Browsing Tag

sherlock holmes

Postertext Giveaway

Since many of us here are readers and have book lovers in our lives, we’re probably all scrambling for unique bookish gift ideas. This is why I’m excited to host this giveaway from Postertext. According to its website, the company consists of “avid readers and passionate artists who all work together intimately to create the perfect intersection between art and literature.”

The results? Posters made entirely of text from classic novels. (Contemporary ones are coming soon). Here’s a sample:




F. Scott Fitzgerald’s THE GREAT GATSBY


William Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET

Lucy Maud Montgomery's ANNE OF GREEN GABLES

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s ANNE OF GREEN GABLES



Cool, right? If you’d like to win a poster of your choice (click here to see all available titles and their dimensions), leave a comment about one of your favorite books of all time—classic or contemporary—and what the center image would be if it were made into a poster. For example, one of my favorite books is Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind and I’d want the poster to depict the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

Giveaway ends Dec. 24, 9 p.m. PST. For US residents only. The poster won’t come before Christmas but it’d still be a great gift for any occasion.

Winners will have 48 hours after notification to claim the prize before an alternate winner is chosen. Good luck!


Nerdy Special List November 2012

Here are the November titles we enjoyed:



From Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts:

The Right Hand by Derek Haas (Nov. 13, Mulholland Books) is an action-packed spy thriller. Haas introduces his American spy, Austin Clay, in the first of what will hopefully be a continuing series. Clay is a traditional loner, but a character readers will quickly embrace as a genre favorite. With fully realized characters, well-timed plot twists, and subtle humor, Haas keeps his readers invested until the very end. And then he leaves them wanting more Austin Clay.

From Jenn at The Picky Girl:

In A Royal Pain by Megan Mulry (Nov. 1, Sourcebooks Landmark), Bronte Talbott is a flourishing ad exec in New York, trying to prove her worth to her dead father, whose intellect and self importance always got in the way of a father-daughter relationship. After a move to Chicago and heartbreak, Bronte is hesitant when she meets Max, a handsome Brit she runs into at a bookstore. Telling him up front that all she wants is something casual, Bronte keeps Max at a distance. But Max, confident and persuasive, wants more, which could be difficult as he’s not just a Brit…he’s also a duke who must uphold the family title.

My responses while reading: “I love Bronte!” “I hate Bronte!” “I love Bronte!” “I LOVE Max.” Though at times this book made me roll my eyes with the typical women’s fiction “barrier” to the romance and the need of the heroine to constantly deny her feelings, I must admit this was a fun read, especially for a woman who dreams of meeting a handsome man in a bookstore…

From Danielle at There’s a Book:

Diverse Energies edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti (Oct. 1, Tu Books) This new YA dystopian sci-fi anthology, Diverse Energies, edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti (Oct. 1, Tu Books), features an incredible list of authors. From Paolo Bacigalupi to Malinda Lo to Cindy Pon and more, there’s bound to be an author in the group readers will have heard of, if not read previously. Each brings a rich and diverse cast of characters to their individual story within the collection, making this the perfect read for anyone looking for a great dystopian and/or sci-fi read. For me, not only was the genre a huge draw, but the anthology factor played a huge part. During this busy time of year, with activities and holidays coming practically every day until after the new year, it’s nice to have a book filled with fantastic stories by talented authors that you can pick up and read when you have ten or fifteen minutes to spare. Diverse Energies is a quick, well-written and -edited anthology that I’m certain will be just the book  for those of us who love to read, but may be rushed this time of year!

Ed.’s note: This ARC had a November pub date, but the book was moved up to October.

PCN’s recommendation:

While some people like to peek in others’ bathroom cabinets when they visit their homes, I like to peruse their bookshelves, which I think are good indicators of how a person thinks, what their interests are, perhaps even their dreams. (If they don’t have any bookshelves, I judge them harshly and leave immediately.)

My Ideal Bookshelf, by Thessaly La Force and illustrated by Jane Mount (Nov. 13; Little, Brown), allows me to look at some well-known people’s bookshelves right from my reclining sofa. It’s a thrill to see what books have shaped them, to learn tidbits such as Michael Chabon reads Sherlock Holmes, James Franco’s shelf is overflowing with classics, David Sedaris’s collection is full of sad stories because he believes “humor needs some aspect of tragedy in order to be memorable.” It was also fun to see the shelf of one of my favorite authors, Robert Crais, without having to climb up his drainpipe and peek through his window, and though I don’t read James Patterson’s books, I applaud his placing Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and Don Winslow’s California Fire and Life on the list of books he reveres.

Note: Check out the Pinterest sweepstakes going on right now to win a painting by Jane Mount of your ideal bookshelf, or autographed books. You can also chat with the authors and some of the contributors on Twitter tomorrow, Nov. 13, by using the hashtag #myidealbookshelf.


Once again, I really like the diversity of this month’s list. Hope you find something to your liking. Which November releases are you looking forward to reading?


A Few Thoughts on SHERLOCK: “The Reichenbach Fall”



Cumberbatch with Andrew Scott as Moriarty

OK, just finished watching the season 2 finale of BBC’s SHERLOCK, and spent some time with Mr. PCN trying to figure out how Sherlock survived that fall. We came up with a reasonable theory, I think.

Holmes tossed a body over the side of the building, probably one that Molly helped him procure from the lab at the hospital because we saw him pay her a visit. Holmes also had assistance from the Baker Street Irregulars (he mentioned a street network earlier in the episode), one of whom, on the bike, knocked Watson down as he ran to Holmes. This gained the other Irregulars time to swarm around the body, blocking it from public view and removing it, while Holmes ran down to the street and took its place, smearing himself with fake blood. And this is what Watson saw when he finally made his way over.

I think Moriarty also used some kind of prop gun and/or blanks and squibs for his “suicide,” because the Moriarty from the canon was definitely not suicidal.

What did you think? I read that filming for season three won’t start until next year so we won’t get definitive answers anytime soon. Arggghh!

Photo: Colin Hutton/BBC/Hartswood Films


All Holmes, All the Time

As many of you know, I’m a bit of a Holmesian nut, so I thought I’d point out a few upcoming Sherlock Holmes-related things.

CBS announced last Sunday that it had picked up the pilot Elementary, about a modern-day Holmes and Watson in New York City. It stars Jonny Lee Miller as the famous detective and Lucy Liu as his partner, Joan Watson. Below is a first look at the show.

Miller is a decent actor (I enjoyed him on Eli Stone), but I can’t help hearing Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice (Cumberbatch plays Holmes in the current hit BBC version) spouting some of the lines in this clip. The difference is that Cumberbatch’s detective is much more gleeful when he gets to show others how brilliant he is. Solving crimes is entertainment to him and he loves having an audience. Miller’s version seems to be more serious, having just come out of rehab.

Over on Criminal Element, author Lyndsay Faye has a post about what CBS needs to do with this show to keep fans happy. She knows what she’s talking about because she’s not only an expert on the canon, she has seen the pilot.

This Sunday is the final episode in season 2 of BBC’s Sherlock. It’s titled “The Reichenbach Fall,” which should give you an idea of what happens if you’re familiar with the stories. If not, the only thing you need to know is that this series is exceptional and possibly even makes you smarter after watching it. Check your local PBS listings.

On May 22, as my friend Debbie D. informed me (thanks, Deb!), the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles is hosting an event called “Some Favorite Writers: An Evening with Sherlock Holmes and Friends,” featuring Holmes scholar Leslie Klinger, writer/director Nicholas Meyer, crime novelist Denise Hamilton, and real-life P.I. Sarah Alcorn. More information here if you’re in the area and would like to attend the free program.

What do you think of the Elementary clip? Will you watch? Are you excited, or slightly distrustful like Faye?


Favorite Books and Movies of 2011

I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth, just traveling still and wrapping up my magical, mystery tour. During the past two weeks, I’ve often been uncertain of what day it was, but I’m pretty sure today is the last in 2011 so I thought I’d write about some favorite books and movies I experienced this year. I’m lurking in the parking lot outside a Dunkin’ Donuts stealing its Wi-Fi so hopefully I can do this quickly. Click on links to read my reviews.

Favorite revival of a classic character: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. The author perfectly captured Dr. Watson’s narrative voice, and provided not one but two clever mysteries that could only be solved by the inimitable Sherlock Holmes.

Favorite Scandinavian crime novel: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. I read some excellent ones, including Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist and Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis’s The Boy in the Suitcase, but Keeper has the edge because of the engaging crime-solving duo of Carl Morck and his assistant, Assad, and the humor Adler-Olsen injects into a grim story.

Book that caused me to lose most water weight: Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington. The story of a fifteen-year-old coping with her father going away to war made me weep copiously, while also making me laugh in parts and swoon over the beauty of its prose.

Craziest adventures: Duane Swierczynski’s Fun & Games and Hell & Gone. You don’t just read these novels—the first two in the Charlie Hardie trilogy—you experience them in a visceral way, the whole time thinking, “What the hell?” and “More!” Luckily, there is more coming in March—the final installment, Point & Shoot.

Favorite thriller that made me invest in Purell: Brett Battles’ Sick. Technically, life as we know it hasn’t ended yet, but it will if Daniel Ash and his colleagues can’t stop some seriously screwed-up people. No one is safe in this story, not even children, which ratchets up the tension. Full disclosure: I was a Beta reader and copyedited it, but the novel was already pretty kick-ass when it came to me.

Favorite dystopian zombie sexy hybrid: Sophie Littlefield’s Aftertime. I read neither dystopian nor zombie novels, but this one, about a mother searching for her child in a world after something terrible happened, moved me and scared me. It also has a really hot sex scene that you probably shouldn’t read in front of your parents or a priest.

Most entertaining true stories: Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I don’t read memoirs, either, but devoured this thing in about one sitting because it’s hilarious and insightful. If she writes another book on the correct method of flossing, I’d read that, too.

Favorite overall movie: The Artist. It made me happy and the smile lingers weeks later. This ties in with the next award for…

Best supporting animal: Uggie from The Artist. He had strong competition from the horses who played Joey in War Horse and Snowy in The Adventures of Tintin, but Uggie did all the acting and stunts himself, while three horses shared duty as Joey and Snowy isn’t real.

Most surprisingly good rom-com: Crazy, Stupid, Love. Romantic comedies are hard to pull off and usually end up being corny, but this one is actually romantic and funny, thanks to Steve Carell, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, and Ryan Gosling. Gosling’s abs should’ve also received top billing.

Most jaw-dropping stunts: Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol. All-out fun, with innovative action scenes that did look pretty impossible to pull off.

Darkest, coolest noir: Drive. This movie left me shaking, it was so tense and good. Out of all the stellar performances Gosling turned in this year, this was my favorite.

Most affecting performance by an actor playing an icon: Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. Everyone has an opinion about Marilyn and knows so much about her already, but Williams still manages to bring out interesting facets of the legend’s psyche and make our heart break all over again.

My battery light on the laptop is flashing so I’d better wrap this up. Plus, the Dunkin’ Donuts manager is eyeing me suspiciously from the window. Hope you have a fun but safe New Year’s Eve and a magnificent 2012 that goes beyond your imagination.




Book Review: THE HOUSE OF SILK by Anthony Horowitz

First, I have to mention the gorgeous cover, which this picture doesn’t fully depict. The gold letters are raised against a rich, deep navy background resembling curtains, which, taken with the “silk” in the title, evoke a sense of luxury. It begs readers to peek behind it to see what treasures lie within. What I found was a treat indeed, but I also realized that the title and cover art are ironic in a devastating way.

The adventure, set in 1890, begins inauspiciously enough with an art dealer, Edmund Carstairs, contacting Sherlock Holmes to say he believes he’s being stalked by a thug wearing a flat cap who has followed him from America. Carstairs believes the man plans to do him harm. Holmes brings in the Baker Street Irregulars, a group of street urchins, to help. Things go awry, dead bodies start to appear, and the case turns out to be much more sinister and far-reaching than either Holmes or Watson could have imagined.

Anthony Horowitz has done something clever. This being the first Holmes novel the Arthur Conan Doyle estate has ever commissioned, the author decided to make it darker than any story in the official canon. It neatly explains why it’s coming to light now—it’s so disturbing, Watson left instructions saying it could only be published a hundred years after his death—while also making it contemporary, because the subject matter is not something Conan Doyle could have written about in his day.

Horowitz captures Watson’s narrative voice quite well, throwing in lots of familiar elements (“When you have eliminated the impossible…”) and characters—Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft, the Irregulars, Inspector Lestrade (painted in a more benevolent light here), and perhaps even a certain professor. The author has created not just one but two mysteries, both compelling, and then weaves them together in a way that seems effortless and as smooth as, well, silk. This is a must-read for hardcore fans, while also being an elegant introduction to those calling at 221B Baker Street for the first time.

Nerd verdict: House of thrills

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy it from an indie bookstore


Book Review: THE DROP by Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch might be facing retirement—DROP stands for Deferred Retirement Option Plan—but there’s still a lot of evil for him to bring to justice. The story opens with him being assigned to an Open-Unsolved case that gets a hit when old DNA evidence—a drop of blood—is run through the database. What should be a nice break instead complicates things, since the match is for someone who couldn’t have committed the rape/murder twenty-two years ago, which calls into question the lab’s entire evidence-handling process.

Before Bosch can make much progress, he gets a fresh case involving a jumper at the famed Chateau Marmont. This one is full of “high jingo”—internal politics—since the body belongs to the son of Irvin Irving, the former deputy chief of police and current councilman who hates Bosch and has long tried to derail his career. Did George Irving commit suicide, or did someone with a grudge against Irving père murder him? Bosch juggles both cases, while also working in dates with an attractive psychologist and spending time with his fifteen-year-old daughter, Maddie, who now lives with him full-time after the events in Nine Dragons. The work leads him to horrific places, revealing things that will change him forever.

That’s one of the reasons I keep reading this series—Bosch changes, for better or worse. Some series authors hit the reset button as soon as one novel ends, with the next one showing no consequences from previous incidents. Connelly paints his detective more realistically. Bosch is dealing with advancing age, the cumulative effects of his years on the job, and being a single dad. This doesn’t mean he’s slathering on Ben-Gay or baking cookies with his kid. He’s just questioning whether he’s lost his edge to be a cop, if he should retire to be a full-time father. But how can he when there are still so many monsters to fight, so much more he must do to make the world a safer place for Maddie? It’s a dilemma that’s perfectly understandable, especially after what he encounters in this novel.

I had worried a teenager might cause unwelcome headaches in Bosch’s life, but Maddie is evolving into a young woman who’s sharp in thinking and shooting. Bosch has taught her how to use and respect guns, develop excellent observational skills, and she wants to follow in her father’s career footsteps. It’s a clever turn because if Harry does retire, it looks like there’s another relentless Bosch waiting in the wings.

Nerd verdict: Bosch not ready to Drop

Buy it now from Amazon| From an Indie Bookstore



While I was away on holiday, contributing writer Eric Edwards was busy taking in multiple screenings of Oscar-bait films. He was kind enough to submit the following reviews.

Did you see any of these? What did you think?—PCN

Photo by Alex Bailey/WARNER BROS.

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is bored and depressed. His genius sleuthing abilities keep him from helping the throngs of people who write him because he solves their cases before he even finishes reading their letters. Dr. Watson (Jude Law) wants to get married, leaving Holmes’s childish behavior and their shared lodgings behind. Thankfully, a challenge to Holmes’s intellect arrives in the form Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a villain dealing in the black arts and one whom Holmes and Watson recently apprehended for Scotland Yard.

Screenwriter Anthony Peckham (who also penned Invictus; see review below) has taken the brilliant Holmes we’re all familiar with and attempts to make him more hip by adding martial arts to the detective’s arsenal. Holmes is even shown proving his prowess in the ring at an underground boxing arena. Oddly enough, in scene after scene in which he goes up against actual bad guys, Holmes doesn’t fare well.

In portraying the famous detective, the usually charming Downey, Jr. carries the burden of an English accent and it’s cumbersome. By contrast, Law’s put-upon Dr. Watson is much more interesting to watch because his accent is genuine and the actor uses a less-is-more approach. As Holmes’s former flame Irene Adler, the very talented Rachel McAdams is mired down by a script that doesn’t give her much to do. This movie is a mess that can be skipped by all but die-hard Holmes fans.

Photo by Keith Bernstein/WARNER BROS.


The major problem with this “inspiring true story” of how newly elected President Nelson Mandela employs South Africa’s national rugby team to unite the apartheid-torn country is that it lacks a balance between earnestness and heart.

It’s supposed to be the end of apartheid in South Africa, but the hate between black and white still remains and Mandela (Morgan Freeman) needs to help his beloved country move forward. He looks to emulate the business plans of successful countries such as the United States and China. But how to appeal to the working-class citizen? Create a hero they can get behind.

Mandela summons South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to a meeting and they hit it off. While the president sets about memorizing the player’s names and stats and attending their matches, Pienaar visits Mandela’s former prison cell to better understand his new benefactor. A mutual respect blooms between the two.

Director Clint Eastwood sacrifices what could have been a heartfelt story and spends most of the film developing the relationship between Mandela and Pienaar. Damon and Freeman work well together and both deserve accolades for their performances, but as a whole the film is less than compelling. Each character, from Pienaar’s family maid to Mandela himself, speaks in clunky soundbites uncharacteristic of Eastwood’s usual subtle style. We never really get to know the rugby players, resulting in apathy on our part when we’re supposed to be rooting for the team. And if we don’t care about whether or not it wins the match and helps unite the country, the entire point of the film is lost.

Photo by Lorey Sebastian/FOX SEARCHLIGHT

Crazy Heart

Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), once a famous country singer/songwriter, has seen better days. Five marriages and a hard-drinking, heavy-smoking lifestyle has left him broke, forced into playing rundown bowling alleys and small dives across the Midwest just to make ends meet. Bad can still put on a show, but his fans are fewer, much older and his brand of “real country” is no longer relevant to today’s country music fans. What he needs is the inspiration to write a hit song. Enter budding journalist and would-be muse Jean Craddock (a completely miscast Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her 5-year old son, Buddy (Jack Nation).

Bridges’s performance, which includes doing his own singing, is solid throughout. His frustration with the cards life has dealt him is subtle, but etched as deeply as the lines on his face. Any frame of this movie without Bridges is a stark reminder of how much the film needs him to stay alive. It wasn’t the age difference between him and Gyllenhaal I found myself wincing at, it was the complete lack of chemistry between the two. Bridges, channeling a younger, better-looking version of Kris Kristofferson in his heyday, so richly deserves a more engaging companion to be inspired by and fall in love with than Gyllenhaal, who displays no allure whatsoever.

Colin Farrell shows up as Bad’s former protégé and current country superstar Tommy Sweet, and surprises me with his strong singing skills. Who knew? Both Farrell and Bridges could easily have careers as singers.

Writer/composer T-Bone Burnett provides the very catchy songs in Bad’s repertoire, but I wish the inspiring song that leads to his salvation was more memorable and not so morose. What should have been uplifting instead strikes one of the wrong notes in the film.


Kick Some Ass, Get a Scholarship

England’s The Guardian reports that thriller writer Lee Child has established several scholarships named after his fictional hero Jack Reacher for students going to Sheffield University, Child’s alma mater.

I think this is the coolest thing. Not only is it incredibly generous of Child to do this, can you imagine saying “I’m going to university on a full Reacher scholarship?” Do you have to get straight As to qualify or can you just kick some bullies’ asses? Either way, you’re making the school a better place.

If you could go/could have gone to college on a scholarship named after a fictional character, who would it be? I would’ve hustled for a Wonder Woman [“I got through Ivy League via the Justice League”], James Bond [“My GPA was four-point-double 0”] or Sherlock Holmes [“Professor Moriarty from Criminology hated me”] scholarship.


Review: Michael Robertson's THE BAKER STREET LETTERS

I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and have read most things ever written about him so when I heard about Michael Robertson’s debut novel, The Baker Street Letters, I had to get my hands on it. I’m so happy I did. It’s a funny, clever tale with only a tangential link to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation but much of the spirit of his stories.

Reggie and Nigel Heath are London barristers who have just rented offices at 221b Baker Street, well-known address for the fictional detective. The rent is cheap because part of the deal is they have to respond to mail from real people asking Holmes for help. Instead of sending a standard form letter in reply, Nigel decides to fly to Los Angeles to follow up on one, believing the young woman who wrote it is in grave danger.

Problem is, he departs without telling anyone of his plans and leaves behind a dead body in his office. Reggie must then track down his brother in America, keep Nigel away from police in both countries who want him for murder (they stumble upon more bodies in L.A.), protect the young letter-writer from very real danger, and solve the twenty-year-old case of her missing father before it reaches an explosive conclusion.

Robertson’s lively prose, strewn with dry humor, makes the pages fly by. He imbues Reggie and Nigel, as well as Reggie’s actress girlfriend Laura who tags along, with deductive skills evocative of Holmes’s. They’re an engaging lot I’d like to see more of so it’s a good thing this book is first in an intended series.

Furthermore, Warner Bros. has optioned television rights and I’ve got just the actor to play Reggie: Rupert Penry-Jones, who’s apparently available after leaving a Jerry Bruckheimer pilot. As for Nigel, I think John Simm, who starred in the BBC versions of Life on Mars and State of Play, could knock it out of the park.

Nerd verdict: Well-written Letters