Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Beyonce, Lady Gaga and why singing women scare some people

The headliner at this year's halftime show for the Super Bowl was Coldplay but all that anyone seems to want to talk about is the performance that Beyonce gave.

She mixed her new song "Formation"(the video being released the day before) with Bruno Mars doing his hit "Uptown Funk" and while it was certainly a show stopper, certain people are simply losing their minds over that number and not in appreciation.

One of the biggest complaints is  claiming that she was doing a tribute to the Black Panthers because of her mock military outfit(something that both Janet and Michael Jackson have done in their careers without that connotation being placed on them), that her dancers wore berets and they formed a letter X during the show-hello, the song is called "Formation" and they also formed an arrow as well!

Yes, the video does have a lot of sociopolitical visuals that reference Hurricane Katrina, Black Lives Matter, in particular "hands up, don't shoot" and the antebellum South. Beyonce's Super Bowl performance, however, was mostly focused on the entertainment elements of the song and used an edited version, due to it's adult content(particularly a reference to Red Lobster as a reward for love making). I suspect most of the protesters saw part or all of the official "Formation" video and are basing their anger about the number on that rather what actually was seen on TV that day:

Lady Gaga sang The National Anthem at the Super Bowl earlier that day and received a good amount of praise for her vocal range.

Yet a writer for the NYT decided to find fault with Gaga's overall career path in an article that compared her to Beyonce, based on their joint appearance in the video for Gaga's "Telephone" several years ago to where each of them is at in the pop music world right now.

He wondered why Gaga was doing "an opening act" when only a few years ago, she was a headliner and seems to be happy with a retro vibe. In his opinion, Lady Gaga has turned into an older ready for Vegas retirement version of herself :

"Her work now is like a long-term art project that’s put 50 years on her persona, and at 29, she’s five years younger than BeyoncĂ©. She’s been cooing with Tony Bennett on their “Cheek to Cheek” tour; she’s wearing stuff that you’d find on Fanny Brice. Her Gucci pantsuit could have been from the CĂ©line Dion collection or from Liza Minnelli’s closet. So, too, could the strength of her singing and chest thwaps. She’s given herself a coating of the geriatric, of respectability, of Vegas."

Well, first of all, singing the National Anthem at a major sporting event such as the Super Bowl is hardily an "opening act" and secondly, there is nothing wrong with any singer doing standards as a way to regain their inspiration. Linda Ronstandt did it and so did Natalie Cole. He also sees her singing the Sound of Music at the Oscars last year and winning a Golden Globe for her role on American Horror Story: Hotel as signs that she's decided to call it a day in terms of being a superstar unlike Beyonce.

The biggest problem with this entire line of thought is in comparing Gaga and Beyonce. Just because they did a song together once, that does not mean that they are on the same career track or should be. Gaga's experiences and goals are very different from Beyonce's and vice versa. While they are contemporaries, that doesn't have to mean one is gaining ground over the other.

 As to Gaga not doing her over the top entrances and outfits that helped launch her into the limelight anymore, she's not the only artist to have been there, done that and moved on. The late David Bowie(who Lady Gaga will be doing a tribute for at the upcoming Grammys) and the still with us Elton John eventually put away their costumes and set pieces as part of their artistic maturation. What all three have in common is that they were great singers to begin with and once the spotlight is steady on them, the need for masquerade is over:

In seeing both of these uproars about these talented ladies at the Super Bowl, my conclusion is that there are some folks(quite a few of them male) who have a problem with women who are completely capable of choosing to control their own careers. They don't like either one of them stepping outside of the pop culture boxes that they believe each female performer is in and would rather have them not express their opinions through their art or follow their own muse.

That's too bad for the dissenters because more and more female singers are bursting out of those pop culture confines and making a place for themselves, thanks to their talent and fans who appreciate what they're doing. It takes a long time for standards to change, even in the arts, but it does happen if you hold on long enough. You don't have to like every song or style but trying to tear them down just because you want to make your problems theirs is the wrong way to go.

With the Grammys next week, it'll be a good idea to see if you can spot the next new female singing sensation and while she's not scheduled to perform, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes is one to watch. Her band is up for several awards and they really deserve to get a few of them.

 Who knows, maybe one day Brittany Howard will have Beyonce or Gaga do a song with her or maybe all three of them will form a power trio that brings the haters to their knees. Talent calls to talent and girl power is a force to be reckoned with, in the best sense of the term. So, critique fairly, my friends or you might find it hard to be part of the cool concert scenes to come:

Monday, February 08, 2016

Adding a touch of spice to your Valentine's Day reading

With Valentine's Day soon to arrive, romance is in the air and on the shelves for many readers looking for that special holiday feeling as they turn the pages of old favorites like Pride and Prejudice or newer classics such as The Time Traveler's Wife.

However, there is also a call for literature that's a bit more heart pounding that heart rendering in that category. For those like me who don't mind a bit of spicy flavor to their romantic reading but not quite willing to go with a ghost pepper level of heat, there are a couple of books that I've been enjoying lately that might suit your literary palate just fine.

Ashley Warlick's The Arrangement focuses on a particular period of time in legendary food writer MFK(Mary Frances Kennedy) Fisher's life, starting in 1934 when she and her husband Al are living in L.A.. Mary's desire to become a writer and her interest in food is somewhat tolerated by Al but not actively encouraged, unlike the positive feedback that Tim Parrish, her husband's best friend is providing her.

Almost on impulse, Mary begins a passionate affair with Tim just as his own marriage to ambitious actress Gigi is on the edge of implosion. While Al and Mary step in to help Tim as he tries to obtain a quick and easy divorce that won't threaten Gigi's career, the physical connection between two out of the three here sparks up even more, leading to an "understanding" that locks the trio into a relationship that offers pleasures as well as perils.

So far, the book has a leisurely pace that makes entering this part of the past as easy as walking into a dinner party and asking for a drink. Looking into Mary Frances' inner life, where she longs to find that sense of purpose and passion that she felt a grasp on during her time in France, and how it is leaking into her dealings with the people in her outer life is as tasty as a slowly simmering stew that packs a wallop of savory goodness in every bite.

When I do finish this book, I do intend to read some of MFK Fisher's actual works, many of which showcase her take on living that was rather forward thinking for that day. It's great how one book can lead you to another, especially one that lets you look at life in ways that you couldn't imagine for yourself:

Speaking of one book that leads to another, The Naughty Girls' Book Club by Sophie Hart offers a sizzling list of suggested reads that do more than simply titillate the characters.

When struggling divorced mother Estelle begins a book group at her bakery Cafe Crumb, she intends to cover serious literature but the low turnout at the first meeting prompts her to give sexy books a try.

Her group first takes up the latest raunchy bestseller Ten Sweet Lessons(a fictional take on 50 Shades of Grey) and then move on to classics like Lady Chatterley's Lover and sexy sagas such as Riders by Jilly Cooper. As the ladies and one gentleman read these eye brow raising titles, each of them starts to loosen up emotionally and even take chances that they normally wouldn't or just didn't have the nerve to.

 Despite their reading material, the boldness embraced by the characters isn't always sexual, although moody about her marriage Rebecca does manage to reignite a spark with her husband.

 Retiree Sue is bored with the humdrum life that her also retired husband is quite happy to settle down in while shy Reggie and feisty librarian Gracie find a bit of love and friendship together. Even overworked Estelle is surprised to discover that she has more to offer people than freshly baked treats.

At this point, the story is a great bookish delight that I don't want to rush through but when I do turn that last page, I might check out some of those Cafe Crumb selections. Just because it's labeled as a "dirty book", that doesn't mean that you can't have a little good clean fun with them:

Romance is a genre that often gets a bad rap and erotica even more so. Even when a story takes on a few elements from either side of that fictional fence, blushes and eyes lowered in embarrassment often accompany it's readers. However, when a tale is well told and laden with sincere emotion, those uneasy feelings are soon tucked away to make room for the growing interest in seeing how it all turns out, which is the true heart of any romance:

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Supergirl battles Bizarro, a rather shocking dinner party moment at Downton Abbey and a devilish look at Lucifer

This week on Supergirl, Kara faced off against her own Bizarro doppelganger, created via experimentation at the behest of Maxwell Lord(a origin reboot given to that foe in prior Superman venues).

Watching Kara fight Bizarro was fun and interesting, since her confused counterpart's powers are the reverse of Supergirl's(freeze vision and fire breath,for one) and while she had to defend herself and others, it was clear to both Kara and the audience that Bizarro was a victim of Lord's twisted manipulations.

On another front, I'm happy to report that Winn seems to be back with Team Supergirl in a positive way and willing to get over his nonstarter romance with Kara to the point of encouraging James to pursue her(possibly due to both guys being a little jealous of Kara's brief relationship with Cat Grant's son, Adam).

While James is obviously attracted to Kara, he doesn't want to hurt current girlfriend Lucy by another break-up ,although Winn had a point about not being with someone who you really didn't want to be with wasn't a good plan either. After dealing with the Bizarro version of Supergirl,however, James ought to act on his true feelings towards the original edition before a new crisis hits them both(and yes, he can do it without being awful to Lucy):

There was quite the conversation stopper at a dinner party on Downton Abbey during the latest episode, as Lord Grantham spewed streaks of blood across the table, thanks to a burst ulcer.

I was expecting him to get sick, as he's been complaining of a lower body pain for several episodes now and when he rose from his chair(during a debate over control of the local hospital which has become a death match between Countess Violet and Isobel), I thought he was about to announce a heart attack.

Instead we got what my sister charmingly described as, upon hearing my retelling of that supper time surprise, "the gory chocolate in my peanut butter British coma"(she's not a fan of PBS dramas, let's put it that way).  Fortunately, Lord Grantham will survive that gruesome brush with death but it certainly did shake things up there for characters both upstairs and down:

 One of the consequences of that uproar was Lady Mary catching a mention from Countess Violet about why Marigold is a true blood member of the Crawley family which put her antenna up there. If she really does figure out that Edith is the biological mother of Marigold, I hope that Mary acts upon what spark of goodness is left in her heart and doesn't hassle her sister about it.

 Edith is slowly but surely preparing to make a life of her own away from Downton and has no intention of contesting Mary for control of the estate, so the least that her big sister could do is let the matter drop. There's plenty enough going on as it is without adding another family feud into the mix:

So, I've watched two episodes of the new series Lucifer and it's been a wicked blast so far. Based on the DC Vertigo comic, the main premise has the devil himself(played by smoldering sleek Tom Ellis) deciding to take a break from running Hell by hanging out in L.A.

While he runs a nightclub with a few of his faithful minions and takes great delight in using his ability to draw out hidden truths from humans, Lucifer does have a few troubles on his plate such as regular visits from the angel Amenadiel(D.B. Woodside), who warns of dire consequences if he doesn't return to his place in the underworld.

Lucifer is not about to take that threat seriously but when the murder of a mortal he knows well happens right in front of him, he teams up with police detective Chloe Decker(Lauren German) to solve the crime.

Turns out Chloe not only doubts his claims to be the Prince of Darkness but is truly immune to his supernatural charms, which spurs Lucifer into becoming her impromptu partner.

Sure, this is pretty cheesy but it's also fun and funny at times. Ellis has a good balance on the character and knows when to bring the mirth and the menace when called for. Also, I'm interested in seeing how Lucifer and Chloe's relationship develops over time and I hope that this is not simply going to be a romance meant to reform Lucifer. At the very least, it's a welcome diversion from some of the real world devilry going on these days:


GREASE:LIVE: I didn't watch the show but wish to commend Vanessa Hudgens for going on with her performance as Rizzo, despite the death of her father not long before the production started that night. My sincere condolences to her and her family, as well as my firm belief that,based upon what I've heard and seen afterwards, that she honored his memory very well by doing that:

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Taking a magical mystery tour with Jane and the Waterloo Map

For once, February 2 has more to be noted for than Groundhog's Day, as it marks the beginning of the book blog tour for Stephanie Barron's latest Jane Austen mystery novel, Jane and the Waterloo Map.

Hosted by Austenprose, this tour will offer guest posts, interviews and reviews of the thirteenth entry in Barron's series of stories that have Our Dear Jane solving a variety of crimes that seem to fall across her path in life. This particular tale is set in 1815, during the aftermath of the infamous battle of Waterloo, and Jane has gone to London to aid her brother Henry, whose financial troubles are threatening his health as well.

While in town, Jane is offered an opportunity to meet the Prince Regent(a man she despises for his morals) through the royal chaplain, who urges her to dedicate her upcoming new book Emma to His Majesty. Seeing the financial wisdom in such a move, Jane is willing to take the meeting but winds up discovering a dying man upon the carpeted floor of the Regent's library.

The victim is one Colonel McFarland, whose last words are "Waterloo map...", a phrase that starts Jane off on a quest to find out the truth behind the murder and the map. Much like her clever heroine Emma, Jane uses her sharp wits and intelligence to unravel the clues around, even if she is not very well liked for that:

I have signed up for the tour and plan to have a review of the book by Valentine's Day(Austenprose will also have one that day) and I am really looking forward to checking it out.

For years now, I have been intrigued by these books and meant to read them earlier but wasn't as into Austen themed literature as I am now. Also, jumping into a new series of books can feel pretty daunting, especially if there's a good number of them to go through.

However, since I am a bit more familiar with Austen's life and times that I once was and this series appears to be one that allows you to chose just where you would like to begin, this book sounds like the perfect place to do so. No doubt other newcomers to Barron's style of Regency mysteries would enjoy hearing from another fresh set of eyes to this series:

The Jane and the Waterloo Map tour will run until February 22 and there will be three prize packs given away to those who leave a comment at one of the official tour stops(not at this post,btw-wait for my Valentine's Day review to enter here!).

Among the various goodies to be awarded are signed copies of Jane and the Waterloo Map, plus an Austen inspired game, stationary and Regency cookie cutters. The contest will end on February 29 and the winners to be announced at Stephanie Barron's official website, so I urge you all to attend as many stops on the JATWM tour as you can in order to increase your chances of winning!

The book is now out for sale, so if you're in the mood for some Austen delights with a dash of mysterious flavor, this might be your cup of tea or perhaps a future gift for a certain romantic day of this chilly month? Certainly would be a nice change from the usual candy and flowers, no question about it.

Jane and the Waterloo Map might also be a good way to learn more about the battle of Waterloo or at the very least, find out why Napoleon did surrender as well as see why that history book on the shelf is always repeating itself:

Monday, February 01, 2016

American Crime Story starts off with a real game changer

One of the big television events this winter season is the debut of FX's American Crime Story series this Tuesday night, which takes a look at actual law and order situations that made a strong impact on the cultural landscape.

Produced by Ryan Murphy, this ten part saga is not shying away from covering a major story as the first season tackles the infamous OJ Simpson trial. Yep, getting right into the thick of things with this one, that's for sure.

The People Vs. OJ Simpson takes it's script from author Jeffrey Toobin's nonfiction book entitled The Run of His Life and has a vast array of stars in the cast such as Cuba Gooding Jr. as OJ, John Travolta as Robert Shapiro, Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian(yes, the dad of Kim and her numerous sisters).

Unlike Murphy's American Horror Story, the tone of this piece promises to be a bit more grounded in reality yet for some of the younger generation, this celebrity murder trial might appear to be stranger than fiction. Many of us can still remember where we were when OJ was charged and made his break for freedom in the Bronco, not to mention the entire trial that played out on TV practically in real time and seemed as if it would never end:

ACS intends to give the audience a behind the scenes look at what it was like for the people involved in this case, from the prosecutors who were quickly overwhelmed by the media coverage to the "dream team" looking for any which way to defend their client and finding very surprisingly successful tactics that ultimately lead to OJ being not guilty.

That focus should be pretty interesting to watch as it develops over the course of the show.  This trial became the gateway for rather dubious fame for a number of the players, even police witness Mark Fuhrman whose testimony wound up helping the defense way more than the prosecution.

 I'm most intrigued by how Marcia Clark(who is now a novelist) is going to be portrayed. She intended to present this case as a professional yet was being constantly judged by the media for her hair and clothing choices, not something that most male attorneys in the same position would have to deal with. That doesn't excuse her from the mistakes made on her side of the legal fence but it does play a part in what did happen,in my opinion:

From what I've heard, the show is not about retrying the case, it's more to do with the impact on society both then and now that this true crime three ring circus made.

During the trial and for years afterward, the pop culture riffs alone that this celebrity murder case created were of Frankenstein proportions. Some considered it cashing in  on a tragedy while others saw it as a natural consequence of such a widely talked about criminal trial.

One of the weirder aspects is the dark humor that came forth from the case, with stand-up and late night comedians having prime monologue material from this to joke books, parody magazine covers and reoccurring skits like "the dancing Itos"-the latter being a odd shout-out to Judge Lance Ito, who became unexpectedly famous to the point that he got fan letters, including one from late night host Arsenio Hall.

 However, credit goes to Jay Leno for the chorus line of Itos paraded out on a regular basis on the Tonight Show, with Marcia Clark showcased as lead dancer, something that I'm sure made her cringe:

An interest in true crime is something that has always been with us but the OJ Simpson case took that to new levels, which still resonate to this day.

You can argue that a whole new wave of coverage of court room proceedings came out of this one trial, with new elements of how race and fame can play into a prosecution or defense, along with inadvertently making criminals into multimedia superstars. Even the ongoing success of Judge Judy could be seen as an example of turning officers of the court into small screen icons.

At this pop culture moment, a revival of interest in true crime has come via podcast(Serial) and documentaries for cable and streaming services(Making a Murderer, Jinx), so will this series add more fuel to that fire or make the OJ Simpson trial phenomenon look bizarrely quaint? Either way, I hope that ACS: The People Vs. OJ Simpson will give us all plenty of food for thought, even if some of it is hard to digest:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Shining a spotlight on pop culture racial issues

Ever since the Oscar nominations for 2016 were announced, the main focus of the conversation has been the serious lack of diverse candidates, from the all-white acting categories to the male dominated directors' category.

With this being the second year in a row that the Academy has blatantly overlooked major films and performances by and about African-Americans, the calls for a boycott(lead by actress Jada Pinkett Smith) have been met with a good amount of support but also a sad supply of scorn as well. One of the worst commentaries came from Best Actress nominee Charlotte Rampling, who during an interview given in France claimed that the protest was "racist to whites."

 She's not alone in that belief, so let me say this;pointing out that one group in particular is getting more prominence than others,to the point of excluding those others, in accolades is NOT racist!

Another line of defense in this argument is that "Should it be about talent?" Of course, it should and when talented people such as Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan and F. Gary Gray are being left out when they have been given nominations for other awards for their work this year in the film industry, what other conclusion can you come to other than racism as to why they were snubbed?

 This isn't a one time coincidence, this is a pattern of behavior that has become so predictable that even a comedy series like The Nightly Show can make accurate predictions of who is not going to be nominated:

Many other groups are well known for being left out of and/or poorly represented in the nomination game,such as women in the directing category and people in the Asian and Latino communities. As a longtime Oscar watcher, I recall when The Last Emperor swept the awards back in 1987, getting Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay.

Sounds great, right? Well, the odd part was that none of the Asian actors and actresses were nominated. The exclusion of leading man and lady John Lone and Joan Chen, who both gave sterling performances, for Best Actor and Actress didn't make many waves back then. However, having Peter O'Toole up for Best Supporting Actor, when he played a very minor role in the movie, spoke all too loud and clear as to why that happened.

I have nothing against Peter O'Toole(who didn't win) or think that anyone has to be taken out of the nominee list in order to make room for someone else to be included(except maybe Charlotte Rampling, her elitist attitude leaves a bad taste in my mouth), that's not what this is about. It's about giving everyone a fair shot as much as possible.

I suspect that some of the unspoken thoughts about this include the notion that "well, we just gave them something a couple of years ago! Do we have to do that all of the time?" This isn't a favor being conferred, folks,this is simply treating all artists as equals in their field, a sign of respect that should not have to be campaigned for.

Granted, the Oscars are not the most important thing in the world but they are an international goal post in the film world that does reflect the industry as  a whole. While it's good that the Academy is now working to make substantial changes for future nominees, it's a shame that talented people are still being made to wait in the wings:

These issues are not just in Hollywood,however. Most recently, uproar over a children's book entitled A Birthday Cake for George Washington, about a father and daughter working together in the kitchen and needing sugar for the cake to be a success,  has caused it's publisher Scholastic to withdraw it from distribution.

The father and child in question were slaves, with history showing that the father Hercules escaped many years later and found freedom while his daughter Delia remained in bondage for the rest of her life. That fact is noted in an afterword in the book but the rather cheerful illustrations and overall tone of the story seem to downplay the grim truth of these real life characters' lives.

This comes on the heels of a similar controversy with another children's book last year from a different publisher. A Fine Dessert also detailed the work put into making a special treat for a family celebration, with the slaves that made it seen happily enjoying the leftovers in a closet.

I am sure that the authors and illustrators involved in both projects had good intentions here yet when it comes to story telling for such a young audience, it's extremely important not to sugar coat the hardships of slavery. Whether or not the characters that you focus on were enslaved in a household or in the fields, depicting that time period in a way that gives the wrong impression on history to grade school audiences is undermining to the educational process.

Some people are not happy about Scholastic's decision, feeling that it's a form of censorship. In my opinion, there is a world of difference between choosing to withdraw a book that has misleading information and preventing another viewpoint from being made available to readers. If there were children's books about the Holocaust that depicted that time period in a all too cheery light, I don't think that people would be so resistant to taking them off the market the way they seem to be with this book:

There have been strides made in pop culture towards showcasing diversity but many more need to be made and supported by the mainstream as well as people like you and me. You don't have to make a big production number out of reading or watching more diverse content yet it wouldn't hurt to take more of an innate interest in seeing what else is out there on the cinematic and literary landscape that could not only be enlightening but entertaining as well.

 Let's all try to open our minds to art that expands our pop culture horizons and maybe that will help our society to do so out there in the real world. Variety is the spice of the life, after all, and if we can't take a chance with our fictions, how can we remedy some of the sad facts that face us in reality?:

Monday, January 25, 2016

A musical take on A Winter's Respite of reading

While I did wish for snow during the Seasons of Reading readathon, entitled A Winter's Respite, this past week, I never intended to have such a plethora of a storm land on my doorstep like it did on Saturday.

However, I did manage to finish two of the three books that I had set aside for this literary event,so goals were pretty much met. The third book(which I'll talk more about in a moment) is one that demands taking your time with and it will be on active duty on my current reading pile.

In discussing all of the books I took on for A Winter's Respite, instead of a straight on review, I decided to chose a theme song for each one that reflects how it made me feel. First up is Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, chosen for brevity and as part of my year long reading goals.

The basic story chronicles a period in which journalist Jake Barnes follows along his restless companions(most of whom are trailing behind Lady Brett Ashley, a charismatic divorcee) as they drink and party in Paris and Spain.

 Their trip to Spain is centered around the running of the bulls in Pamplona and a handsome young matador that upsets the already unstable love triangles involving Lady Ashley. It's a rather moody story that perfectly illustrates the whole "Lost Generation" vibe of the post WWI era and sets the standard for disillusioned youth; frankly some of the conversations held here could just as easily fit into the dialogues of the beatnik/slacker/hipster twenty-somethings present and yet to come.

For a suitable theme song, Madonna's "Take a Bow" felt right. True, it does help that the video does focus quite a bit on bull fighting but the vivid details are similar to what Hemingway describes in the novel and Madonna's period outfits enhance the Lady Ashley aspect of the story. Also, the song itself talks about a broken romance and Lady Ashley's longing to be both a free spirit and yet part of someone else is the soul of the novel, in my opinion:

The other book that I completed was Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, one of those stay up until the wee small hours of the morning reads. The reluctant heroine of the book is Libby Day, a lone survivor of a family massacre who takes on the search for the truth of what happened that night motivated by payments from a crime solving group called The Kill Club.

In the beginning, Libby is only interested in the money as the charity trust fund she's been living off of is nearly empty and her emotional scars prevent her from finding a steady job or even a steady life. She is still convinced that her brother Ben,who she testified against when she was seven, is guilty as charged and serving the prison sentence that he deserves.

However, Libby starts looking into things without asking for payment as questions about what really went on back start to arise and upon visiting Ben in prison, she knows that he is hiding something or someone that could explain everything. The ending might be slightly over the top but not enough to distill the power of the overall narrative and character growth of Libby.

For this theme song, I went with Madonna again, as her theme song for the 1986 movie At Close Range "Live To Tell" felt like the perfect match. Since the death of the fictional Day family took place in the early 1980s and At Close Range involves dark family dealings, the song's haunting lyrics seemed to be well echoed in Libby's struggles to discover the truth.

 I know that there is a film version of Dark Places which didn't get great reviews, but I will still see it at some point. In the meanwhile, this second dose of Madonna fits the gruesome bill as neatly as a suspect glove:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was the first book that I chose for the readathon but it is the one left standing as AWR wound down. It's not due to a lack of interest on my part, believe me.

Much like the title setting, the story requires you to take your time strolling through the plot attractions and getting a good look at the characters as the sights and sounds of the lush prose invade your senses. The center ring showcase belongs to Marco and Celia, a pair of  talented young magicians set against each other since childhood by their mentors.

This duel of the fates challenges them both, yet the ultimate goal of this competition has not been revealed to either of them. At the point of the story that I'm at, Celia and Marco now know that they are each other's opponent but are only pushed by their mentors to do more with their powers. Since Celia is being trained by her father(who is presumed dead yet is still present due to his misfire with a spell) and Marco is an orphan plucked from obscurity with a girlfriend in the circus who informs him of any updates with the show, the stakes are quite personal here.

This time, I chose Jessica Lange's cover version of Lana Del Ray's "Gods and Monsters" as the theme music for the book. With this song being performed early on in the fourth season of American Horror Story, subtitled Freak Show, that siren allure of the piece sounds like the right background music for the place that I am at so far in this tale of magical wonders:

I hope that everyone else who took part in A Winter's Respite had as much fun as I did with their reading and that they didn't have as much snow to deal with as we did on the East Coast this weekend. Oh, well, soon enough we'll be complaining about the cruel heat of summer and looking to cool off with a good book or two, I'm sure: