Super Scary Haunting Kids Book

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

I really, really loved this book. It also scared the crap out of me which was kinda fun, although not my usual. I am also delighted to report that this is a series so within any luck, I’ll enjoy this exciting, frightening world again before too long.

This novel takes place in a future where ghosts have become so common that all life on earth has just adjusted to it, and humans get on with their lives by staying in after dark, lighting ghost lamps each night and development of Agencies, which can be hired to investigate and remove ghosts from private residences. Children often have more psychic abilities than adult supervisors, so they are used by these agencies to investigate ghosts. After Lucy’s supervisor makes a terrible error and all of her colleges die in a horrifying haunting, she runs away from home and ends to London looking for a job. And she finds one with Lockwood & Co, the only agency that doesn’t have adult supervisors.

There was so much to love about this book. The three members of Lockwood & Co, Lockwood, George and Lucy are each well fleshed out, have lovely banter and a genuine relationship. The world building is so careful and thorough that you can’t even pinpoint when you learned something about it because it’s worked in so subtly. The writing is terrifying, like I was worried I’d have nightmares (I am a wimp though) and the plot was twisting and interesting with quite a few twists that I didn’t see coming, or if I did, I couldn’t see how.

I would recommend this to older readers, mostly due to the horror content, nothing else there is inappropriate there, who liked Harry Potter and want a creepy twist. Definitely check it out!

Last movie I watched:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Never gets old.

Last TV show I watched:

Things Explained, or something like that on Netflix. It’s by Vox. I liked it a lot.

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The collision of past and future

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

I just finished this book to write Battle of the Books questions for it. It’s also on the OLA’s White Pine list this year and I really recommend it, although it’s not exactly light, escapism if that’s what you’re into.

It takes place in a future when civilization has collapsed through a complicated series of negative events starting with extreme environmental devastation and climate change that triggered massive wars and the collapse of society. In this world, people have lost their ability to dream and it makes them violent and depressed. The solution was found in the bone marrow of Indigenous people. The book opens with Frenchie, a young Metis boy and his brother fleeing after their parents’ disappearances. The book follows Frenchie and his new found family’s journey through northern Ontario and eventually their decision to fight back.

There’s a lot to like about this book (but I’m not going to get into too much of it because spoilers!) but I’ll focus particularly on two things – Indigenous people in north America and the portrayal of LGBTQ people in the book.

This book, while maybe a little didactic, does a great job of drawing on the history of violence and colonialism in the collective Indigenous identity, as well as the generations of trauma that has effected both the individual people and the collective group of people. The dystopian future really draws on historical event and, while it’s extreme and alarming, also feels very real in the context of colonial oppression. No one wants to think about their government rounding up a minority in their own country and trapping them in schools. But it happened in history, and in this book it happens in our future as well. The idea of paying bounties on innocent civilians is distressing, but again, happened in our past and could happen again. Although the current political struggles are not touched on, it contextualizes them.

There is also a fantastic LGTBQ character in this book, and what I loved most about this character is that his sexual orientation was just one part of his overall character. His entire existence is informed by the lose of his husband, but this is treated exactly the same as any other lose in the book, and there are many. The fact that he’s a gay man isn’t even mentioned, its just understood. Also, there’s some serious trope inversion here (Spoiler: Kill All Your Gays) is thwarted in the last few pages in a way that truly warmed my heart.

I think this reads like a first novel (it is) and I’m sure everything Dimaline writes from will improve on what she learned from this great book. It feels a bit like Cormac McCarthey’s The Road  mixed with a curriculum accompaniment (for high school students – there’s violence, including sexual violence and some pg-13 sexuality) but I really enjoyed it and believe it’s a great piece for high school students across Canada to be reading this year.

Last movie I watched:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When I first read it, I didn’t mind Harry’s … lack of emotional regulation. Then it started to bug me, I think as I stopped being a teenager. But now I don’t mind it so much again because I think he’s got PTSD for most of this book and with that reading, his anger makes a lot of sense.

Last TV episode:

Death Comes to Pemberly although I am literally 5 minutes into the first episode and therefore have no opinion at this time.

Genre Mixing

Hunter (Hunter #1) by Mercedes Lackey

We’re getting pretty close to books that I’ve read in recent enough memory that I might be able to manage some thoughtful discussion of this book. Probably not much, but a bit.

Hunter takes place in a dystopian future after an unknown apocalypse when the humans of the world are terrorized by magical beings that can crossover from another mythical realm to hunt humans. Humans have responded by living in major cities, protected by Hunters – people with magical abilities and a connection to mythical beasts called Hounds who are public figures, as well as protectors. Into this complicated world, Joy is asked to leave her quiet mountain home for Apex, the biggest city in North America with nothing but her training, her hounds and the occasional communication from her high ranking uncle to keep her alive. It is the first book in a trilogy. I think. There’s at least a second.

One thing that was really interesting about this book was the blending of science fiction and fantasy. On the one hand, Joy is tracked all the time by mechanical bracelets, cameras and trending but on the other she has a telepathic connection with mythical, shape shifting animals.

Overall, I found the pacing a little off with some stretches dragging and then a lot of action for a long time, but I will definitely be reading the next one.

Last movie I watched:

No idea.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural still. I’m going to get through this season without thinking about it too much.

Way Better Than the Day After Tomorrow

The Dark Gravity Sequence: The Arctic Code by Matthew J Kirby

This book takes takes place in not so distance future when half the world is covered in ice and snow. It starts in Phoenix, with a young girl named Eleanor. Most of her friends are refugees, who fled to Phoenix from the rest of the United States when it became too cold for people to live, and live in cramped, underpowered apartment towers but because her mother works for one of the biggest oil companies in the world she and her uncle Jack have their own house. Eleanor never feels like she fits in, so when she receives a strange message from her mother, who then goes missing in the Arctic, Eleanor doesn’t overthink going north to look for her mom. But her mother is involved in something much bigger than anyone ever realized and nothing less than the fate of the world is at stake.

This is a really great book. Eleanor is a plucky, lovable hero who’s impulsive decisions regularly cause problems but it makes her more real, more interesting and more relatable. One of my favourite things about her is she has no father – her mother wanted a child, didn’t have a spouse and used a sperm bank. The reality of the world is that there are lots of children with families that look a little different, and it’s great to see them represented in a casual, realistic way. The group of adults who support and protect Eleanor and later the other kids do a good job of not showing up being all knowing vestals of wisdom, just slightly older people who don’t know how to protect what they love, exactly the same as the kids.

It’s a great children’s adventure book, it moves quickly and builds towards a very exciting climax that sets up the next books pretty well. I’m excited to read them.

Also there’s a mammoth. You can’t really go wrong with a mammoth.

Conclusion: recommend. Also love.

Last movie I watched:

Might still be Victor Frankenstein. Ugh.

Last TV show I watched:

Touch! It’s getting more Heroes-esk every episode but I’m already on the 2nd session and it’s not notably worse than the first, so it’s better than Heroes in a lot of ways.