Category Archives: Book Reviews

The House of Silk is ‘Under Wraps’

The House of Silk (Cover)

Only moments ago I turned the last page on Anthony  Horowitz’s The House of Silk, and I must say he was quite dutiful in his approach to the famous Detective and the original author’s (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) method of portrayal. I originally thought it to be much like A Study in Scarlet, and it most certainly is at the beginning. However, it delves much deeper and takes many more turns than any of Watson’s previously chronicled exploits, entangling many of the characters we’re readily acquainted with (from the original adventures): Lestrade, Moriarty, (of course Watson and Sherlock), The Baker Street Irregulars, previous clients of Holmes, etc. The story in itself is a labyrinth of seemingly unrelated points which culminate to an “AHA! I should’ve seen that!” moment when Sherlock provides his unveiling of the case (or rather, cases in this case [the joys of wordplay!]).

The House of Silk is made up of two wholly intertwined cases: The Man in the Flat Cap and The House of Silk (I have added such information to Wikipedia at this point) – the first is quite like Sherlock’s other cases, yet still incredibly fresh. The latter is quite ambiguous at first, as one would desire and most certainly expect of a good mystery, and at its end, most revolting by the nature of the crime that was committed, reminding us this is a novel designated for mature audiences and reminds one of certain events that have occurred in our world and my country as of late.

Anthony Horowitz delivers and follows through with all the expectations I would set forth for a Sherlock Holme’s novel, and makes a suitable addition to the canon as such. I likely will, after the story has had time to ‘sink in,’ write a detailed review of the stories up’s and down’s (most up’s in terms of literary execution and mastery), as well as further delve into its plot, moral content, and corresponding suitabilities.

Christian & Family Perspective

The House of Silk is not suitable, nor is it meant to be, for children under 14-17 years of age in my personal opinion and in light of the content. Mature themes are discussed, not explicitly, nor in a highly depraved manner, but rather according to the nature of the crimes involved in both cases. Drugs are also prevalent in this novel, as they have been in many of Doyle’s, and make frequent mention of Holmes’ syringe of liquid cocaine which sits upon his mantle.

Steady Progress on The House of Silk

I am making steady progress in my reading of the House of Silk, and I must say, I am thoroughly impressed! Horowitz has effectively utilized a vast majority of Doyle’s signature tools (characters, resources of language, plot/case outline, etc.) and thus produced a very nostalgic and thoroughly suspenseful novel. As I read, I am making notes of various plot points to include on Wikipedia and my review of the story here, below is what I have contrived thus far (my Wikipedia version is slightly altered):

The House of Silk begins with a brief, personal recounting of events by Watson, much like the Study in Scarlet by the original author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The reader is informed of the particulars regarding the first meeting of Watson and Holmes, including the circumstances of the Afghan War which were inexplicably tied therein. In this we have the prologue, and once the first chapter begins, we are hot on the case. At the start of the first chapter, it is discovered that due to certain unknown circumstances other than the departure of Watson’s wife, Mary (Morston, in The Sign of Four), Watson has returned to board with Holmes, the latter being quite pleased with the reunion, after having little correspondance due to the family life of Watson. Holmes’ proceeds to unravel these unknown circumstances forthwith, deducing that Watson’s wife has left, accompanied with their child [Richard Forrester] (who is sick with influenza) to seek care from Mrs. Cecil Forrester (another prominent figure in the Sign of Four, and the boy’s governess). Shortly thereafter, with an example of Holmes’ ‘deductive powers’ made, the client of the The Flat Cap case is introduced. He is a man by the name of Edmund Carstairs, an art dealer who has come upon unfortunate circumstances. A year after his return to America, he finds himself being stalked by a man in a flat cap, characteristic of an infamous Irish gang. He proceeds to tell Holmes of the events which first led to his acquaintance with the man – he had come to America after a train robbery and destruction therein had destroyed paintings which were to be sent on request of a wealthy client. The gang responsible were based in Botson, led by two Irish twins, Rourke (muscular and assertive) and Keelan (pale, frail, and possible mastermind) O’Donaghue wearing distinct flat caps (thus the name of the gang), and had destroyed the paintings by way of setting charges to one of the train cars containing numerous English pound notes. Mr. Carstairs, with the full financial backing of his wealthy client, proceed to hire a private detective by the name of Bill McParland. The detective soon locates the hideout of the gang and their discovery results in a fierce firefight in which all but one of the gang perishes. As the sole survivor, Keelan O’Donaghue allegedly enacts his revenge by tracking down Carstairs more than a year after the instant, watches his every movement, and supposedly robs of his household a pearl necklace and a few pound notes.

Adventure Writer's Blog: House of Silk Summary (Prologue, Ch. 1 - 2.5)
Fun Fact:  In Chapter one there is some mention of Dupin, a character 
developed by the late Edgar Allen Poe,  and his ability to make astounding
deductions based on visible emotions reflected through the physical medium. 
Holmes demonstrates this by uncovering Watson's anxiety and the source 
thereof.

True Grit

True Grit

Image via Wikipedia

The 2010 film, True Grit, retains the feel of a classic Western, abounding in gun fights, cocky outlaws, and cowboy jargon, all executed with a truly exceptional cast. The movie follows the life of a strong-hearted girl named Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), as she seeks out a bounty hunter (equipped with her father’s pistol) to avenge her father’s murder. In her efforts she finds a man named Reuben J. Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), known for having True Grit. What she discovers, however, is quite disconcerting. He proves to be an obstinate, lazy, egotistic man who takes kindly to alcohol and the like. Mattie, however, refuses to stand down, and soon recruits the man after much persistence. On their journey they accompany a Texas Ranger who goes by the name of LeBoeuf (Matt Damon). Mattie, who had already been acquainted with him back in town, doesn’t take too kindly to him and after a few snide remarks, the ranger whips out his belt in anger and promptly spanks her. After a torrent of protests from the girl, Cogburn draws his gun on LeBoeuf and after a slight quarrel between the two, they part company. As Mattie and Cogburn journey on, they find a hanging corpse, a wandering bear-skin-wearing doctor, and interrogate a suspicious duo. Following these events, they acquire enough information to set a trap for the murderer, though instead become involved in a chaotic shoot-out between their party and a group of outlaws. LeBouef, who somehow managed to be entangled in the firefight, gets mistakenly shot by Cogburn, and decides to rejoin them in their search for the outlaws. After many more days, the group loses their morale and Marshall Cogburn decides to retire from the quest, determining they’ve come upon a cold trail (LeBoeuf also leaves, but not before starting a sort of friendship with Mattie). The morning of their departure, however, new events determine otherwise. As Mattie retrieves water from the river, she spots her father’s murderer Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), who, followed by the girl’s failed attempt at intimidation, kidnaps her and takes her back to the gang. In short, LeBouef rescues her, the marshall arrives in time to kill off the remaining outlaws, and the movie jumps forward some twenty years in Mattie’s life, where she retains a chosen widowhood. THE END.

In conclusion, the film as stated before, retains the qualities of a classic Western, though with a very melancholy conclusion. The cast is made up of well-seasoned actors, and a rising young actress. Matt Damon made for a very amusing LeBoeuf, adding a spark of personality and likeability… except for the scene where he spanks Mattie. Mr. Bridges conveyed a very convincing Marshall Cogburn, sustaining the character’s groggy air in movement and speech. Hailee Steinfeld, who has never before acted in a full-length film before True Grit, gave a tremendous effort in portraying Mattie Ross, receiving the honor of Best Actress in a Support Role [1]. The film is rated PG-13 for it’s violence and possibly crude language (as there is a deal of cursing). I wouldn’t recommend it for the family setting, taking these two factors into account. It’s rather more appropriate for, as Common Sense Media determines, ages 15+. For Christian families, however, there’s even more things to look out for, regarding which I refer to Pluggin.com‘s review. I must say it’s a dark movie in terms of how it plays with the emotions, and the tone it would seem to take – the concept of revenge is ever-present, and the one-armed, widowed Mattie provides for a very dreary ending.

Scorpia Rising: The Final Chapter

Cover of "Scorpia (Alex Rider 5)"

Cover of Scorpia (Alex Rider 5) [Much like that of Scorpia Rising

It is time for the final mission – the last adventure in the New York Times bestselling series, Alex Rider, by author Anthony Horowitz. Whether a returning fan or a newly acquainted reader, this action-packed thriller is sure to please with every page.

We join Alex Rider where we left off – the end of his life as a spy. After completing dozens of missions for MI6 (British Intelligence) Alex can finally return to a normal life… or can he? While at school, Alex once again finds himself caught in the cross hairs of a sniper. He escapes, but one of his best friends takes a bullet. Alex vows revenge, enraged that the world of espionage has once again reared it’s ugly head and invaded his life at home. Jack Starbright, Alex’s housekeeper (and sole guardian, due to the death of his parents and uncle), and Alex meet with two of the top honcho’s of British Intelligence. Alan Blunt, the chief, decides it would be safer for Alex to be relocated to the Middle East, until a safer time, and provides him a seemingly harmless task to do while there. What he doesn’t know, however, is that Scorpia (a worldwide criminal organization) is pulling all the strings, and there will only be one person returning home alive.

It’s a tremendously well written novel, with ingenious literary devices and page-to-page suspense. It, however, expects the reader to have grown with the series. It’s incorporation of methods of torture and periods of violence are intended for teens and adults – not young children. A fantastic end to a wonderful series!

Peace Child

Topographic map of New Guinea. Created with GM...

Image via Wikipedia

Peace Child speaks volumes of the mission field – providing a fresh perspective on the efforts missionaries undergo as pioneers to evangelize unreached tribes and people groups.  The descriptions Mr. Richardson poses to the reader are both vivid and thought-provoking – engaging the reader’s attention with riveting, fast-paced narratives of primitive jungle treachery and the escalating tension of his mission effort, as well as deep, spiritual sentiments which succeed in establishing a sense of Christian passion and involvement, attaching the reader with a strong emotional connection.  It is the true and not uncommon story, of a man and his wife, who without regard for their own safety and welfare, seek the will of God as he takes them to a land in dire need of His Word.  The dedication the Richardson’s put forth, and the compassion they show towards the Sawi people of New Guinea is a perfect example of the beauty God’s work ensues, and the great leaps – beyond physical and mental barriers, for which God’s Holy Spirit provides remedy.

The biography once again presented me, as so many other Christian testimonies have before, with a profound desire to be part of God’s plan.  To resist the temptation and futile attempt to direct my own life with selfish ambition, and rather to give myself up, in all areas of my life, as a Holy sacrifice to God, seeking His will and plan in all things.  It stands as a challenge and conviction, a motivator and passion-builder, from one Christian life to another.  God’s ways are unfathomable and unsearchable, and His work is something we are privileged to take part in – if we so choose to do so.  By yielding ourselves to Him we grow spiritually, and open up the doors to true love, righteousness, and selflessness which leads to conforming of ourselves to Christ.  Doing God’s work and avidly desiring His Word as daily sustenance, we traverse from the mundane to the incomparable – from our vapor-in-the-wind existences, to the eternal praise and glorification of our Father.

Coming March 22nd…

After the Storm

Ever heard of the calm before the storm? Well this is the calm... AFTER the storm.

…the latest novel by Anthony HorowitzScorpia Rising!

Being the last installment in the series, there is a dramatically high expectation for this novel – and I’m looking forward to a good show. Will the novel meet its readers’ hopes, or fail to make the grade?

Be sure to look for the review on the Adventure Writer Blog a week or so after March 22nd (It’ll take awhile to read).

Sherlock Holmes: The Movie, The Novel, the Legacy

Sherlock Holmes (2009 film)

Sherlock Holmes (2009 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Movie

Robert Downey Jr., who took on the role of Sherlock Holmes in the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes (2011 Release mentioned below) brought a fresh, yet book-based, approach to the famous character.

The character of Sherlock Holmes reprises his usual role of a queerly behaved gentlemen – yet with a more modern-day, block-buster movie approach. At the start of the film, we gain a greater glimpse at Sherlock’s finesse in the art of boxing, as he knocks his opponent out by outwitting him to the utmost extent.

Wikiquote-logo-no

Image via Wikipedia

“Head cocked to the left. Partial deafness in ear. First point of attack. Two: throat; paralyze vocal chords, stop scream. Three: got to be heavy drinker. Floating rib to the liver. Four: finally, drag in left leg, fist to patella. Summary prognosis: unconscious in ninety seconds, partial efficacy quarter of an hour at best. Full faculty recovery: unlikely.”

-Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) Formulating His Next Move. [Wikiquote]

The film certainly makes a full-fledged attempt to appeal to movie-goer’s as a whole, rather than your typical Sherlockian bookworm – especially with introducing the series most infamous villain, Prof. Moriarty, as the primary criminal mastermind before the end of the film. The plot however, is primarily centered around a man by the name of Lord Henry Blackwood – a supposed black arts master who is later proven to be, with his practice along with him, a mere gimmick – deduced by the one and only Sherlock Holmes. Various book-based plot details, such as the engagement (and eventual marriage) of Watson and Mary Morstan (which furthermore made for some humorous moments involving the usual oddities of Sherlock Holmes’s character).  Irene Adler also makes an appearance, playing a surprisingly large and fairly vital role in the development of the film – including a further established romance with Sherlock Holmes.

The film is quite suspenseful, and fairly well lives up to the general level of the same fascinating and most captivating mystery invoked by the novels of Sir Doyle.

As for the nitty-gritty technicalities of the matter – the film is rather gruesome in some moments, especially in it’s portrayal of murder sequences and the full-fledged graphic detail of a dead man’s decomposing corpse. In this, the film is certainly unfit for a child under the age of 13 – thus the rating of PG-13 (for thematic material including violence, disturbing images and a scene of suggestive material.)

Christian Aspects

For those Christian Sherlockians out there, some of  the films content may appear disturbing in more ways than one. Sherlock Holmes, most peculiarly, engages in a ritual of pentagrams and crosses, to discover a further aspect of Blackwood’s plan. The very man himself [Blackwood] is also cause for concern, for, as PluggedIn.com puts it:

Lord Blackwood isn’t just some well-moneyed madman with a yen for murder most foul. He’s actually portrayed as the devil’s loyal servant, and there’s even a suggestion he might be the spawn of Satan himself. His father confesses that the boy was conceived during a dark, pagan ritual, and that ‘death followed him wherever he went.’

Sherlock Holmes READ Poster with Jude Law and ...

Image by ALA staff via Flickr

The Literature

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing was [and still is], in short, genius innovation. He brought about one of the most famous literary characters in history – with an imagination beyond that of many mystery writers today. The unique character of Sherlock Holmes, with all his oddities and nearly inhuman faculties, produced a series that has endured over 123 years since it’s creation and into the modern day. It is still enjoyed by scholars, adults, and kids & teenagers alike.

The Upcoming 2011 Film

Sherlock Holmes 2 (December 16, 2011 [1]), with Robert Downey Junior reprising his role as the famous Holmes, promises much. Featuring the dynamic personalities of such characters as Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry), the intellectual twin of Sherlock Holmes (and his brother by blood),  and Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), the paradoxical entity of Sherlock, using his vast faculty for crime. Its very title seems to add an amount of intrigue to the movie, being Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – and what better than the introduction of Moriarty?

The AW Blog review is now available.

Th 2011 Novel: The House of Silk

Anthony Horowtiz – author of the famous Alex Rider series, and Power of Five novels, has been enlisted, for the first time in history, by the Conan Doyle Estate to write a new Sherlock Holmes novel. Mr. Horowitz has stated that he will stay true to the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, yet intends to place Sherlock Holmes in a new environment – the 21st Century. Look for it this September in a book store near you! [1]

-Adventure Writer's Blog: January 19th, 2011

The House of Silk has already arrived in bookstores, much to the delight of Sherlock fans across the globe. It certainly makes the mark, and many of the critics agree, but you’ll have to read it for yourself. Be sure to check out the Adventure Writer Blog’s preliminary, but detailed, review of the novel: available now!

Other 2011 Blockbusters

Dismayed by the lack of good movies? Well there’s plenty on their way (and now on DVD) in various genres, here’s just a few:

Kung-Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom (DVD [Comedy])

X-Men: First Class (DVD [Action/Adventure])

Green Lantern (June 17th, 2011 [Superhero Adventure])

-Transformers III: Dark of the Moon (July 1st, 2011 [Sci-Fi Action Film])

Captain America: The First Avenger (DVD [Superhero Adv.])

-Happy Feet (Nov. 28th, 2011 [Family Favorite])

Sherlock Holmes II (Dec. 16th, 2011 [Thrilling Classic])

-National Treasure III (Dec. 25th, 2011 [Captivating Historical Adventure])

Release Information from Wikipedia: Movie Release Dates.

God’s Smuggler

Cover of "God's Smuggler"

Cover of God's Smuggler

God’s Smuggler

Over 10 million copies sold, and countless distributed in 3rd World Countries,God’s Smuggler is a missionary biography that speaks for itself. It is the true life-story of Brother Andrew, who at an early age, was called out of the slums of a purposeless life into a fulfilling, walk-by-faith journey with God – leading him to become a daring missionary to places that others would never imagine going. It is truly a story that appeals to a vast range of audiences, no matter the age, around the globe. As well as being an easy read, it also has the page-by-page suspense-feel that many New York Times Bestselling thrillers are famous for.

The reader may journey into the era of communism as Andrew smuggles Bibles beyond some of the most strictly totalitarian countries’ borders – from Eastern European countries under the shroud of the Iron Curtain, to Communist China. His ministry spread wherever God took him, and his cause grew as anorganism of close-knit believers, working together for the advancement of the gospel. Andrew’s journey was one led by faith alone – in finances, family matters, even the smallest aspects of life were entrusted to God. It is amazing what can happen when you fall into the arms of your Heavenly Father, without the anxiety and distrust that the people of our world so often hold.

Picture is taken of Anne van der Bijl during a...

Image via Wikipedia

Brother Andrew covers a vast plethora of religious subjects and life-matters within God’s Smuggler. He reveals a philosophy of emphasizing the positive, and never being anti-religious, or anti-philosophy toward other beliefs, but rather being pro-Christ. Enabling a person to spread the Good News without the boundaries that are often created by prejudice.

Although it’s a fairly old novel, it’s still available at book outlets on BarnesandNoble.comParable.com and Amazon.com. Great prices, and no trouble finding it brand-new. Can’t beat that.

Mockingjay: The Hunger Games Trilogy

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

From newspapers, to reviews, to fan-views online – The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins seems to be all the rage.

In this latest installment, we follow our heroine Katniss in a territory that was vaguely mentioned in Catching FireDistrict 13, which will prove to be the setting and basis for the story. Reader’s may expect the same emotional tribulation, [at times] fast-paced character development, and suspense-filled action sequences that have filled the previous novels, and made it’s fan-base grow, and become hungry for more. The pages fly by with each new development in the story, and there’s never a dull moment.

Yet, what is the cause of it’s popularity, if this is simply a children’s series?

The answer lies in the substance, relatability, and complex plot structure throughout. In this, it captures the attention of all ages – all appeals in genre. It has it’s own mix of Star Wars Sci-fi, Alex Rider gadgets, and war-torn worlds that one might find in WWII-based historical fiction.

 

Daktar / Diplomat in Bangladesh

Cover of "Daktar: Diplomat in Bangladesh&...

Cover of Daktar: Diplomat in Bangladesh

Daktar / Diplomat in Bangladesh.

The story of Viggo Olsen. A wonderfully written account of his journey through life, and missionary journey as well. A story with parallel’s to those of Saul’s in the Holy Bible. Born in a highly moralistic family, Mr. Olsen was raised in a way he would later come to appreciate.  Nonetheless, his early years of life were filled with agnosticism. Through his college years, he and his wife Joan set themselves on proving Christianity false. Denying that Christ was the Savior of humanity, and the very fact of his historical existence. Yet the very vigor with which they fought against truth, they came to know it. From darkness, they came into life.

I’ve only read 39 pages [7:12 pm, I plan to finish the remaining 310 pages tonight], and it’s already an amazing, wonderfully written piece of literature – and the uplifting story of a Christian Missionary.

Although this novel is out of print, it’s still available at book outlets on BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com. Ridiculously great prices, and sometimes brand-new. Can’t beat that.