Welcome to another spot of yarning with me – Mad Martha! Bruce has asked me to share with you our thoughts on the second book in the Lockwood & Co YA paranormal series by Jonathan Stroud – The Whispering Skull – as we have just managed to stab it with our grappling hook and haul ourselves over it in our climb up the Mount TBR Reading Challenge for 2016 (hosted by My Reader’s Block). Click on the image for more information on this wonderful challenge:
As I’m controlling the blog today, you know there will be some DIY crafty component to the review and at the end of this post I will leave you some instructions on how to create your own skull-in-a-jar shelfmate:
I will, however, make no guarantees as to the likelihood or otherwise of your little skull whispering to you. Although Bruce looks hopeful.
But let’s not let this bony little cutie-pie steal the show! Without further ado, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
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 the Times 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.
It has been far too long between paranormal drinks for we shelf denizens and this series. We loved the first book, The Screaming Staircase , and have kept the other two books in the series in our back pockets, so to speak, for those moments when we need a sure-fire ripper read. Once the Mount TBR Challenge came along though, we decided to take the plunge and get into the second book to ensure we don’t get left too far behind as more books are released.
This one picks up pretty well immediately after the first leaves off, with Lucy, George and Lockwood drawn into an investigation featuring a dangerous relic made by members of Victorian high society who had a penchant for trying to communicate with the dead. The banter between Lucy and George makes a welcome return and very early on it’s obvious that relationships between our three heroes will become strained as the stakes of the investigation – and the body count – gets higher. There is the added problem of the ever-present and ever-irritating Fittes agents, led by pompous Quill Kipps, who are competing with Lockwood & Co to solve the mystery and win the acclaim (and payment).
We were tantalised with the whisperings of the titular skull in the first book and this second instalment gives the trio some new insights into who the skull might have been. Lucy knows however, that there is something not-quite-right about the skull’s sudden turn toward verbosity (apart from the obvious lack of vocal chords on a skull), yet struggles to get Lockwood to see the light. We are left hanging again at the end of this instalment, with some questions answered about the skull, but some intriguing threads left loose.
I didn’t find this book quite as terrifying as the first in the series, but there are definitely some hairy scenes where it’s touch and go for the main characters. Stroud seems to have a knack for stringing out the action, allowing the pace to slow before ramping things up in alarming fashion. There were also a few niggling bits that Bruce and I found a bit off about the plot – one or two plot points that seem pretty obvious early on (and turn out as expected) but are missed, improbably, by the main characters. That aside, this is certainly a worthy addition to the series and we are all now looking forward to The Hollow Boy, when we get around to it.
Now on to the craft! I am certain that all fans of this series (and some who aren’t) will be itching to get their paws on a little skeletal companion so here are some instructions for how to whip up your own Whispering Skull*!
*Whispering not guaranteed*
You will need:
*a jar (with or without lid)
*a small amount of white yarn (we used acrylic)
*a small amount of black yarn
*a small amount of grey or brown yarn
*a yarn needle
*a small amount of stuffing
*a size 3.5 mm crochet hook
I decided not to reinvent the wheel and used this pattern
by NerdyCrochetGal to create a mini skull. It turned out to be the perfect size and something that could be whipped up super-quick. I used grey yarn to crochet two little circles for the eyes, a triangle for the nose and just did some satin stitches for the mouth. Unfortunately I made the nose hole too big, and the eyes too small, so my skull has a slightly odd expression – but there you are. You can learn from my mistake.
Here’s where you’ll need the cellophane and tape. The skull in the book is described as having a green plasma that whirls around it now and again, so I used green cellophane to tint my jar the correct colour. Wrap some cellophane around the outside of your jar to measure how much you will need. Cut this section of cellophane out and tape it to the inside of your jar. Place your skull inside the jar.
If your jar has a lid already, you can decide whether you want to do this part. My jar was lidless, so I crocheted a circle wide enough to cover the opening (in double crochet stitches) and then repeated the number of stitches in the final round 4 times (using single crochet stitches) to create an overhang. Then I stretched my faux lid over the top of the jar. Finished! Even if your jar has a lid, you could crochet a little cosy over the top using the same method.
Now your little bony friend is ready to adorn your desk, shelf or other home- or office-based niche. Enjoy!
If you haven’t discovered the Lockwood & Co series yet, we shelf denizens highly recommend taking a look at it.
Cheerio my dears,