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You know television drama is in a good place when the annual Emmy Award category for Best Drama Series is so flooded with worthy entries that critically-acclaimed shows such as True Detective, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, and Mad Men go home without a big prize!  Hollywood handed out its top awards this week at the 66th Annual Emmy Awards, with Seth Meyers serving capably as host.

 

BreakingBad4As expected, Breaking Bad received plenty of Emmy love, with wins for Best Drama Series, lead actor Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul (supporting actor), and Anna Gunn (supporting actress).  Both a critical and popular success, the AMC series about chemistry teacher turned meth manufacturer Walter White ended its five season run last fall, with over 10 million people tuning in for its highly anticipated and hugely satisfying finale.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_iampilgrim_20140825-213059_1.jpgI Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes 

This debut espionage thriller depicts the collision course between two geniuses, one a tortured hero and one a determined terrorist, in a breakneck story reminiscent of John le Carré and Robert Ludlum at their finest.

PILGRIM is the code name for a world class and legendary secret agent who comes out of retirement to help the NYPD investigate a murder of an unidentifiable victim. His adversary is a man known only to the reader as the Saracen. As a young boy, the Saracen is marked for life when his dissident father is beheaded in a Saudi Arabian public square. Everything in the Saracen’s life from this moment forward will be in service to jihad and move toward unleashing a bioterrorism attack on the U.S. Part police procedural and part international spy thriller, this is a riveting page turner.


My audiobook choice is Love Life by Rob Lowe.
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First, though, I want to plug his earlier audiobook, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Often, an author reading his own book isn’t doing himself or the listener any favors. But Lowe is an actor with a persuasive and surprisingly humble voice. He is in a better place now than he was as a rising young actor who lived on the same street as the Estevez/Sheen family and the Penn brothers. An original Brat Pack member, he describes himself as “young and crazy” during those years. He eventually got help for his drinking and drug problems and has become a devoted husband and father.

In Love Life, I appreciate his candor and thoughtful insights about his long and successful career, his marriage, fatherhood and reaching the milestone of sending his older son off to college. He tells funny stories about himself like how he handled his first experience in a London play, “A Few Good Men”, when he skipped ahead four pages in the script while on stage, panicking the whole cast. From The Outsiders to Parks and Recreation, Lowe has had a varied career where he continually stretches himself in his work and personal life with a few failures and many successes along the way.  (To read more of Connie's reviews, click "Continue Reading" below.)

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b2ap3_thumbnail_summeroftheheadnew.jpgCounty prosecutor Belfa Elkins faces many personal and professional challenges in Julia Keller’s third mystery, Summer of the Dead.

Bell’s sister Shirley is living with her while trying to piece together a new life after spending 30 years in prison for killing their abusive father. Bell’s beloved teen daughter Carla decides to not come home for the summer so she can work in London. And then an old man is stabbed to death in his driveway while fixing a car for his grandson. When a second man is murdered, residents worry they have a serial killer on the loose.

As a West Virginian native, Keller’s writing rings true about the tough living facing some Appalachian residents. Bell is such a complex and interesting character whose frustration is palpable when she tries to make a difference in her small hometown of Ackers Gap. Living in the breathtaking backdrop of mountains, Bell’s job exposes her to the ugly parts of the area, including abject poverty, drug abuse and violence.

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The lazy days of summer are quickly coming to an end and the kids are heading back to school.  This week we're putting the spotlight on some of our favorite "high school" movies.  Grab some popcorn and soda, and let's head back to the Blackboard Jungle (yet another great movie about high school)! 

 Breakfast

The Breakfast Club  (1985):  This may be the best high school film ever!  Five kids from totally different cliques -- a jock, a nerd, a princess, a rebel, and a loner -- are forced to spend Saturday detention together after committing a variety of misdeeds at school.  Both funny and touching, this classic coming-of-age movie was written and directed by the late John Hughes, and was filmed just down the road at Deerfield High School.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_JKRowling.jpgJ.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, returns with a well-crafted, entertaining second mystery starring private detective Cormoran Strike. By taking on the publishing world in The Silkworm, she creates a complex, gritty story that keeps the reader guessing until the very end.

Strike is in better shape these days, thanks to his success in proving that a starlet had not committed suicide but was murdered in the Cuckoo’s Calling. Now with more cases and income coming in, he has been able stop sleeping in his shabby London office and  move into the small apartment a flight up. His faithful assistant, Robin Ellacott, is still there, hoping to prove that she can be more than just a secretary.b2ap3_thumbnail_silkworm.jpg While she yearns to be a private detective, her prat of a fiancé, Matthew, disapproves of her low-paying, undignified job. The working relationship between Strike and Robin continues to nicely develop despite all the tension created by Matthew.

When flaky Leonora Quine asks Cormoran Strike to find her missing husband, the detective learns that the eccentric novelist has written a bizarre unpublished novel that clearly besmirches the reputations of prominent people in the ruthless publishing world. Strike eventually discovers Owen Quine’s dismembered body, and turns to the author’s poison-pen novel for a list of suspects. Was Quine killed by his publisher? His editor? His literary agent? His lover? A rival author? The police believe that Quine’s wife is the real killer, driving Strike to prove Leonora’s innocence.

With a masterly crafted plot, exquisite writing and complex characters, Rowling once again proves that she is an exceptional novelist.  Even better than Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm is a sign that mystery readers have much to look forward to from Rowling/Galbraith.

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