Monday, October 21, 2019

"Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula" by Loren D. Estleman

Hmm.  Well, I liked this well enough to finish the whole book.  And the last sixty pages or so really gripped me.  But overall, I'm afraid this book dragged and was more something I read just to get it off my TBR shelves than because I was enjoying it.

The story is exactly what it sounds like: a mash-up where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson interact with the characters of Bram Stoker's Dracula and help rid England of the vampire.  

Maybe because I love vampire stories (even though I can't deal with any other kind of horror story), this fell kind of flat for me.  It was very much a re-hashing of Dracula, and we didn't get any new stuff added to that book, really, until those last sixty pages.  That it was new and cool, and I dug it.

Also, Dr. Watson came off as a blundering fool too often for my taste.  It was like this was based more on the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movies than on the canon itself, and I objected to that.

Particularly Good Bits:

To be forced to stand by helplessly and watch one's entire world rushing headlong towards calamity is a descent into deepest Hell (p. 157).

Outside the window, the first snowflakes of winter were enjoying a brief moment of glory before being trod into an unrecognisable slush beneath the traffic upon the street (p. 181).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for some scary vampire stuff.

This is my 11th book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

"Mycroft and Sherlock" by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

What kind of week have you had?  I've had the kind where I finished this book last weekend, but haven't had a minute to review it until now.  As in, we had to go somewhere and do something every single day.  Sigh.  I'm an introvert AND a homebody, and I just... am tired!

Happily, this coming week has only one day where I have to go somewhere at a specific time.  Whew.  I'm so relieved.

Even more happily, this book is AWESOME.  As in, best Sherlock Holmes pastiche I've read in a long time by someone other than Laurie R. King.  I'm kinda picky about my Sherlock Holmes portrayals (okay, VERY picky about them), but this one pleased me so much!  It focuses more on Mycroft than Sherlock and is definitely the most relatable portrayal I've seen of the elder Holmes brother in basically forever. 

I was a little worried about Sherlock himself at first because he's very young here, still a university student, and I thought at first he had too much, um... emotional fervor, maybe?  A little too reckless?  Too moody?  Too much like the Benedict Cumberbatch version and too little like the Holmes of the canon?  (Don't get me wrong -- I love BC as Sherlock, but he's not the Holmes of the canon, and this is supposed to be.)  But as I read on, I could see how the authors were contrasting that with who he would eventually become with who he is as a young adult, how things he experiences at this point help mold and shape him into the mature Holmes we meet in Doyle's stories.  By the middle of the book, I was fully accepting of this portrayal, especially as we spent more time in Sherlock's point of view.

(From my Instagram account.)

One of the things I liked best about this book was how CLEAN it is!  There are zero cusswords.  There's no sex.  There are quite a few mentions of violent crimes, some of them extreme, but we don't get detailed accounts of how that violence occurs, we see its aftermath or hear someone's remembrance of it.  The violence we do see is street-fights and things of that sort.  The plot centers around a series of corpses that have been cut into four parts and mutilated, but they don't go into great detail about them, just say which body parts were cut off, using phrases that Victorian gentlemen would use, if that makes sense?  It never seemed icky or gratuitous to me.

But there's a lot of talk about drug use, about how opium and its derivatives are totally legal at that time, very common, and how they can destroy people's lives.  The murders are linked to the opium trade, and there's a lot of discussion about the drugs and about characters in the story who have used them, including children.  I learned some really interesting historical things from this, and it was intriguing from a Sherlockian perspective since we know that by the time of the canonical stories, he was using cocaine recreationally, though Dr. Watson did eventually help him overcome that habit.  But here we already see the seeds planted for how he would be able to encounter and acquire the drug, as well as why it was kind of treated as not a huge deal within the canon.

Anyway, I picked this up on a whim at an airport bookstore and ended up liking it so very much that I'm excited that it's actually part of a series!  This is book two, and I've put in a request at my library for the first book.  They have the third one too.  I hope they're as good as this one!  If you're a Holmesian, definitely give these a try.

Particularly Good Bits:

The poor seemed to be not so much gathered under its eaves and upon its stoops as cast off like crumbs from a stale loaf (p. 184).

"Perhaps you might practice, instead of sullen stubbornness, a certain detached amusement," Douglas went on.  "The two perspectives are related, in that they both think less of other human beings than might be warranted.  But, whereas detached amusement is tolerable, sullen stubbornness is not.  Oh, people will still find you arrogant, but they will not be quite so insulted from the start, and some might even be strangely charmed" (p. 252).

...since trying to find Sherlock when he did not wish to be found was a fool's errand, Mycroft preferred to be alone in playing the fool (p. 371).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for the aforementioned drug use and violence.  No cussing, no smut.

Monday, October 7, 2019

"Grace Alone" by Ruth E. Meyer

Do you like books about damaged people?  Characters who don't have it all together, don't have super lives, don't know how to get through tomorrow... or even today?  If so, you're going to love this book.

Grace is a divorced mother of 4 with some hefty emotional baggage.  She's never seen any point in church or religion.  But then this guy shows up at her kids' lemonade stand, and he's exactly the sort of good, decent, trustworthy man she thought didn't exist anymore.

David is the new principal at the local Lutheran school.  He's given up on ever getting married or having a family.  He has his own unhappy past history, though it's far different from Grace's.

Grace likes David, but she's not sure she likes him enough to find out more about all this God stuff he talks about.  Before she can try to fit him into her family picture, she's going to have to do some soul-searching and come to terms with exactly what she does and doesn't believe.

So, yes, this is a Christian book with a love story AND a conversion story.  Unlike so many conversion-story-based Christian books, though, Grace doesn't come to faith at the very end of the book.  Also, becoming a Christian doesn't fix all her problems or provide a sparkly ending.  Problems still crop up.  Day-to-day struggles don't fade.  Her children continue to be a challenge.  Her extended family continues to have trials and tribulations.  But what Grace's newfound faith does provide is hope, security, and the everlasting peace she's been craving, all of which makes those day-to-day issues more handle-able.

If I had one quibble with this book, it's that the various conflicts get resolved very quickly.  Over and over, there's a problem, and then it's solved within a couple chapters.  But the characters were really relatable, the theology was rock-solid, and the book overall was so enjoyable that I'm eager to read the next book in the series!

Particularly Good Bits:

"I can't imagine spending my life on earth with someone I knew I wouldn't get to spend eternity with in heaven" (p. 117).

"Since we know He'll keep His word about punishing sin, we can also trust Him when He promises that He'll forgive us because of Jesus" (p. 149).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for discussions of heavy topics such as extra-marital affairs and abortion.

This is my tenth book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR challenge.

Monday, September 30, 2019

"Norse Mythology" by Neil Gaiman

This was amusing, entertaining, and sometimes enlightening.  Neil Gaiman for the win again!

My husband actually got this out of the library because he heard somewhere in his section of the internet that it was really good.  I'd heard the same over here in my section of the internet, so when he finished it, I decided to read it before we took it back to the library.  And then life intervened, and War and Peace intervened, and I had to renew it twice before I got around to reading it.  Sigh.  

Once I actually started it, this was a fast, fun read.  It made me laugh aloud in many places, mostly in scenes involving Thor and Loki.  Y'all know that Thor is my favorite of the Avengers, and I admit I half read this just to get a better grasp of the mythology behind the comics that gave rise to the Thor of the MCU.  Now, this is Gaiman retelling Norse Mythology, and he himself first got into it because of the Thor comics, so... there's a nice circle of common interests there.

Anyway, my son keeps begging to read this, mostly because I laughed so much over it, but he's only 11 and parts of it are pretty graphic about violence, there's some scatological humor, and while there are no described sex-scenes, characters do talk about desiring each other, and they make love and produce offspring, so... I'm making him wait a few years.

Particularly Good Bits:

"Because," said Thor, "When something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it's Loki's fault.  It saves a lot of time" (p. 52).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for the aforementioned content.  No cussing that I recall, though.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Winners of the Tolkien Giveaway 2019

Congratulations to the winners of this year's giveaway!  I will be notifying all winners by email as well, but that might not be until tomorrow, as I'm travelling for 12 hours today :-o

Four Tolkien-themed bookmarks -- Skye H.
One "hole in the ground" bookmark -- Deborah O'Carroll
Three "locations" stickers -- Anna & Irene
Three "quotations" stickers -- Bethi
One "be brave" necklace -- Erudessa Aranduriel
One "hope" necklace -- Fawnabelle Baggins
One Sam & Frodo coaster -- Beth G.
One Thranduil candle -- J. L. Mbewe
An Atlas of Tolkien by David Day -- Heidi P.

Thanks for making this party so fun, everyone!  Can't wait to do it all again next year :-)

Answers to the Minor Characters of Tolkien Quiz

Here are the answers to this year's second quiz!  Everyone's scores are below.  How'd you do?

1. Bill Ferny  C. human
2. Dain  A. dwarf
3. Elladin  B. elf
4. Elrohir  B. elf
5. Eothain  C. human
6. Fatty Bolger  D. hobbit
7. Ghan-buri-ghan  F. other
8. Grishnakh  E. orc/uruk-hai
9. Gwaihir  F. other 
10. Haldir  B. elf
11. Hama  C. human
12. Ioreth  C. human
13. Lugburz  E. orc/uruk-hai
14. Nob  D. hobbit
15. Nori  A. dwarf
16. Quickbeam  F. other
17. Shagrat  E. orc/uruk-hai
18. Snaga  E. orc/uruk-hai
19. Ted Sandyman  D. hobbit
20. Theodred  C. human


Erudessa Aranduriel -- 20
Grace T -- 20
MiddleEarthMusician -- 19
Beth -- 18
R.M. Lutz -- 18
Victoria -- 18
IsaacBenjamin -- 17
Bethi -- 16
Gabby A -- 16
Jenelle Leanne -- 16
PioneerGirl -- 15
Anna and Irene -- 14
MovieCritic -- 11

Answers to Creatures of Middle-earth Quiz

Here are the answers to our first game this week!  Scores are below.

1.  Fiery demons who were once Maiar, but followed Melkor and were doomed with him.  Balrogs.

2.  Gray as a mouse, big as a house, with arrow-proof skin and fearsome tusks.  Oliphants/Mumakil.

3.  Tree-like, often tall, rarely hasty beings with deep, dark eyes.  Ents.

4.  Ancient, intelligent, somewhat serpentine beings that like to hoard things.  Dragons.

5.  Watchful, slow-moving trees prone to wrath, with the ability to hide themselves in shadow.  Huorns.

6.  Massive, wolf-like creatures sometimes used as steeds by orcs.  Wargs.

7.  Shape-shifting beings that guard treasure or haunt tombs and use fear and hypnotism to capture unwary travelers.  Barrow-wights/wights.

8.  Monstrous humanoid creatures with very little intelligence but possessed of great strength.  Trolls.

9.  Bred by both Sauron and Saruman, possibly by crossing orcs with men, these brutes have thick legs, bowed backs, and slanted eyes.  Uruk-hai.

10.  Someone who would have died, but is kept somewhat alive by dark sorcery.  Wraiths.  (Ring-wraiths/Nazgul also count.)


Erudessa Aranduriel -- 10
George -- 10
Grace T -- 10
Jenelle Leanne -- 10
MiddleEarthMusician -- 10
Fawnabelle Baggins -- 9
Olivia -- 9
R.M. Lutz -- 9
Anna and Irene -- 8
Skye -- 8
Bethi -- 7
Gabby A -- 6
MovieCritic -- 3