Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs SF BRIGGS

Mercedes "Mercy" Thompson is just your average ordinary mechanic of German cars, who just happens to turn into a coyote every once in while. Mercy is a "walker," and this ability to change into a coyote comes from her father, a cowboy from the Blackfoot tribe that her mother met at a rodeo, fell head over heels for, then lost to an accident long before Mercy was born. Not knowing what to do with a baby that could change into a baby coyote, Mercy's mother contacted Bran, the Marrock (leader of all American werewolves). Mercy was raised with Bran's pack in Montana, but left when her heart was broken by Bran's son, Samuel. The wolves never really let her feel like part of the pack, either. That worked for Mercy, though, because she is not so good at following orders (which is a given for werewolves). She did learn a lot about the other beings that exist in the human world that humans have no idea about during her time there.

Mercy lives in a small town in Washington, Kennewick, and her trailer just so happens to be next door to the local werewolf Alpha (leader), Adam Hauptman. Mercy is also close friends with Stefan, a vampire whose Volkswagon van she works on, and Zee, the metal-working gremlin (fae) from whom she bought her auto shop. Mercy likes to mind her own business, but she is constantly being dragged into werewolf, fae, and vampire politics (and many other kinds of problems).

In Moon Called, Mercy takes a new werewolf under her wing, trying her best to get him the help that he needs. Unfortunately, she doesn't understand the huge mess that Mac has found himself in, and it will take more than Mercy has to set it right (it might also take a few werewolves). In Blood Bound, Mercy's vampire friend, Stefan, needs to call in the favor that Mercy owes him, and so he asks her to help him with a rogue vampire that has come into his mistress's territory or "seethe." Neither of them consider the fact that the vampire may be more than they expected (and far more dangerous). In Iron Kissed, Mercy has to help her fae friend, Zee, who is framed for a murder she knows he did not commit. It will be harder than she thinks, though, and may have consequences that she could never see coming. In Bone Crossed, a choice that Mercy was forced to make in Blood Bound puts her in the cross-hairs of Marsilia, the queen of the local vampire seethe. However, as Mercy has close ties to the werewolf pack, Marsilia will have to attack Mercy through her friends. In Silver Borne, Mercy is now a member of the werewolf pack, but some members are less happy with that situation than others. At the same time, Samuel's wolf is starting to take control (over his human side), and Mercy wants to protect him from the consequences of this happening. There is also the issue of the "Silver Borne," a fae artifact that could wreak havoc in the supernatural community, if it ends up in a certain fae queen's hands. In River Marked, Mercy gets to learn a little more about her heritage as a walker from other walkers, and she also sees the spirit of her father, Joe Old Coyote. Mercy finds out that Joe was more than he appeared to be, and she will need the help of Coyote (the trickster god) to help her stop the evil thing that is lurking in the Columbia River. The latest book in the series is Frost Burned, which came out earlier this month. Adam and most of the pack are taken by people who need Adam to commit an act that will undermine all of the work that the Marrock has been doing to get the public used to the existence of werewolves. Mercy will need as much help as she can get to get them back (and halt the plans of this group), even from some surprising (and unlikely) sources.

I have really enjoyed this paranormal fiction series. Mercy is a strong protagonist, and I also really enjoy the other characters that surround her (even some that I never expected to like when they were first introduced in the series). I listened to most of the series, read by Lorelei King, and she does a wonderful job with the series. One warning I have, though, is that there is a violent thing that happens to Mercy at the end of Iron Kissed that is very hard to take, but you know that Mercy has a strength inside her that can get her through the hardest times. She also has a big support system of people that are ready and willing to help.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Downton Abbey created by Julian Fellowes (Season 3) PBS

This television series, first broadcast in England in 2010, has won awards and most especially gained a record number of world viewers.  Some British reviewers have bemoaned its success as reflecting the public’s (especially American) endless fascination with the British gentry.   One New York Times reviewer castigates the show’s appeal as being “soft core pornography” and mindless escapism.  But is it really?  And are all these viewers (myself included) guilty of overlooking improbable plots and events unfolding that hint at reality but always end happily, skirting the very real historical changes that affected England at that time?

The series, starting around the year 1912 and now in the 1920s, concerns the family of Lord Robert Grantham, who has three daughters and a country estate called Downton Abbey.  According to British inheritance laws,  since Grantham has no son the estate must go to the closest male heir, who could be a distant cousin. The series deals with this complication, exploring its threat posed to the immediate family, although this problem and others are resolved.  One of the daughters is plainer and eclipsed by the oldest daughter, which has made her unhappy and possibly contributed to her slightly querulous disposition, always wondering why she is the unhappy victim.  Mary, the oldest, is like a queen in her reserve and lion-like in her determination – (we can’t always like her, but she gets our full attention.)

Yes, there are lines that are unfortunate and hint at bathos, such as Mary’s husband Matthew’s repeated professions of undying love for her, no matter how mean she can be.  And Bates, the manservant who was in prison on a trumped up charge, is also tiresome in his looks of devotion and wonderment, which he keeps bestowing on his new love, Anna, the lady’s maid.  

However, it’s not just the beautiful house or the exemplary acting that has garnered such a large audience for the series.  When the show’s opening theme begins its stately march, our senses rise in anticipation.  As the music soars, we see the exquisite objects that civilization has created to complement and to grace our existence.  Just as one’s spirit expands in a well-appointed room, so does this glimpse of the delicate dusting of the chandelier show us the care, the effort expended into this way of life.  And seeing the petals fall, oh so unobtrusively, from the flowers in the vase also show us how such beauty can be captured, but not retained.  This sort of upkeep documents a never ending investment, a commitment to quality which can apply to the value of our own lives - our family, our interests and our responsibilities.  And (almost) everyone can relate to that.  And I believe that’s why so many find the series so satisfying and so absorbing. 

The DVD is listed here in our catalog.


Friday, March 8, 2013

The After Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer FIC GRAZER

The author of this book, Gigi Levangie Grazer, is probably more well known to you than you realize. She wrote the screenplay for the movie, Stepmom, based on her own experiences with her step-children. She also wrote the book Maneater and The Starter Wife (also found at FIC GRAZER), both of which were turned into television series on Lifetime. Her book, Queen Takes King, is currently being turned into a Lifetime movie. It seems that Gigi Levangie Grazer has a lot of insight into Hollywood (and what goes on behind closed doors).

The After Wife mainly deals with the aftermath of the accidental death of her husband, John. Hannah Bernal finds out quickly that Hollywood (and the rest of Los Angeles, even) is not a place for widows, and no one (except her close group of friends she calls "The Grief Team") are remotely interested in dealing with her grief, or other issues that come from a sudden death. Unfortunately for Hannah, life has to continue on (though she has major difficulties with this fact). There is her three-year-old daughter, Ellie, who needs to be fed, taken to school, and picked up from said school. There are bills to be paid, a dog to walk, and sleep to be had (sometimes). "The Grief Team," which consists of Hannah's best friend and producing partner, Jay (a gay man who dresses her and her daughter, makes sure she has someone to talk to, and makes her go out and do things), Chloe (a cause supporting lover of all things healthy and natural, who keeps Hannah in tune with how to help Ellie and tries to keep her going, especially with vegan food), and a close friend she made through work, actress, Aimee (who is the truth teller and not good at all with the things that go along with grief) have their hands full with just keeping Hannah going.

One night Hannah discovers something interesting, when the past owner of her home, Casa Sugar, (the dead past owner, by the way) decides to talk to Hannah about the house and her feelings. Hannah, who had never been able to see and talk to the dead before, starts to wonder if she is starting to lose her mind. The ghost, Trish, makes a lot more sense to her than the members of her grief team, though. As time goes by, Hannah sees more and more ghosts, and then she finds out that even her daughter is communicating with her late father. The ghosts lead Hannah to the loss of her job, then she gets arrested, and then she finds out that John left their finances in disarray. Will Hannah be able to pull her life (and herself) out of all of the mess and move on?

I am listening to the book, and the reader, Kathe Mazur, does a wonderful job. I do warn you, though, that you will need to know a bit about Hollywood to understand a lot of the little jokes that Grazer makes throughout the story. I understood about half (I am not a Hollywood buff), but the parts that I did understand  were very funny. This is an interesting look at grief and the strange places it can take you, but you keep cheering for Hannah, Ellie, and The Grief Team the whole way.

Monday, March 4, 2013

March is National Women's History Month

For all who are not aware, March is National Women's History Month. The library has a display, prepared by our local history librarian, Rebecca Snow, and located on the table at the end of the online catalogs, which features biographies and memoirs of some notable women of history. Stop by, take a look, and check some out!

There are also some cool websites that discuss Women's History Month and include things like biographies, speeches, quizzes, and many other activities.