Acorn TV Mysteries!

Over the last month, I have had the chance (and frankly, the time)  to indulge in one of my favorite digital offerings at the Davenport Public Library, Acorn TV!  Since mysteries are my genre of choice, Acorn TV a great place to find both long running mystery series and shorter limited run series.  Acorn TV has many excellent dramas, comedies and documentaries as well.  Two recent mysteries that I have discovered, Mayday and Winter are both top notch mystery series.  Each series is just one season and contain five and six episodes respectively.  These are but two of the many great mystery series available on Acorn TV.  To access Acorn TV from home, go to www.davenportlibrary.com and click on “Digital Content” at the top of the page.  Then, follow the directions under Acorn TV to create an account.

 

Mayday – A small English village holds its annual Mayday festival and parade where a local teenage girl will be crowned as Mayday Queen.  But as the parade begins and the Queen’s float appears down main street, it is empty.  The Mayday Queen has disappeared mere moments before the parade is set to begin with only her abandoned bike found near the woods at the edge of town.  The locals quickly organize to look for her throughout the area.  As the search goes on it becomes clear that many in the village have a motive to do harm to the young girl.  We meet a cast of characters, including ex-police officer, her detective husband, a real estate developer, a society wife and a man with mysterious access to heaps of cash.  Many of the locals have their own dark secrets that they intend to keep at any cost.  The series not only highlights the intricacies of the police  investigation but how the villagers react to a suspect being one of their own.  Mayday if full of red herrings, shocks and surprises and I highly recommend it for mystery fans.

 

Winter – Australian detective Eve Winter is on a brief hiatus between cases when she is recruited to come back after the death of a young woman whose body was found at the bottom of a rocky cliff just north of Sydney.   Simultaneously, Eve learns of a young girl hospitalized after a hit and run accident.  It becomes apparent to Eve that these two cases have everything to do with each other and if she can get the young girl to trust her and talk may be the key to cracking the case.  Splitting her time between the murder investigation and gaining the young girl’s trust, Eve and her team discover that there are many powerful and influential residents who will cover the secrets in their past at any cost.  Winter is another great mystery series with all the twists, turns and secrets of the past that make the story so memorable and suspenseful.

Online Reading Challenge Wrap Up

So. That was quite a month, wasn’t it? How did you do with your Online Challenge reading? I have to admit, I haven’t been reading as much lately. With the extra time at home, I had thought I would get lots of reading done, but I’ve found that I get distracted easily. I think it has to do with this new normal that we are living through, adjusting and absorbing how life is now and wondering what it will be like in the future. What about you, are you having issues adjusting?

I did read a book for this month’s theme which was inspired by the film and television series Downton Abbey. I read A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd, the first in the Bess Crawford mystery series. While I enjoyed the book, I found it slow in parts and it didn’t grab my attention completely.

Bess Crawford is a nurse serving in the British army during World War I. She is injured when the hospital ship she is on, the HMHS Britannic, is sunk by a German mine (a true event) Home again in England to recuperate, she is haunted by a promise she made to Arthur Graham, a soldier she cared for who died in France, a promise that she has yet to fulfill. At her father’s urging she takes the time now while she is home to lay this promise to rest.

Traveling by train to Kent, Bess pays a visit to the Graham family estate and delivers Arthur’s cryptic message to his family. They are startling unimpressed and, while polite, seem to have no interest in pursuing the matter further. Delayed on her return, Bess stays with the Grahams a few extra days and discovers a complicated family dynamic with a mysterious brother hidden away in an insane asylum. Bess gets caught up in the dramas of the small local village (jumping in to help the local doctor in an emergency) and the mystery surrounding the Graham family.

There was a lot I liked about this book – the brave, level-headed Bess, the time period and the settings. The sinking of the HMHS Britannic at the beginning of the book was very interesting and exciting, but I found the pace of the rest of the book slowed and even dragged at times. It is the first of the series though and it will be worth trying more titles in this popular series in the future.

How was your reading this month? Did you read anything good? Let us know in the comments!

Vintage Roads Great and Small on Acorn TV

Tootling along in a bright blue vintage Morgan 4/4 roadster, Christopher Timothy and Peter Davison set out to explore some of the most iconic – and most beautiful – roads of Great Britain in this delightful series, Vintage Roads Great and Small.

Timothy and Davison are longtime friends, having met when they filmed the beloved series All Creatures Great and Small which aired for many years on local PBS stations. (Does anyone else remember the series? My Mother and I loved it and watched it every Sunday night. When we traveled to England one of our major goals was to visit the Yorkshire Dales where the series took place.) Based on the books by James Herriot, the series follows the story of a young veterinarian working in the remote Yorkshire Dales during the 1930s. The books and the series are filled with funny and heartbreaking stories about the animals and their people, many of whom are very eccentric characters. The Dales, while wild and unforgiving, are also breathtakingly beautiful. I recommend both the books and the series as great fun for everyone in the family.

Timothy (who played the young vet James Herriot) and Davison (who played Tristan Farnam) have a comfortable give and take, poking fun at each other and stopping whenever something catches their fancy which include vintage cars, British history and ancient (but not always passable) roads. Road trips have included a drive through the Scottish Highlands from Inverness to the Isle of Skye and a trip from London to the southern tip of England at Land’s End. Just like in the television series they became famous for, they tell stories (some a bit embellished!) and find interesting characters to chat with along the way.

Haven’t tried Acorn TV yet? It’s a streaming service that offers the best of British mysteries, dramas and documentaries and it’s free through the Davenport Library. Visit our Digital Content page and click on the Acorn TV logo to get started. All you’ll need is a (free) account with RBDigital and your library card number.

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello!

I hope this finds you safe and healthy – these are crazy times we’re living through, aren’t they? I also hope you’re finding the Library’s online services helpful – though we miss seeing you at one of our locations, using e-books or e-audiobooks is a great alternative!

Usually at our Mid-Month Check, I suggest movies or television series that you can check out from the library that fit with that month’s theme. This month, of course, we aren’t checking out physical items so instead, I’m going to point you toward another great online resource available through the Library – Acorn TV! Acorn is a collection of mostly British television series that you can stream for free! There’s an amazing collection of shows to watch, perfect for staying-home and, since so many of them are British, a lot of them will fit into this month’s theme of Downton Abbey! Here’s a selection to get you started.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries – set in the 1920s, this delightful series actually takes place in Australia (but it still counts!) with the fashionable Miss Fisher solving a variety of intriguing mysteries.

Victorian House of Arts and Crafts – this is a fun documentary that follows 21st century craftsmen as they work on renovate a Victorian-era house using 19th century tools and techniques.

Keeping the Castle is another documentary, this one about the expense and upkeep of one of those huge country estates in the modern age.

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes is a series featuring classic mysteries with a variety of investigators set in the same time period as Sherlock Holmes.

It’s easy to get started with Acorn TV; simply go to the Davenport Library homepage, click on Digital Content, then click on the Acorn TV. You’ll need your library card number and an RB Digital account (also free) Licenses check out for one week with unlimited renewals.

Of course, you can also watch something from your own collection of DVDs or your streaming services (there are no Library Police!) Mostly, I recommend finding something fun and distracting!

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella was one of my favorite authors in high school. I stopped reading her when I went away to college, but recently started reading her books again when I discovered her newest book, I Owe You One.

I Owe You One tells the story of Fixie Farr. For as long as she can remember, Fixie has felt the urgent need to put things right. If a friend needs help, if a shelf is stained, if a picture is crooked, Fixie has to fix it. She starts to fidget, bouncing and moving around until things are back to normal.

This trait is something that her friends and family members often take advantage of, but Fixie has trouble acknowledging this. Ever since her father died, Fixie started to take his motto: ‘Family First’ even more to heart. If any family member asks for help, she is always willing to help for anything.

Stopping at a coffee shop on her way home, a handsome stranger asks her to watch his laptop so he can step out to take a call. Fixie agrees and actually ends up saving the laptop from destruction. As a result, the grateful owner Sebastian writes an IOU on a coffee sleeve, attaches his business card to it, and tells Fixie that he owes her and to let him know how he can help her. Fixie does not believe that this was genuine and laughs off his offer. She would never accept an IOU from a complete stranger.

When she arrives back home, her childhood crush Ryan shows up unexpectedly. Ryan is having a hard time getting a job, believing that he deserves much more than a mediocre job since he used to work in Hollywood. Learning that Seb owes Fixie a favor, they decide to ask Seb to give Ryan a job.

Seb and Fixie begin to have a relationship as IOUs flow back and forth between the two. These range from small insignificant and life-changing ones. Throughout all of these interactions, Fixie finds herself wanting to leave her current ‘family first’ focused life to find a life that makes herself happier. As tensions come to a head and her mother’s return home from a long vacation looms closer, Fixie realizes that she must make a change if she wants her family to start taking her seriously.

I enjoyed listening to this book. Watching Fixie grow throughout this book and seeing her character develop had me rooting that she would get the life that she wanted. Give this a read and let me know what you think.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Challengers!

Just checking in halfway through the month to see how things are going for you. Have you been able to find a book you want to read? There are so many books set during World War II, it can be hard to pick one!

If you’re still looking, be sure to check the displays at each Davenport library location. And don’t forget about e-books – check our collection on the Overdrive or Libby app to see if a title you want to read is available to read on your Kindle or tablet (check with any librarian at the library if you need help getting started!)

Of course, sometimes the culprit is time – too many other obligations and distractions! In that case, maybe a movie would be a better idea. Here’s a few ideas.

Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds follows the convoluted journey of one of Gustav Klimt’s most famous paintings, from it’s creation, to it’s seizure by the Nazi’s to it’s return to it’s rightful home.

The Courageous Heart of Irene Sendler – Starring Anna Paquin true story of a Polish social worker that was able to smuggle Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto.

Dunkirk with Tom Hardy, Harry Styles and Kenneth Branagh recreates the tense and daring rescue of thousands of Allied soldiers stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk, France.

Saving Private Ryan starring Tom Hanks. From the terrifying Allied invasion of Normandy to the dangerous, war-torn villages of France and Germany, eight soldiers are sent to bring home one.

The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightly is the fascinating story behind the Enigma machine and how the English broke the German’s secret code, saving thousands of lives.

Band of Brothers, a ten-part HBO mini-series about ‘Easy Company’ of the US Army who fought in several major battles including D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge and captured Hitler’s Eagles Nest while suffering major casualties.

And, of course, Casablanca. If you’ve never seen this classic, do yourself a favor and watch it now.

That’s just a small sampling. I’ve concentrated (both with movies and books) on the war in Europe, but there are many more set in the Pacific Theater. As always, read what interests you!

Happy reading (or watching!)

Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey

Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey caught my eye the minute I saw the cover illustration and read a quick summary of the book.  I’m a huge fan of the traditional “cozy” mysteries and this book, first in the Manor Cat Mysteries series, takes place in rural England during the spring of 1912.

Lady Cecilia Bates spends the majority of her time on the grounds of her family’s estate, Danby Hall, living a life of leisure by assisting her mother, the Countess of Avebury, with parties and other domestic duties.  Her family’s estate is run like clockwork by a household of servants who cater the the family’s every whim.  Cecilia lives here with her brother, Patrick, who is the heir apparent of the estate.  To an outsider, Patrick seems an unlikely heir, as he would much rather be alone with the exotic plants he lovingly cares for in his laboratory.

As Danby Hall has increasingly become more difficult to maintain with the family’s finances, a glimmer of hope arrives in the form of Miss Annabel Clarke from the United States.  She, along with her vast wealth, arrive for a host of parties with the hope of an engagement to Patrick Bates who will become Earl of Avebury in years to come.

Immediately upon Miss Clarke’s arrival, an elaborate dinner party celebrates all that is best of Danby in order to impress the American heiress. What the residents of Danby Hall did not count on was the murder of a guest by poison just as drinks were served!  The victim is a renowned naturalist in between explorations who was making a quick stop at Danby Hall, but it quickly becomes apparent that maybe the poison wasn’t meant for him.

Lady Cecilia, along with Miss Clarke’s maid, Jane and her stowaway marmalade cat Jack, hit the ground running in an attempt to find the culprit and save Danby Hall from further scandal.  With the amateur sleuths finding clue after clue within the house, evidence points to someone close to the family or someone attempting to capitalize on the family’s dwindling fortune.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey.  Some of the twists and turns were to be expected, but the mystery kept my interest and was a true “cozy” mystery.  My only criticism is that I would have liked the manor cat, Jack, to have more of a starring role.  Maybe he will in the second installment, due in the summer of 2020.

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Some sacrifices are never known. Lives are saved, missions completed because of anonymous acts of courage. The deeds slip into forgotten history, yet the bravery and the actions may have made all the difference.

1946. New York City. Grace Healey is rushing to work, when a car accident snarls traffic and forces her to make a detour through Grand Central Station. There she finds a small, abandoned suitcase wedged under a bench. Inside the suitcase she finds a dozen photos of ordinary young women, each of whom stare into the camera with determination. Grace is intrigued and begins searching for the missing owner and, she hopes, the mystery of the photographs.

Soon Grace is pulled into a story of intrigue and secrecy as she learns about the owner of the suitcase, a woman named Eleanor Trigg who lead a network of women acting as secret agents in Occupied Europe. Their assignments ranged from couriers to radio operators in aid of the resistance in the weeks leading up to D-Day and the invasion of France. Twelve women – the young women in the photographs – never returned, their fate a mystery.

Based on true events, The Lost Girls of Paris crackles with tension. The women are resourceful and brave, but face many obstacles and difficulties. Their contribution to the war effort is mostly forgotten now, but brought vividly to life again here. Author Pam Jenoff focuses on a few key members of the unit, creating a story that is intimate and real. It is an incredible story of friendship, bravery and betrayal and the strength to carry on.

This story of World War II was new to me, but it hasn’t been forgotten. A new non-fiction book about these brave women has just been published:  The D-Day Girls: the Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose which you can find at the Davenport Library.

That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron

If you could read a book and get a glimpse into another society, would you? By reading fiction books, I will often find a topic that intrigues me that will then push me to read a nonfiction book about the same topic. It’s an enjoyable cycle! Historical fiction is one of the biggest genres that leads me to nonfiction books. I love fact-checking the fiction book to see how closely the author wrote to what happened in real life. Historical fiction that focuses on remarkable women is one of my favorites. Stephanie Barron’s latest works falls under this category.

That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron chronicles the life of one of history’s most remarkable, controversial, and influential women: Winston Churchill’s scandalous American mother, Jennie Jerome. Jennie was born in Brooklyn to a prosperous American financier father and a mother with high social ambitions for both herself and her daughters. Eventually ending up in Europe with her mother and siblings after a scandal rocked her parents, Jennie realizes that she is responsible for securing her own destiny. Jennie is wealthy, privileged, and raised by her father to be fiercely independent. The moment she landed in Victorian England, Jennie and her family took the area by storm.

Jennie runs into Lord Randolph Churchill at a party and decides she wants to marry him when she is just nineteen years old. The shocker? They have only known each other for three days when Jennie decides to marry him. Once they are married, she is instantly swept into a crazy whirlwind of British politics and the social climbers that surround Bertie, Prince of Wales. Jennie is now the new Lady Randolph Churchill, a brash American woman who thinks for herself and is careless of English society rules. She becomes a London sensation, traveling without her husband to Marlborough House and gathering admirers and critics along the way. Since Jennie knows about politics and is also a gifted piano player, she uses her talents to begin shaping her husband’s rise in Parliament. Jennie is also widely known as the mother of Winston Churchill. She uses her talents to help navigate Winston’s journey into manhood. He had a difficult childhood, but Jennie made sure to be at his side.

As the Churchill family becomes more influential, scandal and tragedy begin to strike them. Jennie has had lovers besides her husband, but none mean as much to her as Count Charles Kinsky. Kinsky is a man who loves horses like she does  and passionately loves Jennie the way her husband can’t. Once Bertie, Prince of Wales, catches wind of their affair, Jennie is forced to rethink their love as she quickly realizes just how much her every move is judged in public. She must decide how to balance duty and desire, a choice which has consequences that ripple across the Atlantic. Jennie’s decision takes her to a new level of scandal as her children’s lives and all of those around her are greatly affected. This novel is a loving portrait of a woman who helped shape the Churchill era. Jennie’s legacy may be of a difficult and scandalous woman, but the balancing act she works out between obligation, desire, duty, love, and freedom is a testament to the soul of a woman who through sheer force of will was able to alter the course of history.

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

B.A. Paris has yet to disappoint me with her novels. Since her first was published in 2016, I’ve been a devoted reader. I know when I pick up her books that I will be transported to a dark, twisty world where I’ll be gripped by thrilling escapades of all characters presented. Her latest, Bring Me Back, drops readers right in the middle of a mystery and doesn’t solve it until the very end.

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris tells the tale of a complicated and mysterious love. Finn and Layla are madly in love and on vacation. On their way back, Finn stops at a rest stop to go to the bathroom. Layla stays in the car, wanting to wait to use the restroom until they stop at a well lit service station instead. When Finn returns to the car, Layla is nowhere in sight. Not thinking much of it, Finn pulls the car closer to the restrooms waiting for Layla to come out. She never does. She’s disappeared without a trace. The above is the story that Finn told the police, but it’s not the whole story.

Flash forward twelve years. Layla is still missing. Finn has moved on. He’s now in a relationship with Layla’s sister, Ellen. In fact, they’re now engaged! This relationship has garnered them negative attention in the media, but thankfully most of it seems to have died down. Bonded over their shared grief over Layla’s disappearance, both Ellen and Finn have settled into a routine in a place where they are no longer seen as relatives of the missing woman. Everything is working out.

No it’s not. That’s not the whole truth either. Not long before Finn and Ellen are to be married, the policeman who worked Layla’s disappearance phones Finn with some startling news: their old neighbor swears he saw Layla standing outside their old house, but she ran away before he could check for sure. Chalking that sighting up to the witness’s old age and diminished eyesight, Finn moves on with his life. Other strange things keep happening though that seemed designed to test Finn and Ellen’s relationship and maybe tear them apart. Emails from strangers who know intimate details of Finn and Layla’s life together. Lost items from Ellen and Layla’s past suddenly appearing out of nowhere. Messages sent through the mail, strange gifts showing up around town, and clues to Layla’s disappearance keep popping up. Finn finds himself wondering if Layla is back. Is she behind these strange happenings? What does she know? What does she want? How far is she willing to go to get back what she believes is hers? I found myself constantly guessing about the strange person behind the gifts and their motive for harassing a seemingly normal couple. Readers will be questioning everything and everyone they thought they knew throughout this novel.


This book is also available in the following formats: