• Books

    The Complete Sherlock Holmes

    I reviewed all four novels and six short story collections as I heard them on unabridged audiobooks narrated by John Telfer. I started the first book in early July and finished mid September; that is a lot if listening. I enjoyed it for the most part. I really think Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has an ability to entice. Even though I found myself predicting the results of some of the mysteries, I still liked how he delivered Holmes’s deduction and explanation at the end. I grew to really appreciate the Holmes character as the series went on. Though, I must admit the earlier short story collections are the best.

    As for the audiobooks, I was pleased with Tefler’s ability to transition between the characters. I’ve only really listened to a handful of audiobook narrators by this point, and I like the medium immensely. Those that are chosen or choose this line of voice acting really are adept to it. Tefler had a variety of accents and voice tones. Though, his American accent and voice is exactly the same every time which is more amusing than anything.

    My favourite novel was The Hound of the Baskervilles. My favourite of the short story collections was probably The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes if only because I started to really like Holmes in this collection. I do think that each of the short story collections has at least one notable or interesting case that emphasises the characters or plots.

    The reviews in canon and chronological order. Most of the books are reviewed together with another one.

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    His Last Bow and The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes

    The first three stories of His Last Bow have Conan Doyle’s themes of revenge and vengeance. Other stories include the Case of the Bruce Partington Papers is a complicated, longest of the mysteries with a spy thriller aspect and the Case of the Dying Detective has Holmes acting mad and mean to Watson. This anthology is notable for containing the last chronological story in the Holmes canon. All of the next collection takes place before the events of the last story

    The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes is the last of the Holmes canon. It has three stories that are not narrated by Watson, one is third person and two stories narrated by Holmes himself. One of which is a mystery he solves during his retirement in Sussex. Another notable incident in this collection is that Watson gets shot. I’m rather indifferent to this collection more than the others. One can tell that after forty years, Conan Doyle was no longer really into writing Holmes stories.

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    The Return of Sherlock Holmes and The Valley of Fear

    In The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Holmes and Watson commit a crime for good and even witness a greater crime, but do nothing. This collection has quite a few stories which highlights Sherlock Holmes as someone between the gray area of the official law and that of private matters. He is not amoral nor a vigilante, but he is not a police man; if law is broken, he is not obligated to reveal all. The stories in this are even more violent than before; I guess turn of the century allowed for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to be more aggressive in his plots and characters.

    The Valley of Fear is the last of the novels, but not of the Holmes canon. It as violent as Return of Sherlock Holmes relative to the earlier stories. It is very similar to the first Holmes novel/story The Study of Scarlet. It is not in the same style as Hound of the Baskervilles (which is more gothic in feel), and like SoS, two sections, one of which does not have Holmes or Watson at all. It is more clever than the first novel though, and I liked parts of the plot and the characters. Like many, I do think these stories are better in short story form since the flashback section can drag on. The ending felt a bit anticlimactic to me though.

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    The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles

    The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is the second of the Sherlock Holmes short stories has his first case (as recounted to Watson), another early case, and introductions to Sherlock’s brother Mycroft and his archnemeis Professor Moriarty. It’s not as varied as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but it does have a couple of interesting cases. It reveals a lot about the Holmes so I think it’s worth the read in the canon. By this book, I find more reasons to adore Holmes and the Watson/Holmes relationship.

    The Hound of the BaskervillesThe Hound of the Baskervilles is the most famous of the Sherlock Holmes novels and has his most famous case. Of the three novels and one short story collection I have read so far, I am inclined to agree at least with the former. It is a rather good stand alone novel as you may not get the background on Holmes or Watson, but their characters are easily sketched. This novel has more than one mystery, and more red herrings as a result. The earlier two novels were not as layered. It is very gothic. Why is Devonshire so gothic? I guess it is the moors. Watson shines in this novel particularly. I think my appreciation of these stories and characters were cemented in this novel. The pacing, mystery, and likeability of this novel were all there.

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    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

    The first short story collection with most of the famous cases being detailed here. I can understand why many find the short stories better than the novels as a whole. Holmes is better is in short, small doses. He seems more humanized and emotional in these stories. Though he is still obviously cold and conceited, but more tolerably so. I really adored this collection. More than ever I think Holmes and Watson are the perfect duo. Holmes is sangfroid while Watson is affable and more socially reasoned. Though, Conan Doyle definitely has themes, and my excessive reading and tv and movie watching have enabled me to predict the real culprits of his mysteries more than once. Also, he is a bit of a formula because in this collection, there is not one, but three short stories of crazy fathers or stepfathers. The repetition does not bother me, I rather like reading the Holmes’s methodology of reaching it. I have already started the next in the canon and will finish the series before the end of next month I expect.

  • Books

    Rebecca

    Daphne du Maurier was partially inspired by Jane Eyre when writing this book, so I could not help compare it to that book which I love. The characters are not exactly the same, but I enjoyed reading this book almost as much. It is very well written. I’m not someone who reads a lot gothic or mystery literature, but the atmosphere is almost perfect. Du Maurier is an excellent writer. The prose can be poetic. She’s good at dialogue especially with characterizations as well. Mrs. Danvers is incredibly creepy, de Winter is mysterious, and the nameless protagonist is relateable. While very naive at the beginning, it’s hard not to feel sympathetic for the character. She’s also been put in a very hard situation when they go back to Manderley. The use of the nameless protagonist device is something I encountered in Fight Club, so I was not put off by that. Though it did feel du Maurier was teasing the reader at the beginning with the fact we’d never find out. All in all, a very good read with lots of atmosphere, suspense, and just enough romance.

    I did not read this book for awhile because I had seen the Alfred Hitchcock adaptation with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. I did not have the time to rewatch the film, but I remember liking it very much as I do most Hitchcock films, and I also like Olivier. I recommend it as a companion to the book.

  • Books

    The Tin Princess by Philip Pullman

    The Tin PrincessThe last of the Sally Lockhart quartet. Published in 1994, Pullman notes on his website how this was the most enjoyable of the books to write. This book is different from the first three books in two major ways: 1) It is not set in Victorian England, and 2) Sally Lockhart is not the protagonist and remains missing for most of the novel. The setting is a fictional kingdom in Prussia called Razkavia involving the eponymous Adelaide as one of the protagonists, Jim as the male lead, and a 16 year old named Becky as another female lead. Becky’s age reminds me of Sally in the first book, and I love that Sally has become the type of woman. I can see how much fun it must have been to write because it’s certainly less intense and in a better setting than the first three novels. It was really good to read about Jim again because I missed him when he was absent from the last book. While I liked this book as I did the others, I found that I really missed Sally. Not that the two strong female leads weren’t well written. Indeed, I was reminded in this novel about how Pullman is very good at writing female characters. I’ve grown quite attached and fond of Sally Lockhart, and it was almost jarring not to have her in this novel knowing she could be involved. This book also followed what I consider to be the most extreme of the thrillers so this did not affect me as much as a reader. Still another quick page turne, and I’ve liked every ending for the characters in the series. Pullman notes on his website that he still has ideas for adventures for these characters. Who knows if he’ll ever publish another Sally Lockhart & Co book, but the year after this one, Northern Lights / The Golden Compass was published, beginning one of the most interesting trilogies of recent years.

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    The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman

    The Tiger in the WellWhen I read the summary for this, it seemed very psychological and intense. I’ve grown quite attached to Sally Lockhart and the other characters. Sometimes I think Pullman is as good as Dickens when making up Victorian characters. The actions in this novel were very horrible to read about because the idea of having one’s child taken away from you especially in a patriarchal, puritanical society such as Victorian England is extremely cruel. I can’t imagine being in Sally’s situation, and while it is sensationalist and fictional, the historical accuracy in these books is more or less correct. I really wanted to get to the end so it could be all resolved and see how it all was connected. The only one grievance I have was that I knew who the enemy was when reading the summary, but it took Sally 3/4 of the book to figure it out which I don’t blame her since I’ve read many more books, movies and television shows. Once again, another good thriller from Pullman, and probably the most tense so far. Though, I’ve noticed he tends to like to use the chilling and malicious monkeys.

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    The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman

    The Shadow in the North My original plan after reading The Ruby in the Smoke was to write a big review of the whole Sally Lockhart quartet because I wrongly assumed the other three books would be as short as that first book. I should have foreseen this as it happened with the His Dark Materials too. Unlike HDM, these books can stand alone, but that doesn’t mean there is not a not a hook to connect these Victorian mystery thrillers. They are definitely page turners, and while I have little experience in adult mysteries or thrillers, I’ve enjoyed the young adult ones I have read. Pullman is not a writer who writes specifically for an age group, and I’ve always been in the belief that adults should read good books no matter the intended age group, just as young adults should read adult books if they are mature enough readers for it. He has admitted on his website that he wrote them with melodramatic undertones, but resolves them in his realistic style and detail (he calls fantasy classified HDM “dark realism”). One of the highlights in this series is the ensemble cast of characters; I thoroughly enjoyed them in the first book and found it almost comforting to see how much has happened since tRiS (six years between the two books). I did not understand how engaging the book was until I found myself shocked at the climax. Well played, Mr Pullman. As much as I want to read the next book, it looks particularly intense that I’m going to hold it off for a nonfiction or two. These books require one or two sittings to finish off before bed.