Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Catching up on some of those Great American Reads

One of the literary highlights of the season has been the launching of The Great American Read on PBS,which aired the other week and introduced viewers to the one hundred titles available for voting online.

There's also been a quiz on the official website that lets you check off how of the books you have already read and I'm happy to say that I've completed a good number of them. Mind you, with entire book series such as The Chronicles of Narnia and Alex Cross, my total is tricky as some of those I have read only a couple of the books in that particular stack.

However, I would like to add a few more to my tally but a reasonable number there. So, I have a list of five books from the GAR pack of nominees to get to before the winner is announced. Most of these titles were on various TBRs(yes, I have more than one or two!) with only one recently purchased:

THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD: Zora Neale Hurston's iconic novel about the emotional journey of an African American woman was met with mixed reviews upon it's first publication in 1937.

However, her work was revisited by scholars and critics during the 1970s and 80s, gaining recognition for the vibrant humanity and forward feminism to be found within it's pages. This book is her best known work, with Oprah Winfrey producing a made for TV adaptation in 2005, starring Halle Berry as Hurston's heroine Janie Crawford.

I might check that movie out but do plan to read this along with the recently published non-fiction ZNH book,Barracoon(which recounts an interview with Cudjo Lewis, one of the last transported slaves to America). The latter couldn't find a publisher willing to take it on for decades but fortunately, has been released for all to appreciate in these turbulent times. I look forward to being embraced by Hurston's words and fully appreciating her literacy legacy as well:

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE: I've been on an Agatha Christie kick lately but have only read either her Miss Marple or Poirot mysteries. This sinister story(which has rightfully gone through a couple of title changes there) is one of her stand alones and has been made into as many films as any of her renowned detective tales.

This suspense classic features a group of ten people who seemed to be wholly unconnected to each other yet one person is motivated enough to kill them off,slowly but surely. A framework that many have tried to duplicate in various forms over the years yet the original is still held to be the best.

I want to read this with fresh eyes so I'll avoid the movie versions for now. There will be plenty to choose from afterwards,goodness knows. My copy is making it's way to me via mail as we speak and that wait will make my reading of ATTWN all the more delightful:

AMERICANAH/WHITE TEETH: Both of these contemporary novels are award winners, with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie getting a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2013 and Zadie Smith receiving the Whitbread and the Commonwealth Writers honors for this debut back in 2000.

They also share the theme of immigration in common as Americanah's lead characters, Ifemelu and Obinze, find themselves separated as each one leaves their home country of Nigeria to make a new life in America.

 While Obinze is ultimately denied his chance and become an undocumented immigrant in London, Ifemelu is able to enter the United States and discovers a new set of struggles awaiting her.

In White Teeth, the myriad of family dramas within the story are centered by the friendship of Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal, who met during the last days of WWII. Samad became a British citizen after the war and the two of them often share a pint and opinions at the local pub.

Their children,however, feel the brunt of cultural assimilation from more than one section of society. Some of that unspoken yet keenly applied pressure leads their sons and daughter down a dangerous path with consequences that are more far reaching than they think.

Out of the two, I have tried to read White Teeth the most but it just didn't click with the me the first couple of times around. Well, the third time is the charm and with the wonderful word of mouth that White Teeth has gotten over the years, I should finally succeed on that front:

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY: Yes, I'm giving in to the bizarre hoopla and going to read this damn thing. As it happens, I picked up the second and third book in this series at a church rummage sale(true story) and it felt silly not to have the one that started it all,so I got a secondhand movie tie-in edition to complete the set.

Okay, enough equivocating; out of the several eyebrow raising books that are on the GAR list, E.L. James' twisted love story has drawn the most ire from readers and I get that, believe me.

However, after all this time and with the movie adaptations over and done with, I suppose that seeing what the fuss is all about is a good enough reason as any to read this now. Unlike the ladies of the current hit movie Book Club, this won't drastically change my life but who knows, I might get a better idea of the overall appeal of Ana Steele and Christian Grey here:

I have no set timetable for these reads,although a few of them will be part of future readathons for me. I might do a couple of follow-up posts about some of the books when I'm done(yes, Fifty Shades will more likely than not get a full review) and if anyone else is doing a Great American Read list of their own, please let me know.

