Book Review: “The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne” by Jonathan Stroud

Title: The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Genre: Fantasy/Dystopia
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 10/12/2022 – 09/12/2022


Jonathan Stroud is one of my few insta-buy authors. I loved the Bartimaeus trilogy and I loved Lockwood and Co. (looking forward to the Netflix series in January!). But this book… I don’t know. I think I liked it? Hence the three stars. But it took so long to get through and I did feel a bit dissatisfied at the end.

I think the main problem was that Stroud didn’t give us enough of… anything, really.

We know that there was a “Cataclysm” and that it has broken up the UK into a series of walled “Surviving Towns”, but we don’t know what caused it. We know that it caused wild animals to turn into giant mutations of themselves, and created a race of cannibalistic sub-humans known as The Tainted, but that’s about the extent of our knowledge.

We know a bit about how various religious faiths throughout the world have sort of amalgamated into one big Faith and religious authoritarianism is huge. We know that Scarlett lost someone, possibly to one of these Faith Houses but we don’t know anything about who it was, or the circumstances.

Being a closed book is a huge part of Scarlett’s character, but it does make it hard to get invested in her. All we really see is the bravado she puts on. As she starts to warm towards Albert, we get past the exterior a little bit, but I think a bit more was needed.

Albert, tbough, is an open book and such an interesting character. He’s been raised in an abusive environment, and up until the events of the book, has never been outside the walls of that environment. He is so naïve but so genuine, though his upbringing has taught him to be sneaky in some ways. I really loved his development throughout the story.

I am intrigued enough to read the second book. I do wonder if the first book was a whole lot of set-up and the next book will be more interesting. But I’m going to get it from the library.

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#WWW Wednesday – January 24, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.


What have you recently finished reading?

I finished The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud and it was a very satisfying conclusion to the series. Sometimes when I had read the previous installments, I didn’t really get why the characters were doing things or going to certain places, but everything drew together very nicely at the end.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what Stroud comes up with next. I posted my review on Monday.


What are you currently reading?

I have started reading Every Breath by Ellie Marney. Ellie Marney was one of the instigators of the #LoveOzYA movement, so I’ve been keen to check out this series for a while. I am only in chapter 2 at time of writing so it’s very early days, but based on the couple of chapters and the blurbs for all three books (I picked up all three from the library at the same time), it might be one of those YA series that could either go very, very right or very, very wrong.

I am still going with The Hospital by the River by Catherine Hamlin on audio but I have made some good progress and I think I’m at about the 80% mark now.

What do you think you’ll read next?

As it was last week, I’m not quite sure. I would like to knock one more book off my Jan-Feb TBR before the end of January, as then I’ll be halfway through it. I also need to look at some of my ARCs pretty soon.

~ Emily

““This is what the Problem means. This is the effect it has. Lives lost, loved ones taken before their time.” // Review of “The Empty Grave” by Jonathan Stroud

Title: The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5)
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 11/01/2018 – 21/01/2018
Rating: ★★★★


There’s always a sense of bittersweet when you come to the end of a series you’ve enjoyed. While the fourth installment of Lockwood and Co left me underwhelmed, everything from the previous four books came together in this one to give a really satisfyinng conclusion.

I have to admit that this wasn’t as scary as the other books. I think this was because Lockwood & Co. didn’t actually deal with that many ghosts in this one, and when they did, they dealt with them fairly swiftly. Something I loved about the earlier books was that some of the scenes where Lockwood & Co visited various haunted sites had me staying up late because if I didn’t see the battle out, I knew I wouldn’t sleep that night. Book four didn’t do that, and neither did this one. The conflict in Book 5 was more to do with the origins of the Problem, and the early ghost-hunting agencies.

Still, I loved the team dynamics here. I had often felt a bit uncomfortable with the way George was made fun of, usually due to his weight, so it was nice to see how much it really did affect the rest of the team when something happened to him. The Lockwood/Lucy romance that so many readers were hoping for was hinted at (rather heavily at the end) but never actually detailed. I am torn between thanking the gods for a YA series with no romance and wanting to have seen them get together, or at least admit to some mutual feelings, on the page.

This is the second series by Jonathan Stroud that I have followed and he has been one of my favourite authors ever since I read the Bartimaeus series. I am looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next!

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#WWW Wednesday – January 17, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.


What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Everless by Sara Holland and while it was still a little bit tropey, it did subvert other tropes and completely sucked me in! I’ll be looking forward to the next book.

I also read Mr Stink by David Walliams. This is a children’s book very much in the style of Roald Dahl (complete with illustrations by Quentin Blake). I liked it but I wasn’t quite sure what it was trying to say. I’ll have a review up on Friday.

