Finished The Valley of Fear. The plot was better than those of the other Sherlock Holmes novels, I thought, although as usual I found the gigantic block of backstory a bit tedious. It did help that the backstory was ultimately kind of a pseudo-mystery in itself, with a twist at the end. Still, the whole problem ultimately felt pretty unresolved to me. I mean, the mystery was solved, which was enough for Holmes, I guess -- but a lot of good that did. :P The epilogue didn't help much, either. It was kind of just a footnote, like, "For actual resolution, see The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes."
Actually, I really liked the first part of The Valley of Fear, which read to me like a completely separate novella from the second part. By itself, it would have made for one of the best of the Sherlock Holmes stories. The second part turned out pretty interesting by the end, too, and I can't say it should have been omitted. But it wasn't as strong; it had nothing to do with Holmes, yet it needed Holmes for an introduction, or there wouldn't have been enough to hold a reader's interest. I guess it's partly just a problem of narration. Watson's first-hand accounts are always interesting, and often amusing; but when he gives second-hand accounts he's much more sober and removed, and just not as much fun to read.
So: a good story, but definitely not my favorite of the Holmes novels. (For that I'm torn between The Hound of the Baskervilles -- which is probably technically the best one, but is somewhat lacking in Holmes himself -- and The Sign of Four -- which is ridiculously far-fetched and weird, but has no shortage of Holmes and features several of my favorite scenes, and certainly my favorite opening and closing paragraphs.)
Anyway. Other than reading, I've not gotten much done today. I ought to be ticked off, because my sister, after staying out all last night with friends, decided this morning to back out of plans she and I had made more than two weeks ago. Which... on principle, it annoys me that she chose to blow off plans we'd made well in advance, in favor of partying with her friends... but I'm not actually annoyed, because it means I've got the day to myself, and don't have to go anywhere or talk to anyone, which suits me fine. If I could just stop thinking like Watson, in convoluted parentheticals, I'd try to write something.
...Or, wait. Maybe that's me, not Watson. :/