My heart will always be Holmesian

Ever since I was a child Sherlock Holmes was part of my life. My dad has always been a fan and I remember the first time he travelled to London he brought me a magnet of 221B Baker St. I was very young and I hadn’t read Conan Doyle. My first reading came one summer. We were at an aunt’s sister’s beach house and I found a Sherlock Holmes anthology in my room. I started reading and couldn’t stop.

When we got back from vacation I told my dad and he lent me his copy of a Study in Scarlet. Oh, how was my young mind blown…!

Ever since, Sherlock Holmes has always been with me. But I had never read the canon in English. So I chose to read it for the prompt A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction for the Back to Classics 2018 challenge. I knew it would take me a while; I also didn’t want to rush it. And to achieve my goal I read and I also listened to the audiobook read by Stephen Fry.

I’m not sure when was the last time I read a Holmes’s story… It probably was more than ten years ago. And it made me so happy to have him back in my life. Stephen Fry’s performance is outstanding. I actually found myself listening to his voice whenever I was reading from my book (and not listening to the audiobook).

The canon of Sherlock Holmes includes 56 short stories and 4 novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

The four novels of the canon are:

  • A Study in Scarlet (1887)
  • The Sign of the Four (1890)
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901–1902)
  • The Valley of Fear (1914–1915)

The 56 short stories of the canon are collected in five books:

  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)
  • The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894)
  • The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905)
  • His Last Bow (1917)
  • The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927)

 

I must say that the US version you can find in Audible doesn’t include The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes… it has to do with copyrights, because they’re not free in America yet. But you can get it from the Australian store (as I did).

Of course, there are better stories than others… I mean, the audiobook is almost 72 hours… but I would recommend reading all of them. One story here, one novel there… from year to year.

(image soon to be updated)

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As Ahab’s, my whale was Moby Dick…

There is no way you don’t know about Moby Dick. If you’re interested in books/culture/reading you have heard about it at least once in your life. This is one of those books that most people know about but don’t really know…

That was my case. I have a couple of whale plush toys, my third car (which was white) was called Moby, I have a baby edition of this book… but I had never read it. In school we read some fragments and I had read some more on my own, but I never got the chance to read it entirely. It was my white whale.

So, of course, Moby Dick was the book I chose for the A classic that scares you prompt of the Back to Classics 2018 challenge. Of course.

It was HARD. The language was definitely a challenge. Midway I decided I needed help and ran to the library to get the audiobook. I read while listening most of the time. But, oh, does it feels amazing…!

Moby-Dick, or The Whale, by Herman Melville was published in 1851. It’s impossible to say that it tells the story of something in particular. Of course, the plot tells the story of Ahab’s never ending quest for the whale Moby-Dick. But this book is so much more. From the bromance of Ishmael and Queequeg (should we call them Queeuael or Ishmaeg?), the minute description of the bloody whaling business (what’s up with Japan trying to revive it!? WTF!?), to the know metaphor of pursuing the unachievable.

I’m incredibly happy (and proud, fuck!) I finally got to read this book. It isn’t a book I’d recommend, though. There are a lot of problematic things with it (lack of female characters, violence, racism…), but I can see why it’s a classic. I’m just glad I could take it off my TBR.

 

PS. My library version of the audiobook was read by William Hootkins. He was great except when he narrated Ahab. How do you think he spoke? I mean… I know he’s angry, but… ugh… I don’t know… not thaaaat much.

What is a gift? Book review

 

I’ve always been fan of zombies… but I especially like the “unconventional” ones. I’m thinking of Fido or Black Sheep. And I have to say I haven’t read many zombie books before, just The Zombie Survival Guide, by Max Brooks, I think.

The September Monthly Motif Challenge was: Don’t Turn Out the Light! A horror novel! And I started researching early in the year. I wanted a horror audiobook. I don’t think I have read many things that actually scare me. I can only think of The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, really. And I wanted to take this opportunity to get really scared, and what better than having someone creepily whispering into your ear?

I couldn’t find books that seemed enticing. All the lists of horror audiobooks I found had things that just didn’t catch my attention. So when September arrived and I hadn’t made my mind, I made a list with all the books I have gathered as interesting and compiled their Goodreads rating.

In the end I decided to go for The Girl with all the Gifts, by M. R. Carey. It is actually the first book of a series (that I probably won’t be reading). It tells the story of Melanie, a “little genius” who lives in a cell and is taken to class every morning strapped to wheelchair and with a gun pointed to her head. Melanie is a zombie (a “hungry”), but she doesn’t know. She’s a sweet girl avid for knowledge and love, and isn’t able to understand why the personnel that manage her is so scared of her and her classmates. Everyone but her favorite teacher, Miss Justineau.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but things go south very early in the book, and Melanie discovers her real place in the world.

