A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

After watching every episode of BBC’s Sherlock, both of RDJ’s Sherlock Holmes movies, and the first season of Elementary (please, Netflix, get season 2 soon!!), I decided it was time to try out the original.

A Study in Scarlet is the first of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels about the renowned and beloved detective, Sherlock Holmes. Here, we hear the tale of how Dr. John Watson, back in London after serving in Afghanistan, is seeking out lodgings and finds an old friend, Stamford, who connects him with a man named Sherlock Holmes.  Holmes, having found lodgings beyond his means, is looking for someone to share the cost. It is in this manner that the two, now known as two of the most famous characters from all of literature, first meet.

I feel no need to really review A Study in Scarlet, for Doyle’s work was famous and prized long before I was born and will continue to be so long after I am dead. However, I would like to say a few words about the book that surprised me.

First, as a fan of modern interpretations of Doyle’s work, it was fun—yes, fun—to meet the characters I already loved so dearly in their natural and original realm. I speak not only of Holmes and Watson, but of Gregson and Lestrade. The manner of Holmes’ detective work was also familiar, but even more ingenious than imagined after watching the modern television counterparts. Reading the book also helped me to appreciate the genius of the television writers—especially Moffat, who (given the fact that most long-time Whovians hate him), actually surprises me in his skill of interpreting this well-loved classic.

Second, I have to say I was surprised to find in the second book that Doyle takes the reader to America to discover, without any mention of Sherlock and Watson, the history of the events taking place in London. I was even more surprised to find that this history includes Brigham Young as a villain. How utterly unlooked for! But, in my opinion, how great in imagination and cultural understanding. Doyle is a genius. He’s not the grandfather of so many modern retellings for nothing!

I give this novel a solid 4 and I cannot wait to return to Sherlock in his next adventure.

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

When I was young, probably in the seventh or eighth grade, I saw one of Agatha Christie’s novels in movie format (for the life of me, I cannot remember which). I enjoyed it enough that I picked up copies of a few of her books at a booksale, but never got around to reading any of them. Recently, looking through my shelves for something to read, I found The Body in the Library.

I suspect that for most of my generation, the classic who-dunnit books no longer hold much interest, as we are so used to crime shows and mystery theater that wrap up stories so concisely and beautifully. Actually sitting down and reading a mystery novel in which there is no sex or steamy relationship gossip between the detectives is a far different experience from sitting down to this week’s episode of Criminal Minds, Elementary, or the like. Reading Christie’s novels is really more a practice in patience, for we do not see the truth until the very end. There are no clips of the murder taking place, no visuals or scenes to help us figure out the answer.

Bolstered by my identity as a crime show fan, I began the novel expecting to be able to figure it out before the last chapter. I had forgotten, of course, that Christie’s endings are almost always over-the-top ridiculous and unlikely scenarios. The murderer was so obvious, but his alibi so solid that you began to doubt his guilt and the means were so roundabout that I found myself completely confused before the end.

The basic plot is this: Colonel and Mrs. Bantry are woken up one morning by their very anxious maid, informing them that a dead body has been found in their library. While the colonel calls in the police (Col. Melchett and Inspector Slack), Mrs. Bantry calls her friend, Jane Marple, a local sleuth that seems to figure out the most complex crimes long before the police can work it out themselves. Finding that the young girl, identified by her cousin as a Miss Ruby Keene, was an entertainer at a local hotel (think Penny in Dirty Dancing, only nowhere near as intelligent or talented), Miss Marple and Mrs. Bantry head to the hotel as guests to do sleuthing of their own while the police do their own detective work. Eventually, the former head of Scotland Yard, Sir Henry, gets involved. With a great deal of digging around on the part of all four detectives (and after yet body is discovered and a third murder attempted), it is—of course—Miss Marple who puts the pieces together and clears the name of the framed suspect, finding the real criminals right under their noses.

The writing, of course, is quite good—Agatha Christie was an internationally renown writer for a reason (for she hails from the age when you actually had to be a good writer to be internationally renown… ahem, Stephanie Meyer). The dialect puts you in the time and you can easily imagine the voices and picture the characters. The scenes are described well with just enough left to the imagination that you can envision them in your head.

In spite of the high quality of the book, I did find myself becoming impatient. I wanted to know the ending without having to do the work—I actually considered finding a synopsis online, I was so eager to just know the answer! But this, I think, is the genius of Christie’s writing. At the time it was written (1942), there was no way of finding out the spoilers without simply turning to the last chapter. For those purists who do not read the last chapter first, the idea is to read through as quickly as possible, trying to piece the clues together and figure it out before Miss Marple shows everyone the truth.

About Miss Marple, I do find her character absurdly impossible, but in the same way that Sherlock Holmes (to whom she is compared by Sir Henry) is both absurd and impossible (although, I cannot imagine a modern version of a movie where Miss Marple is anywhere near as attractive as Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller). She is, in her own way, a compellingly simple yet profound character. I rather liked her a lot and perhaps should find more “Miss Marple Murder Mysteries.”

I think I’ll give The Body in the Library a solid 3.5 stars—a high praise. I probably won’t read it again, but I definitely recommend it for the lover of detective stories. What fun!

Kaitlyn’s Star Guide:
0 stars: Don’t read it. A waste of your time. Worse than Twilight.
1 star: Read only if you’re very tired and desperate for something to read. Will probably rot your brain if you read it too much.
2 stars:  Good for what it is or not my taste.
3 stars: Decent book and worth reading, but not earth-shaking, much less earth-shattering.
4 stars: Really good, definitely something I will re-read sometime. Earth Shaking.
5 stars: Earth Shattering. Every single human being should read this. It should be required for citizenship of the world. Seriously. Why aren’t you reading it yet? LIFE CHANGING.

What I’m Reading Right Now

What I’m Reading Right Now

For those of you who don’t know (really, read the rest of this blog and you would know), I love to read. Generally, I have at least three books going at once: a fiction, a nonfiction, and a spiritual work. Right now, I’m a little bit more than that. Since I’m in the middle of so many things (5 books, preparing for a personal retreat, my job, and discerning my future, not to mention trying to have a social life!), I thought I would update you about what is on the reading list right now.

My non-fiction:

Main Street Vegan

by Victoria Moran

For those of you who are thinking, “Good heavens, Kaitlyn, you already have celiacs and have to eat gluten free, are you really going to go vegan, too?” you may be consoled: no, I’m not going vegan. Not yet, anyway. Every time I pick this book up, I crave meat—and usually I don’t even eat meat (unless you count the occasional midnight pepperoni binge or stressed sausage-link cravings). But I did live in community with two vegans this summer and let me tell you, they made a big impact on how I see food (thanks, Rebecca and Michael!). I am trying to be more mindful about how I feed myself and by reading more about eating vegan, I am doing that. I’m aware that a vegan diet is, overall, more healthy and gives you more energy. There is a decent amount of scientific evidence that human beings were no originally designed to be omnivores—which actually fits in with the creation myth in Genesis—and we gain more nutritionally from plants than from animals. As a result, and also out of a desire to live in solidarity with those who cannot afford luxuries like meat (and because I really can’t afford luxuries like good, grass-fed meat), I am trying to avoid meat and animal products in my diet. That doesn’t mean I’m becoming vegan (try being gluten free and giving up cheese and eggs as well, it would be really hard!), but I am trying to become what I’ve heard people refer to as respect-itarian. I eat what people feed me (as long as it’s gluten free) because I respect their gift. I eat meat from animals that have been treated in a respectful way, because I support in stewardship theology and not dominion theology. When I do eat meat, I remember to be grateful for the wealth and comfort that has been granted to me that is denied most of the Earth’s population.

Enough of my apologetics about my reading choice, now onto the actual book: I like it, but I have my reservations. I’m only through the first five chapters, not even a third of the way in, so my review now and my eventual review when I finish might be very different. For now, I can say that the author is a typical self-righteous vegan—something that my own vegan friends typically avoid. But she does make an effort to backtrack and applaud the reader for their interest even if they’re not vegan, though of course she thinks they should be. She gives the why, the how, and the practical information as well as some yummy looking (though mostly gluten-ified) recipes. I’ll hold out before I issue a recommendation.

Fiction #1:

The Mists of Avalon

by Marion Zimmer Bradley

I’m reading this book with one of my best friends. We’re supposed to be reading on our own, then discussing. We’ll see how that works.

I’m only in Chapter 9 (page 114 of 876), so I’m not very far. So far, I really like it, but I seem to be in a lull (hence the fact that I have two novels going at once). I have enjoyed the different perspective on the Church as well as a new spin on the Arthurian legends. I recommend it so far, let’s see what happens when I finish!

Fiction #2:

Light in August

by William Faulkner

I have been informed by my students (and they think they are experts on the matter) that I am the ONLY person in the world who reads Faulkner for fun. I assume this is not the case, given that someone at UD must have loved him in order for him to make it into the Core. Please, if you love Faulkner, comment below so I can prove them wrong.

My decision to read

Light in August

right now is based on three things in my life: 1) I own it (as the result of a local library selling a large stack of Faulkner, which I bought all of); 2) It is on the reading list for a PhD program I am interested in and I thought I might as well give it a try; and 3) I wanted to read some serious (read: actually good and not fluffy) literature, but didn’t want to be in the ancient world (for once). Hence, here I am reading Faulkner’s classic.

I’m a little over halfway through. Given that I only just started it a week and a half ago, I think that might actually be impressive (especially since I’m also reading


other books). But really, through a lot of it, I couldn’t put it down. I’m enjoying the story, the suspense. I’ve been careful not to look up any scholarship on the book yet so that I can actually be surprised by the ending. Faulkner’s usual ability to create a character, give you an impression of their character, then go deeper and make you question the first impression while at the same time deepening it—this is exemplified in this story. I know I will recommend this book (umm… it’s a classic, obviously), but I’ll have to hold out on the final review until I finish the story. I’m loving it, though!

Spiritual Book #1:

Twelve Apostolic Women

by Joanne Turpin

I’m reading this book for a book group. It’s good for what it is: an exploration of women in scripture. But what it is not is completely historically accurate—there’s no way to be when you’re writing about women in scripture, some of whom don’t even have names. I’m excited to be exploring these women, but a little wary of how some people who don’t have a good historical understanding of scripture might take this book for absolute truth. I’ll hold off on my review and recommendation until I’ve finished it.

Spiritual Book #2:

Saints Preserved: An Encyclopedia of Relics

by Thomas J. Craughwell

This is one of the books I’m reading for

Blogging for Books

, and I chose it because I’ve had several students ask me about relics recently. I personally find relics to be a weird part of our faith (and yes, I did live in Rome and see many of them), so I thought this book might help me. It has helped a little, but the part that I really love is that I’m learning about all these saints.

The format of the book is that there is a short introduction on relics and what they are followed by a list of the most popular/regularly visited relics, in alphabetical order by saint. The author is very careful to tell not only where the relic is now, but how it got there, how we know whose it is, and who the saint was anyway. I’m loving the stories about the saints already.

My recommendation: if you’re interested in learning more about individual saints, this is a great book. If you’re looking to understand relics/be convinced they aren’t a little weird, this book is probably not for you. Then again, even this author concedes that it might be a slightly odd practice, so maybe you won’t ever be able to be convinced otherwise. I’ll let you know more when I have finished it.

So, that’s what I’m reading right now. I promise that an actual update on my life is coming soon!

100 Book Challenge—Books #19-26

I’ve fallen behind in my blogging, so I thought I’d give a quick update on my reading challenge.

100 Book Challenge—Book #19 The Dairy and Gluten Free Kitchen  by Denise Jardine

Aunt Marie bought me this cookbook for my birthday this year and I loved it! It helped me find a lot more ways to cook gluten free. I’ve marked several recipes and hope to make them soon.

Book #20—Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

How can anyone not love Little Women? I’ve never read it before, but I had seen the movie as a child. The book far outstrips anything a movie could give. I love the moral lessons and the religious nature of the novel, I hadn’t expected quite so much of it. I now see why it’s a classic book for little girls to read.

Book #21—Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Again, I hadn’t read the book before, but I’d seen the movie. It was my favorite movie as a kid (introduced to me by my Hannah) and that movie was my first introduction to Austen. I love Austen and am in a quick way of being a most devout fan. I’m now reading Pride and Prejudice.

Book #22—The Suicide Club by Robert Louis Stevenson

I had read this in high school, but the content had become fuzzy. A short novel, it’s a compilation of three short stories. It’s quite good and a fun read. A little confusing because of so many characters having code names, but I was reading it in the hospital while Dad was sick, so that might contribute to the confusion.

Book #23—One: How Many People does it take to make a difference? by Dan Zadra

Someone bought this for me for graduation and I finally got to sit down and read it through. This is a fantastic book, a good book to read when you’re down or questioning your importance in the world. It helped remind me that God made us all for a reason. I loved the book so much that I bought another book by the same author. See below.

Book #24—The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu

This was a book that has been sitting on my shelf for some time and I finally got around to reading it. It’s like a precursor to Percy Jackson (really, I have to wonder if Reardon got some ideas from Ursu). It features a set of cousins who must venture into the underworld to save the world. Great book, highly recommended.

Book #25—The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

I have been wanting to read this book for sometime. I started it as a kid and never finished it. Finally got around to it and LOVED it! It’s a great mystery story. I had a lot of fun figuring out the ending. Lots of twists and turns, great characters, and a good story of redemption and giving back. Well written children’s book! Recommend.

Book #26—Five: Where will you be five years from today? by Dan Zadra

I loved this one just as much as One. I recommend it for those who are currently trying to discern their future. It helps focus. Also, great inspiration for making your bucket list. 

100 Book Challenge—Book #1: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

100 Book Challenge—Book #1: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

I thought that I would try to write a short review or blurb about the books I'm reading for the challenge. 

As I have mentioned before, I really read this book by accident. I downloaded the audiobook from librivox, thinking that Wells’ was the one that was on my “Top 100 books” to read list (This list, and many others, are in the back of my reading journal http://www.amazon.com/Reading-Journal-Lovers-Potter-Style/dp/0307591662/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327349173&sr=8-1). Actually, though, I really enjoyed it. I listened to it on my way to and back from TX.

The whole premise, of course, is that there is an invisible man (imagine that) running around the countryside of Britain. We learn the story of how he became invisible around the middle of the book as things reach the climax of the story.

I find it interesting that I enjoyed the book, because there really aren’t any likable characters in the story. The invisible man, Griffin, is too snobby, too aloof, too aware of his genius and too ready to take advantage of his invisibility for an evil purpose to allow him to be really likeable. And the men who stand against him aren’t very likable either. The characters in the town at the beginning of the novel, Iping, are dense and seem unintelligent. They are the basic gossipy country folk of every great British novel. Then, when Griffin meets his old schoolmate, Dr. Kemp, Kemp is almost likable. He is intelligent and able to converse with Griffin and learn his story. Kemp can hardly be the hero of the story because Kemp is undeniably a coward when he hides in fear from Griffin. Yet, at the end, Kemp is the one to show compassion.

I think this is an interesting novel and a good introduction to Wells’ writing. I’m hoping to read his Time Machine