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I enjoyed "Arthur and Sherlock" by Michael Sims. He told the story of how Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, based on one of the doctors he learned from in medical school, Joseph Bell. He also traced Holmes' lineage back to Poe's detective stories as well as others that Doyle liked to read. It was fairly short and his writing style was interesting and insightful without being too bogged down by minutia.

I enjoyed Nicola Tallis's well researched book on Jane Grey, who was forced into becoming Queen of England after Edward died. She was a figurehead, used for her royal blood to keep Mary off the throne and England away from Catholicism. As we all know, it did not work, Mary took her rightful place on the throne, returned England to the Catholic Church, and ended up beheading Jane. I don't honestly think Mary wanted to kill Jane, but so many rebels were trying to use her or Elizabeth to dethrone Mary that she really felt like she had no other choice. Jane's life was short and tragic, but she never compromised her Protestant faith, and Tallis's book was engrossing without being obtuse.
So I was super excited to get the sequel to "A Study in Charlotte". I tore through "Last of August" and was...underwhelmed. It just seemed overly complicated and the romantic but not really together relationship between Charlotte and James seemed forced and silly. Sexual tension is fun and all, but now it's to the point where it's just slightly torturous to read. The book starts out with James visiting Charlotte's family home over the holidays. Her mother is ill and her beloved uncle Leander has disappeared. Charlotte's brother Milo seems unconcerned about Leander's strange disappearance, but he agrees to help Charlotte and James try to find him. They travel to Berlin because Leander was working undercover trying to bring down an art forgery ring. James is convinced Charlotte's ex-tutor, August Moriarty, is double-crossing them somehow, he just can't prove it. As usual, Charlotte is ten steps ahead of everyone else. It was fun switching to her POV towards the end of the book, and Cavallaro does that really well, but otherwise I was disappointed. I hope the third one is better.

After Fox Mulder's story, "Agent of Chaos", I read Dana Scully's story, "Devil's Advocate". I didn't like it nearly as much as "Agent of Chaos", although I liked Maberry's writing style better than Garcia's. It just seemed so unbelievable to me. I can totally buy the FBI having surveillance on a young Mulder, after all, Bill Mulder worked for the State Department and his biological father was the Cigarette Smoking Man. Fox was probably on their radar since the day he was born. But Dana Scully? Why? Why would they have an eye on her? It just seemed like a stretch. Also, Dana seems to have psychic abilities, she's having visions. Later she decides it was because she was on a hallucinogenic drug without knowing, but still. I don't know, the whole thing rubbed me the wrong way.

The Apartment

"The Apartment" by S. L. Grey was pretty good, it was a quick psychological supernatural horror. Normally I prefer my horror gory, but this one was pretty well done. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, but after about 50 pages I couldn't put it down. Mark and Steph recently went through a traumatizing home invasion, and their friends and family encourage them to get away for a bit on a holiday. Finances are tight, but Steph finds a great Parisian apartment on one of those house swapping sites (I would never have considered using one of those sites before reading this book, I definitely wouldn't now) and she and Mark make the trip. Right off the bat, the apartment is definitely not how the couple living there described it: it's dingy and musty and not lived in, the entire building is deserted and run down, it's just creepy. There's a weird woman squatting in the garret who warns them to leave, as it's not a place for the living. Haunted by his past as well as feelings of guilt over how he failed to protect his wife and daughter from the robbers, Mark starts to fall apart. They cut their trip short and return home, but unfortunately things don't return to normal, the horror has followed them home.

Agent of Chaos

Warning: massive spoilers not only for the book but also for the X-Files. Although I can't imagine anyone NOT having watched the show by now. You've been warned.

When I found out there were two YA books coming out, one about Fox Mulder and one about Dana Scully, you know I had to grab them. Of course I read the Fox Mulder one first because duh :)
Seventeen year old Fox is living in D.C. with the man he believes to be his father, Bill Mulder (season six, "Two Fathers" and "One Son"), following his parents' separation. A couple of kids are kidnapped, and one turns up dead, his corpse displayed in a ritualistic manner. Fox is still reeling from his sister's kidnapping several years earlier and he's determined to save the life of at least one little girl, since he couldn't save Samantha. With the help of his best friends, Phoebe and Gimble, they discover the man responsible for the child abductions. His name is Earl Roy Propps. Fox and his friends have to make a visit to the FBI to give statements, and Fox meets John Douglas of the Behavioral Sciences Unit (it wasn't the BAU until later), who encourages young Fox to go to Oxford and study psychology. I really loved how she drew in Phoebe, Fox's girlfriend from college (remember that first season episode "Fire" where Dana caught the two of them embracing? Priceless), and John Douglas, the real life agent who helped create the BSU. And of course as soon as they said Earl Roy's last name was Propps I went wait, as in Monty Propps? The serial killer who Mulder helped catch early on in his career that catapulted him to super stardom in the Bureau before he discovered the X-Files and became known as Spooky (season one "Pilot")? That Propps? Turns out Earl is his younger brother. It was a fun, quick read. I do feel like Garcia didn't really nail teenaged Mulder as well as she could have, but it was still fun.

"Mrs. Sherlock Holmes" by Brad Ricca is the story of a once well-known female detective in New York named Grace Humiston. Grace was a lawyer in the early 1900s when female lawyers were few and far between. She took the cases no one else ever wanted and managed to free several innocent people who were on Death Row. Along the way Grace became a detective of sorts as well. In 1917, a young lady named Ruth Cruger disappeared. The police wrote it off as her eloping with a boyfriend and didn't really investigate. Ruth's family knew better and her father turned to Grace for help. Grace investigated Ruth's disappearance and ended up finding her body buried in a cellar of a local motorcycle repair shop the police had actually searched several times without finding anything. Grace fought long and hard in the years afterwards to expose sex slavery and ended up being labeled a crackpot because of her audacious claims as to how widespread it was. She died in obscurity, and today no one has ever heard of her. It was a very exciting story and well written.

One of my coworkers recommended this to me after she found out I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan, and it was so brilliant and clever, I adored it. It was one of those books I wish would have been around when I was a teenager, I would have gobbled this one up and begged for more (it's supposed to be a trilogy, the sequel is coming out next week!). James Watson is attending a boarding school in Connecticut when he meets Charlotte Holmes. Yes, they are descendants from the original Watson and Holmes. As a kid, James (he hates being called Jamie but everyone does it anyway) fantasized about being friends with Charlotte and the grand adventures they'd have, but reality isn't quite as good as daydreams. Charlotte is standoffish and not interested in being friends, until one of their classmates is murdered and the killer appears to be framing Watson and Holmes. Together they investigate and piece together the clues. What a great homage to the original stories.

Better Than New

I like Nicole's show "Rehab Addict", I try to catch it whenever it's on but I haven't seen all of them. I like how she's all about saving the old homes and not just gutting them and making them all look alike, which is how so many of the "fixer upper" type shows operate. I love old houses, the character and the charm, and it's fun to see a strong, independent woman take charge and do everything from running a backhoe to fixing the drywall. She sort of fell into the TV industry without meaning to, but it's obvious she works very hard and pours a lot of her heart and soul into the houses she's saving.

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