Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

My page turning progress during this Winter's Respite

We're at the half way mark with the Winter's Respite readathon and it looks as if many folks are enjoying this special time with their selected stack of books.

As for me, I have finished two books, working on two more and have added an extra title onto this particular TBR. Not too shabby, as they say, and I'd like to share my thoughts with you all about what I've read and am reading so far:

 The first book that I completed for this challenge was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, a debut novel by Gail Honeyman that has gotten a lot of positive word of mouth and critical praise, not to mention some notice from Reese Witherspoon's book club(and yes, she's planning to turn this book into a movie).

The title lady of this story lives a quiet life in London, working in the financial department of a small PR firm, keeping mostly to herself with only a plant in her apartment for company and her regular weekend plans involving vodka.

Despite her firm resolve to remain apart from others, Eleanor is drawn to the outer world by two men; one , a singer that she develops a crush on and the other a co-worker named Raymond from the IT department. When she and Raymond find themselves helping an elderly man who fell down in the street, an unexpected friendship develops that brings Eleanor into the society of a wider set of people willing to accept her on her own terms.

However, Eleanor has emotional as well as physical scars, the inner ones coming from a traumatic event in her childhood at the hands of her vicious mother. While she has managed to make something of a life in the wake of that aftermath, it becomes apparent that Eleanor does need and deserves to improve her situation and it does takes some help from a good friend or two to achieve that.

While this story does have it's humorous moments(Eleanor is engagingly blunt at times), there is a good amount of sadness here and yet, I did not find this book depressing. You root for Eleanor right away and going along with her on this journey toward emotional renewal is a trip worth taking. Things are not neatly wrapped up with a bow, which is right and proper, and there is no big romance that heals her heart, also a check in the plus column there.

EOICF is a satisfying read and while it may not be the perfect book for everyone, every one who does read it can easily relate to such a solidly told tale of the heart. I know that many of the fans that Gail Honeyman has made here will be eager to see what she comes up with next and I happily join their number:

Next up was Jasmine Guillory's The Proposal, a book that I was anxious to get to in order to relive the run of reading her earlier novel,The Wedding Date. The story starts with Nikole, who is seriously considering breaking up with her boring hunk of a current boyfriend, Fisher. The thrill is long gone after five months with his good looking but not much to talk about self.

However, she is stunned when Fisher decides to propose marriage to her at a Dodgers game, in big Jumbotron style. When that request is refused, Nikole is about to be ambushed by the media and is given a surprise save by two good hearted siblings, Carlos and Angela.

After Carlos helps her get out of Dodge, so to speak, he and Nik start up what each of them intend to be a casual romance. As time goes on, the two of them grow closer than expected and revealing their true feelings about one another may be more daunting than getting out of a public popping of the question.

Guillory is two for two here, with her smartly drawn characters and their lively dialogue that make for a realistic yet sweetly romantic story(with the right amount of sexy time spice thrown into the mix). She also doesn't stint on the supporting characters, making both Nik's best gal pals and Carlos' family into more than sideline cheerleaders to their love connection.

You don't have to have had read The Wedding Date(although those lead characters do pay a visit) to appreciate this but why deprive yourself of a matched set of wonderful reads? Guillory has a wonderful way with words and wit, making her a must-read for book clubs and those seeking a real romance to sink their story telling teeth into:

At the moment, my current WR reads include an Agatha Christie(The ABC Murders) and a book from last year, The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar.

Set in the Georgian era, we begin with widowed London merchant, Jonah Hancock, who is shocked to say the least when the captain of his most recent trading ship arrives with only the preserved body of a mermaid as the sole prize.

Determined to make the most of this potential misfortune, he has this unusual creature displayed at a local coffeehouse where her small and scarily scaly appearance brings in a good amount of paying customers willing to pay for a look. This attention draws the interest of Mrs. Chappell, a celebrated madam whose "nunnery" has seen better days. She rents Mr. Hancock's mermaid for her establishment, the main selling point being the high class clientele who he can make social connections with.

To further entice his interest, Mrs. Chappell enlists the aid of Angelica Neal, a down on her luck courtesan who got her start with that less than good lady. While Mr. Hancock is instantly smitten with Angelica, the feeling is far from mutual:

That first meeting appears to be a one time instance but after Mr. Hancock changes his mind about having the mermaid at Mrs. Chappell's and Angelica soon in need of a truly suitable suitor, the two of them are brought together again. The mermaid that unites them in a common interest to change their lives for the better also holds the promise of undoing them,as well as many others, for the worst.

I'm midway into this novel and it's quite the riveting debut. Hermes Gowar has done a remarkable amount of research into the time period and is also blessed with the knack for creating such vividly alive characters into this narrative, a magic as potent as any mythical being could possess.

While the mermaid in question is not the traditional deep sea beauty, her silent allure lingers in the atmosphere of the book as a warning to those who do not wish to listen that such enchantments come with a price that mere mortals may not wish to pay. Yes, I am hooked as any fish by this historically creative tale and hope that many more will be just as happy to be caught in this narrative net:

Odds are that I'll be finished with The ABC Murders before TMAMH(the former is shorter, page wise), which leaves me with two books left for Winter's Respite.

However, I just had to add one more. Since I read Kiertsen White's take on Elizabeth Frankenstein for a prior readathon and happen to be a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, there was no doubt that her new novel set in the Buffy realm would be a must have for me.

Slayer takes place well after the final TV season of BTVS and the follow up graphic novel series that had the source of all magic vanquished from our world. However, that doesn't mean that danger from nonhuman forces is gone for good. While it seems that another Chosen One will not appear, the daughter of one of the last Watchers is tapped for that dubious honor.

This story looks like a grand excuse to dive back into Buffy lore and the edition that I picked up has a bonus short story told from the point of view of Faith, the true opposite of Buffy in more ways than one. Hanging out with these legendary lady killers should certainly warm up the cold winter nights to come indeed:

Monday, January 07, 2019

My first Library Haul and Book Buy of 2019

As this was the first weekend of the new year, I decided to celebrate by making my first library visit of 2019.

There were books that needed to be returned(as well as a couple that were renewed) and yes, I have plenty to read at the moment but it never hurts to take a look around to see what's new , or new to me at least, on the shelves.

My destiny was sealed as the first and second mystery novels in a brand new series were available. The Mitford Murders is the fictional debut of author Jessica Fellowes, best known for several behind the scenes books about Downton Abbey.

The story is set in 1920, as young Louisa Cannon seeks a better life away from London,along with a means of escape from her corrupt uncle Stephen, by taking a position as a nanny to the countryside Mitford family. While fleeing from the criminal scheme that her uncle was forcing her upon, Louisa happened to be on the train the same day as the vicious murder of Florence Nightingale Shore took place further down the line.

Eldest daughter Nancy is keenly interested in Florence's death and manages to drag a reluctant Louisa into an investigation, one that comes close to being a real threat to both their lives. As much as she wishes to avoid any connection to her past, Louisa can't be but hope to run into Guy, the friendly railway policeman who helped her out that fateful day. Will he be able to lend his assistance to solving this case before things get truly out of hand?

The follow-up to this is Bright Young Dead, where Nancy and Louisa team up again with Guy in London of 1925 so that they can track down a ring of female criminals known as the Forty Thieves.

Louisa is able to make contact with a former member of the gang, a maid named Dulcie but the price of that acquaintanceship proves to be rather high and deadly for one unfortunate soul.

I've already started reading The Mitford Murders and the writing is lively and crisp, with a good blend of Upstairs,Downstairs characterization combined with the heartfelt drama of a good Downton Abbey episode.

 Fellowes gives the reader a great deal of invested interest in Louisa and Guy as they go forth on their separate but soon to be mutual paths that are enhanced by such real life figures as the Mitford sisters(yes, that Nancy!) and with revived interest in Downton Abbey,thanks to the upcoming film later this year, I suspect that I was blessed by the good book fairy to find this delightful pair indeed:

Apparently, the good book fairy found me worthy of a double tap from her tasseled bookmark(what else would such an enchanted entity use as a magic wand, after all?) as the two books that I had ordered from an after-holiday sale online arrived in the mail that day.

