Enola Holmes Mystery: The Case of The Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer

Enola Holmes 3.jpgTitle: Enola Holmes Mystery: The Case of The Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3)

Author: Nancy Springer

Genre: Historical Fiction/YA/Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Enola Holmes might be the much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, but she manages to outsmart him at every turn, solving thrilling mysteries in her very own way…

Everyone knows Dr. Watson is Sherlock Holmes’ right-hand man – so when he goes missing, it’s a shock. Even Sherlock hasn’t the slightest clue as to where he could be. Enola is intrigued but wary; she’s still hiding from her older brothers and getting involved could prove to be disastrous. But Enola can’t help but investigate, especially when she learns that a bizarre bouquet – with flowers all symbolizing death – has been delivered to the Watson residence. Enola knows she must act quickly, but can she find Dr. Watson in time?

~*~

Enola Holmes is still hiding from her brothers, using her wits and a variety of disguises to evade them at every turn, and solve cases that the police, and her brother, Sherlock are unable to solve. Still in 1889, it has been six months since she left their care, in search of her mother and a life no predicated by societal norms and expectations. Living in lodgings, she discovers that Sherlock’s colleague, Dr John Watson has gone missing. Undertaking her own investigation, Enola discovers several bouquets delivered to Joh’s wife, Mary – and uses her knowledge of flower meanings to decipher what they mean. In doing so, she finds out that John’s life is in danger – so she sets about following the person who delivers the flowers – and what she discovers will hopefully save John’s life.

Coming back to Enola Holmes was delightful. I love the original Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, as well as the Robert Downey Jr movies. Here, though, Nancy Springer has put a new twist on the stories. Where most retellings position the quirky detective and his long-suffering partner in contemporary settings – Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in modern London, or Elementary with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu in modern day New York, this one still sits in the late 1880s, but posits the idea that Sherlock and Mycroft had an unknown sister, someone who society wasn’t aware of, but would soon become aware of.  The original Holmes stories are told from Watson’s perspective – and I have read them all, and the only family member I recall being mentioned is Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother. So, it is plausible to think Sherlock may have had a sister.

Again, Enola manages to evade her brother’s as she investigates John’s disappearance, and those who are linked to what happened. She’s a wonderful character, who despises the expectations of a Victorian girl, yet uses what she has available to her, and the norms of Victorian society to her advantage, as well as her knowledge of flowers and ciphers to form her various identities. These are quick reads, and of course, it is inevitable that Enola will solve the case as the main character. Aimed at children and young adults, these are great books for any age group, and can be appreciated by fans of the original as well as introduce a new audience to Sherlock.

This is turning out to be a very good series, and one that will surely have fans clamouring for the next instalment. I look forward to seeing how Enola continues to evade her brothers, and if, potentially, she ends up working with Sherlock, and both of them driving Mycroft to despair.

Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess (Enola Holmes #1) by Nancy Springer

Enola Holmes 1.jpgTitle: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess (Enola Holmes #1)

Author: Nancy Springer

Genre: Mystery/Crime, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 26th September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages:240

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Enola Holmes might be the much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, but she manages to outsmart him at every turn, solving thrilling mysteries in her very own way…

When Enola Holmes, sister to the detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared, she quickly embarks on a journey to London in search of her. But nothing can prepare her for what awaits. Because when she arrives, she finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess, fleeing murderous villains, and trying to elude her shrewd older brothers-all while attempting to piece together clues to her mother’s strange disappearance. Amid all the mayhem, will Enola be able to decode the necessary clues and find her mother?

~*~

When Enola Holmes, the much younger sister of legendary detective, Sherlock Holmes, awakens on her fourteenth birthday to find herself quite alone – her mother has up and left, leaving no clues as to her whereabouts, apart from a book of ciphers that Enola must follow to uncover the truth. In the days following her mother’s disappearance, Enola’s much older brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock arrive to make proper arrangements for their sister in London in light of the situation they find her in, where her education befitting a proper lady has been woeful, and the money sent to assist has been spent elsewhere. So, whilst Mycroft prepares his sister for boarding school, and Sherlock returns to his mysterious ways in London, Enola sneaks off and soon finds herself embroiled in disguises, a search for her mother and knowledge of a kidnapped marquess, whom she is determined to track down. At the same time, she must dodge her brothers, so they cannot find her, hide from her murderous villains and help the marquess get home. With all this chaos going on, can Enola maintain her cover and make sure she is undetected?

The Enola Holmes series takes a new look at Sherlock Holmes and his family, and inserts a what if – what if Sherlock and Mycroft had a sister – what would she be like? In this reimagining, she takes more after Sherlock, the detective, than Mycroft, who is the more responsible of the two.   Written in a style akin to the original Holmes stories, but with a feminine twist, the Enola Holmes mysteries looks to be an intriguing series, with books one and two published by Allen and Unwin out today.

Enola is very much like her brother, Sherlock, taking advantage of disguises she picks up along the way and puts together with the clothes Mycroft orders for her to attend boarding school. She is good with ciphers, and manages to elude those pursuing her, and is a master of escapes. Using her skill with ciphers to create new identities for herself, Enola is about to embark on a series of quests and mysteries that will hopefully lead her to her mother, whilst her brother, Sherlock, is hot on her heels – it will be interesting to see whether they eventually team up to defy Mycroft in future books.

What I enjoyed about this book was not only the female lead, but the very different take on the Sherlock Holmes stories and the detective story trope, set in Victorian London with the underlying theme of Jack the Ripper, and other nefarious people weaving in and out of the shadows Enola keeps to, yet fears as she tries to find her mother and solve the mysteries that she stumbles upon along her way.

An excellent start to the series, and my review of book two will be following this one.

Booktopia

Singing My Sister Down And Other Stories by Margo Lanagan

singing my sister downTitle: Singing My Sister Down and Other Short Stories

Author: Margo Lanagan

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 26th January. 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 208

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: An outstanding collection of thirteen short stories from the internationally acclaimed, multi-award winning author of Sea Hearts and Tender Morsels.

‘We all went down to the tar-pit, with mats to spread our weight.’ So begins ‘Singing My Sister Down’, Margo Lanagan’s internationally acclaimed, award-winning short story.

Singing My Sister Down and Other Stories brings together ten celebrated short stories, along with three new ones, from the extraordinarily talented author of Tender Morsels and Sea Hearts.

A bride accepts her devastating punishment. A piece of the moon is buried. A ferryman falls into the Styx. Wee Willie Winkie brings a waking nightmare. A new father dresses a fallen warrior princess. A sniper picks off clowns one by one. Margo Lanagan’s stories will stay with you, haunting you with their quiet beauty and fine balance.

~*~

aww2017-badgeSinging My Sister Down And Other Stories by Margo Lanagan brings together a collection of surreal, fantastical and timeless short stories. They are not interconnected, but each reflect on the human condition, and aspects of the fantastical. In the title story, Singing My Sister Down, a bride is forced to accept a devastating punishment while her family watches and assists – it is heartbreaking and yet, has a feeling of fairy tale or the distant past, where punishments were harsh. One story, Ferryman, draws on Greek Mythology and the underworld, with the ferryman of the River Styx falling into the river he crosses every day, ferrying the recently departed to the Underworld to live with Hades and Persephone. Not All Ogre is an unusual retelling of Sleeping Beauty, with a not so happy ending for the sleeping princess. These are just three of the thirteen stories that are included in this anthology, and that evoke a sense of timelessness mixed with a fairy tale or mythical feel. Another story shows a more sinister side to the Wee Willie Winkie nursery rhyme.

Each story is written in first person, and set in undetermined times and places, and at times, drawing on myth and fairy tale to create the story. This gives each story an eerie feel, but at the same time, it works really well, allowing the reader to immerse themselves in the stories that Lanagan has written. In some tales, the sinister side of tradition and fairy tales or nursery rhymes emerge –Wee Willie Winkie is shown as a living nightmare, a world where the worst dreams come true and haunt people for a long time. Yet others are more surreal, where I was unsure about the setting and plot and characters – yet at the same time, show a world that is not quite perfect at times, but idealised through the eyes of some of the narrators. The characters are all flawed, but driven by their own natures and desires towards the final outcomes of each story.

Within each story, Margo Lanagan has created a world we can recognise – the world of human nature and human flaws, not a physical world. It is lyrical and full of rich language and imagery that makes each read compelling, something that I didn’t want to set aside. It is another book that can be devoured or savoured, and I tried to do both, wanting to know how each story ended, yet not wanting to finish it too quickly.

In most anthologies, the stories can be linked by a theme, or even a series of characters or other plot devices. Yet in Singing My Sister Down, each story is its own entity, and yet, this works. I liked the different stories and characters within each tale, alternating between timeless worlds or worlds of magic and wonder, or unknown worlds hinting at a non-human existence. She does all of this in a wonderful way that captures the imagination and brings together ideas of what makes us human – and how an individual might deal with certain circumstances. If I had to pick a favourite, or at least one that sticks with me, it is probably Not All Ogre – I recognised the fairy tale motifs and this was exquisitely done, even though the conclusion and events that led to the conclusion were unexpected. I think this worked well for this tale in particular, leading the reader to believe one thing and then allowing another to happen – this made it intriguing and memorable.

A good read for young adult and adult readers. It can be read in a few days, and I hope to revisit it.

Booktopia

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

heartless.jpg

Title: Heartless

Author: Marissa Meyer

Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

Published: 8th November 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 464

Price: $18.99

Synopsis: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, the infamous Queen of Hearts, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favourite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness and monsters, fate has other plans.

~*~

Heartless by Marissa Meyer is the story of Wonderland before it became Wonderland, before the Mad Hatter became the Mad Hatter with his tea party, and of course, before Alice tumbled down the rabbit hole into a world of food and drink that changed ones size, of Mock Turtles and before a White Rabbit is late for something. In this world, there is only Lady Catherine Pinkerton, and her parents the Marquis and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove, and Catherine’s dream of opening a bakery. Her parents do not share her dream, especially her mother, who spends all her time trying to force a courtship and marriage between Catherine and the King of Hearts.

As all this goes on, a terrible monster called the Jabberwock threatens Hearts, where the main characters live. The King is useless, so it will become the destiny of an unlikely crew to save the kingdom, even if this means that their fates will be sealed – whether they are fates they seek out or not. It is this climax that will lead the reader into the fate of Hearts, The Looking Glass, and everyone who will come to populate Wonderland.

Marissa Meyer’s origin story for the Queen of Hearts borrows from the world created by Lewis Carroll, but also incorporates other elements of literature. A couple of Shakespeare’s plays are given nonsensical titles to fit in with the nonsense theme, Raven is often known to quote from The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, and of course, from the works of Lewis Carroll. Meyer has woven all of these together to create a story befitting the world of Wonderland before it became Wonderland. Set in a quasi-Victorian setting, where nonsense survives and the real world norms of the Victorian world are topsy-turvy – it wouldn’t be Wonderland if they weren’t – Heartless is a delightful story that has a bit of everything: fantasy, romance, humour and nonsense, and a sense of adventure that will appeal to many readers who enjoy fantasy or retellings of classic tales, fairy tales or origin tales of key characters and lands. It is well written with well rounded characters.

The Odditorium by David Bramwell and Jo Keeling

isbn9781473640313.jpg

Title: The Odditorium

Author: David Bramwell and Jo Keeling

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 11th October, 2016

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 224

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: THE ODDITORIUM is a playful re-telling of history, told not through the lens of its victors, but through the fascinating stories of a wealth of individuals who, while lesser-known, are no less remarkable.

Throughout its pages you’ll learn about the antics and adventures of tricksters, eccentrics, deviants and inventors. While their stories range from heroic failures to great hoaxes, one thing unites them – they all carved their own path through life. Each protagonist exemplifies the human spirit through their dogged determination, willingness to take risks, their unflinching obsession and, often, a good dollop of eccentricity.

Learn about Reginald Bray (1879-1939), a Victorian accountant who sent over 30,000 singular objects through the mail, including himself; Cyril Hoskin (1910-1981), a Cornish plumber who reinvented himself as a Tibetan lama and went on to sell over a million books; and Elaine Morgan (1920-2013), a journalist who battled a tirade of prejudice to pursue an aquatic-based theory of human evolution, which is today being championed by David Attenborough.

Elsewhere, we uncover the lesser-known obsessions of such historical giants as Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726), whose beloved alchemy led to a lifetime’s search for the philosopher’s stone and elixir of life; and philosopher Ren Descartes (1596-1650), whose obsession with cross-eyed ladies led him to seek a ‘cure’ through the first recorded case of CBT.

While many of us are content to lead a conventional life, with all of its comfort and security, THE ODDITORIUM reminds us of the characters who felt compelled to carve their own path, despite risking ostracism, failure, ridicule and madness. While history wouldn’t be the same without the likes of Shakespeare, Caesar and Einstein, it is when curiosity and compulsion meet that conventions are challenged, culture is re-invigorated and we find new ways to understand ourselves and the world around us.

~*~

The Odditorium is the sort of book that can spark the imagination and provoke thought through the names and their achievements within the pages. Filled with unknown names in the world of invention, of discovery, of the mind and other areas, this book brings to life some of the strangest people and what they did, but also, positions them within their historical context and in some cases, such as the entry on Joseph Campbell, creator of The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), and the archetype of the hero’s journey that has been played out in movies and literature forever, or the extremely odd, such as Reginald Bray, who sent a multitude of objects through the mail, including himself. Some of these entries are amusing, and leave the reader wondering what possessed the person to do what they did, to the little known names such as Elaine Morgan, who battled prejudice to pursue her theory of aquatic based human evolution – something best known today through Sir David Attenborough.

 

The characters within these pages – the odd, the outsiders, the ones who just wanted to make a mark on the world, bring a part of history to life that may not always be found in history books. Whether ignored because of prejudice or merely seen as too strange for “the norm”, these characters, these people, have still contributed to the world as we know it, and their stories are well worth knowing.

 

An intriguing read that can spark the imagination, and leave the reader wanting to know more about these strange yet fascinating people.