Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The King of England had basically married a chav

Pity the poor English royal family of 600 years ago.  Even if you were comfortably sitting on the throne, any number of sketchy relatives could be on the sidelines, quietly plotting your downfall.  You might think you were comfortably #1 in line for the crown, but if you had the misfortune of having your father die before you came of age, plenty of uncles and cousins would be ready to step in and "help" you to rule.  The fascinating series Britain's Bloody Crown takes a look at a turbulent time in English history that came to be known as The Wars of the Roses. This four-part series from Acorn Media is a mix of narration by historian Dan Jones and re-creations of events and battles from that unstable time in history, with several interesting historical documents thrown in for good measure.

The root of the trouble can be summed up with the title of Episode One: The Mad King.  Henry V had been a strong and vibrant ruler, who defeated and ruled most of France.  His son, Henry VI, was decidedly less regal and had no interest in messy things like battles.  That was fine while the Duke of Suffolk was alive to keep things in check, but after his death in 1450, the country was on the verge of collapse.  When a band of rioters breech the walls surrounding London, Henry flees the city.  His no-nonsense wife, Margaret of Anjou, takes control of the situation, along with Lord Somerset, who lost a lot of territory in France and came home to England.  The king's cousin, Richard, Duke of York, decides he is the man to run the country and comes to London with a small army to demand the king make him Protector of England.  There is something of a power struggle between the two factions of Queen Margaret and the Duke of York.  This continues off and on for many years -- the nobles don't want to be governed by a French woman, but the Duke of York tries to raise money by forcing the rich to give up some of their land, which doesn't endear him to Parliament, either.  Eventually the Duke of York is killed after chasing Margaret to Scotland and attempting to capture her.  While it would appear the Queen's side won, the divisions had already been sown that would result in more bloodshed over the next quarter century.

In Episode Two, The King Maker Must Die, the Duke of York's son takes the crown and becomes Edward IV.  Edward is still a teenager, and his closest advisor is Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick.  Edward relies on Warwick's counsel, and Warwick is feeling pretty confident about his status at court.  He goes to France to arrange a marriage between Edward and a French princess.  Meanwhile, Edward has gone behind Warwick's back and married Elizabeth Woodville.  She is a widowed mother of two, which would have been scandalous enough, but she brought with her a large and politically unconnected family. Edward immediately begins putting Elizabeth's relatives into advantageous positions and marrying them off to members of the aristocracy.  Once again, two sides form:  the king vs. Warwick.  Warwick goes to France and allies himself with the exiled Queen Margaret.  The two are eventually able to defeat Edward's forces and restore the weak King Henry VI to the throne.  But Henry is no more of a ruler this time than he was before, and Edward is soon able to return to the throne.

One of the most tragic events in English history is played out in Episode Three, The Princes Must Die.   After King Edward IV was returned to the throne, England enjoyed a period of stability.  Unfortunately, this didn't last.  When he died in 1483, there was yet another power struggle.  While his son, 12-year-old Edward V was the heir to the throne, the late king had apparently asked in his will that the boy's uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, be named as protector of the country until young Edward came of age.  The queen, and her Woodville clan, want the young king to be crowned immediately.  While a coronation date for the young king is set, in the meantime Richard sets about grabbing power himself.  He has young Edward and his brother imprisoned in the Tower of London, attempts to have them declared illegitimate, accuses loyal allies of treason and executes them, sets about killing the most troublesome and powerful Woodvilles, etc. The young princes disappear and  Richard can now have himself crowned king, but there are forces at work to challenge his claim.

The final episode, A Mother's Love, documents the life and behind-the-scenes maneuvering of Margaret Beaufort, mother of the future King Henry VII.  A 13 year old widow when she gave birth to her son in 1457, Margaret had to use her considerable intelligence to protect herself and her son.  Her late husband was a half-brother to the late King Henry VI, so her son has a tenuous claim on the throne.  Margaret marries two more times, the last time to Lord Thomas Stanley who was a rich and influential steward in Edward IV's household.  Margaret is constantly scheming to get her son's lands returned to him and is successful while Edward is alive, but after his death, she decides that Richard needs to be removed from the throne.  Because she has inherited much wealth, she sends money to fund an invasion to her son Henry, who has fled to France.  Henry is eventually able to return to England to challenge Richard for the crown at the Battle of Bosworth Field.  No one is too upset when the devious Richard is defeated.

I enjoyed seeing the people and events of this historical period come alive, and it was very interesting to hear the somewhat irreverent comments of Dan Jones as he explained the motivations that drove the various people to commit seemingly unthinkable actions "for the good of the country."  Jones argues that most of the people were motivated by the desire to protect England and to ensure that peace and stability were restored to the land, but the violence that occurred seemed to always get out of hand.  I was a bit surprised by some of the events (no doubt my lack of historical knowledge contributed to this!).  For instance, whenever someone wanted to challenge the sitting king or ruler, they would just throw together an army of 5,000 or 10,000 men and march toward battle.  I had to
wonder where all these soldiers were coming from.  I know jobs were likely hard to come by (particularly for the non-nobles out there), but I do wonder what would cause someone to throw his lot in with a person who was challenging the current king.  Maybe if they were on the winning side they'd be given lands or money, but it still seems like a risky proposition, particularly if you were on the losing side.  Additionally, it was a bit unclear how some people were able to throw their weight around and have people arrested, confined or executed without any authority.  For instance, before Richard was crowned king, he had several of the Woodvilles arrested and charged with treason -- on what authority???  And why wasn't the queen (widow of the old king and mother of the new one) able to stop it?  It's all very murky.  Events moved very quickly and those in favor one day could suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of events.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Britain's Bloody Crown from Acorn Media in exchange for this review

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Front door's around the back

Being a teenager is hard enough without your father packing you up and moving you to another country.  Add to all this the fact that you have recently lost your mother, and you'll understand that Shay and Arlo Turner are not exactly thrilled with their new hometown of Weld, New Zealand in the new series 800 Words from Acorn Media.  George Turner, the father of the family, is devastated by the loss of his wife Laura and, unable to face reminders of her in Sydney, decides to take his kids to New Zealand for a fresh start.  George's parents took him to the beautiful seaside town of Weld when he was a child, and so George is sure the town is the perfect place for his family to make a new life for themselves.

Unfortunately, his childhood memories were a bit hazy, because the house he buys over the Internet is not his old family holiday home, but rather a ramshackle affair down the street.  When he arrives at the house with his children, they are all dismayed to see the state of the house.  Not to worry, because laid back builder Woody is always around, and while not exactly a quick worker, at least he does attempt some work (when he's not surfing).

George is the author of a column in a Sydney newspaper called "800 Words" (the exact length of each column).  His writings are mostly musings on life and this gets him into trouble when he describes his new hometown, Weld, as a "dead end town" soon after arriving.  This does not endear him or his children with the locals, nor does the rumor that perhaps his wife's untimely death might have something to do with why the family left Australia so suddenly . . .

The unattached ladies in town, however, aren't too bothered by rumor and innuendo when a new eligible man turns up. George's daughter Shay is not too happy at the crowd of women who seem to always be circling her father.  The main candidates vying to catch George's eye are Fiona, who keeps
herself busy by running the local cafe, working at the town museum and driving an ambulance; Hannah, who is much younger than George, but runs the local surf shop and is always scantily clad but not nearly as unclothed as teacher Tracey, who spends her time out of class at "nudie bay." Then there's Katie, the free-spirited artist whose home is refuge to both her ex-husband Zac and Dennis, another artist and sometime bus driver.

The town of Weld is ruled by the Macnamara family.  Both Shay and Arlo have run-ins with the younger generation of Macnamaras on the first day of school.  Things don't get any better when Shay becomes romantically involved with Ike, a young man who is adamantly opposed to "Big Mac" Macnamara's plans to buy the local scenic camping ground overlooking the ocean in order to turn it into a gated retirement village.  He and Shay wage graffiti war on the billboard announcing the proposed development, and as their relationship grows, so do their plans for keeping the land away from the Macnamaras.

In this 8 part series, George and his children adjust to their new home and begin to forge relationships with the residents of Weld.  George continues to write his column and has frequent Skype contact with his editor, Jan, who was his late wife Laura's best friend.  George also attempts to get back into surfing, with mixed results.  It was probably not a good idea to challenge Dean "Orca" Marshall, his childhood nemesis, to a "surf-off" . . .

I found the series to be charming and funny.  The scenery is beautiful and certainly makes me want to
book my visit to New Zealand sooner rather than later!  The series ends with several "loose ends" which I hope will be cleared up in Season 2.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of 800 Words from Acorn Media in exchange for this review

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Say your way to a happy day

Most of us have things we want to change about ourselves or our daily lives, but we seem unable to break old habits.  How many people do you hear say they want to lose weight, get a better job or get out of debt, yet they do nothing to achieve these goals?  The book Habit Changers takes a look at some of the most common bad habits people need to overcome, and gives a short mantra or slogan that will be useful in achieving that result.

The author, M.J. Ryan, has worked for many years as an "executive coach."  Apparently this involves working with people in the business world with problems they need to overcome to be successful.  Because of her extensive experience, she is able to give concrete examples of how some problems manifest themselves in the real world, and how she is able to advise her clients to resolve them.  The idea of using "mantras" to overcome bad habits came about when Ryan was reading about Lojong, the Buddhist practice of repeating a slogan until it becomes so ingrained in your mind that you accept the idea without thinking about it.  Because the new ideas are now part of your unconscious thought, you will be able to implement them without thinking.  Ryan estimates it will take 6-9 months of repetition and awareness of your mantra for the permanent change to be made in your brain.  She suggests not only repeating the mantra, but printing it out and putting it where it will be a constant reminder for you.

The book is divided into sections for each category, followed by several sub-categories.  Each sub-category has its own one-page explanation and example, including the relevant mantra.  Some of the categories are Anger, Conflict, Procrastination and Self-Confidence.  Sometimes the manta is the title of the category, such as "Change It, Leave It, or Accept It."

While I enjoyed reading about the situations the author has encountered in working with business clients, I have a hard time believing the claim that after giving some of these people their new mantra, the "transformation was instantaneous and astonishing."  Were that it were that easy!  Still, if someone is truly committed to changing or improving an area of his or her life, being able to reduce the solution to a one-sentence slogan may help to put things into perspective.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Habit Changers from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Nobody ever died in the village before you arrived

M.C. Beaton's nosy, prickly and lovable heroine Agatha Raisin has been featured in 27 novels, so it is high time that she made the transition to our TV screens.  Acorn Media is releasing Agatha Raisin: Series One so that we can finally get to see Agatha and the idyllic village of Carsely in the English Cotswolds. Series one includes the 2014 pilot episode, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, as well as 8 additional episodes that were shown on UK TV in 2016. There are also some charming behind-the-scenes featurettes about Carsely, the casting and actors.

We meet Agatha in "The Quiche of Death" when she decides to finally chuck in her successful Public Relations job in London and move to a small town in the Cotswolds.  She had paid a firm of interior designers a fortune to make her home look "homey" so she's pleased with the results.  Now her next order of business is to go out and get involved in her new community.  When she hears there's an annual quiche competition coming up, she thinks that will be just the thing to allow her to get involved in village life.  Unfortunately, Agatha lives on microwave meals and has no idea how to bake a quiche, but that's what high-end London bakeries are for, no?  She shows up with her creation, certain of a win, especially after she invites Andy Cummings-Brown (who will be judging the competition) and his wife out for a pricey meal in the local upscale pub.  Therefore, Agatha is shocked when Ella Cartwright wins yet again.  To make matters worse, Agatha comes home and discovers her new cottage has been burgled.  She calls in local police DC Bill Wong and DCI Wilkes, but they don't seem too optimistic that the thieves can be tracked down.  But dark days weren't finished with Agatha, because the next night, Andy is found dead in his home.  He had been eating Agatha's leftover quiche when he collapsed and died.  The police quickly determined it was murder, and that he had been poisoned by deadly cowbane.  At the inquest, Agatha has to admit in open court that she didn't actually bake the quiche that she entered into the competition.  Poor Aggie!  And she endears herself even less to the locals of Carsely when she steals away the cleaner, Gemma Simpson, from her neighbor.  Cleaners are apparently hard to come by in the Cotswolds, so pinching someone else's is just not done!

But things are not all gloom and doom.  DC Bill Wong has a massive crush on Agatha, which means he's often stopping by with gifts, including a kitten and official police investigation notes.  Agatha begins her investigation into Andy's death to clear her name, but soon finds out that she has a talent for it.  Also, her friend Roy Silver is a frequent visitor from London, usually with his latest unsuitable boyfriend (or "boyf" as it's apparently called these days) in tow.  Even better, a hunky next-door-neighbor, James Lacey has taken up residence.

After managing to solve the quiche murder, Agatha is back for Episode One, the Walkers of Dembley.  In this episode we are introduced to Sir Charles Fraith, owner of a large estate, and boss to the gloomy butler Gustav.  When some local ramblers insist they have a right to walk through Sir Charles' fields, Gustav tries to convince them otherwise (using a gun).  Charles arrives on the scene and tells them they are welcome to walk on his land, just not on the crops.  This doesn't sit well with the outspoken leader of the group, Jess Tartick, who claims an ancient right of way goes right through
the fields.  A few days later, she is hit over the head and murdered while walking in these same fields.  Naturally, Charles is a suspect.  Sarah Bloxby, the vicar's wife, brings Deborah Camden to Agatha and they ask her to investigate the death.  Deborah has her heart set on marrying Charles, so she needs to clear his name (Charles may have other ideas about the marriage, though).  Further complicating Agatha's life, Roy Silver has been dumped by his long-term partner and is drowning his sorrows with wine, Pringles, and a naked yoga teacher -- in Agatha's house.  Even more annoying, James Lacey seems to have taken up with the insufferable Mary Fortune.  Although Jess and most of the ramblers were teachers, Agatha soon discovers a hot-bed of infidelity and scandal among the ramblers.

In Episode Two, Hell's Bells, Agatha again tries to fit in with the local community by getting involved in the local bell-ringer's society.  The bishop is coming for a visit soon, and the bell-ringers need all the practice they can get to be able to play something recognizable.  The head bell-ringer, Amanda Ballard, is spending an awful lot of time with the vicar, much to his wife Sarah's annoyance. When Amanda is found hanging in the church with an apparent suicide note nearby, the police are only too quick to accept the death at face value.  Agatha tries to get James to investigate the death with her, but when he refuses, she presses Gemma (her cleaner) and Roy into service as her assistants.  It turns out Amanda wasn't the wealthy widow she claimed to be, but did her death have something to do with Reverend Bloxby being investigated for irregularities in church finances?

Two sets of village residents are at each other's throats in Episode Three: The Wellspring of Death.  Robina Toynbee owns the land where an ancient spring sits.  She has agreed to allow a company called Ancombe Water to collect the water for sale.  The problem is that the village is small, and the heavy, loud and dangerous trucks thundering through the area are disrupting village life. The parish council is going to vote on whether or not to allow the trucks access to the spring.  The council is evenly divided, with Robert Struthers having the deciding vote.  Both sides are hoping to influence him, but he is found dead at the spring the morning of the meeting.  Due to the negative publicity surrounding Ancombe Water after the death, the company hires Agatha to manage the PR surrounding the product launch.  She's able to convince the head of the company, Guy Fremont, to work closely with her (personally and professionally).  James Lacey doesn't seem to be paying much attention to her domestic arrangements, much to  Agatha's annoyance, because he and Mary Fortune have decided to out-detect Agatha and investigate the murder themselves.  DCI Wilkes, meanwhile, has learned some new investigation techniques from watching "Morse" so there is no shortage of sleuths trying to trap the murderer.

Just because Agatha didn't win the quiche competition doesn't mean she's not willing to compete in other areas.  In Episode Four: The Potted Gardener, Agatha is getting her back yard ready for the upcoming Open Gardens Competition.  Just as well that she's going for something modern and zen, because nearly all the flowers and plants in her competitor's gardens are vandalized a few days before
the competition.  Could it have something to do with the noisy joyriders who have been terrorizing the villagers in the middle of the night?  When one of the gardeners is found "planted" upside down in her own garden, Agatha has many mysteries to solve:  the murder, the vandalism and the joyriding.  It seems like she's on to the killer when she finds out the dead woman's daughter might be in need of money, but could it be more complicated than that?

Carsely has a new handsome vet in Episode Five: The Vicious Vet.  It's a good thing there's nothing really wrong with Agatha's cat Hodge when she takes him in for a visit, because every other female in town is in the waiting room with a healthy pet in need of an urgent exam by the vet.  Paul Bladen, the vet, asks Agatha out to dinner.  She's flattered, but is somewhat taken aback when she calls his house and his "wife" answers.  When Paul makes excuses, she's ready to forgive him, but then he turns up dead at Lord Pendlebury's horse stables.  Paul was going to operate on a horse, when he somehow managed to inject the horse tranquilizer into his heart.  Once again, the police see no reason to investigate this tragic accident, but Agatha sets out to find out who might want the vet dead.  Since James (an ex-army man) has some shared colleagues with Pendlebury, he comes along to give Agatha an introduction and a chance to snoop around the estate.  Agatha and crew do manage to find an important clue, but James is distracted by the prospect of a date with Lord Pendlebury's daughter Cilly and the clue goes missing.  Things go from bad to worse when Agatha discovers that someone has "catnapped" Hodge and demands that she stop investigating if she ever wants to see the kitty again.

Although Sir Charles Fraith certainly doesn't need the money, he's started a lucrative sideline in renting out his estate for weddings in Episode Six: The Day the Floods Came.  Couples are lining up to hold ceremonies there until new bride Kylie Leeson is found floating the the river the day after her
wedding.  Even though business is suffering, Charles doesn't want Agatha to investigate.  This demand is easy to meet, since none of Kylie's friends are eager to speak to Agatha.  That is until she comes up with the idea of having Roy pose as the producer of a new reality program about the village youth that they are currently scouting talent for.  Agatha soon finds out that Kylie was having affairs and blackmailing people left and right, which certainly doesn't help to narrow down the list of suspects.

In the Witch of Wyckhadden, Episode Seven, Agatha makes a somewhat understandable error. She's booked into a spooky castle for a Spa Retreat, only it turns out that SPA stands for Special Paranormal Activity.  The reason she needs to get away for a while is that she's had an unfortunate
hair disaster, and needs to hide out until she can rectify the situation. One of the other guests at the hotel tells Agatha about Francie Juddle, the local witch, who, in addition to doing palm and Tarot readings also has a booming sideline in potions of all sorts.  Agatha visits Francie for a hair tonic and after returning to her room, becomes alarmed at the caustic nature of the product.  She storms back to Francie's caravan to demand a refund, only to find her dead.  When Roy, Gemma and James read about the murder in the newspaper, they all come to the castle to help Agatha find the murderer.  When there is another death during a seance in a locked room, it turns out the paranormal might be involved after all.

Episode Eight: The Murderous Marriage, finds Agatha about to go through with a wedding.  She's finally managed to snare James Lacey and has sold her cottage in preparation of moving in with him.  On the day of the wedding, as she and James are exchanging their vows, everyone is shocked when Agatha's husband, Jimmy Raisin, turns up and says she's already married.  It turns out Agatha had never bothered to get a divorce from Jimmy when he disappeared soon after their marriage many years earlier.  It seems Jimmy has been living rough, and he's only too happy to agree to a divorce -- but it will cost Agatha.  When she argues with him, they are spotted by a villager.  Jimmy is discovered strangled to death soon after that.  Agatha would seem to have the strongest motive for murder, so she is quickly arrested.  James also has a motive, so he soon joins Agatha in the cells.  After they are bailed, their investigations determine that Jimmy had been sent to rehab by a charity for the homeless run by a woman named Fiona Gore-Appleton.  When they try to track her down, they find she and the charity seem to be bogus.  But some new female villagers have
moved into Carsely lately, so could there be a connection?

I have been a big fan of the Agatha Raisin books, so I was thrilled to see all the characters come to life.  Ashley Jensen is a bit more glamorous than I had pictured Agatha, but her ability to get herself into embarrassing situations and her hopeless love life are completely in keeping with the Agatha we know and love.  A few other changes have been made from the books, such as Rev. and Mrs. Bloxby being a young couple, and the cleaner being a single mother, but other than that, the setting and other characters will be familiar to fans of the books.  I really liked the comedic touches, such as the hopelessly inept DCI Wickes.  We can only hope we haven't seen the last of Agatha and her friends on the small screen!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Agatha Raisin: Series One from Acorn Media in exchange for this review

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Round and around and around we go

A traumatic experience takes center stage in the new novel from Australian author Liane Moriarty in Truly Madly Guilty, but we don't find out what actually happened until far into the book.  Instead, events jump between the present, where we see the effects of whatever-it-was sending ripples out through the lives of various characters, and the past, where we see how the "Day of the Barbecue" unfolded.

Clementine and Erika have been friends since childhood.  Erika came from a single-parent home where her mother was a hoarder.  As a result, Erika was neglected, withdrawn and isolated.  Clementine's mother, a social worker always on the lookout for someone to rescue, demands that Clementine befriend Erika.  She reluctantly does so, and has continued to do so ever since, even though she does not particularly like Erika and feels burdened and frustrated at always having to look after her.  Clementine is married, has two young daughters, and is a professional cellist who always has to audition for jobs and has a big one coming up.  Erika is also married, but childless and has a high-paying and respectable job as an accountant.

Erika and her husband Oliver have invited Clementine's family over for dinner.  As Erika leaves her house on the way to the store, her neighbor Vid stops to chat.  Vid is a very successful and slightly shady businessman who lives in a huge, ostentatious mansion with his new trophy wife Tiffany and their daughter Dakota.  When Vid hears Erika is inviting people over for dinner, he insists that everyone come over to his house for a barbecue instead.  He loves socializing and cooking, and his dominant personality means that Erika soon gives in without consulting any of the others.

Clearly, from the way the book is structured, something catastrophic happens at the barbecue.  Based on the fact that the book opens with Clementine, several months after the barbecue, is giving "yet another" speech to a community group about her experiences, you get the impression that whatever the terrible event was, her children were involved.

While it is very suspenseful to try to work out what in the world happened at the barbecue from the sparse clues we're given, the rest of the story is very tedious.  It's over and over about how Clementine is worried about the upcoming audition, how Erika is such a pain in her life, how poor Erika is so emotionally stunted and has such a terrible life (although she's happily married and has no financial worries), etc.  The book just seems on a boring, never-ending loop going over and over the same ground without the story really advancing. I'm sure it's an attempt to draw out the narrative and heighten the suspense before "the big reveal" but it makes for very dull reading.  I read some of Liane Moriarty's earlier books and really liked them, but sadly, this one is mostly filler and very little of substance.

Final Verdict for Truly Madly Guilty Two Gherkins, for being a tedious look at first world problems

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Life's too short to drink bad coffee

DS Eve Winter is juggling many roles in the Australian police drama Winter.  Not only is she investigating numerous murders, but she has a very complicated relationship with her sister.  Add to all this a busy romantic life, and some unwelcome attention from “Professional Standards” (the Australian equivalent to “Internal Affairs”) and you’d be forgiven for thinking she would be somewhat stressed out.  However, Eve remains driven, focused, and impeccably dressed throughout her many trials!  Now available from Acorn Media, Winter: The Complete Series is 7 episodes of gritty Australian drama set in and around a gorgeous Sydney backdrop.

The series Winter begins with a pilot episode that finds Eve (played by Rebecca Gibney) no longer actively working with the police, but instead working on policy issues from an office.  That is until her old lover and partner Lachlan McKenzie asks for her help in investigating the disappearance of a young woman, Becky Ryan.  While searching for her, the graves of 5 missing women are found in a field.  Becky isn’t among them, but the fact the women are all found at the same location points to a serial killer.  Eve is drawn back into the world of investigation and there is no shortage of suspects.  Becky’s parents own a bakery, and it seems as if Becky was quite friendly with Damien, who worked there.  Several people
reported seeing Becky talking to Damien the night she disappeared.   Then there is the usual assortment of odd people and troublemakers who populate the small town of Mingara.  It turns out that another girl went missing at the same time as Becky, so could it be possible that several killers are at work?

After solving the mystery in the Pilot episodes, Eve returns in a 6-part mystery that begins with the death of Karly Johansson.  Karly is a young mother who lives with her husband and parents in a beautiful house overlooking the ocean in Sydney.  The story begins with Karly being stabbed and chased by a mysterious attacker outside her home.  She is eventually forced over the cliff and falls to her death.  On the same evening, a young woman is gravely injured in a hit and run accident in the city.  Both women had the same unusual tattoo on their wrists.  Is it a coincidence that someone apparently tried to kill them both on the same evening?

Eve is back investigating the crimes, and this time she has additional complications because two other cases are possibly connected to the murder.  Lachlan McKenzie is back, and he’s convinced that there is a connection between the murdered woman and the death 8 years previously of Janet Pagent.  Janet was the counsellor at a high school who was murdered.  Lachlan has always believed her husband, Paul (a groundskeeper at the school) was to blame, but he never had enough evidence to arrest him.  He’s more than happy to try to connect Paul Pagent to these new crimes.  At the same time, the federal police are involved in the case of the young woman injured in the car accident.  Her name is Indiana Hope, and she is the major witness in an upcoming case involving human trafficking.  The main federal agent, Jake Harris, is only interested in making sure Indiana shows up to testify in his case.  He’s not concerned with solving the murder of Karly or even allowing Eve or her team to question Indiana.  It turns out that Indiana and Karly were foster sisters 8 years ago, so Eve believes there must be a connection in the crimes.  Once an attempt is made on Indiana’s life by a mysterious man in the hospital, Indiana goes on the run and there are frantic attempts to locate her.  Things become even more complicated when it is discovered that Indiana is actually the daughter of the politically powerful DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions), which brings unwanted publicity to the case.

On the personal side, Eve is unwilling to rekindle her relationship with Lachlan, but as she’s working alongside Jake, they become romantically involved.  At the same time, Eve’s psychologist sister Melanie doesn’t seem too concerned when her 14 year old son is caught with drugs.  Eve uses an inside tip to keep her nephew from being caught up in a drug sting, something that comes back to haunt her when the Professional Standards department begins investigating Lachlan for his handling of the Paul Pagent case. As Eve doggedly tries to track down Indiana and solve the murder of Karly, she becomes convinced that there is a “mole” operating inside the police department.  On one occasion when the police are on the trail of Indiana, the mysterious assassin shows up at the same time.  Someone must be feeding information from the police to the criminals.  So who can Eve trust?

I enjoyed the lovely views of Sydney and the glimpses of the ocean that popped up in the background frequently.  The Johansson home, with its wall of windows overlooking the ocean, was a breathtaking setting for many scenes.  It was never really explained how Eve came back to full-time policing after the events of the Pilot episodes, but we can only assume the thrill of the chase was more exciting that all those meetings and paperwork she was dealing with in the policy department!  I got a bit tired of everyone chasing after the sullen, uncooperative Indiana, but otherwise, it was fun seeing Eve and company trying to unravel the mystery of who would want to kill a suburban mother of two.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Winter: The Complete Series from Acorn Media in exchange for this review

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Finding out what you didn't know you didn't know

The other day I was watching an episode of Judge Judy when one of the litigants talked about someone harassing her using an Internet "meme."  She pronounced it Me Me, instead of how I'd always thought it was pronounced, MEEM.  So I immediately started worrying -- was I the one mispronouncing it?  Granted, it doesn't come up in conversation often, but had I been throwing around this word incorrectly all this time?  Thankfully, a quick double-check online verified that I was the correct one (for once).  If you've ever been in the situation of worrying about the correct way to pronounce words, then the book You're Saying it Wrong by siblings Ross and Kathryn Petras is a book you'll want to keep handy.

The book begins with a short history of "shibboleth words."  These are words which are used in one language or culture, but might be difficult for an outsider to pronounce.  It has been a way of weeding out invaders and imposters throughout history.  The book takes a look a large group of words (including not only words in everyday usage, but also names, and quite frequently culinary terms) and looks at their origins, definitions and even helpfully lists some common mispronunciations so that you can see if you fall into one of those categories.  The authors have based their conclusions by consulting many dictionaries, journal articles and Internet sources, but for the purposes of this book, they are favoring American pronunciation.

Each entry begins with the word, a short definition, and a pronunciation guide that is mercifully easy to follow.  No weird upside-down "e" characters or other strange letters or accent marks.  The pronunciation of mischievous, for instance, is written out as Mis-chuh-vus.  There's even a slightly off-color joke told about how to remember to pronounce the Vietnamese dish "pho" which will brand it forever in my memory!

Worryingly, I came across several examples where my own mispronunciations were pointed out, such as mascarpone (look how far along the word you go before you hit an 'r') and ophthalmologist (the oph is pronounced like "off" -- who knew?).  All in all, while it's a subjective group of words, I'm sure nearly everyone will find words that they have been pronouncing wrong or have never learned how to pronounce in the first place!  If you're interested in word origins or language, you will enjoy paging through this useful little book.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of You're Saying it Wrong from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review