Two reviews this week! My review of Everless went up here and I also reviewed False Awakening, an urban fantasy by Cassandra Page, here.

What are you currently reading?

I haven’t had a lot of time for reading this past week as I’ve been on holidays with a couple of friends, but I have been reading The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud. Feeling a bit bittersweet as I have been following this series since it began and this is the last book.  Also, last time I finished a series by Jonathan Stroud, I threw my Kindle across the room (the ending wasn’t bad at all, just gave me a lot of feelings), so I’m a little apprehensive.

I am still going with The Hospital by the River by Catherine Hamlin. I haven’t had much time for audio books but I’ll be getting back to my longer walks tomorrow so I will be able to make some more progress with this one.

What do you think you’ll read next?

So I requested some ARCs from NetGalley that I thought were not going to be published until June and October, only to discover after I was accepted that they were actually published last June and October (and are still available to request?!). And also there was that time on Sunday when I went to the library and accidentally came away with six books. Which is all to say, I really don’t know, but I have plenty to choose from!

What are you reading this week? 

~ Emily

#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 01 February, 2017

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.


What have you recently finished reading?

unspokenlynburncoverI finished Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, which at first I thought was going to be my first 5* read for the year. But then as I went on, my feelings became a bit more mixed. It started off with tropes and characters I really liked, but then it veered off not necessarily bad things, but things I am less fond of and less likely to flail and squee over. Review will be along soon.

Idarkunwindingcover also finished The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron. It’s definitely not a standalone and I do want to read the second book, but I am going to have to buy the ebook, as neither my public library nor digital library has it. So it will wait for a bit. My review went up on Monday and you can read it here.

I also posted my review of The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co.) here this week.

What are you currently reading?

traitortothethronecoverI was approved for an ARC of Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton, which is released later this week. I’m hoping to finish it in time to get a review up on Friday, though if I need to leave it until Monday, that’s okay. It took a little while but I’m getting into it now.

beautyqueenscoverI also started listening to Beauty Queens by Libba Bray on audio. I went looking for one of her other books, and found this one. It’s a very black YA comedy. I’m enjoying it so far. And she is a great audio performer as well.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I actually posted a February TBR post yesterday, as I’ve got quite a few to choose from. I already have The Reptile Room (Series of Unfortuate Events #2) and Untold from the library, and I have two other pending ARCs to read as well.

What are you reading this week? 🙂


other blog hop for this week is WIPpet Wednesday. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us in this one by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up. I’ve got three paragraphs today, for 01/02. Max has been reunited with some of his Aligarian Mage colleagues, but Clara is missing, and they’ve just told him that some of the Mages not loyal to Clara are also hunting for her here. Reminder that Clara has an entirely different set of memories at the moment.

Max felt his stomach knot up. “We need to get back to my Aunt. Clara – the Queen – has run off somewhere. Just now. I didn’t think she was that far ahead of me, but there’s no trace of her.”

“You’re that familiar with her?” Derek asked. “Calling her by her name like that?”

“She’s not the Queen here,” Max reminded them. “And she has no concept of being a Queen, either. We’re just her friends here.”

If anyone is interested, I’ve decided to participate in Faith Rivens‘ February challenge, Fictional Flashback February. My first post is here, introducing Clara in more detail.

That’s it from me this week. Toodles!

~ Emily

“We’re caught between life and death, Lucy, you and I.” // Review of “The Creeping Shadow” by Jonathan Stroud

Title: The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4)
Author: Jonathan Stroud
YA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 16/01/2017 – 23/01/2017
Rating: ★★☆



I normally love Jonathan Stroud’s books, but I have to admit, this is definitely the weakest of the Lockwood & Co. books. Having said that, it’s the seventh book I’ve read by this author and the first one that’s disappointed me, so I guess that’s not too bad a run.

This book had its moments, but overall it wasn’t as spooky as previous installments, nor did the tension seem as high. While Lockwood and Co. have their usual high-profile run-ins with ghosts and uncover some huge ghost-related conspiracies with huge implications for the United Kingdom, I found myself just not really caring.

There were of course some good aspects. The banter between Lockwood & Co. was as good as always, and I appreciated that Lucy had got over her petty jealousies of Holly. The team really gelled in this book and after the arguments and stupid tensions in the previous book, that was really welcome. There were also some Lockwood/Lucy moments that were sweet without being saccharine. But while these types of moments redeemed the parts I disliked in the last book, they didn’t really lift my overall care factor for this one.

