Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle

For my next literary adventure I took a dip into the world of short stories.  This made quite a nice change from longer novels that demand you keep reading, particularly with my habit of reading short chunks in my lunch break.  That's not to say I now have a preference for the shorter format, just that variety is a good thing.

Continuing my journey through the world of Sherlock Holmes, the first two novels are followed by a collection of short stories.  While each story has its own plot, references are frequently made to past cases that have been 'documented' by Dr Watson.  Although the references are small, it is enough to feel some small reward for loyally reading everything in order.

One thing I did struggle with was the timeline.  The first story, A Scandal in Bohemia, is set shortly after The Sign of the Four, however the pattern does not continue.  While some stories play out in order others are from an earlier time, even from between when the two novels are set.  The year is usually given at the start of the story but, particularly with references to earlier documented cases that were actually later, I still found it a little hard to keep track of.

As would probably be expected of a collection of short stories, my reaction to the individual plots was mixed.  In some cases, particularly The Adventure of Copper Beeches, I managed to work out the major plot point very early on, which isn't something I particularly enjoy in a mystery book.  However with others I found the story interesting and the mystery intriguing.  The only problem is that as I read each story in a row it's hard to remember the individual plots!

And now I think I will return to novels for a while.  Not for too long though, as my obsession with Sherlock Holmes is getting stronger, and I'm sure the next collection of short stories will start to call my name.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Royal Assassin - Robin Hobb

Ok, so reading another book before the end of the year didn't happen.  Actually, it almost did.  I managed to get started reading, but the inevitable array of Christmas activities sidetracked me from getting any further.  And so with the majority of the book read this week, Royal Assassin becomes the first book of the 30 that I aim to read in 2013.

Having been eyeing up the book for a few months, I returned to the world of the Six Duchies with the second book in the Farseer trilogy.  The story resumes a few months after the last one finished, and the first chapter contains lots of handy reflections to remind you of what happened before.  Fitz continues as narrator, again providing a philosophical view of the events in his life.

It felt easier to connect with the characters this time round, all though part of that may be leftover connection from reading Assassin's Apprentice.  One of the joys of reading books written in first person is to share the narrators wish of knocking some sense into someone, while at the same time wishing yourself that someone would knock some sense into the narrator.  This certainly happened to me more than once over the course of the story.  But, as his world grew more complicated and started to fall around him, it was difficult not to feel bad for the situations FItz found himself in.  Even if he was an idiot at times.

For the first time in a while, I inadvertently received a spoiler before reading this.  Generally I try to go into books (or films) untainted from knowledge of what will happen.  On mentioning to my husband that I was going to continue with the trilogy, he enquired "Is that the one with [x] in?"  I confusedly said no.  Several chapters into the book [x] appeared and then turned out to be rather important for the rest of the book.  Cue one rather sheepish looking husband.

As with the first book, the immediate plot lines are sewn up enough that you don't feel the need to immediately stay up all night to continue, although as I finished reading this after midnight on a workday the damage had already been done.  Plenty of threads are left open, though, and a care for the characters is enough to make me think that the final book of the trilogy won't be sat on our shelves for too much longer.