Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Friday, May 29, 2015

A slice of writer's insight from The Cake Therapist

  Today, I am happy to clear some space on my blog counter for author Judith Fertig, whose debut novel The Cake Therapist tells a heartwarming tale of how the magic of food and flavor can change lives.  She is best known as an award winning writer of cookbooks, with articles appearing in the likes of Bon App├ętit, Saveur  and The New York Times.

 Ms. Fertig also teaches the art of baking across the country. So, pull up a chair and get ready for a sweet taste of what goes into the recipe for a delicious batch of fictional delight:

The Art of Cake Therapy

Marie Antoinette, whose first language was actually German, either mis-spoke, was poorly translated, or never actually said of the starving peasants, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" (“Let them eat brioche,” often translated as “Let them eat cake.”)

But that was the least of her troubles.

We may not have the French Revolution, nor the shadow of the guillotine, like she did.

But we do have job insecurity, fiscal cliffs, a shrinking middle class, a melting polar ice cap, romantic interests who can’t commit, people we’d like to commit, thankless domestic tasks, and the age-old question of “paper or plastic?” We’re stressed by things large and small.

So when I was writing my debut novel The Cake Therapist, I had an “aha” moment early on. What if my heroine could help people solve their thorny life issues—with cake and flavor?

What if Claire O’Neil Davis, who goes by “Neely,” could help her bakery customers and wedding cake clients take charge with chocolate and coffee as the new year begins. Get in the mood with blood orange and raspberry?  Lessen their grief with a little spice? Or recognize their longing for home with pomegranate?

As Neely says in The Cake Therapist, “there was a flavor that explained you—even to yourself. A flavor whose truth you recognized when you tasted it. A flavor that answered the question you didn’t know you had.”

What if cake flavors could help those who are doubtful, stuck in a rut, ending a relationship, starting over, or not-so-simply stymied?

I thought that would be great. So I created Neely, a talented pastry chef who reads people as flavors. When she focuses on a wedding cake client, for instance, then lets her intuition kick in, she senses a flavor. Every flavor is the hyperlink to a feeling. And every feeling is the heart of someone’s story. Once she has the story, she knows the flavors that will increase their well-being.

It can be that simple. Don’t we all wish.

But real life doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes the story is more complicated. Sometimes Neely only gets pieces of a story, and it takes a while for her to put it all together. (That’s why writers create flashbacks.)

Even as she serves up ever-changing cake flavors that help her bakery customers move through life, one flavor grows in intensity for Neely alone. A persistent and increasing sourness alerts her to unfinished business, to anger and a long-ago family tragedy that threatens to impact her first wedding client.

But then an amazing strawberry cake with the flavor of a sunny summer’s day unlocks the past. Yes, good, made-from-scratch cake with wonderful flavor can do all of that.

Just ask The Cake Therapist. Or try the recipe and taste for yourself.

 Thank you,Ms. Fertig, for sharing your literary thoughts with us and The Cake Therapist is a book that I warmly recommend reading. Her brand of creative culinary skills promises to satisfy more than one of your appetites this season and many others to come:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The beginning of the end for Cersei on GOT and a look at some upcoming fall shows

While a number of plot changes have been going on this season for Game of Thrones, one that seems to be right on course from the books is Cersei's impending doom at the hands of the High Sparrow and his clock of militant Faithful.

Don't worry, I'm not about to spill any blood soaked beans here regarding this mother of a crooked queen. Let me just say that,apart from her son Joffrey, the downfall of this character is one of the most anticipated comeuppances in this series. Her arrogance, deceit and cruelty has always been backed by the privilege of the family she was born into but now, a lot of that has been stripped away.

  With her father dead, Jamie down one hand and off on a pointless rescue in Dorne and Tyrion on the run(must take a moment to be thrilled at his unexpected audience with Dany! Hopefully, we will get a similar meeting in the next book!) , Cersei's usual game of manipulation doesn't have a solid back-up plan.

With Tommen as a very weak king, something that she felt was a strong advantage, Cersei is now backed into a corner with no way out and an extremely knowledgeable witness who can truly condemn her for her crimes. Her father wasn't the nicest man but he was right when he told her "You're not as smart as you think you are."

 Mind you, her fall from regal grace will no doubt be expanded upon in the upcoming books due to the Song of Ice and Fire saga but these first steps into that valley of despair will be savored indeed:

Since we're at an in-between period from spring to summer television, I thought this would be a good time to catch a few of the trailers for upcoming fall/early 2016 shows.

First up is Lucifer, based on a DC Comics/Vertigo series spin-off from Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Yes, the leading man is the Devil himself who has tired of his reign in Hell and decided to live in Los Angeles as part of his retirement package.

However, his carefree days are now given purpose as an unexpected death motivates Lucifer to work with the police, particularly a truly pure of heart detective who is immune to his wicked charms. There's also pressure from the home office, as an archangel has been sent to bring him back down to Hades in order to keep the demons and the damned in line.

