A Study in Scarlet Book Review

I had just finished watching season one of the BBC’s Sherlock and I desperately wanted more but the next season would take over a year to be released. It was in this time that I decided to read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories to see the inspiration for Sherlock. Warning that this post may contain spoilers.

A Study in Scarlet is the first of sixty, yes, sixty Sherlock Holmes stories. These include four novels (of which this book is the first) and fifty-six short stories. It was written by Doyle in 1886 and published in 1887. It was the first work of fiction to use a magnifying glass as a investigative tool and the novel brought little attention when it was first published.

For a Sherlock Holmes story, there was surprisingly little about Sherlock Holmes. We are shown generally about his behaviour and personality but very little about the science of deduction. It seems like the main story wasn’t really about him and his detective work at all, but about the events that occurred in Utah, USA. The first time I read it, I was very disappointed by this and quickly skimmed through the second part to get back to Sherlock Holmes’ story, but the second time I already knew about it and was prepared. I then found that Doyle’s writing doesn’t have to focus on Mr. Holmes to be awesome. His writing style seems like it could make any story interesting. Reading the second part knowing that Mr. Holmes wasn’t a big part of it really made me appreciate Doyle’s writing style and storytelling more, instead of rushing through it.

He showed that he is great at character development in Part II, but I wish he would have helped developed the characters of Dr. John Watson and Sherlock Holmes more. In the end, for me to want to continue reading a series, the overall story has to be just as intriguing as the story in that one book, but unfortunately this wasn’t the case. It really made me worry that maybe the character development and the stories of Holmes and Watson isn’t actually the main part of the story and that it may not be touched upon or developed in future stories. Never fear though, because I will re-read all sixty Sherlock Holmes stories!

I don’t usually pay much attention to the descriptions in novels, and usually skim over them, so much so that I have a completely different mental picture of a character than what the author envisioned and described. But with Doyle’s writing style, he somehow makes the descriptions interesting and compelling. I actually want to read them and found out that they are an important part of setting the scene and story in a particular place. One of the descriptions I like the most is at the start of Part II, the description of the desert. I felt that I had the perfect image of it in my head and well as the emotions as well as the emotions that the characters would feel being in the landscape.

Favourite character: John Ferrier

Least favourite character: Joseph Stangerson

Favourite scene: When Jefferson Hope is found dead in his jail cell

Least favourite scene: When Lestrade and Gregson are commended for their part in the investigation instead of Holmes

Rating; 3/5 stars

So Yesterday Book Review

I read this novel a few months ago when I was in the library and thought “I need to read some new novels”. So I went to Scott Westerfeld’s section and picked out a novel I hadn’t read before; So Yesterday. Warning that this post may contain spoilers.

The storyline was average. It’s interesting enough do keep you reading but with cliffhangers like “They were the coolest shoes we’d ever seen”, it wasn’t a I-can’t-put-you-down book. If you’re a nerd and couldn’t really care less about what’s apparently ‘cool’ or ‘in fashion’, then this novel isn’t really going to draw you in. The main character, Hunter, seems entirely focussed on what’s cool and what isn’t (I mean, it is his job, but still). While Westerfeld’s writing makes it seem that what is happening in each scene is very important and world-changing, when you take a step back, it appears to be the exact opposite.

Reading the blurb you’d assume that this book is a fantasy, but it isn’t. I was disappointed when I discovered how ordinary and normal the storyline was. It was a story that actually could (but probably wouldn’t) happen in real life. I think Westerfeld does Sci-Fi and fantasy better to be honest which might be why he tried to make it seem like it was in the blurb; to pull his usual readers in and then let them down with a completely normal story.

After reading many of Westerfeld’s novels (others of which I will post reviews on in the future) I think I’m starting to see a pattern; if there is a girl and a guy around the same age in the story, they will end out having a romantic relationship. It’s very predictable and kind of irritating, and also entirely unrealistic. Teenage males and females are actually capable just be friends, but not according to Scott Westerfeld.

Don’t get me wrong, the novel isn’t exactly bad. Westerfeld’s writing style really helps the story along. Without it, the novel would be doomed to fail, but with it, the story has interest, humour and entertainment. I did want to know what happened to the characters, but I didn’t have to find out straight away. Unfortunately, So Yesterday didn’t have any neat little tricks or educational chapters like in Peeps and The Last Days.

