Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Giveaway: Fatal Judgment by Irene Hannon

Since it's Monday, and since I have several blogs in various "draft" stages that need to be completed (including, but not limited to, a review of Downton Abbey Part Four - how fabulous was that?!, reviews of episodes 4 and 5 of Primeval, and a couple of book reviews), I thought it entirely appropriate to mark the last day of the first month of 2011 with a book giveway. One copy of Irene Hannon's latest, Fatal Judgment, is up for grabs.

About the book:

U.S. Marshal Jake Taylor has seen plenty of action during his years in law enforcement. But he'd rather go back to Iraq than face his next assignment: protection detail for federal judge Liz Michaels. His feelings toward the coldhearted workaholic haven't warmed in the five years since she drove her husband - and Jake's best friend - to despair...and possible suicide.

As the danger mounts and Jake gets to know Liz better, he's forced to revise his opinion of her. And when it becomes clear that an unknown enemy may want her dead, the stakes are raised. Because now both her life - and his heart - are in danger.

Full of suspense and romance, Fatal Judgment is a thrilling story that will keep you turning the pages late into the night.

Click HERE to read my review of Fatal Judgment.

Giveaway Details:

If you'd like to win a copy, simply leave a comment on this post with your email address: your name (at) domain name (dot) com

For an EXTRA entry, post about this comment on your Facebook, blog, or Twitter, and leave a comment telling me you've done so.

Entries will be accepted through Sunday, 2/6/11, and the winner will be announced Monday, 2/7/11. Good luck!

Blog housekeeping note: I've removed the challenge buttons from the right sidebar. It was all getting to be a bit too much for me. *wink* You can still find all the challenge details on the Reading Challenges page.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: Fatal Judgment by Irene Hannon

Fatal Judgment (Guardians of Justice #1)
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3456-5

About the book:

U.S. Marshal Jake Taylor has seen plenty of action during his years in law enforcement. But he'd rather go back to Iraq than face his next assignment: protection detail for federal judge Liz Michaels. His feelings toward the coldhearted workaholic haven't warmed in the five years since she drove her husband - and Jake's best friend - to despair...and possible suicide.

As the danger mounts and Jake gets to know Liz better, he's forced to revise his opinion of her. And when it becomes clear that an unknown enemy may want her dead, the stakes are raised. Because now both her life - and his heart - are in danger.

Full of suspense and romance, Fatal Judgment is a thrilling story that will keep you turning the pages late into the night.


The last thing U.S. Marshal Jake Taylor wants is a high-profile protection case that places him anywhere in the vicinity of the widow of his best friend from college – federal judge Elizabeth Michaels. Convinced that the woman’s single-minded drive to advance her career destroyed his friend, Jake determines to maintain a strict professional distance. But his resolve is tested when it becomes apparent that Liz’s sister was murdered in a tragic case of mistaken identity, and the judge herself was the intended victim. Grief-stricken and vulnerable, the woman Jake gets to know is nothing like the prejudiced mental image he’d carried with him for years. Intensely private and dedicated to her work, Liz had never understood the animosity Jake had projected during their few brief encounters years before. Struggling to cope with the guilt of a failed marriage and the brutal loss of her last surviving family member, Liz struggles to cling to her faith while her world spirals out of control. When the murderer gets a second chance to eliminate Liz, Jake finds himself in a race against time to save the life of the last woman he ever expected to invade his heart.
The first book in Hannon’s newest series focuses on a new branch of high-stakes law enforcement – the U.S. Marshal Service. I was thrilled to see brief appearances from Matt and Nick, FBI agents who previously “starred” in her superb debut Heroes of Quantico series. From the opening pages, it’s clear that Hannon has once again done her homework into the protocols and the logistics involved in a high-profile protection case. She excels at immersing the reader in the high-stakes, fast-paced world of the investigation, from evidence retrieval to inter-agency cooperation. Hannon’s stories have a ripped-from-the-headlines relevancy that will keep you breathlessly turning the pages until the novel’s conclusion. Especially given the recent tragic events in Arizona, Fatal Judgment’s focus on a deranged individual’s determination to make a misguided statement by taking down a public official lends the novel a jolting sense of realism – a legitimacy that can often be lacking in romantic suspense. This is just one of the many reasons I love Hannon’s suspense novels – the stories she crafts are compulsively readable because they are so incredibly well-researched and chillingly possible.
Irene Hannon has officially become my go-to author for quality romantic suspense. I love her heroes – she writes the male point-of-view extremely well, and U.S. Marshal Jake Taylor, member of the service’s elite Special Operations Group, is no exception. I was thrilled to see his relationships with his siblings and dedication to work and family play out on the page adding heart-warming depth to his character. And Hannon's heroines are no shy wallflowers either, who wilt in the face of danger. Despite the heartbreak of a failed marriage and the horror of her sister’s murder, Liz is a fighter. Passionate about her work and dedicated to her faith, Liz’s determination and occupation add a unique and relevant element to the storyline. I loved the fact that Jake and Liz had a complicated history to work through. Despite the accelerated pace of their relationship, the mere fact that they have shared “baggage” to work through is a refreshing change from stories where couples who’ve just met fall in love.  While the novel opens with a bang, the middle section setting up the final showdown lags a bit. But when the pace picks up I absolutely could not put this novel down. With a subtly woven faith element that felt completely organic to the storyline and characters, Jake and Liz’s journey to overcome past scars in the face of life-threatening danger results in a compelling, un-put-downable read. Hannon has once again delivered a tautly plotted thriller with a swoon-worthy hero, sizzling moments of romantic tension, and a realistic threat – all elements that have made her a star author of romantic suspense. I absolutely cannot wait for the thrill ride she’ll take readers on next!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Downton Abbey concludes (*SOB*) Sunday!

Oh my goodness, I can't believe that Downton Abbey is over this coming Sunday. :( While I'm looking forward to the other Masterpiece Classic productions waiting in the wings, I will miss the world of the Crawleys - at least until Series 2 (hopefully) comes to Masterpiece in January 2012. :) Here's a bit about what we have to look forward to in Part Four, followed by a short preview:
See the conclusion of the hit series Downton Abbey, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2011, on MASTERPIECE CLASSIC. In the final episode, the heir crisis at Downton Abbey takes an unexpected turn. Meanwhile, rumors fly about Mary's virtue. Her sister Sybil takes a risk in her secret political life, while O'Brien and Thomas plot their exit strategy.

Watch the full episode. See more Masterpiece.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I finally got around to seeing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last weekend, and as hard as it is for me to type this, I probably would've been better off waiting to see it as a rental. That is so hard for me to say as I'm a huge Narnia fan, and despite changes made to the book storylines for the first two films, I felt that the filmmakers remained wholly faithful to the spirit of C. S. Lewis's stories. Sadly I do not feel that is the case with Dawn Treader. I have to wonder if the change in production partners (from Disney to Fox), and at one point, if memory serves me correctly, the questionable status of getting a third film made at all, resulted in such a change in tone and a great loss of focus on the wonderful source material available for this movie. In so many respects this is the first Narnia film where I've felt the storyline was unaccountably "dumbed down," and that just breaks my heart. But the movie isn't an entirely lost cause, so I'll try to balance my frustrations out with some comments on what did work. :)

First of all, I don't understand why the filmmakers insist on keeping the framing device of World War II as the real-world backdrop in this film series. It has been five years since the first Narnia film, and Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) have very obviously aged more than one year between each of their Narnian adventures. Thus IMO the need for the framing device feels more than a little forced. That said, I am a huge fan of Henley and Keynes as the two younger Pevensie children - they have each really grown into their respective roles and they will forever be Lucy and Edmund in my mind. This story introduces their odious cousin, the aptly named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, brought to life wonderfully by Will Poulter. His casting was just perfect - he did a fantastic job bringing Eustace in all of his annoying glory to life, and he's the main reason, despite my reservations about this film as a whole, that I hope we get to see The Silver Chair on the big screen, since that story brings Eustace front-and-center. I absolutely loved Poulter's interactions with Reepicheep, and his transformation from dragon back to boy brought tears to my eyes.

Of course I was thrilled to see Ben Barnes as Caspian again - he is just gorgeous. :) And story-wise, he's finally more the appropriate age for the Narnian monarch. The Dawn Treader is beautifully realized on screen, but I have some problems with the way the filmmakers brought the mission to life. First of all, why on earth was it necessary to change the mission from Caspian fulfilling a coronation promise to find his father's seven lost friends, instead turning it into some sort of rescue mission because now the lords fled Narnia and Caspian's evil uncle years earlier, and never returned. I can only think that the filmmakers couldn't visualize an more episodic adventure story like the Dawn Treader novel translating well to screen - but I have to believe that a more faithful adaptation of the book wouldn't have resulted in such a dumbed-down mess.

Instead of making this a film about the journey and the characters, a completely unnecessary subplot is inserted that transforms the voyage into a quest to "save the world" from evil green mist. Yes, you read that right - evil green mist, that - WAIT FOR IT - kidnaps people. That has to be one of the silliest plot devices I've ever come across in a film, and that's putting it mildly. *sigh* So, instead of searching for seven intrepid lords sent to explore unknown lands, Caspian and company are searching for seven lords who got the heck out of Dodge in fear of their lives. They just happened to each possess an ancient, magical sword, and if those seven swords are "reunited" at Aslan's table, the green fog will be vanquished forever! This entire reworked aspect of the storyline felt so forced and unnecessary and if I'm being completely honest made me mad. Wasn't the adventures in the book enough? Generally I am pretty open-minded about changes made in book-to-film adaptations, if the change serves the story well and results in a better film. Here this is sadly not the case as so many of the unaccountable alterations diminished the story's impact in my view.

But it's not all bad. There are some gorgeous visuals to be had - in particular I'm reminded of the snow scene where Lucy reads from Coriakin's book of spells. That library was a dream come true for this book lover. :) And I think many women can relate to Lucy's struggles to accept who she is, instead of longing to be more like the "beautiful" older sister Susan. I also really liked the way the film explored the friendship between Edmund and Caspian. Poor Edmund has always had to deal with playing "second fiddle" to his older brother, and without Peter looking over his shoulder on this journey to Narnia he's over-eager to prove himself to be just as worthy a Narnian king. The filmmakers made a special point of highlighting just how important all of the Pevensie children are to Caspian - more than friends they are family - and the way that plays out over the course of this film was nicely done. I also really loved the relationship between Eustace and Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg). In keeping with the novel, Eustace is an absolute beast towards Reepicheep, and the two have a lot of "issues" to work through before they are able to reach a mutual truce. In this film it felt like Reepicheep liked Eustace, or perhaps a better way to describe it would be to say was amused by Eustace much earlier than is the case in with their friendship in the novel. I really feel like Eustace and Reep had a great rapport throughout this film, a pretty good achievement for the young actor Poulter to have such good buddy chemistry with a CGI mouse all things considered. :)

Back to a major problem with the film again, since I've brought up Reepicheep. I hate how the filmmakers minimized Reepicheep's quest to sail all the way to Aslan's country. The script makes it seem as though Reepicheep has no idea what the prophetic rhyme spoken over him at his birth means, and he sort of accidentally "falls" into the idea of leaving the Dawn Treader and journeying to Aslan's land. It was in my view a completely unnecessary alteration to the storyline and it really cheapened Reepicheep's presence in this film. In many respects one could argue that his passion to journey to Aslan's land is the heart and soul of the book, and taking away from that felt so unnecessary it just ticked me off.

The last twenty minutes of this movie saved it for me (actually brought me to tears). The conclusion of this movie encapsulated everything I wanted this movie to be, and left me feeling the way I wanted to feel about the entire film. I'm so, so happy they kept Aslan's (voiced by Liam Neeson) final words to Lucy and Edmund intact (knowing him by "another  name" in their world). And it was a poignant ending chapter to Lucy and Edmund's time in Narnia. Whether or not a fourth film is ever made, the last few minutes of Dawn Treader ends in such a way that it feels like a fitting closing chapter to the adventures of two of my favorite characters from Lewis's beloved series (at least until The Last Battle, and I can't even begin to think about how Hollywood might screw that book up, so I just won't go there).

Director Michael Apted keeps the action flowing at a brisk pace - I just wish that he & the actors had a better script to work with that didn't resort to such cartoonish plot devices like killer smoke. I'm also a pretty big fan of composer David Arnold's work - the man has worked on everything from James Bond films to BBC's Sherlock, so he has a great track record. The score is lovely, and Arnold includes a few flourishes reminscent of Harry Gregson-William's work for the first two Narnia films that nicely ties the series together musically.

I feel like this is rather a departure from my normal type of movie review. But I'm so ambivalent about this movie that it's hard for me to really muster the enthusiasm I can normally find to really dissect it scene by scene. *wink* Will I be adding it to my DVD collection? Definitely, it's worth that based on the conclusion alone. Plus, I'm a series completist. :) And perhaps upon further viewings my opinion of it will mellow a bit, allowing me to appreciate - well, let's not overreach here - tolerate it as an entertaining, if somewhat generic, fantasy film. I just desperately hope that if The Silver Chair moves from "in production" to "production," that the end product doesn't emerge as a mangled version of the story I love so well. Take a lesson from the last, brilliant twenty minutes of Dawn Treader and give Narnia fans a film version of Silver Chair that keeps the heart and soul of the story intact.

Kids re-enact The King's Speech

I thought this was just adorable!

And now I really wanna see The King's Speech again...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Downton Abbey, Part Three

The fabulous Downton Abbey continued Sunday with Part Three of its (*sob* only) four-part run on Masterpiece Classic. As much as I'm excited and curious about the upcoming Classics productions - Any Human Heart, Upstairs Downstairs, and South Riding - goodness, I'm going to miss this show. Thankfully, season two of Downton is already in the works, with the recent announcement that it will be followed by a Christmas special, so we have a lot to look forward to in the 2012 Masterpiece Classic schedule already. :) Here's the summary of Part Three from the PBS website:

The fair has come to town, and with it comes romantic hopes for several Downton Abbey inhabitants. In a triumph of the absurd, Violet asks a baffled Matthew to use his legal acumen to dissolve the entail — the very document by which he is to inherit Downton Abbey. Matthew's findings and his hopes for Downton cement his growing closeness with Robert, and a new warmth suffuses his encounters with Mary. But Mary's thaw doesn't extend to her sister Edith, as their competition becomes crueler. Cora simply wants Mary married, but newly circulating rumors may hinder that aspiration. Meanwhile, Violet's power struggle with Isobel moves from the hospital grounds to the annual flower show as Isobel casts her democratizing gaze upon Violet's prize-winning roses.

A kind gesture by Bates is not lost on Anna; but he cryptically professes to not being capable of more. Sybil discovers the politics of gender and class, with the help of the socialist chauffeur, Branson, and Carson discovers that several valuable bottles of wine have gone missing. The vulnerable kitchen maid Daisy, under increased pressure and ire from a fretful Mrs. Patmore, possesses a dangerous secret that she learned upstairs.
I loved the fact that the show brought us an honest-to-goodness turn of the century fair. Such an event is really a great social equalizer, as both Downton's servants and the younger family members derive enjoyment from the colorful occasion. This episode brought Mrs. Hughes's (Phyllis Logan) past to light, as she is reunited with her girlhood beau, Joe Burns (Bill Fellows), who longs to rekindle their romance. It was really rather heart-wrending to watch this storyline play out, as in Part One Mrs. Hughes expressed some doubts about dedicating her life to service. Her choice to stay at Downton is a powerful illustration of the sacrifice of a life "in service," while also speaking to how her life, rising through the ranks of Downton's staff, was a very real career choice that changed her perspective on life and independence, if that makes sense. 

Another part of the reason Mrs. Hughes chose to stay at Downton was because she is really sort of a mother-figure to the downstairs staff, and a commanding officer to those whose plots and shenanigans cross the line and threaten to disrupt the balance of the downstairs order. Poor William (Thomas Howes), the second footman, goes through the absolute wringer this episode. He's still crushing on Daisy (Sophie McShera) who, bless her lil' ol' heart, is still pining after Thomas (Rob James-Collier), who really ups the villainy quotient here. Thomas is just frustrated, and when his plans are thwarted he turns mean, and William is sadly an easy target. He asks Daisy to the fair, and she's got so many stars in her eyes that she can't (yet!) see Thomas for what he is - a manipulative jerk. William may be rather simple, but after the events of the fair I have a great deal of respect for his character. He's extraordinarily kind, and much more deserving of the title of gentleman than Thomas could ever hope to be.

Thomas's partner-in-crime, the lady's maid O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) is equally frustrated, and turns to plotting upset among the Crawley family when she catches wind of the rumor that Daisy's burdened by a heavy secret - she witnessed Mary and her mother carrying the Turkish diplomat from her room back to his following his untimely demise. O'Brien plays on second sister Edith's (Laura Carmichael) jealousy of Mary by apprising her of Daisy's secret, and Edith, being a respected member of the family manages to pull the secret from the vulnerable Daisy with little trouble. I suspect, or should I say rather hope, that Thomas and O'Brien's machinations will backfire in their faces and we'll get to see them receive the comeuppance they so richly deserve!

Violet (Maggie Smith) and Isobel's (Penelope Wilton) continued rivalry provided some of this installment's most memorable and funny scenes. Violet finally gets to show up Isobel when she correctly diagnoses the hand rash Isobel's butler, Molesely (Lionel Guyett), is suffering from as a plant allergy instead of the infection Isobel diagnosed and unsuccessfully attempted to treat. Maggie Smith's "harrumph" of victory was SO funny! In addition the hospital, Violet and Isobel take their very genteel, private "war" to the battleground of the annual flower competition. Poor Violet is in complete denial that she wins first prize every year as a courtesy for being the Dowager Countess. I was unexpectedly delighted when after much ribbing from both Isobel and her son, Robert, Violet "graciously" decides to take it upon herself to award the cup to the well-deserving Molesly's father and his gorgeous prize roses. I love the fact that Violet had to ultimately make the decision to do so herself, it was an extraordinarily classy moment, both humorous and touching when Violet refuses to admit to the soft-hearted gesture - I think she derived no little sense of satisfaction from being recognized as magnanimous. *wink*

Matthew (Dan Stevens) is finally starting to acclimate to life at Downton and begins to take a genuine interest in the running of the estate. I really loved the developing friendship between Matthew and Robert (Hugh Bonneville) as Matthew begins to look on Robert as mentor and friend. Robert proves to be much more than "just" an aristocrat, and Matthew's open regard and growing respect for Robert and his desire to better Downton creates a father/son relationship between the two, much to Mary's chagrin. Sadly for Edith, and a harbringer of events to come, Matthew has no interest in the often-overlooked middle Crawley daughter. He's attracted to Mary (Michelle Dockery), but at the same time very, very wary of her due to her anger over being displaced as heir because of the entail. I thought it was absolutely hilarious when Violet asks him in his capacity as a lawyer to look into breaking the entail (the swivel chair moment ranks right up there with the "what is a weekend?" comment). I love that Matthew has enough character to do so seriously smf I believe he'd willingly give up his status as heir if it were feasible. But since, at this point, it isn't, the awkward position that places him in with regards to Mary is rather painful to watch since he's highly aware his presence causes her pain.

Mary is still reeling over losing her virtue to a man who died in her bed, and that coupled with her potent anger her strictly proscribed social role has the makings of an explosive combination. I got really annoyed when she blew up at her mother Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) over being "beyond saving" because she'd "taken a lover." Maybe I'm arguing over semantics but one night does not equal "taking a lover" in my book - the latter implies relationship growth or repeated action, and Mary and the diplomat never moved beyond the lust stage, nevermind that she seemed to not really know what was going on. I suspect that before this season of Downton Abbey ends, Mary is in for a RUDE awakening. Until this point she's been operating under the impression that her privileged status as daughter of a respected peer makes her untouchable. But when word of a rumor that Evelyn Napier will not pursue a relationship with her because of her character (read: lack of virtue), Cora recognizes even if Mary does not that the clock is ticking on Mary's opportunities to marry advantageously and with her reputation intact.

Youngest Crawley daughter Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) continues to dabble in "revolutionary" class ideas by helping housemaid Gwen (Rose Leslie) apply for secretarial work. I absolutely hated seeing Gwen's career hopes crushed in this episode - she's tempted to give up, but Lady Sybil won't allow her to admit defeat. Sybil is (thus far, anyway) easily the most sympathetic and likable of the sisters. She seems genuinely interested in Gwen and the two strike up a friendship of sorts in this episode that Sybil's older sisters wouldn't dream of initiating at this stage in their lives. Last week saw the brief introduction of the new family chauffer, Branson (Allen Leech), who proves to share Sybil's views on social equality. Though I suspect that Sybil will prove to be a relative innocent where Branson is concerned both politically and personally. Not only is he good-looking and personable, but he's got an appealingly roguish manner about him that I think could prove irresistable to Sybil. I loved the scene where Sybil makes her entrance in her "shocking" harem-pants style dress, and Branson peeks through the window grinning at her decked out in such forward-thinking fashion.

Bates (Brendan Coyle) and Anna (Joanne Froggatt) prove once again to be the stars of this week's installment and the heart and soul of Downton's staff. I love how Bates is settling into his role as valet and taking on a sort of father figure/protector status towards staff members like William when he's abused by Thomas or Daisy when she's manipulated by Thomas and O'Brien. Of course this is setting him up with a big target on his back, but after seeing Bates slam Thomas against the wall in this episode I have no doubt he can handle whatever comes his way. Seriously, was that moment not wonderful? I had no idea Brendan Coyle had that in him, be still my heart! My Bates/Brendan Coyle crush became a full-fledged obsession in this episode, particularly after he sneaks a tray to Anna when she's sick with a cold in the maids' quarters. How sweet and adorable was that?! The flowers! The romantic tension! I LOVE IT! And despite the fact that Bates has some dark secret that prevents him from pursuing Anna, I nearly cheered when she was the one to declare she loved him. You go girl, that's all I've got to say. :) I've always liked Brendan Coyle, but I simply adore how Downton Abbey has provided him with a character that's transformed him into such a sweet, romantic leading man.

Ending on the ominous scene of Edith penning a letter to the Turkish embassy, I can't wait to see how that plays out. Edith is so jealous she's blind to the potential ramifications of her rash action, as are those who fed her jealousy by apprising her of the rumors about Mary. One of the many things this show does so well is reveal how intricately intertwined the lives of the Crawleys are with those of their servants. The ability for all of the downstairs staff to have their livelihoods depends on the physical and economic "health" of their upstairs "family," and with the entail still being questioned and tested and Mary's reputation hanging by a thread, it could be argued that the Crawley fortune is a house of cards waiting to tumble at the merest hint of scandal. As Cora so wisely tells her recalcitrant eldest daughter, times may be changing, but it's unlikely they'll change enough to impact Mary's future the way she assumes. This is British drama at its finest, a worthy way of celebrating Masterpiece's landmark 40th anniversary. I loved every moment of this installment and can't wait to see where the show takes these characters next!

Catch up with or revisit my other Downton Abbey reviews:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Digitalis by Ronie Kendig

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Barbour Publishing, Inc.(January 1, 2011)
Ronie Kendig


Ronie has been married since 1990 to a man who can easily be defined in classic terms as a hero. She has four beautiful children. Her eldest daughter is 16 this year, her second daughter will be 13, and her twin boys are 10. After having four children, she finally finished her degree in December 2006. She now has a B.S. in Psychology through Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Getting her degree is a huge triumph for both her and her family--they survived!!

This degree has also given her a fabulous perspective on her characters and how to not only make them deeper, stronger, but to make them realistic and know how they'll respond to each situation. Her debut novel, Dead Reckoning released March 2010 from Abingdon Press. And her Discarded Heroes series began in July 2010 from Barbour with the first book entitled Nightshade.

This is the second book in the series.


Step into the boots of a former Marine in this heart-pounding adventure in life and love. Colton “Cowboy” Neeley is a Marine trying to find his footing as he battles flashbacks now that he’s back home. Piper Blum is a woman in hiding—from life and the assassins bent on destroying her family. When their hearts collide, more than their lives are at stake. Will Colton find a way to forgive Piper’s lies? Can Piper find a way to rescue her father, trapped in Israel? Is there any way their love, founded on her lies, can survive?

If you would like to read an excerpt of Digitalis, go HERE.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Primeval 4.3

Um, WOW. For my money this was easily the best episode of Primeval so far this season, and it hopefully, hopefully bodes very well for the rest of Series Four. Despite the noticable and much-lamented (on my part, anyway!) absence of Lester (Ben Miller), this episode was a huge leap forward in story quality and stakes for our characters, and very reminscent of the type of story that made me fall in love with this show in the first place.

For the first time in the show's history (correct me if I'm forgetting something here), we get actual unknown characters coming through an anomaly into present-day London. The set-up for these characters is most intriguing - apparently a group of them have a colony of sorts that travels through time. It really reminded me of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World, for some reason. In addition to the Lost World connotation, these mystery intruders lent the storyline a real "steampunk" vibe, which turned out to be completely on the mark since at least one of this group is from Victorian-era London (at this point it's unclear if the unseen members of the group are also from the late 1800's). And to make things even more interesting, the setting for the anomaly opening is a beautiful theater, which of course reminded me of The Phantom of the Opera, with the creepy tree creature taking the role of misunderstood and feared Phantom. *wink*

Perhaps Lester's absence in this episode left the scriptwriteres more "room" to finally explore the mystery of Matt's (Ciarán McMenamin) association with Gideon (Anton Lesser) and the reason Philip Burton (Alexander Siddig) was so interested in financing the ARC operations. Apparently Gideon is dying of some unknown disease, and has been waiting for something to do with the anomalies for years - a cure, perhaps? The question remains, is Matt simply his disciple of sorts or could Matt be his son? And what exactly are they waiting for?! The answer had better deliver, know what I mean? :) I am hopeful that since Matt's deception appears to be tied to an real emotional connection with Gideon, that their master "plot" isn't going to turn out to be like Helen's (i.e. wiping out mankind). That would feel like a copout IMO.

For much of this episode, Connor (Andrew Lee Potts) and Philip take center stage. Last week when Connor was allowed to rejoin the ARC team, it was clear that Philip thought he was unsuited for the task, in part due to his lack of military training and the fact that Connor can be a little, well, unorthodox. LOL! While Abby (Hannah Spearitt) and Becker (Ben Mansfield) are sent to the theater to invesigate the anomaly, Connor is sidelined so he can run tests on the new security system Philip wants put in place at the ARC. This opened the door for some workplace related humor (irritation at the boss, dismay at having to write reports) that was pretty funny. When Philip stumbles upon Rex loose in the menagerie, and the security system goes into lockdown, Connor and Jess (Ruth Kearney) have minutes to work out a way to save Philip's life, since lockdown = the oxygen being sucked from the room where the creature incursion has been detected.

Thankfully this episode pretty much sidelined the supposedly brilliant Jess in favor of letting Connor shine and remind us just why he's such a valuable member of the team. If anyone is going to nearly accidentally kill the boss, it's going to be Connor. But see that's one of the many things I love about his character - Connor may seem to screw up regularly, but no one could be more invested in learning from his mistakes and making things "right" than him. When Philip thinks he's going to die, he lets slip to Connor that the reason he's working with the ARC is that he's part of operation "new dawn," which sounds suspiciously like a "reset" project, which really reminds me of crazy Helen. But of course before he can share more information, Connor proves that he's a computer wizard every bit as good as Philip and deactivates the lockdown. After all, he's the original ARC computer master. :) And can I just tell you, I freaking LOVED the revelation that his password was "Abby Temple." Long before Abby would give him the time of day he was dreaming about being married to her! LOVE it! And only slightly less gratifying was witnessing Philip's new respect for Connor's capabilities - though since I don't quite trust him, Connor had better watch his back.

Back to the humans that come through this episode's anomaly for a moment. Lady Emily Merchant (pictured above) is played by Ruth Bradley, and crazy, unhinged Ethan is played by Jonathan Byrne. Bradley appeared in the movie Flyboys, which is long overdue for a rewatch in my book since I can't remember if she played the romantic lead or not. Emily's incursion presents an interesting opportunity for conflict between Matt and Becker. Matt breaks all the rules and follows her through the anomaly, not realizing she went there on purpose. Becker is obviously still so scarred by the events of last season that he has to be convinced to bend the rules and reopen the anomaly to give Matt the opportunity to come back. The show's attempt to create some sort of possible romantic attraction/tension between Matt and Emily sort of least in my opinion Matt came across as a bit less of a cold fish in this episode, what with the crazy rule breaking and all. *wink* I'm more interested to see how his flagrant disregard for ARC protocol and his protection of Emily (known to Abby, but hidden from Becker) plays out - there's all sorts of potential for dividing the team here if things go south.

With not just one but two great chase-and-destroy the tree creeper sequences and the mystery of how humans from over a century ago coming through an anomaly could impact the storyline (please, please scriptwriters don't have squandered this opportunity!), this was easily the best episode of the season thus far.

I have no idea what episode the above picture of Connor is from, all I know is it came up when I was searching for episode three pics. But even though it doesn't belong to this episode, who doesn't appreciate a gratuitious Andrew Lee Potts picture?! So you're welcome. :)

Downton Abbey continues Sunday

Downton Abbey continues Sunday with Part Three on Masterpiece Classic. I. Can't. WAIT. Here's a brief teaser about what's in store for us:
Don't miss an all-new episode of the runaway hit Downton Abbey, Sunday, January 23, 2011, on MASTERPIECE CLASSIC. Growing into his role as heir, Matthew brings out the bitter rivalry between sisters Mary and Edith. Servants Thomas and O'Brien scheme against Bates, while head housemaid Anna is increasingly attracted to him.
I don't know how I'm going to deal with more Bates suffering at the hands of Thomas and O'Brien! And it sounds like Mary may be softening towards Matthew...which, as I suspected, is going to drive her sister Edith crazy. :) Here are links to my reviews of Part One and Two:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: From a Distance by Tamera Alexander

From a Distance (Timber Ridge Reflections #1)
By: Tamera Alexander
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0389-3

About the book:

What happens when the realization of a dream isn’t what you imagined…and the secret you’ve spent a lifetime guarding is finally laid bare?

Determined to become one of the country’s premier newspaper photographers, Elizabeth Westbrook travels to the Colorado Territory to capture the grandeur of the mountains surrounding the remote town of Timber Ridge. She hopes, too, that the cool, dry air of Colorado, and its renowned hot springs, will cure the mysterious illness that threatens her career, and her life.

Daniel Ranslett, a former Confederate sharpshooter, is a man shackled by his past, and he’ll do anything to protect his land, and his solitude. When an outspoken Yankee photographer captures an image that appears key to solving a murder, putting herself in danger, Daniel is called upon to repay a debt. He’s a man of his word, but repaying that debt could bring secrets from his past to light.

Forced on a perilous journey together, Daniel and Elizabeth’s lives intertwine in ways neither could have imagined when first they met…from a distance.


Elizabeth Westbrook’s dream of becoming a newpaper photographer whose work is accepted under her own name (instead of a male pen name), is put to the test when she travels to the untamed Colorado Territory. Her assignment is to take pictures of the area’s majestic countryside and surreptitiously investigate the feasibility of investors back east developing the area around the town of Timber Ridge into a resort property. Elizabeth is a strong, prickly character whose occasionally abrasive manner can be a little hard to take. However, Alexander does an excellent job of balancing Elizabeth’s drive to succeed with her fears and insecurities. Her brash manner is extremely realistic compensation for a lifetime of hurt and struggle. In a society that held certain limited expectations for the role of women, Elizabeth bucks convention on multiple fronts.

Daniel Ranslett, who served as a Confederate sharpshooter in the war, immediately clashes with Elizabeth. He doesn’t understand her drive and she doesn’t understand his enigmatic manner and reluctance to serve as her guide. However, his loner status masks pain of a different sort – the mental and emotional toll of combat. Daniel is a wonderful hero – though he’s a wounded, gentle spirit he possesses a core of unwavering moral strength and character. He’s the perfect foil for Elizabeth, who has some tough lessons to learn about truth and honor while in turn he must learn about brokenness and trust.

From a Distance is a beautifully crafted, thoroughly absorbing novel full of richly drawn, unforgettable characters. There’s a dash of mystery, but the real strength of the novel is the journey Elizabeth and Daniel undergo towards surrender. Elizabeth and Daniel are two of the most well-drawn, imperfect characters I’ve ever run across – you know characters are “real” when you alternately want to shake them when you’re frustrated, empathize with their hurts, and cheer at their triumphs. As a native of Tennessee and an amateur Civil War history buff, I loved how Alexander wove together snippets of Tennessee and Civil War history into her Colorado frontier-set story. While the action of the novel takes place ten years after the end of the Civil War, Alexander does a beautiful job of showing the heartbreaking, far-reaching cost of that conflict on its survivors. I also enjoyed learning about photographic processes in the 1800’s – it’s eye-opening to read about the processes and Elizabeth’s job struggles in an era when cameras (and women in the workforce) are taken for granted. This is a novel about choices – how one chooses to overcome tragedy, health problems, trust issues – and God’s sovereignty and care over even the most minute details of one’s life. When the dreams they cling to are stripped away, Daniel and Elizabeth’s story shows how in vulnerability and brokenness God pours out blessings and strength and dreams much greater and more rewarding than one’s human frailty can possibly imagine.


I originally reviewed From a Distance way back in September 2008. I'm finally (FINALLY!!) diving into book two of the trilogy, so I thought now was a good time to add this review to the blog.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Downton Abbey, Part Two

Downton Abbey continued this past Sunday with Part Two of its four-week run on Masterpiece Classic, and my suspicions that this is one of "those" shows that keeps getting better and better as time goes on has been happily confirmed. I'm going to try my best to confine my review of Part Two to one post, but I'm not making any promises. :) If you're new to the blog, or want to revisit my thoughts on Part One of Downton, here are the links: The Crawleys, The Servants. Now that I've had about three hours to familiarize myself with the world of Downton Abbey and the many, many "upstairs" and "downstairs" residents that call the estate home, I feel like I have a much better grasp on the characters and multiple, interwoven plotlines. Here's the summary of Part Two from the PBS website:
As Matthew and Isobel, the newly-arrived Crawleys settle into life in the village, Isobel offers her experience with modern medical techniques at the hospital, to the considerable consternation of Violet. Both Matthew and Mary bristle at the prospect of being matched to one another; still, Matthew indulges Mary's clever barbs even as a suitor in the form of Evelyn Napier is invited for a foxhunt, accompanied by the handsome attaché at the Turkish Embassy, Kemal Pamuk.

Downstairs, secrets reflect the ambitions, shames and desperate hopes of the servants, as housemaid Gwen tries to hide the contents of a heavy box set atop the wardrobe in her room; Carson abandons his customary dignity as he skittishly raids the pantry; and Bates refuses to share the source of his debilitating pain to his co-workers. Their concern and camaraderie markedly contrast the festering discontent of Thomas and O'Brien.

A sinister stranger barges into the house, demanding to speak to Lord Grantham, and an attractive stranger captivates Mary before setting into motion a chain of events that put the fate of Downton Abbey on even less stable ground.
Lady Sybil
I was quite happy to see many of the characters who I felt were barely introduced in Part One given more fleshed out storylines and personalities in this installment of the series. We're introduced to the secret hopes of Gwen (Rose Leslie) the housemaid, when Anna (Joanne Froggatt), the head housemaid discovers her secret. Gwen wants to be a secretary! It's fascinating to see just how radical of an idea this was in 1913 - virtually unheard of in many social circles, yet if a woman succeeded in training herself and secured a suitable position, she could achieve a level of independence unknown of scant years before. Time and technology has changed much. :) Not only do I a greatly admire Gwen's bravery in reaching for such a bold dream, but the support she receives from Anna further seals my good opinion of that housemaid's character. We are also finally treated to some insight into youngest Crawley daughter Sybil's (Jessica Brown-Findlay) character. When she discovers Gwen's aspirations she resolves to do all she can to help the housemaid realize her dream - clearly Sybil has the makings of a social and political activist.

Mentioning Anna brings me the opportunity to discuss what is fast becoming one of my favorite relationships on the show - the friendship (hopefully more? hopefully SOON? *g*) that develops between Anna and Bates (Brendan Coyle), the valet. When Bates and Anna find themselves alone in the servants quarters, and Bates teases her by saying "alone at last" - people, I kid you not, I melted. Brendan Coyle is just adorable. Of course, for every halting step forward in their relationship - such as "bonding" over the hilarious discovery that Carson (Jim Carter), the butler, had is secret life as a stage performer revealed in front of the Earl. While Carson was mortified at being embarrassed before lower staff members, the fact that Anna and Bates handled the news with discretion earns them, especially Bates, some much-needed grace from the butler's perspective. Bates's attempts to treat his limp on the sly with a painful-looking metal brace also reveal the sympathetic side of housekeeper Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), who I absolutely love now thanks to the kindness and understanding she shows him. The excrutiating brace reminded me of old-school scholiosis treatments - I have scholiosis and was treated with a brace for a time as a child, and believe you me as inconvenient and uncomfortable as my brace was, I am convinced it was nothing to the types of devices used to treat back curvatures even a mere fifty years ago. I desperately hope that Bates's reticence to share about his past (seriously, I'm dying to know the man's secrets!), and admit to vulnerability doesn't keep him and Anna apart forever...I would be crushed.

Matthew (Dan Stevens), the new heir, and his mother Isobel (Penelope Wilton) have begun to settle into life at Downton in earnest. Since Isobel was married to a doctor and trained as a nurse, she very naturally takes an interest in the local hospital where Violet (Maggie Smith), the dowager countess, serves as patroness. Isobel has some rather progressive ideas - she advocates the latest medical treatments and wants equal care for all patients, no matter what their social standing. And while these ideas may not seem all that radical today, in a world like Downton Abbey's that thrives on tradition and male dominance in areas like the medical profession, Isobel's push for improvements sets her at odds with Violet. I practically cheered when Isobel's suggested treatment for dropsy (I had no idea how awful that affliction is!) succeeded in saving the life of a poor farmer. Watching Isobel "butt heads" with Violet is going to be a lot of fun as this show progresses, and I'm really growing to love her character - Wilton has infused her with just the right balance of "modern" sensibilities and old-fashioned class. And watching Violet fume at having to share management of the hospital with Isobel was hilarious - Part Two continued the grand tradition set forth in Part One of giving Maggie Smith some of the show's funniest lines and seeing her steal scenes whenever she appears on-screen.

Kemal Pamuk
Isobel's son, Matthew, has been obstinately determined that his new status as heir will not change his character, and much to the chagrin of the Crawley family he has retained his "working class" sensibilities. My absolute favorite scenes with Matthew so far occur in this episode. Robert (Hugh Bonneville), the Earl, begins to take on the role mentor and seeing the estate through Robert's eyes begins to slowly but surely change Matthew's perspective on his cousins' lifestyle. When Robert gently suggests that Matthew's contempt of needing a valet has personally wounded the servant, the implication that he's been guilty of exhibiting his own class prejudices is staggering. The scene that shortly follows when Matthew asks his valet, Molesely (Lionel Guyett) for help and input nearly brought tears to my eyes. That moment of kindness and understanding was so sweet! If Matthew can balance his middle-class upbringing with some grace and understanding of the traditions that have formed Downton Abbey, he could turn out to be an heir to be reckoned with, worthy of respect.

Lady Edith
Of course Matthew is still getting no where with Mary (Michelle Dockery), who bristles at the mere suggestion that she should marry such a commoner to secure her inheritance. In Part Two we begin to see that Matthew is attracted to Mary, but of course loathe to admit it (shades of Pride and Prejudice, anyone?). Since Mary makes no secret of her disapproval of the new heir, her overlooked middle sister Edith (Laura Carmichael) begins to look on him favorably as a marriage prospect for herself. I really felt so bad for her when their afternoon of church visiting backfires with Matthew's mentions of Mary and the suggestion they bring his mother along on a future outing. Edith is so tightly wound, so resentful of her position as an "overlooked" younger daughter that I half expect her to do something quite rash before this miniseries ends.

Mary is still a difficult character to like, but if there is one thing this episode drives home it's the fact that her proud manner is a mask for extraordinary amounts of childish pride, naivete, and uncertainty. She remains hopeful that her prospects will improve with the arrival of Viscount Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks) for a foxhunt (which was a lot of fun to watch come to life on-screen). Unfortunately for the handsome Napier, he brings along a friend - Kemal Pamuk (Theo James), an attache to the Turkish embassy (and the first hint of the worldwide political climate that will result in World War I). Pamuk makes quick work of acting on Mary's oh-so-obvious attraction to his dark good looks, and seduces her with the 1913 version of one of the oldest lines in the book ("You'll still be virtuous for your husband"). Mary, being a total ninny, falls for it, and her stupidity has an unexpected (and if I'm being honest here, I thought frankly hilarious) result - Pamuk has a heart attack and dies in her bed. In order to save her reputation, she has to get Anna and her mother Cora's (Elizabeth McGovern) assistance in hauling him back to his room. I never, ever expected the show to have the man responsible for Mary's ruination drop dead in such a spectacular fashion, and I confess the sight of her long-suffering and PROPER mother hauling a corpse around Downton was so unexpected it cracked me up. Yes, I realize this probably says something awful, like I occasionally exhibit a disturbingly macabre sense of humor, but at least I'm owning to it.

Viscount Evelyn Napier
I feel so, so bad for poor Napier when he realizes that Mary has absolutely no romantic interest in him, even after Pamuk's death (I think trauma has something to do with the latter, though!). I really liked the painfully honest conversation he has with Cora, about his hopes for a marriage based on love. The man is a class act all the way and I really hope we get to see his character again. It will also be interesting to see the impact Mary's shocking indiscretion has on her relationship with her mother. I suspect that the full ramifications of her actions with Pamuk have yet to be felt.

Part Two of Downton Abbey succeeds on a grand scale, adding layers of rich characterization and raising the stakes for each member of the Crawley family and their servants. It is truly fascinating to witness how intricately entwined the lives and fortunes of the wealthy owners of Downton Abbey are with the servants who depend upon Downton for their livelihood. Unforunately for the Crawleys, Mary's dalliance with the Turk was not the secret she hoped - and like all hidden secrets and sins, the truth is sure to out and the impact will doubtless be felt by many more than just Mary (there's a lesson there, no?).

To anyone who may still be making their mind up about whether or not to watch Downton Abbey - I will say that this series pushes the envelope a bit more than many may be accustomed to in period drama. It definitely does not shy away from all aspects of life, the good and the bad. From my perspective, the show does not "cross the line" and become too explicit for my tastes (i.e., it cuts away from Mary's seduction scene), but I recognize that it may be too close to the line for others. I know that viewing tastes and preferences are varied among the readers of my lil' ol' blog, and I do try to recognize and be sensitive to that in my reviews.

What captivates me about Downton Abbey isn't just the smart script and gorgeous sets and costumes, but the raw authenticity of the characters. The characters' mistakes and actions - whether or not I agree with them, ultimately - have thus far, anyway, provided me with both entertainment to feed my period-drama loving heart and food for thought about the best and worse that humans are capable of. I'm looking forward to seeing where this wild ride takes the Crawleys and their servants next. :)

Angel Harp by Michael Phillips

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Angel Harp
FaithWords (January 26, 2011)
Michael Phillips


Michael Phillips has been writing in the Christian marketplace for 30 years. All told, he has written, co-written, and edited some 110 books. Phillips and his wife live in the U.S., and make their second home in Scotland.


Widowed at 34, amateur harpist Marie "Angel" Buchan realizes at 40 that her life and dreams are slowly slipping away. A summer in Scotland turns out to offer far more than she ever imagined! Not only does the music of her harp capture the fancy of the small coastal village she visits, she is unexpectedly drawn into a love triangle involving the local curate and the local duke.

The boyhood friends have been estranged as adults because of their mutual love of another woman (now dead) some years before. History seems destined to repeat itself, with Marie in the thick of it. Her involvement in the lives of the two men, as well as in the community, leads to a range of exciting relationships and lands Marie in the center of the mystery of a long-unsolved local murder. Eventually she must make her decision: with whom will she cast the lot of her future?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Angel Harp, go HERE

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

The Reluctant Widow
By: Georgette Heyer
Publisher: Sourcebooks
ISBN: 978-1-4022-1351-9

About the book:

A fateful mistake...

When Elinor Rochdale boards the wrong coach, she ends up not at her prospective employer's home but at the estate of Eustace Cheviot, a dissipated and ruined young man on the verge of death.

A momentous decision...

His cousin, Mr. Ned Carlyon, persuades Elinor to marry Eustace as a simple business arrrangement. By morning, Elinor is a rich widow, but finds herself embroiled with an international spy ring, housebreakers, uninvited guests, and murder. And Mr. Carlyon won't let her leave...


Elinor Rochdale is a gentlewoman of reduced circumstances, forced to seek a position as governess following her father’s scandalous death. Resigned to a life of drudgery caring for the children of others, she is quite put out of countenance when the chance mistake of entering the wrong carriage sets her life upon an entirely different – and most unorthodox – path. Lord Carlyon has advertised for a bride for his cousin, a dissolute youth, in order to publicly absolve him of possessing any designs on his feckless cousin’s property. For if his cousin’s bride in name only inherits, Carlyon stands to finally rid himself of the baseless rumors that swirl around him regarding his supposed designs on his worthless relative’s assets. Elinor recoils at the thought of involving herself in such a ridiculous scheme, but when one of Carlyon’s brothers arrives with the news that he was provoked into a brawl with the cousin in question and has, as a result, dealt him a death blow, Elinor finds herself quite at the mercy of Carlyon’s extraordinary powers of persuasiveness. By the next morning she finds herself a propertied widow, having inherited her husband’s estate, including debts, a dilapidated home, his questionable acquaintances, and involvement in an espionage plot, all factors that would send a lesser woman into spasms. But despite her abhorrence of her circumstances and new associations, Elinor is too feisty to be so easily cowed, and finds herself Carlyon’s reluctant compatriot in untangling the wretched affairs of her husband of less than twelve hours.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve read a Heyer Regency (shockingly unforgivable, I know!), but happily time and The Reluctant Widow prove that Heyer has never yet failed to charm, entertain, and delight me. From the start of Elinor’s misadventures with Lord Carlyon to their gloriously romantic finish, The Reluctant Widow is packed with the sharp, intelligent wit and laugh-out-loud humor that I’ve come to expect from Heyer’s novels. Heyer never shies away from placing her characters in the most outlandish, ridiculous scrapes imaginable, to the point that accidental death among cousins is viewed as an almost commonplace occurrence! Elinor is perhaps my favorite type of Heyer heroine. At the age of 26 she’s considered “on the shelf,” but her lack of prospects has in no way dimmed her outspokenness or zest for life. This is a woman who knows her own mind, and while in a weak moment may have been coerced into a marriage of convenience, that does not mean she will allow herself to be easily led in all situations! And Carlyon is everything a Heyer hero should be – handsome, strong-willed, intelligent, and perhaps most importantly of all, not cowed by a lively woman’s wit. The repartee between Carlyon and Elinor is priceless – indeed, the dialogue throughout the novel positively sparkles, begging to be read aloud so each clever turn of phrase or understated sarcastic remark can be fully appreciated.
The Reluctant Widow is so much more than a boy-meets-girl story – the romantic element is subtly woven throughout the plot, but simmering with potency if you’ve the eyes to look for it. The mystery Heyer weaves throughout the story is wildly entertaining – like Elinor, the reader is never quite sure who can be trusted, or what to make of the extraordinary characters and trying circumstances she encounters when thrust into the midst of her husband’s contemptible and traitorous attempt at dabbling in espionage. The supporting cast numbers among the most entertaining I can recall in a Heyer Regency. I absolutely adored Carlyon’s brothers – Nicky, the wild reckless one, and John, whose attempts at propriety mask a nature that can be every bit as outlandish as his brother’s. The Reluctant Widow is vintage Heyer, sharply plotted and replete with her unmistakable wit, unforgettable characters, and a romance between two seemingly disparate individuals that’s so fiery the sparks fly from the page. If you love Austen’s wit and Regency heroes make you swoon, Heyer is an author not to be missed.
This review is my first entry in the Georgette Heyer Reading Challenge for the year and my second entry in the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 Baker Street Reading Challenge

Ahem. I know, you're thinking "what on earth is Ruth doing signing up for yet another reading challenge?" Well, back in 2009 when I first started this blog, I signed up for the inaugural Baker Street Reading Challenge and only posted two reviews. I am looking on this as an opportunity to further my Sherlock-related reading goals through a challenge that's lay dormant for far too long.

Here's the challenge info from the blog, hosted by Ruth of Bookish Ruth:

Welcome to the Baker Street Challenge, an annual reading challenge for one of the most iconic and enigmatic literary figures, Sherlock Holmes. Join us as we celebrate Doyle's original stories as well as the rich world of new adventures his works have inspired.

The Rules

1. Choose a goal from the reading tier below and add your name to the sign up page.

2. The challenge will run from January 1 to December 31, 2011. You can sign up for the challenge at any time before December 31, 2011.

3. You do not have to choose your books in advance. You may change your reading list at any point in the challenge.

4. Overlapping with other challenges is fine.

5. Audio books and eBooks are allowed.

6. Feel free to post reviews or general thoughts about your reading to the Baker Street Challenge blog. Please e-mail me at bookishruth [at] gmail [dot] com to be added as a contributor.

Reading Tier
  • Three Pipe Problem: 3 books
  • The Sign of Four: 4 books
  • Five Orange Pips: 5 books
  • Seven Percent Solution: 7 books
Book Guidelines & Suggestions

The Canon: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novels (A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Valley of Fear) and 56 short stories (compiled in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow and The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes).

Pastiches: Sherlock Holmes stories by authors other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, such as The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer, The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King, The Montana Chronicles by John S. Fitzpatrick, The Sherlockian by Graham Moore, etc.

Non-Fiction: Books about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or the Holmes phenomenon.

Other Doyle Works: Books such as The Lost World, The Coming of the Fairies, The Maracot Deep, and non-Holmes short stories do count for this challenge.

Since 2011 has already begun, please note that any books read between the start of the year to January 17, 2011 that qualify for the challenge will count toward your total if you wish to count them.

Ready to sign up for the challenge? Head over to the Sign Up page.


I'm signing up for this challenge at a conservative level - four books, or "The Sign of Four." If I really blow through all of my reading challenges this year, I may be able to add some bonus selections to this list.
  • A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King
  • A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King
  • The Case of the Left-Handed Lady by Nancy Springer
  • The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets by Nancy Springer
Here are links to the reviews of my entries in this challenge in 2009:
With Series 2 of Sherlock to look forward to this fall as well as a new Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes film over the holidays, 2011 is a great year to revisit Sherlock and the work the icon has inspired!

Review: The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer

The Quiet Gentleman
By: Georgette Heyer
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN: 0373836848

About the book:

An unwelcome return…

When Gervase Frant returns home unscathed from the wars to claim his title as the new Earl of Stanyon, he senses his stepmother’s resentment and his half brother’s open disdain. Now he must establish himself as the new head of the house…and ignore his family’s rising hostility.

Then Gervase’s eye is caught by a lovely young woman – the same woman already much in favor with his half brother. Now the brothers are rivals as they bid for the lady’s affections. But as Gervase struggles to maintain a gentlemanly balance, he begins to find himself the victim of repeatedly cruel accidents. Soon it becomes increasingly clear that someone wants the new Earl of Stanyon dead…


Georgette Heyer novels should be printed with a warning. I have to be careful when reading her novels in public. This is because they inevitably cause a goofy smile to be pasted on my face, and I’ll start giggling loudly at random times for no apparent reason to the poor, unsuspecting public around me. The Quiet Gentleman is no exception to this rule. Absolutely nothing beats a Heyer Regency romance for the sheer enjoyment factor and witty, intelligent humor. She truly is the closest thing to reading Jane Austen – and is generally more hilarious. The Quiet Gentleman is the perfect combination of mystery and romance. The whodunit aspect of the novel is so carefully plotted that the revelation of the guilty party is an eyebrow-raising surprise. And with the romance, Heyer once again succeeds in bringing together two seemingly irreconcilable individuals who turn out to be, of course, perfect for each other. To all you fellow Austen lovers out there – if you’ve never read a Heyer, and my enthusiasm still hasn’t convinced you to pick one up, read The Quiet Gentleman for the pure novelty factor that the hero can be named Gervase Frant and still be incredibly hot. Unbelievable, but trust me, it’s true. *wink*


I originally reviewed The Quiet Gentleman back in September 2006 on my old blog. Since this review has never made it to my new blogging home, I thought it was high time I re-posted it here, especially since I am participating in the Georgette Heyer Reading Challenge this year. I did not re-read this novel for the challenge, it's simply the only Heyer novel I've formally reviewed to date (shockingly unforgivable, I know!).

If you're friends with me on Goodreads you may have noticed that I'm currently about halfway through my first selection for the Heyer Reading Challenge - The Reluctant Widow - and it is every bit as delightful and hilarious as every other Heyer Regency that I've ever read. The woman was a genius! Review coming soon!

My mass market edition of The Quiet Gentleman is sadly out of print, but Sourcebooks is re-releasing the novel later this year with a gorgeous new cover (just in case you're interested!). :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Primeval 4.2

So, I realize this review is horribly late since episode three airs tonight, but what can I say? I was seriously distracted by Downton Abbey blogging this week. :) Episode two of this season of Primeval opens with a flashback to five years ago, when a random woman found a creepy lizard-like creature ransacking her living room and flushed it down the toilet. If you can ignore the logisitics of that actually working (that lizard was HUGE - seriously what are toilets like in the UK? LOL), it is nice to see the show address what happened to creatures who came through anomalies before the creation of the ARC. Flash-forward to the present, and we find Connor (Andrew Lee Potts) and Abby (Hannah Spearitt) being debriefed by Matt (Ciarán McMenamin) following their return after a year-long absence through an anomaly. The standout performances in this episode easily belong to Connor and Lester (Ben Miller). The ever-prickly Lester continually goes to bat for Connor and Abby - of course, he only compliments them when they aren't around. One has to maintain one's imagine, no? *wink* Besides revealing that yes, he does indeed have a heart, it's fun to watch Lester cope with Philip Burton (Alexander Siddig), the billionaire investor who funds 50% of the ARC's operations. Philip doesn't seem to really have a point, other than to undermine and annoy Lester. Hopefully the showrunners have a master plan for his character, otherwise I fear he is destined to simply clutter up the team.

This episode was a great venue for showcasing Connor's personal journey since the show began. Dismissed from the team thanks to the new "army experience" rule, and with no immediate prospects in sight, Connor decides to do a little creature sleuthing on his own. He runs across an old friend from his college days - Duncan, played by James Bradshaw. Duncan was part of Connor's gang of college friends - all conspiracy loving geeks. The group was torn apart when Connor joined the ARC team, and one of their number was killed by poisonous dodos (seriously, it was creepier than it sounds) in episode four of Series One. Duncan has really regressed, I guess you could say, while Connor has managed to mature (most of the time, haha)thanks to the faith Professor Cutter placed in him early in the show. This episode was a reminder that it easily could have gone the other way for Connor. Duncan and Connor's scenes were also a lot of fun, especially at the end of the episode when Duncan congratulates Connor on "making it" by dating Abby - Connor's geeked-out response, and then his quick reversal when he returns to join Abby in the car is hilarious to watch, and very well played by Potts.

I was only annoyed by Jess (Ruth Kearney) approximately 50% of the time she was on-screen this time around. She seems to be a genuinely nice person, in spite of the slightly creepy way she keeps talking about "knowing" everyone since she's read their files (over and over and over again in the case of Becker, methinks!). What I would like to know is what the heck is the pay scale at the ARC? Because Jess's apartment is RIDICULOUSLY nice. Not to mention ridiculously furinished - you couldn't help but notice that she has four rotary phones, lined up to spell out her name. Is that some stupid trend I'm not aware of? LOL! However, her crushing on Becker (Ben Mansfield) is still painfully awkward. But I LOVE the fact that he's not giving an inch - and the scene at the end where he remembers to bring her chocolate was kinda cute.

I was pretty pleased with the creature/chase portion of the show. As far as the world of the show goes, having the Kaprosuchus terrorizing a homeless community living near its lair felt like a pretty believable set-up. However, Jess's insessant online stalking of Matt when he leaves the ARC to follow Connor and Abby to the creature site really annoyed me after about sixty seconds. I just feel like there has to be a better way to prove her worth to the team than her penchant for nosiness...but maybe that's the route the showrunners are taking, so who knows?! *sigh* Which brings me to Matt...what kind of team leading idiot goes into the field with no weapon? I really want to like Matt's character, since I do like McMenamin, but he's so stiff on-screen it's hard to really get a feel for the character. I will be shocked if Matt doesn't get eaten by a creature before the end of this season - with his continued meetings with Gideon (Anton Lesser), and hazy motivations, I'm guessing he's doomed.

I really liked the chase through the container yard at the docks. That was a nicely creepy, tense set up, since with the containers stacked high, and everything looking the same, it would be quite frightening to be tracking down a rogue dinosaur in such a constricted area. It was also fantastic to see Connor prove himself in the field. We all knew they *had* to let him back on the team, but nonetheless it was fun to see him prove his mettle. And the final scene, where he confronts Lester demanding his job back, not knowing things have already been decided in his favor - that, my friends, was one of my favorite moments in the entire series. Lester's deadpan delivery of "well, you're back on the team" and Connor taking full credit for it and high-fiving Becker was absolutely HILARIOUS. Andrew Lee Potts had me laughing so hard, so many times in this episode - he really is the heart of the show now, and deservedly so in my opinion.

Looking forward to tonight's episode, which promised the arrival of humans through an anomaly (I doubt it's Helen reincarnated, but you never know with this show). Here's hoping that the show finds a point for Philip and Gideon soon, and that maybe, maybe Matt loosens up a bit.