When Ignorance is (Still Not) Bliss: The Enola Holmes Books

Last November I went through a mini-binge on the children’s mystery series by Nancy Springer featuring Enola Holmes, reading the first three of the (currently) six-book series,.

enola-holmes-series

I’m not entirely sure why I read three of them, as they weren’t that good. The writing wasn’t great, the plotting was weak, and the characters were mostly unappealing, if not unbelievable.

I think I *wanted* to like the series so much that I kept trying, hoping they would pick up. It helped that they were super quick to read, so three books still wasn’t a large reading investment. Ok, so I also liked the covers and kept wanting the books to live up to them.

On the bright side, I wasn’t annoyed by liberties Springer apparently takes with the Holmes cannon. I don’t know the Holmes books well, so nothing jumped out at me, as it would have if I was well versed in it.

How do I know this? Recently I noticed someone I follow on Instagram commented about being super disappointed in the books because of how the author isn’t true to the original characters.

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Boscombe Valley Mystery {photo by #thegeekbug} 📚🎻🔬📚🎻🔬📚🎻🔬📚 ⚠️️WARNING SHERLOCKIANS ⚠️I had a unfortunate experience reading the Enola Holmes series, which l had impatiently anticipated but was disappointed to discover that the author, Nancy Springer, was not true to the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writings. Listen, if you're going to build your story on someone else's foundation the least you could do is stay true to the characters. Don't mess with my Sherlock! A mistake worthy of Anderson himself. 😩~ The Geek Bug #livingbooksnook #booknerdissues . . . . ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Day 13 unfortunate #ampersandjan17 #sherlock #sherlockholmes #dontmesswithmysherlock #sherlockian #book #books #bookish #booknerd #joyfulandbookish #booknerdigans #bookstagram #booksofinstagram #instabook #fantasticbooksreviews

A photo posted by Heather Mac (@livingbooksnook) on

So while I did have some (ok, many) issues with the book, there are advantages to not being a major Sherlockian – I was oblivious to the issues Heather spotted. And that’s usually not the case for me – I tend to be the one getting annoyed at movies when they take liberties with historical facts (one of the reasons I don’t watch a lot of them).

And an extra disclaimer: I linked to the series in the first paragraph and via the picture, because I’m always curious about books and if I were reading this post I’d probably want to click through and see what the books were about. But I want to be clear that if you’re thinking that they’re juvenile mysteries, and so weaknesses in the writing and plot might be ok, I’d still say pick other titles.

There were references to prostitution and alcoholism in the first two books and some fairly gruesome stuff in the third. Definitely yuckier than I’d want in a juvenile title, and so I do not recommend them for younger readers. Or anyone really, but if you’re an adult I’m not worried about the content for you. Just your reading time. 😉

If you want a juvenile mystery that I do recommend, try Detectives in Togas. It kept my second grader’s interest (even the kindergartener listened to most of it) and solving it involved some details of Roman history, which were given to the reader as the story unfolded. Fun!

There’s also a second by the same author, Mystery of the Roman Ransom, although we haven’t read that one yet.

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Magical Reads with The Sisters Grimm & Pip Bartlett

I haven’t been participating in the discussion much about them, but I did read both of the chapter books for November and December’s Family Book Club.

the-sisters-grimm-fairy-tale-detectivesThe Sisters Grimm is the first book in The Fairy Tale Detectives series, where all the fairy tale characters we know from stories turn out to actually live in a town in New York. They’re trapped under a spell and have had to make lives for themselves there, and it’s very funny learning what the various characters do. Snow White as a Kindergarten teacher was one of my favorites.

It’s a cute story, and while I wasn’t motivated to read more in the series for myself, I can imagine giving it to my kids to read for themselves when they get older. At least in the first book, there wasn’t anything I’d object to content-wise, and it was a fun re-imagining of familiar fairy tale stories.

pip-bartletts-guide-to-magical-creaturesPip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures was really amusing – I loved Pip and was so entertained by her Unicorn mishap. I loved how Pip’s world was so recognizable as ours, with just the added element of oh, yeah, there are magical creatures. I will be looking for the next in this series when it releases next year.

This is one where I think the print version is preferred to the electronic version – I read it via Kindle, and there are some illustrations that were either hard or all but impossible to see. It wasn’t essential, but they are fun, and when I have my kids read this, they’ll be reading it in print.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: November 2014 Recap

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Have a MAGICAL November and December with Us

We’ve had a really nice discussion about the Modern US books featured in the Family Exploration Book Club in September & October. While we’re still discussing Stuck in Neutral, I wanted to be sure and share the titles for November and December in time for everyone to locate the books.

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For the youngest readers, the picture book selected is The Boy from the Dragon Palace adapted by Margaret Read MacDonald, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa

For November’s chapter book title, we’re reading The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson

December’s selection is Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater

Chat about the books

We’d love to chat about the books with you in the Facebook group – tell us what you & your family think about the titles, or share additional ideas for books (or crafts, or food) that connect to the theme!


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Quick Lit: Recent Middle-Grade and YA Reads

The PenderwicksThe Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

As I mentioned on my Instagram, I would have LOVED this book as a kid. LOVED IT. It’s funny and imaginative and the girls make it sound like being a Penderwick is so much fun. As an adult reading it, I can see lots of flaws with it, so I’m still debating how to rate it on Goodreads. A 5-Star book for kids, and a 3-Star read for me. Read it to your kids, let them read it themselves, or read it yourself and try and channel your inner 10 year old.

Looking for AlibrandiLooking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

Read during my Australia books binge, and the premise sounded like it was going to be just another typical coming-of-age story. Although it could have been completely cliched, Josephine is such an appealing character she turns the book into something much more than I expected. Nicely written, and it deserved a better cover for the American version than it got. There are some mature themes in it, so be aware of that if you’ve got younger teens interested in it.

An Uncertain ChoiceAn Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

Light historical romance. I usually enjoy Hedlund’s books, but didn’t like this one (her first YA novel) as much. There are two more in the series but I’m unlikely to pick them up. Disclaimer: I don’t typically like romance novels so if you do and think this one sounds good, I’d give it a try. I wanted more emphasis on the history and less on the romance angle, and the plot was WAY too predictable.

The School for Good and EvilThe School of Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

I’d heard RAVES about this book so I stuck with it even when I wasn’t enjoying it, thinking it had to get better. Sadly, no, it didn’t. I love fractured fairy tales, and while I loved the premise of this, it was dreadful. Derivative, repetitive, with awful messages – it makes me wonder what other people were seeing in it to like it so much. I’m dumbfounded that it was a best seller.

Please don’t waste your reading time, and please don’t give it to your daughter(s) to read. Want to know more details about why not? This gif-heavy review summarizes my main issues with the book. A heads-up though that there’s some language in it if that offends you, and it’s loaded with spoilers.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Quick Lit: Recent Middle Grade and Young Adult Books
Two years ago: Quick Lit: Recent Christian Reads (2014)
Three years ago: Quick Lit: Recent Christian Reads (2013)

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Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by 7sCounting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Poignant story about a twelve-year-old genius whose adoptive parents are unexpectedly killed in a car crash, leaving her completely alone in the world. While that may have the possibility of being a heart-wrenching story, overall the tone is hopeful, and not as emotionally wrenching as it could have been.

My biggest criticism of the book relates to the ending, so I’ll hide it in the next paragraph. If you’re not opposed to being somewhat spoiled, highlight the text block:

The ending is probably too unrealistically happy, but it’s satisfying and considering the target age range for readers, I can’t really complain too much. There’s plenty of time for middle grade readers to get more realistic conclusions to novels, and the wrap-it-all-up-in-a-bow aspect of it did make me happy for Willow. And yes, I just admitted to feeling happy for a fictional character.

I loved Willow as a character – she’s delightfully odd. I loved Mai and Pattie and how they take charge of Willow, and get Dell to do what they need and want. There’s a few too many happy coincidences throughout the book, but I can forgive it because I liked the characters so much.

Heartwarming and uplifting, I really enjoyed it.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life… until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

Book Details

Title: Counting By 7s
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Category: Middle Grade Fiction
My Rating: 4 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: 12 Sports Books to Read if You Liked “The Boys in the Boat”

Shadow Spinner (and a link-up)

Shadow SpinnerMay kicks off a new theme for our family book club – Iran – and the first book is Shadow Spinner, a retelling of the Shahrazad story by Susan Fletcher.

Once again, it’s not one that I read to my kids (they’re too young for it), but I reread it to be able to participate in the discussion in the Facebook group. Although I didn’t actually participate in the discussion at all, as most of it took place when I was on vacation and not spending time on Facebook. 🙂

Jessica (Quirky Bookworm) shared in the Facebook group that there is a new retelling of Shahrazad’s story, called The Wrath and the Dawn, and I’ve already requested it from the library. I did like how Fletcher made me think about what it would really have been like in that situation for everyone, and am curious to read Ahdieh’s interpretation.

If you read Shadow Spinner, either for yourself, or with your family, what did you think of it? Were you familiar with Shahrazad’s story, and did that impact your feelings about this reinterpretation?

If you’ve written a post about the book (or other books related to Iran). Any posts linked here will show up on the joint linkup, hosted by Katie (Cakes, Tea and Dreams) and Jessica (Quirky Bookworm). Add your post once from any one of our sites, and it will automatically appear in the linkup on their blogs.


RTFEBC Iran Books

Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about reading this book or one of the themed picture books. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to one of the host’s posts.

3. The linkup will be open until the end of the month.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting us permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Recent Readaloud: Owls in the Family

Owls in the FamilyOwls in the Family by Farley Mowat

One of G’s school books, and I’ve heard about this title before, but had never read it. I’m so glad it was included in the curriculum, because it was such a enjoyable read, and worked really well as a readaloud!

Listeners who are sensitive may be troubled by some scenes, and it is a bit dated (it was published originally in 1961), but my 4 & 6 year olds had no trouble with it.

My verdict:

Charming story about a boy who has two owls as pets. I was sad to reach the end of it, and have looked for additional titles by Mowat.

The kids’ verdict:
They both really enjoyed it. I think both kids were intrigued (and a bit jealous) of the freedom the boys in the story had.

Publisher’s Description:
Farley Mowat’s funniest book tells the adventures of Wol and Weeps, two owls from Saskatchewan who shape up a whole neighbourhood, turn a house topsy-turvy, and outsmart Mutt, the dog hero of The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be. Wol brings dead skunks to the family dinner table and terrorizes the minister, the postman, and the French teacher. Weeps is a comical bird, afraid of everything except Mutt, and he never does learn how to fly. Here is the heartwarming story of how a boy named Billy finds Wol and Weeps and unwittingly adds two new members to the family.

Book Details

Title: Owls in the Family
Author: Farley Mowat
Category: Children’s Nonfiction
My Rating: 4 Stars

Find the book: Print | Goodreads

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: The Lady and the Panda

When My Name Was Keoko (and a linkup)

When My Name Was KeokoApril continued with the theme of Korea for our family book club, and the book selection is a favorite of mine: When My Name Was KeokoWhen My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park, by Linda Sue Park.

Because of the ages of my children (my oldest is only 6), it’s not one I read aloud to them, but I do plan on either having them read it themselves eventually, or reading it to them when they’re older.

I’m reasonably well-read about World War II and that era, but I hadn’t realized that Korea was occupied by Japan before and during the war. Or at least if I’d heard it it hadn’t really sunk in at all. Park’s story brings that time period to life, and yet does so in a way that’s not too graphic for younger readers, although as always I’d recommend that you know your reader if you’re worried about suitability.

If you read When My Name Was KeokoWhen My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park, either for yourself, or with your family, what did you think of it? There’s also a blog linkup if you posted about the book (or theme), and any posts will automatically show up on the joint linkup, hosted by Moira (Hearth and Homefront) and Jessica (Quirky Bookworm). Add your post once from any one of our sites, and it will automatically appear in the linkup on their blogs.


RTFEBC Korea

Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about reading this book or one of the themed picture books. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to one of the host’s posts.

3. The linkup will be open until the end of the month.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting us permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

The Kite Fighters (and a linkup)

The Kite FightersMarch and April’s theme for our online family book club is Korea, and March’s book is Linda Sue Park’s wonderful novel The Kite FightersThe Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park.

I was not new to Park, but hadn’t read this particular title until pre-reading it for the book club. What a lovely story it was, and I learned quite a bit about historic Korean culture.

While I did not read this book with my kids (I think they’ll do better with it in another couple of years), I absolutely do plan to read it to them eventually. Although if we stick with Sonlight for our homeschool curriculum, it is scheduled in the year focused on the Eastern Hemisphere, so the kids would definitely read it then!


If you read The Kite FightersThe Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park, either for yourself, or with your family, what did you think of it? And if you wrote a post about it, please add it to our linkup! Any posts will automatically show up on the joint linkup, hosted by Moira (Hearth and Homefront) and Jessica (Quirky Bookworm). Add your post once from any one of our sites, and it will automatically appear in the linkup on their blogs.


RTFEBC Korea

Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about reading this book or one of the themed picture books. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to one of the host’s posts.

3. The linkup will be open until the end of the month.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting us permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

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Next month we continue with Korea, and we’ll be discussing When My Name Was KeokoWhen My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park. I hope you can join us!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

A Single ShardA Single ShardA Single Shard by Linda Sue Park by Linda Sue Park

I read this when I was pre-reading/re-reading books for the family book club’s Korea theme. Ultimately I recommended we select When My Name Was Keoko as the middle grade/teen book, feeling that it gave a better balance to our pairing, but want to still encourage anyone interested in children’s literature or historical fiction to give this one a try – it’s fantastic.

Park’s writing is so beautiful, but the characterizations and themes of her novel are what make A Single Shard such a standout to me. While it’s not the right fit for me to read to my children (yet), I’m looking forward to introducing them to it when they’re older and able to appreciate the story.

And if you’re able to read the book and not feel an overwhelming urge to do some searching online for celadon pottery, you’ve got more restraint than I do. I had to go looking for some images of the pottery described in the book – such beautiful work!

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
In this Newbery Medal-winning book set in 12th century Korea, Tree-ear, a 13-year-old orphan, lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a potters’ village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potter’s craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated — until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Min’s irascible temper, and his own ignorance. But Tree-ear is determined to prove himself — even if it means taking a long, solitary journey on foot to present Min’s work in the hope of a royal commission . . . even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard.

Book Details

Title: A Single ShardA Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
Author: Linda Sue Park
Category: Juvenile Fiction
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!