I read over my last entry and laughed. A few weeks of work on the house? Try a few months! We’re still taking care of a zillion little (and not so little) odds and ends. We should’ve taken more pictures during the process, but here are a few before-and-afters:

Someone had put up a backsplash, but it was goopy with dried glue and looked terrible up close. The Hubs chiseled off the glass, sanded it down to a terrifying looking mess, and my mom took care of the rest with her amazing mudding skills.

It’s hard to take pictures in a bathroom, but this gives you an idea. New floor, new toilet, fresh paint, and a really cool birch tree shower curtain.

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Very hard to get a good photo of this bathroom, but we put in a new toilet, new vanity, new floor, new mirror, and new light fixture. (The before pictures for the bathrooms look worse than they really were, since this was partway into demolition.)

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All of this renovation meant that we moved in later than we thought and were slower to unpack. This was our bed for four nights. (You can see our priorities: books and tea made it to the new house before the real bed.)

More updates to come!

I’ve been terribly scarce around here, but with good reason. This week we finally closed on our new house!

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It needs some work, which I’m not thrilled about, but once we get things shipshape, it’ll be lovely. The work will take a few weeks, so we don’t plan to move until March, hopefully before our week-long trip to San Francisco. In the meantime, the Hubs and I are spending all of our free time cleaning, painting, and generally working our tails off. The Hubs wants to put in a garden too, despite the fact that he and I have killed almost every plant we’ve ever owned, including a cactus. That takes real talent. The only victim to escape so far has been an aloe plant, which I nearly decapitated the other day by accidentally knocking it into the kitchen sink.

I finally got caught up on my Goodreads reviews the other day, so if you want to know what I think about what I’ve been reading, check out the reviews here!

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Whew! Not sure I have any fingernails left after this episode. The usual warnings apply: massive spoilers for all episodes of Sherlock season 4. My earlier reviews can be found here in the Sherlock tag.

First, the Doyle story references:

  • The episode title is, of course, taken from the story by the same name, “The Final Problem.” The show has already used that story extensively for inspiration, and the episode draws less from the actual plot this time. However, it does use the element of an explosion at Baker Street. (If you thought the explosion looked fake…well, it wasn’t.)
  • The episode also pulls heavily from “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual,” in which a nonsense riddle is also a clue to a buried, somewhat grisly mystery. Mycroft calls the Holmes house “Musgrave, the ancestral home,” and in the episode Eurus’ song is called “her little ritual.”
  • Mycroft mentions that he’s seven years older than Sherlock, which is true in the stories as well. (We also learn that Eurus is a year younger than Sherlock.)
  • Mycroft dressing as a sailor is a nod to the several occasions on which Holmes masqueraded as a sailor.
  • We got another reference to Sherlock and John’s danger signal, Vatican Cameos, taken from the “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” in which Holmes says, “I was exceedingly preoccupied by that little affair of the Vatican cameos, and in my anxiety to oblige the Pope I lost touch with several interesting English cases.”
  • Eurus forces Sherlock to solve a mystery in which one of three brothers named Garrideb killed a man named Evans. In “The Adventure of the Three Garridebs,” one of the three men turns out to be Evans, a murderer.
  • Eurus mentions that Moriarty happily agreed to do the recordings for her, and she speculates that he was jealous of his brother, who was a station master. In The Valley of Fear, Holmes says that Moriarty’s brother is “a station master in the west of England.” (Then again, Doyle also says Moriarty has another brother who is a colonel and who inexplicably has the same name, James Moriarty. Doyle never was terribly good with continuity.)
  • Sherlock’s childhood friend Victor Trevor is taken from “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott,” in which Victor Trevor is described as one of Sherlock’s earliest friends from university.
  • Mary’s voiceover at the end paraphrases The Sign of Four: “I am the last and highest court of appeal in detection.” There is a similar quote in “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.” She also calls Sherlock and John, “the best and wisest men I have ever known,” taken from Watson’s description of Holmes in “The Final Problem.”
  • The ending montage features several story references, including one of a chalkboard with stick figures, which is from “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” in which these identical stick-figures are a secret message. And of course, the ending shot with Sherlock and John running out of Rathbone Place was a nod to Basil Rathbone, who played Sherlock Holmes in the 1940s.

Not story references, precisely, but fun little Easter eggs nonetheless:

  • The Wilde quote “The truth is rarely pure and never simple” was intriguing since Wilde and Doyle met at a dinner party in real life and, by some accounts, were friends.
  • Mark Gatiss who plays Mycroft has been dying to use a sword cane for years now, and finally gets his wish in this episode.
  • Hudson was vacuuming to “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden.
  • I searched high and low to see if Uncle Rudy mentioned by Mycroft had a Doyle counterpart. I couldn’t find anything, but if you know what that’s referring to, leave a comment!
  • In the first episode ever of the series, Lestrade says, “Sherlock Holmes is a great man. And one day, if we’re very, very lucky, he might even be a good one.” In this final episode, a police officer mentions to Lestrade that Sherlock is a great man. Lestrade responds, “No, he’s better than that. He’s a good one.” Nice way to bring that full-circle.
  • The fairy tale theme started by Moriarty continued a bit in this episode, with Eurus stating that “good and bad are fairy tales.”
  • The water theme that has been so prevalent was finally explained in this episode as well. Kyle Powers drowned in a pool (Holmes’ first case), the showdown between Sherlock and Moriarty took place at the pool, “The Abominable Bride” featured the fight at Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock fought with AJ in the first episode of this season, and Vivian Norbury kills Mary at the aquarium.

Sherlock fans can be incredibly picky, and it seems every season there’s a large dissatisfied faction, but I thoroughly enjoyed this season. This definitely felt like a wrap-up episode (being the only season finale NOT to end on a cliffhanger), and it’s a good note to end on if they choose to do so. There have been a few rumors of season 5, but it doesn’t sound like that would happen anytime soon. We shall see….

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Trying really hard to crank out this review/reference list before the final episode airs! As usual, you can read my earlier reviews here in the Sherlock tag. Spoilers for 4×02 and rampant speculation for 4×03 from this point on!

First, the Doyle references:

  • This episode almost draws too much from an existing Holmes story, but I found that rather enhanced my enjoyment of it. The episode entitled “The Lying Detective” closely follows Doyle’s story “The Adventure of the Dying Detective,” in which villain Culverton Smith (didn’t even bother to change the name) attempts to kill Holmes to cover the murder of his nephew. Holmes lets Smith believe that he is indeed dying of poison to lure Smith to 221B, where he tricks Smith into a confession. The story even features Mrs. Hudson driving like a maniac in a panic to reach Watson, although admittedly in a hansom cab and not in an Aston. Fortunately, however, the episode didn’t rely on Sherlock’s near-death for its main twist.
  • Sherlock’s line, “Your life is not your own. Keep your hands off it.” is lifted directly from “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane,” in which Holmes convinces a female client not to kill herself.
  • The name Blessington is from “The Adventure of the Resident Patient.”
  • Sherlock says he “caught a triple poisoner in High Wickham,” which may refer to a line from The Sign of Four:“I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money, and the most repellant man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor.”
  • Nurse Cornish and her criticism of John’s blog might be references to a Cornish boatman who once rowed Arthur Conan Doyle across a river and complained to the author that the Holmes stories were “never quite the same after he came back from the dead.” Everyone’s a critic.
  • Sherlock quotes much of Shakespeare’sHenry V, including “the game’s afoot!” Of course, Doyle took the phrase from Shakespeare in the first place.
  • The Killer Orangutan is likely a reference to Murders at the Rue Morgue.
  • Culverton’s hospital is named after Saint Caedwalla, the patron saint of repentant serial killers. (Seriously. There’s a saint for everything.)
  • While American audiences might be tempted to identify Culverton with Trump, British ones will recognize his origins in children’s entertainer Jimmy Saville, who abused children in hospitals but was kept from justice due to his powerful friends and influence. Culverton mentions his inspiration in serial killer H.H. Holmes, an historic serial killer with an insane Wikipedia article.

As neat as these references are, the really fascinating part of this episode, of course, is the reveal of the third Holmes sibling. In retrospect, of course, it seemed obvious, but I didn’t figure it out until only a moment before the reveal (and even then I didn’t put it together that E was the same as Faith too—great job, costuming department).

But the clues were definitely there. Early on, the therapist calls John out on the difference between “looking away and looking to. I tend to notice these things. Now I am reminding you of your friend, I think.” Holmes siblings have a lot in common. When Sherlock hinted in the last episode that Rosie should’ve been named after him, John and Mary say, “It’s not a girl’s name!” Sherrinford isn’t either, which threw viewers off since Mycroft asked to speak to Sherrinford in the last episode. But if Sherrinford were, for instance, a secure prison or mental institution where the third Holmes sibling was being held, the lines would still make sense. (I say the third Holmes sibling and not the last because, as the last episode reminded us, “People always give up after three” and this show is just crazy enough to throw in a fourth sibling.)

After Mycroft assures her that “the fact I’m [Sherlock’s] brother changes absolutely nothing. It didn’t the last time and I assure you it won’t with Sherlock,” Lady Smallwood asks if he still speaks to Sherrinford. Mycroft says he gets regular updates and that “Sherrinford is secure.” From this we might infer that the third Holmes sibling has caused some mayhem in the past, but her brother was dutifully unsympathetic and locked her up.

A few things seem to imply that Eurus (as we know she is really called) was removed from the Holmes family life at a young age. As Faith, she tells Sherock that he’s nicer than she expected, and she seems to mean it, so possibly they haven’t seen each other in years. This helps to explain why Sherlock wouldn’t recognize HIS OWN SISTER, for crying out loud. Perhaps her crime, whatever it was, was committed quite early. Eurus (as E, texting with John) says she’s a vampire. Perhaps this was a reference to her predatory nature.

However, Eurus mentions that a mutual friend put her in touch with Culverton Smith. Now, she does give Sherlock the info he needs to solve the case and bring Smith down, but she’s also clearly a bit crazy (if she really does try to shoot John, as it appears she does). It’s fair to say that the “mutual friend” is Moriarty, although it also seems clear that Eurus was behind the big “Miss me?” message at the end of season 3. So maybe not as secure as Mycroft thought.

Eurus, the Greek god of the east wind and of rain, is an odd name, but the east wind has been referenced many times in the series. Sherlock says in season 3, “The East Wind takes us all in the end… It’s a story my brother told me when we were kids. The East Wind — this terrifying force that lays waste to all in its path. It seeks out the unworthy and plucks them from the earth…That was generally me.” Later when Mary asks if Moriarty is back, John says, “Well, if he is, he’d better wrap up warm. There’s an East Wind coming.”

The only reference to the East Wind in the original Doyle stories dealt with Holmes’ comment about WWI: “There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.”

I predict that the Moriarty thread and the Sherrinford/Eurus thread will end up intertwining in the finale, but we shall see!

1Sherlock is the only television show I ever review, because it’s just so darn fun combing through the episodes for Doyle references and crowing about them online. This review for the first episode of season four is too late for British viewers to find terribly useful and too early for American viewers to have seen the show, but if I don’t post it now I never will.

You can read my earlier reviews here in the Sherlock tag.

Massive spoilers for the first episode of season four beyond this point!

So far season four has seen, if anything, an increase in references to Doyle’s stories. I’m just going to bullet these because the quantity is ridiculous.

  • The episode’s title (“The Six Thatchers”) and the episode itself are of course patterned after Doyle’s story, “The Six Napoleons.” In that story, Holmes rightly deduces that the Napoleon busts are being smashed because someone is trying to locate something hidden in them. In the story’s case, it does in fact turn out to be the Black Pearl of the Borgias, whereas in the episode, the pearl is a red herring.
  • The opening scene states that the code names for the room’s occupants are Antarctica, Langdale, Porlock, and Love. Langdale Pike was an information source for Holmes in “The Three Gables,” and Porlock was an informant within Moriarty’s ring. In the episode, we know Love is Lady Smallwood, and Antarctica, I imagine, is Mycroft. Vivian Norbury is probably Porlock, given the name’s connections to Moriarty and double-dealing.
  • Several of the bust owners have the same names in the episode as in the story. Craig compares Thatcher to Napoleon at one point as well, and the bust manufacturing company is the same in episode and in story.
  • “The wrong thumb” is a reference to “The Engineer’s Thumb” by Doyle.
  • “The Canary Trainer” is a reference to an unrecorded case mentioned in “The Adventure of Black Peter” (and later expanded into a Holmes novel by Nicholas Meyer).
  • Attempting to arrest a jellyfish is a reference to “The Lion’s Mane,” in which a man dies by jellyfish poison.
  • The case using fresh paint to disguise the smell of gas is likely a reference to “The Adventure of the Retired Colorman,” where a similar strategy is used.
  • Sherlock tells Rosie, “You see but you do not observe,” a direct quote to Watson from A Scandal in Bohemia.
  • A potential client says, “I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it, after all,” which is paraphrased from a client in “The Red-Headed League.”
  • Stella Hopkins (the inspector who chats with Lestrade) is probably a gender-swapped version of Stanley Hopkins, a detective Holmes thought was fairly smart, for a police officer.
  • The show makes use of the recurring joke in which Sherlock can’t remember Lestrade’s name, a continued reference to the fact that Doyle never gives Lestrade’s first name, but only his initial G.
  • Sherlock tells Lestrade to take the credit, a reference to the stories in which Lestrade constantly takes credit for Holmes’ work.
  • Lots of adapted lines in this one, too many to call them all out. John reuses a line from “The Yellow Face” when he says he’s a better man than Mary gives him credit for. Sherlock texts Mary that the curtain is rising on the last act, paraphrased from “The Adventure of the Second Stain.”
  • Toby the dog is used by Holmes in several stories, including The Sign of Four.
  • A.G.R.A. are the initials of Mary’s team in the episode, but in the novel The Sign of Four, Mary is connected to the Agra Treasure. When Mary is no longer an heiress to that treasure, Watson feels free to marry her.
  • Sherlock’s comment that “The world is woven from strands crossing one over another. Every strand of quivering data,” etc. is reminiscent of Holmes’ description of Moriarty as a spider, sitting in the center of a web and feeling every quiver of its strands.
  • Mary walks past a boat in Norway called Flekkete Band, a reference to “The Speckled Band.” Source: @ingridebs. Apparently the name of the other boat, Løvens Manke, means Lion’s Mane, according to Tumblr user Cupidford—another reference to “The Lion’s Mane.”
  • Sherlock tracks Mary to a place called Hotel Cecil. In The Sign of Four, Mary Morstan worked as a governess for Mrs. Cecil Forrester before marrying Watson.
  • Mycroft pulls a take-out menu from his fridge for a restaurant called Reigate Square, a reference to the Doyle story “The Reigate Squires.”
  • In the Doyle story “The Adventure of the Yellow Face,” Holmes ends up being quite thoroughly wrong about the case. He tells Watson, “If it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper ‘Norbury’ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you.” The episode reuses it almost word for word.
  • Sherlock tells Mrs. Hudson that “Work is the best antidote to sorrow,” a direct quote from “The Empty House.”
  • Mycroft says Sherlock rewrote the Appointment in Samara story and called it “Appointment in Sumatra,” possibly a reference to the Doyle-mentioned case, “The Great Rat of Sumatra.”

Mycroft takes a note that says “the 13th” from his fridge and immediately picks up the phone and asks for Sherrinford. Sherrinford Holmes was the name for Sherlock in early Doyle notes. Sherrinford was first proposed as an older Holmes brother by William S. Baring Gould in his fictional biography of Sherlock Holmes. In “The Greek Interpreter,” Holmes states that his family were country squires, meaning that the eldest Holmes son would have inherited the estate and would have managed it. If Mycroft were the eldest, he wouldn’t have time for his role as a civil servant, a theory bolstered by the fact that the position of civil servant was commonly chosen by younger sons of gentry.  Sherrinford has subsequently been used in a host of Sherlock Holmes retellings. The show has been hinting at another Holmes sibling for some time now; Mycroft said last season, “I’m not given to outbursts of brotherly kindness. You know what happened to the other one.”

As for Moriarty, we learn that in the last year or so of his life, he was involved in four political assassinations, 70 assorted robberies and terrorist attacks, including one on a weapons factory in North Korea, and had shown interest in finding the Black Pearl of the Borgias. Sherlock assures everyone that he knows what Moriarty is going to do next with some sort of long-term plan that would take effect in the event of Moriarty’s death. For the viewers, however, it’s too soon to say what that plan might be, or if it even involves any of the items on the list of his interests. Stay tuned…

As I mentioned, December is already full of adventures. One of the biggest ones for me is that I quit my job at an association management company after six years! The travel schedule was murder, and I had been planning for a couple years to make a change once I hit the six-year mark. I’ve accepted a work-from-home position as a virtual executive assistant, and I’m really looking forward to the change.

Even more exciting than that, my new position will allow me the freedom to expand my freelance editing work! I’ve created a brand new website, www.stephaniericker.com, which outlines the editing services that I offer and also serves as an author page. I’m thrilled to be able to dive deeper into the editing world! I was so busy with my day job this past year that I had to turn down some manuscripts, and I’m glad that will no longer be the case.

Whether you have a fiction manuscript that needs polishing or a nonfiction document that needs to be typo-free, send it my way! I’d love to work with you. Check out www.stephaniericker.com for my rates and information.

November was full of marvels. The best one was that at long last, the Hubs finished his master’s degree in medieval history! He had slaved over it for 5.5 years. (For those who don’t know, he’s a teacher and was working 60-70 hours per week during those years, so it didn’t leave a lot of time for master’s work.) I planned a massive surprise party for him, and we actually managed to surprise him! This is quite the achievement. My husband can smell surprises. My brother did a really cool vlog about the party here.

We also hosted Thanksgiving for both sides of the family here at our little apartment for the first time, which went really well! There’s a long but fun video of that too. The part at our house starts around 4:20.

We went to NC ComiCon dressed as Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers and had a BLAST!

Then we reprised our Lord and Lady Macbeth costumes for a trip to the renaissance fair. It was in the 50s and kind of drizzly, so we had to make some cold-weather adjustments, but they worked well!

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We also just so happened to go on Time Traveler weekend (hence the cool costumes sported by the other members of the group) and had a great time taking photos with some of the props.

A busy, costume-filled month! It was fun, but so full of commitments that I kind of wanted to sleep for a week. Lots more to tell in December, but it’ll keep till next time!

I can’t really call these recent adventures anymore, but I will still relate them! Hurricane Matthew knocked our power out for three days, which turned out to be quite adventurous indeed. We read scifi by candlelight (some kind of irony there), played my first game of Settlers of Catan, and built a candle stove, which we used to cook eggs and bacon, roast marshmallows, make tea, etc. Check out the candle stove in action below.

It worked surprisingly well and will definitely be utilized again if the power goes out this winter. We put 6-9 candles inside our metal sink (raising the candles up high enough so that their flames came close to the top of the sink), put a stove rack on top, and surrounded the edges with foil. We put the food we wanted to cook in the middle, with a metal bowl on top. VERY effective!

Soon after, we went to Sault Ste. Marie Michigan and Ontario for a week, which was lovely. But don’t take my word for it:

The Russian babushka look was essential, I assure you. Lake Superior is beautiful, but it is COLD. We went out on an old tugboat and had a glorious time. Good times, good friends, good food, and beautiful scenery, on both sides of the International Bridge! In Canada we made the required pilgrimage to Tim Horton’s and Canadian Tire, so all duties were fulfilled enjoyably, and I would love to go back.

November’s adventures will have to wait for another post. Stay tuned!

I know. It’s been an age. Life has exploded with all sorts of cool things, all of which I will tell you about eventually, but first, let me tell you about this:

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Yep, that’s me. Anne Elisabeth very graciously invited me over to play cover model for a day, and we had a BLAST. If you haven’t already read her blog post about the process of creating the cover, be sure to check it out here. You can see the before and after with the original photo and how she transforms it into the final version.

She also did a really good job of photo-shopping out the sweat that was pouring down my face, because it was HOT that day, let me tell you. Though not so hot that I didn’t savor a cup of exquisite Sri Lankan tea afterwards. I’m not an idiot. One does not turn down tea at Anne Elisabeth’s house.

I was especially honored to be chosen as the cover model for this book since Beana (the main character) was one of my favorite characters in Veiled Rose. I can’t wait to read her story! Fallen Star comes out in ebook format in just a couple weeks, so go ahead and add it to your Goodreads shelf!

More posts coming soon. You can hold me to that.

The conference in VA Beach went smoothly, and may well be the last conference I have to run onsite! I’m super excited about that. Due to long hours at the registration desk, I spent all of 20 minutes on the beach, but I did get to see some glorious sunrises:

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The Hubs was able to come with me for the first time ever, so I enjoyed spending my evenings with him in our swanky hotel room. We also found Yukai Japanese and Sushi Buffet on our last day and desperately wished we had discovered it sooner. REALLY good food!

Book Reviews:

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Whew. I had read The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett and disliked it, but I thought I’d give the author another go (probably due more to my affection for the movie adaptation of The Thin Man than for any charitability towards Hammett). I do believe I loathed The Maltese Falcon even more. How this book became a classic is beyond me. Clumsy, endlessly repetitive description! Uninteresting, trudging plot! Thoroughly irritating characters! I wouldn’t have minded a bit if everyone were killed off in the end, but sadly most of them survived to be amoral, sleazy manipulators into the future.

Ransomed from a one-star review on Goodreads (just barely) by the fact that Sam Spade epitomizes a genre, but heck if I know why, and for the audiobook narrator, who did a grand job with Gutman’s and Spade’s voices.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gabran. Three and a half stars on Goodreads for this book is probably more accurate, but the language was beautiful enough to elevate the score (subject of this post is stolen from this little book). We received the book as a wedding present, and I savored the wisdom in it–while recognizing that much of the beautiful language was lacking in substance. I can see why the book was so popular during the hippie movement; there is a strong undercurrent of “do what feels good” running throughout, and God loves everyone and we’re all God and bro, have another smoke, etc. And yet I feel badly for mocking it because there WAS wisdom in it too. Perhaps younger Stephanie would have been more deeply affected.

In spite of my four stars, I would say that this lovely book had very little impact on me.

Tik-Tok of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Continuing the tradition of reading Oz books aloud with my husband whenever we’re traveling (whoever isn’t driving gets to read). Gotta say, not too impressed with this one. Baum completely disregards continuity, and the title is fairly nonsensical given that Tik-Tok features so little in the book. Still enjoyable because I have such affection for the Oz books, and the scene discussing why Toto doesn’t talk makes the whole book worth reading.

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

my read shelf:
Stephanie Ricker's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

A Storytelling