Tag Archives: reading challenge

Catching up on Sherlock reading

Long time no posts here, eh? I know, I know.

I’ve been reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books this year, spurred on by Mari. I posted about the first two books I read for the challenge way back in August. Since then I’ve read the next three, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

After the longer-form stories of the first two books (one story per short book), The Adventures was a bit disappointing in that the cases were all so brief, so quickly dispatched.

And then when I read Memoirs, I was convinced that I’d picked it up out of order (even though I’d attempted to check). But nope. It was in order of publication date. It had already been clear that the stories weren’t conveyed in chronological order, but this one was a bit jarring.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Hound of the Baskervilles; it really is the most masterful of the stories, at least so far as I’ve read, so far.

Thanks for the nudge, Mari! I’ve been thoroughly enjoying these books, I plan to continue with them into the new year. Next up: The Return of Sherlock Holmes, published in 1905!

(I got these ebooks from Project Gutenberg.)

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A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

8721893974_1f51cdfb67_zFor Mari’s Sherlock Holmes reading challenge, I’ve read the first two books (by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of course) so far.

I honestly can’t remember if I’ve read any Sherlock Holmes books before. I mean, surely I have, at some point, especially given my love of mysteries? But at any rate, I’m reading afresh now.

The first one, A Study in Scarlet, introduces the reader to Sherlock and we see him meet Watson. I did get a bit confused when a new second section started and, instead of the familiar London, we’re abruptly in Utah. It took me a long time to even feel confident the chapters of my ebook hadn’t gotten jumbled with another book somehow! It all became clear in time, though.

The second, The Sign of the Four, also had a somewhat similar detour, but it was much less abrupt and I didn’t get confused nearly as much. 🙂

Each is less than 200 pages (somewhat significantly less, actually). They read very quickly. Despite the (very rare) French or German quote that aren’t translated (a sign of a true classic, maybe?), the language is flowing and easy, not too stilted or old fashioned.

Reading these, I’m appreciating the adaptations I’ve been loving (both BBC’s Sherlock and Elementary) even more, both as treatments of the books and as their own, individual works.

I just love these stories!

On to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes!

(I got these ebooks from Project Gutenberg.)

A Sherlock challenge

8721893974_1f51cdfb67_zI’ve been wanting to read some Sherlock Holmes, especially with the recent spate of great screen adaptations (BBC’s Sherlock, I’m looking at you!), and Mari’s challenge is just the impetus I need. I generally have a dismal track record when it comes to challenge completion, but maybe I’m giddy on the heels of my #PinItDoIt success? Whatever the case, I’m signing up for this one.

Mari set forth lots of participation levels:

Read all 9 listed above.
Read 6 of your choosing.
Read 3 of your choosing.
Read 1 of your choosing.

I think I’m going for the Detective level, aiming to read the first three books: A Study in Scarlet (1887), The Sign of Four (1890) and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892).

Luckily, I’ve got plenty of time; the challenge runs from the beginning of June through December 31st.

Here is where I’ll be linking up reviews, as I get to them.

Care to join us?

Lilith by George MacDonald

lilithOnce upon a time, several years ago, when Amy and I made lists of books for ourselves and each other to read, there was one joint read on that list. Finally, at the end of 2012, we read it! That book? Lilith by George MacDonald (1895).

I think part of my motivation to read it stemmed from Hutchmoot that year, either the assigned reading leading up to it or something stated at the actual event. I read a couple other MacDonald books, and I quite liked them. (Phantastes (which I never got around to reviewing, but I took copious notes about) and At the Back of the North Wind)

My expectations going into this book were pretty high, I think, which ended up being a problem (as it so often is).

I found some bright spots in this story. The beginning was good, it started off well and my excitement continued to rise.

Several vignettes I quite liked. But as a whole, I didn’t really love it. For a very short book (236 pages in this edition), it took me nearly two weeks to get through, if I remember correctly.

I liked how MacDonald took the concept of growth (spiritual, emotional, whatever) and made it physically visible. That was kinda neat. But such a small piece of the story, it seemed. And there’s this dangerous area of the world/landscape that, at night, is filled with dangerous monsters, but certain characters simply *had* safe passage because of some aspect of their character, while others acted as a shield to a group. It was a really beautiful image, I thought, how that was worked out.

Now the not-so-good stuff. I really feel like the tagline :: A Romance is realllllllly misleading. I mean, there is a romance, and a Romance, I guess, but.

It read partly as allegory, but as soon as I decided what various characters were, it would totally fall apart. I never really felt like I understood fully what was going on. Some things I never figured out at all. This was a big one.

I seem to have such trouble finding nice (as in, not horribly done) versions of old books like this. Maybe I should just decide that just because there are cheap editions of books like this, doesn’t mean I should buy those ones. This edition wasn’t horrible, but I do think it detracted from my personal potential enjoyment of the story.

Lots of people love this book, but I wasn’t one of them. Maybe from now on I’ll stick to MacDonald’s works for young readers.

Here’s My Friend Amy’s post about Lilith.

Have you read it, or any of MacDonald’s work? What did you think?

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Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Word Lily review

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985), 336 pages per Amazon, but my copy ends on page 226

Ender was conceived because the ruling authority thought he just might have the right characteristics to be able to lead the fleet in the Bugger Wars (the buggers are aliens). He advances through the training years ahead of the norm. There’s endless debate about the best way to push him to excel, but all Ender knows is that they make his life hard. He’s good at this stuff, but he doubts himself and resents that his destiny was chosen for him.

I don’t remember why I decided I should read this book, but I bought it to read during the June 2008 read-a-thon. That seems about one hundred years ago. Over the impending years, I’ve had two brothers-in-law bugging me (heh, that pun was unintentional) to read it whenever the subject came up. I challenged myself to read it in 2011, and now, at the end of 2012, I’ve finally fulfilled that goal.

I was caught up in the fast-paced story from the very beginning. Ender is very human, and reading the (apparently begrudgingly written) introduction by the author helped draw me in, too. Card, there, talks about how some readers criticized the book, saying Ender (and the other characters) didn’t talk or think like children, but Card’s response that when he was a child he heard himself speak not as a child but as a person, which I thought was a very good point.

I really loved this book. I definitely see some ways Ender’s Game might have influenced The Hunger Games, or at least some parallels between the two. Ender is incredibly sympathetic.

Now, just a couple criticisms. I liked the references to religion early on, but I was disappointed that it wasn’t addressed more.

The political aspect of the book really reminded me that it was published in the 1980s. Not all bad, but it definitely dated the story.

I’m frustrated about one bit at the very end, and again it’s about religion. Card creates a new religion, and it apparently takes off, but there’s really no reasoning given for its huge popularity, and as described, it seems to be one small ritual, not a full-blown religion. The way he persisted in talking about it was a real turn-off to me. I’m guessing it’s set-up for the next book in the series, but it feels tacked on and awkward in this book. He either needed to explore it more or take it out. This was almost enough to sour the book for me, but really, the rest of the story shines clearly enough to overpower this. And maybe I’m alone in feeling so about this aspect of the book? Or maybe my opinion will change if/when I read book 2, Speaker for the Dead?

Rating: 4.75 stars

Ender’s Game won both the Hugo and the Nebula award.

Other reviews
It’s All About Books
Becky’s Book Reviews
eclectic / eccentric
At Home with Books
Stacy’s Books
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Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear

Word Lily review

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear, book 4 in the Maisie Dobbs series (Henry Holt, 2006), 336 pages

In January 1931, journalist (and fellow Girton alum) Georgina Bassington-Hope comes to Maisie because, although the police have ruled her painter twin brother’s death accidental, Georgina doubts that conclusion.

I loved that this installment in the series had Maisie delving into the arts! I enjoyed the introduction of artist-characters, as well as the use of galleries and studios as backdrops.

