Short Story Review: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle is the seventh short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary

Christmas has just passed when Dr Watson goes to Baker Street to see Sherlock Holmes.  On his arrival he finds his friend thinking over a battered hat brought to him by a commissionaire named Peterson.  It came into his possession when Peterson witnessed a scuffle in the street; the victim dropped both his hat and his Christmas goose.  He has brought them to Sherlock Holmes so that they might be returned to their owner as Peterson has no clue as to work out his identity for the man fled after the attack.

However, Holmes thinks it unlikely that the owner will be found, and sends Peterson home to cook the goose, but the man returns and produces the blue carbuncle, claiming that it was found inside the bird.  Naturally, Holmes realises that there is a larger mystery here and sets off to discover what it is.

Favourite Quote

“One of those little incidents which will happen when you have four million human beings all jostling each other within the space of a few square miles.  Amid the action and reaction of so dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of events may be expected to take place, and many a little problem will be presented which may be striking and bizarre without being criminal.” 

Review

This was an intriguing and engaging short story, and in terms of enjoyment, sits around the middle of the stories I’ve read so far from The Adventures of the Sherlock Holmes.  It just so happened that I reached this story in the collection in time for my Festive Reads Fortnight reading challenge, which was a stroke of luck.

Sherlock’s analysis of the hat is interesting.  Here we hear him discussing such things as phrenology and how much the hat owner’s wife loves her husband.

This is a great Christmas read with a good message.  It’s nice to see that Sherlock Holmes, who often appears cold and aloof, can be compassionate and merciful.

Rating

3.5 / 5

 

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Short Story Review: The Kit Bag by Algernon Blackwood

Summary (from Goodreads)

“The Kit-Bag” is a short ghost story by the British author Algernon Blackwood. It was first published in the December 1908 issue of Pall Mall Magazine.

The action takes place in London shortly before Christmas. The story’s protagonist is a young man named Johnson who works for an eminent lawyer named Arthur Wilbraham. Arthur Wilbraham has been defending a man named John Turk, who was accused of murdering a woman and cutting her body up into small pieces. Johnson is obliged to be in court for every day of the trial, which he finds highly unpleasant. When the trial is over, Johnson is glad that he will not have to see John Turk’s face again and is looking forward to going away on a Christmas vacation to the Alps. He asks Arthur Wilbraham to lend him a kit-bag to take with him on vacation. After the requested kit-bag arrives, Johnson passes a fright filled night.

Favourite Quote

“I’m glad it’s over because I’ve seen the last of that man’s dreadful face.  It positively haunted me.  That white skin, with the black hair brushed low over the forehead, is a thing I shall never forget…”

Review

Amazing.  Simply amazing.  A fantastic read, perfect for the Christmas Eve tradition of reading ghost stories, which is when I read it by candlelight.

The Kit Bag is a classic ghost story, and one of my favourites.  It is atmospheric and chilling.  The author really knows how to build the tension throughout the story.  It’s a short, quick read, so to say any more about it will probably lead to spoilers.

For the writers out there who want to learn how to write a good ghost story that will stay with your readers long after they have finished it, take a look at The Kit Bag.

This is my favourite read of 2017’s Festive Reads Fortnight, and I don’t doubt that I shall return to it again and again.

Rating

Book Review: Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey

This book review may contain spoilers.Summary (from Goodreads)

Step into a winter wonderland and fall in love in the snow this Christmas…
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

A few weeks before Christmas and a sudden blanketing of snow has closed the roads and brought public transport grinding to a halt, stranding Izzy miles from home and in desperate need of rescuing.

That doesn’t mean she’s looking to bump into Rob and spend a cosy weekend holed up in his swanky flat watching London become a winter wonderland! Because Izzy and Rob have history…

Six months ago, they were standing in the vestry of a beautiful country church, while best man Rob delivered the news that every bride dreads on their big day.

But at the time of year when anything is possible, can Rob and Izzy let go of the past and let Christmas work its magic? Or will this be one holiday wish that Izzy lets walk right out of her life…

Favourite Quote

But it is silly to miss people when they’re standing in front of you, because it feels like they’re already gone.

Review

I chose this book as one of my reads for the Festive Reads Fortnight reading challenge.   The fun, whimsical cover caught my attention and persuaded me to give this contemporary romance a go. This is a really Christmassy story; not only is it set around Christmas but it has plenty of Christmas elements thrown in too.

Winter’s Fairytale is a fun little romance, though there is nothing new here.  The pretty, hardworking girl gets the rich, handsome boy. You know that is going to happen even before you begin reading, but it’s how they get there where the entertainment is to be found.

Sometimes I liked Izzy and Rob and sometimes I found them a little annoying and exasperating on occasion – mainly because they make so many assumptions about each other, but there were a few other issues too. However, it didn’t stop me from reading the book through to the end.

I liked Rob’s family.  His sister Jenny was my favourite character in the book.  She was great, as was her husband-to-be, Mike.  Now their story would have made a really great tale to read; a real winter fairytale.

The story is very well-written, and there is plenty of humour to be found, whether in the situations the characters find themselves in or in the dialogue.  A light-hearted romance with a happy ending, making it an enjoyable festive read.  I would read more by this author.

If you want an easy-to-read romance with a winter theme, you might like this story.

Rating

3.5 / 5

I downloaded a copy of this book for free via the iBooks store.

Short Story Review: Six Geese A-Laying by Sophie Kinsella

Summary (from Goodreads)

In Six Geese a-Laying, Christmas is approaching, and Ginny is looking forward to the birth of her first baby. It’s a pity her partner Dan is so useless, and she has to keep reminding him where he’s going wrong. Luckily she’s enrolled into the most exclusive antenatal class going – all the highest achieving, smartest mothers-to-be aspire to be taught by the legendary Petal Harmon. Like the other five women in the class, Ginny already knows exactly what she wants, and how she’s going to handle motherhood. But when they turn up for the final class it isn’t quite what they expect. As Ginny discovers what parenthood is really going to be like, she begins to realize the things that really matter…

Favourite Quote

We’re not smug, obviously not. But the fact that we were all selected gives us…I don’t know.  A little glow.  We must have some special quality that others don’t.

Review

I have never read anything by Sophie Kinsella before, because chick-lit isn’t a genre that often interests me.  However, when I saw this short story ebook listed under the free books on the iBook store, the title was enough to persuade me to give it a try.  Anything that references The Twelve Days of Christmas must be a perfect reading choice for my Festive Reads Fortnight reading challenge.

And I enjoyed it, though I didn’t like most of the characters – but then, you’re not meant to.  It’s a very short, very quick read, and though it is set around Christmas, Christmas does not feature in it very much so I wouldn’t describe it as a Christmas story per se. However, it is clearly inspired by Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which I thought was cleverly done for a modern, chick-lit audience.

Rating

I read Six Geese A-Laying by Sophie Kinsella for free via iBooks.

Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M. C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death is the first book in the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton.

Summary (from back of book)

High-flying public relations supremo Agatha Raisin has decided to take early retirement.  She’s off to make anew life in a picture-perfect Cotswold village.  To make friends, she enters the local quiche-making competition – and to make quite sure of first prize she secretly pays a visit to a London deli.

Alas, the competition judge succumbs after tasting her perfect quiche, and Agatha is revealed as a cheat and potential poisoner.  definitely not the best start.  So Agatha must turn amateur sleuth – she’s absolutely got to track down the real killer!

Favourite Quote

Prettiness did not necessarily invite pretty people.

*

A faint idea was stirring somewhere in her brain that Agatha Raisin was not a very lovable person.

Review

Having read and really enjoyed the Hamish Macbeth series from the same author, I wondered whether this series could live up to the other one in my eyes.  I needn’t have feared – it turns out I love Agatha Raisin just as much as Hamish Macbeth.  Although some of her thoughts and actions are questionable, it wasn’t hard to warm to her.

As a character she is extremely well-written because she is flawed and can be mean but you like her any way.  At first she doesn’t come across as likeable, but the further you read and the more you get to know her, the more likeable she becomes.  The other characters are just as entertaining, my other favourites being Bill Wong and James Lacey.

The setting is wonderful, the pace of the story quick, the humour good, and the story engaging.  All-in-all, a charming, quick read.

This is one of my favourite reads of the year and I am glad that I finally discovered Agatha Raisin for myself.  Having read the first book in the series, I very quickly found myself devouring books two and three!  I was hooked from the first page, and can’t wait to read more.

If you enjoy cosy mysteries that make you laugh, I recommend you have a read of this series, and this first book is a great place to start.

Rating

Short Story Review: The Text by Claire Douglas

Summary (from Goodreads)

A single text changed her life. Did it end his?

Emily Latimer is furious. Her boss Andrew is being so unreasonable, as always. She fires off a text to her boyfriend, only in her haste she sends it to her whole office group.

In it she says Andrew’s being difficult about letting her have time off work. That she is angry. That she hopes he dies. The next day her face burns in the office. No one believes her when she says it was a typo, she meant to say does. She hopes he does.

It’s a nightmare. But it gets worse – Andrew doesn’t turn up for work. And then the police come knocking. Because Andrew Burton has been murdered . .

Favourite Quote

It’s warm and cosy in here with Radio One playing quietly in the background and the rain drumming on the roof and bonnet like an amateur pianist plonking out a tune.

Review

This was a quick, engaging read. I think I got through it in about half an hour, but for the whole of that time I found it gripping.  Although short, there are plenty of twists to keep you reading.

The characters quickly came to life as soon as I started reading.  I really felt for Emily.  Two small slip ups – a typo in a text and sending the text to the wrong people – and everything unravels for her.

It lost as star because I thought it ended a little abruptly, making the closing pages feel rushed.  However, I thought it was a good read with a believable story line. I will definitely be reading more from this author.

I downloaded The Text for free from iBooks.

Rating

Bookish Reflections – November 2017

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


In a nutshell

Quite an up and down month, thanks to my priority being NaNoWriMo in November (which I completed in 24 days – my best effort ever!).  I did manage to post three reviews, two of which were reviews that I needed to catch up on.  However, having read three books this month means that my catch-up list is still much longer than I would like.  My focus then in December is to post all the reviews that need publishing, concentrate my book picks on festive-themed reads for Festive Reads Fortnight and to hit my Goodreads Challenge Goal.  It doesn’t sound like much, does it…

Books I’ve reviewed

Favourite read of the month

  • Death at a Drop-In by Elizabeth Spann Craig

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

  • The Broker by John Grisham

Books I’ve downloaded

  • The Text by Claire Douglas
  • Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morray
  • Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • Death at a Drop-In by Elizabeth Spann Craig
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

November’s “Read and Review” Goals

  • Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C.Beaton (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • The Man with the Twisted Lip by Arthur Conan Doyle (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • Poison Study by Maria V Snyder (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C Beaton (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardner by M.C. Beaton (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • Blood of Angels by Michael Marshall (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • The New Catacomb by Arthur Conan Doyle (read, awaiting reviewing)

What I’m reading and reviewing in December

  • Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C.Beaton (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C Beaton (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardner by M.C. Beaton (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • Poison Study by Maria V Snyder (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • The New Catacomb by Arthur Conan Doyle (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • The Text by Claire Douglas (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • The Broker by John Grisham (read, awaiting reviewing)

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My goal is 57.  I’ve read 44.  77% complete.  Currently 8 books behind schedule.

Other reads (books not on Goodreads)*: 2

Total books read so far this year: 46


* “Other reads” means books that are not listed on Goodreads, but ones that are still of novel / novella length.  I’m not counting anthologies, single (very) short stories, magazines / ezines, but I will count short story or poetry collections if they are not too short.  Short stories that are listed on Goodreads are being counted as part of the reading challenge total.