The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a review

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Every. Single. Sherlock story. This collection from Penguin comes in at 1122 pages. And I read it in a week. Ejit 😂

The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This collection includes all of the short story collections, as well as the longer standalone short stories. These are: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Valley of Fear, His Last Bow, and The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes.

In a slightly backwards step, I read The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes first. It was the only short story collection in there that I hadn’t read a single story from, and I was reading this to fulfil the prompt for MiddleEarthAThon of reading a short story collection. Unfortunately this was also one of my least favourites out of the collection. This was the very last thing Conan Doyle wrote for Sherlock and he was pretty fed up of him by this point. It shows. These cases were really easy to solve, I was solving them straight away. They just had a lot less care put into them.

But I wasn’t being deterred! I went back to the start and continued reading this collection! After watching so many adaptations, it was quite odd to read some of these original stories for the first time. Because I knew the plot so well I’d just assumed before that I’d already read them, but I’m pretty sure now that I hadn’t. So at least I’ve fixed that!

A Study in Scarlet is the first ever Sherlock story, introducing Holmes and Watson to the public, as well as to each other. We have American’s being mysterious murdered on our shores, apparently due to their relation to some sinister groups that have been growing in power in the US and the UK. This is a fantastic introduction to these characters and definitely a staple for any Holmes fan.

The Sign of Four is where we meet Watson’s future wife. A young woman comes to consult Holmes, she is mysteriously receiving a large pearl each year but this year she has apparently been contacted by the provider, wanting to meet with her. This unfortunately is laced with racism, with the story having an Indian setting and the thoughts of the time coming out in full force. The actual mystery is still interesting, but because of the racism I wouldn’t place this as a staple.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes contains a lot of the core short stories, but it also contains a fair few that our detective never manages to solve. The primary of these being our first introduction to The Woman, Irene Adler, in A Scandal in Bohemia. A great collection.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes are where we first meet Moriarty, and also where Holmes and Moriarty visit Reichenbach falls. The rest of the short stories in this collection are a little tame, although enjoyable. But The Final Problem is definitely worth a read. Conan Doyle had wanted this to be the final Holmes story, but the public didn’t agree.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes involves the detective coming back from his presumed death, and that story itself is great fun. There are 13 other stories in this collection which are interesting and a little bit tricky. Again Conan Doyle wanted to end things here for Sherlock, and again he failed, but The Second Stain is an interesting (attempt at a) final short story which I really enjoyed.

The Hounds of the Baskervilles is a classic for a reason, this is an engrossing story and one which Conan Doyle was the most proud of I believe. It’s so in depth and well crafted, even knowing the story from adaptations I still wasn’t exactly sure what was coming on the next page. This is an absolute staple and is arguably the best of all the Sherlock Holmes stories.

The Valley of Fear is one that is a lot more niche. I’ve seen adaptations of it of course, but it’s definitely less prevalent. Moriarty is involved in this story, but primarily in the background. Instead we follow a man who is being hunted for acts he committed in the US. I found the UK side of the story fine, but I didn’t enjoy Conan Doyle’s writing once we moved across the pond and followed these events first-hand. Although I can’t deny that they were interesting.

And finally, because of my weird reading order, His Last Bow. In this collection Holmes has been drawn out of retirement to assist the Government during the approach of the First World War, and we see him assisting the Prime Minister. But we also are provided, thanks to Watson, stories from Holmes’ earlier cases that are no longer restricted from being told. This wasn’t one of my favourites, but I did still enjoy it.

Overall, I’m so so glad that I’ve finally read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories! And even for those stories that I didn’t love, I did enjoy all of them. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing in the Holmes stories is one I greatly enjoy, and whilst I’ve heard that his writing in other works is not the same, I would like to try some of his non-Holmes stories.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 7 giving an average of 7.29 and a 4* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: drug addiction, death, body shaming, racial slurs, racism, misogyny, ableism, forced marriage, homophobia, kidnapping, murder, domestic violence (referenced).

I still can’t quite believe that I managed to read this in a week, but I’m glad that I managed it! I’m also really glad that I’m now able to say definitively that I’ve read all of the Sherlock works. These are classics for a reason and were a lot of fun to read, but I might be all Sherlocked out for a little bit 😅

Have you read any Sherlock books? Whether the originals from Conan Doyle or any of the myriad of adaptations? I’ve read a fair few of the retellings and the adaptations over the years, as well as watching them! There’s just something about Holmes that the public can’t get enough of.

Some Jane Austen for my July

If you read classics, and if you’ve liked what you’ve read from Austen before… it’s kinda mandatory to read one of her books in July. Right? Well at least I think so, which is why I read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen this July.

I’m not gunna lie, I picked this one because it was the shortest in my bind up collection out of the books I’ve yet to read. I didn’t want to make my tbr any harder than it had to be! But this ended up being a really fun choice.

Austen used this novel to poke some fun at her gothic literature counterparts. Playing with, and making fun of, the tropes they so often utilised within their works. It’s all in good jest though, and I did really like how she interwove this in with the main character so that it wasn’t something at odds with the rest of the book.

The ending of this one is exactly what I had expected. It’s an Austen novel, I think all the endings are the same. Right? I don’t know, I’ve not read them all yet. Ask me in five years and I might be able to get back to you. But yes, the ending was exactly what one would predict. But there’s a plot twist that you (if you’re like me) definitely won’t expect. Shocking behaviour!

Also within this novel, I adored Austen’s discussions on novels and literature, discussing their importance and utility. As well as discussions on friendship, first impressions of people, and gut reactions not always being the best move (surprise suprise)

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 6, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: , Intrigue: , Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 6. Giving a score of 6.29 and a 3.5* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: toxic friendship, misogyny, domestic abuse, infidelity, gaslighting, death of parent, classism, adult/minor relationship, death, confinement.

This was definitely a novel of Austen’s that was worth reading. If you’ve read anything from her before and enjoyed it then I definitely recommend! I wouldn’t say that this is the best novel to start with however. It’s definitely (imo) best appreciated when already having knowledge of Austen’s writing style so you can see how she mocks the gothic tropes.

Have you read this Austen work, or any others by her? I know that some people aren’t keen on her writing. And usually I wouldn’t go for the genre she writes in, but for some reason I just really enjoy her novels!

Back Into Reading! My July wrap up and stats!

I’ve had a big dip in my reading lately. Life came up on me and so reading had to take a back seat, but by the end of the month I seem to have gotten back into my stride. Despite that, I did “only” manage 7 books (I was averaging around 13 books before, 7 books is still a great number!).

I read 2410 pages this month, with 18 hours of audiobook listening. Which is the most I’ve done in any month so far. Despite that, I read mostly physical books, 6 in fact. With only the 1 audiobook (The Fellowship of the Ring). And surprising nobody, 4 out of the 7 books were fantasy!

I started out the month by reading Pompeii by Salvatore Nappo. This is a guide book to Pompeii that was published in 1998 and gifted to my family then. None of us ever got around to reading it, and seeing as I was in Pompeii last month now seemed like a good time! Despite it being a little old the information in here was still mostly accurate (what’s been excavated being the most inaccurate – obviously) and super interesting.

Then I finished Rivers of London by Ben Arronovitch and I couldn’t stop thinking about this book after I finished it! A Met Police PC discovers the occult and supernatural and ends up joining the department of the Met that deals with magical crimes. I did have a few issues with this book, but honestly I can’t get it out of my head and I’m definitely carrying on with the series.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen was my next read. This is my fourth book by her (if you include Lady Susan) and yet again I really enjoyed it! I like how it played on the gothic tropes and made fun of them a little whilst also advocating for reading and having some great quotes. I don’t know why I like her books so much, because I wouldn’t think of picking them up if they were contemporary now. But I’m not complaining!

A translated piece of fiction from Japan, The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa made me sob. Honestly my face was not fit for public consumption. Christ. I was red as a tomato and sniffling like a child who just finished throwing a tantrum. This book is so beautiful, and so heartwrenching. I don’t want to tell you much, because it’s learning about the events themselves that give the impact of the book. But the general plot is that it’s a road trip across Japan with this man and his cat, as he tries to find a new home for the cat. 5 stars!

Goldsboro did it once again with their amazing GSFF box pick, Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro. Think Peculiar Children but for adults. The magic system in here was amazing, I loved the conversation about taking children from their homes and their loved ones. I loved each and every side plot in here and wish that we could have them all fleshed out. It was just an amazing experience and this is another 5 star read for me. Read it.

Unfortunately, my next book wasn’t so great, and that’s Book of Night by Holly Black. This was the Illumicrate book for last month, but because I wasn’t reading this month’s book (cause it’s racist) I thought I’d catch up on my missed reading from my holidays with this one. It’s fine? The magic is interesting but I just couldn’t get along with Black’s writing style. And given this is supposed to be an adult title it felt incredibly YA.

Luckily my final book puts things on an upspin with The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein finally being on my read shelves! I listened to this via audiobook, which was a fantastic experience, and I’m so mad that I didn’t pick these books up sooner! I need to read the next two! I’m so glad Lizzie is hosting the MiddleEarthAThon to kick me into gear to read these!

And those are my reads! I seem to be getting back into my books now, fingers crossed (touch wood, and every other superstition available), and I’m looking forward to all the new stories I can get to next month! If you’d like to see how my balancing of the books went in July? Well you’ll have to subscribe to my BookTube channel so you get notified when that video comes out! (soon!)

What’s your favourite read of July? Mine has to be a tie between The Travelling Cat Chronicles, and Ordinary Monsters!

War and Peace, a review

This review can’t do this book justice. The book is too big. Too many topics are covered. But as you most likely already know, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is a Russian classic centred around the invasion of Napoleon into Russia in 1812.

The title of this book is actually quite literal. With us following characters both in the warzone and on the front lines of this battle, as well as back home in the estates and the cities. The two parts were often quite separate, and overall we (give me a mo) preferred the peace sections over the war sections, pretty much every time.

The “we” is because I buddy read this with the wonderful Olivia-Savannah from Olivia’s Catastrophe through most of 2021. We started out reading one chapter each day on the 1st January, and thanks to us switching it up and reading two chapters on weekends we finished the book on the 28th September rather than the 31st December!

Reading this along with Olivia had a large role in my enjoyment of it. It adored discussing the book with her every day, with it often being the highlight of the day!

Now onto the actual book. There was some fantastic character development through this tome, with us following some from childhood into adulthood and some from adulthood into old age. Tolstoy managed to make these characters progressions feel real, it wasn’t idealised, nor was it over exaggerated. Instead it felt like a realistic evolution based on each individuals circumstances.

My two favourite characters were Pierre and Nat, pretty much from the start! I did also love Boris at the start, but liked him less as the book went on. And I didn’t like Andrew at the start, but definitely liked him more as the book progressed.

In fact me and Olivia frequently mentioned that with the peace chapters they often felt a bit like a British soap opera, like Coronation Street or EastEnders, in how dramatic the individual plotlines were! It was so entertaining!

However, the plot wasn’t as strong for me as the characters and there reactions were. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty going on. These characters lives were set around the very real events of 1812, which was in the recent past for Tolstoy as he wrote this in 1869, and lots of details in regards to the war and the response from those “back home” were included. It wasn’t as in depth as the characters though, and it didn’t feel as well rounded. I think Tolstoy may have been relying on a level of intimacy with the events that the Russians he was writing for would have, and that your modern day Western reader doesn’t posses. So I wont fault him for this, but it is something to be aware of going in.

On CAWPIILE I rated this book: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 6, Writing: 7, Plot: 5, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 5. An overall score of 6.86 being a 3 star read.

For me the war chapters brought this book down from a possible 4 star rating. But the nail in the coffin was the epilogue. The epilogue (at least in the Maude translation) is split into two. One part looks ahead to the characters futures, the second is a philosophical discussion. To quickly and succinctly tackle part one? It ruined a lot of the character development for me. The development we saw through the whole tome isn’t present here with the characters reverting to previous iterations of themselves or evolving into something utterly unrealistic. I personally have just “forgotten” about this ending and leave it where it was at the end of the main text.

Now onto epilogue two. This is basically the entire reason Tolstoy wrote this book. He originally wrote an essay on his thoughts on Napoleon and the war, but no one wanted to publish it. So in order to get his thoughts out he instead wrote this entire massive book. That’s also part of why I didn’t like the war sections, they were often filled with the same thing as this second epilogue: philosophical discussions on the war from Tolstoy’s point of view. What he thinks of Napoleon (he really doesn’t like him and boy does he make that clear) as well as the Russian’s tactics and how they won the war. He just goes on and on, repeating the same point with different words about the philosophy of history. And these chapters (because of course the epilogue is more that a chapter long each) feel like Tolstoy is beating you over the head with a philosophical hammer. It absolutely ruins the rest of the book.

I understand many people are completionists. I am too. But if you can bare to not read the epilogue, or to just skim read it, I really recommend doing that. You’ll have a much more positive view of the book overall!

I’m still very glad I read this classic though. There are so many interesting discussion to be had, I adored the chats that me and Olivia had each day, and it’s a chunky classic that’s off of my shelves! I really do think that it’s a good book and for the experience it was worth the long read. Just beware the epilogues!

Wuthering Heights, a review

I only picked up Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, because Caitlyn from Mad Cheshire Rabbit is obsessed with the book. It’s one of her favourites and to make sure that I would actually pick it up… Caitlyn bought me it 😂

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2021 was the year of the classics for me so I ended up enjoying the reading experience a lot more than I had expected, so thank you Caitlyn!

This is quite an odd book. I’ve of course heard things about the general story over time, as happens with most classics but I didn’t expect just how weird it would be!

Another thing I hadn’t expected was related to how Heathcliff has been portrayed in every adaptation I’ve seen ever. He’s always portrayed as white? He isn’t! It’s made pretty clear that part of the reason people hate him is because he’s not white!

Anyways, a very odd and very interesting book with the most toxic relationship I’ve seen in a book in a long while. Let’s check my CAWPILE ratings!

Characters: 7, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 8, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 7, Enjoyment: 8, which gives me a 7.43 rating equalling a 4 stars!

Look, I went into 2021 expecting to have to force myself to get through classics. And instead I found amazing books that I enjoyed? That’s growth as a reader folks!

Persuasion, a review

Persuasion by Jane Austen is my third book from her, and after reading her short story/collection of fictional letters that was Lady Susan, it was nice to be back in novel form.

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I did, however, read a weird version of this book because I used the Flipback Paperback version! A tiny little book that you can fit in your pocket, yes even in women’s jackets. This made the book feel a lot shorter and was a really cute way of reading it!

The story is a romance, unsurprisingly. But on a surprising note I really enjoyed it! I’m not a big romance reader but this was just so lovely, Austen’s writing has (temporarily) converted even me!

I really loved the travelling aspect within this story and how it progressed the narrative on further. It was actually pretty fun to wait on the inevitable “surprise” bumping into our love interest and friends from the previous location.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 8, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 8, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 7, Enjoyment: 8. Giving a total rating of 7.43 which is a 4 star rating.

This has solidified Jane Austen as an author that I enjoy and (after getting a collection of all her works for Christmas) I’m so excited to delve into the rest of her novels!

Read the classics first?

Recently I was gifted The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss by the lovely Kari from Kari-ng for Books on YouTube and it’s inspired by so many dark Victorian novels! Frankenstein, Sherlock, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and more!

I’ve not read all of the originals yet, especially not the slightly more obscure ones like Rappuccini’s Daughter. And I’m debating on whether I just read the book with the knowledge I have now. Or if I wait until I’ve read the original works!

What do you think? What would your decision be?

Part of me doesn’t want to miss out on the nuances and the in jokes that will be made about these original works, but part of me thinks I’m being silly and to just enjoy the book as it is!

It’s me so it’ll be a while before I get around to any new books, but I’d love to hear your thoughts to help me make my decision!!!

Frankenstein – a review

The wonderful Caitlyn from Mad Cheshire Rabbit gifted me this book earlier on this year. Purely to force me to read it because she knew I wouldn’t until I had a physical copy in my hands! 😂 This book, as many know, follows a man named Frankenstein who aims to create life artificially and succeeds. In pop culture this is shown as a big, green, monster who he eventually manages to bring to life. And then who causes destruction. But how accurate is this?

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Not at bloody all is the answer. When I heard this being described as gothic and with the pop culture references (although to be fair I’ve never seen an “adaptation”) I was expecting the crux of this to be the creation of the monster itself and the immediate struggle afterwards. I found a much different novel instead. The creation of the creature actually happens much earlier on in the book. It’s not the crux point at all.

This was a really big surprise for me, but we then got to discuss the concepts of life. Of exclusion and of treating fellow man the way we would wish to be treated. There are discussions of life and death, and so many unique and interesting topics! I wasn’t expecting philosophy!

But what I really had not been expecting? Was to love this book. I was reading this purely because it’s Caitlyn’s favourite. That was the only reason. But I adored this. It was such a lovely read. I adored all of the topics which Shelley brought up within the text as well as the main plot of the book itself. It’s a wonderful book and I can totally understand why it has lasted the decades (and centuries!) after its publication.

One point I would like to make is that I found the ending of the book very predictable, despite it feeling like it was supposed to be a twist. However, most likely this is because the book was published in EIGHTEEN EIGHTEEN and so at the time this probably was a twist!!

Highlight here for trigger warnings: attempted murder, child death, death, depression, islamophobia, murder, parental abandonment, xenophobia

For my CAWPILE ratings I gave:

Characters: 9

Atmosphere: 8

Writing: 6

Plot: 7

Intrigue: 8

Logic: 5

Enjoyment: 7

For an overall rating of 7.14 which comes out at a 4*! I’m so glad that Caitlyn gave me the push needed to pick this one up and I might have to read more from Shelley in the future!

Do you read classics?

They can be pretty intimidating, and not that long ago I was someone who had read a few, mainly kids classics, and that was about it. But something huge came into my life that changed my mind.

Well that sounds like it was some big life event or something, it wasn’t! I literally mean something huge, War and Peace!! This chunker had sat on my tbr since 2015/16 and I finally decided I was going to be reading the damn thing! The wonderful Olivia from Olivia’s Catastrophe agreed to buddy read it with me and since January 1st 2021 we’ve been slowly making our way through this tomb of a book.

And we’re loving it! Now of course this is because we’re enjoying the book, but something which is really amping up my enjoyment factor is reading this with Olivia, not only because she is lovely (because she is) but because I’m adoring our discussions. We discuss how the book makes us feel, as well as literary merits and what we think of the portrayal of the time and the historical aspects. And that might sound boring to some, but we love it! And it came naturally too. At first we were just talking about the book in less academic terms, but as we went further through the book this just naturally became the discussion we would have and it is a genuine pleasure to message her every day!

It’s because of this specifically, the daily analysis of a well known classic with a friend who is educated in the field, that has changed my thoughts on classics as a whole. I enjoy them so much more now! I read a lot more into them and intrinsically find myself understanding so much more than I used to, as well as reading through them a lot easier. In the past the writing style used to often be a struggle for me.

I cannot recommend highly enough buddy reading a classic with a friend. Not only is it so much fun to read with a friend, and not only will you get so much more out of the book itself, but slowing it down to one chapter a day means that there is less material to read from and more insights to be gained from a smaller amount of text. And it has changed how I read! And I couldn’t be more glad.

Friction – a review

Frictions is the second book from a mini box set I was gifted of short Swedish classics, sadly, unlike the first book from the set I read this wasn’t so much of a hit.

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The premise of the story is we’re following a man who is married but has fell in love with another woman. It talks about the ostracisation of the two of them and their struggles. On its own that concept isn’t so bad, but it’s the execution that I’m not so keen on. I’m sure in it’s time this was accepted but nowadays?

Basically, this is ridiculously sexist. Strindberg attempts to make our protagonist seem like a well rounded but troubled man. Instead, in a modern climate at least, he comes off like an unhappy idiot. And a sexist one at that. Our main character demonstrates the belief that men can grow and change over time as they mature and increase their intelligence, but that women are stagnant and cannot match up to the minds of men.

Strindberg seems to be attempting to praise these women for the role they play in essentially mothering our main character, but instead all this achieves is to highlight his antiquated views of gender roles and the place of women within society.

The entire time I was just… annoyed. Annoyed and frustrated at this baby of a “man” who couldn’t seem to grasp that the world doesn’t revolve around him and that him acting as though it does is ruining the lives of the people around him.

This book was a very interesting look into Swedish classic literature and their society at this time, and that’s why I gave it 2 stars. But the poor characterisation and obvious sexism made this an unenjoyable read.