Like the earlier books in the series — Maisie Dobbs [my review], Birds of a Feather [my review], and Pardonable Lies [my review] — I loved the setting (both in time and in place), and Maisie herself is irresistible.

I love the tension, how Maisie lives and works between worlds.

There were a few typos that should never have made it into print.

I did feel Maisie acted a bit out of character in this installment, but I may be alone in that. I’m eager to see how several ongoing situations resolve.

A couple quotes:

“Now there were even more threads for her to gather up and spin onto bobbins. It was as if she were herself an artisan, standing before a giant loom with her skeins of wool, each one held ready to form part of the finished scene, the picture that would reveal the circumstances of Nick Bassington-Hope’s death. All she had to do was create the warp and then the weft, her shuttle flying in and out, up and down through the threads, laying her hands across the panel, her fingertips testing for tautness and give, the comb pushing the weft down to ensure close weaving without the hint of a space.”

~page 182, Messenger of Truth

“Perhaps it was the freedom to strike out on one’s own path, seeing not a risk in that which was new, only opportunity.”

~page 182, Messenger of Truth

I was prompted to get back to this series by Book Club Girl’s read-along, Mad about Maisie. Here’s the discussion of this title. The discussion of book 5, An Incomplete Revenge, begins March 14.

I was irked by Pardonable Lies, which prompted my extended separation from the series. That irritation has subsided at least somewhat — and recur too badly with Messenger of Truth, so I’m ready for another dose of Maisie.

Back to the art thing for a minute. One of my favorite aspects of this volume is how it presents and interacts with the ethical choices to tell or not tell, to publish or not, how an artist’s work can, potentially infringe on the freedom of his or her family members. Which is something I’ve pondered for quite some time.

Rating: 4 stars

About the author
Jacqueline Winspear (Facebook), originally from England, came to the United States in 1990; she lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

Other reviews
Booking Mama
Book Chick DI
Pages of Julia’s blog
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Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman

Word Lily review

Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman, book 1 of the Tess Monaghan Mysteries series (William Morrow, 1997), 336 pages

Tess Monaghan is lost in a wasteland, after losing the only job she ever loved, doing the one thing she knew how to do. She’d been a newspaper reporter, but now she wasn’t. In her striving to make ends meet, she stumbles upon what might be her next calling.

Confession: I read this book in May, and I apparently didn’t take good notes.

I read this book after enjoying Lippman’s standalone Life Sentences [my review]. I tend to enjoy mysteries in series form, and the fact that Tess is a former reporter helped cinch the deal.

The book isn’t perfect, but it does hold promise. I’m almost positive I would have read more books in the series already if I could get my hands on book 2, Charm City. As it is, I’ve been collecting books from this series all year, and I hope to blaze through several of them in the new year.

Here’s a list of the Tess Monaghan books in order (at FictFact).

Reading this book also completes the Laura Lippman reading challenge I joined, so yay!

About the author
Laura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and returned there in 1989 to work as a journalist. She has won numerous awards for her work. Her 17th book, I’d Know You Anywhere, was released in August. After writing several standalones, the Tess story is being added to, with the previously serialized The Girl in the Green Raincoat due out in book form in January.

My interview with Lippman.

Other reviews
S. Krishna’s Books
Beth Fish Reads
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Mad for Maisie

I’m still pondering all my reading challenge options, trying to craft the perfect reading year for 2011 and not overwhelm myself.

But this one, I had to at least try. It’s a Maisie Dobbs read-along! (It didn’t hurt that I had a head’s up ahead of time, either.)

The read-along starts January 1 and continues through the March 22 release date for the latest book in the series, A Lesson in Secrets, to the end of April.

I’ve read the first three books of the Maisie Dobbs series, absolutely LOVING the first one. I’ve got the next two at least on my shelves, and I’ve been meaning to get back to them. Oh, if you’re looking for further proof of my affection for Maisie Dobbs? I named my puppy after her.

My Maisie.

I’m not sure how many Maisie Dobbs books I’ll get through, but I’ll at least tackle book 4, The Messenger of Truth.