Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Enjoying some Jane Austen modern makeovers with a slice of Cherry Cheesecake Murder

As the heat waves approach us, keeping cool in the shade of a good book is more vital than ever before.

Fortunately, I was recently able to catch up with a pair of Jane Austen themed novels as well as dive back into a cozy culinary series(more on that later) in order to embrace the warmth of good writing rather than the warmth of the day.

As it happens, both of the Austen related books have two things in common; they're set in modern times and each one adapts a fresh version of Pride & Prejudice. First up is Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin, which takes place in Canada where our title heroine is beginning her career as a substitute teacher. She would much rather pursue her ambitions as a poet but practical concerns and family obligations push her into this traditionally safe profession.

At age 27, Ayesha is considered too old for the marriage market, which is fine with her. However, one of her neighbors, Khalid, who is rather conservative in dress and manners, finds himself attracted to her strong outspoken nature while his mother is firmly on the hunt for a suitable wife for him,according to her standards.

More than one situation throws Ayesha and Khalid together, giving their respective group of family and friends plenty of chances to encourage them as they slowly yet surely fall in love. Plenty of complications arise as well, with enemies from the past and present haunting Khalid and attempting to get in the way of his possible romance with Ayesha.

What I really loved about this book was the delicious rom-com flow of the story that used P&P as a guideline but not a rigid structure. A solid blend of humor and heart went into these characters, such as Ayesha's grandparents who subtly influenced certain plot points and Khalid's party hearty co-worker, who winds up bettering himself a bit as he tries to help his friend.

I also liked how the female characters were fully developed, particularly in the relationship between Ayesha and her cousin Hasfa, who is so the Lydia Bennet of this story. While they do care about each other, Hasfa is rather spoiled and selfish at times, taking advantage of her cousin's generosity, to the point of having Ayesha pretend to be her for an event planning gig that compromises her integrity.

When Ayesha finally does confront her about that and a few other things, it's not pretty but it was also necessary for both characters to truly get to the next emotional level for themselves and the story arc. That push-pull of their relationship makes their bond more sisterly, which reflects on the JA source material nicely:


The romance between Ayesha and Khalid is not to be discounted, however, and it does help to see his side of things here. While Ayesha learns how to take more chances in life and not just settle for lesser dreams, Khalid finds out a few truths about his own family, especially his older sister who was sent packing due to a secret that his manipulative mother was determined to hide(his mom is such a Lady Catherine!).

Seeing the two of them find a place of mutual love and respect in order to be together is lovely and having a few Shakespearean quotes sprinkled throughout the story, courtesy of Ayesha's literary grandfather, really rounds out this enchanting tale of true love, Austen style:


Meanwhile, Sonali Dev's Pride,Prejudice and Other Flavors is not just serving up some Jane Austen goodness, this book is meant to be the start of a series of Austen influenced stories set in California that features the Raje family.

Trisha Raje is a brilliant neurosurgeon, still dealing with the guilt of an incident from the past that could upset her brother Yash's political future. As their father is determined for his son to make a distinctive mark in the world, his harshness makes it difficult for Trisha to stay in touch with her family.

Try as she might,though, her family duty pulls her into the current campaign to get Yash into higher office which has her run into DJ Caine, a talented chef who left England to help his sister Emma, an artist with a serious health condition.

As it turns out, Emma happens to be Trisha's patient, which brings them both together more often than either of them would like. No matter what the situation, they just can't help clashing like water and fiery oil, to say the least:


The one thing that they can agree on is food as DJ has high culinary standards and Trisha tends to be rather hangry at times. She does appreciate his cooking, even if her growing feelings for him make her incredibly tongue tied, and he can't resist liking someone who fully enjoys the effort that he puts into his life's work:


A huge barrier to their friendship and potential romance is Julia Wickam, a former friend of Trisha's who betrayed more than one trust. Julia claims to be making fund raising documentaries for the critically ill and wants to use Emma as her next subject. That , along with other complications and secrets that are insisted upon to be kept, makes both Trisha and DJ more conflicted about any feelings that arise between them.

This story is very engaging, with the P&P elements blended lightly into the overall story but still detectable nonetheless. This is one of those up-all-night reads, where you have to make yourself go to bed despite wanting to see what's about to happen on the next page or in the next chapter. This is the first time that I've read Sonali Dev and I'm looking forward to more of the Raje family saga indeed.

At the moment, I'm indulging in the next Hannah Swensen title on my list, Cherry Cheesecake Murder, which I was saving for my Series-ous Reading challenge but the need for a relaxing read was just too great. Plus, my mom is way ahead of me with these books and I ought to keep up with them and her!

The main plot has Hannah and friends being thrilled that a Hollywood movie is being made in their beloved town of Lake Eden but when the film's director finds himself on the wrong end of an alleged prop gun, the hunt for a killer in their midst is on.

I do love small town movie making story lines but what really liven up things for me was how Hannah dealt with the pressure of having both Mike and Norman propose marriage to her(that happened at the end of the previous book). Everyone in town kept calling her on the phone, demanding that she make a choice so that either Mike or Norman would stop moping around. Hello, what about Hannah's needs, here?

This was very Stars Hollow and I liked how Hannah became all Luke Danes in publicly taking this issue on, which was really nobody's business but their own. Then again, that is how small towns go, I guess but sometimes, you have to tell folks to stand back and let a person breathe there:


Well, I hope all of you are having a good reading time this summer and if you're in the mood for a new take on Jane Austen, one of the titles above will suit your bookish needs.

 Speaking of bookish needs, I'm still making adjustments to my readathon list for August-long books are great but a shorter title or two might help me meet my goals better. Decisions, decisions! At least this is the good kind of dilemma to deal with, if you ask me:


Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Making it a cool summer with some good books

With the July Fourth holiday over with, the rest of the summer is a relatively quiet time where the main focus is to beat the ever increasing heat.

 That didn't stop me from making a visit to the library-books were due back,after all!-and I managed to pick up a few promising titles that should hold me over for awhile.

One book that I've heard quite a bit about is The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, where a quartet of siblings are given the precise date of their deaths by a fortune teller on Manhattan's Lower East Side in 1969.

 This dubious yet rather exact information leads the Gold children to take all sorts of chances in life, since each of them has their own due date set by fate already. Brother and sister Simon and Klara team up to take off to San Francisco in the latter portion of the 1970s, where one of them decides to look into magic, particularly talking with the dead.

Meanwhile, decades later, their elder brother Daniel uses his connections as a military doctor to track down the fortune teller, who is on the FBI wanted list for fraud. Varya, the oldest of all her siblings, is a researcher seeking the key to increasing the human life span. While she has more of an emotional bond with the simian subjects of her experiments than actual human beings, an interview with a journalist sets off a change that could alter the whole course of her life.

This novel was on a good number of Best of the Year lists in 2018 and does offer a truly intriguing premise; how different would your life be if you knew just how long you had to live it? It's certainly worth a try and perhaps I'll get a few more reading suggestions out of this promising read as well:


 A pair of mysteries also found their way onto my library checkout; Cleo Coyle's A Shot in the Dark and The Dead Ringer by M.C. Beaton.  The latter is the latest Agatha Raisin entry, where our leading lady is asked to attend the arrival of a rather handsome bishop in a neighboring town.

This bishop attracts a lot of female attention, some of which leads to either a strange disappearance(of heiress Amber, who was said to be interested in marriage) or an untimely death such as one of the lady bell ringers at the church he was visiting.

Agatha is interested in both of these cases while trying to balance her love life and help out a few folks in need of her guidance, in her opinion. Can she manage it all out before things get more complicated than usual?

While I have read several of Coyle's Coffee House books before, this is the first Agatha Raisin novel that I'm reading(and yes, I do have the first two books in the series on hand). Well, at this point I have four library books at home and if you have that many taken out, you should start reading one of them at least!

Anyway, even though this title is further on in the series, I did finish watching Season One of the British TV series(which is great fun) and this ought to tide me over until Season Two is available:


Of course, the library wasn't the only place for me to get new books for the summer. Thanks to Library Thing, I won a copy of The Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner, which chronicles the beginning of the end of the Russian monarchy.

Princess Maria Feodorovna of Denmark was destined to marry one son of the czar yet an unexpected turn for the worse leads her to wed his brother Sasha. As she joins the family, conditions under the rule of her father in law Alexander II lead the country into a realm of despair and uncertainty.

Maria does her best to keep her loved ones safe and secure, a mission that grows more difficult when Sasha's troubled reign is handed off to their son Nicholas, whose wife Alexandra is being strongly influenced by devious new advisor, Rasputin. Can she guide her family into calmer waters before it's too late?

I do like historical fiction but haven't read much about Russia in this genre, so this should be a good introduction to that. At the very least, I might watch the acclaimed Nicholas and Alexandra movie from the seventies, which sounds like a grand companion piece to this story:




However, I was unable to resist a book sale or two so, along with a Beatriz Williams novel that I've been meaning to get to, Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce is making it's way to me as we speak.

Set in WWII London, Emmeline, aka Emmy, Lake is hoping to do her bit for the war effort by becoming a Lady War Correspondent. However, her new job at Women's Friend magazine has Emmy being the assistant to Henrietta Bird, a popular advice columnist who demands that "unsuitable" letters from readers be tossed away.

Moved by the plight of those desperate letter writers, Emmy secretly answers them, using the Mrs. Bird byline. While she is helping to boost the moral of those waiting women at the home front, Emmy does run the risk of being found out and sent off in disgrace, not to mention her advice giving urges could lead to some personal disasters as well.

This charming novel should make for a great summer read, plus I do like the notion of someone with a plucky can-do spirit trying to spread joy in troubled times. That's something we all could use more of these days, that's for sure!:


Hopefully, these new finds will satisfy my bookish needs as the temperatures climb higher and higher. Best case scenario, my book buying budget will not be exceeded by all of the great deals being showcased out there.

Of course, there are some books that don't need a sale to be purchase worthy but it does make resisting temptation all the harder when that special book you've been waiting for is at such a good price! Perhaps I'm not alone in wanting my resolve in such matters to be as solid as a block of ice instead of being as prone to melting as ice cream, especially in summer:



Monday, July 01, 2019

Wrapping up a readathon and other summer book plans

With the expansion of the Sci-Fi Summer readathon(thanks to Michelle at Seasons of Reading), I was able to add a couple of non theme related titles to my immediate TBR and since one of them was a library book, that really came in handy.

The other book was the third in a series and oddly enough, the second one that I read from this author. Laura Disilverio's The Readaholics mysteries all take place in a town called Heaven in Colorado(a recent name change, in order to attract the tourist trade) where a book club that focuses on mystery novels  winds up solving a few murders in their own backyard.

In The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala, leading lady Amy-Faye Johnson is using her event planning skills to arrange a local literary event,The Celebration of Gothic Novels, being hosted by a book shop called Book Bliss(love that name!). It's a theme that Amy-Faye and friends are in the mood for, having chosen Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca as their latest book club selection.

The Gothic Novels celebration has three modern day authors in attendance; grand dame Constance Aldringham, spunky Francesca Bugle and debut darling Mary Stewart. While most of the scheduled events go well, with only a few odd mishaps that are cleared up rather quickly, it's the costume party held at the golf club that produces the most excitement.

Two unexpected guests cause quite the uproar, with the first being Eloise Hufnagle, who insists that Mary Stewart stole her manuscript, making her surprise bestseller a fraud. As Eloise makes her getaway via dousing various party goers with (fortunately) fake blood, Amy-Faye is asked to go to the manager's office where a deceased stranger breaks up the party for good. Is Eloise to blame for this shocking surprise as well?:



Turns out that the stranger is an out of towner named Trent Van Allen, who Amy-Faye noticed showing up at the celebration events all day. He certainly didn't appear to be a gothic reader and in fact, had a rather shifty past.

Since the murder weapon was a stake swiped from Lola, one of the Readaholics at the party, Amy-Faye and company feel honor bound to discover who the killer is.

Secrets and lies abound with the newcomers to town as Constance's daughter Allyson has had prior trouble with the law, Mary Stewart and her accompanying brother/bodyguard Lucas are not who they seem to be, plus Francesca and Hollywood producer Cosmo Zeller are all too anxious about the upcoming adaptation of her bestselling novel, Barbary Close.

With Amy-Fay getting a tip from Van Allen's girlfriend Sharla, who has good reason not to go to the cops, it appears that the motive for murder is blackmail. But, which of the authors is being targeted and is it a secret worth killing for?:


I really like this series and hope there are more books to come. Amy-Faye and her Readaholic friends are great fun, especially Maud, a lady who's clearly lived a pretty interesting life and has some wild tales to tell! Another bonus is that the club does take the time to discuss their recent read(as well as watch the film version) and that each book plays a part in solving the main mystery.

I do have the first book to read,The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco, and while it's weird to read the first one last, this appears to be working for me. With Gothic Gala being published back in 2016, it might be the final one in this series, which would be a shame. Perhaps there's another Readaholics meeting being planned as we speak but if not, at least this was a grand gothic time worth having:


With Gothic Gala and Sujita Massey's The Satapur Moonstone(a wonderful read) being completed and Sci-Fi Summer finished until next time, I'm going to try and just have a few relaxing reads this July.

There are plans for a Christmas in July readathon but I am going to sit that one out and join up for the High Summer event this August. That month is going to be busy for me, with Bad Movie Month and setting up a fall book preview ,too,but no rest for the wicked as they say!

In the meanwhile, I have a few new books to explore such as Pride,Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev. In this present day take on the iconic Jane Austen novel,  Trisha Raje and DJ Caine seem to come from very different worlds as she is a talented neurosurgeon devoted strictly to her work and he's a chef /actual DJ that's hired to cater a major event for her family.

The two of them take an instant dislike to each other yet what they do have in common is DJ's younger sister, who is dealing with medical problems that require Trisha's skills and DJ's support. As they find themselves growing closer, a certain lady with the last name of Wickam does her best to split this potential for new love apart.

I do like a fresh blend of Jane Austen storytelling with modern day flair and this novel promises to be an engaging read, filled with fine writing and accomplished women galore:


Also, I'm going to be sampling some of M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin mystery series. thanks in part to enjoying the BBC TV series that it inspired on DVD.

We are introduced to Agatha in The Quiche of Death, where our leading lady has moved from London to a small village in the Cotswalds, having taken an early retirement from her successful PR firm. It's been a childhood dream of hers to enjoy a quiet country life but she's not fitting in as well as she thought she would.

Agatha decides to enter the local quiche contest, using a store bought pastry from out of town, as a means to making a good impression. That backfires as not only does her entry not win, it poisons one of the judges! Not wanting to reveal her cheating at the competition, Agatha decides to get to the bottom of the mystery before another deadly bite is taken.

The show is charming, with a nice bit of whimsy and potential romance, and with the first two books in the series, I will most likely have another cozy mystery author queuing up on my shelves to enjoy:


My blog posts might be light this month but I will pop in from time to time there. My thanks to Michelle Miller at Seasons of Reading for another great readathon(will sign up in August and yes, I have a TBR all set for High Summer!) and a Happy July Fourth to all.

I do know that I read a lot of  mysteries(cozy and otherwise) but I have no plans to start any amateur sleuthing on my own, I promise! Some things are best left to the experts or to those delightful fictional folk who make all of that page turning a suspenseful sweet treat indeed:


Monday, June 24, 2019

Setting up some summer day reading for July & August

Since we're fully into summer now, making rest and relaxation plans during these hot and humid months are vital.  Whether you're putting up your feet at home or packing up for a big road trip, books are part and parcel for your entertainment needs.

During this July and August, quite a few new reads are expected to arrive on a bookshelf near you and while it may be daunting to keep track of them all, perhaps this list of recommendations can make that particular task more of a pleasure than a chore:


RIDING THE READING WAVE:

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to finish reading The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman and in my opinion, this was the best way to start my summer.

The leading lady of the title is enjoying what she deems a rather happy existence, with a great job at a indie bookstore, an apartment loaded to the brim with books and competitive fun as a member of a bar trivia team called Book 'Em Danno, plus a cat.

Nina's world gets a few sudden jolts as a visit from a lawyer brings her news of the death of her father, a man she never knew, and a whole slew of relatives, one of which has very blunt opinions about Nina's possible inheritance from the last will and testament. In addition, there's a guy on a rival trivia team(You're a Quizzard, Harry, such a great name!) who is catching her eye but he doesn't seem to be much of a reader, a major check in the negative column.

Nina does have some anxiety problems, which are set off by all of these new changes. Can she learn to adjust to this new set of situations or will she retreat further away from them?  This is the first time that I've read Abbi Waxman and this book is a wonderful introduction to her witty ways with words and people.

I highly encourage any and all bookish types to add this enchanting novel to their summer reading and while this story is set in Southern California, there a bit of a New England Stars Hollow vibe to it that should delight fans of a certain beloved TV show indeed(July):


 For a look into the not so distant literary past, Karen Dukess takes us to The Last Book Party, set in the summer of 1987.

Eve Rosen longs to be a writer as celebrated as Henry Grey, who is practically a living legend at the New Yorker, yet being an editorial secretary at his publishers is enough of a thrill for her.  Getting to meet him and his seeming elite family at his home during a business gathering is pretty much a dream come true.

In order to get closer to the Greys as well as her literary ambitions, Eve leaves her job to work for up and coming author Jeremy Grand as his research assistant. Jeremy went to school with Henry's son Franny and while his talents as a writer are attractive, what he knows about the Greys is less than pretty. Eve learns that lesson the hard way at a book party which is both a beginning and an ending for all involved.

With such rapid changes to the world of publishing, Dukess gives us the gift of reflection upon a somewhat more innocent time that offers plenty of secrets and lies for the page turning(July).

HISTORICAL BLASTS FROM THE PAST:

Laura L. Sullivan offers a different take on The Three Musketeers with Milady, the villainous dame of de Winter. Here, we get her back story as Clarice, a young woman introduced into the intrigues of the court of King James I, mainly for the benefit of her absent nobleman father.

Using her skills for deceit and murder, Clarice makes her way through less than polite society, despite being made into a pawn by various men in her path for their own power games. By the time she does run into D'Artagnan and friends, she has lived more than one adventurous life and is ready to take on more.

If you're a fan of Milady de Winter (and yes, I am), this novel is a dream come true and for those not yet familiar with the classic Dumas tale, this is a good way to make the acquaintance of those fine fellows and the most deadly diva in literature(July):


 In Karen Brooks' The Chocolate Maker's Wife, which takes place in London of the 1660s, Rosemund Tompkins considers it to be her good fortune to be sold into marriage to Sir Everald Blithman, a nobleman who has just opened a chocolate drinking establishment for the upper class.

While happy to get away from the abusive men in her family, Rosemund soon learns that her new husband considers her more of a daughter, as in she resembles his deceased daughter Helena. Further more, Helena's widower, Matthew Lovelace, was never considered to be good enough for her and her father blames him for the early death of his beloved child.

Rosemund contents herself with being a good wife by educating herself on the newly flourishing chocolate trade and becoming a charming hostess at the drinking house. Even when she finds herself an independent woman of means, Rosemund does her best to take life as it comes but it's not without a few obstacles both in and out of her control. This lively look at a woman in the flow of history who makes her own way forward is quite the savory sweet treat(August).

Beatriz Williams can always be counted on for a great read that highlights amazing people in history and in her upcoming The Golden Hour, the infamous Duke and Duchess of Windsor play a key role.

Reporter Lulu Thorpe is covering the doings of the former heir to the English throne and his wife Wallis Simpson as they set up shop in the Bahamas during the early 1940s. Her ultimate goal is to help her current husband Benedict , an undercover agent for the British,escape from a German prison camp but she still has a job to do and highlighting the Windsors is a necessary evil.

Lulu is no stranger to trouble, having had to ditch a troublesome prior husband, and yet, this plight of her beloved Benedict may be trickier to deal with. A connection from his family's past might be the unexpected key to his freedom, if only she can find it in time. Williams is truly crackerjack when it comes to such stories and her portrayal of the Windsors should be a delightful dish on this literary menu(July):


 FIRE AND FLIGHT: This pair of late summer releases have very different ways of dealing with matters of heart and soul yet each works well for their particular set of fictional situations.

In Lisa Lutz's The Swallows, newly hired teacher Alex Witt is going through some hazing at Stonebridge Academy, a private school in Vermont. As she begins to deal with the bordering on nasty harassment, a student named Gemma informs her of a website where the boys of Stonebridge brag about their sexual conquests, complete with a ranking of their female classmates.

Not wanting to make waves yet unable to ignore the issue, Alex becomes an unofficial advisor to Gemma, who is forming a group of her peers that are planning to take the boys on, especially since they know the patriarchal power system that runs the school certainly won't. As remote as she hopes to be from all of this, Alex finds herself caught up in the maelstrom that eventually ignites but is not unhappy about which side she's on.

Lutz is known for her sharp satire mixed with savvy storytelling and while this novel is set several years before the rise of the push back movement against misogynistic behavior that we see today, this vivid tale of payback rings strongly true to the times(August).


The leading lady of Katherine Center's Things You Save in a Fire is Cassie Hanwell, whose determination to get over the turmoil that entered her life at age sixteen lead her to become a top firefighter in Austin, TX, ten years later.

An unexpected encounter with someone from her past sets off a chain of actions that has Cassie starting over in a Boston firehouse, living with the mother who left her a decade ago.

Dealing with a new crew and a mom that wants to reconnect before her health problems get worse, Cassie has enough on her plate without being attracted to a rookie firefighter named Owen, who is quite friendly but they're competing for the same spot in the firehouse, thanks to budget cuts.

That's not the only reason that she wants to hold off on making emotional bonds yet fate seems to have other things in mind for her, despite Cassie's determination to be an emotional island fortress. Perhaps she has to discover how to rescue herself. This poignant novel of love, loss and self healing sounds like the perfect reading escape for any time of the year(August):


 I hope you all have a great summer and enjoy whatever good times you have planned, especially for the big Fourth of July holiday that is just around the corner. As for me, that holiday is going to be spent in a certain small town where a new mall has opened and along with the fireworks, Stranger Things will be bringing the noise as well as the fearsome funk:


Monday, June 17, 2019

Planning a ladies' night at the movies this summer

While we're in the big blockbuster movie season at the moment, it's a good idea to take a serious look around at the upcoming film schedule to see if there is anything on the cinematic horizon that's a bit more bookish and female focused.

At the very least, you might find a small treasure just waiting to be discovered or a merely a not on the major radar movie that needs a little extra attention to gain a sizeable audience. For example, a different take on Shakespeare's Hamlet is due out later this month entitled Ophelia, starring Daisy Ridley in the title role.

From being taken in as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Gertrude(Naomi Watts) to becoming the secret love interest of Prince Hamlet(George McKay) as the royal family deals with major upheavals,including betrayal of the most intimate kind, Ophelia has to rely on her own wits to find a safe passage for herself. However, such maneuvering often comes at a terrible price but will she be willing to pay that cost?

Based on the novel by Lisa Klein as well as the iconic play, this vision of Hamlet's Denmark could be an eye opener even for those who think they know this story inside and out. Perhaps a new set of eyes could make this tragic tale more poignant than ever before:


 Arriving in August, Vita & Virginia puts the spotlight on two main members of the famed Bloomsbury Group in England of the 1920s.

Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton) is determined to befriend the reclusive writer Virginia Woolf(Elizabeth Debicki) in order to liven up her dreary social life but their connection turns out to become much deeper than that.

The growing affection between them is strong, with neither of their seemingly conventional marriages getting in the way, and eventually their bond becomes the inspiration for one of Woolf's most innovative works, Orlando.

Adapted from the stage play by Eileen Atkins(who used the actual correspondence of these remarkable women as source material), this movie may be a great introduction into the Bloomsbury mystique as well as inviting those devoted to this special circle of friends over for some engaging drama:


Also set for August but a little closer to modern times, The Kitchen stars Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elizabeth Moss as a trio of wives living in Hell's Kitchen during the 1970s who share two things in common; their husbands are in prison and they're facing hard financial times.

Tired of scrapping by and barely making do with what little is given to them, the ladies decide to be their own mob bosses and surprise themselves by being more than just as good as the men. In fact, they're far better.

However, even these strong willed women have to deal with the aftermath of a life of crime but perhaps they can make it work on their own terms. This movie is based on a DC/Vertigo graphic novel by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle that should be reissued in time for this movie to make it's mark on the big screen.  Why this is set for so late in the summer movie game, I don't know but it could be a savvy sleeper hit, we shall see:


Well, it's good to see some girl power on the silver screen this summer and not just in the fall in time for award show season. Although, we may get a bit of mega movie fun when back to school season starts that should be delightfully wicked indeed, particularly if you're fond of villainous leading ladies, which I so am!:


Friday, June 14, 2019

My Sci-Fi Summer reading has turned into quite the royal rumble

So far, my pace in the  Sci-Fi Summer readathon has been pretty good and I thought rather quick for a two week challenge.

As it turns out, I have more time to read here as moderator Michelle Miller(from Seasons of Reading) has recently announced that this special bookish event is now a month long,which also moves July's High Summer reading to August. In addition, not all of your books have to be sci-fi and/or fantasy, other genres can be part of the mix.

It's a good idea whose time has come and while I did drop one intended book off my initial list, a library loan has taken it's place(more on that later). In the meantime, I was able to finish the first three books in Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns YA fantasy series, which are scarily addicting but oh so fun to read!

 The first book introduces us to the island nation of Fennbirn, where in every generation, a set of female triplets are born to be queen. Each one has a particular set of magical abilities and are raised apart from one another in communities that favor that young queen's powers.

At age sixteen, all three are brought together to fight to the death for the throne. Dominance over the island by a certain powerful group is also determined by which queen wins.

For the past several reigns, the Poisoners have maintained control over Fennbirn, placing a huge burden on Katherine, whose ability to absorb and survive the affects of various poisons given to her over the years is weak at best. 

However, the odds on favorite to win the throne back from the Poisoner crowd is Mirabella, one of strongest Elemental queens to come in a generation. While she is reluctant to destroy the sisters that are remembered only in her dreams, there is no denying that her control over lightning,wind and fire make her a force to be reckoned with:

  

The one sister who cares least about the throne is Arsinoe, a Naturalist whose powers have yet to manifest. It's only through "low magic" that she has been able to produce a familiar in time for the first ritual meeting of the three, a brown bear that she has limited control over.

Arsinoe's whole goal is to survive,period. With the aid of her best friend Jules Millone,who is far more powerful than most of the Naturalists, she is trying to do just that despite the increasing odds that she will be the first to die.

 With the return of a childhood friend Joseph(banished to the mainland for attempting to sail Arsinoe off of the island) and the arrival of William"Billy" Chatsworth, a potential royal suitor, the situation gets more complicated and gruesome risks are taken. When the sisters display their talents at the Quickening, a number of plans for and against each sister go awry, creating more conflict than ever before.


In One Dark Throne, much has changed for the sisters with the most dramatic being for Katherine, who was tossed into a deep pit known as the Breccia Domain(formerly used to dispose of defeated queens) and managed to make it out alive.

That move was made by Pietyr, a cousin of the powerful Arron family of poisoners, who thought that he was sparing her from a horrifying death due to a betrayal plot. Katherine's survival has given her a new life, so to speak as well as a change in her personality.

She is no longer the meek and mild mouse that the brutal life of poisoning has made her,rather Katherine has become a mysterious and deadly enemy who is all too willing to destroy her sisters in any way that she can:




By the time we get to Two Dark Reigns, Katherine has been crowned and her new rule is unsteady, with the protective mist that surrounds the island acting out in strange and violent ways.


Her sisters Mirabella and Arsinoe, along with Billy, have escaped to the mainland and are presumed dead by those on Fennbirn. They are doing their best to adjust to the very different way of life where women are not placed in any positions of power.

 Mirabella does not want to ever return to her homeland but Arsinoe is being haunted by dreams from a long ago queen that urge them both to go back home. Meanwhile, a rebellion is growing against Katherine and those whose magical gifts are in the minority want Jules to be their leader and new queen. She is beyond reluctant to do so but when push comes to shove, she can't help but join the fight:


This sisterly saga is truly compulsive reading, with a solid amount of character development and a rich world built by the author that feels so fresh and vibrant. If I didn't have to wait for the fourth book(Five Deadly Fates) to arrive in the fall, I would be reading it right now.

As it is, I am moving on to other things for this readathon and since we can add different genres, my current read is The Satapur Moonstone by Sujita Massey, to be followed by The Readaholics and The Gothic Gala by Laura DiSilvero. With TSM being a library book that happily came to me via hold, it's a good thing that Sci-Fi Summer was expanded like this, so thank you, Michelle! Choosing between a theme and a new read is difficult but fortunately, I and my fellow readathons can now enjoy the best of both literary worlds:


Monday, June 10, 2019

This year's Bad Movie Month has quite the Marvel-ous line-up

One of the traditions here at LRG is that August is known as Bad Movie Month, where once a week during that time, we take a look at some of the saddest examples of cinematic story telling.

For our theme this time out, inspiration is drawn from one of the better displays of long term story and world building.

No matter if you're a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe(MCU) or not, we can all agree that Avengers:Endgame was one of the major movie events of the year, rounding off over a decade of superhero films that successfully interconnected with each other as well as their respective audiences.

However, not all of the actors in those films have a solid stack of quality work on their resume. So, we then embark on what I'm calling Avengers:FilmFail. Since there are numerous characters in the MCU, our focus will be on four of the main Avengers-Iron Man(Robert Downey,Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow(Scarlett Johannson). Each of chosen cinematic stinkers has one of them in a starring role with perhaps a co-star from the MCU who, one way or the other, joins in the dubious fun:

DUE DATE: For Robert Downey Jr., I chose this 2010 road trip comedy and I can hear some of you saying, "Hey, this movie was a box office hit! How can it be one of your bad movies?"

Well, for one thing, just because a movie is financially successful doesn't mean that it's good-keep in mind, that Transformers flick that had King Arthur's knights in the mix(that will be important later on in this post).

Critics were less than thrilled with this movie as RDJ teams up with a "look how weird I am!" Zach Galifianakis as two unlikely companions forced to take to the road together, thanks to a misunderstanding at the airport. Yes, a terrorist joke is the cause.

As Downey struggles to get home in time to witness the birth of his first child, Zach plans to scatter his recently deceased father's ashes but little things like a "Stage Name ID" and a run in with the Mexican police tend to slow them down. This attempt at combining The Hangover with Planes,Trains and Automobiles sounds more a barrel full of headaches than hearty laughs. Also, Jamie Foxx, who played a villain in the Amazing Spiderman sequel, shows up to make this pick a bit MCU adjacent:



RED DAWN(2012): This remake of the 1984 warhawk movie was awful enough to earn a Razzie nomination and while the original film has the distinction of being the first American release to get a  PG-13 rating, this version made headlines for changing it's invaders from Chinese to North Korean(insert your topical joke here).

Hemsworth takes on the role originated by Patrick Swayze, as returning Marine Jed, who goes home just in time to help the locals fight back against the invading army suddenly at their doorstep. Why any invading force would go after a small town instead of a major city is beyond me but hey, gotta follow that original formula!

For a MCU connection, we have Adrienne Palicki(who played Bobbi Morse on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made for TV series) on board. As for the other actors, this is probably not the worst item on their resume but certainly not one any of them will want to highlight in the future either:


PLAYING IT COOL: I must admit that Chris Evans's performance as Captain America is one of my favorites in the MCU and I thoroughly enjoyed his take on Johnny Storm in those earlier Fantastic Four films.

However, while one of his FF co-stars(Ioan Giffurd) is the cast of this barely released 2015 romcom, this movie certainly doesn't sound fantastic. Evans plays a frustrated screenwriter who has to write a script for a romance before getting to work on the action movies that he prefers.

Feeling sour on love, he meets up with what seems like the perfect woman for him(Michelle Monaghan, who plays RDJ's wife in Due Date-is that a wild coincidence or what?), only she's engaged to someone else. Hilarity is supposed to occur but given that this film was pushed into VOD as soon as possible, that's more of a threat than a promise.

For a direct MCU connection, Anthony Mackie,aka The Falcon, was cast as Evans' agent and while those two always have great chemistry on screen, this isn't supposed to be a bromance. Then again, maybe it should have been-might have made things a whole lot better!:


THE ISLAND: Just listen to the premise of this 2005 big budget film: Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor are residents of a futuristic, isolated community where everyone dreams of winning a lottery that will take them to the title location for a chance at the good life.

But, surprise,surprise!-the two of them are clones, created as spare parts for rich folks, which was also the basis of a 1979 sci-fi flick called Parts: The Clonus Horror, which the studio had to play an out of court settlement for due to not getting those pesky rights to the previous material first.

What really sunk this movie at the box office and with critics,however, can be summed up in two words and one name-Michael Bay, who later on gave us that Transformers meets King Arthur film(see, I told you that was important to remember!). What could have been a decent sci-fi thriller turns into a big loud, blow-em-real-good type of movie that has an off kilter aftertaste, sort of like a peanut butter and sand paper sandwich.

The MCU link here is Djimon Hounsou, who appears in Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel and for a MCU adjacent, the late great Michael Clarke Duncan, who was the Kingpin in Daredevil. While Johansson has made eyebrow raising bad choices in her film career since then, hopefully she learned not to make the same mistake twice. Then again...:


I was happy to see Avengers:Endgame and look forward to the next batch of MCU films that will start a new set of adventures for all concerned. Even so, you can't help but tease the ones you love and Avengers:FilmFail is out to do just that this August, so with tongue in cheek I say Excelsior!:


Friday, June 07, 2019

Setting up more summer reading in the shade of a library haul

Even though I am in the midst of a two week readathon(Sci-Fi Summer hosted by Seasons of Reading's Michelle Miller), getting more books to read is a vital necessity. Granted, not as vital as food and water but still, pretty important to my emotional health there.

Besides, I had to make a library trip, due to the fact that a book I placed on hold became readily available. Sujata Massey's The Satapur Moonstone is the second title in her new mystery series set in India of the 1920s and after enjoying the award winning The Widows of Malabar Hill, this was a definate must-read.

Once again, leading lady Perveen Mistry is asked to assist in a legal situation where only one of the few female lawyers in the country will do. In the small state of Satapur, the current ruler Jiva Reo is just ten years old, due to the untimely deaths of the prior maharajahs within the past two years. The remaining maharanis are in charge of Jiva and are debating whether or not he should be sent abroad for his education.

Since these regal ladies do not deal with men outside of their family, the British government, in the form of Sir David Hobson-Jones, wants Perveen to intervene for them. While she is not thrilled about putting forth the British agenda, Perveen is concerned about the young maharajah and sees this as a good opportunity to find out about the circumstances around the deaths of his predecessors. However, can she save Jiva from harm without risking her own safety?

With The Widows of Malabar Hill being such a literary treat, this book is as irresistible as a second slice of ice cream cake(hey, it is summer after all!) yet far more enriching than that chilly delight to be sure.

I paired that up with Clock Dance by Anne Tyler, where the modern day heroine of this story is Willa, who at age 61, leads a rather quiet life with her second husband Peter in Arizona.

When an unexpected phone call from a former girlfriend of one of her sons is a request for help, Willa feels inspired and with Peter in tow, takes off for Baltimore. There she meets Denise, a single mom with a nine year old daughter Cheryl and their dog Airplane, who is recovering from a broken leg due to a shooting incident in the neighborhood.

As Willa bonds with Denise and lets the locals keep their mistaken belief that Cheryl is her granddaughter, she also thinks back to her younger days and how bold she was then. While she can't be exactly as she once was, Willa considers the possibility of being less low key than she has been in her life lately.

Anne Tyler is an author that I read at on and off over the years but most of the time, she provides a smartly calm breath of fresh air that clears the cluttered cobwebs of my mind nicely. While her book covers may look mild mannered, her stories have more of an emotional wild side so as they say, it's what is on the inside that truly counts:


As to my Sci-Summer reading, I have added a new book that arrived today in the mail that I will most likely get to this weekend. Two Dark Reigns is the third entry in Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns saga that features a trio of magically powered sisters who must battle to the death to become the one and only Queen of the island realm called Fennbirn.

At this point in the story, one sister has claimed the throne while the other two are in hiding on the mainland, adjusting to the rather patriarchal way of life there. Meanwhile, an ally of one of the hidden sisters has discovered a power of her own that causes many to shun her yet attracts a group of rebels who want her to be their leader.

I would say more but I'm deep into the second book,One Dark Throne, right now and don't want to come across any major spoilers. What I can say is that this series is seriously addicting, the stay-up-all-night kind of reading that I really need these days. There is a fourth book due out this fall(Five Dark Fates) and that will be a tale that I will eagerly snatch up when the time comes:



Along side that series, I picked up a few more cozy mystery titles and that includes The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco by Laura DiSilverio. Having recently finished the second title(Poirot Puzzle), I thought it best to go back to the first book to see how it all started.

Amy-Faye Johnson supplements her busy life as an event planner by being a member of a mystery themed reading group, where she and her friends delight in solving those fictional crimes together.

When Ivy, one of the Readaholics, dies under suspicious circumstances that the police believe was self inflicted, Amy-Faye decides to take a page from her favorite literary detectives and find out what really happened. Can their latest book selection, The Maltese Falcon, be of any assistance in solving the case or should Amy-Faye and company stick to the bookish sidelines here?

Given that there are three books so far(and yes, I ordered number three, Gothic Gala, already), clearly Amy-Faye has more reading and sleuthing to do. I do like the good natured tone of this series and that classic mystery novels are a solid part of the theme of each book. That element certainly inspires some rereading as well as watching the great movies made from these iconic works:


Summer is supposed to be a slow down period but a reader's quest is never truly completed. As much as I'm eagerly devouring my Sci-Fi Summer books, plans are under way for the next big readathon, High Summer, which starts in July.

 My list is being made as we speak, with the newest Beatriz Williams novel, The Golden Hour, as a major pillar of that reading pile. Don't get me wrong, I love having a focal point for my reading but I do need to slow myself down a little at times to properly savor the sweets of the written word before me. Then again, it's better to have too much than too little when it comes to reading at any time of the year:


Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Tuning in this summer for some page turning TV

With the arrival of summer comes the departure of most regular TV. Whether it's a seasonal break or the last hurrah, not being tied to your favorite shows has the advantage of being one of those pop culture pauses that gives you time to catch up on other things.

Since this is also that time of the year to tackle one or two of those stacks of books you've been meaning to get to, it would be nice to combine some of that reading with a new TV series to watch. Fortunately, I found at least three brand new TV adaptations that should make for good summer time reading as well.

First up is NOS4A2, which debuted on AMC this past Sunday and promises to haunt that prime time slot for awhile here. Based on Joe Hill's novel, Ashleigh Cummings stars as Victoria "Vic" McQueen, a young girl on the verge of graduating high school and trying to decide where she can take her talents as an artist in life.

Much to her surprise, she discovers a strange new talent that allows her to find that which was lost and to travel far beyond her reach via a covered bridge that only appears to Vic.  This new ability of hers attracts the unwanted attentions of Charlie Manx(Zachary Quinto), who also uses supernaturally hidden passage ways to take captured children to his twisted "Christmasland", where he feeds off of their innocence in order to maintain an unnaturally long life.

Recruited by a librarian with a special skill of her own, Vic tries to stop Manx from hunting down more kids, not to mention keep him from taking her out of the running permanently. Having read the book myself along with watching the first episode, I can truly say that this is one terrifying thrill ride that you don't want to miss:


I'm also looking forward to The Rook, set to start on June 30 as part of the Starz line-up. Adapted from the novel by Daniel O'Malley, the story begins with Myfanwy Thomas(Emma Greenwall), who wakes up on a dark street with no memory and surrounded by dead bodies.

Turns out, she had her mind wiped during a mission for the Checquy, a secret agency that she works for which specializes in supernatural people and events best hidden from the general public. Having no idea who is actually a friend or an enemy, Myfanwy has to track down the threat from within on her own.

If  I had to give this book a Hollywood pitch, it would go a little like this: "think Jason Bourne meets Men in Black and X-Men with a touch of Doctor Who". Hopefully, this upcoming series does much better than my attempt to summarize this amazingly creative story and with any luck, we might get a second season based on the second book(which I haven't read yet but really need to):


Arriving much sooner, Netflix is ready to begin their new version of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City on June 7.

Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis will be taking up the roles they played in an earlier adaptation of this iconic trio of novels set in San Francisco dealing with a variety of folks looking to change their lives for the better or just find a place that will accept them for who they are. Among the new cast members are Ellen Page(playing Linney's daughter) and Molly Ringwald in an unnamed yet reoccurring role.

I have to admit that I've heard plenty of good things about Maupin's Tales of the City books but haven't gotten around to them yet. Perhaps this new series might change all of that and there's no doubt that I won't be alone in doing so:


Pairing up a book and a movie is not easy as it sounds-it's more along the lines of finding the perfect wine to complete a fine meal. However, finding a good small screen adaptation can help you ease the guilt of just not being in the mood to read right now, which is something that every reader (myself included) experiences from time to time and nothing to feel bad about. Don't fight it when it hits, just let it ride until that literary lightning strikes you again:


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Rocketman soars as a movie musical extravaganza of the heart

Last night, I was lucky enough to attend an advance screening of Rocketman, the new biopic about legendary singer Elton John. It was quite the packed house and I predict that SOR level will be the standard seating when this movie premieres this upcoming weekend.

First off, it was a wise move to have a new face,acting wise, play the lead role here. Taron Egerton(best known as Eggsy from the Kingsmen films) really gets to shine here, not only being easily believable as Elton but at times, you forget that he's an actor playing a part. His emotional range makes you feel like the true Elton John is onscreen, sharing his heartfelt joys and sorrow with a song or two at the ready.

The plot of the film is told in an offbeat fashion, suiting it's subject perfectly. We begin with a costumed Elton entering a building in majestic form, only to discover that he's attending a group therapy session to deal with his numerous problems.

He then starts to narrate his life story, using his vast catalogue of music as emotional stepping stones, so don't expect chronological order in that department. The rest of the film follows him from shy and lonely young Reginald Dwight to the epic musician that he becomes, battling his inner demons who are along for the ride.

The musical interludes are well blended into the film, making this whole production feel like an adaptation of a Broadway show that decided to skip a stage run(although, it could be taken to that format rather smoothly). It makes sense, given that Elton John, who is one of the executive producers of the movie, has done several theatrical musicals over the years and this allows him as well as the other filmmakers the creative freedom to bring this special story to vivid cinematic life:


The other actors are well cast here, such as Jamie Bell who plays Bernie Taupin, Elton's longtime friend and musical collaborator. Their relationship is a vital element to the overall story and both Bell and Egerton are in perfect sync throughout the film.

Even in scenes where they're not directly dealing with each other, you feel the bond between Elton and Bernie, sharing good times and at key points, growing apart. Their connection is one of the best here,enhancing the emotional stakes for all involved:



Other stand out performances include Gemma Jones as Elton's doting grandmother Ivy, who is a welcome delight here to many fans of British cinema like me and yes, she's in the Bridget Jones and Harry Potter movies to boot.

 Also, to get a bit more Brit flick fangirl here, she's the mother from Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility(with one of her co-stars from that film,Harriet Walter, making a brief appearance as a music teacher) so all those boxes are checked!

Even more so of a presence is Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton's mother Sheila and I have to say that she is damn good at playing horrible people. Between this and her prior role as Hilly Holbrook in The Help, BDH is a villianess for the ages.

Granted, his father is a terrible person as well but his mother,as portrayed here, is a nightmare with her cold hearted  disinterest in anything that doesn't engage her attentions, combined with a pack of passive aggressive critiques that instantly flow from her lips. You can see how psychologically destructive she was to her son over the years and a key contributor to his future issues in life:


No, this isn't a movie where Elton John blames his parents for everything but he does acknowledge their influence in his development and on the choices he makes over time.

You might think that with Elton John as executive producer, some of his less than attractive behavior might be glossed over. Instead, the movie does strongly highlight his struggles with various addiction(drugs,alcohol,shopping), a dysfunctional personal and professional relationship with his music manager and his bouts of unchecked rage.

Unlike last year's Bohemian Rhapsody(more on that in a moment), Rocketman feels unrestrained when it comes to showing a warts-and-all version of it's leading man. Perhaps with Elton around to give the nod, screenwriter Lee Hall felt freer to focus on those aspects fully and some of the best musical numbers in the film are centered on those downward spiral moments.

Speaking of Bohemian Rhapsody, the big question here is "Is Rocketman a better movie?" To that, I have to say yes in many respects. While both movies featured talented actors in the leading roles who do justice to the real life subjects, Egerton, unlike Rami Malek, does not have to bring the material up to a higher level all on his own.

Rather, Taron Egerton is conducting an orchestra of talented cast and crew, from the costumes to the music and the direction of Dexter Fletcher(who, ironically enough, completed the directing duties on Bohemian Rhapsody after the removal of it's controversial director). Hopefully, this movie will be remembered when Oscar nomination time is upon us as there will be plenty of people all too happy to remind the Academy if this is not so!

If you can see Rocketman in theaters either this weekend or sometime soon, I fervently recommend that you do as it's well worth the price of admission. Certainly more obtainable than a Broadway musical and just as entertaining,plus Egerton does his own singing for the film. He's truly a rising star with this film and I look forward to seeing him climb to even greater heights, careerwise(and yes, he ought to be Oscar nominated, I'm saying it now!):


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Plating up some Peach Cobbler Murder for my latest serving of Series-ous Reading

As I mentioned in a prior post, I've gotten my mother hooked on the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke and she's way ahead of me at this point. That is still the case yet I do not consider this a competition, plus we do agree that Hannah's cat Moishe is a delight and that her mother can be a bit much at times.

My latest Hannah Swensen slice of mystery dessert for my ongoing Series-ous challenge is Peach Cobbler Murder, where Hannah is facing both personal and professional competition from the same source; Shawna Lee Quinn.

Shawna has always had eyes for Mike,Hannah's occasional suitor, and now with the help of her newly rich sister Vanessa, she's opened a bakery right across the street from Hannah's beloved Cookie Jar. With a number of gimmicks, The Magnolia Blossom Bakery has cut severely into the Cookie Jar's profits, so much so that Hannah fears she may have to go out of business:


Despite reassurances from family and friends that her baked goods are superior to Shawna's(including the Magnolia Blossom signature dish, Southern Peach Cobbler, which tastes suspiciously store bought), Hannah is worried about her future with the Cookie Jar and Mike.

Fortunately, there are more pleasant concerns to deal with such as the wedding of her bakery partner Lisa to local traffic cop Herb Beeseman. The whole town pretty much shows up to the ceremony yet while Mike promised to be Hannah's first dance partner at the reception, he turns out to be a no-show,along with Shawna Lee, who had plans to bring several servings of her peach cobbler as a "wedding gift."

While dropping off some reception leftovers  at the Cookie Jar, Hannah notices that the lights are still on at the Magnolia Blossom and can't resist checking in to see if anyone's there. Once again, Hannah has found another body as Shawna Lee was shot while heating up her definitely from a supermarket freezer cobbler(the box it came in was on the front counter!) and being her rival, Hannah is also a prime suspect for this particular murder:



Fortunately, she's not a suspect for long and with the aid of her loved ones, Hannah seeks out who really did Shawna Lee in. One possibility that presents itself is that the intended target may not have been Shawna but her sister Vanessa instead.

Turns out Vanessa inherited her fortune from a way older than herself husband who died not too long into the marriage. In addition to that , Hannah's mother Delores has a few suspicions about her latest beau, Winthrop, a supposed "English lord" and needs her daughter to check him out for her.

Hannah is more than happy to look into Winthrop for Delores, as she and her sister Andrea don't trust him much in the first place. However, that sidebar investigation offers up some information that bears deadly fruit upon Shawna Lee's less than peachy keen demise.

It's always fun to hang out with Hannah and friends, although Mike keeps annoying me. He is so clueless about why Hannah might not like him spending so much time with another woman while claiming to just be "friends" yet when Norman is around(Hannah's other suitor and a better choice, if you ask me), he gets more green skinned than the Hulk. Sure, sometimes he and Norman are buddy-buddy but that is usually a pretense for competing for Hannah's affections.

Hannah does get a pair of marriage proposals by the end of the book and I know already that she's not ready to chose between them. That's fine with me as I think Mike just made his as an apology for making her jealous over Shawna Lee and saying "marry me!" as a way to fix that is just not cool.

I do understand that Norman wouldn't want to lose out on Hannah,especially to Mike, but a proposal needs to be fully sincere, not simply a way to beat someone else to the punch. I am still rooting for Norman but this wasn't the right way for him to become her steady and hopefully, he figures that out in the next book.

Well, I'll see soon enough and in the meantime, I think that the lesson to take away from this engaging entry is "If  you are going to open your own bakery, make your own food!" You don't have to be a professional to taste the difference but the proof is clearly in the pudding, or in this case, cobbler:



Meanwhile, for my summer of Series-ous Reading, I plan to spend some time with the delightful Miss Phyrne Fisher, the fantasti lady detective created by author Kerry Greenwood.

One of my Christmas gifts this year was an omnibus edition of the first three novels in the Miss Fisher Mysteries entitled Introducing the Honourable Phryne Fisher and it was a welcome sight to see under my holiday tree. These books have been the basis of a TV series starring the charming Essie Davis as Miss Fisher, an unflappable flapper with a flair for crime solving and an eye for the gents.

She's a real pistol, in the best sense of the word, and for some true fun in or out of the sun, Phryne Fisher is most decidedly the gal to lead the way indeed. Oh, and there's a Modern Miss Fisher Mysteries to be aired soon(featuring a niece of Phryne's as the lead) but I may revisit the original for a little compare and contrast, not to mention a good time that I recommend you all to take up as well: