Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Monday, December 10, 2018

Bookish Secret Santa, Golden Globes movie talk and a look at Avengers:Endgame

A lot of things have been happening on the pop culture front lately,so I thought that I would do a quick round-up on them here.

On the personal front, my Bookish Secret Santa package arrived over the weekend and I'm very grateful indeed. This gift exchange is held by Michelle Miller from Seasons of Reading and it's a way of a few folks to send each other holiday treats with a special book or two included.

In my package were a number of lovely items such as a beautiful snow flake ornament, Shea butter scented soap, a charming book of quotes and an Ugly Christmas sweater pen(it's so ugly that it's cute!).

 Among those goodies was a novel that I've longed to read for some time now, The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory The leading lady of this story is Nikole, who is stunned by her all of five months boyfriend springing a marriage proposal on her at a Dodgers game via the Jumbotron screen.

Upon turning him down, she finds herself in need of leaving the stadium safely as the mood in the crowd grows ugly fast. Brother and sister Carlos and Angela volunteer on the spot to get Nikole out of there, leading to what was intended to be a brief romance between Carlos and Nikole. However, that hook-up develops into something that could be much more lasting and all too real.

I thoroughly enjoyed Jasmine Guillory's The Wedding Date earlier this year and this book sounds like a fitting companion piece(some of the characters from TWD show up here). My thanks to Stacy Putman for sending me all of these presents and I will be sending out my own Bookish Secret Santa box this week that hopefully will be just as wonderful to my giftee as this one was to me:



Next, the Golden Globe nominations came out and there are so many calls for celebration here, with Crazy Rich Asians being up for Best Picture and Best Actress for Constance Wu(finally saw this with my family and we all loved it!) to Romi Malek up for Best Actor in Bohemian Rhapsody(saw that film recently and his performance as Freddie Mercury truly elevated the material).

A big stand-out for multiple nominations was A Star Is Born, with Bradley Cooper getting a Best Actor and a Best Director nod,plus Lady Gaga not only being up for Best Actress but a Best Song nomination for "Shallow" as well.

While I haven't seen this version of ASIB, word of mouth has been incredibly good on it and getting a couple of Golden Globe noms sets Lady Gaga on the path towards Oscar glory in a serious way. As a co-writer on "Shallow", she would get that award directly and the song is also nominated for the Grammys yet to land an acting award on top of that would be beyond nice.

 Not surprised about Bradley Cooper heading in that direction since Hollywood loves the whole actor-turned-director deal(to be fair, he does have quite the singing voice). However, this could be a major moment in Lady Gaga's career and I'm not alone in wanting to see her perform "Shallow" at the Academy Awards next year and claim a double win in the bargain:


Other nominees to cheer for in my house are Melissa McCarthy for her dramatic turn in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Spike Lee as Best Director for Black KKKlansman(a great movie that is also up for acting and best picture honors) and Incredibles 2 for Best Animated Feature.

However, I am concerned about overlooking actors in a certain big film and in particular Michael B. Jordan. While Black Panther did receive a Best Picture nom in the Drama section(something the Oscar should have as well but that's a conversation for another day) and two other noms in the music categories, none were given to the actors involved.

I know how "comic book movies" are perceived to critics and a select group of film watchers alike but one thing that even those folks agreed upon was Michael B. Jordan's brilliantly nuanced performance as Killmonger, the story's villain who was much more than a crackling cardboard figure for the hero to square off against.

His work here was compared to Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight and for good reason; both actors fleshed out the well known characters amazingly well and in Jordan's case, the true depths of his character's suffering were brought out, raising the level of the story for everyone involved. The drama in Black Panther is on a Shakespearean plane of existence and to ignore the contributions of the actors towards this is wrong in more ways than one.

I do hope that the Oscars will give Black Panther more than just the expected special effects/music nominations and respect the totality of the film's worth with Best Actor for Chadwick Boseman, Best Supporting Actress for Letitia Wright and Danai Gurira(all the women in this film deserve noms!), Best Director for Ryan Coogler and Best Supporting Actor for Michael B. Jordan, who gave a performance that will be a beacon for other actors to follow in years to come: 



Speaking of Marvel, the first trailer for the highly anticipated follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War was released.

Entitled Avengers:Endgame, this brief teaser shows us a dying Tony Stark alone in space, Black Widow and Captain America  dealing with the aftermath of Thanos' destruction and planning a possible countermove, along with the arrival of an unexpected ally(which is a relief upon seeing that end of credits scene in Ant-Man and The Wasp).

It's good that this first look doesn't give away too much,although the trailers to come may reveal quite a bit more. While I do know that certain erased characters will most likely find a way back to the MCU in order to make a few sequels, this still will be a major movie event in 2019 and one damn good reason to get ready for the new year indeed:


Friday, December 07, 2018

My last library haul of 2018

With all of the rush to get things ready for the holidays, it's hard to make time for yourself,let alone spend some quality moments searching for a book or two that's not meant to be a gift for someone else.

Even so, I did have a few literary items to return to the library(some of which I didn't get to really read,alas!) and of course, borrowed a trio that should hold me until the end of the year.

First up is Treble at the Jam Fest, the fourth book in Leslie Budewitz's Food Lovers' Village Mystery series. This time out, Merc manager Erin Murphy is getting the town of Jewel Bay prepared for a jazz festival that ought to hit the right note for residents and visitors alike.

Unfortunately, the main musical attraction, Gerry Martin, winds up taking a fatal fall off the cliffs of the nearby river, causing concern for more than ticket refunds. Erin does wind up looking into the matter and discovering a whole orchestra of suspects to audition. Hopefully, she can find the killer before the only music playing in town is the funereal variety.

I just finished Crime Rib(book two in the series) and started Butter Off Dead(book three) before reaching the library, along with being able to renew As The Christmas Cookie Crumbles, which happens to come right after this one. Oddly enough, the first book(Death Al Dente) is the one I haven't read yet or about to at the moment.

Yet, this series is easy as pie to get into and I look forward to enjoying all of the story telling gems that Jewel Bay has to offer,  perhaps even a tasty jam recipe to boot:



Next, I came across a copy of Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella and it was a welcome surprise indeed.

Sylvie and Dan Winter decide to keep their marriage as lively as the day they first wed ten years ago by giving each other little "surprise" gifts. That doesn't sound too bad, despite a few mishaps such as picking a truly awful sweater and setting up a reunion with the last person on earth the other wanted to see again.

However, Sylvie starts to wonder about a few of the secrets that Dan appears to be keeping from her that involve a hidden cell phone. As these surprises go on, she becomes less sure of the continued success of her marriage, not to mention the memories of her late father, who Dan seems to still resent.

Kinsella's light and humorous set-ups do tend to lead to emotional depth and deeper character development, as it was with an earlier library loan of hers that I read(My Not-So Perfect Life) this year. It was a good while since I read one of her novels but it's nice to have her literary voice to listen to again:


On my way out, I strolled by the biography section and plucked off the shelf quite the tasty looking read. My nonfiction reading has been in a bit of a slump lately, so this feels like the perfect dish to revive my appetite in this area.

The French Chef In America by Alex Prud'homme covers the "second act" of his famous culinary aunt Julia Child's life and times. As the co-author of her memoir My Life in France, he is quite familiar with her early days and this book showcases her career throughout the 1970s and early 1980s as she became more than a PBS mainstay.

From arranging the first televised viewing of a White House state dinner to not being shy about her political views when it came to feminism, Child grew to be a central figure in the food world, maintaining solid relationships with friends such as beloved editor Judith Jones and fellow chef Jacques Pepin as well as family. Her influence is keenly felt today and this book offers us a peek behind the culinary TV curtain to truly savor the woman she was:


No doubt this will be my last visit to the library this year and there is no doubt that I'll be back in 2019(I do have to return these books, after all!) for more. With all of the confusion and craziness going on in the world right now, it is so good to have a serene spot for some quiet contemplation and good reads like a local library.

I know that it's hard on libraries as well these days, with budget cuts and more demand for their services and resources, but I am truly grateful for this iconic institution for persevering in times like these and to all of the librarians and volunteers out there, thank you so much for all that you do. May your holidays be happy and best wishes for the new year as we honor and still need you very much:

Monday, December 03, 2018

Starting the holiday season off right with the Christmas Spirit readathon

I usually don't do a lot of Christmas themed reading but lately, some of that has been helping me get into the holiday mood all the better.

With that in mind, I joined in for the Christmas Spirit readathon over at Seasons of Reading which lasted two weeks.(SOR blogger Michelle Miller hosts a longer version at her other site). My goal was three books and I managed to finish two of them in time, not too bad,I think!

First up was The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen, part of the Her Royal Spyness series. Set in December of 1933, our heroine Lady Georgiana Rannoch,aka Georgie, is not looking forward to the holidays as she's stuck at her Scottish homestead with her dismal sister-in-law Fig and the rest of Fig's equally awful relations are due to arrive at any moment.

Fortunately, Georgie finds an advertisement for assistant hostess to a house party in the village of Tiddleton-under-Lovey in Devonshire, where Georgie's flighty mother also happens to be staying with Noel Coward. Arranging for her beloved grandfather to be there also, she packs up post haste and heads out for Tiddleton with the hapless yet sweet personal maid Queenie in tow.

Once there, she finds that the lady of the house, Lady Hawse-Gorsley, is in dire need of help as this holiday party is being held for paying guests(due to the low finances of the estate from the Depression) and wants to please them as much as possible with an old fashioned English Christmas.

Georgie is more than delighted to help out and at first, things go well despite the early arrival of the American family confused by British customs and the latter appearance of a haughty dowager countess who could give a certain Downton Abbey resident a run for her money in the snark department:



All is going well for Georgie, especially when one of the party guests happens to be Darcy O'Mara, the charming yet impoverished nobleman who may or may not be a spy. Turns out he's related to the Hawse-Gorsleys and is just as pleased to see her there.

However, a bizarre string of crimes that include murder seem to crop up on a daily basis and many of the locals are blaming the Lovey Curse, a legend that had a witch burned at the stake vowing revenge from beyond at the holidays.

Yet, Georgie suspects that these deadly occurrences are from a more firmly based in the real world menace , not to mention that a strange pattern based on a beloved Christmas song seems to be linking these lethal events together. With the help of Darcy, her retired police officer grandfather and even a hint from Noel Coward and her mum, Georgie sets out to stop the killer before New Year's Day approaches.

The story is quite fun, with a mix of humor and holiday cheer plus a dash of quaint English village charm that carries the narrative along nicely. Georgie is truly a leading lady worth following with her friends old and new here and the mystery is rather challenging to solve.

 After the story, a "English Christmas Companion" is included that explains many of the traditional British holiday games and activities(recipes are also given for plum pudding and such seasonal treats). It's a welcome touch indeed. If you like a good English themed holiday mystery,particularly set in a small country town, The Twelve Clues of Christmas is your golden ticket to ride:


The other book that I completed was Joanne Fluke's Sugar Cookie Murder, the first Christmas themed book in her Hannah Swensen mystery series.

 For the holidays, Hannah is hard at work getting all of the recipes ready for a local cookbook to be published and the final taste tests are to be held at a Christmas celebration at the Lake Eden community center. Hannah's less than culinary inclined mother Delores is even offering an antique cake knife with a Christmas tree shaped handle to be used at the buffet table.

That knife happens to wind up in a most unexpected place before the night is over as Hannah discovers it embedded in the bosom of Brandi Wyen Dubinski, the brand new wife of divorced resident Martin.

With a huge snowstorm keeping everyone trapped in the center, including such suspects as Martin's ex-wife and former in-laws, Hannah seems to have her work cut out for her but is this going to be as simple as pie to solve? The actual story is more of a novella, as the full Lake Eden cookbook is included here, which is fine for a light holiday read.

Despite the sugar cookies mentioned in the title, brownies actually become a plot point here as Hannah bakes a batch of jalapeno flavored ones for Mike that intended as sweet revenge. Seems that Mike has been making eyes at another lady(who turns up in the Fudge Cupcake Murder and appears in a later book) and even suggesting that her brownies are worthy of being sold at Hannah's Cookie Jar bakery, a romantic no-no if there ever was one!

While Mike and Hannah do resolve their differences, Norman is still in the picture(in more ways than one) and scores plenty of brownie points with me,particularly after pointing out to Mike that Hannah can drive a huge car very well in such bad weather. I do know that there is a brownie themed title in this series but for now, this cookie caper was a sweet enough treat:


Sadly, I wasn't able to get to As The Christmas Cookie Crumbles in time for the readathon. The reason for that being that I'm still in the midst of Crime Rib, an earlier title in Leslie Budewitz's Food Lovers Village mystery series.

Hopefully, I will be allowed to renew it at the library and have it read by Christmas Eve, as I do like Crime Rib and it's savory smart sleuth Erin Murphy. The atmosphere of the Montana town of Jewel Bay is just as appetizing and I so look forward to reading more about this fictional foodie community.

Happy Holiday Reading to everyone who took part in this Christmas Spirit readathon and this seasonal story time was as much fun as a Christmas cookie swap party. If nothing else, it's a good time to revv up your emotional engines for the true delights of the season:


Monday, November 26, 2018

The LRG List of Best Books I've Read in 2018

With Thanksgiving over and the big winter holidays yet to come all too quickly, it is time to reflect over what this year has brought us,pop culture wise, and give an assess of the best.

Plenty of people have already put out their "Best of..." lists by now but I felt this was the proper in-between time to get my selection of top books for 2018.

While there is still a good amount of the year left to catch up with some of the bigger titles out there(Madeline Miller's Circe is on that particular TBR for me!), this is a good rundown of some of the top novels that I've enjoyed getting to know here:

Science Fiction/Fantasy Double Feature


CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE: Tomi Adeyemi's debut YA novel introduces us to a whole new world of magic with Zelie, daughter of a diviner whose powers(along with the rest of her people) have been striped away due to the mystical edict of a vicious king.

When Zelie is given the chance to reclaim their magic,with the help of a runaway princess, she takes every opportunity and risk placed in her path to do so, finding new friends and unlikely allies along the way. Some of those risks are personal, including an unexpected romance that changes and challenges both her and the enemy in pursuit.

Children of Blood and Bone is the first in a trilogy, with Book Two intended to be released next spring. I know that I won't be the only one eagerly awaiting that second volume as well as more wonderful works of words from this author in the near future:


RED CLOCKS: In this all-too-real futuristic tale from Leni Zumas, America has passed a "Personhood Amendment", which bans any and all abortions along with in vitro fertilization. The border to Canada,where these laws are not enforced, is heavily restricted and guarded to women wanting reproductive freedom,especially teenage girls.

Among the four female characters in this story are a young woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy and fearful of the consequences in either direction, a high school teacher working on a lengthy biography hoping to become a single mother before the law fully kicks in and a reclusive healer being persecuted unjustly for only doing what was right.

The story lines are firmly grounded in character development, giving the plight of each woman a haunting depth that makes the reality of her particular situation very heartfelt and chilling to grasp. It's a subtle novel that offers food for thought and emotional costs to value as well.

THE ART OF FRIENDSHIP


THE GIRLS IN THE PICTURE: Author Melanie Benjamin showcases the early days of Hollywood through the eyes of two of it's most influential leading ladies both on screen and behind the camera.

Frances Marion intended to become an actress but quickly realized that her talents were best applied as a screenwriter, especially for rising star Mary Pickford. While both of them managed to achieve a bit of fame and fortune despite the limitations placed on women in the industry, their true struggle was to remain friends when certain life choices came between them.

Evoking old school glamour and serving up solid character driven drama, this fictional take on what Hollywood does to those ladies who dare feels very authentic and relevant to this day and age. At it's best, TGITP gives you an idea of what smart and savvy women collaborating on artistic excellence back in the day was like:



THE BAR HARBOR RETIREMENT HOME FOR FAMOUS WRITERS(AND THEIR MUSES): Debut author Terri-Lynne DeFino's look at this special last stop retreat for literary artists and it's residents is a real charmer in the best sense of the term.

When renowned author Alphonse Carducci takes his place among his former contemporaries and feels lost in more ways than one, contact with Cecibel, one of his caretakers, revives his writing spirits. He then secretly starts a novel that is quietly shared with his fellow writers(and one editor) all with the intent of pleasing only one reader.

As Alphonse gains a sense of purpose in the twilight of his life, Cecibel learns to overcome her own personal demons, which have left a mark not just on her face but her soul to boot. To top it all off, we get to read the work in progress and it's quite the thumping good read on it's own there.  If you haven't come across this enchanting novel, do so post haste! It's like listening to a beautiful melody tinged with emotional experience and fresh beginnings all at once:


DELIGHTFUL DISCOVERIES

THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL: Award winning mystery writer Sujata Massey introduces readers new and old to a vibrant new sleuth in 1920s India.

Perveen Mistry has the distinction of being the first female attorney in Bombay and the good fortune to be working at her family's law firm. When a case involving a trio of secluded widows arrives at the office, Perveen is sent out to talk to the ladies regarding their husband's will.

What seems to be a simple case of mismanagement turns to murder as the dubious trustee of the estate is found dead while Perveen is still on the premises. Other complications arise that force her to find the killer before it's late as well as deal with a menace from her own past that threatens her present day life.

This is the first time that I've read Massey and it certainly won't be the last. A second book featuring Perveen is due out early next year and it's so good to get in on the ground floor of a wonderful new mystery series in the making.

THE WEDDING DATE: In this lively modern day romance by Jasmine Guillory, a meet-cute turns out to be rather meaningful.

Strictly by chance, Drew and Alexa find themselves trapped in a hotel elevator with some tasty snacks and shared style of witty banter. As sparks begin to fly, Drew asks a huge favor of Alexa; to be the plus-one at the wedding of an ex-girlfriend that he's attending that weekend.

After that wedding party is over and done, they start up a real relationship which proves to be tricky due to long distance(for work related reasons) and being an interracial connection as well. Will love conquer all or was this only meant to be for just a little while?

Guillory brings a good sense of humor and charm to this engaging story that doesn't skimp on the sexy yet offers plenty of heart to the bond between the leads. She already has a new book out(The Proposal) and that will be a must-read for me in 2019 indeed. Finding a good romance novel can be as sweet as finding a first love and those in love with reading will appreciate the arrival of a fellow book lover turned writer in our midst such as her:


I know that it's been a trying year for so many reasons and there are those who think that focusing on reading may truly be a trivial pursuit in times like this. However, books and reading are what sustains people during such challenges, giving hope,guidance and a much needed moment of relief in order to let our weary spirits rest and revive.

Let us thank all of the writers out there for providing this most valuable emotional resource and cheer them on in the new year to come. Hopefully, more good books and less bad times lie ahead for us all:


Monday, November 19, 2018

My Series-ous Reading slices up a piece of Lemon Meringue Pie Murder

I was very happy to have finished up the next to last selection in my Series-ous Reading challenge, especially before the holiday readathon I signed up for got started(more on that in a moment).

Speaking of holiday, Joanne Fluke's Lemon Meringue Pie Murder does take place around a special summer occasion, the Fourth of July, where everyone in the town of Lake Eden is planning a big parade that baker Hannah Swensen will actually have a float representing The Cookie Jar in for the first time.

Her sister Andrea takes charge of the float(needing to keep busy during her pregnancy), which helps take a load off of Hannah, who is making tons of cookies for various events as well as working on the murder of Rhonda Scharf, who died in the house that Hannah's occasional beau Norman just bought!

 At one point, Andrea did want to make a red,white and blue Jell-o mold cake but couldn't find all of the right colors, which relieved Hannah greatly. Turns out that her younger sister is much better at schmoozing with folks while making her real estate deals than anything of a culinary nature:


As for the murder, for once Hannah was not the one to discover the body. That dubious honor fell to her mother who had accompanied her and Norman to the house in search of items to sell at her antique business.

One of Hannah's lemon meringue pies was found in the kitchen and appeared to had been left out long enough to attract ants, leading her to an unexpected clue in Rhonda's trash.

Norman had bought the house from Rhonda, who was planning to take a well earned vacation but wound up taking the long one that you don't come back from! The only good thing about Hannah's intrusive mother being on the scene is that she doesn't disapprove of her daughter looking into the case this time. Granted, her mom wanted to be the lead detective but quickly handed that job over to her eldest girl in order to concentrate on other things, like urging Hannah to marry Norman.

Meanwhile, we get to meet Hannah's youngest sister Michelle in this story, arriving home from college for the holiday summer fun.

Hannah does act very mother hen around her little sis, to the point of nearly freaking out big time over what turn out to be temporary body embellishments(fake tattoo and mouth fixture with gemstones).

As an older sister myself, I totally understand the protective urge regarding younger siblings there but Hannah did need to chill out a little. While Michelle is way more mellow than either of her sisters, she does have her feet on the ground when it counts:



While Hannah did find Rhonda's killer in the end, I was able to solve a more pressing mystery here and that was which love interest should I be rooting for, Norman or Mike?

For most of the series, Hannah is torn between sweet natured dentist Norman(who her mom prefers) and police detective Mike(who Andrea likes, due to her own husband being a cop). I know that many of the long time readers of the books have gotten frustrated over Hannah's romantic indecision but for me, the choice has been made clear and it's Team Norman all the way.


I can see both the pros and cons of either guy but it was a certain plot point in this book that helped me figure out who I'd like to see Hannah end up with. At the beginning of the story, Hannah decides to go on a diet,due to not fitting into a pair of new pants(turned out to be a shopping mix-up with Andrea) as well as perhaps encouraging one of her suitors to make a more romantic move.

I'm so not a fan of women feeling the need to lose weight for the latter reason but in this case, I was willing to put that aside in order to find out if either Mike or Norman would take a moment to tell Hannah "I think you're fine just the way you are."

 At one point, it's Norman who does make that type of statement and despite his building a house that is based on a design both he and Hannah dreamed up that naturally leads to most folks(and her mother) in town thinking they're going to get married soon, Norman wins in the truly good guy department.

Yes, Mike is sexy and charming but he doesn't even mention the drastic change in Hannah's eating habits(she switches over to salads and small portions rather quickly),which an alert detective should  make a polite observation of at least once, don't you think? Sure, Mike gives her plenty of push back that helps her solve those unofficial cases but Norman is not a doormat at all.  Instead, he's very supportive of Hannah in all of her endeavors and has a good sense of humor to boot

As I continue with the series, that may change but for now, Norman is the man I'm rooting for. Being patient with Hannah on this front is fine with me:



With the Christmas Spirit readathon from Seasons of Reading under way today until December 2, I will be encountering Hannah and company again with Sugar Cookie Murder soon.

For now, I'm starting things off with Rhys Bowen's The Twelve Clues of Christmas and if all goes as planned, will end with As The Christmas Cookie Crumbles by Leslie Budewitz. It's a short but sweet murder mystery ride to jump start my holiday cheer.

To complete my Series-ous Reading for the year, December will have me visiting Poldark country with The Black Moon, where Morwenna Chynoweth is first introduced and her troubled romance with Drake Carne shall begin. With the current TV show finished up for the year(and next season to be the last), this will be a fine way to revisit Cornwall indeed:


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Feasting on some Thanksgiving follies with Friends

A week from today, Thanksgiving will be upon us with folks gathering together to eat and engage with one another. Hopefully, the worst argument that day will be over what to watch on TV;football or Macy's parade? (I vote parade!)

One thing that most people do agree on in that category are Thanksgiving episodes from the nineties classic sitcom Friends. While some are better than others, those hilarious holiday get togethers could always be counted on to serve up the laughs.

To get into the Turkey Day mood, I have assembled a merry meal of Friends clips that should whet your comedy appetite and perhaps inspire a little binge watching before the big day:

TURKEY TIME WITH JOEY: When comes to an appreciative dinner guest for Thanksgiving, Joey Tribbini is your man. He's ready to start chowing down, wearing his good turkey pants and reliable for cleaning his plate more than once.

However, his prankster whims sometimes clash with meal time as the one where Joey put a whole turkey on his head in order to scare Chandler. The only person he really terrified was Monica, who wanted to get that bird in the oven without Joey's head being the stuffing:


POTATO PARTY: Speaking of Monica, you have to give the poor gal her due here. While she may be very controlling and set in her ways about most things, she is always the one doing the cooking on Thanksgiving and even chefs like her would like a little time off on that particular occasion!

The first year that Monica started making Thanksgiving dinner for everyone, she was given not one, not two but three different requests for different preparations of potatoes! Personally, I feel that lumpy mashed potatoes are the worst(not sorry,Ross!) and tater tots are fine but I have to draw the line at adding peas and onions(sorry,Phoebe):




 PRECIOUS PLATES: When it comes to the time that Monica was asked to use her good wedding gift plates on Thanksgiving, I'm kind of with Chandler on that one. What good are dishes that you're never going to put out for the purpose they were intended for?

However, I can completely understand Monica's concern over using them for the first time with this bunch. While giving Joey a "special" plate at dinner was a good move, clearing those delicate plates before Rachel and her sister went at it was quite the thrill ride indeed:




SWEETS TO THE NOT SO SWEET: To be fair, there was that one where Rachel helped out in the kitchen on Thanksgiving to try her hand at making an English trifle for dessert.

Unfortunately, that after dinner treat was memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Due to a mix-up with the cookbook she was using, Rachel did a mash-up between two staples of English cusine. a trifle and a shepard's pie.

That combo is something that not even the hardiest contender on Chopped would attempt. However, at least the guests assembled did their best not to hurt her feelings and one of them did actually like it(Joey, of course!):


Many feel that these Thanksgiving episodes of Friends lead to the modern day tradition of Friendsgiving(although that actual term wasn't in regular use until 2007, long after the show was over and done with). Regardless of that, it's hard to deny that these yearly riffs on celebrating the holiday in a non traditional way did possibly assist in making that concept a bit more mainstream.

Whether or not Friends can be seen as the root of Friendsgiving doesn't really matter. The whole point of both of those annual events is that Thanksgiving is a holiday to be shared with those you love, friend or family(by choice as well as by blood). It's not important what you eat, where you're at or who is at the table-what counts is being thankful for being together. That's a lesson we all need to learn and/or relearn these days with the help of our mutual Friends:


Monday, November 12, 2018

Thankful for some tasty reads served up at the library

Sometimes, finding a good book can be like discovering a prize at the bottom of your favorite cereal box; it can be completely unexpected and a welcome delight indeed.

I made an unexpected trip to the library late last week, in the interest of helping my sister(she needed some books returned), and naturally, I couldn't resist having a bit of a browse while I was there. After all, I had returned a couple of books myself and probably won't be back until some time after Thanksgiving.

Nothing was catching my eye at first but then I decided to check out a certain display set up at the end of a section of shelves. This particular spot at my library has become a regular place for books connected by a mutual theme to be showcased and sure enough, a sign overhead announced "With a dash of mystery".


There was a combination of cookbooks and foodie mysteries arranged there, the latter whetting my literary appetite right away with the title Diners,Drive-ins and Death. It's the third book in Christine Wenger's Comfort Food Mystery series, set in the upstate New York town of Sandy Harbor.

Our culinary sleuth is Trixie Matkowski, who owns the Silver Bullet Diner, an old school fifties type of eatery and as the story begins, she's being consulted by her elaborately dressed best friend Antoinette Chloe Brown,aka ACB, about the land next to the diner being used to build an old fashioned drive-in movie theater.

Trixie is happy to support her friend in this enterprise, mainly to help ACB stop worrying about the disappearance of her new boyfriend Nick, who happens to be her former brother-in-law due to her ex-husband Sal being in prison for trying to kill her and Trixie. During the ground breaking for the drive-in however, Nick's body is discovered and not only is that messy can of worms reopened, the heat is on for ACB as a possible suspect in the case.

While this is the first time I've ever read this series(and in the middle of it, no less), Wenger does make it easy to catch up with the characters and their backstories, not to mention the quirky nature of the town itself. In addition to solving a murder, Trixie also has to help house contestants for the local Miss Salmon pageant,which has a special musical number being planned with a salute to spawning fish(this brings Miss Patty's School of Dance moments from Gilmore Girls gleefully back to life).

So far, I am enjoying this book and while Guy Fieri doesn't play a role here, I have a feeling that if he stopped by the Silver Bullet, his time would be well spent and he'd be well fed to boot:


I wound up getting three more books from the display(don't worry, there were a few left for others to borrow) and all of them are from the same series entitled A Food Lovers' Village Mystery.

Crime Rib by Leslie Budewitz is the second entree in this series where Erin Murphy has a gourmet food market called the Glacier Mercantile(also called The Merc) in the Montana town of Jewel Bay.

When a popular food TV show arrives to highlight Jewel Bay's culinary community, Erin arranges for a steak cook-off to be held at The Merc, featuring three of the best grill masters in town. Unfortunately, one of the contenders is iced before the competition and it's up to Erin to smoke out the killer before more than one fire is put out for good.

I love the whole notion of calling Erin's establishment "The Merc" because it reminds me of Food Network's Pioneer Woman,Ree Drummond, who runs a similar place in her Oklahoma small town. That homey feeling I always get from watching an episode of TPW should blend in nicely with such a savory mystery series like this:



I had to have book three in the series not just for the perfectly punny title but the movie theater cover art as well. Butter Off Dead has Erin trying to drum up some off season business for Jewel Bay by arranging a local film festival.

With the foodie film theme, she and local painter Christine are right on track but when Erin's partner in planning is found dead, more than one complication arises. The suspicious leading man in this murder is Nick, who happens to be Erin's brother and was Christine's boyfriend, quite the deadly double feature.

As she works to clear her sibling's name, Erin hopes that the film festival goes off without a hitch but by the time the first reel is being shown, she may have to worry about the end credits rolling on her own life story. Really love the film festival focus here and if the movies selected for this showcase are better than the ones shown in Stars Hollow(Gilmore Girls keep coming to mind, can't help it!), it should be a good night to remember:



The last Leslie Budewitz mystery I picked up that day is a little further ahead in the series but it's very suitable for an upcoming readathon. Along with  Joanne Fluke's Sugar Cookie Murder and The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen, I plan to read As The Christmas Cookie Crumbles for the Christmas Spirit readathon held by Seasons of Reading later this month.

As Erin is planning her own holiday wedding, a returning member of a prominent  hometown family has a true silent night, deadly night encounter that needs solving. Merrily Thornton seemed to have changed her criminal ways but what appeared to be a fallback into her former embezzling habits may have been a frame job of the fatal kind.

I'll do my best to read one of the earlier books before this one, in order to get a feel for Erin Murphy's food lover life and times, but I'm sure that this will be a real sinister sweet treat to nibble page by page here:


The Christmas Spirit readathon starts on November 19 and runs until December 2, so check in with Seasons of Reading if you want to join in. As for me, I am pleased to have gathered up a nice pile of foodie mysteries to make this Thanksgiving a feast for mind and body alike.

I do feel a tad guilty for liking this genre so much lately but then again, why should I? Such harmless fun is hard to find in times as troubling as these and the authors who labor over these seemingly light hearted mysteries are truly talented with a good knack for developing strong flavorful characters, something that any reader truly loves in any category.

So, instead of such needless remorse, I intend to be thankful for having such wonderful books to read and recommend. Books do provide true comfort and inspiration just when we need them the most with the additional blessing of having a local library around to assist us in finding that perfect tasty read that really hits the spot: