Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Packing a few books for your mental vacation this July and August

Summer is officially under way, with plenty of heat that gives you the perfect excuse to sit in the shade with a good book(or even a bad one,for that matter).

With most folks choosing to stay home during their summer vacation time, the best passport for armchair travel is still a new book which can take you to not only new places but old ones as well. Let's look over some of the prime destinations available at a bookseller near you this season and see which passages to book:


While many of the novels about the Tudor era can't resist the allure of Anne Boleyn's rise and fall, others seem to have more interest in the last of Henry VIII's wives,Katherine Parr.

 Elizabeth Fremantle puts her center stage in Queen's Gambit,where the twice widowed lady finds herself in love with Thomas Seymour yet has no choice but to accept the hand of the aging king. Refusing such a marriage is dangerous,given the gruesome fate of most of Katherine's predecessors but taking up the mantle of queen in this treacherous court is just as perilous.

As Katherine struggles to keep her nearest and dearest safe while avoiding the pit falls laid out for her by enemies on all sides, she must decide on what is most important,the crown or her heart. This debut historical novel offers a breath of fresh air to what some might feel is well trodden territory and could provide plenty of food for thought for eager readers(August):

Philippa Gregory adds a new chapter to her Cousins' War saga with The White Princess,which follows Elizabeth of York as she must marry Henry Tudor in order to secure the throne of England. However, her heart still belongs to Richard III,the former ruler whose death was deemed necessary to achieve peace.

As Elizabeth provides her husband with heirs to the kingdom and hopes of a promising future, the lingering rancor from the family feuds that tore both sides apart continues to simmer,especially between the two bitter mother-in-laws who refuse to let old grudges go.

With the Starz presentation of The White Queen to air later this summer, more interest will be peaked regarding Gregory's fictional portraits of  women who were both powerful and powerless at this critical point in English history(July):


 Jessica Brockmole's debut novel,Letters from Skye, bridges two love stories in two different time periods via the power of the pen. Told in letters, the first half begins on a remote Scottish island in March of 1912, where isolated poet Elspeth Dunn is startled by the arrival of a fan letter from America.

It turns out that her distant admirer,David Graham, has much to offer with his shared love of literature and the two of them form a bond through their correspondence. However,the escalation of WWI has David becoming an ambulance driver on the battlefield,with Elspeth having no choice but to wait for word of his safety.

The second half of the book belongs to Margaret,Elspeth's daughter,who is in love with an Air Force pilot as WWII is starting up. An explosion near their home reveals the hidden letters between Elspeth and David,causing Margaret to wonder what truly happened all those years ago and what caused her mother to suddenly disappear. An old fashioned love story sounds like it would hit the spot this season and Brockmole's tender tale appears to be the brainy beverage of choice(July).

 Another war time theme surrounds a love story in The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian as the setting for our heroine is in Tuscany,1943. The family of eighteen year old Christina Rosati feels that they can stay out of the turmoil all around them and for a while, they are able to live in the tranquility they're used to.

That calm is shattered by the arrival of a pair of soldiers looking for an Etruscan burial site nearby. Before long, the Rosatis have a horde of Nazi troopers on their doorstep and Christina is wooed by one of the lieutenants.  This turn of events echoes down the years,as a killer stalks the last members of the family in a grim determination to seek revenge. A darker edge on this most romanticized time and place should be quite the thoughtfully thrilling ride(July):

 I plan to be going a bit further back in time with my latest Library Thing win,Freud's Mistress. Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman team up for this novel that explores the awkward love triangle between Sigmund Freud, his wife Martha and her sister Minna.

Minna has taken refuge in her brother-in-law's household upon being fired from her position of lady's companion due to her outspoken nature. While her sister is happy to have an extra set of helping hands,Minna proves to be very useful to Sigmund in his research and for once, her intelligence is being appreciated.

Freud's theories about human sexuality prove shocking both in public and private,with the bond between him and Minna threatening more than one front. This intriguing look into one of the possible influences on a ground breaking school of thought should put many book club folk on the couch,turning pages as fast as they can(July):


Marisha Pessl follows up her unique debut novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics with a cinematic styled thriller,Night Film.  Ashley,the daughter of cult film director Stanislas Cordova is found dead in a Manhattan warehouse late one evening and while the cause is declared to be suicide, reporter Scott McGrath is not so sure.

Investigating her demise, Scott learns more about the strange legacy of her infamous father,who has been a recluse for about thirty years. His interest is more than just the hunt for a good story; Scott has had dealings with Cordova that changed his life in terrible ways. Yet, that past experience drives him forward to seek the truth,no matter how horrifying it be may be.

Pessl has proven to have her own special brand of storytelling and her dip into the pool of mystery should be chilling in the good sense of the word(August):


The subtitle of fiction writer Kate Christensen's upcoming memoir Blue Plate Special is "an autobiography of my appetites" and she is true to her word. She recounts how food played it's part in her life, beginning with an egg and toast breakfast  in her childhood where her parents bitterly fought to a year in France as an adult where more than one mature hunger was awakened.

Christensen also talks her bouts of crash dieting,drinking and emotional struggles as a writer,which was fueled by comfort foods. Complete with recipes and insights from her foodie blog, Kate Christensen serves up a platter of poignant experiences that promises to be as engaging as any of her novels(July).


In Susanna Daniel's Sea Creatures, Georgia Quillan plans to make a fresh start with her family by moving back to her Floridan hometown. There, she finds a work organizing the chaotic art pieces of a local hermit while husband Graham takes a job that hopefully won't be impacted by the sleep disorder that doomed his chances at tenure in his former university teaching position.

Georgia also hopes that their three year old son Frankie might come out of the shell that his selective mutism  has put him in. Things appear to be going well but the threat of a hurricane may drown their new found opportunities for a better life. This story of a family at emotional sea should offer much to those feeling similarly adrift(late July).

 Author Linda Spalding blends history with family drama in The Purchase,as Daniel Dickinson, a widowed Quaker father is shunned by his community for keeping Ruth,an unmarried servant girl, in his employ. Since Ruth was an orphan, he felt it was cruel to sent her away,especially after his wife died in childbirth and his children needed extra care.

Daniel decides to marry Ruth and to take their family to Virginia,where in 1798,slavery is in practice. Against his faith,he winds up buying a young slave named Simus,who becomes caught in the crossfire between the Dickinsons and the rest of the community. Spalding is well known in Canada for her work,which won the Governor General's Award for fiction last year, and with any luck, she'll be just as well received in the U.S. this summer(August). 

With all of these choices(and even more out there), you might be feeling overwhelmed by your reading piles but don't sweat,there is a fun and handy solution.

 Making a book jar is just the summer project that your literary life needs and should help to clear a few shelves for the fall. Let your creative spirit  lend a hand to your reading needs this season,folks!:

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