Josie Silver's One Day in December follows the long term romantic pursuit of  Laurie and Jack, two London strangers that happened to catch each other's eye during a bus ride yet fail to connect right away.

Through various means, Laurie hopes to find him but tends to just miss that special moment to meet Jack, with one of her best friends happening to find him first and have her own relationship with him. Over time, it seems that these two are never going to be a couple yet fate may have something to say about that......

This book sounds like a great Nora Ephron movie set in England, which would be nice to curl up with and on top of that, it's a Reese Witherspoon book club pick(I'm really enjoying her taste in books there).  A sweet bookish sundae like this ought to be a tasty read even in the cold weather days to come:

Speaking of England, The Gown by Jennifer Robson is subtitled "a novel of the Royal Wedding", the wedding in this case being of future queen Elizabeth II to  future Prince Phillip.

The narrative of the story is centered on the women who worked hard to make that fabled wedding dress ready, as modern day Heather seeks to find out where her recently deceased grandmother Ann got a set of pearl encrusted embroidered flowers from to leave as her legacy.

Turns out that Ann was one of the many seamstresses at Hartnell House, the top fashion designer in the country who specialized in dresses fit for royalty and the upper class. Ann befriends one of her fellow workers, Miriam,a refugee from the terrors of occupied Paris, and they even become roommates as well.

While able to find love on their own, Ann and Miriam must join forces to prevent industrial spies from learning of the intended design of the regal wedding dress to prevent any knock off versions from spoiling the big day, which is a much needed moral boost for the post-WWII nation still in recovery and knee deep in rations.

Granted, I'm not a major Royal Family watcher but the time period is interesting and perhaps this book can get me to finish watching the second season of The Crown,particularly before the new one without Claire Foy begins. Of course, such a novel will have plenty of it's own merits to enjoy and looking at such a historical occasion from a mostly unseen viewpoint promises to be memorably page turning:

So far, this year has gotten off to a good reading start and my Winter's Respite readathon is going along smoothly as well. One of the best things about this time of year, I hate to say, is being able to focus more on books that I want for me, myself and I.

 As much as I do like buying books for others, it was distracting to see so many wonderful books that I desired for my own pleasure. Perhaps the good book fairy will bless me with patience and literary concern toward those readers in my life that are in need of engaging reads in order to reward me with more opportunities to find great bookish delights for myself in the months to come-we shall see!:

Friday, January 04, 2019

My new year of reading resolutions

Happy New Year, everyone and I hope that 2019 has gotten off to a good start for you.

As for me, a lot of great books were under my Christmas tree and late last night, I finished my first read of the year(Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine) and it also counts as the first book in the Winter's Respite readathon to be completed-bonus points!

While most people do make resolutions for the new year, I'm at the point in my life where I find it best to make ones that I truly have a good chance at keeping,so these are all reading related promises to myself(and one for the blog).

Now, I try not to get too overly organized about this because that can take the fun out of things(not to mention ruin the opportunity for spontaneity reads there). However, there is some method to my literary madness that allows for some wiggle room,especially as far as my library visits are concerned:

SERIES-OUS READING 3: So far, I've been doing these year long catch-ups and /or dives into books from various series for two years now and renewing this blog project for a third term just felt right.

Mind you, this year will get off to a late start, due to my still being in the midst of a Poldark title from this past December(and yes, I do intend to read yet another one in this series but I just can't quit Cornwall and Demelza just yet).

A good portion of the Series-ous Reading will be in the cozy mystery category, including Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen stories. In a weird way, this is not much different than when I was into paranormal romances back in the day.

 Both genres have strong minded ladies solving crimes and proving those pesky yet sexy men folk wrong when it comes to a woman's intuition and intelligence. The main difference is one has deadly demons to battle while the other has devil's food cake to conquer.

In addition to that, I do have a couple more of Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness books(do so adore Georgie's maid Queenie!) to explore and a lovely omnibus edition of the first three mysteries in the Phyrne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood. I loved watching the Miss Fisher adaptations and reading the books should be a blast.

What should also be a blast are Ellie Alexander's Bakeshop Mysteries, with such tasty titles as Caught Bread Handed(I'll be starting the new year with that), A Crime of Passion Fruit and Another Bites the Crust. To sweeten the deal, Alexander has a fun Youtube channel with plenty of updates about her latest works and insights into her writing. A real box of video treats to savor indeed:

DIVING INTO DICKENS: Some time ago, I started to read War & Peace as a way of coping with the chaotic times that we're living in and granted, Tolstoy does not sound like mellow out type of reading, nonetheless, it's done the trick for me.

I'm happy to report that not only have I finished W&P, I'm halfway through Anna Karenina(highly recommend the Maude translation for both) and it will soon be time to pick up another classic read.

For my next selection, I am going back to Charles Dickens, who happened to be a major fan of Leo Tolstoy's work. I have read a good number of his books but there are plenty that I haven't gotten to and intend to remedy that situation right soon.

The Pickwick Papers was the first of Dickens' bestsellers, weaving a set of tales from the notes of the famed Pickwick Club, with such distinguished members as ladies' man Tracy Tupman, the artistically inclined Augustus Snodgrass and of course, Samuel Pickwick with his fateful bumbling valet Sam Weller. These fine gentlemen found themselves in various silly situations, most of which they manage to escape relatively intact but not without some unexpected help from Sam Weller at times.

This big book has been adapted into film and TV miniseries(the most recent being in 1985) over the years and even inspired a series of novels by present day author Van Reid called The Moosepath League. With the headlines getting stranger and more absurd by the minute these days, it's more than time for a good laugh which Mr. Pickwick and his friends can certainly provide.

Not to mention that the Pickwick Papers are a main influence on one of my favorite novels of all time, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The March sisters had their own version of that illustrious group and now I'll be able to appreciate that section of the story all the more:

THE ELLROY/MURAKAMI CONNECTION: There are some authors whose works you really want to get into but for one reason or another, you just can't quite make that pivotal turn into their respective territory. It may be bad timing or too many other things on your personal plate at the moment but the urge is still there.

Well, I am going to try reading at least one book by two such writers on my list who are an odd pairing to say the least.

 No doubt that many of the devoted fans of Haruki Murakami's novels would give me a through list and suggestions on what to read first but I'm choosing to tackle The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle here. I did attempt to read IQ84 but that may have been too big of a bookish slice to sample as an introduction. If all goes well with WUBC, I will gladly go back to that one indeed.

For the other, it's James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential. I did actually meet Ellroy at a book convention signing(for a different book) and he's a strange duck to be sure. Nevertheless, his writing style is amazing to behold yet has such a zig zag style of energy that it's not easy to settle down with.

However, I have seen the celebrated 19997 film adaptation(which is hard to watch now, due to a certain disgraced actor's presence) and recall enough of the central plot line to be confident in getting a firm grip on this story of old school scandal and corruption. I know there will be differences between the movie and it's source material but I suspect that many of the main points and character development details will be well featured on the page:

This sounds like a good set of goals to head off into 2019 with and I hope that all of you with bookish New Year's resolutions(and non as well) find much success with yours. Anything's better than the one by Ross from Friends with his "new thing to do!" every day which resulted in bad pants choices and other hilarious catastrophes before January was over and done with. Make reasonable resolutions, my friends, and you'll be much better off for it:

Monday, December 31, 2018

Taking a Winter's Respite to ring in the new year of reading

Happy New Year's Eve, folks and hope your celebrations to say farewell to this past year go off without a hitch. As for me, I'm checking my list of books set aside for the Winter's Respite readathon  over at Seasons of Reading.

Thanks to hostess Michelle Miller, this month long readathon gives us a chance to catch up with our TBR piles,dive into those books gifted to us during the holiday season(or picked up at an end of year sale!) and generally relax with some good reads. Most of my selections were Christmas presents and I'll be happy to open them up indeed:

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE: This debut novel by Gail Honeyman has become a much talked about book, recommended highly and chosen as a selection for Reese Witherspoon's book club(she's also turning it into a movie).

The leading lady of the title is living a very quiet life, going from office to home and not much else. Part of the reason that she keeps to herself is due to a rather troubled childhood which gave emotional as well as physical scars.

However, someone from work decides to befriend her. Raymond works in the IT department and appears to actually see Eleanor as a person instead of a figure to be avoided or mocked. Slowly but surely, she starts to join the outside world and begins to learn of the options out there in order to discover the type of existence she truly wants.

I have high hopes for this book but am willing to take it on it's own terms. Hype can work both for and against a novel but I have a feeling that this story is worth taking a chance on, much like it's heroine:

NINE PERFECT STRANGERS: Liane Moriarty's latest story is set at a wellness retreat, where a mixed bag of guests such as romance writer Frances, worried about her continuing career success, and young Zoe, staying with her parents as a means of coping with the anniversary of a tragic event.

As everyone gets to know one another, concern arises about the agenda of Masha, the director of Tranquillium House. Her odd requests and isolating programs for the attendees are certainly a distraction from their everyday woes but is there a method to her supposed madness or not?

I've enjoyed Moriaty's work in the past and like that she added a writer into the mix here for a bit of meta fun. From what I've heard about this book, some of the story is meant to be a bit satirical about the spa craze, which puts me in mind of T. C. Boyle's The Road to Wellville(a better book than the movie makes it out to be)set in modern times-should be interesting to see where Moriaty takes this concept there:

THE ABC MURDERS: My interest in Agatha Christie's works continues and yes, also spurred on by the news of a new adaption. This Poirot tale has him hunting down a killer who uses the alphabet to target his victims, placing all of London in a state of fear.

Poirot teams up with Inspector Japp, the official head of the investigation with his co-horts including Dr. Thompson a forensic psychiatrist determined to reveal the killer's motive and Inspector Crone, a man that harbors doubts about the effectiveness of Poirot's methods. Along for the ride is Poirot's old friend Arthur Hastings, eager to lend a hand as well.

While I am a Miss Marple lady, Hercule Poirot has grown on me a bit and even though I won't be able to see the current BBC version starring John Malkovich, it is a timely excuse to explore this engaging mystery:

In addition, I have Jasmine Guillory's The Proposal(thank you, Stacy, for that Bookish Secret Santa gift!) and a couple of titles released earlier this year, The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes-Gower and Kate Morton's The Clockmaker's Daughter.

The latter takes place in an old English estate known as Birchwood Manor, a home lived in by many yet has only one true resident. Lily has walked the halls of Birchwood for decades as a protective spirit, looking to intervene when necessary for such folks as Edward, an artist dealing with a diamond theft on his property and Jack, a newly arrived photojournalist.

When an archivist named Elodie discovers a photo of Lily among her research into the history of Birchwood, that find leads to a reveal that brings more than one hidden story to life. Morton does love to weave elaborate yet emotional drawn tales and this winter may be a good time to dive into this one:

The Winter's Respite starts at midnight this January 1st and ends on the 31st of the month, so there is plenty of time to get those pages a-turning. Best wishes for a Happy New Year to Michelle Miller and all of the other reading friends who are signing up for this bookish beginning to 2019.

Also sending a Happy New Year to anyone taking part in any of the other wonderful readathons out there as well as all who are hoping for a fresh start on so many fronts in the year about to arrive. The coming cold season should be a grand time for bundling up in a cozy spot and diving into a good book that will keep your spirits warm and bright:

Friday, December 28, 2018

Ringing in a New Year of reading for early 2019

The end of 2018 is fast approaching and while there's plenty to look back on(for both good and ill), the time to focus on what lies ahead is here and now.

Out of the numerous pop culture arrivals many are eager to check out in 2019(including seeing which of the theories about Jordan Peele's upcoming horror movie Us will be correct!), books are definitely in the forefront,especially if you have a gift card or two to spend.

This set of new releases due on bookshelves near you for January and February are a mix of fiction, from magical history to murder mystery and emotional affairs of the heart. Hopefully, one or more of these literary delights will be a welcome sight for readers ready for a new read in the new year:


 The Witches of St. Petersburg: Author Imogen Edward-Jones highlights a lesser known pair of historical figures in this novel set in Czarist Russia and endows them with magical abilities that go further than they expected.

Sisters Militza and Anastasia,aka Stana, managed to marry well as princesses of Montenegro but are snubbed by upper class Russian society due to the humble origins of their home country.

 However, when Militza takes a prime opportunity to move up the regal social ladder by connecting herself with new czarina Alexandra, she does not neglect to bring her sister along for the climb.

Aided by their combined talents in dark magic,  Stana and Militza are easily able to make themselves powerful players in the court of Nicholas II. Yet, when a royal heir is in need of medical care, the sisters cast a spell to find a powerful healer which summons Rasputin, a man who proves to be more trouble than he's worth. Ridding themselves of him tests the limits of their skills and may prove to be the undoing of everything they've ever wanted.

Edward-Jones did a good amount of solid research into the real life  members of the Russian court to enhance her creative vision of magic and ambition that ought to make readers wonder the what ifs of that time very well(January):

 Slayer: In this YA tale from Kiersten White, the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is expanded on by the discovery of a new Chosen One, she alone who can fight vampires and go against the forces of darkness(yes, I am a fan if you didn't already know).

Starting from the time after the seventh season of BTVS as well as an event in the Buffy comics that lead to the wiping out of magic, the last of the Slayer line is to be found among the last of the Watchers, those who protected the world from mystical enemies.

Nina and her twin sister Artemis were happy in their training as the next generation of Watchers but when Nina realized that she was tapped to be the Slayer as well, her choices in life become more important than ever before. Magic may have died but that doesn't mean all threats from that realm are gone for good.

Having enjoyed White's take on the Frankenstein legend(The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein), I am thrilled to see what she does with vampires and their slayers in the hopes that a whole new audience will be happily introduced into this fandom fold(January):


 When You Read This: The leading lady of this Mary Adkins novel is Iris, a dying woman who writes a moving blog about her end of life experiences. She does this with the help of Smith, her boss at the small PR firm they had hoped to launch to great heights.

Instead, their dark sense of humor about the blog only serves to bind them together, making it hard for Smith to follow up on Iris' last wishes by using the printout of the blog content to publish a book. He decides to consult her sister Jade about the matter but Jade is less than thrilled with the whole idea.

Smith and Jade do wind up talking about Iris, who they both miss terribly, and soon discover much in common,including the need to find a way to deal with their mutual loss and find joy in life again. A blend of humor, heart and pathos told in modern day epistolary form, Adkins is giving us a smart yet sentimental shoulder to laugh and cry on(February):

 Big Little Love: In this mother and son tale, author Katy Regan first introduces us to Zac, whose biggest wish for his eleventh birthday is for his long since gone father Liam to show up to his party.

Zac's unhappiness is made worse by the constant bullying from his fishing village school mates, causing his mother Juliet to recognize a similar sadness in her self. By trying to improve both of their lives, she hopes to avoid dealing with some of the real truths about why Liam left in the first place.

However, Zac is bound and determined to find his father and with the help of his buddy Teagan, not only finds a few clues about the location of Liam but a look into the past that could change his views about his mother as well as his maternal grandparents for good.

 Such a story promises to go down a certain road but Regan offers a new fork in that fictional path that proves to be worth taking(February).


The Suspect: Best selling author Fiona Barton brings us another thriller with  reporter Kate Walsh on the case. This time around, she's looking into the disappearance of an eighteen year old girl named Alexandra in Thailand.

While the police seem to feel that Alexandra and the friend she was traveling with are simply being neglectful in updating their families about their current location, Kate has a more personal stake in feeling that there is something more sinister about this vanishing act.

As she recruits a few journalist companions to accompany her to Thailand, Kate soon learns that there is more than meets the eye here and it's quite a rabbit hole that she goes down in search of the truth. Barton is a rather intense storyteller and those seeking such a twisty tale will be well rewarded indeed(January).

Chocolate Cream Pie Murder: In Joanne Fluke's latest Hannah Swenson mystery, our leading lady is hoping that a TV special highlighting her beloved bakery The Cookie Jar will take the spotlight off of her personal woes.

Alas, things wind up going from batter to worse(sorry, couldn't resist the opportunity for a pun!) and Hannah seeks shelter at her mother's penthouse apartment with an old friend at hand, looking to solve yet another murder that fell into her lap at the least opportune time.

It's no secret that I've become a fan of this cozy culinary series yet I'm a long ways away from this deliciously titled entry. However, if you are wondering why books like this have such a sweet following, the answer is this: in a world of turmoil and what seems to be unending chaos, visiting someone like Hannah and sampling a few of her fictional wares is such a well earned relief. It's good to know that even murder can be made as sensible as a recipe for a good comforting pie(February):


Do have a Happy New Year and I will try to check in with you all before that clock strikes midnight next week(I do have a readathon starting on January 1st to talk about, after all!). Until then, keep a few good thoughts and a few good books on hand as we head into 2019 and a much better beyond :


Friday, December 21, 2018

Have yourself a Merry Christmas of Music

With Christmas being on a Tuesday this year, I have no intentions of blogging on Monday as the day before the holiday is best enjoyed with family.

Therefore, my annual holiday music playlist will be up today for your Yuletide pleasure and should carry LRG through the first half of next week(will be back before New Year's Eve with a book preview for 2019 and my reading list for Winter's Respite).

Let's get this party started off right with the modern day classic, Run D.M.C's "Christmas in Hollis"that holds the double distinction of being featured on the first A Very Special Christmas album and the soundtrack for the original Die Hard movie(celebrating it's thirtieth anniversary this year).

Yes, Virginia, Die Hard is a Christmas movie as is Batman Returns, however the latter does not feature any real seasonal tunes unlike John McClane's holiday hijnks,more good reason to bust some Christmas carols:

Next up is "Let It Snow" from nineties R&B group Boyz to Men, with the song being reimagined by singer Brian McKnight.

This particular tune was the only single released from their 1993 holiday album, Christmas Interpretations. It also received a Grammy nomination in 1994 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group w/ Vocals(Sade won that year).

It's truly a cool take on a song that is routinely sung around this time with a lot of enthusiasm but not much more than that. Turning this tune into a sweet mellow jam is peppermint perfect indeed:

One of my all time offbeat favorite holiday songs is "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses and this year, I found a great cover version sung in style by Kylie Minogue.

It's one of the tracks from her first holiday album, A Kylie Christmas , that came out in 2015(which has an expanded version entitled The Snow Queen Edition that was released in 2016).

She also did a concert for this album at the Royal Albert Hall that December and this video is from that performance. You just have to watch, it's a total holiday party riot:

Our next number is from the soundtrack of the 1996 holiday movie The Preacher's Wife(a modern version of 1947's The Bishop's Wife) which starred Whitney Houston, who also generously contributed her musical gifts to the production.

"I Believe in You and Me" was the single released for the album and the film, with the song being nominated for a Grammy(as it was a cover version of a Four Tops song, it wasn't eligible for an Oscar nom). To this day, the soundtrack is considered to be the best selling gospel album of all time.

I know a lot of folks will be interested in seeing this movie right now due to the recent passing of director Penny Marshall(a very underrated talent,in my opinion) and I feel that this is a fitting tribute to both of these remarkable ladies to showcase this heartfelt melody:

Before this playlist is done,I'd like to wish everyone Happy Holidays and yes, as we speak, there is a whirlwind of chaos growing in strength out there in the headlines that we should be concerned about for the future of our country. However, we should not let that sordid mess ruin one of the few times of the year where friendship, love and family are the elements that bring us together.

Misery loves company but that doesn't mean you have to accept it's invitation to dinner. Now is the moment to embrace the true spirit of the season and make a concerted effort to share what's good in our lives with others.

That doesn't mean that we're ignoring what's going on,instead we chose not to let ourselves be dragged down into that particular pit of woe. Like the Whoville residents who went out to sing in the town square regardless of the Christmas eve raid by the Grinch, we know that this holiday is more than just the shiny tree, brightly wrapped gifts and dazzling decorations.

No, Christmas is meant to be much more than that. So in that spirit, let's strive to put a little more love in our hearts this holiday season and all the days afterwards. That will do much to help us all get through this thing together:

Monday, December 17, 2018

A belated birthday card to Jane Austen delivered by Darcy

Yesterday was the two hundred and forty third birthday of one of England's most beloved authors, Miss Jane Austen.  The esteemed lady who gave us six of the best novels about love,friendship and emotional perseverance has gifted us for decades with her wit and wisdom, her only thanks being the devoted love of readers such as myself.

 Unfortunately as it fell this year upon one of those dowager countess dreaded "weekends", I was unable to provide a proper blog celebration for her. To make amends, I felt that only a display of Mr. Darcys would do.

Granted, I am a Captain Wentworth woman at heart(he was my first Austen hero, after all) yet there is no denying the lasting appeal of Fitzwilliam Darcy, the leading man of Pride & Prejudice. While he may be possessed of a brooding nature, it is far and away from a Bronte style of melancholy,thank goodness(no Bronte hate here, I swear!).

Rather, he is an oyster that one must be patient with in order to see him open up and reveal his true worth and yes, Darcy does learn to be less of a presumptive person as time goes on, making him more of an admirable character. With this arrangement of Darcy portrayals, I hope to showcase this proud owner of Pemberley in all of his glory in the best sense indeed:

COLIN FIRTH: While many Austen fans first saw Mr. Darcy on the small screen in the BBC miniseries that cast David Rintoul in that pivotal part, a whole new wave of fandom was born when the 1995 made for British TV version gave us Firth.

To many, Firth and Darcy are one and the same. He combines the intimidating at times remoteness of the character with the steady wit and good humor that lies beneath his haughty surface.

What adds greatly to Darcy's demeanor in this adaptation is Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth Bennet, whose lively charms are quick to draw out the hidden depths that he is bound and determined at all costs to keep in check. However, even on the dance floor, Elizabeth's good natured examination of him proves rather difficult to resist:

LAURENCE OLIVIER: Another iconic Darcy is the big screen version of him from 1940, where English acting legend Olivier played him along side the delightful Greer Garson as Elizabeth.

His Darcy does seem a bit more playful at times yet prompt when needed to be withdrawn. While there are plenty of flaws in this particular adaptation of P&P(the costumes alone are enough), the strength of the story comes from the chemistry between Olivier and Garson.

They take to the roles as proper yet amusing cohorts, giving the audiences their money and time's worth. Since this script is adapted from a stage play and both of the leads were established theater stars in their home country before heading off to Hollywood, this onscreen pairing seems truly meant to be:

DANIEL VINCENT GORDH: Taking a more modern approach, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries turned P&P into a must-watch webseries, wisely holding off on bringing Darcy on camera until we were well into the storytelling mix.

Gordh's portrayal of Darcy is very relatable as his stiff social attitude seems suited to the tech mogul persona given to the character. However, appearances are often deceiving in any P&P retelling proves and slowly yet surely, the warmer side of Darcy is revealed to Lizzie along with the online audience.

The whole ensemble cast of LBD is marvelous but the teaming of Ashley Clements' Lizzie with Gordh's Darcy is truly the icing on this digital cake:

ELLIOT COWAN: The offbeat BBC miniseries Lost in Austen had two worlds colliding as modern day reader Amanda Price(Jemina Rooper) changed places with Elizabeth Bennet, altering the fictional realm of P&P for both better and worse.

The Mr. Darcy she encountered there has much in common with Colin Firth's earlier incarnation, both in looks and personality. Yet, Cowan brings his own merits to the role, giving Darcy a broad heroic charm as well as a heartfelt sensibility that makes him as swoonworthy as his predecessor.

Cowan and Rooper make for quite the pair of opposites, keeping the inherent dynamic of P&P intact while adding a few fun touches,including a tribute to a certain wet shirt scene from the Firth era:

With that, I bid our Dear Jane another happy birthday in the hereafter and hope that the knowledge that her delightful stories have kept her immortal among us enchanted readers for generations past, present and future will be comforting to her spirit.

To conclude this parade of Darcys, here is Matthew MacFadyen's misty morning march towards Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Bennet in the most recent silver screen version of P&P. While the look is more Bronte than Austen, one must admit that this is a most charmingly romantic finale that even Jane herself might not mind: