Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Start spreading the news...

The blog's going silent for the next few days because...can you guess?


So try not to have too much fun...and I'll catch up with ya'll next week!

I know this goes without saying, but I heart Frank. :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Review: In the Shadow of Lions by Ginger Garrett

I originally posted this review on my old blog back in October 2008. I decided to cross-post it here for a couple of reasons. One, I'd eventually like all of my book reviews in this location. Also, one of the reasons I found the last episode of Robin Hood so fascinating was because of how it dealt with the translation of the scripture into English. The storyline immediately recalled this powerful novel to mind - if you haven't yet read it please, do yourself a favor and check it out asap! :)

In the Shadow of Lions (Chronicles of the Scribe #1)
By: Ginger Garrett
Publisher: David C. Cook
ISBN: 978-0-7814-4887-1

Back cover summary:

"I am the first writer, The Scribe. My books lie open before the Throne and someday will be the only witness of your people and their time in this world. The stories are forgotten here, and the Day draws close. I will tell you one of my stories. You will record it."

So begins the narration of one such angel in this sweeping historical tale set during the reign of England's Henry VIII. It is the story of two women, their guardian angels, and a mysterious, subversive book...a book that outrages some, inspires others, and launches the Protestant Reformation.

The devout Anne Boleyn catches the eye of a powerful king and uses her influence to secretly change history forever. Meanwhile, Rose, a broken, suicidal woman of the streets, is moved to seek God when she witnesses Thomas More's public displays of Christian charity, ignorant of his secret life spent eradicating the same book, persecuting anyone who dares read it.

Historic figures come alive in this thrilling story of heroes and villains, saints and sinners, angels and mortals...and the sacred book that will inspire you anew.


Every once in a while I read a novel that is not only well-written and entertaining, but also challenges and grows my faith. In the Shadow of Lions is such a novel, and the story has stayed with me long after I finished the book. Ginger Garrett (author of the novels Chosen and Dark Hour) excels at bringing history to life, and with her latest offering she turns her attention to the well-known Anne Boleyn and turns everything I thought I knew about the woman on its head. Garrett dares to challenge the view that Anne was a scheming, manipulative seductress, and asks the reader to consider another alternative. What if Anne was a committed Christian, caught in a vortex of danger and intrigue that swept her into events beyond her control? What if Anne's deeply held beliefs threatened the religious establishment of the day and earned her the enmity of powerful people, determined to sully her reputation for centuries to come?

In the Shadow of Lions is the story of two vastly different women - Anne, the noblewoman, and Rose, the peasant - both fighting against the restraints placed on them by a powerful patriarchal society. Anne, a devout Christian, wants to restore her family's good name in court, but more than that she refuses to dishonor God by becoming Henry's mistress. Rose, victimized by power-hungry clergymen who espouse virtue and then live in vice, longs for hope and redemption. Both women earn the enmity of powerful Church leaders who fear the "corrupting" influence of the Hutchins book (Hutchins was a pseudonym used by William Tyndale) - an English translation of the Bible taking Europe by storm. As people discover the scriptures for themselves, they learn that many of the established Church's teachings and requirements have little or no basis in biblical fact. The Hutchins book brings people face-to-face with God and His grace, without the Church as an intermediary. Anne's support of the Hutchins book is central to her tumultuous rise and fall from power in Henry's court.

The first entry in the Chronicles of the Scribe series is a fast-paced, completely engrossing read. The juxtaposition of Anne's and Rose's experiences are further contrasted with present-day scenes, where the Scribe angel dictates their stories to a dying editor, an unknowing heiress to the women's legacy of faith. Garrett lifts the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds and powerfully reminds readers that there is so much more to life than what can be seen with earthly eyes. Anne and Rose's story of faith and sacrifice is a heart-wrenching reminder that the right to read the Bible was a right paid for in blood. If the true version of Anne is even halfway between the commonly known history and story presented here, history has done her a grave disservice. Both as a woman and as a Christian, I found myself chastened by the reminder of how many freedoms I take for granted that were bought through the faith and sacrifices of women before me. As Garrett states in the epilogue, average Americans own multiple copies of the Bible and read none of them. Unless people know and cling to the truth found within those pages, unless we remember the sacrifices that bought the right the read the scriptures in the vernacular, the victories of the past will be lost, and the battle must be fought again. Kudos to Garrett for delivering a story brimming with life-changing truths, and giving Anne Boleyn new life as an achingly real, relatable - warts and all - child of God.

Robin Hood 3.3: Lost in Translation


This episode of Robin Hood suffers from an unforgivably fatal flaw - Guy (Richard Armitage) is AWOL. Didn't the scriptwriters realize that he is the #1 reason 99.9% of this show's fanbase tune in on a weekly basis? I'm just sayin'...crazy, crazy move people!!

Now, aside from some annoyances I'll expound on later, the essential conflict of the episode is pretty fascinating IMO. Our favorite Sheriff (Keith Allen) has learned that the Abbot of Kirklees is guilty of heresy - he's been translating the scriptures into English. The Sheriff threatens to destroy the Abbot's work unless he agrees to help bring down Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong) by turning the villagers against him - so the Abbot condemns Robin & crew as heretics. This episode, with its religious theme, was obviously designed to highlight newcomer Tuck (David Harewood), and it does a pretty decent job all things considered. Tuck's raging crusader-for-Robin Hood mentality still occasionally gets on my nerves, but the content of the translation storyline is strong enough for me to overlook that. The interaction between Tuck and the Abbot is pretty interesting - the Abbot, of course, will do anything to protect his life's work, while Tuck wants him to worry a little less about translating the scriptures and live some of the principles instead. The whole idea of the scriptures being in English does lead to some cute Much moments, when he rather redundantly can't wrap his head around the concept. ;-) And the Sheriff has several priceless moments throughout the episode as well - Keith Allen loves to ham it up and he takes advantage of every opportunity - like when he supplies a faux relic with which to intimidate the villagers. When he starts "preaching," and then kissed the decaying hand, it just cracked me up. Just when you think you've seen the Sheriff do it all... *sigh* ;-)

This episode - unfortunately - also provides plenty of screentime for annoying Kate (Joanne Froggatt) and her even more annoying mother. They (especially Kate's mother, because it's GLARINGLY obvious that Kate's starting to crush on Robin) are so blatantly anti-Robin and stupid about it to boot that it's just annoying. We could have had some originality, but NOOOO...we had to have some half-baked rehash of Marian & her father's conflicts with Robin. Now I realize that the way Kate's mother takes the Abbot's words to heart is fairly historically accurate considering the position of the church in society at the time. But I don't CARE, I can't STAND that woman!!

I have to mention the whole Kate/Much (Sam Troughton) thing. While Kate is in complete and utterly pathetic denial that she's got a crush on Robin ("*sob* I don't ever want to see you again Robin, do you hear me?!" Puh-LEEZE. *rollseyes*), poor Much is developing a crush on Kate. This does lead to a brief, but cute, scene where Allan (Joe Armstrong) attempts to give the hapless Much some advice on how to woo a lady. Unfortunately this is followed up by the scene where Much attempts to execute the plan, and he's told off by Kate because he smells. SERIOUSLY?! That's a little like the pot calling the kettle black...the girl is apparently also in denial about the fact that she's a peasant TOO. Yeesh!!

So let's wrap things up...Robin & the gang are captured when they fail to convince the Abbot to denounce the Sheriff. Kate attempts to rescue Robin by attacking him on the way to the pyre and slipping him an arrow so he can try to cut the ropes. Then - and this made me GAG, I kid you not - she WINKS at him. OF ALL THE NERVE!!! She has to be one of the most exasperating fictional characters EVER to pollute one of my favorite TV shows. I'm just sayin'...

Of course all's well that ends well, especially since this is only the 3rd episode of the season. If the episode didn't include all of the Kate-related scenes I would've been a lot happier with it, but that's just me - and I freely admit to being biased. :) Just think of the episode that could have been if the writing had been a bit tighter and Guy had been given a role in the story...a girl can dream, right?

Thankfully, Guy's back next week...and so is his sister. And people I think you're in for a treat - I loved the introduction of Guy's family - it's an example of a new character being written in a new, fresh, and fascinating way (especially when compared to KATE...okay, I'll get off that soapbox...).

Top 10 books on my wishlist...

Lori over at Some of My Favorite Things started a new meme this week - the top 10 books on your wishlist. I probably won't be participating every week, but as my wishlist grows (as it usually does, LOL), I may chime back in with a new list. Here's my list, in no particular order:

  1. Healer: A Novel (Brides of Alba #1) by Linda Windsor (due out June 2010) - it's been far too long since Windsor's released a historical - can not wait to read this one!
  2. Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren (due out February 2010) - this novel is one of the first wave of historicals from Summerside Press. Warren is one of my favorite authors, and since is a World War II novel - my favorite historical time period - I can't wait to read it!
  3. Songbird Under a German Moon by Tricia Goyer (due out February 2010) - this is another one of Summerside's historicals. I love Goyer's WWII novels, so I'm very excited about this one.
  4. Evensong (The Zion Memoirs #1) by Brock and Bodie Thoene (due out April 2010) - what's not to look forward to? Impeccable research, fantastic writing - this is the first book in a new "bridge" series between the classic Zion Covenant and Zion Chronicles books.
  5. The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen (due out January 2010) - this book sounds vaguely reminscent of Jane Eyre - irregardless, the story premise sounds fascinating. Can't wait to check out this book!
  6. A Distant Memory (Wings of Glory #1) by Sarah Sundin (due out March 2010) - yet another WWII era novel that I cannot WAIT to read.
  7. The Country House Courtship by Linore Rose Burkard (due out January 2010) - I really enjoy Burkard's regency romances - this one is sure to be another winner!
  8. Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson (due out October 2009) - I love, love, LOVE Robin McKinley's magical prose. Her book releases are too few and far between - can't wait for this release!
  9. Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs (due out April 2010) - Higgs tackles the Old Testament story of Naomi and Ruth - and the results are sure to be spectacular!
  10. Abigail: A Novel (The Wives of King David #2) by Jill Eileen Smith (due out February 2010) - I have a soft spot for well-executed Biblical fiction, and given my reawakened interest in the story of David (thanks to the too-short lived series Kings), I'm looking forward to this one.

If you decide to complete this meme, please come back and leave a link in the comments! What are you looking forward to reading? :)

Best news EVER!

Primeval has been saved. (Thanks to Kaye for the link!)

New episodes to come in 2011.

Miracles in the world of television really do happen. :)

Squeal with me...c'mon, you know you want to!! ;-)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review: An Eye for an Eye by Irene Hannon

An Eye for an Eye (Heroes of Quantico #2)
By: Irene Hannon
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3311-7

About the book:

After an accidental shooting during a tense standoff, FBI Hostage Rescue Team member Mark Sanders is sent to St. Louis to work as a field agent and get his bearings while the bad press settles. Just weeks away from returning to Quantico, Mark has a chance encounter with his first love, Emily Lawson. But their reunion is cut short by a sniper. Now Mark must find the shooter before he strikes again. But what is his motive – and who was his intended target? Can Mark put the pieces together, keep Emily safe, and rekindle a relationship at the same time?

A fast-paced tale of romance, suspense, and intrigue, An Eye for an Eye is the exciting second book in the Heroes of Quantico series.


An Eye for an Eye is my first Irene Hannon read, and it definitely won’t be my last. A couple of years ago I absolutely fell in love with Dee Henderson’s romantic suspense novels, particularly the O’Malley Series, which featured a set of siblings, each involved in a high-profile, intense, fascinating career. It’s been a bit of a search for me to find other books that match the “gold standard” set by the O’Malley series - comparable, equally absorbing romantic suspense novels that feature just the right balance of high-profile jobs, swoon-worthy heroes, and fast-paced, intense action that doesn’t let go until the final page. Hannon is definitely on the right track with her FBI-centered Heroes of Quantico series. Though Eye is the 2nd book in the series, it can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone novel.

Mark and Emily’s story opens with a bang, literally. It’s a superbly executed sequence that sets up the unknown assailant and the threat against Mark and Emily. After being involved in a standoff situation that resulted in the accidental shooting death of a teenager, Mark was temporarily reassigned from his duties as a member of the HRT (Hostage Response Team) in Quantico to a less high-profile job in St. Louis as a field agent. A chance encounter with a former flame, Emily, quickly tailspins out of control when a sniper takes two shots at them and then disappears, leaving Emily wounded. Mark is left reeling – has one of his former cases come back to haunt him, or was Emily the intended target? And if so, how can he protect a woman scarred by past loss and intent on protecting her heart?

From Mark’s reaction to the shooting and the subsequent investigation, it’s obvious Hannon’s done her research into FBI protocols. The investigation clips along at a pace worthy of shows like 24 or its British equivalent, MI-5. The pacing slows down a bit once the imminent threat seems to be removed and Mark and Emily begin to reconnect. I loved how their relationship plays out – they have an actual history with each other which you rarely see in this type of story, and when they reconnect the chemistry is electrifying. The camaraderie between Mark and his friends and coworkers is also extremely well-executed – Hannon does a good job of nailing the male point-of-view and illustrating the depth of the bonds that develop between individuals in high-risk, life-or-death jobs. And even though Emily has her own fear and trust issues to work through, I really like how Hannon illustrates the strength of her faith – and how that unshakeable faith, even in the face of death, prompts Mark to re-evaluate his own faith walk. Well-researched, masterfully plotted, and with a few twists and turns I didn’t see coming, An Eye for an Eye is not to be missed for fans of romantic suspense.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's almost here...

Michael Buble's new album, Crazy Love, as a video trailer! Woo-hoo! :) Can. Not. WAIT.

The video gives you a brief sample of "Cry Me a River" - the arrangment just blows me away! BTW, according to MB's website and Amazon, the release date is October 9th - last time I checked, that's a Friday. Since when do new releases street on Fridays and not Tuesdays...??

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Robin Hood 3.2: Cause and Effect


So sorry I'm a little late blogging about the latest episode of Robin Hood - "Cause and Effect." I suppose I didn't really feel an urgency to write about this episode since it's one of the ones I watched on YouTube back when series 3 first started to air in the U.K. The primary reason probably has more to do with the fact that I now have to start mentioning the above woman in my episode reviews - Kate, played by Joanne Froggatt. But perhaps I'm getting a bit ahead of myself... :)

The episode opens with a nice montage of Robin (Jonas Armstrong) & the gang in action, robbing the rich to feed the poor and antagonize the Sheriff (Keith Allen) and my lovely, angst-ridden Guy (Richard Armitage). I think it's safe to assume that some substantial amount of time has passed between this episode and the last, which marked Robin's return. It's at this point that I might as well note that Tuck's (David Harewood) predisposition for going on and on about how people "need a hero" gets a little obvious and annoying after a while.

The action then moves to the village, where we learn that Guy still hasn't seen fit to cut his hair, his rage is simmering barely below the surface, ready to explode at any moment (go Richard!), and he's collecting the village men to ship off to Ireland. This is the latest of the Sheriff's grand and overly complex money-making schemes that are always destined to fail - however, even if you think the plot conceit is a bit over-the-top, the visiting Irishmen are by far the best thing about this episode.

Kate, acting the part of plucky village girl to the hilt, attempts to smuggle her brother Matthew to safety, but the plot is caught by Guy, and in the ensuing scuffle Matthew is taken captive to the castle along with Robin (unbeknownst to Guy). It's so painfully obvious that Kate is the "poor man's Marian" it's not even funny. She, and especially her mother, really seem to hate Robin and everything he stands for, which is weird considering this is their FIRST APPEARANCE IN THE SHOW (but I digress). I guess the simplest way to boil down how Kate & especially her mother feel about Robin is that they'd rather roll over and take the oppression and abuse rather than support anyone who tries to do anything about it. In fact - they'd rather serve other people up for execution - as Kate does in a stupid, asinine, foolish, and ultimately futile attempt to "bargain" with Guy for Matthew's life.

It's not that I object to the introduction of a new female character to the show - in fact, it was going to be needed sooner or later. But I hate the lack of creativity - it's like women in the world of Robin Hood are required to endlessly whine about everything he does. How is Kate any different from Marian, only poorer and blonde? Why do Much (Sam Troughton) and Allan (Joe Armstrong) have to welcome her so readily into their rescue efforts when she sold their leader up the proverbial river a scant fifteen minutes prior? Did the writers just get lazy and decide to rewrite Marian as a peasant and make her father the most annoying woman to ever live in the village?! And what is with the stupid fake braid in Kate's hair?!?!

Whew...sorry to go on such a rant...but I'm really not a fan of Kate. What can I say, I got carried away... *sigh*

Now to talk about my favorite aspects of the episode...any scene involving Guy (of course!) and our guest star Irishmen, led by Finn (played by William Houston). The whole Irish storyline fascinated me. Finn and his loser younger brother have this "bright" idea to buy slaves from the Sheriff to serve in their army. Their goal - free Ireland from the British and set Finn on the throne. When Finn witnesses Robin's ultimately futile attempt to escape with the other prisoners, he's left impressed with Robin's ability to rally men to fight for his cause. He attempts to recruit Robin, Robin refuses, he attempts to rescue Robin, attempt fails due to betrayal by brother, both ultimately escape (of course! :)) in a thrilling hang gliding sequence (compared to the whole Kate thing, the hang gliding thing worked perfectly for me). Ultimately Finn "sees the light" and realizes that an army of men who believe in his cause is to be preferred to a conscripted army of slaves. Excellent object lesson, I think we can all agree, no? :)

Regarding Guy...dear man, I love you no matter how moody you get, but this long hair thing you have going on is trying my patience. :) I've got to say, it's really nice to see Guy actually start to show some real attitude towards the Sheriff. Setting up some conflict between the two of them is long overdue in my opinion. Even with Guy's callous involvement in Matthew's death, Richard Armitage seems to play the anger so well that I can never forget that his anger and rage is part of his grieving process.* Guy sort of has this self-loathing thing going on, only Guy being Guy, he lashes out at anyone and everyone. I think that's why he's become such a loose cannon where the Sheriff is concerned - since he killed the only woman he ever loved, he just doesn't care anyone. I mean after all, what does he have to lose?

*I suppose a person uniformed to the awesomeness that is Richard Armitage could argue that I'm reading WAY too much into his performance. But they would be WRONG. Just wanted to clarify that... :)

The lovely picture below captures one of the episode's best moments, when Robin calls out Guy's anger act. As much as I have loved Jonas Armstrong in this series, he's not had too many moments where I have felt that he rises to the occasion and delivers a strong performance equal to Richard's. This, however, was one of those moments, and it worked exceedingly well for me.

Till this Saturday's episode...think happy Guy thoughts. :)

The Splash Award

My new blogging friend Renee at Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot was sweet enough to award me the Splash Award! :)

The Splash Award is given to alluring, amusing,bewitching, impressive, and inspiring blogs.When you receive this award, you must:- Put the logo on your blog/post.- Nominate & link up to 9 blogs which allure, amuse, bewitch, impress or inspire you.- Let them know that they have been splashed by commenting on their blog.- Remember to link to the person from whom you received your Splash Award.

I'd like to pass along the blog-love to a few friends:

So many thanks to Renee, and happy reading everyone! :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Inspector Lewis: The Great and the Good

I can't remember what exactly I was doing Sunday night that I didn't watch this week's Inspector Lewis episode until this evening - oh, that was the night I started cleaning my closet while watching Roger Moore as James Bond in For Your Eyes Only. I think I have a bigger mess now than when I started. But that's neither here nor's the summary about Sunday's episode, The Great and the Good, from the PBS website:

Teenager Beatrice Donnelly is found dazed in a field with no recollection of what happened to her. Forensic evidence fills in the grim picture — she was drugged and sexually assaulted. The trail leads Lewis and Hathaway to Oswald Cooper, who works at Beatrice's school. But Cooper has an alibi solidly supported by three pillars of the Oxford community — a prominent developer, a controversial radio personality and a former diplomat who recently returned to town. Still suspicious, Lewis is determined to crack Cooper's alibi, even if he has to resort to high-profile harassment to do it. But is Lewis's own status as a social outsider clouding his judgment or do those in Oxford's most prestigious social circles have the most to hide?

I greatly preferred this episode to last week's offering, Life Born of Fire. In my opinion this show works best when it allows Lewis (Kevin Whately) and Hathaway (Laurence Fox) to investigate the seedy underbelly of elite Oxford life. This episode was chock-full of nice Lewis/Hathaway moments, in particular the moment when Hathaway fears that a phone call to the victim's father drove him to commit a particularly gruesome murder. The way Lewis had to sort of talk Hathaway back from the brink was a nice mentor/partner moment. The proverbial icing on the cake was when Hathaway talked Lewis into dumping an old mattress in an "unauthorized" (I guess is the term?) dumpster...that was hilarious! This was a really great episode for Laurence Fox fans, just sayin'... :)

I have to give a nod to Jason Watkins who played the smarmy, soon-to-be-murdered Cooper. Though given brief screen time, the role is eerily reminscent as far as the creep factor goes of his turn in season one of Being Human, as Herrick, the vampire with dictator-like aspirations. His murder has unexpected fallout, and ends up bringing down three prominent members of the Oxford community as an insidious web of voyeurism, infidelity, and voyeurism come to light. Cooper also baits Lewis with the idea that he has information about the hit-and-run that led to his wife's death, still unresolved after all these years. I love, love, LOVED the fact that this episode hints at restarting that investigation, which, if they go down that road, should provide some excellent depth and backstory for Lewis's character.

This was a really strong entry in the Lewis series. The mystery itself contained some twists and turns that I didn't see coming - it was quite the multi-layered plot! Since the story involved Lewis & Hathaway taking on Oxford "elites," it was a great showcase for Lewis's outsider complex and how he views the Oxford community. It was also an excellent, fantastic "buddy" episode showcasing the growing depth to Lewis & Hathaway's relationship. It'll be fascinating to see where the show goes, particularly if Lewis becomes obsessed with Cooper's alleged information about his wife's murder, and how Hathaway will have to cope with that.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Inspector Lewis: Life Born of Fire


I know I'm really late blogging about last Sunday's Inspector Lewis episode, but don't expect much...Life Born of Fire didn't do much for me at all. I am relieved to know Tasha agrees with me about the merits...or lack regards this episode. Here's the summary from the PBS website:

Will McEwan staggers into a church and takes his own life at the altar, leaving behind a suicide note cloaked in religious symbolism — "On the road from Gethsemane to Calvary, I lost my way" — and a pamphlet for a shadowy spiritual group "The Garden." What would lead a young and faithful man to such desperation? Lewis and Hathaway launch an investigation, seemingly aided by the fact that Hathaway knew the victim. But as those most intimately associated with "The Garden" begin to die, Lewis questions Hathaway's sudden vow of silence. In a case involving blind faith and faltering trust, Lewis hurries to know more about the lofty world of Oxford religion and his partner before fire threatens to engulf one final victim.

I think the reason this story didn't work for me was because it was so freaking preachy. The whole point of the story isn't a mystery at all, it's to preach at the viewer about gay rights. It makes no sense that homicide detectives are sent to investigate Will's suicide...granted, he did call it in as a "murder," but you'd think once the first responders got there that they'd realize that physically it was a suicide and the necessary investigative adjustments would be made. But apparently that's just me overthinking it or something. :-P I think there was a real opportunity here to delve into the enigmatic Hathaway's (Laurence Fox) past and develop his relationship with Lewis (Kevin Whately) in a really meaningful, substantial way, that was rather missed.

Honestly, the whole idea that the perpetrator, Feardorcha Phelan, went to Brazil for a sex change operation and then decided that was the perfect cover so he could go around killing everyone who messed with his boyfriend's head comes off as extremely contrived. Actually, that's putting it mildly. *sigh* And the big climactic scene where Feardorcha/Zoe drugs Hathaway so they can both burn to death, all to the swelling soundtrack of the Firebird Suite by Stravinsky, actually made me laugh, it was so ridiculously staged.

So I think the takeaway moment from this episode is that overtly preachy, agenda-driven television does not come off well. Here's hoping that tomorrow's episode is more in the vein of And the Moonbeams Kiss the Sea or Music to Die For. Those episodes didn't shy away from dealing with thorny issues. However, in those stories a character's shady past or a mysterious situation resulted in a fascinating story that was thought-provoking because of smart scripting and direction, not because it beat you over the head with an agenda, or made you laugh out loud because it was so over-the-top ridiculous... *sigh*

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Review: Fools Rush In by Janice Thompson

Fools Rush In (Weddings by Bella #1)
By: Janice Thompson
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3342-1

About the book:

Bella Rossi’s life is just starting to get interesting. When her Italian-turned-Texan parents hand over the family wedding-planning business, Bella quickly books a Boot-Scootin’ wedding that would make any Texan proud. There’s only one catch – she doesn’t know a thing about country music. Where will she find a deejay on such short notice who knows his Alan Jackson from his George Strait? And will Bella ever get to plan her own wedding?

Fun, fresh, and full of surprises, this flavorful combination of Italian and Tex-Mex highlights the hilarity that ensues when cultures clash.


When Bella Rossi was a child, her very Italian, New Jersey-based family relocated to Texas – Galveston to be exact – where her uncle opened an authentic pizzeria and her parents opened a wedding planning facility, named after her. Now she finds herself running the family business and attempting to expand the customer base by offering exclusive, elaborately themed weddings. Only with her first big booking for a “boot-scootin’ wedding,” Bella may have gotten in way over her head. Coming from a family rich with an appreciation for Italian cuisine and fanatical about the music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Andrea Bocelli, country music and Texas-style barbeque are outside the realm of her expertise, to say the least. Bella’s salvation comes from an unexpected quarter – a gorgeous, blue-eyed, very country cowboy named D.J. who, after a comic misunderstanding involving his name, finds himself knee-deep in Rossi family shenanigans and Bella’s attempts to prove she’s a capable businesswoman.

I absolutely love pop standards, so when I heard about a novel named after one of the classics by Johnny Mercer, I was immediately intrigued. Of course in my view, Frank Sinatra’s version is the winner – so I found myself STRONGLY identifying with Bella’s Aunt Rosa in regards to her fanatical Sinatra appreciation. Bella and her family’s love for classic pop singers is just one of the novel’s charming points; in fact, each chapter bears the name of a classic song, and seeing how the title ties to the chapter content is quite fun. Fools also features one of the quirkiest, most likable casts of characters you’d care to meet – think My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s family dynamics with a healthy dose of Return to Me’s Italian flavor. There’s one aspect of Bella’s life that I’d love to see better drawn in subsequent books. Having read one or two other wedding-themed novels in recent months, I went into this book expecting greater detail about the “nuts and bolts” aspect of Bella’s wedding planning business. I had a little trouble buying the fact that Bella was basically planning her first “make it or break it” event in about two weeks time. So professionally speaking she comes across as a little, um, slapdash, though well-meaning. However, given the offbeat, quirky tone of the book I was able to ultimately set aside that qualm relatively quickly.

With her first “Weddings by Bella” novel, Thompson has delivered a fast-paced, breezy read that’s quite simply one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in recent memory. I can’t remember the last time I’ve smiled so much when reading a book! After all, it’s a rare thing to come across a novel where the characters are as fanatical about Sinatra and pop standards as I am. The spiritual thread is also very well integrated into the storyline. Faith is such a natural extension of these characters’ lives that it never comes across as heavy-handed or too preachy. And D.J. – well, he’s one of the most adorable, swoon-worthy heroes EVER. Witnessing his Texas-country meets Italian culture shock is hilarious, but he handles it like a pro (I love cowboys…I just felt the need to throw that out there ;-)). I’m definitely looking forward to reading Bella and D.J.’s further adventures…if they ever get around to planning their own wedding, I can only imagine the Texas-Italian hilarity that will ensue! Book #2, Swinging On a Star, releases in January 2010.

Side note: Kudos to the cover design team and publisher for finding the perfect character images for Bella and D.J. D.J. in particular exactly matches my mental image of him from reading the book - they absolutely nailed it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Brilliant Doctor Who video

Ruth over @ Bookish Ruth sent me the link to this video on Facebook today, and I just had to share it. I absolutely LOVE it. The editing is genius, and the marriage of one of my favorite Coldplay songs and Doctors Nine & Ten is sheer perfection. Enjoy. :) It's a great reminder of how brilliant Christopher Eccleston was in his single season as the Doctor, and David Tennant - oh, how I'll miss you when you regenerate. *sigh*

And yet another video from Ruth...this one is fantastic as well! (Brought tears to my eyes, I cannot deny it!)

Monday, September 14, 2009

movie poster love, part 3

TCM's Summer Under the Stars festival may be over for 2009, but I still have one more installment of movie poster art appreciation to post.

First up is this lovely redesigned post for The Pirate, a (in my opinion) criminally underappreciated musical from 1948 starring Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. I love the way this poster showcases both of Kelly's roles in the film - as the circus performer Serafin on the left, and the dread pirate Macoco on the right. The whole image has a kind of fun, whimsical feel - reminds me just a tad of some of the poster art I remember seeing for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Next up is this freaking fantastic poster for The Big Heat from 1953 starring Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame. I'd never seen this movie before it aired last month, but thanks to this poster I had to make a point of recording and watching it, and I'm so glad I did. It's great, classic film noir. And if you love coffee as I do, you'll never look at a steaming pot of it in the same way again. ;-)

Only Angels Have Wings is one of my favorite Cary Grant films, from earlier in his career, and it stands out from his better known films in that it's a straight dramatic role. If you like old melodramas, this is a classic definitely worth checking out. This poster primarily features the image of one of my favorite actresses, the inimitable Jean Arthur. It's a rather old-fashioned design, I suppose, but classy - it really gives Jean Arthur an air of mystery and allure. She had a great knack for balancing friendliness, approachability, and class in her film appearances. I've been working my way through a good chunk of her 1930s and 1940s filmography, and it's been an absolute blast.

Mogambo is just a wonderful, fun adventure flick starring Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, and Grace Kelly. It's actually a remake of an earlier Gable flick - Red Dust - and in my opinion it's one of the times where the remake proves to be better than the original (though I have a feeling that the TCM hosts would disagree with me, LOL!). This movie poster immediately reminded me of the artwork for Australia, which I absolutely loved & adored. Mogambo is a thoroughly enjoyable, old-fashioned technicolor adventuring at its best. And the screen chemistry between Gable and his leading ladies positively sizzles, even today.

And finally, I'll end with this fantastic poster for one of my favorite westerns, The Magnificent Seven, featuring star Yul Brynner. I don't think he's ever looked more menacing, no? This poster is extremely well done, I could definitely see this type of design being used today.

Since it's been a while, here are the links to part 1 and part 2 of this little series of mine. Perhaps this fabulous artwork will inspire you to check out some of these classics as well. :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Robin Hood 3.1: Total Eclipse


Oh Robin Hood, how I love you. :) The third (and sadly, final) season of Robin Hood finally, at long last, began on BBC America this weekend. And it starts off with a bang. Since it's been about a year and a half since season 2 aired over here, how about a quick recap?

When we last left our intrepid band of outlaws/freedom fighters, they had traveled to the Holy Land (apparating Harry Potter-style, apparently, since the journey took no time at all) to save King Richard from yet another attempt on his life spearheaded by the Sheriff (Keith Allen). The world of Robin Hood fandom was set ablaze by the controversial ending to season 2, which saw my favorite baddie in the whole wide world (a.k.a. Sir Guy of Gisborne, a.k.a. RICHARD ARMITAGE!!) go off in self-destruct mode and kill Marian (Lucy Griffiths), after finally (FINALLY!!) realizing that she's been playing him for a fool for two years.

Personally, Marian's death was remarkably anticlimatic. She'd gradually become infected over the course of season 2 with one of the worst cases of TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) syndrome that I've ever seen. And the whole will she choose Robin or will she choose Guy thing had been taken WAY too far. Where Guy was concerned, she was far too blinded by his appeal and feelings for her - she thought she could control him, and failed MISERABLY. Her father never taught her that if you play with fire, you get burned (or stuck in the gut with a sword by an emotionally eviscerated, incredibly good-looking man). The best part of Marian's death was how it allowed Robin (Jonas Armstrong) to emote...that man has beautiful, beautiful eyes. Just sayin'. :) You can read my post on the season 2 finale here.

Fast forward to tonight's episode...strangely enough it takes MUCH longer to journey back to England from the Holy Land than the other way around. Weird, no? And apparently the second the boat docks one must run all the way back to Nottingham in order to avenge the death of one's beloved. (Question: Why did it seem like Guy & the Sheriff had been back in England so much longer than the boys in green? Also, all the running was a little reminded me of all the running that occurs in The Two Towers.) Can I just tell you that I LOVED angry, angst-ridden Robin? That was played well, I liked seeing Robin cope - or not, as the case may be - with his grief and anger, and I think, guilt over not being able to save Marian. Over the course of the previous two seasons he's poured so much of himself into the anti-Sheriff crusade, that it's actually a wonder he hasn't reached the breaking point before. But of course, after perhaps realizing that your king is a MORON (seriously, go back and watch the end of season 2 if it's been a while, Richard was written very poorly IMO) and it's cost you the woman you love and are perhaps FINALLY ready to commit to, it's natural that one would have to lash out a bit. This is really the first time that being an outlaw has really cost Robin something near & dear to him - a wake-up call that was probably long overdue.

The man that brings Robin back from the brink is a new addition to the team - Tuck, played by David Harewood. In keeping with the way this show likes to shake up tradition, this incarnation of Tuck definitely isn't a roly-poly, jolly type - this Tuck may still be a priest, but he's a fighter and crusader. Out of all members of the gang, Tuck is being set up as Robin's best equal - how can I say this - mental acuity. I love Little John (Gordon Kennedy), Much (Sam Troughton), and most of all, I love and adore Allan (Joe Armstrong), but excepting perhaps Allan's occasional flashes of brilliance, they are definitely more followers than leaders and planners. I think it's interesting that Tuck, newly returned to England from foreign parts himself, has such a passionate drive to see the Sheriff and Prince John ousted from power - the urgency of his mission seems just a tad contrived for a new arrival, but whatever. Perfect logic has never been this show's strongest suit. ;-)

I absolutely loved this episode's focus on the Robin/Guy conflict. It's hard to find Richard Armitage's equal for playing the tortured soul, and he uses that skill to full effect in this episode. He may have incredibly nasty, greasy hair, but somehow I can look past that and see the tortured soul, know what I mean? *sigh* Not that I in any way condone how he dealt with his relationship problems at the end of season 2, but Marian just didn't get him, did she? Stupid girl. ;-) Guy had some great moments in this episode, from the encounter with Tuck, where he talks of the demons that haunt his dreams, to the moment where he begs Robin to kill him, only to be spared, to perhaps the best moment - where he tells the Sheriff that he FINALLY realizes that he doesn't like him. OMG, is the light dawning?! LOL

So, by the end of this episode, Robin realizes that he can't not do what it is he does, he can't suddenly deny Robin Hood. For as much as he created the legend the people love, it's an intrinsic part of who he is - and since the people love him enough to risk a massive forest fire with their candle-filled tribute (that cracked me up!) when they think he's dead, well Marian wouldn't want him to let them down, would she? :) Two things I absolutely loved in the ending segment of this episode: 1) the insane giant arrow the Sheriff tries to kill three people with. When will the man realize that elaborate death traps never, ever work? *rolls eyes* LOL! And 2) Robin's grand entrance and heroic speech. I am a total and complete sucker for those moments, they do me in every single time.

Till next week...WE ARE ROBIN HOOD!! (Haha, sorry, couldn't resist!) ;-)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Robin Hood, series 3 preview

The final (SOB!! SOB!! SOB!!) season of Robin Hood starts tomorrow on BBC America. I absolutely love and adore this trailer. Since I've never really been able to stay away from spoilers regarding this show, I know what's coming down the pipeline. And while I could focus on the moments the showrunners/writers went insane, I'm going to refrain...because this trailer does an excellent job of capturing everything I love about this show - the spirit of heroism and adventure. (The presence of Richard Armitage as Gisborne goes without saying at this point, no? LOL)

BBC America did create a fun little extra for their Robin Hood website - the Hunks of Sherwood Forest desktop calendars. October is going to be a very good month, I am just saying... :-)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Review: The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz

The Frontiersman’s Daughter
By: Laura Frantz
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3339-1

About the book:

Lovely and high-spirited, Lael Click is the daughter of a celebrated frontiersman. Haunted by her father’s ties to the Shawnee Indians and her family’s past, Lael comes of age in the fragile Kentucky settlement her father founded. As she faces the many trials of life on the frontier, Lael draws strength from the rugged land. But the arrival of a handsome doctor threatens her view of her world, her God, and herself. Can the power of grace and redemption break through in this tumultuous place?

This epic novel gives you a glimpse into the simple yet daring lives of the pioneers who first crossed the Appalachians, all through the courageous eyes of a determined young woman who would not be defeated.


The Frontiersman’s Daughter by Laura Frantz is a stunning debut novel, a completely absorbing tale of a young girl’s coming of age in the wilds of late eighteenth century Kentucky. Lael Click’s story reawakened my love of this time period in history, an appreciation that had fallen by the wayside when I finished my last required U.S. history class in high school. It doesn’t help that in recent years, the Christian fiction market didn’t seem to have all that much room for colonial frontier fiction. Frantz’s debut has succeeded in establishing her as a welcome voice in the genre. Daughter is so absorbing, it immediately transported me back in time to memories of my fascination with the adventures of frontiersmen such as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. It’s impossible for me not to marvel at stories of those first settlers who left civilization in the east to build lives for themselves across the mountains, where they had to combat the Indians and the land itself in order to carve out new lives for themselves.

Lael Click grew up in the shadow of her famous father’s legend, the man who survived living with the Shawnee for two years. The celebrated frontiersman always seemed more at home in the wilderness, among the feared Shawnee, than as a settlement resident. No matter what role her family or friends tried to make her fill, Lael is too much “her father’s daughter” to ignore the pull of wilderness life, and with the help of Ma Horn, she establishes herself as a healer well versed in herb lore. Her search for place and contentment is complicated by the attentions of three very different men – the now-married rogue she once loved when a young girl, the exotic attraction of Captain Jack, a white man raised as a Shawnee and friend of her father’s, or the gentle Scottish doctor, whose skill makes them ideal partners and whose faith makes her long for a living, breathing relationship with the God of her childhood. Only when Lael learns to step out in faith, and lay aside the wounds of her past, will she be able to embrace the future and live out her father’s legacy of fearlessness.

I’d describe Daughter as a “throwback” novel in the very best sense of that term. This is a rich, “meaty” historical, brimming with atmosphere and detail that vividly brings life to all of Lael’s triumphs and struggles. This also isn’t a very dialogue-driven book, and in that respect it reminded me just a bit of classics such as The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. The introspective passages not only give wonderful insight into Lael’s maturing character, but through them I think Frantz very accurately gives one a sense of the solitary, and potentially very lonely, nature of frontier life. Indeed, the land itself becomes almost as much of a character as Lael– and thanks to Frantz’s evocative, richly drawn descriptions, it’s easy to understand the pull of the land and how it’s beauty and wildness shaped Lael’s character. More than a romance, more than an adventure story, The Frontiersman’s Daughter is a journey worth savoring, and Lael Click is a character who will dwell in your thoughts long after you finish the final pages.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Just Between You & Me by Jenny B. Jones

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Just Between You And Me

Thomas Nelson (September 1, 2009)


Jenny B. Jones


I write Christian fiction with a few giggles, quite a bit of sass, and lots of crazy. My novels include the Katie Parker Production series and So Not Happening. I would also like to take credit for Twilight , but somewhere I think I read you’re not supposed to lie.

When I’m not typing my heart out (or checking email), I teach at a super-sized high school in Arkansas.

My students are constantly telling me how my teaching changes their lives and turned them away from drugs, gangs, and C-SPAN.

Okay, that’s not exactly true.

Since my current job leaves me with very little free time, I believe in spending my spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuits such as:

-watching E!
-updating my status on Facebook
-catching Will Ferrell on YouTube and
-writing my name in the dust on my furniture

I’d love to hear about you, so drop me a note. Or check me out on Facebook.


The only thing scarier than living on the edge is stepping off it.
Maggie Montgomery lives a life of adventure. Her job as a cinematographer takes her from one exotic locale to the next. When Maggie's not working, she loves to rappel off cliffs or go skydiving. Nothing frightens her.

Nothing, that is, except Ivy, Texas, where a family emergency pulls her back home to a town full of bad memories, painful secrets, and people Maggie left far behind . . . for a reason.

Forced to stay longer than she intended, Maggie finds her family a complete mess, including the niece her sister has abandoned. Ten-year-old Riley is struggling in school and out of control at home. The only person who can really handle the pint-sized troublemaker is Conner, the local vet and Ivy's most eligible bachelor. But Conner and Maggie keep butting heads--he's suspicious of her and, well, she doesn't rely on anyone but herself.

As Maggie humorously fumbles her way from one mishap to another, she realizes she's going to need to ask for help from the one person who scares her the most.

To save one little girl--and herself--can Maggie let go of her fears and just trust God?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Just Between You And Me, go HERE

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Blue Enchantress by MaryLu Tyndall

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Blue Enchantress

Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)




M. L. (MaryLu) Tyndall grew up on the beaches of South Florida loving the sea and the warm tropics. But despite the beauty around her, she always felt an ache in her soul--a longing for something more.

After college, she married and moved to California where she had two children and settled into a job at a local computer company. Although she had done everything the world expected, she was still miserable. She hated her job and her marriage was falling apart.

Still searching for purpose, adventure and true love, she spent her late twenties and early thirties doing all the things the world told her would make her happy, and after years, her children suffered, her second marriage suffered, and she was still miserable.

One day, she picked up her old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read. Somewhere in the middle, God opened her hardened heart to see that He was real, that He still loved her, and that He had a purpose for her life, if she'd only give her heart to Him completely.

She had written stories her whole life, but never had the confidence to try and get any of them published. But as God began to change her heart, He also showed her that writing had been His wonderful plan for her all along!

Her other current release in the Charles Towne Belles series includes The Red Siren.


Betrayed by the man she longed to marry, Hope Westcott is about to be auctioned off as a slave to the highest bidder on an island in the Caribbean . After enduring a difficult childhood in an unloving home, Hope?s search for love and self-worth have led her down a very dangerous path. All she ever wanted was to find true love and open an orphanage where she could raise children with all the love she never experienced as a child.? But how can a woman with a sordid past ever hope to run an orphanage, let alone attract the love of an honorable man?

Determined to overcome the shame of his mother?s past, Nathaniel Mason worked for many years to build his own fleet of merchant ships in an effort to finally acquire the respect of Charles Towne society. Ignoring the call of God on his life to become a preacher, he forges ahead with his plans for success at a distant port in the Caribbean , when he sees a young lady he knows from Charles Towne being sold as a slave. In an effort to save Hope, he is forced to sell one of his two ships, only to discover that her predicament was caused by her own bad behavior. Angry and determined to rid himself of her as soon as possible, Nathaniel embarks on a journey that will change the course of his life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Blue Enchantress, go HERE

View The Book Trailer:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Inspector Lewis: Music to Die For

Wow, I can hardly believe I'm actually blogging about a Masterpiece Mystery episode less than 24 hours after it aired. This must be some sort of record. ;-) Here's the summary from the PBS website of tonight's installment of Inspector Lewis series 2, Music to Die For:

An elite Oxford lecturer gets in a drunken brawl at an exclusive club, and is later found strangled by a strip of boxer's hand tape. Richard Helm, his old friend with him that night, seems suitably grieved — but is he guilty? Lewis and Hathaway become immersed in the brutal world of bare-knuckle boxing as they comb Oxford for the killer. One boxing student in particular has unexplained injuries and pent up rage, but is he angry enough to kill his own tutor? From the epic operas of Wagner to Cold War intrigue and buried secrets, the case swells to a heart-pounding crescendo, along the way invoking the memory of Chief Inspector Morse.

So far, this series of mysteries is two-for-two in delivering multi-layered, complex, absorbing plots. This is probably my favorite Lewis episode yet. Initially, the story appears to be a simply case of a Wagner-loving professor (who happens to be gay) getting in over his head with the bare-knuckle boxing culture at Oxford. However, layer on top of that complex, Cold War-era secrets and German emigres with painful pasts and you have a fascinating tale of how the ramifications of past actions prove to be inescapable. In this case, the past in question has special meaning for Lewis since his former partner & mentor apparently knew the first victim. The whole idea of a Stasi informer frantically working to cover their past is simultaneously fascinating and chilling, especially when innocent victims start stacking up. Spy stories and German history fascinate me, so this episode was practically tailor-made for my tastes.

There's an interesting bit of casting in this episode. If you watched Merlin on NBC this summer, you'll recognize the guy on the left in the above photo as Arthur. It's Bradley James as student and boxer Jack Roth, and this is his first credited acting gig according to his IMDB page. This is a little off topic, but who cares? ;-) I enjoyed Merlin, and certain episodes were positively brilliant, but I'm not nuts enough about the series to do a big write-up (yet...I'm hopeful my obsession will increase with repeat viewings if the DVDs ever release). Having seen James in this Lewis mystery and all thirteen episodes of Merlin, I'm inclined to think he needs to work on his acting range a bit. But he's such a doll, I'll forgive him quite a bit. LOL!

Hathaway (Laurence Fox) and Lewis's (Kevin Whately) banter during this episode was absolutely superb. Hathaway gets in a few pointed comments about Lewis's hopeless track record with women, while Lewis gets in a zinger or two of his own regarding Hathaway's taste in music. The scene at the very end of this episode where they crash at Lewis's apartment for drinks is one of my favorites. They are so different, but they accept that, and that is of course key to why they work so well together. Fox does such an incredible job with Hathaway's character - the phrase "still waters run deep" comes to mind. He conveys so much with a look or a sigh, it's mind-blowingly impressive. In many respects Hathaway's much smarter than Lewis, but it's a mark of his character and intelligence that he's able to recognize how much he can learn from his more experienced partner.

Well, it's late, and I've got a packed day off tomorrow (yay!), so I'm going to call it quits. This episode was superb, and you'll just have to trust me on this when I say this short write-up doesn't do the story justice. Till next week!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Review: Deadly Intent by Camy Tang

Deadly Intent
By: Camy Tang
Publisher: Steeple Hill
ISBN: 978-0-373-44347-5

About the book:

The Grant family’s exclusive Sonoma spa is a place for rest and relaxation – not murder! When Naomi Grant finds her client Jessica Ortiz bleeding to death in her massage room, everything falls apart. The salon’s reputation is at stake…and so is Naomi’s freedom when she discovers that she is one of the main suspects! Her only solace is found with the other suspect – Dr. Devon Knightley, the victim’s ex-husband. But Devon is hiding secrets of his own. When they come to light, where can Naomi turn…and whom can she trust?


Deadly Intent marks Camy Tang’s first foray into romantic suspense fiction, and she proves to be as adept at crafting an engaging suspense story as she is at making readers laugh with her “romance with a kick of wasabi” flavored Sushi Series. In Deadly Intent, Naomi Grant, massage therapist and acting manager of the exclusive Joy Luck Life Spa, finds herself trapped in a murderous web of danger and intrigue when one of her clients ends up dead, and suddenly she's a suspect. The victim just happens to be the ex-wife of the very handsome, brooding Dr. Devon Knightley – as the ex-spouse, Devon is the #1 suspect, until a series of subsequent events makes it clear that someone’s not just targeting the spa – they’re intent on framing Naomi for their crimes. Naomi and Devon join forces to clear their names, but can their fledgling attraction to each other survive the threat that surrounds them?

This is definitely one of the strongest Love Inspired Suspense novels that I’ve read. Camy’s skill for characterization and pacing help make this short and sweet read shine. She also shows a flair for building some real tension and threat into the storyline, an element that’s sometimes lacking in LI Suspense reads that focus too heavily on the “love” part of the brand and not enough on the promised “suspense” element. My one complaint about the book is that it's far too short - but that's the nature of the LI series. Camy gives Naomi and Devon wonderful character arcs - they have some real "baggage" to work through while seeking out the killer and falling in love. This is especially true for Devon, as he starts out as an unbeliever - and this is where I wish the novel had more room develop his character's journey. It seems a tad rushed. However, a strong suspenseful plot, engaging characters, and some sizzling romantic tension make this a fun way to while away a few hours. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more suspense from Camy Tang!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Inspector Lewis: And the Moonbeams Kiss the Sea

I know I originally claimed that I wouldn't be blogging about series 2 of Inspector Lewis, but is anyone shocked that I'm caving? It is Masterpiece Mystery, after all. :-) The first episode of this new batch of Lewis mysteries aired this past Sunday, entitled And the Moonbeams Kiss the Sea. Here's the summary of the episode from the PBS website:

A body is in the library, but not just any library. A man is dead in the basement of Oxford's Bodleian Library, the first murder there in 500 years. The maintenance worker had a curious interest in old books and a more contemporary proclivity for gambling. Lewis and Hathaway's investigation takes them into the secrets and contrasts of Oxford life — the closed world of gambling support groups and the rarified arena of arts and literature. But when the murders start to stack up like books in the Bodleian and the surreal link seems to be the poet Shelley, Lewis and Hathaway scramble to get an education and catch a killer.

As a quick refresher, Inspector Lewis (played by Keven Whately) began as the "sidekick" to another famous Masterpiece Mystery detective - Inspector Morse. During the Morse years, Lewis was a Detective Sergeant, and after that series concluded, Lewis was promoted to Inspector (and given his own show). You can read about Lewis's history on Wikipedia, from what I can tell the page is a fairly accurate history of the character. I think I only ever saw one or two Morse episodes, so my experience with this show really began with the first Lewis mystery which aired in 2006. In that pilot episode, Lewis was given his own sidekick, if you will - Detective Sergeant Hathaway, played by Laurence Fox.

The Lewis mysteries have a very unique feel to me. Set in the rarified, academic atmosphere of Oxford, murder and mayhem seem like such alien things to find in such a seemingly idyllic place. Whately does an excellent job of giving Lewis a sort of "fish out of water" feel to the character. Lewis is very good at his job, very dedicated, but he doesn't quite fit in to the world of upper class academia. Hathaway is the perfect foil for Lewis's more down-to-earth approach to crime. He's extremely quiet and intelligent, with a wonderfully dry sense of humor. Watching the two of them interact is probably the most fascinating aspect of the series.

Speaking of Hathaway, this character is probably one of my favorite Laurence Fox roles. Fox has quite the acting pedigree - he's the son of actor James Fox, and has appeared in everything from Miss Marple and Jericho mysteries to feature films like Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Becoming Jane. I really enjoyed watching Hathaway's character in this episode - Fox gets to show how intuitive he can be, and during his investigations he manages to balance that with a nice touch of compassion - particularly with how he interacts with one of the suspects, a student named Philip (played by Tom Riley).

I was quite pleased to discover Tom Riley appears in this episode - lately he's probably most well known as Wickham from Lost in Austen, but looking at his IMDB page I'm reminded he also made appearances in Poirot and Marple episodes. Riley's turn as Wickham is so memorable in my opinion that it's colored my view of Riley as an actor - in my mind, he's always playing characters with a rakish bent. So his performance as Philip is striking because it's the complete opposite of what I'm "used" to seeing from the actor. The character of Philip is brilliant, somewhat socially awkward, and an obsessive artist with a photographic memory - described as likely autistic to some extent. Riley displays this great ability to be fragile in Moonbeams - this guy's got range, and he's definitely an actor to watch.

It's also worth noting that two of the students made previous appearances on Masterpiece programs this year. Jeany Spark, who played the role of Jane Evans, was previously seen as Mercy in Tess of the d'Urbervilles on Masterpiece Classic followed by her best role yet (in my view) as Kenneth Branagh's daughter Linda in the Wallander mysteries. Emily Beecham, who played the rather cerebral, conniving student Nell Buckley, also appeared with Spark in Tess, playing the role of Retty Priddle, as well as the Miss Marple episode At Bertram's Hotel (which was probably my favorite Marple ep from series 3).

This episode mixes gambling addiction, forgeries, Shelley's poetry, and murder into a fascinating story. I'm quite glad I decided to start Lewis series 2, and I'll definitely be watching the rest of the episodes.