such a short period of time, but so many books seem to go down this insta-love route. Like is fine! Like is good! Like can eventually lead to more! We don't need cheesy love declarations to understand that the characters have a connection!

Plot-wise, I really liked that the seven dwarves in this retelling were Essie's seven drones. Some of the drones actually played quite a big part in the book (my favourite was Dimwit) and their capability to learn and interpret the orders they were given definitely makes me think they'll play an even bigger part in future books. I also really liked the world-building and the way R. C. Lewis portrayed the inter-planetary politics. Essie's father, the King (who, by the way, was sick and I hated him so much) had such a hold on all the other planets and was basically orchestrating everything that was going on, deceiving his people for his own gain. The worst part was that most of the soldiers working for him were innocent and had no idea what was really going on and they were carrying out the King's evil plans without realising. It made things much more difficult for Essie and Dane but was great to read about. My only real issue was I never really got why Queen Olivia wanted to kill Essie so much. I mean, I knew part of her reason, but I think her character wasn't really developed as much as she could have been; she only really had one mode which was "kill Essie at whatever cost" and we didn't get to learn much else about her.

Overall, Stitching Snow was a really enjoyable read and I definitely recommend it if you like fairytale retellings and sci-fi.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Review: Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle

Vivian Versus the Apocalypse (Vivian Apple #1) by Katie Coyle
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: September 5th 2013
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

A chilling vision of a contemporary USA where the sinister Church of America is destroying lives. Our cynical protagonist, seventeen-­year-­old Vivian Apple, is awaiting the fated 'Rapture' -­ or rather the lack of it. Her evangelical parents have been in the Church's thrall for too long, and she's looking forward to getting them back. Except that when Vivian arrives home the day after the supposed 'Rapture', her parents are gone. All that is left are two holes in the ceiling...

Viv is determined to carry on as normal, but when she starts to suspect that her parents might still be alive, she realises she must uncover the truth. Joined by Peter, a boy claiming to know the real whereabouts of the Church, and Edie, a heavily pregnant Believer who has been 'left behind', they embark on a road trip across America. Encountering freak weather, roving 'Believer' gangs and a strange teenage group calling themselves the 'New Orphans', Viv soon begins to realise that the Rapture was just the beginning.
(from Goodreads)

Vivian Versus the Apocalypse was probably one of the oddest books I've read in a while, but I really enjoyed it. I haven't read anything like it before and I have to hand it to Katie Coyle for her originality and for creating such a scary world where I could both believe and not believe the terrible things that were going on.

Vivian was a character I could easily sympathise with, even if I didn't always agree with her actions. She started off as a bit of a doormat; she always did what she told and rarely argued back or expressed her true opinions on anything even when it was causing her problems. But her character developed a lot throughout the book until she was eventually a lot more confident and comfortable with herself. I felt really sorry for her a lot of the time because, in my opinion, her parents were just awful. They lied, they treated her like she barely even mattered and they were willing to abandon her for some crazy stories uttered by a madman. Even if they did love her (which the book suggests they did) I don't think I could have been as mature or as forgiving as Vivian after what they did (I still would have been upset about them leaving, just not forgiving). I mean, Vivian didn't forgive them exactly but she was a lot more accepting that I would have been - I definitely wouldn't have been able to avoid a massive fight/arguing if they were my parents. And what Vivian said and did at the end (or, what she didn't do say and do) left me with mixed feelings because I kind of think she should have told the truth - but that's just me!

Harp was probably one of my favourite characters. She had suffered so much because of this "apocalypse"; her family was torn apart because of rioting fanatics and mobs and her parents abandoned her too, so she was left by herself. But even after all of that, she was a great friend to Vivian. She never pretended to be okay and she never asked Vivian to pretend either. She stuck by Vivian despite her own loss and supported her and I just loved her for that. You could see how much she was hurting but you could also see how much she valued Vivian and didn't want to lose her as well, and it really made me love their friendship. She also provided a few of the funny moments in the book and made me laugh.

Peter was an awkward kind of guy, but honestly, I couldn't really blame him. In a world where people had supposedly been "Raptured" and you couldn't walk five minutes on a street without passing a riot, I wasn't surprised that he wanted to hide a few things and avoid people. I pretty much guessed his big secret fairly early on but I don't think it was meant to come as a massive surprise to us as readers anyway. The romance with Vivian, while maybe not the best, was good because there were no cheesy insta-lovey declarations of love (yay!) and it was more about making the best of a terrible situation. I'm curious to see what happens in book two considering the ways things ended for Peter in this book. I have to admit, I found it a bit unbelievable that he would stay in such a dangerous place for [spoiler, highlight to read] his father, who was such a terrible man and a man he barely even knew (and claimed he didn't even want to know), just because it WAS his father and he was ill and needed looking after. I don't buy that whole blood is thicker than water thing when your father is responsible for the demise of so many people and isn't even capable of properly loving you [end of spoiler].

Plot-wise, I was so intrigued to find out what was really going on. It was quite clear from that start that this whole Church of America stuff was really shady. I couldn't believe so many people had subscribed to it when it advocated so much  violence and prejudice and was clearly attempting to manipulate the masses with all this pro-capitalism propaganda - I mean, the "Parable of the Starbucks", really? I so wanted to know who was really controlling this movement and how they accomplished this whole "Rapture" without anyone finding out (the ending did kind of explain it but I wasn't too convinced and such a thing was plausible without discovery and I hope more is explained in the next book). I was kind of disappointed that we didn't get to see what was happening outside of America and what other countries were thinking. The Church of America seemed to only exist in the US because apparently God loved America the most and only wanted to save them (-_-people really believed this?) so it would have been interesting to find out what was going on in other countries and what their thoughts were on the matter.

Overall, Vivian Versus the Apocalypse was a compelling read with a very interesting premise. Recommended to people who want something a bit different, but who also like suspense, action/thriller and a little bit of romance.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Review: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Doubleday Children's
Released: September 25th 2014
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Life is never exactly peaceful for Lockwood & Co. Lucy and George are trying to solve the mystery of the talking skull trapped in their ghost jar, while Lockwood is desperate for an exciting new case.

Things seem to be looking up when the team is called to Kensal Green Cemetery to investigate the grave of a sinister Victorian doctor. Strange apparitions have been seen there, and the site must be made safe. As usual, Lockwood is confident; as usual, everything goes wrong – a terrible phantom is unleashed, and a dangerous object is stolen from the coffin.

Lockwood & Co must recover the relic before its power is unleashed, but it’s a race against time. Their obnoxious rivals from the Fittes agency are also on the hunt. And if that’s not bad enough, the skull in the ghost-jar is stirring again…
(from Goodreads)

The Whispering Skull was a fab addition to the Lockwood & Co. series, which I am really loving at the moment. Very excited to see where things are headed next!

Lucy was even awesomer than she was in book one, and I really liked her in book one. Her Talent was getting stronger, to the point where she was able to communicate with a Type Three Visitor - the first person to do so since the famed Marissa Fittes. Of course, she couldn't tell anyone (besides Lockwood and George) because of the lack of evidence and all the commotion it would cause (especially if Inspector Barnes found out the spirit she was communicating with was the skull they were supposed to have gotten rid of), but her potential was growing and growing. I really liked the way her Talent worked and how she didn't let people like Kipps get to her. And she really did have a great sense of humour. I'm glad the book was from her point of view, because I definitely think she was the best at describing things in a hilarious way.

Lockwood was as mysterious as ever, except in this book, I was starting to get a bit suspicious. As much as I loved Lockwood's adventurous personality and charm, I could understand why Lucy was concerned about his secretiveness, and why she was so curious to find out what was in the room neither she nor George were allowed to go in. And after that ending, now I'm even MORE intrigued about Lockwood's past. But I did really like Lockwood and the way he cared about his colleagues, and his business. I also loved the witty retorts he came up with when talking to Kipps! I am wondering if a romance will appear in the future between Lucy and Lockwood. Lucy seemed to like him (as George liked to point out at awkward times), even if she didn't perhaps realise it herself, but Lockwood was very cryptic and I couldn't tell how he felt about Lucy. I do think they would be very cute together should a romance happen, but I'm also happy with the way things are now.

George went through a lot in this book, and perhaps learnt some important things about himself and the people around him. While his questionable hygiene and manners didn't improve much, he and Lucy were getting along better than they had been in book one, and it was interesting to see them agree on stuff while Lockwood disagreed. It was also interesting to see how George's mind worked and the way he viewed the cases differently to both Lucy and George.

Funnily enough, I think one of my favourite characters in this book was the evil, whispering skull - the Type Three Visitor. Even though he was undoubtedly evil and trying to mess with everyone's heads, he was really funny and knew how to talk, and I really enjoyed the scenes the skull was in. I'm very intrigued to find out more about him when he was alive and how he ended up as a skull in a jar.

Plot-wise, I really enjoyed the mystery in this book. While certain parts dragged a little bit, I was really interested in Bickerstaff's story and the creepy mirror that seemed to kill everyone who looked into it. Some things were a bit obvious - I did guess a little of what happened at the end, but the story was enjoyable all the same. The contest between Lockwood & Co. and Fittes also added a bit of light-heartedness and it was fun to try and guess who would win and how (obviously I was rooting for Lockwood & Co. - the Fittes agents were just too arrogant!). Penelope Fittes turned out to be an interesting character and I really want to know what that covert meeting she had in the Black Library was all about! The ending though, what a way to end the book. I have so many questions! And I really can't wait to read the next one now. The one thing I wish we found out more about, which is the same thing I said about the first book, is how Visitors became so prevalent in the world. Why did they suddenly appear, and how did the ghost fighting technology develop? Hopefully more will be explained in future books!

Overall, The Whispering Skull was a great sequel to The Screaming Staircase, and Jonathan Stroud has impressed me once again. Series is definitely recommended.