#5. The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

In January 2010, Harold White, "a freelance literary researcher" who helps defend Hollywood studios against claims of copyright infringement, is inducted into the pre-eminent Sherlockian society, the Baker Street Irregulars, at their annual New York City dinner. During the festivities, scholar Alex Cale plans to present a long-lost diary penned by Arthur Conan Doyle that he's discovered, but someone strangles Cale before he can do so. Doyle's great-grandson hires White to solve the murder and trace the diary, which is missing from Cale's hotel room. Chapters alternate between White's amateur sleuthing in Europe and Doyle's own account of his search for a serial killer, aided by Dracula creator Bram Stoker. -- From Publishers Weekly 
I feel I should start off by saying I'm a huge Sherlock Holmes fan. I've read quite a few of his "penny dreadfuls" and the detective himself is my second favorite fictional person ever. All that having been said, I loved this book!

I don't know how many other books Moore has penned, but I think this may have been his first, and I'm quite impressed by it. The writing style itself is easy to get used to, and the characters are very likeable. As was stated above, the story is told in a Julie&Julia style, alternating between Arthur Conan Doyle himself, and Harold White, a modern day Sherlockian. It is mostly fiction, but it was interesting to learn what bits were actually true... I had no idea Conan Doyle assisted Scotland Yard in any cases, or that he may have been the one to locate Agatha Christie when she went on her little disappearing spell.

The story is predictable in spots and keeps you guessing in others, as well as frustrates you as it yo-yo's back and forth between story lines... but it's a fun story with great characters and troubling plot twists. I found it to be quite an enjoyable read.

It does tend to be on the dark side, however. What starts out as a lighthearted mystery becomes something far more sinister, and even though it isn't real, it gets under your skin. Not so much the Harold White storyline - though that one does get frustrating - but the Conan Doyle storyline gets dark. Very dark. To the point where you almost wish you never found out what happened... which I'm guessing is the point of the story: seeking is the goal, the search is the reward. But once you find what you're looking for, it may not be what you wanted.

An interesting read for Sherlock Holmes fans, an engaging mystery for people who just like to read... I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a few pages to turn, but be warned: it is not for the feint of heart.

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Vices & Virtues - Panic! at the Disco

2011 has proven to be a good year. As well as great books and memorable movies, the year has brought forth some great music... and it's only March! And while new music will always excite me, regardless of what it is, no new album has excited me as much as Panic! at the Disco's Vices & Virtues, which hit shelves on March 25. 

Panic! and I have had a roller coaster type relationship, starting with their first album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out. The over the top theatrics, lackluster lyrics, and not-quite-techno, not-quite-pop sound was not to my liking. However, keyboardist and front-man Brendon Urie's vocals on "But It's Better If You Do" convinced me to stick around for the next album. 

Pretty. Odd. did not disappoint. Released on March 21, 2008 (happy birthday to me!) and completed and mixed at Abbey Road Studios (yes, that Abbey Road), Pretty. Odd. was the penultimate in collaborative efforts between Urie and songwriter Ryan Ross. Panic had become a completely different band, sacrificing their not-quite-pop, not-quite-techno sound for a more old-rock, Beatle-esque sound and trading in their lackluster lyrics for something more profound and poetic. It quickly became - and still is - one of my favorite albums of all time. 

Then, on July 6, 2009, with the promise of a third album in the works, the band split up due to Ross and other band member Jon Walker embarking on a musical excursion of their own. The split was amicable, but heartbreaking none the less. The third album would never see the light of day... or so was the mentality. But, on February 8th the tumblr community was alive with buzz about new Panic!, and it seemed to good to be true. Sure enough, however, the band - now composed of Urie and drummer Spencer Smith - released the music video to their new single, "The Ballad of Mona Lisa" and while the style was vastly different from that of Pretty. Odd. (and sounded more like a lost track to A Fever You Can't Sweat Out), it was promising. The question remained, however, as to whether or not Panic! at the Disco could survive without the brilliant lyrics of Ross... rumor was, with Ross gone, Urie was penning most of the songs.

The album was officially released on March 22, 2011 (A full three years after the release of Pretty. Odd.) and gave birth to another question: Why wasn't Urie penning the songs all along? There are more hardcore fans that will disagree, and I'm sure your opinion will have to do with what sort of sound you preferred from Panic!, but in my opinion, the album far exceeded my expectations. I adored Pretty. Odd., and I have no qualms about saying Vices & Virtues is better. Ross is a talented individual, and his work on Pretty. Odd. is unmatched, but Urie has more than proven himself on this album.

Unlike Pretty. Odd. - which sounded like a collection of songs by a great band - Vices & Virtues seems to tie together, each song a piece of a larger story (like Daft Punk's Discovery). They've gone back to the pop-like sound, but have established themselves in it, utilizing horns like they did on Pretty. Odd., as well as some magnificent string arrangements. The songs are stories within themselves, boasting some of the most beautiful and poetic lyrics I've come across in my 23 years. But the crown jewel of V&V's presentation is the same thing that made me stick around six years ago: Brendon Urie's vocals.

Urie has this strange ability to convey his every emotion with his voice. If a song is particularly close to his heart or is inspired by some painful memory, you hear that... to the point of actually feeling it. Coupled with the horn/string arrangements and poetic lyrics, Vices & Virtues serves to be a rather moving tale... a book without pages; a movie without pictures. It grabs your heart and invigorates your imagination.

The standard version of the album contains 10 tracks, and can be streamed here, but if you purchase one of many versions of the album (via their webstore, Hot Topic, or iTunes), you can get your hands on a number of the six bonus tracks available, each of which is fun and amazing, but nowhere near as amazing as Vices & Virtues is as a whole.

If you're a fan of Panic! at the Disco, or you're just looking for some new music to kick off your 2011 year, I strongly suggest looking into Vices & Virtues. Again, you can stream it here, or buy it here, here, or here. It is also available at Best Buy for a limited time for only 7.99$.

  1. The Ballad of Mona Lisa
  2. Let's Kill Tonight
  3. Hurricane
  4. Memories
  5. Trade Mistakes
  6. Ready To Go (Get Me Out Of My Mind)
  7. Always
  8. The Calendar
  9. Sarah Smiles
  10. Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met)
  1. Bittersweet
  2. Kaleidoscope Eyes
  3. Oh Glory [demo]
  4. I Wanna Be Free
  5. Stall Me
  6. Turn Off the Lights

"But It's Better If You Do" Official Music Video

"The Ballad of Mona Lisa" Official Music Video

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#4. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

In the beginning, we were a group of nine. Three are gone, dead. There are six of us left. They are hunting us, and they won't stop until they've killed us all. I am Number Four. I know that I am next.
I didn't plan to read I Am Number Four as my fourth 11 in 2011 book... I actually didn't plan on reading it at all. At the year's start, I didn't even know it was a book; I had only seen previews of a (sort of lame?) looking movie. The trailers were short and really didn't do much to tell you what the movie was about but... it showed enough. A bunch of young kids with super powers, some bad guys, and hey teen love, Twilight style.

No thank you.

But then Nonna read it, and seemed to like it, so I figured I'd check it out. After all, I was strapped as for what to read for my fourth book. Nothing else seemed interesting.


THE WRITING STYLE. Oh my heck... there are a few things wrong with this book: the love interest is uninteresting, the characters seem to make really stupid decisions that put them in situations where the only purpose is to add some sort of drama to the story, and no one seems to ever see the obvious... but all of that pales in comparison to the style of writing. It's just... not as great as I'm used to, I guess. And, to be fair, it's a young adult novel, I believe, and I don't read too many of those, so I don't know. It might be good for a YA. But compared to what I'm used to reading, it's not great.. and being a YA shouldn't be an excuse. Coraline, for instance, is a children's book, but is written exquisitely. It also may be a taste thing, because most of the things that bothered me about the writing were little things that I found annoying, and that happened over and over again. I don't know what's considered good writing on Lorien, but I don't think it's the same as here. I find it hard to believe a 10,000 year old Elder couldn't manage to master the craft.

The other larger problem for me was that I couldn't really connect with the main character, Four. I was able to connect with his Cepan, and I was able to bond with Sam, and I am proud to admit I'm a Six fangirl... I even felt for Mark James at some point. But as far as Four went, I just could not get on board. He struck me as whiny, selfish, reckless, and stupid. For someone who's supposed to be far more intelligent than humans, he was very stupid.


As much as the writing style annoyed me, the story was good. Very good. Basically, the planet of Lorien (a life sustaining planet like Earth, but half the size or something) was attacked by a vicious alien race known as the Mogadoriens, the reasons of which are as of yet to be revealed. A ship with 9 Loric children and their protectors managed to escape before the planet was completely destroyed, and they are now being raised on Earth, until such a time as they can fight the Mogs. Before they left, a Loric charm was put on them, so that they could only be killed in order of their assigned numbers; if any Mog attacked one of the 9 before it was their turn, the attack would be doubled back on them... like a Reflect spell. When the story picks up, Lorics 1-3 have been killed, and the Mogs are after Four. He's at an advantage, because he's begun to develop his legacies (powers that all Garde possess), but at a disadvantage because he's begun to build relationships in the town they're in... and he's not so willing to give them up.

It's just a really good set up, and for the most part it's handled well. There is a lot of secrecy, which is frustrating, but as things are revealed, it's actually quite enthralling. Not all of the mysteries are solved, but enough are that it's not discouraging.

Another thing was, while there were characters I didn't like, there were more characters that I did. My favorite was easily Henri, Four's Cepan. He's an older Loric that lost his family in the Mogadorian attack, and he's a great way to look into the life everyone had on Lorien. And as the story progresses, you learn more and more about him, and it's impossible to not fall completely in love with him... save for one moment where you want to slap him because of his stupidity. He has this air of nobleness about him; there's this loyalty that is just so endearing.

And finally, the ending was quite magnificent. I won't say too much, but just know... it was a pretty good one.


Worth the read, quite honestly... despite its more annoying bits. It triggers your emotions which, in my opinion, is a sign of a good book. And it's just plain fun, especially since it's being played off as "real". It's a cute little escape from reality. Good read, worth your time.

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