Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, April 11, 2024

The lingering legacy of Carrie

April is a crucial month for Stephen King fans as this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of his debut novel Carrie, which began his career as well as set a tone for women in horror.

Even after so many decades, the legend of Carrie White still resonates and not just due to the various takes on her story. There’s something about Carrie that is sadly timeless and needs to be talked about.

My first encounter with Carrie was not the book(my first King read is in a similar vein that I’ll get to in a moment); it was the 1976 Hollywood film starring Sissy Spacek in the title role. While that movie does have its flaws, it excels with great character performances and by that standard, Spacek is still the killer queen here.

The relatable realism that she brought to this portrayal of an awkward outsider who becomes the doomed prom queen makes you root for Carrie , even when she unleashes hell on her high school tormentors. Despite the path of destruction she ultimately trods upon, you still want Carrie to reach a better place yet that was never in the cards for her:

My first Stephen King read happened to be Christine, which was dubbed “the male Carrie” but one of the main differences between these troubled teenagers is the power dynamic each is held to.

While Carrie is a complete outsider in her own hometown, Arnie Cunningham is not totally friendless-in fact, a good portion of the story is told through Dennis, Arnie’s best childhood friend who sees the signs that his nerdy pal is changing and not for the better with his new car obsession.

It stuck me upon thinking about both books that Carrie has no friends at all-the only constant connection in her life is her demented mother(the support from her gym teacher is too recent to offer any comfort or guidance once the vicious prank at prom occurs). 

Even classmate Sue Snell’s penance for an earlier incident is done remotely via the loan of her boyfriend Tommy. Perhaps if Sue had tried to talk to Carrie herself, things might’ve been different. Perhaps not as even Dennis couldn’t save Arnie from his own highway to hell.

In many ways, Christine is a bittersweet buddy story as Dennis tries to pull his friend back from the automotive abyss that is claiming him slowly but surely. Also, there are moments when Arnie(mostly in the movie version but a little in the book) seems to revel in his new found source of power, a luxury not granted to Carrie at all:

Along with friendlessness, Carrie is also imbued with a deep sense of guilt and shame about her powers, a trait that has been passed down to other paranormal heroines as well.

From Buffy Summers to Jean Grey and currently Eleven of Stranger Things, young women with supernatural gifts are made to feel “out of control “ with their abilities, which are their own birthright. More often than not, men are around to teach or take command of them and show them the “right” way to use them, usually meaning to  disconnect from their emotions.

Even when briefly unable to use their powers, any act of forcefulness is seen as shocking with the sense of fear about their own violent capabilities stopping these young women in their tracks. While reflecting upon your actions is a good thing, it does make you wonder why this particular prompt is placed on women and girls more often here:

I’m not blaming King for this at all; if anything, he tapped into that double standard and showcased it for all to see.

What does seem to be a positive change for those Carrie themed characters is pursuing the need for human connection; friendship helped Buffy(and later her best friend Willow) from being consumed by her powers and Eleven being  raised as a lab experiment becoming able to develop some true humanity is due in part to the gang of friends she’s made along the way.

Even Jean Grey has had her moments of clarity from her bonds with other mutant friends and able to make her own choices regarding her own power.

 Perhaps this is why Carrie is still relevant today-too many women and girls are feeling powerless despite what they bring to the table. Encouraging them to trust in their own abilities and make their own choices seems to be threatening to certain people. 

Carrie shows how dark that path can get without any sincere guidance and yet, has empathy for its leading lady, another quality in short supply these days. 

Hopefully, in the next fifty years, things may change for other women learning to deal with power and a story like Carrie White’s is merely a reflection of the past rather than what lies ahead. Perhaps Carrie’s legacy can be reborn as a phoenix in both fiction and fact:


Thursday, April 04, 2024

Let the bookish birthday bliss begin!


They say April is the cruelest month but if it happens to be your birth month, as it is mine, then there’s plenty of good times to be had!

Of course, my idea of a good time is new books and that started off with selecting a trio of fresh reads from Book of the Month Club.

I was beyond thrilled to see that Abby Jimenez’s  Just for the Summer was a main selection! Having just read Part of your World and Yours Truly back to back, this book is definitely going to be cherry on top of this romance flavored sundae.

The story begins with Emma, a traveling nurse who reads an online forum entry from a guy named Justin in Minnesota that says his love life seems to be cursed as every woman he’s broken up with instantly finds her soul mate -the most recent ex girlfriend winds up with his best friend!

Since Emma has similar luck in love, the two of them decide to date each other over the summer as a way to break the mutual jinxes on their romantic futures. However, things become more complicated as time goes on and this supposedly seasonal fling may lead to something more serious there.

Jimenez has a wonderful flair for mixing an emotional cocktail of romance, humor and sincere heartache that keeps every element in perfect page turning balance. This book should be a real blockbuster of a read indeed:

One of the benefits of a long term BOMC membership is getting a free book for your birthday and my choice for that honor is a debut novel, How to End a Love Story by Yulin Kuang.

YA author Helen Zhang is thrilled to have one of her bestsellers be adapted for TV and is excited to move to LA to work with the team of writers involved.

Unfortunately, one of those writers she knows all too well: Grant Shepard, who was part of a personal tragedy for Helen’s family back in their mutual high school days.

Working with Grant is difficult at best yet she comes to see that perhaps he’s not the villain of the story here. Rather, the two of them might be able to heal from their shared pain of the past by creating a new bond of love in the present towards a better future.

This does sound intriguing and taking a chance on a debut novel is a great gift for any reader to give to themselves. Plus, as it turns out, Kuang is no stranger to TV as she’s written and directed several streaming series, including I Ship It for the CW(she is also adapting an Emily Henry novel for the big screen). Such insider knowledge is a good creative canvas to spread your imagination upon:

Just for something completely different, my last selection was 
The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz.

When frustrated writer Alex gets the opportunity to attend a month long workshop held by renowned author Roza Vello, it seems almost too good to be true.

Doubts begin to surface as Roza issues a challenge to all assembled; complete a fully written novel within the month and the best one will receive a major publishing deal. On top of that, Alex has to deal with Wren, an old rival who relishes the chance to rub fresh salt into Alex’s emotional wounds.

However, when of the other attendees goes missing, the stakes become considerably higher and Alex finds herself having to choose between potential literary success and her own safety.

I have heard some good word of mouth about this book since it came out last year and felt like giving it a try. Also, this “women in isolation “ genre has being steadily gaining traction and I would like to engage with it more in book form:

While I do have to wait a few days for my BOMC box to arrive, in my mailbox today was a package from Better World Books, which did have a nice spring sale that I couldn’t resist.

Along with two more Maisie Dobbs mysteries(Birds of a Feather and Pardonable Lies), I went with Sarah Penner’s The Lost Apothecary.

As modern day American Caroline visits London as a means of getting over her cheating husband, she stumbles onto a mystery involving a strange vial that has a near etched into its surface.

This vial may have belonged to Nella, a 17th century apothecary who used her skills to create poisons for women seeking retribution against men who did them wrong. Nella’s death was deemed a suicide but was it really? Can Caroline’s investigation reveal the truth or is she setting herself up for a scarily similar fate?

This blend of history with mystery and perhaps a touch of magic sounds very enchanting and I’m happy to have it in hand as I speak:

I am getting more books for my birthday but will talk about them when that time comes. After the hectic days of wind and rain in my neck of the woods, it’s soothing to have a nice new book or two to start the month off with in a pleasant way. 

Also looking forward to making April a month long celebration-nothing too fancy, some good books, time with loved ones and maybe indulge in a Hallmark channel movie there-how can I ignore something called Blind Date Book Club, seriously? That’s like asking a baker to not notice a cake convention!:

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Tuning into some bookish entertainment

As March Madness is close to the end, the baseball season is soon to start and for those of us who are not into sports, TV time can get a little tricky to maneuver there.

Fortunately, if some of your regular favorite shows are being rescheduled due to sports coverage, there are a good number of viable alternatives to check out on cable and/or streaming with the additional bonus of being based on some very good books.

At the moment, Shogun is airing on F/X and Hulu with this fresh take on the iconic James Clavell novel getting good reviews from audiences and critics alike. Set in feudal Japan, John Blackthorne(Cosmo Jarvis) a maritime pilot on a Dutch ship, finds himself in the midst of political intrigue between Lord Toranaga(Hiroyuki Sanada) and those who oppose his rise to a position of power second only to the Emperor.

Blackthorne’s ship was captured by Toranaga’s forces and with the help of Lady Mariko(Anna Sawai) as translator, finds a way to make himself useful to  Toranaga. However, the conflict around him is far more complicated than he knows with his growing affection towards Mariko adding fuel to such deadly fire.

I remember the original miniseries from 1980 starring Richard Chamberlain (he was the go-to guy for this genre back then) and wound up reading a lot of Clavell due to this show. This new version appears to have much more of a focus on the historical drama elements of the plot than the romantic ones , a flip from the earlier adaptation. Definitely a good direction to go in here indeed:

Debuting this week on Paramount +  and Showtime is A Gentleman in Moscow , based on Awor Towles ‘ acclaimed novel about a Russian exile trapped in his own country.

Ewan McGregor plays the title character,Count Alexander Rostov, one of the few remaining members of the aristocracy after the revolution.  He was in Paris during most of the upheaval of Russia so on his return, Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the attic of a once grand hotel.

Making a few friends (as well as keeping one enemy close) during his decades long stay, Rostov learns to take life as it comes but not without finding what joy can be had along the way.

I read most of the book(had to put it on pause due to other concerns) but this series might get me to restart it . The writing was lovely and picturing McGregor as the lead is certainly quite the incentive:

One book that I definitely did finish was Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, which is now available on Peacock as a limited run series.

When matriarch Joy Delaney(Annette Benning) goes missing with only her overturned bicycle as a clue, suspicion falls hard on her husband Stan (Sam Neill) with their quartet of grown children taking sides over what actually happened.

Since I don’t have Peacock, I can’t say how well this adaptation is done but based on my recall of the book, it’s a rather intriguing and engaging story that does need a good amount of time to tell throughly:

Finding new books to read and new TV shows to watch can go hand in hand as the need to change up with the seasons and adjust to changing circumstances make such things an emotional necessity.

Fortunately, books still remain as adaptable catnip to studios and viewers alike so the odds of running out of one or the other are rather slim. Even in such daunting times as these, a new take on a previously published story can be welcome relief to shelter under with the book itself as an inviting umbrella to add to the fictional fortress of safety there:


Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Ready for a new season of Spring Into Horror

 Despite the persistent chill in the air, spring has officially begun according to the calendar today. One way to keep warm inside until the weather outside matches up with that is to gather together some chilling books for the next Seasons of Reading challenge, Spring Into Horror.

The sign-ups for this readathon (hosted by the excellent Michelle Miller) started yesterday and since this event doesn’t begin until the first of April-not a joke-there’s plenty of time to join in. Now, you are only required to read one scary book and it doesn’t have to be horror (mystery, thriller,etc are fine) but I am running a full gambit in my TBR trio of terror this time around!

First up is Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Silver Nitrate, which follows a pair of film fans into a cinematic nightmare.

Audio engineer Montserrat and aging actor Tristan have a shared love of movies since their childhood and the discovery of a once famous film director, Abel Urueta, living nearby brings some much needed excitement to their lives.

That excitement is way more than they bargained for as Urueta convinces them to help him finish a long abandoned film project in order to break the occult spell placed upon the movie by its Nazi occultist screenwriter.

Willing to bet on the film becoming a hit that could change their lives for the better, Monserrat and Tristan agree to help Urueta but the magic tied to the movie is very real indeed, bringing forth a potentially deadly price to pay for any fame and fortune here.

Moreno-Garcia is great at embracing genre norms and taking them up to the next level in more ways than one, so I am definitely looking forward to this one. Plus, she adds her love of cinema into this popcorn flavored mix of fear and frenzy, making this story worth the price of admission for sure:

Next up is The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett. Told via text, email and group chat app, this novel follows two ambitious reporters eager to get the full story on a past tragedy first in order to secure book deals.

Amanda Bailey already has a publishing contract to write about the cult who intended to offer up a baby as a sacrifice to save the world. Eighteen  years later, no one knows who that child, rescued from its intended fate, was or where he or she is now.

Oliver Mendes is also planning to write a book about the cult and his research has him running neck in neck with Amanda as the two of them are determined to interview that mystery child for their work before the other one does. Where their journey towards the truth takes is truly stranger than fiction to say the least.

I’ve heard great things about this book, particularly from Booktuber Mara at Books Like Whoa, so I had to get this as soon as possible and this readathon is just the perfect opportunity to dive on in here. Plus, it appears that Hallett also wrote a screenplay for a 2011 thriller film called 
Retreat starring current Oscar winner Cillian Murphy, which might be an interesting watch along companion to this challenge , we shall see:

For the finale, I have the acclaimed Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll, which focuses more on the women pursuing justice for the dead rather than the serial killer who achieves notoriety for his crimes.

Pamela is a survivor of a murder spree in her college dorm which took the lives of two of her friends when she meets Tina, who believes the same man murdered her friend Ruth over four years ago. 

Getting very little help from the authorities, these women team up to track down the man who not only left a gruesome mark on their lives but continued to destroy others along the way. Their mission, however, is justice not revenge because he wasn’t worth such an effort as the latter.

By keeping these women front and center of the narrative instead of the killer, Knoll brings new light to such dark material that showcases the power that those subjected to violent crime can reclaim as their own, which is the kind of story we need right now in this genre:

 Spring Into Horror will be here soon and I wish my fellow readers  who take this literary journey a happy bookish time. I have a link above in the second paragraph of this post if you want to know more about SIH and/or like to sign up for some scary page turning time.

I know the world around at the moment is fraught with far too many real terrors , based on the daily headlines alone, as it is and yet, reading something scary can be a good coping method.

Depending on the book, it could be a welcome yet brief escape from those menaces and possibly renew your spirits as such internal/external challenges are dealt with in a way that reality rarely provides.

 Best case scenario, you can talk about something other than the news or reality TV with good book buddies and perhaps watch a scary movie or two to take the edge off, worth a try, I think!:

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Matching into spring with a bountiful book haul

Despite the lingering chill in the air, spring is definitely coming upon us and the best way to get ready for that delightful season is by stacking up a few good books for reading.

My Book of the Month Club selections for this month include a special award winning book, awarded by the readers no less.

Abby Jimenez’s Yours Truly won the Book of the Year award (aka BOTY) from BOMC, voted on by the subscribers and this is my first time getting a BOTY edition, which I find pretty sweet!

While this novel is not a direct sequel to Part of Your World (I wound up getting a BOMC edition of that last month and so far, it’s a great read), one of the supporting characters from that story is in the central spotlight here.

Brianna Ortiz has enough to deal with as it is, with her brother desperately needing a kidney transplant and getting her divorce over and done with without having to handle a potential new rival at work.

As it turns out, Jacob Maddox is not interested in taking that promotion away from anyone; he’s just trying to handle this new job along with his social anxiety that tends to make bad impressions for him.

Brianna is less than thrilled with him but after receiving a letter of apology from Jacob for his rudeness towards her, she’s willing to give him another chance. As the two of them grow closer, they discover that each of them can help the other outside of work in ways neither of them could imagine.

When I finish up with Part of Your World, I fully intend to dive into this engaging tale of romance and emotional growth. Congratulations to Abby Jimenez for this win and I hope that her next book will be another BOMC favorite for all:

I paired that up with A Fate Inked in Blood by Danielle L. Jensen, a fantasy novel with Norse mythology and a strong female lead.

Freya has been concealing the fact that she is one of those “blessed by blood” from the gods,destined to be a shield maiden who will fight for the next great king amongst her people for a long time.

However, when her cruel husband learns the truth, he is quick to bring her forth to Snorri, their tribal leader in order to get a divorce. Snorri grants that request and takes Freya as his bride, wanting to be the one who benefits from her intended fate.

He even assigns his firstborn son Bjorn as her personal protector, having no idea how attracted to each other they are. While Freya is still sorting out her place in court and dealing with her feelings for Bjorn, she knows one thing that they do not; a fated person has the final say on what their destiny will or won’t be.

I’ve been wanting to read more fantasy this year so this sounds like a great place to start. The book is the first in a new series and hopefully, I will be able to get the next one in a BOMC edition. Even if that doesn’t work out, having a warrior woman read on hand feels excellently awesome right about now:

Then I went to my local library and picked up the third book in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen mystery series by Mia P. Manansala entitled Blackmail and Bibingka.

Bibingka is a traditional  dessert served around the winter holidays as we find coffee shop owner Lily and friends planning for at their growing business along with her aunt’s restaurant in the small town of Shady Palms.

When her cousin Ronnie comes back to town with a new winery ready to set up shop, Lily is naturally suspicious as he’s been known as Mr. Unreliable in more ways than one. However, his mother wants to give him the benefit of the doubt and asks Lily to go with her to meet his new business partners.

That meeting starts off well enough but when the wife of one of Ronnie’s new associates dies from drinking a bottle of wine that Ronnie prepared, it’s up to Lily to use those sleuthing skills of hers to save him from being unjustly punished for murder.

While there are plenty of suspects around, a blackmail demand sent before the killing points toward a past situation that may or may not involve Ronnie. Can Lily solve more than one mystery and still start the holiday season off right?

I do like this series as Manansala has a lively way with describing the food and family relationships that are truly delicious to read. Finding these titles at my library is such a tasty treat indeed:

Also, in pursuit of more fantasy books, I came across The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill by Rowenna  Millet.

Alaine learned about how one could strike a deal with the Fae on the title location from her grandmother , who claims that how her husband was able to get the family farm that she has inherited.

With the farm not doing well and her younger sister Delphine planning to marry a man that will move her to the city, Alaine starts to wonder if that old story was true and if so, can she make such a bargain to improve her own situation in life?

Turns out Delphine has a similar notion as she’s not that confident among the socialite class that she is trying to put a part of these days. As each sister makes her exchange with the Fae folk, the price they truly have to pay is most unexpected indeed.

This does sound interesting (not to mention that the cover is gorgeous!) so I’m willing to give it a go. Rowenna Miller is a new to me author and perhaps I might check out more of her work if the page turning magic clicks with me. It’s truly magical how one good book can lead you to another and another:

It will be nice to have a good full season of spring this year-lately it seems as if spring is a short bridge from winter to summer that keeps getting shorter all the time.
Hopefully, that path will extend out a little further this time around.

In the meanwhile, we have plenty of books ready to bloom on our shelves and before I go, I must mention that I gathered up a few books for future reading projects at a Leap Year sale at Better World Books.

Two of them I’ll talk about later this month but the other two are being set aside for my Meeting of the Marys challenge. Along side Romantic Outlaws(a duel bio about Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley), I will be rereading The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White as well as Shelley’s Frankenstein in a nice Penguin Classic Deluxe Edition.

The other new to me read will be Vindication of the Rights of Women by Wollstonecraft . Considering the state of things regarding women’s rights these days, I have a feeling that this early feminist work will be very relevant in a not so reassuring way.

With any luck, I will be able to start this challenge before the end of spring (need to complete my Jane Journey first!) and enjoy a little compare and contrast with this mother/daugther team , the latter being a most memorable literary diva whose influence still springs forward today:


Tuesday, March 05, 2024

My Trilogy Time gets off to a fiery start with Nora Roberts


As some of you may know, I have been doing a book challenge for some time now called Series-ous Reading, where I would talk about books in certain genre series such as cozy mystery or historical fiction.

Well, for this year I decided to change things up a bit and try something new that I’m calling Trilogy Time; reading three sets of trilogy novels that each follow a different prompt. Also, this is a seasonal challenge so my blog updates won’t be every single month(which can make this whole thing much easier to enjoy).

So, for the winter/early spring start of this project, my prompt was “Read an author that’s new to you “ and while Nora Roberts is rather well known, I had never tried  her works until now. At the last rummage sale I went to, I impulsively picked up her Irish Born trio and figured that was a good place to set off from.

The first book, Born In Fire,is set in Ireland and introduces us to the Concannon sisters, namely Margaret May,aka Maggie, the oldest daughter whose talents with glass blown sculptures catch the attention of art curator Rogan Sweeney. It’s a passion of hers that was encouraged by her late father and has steadily improved over the years with some local interest but not much more than that until now:

Rogan plans to open a gallery featuring Irish artists and wants Maggie to be under contract with him. She, however, is less than thrilled with anyone trying to control her or her work, even though the money would greatly help out her younger sister Brianna, who runs a bed and breakfast out of her house while taking care of  their angrily demanding mother Maeve.

Eventually, Maggie and Rogan come to terms but their relationship quickly goes beyond business. With both of them sharing a stubborn determination to have their own way in certain situations, this love connection is fraught with issues indeed!

One of the top strengths of Roberts ‘ writing that I noticed right off the bat is her keen sense of characterization; she knows how to create realistic people who make understandable errors and can be compelling without overdoing the drama.

While Rogan annoyed me at times, he eventually became less of a domineering figure as the story went on and Maggie’s stubbornness is not just a quirk- her deep connection to her late father(a rather flawed yet lovable fellow who we briefly met in the introduction) and her mother’s bitter resentment regarding her own life choices being taken out on Maggie go a long way towards adding nuance to the character.

Another good thing here is that supporting players are given subplots that don’t wholly rely on what the main characters do or don’t do(one romantic story line in particular) resolved nicely. 

Granted, some of the man/female dynamics here are a touch dated(the books were written in the 1990s) but not so much that you wince upon reading it, not to mention heated debates about the use of phone answering machines. I never was a fan of those so I’m Team Maggie on that issue:

All in all, Born In Fire was certainly engaging enough that I am reading book two in this trio and looking forward to the third one. For a long time, I was a snob about Nora Roberts and other romance writers but fortunately, maturity and expanding my literary horizons have helped me get over such nonsense.

Nora Roberts seems to be a lovely person who champions the causes of her sister authors and artistic freedom to boot from what I have seen online and I am finally glad to be reading some of her books. I doubt that I’ll be reading all of Roberts as one of my favorite Booktubers (Mara. of BookslikeWhoa ) has been doing but this trilogy is definitely opening that particular door for me.

Born in Fire has certainly kindled a bookish flame that hopefully won’t burn out any time soon:

Meanwhile, I am well into Born In Ice, which focuses on Brianna who has a handsome American writer staying at her B&B for a month. He’s planning on getting some inspiration for his next book and Brianna is his instant muse for sure here!

Having read book one, this second volume is much more relaxed  in its storytelling yet some interesting secrets and lies are popping up that will enhance the plot points and character development along the way.

My next update probably won’t be until I get to Born In Shame, which should be interesting to say the least. Nora Roberts is quite the author that I am pleased to add to my home library collection and to share that pleasure with others is a true bookish bonus:

Friday, March 01, 2024

A warm and cozy wrap up to my Winter’s Respite of reading

Even with Leap Day this year, February was a short month which is probably why my goal for finishing my TBR trio of books for the Winter’s Respite readathon (hosted by Michelle Miller at Seasons of Reading) ended up at two and a half books completed.

That’s the story I’m going with, anyway. So, let’s start on a positive note with My Rooomate is a Vampire by Jenna Levine. Set in modern day Chicago, struggling artist Cassie is thrilled to find a roommate situation where the rent is only 200 dollars a month and in a posh neighborhood to boot!

However, her mysterious handsome co-occupant, Frederick J, Fitzwilliam, is an odd one indeed. Despite his old fashioned manners and charming eagerness to accommodate her every need, Cassie can’t help but wonder what his deal is. 

With him keeping night hours and her daylight, most of their interactions are in the form of notes left for each other on the kitchen table, with Frederick’s being very elegantly written as if he used an inkwell and quill.

Things are going along quite nicely until one day, Cassie comes home to find blood bags in the communal fridge and Frederick has some major explaining to do. Turns out he’s a vampire who recently awakened from a magically induced coma that lasted a hundred years. 

His intentions towards her are honorable as Frederick seeks a guide to the new world he’s in now, not to mention a more reliable source than his prankster vampire pal Reginald. Cassie is reluctant at first but ultimately decides to stay.

.While the two of them form a friendship bond, those feelings eventually turn more serious ,especially when some of Frederick’s past comes forth to claim him. Can Cassie save him from a dreadful eternal fate that could doom their love and living arrangements?

I have to say that this book is a charmer with the vibes of a nineties romcom, only far sweeter and mostly more up to date humor. In terms of tension, this story veers closer to Once Bitten than What We Do in the Shadows but overall, a satisfying vampire romance with light and lively energy:

Next, I picked up Bookshops & Bonedust , a prequel to Travis Baldree’s popular Legends & Lattes.

Usually, I am not into prequels but this was a worthy exception to that particular rule. We met a younger version of Viv, the warrior orc from L&L as she’s forced to recover from a serious battle injury in the sleepy seaside town of Murk.

Bored and frustrated, Viv winds up at the local bookstore run by Fern, who is prone to profanity yet has a great knack for selecting the right book for the right customer. As  time goes on, Viv encourages Fern to improve the store and helps clean the place up, adding new furniture and coming up with ideas to help her make an actual profit.

Fern is not her only friend in town but Viv isn’t trying to make any permanent plans as she’s waiting for the band of mercenaries who left her there to return for her. However, the very danger that brought Viv to Murk might still be around and pose a real threat to her new companions in more ways than one…

That’s all I intend to say about the plot because despite it being an early look into a world already established, B&B has some surprising moments of its own. Baldree really has that storytelling magic and I have no doubt that he’ll give us a sequel or two to his big hit yet this one is just a page turning delight that blends reading, found family and high magic into a spell worth being enchanted by:

As for This Spells Love by Kate Robb, I am halfway into the book and will keep going, just at a more leisurely pace.

Our leading lady here is Gemma, who finds herself in an alternate universe after performing a “love cleanse “ spell to get over a breakup. One of the main drawbacks of this new reality is that her best friend Dax doesn’t know her at all and it’s his kiss that set this whole magical event into motion.

With only a month until a reversal spell can be cast, Gemma has to get to know Dax all over again and he to know her without being told about their previous existence. His kiss is vital to reset Gemma’s world but this new start to their relationship has a romantic element that has her reconsider this entire plan but should she?

In my opinion at this point in the story, I say”Yes, you should stay in this particular realm indeed!” Not only is she getting a chance at love with Dax, Gemma owns a beauty shop  that she loves instead of the soul crushing corporate job she held back in the other reality(the retail scenes are very realistically funny) and amazing new friends, some of whom she played matchmaker for and they’re very happy together!

This sounds much better than going back to a world where your up tight ex boyfriend is, if you ask me. Of course, I’m sure that complications will arise as the story moves forward, making these choices tricky. I am certain though that that special kiss destined to change worlds will be worth waiting for:

Well, I do think this was a nice way to start off a new year of reading and much thanks to Michelle Miller for getting the bookish party started off in style! I am already putting books aside for the next readathon, Spring Into Horror, that begins this April. Should be frightening fun for sure!

Reading experiences like this are great, particularly when we’re in the midst of such sad and bad news at the moment. Not that we should ignore what’s going on(far from it!) but a nice break from the ongoing tensions are crucial for coping.

With that in mind, let’s look forward with a spring in our step to match the new season ahead of us and perhaps a song or two in our hearts. Books are magical in that sense, indeed and they can give us everything just as long as we promise to be there: