Monday, December 5, 2016

"Becoming Holmes" by Shane Peacock

I'm a bit irked with this book, I'm afraid.  I started reading this series three years ago because the title of this, the final book, sounded so enticing.  I worked my way through them slowly, because there were only six books in the series, and I didn't want them to get to this one too quickly.  I liked the series better and better as it progressed, and so I'm afraid I set myself up for a bit of a let-down, as I did have pretty high expectations for Becoming Holmes.  

It's not that this is a bad book.  I felt like it meandered a bit in the middle before figuring out where it was going, but that didn't bug me much.  I did greatly dislike one thing, though, a thing I found terribly out of character, and I'm going to say it here and it's going to be spoily, so if you are thinking of reading this book or series and don't want spoilage, just skip to the next paragraph and you'll be fine.  The thing I disliked was that Sherlock Holmes deliberately killed a villain, then lied about it, pinned it on another villain, and was not particularly bothered by this behavior.  And while the canon Holmes does sometimes take the law into his own hands, it is never in this lying, conniving way.  This felt beneath him.  Understandable for the character Peacock has written, but, in the end, not for someone who is becoming Sherlock Holmes.

Up until the final chapter, when the above was revealed, I was not enchanted with this book, but I wasn't irked with it the way I am now.  Now I'm pursing my lips and glaring at it out of the corners of my narrowed eyes, and that's just not how I wanted to feel about this book.

Still, the series as a whole has been entertaining and inventive.  I'm glad I've read them, but I don't think I'll ever feel the urge to reread them.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, death, and some creepiness.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Literary Christmas 2016

In the Bookcase is hosting A Literary Christmas reading challenge, and since I have a couple of Christmasy books I'm hoping to read in December, I thought it would be fun to join.  I'm planning/hoping to read Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, but we'll see if anything else turns up.  If you're interested in joining the challenge too, click the link above!  Oh, and there's a giveaway, too...

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"A Portrait of Emily Price" by Katherine Reay

While I've enjoyed Reay's first three books a great deal, especially Dear Mr. Knightley, this book... I loved.

In fact, I loved it so much, I'm having trouble coming up with words to review it.  Maybe it's just that this hit more sweet spots for me -- it has a mixed-culture family, characters proving themselves, and a very helpful heroine.  Her helping doesn't always truly help, but she tries.  And tries.

Emily Price restores damaged art.  Not fine art, usually, not museum artwork, but stuff people have in their house that gets damaged by fires or floods and so on.  While in Atlanta on an assignment, she meets Ben, an Italian chef visiting family there as well.  He spends two weeks wooing her, they get married, they go back to Italy to live with his family, and that's where it gets really good.  The bulk of the book is Emily trying to figure out how to fit in with Ben's family, how to help his various family members with their problems (whether they want her help or not), and most of all, coming to terms with who she is.

I feel like Reay's first four books were well-written, but they lacked an emotional something.  Vulnerability?  Depth?  Punch?  I don't know -- like I said, having trouble with words.  But whatever it is, this book has it and then some.  I didn't get tears in my eyes while reading this book, I had to put the book down several times because I was crying too much to read.  It has taken me basically a week to process the book after finishing it before I could write even this review, and this is not as coherent as I would like.  This book touched me -- not just because I did identify with Emily's need to help, but because Ben's whole family was so, well, real.  I am buying my own copy of this book, it's that special to me.

(Also, I love her analysis of The Taming of the Shrew, which plays a part in this, because it's pretty close to my own.  See page 222 -- I'm not typing the whole thing out, sorry.)

Particularly Good Bits:

If I let myself go, forgot the boundaries, forgot the rules I myself fashioned and imposed, what could happen? (p. 91).

Planning a surprise for no reason other than to bring another person delight was, in fact, romantic (p. 110).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for discussions of unwed pregnancy.

Monday, November 21, 2016

"The Blythes are Quoted" by L. M. Montgomery

Until earlier this year, I didn't know The Blythes are Quoted existed.  I had heard of The Road to Yesterday, which a lot of people who loved the Anne books didn't like, so I never bothered to read it.  But I didn't know until recently that The Road to Yesterday is actually an abridged, altered form of Montgomery's final book, The Blythes are Quoted.

I say "book" and not "novel" because this is not a novel.  It's a collection of short stories and poems framed as things that happened around Ingleside to people who know the Blythes, and as poems written by Anne and Walter that Anne reads aloud in the evenings.  The Blythes don't appear in the stories, but they comment on the poetry, either in words or thoughts.

The stories are an interesting mix -- many of them had been previous published, but Montgomery reworked them to include mentions of the Blythes.  My favorite was "A Dream Comes True," and it was possibly the most straight-forwardly happy story in the lot.  Most of the stories have happy endings of one sort or another, but many of them also delve into the ideas of disillusionment, despair, regret, spite, and the constant misunderstandings between generations.  

But I liked the stories better than the poetry, overall.  Some of the poems, I skimmed.  Some, I read more than once.  My favorite was probably "Come, Let Us Go."  But again, the tone of the poetry overall was one of regret and loss, a wishful look back at a happier time.

This is not a cheerful book.  It's an interesting book to study -- I enjoyed thinking about what Montgomery must have been trying to say with the collection, and I'm glad I read the book.  But overall it has a feel of disenchantment that did not appeal to me.  

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for discussions of marital infidelity (NOT Anne or Gilbert, stop freaking out!), illegitimate children, and war.

This is my last book read and reviewed for the Anne of Green Gables Reading Challenge, and closes out My Year With Anne.  I'm so glad I re-read this series and discovered the ninth book.  My thanks to Elyssa for hosting the challenge!  It's been fun sharing thoughts on the books with others.

This is my fifty-first book read and reviewed for the Classics Club, and my nineteenth for the Women's Classic Literature Event.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

And the Winners are...

Hooray!  Hooray!  Today's the day!  The Rafflecopter widget has spoken, and we have winners for the Jane Eyre giveaway.  Here they be:

Tiny Brontë book -- Elaina
Pencil bag -- Eva
Bookmark 1 -- Natalie
Bookmark 2 -- Sue
Bookmark 3 -- The Elf
Bookmark 4 -- John Smith
Bookmark 5 -- Emily Ann
Bookmark 6 -- Lexi
Bookmark 7 -- MovieCritic
Bookmark 8 -- Birdie

There we have it :-)  Winners, I will be emailing you today to ask for your mailing addresses so I can send you your prizes!  Remember, if you don't reply to my email by next Sunday, November 27, you will be disqualified and I will choose someone else to get that prize.  

Friday, November 18, 2016

In Which I Complete My Classics Club Quest, and Begin Another

I joined the Classics Club in January of 2014, having seen so many bloggers enjoy participating in it and deciding I should just go ahead and try it.  Slightly less than three years later, I have completed my fiftieth book, which most fittingly was my favorite book of all time, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.  

Because I feel like celebrating, I'm sharing my completed list here :-)

  1. Anne of Avonlea* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 2-26-16)
  2. Anne of Green Gables* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 1-23-16)
  3. Anne of Ingleside* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 7-2-16)
  4. Anne of the Island* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 3-17-16)
  5. Anne of Windy Poplars* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 4-28-16)
  6. Anne's House of Dreams* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 6-2-16)
  7. Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace (Finished 10-1-14)
  8. The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer (Finished 4-6-16)
  9. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 9-10-15)
  10. The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes* by A. Conan Doyle (Finished 2-7-14)
  11. Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (Finished 11-25-14)
  12. Dear Enemy by Jean Webster (Finished 9-3-15)
  13. Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Finished 3-6-14)
  14. The Further Adventures of Zorro by Johnston McCulley (Finished 3-2-16)
  15. Greenwillow by B. J. Chute (Finished 7-24-16)
  16. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark* by William Shakespeare (Finished 12-22-15)
  17. The High Window* by Raymond Chandler (Finished 4-20-16)
  18. His Last Bow* by A. Conan Doyle (Finished 1-10-14)
  19. The Hobbit* by J.R.R. Tolkien (Finished 2-10-14) 
  20. The Hound of the Baskervilles* by A. Conan Doyle (Finished 11-18-14)
  21. Jane Eyre* by Charlotte Bronte (Finished 11-12-16)
  22. A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich (Finished 6-13-16)
  23. Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (Finished 12-06-15)
  24. Letters on an Elk Hunt by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (Finished 11-3-16)
  25. The Light in the Forest* by Conrad Richter (Finished 9-30-16)
  26. The Light of Western Stars by Zane Grey (Finished 2-5-15)
  27. Little Women* by Louisa May Alcott (Finished 6-9-15)
  28. The Lord of the Rings* by J.R.R. Tolkien (Finished 7-1-14)
  29. The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley (Finished 5-27-14)
  30. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle (Finished 8-12-15)
  31. Middlemarch by George Eliot (Finished 7-3-15)
  32. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (Finished 5-18-15)
  33. And Now Tomorrow by Rachel Field (Finished 5-16-16)
  34. Of Mice and Men* by John Steinbeck (Finished 8-21-15)
  35. The Old Man and the Sea* by Ernest Hemingway (Finished 7-21-14)
  36. The Outsiders* by S. E. Hinton (Finished 9-21-16)
  37. Persuasion* by Jane Austen (Finished 2-27-15)
  38. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (Finished 3-9-14)
  39. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett (Finished 6-26-14)
  40. The Quiet Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott (Finished 12-11-15)
  41. Rainbow Valley* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 8-19-16)
  42. Rilla of Ingleside* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 10-1-16)
  43. Shane* by Jack Schaefer (Finished 2-16-15)
  44. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (Finished 10-16-15)
  45. Spiderweb for Two* by Elizabeth Enright (Finished 12-15-14)
  46. The Sun Also Rises* by Ernest Hemingway (Finished 4-30-14)
  47. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (Finished 3-30-14)
  48. Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Finished 3-23-14)
  49. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck (Finished 7-15-14)
  50. The Witch of Blackbird Pond* by Elizabeth George Speare (Finished 8-28-16)
And because this really was a good incentive for me to read more of the classics I've always intended to read, I am reenlisting, as it were, and starting over.  So here is what I currently have on my "new" Classics Club list, to read before December of 2021:
  1. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  2. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
  3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  4. The Blythes are Quoted by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  5. By-Line:  Ernest Hemingway
  6. Camille by Alexandre Dumas fils
  7. Chronicles of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  8. Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
  9. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  10. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  11. Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  12. The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper
  13. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  14. The Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein
  15. Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds
  16. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  17. Evelina by Frances Burney
  18. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  19. Further Chronicles of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  20. Good-bye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton
  21. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  22. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
  23. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  24. Howard's End by E.M. Forster
  25. Ivanhoe* by Sir Walter Scott
  26. The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott
  27. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  28. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
  29. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  30. A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall
  31. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  32. The Merchant of Venice* by William Shakespeare
  33. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  34. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  35. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
  36. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  37. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  38. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
  39. The Once and Future King by T. H. White
  40. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  41. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
  42. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy
  43. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
  44. Silas Marner* by George Eliot
  45. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre
  46. Tales of India by Rudyard Kipling
  47. A Tale of Two Cities* by Charles Dickens
  48. The Taming of the Shrew* by William Shakespeare
  49. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  50. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  51. Tess of the D'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy
  52. To Kill a Mockingbird* by Harper Lee
  53. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  54. Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  55. Under the Deodars by Rudyard Kipling
  56. Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
  57. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Basically, my original list had grown to 107 books by the time I read my 50th book, so those extra books I hadn't gotten to are my "new" list.

My thanks to the creators and sustainers of the club!  I've met some cool bloggers through it, and it's always fun to go read other people's thoughts on a book after I've finished it, which is so easy thanks to their list of clubbers' reviews.