My Life is Murder

Whose life is murder? Alexa Crowe, that’s who. Alexa is a retired Australian police detective whose old boss keeps asking for her help with his toughest cases. And Alexa – who planned on spending her retirement baking bread, except that her expensive German bread machine refuses to work (she’s trying to fix it, but always seems to need one more part she doesn’t have), and whose companion on these days is a stray cat who just appears in her kitchen – finds it impossible to refuse the siren song of detective work.

Alexa, charmingly played by actor Lucy Lawless, is the main character in the Australian television crime drama My Life is Murder. I’d been hearing good things about this series from my friends, so I was delighted to discover that the first season is available on Hoopla, one of the library’s free video apps. (Click HERE for information on how to use Hoopla.)

I’ve watched the first two episodes, and I’m enjoying this series very much. It’s a lighthearted series with a lead actor who doesn’t take herself too seriously, perfect for these dark times we’re living in. I’m not interested in watching or reading anything depressing these days – give me pure entertainment to take my mind off the news, please!

The supporting characters are played by terrific actors and I enjoy that it takes place in Australia, a country I’ve never visited. And My Life is Murder is one of the best names I’ve ever heard of for a crime drama – I would have watched the first episode for the name alone!

Amazing Alaska Mystery

I’m delighted to report that the new book in the Kate Shugak mystery series by Dana Stabenow, No Fixed Line, was recently published and is now available in the library’s digital collection as an Overdrive MP3 audiobook. This is one of my favorite mystery series – I love the Alaska setting and Kate Shugak is a totally original and absolutely fascinating heroine!

In this book, a major snowstorm has occurred and caused a private plane to crash. Some friends of Kate’s are nearby and rush to the plane to help out before the snow buries it. The only survivors are two small children who don’t speak English. It quickly becomes apparent that the children were kidnapped and have been abused. Who were the adults on this plane and why were they flying in such terrible weather conditions? As always, one thing leads to another and we follow along with Kate on another fascinating investigation.

There’s also a second plot in this book. A very wealthy (and evil) man Kate helped send to prison has died and left her in charge of a foundation he set up. Did he have some sort of personality change and become a completely different person because of his prison time? Or is this an elaborate plan to destroy Kate (who he really, really hated)? Kate chooses to believe the second option and begins investigating this foundation to figure out how she is being set up.

This is an exceptional series. Not only are the books set in Alaska, but Kate Shugak is an Aleut who lives on a 160-acre homestead in a generic national Park in Alaska so these books reveal an Alaska that most people never get to see (even if we visit Alaska as tourists). The supporting cast of characters is also wonderful, especially Kate’s dog, Mutt. At some point in every book, someone asks “Is that a wolf?” Kate replies, “Only half”. She’s completely serious. A lot of bad guys have Mutt’s teeth marks somewhere on their person. Did I mention that Mutt is female?

The author, Dana Stabenow, grew up in Alaska. Her author bio says she “was born in Alaska and raised on a 75-foot fish tender. She knew there was a warmer, drier job out there somewhere and found it in writing”. How cool is that?!

We also have two more books in this mystery series available as e-books if you prefer reading to listening:

Bad Blood and Restless in the Grave

Great New Mysteries

I’m a huge mystery fan and I wanted to let you know about two mystery novels published in January that I particularly enjoyed. I’m sure there were many more good mystery novels published in the same month that I haven’t read yet (the number of books published every month boggles the mind), but I can personally recommend these two.

The Wild One by Nick Petrie

This is the new book in the Peter Ash thriller series. The second book in this series, Burning Bright, is one of my favorite thriller novels of all time so I’m always interested in reading a new book in this series.

In this book, war veteran Peter Ash has flown to Iceland to find and save the young son of a murdered woman. After the murder, the boy’s father fled with him to Iceland where the father has a large, close and mostly criminal family. The boy’s grandmother (his mother’s mother) wants to know that the boy is alive and well, and to have the boy returned to her in the U.S. if all is not well in Iceland.

It’s a thriller, so all is definitely NOT well in Iceland. Peter travels through the harsh Icelandic landscape and weather, battling foes all the way, to find the boy.

I enjoyed this book very much. The setting in Iceland adds a tremendous amount to the fun and interest of this book – I don’t think I’ve ever read a mystery/thriller set in Iceland before. The writing is excellent.

For those of you who have read other books in this series, this book is very similar to the first book in the series, The Drifter, in the way it’s written. If you enjoyed The Drifter, I think you’ll enjoy The Wild One.

The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz

Jayne Ann Krentz is a local author (she lives in Seattle) and an absolute master at writing romantic suspense novels. In all of her novels, the mystery and the love story receive about equal weight (sometimes the mystery gets more emphasis).

For a number of years, she wrote books (both historical and contemporary) about a paranormal society founded in Victorian times called the Arcane Society, run by a family named Jones. The contemporary books followed the descendants of the Jones family in the present day. The Arcane Society sprang from Jayne’s fertile creative mind, but it does have a basis in reality – the Victorians were very big on the paranormal. This is a WONDERFUL series. Jayne has a real passion for writing books that include the paranormal, and her enjoyment in writing these books shows on every page.

Then, unfortunately, her publisher asked her to stop writing the Arcane Society books (I have no idea why). The books she wrote subsequently were still excellent – she’s a remarkable writer – but for me they lacked the spark of magic that the Arcane Society books had.

Well, I’m delighted to report that in her new book, The Vanishing, she returns to the paranormal! This book doesn’t include the Arcane Society, but it does feature a new paranormal organization called the Foundation.

I do miss having a Jones show up, but this book has all the paranormal aspects in a contemporary romantic suspense novel that we Arcane Society fans love. And Jayne has revealed that a Jones may show up in the next book in this series!

Snow Day Movies

With snow in the forecast, it’s time to enjoy watching movies from the comfort of your living room! If you forget to stock up on DVDs at the library before the snow hits, the library has two FREE movie apps you can use to watch movies digitally: Hoopla and Kanopy. With either of these apps, you just download the app and set up an account with your email address, library card and pin number. Then sign in with your library card and pin number and you can watch movies available in the app for FREE! There is a monthly limit: 6 per month for Hoopla and 8 for Kanopy. It’s another benefit of having an Everett Public Library card!

The movies change a little every month, and this month they have some really wonderful movies for both adults and kids. Here are some of my favorites on Hoopla:

Finding Neverland starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. When his latest play flops, J.M. Barrie starts spending his days at a park near his London home where he meets a young widow and her four adventurous sons. His friendship with the bohemian family sparks his imagination and he ends up writing his greatest play – Peter Pan. This is a MAGICAL movie – totally amazing!

Kinky Boots starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Joel Edgerton. This is an English film about a small family-owned shoe factory that is about to go out of business, unable to compete with lower priced shoes made elsewhere. The young man who has recently inherited the firm is determined to save it and keep the people who work for him employed, and he hits on a creative way to do so – making boots for drag queens! This is a heart-warming film with fantastic music and dancing. No description can possibly do it justice. 

A Long Way Down starring Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots. This is an English film about four people who meet when they all decide to jump off the same building on New Year’s Eve. Unable to watch the others commit suicide, they make an agreement to halt their plans to jump for six weeks. During this time, they become the family they all desperately need. Brilliant acting makes this a very touching and compelling film.

The Price Winner of Defiance, Ohio starring Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson. This film is based on a true story. In 1950’s Ohio, a housewife with ten kids discovers she has a flair for writing jingles and ad copy and uses that flair to win contests. Her contest winnings paid her family’s bills for many years. Based on a book written by her daughter. This is a very emotional film with first-rate acting. 

Hamilton: One Shot to Broadway starring Lin-Manuel Miranda. This is a documentary about the making of the musical Hamilton. Fascinating and stunningly well made.