Book Review: The Valley of Fear

The Valley of Fear
Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Classic mystery

Like A Study in Scarlet, this novella is in two parts—the mystery being solved by Holmes and the backstory of the principle character in the mystery. Each part has a bit of a twist near the end. The mystery section is interesting enough, though doesn’t stand out much from the others I’ve read so far. I was spoiled on the twist (people seem to care a lot less about spoiler tags and warnings when leaving a low rating), so it’s difficult to say how I would have felt about it. It didn’t seem particularly inspired, that’s all I can really say. The backstory portion I found interesting and unnecessarily long in turns. It’s very difficult for me to get into the head of someone who is so brutal and uncaring. The twist, though, was probably one of the most surprising twists I’ve read. I did not see it coming and mentally applauded Doyle for the misdirect. I raised the story at least half a star, maybe a full star, just because of that twist.

I have to say that screen writers over the years have really done a number with Moriarty. I am sure I’m not the only person who has read these stories after seeing and hearing about Holmes over the years and imagining Moriarty as a dastardly foil for the great detective, only to realize that book Moriarty is nothing compared to his on-screen counterparts. This book had even less Moriarty than the short story in which he was introduced (“The Final Problem” in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes), and now that I’ve read both stories with the infamous villain in them, I really can’t believe how big of a deal the character became. We really only know he’s brilliant because we’re told he is. There’s no proof given; Sherlock says he’s a criminal mastermind, so that’s all we need to make up stories about his treachery. Anyway, all of that aside, this was a more memorable Holmes story for me, so that’s something (though it has nothing to do with Moriarty).

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Book Review: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Classic mystery

Part of me thinks that I need to make sure to start spreading out the shorter stories within one collection. But another part of me wonders if that would help. One of the things that’s starting to wear on me with these stories is the way most cases are presented the same way—a big info dump to explain the case to Holmes and/or Watson. Sometimes, the person telling the story will share dialog from someone else, and I often find myself asking how the person could be so precise in telling the story. And then there was at least one of these stories where the person telling the story related dialog from someone else who was also relating an event that included further dialog. There came a point where my mind was completely muddled and I couldn’t remember who was talking. When you’re 3+ deep in quotation marks (“‘”You astound me!”‘”) to get the story across, it’s getting a little ridiculous.

Some of the cases were still intriguing, while others were a bit more obvious. I think I’m starting to get the hang of Doyle’s pattern with these cases, though that doesn’t mean I can figure them all out before the end. I think what surprised me the most was the introduction of Professor Moriarty, whom everyone knows as Holmes’s arch-rival. But that story was more about Holmes trying to escape the man, with his brilliance and nefariousness only told to us, not really shown in any way. He’s dangerous and worthy of Holmes’s attention only because Holmes says so. I have no idea if the man will appear in any other stories, but to be honest, this one was kind of a dud for me. I did question partway through this book whether it was worth continuing. I think I will, as I don’t think I can really judge the entire character without reading everything Doyle wrote about him. But when I come to the next short story collection, I’ll probably take my time with it.

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Book Review: The Sign of Four

The Sign of Four
Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Classic mystery

This is going to be the shortest review I’ve ever written. I’m slowly making my way through the Sherlock Holmes stories for the first time. This was not my favorite. The mystery wasn’t nearly as interesting as others have been; in fact, it was a bit bizarre. It’s the book where Watson meets the woman he ends up marrying, but that relationship didn’t grow in any particularly interesting way either. Overall, the story just felt slow and not very memorable.

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Book Review: A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet
Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Classic mystery

I almost feel like I should write two separate reviews for this book, considering how vastly different parts 1 and 2 are from each other. I can’t say that Doyle’s decision to leave England and go back in time several years to show the victim and murderer’s backstory in America up close is one that makes a lot of sense to me, but I didn’t hate it like some seem to. If this had been the first Holmes story I’d read, though, I could see where it might make my hesitate to pick up another. In the end, I think that, though the Utah diversion was interesting in its own right, it felt completely unnecessary to the mystery story.

Now, outside of the trip to Utah, it was great to see the original meeting between two characters who have been duplicated and imitated so many times since. Watson learning what Holmes does and seeing the first glimpses at his methods and madness is fun to read. I liked the introduction of Watson himself too. Overall, I’ve been enjoying my first time reading these stories.

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Book Review: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Classic mystery

This is the first Sherlock Holmes I’ve ever read, though like many, I’ve seen various adaptations. I started with this book of short stories mostly because it was the one I owned. I’ve never been a huge fan of short stories, though, and while I wish now that I’d started by checking A Study in Scarlet out from the library, I’m still glad I’ve started reading Holmes in any form. The issue with reading this book of shorter mysteries, though, is that a lot of the clients start to blend together, as many of them talk and act similarly when they bring Holmes their case. I did spread the stories out, reading 3 at a time, then reading other books before coming back for more, and I think that helped some.

My view of Holmes and Watson, and even some of the other characters, started with an understanding based on some of the adaptations I’ve seen, and while Holmes was indeed standoffish and generally assumed he was the smartest one in the room, I didn’t think he was quite as cold as I’ve seen him portrayed. A few of the cases were really interesting, while there were a couple that I thought had a much less intriguing solution. The introduction of Irene Adler wasn’t at all what I expected, but I wonder if she’ll be back in a future story. Overall, I enjoyed reading these vignettes, and have a feeling I’ll appreciate even more the longer stories when I get to them.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Notebook Collection, part 6

I’ve been putting off posting about my most recent notebook acquisitions for a few months now. I don’t know why. But I realized today that, since my husband and I are going on an anniversary trip in a few days, I’m likely to have more soon. So it’s time to get caught up.

If anyone is interested in the previous posts as my smattering of notebooks became a collection and has grown:
Post #1
Post #2
Post #3
Post #4
Post #5

notebook 1

It’s not very often that I add a notebook to my collection that is full-sized. Most of those that catch my eye are about half the size of the standard 8 1/2 x 11. This one is not only full-size, but has hard front and back covers, with an indented, condensed image of a map of the world. I still can’t explain my apparent fascination with maps on my notebooks, but I really like the way it looks.

notebook 2

Everyone knows about the flippy sequins that are all over everything these days, right? I used to think it was silly, but at some point, I realized how it might be soothing to flip them back and forth while sitting and reading or something. But I didn’t want it on just anything. My husband got me a large blanket of this type, which was perfect, because we keep our house pretty cool in the winter, and I am usually found under a blanket. More recently, I spotted a notebook at Meijer with the exact same color pattern of flippy sequins…it seemed like destiny. Granted, it might not be the easiest notebook to actually write in, but given the rate I’m going through these notebooks, that won’t be an issue for a long time.

notebook 3

Don’t let the size of the picture fool you–this notebook is quite small. Still not the smallest I have though. My husband insisted on me getting this one at WinterJam in February. Building 429 is amongst my favorite bands, and “Fear No More” is my favorite of their recent songs. (though the honor of my favorite song of theirs overall still belongs to “Where I Belong”). Concert t-shirts are good too, but this kind of souvenir definitely appeals to me a lot.

notebook 4In my previous notebook post, I shared my discovery of novel journals, an in particular, the Sherlock Holmes one I had picked up. While these notebooks are seriously amazing to me, I have read very few of the classics that they are based on. I had seen somewhere that there was one for Anne of Green Gables, which not only have I read, I loved! However, I was finding these sporadically in different locations, and was at the mercy of which books they had. The price online wasn’t preferable at the time either. Then I happened to see this at Meijer, of all places, and so now it’s mine. I haven’t been able to bring myself to take the plastic wrapper off of it yet though. Many of the notebooks I buy are wrapped in plastic, but always have a flap with adhesive to open the package easily. I tend to take the book out to look at it or take a picture, then put it back until I’m ready to start using it. Keeps it clean while it sits and waits. But this one doesn’t have a flap, it’s just completely sealed. So once it’s out, it’s out for good.

This is half of the most recent additions to my collection. I prefer to share shorter posts since the first few that were so long (since I share the story behind every notebook). So some time next week, I’ll post about 4 more. And then we’ll see if after our vacation, I have another post to make. (I’m just as likely to return with a stack of books as notebooks, now that I’ve found my way back to reading so much.)

Do you have any favorite notebooks? Feel free to share!

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Recent Book Gets

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic today is “Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf.” I posted 3 weeks ago about books I’d either gotten for Christmas or acquired shortly thereafter, and normally, I wouldn’t have much to add in this short of an amount of time. However, my husband and I went back to Half-Price books just yesterday, much sooner than normal, plus I do have a few more from right before Christmas I’d love to mention. So here are 8 of my most recent book gets:

1. Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
Sadly, I had forgotten I got this until I started scanning my bookshelf for what should go on today’s list. I got it in the clearance section of HPB some time before Christmas (we go there a lot during the holidays). I “read” this in high school, but I’ll admit I didn’t read it very thoroughly. Though I did well in school, I was pretty lazy. I’d already seen the movie at the time that I read it for school, and basically read chunks of the book looking for scenes that were in the movie to write about. It’s definitely time to read it for real.

2. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
I got my sister some books for Christmas and found some great deals on what she wanted on eBay. One of the sellers had a promotion of buy 2, get 1 free, so after I looked for a 3rd book that she would want, I found this in their list of eligible books and decided I might as well get it for me. I’d been planning to read it anyway!

3. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
I have read maybe 1 Sherlock Holmes story ever, that I can think of, and I couldn’t even tell you for sure what it was (Hounds of the Baskerville, I think). Like many others, though, I’ve viewed various iterations of Holmes over the years. I spotted this high on a bookshelf in our own house, but I didn’t even remember having it. Turns out someone had given it to my husband several years ago. Technically we already owned it, but it is now sitting on my shelf, and I plan to start reading it soon.

Plus, reading it will make my novel journal a lot more relevant to me:

4. The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal
I’ve mentioned this book multiple times recently, but that’s just because of how good it is! I try not to buy books at full price if I can help it, because how do you sustain a habit if you spend that kind of money? So I passed on getting it when it was still on the “new releases” shelf. It was only marked down a few bucks when we went back to HPB yesterday, but my husband insisted that was good enough. (Read my review of this book.)

5. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
Brant Hansen is my favorite radio personality. If you’re in the mood for a fun, clean, often random podcast that makes you think, check out the Brant & Sherri Oddcast. He also writes some books that combine faith and humor and make some interesting points. This is his first book, and I really enjoyed his second one, Blessed are the Misfits. I’ve been hoping to read this for a while, but my library doesn’t carry it. Though I’ve checked every time we’ve gone to HPB recently, imagine my surprise to see it sitting on the shelf yesterday!

6. 2 books from the Mandie series by Lois Gladys Leppard
I enjoyed this series a lot when I was younger, and when my daughter got old enough, I read the first book in the series to her. I have kept my eye out for these book over the years, even before she was old enough, and have maybe 10-12 on my shelves (there are 40!). I spotted 3 in the clearance section, but only bought 2 of them, because I was certain I had one of them already. Sadly enough, it turns out that I don’t have the one I thought I had (the cover looked so familiar!), but I do have one of the two that I bought…so I only added 1. Ah well…it’s time to keep a list on my phone of which ones I have, since I never know when I might run across more.

What books are you excited about getting recently? Link your own list in the comments so I can check yours out too!

Notebook Collection, part 5

I don’t know why I got it into my head that I needed to share every notebook I bought on my blog. It’s probably part of being obessed with buying them. I want to share them, and the story behind them, with others!

If anyone is interested in the previous posts as my collection grew: the first 12 notebooks, the next 10, 6 more, and another 5. And now here are the next 5 additions:


Box Lunch is my favorite of all the “geek stores” at our local mall, mostly because it is so focused on things from my childhood (A Goofy Movie, Aristocats, The Rescuers), on top of the more recent Disney movies, and many other popular fandoms. I found this notebook in the clearance section. The cover of this half-size notebook has lenticular printing, which sort of makes it look like Mario’s trying to dodge barrels if you tilt the book up and down.


This is from the same visit to Box Lunch. You may recognize the look if you’ve seen the movie Up. It’s about the same size as a full-size notebook, though the length and width are swapped (not even my first notebook with that shape). The front and back cover are actually tied on with that string you see there, which worried me at first, imagining the pages falling out. But the pages are bound together, so I think it’s safe.


At a bargain store, I found an incredibly interesting notebook that was labeled a “novel journal” (not the one shown here). It was based on the book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I’ve seen an adaptation, but not read the book, so I looked around the area where I found it for an edition I could connect with more, since the label mentioned some other novels that I would have preferred. I didn’t find any, but I still loved the notebook, so I bought it.

8bA few weeks later at Half Price books, I found a few more varieties of novel journals, so with a little deliberation, I bought the Sherlock Holmes edition. Shown in the right picture, the lines are actually comprised of text from the stories, which is what makes these journals so cool!

(Side note: I gave the Jane Eyre version to my sister, who actually has read the book.)

9aWhile considering the previous notebook at Half Price Books, I saw this book nearby. I mentioned in the previous notebook post that I seem to like notebooks with maps on them, and this was no exception.  9b Besides the Tolkien quote on the front, it’s filled with other quotes about adventure, presumably because it’s meant to be a travel journal.

Finally for this batch, this cute half-sized, skinny notebook was a gift from my in-laws for Christmas. I don’t know if it was intentional, but the words on the front were quite appropriate, because my husband and I love escape rooms (and I used to work at one, and while I worked there, we had this expression put on a t-shirt). My mother-in-law went a step further, too, and wrote on the first few pages–a dedication, then some quotes about writing, and to the third page she taped the print-out shown in the right picture above.

I’m now caught up on sharing my notebooks, and I’ve been trying really hard not to get any more. But the only real way to avoid it is to stop going to the notebook section in stores that I visit…and I like to look at them. If I used them more quickly, I might not mind it so much, but it’s so much easier to type than to write in a notebook, as much as I love writing by hand. Anyway…

Do you collect anything related to reading or writing? Feel free to share!