The premise is interesting and the actor playing Lucifer Morningstar(Tom Ellis) does have a strong charisma suitable for the role. I'm also happy to see a Whedonverse actor(D.B. Woodside as the angel Amenadiel) in the mix. I can see this being paired with Sleepy Hollow quite nicely but just hope that there is enough story telling meat on these bones to keep this show from being more than a one and done deal:

Next up is The Frankenstein Code, which takes a new spin on the time honored sci-fi legend. A scientist at the behest of a dying billionaire uses the recently deceased body of a murdered sheriff and succeeds in bringing him back to life.

The catch is that the sheriff is in a younger and much stronger body with his full memories intact. Determined to solve his own murder as well as protect his estranged son,  the price to be paid for this second chance promises to be higher than even his creators could have imagined.

The set-up sounds good but it will take a lot of good writing and planning to keep this boat a float. The cast makes a decent first impression in this trailer but time will tell if this last minute addition to the network line-up was worth it:

Shifting from supernatural to crime drama, Quantico follows a class of FBI trainees with one of them,Alex Parrish, becoming a pawn in a terrorist plot.

As the students get to know each other's strength and weaknesses, figuring who was really behind the massive attack against a major city and why Alex is the one being framed for it. The premise is pretty much How To Get Away With Murder meets Homeland and I have to say this does feel like Must-See TV.

Having a strong female lead in Priyanka Chopra as Alex Parrish is a solid check in the plus column here and I really hope that this show isn't put up against a series that I'm already invested in because it may become hard not to see this in first run episodes:

Another crime drama with a female lead coming soon is Blind Spot, which has one hell of a twisted set-up. A woman is found in Times Square(placed naked in a large zipped up bag) covered in tattoos and taken in by the authorities due to her mysterious arrival.

 She has no memory of who she is or was but the name of a FBI agent(who also has no idea who she is) is on her back. The tats seem to be clues to not only her identity but to a major sinister plan brewing up.

While the trailer certainly makes you snap to attention, the story line sounds more like a movie than a TV series. The mix of The Bourne Identity, Memento and La Femme Nikita is a heady one and maybe they can pull this off. However, keeping the momentum going beyond a first season will be this series' ultimate challenge, provided that they can stay on the air long enough to earn that shot in the first place:


SCREAM QUEENS: The hype for this campy take on horror movie cliches is as over the top as an American Idol finale and just as outdated. As much as I like Emma Roberts doing the bitchy Mean Girl thing, this mockery of old school slasher films was done better in the first two Scream movies( I skip right over the third one and give credit to part four, where Roberts played a considerable role) and having Jamie Lee Curtis on board is not enough to win me over, sorry, folks!:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Updated* Having a witches night out to celebrate our Book of Life winner!

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend and that you're fully prepared to tackle the joys of summer reading. I'll help start that off for the winner of the LRG giveaway of The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness(the third volume of the All Soul's Trilogy) by announcing who that person is.....

*drum roll*....and our winner is Ted Hand! *applause,cheers, confetti is tossed* Congratulations and in order to claim your prize, please email me at livingreadgirl@yahoo.com(also please use "LRG Book of Life" as your subject line) with your preferred mailing address. I will pass that along to the publisher, who will ship your paperback copy out of The Book of Life as soon can be.

*Note: due to prior winner not being in the US, a new one has been chosen and my sincerest apologies for the delay in this announcement. Congratulations to our new winner Ted and hope to hear from her soon regarding claiming her prize.*

Thank you to everyone who participated in this contest, from those who entered to the many that re-tweeted the link to this giveaway. I greatly appreciate your efforts and to celebrate this event, I have pulled together a little magical music mix for some dance party fun. Since witches seemed to outnumber the vampires in the entries, songs related to witchcraft are our theme here:

THE BAD MAGIC BOYS ARE BACK: Yes, I know that there are folks who object to the term "warlock"(why, I don't get it) but there are males who practice witchcraft in fiction and whether you call them wizards, warlocks or witches, they can be just as tricky as their female counterparts.

So, while looking for a modern rendition of "Season of the Witch", this tribute to the 2006 movie The Covenant(sort of like The Craft for guys) that had Joan Jett's version as it's background music seemed to fit the bill.

I have heard that a remake of The Craft is underway but not sure if this story of black magic boys will get the same sort of reboot spell cast upon it. Well, the song choice is good anyway for this online sinister salute:

WITCHY DIVA: When it comes to celebrities who may be witches, one name that comes to mind is Cher and not just because she starred in The Witches of Eastwick.

Her style of dress and vocal prowess do suggest an ethereal energy emanating from her , not to mention Cher's forthright attitude towards life more than makes her a fitting leader of any powerful coven.

This performance of "Witchy Woman", mixed with some of "Honky Tonk Woman" there, has that good campy Vegas vibe which we all know and love Cher for. The lady weaves a special kind of magic on stage, there's no denying that:

HIGH FLYING HEROINE: With Diana Bishop being the powerful leading lady of her own destiny in the All Souls' Trilogy, selecting a song from a similarly strong sorceress is perfectly proper.

Granted, Diana doesn't have to deal with green skin or yellow brick roads as Elphaba of Wicked does but both of them could swap stories about duplicitous wizards and making tricky alliances.

 I'm only in the early chapters of A Discovery of Witches right now, so I can't say whether or not Diana has a taste for Broadway yet I do think she would enjoy the merits of "Defying Gravity":

Once again, congratulations to Book of Life winner Kristen and happy reading to all. Let's close this out with a toe tapping number from Winifred Sanderson and her swinging sisters of Salem as they "Put a Spell" on us:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Showcasing a few of my intended summer reads

Summer has three big weekends that provide a beginning, middle and end, with the opening act being Memorial Day weekend, which starts today. This also provides a starting point for many pop culture pursuits, one of the tried and true being summer reading.

There are a lot of new books coming out that we will feel the need to have right away(the new Harper Lee,for one) as well as many bestsellers/classics/escape reads. Overwhelming yet not such an impossible feat to achieve.

With this weekend, I plan to start at least one or two books on my intended summer reading list(yes, I wrote it down) and the following titles showcased here are but a handful of what is awaiting me during the long hot days of summer. They pretty much cover the four flavor groups; classic cool, salty scary goodness, currently crunchy and savory sweetness, a perfect picnic basket of literary fun:

BITTERSWEET: Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's third novel seems to be her breakout book, as this story of a newcomer to high society discovering it's dark side has a lot of crossover potential.

When Mabel Dagmar gets invited to spend the summer in Vermont with her college roommate Ev Winslow, it sounds like a dream come true. For a scholarship student like Mabel, this entrance into a world of old school elegance that provides her with new friends(and even a romance) is light years away from her regular hum-drum existence.

However, as family secrets bubble to the surface, Mabel is made to choose between protecting the inner circle or becoming an outsider again. This sounds a lot like if Patricia Highsmith was writing for the TV series Revenge, a combination that promises to be as tasty as peanut butter and spicy chocolate:

DELANCEY: The subtitle of blogger Molly Wizenberg's memoir is "A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage," which sums up the basic story being served up here. When her husband Brandon first came to her with his plans for a pizza restaurant in Seattle, Molly thought it might go the way of other idle notions he had had before.

 Much to her surprise, the business took off fast and furious and while she stayed supportive of him, Molly's frustrations about balancing his work with hers brought them both to a turning point in their relationship. Fortunately, their mutual passion for food helped to bridge some of the emotional gaps.

I've never read Wizenberg's blog Orangette but if it's as heartwarming and engaging about food and life as the book promises to be, I might check it out:

DANIEL DERONDA: I may get a late start on this section of my Road of Rereading challenge(still have a ways to go with Far From The Madding Crowd) but tackle it, I shall.

What's particularly going to be unusual for me in taking up this George Eliot saga is that I'm also currently reading Middlemarch for the first time.  My Middlemarch read is for different reasons but taking on two works by the same author at the same time ought to be interesting.

Deronda fascinated me with it's depiction of the title character discovering his birth mother's Judaism and learning the ins and outs of that faith. For Victorian England, this was not a regular topic of discussion and since many of few Jewish characters in fiction during that time were severely stereotyped, this book is quite the radical act.

 Contrasting Daniel's emotional journey with that of Gwendolen, an impulsive young woman who makes a bad bargain in marriage, was probably a good method of engaging a mass audience. Both sides of the story do compliment each other and will be a refreshing dip into substantial waters of this humid season:

LOVE IS RED: This debut novel by Sophie Jaff has it's heroine Katherine Emerson in the sights of a mysterious killer called The Sickle Man. He believes that she has some special destiny to fulfill in the future and only he can truly savor her destruction.

To be honest, I wasn't too sure about reading this one but after checking out this review of the book at Smart Bitches, my interest is peaked. This thriller is also part one of a trilogy and I really happen to like those. A series is nice but can get really stretched out too thin after awhile(unless it's rigorously planned out), so a trilogy is such a welcome sight for these sore eyes.

Besides, summer reading is about having fun and a sinister little number like Love is Red sounds like the perfect addition to my literary wardrobe:

I hope you all enjoy this first holiday weekend of summer(I'll be taking a blog break this Monday) and enjoy your time off with some fabulous reads. While I don't have any vacation plans, my ideal one would be a bookstore tour, as there are so many great places out there offering the best and the brightest in every genre. If you get the chance to do some visiting, add a local bookstore to your list of stops, you might be surprised at the treasures you find on the shelves!:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My thoughts about the Mad Men finale, The Flash leaps to a first season finish and Arya's game of faces on GOT

I know all of the talk regarding the current episode of Game of Thrones has been all about what happened to Sansa yet all I have to say regarding that is a) it was terrible and the scene itself reflected how terrible it was and b) hopefully, this change in story line will lead to a fittingly vengeful conclusion.

So, while we all agree that Sansa had a bad week, let's look in on Arya's training in the House of Black and White. Her time with the Faceless Men has been harder than some of her other adventures as she's being asked to focus more on her inner struggles than her outward ones. Playing the game of faces is more challenging for her as she would rather use a weapon instead of words to defeat her enemies.

Arya can't help but question authority but does know when to go along to get along at times. That's why I think her teacher hasn't given up on her. He sees the potential in her to become one of their best yet relinquishing her identity is difficult as it is the only thing left to her in this world.

In my opinion, Arya wants to have the skills of the Faceless Men and still be a Stark, a contradiction in terms that will force her to choose one over the other in order to complete that death list of hers:

Season one of The Flash finished up this week, taking an already good show into greatness. It had everything you would want from a superhero finale; amazing action, a risky plan that could either make one life better or destroy the world and a huge sacrifice by an underestimated supporting player.

Kudos to Tom Cavanagh for his work here as Dr. Harrison Wells/Ebord Thawne, our Big Bad of the series. The man truly owned this role and made it sing out with wicked glee.  Applause must also be given to Jesse L. Martin as Barry's surrogate father Det. Joe West and of course leading man Grant Guslin.

While the show does have it's flaws(as my good buddy Thaddeus points out) such as taking forever and a day to put Iris in the loop and the whole moral/mechanical conundrum about the mini metahuman prison(for the latter, I just repeated myself, "It's just a show, I really should relax."), the good far outweighed the bad.

The chemistry between the actors, along with solid writing and sharply done special effects all helped to give The Flash his best foot forward here. The wait for season two will be hard but it will truly be worth our while:

Speaking of greatness, the season finale of Mad Men gave us a really good sense of closure. Granted, not everyone had a happy ending(sad for Betty yet I feel that Sally will come out of that experience a stronger person than either of her parents) yet what last send off they had felt earned.

I did hope that Peggy would take Joan up on her offer to join her in starting their own firm(when Joan told her, "The partnership is only for you", that sounded like an admission of real respect for Peggy's talents and hard work) yet on the other hand, those two did tend to clash quite often there.

Peggy and Stan finally realizing that they love each other felt right. This wasn't a case of settling down or just grabbing at the first warm body for comfort. Their relationship has been a battle of wills with an unacknowledged respect for one another and mutual affection. By teaming up in personal as well as business life, Peggy and Stan will only help each other to achieve their dreams and that is a romance worth emulating, if you ask me:

In the end, of course, it was all about Don who finally learned to connect with the strange new world of the seventies. His despair over not being welcome at Betty's side and by Anna Draper's niece Stephanie rejecting his standard advice of "push past(your pain) and move forward" really did him in for a moment there.

At heart, Don is a drifter not just by taking off whenever he gets the urge but as a social person as well. His charm and good looks have aided him in fitting into whatever groove society was currently plugged into. His changeling skills were fraying on him over time but during that last group session, he discovered that it was now the norm to be open about your problems and that reaching out to others is now considered a strength, not a weakness.

By being free to explore his inner self, Don is now a renewed soul that can jump start himself on to the next decade, as that final shot of a certain iconic soda ad shows(Matthew Weiner has confirmed that, yes, Don Draper in this reality is behind that commercial). In a weird way, Don is like a vampire who needs to be "quickened" in order to survive and that he does,at least for now.

I didn't tune into Mad Men right from day one but am happy to have had shared this wild ride with Sterling Cooper(Draper Price). Thank you,cast and crew, for making this show the true meaning of "must see TV":


OUTLANDER: The season one finale is airing on May 30, giving folks time to catch up with the entire run of the series this Memorial Day weekend. If you haven't watched it yet, treat yourself to this embarrassment of riches, I urge you!:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Is the new Supergirl sensational or superficial?

There was quite a comic book fan buzz last week as the first trailer for the upcoming Supergirl series on CBS was released. Many people were thrilled to see what appears to be a female friendly take on the superheroine while others frowned upon the light hearted elements added to the character.

A few days later, I'm still not satisfied with this approach to Supergirl,aka Kara Danvers(why not Linda Lee Danvers, at least, like in the earlier comic books?). To be fair, the action sequences look great and having a more mature and confident Jimmy("Call me James") Olsen on board is the perfect bridge to bring this into the Superman saga.

However, the whole "Devil Wears Prada" take on Cat Grant(who is a bitchy Lois Lane rival) with Kara being the bumbling assistant just feels like the wrong note to play. Also, the rom-com set-up with her office buddy,including a "oh, you must be gay,that's why you're not attracted to me!" joke leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Seriously, that kind of humor would even make the campy ladies of 2 Broke Girls shake their heads in disgust at such lameness.

Maybe I'm being too picky but a lot of this trailer reminds me of the recent SNL parody of a possible Black Widow movie and that's not the pop culture reference that I think the folks behind this show want to come to mind for their potential viewers:

Supergirl has had a history of being lost in translation when it comes to adaptation as the 1984 major motion picture version of her proves in abundance. While it is kitschy of the new show to have Helen Slater make an appearance in the pilot(along with Dean Cain), it's not the best reminder either.

 Not only was it a major flop at the box office, it earned a couple of Razzie nominations and is considered one of the low points of the Superman film franchise. Don't get me wrong, I do like Supergirl: The Movie but for all the wrong reasons.

It's very cartoony, packed with a Love Boat set of stars such as Peter O'Toole, Mia Farrow and a even more campy than she is in Mommie Dearest Faye Dunaway. The movie does have it's charms yet is far from a good introduction to the character:

Her previous small screen showcase was on Smallville, where Kara arrived in season seven as a lost in space new arrival to Earth. There was a nice quirky tone taken with the character at first but as time went on, it seemed like the series didn't know quite what to do with her.

Eventually she was shipped off to the Phantom Zone, making a final appearance toward the end of the show's run. I did enjoy having Kara on the scene but she did lead to my quitting the series.

The story line had her father show up in the Fortress of Solitude with an evil scheme that lead to a battle that landed Kara in Detroit with a case of amnesia. I'm sorry but in Detroit with amnesia?! That was just too random. I did try for a couple of more episodes after that but the thrill was gone for me there:

 Fortunately, the animated versions of Supergirl have given her a better stage for her talents. From her debut in Superman: The Animated Series to her appearances on Justice League Unlimited and in full length animated features such as Superman: Unbound, she has depicted as smart,capable and determined to contribute to the good fight.

I really wish that some of the live action adapters of not only Supergirl but other comic book creations would take a few cues from the folks making the animated versions. The people putting out these series have even more restrictions placed on them than movie studios and standard TV networks do(since cartoons are made and marketed for both adult and kid audiences) and yet they manage to not dumb down the characters as well as give solid showcases for their emotional weaknesses and strengths:

Look, I would love to be wrong about the new Supergirl series and have it be a big success as a bold step forward for fans old and new. However, I can't shake off this bad feeling that the trailer has left me with so easily.

I know that many of the online onlookers are countering this displeasure with their version of "Why so serious?" I'm not asking for Supergirl to be all gloom and doom, I would just like her to be given the same respect as The Flash, for example. That show has a good positive tone to it that helps to enhance the characters not subject them to worn out stereotypes in order to be considered "likable."

Ironically enough, one of the producers on Supergirl also handles the Flash and Arrow, both of which are making strides for the DC universe on the small screen. There was hope for crossover potential with Supergirl and the CW team but it's been placed on the back burner so far. Frankly, I would be more confident about Supergirl if the trailer resembled anything like the one put out for the 2016 superhero series, DC's Legends of Tomorrow.

Now, that show looks amazing! Action packed, a nice mix of heroes and villains and two formidable females(Hawkgirl and White Canary) included on the team. It's not quite the Justice League but it's a start. If Supergirl were being handled in the same way, the shouts for joy would drown out any whispers of doubt-alas, the joy and the sorrow are in equal measure here:

Monday, May 18, 2015

Stake your claim or cast a spell to win Deborah Harkness' The Book of Life!

With the summer reading season coming up, the chance to catch up and/or finish up a series of books is hard to resist. It's especially difficult when at last all of the titles are in one particular format.

For example, the third book in The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness entitled The Book of Life will be available in paperback by May 26, making all of them relatively easy to slip into your beach bag for those hot and humid days ahead.

Of course, that's not the reason you should read any book but it does certainly help if your home library is paperback friendly. This is a series that appeals to my genre tastes, as it tells the story of  two rather unusual academics who joined forces as well as hearts to seek out a long lost manuscript.

 One of those academics is Diana Bishop, a history scholar who has put aside her family's legacy of witchcraft due to personal tragedy. As she happens to get closer to discovering the true power of a mysterious document known as Ashmole 782, her refusal to use magic is meant with serious skepticism and possible danger from others in the magical community.

Diana finds an unlikely ally in Matthew Clairmont, a genetic researcher whose knowledge is enhanced by the fact that he's a 1,500 year old vampire. In A Discovery of Witches,  they first met and realize that their combined curiosity and abilities could offer both knowledge and protection from their mutual enemies.

Part of that plan involves time travel, which occurs in Shadow of Night, taking the two of them to Elizabethan London in order to find out more about Ashmole 782 as well as stumble upon some of the supernatural doings of the day(and yes, Shakespeare is involved,folks!).

Their return back to modern times and the consequences that follow that journey conclude in The Book of Life, which I'm sure fans of this trilogy are happy to hear is about to be out in paperback next week. With that in mind, the good folks at Penguin are allowing me to hold a giveaway for a paperback edition of The Book of Life(U.S. only) which starts today and ends on May 25.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment at this post,with an e-mail address, that answers this question; if you have only one choice,  what would you be-a witch or a vampire?

I'll state the pop culture pros and cons of both, starting with witches. Being a witch is not easy, given the long history of persecution and bad press involving broomsticks and gruesome faces. However, they can be true heroes, using their array of powers to protect the world from the forces of evil.

A fine example of that is Bonnie Bennett of The Vampire Diaries, whose bloodline is highly coveted amongst allies and foes alike. Despite her initial fears of not being strong enough, Bonnie has proven time and again that her special brand of determination is the fuel that make her magic the most formidable:

Yet, even among witches, there are frenemies who use their talents against others of their kind out of jealousy or spite. That's going on now in the current season of Penny Dreadful as Vanessa Ives is being targeted by a secret coven whose head mistress is desirous of the unholy attention that Vanessa wishes dearly not to have in her life:

As to vampires, since the 1970s there has been a redemption option made for them as their long life span and powers make them ideal crime fighters.

Whether the enemy is supernatural or simply human, having a vampire at your side to stop them is quite the asset. Shows like Forever Knight, Moonlight and Blood Ties have had their mortal leads work with immortal partners(sometimes falling in love with them as well),showcasing the best of both those worlds:

Speaking of bad vampires turned good, the best known one is Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who was the star of his own spin-off series to boot. On either show,the risk of him losing the soul that grounded him in goodness and allowed his dark side named Angelus out to play was a plot point put into play many times.

 Not too many that it got old,mind you. Rather, it was sort of twisted fun to see him break loose from that nice guy image and give the current Big Bads on the scene a run for their money:

So, make your pick,people and there are no right or wrong answers, it's what feels best for you. Just keep in mind that this is an U.S. only giveaway and the deadline is May 25, one day before The Book of Life is out in paperback. As for my choice, I think that I would go with witch. While I adore vampires, witchcraft offers so many more possibilities for power(not to mention the chance to met Stevie Nicks!):

Friday, May 15, 2015

Judith Fertig offers you a slice of comfort food reading with The Cake Therapist

Cookbook author Judith Fertig dives into her debut novel,The Cake Therapist, with a very relatable heroine remaking her culinary dreams.

Claire, aka Neely.O'Neil moves her life and business from New York back to her home town of Millcreek Valley in Ohio, partly motivated by the infidelity of her football superstar husband Luke. In some ways, it's a blessing as her cake shop,named for her signature bake Rainbow Cake, is well suited to the growing wedding industry in the area.

With help from friends like Roshanda, a no nonsense dress designer, Neely finds that resettling her roots isn't as difficult as it seemed be and as soothing as getting that just right cup of coffee in the morning:

An unexpected aid to Neely's new life is her ability to sense people's true needs and secrets through the flavors that they love. Orange, for example, is a wake up call and cinnamon revives old memories.

She uses this special gift to help select the perfect flavors for her clients but sometimes, that power goes slightly awry and brings about the most unexpected results not only for her customers but a few of her friends as well:

As she does her best to keep a steady pace on her new life, Neely finds herself drawn to other people's problems such as the gothy assistant in her shop whose choice of boyfriends leads often to trouble.

What really drives Neely,however, is a situation that she can sense is brewing yet she can't quite place who is exactly in need of her help. The overwhelming sour taste that haunts her palate has echoes of a long ago bond broken up due to tragedy with tinges of lemon cake sorrow lingering in the emotional air:

While this is Judith Fertig's first time in the fiction kitchen, the sweet and savory elements of her debut novel do blend well together just as expertly as any long time writer of this genre.

There is a strong sub plot mixed into the main story that is important and heartfelt but I did wish at some points to spend a little more time with Neely and her circle of family and friends.

However, that's a minor quibble as the overall flavor of this warmly engaging story is as satisfying as a freshly baked cupcake straight out of the oven. I hope to see and taste more of Fertig's novel delights, maybe even a sequel that places Neely's wedding cake customers and their unexpected flavor readings at the forefront.

The Cake Therapist is due out in June and if you're looking for a smart sweet treat to add to your beach bag of books, this delightful read will sate your reading appetite quite nicely:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The badass ladies of Outlander,Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D slam dunk their finale and GOT game playing

One of the best things about watching Outlander is not only having a smart and sassy heroine like Claire that takes matters into her own hands when need be, it's the back-up she gets from other women around her.

This week's episode had Claire team up with her sister-in-law Jenny to find and rescue Jamie from the redcoats and damn, if Jenny wasn't smooth. From carrying two guns(one in front, the other on the back of her waistband) to taking quick stops in order to drain her breast milk(she gave birth to her second child only days before setting out with Claire) and then pulling a bad cop/good cop with a captured soldier, Jenny is one woman only a fool would want to mess with:

Jenny had to end her part in the hunt for Jamie sooner that she'd like but not without getting some crucial intelligence first. Fortunately, Claire had another partner in arms to accompany her but in the end, she had just her own set of wits and nerve to mount a serious rescue which will occur by the next episode.

Claire has been lucky to have strong women by her side during her time travel adventure and granted, some of them were more hindrance than help yet seeing these take charge ladies in a patriarchal setting like this does pave the way for more fictional females to follow:

 Speaking of girl power, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had that in abundance during their season two finale. Skye was squarely in the center of the struggle between the Inhumans and Shield, due to her mother's manipulation of the situation.

Eventually, Skye saw the truth oddly enough thank to Raina(who died at the hands of Jiaying) but still had a tough choice to make. Particularly when you realize that she finally had her true family with her, only to have to allow them to be destroyed for the good of all:

All in all, this was one hell of a finale, nothing but fifty shades of "wow!" From action packed sequences to surprising plot twists(it was nice that Skye's dad received a redemption arc there) and some interesting set-ups for next time, this was a grand way to end season two indeed.

I do hope that season three takes us to even more new heights(Gemma better come back, cliffhanger or not there!) and now that Agent Carter has been given a second season that this double trouble duo encourages us all to keep tuning in for some truly marvelous TV. If you're disappointed about the MAOS spin-off being stopped before it started, don't be. That only means that Bobbi/Mockingbird will still be on this show and she is one serious asset that you don't want to get rid of anytime soon:

Meanwhile, on Game of Thrones, two women had to play different versions of power games starting with Sansa. Upon learning that Theon Greyjoy/Reek was part of the Bolton household, she managed to keep her cool as her intended husband cruelly suggested that Theon be part of their wedding as he was sort of her only family left.

You have to give it to Sansa, she does know how to roll with the punches by now. Since this is all part of a newer plot line than from the books, I'll be just as surprised as anyone when this all leads to what I hope is a bit of payback for the Red Wedding(The North remembers, they keep saying for a reason):

In Meereen, Danys is sick and tired of taking bloody losses from the Sons of the Harpy, so she rounds up members of the five great families in order to show them the Targaryen way.

It's much firmer than she acts in the books(hate to keep bringing that up but it's true) but this is a good change of pace for her character. With her best adviser gone, Dany needs to step up her game and using her dragons is key to staying on top of the heap here. As to starting up the fighting pits, well, we will have to wait and see if that strategy is doomed to fail or not:


THE FLASH: The season one finale is next week and it's bound to be an amazing finish to this exciting debut superhero series. For the most part, this show has hit it's stride early and apart from a few small stumbles, has managed to maintain a solid sense of self. So looking forward to how this first season ends and where the next one promises to begin:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

To see or not to see 50 Shades of Grey on DVD?

It's safe to say that I'm not a fan of the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon, from the bad writing to be found in all of the three of the books(which I have not read but have heard plenty of godawful passages quoted to verify that fact) to the mixed messages about romantic relationships,plus the condescending "Mommy porn" label pasted on folks who enjoy the series.

However, I do have a strong urge to watch the film adaptation now that it's out on home video. Since I mostly rent DVDs(and Netflix won't have this title available until June), my decision to see this kinky train wreck for myself isn't based on budgetary concerns.

Rather,it's more of a question of standards for me. Sure, I'm no stranger to trashy stuff and far from being a total prude yet even considering this viewing option is making me squirm. That in itself is bothersome, as it makes me feel like a little old lady and despite what some might think, there are a good number of open minded people amongst the older generation,more so than you would imagine:

I have seen my fair share of sexy shockers, from Body Heat to Basic Instinct and even went on to sexy sleaze such as Wild Things(where a certain Kevin showed off his Bacon strip briefly) and Poison Ivy. Sex in and of itself isn't really the problem or the derivations from the social norm that it takes, it is the desire to simply shock that can be replusive.

Back in the day, I recall the clamor that arose around 9 and 1/2 Weeks back in 1986. That movie also had a Mr. Grey(Mickey Rourke) who tested the limits of his new love interest(Kim Basinger) to the point where she walked out on him because she simply had had enough. It also happened to be based on a book, a memoir by Elizabeth McNeil who claimed this was her true story.

The reaction to the film was one of scorn, with very few critics willing to praise it(one who did was the late Roger Ebert) and it not only bombed at the box office, the movie also earned a few Razzie nominations. However, two made for video sequels came after it and there is a small cult following out there, with many fans fondly recalling the infamous food scene that rivals Tom Jones for edible lust onscreen:

Even that movie,however, didn't receive the nearly hysterical  reaction that Showgirls  did about ten years later. I vividly recall seeing separate lines for movie goers to have their ID checked before being allowed to buy a ticket  to that begging to be mocked sexed up soap opera.

Much like 9 1/2 Weeks, Showgirls tanked at the box office but made up for that loss on home video and is an official cult classic(they even made an Off,Off Broadway musical out of it!). Hard to believe that anyone took this movie seriously but it did rile up plenty of people who were just as outraged at how abusive the sexual relationships were as well as the graphic nudity:

So, in a way, this whole 50 Shades controversy is nothing new. The only thing that really drives me to see this movie is sheer morbid curiosity. Just how bad is it and is it any worse than the book?

Let's face it, folks, this sad little saga is not going away any time soon. Despite the original director and screenwriter leaving(El. James is having her husband write the next script) and the chance that the two lead actors might not return, they are going ahead with the sequels. The studio is even planning on keeping Valentine's Day as it's official opening date, determined as all get out to make this franchise work for them.

That's no reason to watch the first movie at all but I might still do so anyway. After all, I am a person who celebrates bad movies once a year at this very blog and this certainly qualifies on all levels in that department. On the other hand, I'm not sure that I can add anything new to this conversation.

Well, I still have time before 50 Shades is available at Netflix, so please feel free to share your thoughts about this-should I see it, yes or no? If I do, I'll probably write about it here, just not for the official Bad Movie Month feature in August. One thing that I do hope is that a Rifftrax for 50 Shades turns up in time to make this cinematic experience a bit more palatable:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Switching channels to Summer TV show settings

It's now become the norm that both cable and broadcast networks offer their viewers more than just batches of reruns during the summer season. Granted, cable took the lead on this trend but the Big Three are pretty well caught up with them on this front by now.

I may not watch every show that's featured here in my pick of the summer TV litter rundown but they all do at least peak my interest and maybe yours as well:


EXTANT: Halle Berry and her space alien baby saga is back for another round and this time, she has a new champion on board. Jeffrey Dean Morgan joins the cast as Richter, a bounty hunter type of cop who teams up with Molly Woods in order to find that now on the loose child and discover what his new plan of attack is.

I'm happy to see this series get another shot, as the plot line was slowly but surely well developed and plenty of doors were left open for more stories to be told here. True, it helps to have Steven Spielberg as your executive producer but that's no guarantee of longevity.

With any luck, the world of Extant will be widened as the search for Molly's alien offspring takes us to new places(and can they bring robot boy Ethan back?) and  perhaps explore some new horizons as well:

UNDER THE DOME: The Spielberg magic is strong on CBS as the Stephen King adaptation is set to make a third season go-around by the end of June. To be honest, I didn't think it would return, as that last season really went off the rails at times and has pretty departed from the King novel altogether at this point.

I'm not sad to see it back,mind you, just surprised. Will I watch it season three? Oh, sure,what the hell-I like a lot of the characters(the ones still surviving from the craziness of last year) and for Big Jim Rennie alone, it'll be worth seeing what comes next for the folks of Chester's Mill:


THE WHISPERS: ABC has kind of a hit or miss record with sci-fi fare and the premise for this new series is pretty off the charts there.

Children all across the country(and perhaps the world) are being encouraged by "imaginary friends" to stage accidents that kill the adults around them. Turns out these new buddies are space invaders, trying to conquer from within by communicating on a frequency that only youngsters can hear.

Of course, certain grown-ups(such as Lily Rabe's FBI agent character)catch on to the scheme and do their best to stop it. The concept is somewhat based on a Ray Bradbury short story,"Zero Hour", so it might be good yet on the other hand, using kids as the main source of the menace can be tricky.

One advantage this show has is being backed by Steven Spielberg(what is with him and summer TV these days?). With that kind of support, The Whispers may be able to shout instead of mumble their way through the summer haze of small screen entertainment:

THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB: Believe it or not, I finally found a summer show not put out by Steven Spielberg! This female friendly series,based on Lily Keppel's non fiction bestseller, is centered on the ladies who kept each other company on earth as their husbands went into space.

With Mad Men taking it's final bow, folks looking for American period fare might well take to this and with such a solid set of actresses(including Joanna Garcia of Reba and Once Upon a Time), this promises to be a nice change of pace from the typical action packed genre offerings of summer:


 THE HUMANS: Instead of adapting a British TV show, AMC chose to bring the original series(which is based on a Swedish show, how meta is that?) to their network and have it play along with it's intital run on England's Channel 4.

The set-up is that a futuristic reality allows average people to buy "synths", robotic servants that feel a bit too real to some. William Hurt is one of the stars of this show and from what I've seen in the promo, this looks rather promising.

Will this be another form of robot uprising or does the true danger lie in the all too human owners of this automated species? Should be fun to find out:

BALLERS: HBO's upcoming series has former pro athletes looking to stay relevant in the sports world as well as make big money in their retirement.

 Now, I have little to no interest in sports but I do appreciate the acting style of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who happens to the point man for this series, and for him alone, I will watch the pilot episode at the very least.

 Dwayne Johnson has a great attitude about his strengths as an actor,with no delusions other than what the script calls for his character to have there, and making him the lead is a truly smart move.
Having him come off of a cinematic success like Fast and Furious 7 is a nice bonus(he also has an earthquake disaster movie coming out soon called San Andreas) and with any luck, his lucky streak will extend to the small screen as well:

This is only the tip of the summer time iceberg, as more new shows are heading our way to help us stay cool during the upcoming dog days. I just hope that if any of them falter on the ratings ladder that the actors and crew will have a solid set of friends to offer them emotional support.

 Maybe even a shoulder to cry on or a nice non verbal way of providing comfort because with some of these shows, you can tell that they're going to need it bad: