Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, July 31, 2017

My literary hightlights from the High Summer Readathon of 2017

Once again, I've been having a wonderful time with the Seasons of Reading bookish events, with the annual High Summer Readathon allowing all who partake a good two weeks to indulge in page turning.

Unlike my last readathon, I added in my current loans from the library to this particular TBR and it's paid off in abundance. I was able to finish Fiona Barton's The Widow rather quickly, thanks to the high octane pace of the writing, and dive deeply in to Alison Weir's take on the most famous Tudor Queen.

Anne Boleyn, A King's Obsession is the second novel in the author's continuing series on each wife of Henry the VIII and yes, I did mean to start with the prior Catherine of Aragon book but someone got to it before me on my last library visit, so I went straight to Anne's story.  This particular tale takes us through Anne's time at the courts of Burgundy and France, where she saw many regal women speak of female independence yet also saw just how those words were only words when push came to shove.

Upon Anne taking a place in the court of Queen Catherine, she witnessed her own sister Mary being subject to King Henry's advances and yet when that focus was turned on her, Anne winds up choosing to use his one sided attentions to her advantage.

Despite the long trials and tribulations in eventually becoming Henry's queen, Anne still held on to the hope that it would all be worth it to have a child of hers take the throne of England(granted, she thought such offspring would be male as Henry wanted it to be, but fate's a funny thing there).

The pacing here is a tad long, as Alison Weir is also a historian as well as a historical fiction writer and her details about the events of Anne's life are as neatly woven as the designs on a medieval tapestry. However, this is an interesting take on Anne Boleyn and even if you're very familiar with the wives of Henry the Eighth, there are plenty of engaging developments within the story to keep your interest going. I do plan to check out that Catherine of Aragon book and to look forward to the rest of Weir's Tudor Queens series:

The first book that I did finish for the HSR,however, was Arena by Holly Jennings. The story is set in the year 2054, where competitive virtual reality gaming is a true sport that is just as fiercely competitive as any other, complete with pressure from sponsors and owners and a fast track lifestyle encouraged for the players.

Kali Ling is one of the best in the field and becoming the first female captain of her team upon entering the RAGE tournaments is ground breaking to say the least. Trouble is, part of the reason that she got that spot is due to the death of the previous captain(who was also her lover) Nathan from a drug overdose that is swept under the rug.

She not only has to figure out a winning strategy against the opposition team that almost took her group out of the running, Kali has to deal with a replacement player named Rooke, who is insistent on her relearning the basics of Taoism as a way of coping with stress. Part of Kali's stress comes from denying a growing addiction to VR, to the point where she's having trouble telling the difference between the real world and the virtual.

I like that the story here was more than video game action(although that is a compelling element of the overall plot and done well,in my opinion) and that it turns into a character study. Kali does have a romantic relationship with Rooke but it's depicted as a tale of two equals seeking to help each other deal with their problems in life in a healthy manner than just a "you saved me" scenario.

 Arena does have a sequel out,Gauntlet, and I might check it out at some point. In the meanwhile, seeing a video game heroine with strength of mind and body certainly gave me a new perspective on that genre and hopefully, more female friendly leads will follow in her wake:

For a truly seasonal selection, I went with Jenny Colgan's Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery, where Polly Waterford and friends seem to be doing well at their island community of Mt. Polbearne.

However, when the formerly grumpy owner of Polly's bake shop passes away, her disagreeable relatives take over(particularly a nasty piece of work named Malcolm) and want Polly to simply sell pre-made goods instead of her amazing homemade bread and pastries that folks all around flock to.

Eventually, Polly is fired and has to quickly find a way to make money as the lighthouse she lives in has a pretty expensive upkeep. In addition to that, her boyfriend Huckle goes back to America, not only to earn enough money for them both but to fix the problems that his feckless brother Dubose has left behind on a farm run by his girlfriend Clemmie and beloved pet puffin Neil is injured by a cat. Don't worry, Neil is okay but Polly sadly realizes that he needs to be with his own kind.

Polly finds herself running a food truck of sorts as well as making an unexpected friendship and finding out just how strong she can be on her own. Jenny Colgan has quite the charming way with her stories of women seeking self satisfaction as well as love in their lives and the best parts of this book are Polly embracing the joys of baking, a beacon of bread making that is truly inspiring as well as appetizing:

Unfortunately, I didn't have any unread holiday books on hand to take part in the Christmas in July portion of the readathon(not to mention the need to finish the Anne Boleyn book, due back at the library this week!) but I hope that a merry reading time was had by all who did. My goals were well met, as I completed five out of the six books that were on my TBR, so my thanks to Michelle Miller for setting up another fun time for reading.

I do have to say that this readathon was one of the high points of my summer and while many of the splendors of summer is engaging in outside activities, there's no reason why you can't have the same fun with a book in hand. Although, some of us may be more suited to strolling through a book than taking a walk in the great outdoors:

1 comment:

Michelle Miller said...

Thanks for joining in again, Tara. I always appreciate your lively presence in our Facebook group. Sorry I haven't been visiting your posts. I'm trying to catch up...slowly, but surely. You did get a lot of good reading in. Both you and Melissa have given me more Alison Weir non-fictions to put on my list. I do enjoy her writing.

I won't say I hope to see you for FrightFall because I know you'll be there. Right? :)
Looking forward to fall and all the scary coming up!