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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Balance of 2014

During 2014 I read, watched and reviewed the following:

January
Books:
- "A Study in Scarlet" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Eat Like Jesus" by Andrew Hoy. Read my review.

February
Books:
- "Something Witchy" by A.J.Meyers. Read my review.
- "Cold Energy" by James M.Corkill. Read my review.

March
Books
- "The Sign of the Four"  by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "A Quest of Heros" by Morgan Rice. Read my review.
- "Savior" by Anthony Caplan. Read my review.

April
Books:
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles"  by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Old Souls" by C.G.Garcia. Read my review.

May
Books:
- "Calling the Dead" by R.K.Marfurt. Read my review.
- "The Strange Will of J.W.Everett" by M.D.Meyer. Read my review.
- "The Last Confession of the Vampire Judas Iscariot" by David B.Vermont. Read my review.
Guest Author:
- David Vermont - "The Last Confession of the Vampire Judas Iscariot". See the post.

June
Books:
- "Living Treasures" by Yang Huang. Read my review.
- "First Stone" by Gary Ballard. Read my review.
- "The Unknown Man" by J.G.Gatewood. Read my review.
- "A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities" by Barbara Venkataraman. Read my review.
- "Red Energy" by James M.Corkill. Read my review.

July
Books:
- "Siege of Providence" by Michael Kaiser. Read my review.
- "Death by Didgeridoo" by Barbara Venkataraman. Read my review.
- "The Metal Black" by Gary Ballard. Read my review.
- "I'm Not Talking About You, of Course..." by Barbara Venkataraman. Read my review.
- "Way Out" by Arthur Thomas Morton. Read my review.
- "The Valley of Fear" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Hook - Why Websites Fail to Make Money" by Andrew McDermott and Rachel McDermott. Read my review.
- "A Scandal in Bohemia" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Gameland - Episode 2 - Failsafe" by Saul W.Tanpepper. Read my review.
- "The Red-Headed League" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "A March of Kings" by Morgan Rice. Read my review.
- "A Case of Identity" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Dark Visions" by Jonas Saul. Read my review.
- "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Gameland - Episode 3 - Deadman's Switch" by Saul W.Tanpepper. Read my review.
- "The Five Orange Pips" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "A Feast of Dragons" by Morgan Rice. Read my review.
- "The Man With The Twisted Lip" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.

August
Books:
- "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Case of the Killer Divorce" by Barbara Venkataraman. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Gameland - Episode 4 - Sunder the Hollow Ones" by Saul W.Tanpepper. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Gameland - Episode 5 - Prometheus Wept" by Saul W.Tanpepper. Read my review.
- "Silver Blaze" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.

September
Books:
- "The Unholy" by Paul DeBlassie III. Read my review.
- "The Yellow Face" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "A Cry of Honor" by Morgan Rice. Read my review.
- "The Stock-Broker's Clerk" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Gloria Scott" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Peril in the Park" by Barbara Venkataraman. Read my review.
- "The Musgrave Ritual" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "A Vow of Glory" by Morgan Rice. Read my review.
- "The Reigate Puzzle" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Crooked Man" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Gameland - Episode 6 - Kingdom of Players" by Saul W.Tanpepper. Read my review.
- "The Resident Patient" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.

October
Books:
- "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Naval Treaty" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Transoceanic Lights" by Sui Li. Read my review.
- "A Charge of Valor" by Morgan Rice. Read my review.
- "The Final Problem" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Empty House" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Gameland - Episode 7 - Tag, You're Dead" by Saul W. Tanpepper. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Norwook Builder" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Dracengard" by Christopher Vale. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Gameland - Episode 8 - Jacker's Code" by Saul W.Tanpepper. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Priory School" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.

November

Books:
- "The Book of Zev" by Marilyn Ida Horowitz. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Black Peter" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Time Before Time" by K.A.Manji. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Three Students" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.

December
Books:
- "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Tales from Gundarland" by Hank Quense. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Second Stain" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Adelita's Secret" by Christopher Cloud. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.

Balance of December 2014

During the month of December 2014, I reviewed the following:

Books:
- "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Tales from Gundarland" by Hank Quense. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Second Stain" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.
- "Adelita's Secret" by Christopher Cloud. Read my review.
- "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Read my review.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Book "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" is one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is the second of the twelve Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes in most British editions of the canon, and second of the eight stories from His Last Bow in most American versions. The story was first published in the Strand Magazine in 1892.