Despite this, the book has an educational side as well, sort of. It shows how companies use advertising to manipulate people (especially teenagers) into buying their product. It sends out a kind of warning message to teenagers; what you think is cool isn’t really, it’s just what major companies and corporations want you to think.

Favourite character: Mandy

Least favourite character: Jen

Favourite scene: Hunter asking the library how to put on a bow-tie

Least favourite scene: All the discussion about the ‘cool’ shoes

Rating; 2/5

The Last Days Book Review

Shortly after I read Peeps, I read this novel as it is the sequel that could almost be a stand-alone book in itself. It was recommended to me by the same friend who recommended Peeps. Warning that this post may contain spoilers.

The book as a whole isn’t really as good as Peeps. I think this is mainly because none of the new characters are very likeable. I really wanted to see the old ones but by the time they were seen, it didn’t really turn out the way I thought it would. They just weren’t the same. One of the things that irritates me about the novel is that sometimes Westerfeld writes as though you haven’t read Peeps. He explains things that we already know and tries to add a sense of mystery about things we already understand. Yet, I think a lot of the information in the novel would be missed if Peeps hadn’t been read beforehand to explain it. I don’t know how well The Last Days would work as a stand-alone novel without Peeps as its predecessor.

However, one of the cool things about this book is that every chapter name is the name of a band. This is just one of the quirky things that makes Westerfeld’s novels just a little bit more awesome. Unlike in Peeps, though. Westerfeld’s writing style has changed. He seems to write like he’s actually writing, rather that as if he’s talking like he usually does. This might be due to the constant point-of-view changes.

Weirdly enough, I think the reading experience of this novel is greatly improved when listening to rock music at the same time; especially in the second half of the book. It really helps you escape from the real world and be immersed in the world that Westerfeld has created. Random, but true.

Another awesome things about The Last Days was the sub-plot. Throughout the whole story I really wanted to know about what they would eventually call the band. This kept me very enthralled and I was delightfully surprised at the end when I found out that I had already know the name of the band all along.

The ending is a bit like Peeps. It is a good ending except that it implies a lot about the ending rather than stating it outright and by doing so leaves the ending to make you think that there is still more to come when there isn’t. Overall, the novel needed a more interesting storyline to make it better rather than just an interesting idea, but Westerfeld’s writing style partially made up for this. The story improved as the book went on.

Favourite character: Pearl

Least favourite character: Cal (I liked him is Peeps, but not in The Last Days)

Favourite scene: When the band plays their first gig and the worm rises during it

Least favourite scene: The petty arguments and relationship problems

Rating; 3.5/5 stars

Peeps Book Review

Peeps is a young adult, fantasy novel by Scott Westerfeld and the first of his many novels I read. I first read it as a recommendation from one of my friends who generally has the same taste in books as I do, a few years ago. Warning that this post may contain spoilers.

I usually start off by going straight into my review but I’m going to do things a little differently for this novel; I’m going to rant a bit. Although this novel is fiction, every second chapter is given as fact and there are ‘facts’ strewn throughout the book. A lot of these are incorrect. First off, evolution. Westerfeld pretty much says it’s 100% true and states that a scientific theory “is a fact”; WRONG! According to my university textbook scientific theory is “When an explanation has been supported by a large number of tests, and when a majority of experts have reached a general consensus that it is a reliable description or explanation.” According to this, evolution isn’t even a theory because you cannot test it. Also, evolution will only be generally accepted until another, better theory comes along. Then it will be discarded like the theory of spontaneous generation. I’m not anti-evolution, I’m just anti-factual inaccuracies. In one chapter Westerfeld also states that Wolbachia is smaller than a single cell. Seeing as a cell is the smallest living thing, that’s kind of impossible. In addition, some viruses are stated as being caused by parasites such a the rabies virus. So beware that not everything said to be fact in this novel is. Westerfeld likes to make out that he has a superior knowledge of science when he doesn’t. Rant over.

Now, to my review. Westerfeld’s writing style is very unique. He writes like he’s talking to you, it seems like he’s having a conversation with the reader. I quite like this because it adds humor without the need for jokes. The notion of the novel is good as well. Once again, I love the ‘weird things going on in our world that we don’t know about’ idea and the way that Westerfeld has tried to make vampires factual and actually possible is very interesting and actually seems plausible.

The mysterious feel of the novel is also great, I love the scenes where we are given lots of information about the history of the Night Watch and peeps. The book is a page-turner that always makes me want to learn more about what is actually occurring.

The ending is also pretty good. It doesn’t have a sudden death that isn’t explained or explored or a terrible fairy-tale style ending. I like it. The only problem is, is that it is a leading ending. It’s the kind of ending that makes you think that the story isn’t finished, that there is more still to come, so it’s a good thing that Peeps is followed by The Last Days. I haven’t reviews these two novels together (as one series) because they are such completely different books told from the point of view of completely different people and I thought they deserved to be reviewed as stand-alone novels.

Favourite character: Lace

Least favourite character: Morgan

Favourite scene: The swimming pool scene and when they first meet the giant worm

Least favourite scene: The factual inaccuracies strewn throughout

Rating; 4/5 stars

Twilight Saga Book Review

Before I start this review I would like to say I am neither a Twihard or a Twihater although over the years I have acted like both. So, if you’re looking for a blog that says Twilight is perfect or the worst series ever, stop reading now. Every series has a strong point and a weak point. Warning that this post may contain some spoilers.

I first read Twilight in early 2008 (before the movies were released). It was one of the first books, and the first series, that started off my reading again after a long period of absence.

The first book, Twilight, I have to say was pretty good. I can be quite the romantic sometimes and this novel played straight into my weakness. I think one of the reasons why this series is so popular is because the main character, Bella, is so much of a Mary Sue type character. This means that readers can very easily visualise themselves as Bella, lest the appeal. I would have to say that this is one of the downfalls of the series. I like books with strong and deep characters and Bella just didn’t fit that template. Despite this, I just like the way that Stephanie Meyer has created her version of a vampire. They’re so… invincible and dangerous. Once again, the notion of the fact that there is something secretive and fanatical going on in our own world that we have no idea about, is brilliant. I love it. The whole novel is a page-turner that makes me want to keep reading. One of my favourite things about Meyer’s writing, are her prologues. These make you want to read the book to the end to know just what they are about.

New Moon was just not as good. The whole time Edward was absent I was bored, which was most of the novel. I guess you could say I’m more of a “team Edward” fan because I didn’t really enjoy the Jacob scenes. Bella’s depression was also rather mind-numbing. I was so relieved when Alice turned up and then finally, Edward. Despite this, Meyer partially redeems herself with the creation of the wolf shapeshifters (which are known through most of the series as werewolves).

Eclipse is one of my favourite books in the series (it is even with Twilight). It has a lot more action in it than the other two novels which I enjoyed. It also explains the past of some of the Cullens which is also something I liked about the novel. Finding out about the back-story of mysterious characters is one of the best parts about a story.

Breaking Dawn was my least favourite book in the series. In the part which was Jacob’s point of view, all I wanted to know was what Bella was thinking. The moment is went back to Bella’s point of view, I wanted it to be Jacob’s again. It was good to finally have the love-triangle fixed with the entrance of Renesmee and I love learning about all the different vampire abilities, however the whole novel was brought down by a terrible ending. A massive climax which was building up throughout the whole novel (arguably the whole series)… and then a completely flat and boringly-perfect outcome. Nothing ever ends that well.

I count The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner as a book in this series although I’m sure many people don’t. I think it’s a pretty good novella, especially compared to New Moon and Breaking Dawn. It had a lot of emotion in it compared to her other books. Meyer doesn’t like killing off likable characters. Period. But in this novella she had to, and I think she did it very well. I liked the sadness and sense of loss that the book gave the reader, if only the ending of Breaking Dawn had an element of this is it.

Favourite character: Alice Cullen or Emmett Cullen (I can’t decide!)

Least favourite character: Rosalie Hale

Favourite scene: Aro’s suprise at how Edward can resist killing Bella

Least favourite scene: The “oh-so-perfect” ending

Rating; 2.5/5 stars