The voting is still on for the Great American Read and there is a Facebook group for readers to talk about all kinds of books,including those selected for  this list. Whether you like or loathe some of the novels chosen here, this bookish talk is a good path towards reading more, which is something we can all agree on:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Getting the gift of bookish giveways

As any reader who finds themselves online knows, a good giveaway is only a click away. Much like the public lottery, you have to be in it to win it but the lack of return on your time investment can make one reluctant to keep those entries going.

However, when you do win, the joys can be bountiful indeed. At the moment, I just started reading the newest Paula McLain novel,Love and Ruin, thanks to being one of the ten lucky folks at First Look Book Club that won a copy the other week.

This book is a companion of sorts to McLain's surprise success,The Paris Wife, by looking at another wife of acclaimed author Ernest Hemingway. The focus here is on Martha Gellhorn, a journalist and writer in her own right who met Hemingway while he was still married to his second wife,Pauline.

Martha was determined not to get involved with him but they ran into each other while covering the Spanish Civil War and their shared literary passion turned into something more. Despite her deep feelings for Ernest, Martha did her best to remain an independent person, even to the point of making her own choices about the future of their relationship.

I've always found Gellhorn to be the most intriguing of the Hemingway wives,due to her writing prowess and strength of spirit,which makes me thrilled to have a novel devoted to her to enjoy. The Paris Wife inspired me to do a whole year of reading Hemingway, so let's see what this book will bring out in me:

Meanwhile, I have back-to-back Early Reviewer books on my TBR, courtesy of Library Thing and their monthly drawings.

First up is You Think It, I'll Say It, a collection of short stories by novelist Curtis Sittenfeld. Her set of ten tales touch on contemporary topics such as the last major political election but the emotions that her characters deal with are timeless struggles.

For example, the leading lady of "The World has Many Butterflies" discovers that her partner in mockery of their social set is not on the same page as her while "The Prairie Wife" considers revealing a secret that could damage the career of a former love from her teen years. A storm of resentment builds up to a head in "Volunteers are Shining Stars" as a woman who helps out at a local shelter grows to hate the newest volunteer for her upbeat ways.

I'm familiar with Sittenfeld's work and do like her brisk tone and insightful nature towards her characters, so checking out her short stories should be fun. Reese Witherspoon chose this book as her May reading selection, which is another good sign. I really don't do the whole celebrity book club deal but Witherspoon does have really great instincts when it comes to picking a fine read there:

The other book is by an author whom I've never read before but have heard good things about. The Secret of the Irish Castle by Santa Montefiore is actually the third in a trilogy called the Deverill Chronicles and takes place in Dublin of 1939.

The plot follows three women, all of which are connected to the Deverill family, some in unexpected ways. Martha arrives from America to find her biological mother and winds up falling for the dashing JP Deverill, who happens to know all too well about her mother.

The current mistress of Castle Deverill, Birdie, aka Countess di Marcantonio, is determined to make this home and new social position a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, those efforts are undermined by the wandering eye of her husband Cesare. Meanwhile,  Kitty Deverill appears content with her husband and children yet the reappearance of a former lover (who is in love with someone else) puts that familial bliss strongly to the test.

Granted, this being the third book in a series make it a bit daunting but I suspect that not reading the earlier titles won't be a problem(the original UK title of this one is The Last Secret of the Deverills, changed to appeal to a new audience,one would suppose). At any rate, this does sound like my cup of storytelling tea and taking a sip of this most recent brew ought to be fine indeed:

While you can't always rely on book giveaways to build up your TBR, they are great for providing those extra bookish bonuses to your reading list. At the very least, a book won this way does help you to save a little money from your book buying budget and allow you to dine on something more substantial than what's on sale at the supermarket. Page turning requires properly fed energy,after all!:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Packing up a beach bag of Sci Fi Summer reads

For most people, the real start to summer will be the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend but for me, a new tradition is issuing in that time of year.

The third annual Sci-Fi Summer readathon, hosted by Seasons of Reading, gives us two weeks to dive into a more fanciful state of mind with a genre that's given much attention at the movies and elsewhere this season.

From June 1 to June 14, seeing how many science fiction and/or fantasy novels you can finish is a good way to jump start your overall summer reading plans. I have three books set aside for this challenge, with two of them more in the fantasy lane and the other much closer to sci-fi land than the author claims(more on that in a moment). Three may sound small yet there's a lot of creative ground to cover with my selections and I want to do this at a reasonable pace:

CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE: This debut YA novel by Tomi Adeyemi is already gathering heaps of praise and a growing fan base from the first entry in her Legacy of Orisha trilogy(book two is due in 2019).

Our leading lady is Zelie, a young woman born with white hair that signals her inherent magical powers. Those abilities have not been activated due to a massive wipe-out of magic and it's users by Orisha's King Saran, a deadly crusade that killed Zelie's mother.

With the help of a runaway princess, Zelie goes on a quest to reclaim magic for her people, using a trio of ancient artifacts that need to be brought together in time for an upcoming solstice in order to work. This story does sound amazingly engaging and it would be nice to have a brand new fandom to join as well:

 NEVERWORLD WAKE: Marisha Pessl is best known for her off the beaten track and then some novels for adults such as Night Film but this new turn into YA country sounds like it would fit in well with her regular fare.

Our story begins with Beatrice, who joins in with her former boarding school buddies for a road trip to a concert. The group get into an accident and find themselves stranded in a remote locale that doesn't allow them to go back to their lives.

A mysterious Keeper informs them that they are meant to remain in this otherworldly realm until a decision is made about who should be permitted to return home. This might be seen as a bit of horror mixed in with fantasy,I suppose, yet this Happy Death Day/Groundhog's Day combo does give the characters plenty of time for self reflection and change which tips the scales more over to fantasy, I think.

THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD: This is the second book in Margaret Atwood's Maddam trilogy that she swears up and down is not science fiction. While I respect the author's intentions, I do think that the lady doth protest a bit much on this one.

She sets this tale in a not too distant future, where corporations and runaway technology have brought the world to a near complete halt. Three people, two of which belonged to a cult called The Gardeners, managed to find each other and seek refuge from what threats remain in this strange new environment.

Atwood insists that she's not writing science fiction here(not wanting to disappoint anyone expecting the typical genre fare) yet she does touch upon plenty of themes that echo strongly throughout sci-fi, such as over reliance upon technology, the misuse of religion and playing havoc with genetic discoveries.

I was amazed by how relevant Oryx and Crake was to our present day concerns and pretty sure that this second outing will be just as surprisingly thought provoking as well:

There is still plenty of time to sign up and you can follow along at Facebook and Twitter(#SciFiJune). If I get some of this reading done sooner than expected, I might add an extra title or two on. Picking up a good book is the best way to beat the heat and science fiction is a good reminder to us all that truth really can get stranger than fiction, especially these days:

Friday, May 18, 2018

Some regal wedding advice, courtesy of Jane Austen

As many pop culture followers know and are eager awaiting, a royal wedding is about to take place this weekend with even those of us on the other side of the pond wishing Prince Harry and future princess Meghan Markle the very best wishes for the day.

In honor of this British/American matrimonial merger, I thought it would be nice to consider the sort of advice that Jane Austen might have bestowed upon the couple. While Jane did not truly travel in such a heightened social circle, she would have a few firm opinions on the matter, nonetheless:

ADVICE GIVEN IS ONLY AS GOOD AS THE ADVISOR: Jane would be the first to point out that no woman should quickly accept any offer of marriage and yet she would also caution any potential bride about the motives of any influential person in her life who is advocating against saying yes at all.

For one example, Anne Eliot of Persuasion didn't wish to reproach Lady Russell about her insistence that Captain Wentworth "had nothing but himself to recommend him" but did regret listening to her and wasting so many years without the man she truly loved.

Granted, Harriet Smith did not have to wait as long to finally have her Mr. Martin yet if she had not been so dependent on the opinions of her dubiously well meaning friend Emma Woodhouse, she might have been spared those months of stress and misplaced affection altogether:

DO NOT ALLOW MISUNDERSTANDINGS TO IMPEDE YOUR PATH TO MARRIAGE: Most Jane Austen created couples have had their fair share of mistaken notions and rash assumptions to deal with as their road to romance proved quite rocky indeed.

However, the best relationships were able to overcome such obstacles, as Elizabeth discovered the better nature of Mr. Darcy and Elinor Dashwood soon realized that her hopes of being with her beloved Edward were not completely dashed.

A very fine example of that comes from Northanger Abbey, as Catherine Morland learns from Henry Tilney the real reason for her unexpected banishment from the title estate by his father. With that matter cleared up, accepting his proposal was better than any romantic dream from her beloved Gothic novels:

DO NOT TROUBLE YOURSELF OVER THE WEDDING PREPARATIONS: One thing I do notice from Jane Austen novels regarding weddings is that the details of the ceremony are not too stressed about.

They are either recounted afterwards,such as Maria's marriage in Mansfield Park, or slightly touched upon with Mrs. Bennet fretting that Lydia does not know the best warehouses in London to buy her wedding dress material from or Mr. Woodhouse anxious about how much cake is consumed at the Westons' wedding.

Perhaps the best way to handle those potentially overwhelming plans is with a song in your heart. Just take a listen to one of the best tunes from the Bollywood inspired P&P film, Bride and Prejudice, and rejoice in the many delightful options available for that special day:

Finally, I feel that the best advice that Jane Austen would give to any couple,royal or not, is to be sure of your true feelings for your intended partner in life.

One of my favorite parts of Pride and Prejudice is when Mr. Bennet takes the time to talk to Elizabeth about her reasons for marrying Darcy and his wish that her marriage would be set on firmer ground than his. Oh, to be sure, he does have some affections for his wife yet it is no secret in the Bennet household how much at cross purposes Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are on a daily basis.

Once reassured, Mr. Bennet is fully onboard for his daughter to become Mrs. Darcy, happy in the knowledge that Elizabeth has found her true soul mate and that's a touching thing to see, in classic as well as modern fiction. Hopefully, the same can be said in real life for many others and as Harry and Meghan take their vows, let us all wish for them what Mr. Bennet did for his favorite girl:

Monday, May 14, 2018

A tidy little TBR for your summer movie season

We're getting pretty close to summer time reading and movie watching,which can only be made better by combining those two pleasant pastimes in a most delightful way.

So let us take a look at a few of the film adaptations due out over the impending dog days and with most of this list being set for late July/August release, there's plenty of time to catch up on these engaging reads.

First up is The Bookshop, based on Penelope Fitzgerald's cult classic novel. Emily Mortimer stars as Florence Green, an English widow who decides to open up the title establishment in a small Suffolk town in 1959.

Her shop struggles for awhile, with only the reclusive Mr. Brundish(Bill Nighy) as her best customer. However, with the release of a controversial new book, Florence gets more business and attention than she ever expected, along with the wrath of local matron Mrs. Gamart(Patricia Clarkson). I fondly remember reading this book years ago,with it's bittersweet book lover charms and this film promises to be a page turning treat on screen as well:

Next, Glenn Close plays The Wife,based on the 2003 novel by Meg Wolitzer. She is Joan Castleman, married to renowned author Joe Castleman(Jonathan Pryce) who has just won the Nobel Prize.

During their trip to claim the prize, Joan gets some time to reflect upon her relationship with Joe, who she first met while in college and he was already married to someone else. That affair changed the course of her life and now she's wondering if the things that she had to give up for him were worth it.

Oscar buzz is building for Close to get a Best Actress nomination from this film and while summer movies do get lost in the movie awards rush, she may very well make this role that memorable. Should be a very timely movie to watch regardless:

If you're in the mood for some YA sci-fi storytelling, the first book in Alexandra Bracken's The Darkest Minds series will be hitting the big screen this summer.

Our heroine is Ruby(Amandla Stenberg), one of the few American teens who has survived a brutal plague that wiped out a good portion of her generation. However, she and the others who lived have developed super powers,which causes the government to lock them away in internment camps.

Trying to restrain these kids is not as easy as that, with Ruby and several of her fellow prisoners breaking out to start up a rebellion. I have not heard of this particular book series before but the trailer does look promising and while this genre is not as strong as it once was at the movies, this might be fun to check out:

The book based movie that I'm really looking forward to this season is Crazy Rich Asians, the first of Kevin Kwan's trilogy of novels that follows the adventures of several families brought together by an unexpected romance.

When American born Chinese Rachel Chu(Constance Wu) gets the chance to meet the relatives of her serious boyfriend Nick Young(Henry Golding) at a wedding in Singapore, she is surprised to learn that his family is insanely wealthy and that Nick is the heir apparent to their expansive empire.

Rachel cares more about connecting with his family, especially her potential mother-in-law Eleanor(Michelle Yeoh), than Nick's financial expectations. However, plenty of obstacles are thrown in her path by Eleanor and others, hoping to steer Nick into the social lane that has set up for him. Before long, both Nick and Rachel have to decide whether or not to hold onto their love or at least put up a good fight for it.

These books are wonderful romantic comedies with a good dollop of soap opera drama rounding them out and I hope that this movie does well enough to get us those two sequels already written and then some:

Finding good books and movies is tricky at any time of the year but summer can be the worst. Yet, when those entertaining adaptations come your way, simply rejoice in the pop culture glow of discovery. The only downside is debating those inevitable book-to-screen changes but that's much better than arguing over which big movie let you down the most:

Friday, May 11, 2018

Is Avengers:Infinity War the ultimate in supervillian stories?

Marvel is certainly having a good year and then some as their big crossover film Avengers:Infinity War is raking in huge box office numbers and plenty of fan love,despite the mixed emotions regarding the ending.

While those conflicts will be more or less settled when the next Avengers movie arrives in 2019, one major element of this chapter of the MCU that everyone agrees upon is the character arch of Thanos,the Big Bad here, is incredibly strong. Many have said that he's practically the leading man,given the depths to which he went to achieve his goal of balancing the universe by wiping out half the population and the personal price that was paid.

Without spoiling anything for those who haven't seen AIF yet, I do think that casting Josh Brolin as Thanos was a key element in providing some of that extra nuance to the character. True, Thanos was mostly CGI but Brolin's facial expressions were used onscreen and his vocal inflections gave a solid grounding to lines that could have been easily turned to cinematic cheddar by a lesser performer.

The overall writing for this crisscrossing storyline was tricky to say the least but they did pull it off and brought audiences to tears at the risk of turning them off,which I applaud them for. The fact that a villain like Thanos wasn't presented as another one note monster to be destroyed speaks volumes about the respect given to the source material and fans alike:

Marvel is certainly doing right by their villains lately as Thanos is the second most talked about fictional bad guy of the year.

Eric Killmonger from Black Panther made his presence known from his first scene and as the film went on, the motivations for his vendetta against Wakanda and the royal family became clear and at times, sympathetic as well.

It was a plus that Black Panther's origins were already showcased in Captain America: Civil War,allowing for Killmonger to have his story fully fleshed out and this has become a star making role for Michael B. Jordan and rightly so. I find it interestingly ironic that both Chris Evans(Captain America) and Jordan each played Johnny Storm in the most recent Fantastic Four movies and yet became better known actors when cast in different MCU films.

Killmonger has been proclaimed as the one to break "the Marvel curse" of boring bad guys and it does certainly seem to be so. A hero is only as good and as compelling as their villain after all:

However, are these superhero films the only time that the villain has been seen as the lead? Not in my opinion and I go as far back as Batman Returns in 1992.

Like Black Panther and Avengers, highlighting the bad guys was made easier by this being an origin story sequel and in the case of Batman Returns, the main villains were portrayed by big name stars, Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito.

The pre-credit opening of the film started off with The Penguin being abandoned by his wealthy parents as a child, leading into the prominent plot lines revolving around his desire for revenge on the upper class of society that rejected him. Granted, Penguin got slightly sidetracked by reluctant ally Max Shreck(who also played a key role in creating Catwoman) into playing politics but got back around to wanting to wipe out the innocent in time for the big finale.

 Meanwhile, Catwoman came to life upon being shoved out of a window, being reborn from mousy secretary/personal assistant to sardonically sassy feline queen of the night.

 Her target for payback may have gone from Shreck to Batman at certain moments but like her temporary aquatic partner in crime, swung back to that true enemy for the end game.

Granted, there was a lot of camp mixed into these performances(especially Penguin) but neither one of them came off as completely cartoony. Also, they did leave a lasting impression on these roles. Apart from the TV series Gotham, there has not been a live action version of Penguin in any of the major Batman films since '92 and when it comes to Catwoman, Pfeiffer is still the standard bearer for that character on film and television.

In addition to that, DC hasn't really been successful in teaming up Batman villains since then, with the exception of the Joker and Two Face in The Dark Knight(you could argue that it's more like the Joker creates Two Face in that movie than an actual team-up). That is a shame since Batman's Rogues' Gallery has numerous foes to mix and match for future films and as we saw in Batman Returns, the right pair of wrong doers can be fiendish fun to watch:

Several years later, we were introduced to Mr. Glass in the comic book inspired but not based on film Unbreakable.  His true name was Elijah Price, a man born with a rare condition that made his bones excessively brittle.

As the owner of a high end comic book story, it only seemed fitting that he would be the one to discover the super heroic abilities of train crash survivor David Dunn. Along the way, we learned more about Price's personal struggles and his mentoring of Dunn, both of which made him a strong and sympathetic character.

Unfortunately by the end of the story, we learned his true motivation for finding someone like David and were just as heartbroken as his new found friend was. Having Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Glass and Bruce Willis as Dunn,two actors who have great chemistry together, really brought the emotional pain to the forefront for that crucial last scene.

We will get a chance to see these character reunite,thanks to a brief cameo in last year's Split from David Dunn, and I for one am eager to see how Mr. Glass does in a movie that could showcase his true potential for out and out villainy:

So, are we going to have more nuanced villains in comic book films from here on out? I certainly hope so, as long as such characters are well balanced with equally compelling heroes. Moving the scale over too far for either side is not good for anyone.

This particular genre has had more than it's fair share of ups and downs yet it does manage to bounce back by finding a fresh new angle to approach the familiar framework from. So far, we're on the right track with Thanos and Killmonger and with any luck, our next villain of the story will be just as game changing for both hero and audience alike:

Monday, May 07, 2018

Catching up with Jeremy Poldark on my Series-ous Reading 2 tour

In doing another year of Series-ous Reading, I have to remind myself that it's the journey not the destination that needs to be focused on.

While my ultimate goal is to finish Stephen King's Dark Tower books, I'm also catching up with the Poldark series by Winston Graham and hit a bit of a rough patch.

For the most part, my reading of Jeremy Poldark took longer than expected which peeves me quite much due to it being a short book. What with taking part in a readathon, keeping up with my library TBR and other distractions, I just managed to finish it up the other day.

I really shouldn't complain(goodness knows there are worse things to fuss about) but I did expect to be further along with my challenge by now. It does help that I am a fan of the latest PBS adaptation(which is how I got into these books in the first place) and gained a solid familiarity with the plot lines in this third entry of the series.

The bare bones of the plot have Ross on trial for assault,Demelza wondering if she should let him know about her pregnancy(due to their shared yet separate sorrow over the death of their first child Julia) and the sneaky behind the scenes scheming of George Warleggan. Instead of recapping the entire book, my write-up today will look at the three female characters that caught most of my attention this time around:

DEMELZA: She really goes through the emotional wringer in this book; between worrying about Ross going to jail(or worse), having another child so soon after Julia's passing and dealing with the decreasing family finances, Demelza has so much on her plate that it's close to spilling over the edge.

Yet, she manages to not let herself sink into total despair and is a woman of action. Using her considerable charms and nerves of steel, Demelza tries to do what she can for Ross during his trial by attempting to speak with the judge(something that she's criticized for by some but calls out their upper class hypocrisy when it comes to influence).

 Eventually when she does tell Ross about the upcoming baby, it's due to concern over him getting involved with local smugglers(for which he complains about her taking his prior comments about not wanting children too seriously-hey, buddy, some of that is your own fault!). As to their money woes, it's her idea to sell what they can, including the brooch that Ross gave her along with a fancy dress that she figures will be useless for farm work.

Honestly, she is way too good for Ross despite what most of his social peers think. Granted, many of the men are too busy leering at her to consider her as more than a pretty face but the double whammy on Demelza is class as well as gender.

 Both she and the hated George Warleggan come from humble beginnings yet he is granted much more respect for his intelligence and advancement in society than she ever would be in those days(which is sadly still relevant today):

CAROLINE: This self satisfied heiress makes her debut in this book, arriving to stay with her Uncle Ray while possibly considering marriage with an up and coming peer. However, upon meeting Dr. Dwight Enys, Caroline only has eyes and a list of commands for him.

I really don't like Caroline on the show(not the fault of the actress) and feel the same way about her in print form as well. Her flippant attitude towards others and those "let them eat cake" notions about the poor,along with the expectation that her wishes will be instantly obeyed truly annoy me.

She reminds me so much of Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park, another character I don't like either. While both ladies do have tendencies to do better by others(mainly to attract positive attention from their intended love interests), their overall entitlement is like nails on a chalk board for me. To be fair, Caroline has a better redemption arch than Mary but I can not warm to her at all:

VERITY: She's one of my favorites in this series and for good reason. In this book alone, Verity gives Demelza serious emotional support during Ross' trial, attempts to reconnect with her foolish brother Francis and deals with meeting her husband's two grown  children while he's at sea.

She has such a generous spirit and firm loyalty to those she loves, which almost made it impossible for her to marry Captain Blamey, that she is barely appreciated for it. Fortunately, her husband does know what a fine soul she is and eventually, so does Francis but not without some help from Ross. Any time Verity is around, my heart soars and I suspect that I'm not the only one:

Well, I do look forward to reading the next book in the Poldark saga(Warleggan) soon but for now, I must travel The Waste Lands with King and company. I've made a good start there and should be able to keep a brisk pace as my Series-ous Reading moves along.

What I truly need to do is balance out my To Be Read piles, which is easier said than done. So many good books and only so much time as they say.....:

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Getting some Evil Under the Sun and a deadly cup of coffee to finish up my Spring Into Horror

Another round of Spring Into Horror is officially over and while I didn't get to read all of the books on that particular TBR pile, my progress was pretty good there.

For one, I finished three Agatha Christie novels, the last of them being Evil Under the Sun. This Hercule Poirot tale has the good detective staying at a remote seaside resort, where the only other notable guest is Arlena Marshall, a former actress.

Arlena is quite the determined flirt, even with her husband and stepdaughter by her side, and to all appearances is carrying on an affair with Patrick Redfern, a young newlywed whose frail looking wife Christine is managing not to give into jealousy.

However, when Arlena is found strangled to death on a deserted beach, Patrick seems to have a solid alibi due to being the person who discovered her body along with a neutral witness. While there are plenty of suspects to choose from, everyone seems determined to exclude any of the women at the resort despite the majority of them despising the victim more so than the men:

Eventually, that male-female balance in attitude towards Arlena lends itself to the identity of the killer,which is both obvious and surprising at the same time.

This is a much lighter Poirot story compared to the other two that I read recently and I have to say that my expectations were raised up rather high for it, mostly because the 1982 film adaptation starring Peter Ustinov is one that I'm very fond of.

Naturally, there are some changes from the book(with the main details of the mystery remaining intact) yet the film condenses certain characters and rewrites others to fit more into the show business connections of Arlena's past.

Don't get me wrong, the book itself has enough of it's own charms to recommend it. It's just that I did wish at times that the some of the delightful cattiness that the movie has had come from the source material. Perhaps I should check out the BBC Poirot series version as well(and yes, that one has changes,too). Nonetheless, Evil Under the Sun is fine beach reading,which is what Christie probably intended it to be all along:

On the other hand, I got quickly well acquainted with the coffeehouse world of Clare Cosi in Dead to the Last Drop as it was my first time reading any of Cleo Coyle's cozily caffeinated mystery series.

Here, Clare travels from New York to Washington D.C. in order to check out the new Village Blend restaurant/jazz club setting up shop. Turns out she has plenty to deal, including an arrogant chef, the shy daughter of the current (fictional)POTUS joining the local jazz band and a mysterious death of a customer with government ties.

In addition to all of that, her police detective boyfriend Mike Quinn is working nearby with a government task force and having serious suspicions about his boss, a lady who is also trying to seduce him to her side to boot. Clare is not cool with that yet keeps her natural fury on the down low,even when Mike gets a little jealous of her ex-husband stopping by for a major event at the Village Blend:

However, most of that fuss is put on the back burner when Mike arrives unexpectedly one night at the cafe to hit the road with Clare. His hurry is due to the president's daughter missing and presumed to be kidnapped, with Clare seen as a major suspect in the case.

Granted, this does sound a little over the top but Coyle grounds the multiple story lines with solid characters whose emotional connection you instantly feel.  It's a sure sign of strong writing when the fifteenth book in a series makes you as welcome as a coffeehouse regular and want to order a another cup of this delightful mystery brew:

Despite not tackling every book on my list, I am happy with the progress that I made. I finished five books(should be six as soon as I completed the last of A is for Alibi) and made a slight dent in The Terror,which is an amazingly great TV series that I've kept up with much better.

My thanks to Michelle Miller and company for making this literary spring celebration a fabulously fun time and looking forward to Sci-Fi Summer in June. In the meanwhile, I've gotten a taste for Joanne Fluke's pastry themed mysteries and it helps to have a few sweets on hand while solving cookie crimes with Hannah Swenson, I've found: