BOOK REVIEW: The Screaming Staircase {Lockwood & Co., 1} by Jonathan Stroud

"When you go out hunting wicked spirits, it’s the simple things that matter most. The silvered point of your rapier flashing in the dark; the iron filings scattered on the floor; the sealed canisters of best Greek Fire, ready as a last resort… But tea bags, brown and fresh and plentiful, and made (for preference) by Pitkin Brothers of Bond Street, are perhaps the simplest and best of all."

Had it not been for Netflix I likely would not have ever learned of Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co.. And while my attention span lacked the bandwidth to truly get into the show {I lasted 27 minutes}; it was enough to pique my interest into the book series that sparked the television series, which is how The Screaming Staircase {Lockwood & Co., 1} landed on my Kindle. While lengthy and oftentimes slower-paced than I anticipated, I would be lying if I said that I wasn't thoroughly engrossed in this tale - from the witty banter between quickly-adored characters to the eerie yet novel premise and gritty, noir-inspired feel of the setting. Will I be back for the sequel, The Whispering Skull {Lockwood & Co., 2}? Absolutely!

For 50 years Britain has been ruled by The Problem: a horrifying epidemic of ghosts and hauntings. Not what you were expecting, amiright? To combat The Problem, a series of Psychic Investigations Agencies have popped up around the country - all with the apparent capabilities of destroying the deadly apparitions. One of those agencies being Lockwood & Co. - a ramshackle organization run by a mere child out of Number 35, Portland Street. Though it seems bizarre to have the teenage, yet charistmatic Anthony Lockwood heading his own firm {small as it may be}, it is quite fitting considering that the only ones with the ability to exterminate said spirits are children and teenagers harboring the psychic ability to sense ghosts. Lockwood being one of those individuals; his deputy, George Cubbins, resident researcher and reader, being his second. But they need a third to round up their Scooby Gang. Enter Lucy Carlyle.

A talent well beyond her years with a poorly padded resume, Lucy Carlyle escapes to London following a tragic incident with her previous agency. Armed with dual Talents, the ability to both hear voices of the dead and experience memories of the deceased with the mere touch of an object belonging to them, Lucy feels that gaining employment will be a simple matter. Unfortunately, following rejections from all of the top, adult-run agencies, she winds up on the doorstep of her last hope: Lockwood & Co. Taken on immediately, Lucy moves into the 221B Baker Street-inspired office/living quarters, working and breakfasting alongside Lockwood and Cubbins day in and day out, while learning very little about Lockwood himself. Where are his parents? How did he come to own Number 35, Portland Street? Why does he never speak of his past? These are all questions Lucy longs to ask but is too polite to do so.

When the members of Lockwood & Co. are fingered as the irresponsible cause of a home burning down during an investigation in which they were ill-prepared for, the agency finds themselves in a bind. Summoned to pay an exorbitant amount of money which they simply don't have, the Lockwood & Co. trio is forced to take on the Combe Carey Hall investigation. Known for being one of England's most haunted houses, Combe Carey Hall is a job that has left members of more prestigious agencies dead - it is also Lockwood & Co.'s last chance at redemption, and so Lockwood, Cubbins, and Carlyle resolve to take on the so-called Red Room and Screaming Staircase. Whether they survive the experience, however, remains to be seen.

Ghost stories don't typically reel me in, but a good mystery is a simple way to my heart, so The Screaming Staircase quickly won me over with its Holmes-esque atmosphere kissed with paranormal charm. The true winner of this tale, however, are the characters. Believe me when I say that the Lockwood trio is Top Tier. We're talking mind-blowing chemistry, banter, and brilliance that is the true backbone of this story. Lockwood is captivating, what with his air of mystery, and level-headed calm; whereas Cubbins brings a laugh courtesy of his slobbish tendencies and peculiar quirks. Lucy is perhaps the most dry of the three, seeming more sensible, yet oftentimes ever so slightly boring. That said, she is a worthy compatriot to round out the trio and keep them more accountable for their curiosities.

Though I will admit that there were times that, at over 400 pages, this story did drag at different moments; as the first book in a series, this is most certainly not a dealbreaker, as it is setting the foundation for future books. For that reason, I have every intention of snagging book 2, The Whispering Skull, as I am eager to see what my favorite trio of paranormal detectives are up to - and perhaps delve deeper into Lockwood's private past.

Star Rating: ***1/2



NOTD: ZOYA Classic Leathers Fall 2022 Nail Lacquer Collection in Gidget

Two coats of ZOYA Nail Polish in Gidget. Butterscotch Creme.

NGL, I 100% thought that this was going to be a mustard shade based on how it looked in the bottle, but surprise! It's so not.

Gidget is a beige-based butterscotch creme that feels ideal for this time of year due to its apple picking perfect coloring and nod to apple cider and iced coffee. This one is creamy and decadent for the Thanksgiving season and is essential for those seeking a flawless formula and unique vibe.


Disclaimer: Cat Eyes & Skinny Jeans occasionally receives vendor/ brand sponsorships for mentioning their products and services.


fit for success

Good American Fit for Success Jumpsuit in BLUE274.

99.99% sure I need this cutie in my spring wardrobe!



NOTD: ZOYA Toasty Transitional 2023 Nail Lacquer Collection in Rae

Two coats of ZOYA Nail Polish in Rae. Dusty Rose Creme.

Let's be honest here: we don't talk about rose nail colors enough. Period.

Rae is a decadent dusty rose creme that is giving me allll of the toasty vibes. This is one of those shades that is begging to be paired with oversized sweaters and otk boots {and I am more than happy to oblige}. The formula here was so easy breezy, I literally cannot; and the dry time was instant. This is def one of my new fave ZOYA shades. Buy. It. Now.


Disclaimer: Cat Eyes & Skinny Jeans occasionally receives vendor/ brand sponsorships for mentioning their products and services.


BOOK REVIEW: The Elephant Girl by James Patterson & Ellen Banda-Aaku

Having been a follower of Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for years, I was highly intrigued by James Patterson & Ellen Banda-Aaku's The Elephant Girl when I learned of its publication, as it was billed as being inspired by true events, with a strong focus on wildlife conservation and the serious issue that is poaching. Though I can't say that The Elephant Girl is as strong as The One and Only Ivan, Pax, or Because of Winn-Dixie {all books that I have read and loved over the years} as there was a certain je ne sais quoi missing within its pages; I would recommend it to readers who have enjoyed those very stories as they are all character-driven, bringing some very charming creatures and human counterparts to the forefront - not to mention a great deal of information on poaching, corruption amidst park rangers, and the amount of strength needed to rehabilitate these beautiful animals.

Life has not been easy for Maasai twelve-year-old Jama Anyango since her Baba {father} passed away four years ago. In that time, Jama's mother has had to invest all of her time and energy into making sandals to sell in order to make ends meet. Though the sandals are works of beauty, and prized by all who purchase {mainly tourists}, the craft takes much out of Jama's mother, leaving Jama on her own quite frequently. Though Jama does not mind the solitude; the people within her Kenyan village are quick to comment on it in a negative light. You see, following the death of her Baba, Jama's mother elected to stay single - taking over the family business and proving that a husband is not necessary for survival. It is a mindset that has changed Jama in ways that not everyone in the village can understand - nor is it their business to.

Jama desires something more than marriage and family - she longs for education, the ability to make her own decisions, and the same freedom as boys. Unfortunately, it is this personal change that leaves her withdrawing from her best friend, Nadira, and the other girls in the village, as they are only interested in boys and marriage; in turn, the other girls and Nadira begin to exclude her from gatherings - isolating Jama and making her feel alone. After one such occasion, Jama begins escaping to a nearby watering hole outside of the boundaries her mother has set for her. It is her quiet place; her secret place. It is also where she develops a kinship with the elephants. There is Shaba, the leader, along with Bawa, Lulu, Modoc, Loasa, Tabia; and then, one day, she witnesses Shaba's birth of little Mbegu. Jama quickly develops a deep bond with Mbegu, and begins visiting more frequently - which is how she discovers a poacher in their midst.

Recently, the village has welcomed Solo Mungu, an employee with the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the Head Ranger responsible for ceasing poaching practices seen within the Naibunga Conservatory - land which borders Jama's village. It is Solo Mungo's son, Leku, who the village girls are swooning over, but whom Jama views as a local bully. With Solo Mungo in the village, Jama is confused as to why a poacher would be so boldly present in the area - until late one night she finds a connection {not to mention a newfound ally}. Following the death of one of the elephants, the peaceful creatures become agitated, resulting in an unexpected stampede that ends in tragedy - forcing Jama and Mbegu, bruised and bloodied, to flee and embark on a new journey in a place different than they have ever known before.

When I say that this is a melancholy book, it is not an exaggeration. The Elephant Girl is steeped in sorrow; and while it was easy to finish within a few hours, it was difficult not to keep thinking about it. There is so much heartache that pours from the pages; but, as we near the conclusion, there is happiness - kind of like the rainbow after the rain. Though I predicted that I would never grow to so much as like Leku, he manages to redeem himself multiple times within the story. But it is Jama, both lovable and relatable in her plight of self-discovery and growth, along with her elephant family, who are the true stars. The sacrifices made, the dangers faced, the changes required...these were handled eloquently - as were the scenes starring the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. I do have two qualms though.

First, I found that the pacing was not always fluid - it oftentimes felt rushed and haphazardly put together, which detracted quite a bit from the enjoyment factor. Second, though The Elephant Girl is billed as being inspired by true events, there is nothing listed in the back of the book indicating the true events that inspired it; and countless time spent Googling for such information yielded zero results. This was disappointing to me as a reader who enjoys learning more about the inspiration behind a book such as this - but maybe that's just me. Overall, though it had its flaws, I did enjoy the amount of information and heart compacted within this tale, and recommend it to animal lovers - especially if you favor elephants.

Star Rating: ***1/2



NOTD: ZOYA Toasty Transitional 2023 Nail Lacquer Collection in Abigail

Two coats of ZOYA Nail Polish in Abigail. Elephant Grey Creme.

I never think grey for spring; but I am seriously feeling this shade for transitioning from winter.

Abigail is an elephant grey creme that is slightly darker in real life. The formula here is flawless - applying smoothly, and drying in minutes. I will say that I am naturally {very} pale, and at times I thought this shade gave me a touch of corpse hands; so it may be more apropos for a tanner complexion.


Disclaimer: Cat Eyes & Skinny Jeans occasionally receives vendor/ brand sponsorships for mentioning their products and services.


summer daydream

Free People Summer Daydream Tunic Shirt in ECRU.

Absolutely adoring the oversized fit and frayed edges of this cutie - so fitting for sticky summer days!



NOTD: ZOYA Classic Leathers Fall 2022 Nail Lacquer Collection in Ryder

Two coats of ZOYA Nail Polish in Ryder. Redwood Brown Creme.

This brown though...such. a. stunner.

Ryder is a milk chocolate-esque redwood brown creme that gives me all of the M&Ms vibes. Seriously. I legit cannot get over how beautiful this babe is - that natural shine, rich color, dreamy formula. All I can say is...chef's kiss.


Disclaimer: Cat Eyes & Skinny Jeans occasionally receives vendor/ brand sponsorships for mentioning their products and services.


BOOK REVIEW: Chain of Gold {The Last Hours, # 1} by Cassandra Clare

"We do not get to choose when in our lives we feel pain,” said Matthew. “It comes when it comes, and we try to remember, even though we cannot imagine a day when it will release its hold on us, that all pain fades. All misery passes. Humanity is drawn to light, not darkness."

I first discovered Cassandra Clare in 2012, when I began reading The Mortal Instruments - a series which I could not get enough of, and devoured in far too short a time. Somehow, once finishing that six book series, I read nothing more from Clare - until recently, when Chain of Gold {The Last Hours, # 1} popped up during a Kindle sale. And thank goodness that it did because it was spectacular, and has made me question why I didn't keep up with Clare over the years. Chain of Gold is a gut-wrenching, soul-shaking introduction to an action-packed trilogy brimming with Shadowhunter goodness set in the early 1900s, and driven by an impeccable cast of characters. Mark my words...you'll be purchasing the sequel, Chain of Iron {The Last Hours, # 2}, after finishing just the first chapter. Trust.

As a born and bred Shadowhunter, Cordelia Carstairs has been trained as a warrior to battle demons since she was just a tyke; but no training could have prepared her for the demons found within her very own family. When her father is implicated as being the mastermind behind a terrible crime that resulted in the deaths of many, Cordelia and her older brother, Alastair, along with their mother, are sent off to London to save face and, hopefully, prevent the ruination of their beloved family. While Cordelia's mother has dreams only of marrying Cordelia off to a well-to-do family before rumors of her father's supposed indiscretions reach the gritty yet glamorous city, Cordelia's desires lie elsewhere. She is determined to be a hero rather than a housewife; and while she does secretly love James Herondale, a childhood friend who happens to be the brother of her bestie, Lucie, James is promised to another, making him unattainable. At least romantically.

Upon reaching London, Cordelia makes fast work of reconnecting with both James and Lucie - after all, she is destined to be Lucie's parabatai {a lifelong partner bound together by oath, and made to fight together until death}. Once welcomed into their inner circle, she finds herself enshrouded in a shimmering world brimming with ballrooms, secret assignations, and salons overflowing with the supernatural - from mermaids mixing with magicians to vampires interweaving with warlocks. It's an underground far from anything Cordelia has known before; but one that intrigues her and feels like home. And then disaster strikes...

Shortly after making her London debut, the city is devastated by a series of unexplained demon attacks that threaten to shatter Cordelia's world. The typical monsters encountered by Shadowhunters are those that stay hidden by the dark; but this breed is unlike anything encountered before by the Shadowhunter world. These monsters walk freely in daylight, are seemingly impossible to kill, and strike down the unsuspecting with an incurable poison that could quickly make Shadowhunter numbers dwindle. With such a risk on the loose, London is quarantined, stranding Cordelia and her friends in the city. While trapped, however, they discover that they have a connection to a dark legacy - one that provides them with phenomenal powers that come with a price: the cruel penalty of being a hero.

Having not read The Infernal Devices trilogy, this was my first introduction to Will, Tessa, and Jem; however, as they are the adults within this spinoff, my unfamiliarity with them did not hinder my ability to absolutely l-o-v-e each and every character within these pages {barring Grace and Tatiana Blackthorn obvi}, or to seamlessly follow the storyline. Will I go back and read The Infernal Devices after completing The Last Hours? Absolutely! But, for the time being, I am adoring the escapades found within this trilogy. Not to mention the brilliant banter, humor, and dazzling cast of characters Clare has masterfully drawn out.

Cordelia is totally girl crush worthy - she has this Buffy vibe about her that is irresistible. And Anna Lightwood? Her level of cool is beyond. Then there's Matthew and James and Christopher and Thomas and Lucie...all who bring so much to the story with their differing personalities. And, not to be forgotten, Jem {aka Brother Zachariah}. Despite their oddities, I have alwaysalwaysalways been enchanted by the concept of the Silent Brothers, so seeing his interactions with the other characters was incredibly engaging. From start to finish, Chain of Gold was utterly brilliant. I cannot wait to see what adventure lies within the pages of Chain of Iron.

Star Rating: *****

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