Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, September 19, 2019

My Series-ous Reading is ready to dish it out before Another One Bites the Crust

While I just did a write-up of new series titles to enjoy, my Series-ous Reading schedule is still going full speed ahead. In fact, it's so far ahead that my latest selection, Another One Bites the Crust by Ellie Alexander, is ready for it's own curtain call before the calendar month is near it's end.

No doubt that reading the prior entry, A Crime of Passion Fruit, this summer revved me up for this book, which has Juliet "Jules" Capshaw returning home to Ashland with a renewed sense of purpose and her mom Helen engaged to be married to the charming head homicide detective known as The Professor.

Jules is happy to be back, with the expansion of the family bakery Torte going along well and the annual Shakespeare Festival about to begin. What does concern her is the demeanor of Lance, the artistic director of the local theatrical company who is surprisingly having trouble with the board as well as at war with the new leading man,Anthony, who is set to star in the first of the season production of Antony & Cleopatra:


While Lance can be charmingly over dramatic at times, even Jules can see that he's seriously stressed out here. The theater is truly his life and she's willing to do anything to help him out.

Lance does ask a favor of her; to help out at the special opening season party that he's quickly planning. The official party was catered by local business rival Richard Lord(whose taste in food is worse than his fashion sense which consists of loud enough to wake the dead golf clothes) with the aid of Anthony, who seems to have it in for Lance,which is puzzling given the big break that Lance has granted him here.

Jules is a little worried about how tense Lance is and not crazy about having to dress up in period garb for the party, which is totally Shakespearean style with a live peacock thrown for good measure. However, she is willing to do what she can for a good friend and some of the dressing up isn't too bad at all.  In fact, the party turns out to be quite the smashing success despite the late in the evening fight between Lance and Antony, which ends peacefully enough for the time being:


That peace is suddenly shattered as Jules gets a late night visit from a frantic Lance, covered in blood and in shock over finding Antony stabbed to death on a nearby park path. As the police take over the case, even inviting a detective from another town to look into the matter, it appears that Lance is the prime suspect. Can Jules clear him of wrong doing before Lance is made to take his final bow?

I really loved the behind the scenes action of this plot, which allowed for a few extra suspects such as Vera, the wardrobe lady who knows a few secrets about Tracy, the current leading lady, Judy, a theater volunteer that overhears a rather pertinent conversation and prop man Thad who has personal reasons for helping Tracy keep her secret.

Also, I appreciated the time given to both Jules and her mother to deal with the reality of Helen's remarrying and their mixed feelings about the whole thing. The Professor is a great guy(and very receptive to his fiancee's emotional state) but it's understandable that Jules and Helen would miss their father and husband all the more due to this important life change and it's nicely handled here.

While I do have a Series-ous Reading title picked out for October(more on that in a moment), I'm already continuing with the Bakeshop Mysteries on my own with the next book, Till Death Do Us Tart, where Jules and the whole town is setting up a surprise Mid Summer Night's Eve wedding for Helen and The Professor!  Granted, I do want to be fully prepared for the new entry in the series, A Cup of Holiday Fear,  but also because it's lovely to sample the sweets of Ashland with a mystery murder flavor or two to savor:


Meanwhile, my October pick is The Quiche of Death, the first book in M.C. Beaton's beloved Agatha Raisin mystery series. I have read one of the later books recently but would like to take up the first one for some Series-ous Reading fun.

Agatha Raisin is a well established London lady who decides to retire from her successful PR firm in order to live in a small village set in the Cotwolds, a childhood dream of hers. However, it's hard to fit in with the locals and bribing her way into the annual quiche contest seems like a great way to break the ice.

Unfortunately, when the contest judge winds up dead, Agatha is instantly under suspicion and she has to use her wits in order to clear her name and then some. I happened to catch the recent BBC made for TV adaptation (Season One and anxiously waiting for Season Two to be available on Netflix!) and was hooked right away on this Bridget Jones meets Miss Marple approach. This should be wicked fun for Halloween reading indeed:


Monday, September 16, 2019

Seeking some literary sisterhood on the path of series-ous reading

With my regular blog challenge of Series-ous Reading, it can be tricky to find fresh new works to not only write about but to enjoy merely for the pleasure of reading.

However, a good number of new bookish opportunities do come my way and I'm rather partial to those with solid female leads. One recent example arrived by my having won a copy of The Prisoner in the Castle from Library Thing.

This happens to be the eighth book in Susan Elia MacNeal's Maggie Hope Mystery series, set in WWII where Maggie has gone from being Winston Churchill's secretary to a major spy who has encountered the likes of Princess Elizabeth, Eleanor Roosevelt and even the Queen herself during her various adventures. Here, she's deemed too risky to be in the field so Maggie is sent to a distant island along with other agents sharing her unofficial status.

While their confinement is not severe,due to being kept at a mock Tudor mansion where the previous owner gave his prior guests the quite the grisly end, there is plenty of danger to be had as one by one, Maggie's fellow exiles are being eliminated. Since all of them have been trained to kill, this makes the suspect pool both wide spread and growing narrower with each death.

Granted, this story is placed far within the series yet the plot set forth has an echo of Agatha Christie's classic tale of deadly isolation And Then There Were None, a story that I'm pretty familiar with there. Yes, I have decided to read a couple of earlier titles in this series as well but do plan to walk along these story shores with Maggie Hope as she searches for the killer before she gets taken off of the playing board:


Of course, it's also good to check in with old friends and thanks to Netgalley, I had an early holiday visit with Becky Brandon,nee Bloomwood as she turns into a Christmas Shopaholic.

Becky is expecting to have Christmas with her parents as usual, only they decide to move to the trendy neighborhood of Shoreditch(think hipster Brooklyn, if you're a New Yorker) which passes the celebratory baton to her instead.

Since holiday prep involves a good amount of shopping,which is still her greatest strength and weakness, Becky feels that she can handle this challenge but things get topsy-turvy at a steady pace.

In between hunting down the perfect gift for husband Luke(which has her breaking a long standing tradition for membership at a billiards club), finding that special must-have llama ornament for her tree and juggling various menu requests, Becky's buying powers are getting stretched to limits beyond her credit line on an emotional level.

Despite the mounting stress, Becky is determined to give all of her loved ones the happy holiday they deserve, just like the made for TV Christmas movies that she's become hooked on lately. During these current challenging times, I've found myself taking comfort in more of Sophie Kinsella's invigoratingly charming novels and this upcoming one(due out in October) is a welcome indulgence in British holiday humor indeed:


Meanwhile, there are those dazzling debuts that you are eager to invite in and hope that they stay around for more engaging tales. I feel that may be the case when it comes to The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis.

This first novel in a historical mystery series has the Bronte sisters themselves in search of the titled lady in question. Their brother Branwell announces a possible murder at the local estate of Robert Chester, whose first wife died via a fall from a window.

The second Mrs. Chester is missing and, due to the gruesome state of her bed chamber, is feared to have shared a similar fate. While Anne and Branwell team up to look into the household staff at the Chester estate, Charlotte and Emily decide to use their intuitive skills as interviewers, seeking answers to dangerous questions. Can the combined cleverness of the Bronte women reveal the truth of the matter or are they risking more than their reputations here?

This does sound like an intriguing premise for a new literary themed series and while I'm more of a Jane Austen fan(who has had a few mystery series written about her), I would be very willing to see where the detecting tales of the Bronte sisters would lead to:


Whether it be standalone or a series, reading is a true constant in turbulent times. However, it does help to be more flexible and I've had to deal with reading a series out of order on occasion and surprisingly, it can be more rewarding than starting from the beginning.

Of course, there's also the added bonus of playing catch-up which only gives you more great books to read and enjoy, regardless of their numerical status. If you're lucky enough to find a series that you really like, just go with it and if you have a plucky heroine to boot, you have been blessed by the literary deities indeed:


Monday, September 09, 2019

Embracing the approach of autumn with a bookish glee

Granted, the calendar proclaims it to be September but I suspect that the weather will be taking it's sweet time before allowing those chilly breezes and falling leaves to properly make it so.

Nonetheless, I decided to start this season off right with a visit to my local library, a joy that I delayed due to the excessive heat that runs roughshod over August.

 It helped that I went close to my limit of book renewals to get as much time as possible to finish most of the literary loans that I made(3 out of 4, not too bad!) to tide me over. Returning those books,plus renewing my library card, to get a fresh batch of new reads was a wonderful way to begin the fall here.

The first book that I knew on sight that I had to have was The Bride Test by Helen Hoang, a novel that I've heard nothing but great things about.

Esme Tran is a single mother working at a hotel in Vietnam when she gets a most unusual offer from a well-off woman who emigrated to America.  This lady is looking for a wife for her younger son Khai, who is considered "shy" and willing to sponsor Esme for the summer in order to see if they might make the perfect couple.

Khai has no interest in getting married or being in any sort of relationship but reluctantly lets his mom have her way for just this summer. While Esme has no wish to marry someone simply for money, she does see the chance to better her life as well as her five year old daughter's, so she takes this opportunity to find out if America or Khai could be right for her.

As Khai and Esme get to know each other, some sort of spark begins to grow between them and the possibility of this arrangement actually working out is strongly increasing. However, there are a few things that Esme hasn't told Khai or his family about that might become a deal breaker yet maybe not, if their feelings are true for one another.

So far, this is an immensely likable book and while I know that this story is a standalone that is within the same universe as Hoang's earlier novel The Kiss Quotient, it looks like I may have to get that one,too, as these engaging characters will no doubt have equally engaging friends to get to know and appreciate all the more:


Another title that I was delighted to find was Miriam Parker's The Shortest Way Home, set in Sonoma Valley where our leading lady decides to make a major change in her life.

Hannah Greene does have a good job waiting for her as soon as she and boyfriend Ethan Katz finish up business school together but upon visiting a beautiful family owned winery, feels as if she is meant to be part of that seemingly sedate world.

While Hannah is considering exchanging one dream for another,perhaps better one, she's not alone in wondering what the next step in life ought to be taken. Linda, the matriarch of the winery clan, still has her heart set upon Jackson, a former love who became a musician and who has always managed to pop in and out of her life.

 In addition to that, Linda's son William wants to pursue his dreams of film making yet a family crisis forces him to rethink that notion, not to mention Hannah becoming another compelling reason to stay around.  With so many different pieces in play, it can be hard to see the big picture until the puzzle is complete and yet, Hannah is willing to make her move in order to do just that.

A major reason that I was happy to borrow this book is that I've meet the author, back when she was a book rep and a nicer person would be harder to find. She was kind and generous enough to meet up with a small book store clerk at BEA (yes, I mean me!) and I've never forgotten her good nature and love of books. She mention back then that she was working on a novel and I'll be pleased to savor the fictional fruits of her labor this season:



To round things off, I thought it would be fun to check out Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid which is a Reese Witherspoon book club selection and plans for a miniseries adaptation are already underway.

Told via interviews, this fictional look at a rising rock band from the 1970s and how they fell apart focuses strongly upon two people; Billy Dunne, the original lead singer of The Six and Daisy, the new addition to the group. Like it or not, her sassy soulful style changes the band's fortune yet at quite the cost.

I do like the type of books that Reese Witherspoon picks out and since this author is new to me, that's a solid enough recommendation there.  Also, TJR has said that she was inspired by Fleetwood Mac and their inter-band struggles on and off stage for this novel, which is fine by an old school Stevie Nicks fan like me:



 After checking that trio out, I come home to find a brand new book awaiting me in the mail. I happily binge read Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns series over the summer and a bonus in doing that was being ready in time for the final chapter in this smartly sinister saga.

Five Dark Fates picks up where the previous book had left off, as the island of Fennbirn is dealing with a rebellion that's supposed to be lead by the "Legion Queen" who is no longer able to control her complex powers.

Reigning Queen Katherine has many secrets to keep,including a deadly alliance that brought down one of her most trusted advisors. However, she's about to have one of her fugitive sisters join her side, more out of duty for the protection of the realm rather than willing to concede to her cruel sibling's hold on the throne.

 Can the dark legacy of the past queens be cast aside for a brighter future or will these royal sisters be the last in line for all time? Kendare Blake certainly has a killer cool instinct when it comes to portraying the power games that many of her fierce heroines have no choice but to play and this finale should be richly rewarding indeed:


Well, my fall reading is certainly off to a fine start and hopefully, the one place that we can all take solace in these days is within the pages of a good book. I really do love fall, it's such a calmly exciting time of year.

While some might feel that it signals the end, it's actually more of a beginning as the old season sheds it's skin in vivid colors to reveal a new stage for the coming winter to present itself in all of it's frosty glory.

Okay, I'm getting a bit carried away there but this is a crisp pause between seasons that makes me feel like taking a brisk walk to a bookstore or library and maybe picking up a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils along the way:


Thursday, September 05, 2019

How I spent my Series-ous Reading summer with Miss Fisher & friends

For my big summer read for my Series-ous Reading challenge, I decided to go with a three-in-one collection from mystery writer Kerry Greenwood. Due to the popularity of the made for TV adaptation of her Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries(and yes, I've seen all three seasons of the show), I've been anxious to check out this series in it's original form.

Introducing the Honourable Phryne Fisher has the first three novels and we begin with Cocaine Blues, where our leading lady decides to take a trip to Australia where she eventually settles in.

 Phryne's family has come into wealth due to the demise of a few relations during WWI and while she's happy to be living the good life, she does want to be useful to others. Her talent for sleuthing has caught the attention of Colonel Harper who is concerned about his married daughter Lydia living in Melbourne with a rather disreputable husband named John Andrews.

Wanting a change of scene, Phryne takes the job and upon arriving in Australia meets up with an old friend, Dr. Elizabeth MacMillian. During the course of her investigation, our Miss Fisher makes a few new acquaintances such as Dot, a young woman in need of a respectable job, Communist leaning cab drivers Bert and Cec and while visiting the strangely ill looking Lydia, a handsome Russian dancer who sweeps her off her feet and then some:


Once that case is resolved, we move on to Flying Too High(which was not part of the TV series line-up) as Miss Fisher acquires a house and a rather fast car that she handles as speedily as a professional racing driver.

Phyrne finds herself involved in two cases, one a kidnapping and the other a family dispute that leads to murder. Both of these situations call upon her talent at flying(the family in question runs a flying school) and knack for inventive problem solving.

She also makes a new friend of sorts on the police force, Inspector-Detective Jack Robinson, who at least is willing to have her help out, unlike the pompous ID in charge of the murder case. While Phyrne and Jack don't seem to be as romantically involved as they are on the show, they do make for an engaging pair of characters to follow.

The last book in this collection(which is definitely a Season One episode) is Murder on the Ballarat Train, where Phyrne and Dot are hoping to take a pleasant trip across country on.

However, during the night, an unexpected stop due to chloroform being dumped in the air vents leads to the demise of an elderly woman who was traveling with her adult daughter. The lady in question gave her only child a rather hard time, especially regarding her daughter's boyfriend, a young man studying medicine who is in desperate need of money.

A possible witness to the crime is a young stowaway who claims to have no memory, a girl that Phyrne decides to call Jane. As she looks into Jane's past and the mysterious death on the train, both of these separate scenarios wind up making quite the connection:

These books are a delight and while there are some differences from the TV series(which is to be expected), getting to know the delightful Miss Fisher in any format is a treat. She's smart and capable and for that time period of the 1920s, rather progressive when it comes to women's issues, bigotry and self expression.

While the first book takes some time to set up the character, the other two fly by quickly on the page and I suspect the other titles in the series do the same. If you haven't watched the show, this is a good intro to Miss Fisher and for those who have, a great way to relive those daring adventures indeed.


Now that summer is over, it's back to one at a time reads for this challenge and my next Series-ous Reading selection is Another One Bites the Crust by Ellie Alexander.

Having finished my time with Miss Fisher a tad early, I was able to catch up on a couple of other cozy mystery titles including A Crime of Passion Fruit, which took Torte baker Jules Capshaw back on the open seas. Now that this seventh entry in the Bakeshop Mystery series has her back home in Ashland, I'm ready to start my fall season with her.

Of course, there's plenty of high drama to be had on land as the annual Shakespeare Festival gets under way and a murder to solve but rest assured, there will be some tasty recipes worked lovingly into the plot as well. A savory serving of mystery soup is the perfect way to get into the autumn mood, if you ask me:




Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Wrapping up my High Summer with a bit of well written drama

Now that we're in September, the High Summer readathon hosted by Seasons of Reading is definitely over. While I'm near the finish line with one last read from that list, I did complete a book that may have had a small page count but it reached depths more successfully than some lengthy big reads have.

Meg Wolitzer's The Wife caught my attention due to the acclaim given it's recent film adaptation(which almost gave Glenn Close an Oscar win) but this novel has plenty of merits on it's own accord.

 I do intend to see the movie at some point but trust me, this emotional portrait of a woman who truly has suffered for art is is solidly compelling in print.

The title spouse here is Joan Castleman, who has been married to Joe, a well established literary author for several decades. They met in collage, where he was the professor and she the student. He was also married to another woman at the time but despite the scandal when their relationship was revealed, Joan and Joe stayed together.

Their marriage has had it's fair share of ups and downs, some of which relate to their three children, yet Joan has never seriously thought about leaving Joe until the announcement that he's won a major international prize for his novels. That award puts their entire married life in a new perspective that has Joan considering a major change in hers as they travel to claim the prize:



She recalls their early days, when Joe introduced her to the literary world due to Joan's budding talent with words. As thrilled as she was to be praised for her efforts, it was easy to see that Joan was already seen by everyone as his girlfriend and not much more.

While she did think about becoming a writer herself, that relationship with Joe, who can talk a great game but not play it as well as others can, along with the disregard given to female authors by professionals and the public made it seem simpler to put those dreams aside:


However, did she really step away from the typewriter or did she give away her right of authorship in the name of love?

Many suspect the truth, such as would be biographer Nathaniel Bone or their own troubled son David. Joan is both angry at herself as well as Joe, who eagerly gobbles up the praise and glory given to him.

 In fact, his self centered behavior combined with the attitude that he's doing Joan a great favor just by being with her makes this whole award ceremony event more intolerable to bear. Plus, Joe still indulges his wandering eye for other women, along with other unhealthy appetites, which really test Joan's resolve to maintain the illusion of their artistic front to the wider world:


Wolitzer does more than merely present a martial melodrama; she opens up Joan's whole inner life to display the reasons behind the choices she made, the regrets that still linger and the pride that keeps her from exposing the truths of her marriage. I have no doubt that the film version does justice to the source material but I think that by reading the novel, you get a fuller sense of the character's heartfelt journey.

At the moment, I'm getting closer to the conclusion of The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams. The main portion of the plot is set during WWII as reporter Leonora "Lulu" Randolph is set to Nassau in the Bahamas in order to get some good gossip on the infamous Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

While Lulu winds up writing the "Lady of Nassau" column for a major magazine with the approval of Duchess Wallis Simpson, she also discovers a few unpleasant truths about the exiled royals and the crowd they run with.

Plus, she falls in love with Benedict Thorpe, a biologist who may also be a spy for the British. When he becomes the captive of the Germans, Lulu is determined to do everything possible and then some to win his freedom and that include spilling the considerable tea on what the Duke and Duchess are really up to in Nassau.

Lulu and Thorpe's relationship is contrasted with an earlier romance, between Thorpe's German born mother and an Englishman who had some secret doings of his own for king and country. How these story lines are going to connect, I'm not sure yet but it will be a pleasure to find out. Williams truly has a flair for historical fiction that makes you feel like you're watching a classic movie that's never been seen before:


All in all, this has been a fine summer of reading and much thanks to Michelle Miller of SOR for making this happen. Once I finish that last book, I'll be making plans for the next readathon, Fright Fall, in October. It may be hard to find something scarier than the daily headlines but I think that I can manage to gather up a handful of sinister stories worth talking about there:


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Turning the autumn leaves of your September/October new reads

The unofficial end of summer is almost here and I know that I'm not the only one waiting to pull out those comfy sweaters and warm up a nice cup of hot chocolate to enjoy the evening chill with.

The fall season has plenty of new pop culture delights to savor such as potentially award winning films, the return of our favorite TV shows and a crop of new books ripe and ready for the reading.

For September and October, the air is filled with spices(and I don't mean pumpkin spice!) such as newly sharpened pencils, sweet apple cider and the crisp scent of paper pages being slowly turned for one of these engagingly fresh reads before you:

A PILE OF LITERARY LEAVES:

Ann Patchett gives us a fictional tour of The Dutch House, a home shared by more than one generation of a family whose relationships are in part shaped from taking up residence there.

When Cyril Conroy buys the elaborate 1920s mansion for his growing family, his young wife Elna feels so oppressed by the rather stately manor that she leaves in search of a better, more emotionally fulfilling life. However, her two children, Maeve and Danny, are left far behind.

The kids receive little comfort from their remote father and not much from their new stepmother, who loves the house so much that she insists upon claiming the property for herself alone upon the death of her husband. Despite the dark cloud of sorrow that follows them around, Danny and his sister Maeve prove to have a stronger foundation than the house where most of the memories of their lives were made.

Patchett has a remarkable talent for painting quietly vivid portraits of people set in vital places in their lives and this upcoming exhibit should be the literary masterpiece indeed(September).

Speaking of masterpieces, Elizabeth Strout decides to have her readers visit Olive, Again, as in Olive Kitteridge, her dry witted heroine from the 2008 award winning novel of interconnected short stories.

Ten years later, Olive is still showing the rough side of her nature yet can't help being part of the everyday world. Her second marriage has it's ups and downs, her son Christopher is in and out of her life and a former student or two pop up when least expected.

Even with her hackles raised, Olive has much to offer to others and while acknowledging her own shortcomings, is not at all about to give into complete despair. This feels like a welcome return and with any luck, we'll get another wonderful HBO adaptation out of it to boot(October):



In the follow-up to her previous novel set in 1880s New York , Where The Lights Enters by Sara Donati traces the path of two cousins, Anna and Sophie, who are pursuing their medical dreams as best they can.

While Sophie decides to channel her grief from the loss of her husband through using her inheritance to create scholarships for other women seeking to become doctors, Anna has concerns both within and out of her control.

In addition to losing custody of her foster children, she is worried for the safety of her detective husband Jack, who,along with his partner Ollie, is searching for a ruthless serial killer.

 The victims of his vicious wrath are desperate women in need of a safe solution for their unexpected pregnancies, which makes most of the authorities less than sympathetic to their plight. Nonetheless, Anna and Sophie are determined to save the women in their care from such horrors but what risks will they and Jack take that won't endanger them as well?

This blend of historical fiction with serial killer sinister storytelling offers great insights into the difficulties that women both back in the day and sadly, in our day and age, still face yet not without some courage and dignity to accompany them on this heartfelt journey(September):


 SOME SEASONAL CHILLS:

In Bob Proehl's The Nobody People, a father named Avi realizes that his daughter Emmeline's uniqueness is more than just a personality quirk. She and many other young people are displaying extraordinary abilities such as telekinesis, invisibility and unusual mechanical prowess that leads to fear and persecution.

While Avi is able to find a school that can help Emmeline learn to use her gifts safely, others are not as fortunate, with some being hunted down by secretive government forces.

To make matters worse, the violent action of a pushed too hard young man with otherworldly powers puts everyone in this new community in jeopardy. Can Avi save Emmeline from such threats or is he simply to step aside and let what happens, happen? Proehl intends to follow this up with another book and I hope that we see it sooner rather than later(September):



When less than romantic heroine Miranda enters The House of Brides, she gets quite the rude awakening and then some. In Jane Cockram's debut novel, our leading lady is taking a nanny job under false pretenses as she's more interested in the titled home than watching over the three siblings living there.

Miranda's late mother Tessa once wrote a one and done novel about the place and since Miranda herself is in the unhappy position of needing to stay out of the spotlight for now, pretending to be the new nanny for her distant relatives seems ideal.

Yet, nothing is what it appears to be and when push comes to potential lethal shove, Miranda has to gather up what courage and cleverness she possesses in order to save the day and then some. This seems to have a flavor combo of Rebecca meets The Nanny Diaries and that could hit the right sweet spot for many a reader out there(October).

MAKING HOLIDAY PLANS:

 It may feel too soon to be thinking about winter holidays but I get the feeling that we're really going to need some extra holly jolly vibes this year. A good place to start is The Mistletoe Matchmaker by Felicity Hayes-McCoy, set in Ireland where a young lady named Cassie is not looking for love yet it finds her anyway.

Cassie is happy to spend this special time of year with her grandmother Pat in the small town of Lissbeg where her father grew up. She even has friends in the community and joins the new writing group at the local library.

However, there are tensions hovering all about her that make this festive season feel less than bright. Also, getting the attentions of the charming and handsome Shay is very nice indeed but should she think that his notice means more than local hospitality? A lovely holiday themed story that highlights both family and romantic love sounds like a nice bookish gift pack to me(October).

If you prefer a taste of mystery with your seasonal sweetness, A Cup of Holiday Fear from author Ellie Alexander is the one to order up.

This tenth entry into The Bakeshop Mystery series has Jules Capshaw and friends getting ready to celebrate Christmas in all of it's edible glory.  While her family bakery Torte is doing well and then some at this time of year, Jules wants to take a time out for a bit of real holiday feasting.

Setting up a Dickensian feast for all of her family and friends sounds perfect and while the food is nicely delightful, the weather outside is growing naughtily frightful. Even more menacing than the snow storm is the sudden death of a dinner guest, which makes Jules have to take off her Santa hat to put on a detective cap to solve the case.

I do love this cozy little series and not shy about saying that I do have this book on pre-order and plan to save it for a Christmas themed readathon later this year. This book is truly a great gift to give to yourself as well as other fans of cozy mysteries looking for a little lightness before the new year arrives(September):


Hope you all have a great Labor Day weekend and ready for the fresh fall season ahead of us. I know that there are plenty of great things to look forward to, including the arrival of Downton Abbey to the cinema and another fabulous film visit with the March sisters(which really looks awesome!):




Monday, August 26, 2019

Avengers:FilmFail ends Bad Movie Month by breaking Red Dawn

At last, we reach the end of Bad Movie Month as our special theme of Avengers:FilmFail has felt as long as an infinity war and now, it's great to finally be in the endgame.

Our last entry shines a less than divine spotlight on Chris Hemsworth, aka Thor, in the 2012 remake of the 1984 cult classic Red Dawn. Just like the original, this new edition has a PG-13 rating but beyond that,there's not much of an improvement over the first film.

Let's start with the opening credits, which gives us a CNN style cliff notes version of world events, showcasing North Korea as the next major threat( the first script had the Chinese attacking us but the producers soon realized that having them as the adversaries would make it hard for this movie to do well...in China).

Then it gets all Friday Night Lights, as our leading man Jed(Hemsworth) is back home after serving in Iraq and watching his little brother Matt(Josh Peck) screw up the big football game. Of course, Jed and his dad(who happens to be the local sheriff) are all supportive of Matt, who has a cute blonde girlfriend who is,naturally a cheerleader  and there's a cute girl named Toni(Adrianne Palicki) who finds Jed to be cute as well.

Toni and Jed keep running into each other during the course of this movie as a potential romantic couple but their brief moments together are as meaningful as two people who meet cute in any cheesy TV commercial, not to mention I've seen better writing in Hallmark Channel movies:



The next morning, the town is under invasion from North Korean forces who follow a WWII style of attack, with parachute jumps and soldiers on the move! Seriously, we're about fifteen minutes into this movie and already the boom-boom-boom has begun.

Jed and company flee to the woods, with the enemy in hot pursuit and yes, I have so many questions. For one, how is it that once they get to the family cabin in the woods, everyone immediately knows where all the guns are stored inside? I mean, some of the weapons are in kitchen drawers and other offbeat spots but nobody seems to need to ask where any ammo is or anything like that!

Also, more importantly-why are the occupying army so worried about a bunch of high school kids lead by one ex-soldier? You'd think that with the mayor and the sheriff under their control, that would be more than enough to maintain control of a small town, plus they're the ones that have the armored cars and rocket launchers on hand!

Anyway, after his dad is nobly taken out by the main captain of the invasion troops, Jed decides to turn his kid brother and their band of CW show extras into a resistance squad who call themselves Wolverines(after their high school mascot, not the X-Men character). Speeches and training montages follow:


Granted, it's been a long while since I saw the 1984 Red Dawn but this movie felt like it was on fast forward the whole time-click, a training scene-whoosh, a raid on the town,bam, a major raid being screwed up by Jed's brother looking for his captured girlfriend, boom, new rebel allies show up!

Plus, as Drive In Theater expert Joe Bob Briggs might say, there's not much plot to get in the way of the story. At one point, it's mentioned that the NK invaders were being backed by Russia-why would Russia need to use North Korea as a military beard? Then later, during a big battle scene in town, two of the teen Wolverines take refuge in a sandwich shop and decide to rob the frightened staff for food! Uh, hello, you're supposed to be the good guys, remember? Stealing from your fellow captive townsfolk is not in the playbook there!

A lot goes on but it's hard to care about any of the characters since I've seen Colorform sticker figures with more personality. Sure, they try to add a few lighthearted moments, such as tricking a guy into drinking deer blood, but none of that jells at all.

Hemsworth does what he can here but his acting muscles are not strong enough to give any substance to the paper thin plot points. He does fight the NK captain that took out his dad at one point and gets to deliver the line "You f**ked with the wrong family!", which would have held some weigh had Hemsworth and the bad guy in question been able to exchange a little dialogue beforehand or at any time in the movie!

Mainly, this movie is made up of noise and fury, signifying less than nothing but wasted screen time. The only good thing I can say about this movie is that it's short, yet far from sweet:


Oh, wait-I can also say in it's favor that it does have a few memorably bad lines like "Marines don't die-they go to hell and regroup!" and "It's a vital piece of military equipment, not your porn stash!" Other than that, this movie is as memorable as cotton candy with the bad aftertaste of nostalgia porn left on your cinematic palate.

Well, I thank you all for sharing this awful movie journey with me and hopefully, my theme for next time will be more mirthful and less deep hurting. In the meanwhile, I am happy that this cycle of Marvel movies have done so well and I look forward to what lies ahead(although taking Spiderman out of the MCU is a dumb idea,Sony!). With any luck, we will see a brighter tomorrow both on and off screen: