Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, September 13, 2021

My summer seafood special of Series-ous Reading

 

Welcome back for a new round of Series-ous Reading! Due to launching a new late summer blog event(Autumn in August), I thought it would be good to simply do a wrap-up post for the summer in September and this Culinary Cozy Feast of reading was a bookish bounty of page turning plenty indeed!

For July, my selection was Clammed Up by Barbara Ross, the first book in her Maine Clambake Mysteries series. Our leading lady is Julia Snowden, who has returned home to Busman's Harbor, ME in order to help save the family business, which are seasonal clambakes held on a nearby island that's been in her mother's family for generations.

Thanks to her brother in law Sonny, The Snowden Family Clambake Company is deeply in debt, with the bank only giving them one season to turn things around. Julia, with her background in marketing, decides to expand the business via catering, starting with a wedding that gets off to a bad start quickly.

While it's bad enough that Sonny hates the whole catering idea and has fights with Etienne, the long time caretaker of the island, Julia has a nervous bride to deal with and upon the wedding party's arrival to the partly renovated island mansion on the big day, a gruesome sight greets them. The body of the best man has been hung from the front hall stairs, killing the mood rather effectively!

With the island being shut down for the investigation and the number of days allowed for closure by the bank, Julia finds that she has no choice but to find the murderer herself with or without the help of Lt. Binder, the local police detective, in order to save the business and her family. 

As the suspects range from the members of the wedding to some of the local folk, including Julia's school girl crush and possible new boyfriend Chris, this sinister search for the true killer proves to be harder to crack than a stubborn lobster claw.

 


I did enjoy the character development within the story, with fun side characters such as Gus, the cantankerous diner owner who knows more than he lets on at times, and the setting of Busman's Harbor is engagingly described, enough that even a landlubber like me wouldn't mind checking it out!

Julia and her struggles to readjust to her family after living in New York for so long(not to mention her guilt over the death of her father, which I think some of her relatives were a tad too quick to ladle over on her there!) added a good touch of nuance that rounded the overall story line nicely.

This book got me so hooked that I picked up the second entry(Boiled Over) and finished a little after Labor Day and Ross certainly has a way with layering her story with well molded character arcs and local history, not neglecting her main mystery plot in order to do so.

I wound up checking out these books due to winning a copy of the now available on shelves holiday anthology Halloween Party Murder(which Barbara Ross, Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis all contribute stories to) and while I will be saving that book for a certain readathon, I'm glad that I got to know Barbara Ross' literary world a bit better.  I may read some more of this series also  as it's as cleverly comforting as a serving of lobster mac and cheese:


In August, I chose to sample a platter of Killer Crab Cakes, courtesy of Livia J. Washburn's Fresh Baked Mysteries series.

 Retired school teacher Phyllis Newsom is truly a fish out of water as she agrees to run her cousin's B&B for a little time during the summer. Not only is Phyllis getting a bit of vacation fun with her boyfriend Sam, she's also able to take part in a nearby baking competition to boot.

Those plans go awry when one of the guests literally drops dead while fishing, having possibly been poisoned by the title dish. As everyone at the B&B is under suspicion , the dead man's relatives and business enemies show up to throw more chaos into the startling stew of tension simmering on the story telling stove.

Since this book starts not long after The Christmas Cookie Killer(which I read last year), keeping up with the characters was easy for me and the addition of the horrible adult children of the deceased, who turned out to be a rather wealthy man despite his every man appearance, gave off some fun Knives Out vibes to the whole story.

Washburn does have a solid sense of character comradery as Phyllis and friends work together to figure things out and over time, you really hope that certain people in the story are not guilty at all. Once again, I found this series to be as tasty a read as any plate of savory seafood treats can be:


Well, this was a fine summer of reading indeed and my autumn feast of Series-ous Reading takes me right over to Hannah Swensen's Cookie Jar bakery with Blackberry Pie Murder on the menu.

Hannah is stunned when a rainstorm drive to work results in her van hitting a man on the road, possibly causing his death. When this incident does lead to her being arrested and about to be tried, her only chance of acquittal is to find out who this man was in the first place.

So far, so good and Hannah having to deal with the legal system promises to be interesting there. Blackberry pie may be more of a summer item but to me, pie is a full on fall flavor fest along with Hannah Swensen's delicious mysteries:




Tuesday, September 07, 2021

What I read on my High Summer readathon vacation

 

Welcome back, everyone and I hope you all had a good end of summer time. Granted, those affected by Hurricane Ida(and the leftover wrath from that storm) are not doing so well right now yet such terrible times will eventually pass with much help and support.

