Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"The Trials of Sherlock Holmes" by James Moffett

When I found out that James Moffett of the wonderful blog A Tolkienist's Perspective was also a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I was pretty excited.  You may remember that I very much enjoyed participating in his read-along of The Silmarillion, and I continue to appreciate his insights into Tolkien.  I've also enjoyed his new Holmes-related blog, A Palace for the Mind

So I was eager to read James Moffett's own foray into Sherlock Holmes pastiche.  And I'm happy to say that the mysteries here are more twisty than any I could ever come up with.  They also all tie together into one unified puzzle pretty nicely.  

If you are a fan of the BBC series Sherlock, you will probably like this.  It's got the Victorian London setting of the canonical stories, but I found the characterizations to be very much informed by the BBC show.  The Holmes in this book is "cheeky" (p. 119) and "mischievous" (p. 145), and other anachronisms such as a kitchen in the 221B apartment also seem derived from the show rather than the book.  

In the end, I found this book a fun way to pass the time.  Just right for a little light summer reading.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for various dangerous situations.  No bad language, no adult situations, nothing gruesome.

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Conspiracy of Silence" by Ronie Kendig

Imagine a story that's a cross between an Indiana Jones movie and Jack Reacher book, and you've pretty much nailed what Conspiracy of Silence is like.  You've got archaeologists discovering Biblical artifacts and unleashing a plague.  You've got a bunch of top-notch modern warriors going after lots of scary bad guys who want to weaponize that plague.  You've got a female FBI agent who specializes in detecting deception who helps figure out who's lying to the warriors and who truly wants to help them.  Oh, and one archaeologist is the sister of one of the warriors, and that warrior's brother used to be married to the FBI agent's sister.  Just to tangle everything up more, because more tangling is always good for a thriller.

This was a very engrossing book, one that sucked me in a bit slowly, but then held me fast.  Also, the Knights Templar are just always a good time, aren't they?  I can't remember any story involving them that I haven't liked, from Ivanhoe to The Maltese Falcon.  This is the beginning of a series, so while the central problem is resolved, there are still some loose threads left that will continue into the next book.

Particularly Good Bits:

Some people had emotional baggage.  Cole Russell had an entire department store (p. 272).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for a lot of violence.  Many, many fight scenes, shootings, deaths, etc.  

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for me to read while judging the INSPY awards. In no way did I agree to review this book in exchange. These are my honest opinions.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Classics Book Tag

Jillian tagged me with this rather enchanting blog tag three months ago.  Thanks, Jillian!  I don't think I've ever done a blog tag devoted entirely to classics.  I'm sorry it's taken me so long to fill it out.


1. An over-hyped classic you really didn't like:  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  I loathe it for its deliberate, gleeful cruelty.

2. Favorite time period to read about:  America's Wild West and the Jazz Age both fascinate me.

3. Favorite fairy tale:  "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" and "Cinderella" are high on my list.

4. Most embarrassing classic to admit you haven't read:  The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.  Everyone talks about how it's one of the best early mysteries, but I just haven't read it yet.


5. Top 5 classics you want to read:  Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather, The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper, The Once and Future King by T. H. White, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte.

6. Favorite modern book/series based on a classic:  Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay is a fantastic modern retelling of Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster mixed with various other things.

7. Favorite movie version/tv series based on a classic: The Lord of the Rings trilogy directed by Peter Jackson is pretty hard to top.


8. Worst classic-to-movie adaptation:  Possibly the 1969 adaptation of Hamlet starring Nicol Williamson.

9. Favorite editions you'd like to collect more of:  I'd like to have a matching set of all of Patrick O'Brien's naval novels about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin.  I own all of them, but most of them are matching trade paperbacks... and three aren't.  It bothers me they don't match.  Or, one day I could trade up for this wonderful edition:



10. An under-hyped classic:  More people need to read The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

It took me a very long time to fill out this tag, so I'm not going to tag anyone.  If you'd like to do this tag yourself, go right ahead :-)  It's certainly a fun one!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"When Death Draws Near" by Carrie Stuart Parks

I can't recall ever before reading a mystery written from the point of view of an artist who does facial reconstructions for law enforcement.  That was such a unique and cool angle to look at cases from, in and of itself, but add in an Appalachian setting, and you know I was hooked.  Though the rest of the series doesn't take place in Appalachia, I'm hoping my library has the previous books, because I also quite liked the protagonist, forensic artist Gwen Marcey.

I also appreciated that, although some of the cases Marcey investigated were rapes, there was no gratuitous or graphic description of the crimes.  For a modern-day thriller/mystery in the vein of Kathy Reichs, it was not squeamishness-inducing, which I very much liked.

Basically, Gwen Marcey gets called in by the sheriff of a small Kentucky town to help draw identifying sketches of a rapist from descriptions provided by his victims.  She winds up investigating a snake-handling church and unraveling a decades-old murder.

My one real quibble with this book is that Marcey has a teen daughter who is fairly stereotypical, especially at first, and mostly seems just there to be put in danger so the protagonist has someone to feel protective of and something more than her own life to lose.  Not enough to make me stop enjoying the book, though!  I fully intend to read more of this series.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for discussion of rapes and murders, characters in grave danger, and violence.  Also, snakes and spiders.

Note:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher for me to read while judging the INSPY awards.  In no way did I agree to review this book in exchange.  These are my honest opinions.

Friday, July 7, 2017

"Great Gatsby" Read-Along Index


Here are the links to my individual chapter posts from this read-along, for easy reference in the future:

Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Final Thoughts

Just because I've finished posting about The Great Gatsby does not mean you need to stop commenting on the posts!  I know some of the participants haven't finished the book yet, and that is totally fine.  I am happy to continue discussing this book for as long as you like.


Winners of the Gatsby Giveaway

For the first time ever, I had more prizes than I had people competing for them!  That makes the whole name-drawing process very painless for me (I always feel sad for the people who don't win one of my giveaways), but it leaves me with a spare set of prizes.  I'm going to divide the extra set evenly among the winners, so you'll each be getting a little something extra as a surprise.

Oh yes!  The winners are:

Emma L. -- stickers

John S. -- greeting cards

Dale B. -- greeting cards

Sarah H. -- postcards

I'll be emailing you this morning to ask for your mailing addresses so I can send you your prizes.  And your surprises!

Thanks for playing, folks!  And thanks for participating in the read-along -- I know some people aren't finished reading yet, and that's fine.  I'll merrily continue to discuss the book as long as you like!


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

"Dressed for Death" by Julianna Deering

I've been wanting to read Julianna Deering's mysteries starring Drew Farthering for several years now, but I've just never gotten around to them.  And now I've read the fourth book in the series first, which is a bit topsy-turvy, but I fully intend to go read the first three books soon.  Possibly later this summer, as this was a fast and enjoyable read.

Drew Farthering and his wife Madeline attend a house party at the home of one of Drew's old classmates, Tal Cummins.  A week-long house party with a Regency theme, so they have to dress and behave like they're in a Jane Austen novel for a week, basically.  That's all well and good, but when another guest dies, secrets get revealed that change the lives of many people there, and Drew finds he can't necessarily save the day for everyone there.  

Also, there's a kitten.

This was such a fun mystery!  Yes, there was death and ruin and so on, but it never got ugly or terribly sinister.  Definitely not creepy.  And the Christian faith of the main characters was integral to the story, not an afterthought, but woven very naturally into it, the way real faith permeates the life of non-fictional Christians.  I especially appreciated the way the theme of Christian vocation was discussed several times -- Drew questioned whether he ought to be trying to solve mysteries, or if perhaps he needs to give that up, and so on.  Very nicely done, and something I ponder myself a lot.  I'm a wife and mother -- but I'm also a writer.  How much time and energy should I be putting into my writing right now?  How much can I do without it detracting from my family calling?  And so on.  In fact, you'll see below that my two favorite lines from the whole book dealt with this issue.

I really cannot wait to read more of this series. 

Particularly Good Bits: 

"Doing what you're made to do the best you can do it, even if it's not the usual thing, glorifies God more than pushing yourself into a role you're not suited for" (p. 105).

"Don't let anyone despise the gifts you've been given, and don't you do so, either.  They may not fit anyone else's idea of a calling, but the world has all sorts of needs, and God has provided for each of them to be filled, if we all do our part.  It would be a shame if your part were left undone" (p. 303).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  a soft PG-13 for violence, drug use, and dangerous situations.  No bad language or innuendo at all.  People kiss several times.

Note:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher for me to read while judging the INSPY awards.  In no way did I agree to review this book in exchange.  These are my honest opinions.

Monday, July 3, 2017

"Destry Rides Again" by Max Brand

If you have ever seen the movie Destry Rides Again (1939), you  might think you know what this book is about.  I know, because I love that movie, and so I picked up this book at a cute little used bookstore up in the Shenandoah Valley thinking it would be similar to the movie.  After all, the cover even touted it as the basis for the movie, as you can see.

Um, yeah, not so much.  Now, the main character in both the book and the movie does have the last name 'Destry,' and there's a moment in both of them where he's in a bar and he orders a non-alcoholic drink and gets laughed at.  

But that's it.  Everything else, completely different.  However, that doesn't mean I didn't dig this book!  Because I totally did, once I got through the first couple chapters and realized that the movie does not follow the book at all.  (There's a 1932 movie that looks a bit more like the book, but I haven't seen it.)

In the book, Harry Destry is a proud and boastful punk who likes to go around proving he can out-ride, out-shoot, and generally out-do any man he meets.  He gets blamed for a train robbery he didn't commit, and the jury sentences him to prison because they don't like him.  When he gets out of prison, he sets about ruining or killing the jurymen... and if you're thinking this sounds like a western version of The Count of Monte Cristo, well, I thought so too.  And, as that's my second-favorite book of all time, I very much enjoyed that similarity!  But unlike Edmund Dantes, Harry Destry has one worth opponent who nearly bests him. 

Also unlike Edmund Dantes in Monte Cristo, Harry Destry discovers the emptiness of revenge before he loses the woman he loves or the boy who has helped him survive the frightened wrath of those he's hunting.  The ending of this book was so full of shiny awesome that I know I'll be re-reading this book again and again in the coming years.

Particularly Good Bits:  

Then silence gathered the house softly in its arms (p. 99).

Bullets fired from the saddle on a galloping horse are rarely more dangerous than a flight of wild sparrows (p. 108).

The wolf on the trail is a sleepy thing, and the wildcat is totally unobservant, compared with the eye of a young boy (p. 178).

Too much is made of guilty consciences.  They generally begin to work on criminals after the stern hand of the law has grasped them by the nape of the neck (p. 224).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  A strong PG for western violence of many sorts, some mild bad language, and a lot of suspenseful situations.  



This is my sixth book read and reviewed for the Adventure of Reading Challenge.