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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The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend paperbackThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

I wanted to love this book. The premise is fun, and the emphasis on books seems like it be a definite winner.

Except.

The premise and emphasis on books is all that keeps this from turning into a rant about the book, and as it is I can’t believe it’s a best seller. The supposed “charm” of the book felt fake and ridiculous, the characters were so cardboard I had a hard time remembering who they were, and the resolution was contrived and cringe-worthy. There’s also a side-plot that was impossible to believe, and some dangling plot elements that annoyed me to no end. As if that wasn’t enough, it was way too long and drew out what littleaction there was with tons of padding. I like big books, but I don’t want them to be long and boring. This one? Kind of boring.

Often after I finish a book I disliked I find myself perusing Goodreads reviews to see if I’m the only one with those negative opinions. Typically I can find other negative reviews (like this one) that capture the issues I had with the book, which is always satisfying. Yes! It wasn’t just me!

As disappointed as I was in this book, I would keep an eye out for future titles by Bivald – this was a debut and I can hope that the issues I had would improve with more experience. I feel like she’s got the potential there, and this one had potential as well. It just didn’t happen.

Not recommended. Save your reading time.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory.

All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

Book Details

Title: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Author: Katarina Bivald
Category: Fiction
My Rating: 2 Stars


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Cover Love: The Well of Lost Plots

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book to review by NetGalley (although I actually read a library copy because the NetGalley copy wasn’t cooperating with my Kindle). I was not required to post a positive review (I guess that’s probably pretty obvious though), and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links – thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

The Last Song by Eva Wiseman

The Last SongThe Last SongThe Last Song by Eva Wiseman by Eva Wiseman

Let’s start with the positive: the premise of this book is fantastic. There are so many historical fiction books for kids on certain topics, but other events have very few books available. The Spanish Inquisition is one of the more neglected topics.

Unfortunately, this book doesn’t help much, and I wouldn’t recommend it even if you’re desperate for something covering this topic or time period. The plot itself is so obvious and also has some glaring holes. The characterizations are all either stereotypical or simple cardboard. The main character should be sympathetic, but I found her to be completely unbelievable and absurd.

I fell for this one based on the cover and description, but I wish I’d saved my reading time. If I hadn’t been reading it for review, I’d have given up on it sooner, but since I did accept it I felt like I should finish it in hopes that it improved (or at least so my review was on the entire book.) [Read more…]

Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time

I’m taking a mini blog break but instead of having no posts at all, I’m sharing some content that originally ran on another blog I had. I’ve updated the posts, but if you’ve been reading me for a long time, they may still be familiar.

A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet) by Madeleine L’Engle

Despite being a voracious reader growing up and loving fantasy books, somehow I’d never picked it up L’Engle’s classic, Newbery-award-winning book A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet). My husband hates fantasy stories but he’d even read it – it was an assigned text for one of his classes. I’d never prioritized it enough to get to it as an adult, and likely never would have read it hadn’t been the assigned book for my book club.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I liked the character of Meg quite a bit. I liked her younger brother Charles Wallace well enough. I didn’t feel like I got to know Calvin that well, but he was an interesting character. However, nothing about the book got me super excited to find out more about the characters, and what happened to them in later books in the series.

I felt like there were too many occasions where instead of really explaining something, L’Engle instead had one of the “wiser” characters express frustration that the concepts just couldn’t really be explained in words. Jumbled bits of half-explanations were almost given, with the caveat that “There’s some things we just aren’t meant to understand.” It’s okay though, Charles Wallace has such a prodigious intellect that he understands and tells Meg that it’s alright. (yes, that’s sarcasm.)

Some of my frustrations with the book may just be because it was so groundbreaking, things I like and take for granted now were something rare and special, like having a girl be the main character and hero in a science fiction/fantasy novel. Maybe it only seemed so formulaic to me because it set the formula that many other books have followed?

L’Engle includes one of my most-loathed contrivances in children’s literature, the wise adult dismissing children with the equivalent of “you aren’t old enough/mature enough to understand, but meanwhile go off and save the world because you’re the only one(s) who can. You just won’t know what you’re facing.” But of course the wise adults have super-powers and can magically appear just when they’re most needed and/or provide some sort of prop with special qualities that can save the heroes.

There are so many times when I read books that are wildly praised and wonder what’s all the fuss, and this is definitely one of those times. The book was ok, but in no way is it even close to being one of my favorite books of all time, and I know of many people for whom that is the case. I do wonder if I’d read it as a child, would I have loved it more and would it be one of my favorites still?

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

A Wrinkle in Time is the winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal..

Book Details

Title: A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet)
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Category: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

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