My final issue with this book, and one which I think probably compounded all the others, was that it was too long. It was 528 pages, and I think could have been cut down quite a bit. I did figure out one of the major plot points quite early on, so the characters’ detective work to discover it was no shock to me. As there is only one more book in this series, I will certainly see it through, but it was always disappointing when a favourite author doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 25 January, 2017

Oh, look, it’s, um… Thursday. In this part of the word. However, it’s only 8am on Thursday here, which means it’s still Wednesday in pretty much every part of the world where this blog has readers. I did have plans of writing this post last night before bed, except then I fell asleep on the couch. Oops.

Anyway. Let’s just pretend it’s still Wednesday and start off with WWW Wednesday, hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.


What have you recently finished reading?

Jcreepingshadowcoverust one finished this week – The Creeping Shadow, which is book 4 in the Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud. I actually ended up being a bit disappointed in it, but it’s the 7th Stroud book I’ve read and the first one to let me down, so I can’t really complain. My review will be up on Friday.

I posted reviews for Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket this week. Click the titles to read them.

What are you currently reading?

darkunwindingcoverI’ve got about two hours left on the audio of The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron. This is a very character-driven book but I’ve ended up really enjoying it. And at risk of sounding like a teenager on Tumblr, pretty sure I found my first book boyfriend of 2017 in Lane Moreau.

unspokenlynburncoverI started Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan yesterday. It is the first in the Lynburn Legacy series. I wasn’t supposed to be getting anything else from the library but I’ve had this on  my TBR forever and when I saw it on the shelf I figured why not.

What do you think you’ll read next?

heartofbrasscoverI don’t know why I keep answering this question, since I have not once this year gone on to actually read the book I’ve mentioned under this heading. I think I will probably return to Heart of Brass by Felicity Hall, which is sitting on my currently reading shelf with only 60-odd pages read. I also have no idea what audio I’ll pick up; I will have to go on a hunt for one.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

other blog hop for this week is WIPpet Wednesday. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us in this one by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

In this scene, Clara’s been chased down the street and grabbed by some strangers in purple robes. She’s stopped struggling because they seem willing to tell her some things about herself that her so-called friends so far have not, but she’s still not entirely buying it. Also, quick reminder because it’s been a while since he showed up in a WIPpet, General Bauer is the bad guy. He’s not really worried about her. Seven paragraphs beacuse 2+5 =  7.

She stopped struggling against her pursuer’s grip. Seeing that she was following his instructions, the man lowered his hand from Clara’s mouth. Three other figures stepped into Clara’s line of sight. They were all wearing dark purple robes and looked like they must be melting. Even after dark, the heat was still oppressive.

“Your Majesty,” said one of them, a woman. “General Bauer has been extremely worried about you these past six months. Come back to Thelidon with us. He looks forward to doing great things for the Kingdom, with you by his side.”

Clara bit her lip. “Look, um, it’s not that I don’t believe you about this, okay? Because some weird stuff has been happening to me lately, and at this point I’m willing to believe I’m the Queen of some far off country I’ve never heard of. But you’re going to have to explain things to me very slowly, because I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

The three people in front of Clara glanced at each other, as well as at the fourth person over her shoulder.

“You don’t remember Thelidon at all?” asked another woman.

Clara racked her brain. There was something about that word. And the robes these four were wearing. It was like a scrap of memory waving in the wind at the back of her mind, but when she tried to reach out to it, it was gone. She shook her head.


That’s it from me this week. As I’m late to the party now, and also since it’s a public holiday so I can spend my morning doing what I want, I shall visit your blogs straight away. Toodles!
~ Emily

#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 18 January, 2017

It’s time for WWW Wednesday, hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for today, and just answer the three questions.



What have you recently finished reading?

rebirthofrapunzelcoverI finished The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower by Kate Forsyth. I found her research quite interesting, though the articles in the third section got a bit repetitive. More info in my review.

badbeginningcoverOn Monday night, I read The Bad Beginning, the first in the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. When I read the first half of this series back at age twelve or so, I did not realise just how dark the book is! Proper, full-blown child abuse by page 30 or so! But it’s written in such a black comedy, deadpan kind of way that he gets away with it. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t like it as an adult, but that fear was not necessary! I actually gave it five stars at first, but one I’d had a bit of time to consider, changed my rating to four.

Incidentally, the reason I’m finally reading this series again is because of the Netflix series, which so far I am really enjoying (I’ve only watched te first two episodes so far), though it is something that risks getting repetitive quickly.

My review for The Mother of Dreams edited by Majoto Ueda also finally got posted.

What are you currently reading?

creepingshadowcoverCurrently mostly invested in The Creeping Shadow, which is book 4 in the Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud. So far it is not disappointing me. Stroud rarely does.

Aheartofbrasscoverlso technically reading Heart of Brass by Felicity Hall. I attended the book launch during the Canberra Writers’ Festival last year and it was a lot of fun, so I was hoping I would enjoy the book, too, but it’s taking me a while to get into at the moment.

darkunwindingcoverLast but not least is The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, which I found on audio this morning, and then discovered I actually already had on my TBR. It sells itself as steampunk, but the reviews say that it’s more like straight historical fiction. Since I have a love-hate relationship with steampunk, that actually suits me just fine. I’m about an hour and a half into it at the moment, and will hopefully get a chunk listened to tomorrow on my day off.

What do you think you’ll read next?

For the third week running, I’m answering this question with The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias. I probably will actually get to it this time! Though a colleague did just today bring entire Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carringer for me so…

What are you reading this week? 🙂

wednesdaybannerThe other blog hop for this week is WIPpet Wednesday. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us in this one by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

I haven’t written much over the past week, as first I was preparing for my mother to visit, then she was here, then I found myself feeling stuck once she left, so I got around the stuckness by brainstorming and subsequently planning the contemporary Wizard of Oz plot bunny I mentioned last week. Maybe next week I’ll be sharing something from that with you.  With that in mind, I just have a single paragraph for you. This is from Max’s POV, and you’ll hopefully be able to work out the context.

“Clara?” he called out. The path ahead looked deserted, but he was sure she had come this way. The music from the carols service was still quite loud, so  he kept moving, keeping an eye out for any movement up ahead. He started feeling nervous. As he continued to walk, the music faded, until the nighttime surroundings took on an eerie quality. He jumped as a bush rustled, only for a stray cat to fly out from the foliage and streak past him.

That’s it from me this week. I have the day off work tomorrow so I’ll be catching your posts first thing. See you then!

~ Emily

#teasertuesday – The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too

hollowboycoverThe new Lockwood & Co. book came out today! That link goes to the series page on GoodReads, and you can read my reviews of the first two books here and here. I had the new one pre-ordered on Amazon, so I was able to start it on my break today. Here’s the teaser:

Remember I said there was that moment of sweet precision, when we jelled perfectly as a team? Yeah, well, this wasn’t it.

At the moment that this remark is made, Lockwood is dangling out a window with his coat on fire, George is dangling from a ladder and Lucy (the narrator) has lost her sword down a trap door and is trying to avoid ghost-tentacles. And it’s only chapter three! Things often go awry like this for Lockwood & Co but they always manage to get the job done anyhow.

Please feel free to join in on Teaser Tuesday by visiting A Daily Rhythm and leaving a comment there. I’ll see you tomorrow for WIPpet and WWW Wednesday!

~ Emily

Book Review: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Title: The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. #2)
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Genre: YA/Urban fantasy/Supernatural
Date Read: 28/8/14 – 30/8/14
Rating: ★★★★★


whisperingskullcoverLast fortnight, I posted my review of The Screaming Staircase, the first book in the Lockwood & Co. series. I gave it four stars, and I expected this one to be at much the same level; to my surprise, this one was even better!

After what should have been a routine mission in a haunted cemetery goes wrong, Lockwood and Co. are trying to track down a very powerful and very dangerous psychic magic mirror which is connected to one of the most terrifying ghosts any of them have encountered. George is especially affected, but Lockwood and Lucy don’t really notice his new obsession with the magical mirror, as he’s always getting obsessed about something. Meanwhile, the skull that spoke to Lucy at the end of the previous book has finally started talking again. It seems to want to help them, but only to a point. And to make matters worse, not only is solving this case a race against time to protect the world from the mirror’s power, it’s also a matter of pride, as Lockwood has turned it into a contest between them and rival agents, Quill Kipps and his group.

In this book, Stroud expands on the alternate version of the UK that he established in The Screaming Staircase. We learn about relic-men, who scour graveyards and other possible Source locations for psychic items to sell to collectors on the black market. One of these, Flo, is a friend(sort of) of Lockwood’s, and helps him out from time to time, including on this case. I loved Flo’s unapologetic abrasive attitude, and that she was willing to be paid in liquorice. We also get to see inside the Fittes Agency and meet Penelope Fittes, granddaughter of the great Marissa Fittes, who founded the agency and wrote many of the books all agents rely on, whether they work for Fittes or not. It seems Penelope is involved with some suspect figures, but the exact nature of that we have yet to learn. While Lockwood remains almost frustratingly mysterious, we do get to learn more about both Lucy and George.
The action is fast-paced and, given the nature and target audience of the book, just the right amount of scary. I sadly didn’t have the same opportunity to stay up all night reading as I had with the first book, but I did find myself itching to go back whenever I had to put it down (like, you know, at work and stuff) because no matter where I left it, there was always something exciting going on. I read the Kindle version, which came out at the end of August. The print version only came out on September 16, so I know I’m going to be sitting about for a while with this problem:
Ah well. I’m pretty sure it will be worth it.