I liked The Girl With All the Gifts very much. It’s a beautiful book. The first chapters are amazing, with all the descriptions of Melanie’s life and the post-apocalyptic reality. I still can’t point out what made me give it only 3 stars. It was well written, amazingly narrated by Finty Williams, the plot was very very original, the characters are deep enough… But it didn’t scare me. Not even a little bit. There are harrowing parts, of course. The mad doctor scenes, especially, the deaths. But I don’t know. I will watch the movie, though.

Do you like zombie movies/books? Has any zombie book actually scared you?

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Melanie, una novela de zombis (uy, ¿no se quemaron las pestañas con ese título, editores?) fue mi elección para el reto de septiembre de Monthly Motif, que tenía que ser una novela de terror.

Tenía muchas ganas de asustarme, así que pensé en buscar un audiolibro, pero la verdad es que no encontré ninguno que me llamara la atención. Busqué listas y listas, comparé calificaciones en Goodreads, y la que finalmente decidí fue Melanie, una novela de zombis, de M. R Carey. Siempre me han gustado los zombis, especialmente las historias poco convencionales, así que esta novela dio en el clavo.

Me encantó el libro. La historia es buenísima, los personajes son increíbles, la narración de Finty Williams es extraordinaria, hasta la explicación “científica” es original y creíble. Es un libro hermoso. Pero no me asustó. Por supuesto que hay escenas terroríficas, especialmente las de la científica loca, las matanzas… pero no hubo ningún momento en que me diera miedo apagar la luz.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, book review

For my June monthly motif (Crack the Case) challenge I had thought about the Sherlock Holmes Canon. I was going to read it anyway for Back to the Classics… But I had been reading a lot about I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara, and I had other challenges involving True Crime, so I decided to keep the SHC just for my Back to the Classics prompt, and read this one for the Monthly Motif Challenge.

This was my first ever True Crime book, and I decided to give it a try on Audible, because I read that the performance was amazing. And it definitely was. I was worried that I would get lost, but Michelle McNamara’s writing and Gabra Zackman’s narration are sooo clear. I did take a couple notes, but nothing I wouldn’t have done even with the printed book, because there are hundreds of bits of information.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark has a very interesting story. It was published posthumously in February of this year, 2018. The author, the obsessive woman, Michelle McNamara, died in April 2016. She was a crime investigative journalist who got interested in the Golden State Killer (a name she actually coined for the previously known EAR-East Area Rapist/ONS-Original Night Stalker) a couple years before her death. She became obsessed and after writing a piece for Los Angeles Magazine she got a book deal.

This book has the information all the agencies gathered through the years (+40!), condensed and explained in such a way that you almost feel like at the end she’ll just write the name. Of course it doesn’t happen. Actually, almost at the end of the book, her editor tells that Michelle called her once, asking exactly that: How do you end when you write about an unsolved crime? Unfortunately she never got to that point. But in a way she did.

Michelle McNamara died in her sleep, of an accidental overdose. And her husband, Patton Oswalt, reached out to her friends for them to finish her project. They used her drafts, and many many of her notes for the book and for the LA Mag article. And they ended the book with a letter Michelle wrote to the Golden State Killer. The letter itself is amazing. And after reading everything else, it just adds so much value. I’m pretty sure she intended to end I’ll Be Gone in the Dark that way, anyway.

The interesting thing is that the book was published two years after her death and they caught the Golden State Killer a couple months after the publication of the book, in April 2018. A lot of people, especially the police, say that the book didn’t help catching him, and of course her husband says it did, if not for anything else but for growing the following of one of the coldest cases in police history. I’m not sure if you can say that that’s help, especially because the GSK was never in the suspects list or in any piece of evidence. There’s one moment when the two other writers (Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen) tell the story of how they got the “Mother load”, boxes and boxes of evidence, and Michelle said that the possibility that the name of the perpetrator being in those boxes was 80%. Well, no, not as a suspect at least. But many of the characteristics and elements of the profiles they present finally became true. They were sure that the killer had inside information, because he always seemed to be a step ahead of them. In the end, he was a former cop, who got fired for shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent (!!!). His name is Joseph James DeAngelo. What Michelle got right was that he was going to be caught because of the advancements of technology. It was DNA that allowed making the match and apprehending him.

Is this amazing?

DeAngelo is now 72. He will be charged for murder, but not for the rapes because of the statute of limitations. It’s a shame. Justice is justice.

The doorbell rings.

No side gates are left open. You’re long past leaping over a fence. Take one of your hyper, gulping breaths. Clench your teeth. Inch timidly toward the insistent bell.

This is how it ends for you.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once.

Open the door. Show us your face.

Walk into the light.

– Michelle McNamara, Letter to an old man

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I’m hooked on the True Crime genre. I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll read much more, though. My country is very violent and I don’t think I need more violence. Perhaps if the cases are solved… But it’s so interesting. Do you have any recommendations?