Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Monday, October 29, 2007

Jumpstart your holiday shopping by seeing what's new on the bookshelves this November & December

November will soon be upon us,and while many of us will slowly savor the yummy goodness of Thanksgiving Day,plenty of others will have either bought half of their intended gifts to give in December or are making battle plans for attacking the stores on Black Friday to take full advantage of the holiday season sales.

With that in mind, I thought it would be best to have a two for one book preview to help give a few folks some hints about what to pick from the bookstore for some of those more tricky to please people on their lists. If you're going to take a more leisurely approach to holiday shopping,some of these books will be great for reading while you're waiting on that very long line to the cash register or gift wrap.


If you have a person on your list who is still in mourning for Alias and thinks the perfect marriage made in heaven movie is Mr. and Mrs. Smith,there are a couple of books you might want to consider. First off is Yannick Murphy who fictionalizes what the last few days( not to mention cherished memories)would be like for one of the classic female spies of all time in Signed,Mata Hari. This intriguing new novel is due out on November 14 and already has recieved some good word of mouth from Publishers Weekly and Booklist,so you may want to check it out yourself first before giving it away.

If you prefer your spies to be a tad more on the supernatural side,Jaz Parks will be back like the Terminator(only with a much better script than the third movie had) in December with Another One Bites The Dust. This time around,Jaz and her vampire assassin partner Vayl are on the trail of an old school Chinese vampire who has his hands on a nasty piece of deadly biotechnology. However,the most challenging part of this assignment may be their undercover identities as they have to pose as street entertainers for a winter festival,which means that Jaz has to put on her belly dancing shoes and strut her stuff. Maybe she should take a few pointers from Dancing with the Stars..then again,maybe not!


With Gossip Girl becoming the next big teen show on the CW this season,there's going to be more of an audience for the Lifestyles of the Rich and Fabulously Miserable than ever before. A new entry into that marketplace is Anna Godberson's The Luxe,(November 20)which explores the trencherous realm of Manhattan social life in 1889. The plot focues on two sisters,Elizabeth and Diana Holland,as they strive to be on top of the elite society ladder and to keep down those who would get in their way.

Whether you're hoping to interest a young person into trying some Edith Wharton by slipping them something a bit more familar to his/her palate or indulging a grown-up with their Guilty Pleasure fix,this teen novel might fit the bill nicely.


One of my favorite subjects to read about as a kid were the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology(which tied in with my devotion to Wonder Woman as well),which made me very eager to get a copy of Marie Phillip's humorous look at these ancient deities living together in modern day London in Gods Behaving Badly. Like regular folk,the former denizens of Mt. Olympus have to go to work to pay the bills-Apollo is a TV psychic,Artemis walks dogs and the goddess of love Aphrodite uses her natural talents in the phone sex business.

This book(due out in December) should be a great gift for humor fans,classic scholars and those who like a blend of both worlds. If you don't believe me,just listen to the author herself who does a very good job of selling her own story here:


If you have someone in your life who would want or need a good current look at what works of classic literature to select for their personal library,Michael Dirda's Classics For Pleasure is a slam dunk. Dirda lists about ninety books,doing plenty of genre hopping with recommendations for the likes of Sherlock Holmes,Sappho,Beowulf and Georgette Heyer.

Dirda's guide will be available in early November,giving you plenty of time to grab a good number up to give to those home-for-the-holidays college students and/or high school seniors looking to find a good way to expand their literary horizons. You can also consider it a good gift for reading groups wanting to spice up their selections or any book lover who loves talking about books.


Looking for something to please that friend or family member who always seems to have such offbeat,non mainsteam tastes? Well, you might like to offer him/her one of these unique takes on the world as we know it. First up is Ethan Clark's memoir of his days traveling around with his bike-punk buddies in Leaning With Intent to Fall. The title of the book comes from an actual listing of a criminal offense that you can be arrested for in New Orleans,one of the places where Clark landed on his travels. The book is due out in November and if that link to the offical website seems to be a work in progress,here's a hint: click on the first photo you see and then keep on going. You'll find an excerpt from the book and info on how to order it directly from the publisher.

Another November release is Chuck Thompson's Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of A Rogue Travel Writer,which is not your typical take on vacationing overseas. Thompson,a former editor in chief for Travelocity magazine,gives you the real deal on what world travel is really like,who has the worst tourists and some drop your jaw in amazement stories of his encounters on the road to researching a travel article.

Here's an example of one of Thompson's tales that should stop you in your tracks on the way to the travel agent's office:

"We’re in a small, dark bar, an Aussie expat hangout. Across the table is my good friend Shanghai Bob, American expat and Old Asia Hand of distinguished order. To the right, a pair of astonishingly wasted guys in ridiculous bush hats (are there any other kind?) are sparking up what is certainly not the first joint of the evening. To the left, a young Thai girl is giving a rapid-fire, beneath-the-table hand job to a poker-faced German who throughout the event swigs his beer with a nonchalance that suggests he’s back in Bielefeld with his loving Schnuckelputz and adorable rugrats Klaus and Liesl frolicking at his feet.

The German looks like he’s in for the long haul and sometime during the girl’s indefatigable ministrations a door opens near the rear of the bar. Out spills a porcine gent, half-a-century old if he’s a day, accompanied by a slightly disheveled teenager modestly hitching up her bright orange halter top. Behind the door one can see into a narrow room, the primary features of which are a naked light bulb swinging from the ceiling and a stained mattress on the floor.

It’s at this point that Shanghai Bob looks at me and says, with utter sincerity, with complete lack of irony, “You want to get another beer here or go some place kind of sleazy?”

Clearly,this is not a travel tome for the delicate reader but if you have a friend who loves to travel and has a well developed sense of humor(not to mention a strong stomach),Smile When You're Lying should be the perfect ticket to paradise.

I hope this preview gives you a helping hand while you make those shopping rounds to the mall or online. Like they say,a book is a gift that keeps on giving and I certainly wouldn't say no to one(unless it's that OJ confession,which deserves to be in the top ten of Worst Gift Ideas Ever!). Happy reading to all and to all,a good read!

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