Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Flambards DVD by Yorkshire Television

This series of 13 episodes is based on the books of the same name by K.M. Peyton.  It got top reviews in England when it was aired in 1979, and it was shown in the United States on PBS in 1980.  Christina, a young woman of 16, is an orphan who has been brought up by a series of maiden aunts.  Now she is sent to her uncle’s Yorkshire estate, called Flambards, to live with him and his two sons until she turns 21 and can claim the inheritance from her dead parents.  The trick is that the widowed uncle, crippled by a hunting accident, has ruined the estate and needs her (her money).  He hopes that bringing her to live with him and his two sons will result in her marrying Mark, the handsome but insufferable older son.  However, Christina, just as in the books, can think very well for herself, thank you.

I enjoyed the series so much that I also read the books.  The series starts out a bit grimly, and is not so immediately entertaining as some other British series, such as Downton Abbey.  The uncle does nothing but drink and listen to stories of hunting from Mark, who shares his enthusiasm for both.  The house is cold and dark and unkept, with only a few faithful servants left to oversee the stables and the kitchen.  One’s heart tends to gulp for Christina, ordered about by Mark and his father.  But the other brother is much more to her liking – sensitive and living chiefly for his interest in aeroplane design.  This is the early 1900’s, and planes are just beginning.   A new age is dawning and challenging the old, with automobiles, women’s rights, and a new working class coming up in England, one that can’t so easily be put in its place.  And then the War comes, and it has its own part in changing things.

Christina learns to ride and actually loves it, and she is good at it.  She learns to love the land and the horses too, and even hunting.  She is really something to watch, and Christine  McKenna portrays her tremendously well.   The other actors are good,  as well.  I recommend you just try the first episode…you probably won’t be able to stop with just that one. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas is, as his name states, odd. Not too many people in his small town of Pico Mundo, California know just how "odd" he really is. Odd can see and touch dead people, but they cannot talk to him. They have ways of communicating their needs, though, and Odd helps them with their unfinished business. Since he has this special talent, Odd tries to keep the rest of his life as simple as he can. He works as a short-order cook at the Pico Mundo Grill and can make a mean hamburger or pancake (depending on what you are in the mood for). Unfortunately, circumstances start lining up to tell Odd that something bad is coming to his town, and he tries to follow the signs to stay ahead of whats coming. Odd has helpers in his girlfriend, Stormy (his soul mate), the police chief, Wyatt Porter, resident author, Little Ozzie (and his cat Terrible Chester), and even the ghost of Elvis Presley, but will any of them be enough to handle the evil that is coming to their town on August 15th in the form of a creepy psychopath?

Odd Thomas was published in 2003, but the story is soon going to be a full length motion picture (though it is hard to get a solid release date to post on the blog). I personally am not a scary movie/book fan, but I found myself really enjoying Odd Thomas. He is an easy character to like, and I found myself being drawn more and more into these crazy couple of days that he is relating in his "memoir" (which he states Little Ozzie made him write to document the events). I am listening to the book, and it is a very enjoyable listen. The sixth book in the series, Deeply Odd, is coming out on May 28th, and the library has the first five books in regular print, large print, and audio book. Give them a try!


Night Huntress Series by Jeaniene Frost

Cat Crawfield is a half-vampire (the only one that she knows of), and she hunts the undead at night, hoping to someday run into the father that ruined her mother's life. One night, Cat finds more than she bargained for when she meets vampire bounty hunter, Bones. Bones (after kidnapping her) tells her that like humans, vampires are both good and bad, and he brings an unwilling Cat into a partnership, by which Cat will train with Bones in exchange for his help in finding her father. Later on, Cat will become an agent with the FBI, working to get rid of the more dangerous undead, but will she be able to stay away from the vampire who taught her most of the tricks of the trade?  Later books in the series are the stories of Bones' friend, Spade, his mentor, Mencheres, and his arch rival (but good friend of Cat's), Vlad Tepes (yes that's the one you think it is). This series is a lot of fun. I really enjoyed all of the characters (especially Bones) in this paranormal fiction series, and Jeaniene Frost does a great job of getting you to really care about them and the things they are going through. There are also a lot of moments that will make you chuckle. I highly recommend it.

Halfway to the Grave
One Foot in the Grave
At Grave's End
Destined for an Early Grave
This Side of the Grave
One Grave at a Time

Spade's Story: First Drop of Crimson
Menchere's Story: Eternal Kiss of Darkness
Vlad's Story: Once Burned (Night Prince series)


Friday, January 25, 2013

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Fans of mystery, historical fiction and romance will all find something to like in Deanna Raybourn's highly enjoyable Silent in the Grave (FIC RAYBOURN), the first title in the Lady Julia Grey series.

Raybourn plunges readers into the action from Page 1, where we find Lady Julia's husband, Edward Grey, in his death throes at a dinner party. After her husband's abrupt death, Lady Julia is approached by the enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane, a private inquiry agent recently hired by Edwards to look into a series of written threats he'd received. Brisbane suspects foul play in Edward Grey's death.

Widowhood proves a turning point for Lady Julia, until now a proper Victorian wife who's felt increasingly stifled in a passionless marriage. Although there was affection between her and her husband, their relationship has never gone much further than their childhood fondness for each other. She blossoms into her own as she investigates her husband's murder.

This development is further enlivened by her repartee with the obstinate Brisbane, a loner if there ever was one, who's extremely reluctant to work with Lady Julia. His anti-social tendencies, crankiness and mysterious past (not to mysterious abilities), coupled with Julia's growing self-confidence and her determination to find the killer make for extremely entertaining scenes.

Set in 1886, the story also introduces us to Lady Julia's family, the Marches, for whom eccentricity is a birthright just as much as their aristocracy is. We also meet many of the servants in Julia's household. Many of these people will play important and surprising roles in the secrets that Julia and Brisbane unearth in this story.

Silent in the Grave is a historical mystery with romantic elements. Although the sensuality in this book is mild, when Julia and Brisbane are in the same room together, Raybourn's writing makes their attraction crackle. I quite like the pace of their relationship as well; the author has opted for a slow but steady trickle of development rather than a torrent. This means there's much to look forward to in the four novels that follow in the series.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Charley Davidson Series by Darynda Jones

Darynda Jones submitted her manuscript for the first book in the series, First Grave on the Right, and won the 2009 Golden Heart Award for Best Paranormal Romance from Romance Writers of America, which was an award given for manuscripts of unpublished authors. This led to the publishing of that manuscript, and Jones has since released three more books in the series. I personally would not call this series a "paranormal romance." There are elements of romance within the series, but it has more of the urban fantasy feel to me, and Charley has several mysteries to solve in each book, which is why it can be found in our mystery section. Charlotte (Charley) Davidson is a private investigator in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and she is also the Grim Reaper. Charley can see and touch dead people, which is a big help to her uncle, Bob (a homicide detective), as she can give him an edge on the person who committed the murder. People who have not passed on, for whatever reason, can see her (to them she is a great beacon of light), and they can use her to pass through to the "other side." Charley will also help them with their "unfinished business," if it is at all possible for her. Charley has also always been able to see "The Big Bad," a black cloaked figure who always shows up to save her whenever she gets into danger and is in way over her head. Charley also has great friends in her office manager and best friend, Cookie, her bond enforcement agent friend, Garret Swopes, a savant ghost who knows everyone who has passed, Rocket, and various other people she manages to charm with her quick wit and snarkiness. Throughout the series, Charley will find that she can do a lot more things than even she could imagine, and she learns more about the "Big Bad," how  they are connected, and how their connection could lead to another war between heaven and hell. She also solves a lot of mysteries in between.

I listened to the series, and I really enjoyed it. The series is read by Lorelei King, who also reads the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs and several of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I found myself chuckling all throughout the series, especially at the little witticisms found at the beginning of each chapter (from various t-shirt designs and bumper stickers). It is a fun read, and I highly recommend it.

First Grave on the Right
Second Grave on the Left
Third Grave Dead Ahead
Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet