Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, October 18, 2019

Having a FrightFall-ly good time

My reading list for this year's FrightFall readathon is short but rather sinister sweet ,with a last minute change that I'll get to later on here. At the moment, I have gotten halfway through my intended reads and felt it was time to do a progress report of sorts.

Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived In The Castle was quite riveting, so much so that I finished it on Day One. The story is told by Merricat(Mary Catherine) Blackwood, one of the few family members that survived a mass poisoning. She and her older sister Constance, along with their wheelchair bound Uncle Julian, live in virtual isolation upon the family estate and rarely have visitors.

Merricat ventures out twice a week to get supplies from the nearby town and is often met with ridicule and scorn, as the locals believe that Constance got away with murder(she was legally acquitted of the crime). Other than that, she's fine with their singular lifestyle and spends a good deal of time setting up protective spells and charms on the estate.

However, that sad tranquility is broken when a distant cousin named Charles comes to visit. His side of the family kept their considerable distance during the past tragedy but now, he suddenly has the urge to reconnect with them,most likely to see what money they have on hand.

While Constance is eager to have some more family around, Merricat is less than thrilled(not to mention Uncle Julian, who is easily confused at times) with this disturbance in her world. Charles is determined to have his way and finds Constance to be agreeable yet Merricat's insistence on making her displeasure known at his presence sets up a slow building war of wills:

The book reads like a slow moving nightmare, practically for Constance as her good nature is taken advantage of time and again. We never get her direct viewpoint yet at times you can sense her desire to break free of the emotional trap that she's in.

Yet when it comes to choosing between Merricat and Charles, neither option gives her a better choice. Merricat's rock solid need to remain in control of what she believes is her own private realm is formidable and proves to be more powerful than Charles' greed for the family fortune.

I was inspired by the recent film adaption(which I hope to see at some point) to get this book in the first place and it's an elegantly woven tale of home bound terror that creeps up on the reader with the gentle speed of subtly taken poison. This was Shirley Jackson's final novel and quite the chilling end note indeed:

After that cold blooded read, it was a welcome relief to head back to Ashland,Oregon for another taste of the Bakeshop Mystery series.

Live and Let Pie by Ellie Alexander has her leading lady Juliet "Jules" Capshaw settling back into Torte, the beloved family bakery,  upon completion of an expansion which brings in new business and the need to hire new help as well.

The fresh faces at Torte, such as Rosa and Marty, turn out to be great additions to the team. Unfortunately, head coffee maker Andy is having trouble with Sequoia, who has vast experience in the field yet her way of doing things seems to bother him way too much.

Since he's usually a happy-go-lucky guy, Jules is concerned about him, especially when Andy discourages Sequoia from introducing a trendy new drink, cheese tea. Granted, I find the concept of cheese tea a little weird myself but when it comes to food and drink flavors, sometimes you don't know until you try it!:

However Jules has a lot more to worry about than staff problems as the discovery of a skull in a local lake and the sudden death of Edgar, the curmudgeonly owner of a hotly sought after piece of property in town, appear to be connected.

I do like that Jules is able to not only engage in crime solving(with the over eager assistance of theater director buddy Lance) but also take some time to deal with other matters such as the Andy situation and helping her newly married mom find a new house to live in with Jules' now stepfather and appreciative police detective Doug,aka The Professor.

These subplots are just as vital as the murders and gives the overall story line some nice layers of emotional nuance. This entry in the series does make my wait to read the next book A Cup of Holiday Fear,which I've set aside for the upcoming Christmas Spirit readathon in late November, that much harder to bear but then again, my wait to read the 2020 release Nothing Bundt Trouble will be considerably longer!

However, as they say, some things are worth the wait and a fresh from the creative oven Bakeshop Mystery book is one of those page turning delights. My patience will be well rewarded here, making the time between books easy as pie to handle:

As is now becoming my usual practice with readathons, I decided to swap out Lethal White for Dorothy Sayers'  Gaudy Night to finish this readathon with, along side The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco.

 I hate to be fickle but due to a library loan that my borrowing time was limited upon, it was best to tackle the decidedly shorter mystery book of the two.

Plus, I treated myself to a lovely limited edition known as "Olive", which took up a mystery theme in their selections this year. This particular novel is a standout in Sayers' stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey, a nobleman with quite the talent for sleuthing.

The major focus here is on Harriet Vane, a mystery writer who owes her life and freedom to Lord Peter due to his prominent role in preventing her from being condemned to death for a crime she didn't commit. Harriet attends the title event( a college reunion of sorts) and despite a bit of awkwardness about her recent troubles, seems to be doing rather well among her old friends and acquaintances

Unfortunately, a series of strangely threatening notes and other odd occurrences cause her to call upon Lord Peter for help before something truly dire happens. I tried to read this book years ago but didn't get too far with it. Yet, time seems to have prepared me to appreciate Sayers and I'm looking forward to reading even more of this well crafted tale.

We have over a week or so with FrightFall left and I think it's doing rather splendidly(see, these set in England books make me break out the fancy talk!). I hope that everyone else is having just as fine a time as I am, with plenty of scary stories that are easy on the eyes, at least:

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