Tag Archives: England

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.)

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Mini-reviews: Mysteries

Warning: Some of these reviews contain spoilers.

leaving everything most lovedLeaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (March 2013, Harper), 352 pages

I loved the color and spices of India that infused this novel, the tenth in the Maisie Dobbs series.

I felt a little manipulated by Winspear. I wondered if she was delaying a decision on Maisie’s relationship with James just to prolong the series (ugh!). On the one hand, I just want to see them together. I think they’ll work well, and I want to see that. But on the other, I think Maisie still acted within her very independent nature. So mostly I’m just sitting here wishing and hoping. And a little sad.

Another great installment in one of my favorite historical mystery series.

doors openDoors Open by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur (Little Brown), 2010), 368 pages

I’d heard lots of great things about Ian Rankin’s books, so I was glad to get the chance to pull this one from its lingering spot on the TBR shelf. Mostly, though, I was disappointed by this one. If I hadn’t heard such great things, I probably would have put it down mid-read (and I maybe should have abandoned it regardless).

I did enjoy the Edinburgh setting, though.

I plan to give Rankin another try, starting with book one of his Inspector Rebus series, Knots and Crosses.

missing fileThe Missing File by D.A. Mishani (Harper, March 2013), 304 pages

This is another one that didn’t really live up to my expectations. Again, I enjoyed the setting (Israel this time). But most of the book really plodded. The protagonist’s low self-esteem seemed to pervade the book. We have this supposedly great detective, who doesn’t do or learn anything really. It’s like he’s living in an allergy fog like those commercials, except we’re given no explanation for his inaction.

The twist at the end is pretty great, though, I thought. And how the main points are never really, truly, nailed down.

red herring without mustardA Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley (Bantam, 2011), 432 pages

This third Flavia de Luce mystery was the needed rebound after the sophomore slump that was The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (my review). Our precocious protag is back at it, and I quite enjoyed this one. I hope it’s not too long until I can return to the series (I think I’ve got books four and five on my shelves waiting patiently).

I received some of these books from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

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.)

What I learned from reading Wodehouse

I’ve read several (well, that might be a bit of a stretch, I’m now on my fourth) books by PG Wodehouse in the past year, and I’ve quite enjoyed them all.

As much as I knew I wanted to read Wodehouse — particularly Jeeves and Wooster, but you start where you can sometimes — I was much more interested in his novels than the short stories. Because I’ve disliked pretty much every encounter I’ve had with a short story in the past decade plus. I was reading greats: Flannery O’Conner and Tobias Wolff, to name two, but I didn’t like ‘em. So I thought I had developed a dislike for the short story form itself.

I’d liked O. Henry in high school, but when I revisited his work more recently, I found it trite, and the form too short for the stories therein.

I’d liked James Joyce’s Dubliners in college, but maybe it was the classroom setting and excellent professor?

But Wodehouse’s stories (I’ve read The Man Upstairs and A Few Quick Ones and I’m now reading Plum Pie) have universally thrilled. They don’t all have me laughing out loud, but a fair number do. I love the writing and language, the reappearing characters and stages, and I like the stories.

The one novel I’ve read so far is Frozen Assets, and I loved it, too.

Side note: I’ve fallen in love with The Overlook Press’s Collector’s Wodehouse editions of these books. I love the diminutive hardcover formats, the striped endpapers, the style and colorings of the covers, everything. Thankfully(?) there are many more for me to read!

Wodehouse wrote more than ninety books, so I’ve got plenty of titles from within his repertoire to keep me busy for a while (yay!), but what other short stories / writers do you think I’d enjoy?

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

Word Lily review

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear, Maisie Dobbs book 9 (Harper, March 27, 2012), 352 pages

Summary
It’s the spring of 1933, and the costermongers Maisie grew up with come to her for help. They’re convinced that a guy from their neighborhood was murdered, that his death was not an accident. Eddie was a gentle soul, more boy than man. Most of the neighborhood looked out for him with kindness. And when a horse needed calmed? He was the one to call.

Thoughts
Note: This review may contain spoilers of previous books in the series.

In Elegy for Eddie Maisie continues to walk somewhat blindly through life, confident when it comes to her cases but not so clear in her personal life and relationships. Her life has changed drastically, and while she thinks she has come to terms with that, she’s still working it out.

More than a note of sadness pervades this book, as instead of recovering from World War I the global perspective shifts to preparing for World War II.

The state of her relationship with James in this book was frustrating to me, most of the way through (if not all the way). I kept thinking, *if they would just sit down and talk to each other, they’re more on the same page than either of them thinks they are.* I know I sometimes live with slights, imagined or otherwise, rather than addressing them immediately, but so many things could be solved by just a little communication!

I did like how this case took her back to the part of London where she grew up. This dovetailed nicely (as I’ve come to expect from Winspear) with the conflict Maisie’s feeling presently about her place in society.

At this point in the series, my affection for any particular title is greatly influenced by the state of Maisie’s relationship with her beau. And I was pretty unsettled, disgruntled, annoyed by how this was handled in this book. It reminds me of how I felt about Bones last year. It felt like, to drag the series out, they had Brennan reverting to old behavior, like she’d forgotten everything she’d learned, all the ways she’d grown over the past several years. Maisie seemed to be acting like Brennan — not as the person we’ve come to know her to be, but as the person she grew beyond already. That comparison might be a little unfair, but it’s how I felt while reading.

Maisie Dobbs books

1. Maisie Dobbs [my review]
2. Birds of a Feather [my review]
3. Pardonable Lies [my review]
4. Messenger of Truth [my review]
5. An Incomplete Revenge [my review]
6. Among the Mad [my review]
7. The Mapping of Love and Death [my review]
8. A Lesson in Secrets
9. Elegy for Eddie

Rating: 3.75 stars

About the author
Jacqueline Winspear (Facebook) quit her day job for her writing when she saw the tour schedule for Birds of a Feather. She lives in California, after leaving England in 1990. She finally has a blog.

Other reviews
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

The Reluctant Detective by Martha Ockley

Word Lily review

The Reluctant Detective: A Novel by Martha Ockley, a Faith Morgan mystery (book 1) (Monarch Books, 2010; distributed in the United States by Kregel, March 1, 2011), 224 pages

Summary
Faith Morgan left a career as a police detective for the ministry. The recently ordained Anglican priest Morgan is visiting a small parish when the incumbent priest drops dead in the middle of communion. The detective in charge of the investigation is Morgan’s former longtime boyfriend.

Thoughts
Several times a phrase or sentence leapt off the page, singing. One I noted: “whorls and loops on the fingerprint of her life” (page 68). But at other times, I found the writing annoying, in the form of repeated telling of characters’ thoughts and motivations. This is one of those instances where I wished the author had given me, the reader, the benefit of the doubt. Assume that I’m at least reasonably intelligent, please! That I can discern thoughts and feelings — at least sometimes — from the resulting actions.

I loved the nuanced approach to faith in The Reluctant Detective. Faith struggles at times, and it made her real, an approachable character. And this is what stuck with me. Awhile after finishing this book, I’d forgotten my annoyances with (and thrills from) the writing. What remained: An abiding respect for how elements of faith, doubt, struggle, questions were carefully, honestly, skillfully presented. (I also enjoyed the aspects of liturgy I found in the pages.)

Faith Morgan is ordained, yes. But that doesn’t mean her life is all sunshine and roses. I was able to see myself in Faith, at least a little.

Read the first chapter.

Rating: 4 stars

About the author
Martha Ockley is the pen name for Rebecca Jenkins, creator of the Regency detective series featuring Raif Jarrett. She lives in northeast England and grew up as a minister’s daughter.

Other reviews
My Friend Amy
Book Critiques
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher as part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Words from my reading

I decided to do this a bit differently this week, since all my words were all found in one sentence. Can you match the implement in each photo (1-4, from top) with the correct term at right?

A. octant
B. graphometer
C. waywiser
D. theodolite

octant, n A measuring instrument used primarily in navigation
page 2, The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear
“One by one he took each piece and wrapped it carefully with linen and sackcloth: an octant, a graphometer, the surveyor’s compass — a gift from his parents when he completed his studies — a waywiser, theodolite, and tripod.”

graphometer, n A surveying instrument used for angle measurements
page 2, The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear
“One by one he took each piece and wrapped it carefully with linen and sackcloth: an octant, a graphometer, the surveyor’s compass — a gift from his parents when he completed his studies — a waywiser, theodolite, and tripod.”

waywiser, n An instrument for measuring the distance one has traveled on the road, an odometer, pedometer, or perambulator
page 2, The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear
“One by one he took each piece and wrapped it carefully with linen and sackcloth: an octant, a graphometer, the surveyor’s compass — a gift from his parents when he completed his studies — a waywiser, theodolite, and tripod.”
Such a great word!

theodolite, n A precision instrument for measuring angles in the horizontal and vertical planes
page 2 , The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear
“One by one he took each piece and wrapped it carefully with linen and sackcloth: an octant, a graphometer, the surveyor’s compass — a gift from his parents when he completed his studies — a waywiser, theodolite, and tripod.”
I’m pretty sure I’ve encountered this word before, but I drew a blank when I read it here.

More great words on my Words from my reading page.

Books cited here:
The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear :: Amazon*

What new words have you found lately?

Answers:

  1. C (waywiser)
  2. B (graphometer)
  3. A (octant)
  4. D (theodolite)

Image credits:
1, 2, 3, 4

* That’s an affiliate link; I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

Word Lily review

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper Collins, 2010), 352 pages

Summary
A well-to-do American couple come to Maisie seeking answers about their son’s death. Michael Clifton was a surveyor and cartographer, and he went to England to join the war effort as soon as he heard the news, in 1914. He was killed in the war, but his body had only recently been unearthed when The Mapping of Love and Death opens in April 1932.

Thoughts
How about a couple quick bullets to start?

  • I loved getting yet another new angle on the war; the map-making and surveying details and vocabulary were fascinating.
  • The timing of my encounter with this book really was perfect for me, in regard to its touching on singleness, childlessness — and how quickly things can change. When is it *really* too late?
  • I really enjoyed the conversation (mostly internal, I guess) Maisie had about ties to the land. When she stated how fortunate Clifton was to know where he belonged — and at such a young age — it really resonated.
  • The case itself seemed more layered, more twisty, than most of the ones thus far in the series, and I appreciated that as well.

This is my favorite book of the series. But the reasons above don’t get to the heart of why. And really, it’s developments in Maisie’s personal life that I’m most excited bout in The Mapping of Love and Death. One development I’d been hoping for for at least two books, and another really opens doors for Maisie to more fully utilize her abilities.

After finishing it, while thinking about my review, I worried about what would happen if I gave it 5 stars and then the next book surpassed it? But I can’t worry about that today. I loved, loved, loved, The Mapping of Love and Death!

Maisie Dobbs books

1. Maisie Dobbs [my review]
2. Birds of a Feather [my review]
3. Pardonable Lies [my review]
4. Messenger of Truth [my review]
5. An Incomplete Revenge [my review]
6. Among the Mad [my review]
7. The Mapping of Love and Death
8. A Lesson in Secrets

Part of my impetus for getting back to this series was Book Club Girl’s read-along, Mad about Maisie. Here’s the discussion for this title. The next book, A Lesson in Secrets, will be discussed starting April 25. And on April 26, Jacqueline Winspear will be on Blog Talk Radio.

Rating: 5 stars

About the author
Jacqueline Winspear (Facebook) quit her day job for her writing when she saw the tour schedule for Birds of a Feather. She lives in California, after leaving England in 1990.

Other reviews
Devourer of Books
Booking Mama
The Lost Entwife
Bookstack
Iwriteinbooks
Nonsuch Book
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.