Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Delightful Mystery for Sherlock Holmes Fans

For some time, I have meant to write a review of Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Ruby Elephants, a "must read" for Sherlock fans. It has everything: a truly puzzling mystery, fast pacing, great characters (along with the famous pair), and some very funny scenes.

Where to begin with this wonderful book? The interlocking mysteries in this grand adventure include: an elephant on the rampage, competing secret societies, mysterious notes, a beautiful violinist, hidden passageways, a lethal group of four assassins known as the Archangels, a mad confectioner, Holmes and Watson look-alikes, an exiled Maharajah who wants to go home, stolen diamonds, stolen paintings, a stolen ruby, a kidnapping, dead bodies in strange places, and more than one dicey escape for the famous duo from pursuers who mean business. Central to the plot are eight ruby elephants that everyone wants. (Thus the book’s title.)

The adventure takes place in summer of 1890. Watson’s wife, Mary, is on holiday with a friend in Bath, and Watson has decided to visit his old friend at 221b Baker Street. Like all good pastiches, the author tells the tale purportedly through the reminiscences of Watson, and in Watson’s voice. James captures Arthur Conan Doyle’s style beautifully: With his famous powers of observation, Sherlock continues to astound characters with what he has deduced about them before they have a chance to tell him anything. He out-thinks Watson and his enemies in scene after scene—although sometimes he gets it wrong, and, in a couple of situations, Watson gets it right. No spoilers here; you'll just have to read the book.

An added pleasure for the reader is a thread of subtle humor that runs through the book: Mycroft  and Sherlock vie with each other as to who can deduce more accurately what happened just before their arrival in a key scene. Sherlock has a Shakespearian quote for nearly every situation. All the other characters are splendidly “Victorian,” although they, too, have a humorous edge to their dialogue: A hatter says of a man threatening Watson, “But say what you like about him, he is the owner of a magnificent hat.” In the National Gallery when police are vigilant for art thieves and a huge porcelain vase begins moving, Gregson  takes aim. “. . . but not before Sir William [the director of the gallery] had thrown himself in the way. “For God’s sake, man,” he yelled. “It’s ninth century!” Through it all, the pace never lets up as clue leads to clue and the overall patterns shift like those in a kaleidoscope.

This was a grand read, and I certainly hope the author has planned more adventures for the famous pair.

You can visit his website HERE
His book is available on Amazon, MX Publishing, and Strand Magazine, among other sites. 

How about you? If you are a Sherlock fan, do you have a favorite title to share?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Celebrating a Sisters in Crime meeting

It's Saturday, but yesterday I was too busy to post. It was worth celebrating, though, the time to read. I was reading a manuscript to critique and a book to review. Today, though is the monthly meeting of our local chapter of Sisters in Crime. The Chapter is called Capitol Crimes, since Sacramento is the state capitol. It's always a great meeting, with well-known authors speaking, and today is one of my favorite mystery writers, Terry Shames. So looking forward to her take on the writing process and tips on writing mysteries. 

PS: Thursday at Art Club my assistant who came was wonderful. She worked with the younger kids who were having trouble getting the hang of things. Her friends weren't able to come because they get out of school too late, but actually, one assistant is enough, and she's serious about it.

I so enjoy this blog hop, Celebrate the Small Things, thanks to co-hosts,  Lexa Cain @ Lexa Cain , L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog  You can go to any of these sites to get all the links and add your name to the links. 

Hope all of you out there are having a wonderful Saturday. What are you celebrating today?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Celebrating Art Assistants for the New Year

The first week of the New Year has already gone by. How did that happen? Today I'm celebrating the fact that I have art assistants for my weekly art class. But first, kudos to the sponsors of this blog hop: Lexa Cain @ Lexa Cain , L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog  You can go to any of these sites to get all the links and add your name to the links. 

On to Art Club: For those of you who haven't read earlier blogs about it, I volunteer teach an after school art club to students ages 7 through 14. It used to be only 8-to-12-year-olds, but younger siblings have squeezed in and returning students are always welcome. And this year, for some reason two 6-year-olds got in. Amazing 6-year-olds. This class is an hour and a half, and they stay deeply immersed and focused the entire time. So of course, I kept them!
(You can see more about the class and student work in an earlier post I did HERE . )

What I'm celebrating: Just before the holidays a young girl stopped by while I was cleaning up and started asking questions about the class. I thought she wanted to sign up for it. Instead, she wanted to become my assistant. She's had three years of art herself, but now she is into music. She has good art background, though, and yesterday she showed up for our first art class of the new year. She was a wonderful help, guiding students in applying the lesson, sharpening colored pencils, collecting supplies at the end of class. Not only that, two of her friends want to be assistants, too! What a blessing that will be: Next week we work in paints, which means putting paint in palette trays, and, later, washing those trays and brushes, not to mention bringing clean water when the first cup of water gets murky, etc. Painting days are usually my late days for getting home, since there is so much clean up to do. I am so looking forward to having more assistants.
Colored pencils on
pastel paper

Colored pencils on
pastel paper
Meanwhile, here are some new samples of student work: One lesson was about how to paint skies & clouds; a second lesson was on drawing baby animals. Enjoy.
Colored pencils on
pastel paper
Acrylic on canvas
Acrylic on canvas

Acrylic on canvas

How about you? Have you ever had unexpected help just show up out of the blue and ease your workload?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Celebrating the New Year with a Fabulous Book

Celebrate the Small Things

The perfect book for my research.
Happy New Year! The year is starting off great for me in the form of a book! (What else can make a writer so happy?)

But first, this post is part of a really positive blog hop called Celebrate the Small Things, co-hosted by Lexa Cain @ Lexa Cain , L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog  You can go to any of these sites to get all the links and add your name to the links. 

As some of you know, my middle grade mystery, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls (book one of a planned series) is set in Victorian London. The family cook is an important character, along with Sherlock Holmes, ten-year-old sleuth Imogene, and her co-sleuth, mudlark Rusty.

The book I'm celebrating? The Victorian Kitchen, by Jennifer Davies. I ordered this book through Amazon, feeling I needed to know a little more of Victorian era kitchen life and meal preparation, and this book has it all. It's a treasure trove of information, with great pictures, floor plans, menus, etc. I had already gleaned a lot from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management and various sites on the Internet, but this book gives me an even deeper look at life below stairs. So today finds me starting the new year feeling well equipped for book two of my series.

How about you? Have you ever stumbled on the perfect book for your research? Do you enjoy research? Do you enjoy finding out about historical times? Do you enjoy mysteries?