2013 B2tC Challenge, 2013 Challenges, 2013 TBR Pile Challenge, Adventure, Arthur Conan Doyle, Book Review, British Literature, Classics, Classics Club, Detective Novel, Fiction, Mystery

Thoughts: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

1065804The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Final Verdict: 3.75 out of 4.0
YTD: 55

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is the third in the Sherlock Holmes series, following two novels (A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four) and a collection of short stories (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes). It contains eleven stories, in total, which, much like the previous titles in this series, tackle a range of social, political, and ethnic topics, all the while entertaining the reader with witty narrative and engaging, sometimes surprising mysteries and detective work.

My edition is, unfortunately, true to the revised original American edition of the collection, which edited out a story called “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box.” The story is now printed in American editions of the collection titled “His Last Bow,” which I do have, so I’ll get to it eventually. Of course, I’m a purist, though, so it irks me very much to have to read stories out of the order of original publication or author intention.

That being said, the collection is a good one. I particularly enjoyed “The Yellow Face,” which was a story of ahead of its time, in my opinion. This one tells of a young American woman who meets a young British man, they marry and move to England together. Soon enough, the woman’s secret history is uncovered, and the revelations are (for the time) shocking. As a modern reader, however, there is a certain delight and admiration for the risk Doyle took, here, and for the stance that the narrative takes on issues of equality and human decency. It was a pleasant surprise.

Others in the collection which I rather enjoyed include “The Gloria Scott” and “The Musgrave Ritual,” both of which had interesting elements of darker, Poe-esque mystery; also, “The Reigate Puzzle” and “The Naval Treaty,” both of which had elements of heightened daring, danger, and suspense. Finally, of course, there is “The Final Problem,” which is not only a wonderful short story, but, knowing the history of the series, a moving read. It adds a very deep, personal element to the character of Sherlock Holmes, a human side which his character sometimes (intentionally) lacks. Even knowing that the series continues, it was a difficult read and a sad ending!

All this taken into consideration, I still prefer, over all, the first collection in the Holmes series. I was bothered by the very close similarity of “The Stock-broker’s Clerk” to an earlier Sherlock Holmes story (“The Red-headed League”). The two stories seemed like the reworking of a very similar plot. Of course, Doyle wrote from a standardized formula of sorts, but even still, it felt to me much too similar, in this case. Perhaps to Doyle, too, considering where he tried to go with “The Final Problem.”

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes collection is an interesting piece to the overall Holmes collection. As in the previous works, this one is narrated by Watson, but many of the stories find Watson specifically trying to point out just how unremarkable Sherlock Holmes is – how lucky he sometimes gets, how even he can be stumped, at times. The purpose of this is probably two-fold; first, to set up readers’ expectations for the last story in the collection and second, to round out and make more realistic the Sherlock Holmes character in general. Perhaps there had been some instance that Doyle make Sherlock Holmes seem less of a superhero – how interesting can a character with no flaws be, after all?

Ultimately, I continue to be pleased with these stories and every time I revisit the next book in the collection, I find myself wondering what took me so long to get back to it. These are always some of the most fun, entertaining, and engaging reading experiences, and it rarely takes me more than a few days to get through the entire book. Doyle’s writing, in Memoirs, remains fresh and accessible, and he continues to push certain boundaries, which adds depth and intrigue to books which might otherwise be simply light, “pleasure” reading.

One final note: I may or may not have known this (though I certainly didn’t remember), but the title from another favorite book of mine, by Mark Haddon, actually seems to have come from one of these stories! In “The Silver Blaze,” Colonel Ross asks Sherlock Holmes, “Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” and Holmes replies: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” Wow!

Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: 13+
Interest: Mystery, Detective Stories, 19th Century Britain, Social Justice, Crime, British Fiction, Short Stories, 1,001 Books.

Notable Quotes:

“Of all ghosts, the ghosts of our old loves are the worst.” (“The Gloria Scott”)

“Any truth is better than indefinite doubt.” (“The Yellow Face”)

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” (“A Case of Identity”)

“It is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognize danger when it is close upon you.” (“The Final Problem”)

“I never can resist a touch of the dramatic.” (“The Naval Treaty”)

“It’s every man’s business to see justice done.” (“The Crooked Man”)

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2013 Challenges, 2013 TBR Pile Challenge, Giveaway, Giveaways

TBR Pile Checkpoint #10 – October Progress!

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Congrats to last month’s winner, Sarah of The Everyday Reader!

Hi, There, TBR Pile Challengers! And Welcome to Another Checkpoint!

It is October 15th, which means we are now officially in the final quarter our 2013 TBR Pile Challenge! I continue to be impressed and excited by the participation in this challenge – it’s enough to make me want to bring it back again in 2014!

Where I’m At: I have read 11 of my required 12 books – almost done! This might be the first year in the last couple where I manage to complete all 12 books on my list AND possibly the alternates, too. I keep getting distracted by some fabulous new releases (such as the Salinger biography that I just read/reviewed, as well as the new Rick Riordan and Stephen King books), so I don’t know if I’ll get to all 14 books on my list, but I will definitely read the main goal of 12!

My Progress:

Book #1: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Book #2: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Book #3: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Book #4: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Book #5: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Book #6: Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times by Morris Kaplan

Book #7: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Book #8: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Book #9: Gods and Monsters by Christopher Bram

Book #10: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Book #11: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (review to come)

Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. IF you have completed any reviews for books on your challenge list, please feel free to link them up here so that we can easily find your posts, encourage one another, see what progress is being made on all these piles, etc.  Also, feel free to link-up to your own checkpoint post, should you decide to write one (not required – but feel free!).

Giveaway:  This month’s challenge once again comes with a giveaway!  You can win any book of your choice, up to $20 USD, as long as it is available at The Book Depository (and as long as TBD ships to your location).

To be eligible, you need to do these things:

1. Use the Mister Linky widget below to link-up an eligible review post for this month OR a link to a check-in post for this month.  Each eligible review = one entry.

2. Leave a comment sharing with us which book from your 2013 TBR Pile list has been your favorite, so far (or your least favorite, most surprising, etc.).  Plus anything else you want to share.  =-)

3. Make sure I can reach you by email – so if your email isn’t posted in an obvious place on your blog, then leave it in the comment, here (in a non-spamable format!).

Good luck!


Link-up Your Reviews for September 21st – October 20th:


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2013 Challenges, 2013 TBR Pile Challenge, Giveaway, Giveaways

TBR Pile Checkpoint #9 – September Progress!

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Congrats to last month’s winner, Karen from Karen’s Books & Chocolate!

Hi, There, TBR Pile Challengers!  And Welcome to Another Checkpoint!

It is September 15th, which means we are now officially in the final quarter our 2013 TBR Pile Challenge! So far, the overall progress and participation in this year’s challenge has been outstanding! I have been impressed by you guys – some of you are even finished, already!

Where I’m At: I have read 10 of my required 12 books – so I’m feeling good! This might be the first year in the last few where I manage to complete all 12 books on my list (although I have some hefty books left to read, so I’m not going to get ahead of myself, here). I keep getting distracted by some fabulous new releases (such as the Salinger biography that I’m currently reading), so I don’t know if I’ll get to all 14 books on my list, but I will definitely read the main goal of 12!

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My Progress:

Book #1: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Book #2: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Book #3: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Book #4: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Book #5: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Book #6: Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times by Morris Kaplan

Book #7: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Book #8: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Book #9: Gods and Monsters by Christopher Bram

Book #10: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. IF you have completed any reviews for books on your challenge list, please feel free to link them up here so that we can easily find your posts, encourage one another, see what progress is being made on all these piles, etc.  Also, feel free to link-up to your own checkpoint post, should you decide to write one (not required – but feel free!)

GIVEAWAY: This giveaway is closed. Congrats to Sarah of The Every Day Reader, who chose to receive a copy of For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund!


Link-up Your Reviews for August 21st – September 20th:

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1001 Books, 2013 TBR Pile Challenge, Austen in August, Book Review, Classics, Fiction, Jane Austen, Literature, Manners, Marriage Plot, Social Drama

Thoughts: Persuasion by Jane Austen

11758566Persuasion by Jane Austen
Final Verdict: 3.75 of 4.0
YTD: 47

Plot/Story:
4 – Plot/Story is interesting/believable and impactful (socially, academically, etc.)

Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, the middle-daughter of Sir Walter and Lady Elliot, the latter of whom died fourteen years prior to the start of the book.  Elizabeth and Anne are both single, but Mary, the youngest, is married to a wealthy man called Charles Musgrove.  Sir Elliot is on the brink of ruin, having spent lavishly and recklessly for some time, but particularly following the death of his wife.  He is a vain man who must be “convinced” by a trusted family friend, Lady Russell, to limit his spending, relocate, and rent out their expansive manor (Kellynch Hall) to raise income.  Lady Russell is also responsible for Anne’s somewhat melancholy state, having persuaded Anne to reject the proposal of one Captain Wentworth who, at the time, was without name or income.  As the story unfolds, secrets are exposed, friends and family are reunited and divided, and the questions of enduring love and what it takes to create a meaningful and functional marriage are raised.


Characterization:
3 – Characters well-developed.

lge_Persuasion_080606024745140_wideweb__300x300Many, if not all, of the characters in this book are important and necessary to the plot.  In Sense and Sensibility, it can be argued that perhaps not all of the Dashwood sisters were necessary to the story; here, however, each character who is introduced seems to serve a purpose – the prose, plot, and character development, then, are all concisely and purposefully crafted.  That being said, however, and while much can be found laudable in the Crofts and Anne Elliot, and even Mrs. Smith, most of the characters, even the primary ones, do not seem deeply developed in such a way as to be truly engaging – to connect the reader with their stories and lives more personally.  This could be because the larger theme of the novel is social change, rather than personal growth, but I still would have liked to have been more personally vested in Anne and Captain Wentworth’s interests.  Anne certainly is an Austen heroine – so much so that Austen herself said that Anne was “a heroine who is almost too good for me.”  She has her flaws, including being “advanced” in age and lacking somewhat in beauty, and also her openness to persuasion (hence the title of the book).  Yet, she stands above her female contemporaries by being calm, collected, and rational, not to mention constant in her friendships and affections.  She earns the admiration of not only Captain Wentworth, but also of Charles Musgrove and Mr. Elliot.

Captain Wentworth, too, is interesting as the representative of a “new gentleman.”  He has excellent manners, he is considerate of those around him, and he is hard-working, brave, and independent.  Also, instead of being born of land and title, he represents a shift in or softening of the potential for social, upward mobility in Britain at this time.  As a naval officer, he worked hard to advance through the ranks and create wealth for himself, rather than “earn” it through inheritance.  We can contrast him with Sir Walter Elliot who is largely a caricature of the very same titled, upper class nobility mentioned above.  Austen’s wit and satire play heaviest on Sir Walter – she shows no mercy, really, when describing him as a vain, imbecile spendthrift whose dressing rooms are lined with mirrors and who refuses to be seen in public with any but those who are incredibly attractive.  He is in many ways a sort of “dandy” to Captain Wentworth’s more masculine presence.

Still, although the characters do what they are supposed to, thematically, they do not reach me, personally, in the way that those of Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice have.  Of course, there are many fans of Anne and Captain Wentworth out there, and of their romance, and I certainly see them as a good match – still, a small “something” – some kind of spark, could have given the more clinical craftsmanship of these characters the personable touch I was hoping for (with the exception of the Crofts – I really enjoyed them!).


Prose/Style:
4 – Extraordinary Prose/Style, enhancing the Story.

50336_184189786197_7310_nThe story is told in the third-person omniscient, like most of Austen’s works.  And, also like most of Austen’s narrators, this one is very closely allied with the main character, in this case, Anne Elliott.  Although the narrator is not Anne, and not directly involved in the story, she does make judgments that are similar to Anne’s, while maintaining a point of view that is separated from the story by means of free indirect discourse. Keeping the narrator separate from but close to the character of Anne allows for slightly more honesty in describing the motives and personalities of the various characters, and also some distance between Anne and the others, which is necessary in creating tension and mystery (which we found out near the end of the story is rather important, as certain schemes have been developing behind the scenes).  The narrative voice is softly satirical and at times subtly subversive, making it very interesting to compare with Austen’s first novel, Northanger Abbey, which was ultimately published at the same time (and which is much more obvious and raw in its humor and parodist tone).  Some of Austen’s most tried and true devices, such as the “big reveal” being delivered via letter (in this case, Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne; in a previous instance, Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth), as well as the motif of walking to advance a character’s conscience or growth, or to provide opportunity for necessary meetings between key players, are included here again and, again, work quite nicely.


Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.

353px-Northanger_Abbey_and_PersuasionJane Austen wrote Persuasion in 1816, while she was extremely ill and just before her death.  The book would not be published (with Northanger Abbey) until 1818, after she had already passed away.  Like many of her stories, this one is a novel of manners.  Its focus is not so much on any one character’s growth, as would be the case in a coming-of-age story, but, instead, it is concerned with a group of primary characters who interact with one another and who are learning to navigate their lives within new rules and structures of a changing world.  Although Austen is widely, and rightly, considered to be a writer of marriage plots which lead to happy endings, what some miss in their readings is Austen’s deep concern for the complexities of gender relations and class structures, both of which were rapidly changing in the early 19th century. Persuasion, while certainly constructed as a marriage plot, is absolutely concerned with the latter interests as well.   It is clear that Persuasion is Austen’s later work, as it demonstrates great maturity and mastery of purpose and of craft.  This is evidenced in her subtle but biting satire of the upper middle classes, represented primarily by the character of Sir Walter Elliot.

Persuasion questions the idea of “Separate Spheres,” which has been a traditional way of viewing male and female roles in Britain and much of Europe.  Men would live in the public sphere, taking care of finances and legalities, while women were in charge of the private sphere, including tasks such as running the home and managing the servants.  With the introduction of the Crofts, however, Austen challenges this dichotomy and offers the option of a true marriage partnership, where husband and wife share equal responsibility in both spheres.  That the Crofts are the ideal married couple, and the one which it is presumed Anne and Captain Wentworth will evolve into, it is safe to assume that Austen, who never married, had rather progressive opinions about what a happy and functional marriage could be.

Austen is also often criticized for creating “bubble” worlds, stories which are narrowly confined to their own small towns, without concern for larger world issues.  Yet, it cannot be denied that Austen is aware of the fact that Britain is at war with America and France during this time, and her representation of the British Navy and Naval Officers both pay dues to the “real” Navy and also introduce, in literature, a mirror of what, in real life, was becoming an ideal of manliness – a new gentleman who can rise, through the military, to fame and wealth, if not necessarily to title. Austen does indeed understand the world around her and, just as with Mansfield Park, she incorporates elements of that world into her stories in ways that are so natural, they hardly stand out.  That these issues flow so neatly into the plot is a sign that Austen is an extraordinarily adept, socially aware novelist, not, as some would argue, of a writer oblivious to the world around her.


Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: High School +
Interest: Novel of Manners; Marriage; Separate Spheres; Persuasion; “The Gentleman”; Class; Social Mobility; Family.


Notable Quotes:

“She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.”

“Let us never underestimate the power of a well-written letter.”

“How quick come the reasons for approving what we like.”

“Facts or opinions which are to pass through the hands of so many, to be misconceived by folly in one, and ignorance in another, can hardly have much truth left.”

“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures.”

“Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.”

“One man’s ways may be as good as another’s, but we all like our own best.”

“She hoped to be wise and reasonable in time; but alas! Alas! She must confess to herself that she was not wise yet.”

“Time will explain.”

“Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.”


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2013 Challenges, 2013 TBR Pile Challenge, Blog Post, Challenges, Events, Giveaway, Giveaways

TBR Pile Checkpoint #8 – August Progress!

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Congrats to this month’s winner, Karen from Karen’s Books & Chocolate! 

Dearest TBR Pile Challengers – Welcome to Another Checkpoint!

It is August 15th, which means we have crossed the half-way point and are now officially on the downslope for our 2013 TBR Pile Challenge! So far, the overall progress and participation in this year’s challenge has been outstanding! I really have been impressed by you guys – even just reading one or two of your twelve, to this point, is great. Keep at it!

Where I’m At: I have now read 10 of my required 12 books – so I’m feeling pretty good! This might be the first year in the last few where I could manage to complete all 12 books + the 2 alternates on my list (although I have some hefty books left to read, so I’m not going to get ahead of myself, here).  I need to write my review for Persuasion, which is Book #10, but I do plan to do that, and post it, before the August 20th deadline.

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My Progress:

Book #1: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Book #2: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Book #3: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Book #4: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Book #5: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Book #6: Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times by Morris Kaplan

Book #7: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Book #8: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Book #9: Gods and Monsters by Christopher Bram

Book #10: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. IF you have completed any reviews for books on your challenge list, please feel free to link them up here so that we can easily find your posts, encourage one another, see what progress is being made on all these piles, etc. Also, feel free to link-up to your own checkpoint post, should you decide to write one (not required – but feel free!)

GIVEAWAY: This month’s check-in comes with a giveaway!  One winner will be chosen from those who link-up to their reviews of books completed between July 21st & August 20th.  Anyone who posts a check-in for this month and links-up by August 20th will also be included.  The prize is any book of winner’s choice, up to $20 USD, from The Book Depository!  Good Luck!


Link-up Your Reviews for July 21st – August 20th:

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2013 TBR Pile Challenge, Blog Post, Challenges

TBR Pile Checkpoint #7 – July Progress!

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Hi, Hey, & Hello There, all TBR Pile Challengers!

It is July 15th, which means we have crossed the half-way point and are now officially on the downslope for our 2013 TBR Pile Challenge!  So far, the overall progress and participation in this year’s challenge has been outstanding! I really have been impressed by you guys – even just reading one or two of your twelve, to this point, is great.  Keep at it!

Where I’m At:  I have read 9 of my required 12 books. I have made absolutely ZERO progress in the last two months, but I will blame that on my recent relocation, plus reading some chunksters like Don Quixote and The Odyssey, as well as working on events like The Beats of Summer, The read-along of To Kill a Mockingbird, and, of course, the ever-popular and soon-to-be here  Austen in August!

My Progress:

Book #1: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Book #2: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Book #3: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Book #4: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Book #5: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Book #6: Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times by Morris Kaplan

Book #7: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Book #8: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Book #9: Gods and Monsters by Christopher Bram 

Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget.  IF you have completed any reviews for books on your challenge list, please feel free to link them up here so that we can easily find your posts, encourage one another, see what progress is being made on all these piles, etc.  Also, feel free to link-up to your own checkpoint post, should you decide to write one (not required – but feel free!)



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2013 TBR Pile Challenge, Blog Post, Challenges, Giveaway, Giveaways

TBR Pile Checkpoint #6 – June Progress!

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Hello, TBR Pile Challengers!

It is June 15th and, ready or not, we are now officially HALF-WAY through 2013 and half-way through our 2013 TBR Pile Challenge!  I have been very impressed by all the progress being made through these challenge lists – the monthly updates have been so much fun.  I hope you all agree!

Where I’m At:  I have read 9 of my required 12 books. I have made absolutely ZERO progress since last month’s check-in, but that’s largely due to the semester finishing up, teaching summer classes, starting the Beats of Summer event, and also reading Don Quixote for my Classics Club challenge.  I know I will get at least one more book (Persuasion by Jane Austen) read for this challenge during the summer, thanks to Austen in August, but I hope to also read one more before the new semester starts in September.

Progress:

Book #1: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Book #2: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Book #3: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Book #4: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Book #5: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Book #6: Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times by Morris Kaplan

Book #7: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Book #8: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Book #9: Gods and Monsters by Christopher Bram 

My favorites so far have been Orlando, A Streetcar Named Desire, and O Pioneers! What have been YOUR favorites, so far?  Any surprises or major failures?

Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget.  IF you have completed any reviews for books on your challenge list, please feel free to link them up here so that we can easily find your posts, encourage one another, see what progress is being made on all these piles, etc.  Also, feel free to link-up to your own checkpoint post, should you decide to write one (not required – but feel free!)

Giveaway!:  Since we are officially at the half-way mark, this month’s checkpoint comes with TWO GIVEAWAYS!  Be sure to link-up your reviews (or a checkpoint post) by the deadline.  Every link you post (provided it is new to this month – no posts/reviews used previously!) will earn you one entry into a random drawing. The prize is a book of your choice, up to $15 USD, from The Book Depository!

Link-up Your Reviews for May 21st – June 20th:


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