Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

My husband found this for me at the library. I almost didn’t read it, once I realized that it was written by an athlete: that would have been a mistake. It was an enjoyable book, one that flies by because it’s so much fun.

This book is, as the title suggests, about Mycroft, Sherlock’s older brother. In fact, Sherlock appears in this book for less than five pages. I really liked that. Mycroft was written as a slightly less analytical, but more emotional genius and wasn’t overshadowed by the more well-known Sherlock.

In this book, Mycroft stumbles across a series of murders that seem to involve his fiance in some way. He travels to Trinidad with his best friend, Douglas, in an attempt to track her down and get to the bottom of things.

I loved Douglas. He was wise and long-suffering, without in any way being a Watson rip-off. In fact, this whole book walked the fine line between being an homage and being a copy with ease. It was a wholly original book.

My biggest complaint about it is that it rapidly switched from being a mystery to being an adventure novel. If I had gone into it knowing that it wasn’t going to be a mystery, I would have liked it more. Now that I have a better idea what to expect, I’m happily planning on reading the sequel, Mycroft and Sherlock.

The historical aspects of the book were well researched, the descriptions of the various places were vivid, and the story was fun. It was a fun addition to the Sherlock Holmes pastiche.

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Grave Expectations by Sherri Browning Erwin

Do you remember having to read Great Expectations in school? How you muddled through it, having already decided that you wouldn’t like it? Or maybe that was just me. Either way, I wish this book had existed then; to read it after reading Great Expectations would have made me appreciate the original more (I suggest going into Great Expectations with an open mind, unlike me. When I reread it later in life, I ended up really liking it).

This is a supernatural parody of Great Expectations, written around the same time as Pride and Prejudice And Zombies. One clever thing about this book is that, while there are werewolves, zombies, and vampires aplenty, you can plainly see the spirit of Great Expectations underneath. Sherri Browning Erwin somehow managed a fun twist on a classic that keeps the story fresh and acts almost as a guide through some of the slower-moving parts of the original book.

I actually enjoyed this much more than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, possibly because I like Great Expectations, while not being a fan of Pride and Prejudice. I think that reading Great Expectations for the first time, followed by Grave Expectations would make for a cool compare and contrast. In fact, I might have my oldest- whom I homeschool- do that next year.

It’s not the most amazing reworking of a classic that I’ve ever read, but it is a solid, fun book. It’s also a quick read, one that’s perfect when you only have time to read in bits and spurts.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

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Right before Christmas, I was walking through the bookstore, when I noticed something that completely threw me:  a beautiful copy of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, written by Alexander Dumas! I had no idea that the author of The Three Musketeers wrote the version of The Nutcracker that the famous ballet is based on.

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Since seeing it, I’ve been thinking about well known authors, and their less than famous works. I haven’t read Dumas’  Nutcracker yet, but here are some other books that have surprised me over the years:

*Louisa May Alcott: Not only the author of Little Women, there are also two sequels: Little Men, and Jo’s Boys. Of the three, my favorite is actually Jo’s Boys. I find Little Women to be a bit heavy-handed on the life lessons.

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*A.A. Milne: He’s famous for his Winnie the Pooh stories, and most people know about his poetry (Now We Are Six was included in my Pooh stories boxed set). In 2018, I read an adult mystery written by A.A. Milne. I didn’t know before then that he’d written for adults! I read The Red House Mystery, which was entertaining, though not fantastic.

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* Richard Adams: He’s most well known for Watership Down, but I learned a while ago that there’s also Tales From Watership Down, a collection of short stories written about El-ahrairah, the hero of the folk tales in Watership Down. It’s a very weird book. However, if you think about it, Watership Down is weird too. Good, but weird.

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: He’s the author of the amazing Sherlock Holmes stories, which I love, love, love. He also wrote several other books, including some horror. I read The Parasite, a book about a nefarious woman who uses hypnotism to attract men, since she can’t seem to do it on her own. It was a truly terrible book.  I was very disappointed.

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*Anne McCaffrey: she’s most famous for Dragonriders of Pern (which I highly recommend, by the way), but I absolutely love A Diversity of Dragons. Co-authored by Richard Woods, this is a book about dragons in different cultures throughout history, as well as the evolution of the dragon in literature. With art by John Howe, this book is incredible. I’ve had a copy for years, and if I have my way, I always will have one.

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Have you read any of these? Maybe they’re more well known than I thought, and I just miss a lot. What are some other books whose authors might surprise me?

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle

I have a feeling that I’m going to contradict myself several times during this post. For those who don’t know, Eric Idle is one of the writers and members of Monty Python, so maybe being odd and contradictory is the best way to review this book. Sure, let’s go with that.

I found myself laughing uproariously several times during this book, of course. Eric Idle has the gift of stating the saddest things in a way that neither diminishes what happened, or dwells on it. Kind of a like a “Yeah, that sucked, but it’s life” attitude (you’ll see what I mean when you read about what happened to his dad). He’s well aware of his talents, but equally well aware of his faults and finds humor in them.

This book both needed to be longer, but could have been condensed. See what I mean about being contradictory? At less than three hundred pages, there’s really not much to the book length-wise, so being longer wouldn’t have been bad IF there was more that could be said. Of course, I also found myself thinking that parts dragged. Some of it read like sitting with someone who suddenly switches from telling you a story to muttering to themselves about it.

Eric Idle would be the perfect person to hang out with at Thanksgiving, or during a family reunion: he has the most interesting reminiscences. However, some of that was lost in the writing.  I really liked his stories of the random weirdness he got into. Because of that, I wish there was also a book with memories written in collaboration with all the members of Monty Python. That would be epic. Of course, Graham Chapman would have to come back from the dead for that, and who would cheat death just to argue with editors?

All in all, the funny parts were hilarious, the little-known tidbits were fascinating, and the rest was just there. Would I recommend it? Ummmm…maybe? It wasn’t a bad way to ring in a new year of reading, but it wasn’t incredible.

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