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,.


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.

β€œThere is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Boscombe Valley Mystery {photo by #thegeekbug} πŸ“šπŸŽ»πŸ”¬πŸ“šπŸŽ»πŸ”¬πŸ“šπŸŽ»πŸ”¬πŸ“š ⚠️️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 . . . . β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’β€’ 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. πŸ˜‰

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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Book Review: Katarina

KatarinaKatarinaKatarina by Kathryn Winter by Kathryn Winter.

World War II and Holocaust stories are one of my favorite reading topics, and I’ve read so many excellent books from that time frame. Katarina’s main problem is simply that it doesn’t measure up at all to the best books in the genre.

One of the biggest pluses for this story is that it is set in Slovakia, which isn’t as well-represented in Holocaust literature as some other areas. That’s not enough to really recommend it however – the voice in the story is of such a young child, you get very little real sense of what it was like in Slovakia in particular, so the tale could almost have been set anywhere in Nazi-controlled Europe.

The story is aimed at younger readers (junior high and up), but it’s fairly confusing at times because of how it is written and structured. There are flashbacks and no dialogue tags, and there are sections where you wonder if things are real, or Katarina’s hallucinations / daydreams. Katarina is also so young and naive, but the maturation you’d expect from someone living through these situations never seems to happen. Her survial seems even more a matter of luck, because she’s certainly not clever enough to take any actions that help. It’s disappointing because her story is amazing, and there was a lot of potential there, but the execution didn’t live up to that potential.

Only recommended if you’re specifically wanting a Holocaust account set in Slovakia, otherwise if you want fiction or a fictionalized biography aimed at younger readers, I’d suggest Yellow StarYellow Star by Jennifer Roy by Jennifer Roy, Number the StarsNumber the Stars by Lois Lowry by Lois Lowry, The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss, or Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop.

Fantastic autobiographical accounts that are more appropriate for high school-age or adult readers include I Have Lived a Thousand Years, Leap into Darkness: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe by Leo Bretholz, In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke, and A Jump for Life by Ruth Altbeker Cyprys.

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Mini Reviews: Chemistry, Motherhood, and an Ordeal

Getting caught up on the backlog of nonfiction I have waiting in queue:

Why is Milk WhiteWhy Is Milk White?: & 200 Other Curious Chemistry QuestionsWhy Is Milk White? & 200 Other Curious Chemistry Questions by Alexa Coelho and Simon Quellen Field by Alexa Coelho and Simon Quellen Field
Too much chemistry for me, but I can see this being a good supplement for a student studying it. There are some at home experiments / projects that would probably be fun to try, and the instructions seemed quite clear. If you’re even slightly interested in some of the hows and whys behind hundreds more chemistry-related questions (like the title of the book, and plenty more), it’s much more readable than any general chemistry textbook I ever had the misfortune to use. Sorry, is my dislike of chemistry showing too strongly? It’s hard to fully judge the appeal of the book for a general audience, although I realize my feelings toward the subject makes me far from a general audience.

Carry on WarriorCarry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life UnarmedCarry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton by Glennon Melton
If you’ve read her blog, especially some of her viral essays, you’re familiar with her personal writing style. It’s memoirish, with lots of essays loosely arranged by overarching theme (somewhat anyway). If you’ve read her blog, many of them will be familiar, so there may not be a lot of fresh content. I like her voice and am somewhat in awe of her openness and honesty, and enjoyed the book quite a bit, even if the essay quality was inconsistent.

A heads-up if you’re considering it, but many of her essays do relate to parenthood. I’m not entirely sure how much I’d have enjoyed it if I’d tried reading it before having kids.

Winter of EntrapmentWinter of Entrapment: A New Look at the Donner PartyWinter of Entrapment: A New Look at the Donner Party by Joseph A. King by Joseph A. King
I’ve talked about this one here and there in some of my monthly update posts, but in case anyone has missed it: Do not waste your time reading this book. It’s written mostly to critique the more famous account, Ordeal by HungerOrdeal by Hunger by George Stewart, and much of the text is spent talking about how George Stewart got it wrong, and why he trusted the wrong sources and/or never used the right ones. Academic sniping is so much fun said no one ever. The writing style is dull dull dull, and I had to force myself to finish it. And then I kicked myself for bothering.

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