About the Author: Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield, as well as in Shropshire at Ruyton-XI-Towns. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, "The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe", was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood's Magazine. His first published piece "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. On 20 September 1879, he published his first non-fiction article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" in the British Medical Journal. In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 (£900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including "The Captain of the Pole-Star" and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", both inspired by Doyle's time at sea, the latter of which popularized the mystery of the Mary Celeste and added fictional details such as the perfect condition of the ship (which had actually taken on water by the time it was discovered) and its boats remaining on board (the one boat was in fact missing) that have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock Co. on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 for all rights to the story. The piece appeared later that year in the Beeton's Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. The story featured the first appearance of Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partially modeled after his former university teacher Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man." Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognize the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... Can this be my old friend Joe Bell?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character C. Auguste Dupin. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott's Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them. Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the Strand Magazine. Doyle first began to write for the 'Strand' from his home at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, now marked by a memorial plaque. In this period, however, Holmes was not his sole subject and in 1893, he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on the libretto of Jane Annie. Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in Windlesham rose garden. He was later re-interred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. Carved wooden tablets to his memory and to the memory of his wife are held privately and are inaccessible to the public. That inscription reads, "Blade straight / Steel true / Arthur Conan Doyle / Born May 22nd 1859 / Passed On 7th July 1930." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: "Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters". Undershaw, the home near Hindhead, Haslemere, south of London, that Doyle had built and lived in between October 1897 and September 1907, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer and stood empty while conservationists and Doyle fans fought to preserve it. In 2012 the High Court ruled that the redevelopment permission be quashed because proper procedure had not been followed. A statue honors Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Doyle was born.

My Review: In this story, Miss Susan Cushing of Croydon receives a parcel in the post that contains two severed human ears packed in coarse salt. Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard suspects a prank by three medical students whom Miss Cushing was forced to evict because of their unruly behaviour. The parcel was sent from Belfast, the city of origin of one of the former boarders. Upon examining the parcel himself, Holmes is convinced that it is evidence of a serious crime. He reasons that a medical student with access to a dissection laboratory would likely use something other than plain salt to preserve human remains, and would be able to make a more precise cut than the roughly hacked ears suggest. The address on the package, roughly written and with a spelling correction, suggests to Holmes that the sender lacks education and is unfamiliar with Croydon. The knot in the string suggests to Holmes that they are looking for someone with sailing experience.
Holmes considers the solution so simple that he asks Lestrade not to mention his name in connection with it. A few simple questions to Miss Cushing, a few observations, a cable to Liverpool, and a visit to Miss Cushing's sister Sarah (Holmes was denied admittance by the doctor because she was having a "brain fever") convince Holmes that the ears belong to Miss Cushing's other sister, Mary, and her extramarital lover, and that they have been murdered. He is convinced that Mary's estranged husband, Jim Browner, is the murderer, and that Browner had sent the cardboard box containing the ears to the Cushing's house in Croydon (addressing it merely to "S. Cushing"), not realizing that Sarah was no longer resident there. Browner, who is an unpleasant man when drunk, had meant to horrify Sarah (rather than Susan) because he blamed Sarah for causing the trouble that culminated in his murder of his wife and her lover.
Browner is indeed a sailor, and Belfast was the first port where he had the chance to post the parcel. Lestrade, acting on Holmes's information, is waiting to arrest him when his ship reaches London. He confesses everything. He is presented with considerable sympathy, a simple man so tormented by guilt at his act that he would welcome being hanged. The real villain of the story - morally if not legally - is Sarah Cushing, who tried to seduce Browner herself and, when he rejected her advances, set out to wreck his marriage with her sister Mary.

Another very well written story, I recommend this one to all readers that appreciate a good mystery, mainly featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book "Adelita's Secret" by Christopher Cloud

About the Book: Lost in a superficial world of materialism and social status—and ashamed of her Latino heritage—seventeen-year-old Adelita NoĆ© is loved by two men, two men separated by a hundred years and vastly different stations in life. One man owns little more than the shirt on his back. The other, a poet at heart, is heir to a vast fortune. Their love for Adelita serves as the backdrop for the Latino girl’s quest to better understand herself and her Mexican roots.

About the Author: Award-winning author Christopher Cloud writes middle-grade and young adult novels. He began writing fiction full time at the age of 66 after a long career in journalism and public relations. Chris graduated from the University of Missouri in 1967 with a degree in journalism. He has worked as a reporter, editor, and columnist at newspapers in Texas, California, and Missouri. He was employed by a major oil company as a public relations executive, and later operated his own public relations agency. He created the board game Sixth Sense in 2003. Chris lives in Joplin, Missouri, and enjoys golf and hiking.

My Review: As a Latino, this book touched me deeply, as I could feel Adelita's pain trying to be accepted by her colleagues without prejudice. It is not easy, mainly for a young lady. And the author was able to capture all her anguish in this beautiful and touching story. 
As life is never easy, Adelita is caught in a situation that makes her learn and reflect on the suffering of Mexican people at the beginning of the 20th century. I almost can say that the past comes to haunt her (literally). Involved with two loves separated by a hundred years (with the help of her great-great-grand mother, Adelita travels between two realms), Adelita learns the true meaning of sacrifice, friendship, rejection, care for others, responsibilities, and all the sentiments that help building a valuable character. 

I recommend this book to the permanent library of any reader who enjoys a very well written novel, with all ingredients to be a success, mainly among young adults, like romance, paranormal activities, time travelling and discussions about hot topics. They will not be disappointed.
I received this book from the author for reviewing, but I was not requested for a positive review. Opinion expressed here is my own.

If you read this review, feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book "The Adventure of The Second Stain" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Second Stain", one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 13 stories in the cycle collected as The Return of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle ranked "The Adventure of the Second Stain" eighth in his list of his twelve favorite Holmes stories.

About the Author: Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield, as well as in Shropshire at Ruyton-XI-Towns. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, "The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe", was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood's Magazine. His first published piece "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. On 20 September 1879, he published his first non-fiction article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" in the British Medical Journal. In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 (£900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including "The Captain of the Pole-Star" and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", both inspired by Doyle's time at sea, the latter of which popularized the mystery of the Mary Celeste and added fictional details such as the perfect condition of the ship (which had actually taken on water by the time it was discovered) and its boats remaining on board (the one boat was in fact missing) that have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock Co. on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 for all rights to the story. The piece appeared later that year in the Beeton's Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. The story featured the first appearance of Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partially modeled after his former university teacher Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man." Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognize the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... Can this be my old friend Joe Bell?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character C. Auguste Dupin. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott's Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them. Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the Strand Magazine. Doyle first began to write for the 'Strand' from his home at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, now marked by a memorial plaque. In this period, however, Holmes was not his sole subject and in 1893, he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on the libretto of Jane Annie. Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in Windlesham rose garden. He was later re-interred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. Carved wooden tablets to his memory and to the memory of his wife are held privately and are inaccessible to the public. That inscription reads, "Blade straight / Steel true / Arthur Conan Doyle / Born May 22nd 1859 / Passed On 7th July 1930." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: "Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters". Undershaw, the home near Hindhead, Haslemere, south of London, that Doyle had built and lived in between October 1897 and September 1907, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer and stood empty while conservationists and Doyle fans fought to preserve it. In 2012 the High Court ruled that the redevelopment permission be quashed because proper procedure had not been followed. A statue honors Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Doyle was born.

My Review: In this story, Lord Bellinger, the Prime Minister, and Trelawney Hope, the Secretary of State for European Affairs, come to Holmes in the matter of a document stolen from Hope's dispatch box, which he kept at home in Whitehall Terrace when not at work. If divulged, this document could bring about very dire consequences for all Europe, even war. They are loath to tell Holmes at first the exact nature of the document's contents, but when Holmes declines to take on their case, they tell him that it was a rather injudicious letter from a foreign potentate. It disappeared from the dispatch box one evening when Hope's wife was out at the theater for four hours. No-one in the house knew about the document, not even the Secretary's wife, with whom he will not discuss his work. None of the servants could have guessed what was in the box.
Holmes decides to begin with some spies known to him, and is then astonished to hear from Dr. Watson that one of those that he names has been murdered. Eduardo Lucas of Godolphin Street, near Whitehall, was stabbed to death at his house last night. Holmes is sure that this is beyond coincidence.
Before Holmes has a chance to act, another piece of the puzzle arrives at 221B Baker Street in the form of Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope, the European Secretary's wife. She asks Holmes about the stolen document's contents, saying that it is in her husband's best interest for her to know. Holmes will only reveal that there would be very unfortunate consequences if the document were not found. Holmes reads terror in Lady Hilda's eyes. Lady Hilda also begs Holmes to tell her husband nothing of her visit.
Holmes's spy hunt does not go well. It lasts days without result. As for the murder, the police arrest Mitton, Lucas's valet, but soon release him as he has a solid alibi.
Four days after the murder, a newspaper report from Paris connects Madame Henri Fournaye to Lucas's death. A woman matching her description was seen in London, where Mme Fournaye has recently been. She is, it seems, Lucas's wife, Eduardo Lucas and Henri Fournaye having been the same person, as established by photographs. She is of no use as a witness, however, as she has gone insane.
Inspector Lestrade calls Holmes to the murder scene to examine something odd. Lucas bled over a drugget, and the blood soaked through it, but curiously, there is no bloodstain on the floor under the drugget. However, there is one under the opposite edge of the carpet. It can only mean that the constable guarding the crime scene has been foolish enough to let someone in, and leave them alone while they moved things in the room, including the carpet. Holmes tells Lestrade to take the constable to a back room and obtain a confession, which he does, vigorously.
While Lestrade is remonstrating with his wayward constable, and therefore cannot learn anything about the other investigation involving the document, Holmes pulls the unfastened carpet aside and quickly finds a hiding place in the floor, but it is empty.
Lestrade and the constable come back, and the latter tells Holmes that the unauthorized visitor was a young woman. She apparently fainted at the sight of the blood, and the constable then actually went out to get some brandy to revive her, but she had left before he got back. As Holmes is leaving Lucas's house, he shows the constable a photograph, and he recognizes it as the visitor.
Holmes now knows where the stolen document is, but not why it was stolen. He goes to the Hope household and confronts Lady Hilda with the evidence. At first, she denies everything, but is forced to admit her wrongdoing under threat of certain scandal. She was a blackmail victim. Eduardo Lucas had got hold of a compromising letter written by Lady Hilda years earlier, and demanded the contents of her husband's dispatch box for the return thereof (an unnamed spy within her husband's own office had made Lucas aware of the document). She went to his house to do the business when, as it happens, his wife from Paris showed up and confronted him about his affair, believing that Lady Hilda was his mistress. Lady Hilda hurriedly left.
She returned, however, to fetch the stolen document after her visit to Holmes convinced her that she needed to do this. She hands the document to Holmes. Her only problem is how to return it. Holmes suggests putting it back in the dispatch box using Lady Hilda's duplicate key.
They do this, and when Hope arrives back home with the Prime Minister, Holmes pretends to believe that the evidence has convinced him that the document must still be in the box. It is soon found, and Hope rejoices that it was only a mistake.
In this way, the lost document is restored without Lady Hilda's part in the affair being revealed - though at the possible price of making her husband look a bit stupid. The Prime Minister, however, is no fool. He can see that there is an underlying story, but Holmes simply responds, "We also have our diplomatic secrets."
Nothing is mentioned furthermore about the unnamed spy in the office of the European Secretary of State.

Another excellent plot! I recommend this book to all readers who enjoy a well written mystery.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book "Tales from Gunderland" by Hank Quense

About the Book: Laughter is like free health insurance: you can't get too much of it. This book will give you enough laughs to boost your health.
It's filled with delightful entertainment. Without commercial interruption!
Gundarland is populated by humans, dwarfs, elves and other races; it's the backdrop for unique adventures, brilliant heroes and cunning villains.
There are six short stories and two novellas in here. All are new. You'll meet some of Shakespeare's most famous characters, a warrior-cook, vigilantes, a trio of beautiful, lusty princesses to mention just a few of the memorable characters in the stories.
Here is a list of the stories and a brief synopsis of each:
Romeo and Juliet: Romeo, a dwarf miner, and Juliet, the elfin daughter of a rich gem merchant, have a rocky courtship because Juliet's brothers are avowed enemies of Romeo's family.
Chasing Dreams: This novella tells the story of twin yuk brothers on their journey from strong-armed thugs to highway robbers to bawdy house owners to politicians. The brothers are plagued and harassed by vigilantes.
Boggerts Blue: A warrior-cook seeks to rescue a kidnapped princess. She refuses to be rescued by someone who isn't noble-born.
The Big Bang: A wizard has to eliminate a dragon and his minions. Along the way to complete his mission, he is tested by a shape-changer and a pair of trolls.
The Queen's Hero: This novella is about a young tinker-warrior as he struggles to save his Queen from a pirate admiral trying to overthrow her and become king. The Queen's three beautiful daughters have their own plans for the young hero.
Merchant of Venison: A dwarf butcher borrows money to help his best friend and soon regrets it. The dwelf money lender has bloody ideas about the default payments.
Inter-Racial Musical Playoffs: A few greedy wizards attempt to fix a musical competition. Other wizards try to protect the band leader who is favored to win the competition.
Tactical Surprise: A general develops unusual tactics to defeat a rebel army. The enemy leader is a close family friend making the general's decisions more difficult.

About the Author: Award-winning author Hank Quense lives in Bergenfield, NJ with his wife Pat. They have two daughters and five grandchildren. He writes humorous fantasy and scifi stories. On occasion, he also writes an article on fiction writing or book marketing but says that writing nonfiction is like work while writing fiction is fun. A member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, he refuses to write serious genre fiction saying there is enough of that on the front page of any daily newspaper and on the evening TV news.
His most recent project has been to write a series of books to explain the publishing and marketing processes involved in self-publishing. There are four books in the series. He decided to stop work on a novel to spend almost all of 2013 writing the Self-publishing Guides. His motivation was two-fold. One was to dispute all the nonsense he saw on the internet claiming that self-publishing is easy; all you have to do is upload the file. His second motive was to warn inexperienced self-publishers about the scammers and sharks who swarm toward new authors with offers to provide "help" in publishing and marketing a book.
He loves to write parodies of famous works. A recent novels is Falstaff's Big Gamble which he describes as "Shakespeare's worst nightmare. It takes two great tragedies, Othello and Hamlet, and turns them into comedies set in a fantasy land. His Wotan's Dilemma is a parody on Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle of operas. Instead of taking place in the Dark Ages, Wotan's Dilemma is set in the future with fantasy creatures replaced by aliens.
Hank often lectures on fiction writing, self-publishing and book marketing.
He has a number of links where you can follow his work and his occasional rants:
Hank's blog: http://hanquense.com/wp
Strange Worlds website:http://strangeworldsonline.com/wp
Follow him on twitter: http://twitter.com/hanque99
Facebook fan pages: https://www.facebook.com/StrangeWorldsOnline

My Review: Mr. Quense nails it again. In this new book he comes with 8 stories, one more creative then the other. Hysterical. My favorite is the last one, Tactical Surprise. The end of the story is delicious. I loved it!
I have been following this author for a while and having read most of his books I can say that he is a master of satiric humor. You have to read his stories slowly and savor every subtle humor. It will light up your day.
His characters are taken from Shakespeare and fairy tale stories and they are placed in a new world called Gundarland. With very fruitful imagination, the author creates situations that will make us remember the real story, but with twists very particular to his style.
I recommend this book to the permanent library of any reader who is up to a good laugh. Very well written book, it will keep you entertained for hours.

If you read my review, feel free to leave a comment!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book "The Adventure of The Abbey Grange" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle






http://bookscrier.com/the-adventure-of-the-six-napoleons



About the Book: "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange", one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 13 stories in the cycle collected as The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

About the Author: Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield, as well as in Shropshire at Ruyton-XI-Towns. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, "The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe", was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood's Magazine. His first published piece "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. On 20 September 1879, he published his first non-fiction article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" in the British Medical Journal. In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 (£900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including "The Captain of the Pole-Star" and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", both inspired by Doyle's time at sea, the latter of which popularized the mystery of the Mary Celeste and added fictional details such as the perfect condition of the ship (which had actually taken on water by the time it was discovered) and its boats remaining on board (the one boat was in fact missing) that have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock Co. on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 for all rights to the story. The piece appeared later that year in the Beeton's Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. The story featured the first appearance of Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partially modeled after his former university teacher Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man." Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognize the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... Can this be my old friend Joe Bell?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character C. Auguste Dupin. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott's Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them. Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the Strand Magazine. Doyle first began to write for the 'Strand' from his home at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, now marked by a memorial plaque. In this period, however, Holmes was not his sole subject and in 1893, he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on the libretto of Jane Annie. Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in Windlesham rose garden. He was later re-interred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. Carved wooden tablets to his memory and to the memory of his wife are held privately and are inaccessible to the public. That inscription reads, "Blade straight / Steel true / Arthur Conan Doyle / Born May 22nd 1859 / Passed On 7th July 1930." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: "Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters". Undershaw, the home near Hindhead, Haslemere, south of London, that Doyle had built and lived in between October 1897 and September 1907, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer and stood empty while conservationists and Doyle fans fought to preserve it. In 2012 the High Court ruled that the redevelopment permission be quashed because proper procedure had not been followed. A statue honors Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Doyle was born.

My Review: In this story, Holmes wakes Doctor Watson up early one winter morning to rush to a murder scene at the Abbey Grange near Chislehurst. Sir Eustace Brackenstall has been killed, apparently by burglars. Inspector Stanley Hopkins believes that it was the infamous Randall gang, a father and two sons, who have committed several other burglaries in the neighborhood.
Holmes and Watson arrive at Abbey Grange, where Lady Brackenstall is resting with a purple swelling over one eye, the result of a blow during the previous night's incident. There are also two red spots on her arm. Her maid, Theresa Wright, who has been with her mistress since she was born, later tells Holmes that Sir Eustace stabbed her with a hatpin.
Lady Brackenstall tells Holmes that her marriage was not happy. Sir Eustace Brackenstall was a violent, abusive drunkard. Moreover, Lady Brackenstall found it hard to adjust to life in England after the freedom that she enjoyed in her native Australia, which she left 18 months before. She had been married for about a year.
She then tells what happened. She says that about 11 o'clock, she walked around the house to check it was secure before going to a bed. In the dining room, she encountered an elderly man coming in the French window, followed by two younger men. The older man struck her in the face, knocking her out. When she came to, she was tied to an oaken chair with the bellrope, which they had torn down, and gagged. Then Sir Eustace came into the room, and rushed at the intruders with a cudgel. One of them struck and killed him with a poker. Lady Brackenstall fainted again for a minute or two. She saw the intruders drinking wine from a bottle taken from the sideboard. Then they left, taking some silver plate.
Sir Eustace's body is still lying at the murder scene. The poker has been bent into a curve, suggesting a strong attacker. Hopkins tells Holmes some unsavory things about Sir Eustace: He poured petroleum over his wife's dog and set it alight, and once threw a decanter at Theresa. Theresa says Sir Eustace physically and verbally assaulted his wife, especially when he was drunk.
Holmes examines the knots in the bell-rope, and the frayed end. He notes that if the bell-rope was tugged hard enough to tear it down, the bell would have rung in the kitchen, and asks why nobody heard it. Hopkins answers that it was late, and the kitchen is at the back of the house, where none of the servants would have heard. This suggests that the burglars must have known this, indicating a link between them and one of the servants.
Oddly, the thieves did not take much, only a few items of silver plate from dining room.
The half-empty wine bottle and glasses interest Holmes. The cork had been drawn with the corkscrew of a "multiplex knife", not the long corkscrew in the drawer, and one of the glasses has beeswing dregs in it, but the others have none.
Holmes is already annoyed at being called to investigate a case that apparently has a ready-made solution, so he and Watson catch the train back to London. On the way, however, Holmes thinks better of his haste, and pulls Watson off the train at a suburban station, announcing that they are going back to the Abbey Grange. Having mulled things over while on the train, Holmes has reached the following conclusions:
The Randall gang was clearly described in the papers, and anyone making up a story about burglars breaking into the house could use the descriptions;
Burglars who have recently made off with a rich haul don't usually do another job so soon after;
It was an uncommonly early hour for burglars;
It is odd that they struck Lady Brackenstall to stop her screaming, as this would most likely start her screaming;
It is odd that they resorted to murder when the three of them could have overpowered Sir Eustace;
It is odd that they did not ransack the house;
It is odd that they didn't drink the entire bottle.
Holmes also draws Watson's attention to the wineglasses. The presence of beeswing in only one indicates that only two people used the glasses; they poured the dregs into the third to make it look as though there were three. Holmes deduces from this that Lady Brackenstall and her maid lied.
Upon returning to the Abbey Grange, Holmes climbs on the mantelpiece, examining the severed end of the bellrope, and a bracket upon which he must kneel to reach it. Holmes has now developed the killer's profile: 6 ft 3 in (191 cm) tall, active, dextrous, and quick-witted. He cut the bell-rope with a knife, and frayed the loose end to make it look broken. But he could not reach the end still hanging from the ceiling, which is cut clean. Sir Eustace's blood is on the seat of the oaken chair. How could a splatter have landed there if Lady Brackenstall was bound there before her husband's murder?
Holmes confronts Lady Brackenstall and Theresa. He tells them he knows they are lying and demands the truth. But Lady Brackenstall stands by her story.
On the way out, Holmes notices a hole in the ice on the pond, and writes a note for Hopkins.
Holmes searches for the killer: almost certainly a sailor (indicated by the knots and the active physique), who was previously acquainted with Lady Brackenstall, and whom she and Theresa would protect. Her only contact with sailors was on her voyage from Australia, and only with the officers of her ship (her social equals).
Lady Brackenstall traveled by the Rock of Gibraltar of the Adelaide-Southampton Line, which is now halfway to Australia. However, the ship's first officer, Jack Croker, has been promoted to captain. He has remained in England and in two days will take command of the company's new ship, Bass Rock. His employers describe him as a splendid fellow - hot-headed ashore, "but loyal, honest, and kindhearted."
Holmes takes a cab to Scotland Yard, but does not go in. He tells Watson he is reluctant to name the criminal to the police until he knows more.
That evening, Inspector Hopkins calls at 221B Baker Street, with two items of news. As suggested in Holmes' note, the stolen silver was found at the bottom of the pond. Why should the burglars have put it there? Holmes suggests that the theft was a blind - a deliberate false clue. But Hopkins rationalizes that the pond was chosen as a temporary hiding place.
The other news is even more problematic. The Randall gang was arrested in New York that morning, so they couldn't commit a murder in Kent the previous night. But there are other gangs of three burglars; Hopkins will look for them. He asks Holmes if he has any hints to offer. Holmes reminds him of his suggestion of a blind, but Hopkins pays no heed, and leaves.
Later that evening, Captain Croker comes to Baker Street, summoned by a telegram from Holmes. Holmes demands a full account of what happened at the Abbey Grange that night. He warns Croker that he has already deduced most of it: if Croker lies or conceals anything, he will summon the police.
Croker met Mary (Lady Brackenstall) on the voyage from Australia. He fell in love with her, but not she with him. He was even pleased to hear of her marriage to a wealthy gentleman. Then he happened to meet Theresa, who told him of Sir Eustace's abusive behavior. He met secretly with Mary at the house; the last time on the previous night.
They were in the dining room when Sir Eustace burst in, insulted Mary, and struck her with the cudgel. He then attacked Croker, who killed him with the poker, in self-defense. Croker adds that he has no regret whatever, for he would not leave Mary in "in the power of this madman".
To avoid the scandal that could ensue, Croker and Theresa concocted the cover story of burglars caught in the act. He cut down the bell-rope exactly as Holmes deduced; he opened the wine bottle with his pocket knife's corkscrew; he took some silver plate, and dropped it in the pond.
Holmes tells Crocker that the police don't yet know the truth, and that he will wait 24 hours before revealing it, allowing Croker to get away. Croker indignantly refuses the offer - he will not leave Mary to "face the music" as an accomplice. He offers to agree to any version of the case that will leave Mary out of it.
But Holmes was only testing him, and is impressed by his loyalty to Mary. He has given Hopkins "an excellent hint" and doesn't feel he must do more. He designates Watson as the "jury", and asks him to "render a verdict". Watson declares Croker "Not guilty."
Holmes tells Croker he will keep silent unless someone else is charged, and that he may come back to Mary in a year.
Excellent plot, I recommend this book to any reader who appreciates a well written mystery story.