TV Series – Another winning series from Masterpiece Theater – Mr. Selfridge is the ultimate armchair shopping experience. The story revolves around the actual American retail magnate, Harry Selfridge, who owned and operated an exclusive department store in London called Selfridges which opened in 1909. Born in Wisconsin he married Chicago socialite Rose Buckingham. He gained his retail experience from Marshall Field’s where he worked for 25 years. Selfridge wanted to bring shopping to a new level for Londoners. He wanted his customers to view shopping as a pleasure instead of a necessity and he embraced the philosophy of “the customer is always right”. He wanted Selfridges to be a place to spend the day and money as customers dined in one of the elegant restaurants, relaxed in the library or reading and writing rooms, and perused extensive displays of merchandise handled by an expert sales staff. The series magnificently portrays the glamor of the store, as well as gives us an intimate look into the lives of Harry and his family, and some of the fascinating characters of Selfridges. A must see. Fans of Downton Abbey will be sure to enjoy this too.
Book – Meet Helen, Grace and Ruby – young women from very different backgrounds. Each fascinating with her own set of baggage and secrets. However, they all share the same dream of fame and the three become fast friends working as dancers at the glamorous Forbidden City Nightclub in San Francisco in 1938 just as the World’s fair is set to open and rumors of war circulate. The story spans 50 years and the girls tell their own stories through alternating voices. They share in each other’s ups and downs and rely on one another through unexpected challenges and changes in financial situations.
Working at the prestigious club, these strong and independent women are looked upon as delicate “China Dolls” dressed in beautiful glittering costumes and makeup. They all hit bumps on their road to stardom, but manage to overcome the obstacles. But their bond of friendship is jeopardized with the bombing of Pearl Harbor that results in betrayal and the revelation of hidden secrets.
Well researched by author Lisa See this is a rich story of dreams, relationships, and the endurance of the human spirit.
Book – Even if you are not a Sherlock Holmes fan, you can’t help but be delightfully drawn into the adventures of the newly formed sleuthing team of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. They are an unlikely pair. Mary is only 15 years old, a recently orphaned American who is a fiercely independent feminist. Holmes is mostly retired from detective work and lives a quiet existence keeping bees in the country. Mary impresses him with her intelligence, and Holmes slowly teaches her the art of detection. As his apprentice, she quickly catches on and makes her own valuable contributions in solving cases. She evolves into taking on a more active role in his investigations and Holmes is inspired into coming out of retirement. However, their exposure and enthusiasm brings some bad guys out of the woodwork and Mary and Holmes find themselves confronted by perils and threats of death that they never anticipated. Heartwarming and witty, the mysteries that this pair solves will keep readers wanting for more. Fortunately, this is only the first book in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries. The Library has all the books in the series for readers to enjoy.
Book – Claire Roth is a very talented yet struggling artist. She is so good at observing the techniques of famous artists and reproducing their works, that she makes a living of copying famous paintings for an online art retailer. She also wants to be recognized as an artist for her original works and she jumps at the opportunity for an exhibition of her work in exchange for forging an original Degas painting for a prestigious art gallery owner. The masterpiece is one of 13 that was stolen in 1990 from the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston, also known as the largest unsolved art heist in history. As Claire begins to paint she starts to question the authenticity of the Degas she was given and realizes that she may be in danger by having a stolen masterpiece in her possession. Claire also becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of the rest of the stolen paintings. A wonderful blend of fact and fiction, this story of suspense is richly detailed. The reader will gain an understanding of the art world as well as painting techniques.
Book – The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs is a highly entertaining light read great to take along to the beach or enjoy while traveling. Tess is an expert at antiques and returning lost treasures to their rightful owners. She is career driven, has a fast-paced life in San Francisco, and is on the verge of being promoted. She has no real family ties; her mother travels extensively and she never knew her father. Tess’ life is about to dramatically change when a handsome banker named Dominic shows up and gives her the news that she has a grandfather, who is hospitalized, and a half-sister, Isabel. Tess also finds out that if her grandfather does not pull through, she and Isabel are heirs to a vast apple orchard in Sonoma Valley. Tess joins her new found family on the estate, learns about her roots and she and Isabel uncover some family secrets, including family involvement in the Danish resistance against the Nazis. While the sisters acquaint themselves with each other Isabel cooks and bakes – her passion. Some recipes are included. Highly recommended for fans of women’s fiction, this book is just the right combination of family, romance, secrets and a little mystery. This is the first book in the Bella Vista Chronicles series. I look forward to reading the second – The Beekeeper’s Ball.
Book – The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith is a compelling, fun to read mystery. Set in modern day London, private investigator Cormoran Strike, a decorated wounded war veteran, is trying to keep his struggling agency afloat. His life is an emotional mess and a new client gives Strike hope. John Bristow’s supermodel adopted sister Lula Landry is dead, and though the police have ruled it a suicide, he is convinced that she was murdered by being pushed off her balcony. He hires Strike to find the killer. In order to give his full attention to the case, Strike employs Robin as a temporary office assistant, who turns out to be more valuable than he anticipated. The problem is that he really can’t afford to keep her. The investigation is an entertaining romp through the world of fashion and celebrities, as Strike and Robin form a sold fact finding team. Readers will continue reading to find out if there really was a killer and if Robin will stay on working for Strike or take a full time position elsewhere. Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. This mystery series is very different from the Harry Potter books and appropriate for more mature readers. Recently published, the second Cormoran Strike book is The Silkworm.
Book – You may know Julia Keller as a reporter and editor who worked at the Chicago Tribune, where she won a Pulitzer Prize, but she also wrote three adult mysteries in the Bell Elkins series. The first book, A Killing in The Hills, begins as three elderly men are gunned down at a diner. The county prosecutor, Bell Elkins, may be the next victim, because her rebellious 17 year old daughter, Carla, is a witness to the shooting and is keeping some secrets of her own. Also, Bell together with her friend from childhood, Sheriff Nick Fogelsong, wage their own war on drugs trying to find the source of a growing distribution of illegal prescription drugs. Bell’s single mother life is further complicated by a case where a mentally challenged young man is accused of murdering his friend. This is a page turning haunting mystery set in a beautiful but poverty stricken small town in the Appalachian Mountains. The book has received starred reviews from BookList, Kirkus, Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly. Looking forward to reading the next books in the series Bitter River and Summer of the Dead.
Book – Fry is a recently retired shy British man, but his ordinary life takes an unexpected and spontaneous turn upon receiving a letter from a friend from whom he hasn’t heard in 20 years. Queenie writes that she is dying of cancer and Fry’s first response is to send a kind sympathetic response back, but a chance encounter with a stranger inspires him to walk 600 miles to the hospice where she is staying. He is convinced that if he walks, then she will live. Harold embarks with only the clothes on his back, the shoes on his feet, no cell phone and only a vague idea of directions. His journey gives him plenty of time to reminisce about his own life and he encounters many people on his way that he inspires and who in turn give him insight. His bewildered wife is left behind at home, her disappointment with their marriage further strained. Harold’s pilgrimage to reach Queenie takes 87 days. Will she still be alive when he gets there? Will his absence make his wife’s heart grow fonder or break them apart? A beautiful and emotional story of humanity, this would make an excellent book club read.
TV Show – If you like action thrillers packed with spies then you should watch the TV series Missing. The series follows Rebecca “Becca” Winstone, a florist, widow, and mother of 18-year-old son, Michael. Michael has been accepted to a summer architecture program in Rome, Italy and Becca hesitant about letting him go, consents knowing what a wonderful opportunity it is for her son. Mother and son stay in touch on a regular basis, but when she doesn’t have any communication from him for over a week and is informed by the school that Michael has vacated his dorm room, Becca is alarmed and heads to Rome to find him. As a mother, she will go to any lengths and will not let anyone or anything stand in her way to find out what has happened to her child and to get him back. And this may work to her advantage or against her, but we find out that she is a former deadly and relentless CIA agent. Her husband Paul, also CIA, was killed in a car bombing witnessed by their son. Becca finds herself in the middle of an international conspiracy involving the CIA and Interpol and doesn’t know who she can trust. Intense action and drama and beautiful scenery from Italy, Russia, Turkey, Austria, etc. will keep viewers riveted. Becca is wonderfully portrayed by Ashley Judd, who was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. Sadly, there is only one season, since ABC decided to cancel the show.
Book – Inferno by Dan Brown. Fans of the DaVinci Code won’t be disappointed by Dan Brown’s latest book in the series, The Inferno. Harvard University professor and symbologist Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy with no recollection of the past few days including leaving the campus. He finds a mysterious cylinder housed in a titanium tube with a biometric seal, stamped with a biohazard symbol in his jacket pocket. One of the doctors, Sienna Brooks, drags Robert from the hospital when an attempt is made on his life. Sienna becomes Robert’s ally and they soon learn by following clues related to passages of Dante’s Inferno that there is a villain who has taken it upon himself to control what he feels is an overpopulated world by unleashing his own modern day version of the Black Plague. And so the scavenger hunt begins to save the world! Robert and Sienna race against time to find a mad man while being pursued by an assassin through secret passages in this page turning thriller. As with his other novels in this series, this book is packed with luscious historical, architectural and artistic details as the reader tours Florence, Venice, and Istanbul. I read and thoroughly enjoyed Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code, and enjoyed the movie versions, but I must admit that I never read The Lost Symbol.