Yes, some of that later storm hit my area but I was fortunate enough to receive a minimal amount of trouble from it. Best wishes to those still struggling with the aftermath.

Meanwhile, I did my regular "three out of four" reading for the High Summer readathon hosted by the lovely Michelle Miller at Seasons of Reading and looking forward to the next one on the literary horizon(more on that later). My wrap-up is a tad late but a blog break was necessary , trust me.


Okay, onto to the books:

SUMMER HOURS AT THE ROBBERS LIBRARY:  Sue Halpern's novel brings together Kit, a new resident to the town of Riverton,NH and a librarian who just wants to live out the rest of her life in relative peace, and Sunny, a teenage girl being raised by off the grid type parents.

When Sunny is caught stealing a dictionary from a mall bookstore, her punishment determined by the local "kid court" is to do community service at the library over the summer, making her duties the de facto responsibility of Kit.

While Kit does appreciate Sunny's cheerful demeanor and quick witted intelligence, she is not eager to get too involved in the girl's life. Sunny, on the other hand, is curious about what's in Kit's past that she's trying to hide but even more so, she finds a few things out about her own seemingly carefree parents that raises a lot of questions and concerns there.

Along with Rusty, a new library patron seeking out a possible ancestor that could lead him to a source of financial renewal for him, Sunny and Kit slowly but surely learn to connect. Dealing with their past and present situations can bring about a better future but will they allow that to happen?

This story is thoughtful and engaging, giving the trio of main characters the right moments to take over the narrative, something that is easier said than done. Halpern brings a fully fleshed out development to her main players that doesn't overwhelm the plot yet is not driven by the need to hit those storytelling marks.

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library is a charming read that is not sentimental but readers and library lovers will especially enjoy it's subtly sweet vibes:


BIG SUMMER: Social influencer Daphne Berg seems to have her life on track at the moment but when former frenemy Drue Lathrop Cavanaugh decides to yank her back into her social sphere, things get wilder than either of them ever intended.

The big blowout that ended their friendship years ago lead to Daphne's online career as a plus size advocate with a steadily growing audience and endorsement deals. However, Drue is about to marry her longtime sweetheart at Cape Cod, a guy who ditched his reality show dream girl on national TV. She insists that Daphne is her only real friend and that she needs her as a bridesmaid.

Such a PR bonanza is hard to resist and while she doesn't completely trust Drue, Daphne is willing to give her a chance and perhaps reap a few personal benefits out of this whole thing.

The typical wedding dramatics crop up during the pre-event party and Daphne surprises herself by making a very welcome new romantic acquaintance. However, when the bride is found dead in a hot tub the next morning, everything changes fast. With the guy she was with having disappeared(and not on the guest list) Daphne has to find the killer before she's seen as the star of her own legal reality series!

Having read Jennifer Weiner before, I was not as thrown off by the plot switch-up there as some folks might be as she has written a mystery themed novel earlier in her career(Goodnight  Nobody). While this book wasn't intended to be one, it does have many of the elements of a cozy culinary mystery here.

Unlikely detective -possible suspect? Check! A group of friends ready to pitch to find the killer? Check! Plenty of witnesses eager to give out helpful information? Check! A good amount of mouth watering food descriptions and loving family memories? Double Check!

I don't say this as a bad thing; rather, as a cozy mystery fan, I enjoyed Weiner's version of such a story and think that if she wanted to tackle this genre head on, that would be great to see. While this story is more big city than small town, Big Summer offers the cozy comfort of a solid beach read worthy entertainment:



THE LAST PICTURE SHOW: Larry McMurtry's iconic novel is set in the small dying Texas town of Thalia during the late fifties, where the young people find little to do there with their lives as do their elders.

The main focus of the book centers around Sonny and Duane, two life long friends trying to make the most out of their last year of high school. While Duane is dating Jacy, the most attractive girl in town who is always looking for some drama to stir up, Sonny finds himself having an affair with Mrs. Popper, the neglected wife of the obnoxious sports coach.

At some point, Duane and Sonny do have a fight over Jacy but that isn't the main conflict between them. All three of these about to be adults are really trying to figure out if the paths laid out for them are those they are meant to take or is their ultimate fate actually up to them?

The first McMurtry book that I ever read was Terms of Endearment(yes,due to the movie) and it introduced me to the author's knack for intricate character building that allows each persona to slowly yet surely guide the plot along. TLPS showcases the regrets of the older characters with the confused ambitions of the younger ones, making what many would consider to be humdrum lives instead to be a series of vivid portrayals of thwarted dreams.

I haven't gotten to Texasville(a book that I read way too soon years ago) but I'll give it a go at some point with more understanding of the fictional context there. Also plan to watch the film version as well , which has been widely acclaimed and I hope that it lives up to the novel in more ways than one:


Once again, thank you to Michelle Miller and sorry for such a late round up! I promise to be more prompt for the upcoming FrightFall readathon this October, where we may not have trick or treating but there will be many fabulous costume capers out there to drape ourselves in:




Monday, August 23, 2021

Autumn in August is happy to report that You've Got Mail

 

Welcome to our last Autumn in August outing and our feature presentation today actually brings us to the modern world(as modern as 1998 was, at least) with You've Got Mail.

The story actually starts in the fall, where a couple of online friends named Shopgirl and NY152 are exchanging pleasantries and witty observations about the season in their mutual setting in New York.

I do agree that fall in New York does make you want to buy school supplies-although I draw the line at sniffing Scotch tape as our leading lady does at one point-as well as the offer of a bouquet of "newly sharpened pencils" sounds sweet.

However, it turns out that these online "no details" pals are more closely connected than they think. Shopgirl is actually Kathleen Kelly(Meg Ryan), the owner of her late mother's bookstore for children.

 She does feel a little guilty about her internet chats with NY152 since she does have a boyfriend, Frank(Greg Kinnear), but nothing has really happened between them in the real world, not even cyber sex, which is good as one of Kathleen's shop clerks points out "Once you do, they lose all respect for you!"

NY152 is also in a relationship with Patricia(Parker Posey) who makes "coffee nervous" and his name is Joe Fox, the scion of the massive Fox and Sons bookstore chain.

 He's about to open a new store in Kathleen's neighborhood which could run her out of business. That doesn't prevent him from stopping by one afternoon with a couple of his younger relatives to enjoy the Storybook Lady reading but Joe is savvy enough not to reveal who he truly is there:


Soon enough, Kathleen learns who "just call me Joe" is and their rivalry is on. Unknowingly, Joe gives Kathleen advice about taking their business battle to the media and she does lands a few blows on his company's public image.

Alas, it is ultimately not enough to help her bookstore's financial decline and she takes a chance on asking NY152 to meet her in public. Joe then discovers that his online romance is with Kathleen Kelly and things go awry from there. I'll get back to that big scene in a moment but we need to talk about something first.

Lately, this movie has gotten some serious backlash regarding Joe Fox's behavior towards Kathleen in the love department and yes, it is not unwarranted criticism. He acts like a jerk a good deal of the time and takes his sweet time in letting Kathleen know who he really is to her.

 However, I must say this-this film is officially based on the 1940 Jimmy Stewart film The Shop Around the Corner(which is the name of Kathleen's store and writer/director Nora Ephron was totally tipping her hat to the original on that creative choice!) but it also invokes the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice which is also a deliberate choice.

Earlier in the movie, Shopgirl recommends the book to NY152(who is seen reluctantly reading it) and P&P is discussed by the main characters. Their major confrontation scene echoes a similar one in that book and a copy of P&P is actually on the table between them. 

What does all of that mean? Jane Austen fans at the time were encouraged to see this story as a modern version of P&P which makes Kathleen Elizabeth Bennet and Joe as Mr. Darcy. In that regard, Joe is being true to character as Mr. Darcy was quite the jerk to Miss Bennet. I won't get into a blow by blow comparison but both Joe Fox and Mr. Darcy share a penchant for snobbery along with an entitled sense of bluntness about it, plus concealing information from those they profess to care about.

So, this is not an excuse for his actions here but rather an explanation of why Joe Fox acts this way. He is not only supposed to be the character in the Jimmy Stewart original but Mr. Darcy as well. As we see in the big meet-up moment between Joe and Kathleen, Pride and Prejudice is brought up as not only a prop signal for Kathleen's intended mystery date but to set up the battle stations for each of them to attack from:


As the scene goes on, Kathleen becomes the embodiment of Elizabeth Bennet as she not only holds her own against Joe's snide comments and defensive behavior, she also fires the last verbal shot in that argument. It hits home, just as Elizabeth's did towards Darcy in that ill timed proposal, and I do believe that Jane Austen would applaud the line "You are nothing but a suit!":


It does help that this was the third time around for Hanks and Ryan as onscreen romantic partners(Sleepless in Seattle never did it for me but a shout out to the underrated Joe Vs. the Volcano!).

The two of them have a natural good rhythm together, which Ephron showcased to full effect. Tom Hanks, in particular, put his natural charm to good use here, such as this scene in Zabar's where Kathleen needs a rescue at the register.

As someone who has worked behind a register during the busy season, Kathleen should have gotten in another line and yes, Joe stepping in like that was a bit much. The saving grace of this situation is that knock-knock joke, which did much to melt the heart of Rose(Sara Ramirez) who has a great smile and a great name to boot. I have to admit that such a cute move might have worked on me also:


I happened to work at an independent book store when You've Got Mail arrived in theaters(and it was not as idyllic as Kathleen's shop is in the movie) and many people in that part of the industry did want the small store to succeed onscreen.

Yet, that wasn’t a realistic outcome and the whole “I put you out of business “ conflict allowed Kathleen and Joe to further develop as characters with some similarities to P&P’s Lydia elopement sub plot (see it all tied into Austen!).

All in all, there is much to love about this movie with a great cast that included Dabney Coleman, Jean Stapleton and Dave Chappelle. The New York setting, copious use of mood specific tunes, so much to savor. Yes, there are flaws but as Jane would say “pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked”, not to mention being dull to watch.

Thank you all for tuning into this summer experiment and please feel free to make suggestions for another AiA next year!


Meanwhile, I will see you all in September as my blog is taking a mini-break. LRG will post again after Labor Day and I wish everyone a happy end of summer time:





Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Autumn in August engages in some Persuasion

 

Thank you all for attending yet another discussion of Autumn in August, where our attention now turns to Jane Austen and her final completed work, Persuasion.

While there have been other adaptations of this classic novel(as of this writing, two more are being filmed), I have a particular fondness for the 1995 film as it is the reason that I started reading Jane Austen in the first place.

Back when the movie debuted in US theaters, the critical acclaim for it made me interested in reading the book(and later seeing the film on home video) which then lead to more and more engagement with Austen's literary world. I guess you could say it imprinted Austen on me.

Persuasion is unlike most of Austen's work as it's leading lady Anne Eliot(Amanda Root) is not the usual young girl searching for love heroine. Rather, she's a woman in her late twenties, considered "out of bloom" by the standards of the day who lives with her vain widowed father Sir Walter(Corin Redgrave) and her equally awful older sister Elizabeth(Phoebe Nicholls).

Since Sir Walter and Elizabeth insist upon living above their means-"A barnonet must be seen to live like a baronet!"-the only recourse to save the family from out and out financial disgrace is to move to the city of Bath and rent out their estate to a fresh from the Napoleonic wars well off Navy man, Admiral Croft(John Woodvine) and his wife. 

As it happens , that admiral is related by marriage to a former love interest of Anne's, Captain Frederick Wentworth(Ciaran Hinds).

Wentworth and Anne fell in love several years ago, intending to marry if not for the persuasion of Lady Russell(Susan Fleetwood), a family friend who gives motherly advice to all of the Eliots but to Anne especially. 

With Sir Walter and Elizabeth only tolerating her at best(and treating her like a servant at worse), it's not surprising that Anne at 19 was willing to listen to Lady Russell at the time.

However, upon hearing that Wentworth might be back in her life, Anne has found that the decision she made back then perhaps wasn't the best one for her own happiness:



Anne is sent to stay with her married younger sister Mary Musgrove(Sophie Thompson), who always "fancies herself ill" and is a great complainer when things don't go her way.

With the Musgroves being way nicer people, Anne is happy to be at their homestead of Uppercross for now. Also, she hopes to avoid being in Wentworth's company even though his brother-in-law and sister (Fiona Shaw, who is a real delight along side Woodvine) are completely lovely folks to be around.

Wentworth does eventually make friends with the Musgroves-the daughters of the house are very happy to know him!-and meet up with Anne again. They are awkwardly polite for the most part, unsure of each other's true feelings. 

However, on more than one occasion, it does appear that Wentworth, despite his attentions to one Musgrove girl, still has some regard for Anne there:


Before Anne rejoins her father and sister in Bath, an incident on a trip to the seaside town of Lyme Regis causes both Wentworth and Anne to wonder about their potential future together.

Upon reuniting in Bath, things are still uncertain between them as Anne is now being courted by her formerly estranged cousin Mr. Eliot (Samuel West).

Is Anne meant to marry Mr. Eliot and perhaps save her family estate or is this the time to truly follow her heart?

This film is so well done with director Roger Michell bringing such a natural setting and tone to the story. The characters look and feel like actual people instead of fancy dress up figures. 

The script by Nick Dear also drops a few references to the wider world with the now ending war against Napoleon(and possibly starting up again!) and the changes in social class with the now enriched military veterans.  

As some Austen fans know, the original book had more than one ending planned and Dear was able to nicely incorporate that extra material seemlessly into the screenplay.

Best of all is the chemistry between Root and Hinds, who are subtle yet strong when the plot needs them to be:


That subtle energy comes in handy when Anne finds out how Wentworth really feels, thanks to a letter that is the most romantic declaration ever written in my humble opinion!:



While I do look forward to seeing the newer adaptations of Persuasion, this version will always hold a special place in my literary heart.

Please join us next time for our fall finale feature, You’ve Got Mail.  I know that there’s plenty of mixed emotions about this movie but I think we can find a good common ground that doesn’t involve fighting over caviar garnish:



Monday, August 09, 2021

Autumn in August enters The Age of Innocence

 

Welcome back for our second presentation in the LRG summer series, Autumn in August, where we look at another Edith Wharton adaptation, the 1993 Martin Scorsese helmed film ,The Age of Innocence.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York, our leading man here is Newland Archer(Daniel Day-Lewis), who is about to marry into another well connected family with May Welland(Winona Ryder) and couldn't be happier or so it seems.

When May's cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska(Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives in town, her reputation for scandal threatens  the insular social order of their world. Newland does what he can to smooth the ruffled feathers but finds it hard pressed to blame Ellen for making what turned out to be a bad marriage for her.

When assigned to Ellen's divorce case by his law firm, Newland has to tell her the realities of New York society("Everything is labeled but everyone is not") and while he does succeed in persuading her to hold off on the divorce, Newland fervently wishes that she was free to be with him:


Newland does marry May yet even after a year's separation, finds that his passion for Ellen has not died down. Rather, it has increased and those feelings are shared by her.

With Ellen back in his social circle, he makes many excuses to be alone with her but their intimacy is never truly consummated. Despite the pain they might cause to both themselves and others, Ellen and Newland find it hard to resist taking that next step:


As Newland makes plans with Ellen, he soon discovers that his secret is not as secret as he thinks. Sooner than he expected, Newland realizes that this momentous decision in his life is not his alone to make.

Before I talk about the overall look of the film, I must make the case for May Welland. Repeatedly throughout the film, she is described as a shallow and rather unintelligent person, “ a curtain drawn over an emptiness.”

Granted, she’s doesn’t take an interest in things outside of her personal realm but May is not at all stupid. She knows full well Newland has doubts before and after their marriage and doesn’t hesitate to use what emotional weapons she has in her arsenal to get what she wants.

If anything, she’s more honest than he is when it comes to their relationship. Also, there’s no malice about her actions or intentions. May is just doing what a woman of her status was taught to do and she does it elegantly:


Scorsese spared no expense when it came to making this film as lush looking as possible. From the art on the walls to the table settings at a casual meal, the jewel box tones of this era highlight the hidden codes and hints of such a vicious circle of people.

The story itself is just as lovingly designed, with a wonderful cast that includes Richard E. Grant, Olivia Dukakis and Miriam Margolyes as Mrs. Manson Mingott aka "the dowager empress of New York society"-she is such a joy to watch! A special casting bonus is the narration that pops in at just the right moments, done by the late great Joanne Woodward, the perfect cap off to this feast of a film:


Please join us next time as we venture into Jane Austen country with 1995's Persuasion, the movie that got me reading Austen's work in the first place. I know that there are other versions with very fine qualities about them(which I have enjoyed) but I measure all of those against this one:





Monday, August 02, 2021

Autumn in August visits The House of Mirth

 

Welcome to the premiere of the LRG end of summer salute that is Autumn in August, where films that invoke the feel of those impending cold weather months are showcased for discussion.

Our first feature presentation is the 2000 adaptation of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth which stars Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart, a New York socialite in the late 19th century who is starting to age out of the marriage market.

Lily is lovely and charming enough to land a suitably rich husband yet she doesn't have much of a follow through mode when a target is in her sights. 

The one man that does truly captivate her heart and mind is Lawrence Selden(Eric Stolz), a well to do lawyer who admires Lily yet is not in the marrying for social advancement game-part of that is due to having affairs with married women but we'll get to that soon enough!

Before I get back to the plot, it must be said that the chemistry between Anderson and Stolz in these roles is a low hum of electric tension, which is precisely what such characters need to have on screen. Many of the casting choices in this film are excellent but the key parts were most important for this particular story and very well done indeed:


Part of  Lily's problem is that most of of her friends are superficial at best and self serving at the worst. 

While there are a few who wish her well such as social hanger-on Carry Fisher(Elizabeth McGovern), most of the women in her social circle are either overly judgemental like her Aunt Julia(Eleanor Bron) or false faced such as the quietly scheming cousin Grace Stepney(Jodhi May) who "reluctantly" tells her aunt of Lily's various misdeeds.

Those misdeeds come from Lily misunderstanding what it means when the husband of one of her good friends, Gus Trenor(Dan Ackroyd, who plays pompous entitlement extremely well here) offers to help her "invest" some money in order to pay her ever increasing bills. Turns out she takes him at his literal word and actually believes saying "thank you" is proper enough but as Gus says, "When a fellow pays for dinner, he's usually given a seat at the table." *shudder*

 There's also Simon Rosedale(Anthony LaPaglia), a social climber who is honest enough about his intentions towards Lily but can't stand by her when things get rough. Worst of all of them is Bertha Dorset(Laura Linney) who hates her husband enough to openly cheat on him yet begrudges a former lover like Selden to being with anyone else, especially Lily. She's quite the frenemy from hell and as all of these forces gather about Lily to do her in, Selden is slow to stop her social downward spiral:


The deeply cut irony of all of this is that Lily Bart truly has principles. Yes, she makes many mistakes but when time and again, it is pointed out to her that by enacting a moral compromise or two, her situation can improve, Lily says no.

That does seem naive of her yet it's also honorable. As time goes on, Lily refuses to be on the level of her detractors such as Bertha(who she does have solid evidence of her adultery in the form of letters on) and regardless, she doesn't want to gain her social salvation in such an underhanded manner.

Granted, some of that reluctance is due to Selden's prior involvement with Bertha, however when push comes to shove, Lily would rather swallow the bitter pills that Bertha forces upon her in public than become as nasty as her former friend is:


The House of Mirth is not a happy tale to tell but it is beautifully told nonetheless. Writer/director Terence Davies does create visually appealing outdoor scenes yet it's those inside sections of the story that are the most memorable. If you enjoy elegant dialogue in ornate rooms, this is the movie for you!

What really seals the deal is that at times, the movie feels like a stage play and yes, that is a compliment. Lily's journey is one of those quietly brutal dramas that would make for a gripping Broadway production and it's chief mode of decoration is the emotional intensity that swirls up when least expected.

The strongest connective thread is the relationship between Lily and Selden, which is done to perfection by both actors no matter what setting they happen to be in. If you haven't seen THOM, I fully recommend it as it does the book justice while giving the story a few unique touches of it's own:


I do hope that you all enjoyed this first outing of Autumn in August and please do join us next time for more Edith Wharton entertainment as Martin Scorsese gives his operatic take on The Age of Innocence-popcorn is always welcome!:


 




Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The High Summer Readathon, a Library Haul and other bookish blog plans

 

Even though the summer seems to be half gone, there's plenty of warm weather time left to enjoy and if you're like me, staying in the shade is certainly the best option.

With that in mind, next month brings us the High Summer readathon from Seasons of Reading(courtesy of Michelle Miller). Beginning August 1 and ending on the 31st, you are encouraged to do as much page turning as possible to soothe your spirits or cool off during the latest heat wave, whichever arrives the soonest!

My TBR for this readathon will be small with Jennifer Weiner's Big Summer and Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern to start with(yes, there's a bit of a theme there!).

The main titles for this particular challenge will be a Larry McMurtry double feature starring The Last Picture Show and it's follow-up, Texasville. The former was a huge breakthrough novel for McMurtry that became an award winning film in 1971.

TLPS chronicles the emotional triangle between best friends Sonny and Duane,along with local beauty Jacy during their last summer together in the small Texas town they call home. Between bouts of fighting, bad romance choices and sudden departures, these three find their own way to set about deciding the path of their future lives.

The sequel Texasville takes place about thirty years later , reuniting the trio and their remaining friends and ex-lovers back in their old home town. The film adaptation,which did have the original cast and director back on board, did not get the warm reception that the first movie did(then again, neither did the book).

Oddly enough, I read Texasville years ago without having read TLPS(my intro to McMurtry was Terms of Endearment) so probably much of the character content and references to past events missed me by a mile.

 Well now is the perfect time to remedy that and with McMurtry no longer with us, the best way to appreciate his legacy is by reading one of his best known works and yes, it's perhaps underrated companion piece:


In addition to the High Summer readathon, another wonderful book related event has occurred for me and that is the grand reopening of my local library branch!

I went there yesterday and it was so good to walk through those doors again. I only hope that recent resurgences in our sadly still ongoing health crisis doesn't force it to close down once more(btw, I and my immediate family are fully vaccinated and I encourage everyone who can to do the same).

Not only was I able to finally return my pre-pandemic loans-I confess that I read just two of the four that I borrowed-but I made my first library haul of 2021 as well. All of them are mysteries and I began one of them already, The Book Supremacy by Kate Carlisle.

This series has a bookbinder, Brooklyn Wainright, as it's detective heroine and in this 13th entry of the Bibliophile Mysteries, she's celebrating her honeymoon with new husband and regular love interest Derek Stone in France. Brooklyn and Derek are having the time of their lives yet when they go home to San Diego, it turns out that something they bought in Paris is more sinister than your standard souvenirs.

Brooklyn's purchase of a first edition of Ian Fleming's The Spy Who Loved Me(a bit of a gag gift as Derek used to work for MI6) was rather a lucky buy that upon appraisal is worth far more than what she paid. While agreeing to let the book be displayed at a spy themed shop run by an old pal of Derek's, a break in and subsequent murder proves to Brooklyn that this Bond book has more secrets than what's between the covers.

While this is my first time with this series, getting into the plot and characters is relatively easy and readily engaging. With any luck, Brooklyn may become a new favorite literary leading lady of mine:


I paired that with another Kate Shackleton novel by Frances Brody entitled A Snapshot of Murder and the beginning of a newer series from Ellie Alexander.

Death on Tap introduces us to Sloan Krause, a top notch craft beer brewer who changes her place of employment due to her husband Mac getting way too friendly with one of the barmaids.

She decides to work at Nitro, a direct competitor to Mac's family business but when Sloan finds the brew master dead in one of Nitro's beer tanks, her life changes yet again. Mac is the prime suspect and despite her disgust, Sloan finds that she has no choice other than finding the true killer to help her family, in-laws and all.

I do like Alexander's Bakeshop Mystery series yet since I'm not into beer, I haven't picked this one up before. Giving Sloan Krause a fair shot should be fun and hopefully as intoxicating as her other mystery treats:


Last but not least, for those of you who check out my Series-ous Reading posts, the next review will have to wait until September. Taking it easy during these increasingly overheated days seems right to me(my fall book preview will be in September as well). The wait will be worth it, folks.

Rest assured that I am still reading those Culinary Cozy Feast books there and plan to serve up a double platter of fishy doings with Barbara Ross' Clammed Up(which I did like quite a bit) with Killer Crab Cakes by Livia J. Washburn not long after Labor Day.

Instead, my big blog focus will be on Autumn in August, my new end of summer film festival that starts next week with The House of Mirth starring Gillian Anderson as the ill fated Lily Bart. Nothing says autumn like Edith Wharton in New York, if you ask me:


There is still time to sign up for the High Summer readathon(follow the link in the second paragraph of this post) and whatever your remaining summer plans are, I hope that a good book accompanies you where ever that may be.

I know that staying close to home is not something many of us want to do these days but there are advantages to doing just that. For one, no fighting about how books you can pack versus other so-called essentials like fresh clothes and toothpaste-the more books, the better, I say!: