A Study in Scarlet- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [Review]

”Truly you are brilliant Holmes!” -Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes series

I have always been intrigued about the Sherlock Holmes books. Part of me knew I would enjoy them but did not realise how much I would. I came across A-Study-in-Scarlet-by-Arthur-Conan-DoyleA Study in Scarlet on my bookshelf and thought it was about time I tried reading it. I was hooked from the first page. I did not put it down until it was finished. I think I even ignored my housemates for the day.  😛

A Study in Scarlet is the first book in the Sherlock Holmes series. It introduces readers to Dr. Watson, the intrepid chronicler, who is newly returned to London from the Afghanistan War after being shot in the leg. He is in search of a place to stay and through a mutual friend he meets the eccentric, nebulous Sherlock Holmes. Soon they both rent a room at 221B Baker Street. Watson learns who Sherlock really is and that he works as a consulting detective. A mystery case comes up and Sherlock Holmes is on the case with Dr. Watson by his side. A dead man is found in an abandoned house, no mark upon him, and no clues save for the word ‘RACHE’ written with blood on the wall.

Trivia for you: A Study in Scarlet was the first detective work of fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.

Trivia: A Study in Scarlet was the first detective work of fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.

Sherlock Holmes is a genius when it comes to clues and mystery, he plays the violin beautifully, but he is completely ignorant of other things- such as the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun. “His Ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge.” Dr Watson once remarked.  In addition, Sherlock is very cheerful, eccentric , sarcastic, loves to be flattered, and is bluntly honest. You cannot help but fall in love with his character and love him despite his many flaws. Watson’s witty and snarky (sometimes) comments about Sherlock Holmes are hilarious. You cannot help but laugh at his various observations for his fellow flatmate. He even writes a summary list of Sherlock Holmes’s strengths and weaknesses:

“1. Knowledge of Literature: Nil.
2. Knowledge of Philosophy: Nil.
3. Knowledge of Astronomy: Nil.
4. Knowledge of Politics: Feeble.
5. Knowledge of Botany: Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
6. Knowledge of Geology: Practical but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them.
7. Knowledge of Chemistry: Profound.
8. Knowledge of Anatomy: Accurate but unsystematic.
9. Knowledge of Sensational Literature: Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
10. Plays the violin well.
11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.”

The mystery itself is great and very well done. Clues were presented at a regular pace and you found yourself turning one page after another until you discovered who the murderer was and how the crime was done. A good crime mystery is that there are a number of suspects, each have their own agenda and you don’t know who the real guilty person is until the very end. You won’t see the ending come, which is why I love this book so much. If you happen to have watched the BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch I will say this; the first episode of the first series, A Study in Pink, is quite faithful to this book and maybe you won’t be surprised with who the murderer is  but the back stories are slightly changed so it is not as predictable as you might think.

After Sherlock Holmes apprehends the murderer, the entire narrative changes from Watson’s first person account to a third person omniscient. Conan Doyle does this in order to tell us the history of the murderer, his motives and his reasons. I have to say that I did not expect this and I did not know what to make of it, but I did enjoy this change of narration. I don’t think I have come across this in a novel (as far as I remember). I have read that some readers did not like this change and were struggling to get through the book as they missed Dr. Watson’s witty comments. However, I came to enjoy it and as wrong as this sounds I even felt sorry for the murderer. You get to hear both sides of the story as well as the murderer’s reasons for committing the crime. I liked that you got to read [in this book] about different cultures, different traditions in a different country in a completely different time; in this particular case it was about early Mormon settlements near Salt Lake City in 1847. There are some who believe that Conan Doyle was wrong to write this section of the books as he pictures Mormons in a very negative light. I will agree on that argument, when reading about the Mormons I did think that Arthur Conan Doyle was being harsh and maybe he had something against them? But then again this story was written and published in 1887. I did read somewhere that Doyle did state ” All I said about the Danite Band and the murders is historical so I cannot withdraw that”. Later on, his daughter added  “You know, father would be the first to admit that his first Sherlock Holmes novel was full of errors about the Mormons.” So whichever the case might be I am just going to focus on the fiction itself and not on the historical accuracy [which is surprising considering I am a Ancient Historian graduate and History fanatic!]

Overall, It is an incredible and good solid story with witty dialogue and fascinating character development.  Arthur Conan Doyle offers a story full of action, intrigue, and eerie suspense for any mystery-lover. Even Holmes’ arrogance and egotism is amusing and entertaining. A Study in Scarlet introduces us to Doyle’s most enduring character figure and one of the most iconic, strongest pairings in all literature. I thoroughly enjoyed A Study in Scarlet and I cannot wait until the next book in the series.

Sherlock_Holmes

“To a great mind, nothing is little.”

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard [Review]

‘Red Queen is a clever blend of The Hunger Games, The Selection, Graceling and Divergent.” – Starbust

Taken from the back cover of the book:
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite isbn9781409155843warriors with god-like powers. To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change. Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.
But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

This is Reds against Silvers,  prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart….

If you enjoyed reading The Hunger Games, Graceling and I guess the Divergent series [have not read Divergent yet] you will like/love this book. My reason for picking up this copy was due to my love of both the Hunger Games series and the Graceling series.

Red Queen opens with a Roman style amphitheatre battle between two Silvers. Full of plot twists and betrayals, soon you don’t know who to trust. The world that Victoria Aveyard has created is wonderful and capturing. Red blooded slum dwellers are ruled by the silver blooded nobility; who each have different powers and those with the strongest powers hold the higher chairs of nobility.Sound familiar?

 Due to the fact that Mare, a Red, discovers that she has an ability of her own, the King forces her to play the role of a long-lost Silver princess. She is soon betrothed to the second prince, Maven, and she is watched constantly by the Queen. Mare is drawn further  into the Silver world and uses her position to help the Scarlet Guard (Red rebellion group) hence risking everything. Mare is a great main character; she is fearless, rebellious, headstrong and very brave. She would do anything for her family and friends. In that sense, she reminds us of Katniss Everdeen and Katsa.  As far as the Princes go, you do not know who to root for. Maven, the youngest, who constantly lives in the shadow of his older brother or Cal, the Prince who is next in line for the throne and a soldier. You can guess from the beginning of the novel there will be a love triangle or should a say a love square? If there is such a thing as Mare acquires three male admirers.

 You are immediately hooked from the first page. You feel for the Reds and hate the Silvers, apart from maybe the Princes. 😉 Soon you do not know who to trust, the King’s second son Maven or his first born and heir Cal or maybe neither! One thing you do know, is that you hate Queen Elara. I can see how Red Queen is being compared with the Hunger Games, with its corrupt ‘government’ and rebellious groups.  You can even argue that you see a bit of Game of Thrones in this series especially when it comes to Queen Elara, who you could say was modelled of Cersei Lannister? Maybe.

It is well-written, fast-faced and in certain points predictable. However, I am willing to give it a chance because I feel like it will be a series that I will love and I could not put it down once reading it. It is the first book in a trilogy, so there is plenty of room left for Victoria Aveyard to ”spread her wings” and create a really good series. I might not love it as much as The Hunger Games and Graceling, but close enough. It is worth reading if you get a chance and I feel it will become a favourite amongst young-adults… even to a some extent adults. 😛

 ‘Power is a dangerous game.’

Lost Horizon- James Hilton [Review]

What a fantastic little story. The first time I ever came across ‘Lost Horizon’ was when I 71lMxC8oPCLwas looking at my mother’s books. This wee book caught my attention and I asked her about it. She told me that it is a lovely wee story set in Shangri-La and it involves a small group of people who after a plane crash find themselves in Shangri-La. She then stopped and just told me that I should read it and I will love it. Of course she was right. I am going to be honest, that it took me awhile before I could pick up ‘Lost Horizon’, I think I needed to be in a certain mood. I am glad that I finally picked it up. After finishing it I wondered why it took me so long to read it! Now that I have, I am happy.

It’s a magical story and a well-loved classic. Following a plane crash, Conway, a British consul; Millison,  his deputy;  Miss Brinklow, a missionary; and Bernard, an American financier find themselves in the enigmatic snow-capped mountains of uncharted Tibet. They soon discover a seemingly perfect hidden community where they are welcome with gracious hospitality. Soon though, our travellers set out to discover the secret which seems to be hidden in the heart of Shangri-La.

The book opens with our lead character, Conway, who is found in a hospital by a friend and has no memory of anything before he came to be there. His friend takes him out and puts him on a boat back to England. During their voyage, Conway happens to listen a man playing Chopin on a piano and after playing himself an unknown piece of music (which is clearly Chopin’s), remembers what happens to him. He then tells his friend and soon after we, the readers, get to hear Conway’s story through his own written manuscript.

Conway’s story is a wondrous tale, a tale that goes past any reason and it’s up to you whether you believe him or not. The story of what happened to Conway and his fellow companions is an extraordinary one. James HIlton’s ability to transport the reader into the magical world of Shangri-La is nothing less than beautiful.  Throughout this adventure we are introduced to interesting and well-crafted characters such as Chang; a postulant at the lamasery, who welcomes our travellers to Shangri-La, and the ‘all-mighty’ High Lama who Conway eventually meets (an un-heard honour) and is told the history of Shangri-La.

Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley. Janelle uses this because Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, it’s seen as a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. This is the refuge that Cindi Mayweather needs to escape from Metropolis

A beautiful story set deep within the Himalayans, sits a mysterious place known only to a few as Shangri-La.

‘Lost Horizon’ is a story well written, thought-provoking and a pleasure to read. An enchanting little book that I think everyone should read if they get the chance. I have read various different reviews concerning this book and one statement has stuck with me. It was remarked that ‘Lost Horizon’ is ”the type of book written to make the reader to think”. I have to agree; even after finishing this book James Hilton made me wonder about this ‘lost’ world.  The ending is left open (in my view) letting the reader decide whether Conway’s memories were real or not, and what happened to him after the end of the book.

It is a lovely wee story and I will end this post but saying this; James Hilton put a smile on my face with ‘Lost Horizon’ and I was still smiling even after finishing the last page.

”We rule with moderate strictness and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience. And I think I can claim that our people are moderately sober, moderately chaste and moderately honest.” – Chang from Lost Horizon