My trio of TBR titles for this year’s sinister season are a mixed bag of treats, from an offbeat musical take on vampires to Marple flavored Agatha Christie and a much talked about terror tale set in the days of yesteryear. So, let’s look them over and see what scary sweetness awaits me:
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Wednesday, September 20, 2023
Wednesday, September 13, 2023
Granted, I did get some fresh reads over the summer but between my latest library visit and September selections from Book of the Month Club, it seems fitting to turn those autumn reading pages forward rather than back, if that mixed metaphor makes any sense!
Anyway, starting with BOMC, my main pick was You,Again by Kate Goldbeck which I must confess is partly due to the cover art that just screams “Autumn Romance “ in a delightful way.
We met Josh and Arianna aka Ari, as they first meet at the apartment of the woman that they both happen to be dating at the same time. Their dislike is instant and opposites do not attract at first as Josh’s deep desire for a lasting relationship clashes with Ari’s sincere aversion to long term love.
Over the years, the two of them keep running into each other and quick to relight that torch of tension even that person who accidentally brought them together is in neither one of their lives.
However, when Josh and Ari have a reconnection during low points in their personal lives, that mutual misery somehow brings about a friendship that might over time become something more.
I’m over a hundred pages into this book and it’s a real treat indeed. Goldbeck’s snappy writing and dynamic character development sets a well paced yet brisk narrative that has you happily strolling along, eagerly awaiting to see what’s next for these two.
This novel is already drawing comparisons to When Harry Met Sally and I do hope that when both Hollywood strikes are settled ( in the artist’s favor!)that a present day incarnation of Nora Ephron will be able to take this snarky sweet story from script to screen just as well as she would’ve:
Thursday, September 07, 2023
My yearly Series-ous Reading challenge has taken quite a few turns this time around and now having morphed into a Five Point Page Turning Plan, is about to engage in another new twist.
Right now, however, let us proceed to talking about Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen, the tenth book in the Her Royal Spyness series of cozy historical mysteries.
Our leading lady, Georgiana “Georgie “ Rannoch is on the road to Scotland(Gretna Green, to be precise) with Darcy O’Mara, the man she loves and is willing to risk the displeasure of her regal relatives to elope with.
Fate steps on the brakes as Darcy receives word that his father, Lord Kilhenny, was arrested for murder. Lord K lost his family fortune and sold his castle to an American businessman named Timothy Roach, who kept his Lordship on to run the stables.
Upon being fired for allegedly doping a prize race horse, Lord K had a loud fight with Roach that makes the prime suspect when the American is discovered dead the next day.
Despite their lack of affection towards each other, Darcy is determined to help his father out in any way he can and not only halts the hazy wedding plans but breaks up with Georgie altogether! Fearing that his family name will be forever tainted by this seemingly hopeless case, Darcy insists that it’s in her best interest to find someone else to marry.
Georgie, however, is no stranger to hopeless looking accusations and heads out to Ireland on her own to help save the day. She winds up staying with a couple of his relatives, the offbeat Aunt Oona and Uncle Dooley, whose messy house and topsy turvey ways may be strange but whose hearts are definitely in the right place on the matter:
She’s later joined by an old friend of Darcy’s, an exiled princess affectionately called Zhou Zhou who is a combination of Marlene Dietrich and Amelia Earhart with her tendency to take off in her own private aircraft for adventure.
With many shadows of doubt about the true identity of the deceased American being highlighted by Georgie and friends, the possibility of Lord K ‘s guilt grows dimmer but can the powers that be clearly see that? Or are the real bad guys able to get away with more than one dastardly deed?!:
Like most of this series, Crowned and Dangerous has numerous charms from characters both regular and new that solving the case is not entirely an overwhelming concern.
That doesn’t mean that the mystery is neglected, rather that the main focus is on the emotional development of the players rather than catching the villain(although those pursuits are necessary to clear things up for our leads).
It’s nice to see supporting characters like Georgie’s haphazard maid Queenie start to find some confidence and skill during this caper instead of remaining in place as a perky punchline. Even Georgie has been slowly yet surely becoming more confident about dealing with things in her quietly indomitable way. It’s why I enjoy this series so much.
At the moment, I am in the middle of book 11, On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service, as Georgie heads to Italy in order to check on her best friend Belinda but also to do a little unofficial snooping for the Queen.
Seems that Prince Edward and his unsuitable paramour Mrs. Simpson are paying a visit at a nearby villa where a rather suspicious meeting of international types is happening.
The Queen is more concerned about a secret wedding than politics yet even Georgie senses something in the air concerning the latter. So far, this trip has quite the intrigue, including some possible blackmailing of Georgie’ flighty actress mother Claire before any murder has taken place! Also, the atmosphere of Italy in the countryside is enchanting indeed:
Friday, September 01, 2023
Other family complications abound, bringing everyone involved together for a tale of well intentioned misdirection that Shakespeare himself would applaud at. Weiner doesn’t take any easy outs with her characters and gives even the ones that appear to be not on the up and up their fair chance at their side of the story.
She also blends humor, heartbreak and a gentle touch of whimsy (even the house itself has a p.o.v. there!) that makes for a truly engaging as well as entertaining family act for the ages:
What took up most of my High Summer reading time was the third entry in Alison Weir’s Sux Tudor Queens series, Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, a book that I saved for last.
Jane’s family had some experience in dealing with extramarital affairs before their eldest daughter became a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon, a woman that Jane greatly admired. When that good lady was set roughly aside due to Henry VIII’s desire for a younger woman to give him a son, Jane wanted to stay by Catherine’s side but her parents had other ideas.
While Jane reluctantly joined the household of the new Queen Anne Boleyn, the last thing she ever expected was to fall in love with Henry. As that second marriage brutally collapsed, Jane found herself in the midst of more than one intrigue that kept pushing her towards the throne but was real love any part of this game?
As a historian as well as a historical fiction writer, Weir adds authenticity to her descriptions of these real life characters and despite knowing the eventual outcome for Jane, her story is both riveting and heartfelt.
While she is mostly seen as a less exciting footnote by audiences eager for the six wives drama, Jane and her mixed emotions regarding her place in this royal life are bitter sweetly stirring to see:
Thursday, August 24, 2023
While the 1987 version of this story does have it’s strange charms, that film is more suited for those seeking a Mystery Science Theater experience (which I do like!) than a real attempt at bringing this lively little adventure to cinematic life like the 2007 adaptation before us today.
Our leading lady is Catherine Morland (Felicity Jones) who leads a rather quiet life with her family and friends and whose knowledge of the world comes from the Gothic novels that she eagerly devours.
When given the opportunity to accompany the local well-to-do neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Allen to the city of Bath, Catherine is thrilled in more ways than one to have the chance to maybe find some of that book bound excitement on her own.
Throughout the film, she does tend to fantasize about being caught up in a Gothic situation with men fighting over her which is dramatically amusing indeed:
Eventually, Catherine is invited to the title estate that is owned by the Tilney family and while Henry and his sister Eleanor are happy to have her stay, they are suspicious of their overbearing father’s intentions towards her as he insists upon his children marrying into wealth (of which Catherine has none).
Catherine does sense some secrets and lies being connected to the Tilney family, especially regarding the sudden demise of Mrs. Tilney several years ago. Is Catherine right about the wrongs done at Northanger or has she taken her love of Gothic novels a bit too much to heart?
As Jane Austen fans already know, this slyly sweet wink at the popular storytelling tropes of Austen’s day is a low key charmer and this adaptation honors that intention very well there. It’s engagingly good and the two main leads have a solid cup of romantic chemistry brewing for audiences to slowly sip and savor on a stormy night:
Even if you’ve never read Austen, this movie would be a nice introduction to her work or if you just haven’t read this particular book by her, this version of Northanger Abbey is a delightful way to get that fall feeling flowing. Think of it as the pumpkin spice latte of literature, if you will!
Thank you, one and all, for sharing this experience of seasonal expectation with me either for the first time or once again. I’m not sure what next year will bring for Autumn in August but hopefully, we will be enjoying the eerie anticipation together with a dash of humor and horror:
Thursday, August 17, 2023
Thank you once again for attending the LRG midsummer matinee known as Autumn in August . We had just left Hercule Poirot and now paying a call on Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple in the 1980 feature film version of The Mirror Crack’d.
Angela Lansbury plays the friendly yet formidable sleuth whose knowledge of humanity and it’s negative tendencies comes from her seemingly quiet life in the village of St. Mary Mead.
We get a nice sample of that English small life right from the start as Miss Marple handily gives her friends and neighbors the solution to the murder mystery movie that was interrupted by camera malfunction. Given that this story has a former Hollywood diva set to arrive soon, the meta effect is smoothly done indeed:
Thursday, August 10, 2023
Peter Ustinov once again plays Hercule Poirot (his second time portraying that particular character onscreen; he did at least four films as that iconic detective) who winds at an island resort on the behalf of a jilted millionaire wanting to reclaim a valuable piece of jewelry from a potential fiancé.
That woman in question is the infamous stage actress Arlena Stuart(Diana Rigg), who quickly dropped one rich man for another more vulnerable one;widower Kenneth Marshall(Denis Quigley) and is taking their honeymoon at a remote island resort run by Daphne Castle(Maggie Smith).
Daphne clearly has a bit of a crush on Kenneth, a regular visitor to the resort(and is certainly nicer to his daughter Linda than Arlena is). As it turns out, Daphne and Arlena were chorus girl rivals back in the day and the torch is lit for that diva feud to strike up again:
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