Movie Review: Downton Abbey

Simply delightful!

As soon as Highclere Castle, aka Downton Abbey, appeared on the screen, I could hear sighs of contentment and anticipation throughout the theater. Fans of the television series, many of us have watched all six seasons and looked forward to this motion picture event.

While each major storyline had been neatly wrapped up in the 2016 finale, I knew that series creator Julian Fellowes would find an intriguing way to reunite the upstairs-downstairs cast.

His solution: King George V and Queen Mary (Queen Elizabeth’s grandparents) have planned a royal visit to Downton Abbey.

The announcement sends everyone into a tizzy.

Fearing that butler Barrow (Robert James-Collier) is not up to the task of supervising the preparations, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) calls upon Carson (Jim Carter) to come out of retirement and take charge.

Carson’s formidable skills are put to the test when the royal advance team (butler, cook, footmen, housekeeper) arrives and informs the Downton staffers that their services will not be needed during the visit.

As the rivalry between the two staffs intensifies, lady’s maid Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) takes charge and organizes a “downstairs” rebellion. A series of humorous escapades follow. My favorite involves Molesley (Kevin Doyle), the socially clumsy footman, who shocks the royals and all in attendance with his shenanigans.

Upstairs, Tom Branson (Allen Leech) deals with an assassination attempt and a possible love connection, and the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) argues with a distant cousin (Imelda Staunton) over an inheritance.

The Dowager Countess and Isobel Grey (Penelope Wilton) are in rare form as they deliver verbal salvos throughout the film. Julian Fellowes should consider a spin-off with these two characters.

In a recent interview, Fellowes was asked if there would be another Downton Abbey movie. He responded, “Well, there’s always that chance.”

Let’s hope he takes that chance.


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Tiramisù: A Dessert with a Wicked Past

Several myths and legends surround this delectable dessert that has become a staple in Italian (and many non-Italian) restaurants worldwide.

Here’s my favorite legend…

In the late nineteenth century, the competition among the bordellos in Venice was extremely fierce. Hoping to attract more customers, one bordello offered espresso coffee as a complimentary beverage. Other bordellos followed suit.

As the competition escalated, so did the treats. Savoiardi Cookies (similar to lady fingers) and sweet liqueurs were added as further enticements. An enterprising Madam decided to combine all these ingredients—espresso coffee, savoiardi cookies, sweet liqueurs—with eggs and Mascarpone cheese.

Continue reading on Brenda Whiteside’s blog.


The “Lucky” Breakthrough

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Whenever I feel like giving up on a goal or challenge, I reread this account of Leon Fleisher’s breakthrough in his seventies.

Leon Fleisher was at the height of his recording and performing career as a pianist in 1965 when two of his fingers curled as a result of a medical disorder called focal dystonia. Although he was only thirty-five years old, Fleisher’s career took a nosedive and he become unable to perform or use his right hand at all. Fleisher channeled his musical passion into teaching and conducting but never stopped looking for a cure, which he finally found after forty years of persistently trying everything from Rolfing to aromatherapy.

Shots of Botox in his hand freed up his clenched muscles, and Fleisher became a born-again star in 2004 when he released a comeback album entitled Two Hands. Although he could have given up on his forty-year search for a cure, Fleisher’s ambition, optimism, perseverance, and tenacity gave him the “lucky” breakthrough in his seventies that triumphantly returned him to the keyboard.

Source: Creating Your Best Life by Caroline Adams Miller & Dr. Michael B. Frisch, Page 143


Spotlight on the Fable Ranger Series

I’m happy to welcome author A.L. Brown. Today, Angela shares the two novels in the Fable Ranger Series: Summons and Return.

Take care what you wish for. You just might get it.

Twelve-year-old Casey doesn’t think life could get any more unfair. Plans for her special basketball tournament are tossed aside by her sister’s wedding plans. She even has to be a bridesmaid now, with all the lace and silk and—oh, the horror! All she wants is an escape, but she never imagined she’d be swept away to a world of Mother Goose rhymes, fairy tales, stories of Arabian Nights, and oh, by the way, all but one fairy godmother has been kidnapped.

Casey learns she’s been summoned as the Fable Ranger to lead the search and rescue of the missing wish-makers. But she’s not the hero they want. In the world of fairy tales, damsels aren’t meant to swoop in and save the day.

Now all Casey wants is to go home, but the veil between worlds is on lockdown. Taking fate into her own hands, she embarks on an airship flight to find the phoenix tears that can open her way home. Her journey would’ve gone as smooth as the perfect layup if it weren’t for that pesky bounty the evil Dovetail has placed on her head. But if Casey fails, the Arabian Nights will disappear forever—and leave her trapped in a world unraveling one fairy tale at a time.

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Goodreads * Amazon

Casey is home! But not for long…

Casey’s short-lived return to the real world is followed by a rapid scramble back to Lorealia to tackle Dovetail and more of his mischief. This time, it’s a family affair — not just to save the missing godmothers, but to rescue her sister Leslie as well.

Snow White is now Snow Leslie, trapped in an off-script fairy tale that’s doomed to spiral into a never ever after with the rest of Lorealia if Casey, her father, and Charlie-boy fail their mission to stop a war.

And has the book finally realized it made a mistake in choosing Casey as the Fable Ranger after all? Why is it rejecting her?

Don’t miss this final installment of the exciting Fable Ranger duology.

Goodreads * Amazon

Born and raised in Little Rock, AR, Angela now calls Central Texas home.

Reading and writing have been lifelong passions. It was around the time she gave birth to her forever-love, nicknamed Chipmunk, that she really took writing seriously. After all, how could she teach her child to follow her dreams if she hadn’t tried herself?

As a YA fantasy/sci-fi reader and author, she favors the magical, mysterious, the darker side of life…even harbors a secret fright for things that go bump in the night.

Website * Twitter * Instagram * Amazon * Goodreads

A.L. Brown is awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to a lucky winner in the Rafflecopter giveaway. Find out more HERE.

Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!


Celebrating National Cozy Mystery Day

Concerned about the lack of attention paid by libraries and bookshops, author Sarah Weldon took matters into her own hands and created National Cozy Mystery Day. Observed annually on Agatha Christie’s birthday (September 15th), this is a day set aside to celebrate cozy mystery books, movies, and television series worldwide.

In her research, Sarah discovered that cozy mysteries are the second most popular genre (after romance) on Amazon. Unfortunately, she has not been able to easily find cozy mysteries in UK libraries and book stores. In fact, she often has to describe the books to sales associates. Sarah’s ultimate goal: Dedicated bookshelves of cozy mysteries in each literary establishment.

A long-time fan of the genre and author of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series—A Season for Killing Blondes, Too Many Women in the Room, A Different Kind of Reunion—I also have to describe the genre to interested friends and potential readers.

Here’s my description…

A cozy is a mystery that includes a bloodless crime and contains little violence, sex, or coarse language. The crime takes place “off-stage,” and very few graphic details are provided. Sex, if there is any, is often behind closed doors. It is not unusual to read about a couple enjoying a romantic dinner and then turn the page to find them waking up to breakfast.

The sleuth is usually female and not a medical examiner, detective, or police officer. A bright and intuitive woman, the sleuth gravitates toward such “people” professions as a librarian, florist, teacher, homemaker, caterer, and nun. Some examples of amateur sleuths include Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote.

While the local police force doesn’t take sleuths too seriously, these women manage to find connections (relatives, friends, love interests) to classified information. In the Gilda Greco Mystery Series, the protagonist is a career development practitioner, and the chief detective on the case is her former high school crush.

The cozy takes place in a small town or village. While I’ve stretched it a bit and based the novel in the mid-size Ontario city of Sudbury, I have introduced characters who grew up in Gatchell, the Italian section of town.

A cozy is a “fun read” that engages the reader. By the end of the story, the criminal is punished, and order is restored to the community.

Book 1 in the Gilda Greco Mystery Series

Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the dead body of golden girl Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside her office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation.

When three more dead blondes turn up all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders. Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.

As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.

Excerpt

I noticed a man making his way through the crowd that had gathered outside the front window. Tall and lean with salt and pepper hair, the man sported a black leather coat and a light gray suit. When he stopped to talk with Uncle Paolo, he flashed a badge. As I approached the two men, my heart started beating faster. Carlo Fantin. How could I have forgotten my old high school crush? If anything, he looked even better now than he did back then. He hadn’t bulked up or lost his hair. He was still hunk material.

He stared, his blue eyes widening in surprise and something else I couldn’t quite define. Amusement. Anticipation. Maybe even lust. Whatever it was, he had stopped talking to Uncle Paolo and was now giving me his full attention.

He flashed the beautiful smile that had once captivated me and every other female student at Sudbury Secondary. “Hello, Gilda. It’s good to see you again. Uh, in spite of these circumstances.”

“Hi Carlo, I’m–”

“Detective Fantin.” My uncle shouted.

Before I could say anything, Aunt Amelia piped up, “We’re so glad you came, Detective. We’ll sleep better tonight knowing that you’re in charge.”

My mother and Sofia appeared at my side. All those years ago when I had fantasized about connecting with Carlo, I had envisioned many wonderful scenarios where we would bump into each other and fall in love—on the beach, dance floor, even at a bar. Never in a million years, did I think we would reconnect in these circumstances with my family in tow.

Amazon US / Amazon CA / Amazon UK / Amazon AU / Barnes & Noble


The Right Character Names

“How attached are you to the name Anna May?”

Sandy Isaac’s question took me and six other members of the critique group by surprise. While I appreciated most of the suggestions I had received, I wondered about Sandy’s question. Anna May Godfrey is the villain in A Season for Killing Blondes. I had spent several years in Anna May’s company and wasn’t prepared to change her name.

Sandy noticed my hesitation and explained her resistance to the name. Said quickly, Anna May becomes “anime,” a style of animation often featuring themes intended for an adult audience. Two of the other members nodded while five of us merely shrugged. But Sandy’s concern raised several questions in my mind.

How would my readers respond?

Would they make the same connection as Sandy?

Would Anna May’s name suit or hinder her villain status?

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.