Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Review: The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1

  • By: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Pub. Date: September 2003

  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble

  • Format: Paperback , 752pp  

  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series

  • ISBN-13: 9781593080341

  • ISBN: 1593080344

  • Source: Personal Copy

  • Synopsis:

    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.

    My Review:

    After two weeks, I finally finished volume 1 of the Sherlock Holmes! I don't know why it took me so long to read this book, especially since I read for quite a few hours this past Saturday, for Dewey's 24 hour readathon. I know part of it is that I now have a part-time job and school is picking up in my time requirements for studying. However, the Sherlock Holmes stories were fun and I still think I should have been able to read it quicker.

    Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this volume of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work. I picked the Barnes & Noble edition because it contains all of the Holmes stories, in order of publication, within just two volumes. I didn't want to buy just a single copy of one of the novels, find out that I liked the stories, and then have to buy several different books to get all of the stories. Plus, since Holmes often references past cases, I think it's worthwhile to read them in order.

    This first volume included three short novels and 23 short stories. I'm not going to summarize each story, especially since I would probably give away the ending to some of them, but rather give my overall impressions. I became particularly interested in Sherlock Holmes after seeing the movie featuring Robert Downey, Jr (I highly recommend this movie, especially since there is a sequel coming out later this year!). It was interesting to see the backstory for both Watson and Holmes in the first novel of the collection, A Study in Scarlet. It provided some context for both their personal lives and how their relationship came together.

    I enjoyed the novels more than the short stories, but that is also just my personal preference since I generally like longer novels more than anything else. There is more background and twists and turns in a novel than in a 15 page short story. I was able to guess the ending to some of the short stories, but not all. I highly enjoyed Sherlock Holmes deductions when he would denounce the guilty party and explain his logical reasoning. However, although Holmes was a great character to follow, I'm glad the readers view is through Watson's eyes since he can give us an account of Holmes deductions and also be a reliable narrator that will tell us everything else that is going on. I think if we were in Sherlock Holme's head, the reader would become extremely confused since I doubt many could follow Holme's thoughts when he is 'on the scent.'

    Overall, I found the Sherlock Holmes stories really entertaining and I'm glad Sir Arthur Conan Doyle continued to write them, even after he got sick of them and killed off Holmes :) I'm looking forward to the second volume of the stories. I recommend these stories for anyone looking for some fun, and rather quick mysteries. Some stories are not appropriate for children because some of the murders are a little grizzly and there is also some drug use by Sherlock Holmes.

    My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    It's 24 Hour Readathon Time!

    I've decided to keep one master readathon post which I'll update throughout the day. So, if anyone wants to follow me during my reading escapades, just stay tuned in to this post! :)

    I'm getting a little bit of a late start since I forgot to set my alarm, but it's okay since I got up only 15 minutes late and my husband helped get my coffee going. I'm looking forward to reading so I'm going to keep the introduction short.

    1. The Complete Sherlock Holmes Volume 1 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Started at page 284-
    The first hour of the readathon is some introductory questions:

    1)Where are you reading from today?
    I live in Pittsburgh, PA and will  be reading in my house... probably either on the couch or recliner. I may go out for some coffee later if I need a change in location.

    2)Three random facts about me…
    a- I've driven across country twice (well, I didn't actually drive because I was too young, but I went across country with my family). b-I've been married for over a year now. c-I went to the opera last night and loved it.

    3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
    I participated in the readathon last spring and was way to overambitious in my goals, plus I like to sleep and can't stay up the whole 24 hours. So my TBR for today is to finish up Volume 1 of the complete Sherlock Holmes and get a good start- at least half way through- on The Inferno by Dante Aligheiri.

    4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
    See above in my answer for #3. I want to keep today relaxed and a great time to just sit down and read since I've been really busy lately.

    5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
    This is just my second time participating in the 24 hour readathon, but I guess I'd tell people to relax and have a great day. Last time I tried to do too much with trying to read a lot and participate in the mini-challenges. Today I want to mostly read and do just a little online participation.

    Update #2- Photo Mini-Challenge

    It's not a picture of a character, but rather a representation of Hell, which I'll be reading about in The Inferno later today.
    Update #3:

    Well, I'm almost 4 hours into the readathon (since I didn't get going until 8:30~ish EST). I never thought I was such a slow reader, but I'm only on page 358 and I started at 284, meaning I've read only 74 pages so far. However, I've gotten online once an hour to update and look at the new posts on which must be really slowing me down. Plus, my husband came home from his 15 mile run and wanted to talk... the nerve. ;-) I'll just have to stop getting distracted and start plowing through my book so I can move onto the next one. 

    Update #4:

    It's now 4:08 EST and I've been "reading" for 8 hours now! Reading is in quotes because of course I've done other stuff in the past 8 hours, but reading has been my main focus. I took a shower a couple hours ago to feel all nice and clean and refreshed, then I made some popcorn to munch on. Then I ended up falling asleep for a little bit, but now I'm back and ready to keep tackling my book! I don't know if I'm just a slow reader or maybe I'm reading the Sherlock Holmes stories particularly slow because I like to pick up on clues before Holmes divulges the secret to the mysteries, but I'm now on page 462, which means I've read only 178 pages. I really need to pick it up! Hopefully my husband will come home soon and maybe make some dinner or at least feed me a snack so I can keep going! I hope everyone else is having a wonderful readathon!

    Update #5:

    14 hours into the readathon and I'm still going, albeit quite a bit slower than earlier. My husband felt like talking earlier so I spent some time on the couch with him... trying to read and respond to him at the same. I'm on page 596 now in the Sherlock Holmes volume and I'm in The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is the last story of this volume! My new goal is just to finish this before falling asleep, which I should be able to do. If I get started on The Inferno, I'll count that as a bonus for today :)

    Final Update:

    The readathon has been over for 30 minutes. I'm rather disappointed in my own performance for this readathon. I felt like I was reading all day yesterday (I did stop at midnight and went to bed), but I didn't even finish the book I had already started. I'm reading a Sherlock Holmes collection and yesterday I read from page 284 to only 630, which is a total of 346 pages. Now, the print is small and I tried to pay attention to all of the details to figure out the mysteries... but I still should have read more pages than that! Maybe I'll do better next time...

    Have Fun Reading!

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Updates and Readathons

    So... I am back in school and got a job, so my book reviews have really fallen to the wayside. I don't know how many actually read this blog but I feel guilty whenever I glance over at my small pile of books waiting to be reviewed. My reading has also slowed down but I do have several books finished and waiting to be reviewed on here. I'm going to try to get back on track and starting updating By the By Books as often as possible.

    To help me get back on track, I'm going to try to participate as much as possible in two upcoming readathons. I participated in last spring's Dewey's 24 hour readathon and loved it! I still went to sleep that night, but I tried to read as much as possible while I was awake. Dewey's read a thon is this weekend, and I may be going out some to see friends, but when I'm home and awake, I want to read! If you're interested in finiding out more about Dewey's 24 hour read a thon, go here.

    November 18-20 is the Re-readathon hosted by The Perpetual Page Turner at
    This readathon is for giving us time to re-read books that we don't always have the time to get back to. Ever since starting my blog, I've been loathe to re-read books because I want to keep adding new and fresh reviews, however I really love to re-read my favorite books. Maybe I'll use this readathon to re-read the Harry Potter series, which I like to do about once a year, or I'll go back and read some of my favorites since starting this blog. This readathon hits the start of my Thanksgiving break, so I shouldn't have much schoolwork to do, which will give me the excuse to take the weekend off and just enjoy my books.

    I hope this readathon planning and finding the balance between school, work, spending time with my husband and friends, and reading will allow me to start posting new book reviews with some regularity. Please bear with me when my blog slows down, I'm not leaving any time soon. :)

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Book Review: Road from the West by Rosanne E. Lortz

  • Road from the West

  • By: Rosanne E. Lortz

  • Pub. Date: September 2011

  • Publisher: Madison Street Publishing

  • Format: Paperback , 360pp  

  • ISBN-13: 9780983671909

  • ISBN: 0983671907

  • Source: ARC from publisher through Historical Fiction Book Tours

  • Synopsis:

    Haunted by guilt from the past and nightmares of the future, a young Norman named Tancred takes the cross and vows to be the first to free Jerusalem from the infidels. As he journeys to the Holy Land, he braves vast deserts, mortal famine, and the ever-present ambushes of the enemy Turks—but the greatest danger of all is deciding which of the Crusader lords to trust. A mysterious seer prophesies that Tancred will find great love and great sorrow on his journey, but the second seems intent on claiming him before he can find the first. Intrigues and passions grow as every battle brings the Crusaders one step closer to Jerusalem. Not all are destined to survive the perilous road from the West.

    My Review:

    I must admit that I know shamefully little about the Crusades, so when I was offered the opportunity to read Roseanne Lortz's Road from the West, I was excited to find out it was about the First Crusade. Road from the West is the first book in the trilogy Chronicles of Tancred.

    Road from the West follows Tancred, a young Marqus from the west. Tancred is out fighting alonside his Uncle Bohemond one day when he has a revelation. The men he is killing are all Christians and it must be a sin for Christians to fight other Christians. Tancred has also been having dreams where he is condemned on Judgement Day because of his sins. In an abrupt moment of clarity for Tancred, he stops fighting and calmly leaves the battlefield. From there, Tancred travels to Rome to speak to Pope Urban to learn how to cleanse his soul.

    Pope Urban convinces Tancred to join in his call for a crusade to rid Jerusalem of the Muslim infidels and reclaim all the lands gained on the journey for Christians. Tancred is won over b Pope Urban's call and leaves to tell his Uncle of his new mission. Then Tancred learns that Bohemond is also joining the crusades, but not for religious reasons. Bohemond wants to gain land, wealth, and titles from himself. Regardless of motive, they set off with their troops following along together with some other western troops who also heeded the call for the crusade.

    Lortz's narrative is wonderfully written. The writing is very simple, but in a good way. I felt that this section of history, which is almost 1000 years old, was fresh and easily understandable for today's reader. The actions, descriptions, and motives of most of the characters are clear and concise. Also, it felt well researched and I learned a lot about some major players of the crusades. Road from the West is a entertaining and informative read. However, I do think that the book lacked some emotion for the reader to relate to the characters. So, while I'm interested in Tancred's adventures, it's more of a passive or intellectual interest rather than an emotional need to make sure that he survives the crusade.

    Road from the West is the first book of a trilogy. As I finished this book last night, I was ready to jump right into the second book. I don't know when the next book will be released, but I'm looking forward to it!

    My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    I received one copy of Road from the West for free to review. This did not affect my review in any way and I did not receive any other compensation for my review.

    Event Hashtag for Tour: #RoadFromTheWestVirtualBookTour