It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say that my heart grieves for Debbie Alvarez’s passing (of The Styling Librarian blog). While I did not really know her personally, I feel that I do – through the Monday reading community where we have been exchanging comments about each others’ blog posts. My prayers go to Debbie’s family who must be mourning the loss of such a lovely, passionate, warrior of a woman.
Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts
I have been raving about the Lockwood & Co. series for awhile now – it is worth all that rave and more. I can’t wait for Book 4 to be out – hopefully, in 2016!
The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. Book 2)
Writer: Jonathan Stroud
Published by: Doubleday, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library.
Two weeks back, I shared my review of the first book, The Screaming Staircase, which ended with the skull in the jar communicating with Lucy Carlyle, one of the three talented teenaged field agents in Anthony Lockwood’s psychic detection agency.
Among the three books, I must confess that this is my favourite, thus far. There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments again as Stroud regales the reader with his acerbic wit told in the voice of no-nonsense Lucy. Each of the characters live in the reader’s mind, which owes a great deal to Stroud’s vivid descriptions and the way that each character speaks in a distinct manner. Case in point would be the new character to the series: Flo Bones. Now that girl, despite her aversion to general hygiene, is one character I absolutely like. See the way Lucy describes her:
George Cubbins is also, what one would call, an acquired taste, I do like his propensity for eating at the weirdest of times, his frenzied passion for research, and the fact that the library is a second home for him. What he lacks in physical prowess (such as executing the perfect Kuriashi turn which Lockwood can do with relative ease), he makes up for in his verbal fencing and penchant for repartee. As George noted, those moves are:
‘Nothing but trendy claptrap, invented by the big agencies to make themselves look fancy. In my book, you thwack a Visitor, avoid being ghost-touched, and peg it home. That’s all you need to know.’ (p. 37)
A Visitor, of course, refers to the ghosts whom their agency tirelessly battles and puts to rest (by securing the source/cause of their hauntings with silver) to save all of London. This time, the entire team is in a tizzy as the Source of a Haunting has been stolen – a very mysterious and powerful mirror framed in human bones – or what they refer to here as the bone glass. Apparently, it is no ordinary mirror. And no, it is not like the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter that shows people their hearts’ desires; rather, it is a portal to the other side and drives whoever looks at it mad with obsession, leading to their deaths. Apparently there is a Black Market that exists for these rare artifacts.
I especially loved the fight scene that involved George in the end described by their rival Quill Kipps as:
“The worst fight ever. They knocked each other’s glasses off, and spent half the time crawling around trying to find them. I’m surprised they didn’t pull each other’s hair.” (p. 427)
Inasmuch as Stroud makes the reader laugh aloud, there is remarkable depth in his writing – loss is characterized with soul, without having to unceremoniously dwell on it, yet it exists and is acknowledged:
I also like the fact that Lucy is coming into her own talent more in this novel as she communicates further with the irascible skull who is wont to speaking inappropriately at the most inopportune of times. But he grows on you, surprisingly. More information is also provided about Lockwood and his family towards the end of the novel, providing hints that any reader would want to uncover further in the next book, which I am glad to say I immediately read the minute I finished reading this one.
The Hollow Boy
Writer: Jonathan Stroud
Published by: Disney Hyperion, 2015
Borrowed through inter-library loan.
In this instalment, the entire agency is shown to be extremely overworked what with all their recent successes and media coverage, and this despite their being an independent and small psychic investigation agency – resulting in a frenzy of calls from clients who demand their attention and help. And so a new addition to the team is in order. Enter Holly Munro who is perennially polished, efficient to the point of punctiliousness, and armed with all the must-do’s for the entire team, that she has learned from working in established, more reputable agencies. Lucy’s sentiments are captured quite fully in the way she described Holly in this fashion:
She unbuttoned her coat and took off her gloves. As usual, she’d made herself up like we were heading out to a society garden party – instead of what we were doing: ghost-hunting on the grim side of London. Maybe it was wrong, but I so hoped she’d fall into an open coffin or catacomb or something before the night was out. It didn’t have to be a very bad fall. Just a dusty one. Involving bones. (p. 261)
Lucy’s frustration with the new girl in the team makes her even more daring and more experimental in the way she deals with the spirits – she knows that she is able to communicate with ghosts if she takes the risk of not putting out her usual defenses as demanded by their Manual when it comes to dealing with Visitors as they are referred to here. She is more wont to push the boundaries of her talent further (especially since she has the whispering skull to ask for advice) even if it occasionally puts the other members of the team at risk. The rest of London is also in dire straits as there seems to be an epidemic or an outbreak of Visitors throughout the city – and Scotland Yard is at their wits’ end as to how to locate the Source of the Hauntings as they seem to be getting stronger every night.
There is also much more that is revealed about Anthony Lockwood in this novel as he finally let down a bit of his defenses and opened up the locked room to both Lucy and George. And again, I am in awe with the way that Stroud is able to effectively move from humor to great depth as can be seen in the way the forbidden room has been described. Similar to the two passages above, I took a photo of the page and edited it using an iPhone app.
I have to confess that I avidly count the hours when I could get back into reading this novel which I finished in three days, give or take – but that’s only because I had life getting in the way. This is the only US version I read among all three novels – and I did notice it in the beginning. Not sure how substantial the ‘cultural appropriation’ of the text had been for US readers, but somehow it sounded different to me, but then again, it could just be me. If you haven’t been reading this series yet, you better get started. Stroud is definitely a masterful storyteller.
I did manage to read quite a bit over the past two weeks. I finished Bone Gap by Laura Ruby and The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm by Maurice Sendak.
This book also found me and didn’t let go until I finished reading it:
Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman which I enjoyed tremendously.
At the moment,
I am reading I just finished reading Shaun Tan’s The Singing Bones last night which is a perfect follow-through from Sendak’s The Juniper Tree.
I am also hoping to finally sink my teeth into Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.