Tag: short stories

October 5, 2015

Mini Monday | “The Yellow Face” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Mini Monday | “The Yellow Face” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle"The Yellow Face" by Arthur Conan Doyle
Series: Sherlock Holmes
Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics, June 1st 2009
Pages: 893
Format: Paperback
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


The Complete Sherlock Holmes
comprises four novels and fifty-six short stories revolving around the world’s most popular and influential fictional detective—the eccentric, arrogant, and ingenious Sherlock Holmes. He and his trusted friend, Dr. Watson, step from Holmes’s comfortable quarters at 221b Baker Street into the swirling fog of Victorian London to exercise that unique combination of detailed observation, vast knowledge, and brilliant deduction. Inevitably, Holmes rescues the innocent, confounds the guilty, and solves the most perplexing puzzles known to literature.

After writing the quote only review of Scarlet last week, it felt like a perfect fit for my latest Sherlock reading.


In “The Yellow Face,” a distraught husband visits Sherlock and Watson. His wife, happily married for three years, is suddenly acting suspicious: midnight visits to the new tenants at a nearby cottage, unexplained absences, and sudden secrets. He asks the detectives to visit him and help unravel the mystery.

And without further ado…

” ‘I was badly in need of a case and this looks, from the man’s impatience, as if it were of importance” (419).

” ‘If you wish to preserve your incognito,’ said Holmes, smiling, ‘I would suggest that you cease to write your name upon the lining of your hat, or else that you turn the crown towards the person whom you are addressing’ ” (421).

” ‘The facts are these, Mr. Holmes,’ said he. ‘I am a married man and have been so for three years. During that time my wife and I have loved each other fondly and lived as happily as any two that were ever joined…And now, since last Monday, there has suddenly sprung up a barrier between us… We are estranged, and I want to know why’ “(421). 

” ‘And as I looked I suddenly became aware that a face was watching me out of one of the upper windows.
     ‘I don’t know what there was about that face, Mr. Holmes, but it seemed to send a chill right down my back’ “(422). 

” ‘My wife had always been a woman of a frank, open nature, and it gave me a chill to see her slinking into her own room and crying out and wincing when her own husband spoke to her’ ” (424). 

” ‘Still pulling at my sleeve, she led me away from the cottage. As we went I glanced back, and there was that yellow livid face watching us out of the upper window’ “(425). 

” ‘I am afraid that this is a bad business, Watson,’ said my companion…” (427).

“You have a theory?”
“Yes, a provisional one. But I shall be surprised if it does not turn out to be correct” (428).

” ‘You have forced me, against my own judgment, to tell you, and now we must both make the best of it’ “(430). 

” ‘Watson,’ said he, ‘if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper, “Norbury” in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you’ “(431). 

4 Stars

Posted October 5, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 21, 2015

Life Lessons from “Silver Blaze” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

by Arthur Conan Doyle

Title: “Silver Blaze”
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Publication Date: January 1982
Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics {this edition}
Series: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes {Book 1}
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

One of the most popular Sherlock Holmes short stories, “Silver Blaze” focuses on the disappearance of the titular race horse (a famous winner) on the eve of an important race and on the apparent murder of its trainer. The tale is distinguished by its atmospheric Dartmoor setting and late-Victorian sporting milieu. It also features some of Conan Doyle’s most effective plotting, hinging on the “curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”


I loved “Silver Blaze,” quite simply. There were so many aspects of this story I loved, but there were two common themes that stood out as I read. 


Without further ado, I present…




Life Lessons from Sherlock Holmes:


If you can’t explain it to someone else, you don’t understand it.
Sherlock to Holmes: 
     “…nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person…” (Doyle 400). 


If it’s too good to be true, it is.
Sherlock to Holmes on the inspector’s immediate arrest of a handy suspect:
     “Upon his arrival he promptly found and arrested the man upon whom suspicion naturally rested” (403). 




Stay tuned for more life lessons from the world’s favorite detective! 




Posted September 21, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 11, 2015

Review | “All Shook Up” by P.N. Elrod

Review | “All Shook Up” by P.N. ElrodMy Big Fat Supernatural Wedding by P.N. Elrod
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, October 2006
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
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Werewolves, vampires, witches, voodoo, Elvis---and weddings
An "ordinary" wedding can get crazy enough, so can you imagine what happens when otherworldly creatures are involved? Nine of the hottest authors of paranormal fiction answer that question in this delightful collection of supernatural wedding stories. What's the seating plan when rival clans of werewolves and vampires meet under the same roof? How can a couple in the throes of love overcome traps set by feuding relatives---who are experts at voodoo? Will you have a good marriage if your high-seas wedding is held on a cursed ship? How do you deal with a wedding singer who's just a little too good at impersonating Elvis?
· L. A. Banks· Jim Butcher· Rachel Caine· P. N. Elrod· Esther M. Friesner· Lori Handeland· Charlaine Harris· Sherrilyn Kenyon· Susan Krinard
Shape-shifters, wizards, and magic, oh my!

There are a lot of Elvis fans in my family. I don’t know if it’s genetic, but a good chunk of the family knows all the words to Viva Las Vegas (makes for interesting family dinners). After hearing such amazing things about Elrod, reading the previous two stories in this collection, and Elvis? “All Shook Up” looked to be right up my alley. 

I was in for a surprise.

Let’s back up: “All Shook Up” isn’t bad, but all of my expectations combined, I found it lacking. The main character, caterer Frankie, wasn’t inspiring or lovable. She was just, well, there. “Elvis” was a bit engaging and, seeing Frankie’s response to him, I hoped there would be some spark. Unfortunately, the story consisted of Frankie daydreaming while she listened to “Elvis” sing, magically entrancing the room. I didn’t buy the romantic sparks because the character wasn’t developed enough to make their reactions believable. 

The lack of context made “All Shook Up” just dull. One of the bridesmaids suddenly appears to know her well. They chat. Bridesmaid disappears. That’s that. 

Wait.

What?

I didn’t understand the random character, or what she brought to either Frankie or “Elvis.” The only character that stood out to me? Frankie’s grandmother, serving rolls on the buffet because she likes the weddings.

Maybe this was a fluke, or maybe “All Shook Up” just wasn’t for me. Either way, I want to try Elrod’s work again – any recommendations?

2 Stars

Posted September 11, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 17, 2015

Mini Monday | The Adventure of the Copper Beeches by Arthur Conan Doyle

Mini Monday | The Adventure of the Copper Beeches by Arthur Conan DoyleThe Adventure of the Cooper Beeches by Arthur Conan Doyle
Series: ,
Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics, June 2009
Pages: 893
Format: Paperback
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


The Complete Sherlock Holmes
comprises four novels and fifty-six short stories revolving around the world’s most popular and influential fictional detective—the eccentric, arrogant, and ingenious Sherlock Holmes. He and his trusted friend, Dr. Watson, step from Holmes’s comfortable quarters at 221b Baker Street into the swirling fog of Victorian London to exercise that unique combination of detailed observation, vast knowledge, and brilliant deduction. Inevitably, Holmes rescues the innocent, confounds the guilty, and solves the most perplexing puzzles known to literature.

Volume I
of The Complete Sherlock Holmes starts with Holmes's first appearance, A Study in Scarlet, a chilling murder novel complete with bloodstained walls and cryptic clues, followed by the baffling The Sign of Four, which introduces Holmes';s cocaine problem and Watson's future wife. The story collections The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes feature such renowned tales as "A Scandal inBohemia," "The Red-Headed League," and "The Musgrave Ritual."
Tired of writing stories about Holmes, his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, killed him off at the end of "The Final Problem," the last tale in The Memoirs. But the public outcry was so great that eight years later he published the masterful The Hound of the Baskervilles, which supposedly takes place before Holme's death.
The separate Volume II of The Complete Sherlock Holmes collects the remaining accounts of Holmes's exploits, including "The Adventure of the Empty House," which reveals the elaborate circumstances behind Holmes's literary resurrection.
A Sherlock Holmes enthusiast for many years, Kyle Freeman earned two graduate degrees in English literature from Columbia University, where his major was twentieth-century British literature. He has seen just about all the Holmes movies of the last sixty years, as well as the television series with Jeremy Brett. Now working as a computer consultant, he constantly puts into practice Sherlock Holmes’s famous statement—“Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published the first Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, in 1887, and the popularity of the famed sleuth singularly determined the author’s enduring legacy. But in addition to his mysteries, nonfiction, and historical works, Doyle enjoyed many adventures of his own. In 1900 he traveled to South Africa as a war-time physician in Cape Town; his treatise on the Boer War earned him a knighthood in 1902. During World War I, Conan Doyle served as a war correspondent. And from 1920 until his death in 1930, the author wrote, traveled, and lectured to promote his belief in spiritualism

Holmes and Watson have a visitor one morning, the beautiful governess Miss Violet Hunter. Her tale starts as she applies for a new position and finds the nearly perfect one: one charge and a high wage. The drawback? Her employer has some unusual requests, such as cutting off her hair, wearing and electric blue dress, and sitting in a particular spot when he tells her to. Her visit ends with Holmes offering his assistance should she ever need it.


Although there’s a great deal more to the story, I can’t go into it without ruining the plot twists (and believe me, there’s quite a few). “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” had an air of the uncanny, the vaguely terrifying, from the moment Miss Hunter began her story. Although her employers, the Rucastles, were offering an excellent salary for such a position, the life he outlined in their brief interview (recounted by Hunter) terrified me. The precise nature of the requests, the strange excitement he displayed when he first saw Hunter, and odder experiences she has at the house all catapult “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” to number one on the list of my favorite Sherlock stories. 

Why? For such a short story, “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” is captivating. Aside from the mystery and the uncanny air, Doyle allows both Holmes’ and Watson’s characters to shine through individually: Holmes in his element and Watson, even slightly perturbed, in his. 

5 Stars

Posted August 17, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 10, 2015

Mini Monday | “Last Call” by Jim Butcher

Mini Monday | “Last Call” by Jim ButcherLast Call by Jim Butcher
Series: The Dresden Files, #12.5
Publisher: Roc, October 2010
Pages: 418
Format: Paperback
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Here, together for the first time, are the shorter from Jim Butcher's DRESDEN FILES series — a compendium of cases that Harry and his cadre of allies managed to close in record time. The tales range from the deadly serious to the absurdly hilarious. Also included is a new, never-before-published novella that takes place after the cliff-hanger ending of the new April 2010 hardcover.

 

Out of the stories in Side Jobs, “Last Call” stands as my favorite. Why? Simple. It combines the comedic chaos of Harry’s everyday life, his relationship with the Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, and the perfect twist of the paranormal.

“Last Call” reminds me the most of The X-Files, but with a little True Blood thrown in. The banter and relationship between Harry and Murphy are so reminiscent of Mulder and Scully that it made me laugh. The end of the story made me want to watch the second season of True Blood to get my maenad fix.

While the investigation of the case wasn’t unusual, I loved how the story progressed and moved quickly into the unexpected. There is no way on earth I would have predicted, well, that.

“Last Call” is a fantastic story for those who want to try The Dresden Files on for size or looking to get a quick fix. With the trademark hilarity, fast paced and engaging story, this remains my favorite out of the short story collection.

5 Stars

Posted August 10, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 20, 2015

Mini Monday | “The Warrior” by Jim Butcher

Title: “The Warrior”
Author: Jim Butcher {website}
Publication Date: January 2009
Publisher: Roc
Series: The Dresden Files {Book 9.5}
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Butcher’s “The Warrior” tells the story of Michael (Harry’s old friend, conscience, and a Knight of the Cross) and a threat to his family. Harry, unable to leave a friend in danger, stands by his side and helps him defend his family against things that he doesn’t even quite understand.

I’ve mentioned before in these Mini Monday posts that I don’t typically read author forewards or introductions because I want to get into a story without any preconceived notions. I’ve found myself reading Butcher’s short intros before each of the Dresden novellas and have fallen in love with them. (Maybe I’ve been really missing something all this time?) Before “The Warrior,” Butcher explains how the power of one action creates so many consequences. Not necessarily negative consequences, but how what you choose to say (or not say) in a certain moment lends so much power to the future. He explores this theme after the end of Small Favor, leaving it for the reader to judge the harshness of Michael’s lot. 

I am consistently amazed at the amount of detail and character development in these short stories. Michael’s character, already so well-established in the series, is fleshed out once again, and Dresden finally sees a hint of Michael’s dark side. Both men (the main characters in this story) shine through brilliantly. 

In short, if you’re a fan of Michael, “The Warrior” is a must-read. This story is also a great example of the depth of The Dresden Files – it’s not just magic and fancy spells. Butcher tackles more difficult issues, and the way that he does so has me coming back for more. 


Posted July 20, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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July 6, 2015

Mini Monday | “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Title: “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor”
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Publication Date: April 1891 {original edition}
Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics {this edition}
Series: Sherlock Holmes
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The story entails the bride of the fictional Lord Robert St. Simon disappearing on the day of their marriage. She attends (and participates in) the wedding, but disappears from the reception. There are many questions that Holmes must sift through.

This installment of Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorites for one major reason: “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” emphasizes the power of conversation and listening. Sherlock solves a majority of the case just by carefully listening to Lord St. Simon’s tale. So many of us just don’t listen to what others say, and Doyle shows his readers that so much information can be found in what the other person says.

The Sherlock Holmes collection covers a great deal of themes, but this is the first time I saw Doyle explore the power of true love. I won’t say more so I don’t give anything away, but I loved the attention to this particular theme, especially in the mystery of the missing bride.

Sherlock doesn’t show a lot of favor for the nobility, but I loved the stuffiness and starch manner of Lord St. Simon. His arrogance shines through from the first moment he steps in Sherlock’s door, even in his original, humbler manner. I feel like there’s a lot more hidden in Doyle’s collection of works about his stance on nobility – actually, it would be an interesting paper to read…


Posted July 6, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 29, 2015

Mini Monday | “Backup” by Jim Butcher

Title: “Backup”
Author: Jim Butcher {website}
Publication Date: October 2010
Publisher: Roc

Series: The Dresden Files {10.4}
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Let’s get something clear right up front. I’m not Harry Dresden. Harry’s a wizard. A genuine, honest-to-goodness wizard. He’s Gandalf on crack and an IV of Red Bull, with a big leather coat and a .44 revolver in his pocket. He’ll spit in the eye of gods and demons alike if he thinks it needs to be done, and to hell with the consequences–and yet somehow my little brother manages to remain a decent human being. I’ll be damned if I know how. But then, I’ll be damned regardless. My name is Thomas Raith, and I’m a monster. So begins “Backup” a twelve thousand word novelette set in Jim Butcher’s ultra-popular Dresden Files series. This time Harry’s in trouble he knows nothing about, and it’s up to his big brother Thomas to track him down and solve those little life-threatening difficulties without his little brother even noticing.

I was pretty excited when I came across a novelette written in Thomas’ perspective. Thomas, a fascinating supporting character to The Dresden Files, has always been one of the best of the series, so I was curious to see how his story would turn out.

The writing seemed off somehow: there were a lot of repetitive phases in the story. Surprisingly, Thomas’s narration wasn’t as exciting as Harry’s typically is. Normally, the narration draws me in, sinks me into the paranormal world of Chicago, and doesn’t let go until long after I’ve finished. The connection to Harry’s vibrant character always makes The Dresden Files such an incredible read, but without it, “Backup” just didn’t do it.

Thomas is one of my favorite characters in the series, but he wasn’t strong enough to be a main character. He lacked that same vibrancy and sarcasm that I’ve come to love from him as a supporting character. Combined with a somewhat weak plot (saving Harry from unknown monsters was a good idea, but the execution was poor), “Backup” wasn’t the best example of his character nor The Dresden Files.


Posted June 29, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 25, 2015

Mini Wednesday | The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Title: “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb”
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Publication Date: 1892 {first edition}
Publisher: Barnes & Noble

Series: Sherlock Holmes
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

It all begins with a young engineer, holding a bloody napkin to his hand as he sits in Sherlock’s house. A little strange, but it is Sherlock, nonetheless. As Mr. Victor Hatherley relates his strange tale, full of mistaken identity and a mysterious house with a machine hidden in its depths, “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” goes out of the expected. 


My first reaction: “Well, that was a bit unusual.”


Truly, this was the first time I was inclined to pull the shades and hide from the darkness as I read. “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” was much creepier and unsettling than I expected. The Sherlock Holmes series isn’t exactly known for being light-hearted, but this story was the first step into the realm of true dark. I loved this step, but have to admit, I found it a little scarier than I expected.


“The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” is one of the few cases that Doyle creates where Sherlock does not bring justice at the end of the story. This change shakes the series up, casting Sherlock in a more human light. I like that each case doesn’t follow a certain cookie-cutter pattern, and Sherlock doesn’t always win, but he always figures it out. 


Posted June 25, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 15, 2015

Mini Monday | “Day Off” by Jim Butcher

Title: “Day Off”
Author: Jim Butcher {website}
Publication Date: November 2010
Publisher: Roc Books

Series: The Dresden Files {Book 12.5}
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Harry Dresden is always on the clock, paid or not. Chicago’s only professional wizard rarely takes time off protecting the city from the mischievous characters of the Nevernever, but in Butcher’s short story, “Day Off,” Harry makes plans with the gorgeous Anastasia Luccio. However, with Harry, nothing is quite that easy. 

At first, the comedy felt a little forced. I didn’t quite fall in with Harry playing games with the rest of the Alphas, the werewolf pack he befriends in a earlier series installment. It’s not that it didn’t fit his personality…it just felt odd. Harry typically doesn’t take much time to play board games in The Dresden Files, so it felt a little out of character.

But as the absurdity mounted, the more I enjoyed the hilarity. From the pack of Slytherin-wannabes (complete with a Dark Mark tattoo) to his apprentice’s lab experiments going just slightly awry, Butcher makes one thing clear: Harry’s life is never easy. What really got me was Luccio’s entrance near the end of the story: it was the perfect description of her character’s true nature as well as Harry’s own tendency for trouble.

“Day Off” was a fun, quick read, one that made the end of a long day at work lighter. I loved Butcher’s little reminder that the best-laid plans always go awry, and sometimes, that’s okay.


Posted June 15, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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