Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, July 30, 2018

Ending my High Summer Readathon with Jane Austen goodness and a bittersweet surprise

Officially, the High Summer Readathon at Seasons of Reading ends tomorrow but it is permitted to wrap things up when you're ready,which is what my post today is all about.

I did read four out of the six books that were on my TBR for this readathon,not a bad accomplishment there. Granted, two of them were rereads yet since both of those were Jane Austen related, I find that connection to be noteworthy indeed.

After reliving Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, it was delightful to take a similar trip into modern times with Val McDermid's retelling. The adjustments to be made to fit Catherine "Cat" Morland into the present day were well tailored such as having her visit the Edinburgh Book Festival instead of Bath, a more lively location these days for young people.

What was extra fun was having Cat and her dubious friend Bella(who makes for a pitch perfect mean girl type) be into vampire/paranormal fiction. Twilight is name checked but the series that our heroine is taken with is called The Hebridean Harpies by Morag Fraser, with titles such as Vampires on Vatersay and Banshees of Berneray.

Sadly, it's not a real set of books(unlike the Gothic tales that Austen had her Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe read) yet you can tell McDermid enjoyed creating her own mock versions of such popular YA lore:

While McDermid stays pretty close to the source material for this story, she does add a few extra tweaks of her own there. In particular, having Cat and Eleanor "Ellie" Tilney decide at one point to write and illustrate their own books for children.

Giving Ellie the desire to break free from her controlling father and pursue an art career is a nice modern touch, allowing her to more nuanced than Austen intended(to be fair, the original NA was an early work and since it was published posthumously, there was no chance for a solid rewrite of the character). It's a bit subtle but a good piece of character development nonetheless.

The best parts of the book come from Henry, Ellie and Cat hanging out and getting to known each other better at the abbey, despite the intimidating presence of General Tilney(whose reason for ultimately throwing Cat out of the house unexpectedly is different than the original and just as completely reprehensible). I have found that e-mail and text messaging work rather well when it comes to adapting Austen for modern times and that fits right into place here.

All in all, this double decker reread of mine was entertaining and I may do that for other Austen books in the future. As for this take on Northanger Abbey, it's a good intro for someone who hasn't read Jane Austen yet as well as amusing for Janeites to have proof that classic tales are like a little black dress: suitable for all seasons and perfect for updating your literary wardrobe:

 Now, I did intend to read one of the other books on my High Summer TBR pile but alas, my attention was lured away to one of my recent library loans and I really don't regret that at all.

Terri-Lynne DeFino's The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers(and Their Muses) is the true definition of an enchanting read. While the main action of the story is set in 1999, where legendary author Alfonse Carducci arrives at the title location to live out his last days, a good chunk of the book is set in the 1950s.

That portion is a work in progress, as the ailing Alfonse regains his desire to write again due to Cecibel Bringer, a young woman working as an orderly whose scarred face matches the emotional scars on her soul. At first, Alfonse keeps his work a secret but then one of his contemporaries, the still feisty Olivia Peppernell , is asked for her opinion on his story and winds up adding a few chapters of her own.

The spark of literary inspiration jumps to two more of their fellow residents(one of which is an editor suffering from early memory loss) and Cecibel is given the chance to read along as they write along. You're not only following the lives of Alfonse and friends, you're also following the forbidden romance of Aldo and Cecilia, who are trapped by their social roles in the fifties to be together and yet always apart.

Both stories come to a moving and thoughtful conclusion, giving the reader a double blessing and a few surprises for each set of fictional folk. It may be bittersweet at times but DeFino balances the changing tones of both stories with a sure hand and infinite grace. If you haven't read this book yet, I strongly urge to do so as soon as you can. A good story that showcases the joys and sorrows that real love possesses is a pearl that needs to be treasured, even if it's just the once:

My thanks to Michelle Miller from Seasons of Reading for setting up another wonderful opportunity to catch up and find great books to read. I hope everyone else who took part in High Summer had as much of a good time as I did and look forward to seeing all of you again for Fright Fall later this year.

As for the rest of my summer, I do have Bad Movie Month to contend with(that's going to be a bit bookish since the first two films are Bridget Jones sequels) and plenty of other books to explore. I may also indulge in more Jane Austen as it's going to be awhile until that new adaptation of Sanditon airs on PBS! Reading Austen is like having the perfect ice cream creation, cool and refreshing and especially so in the dog days of summer left to us:

Monday, July 23, 2018

Checking out the SD Comic Con highlights at the Movie Trailer Park

Summer isn't just the time for checking out the big movie blockbusters, it's also the season for seeing what lies ahead on the pop culture landscape. The best place for that star search are the Comic Cons, with the major one in San Diego finishing up over the past weekend.

For those of us unable to head out there, watching for the trailers online is fine sport indeed and a big piece of bait was the first trailer for Aquaman, set to hit theaters by Christmas time. Jason Momoa gets to flex his considerable muscles as Arthur Curry in a solo film after donning the swim suit in Justice League(which I have not seen yet!).

From what is shown here, this is your basic origin story with Arthur being the misunderstood son of human lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry(Temuera Morrison) and Queen Atlanna(Nicole Kidman) who is called upon by underwater warrior princess Mera(Amber Heard) to fight his half brother Orm(Patrick Wilson) for the throne of Atlantis to prevent a war with the surface world.

The film does look like it could be fun and Momoa is certainly a charmer. I'm pretty hesitant to climb onboard the bandwagon here, as we've been fooled by awesome appearing trailers before(yes, that means you, Suicide Squad!). Points to the writer who slipped in that "Aquaman, you go talk to some fish" joke early on but for the most part, I'm keeping my enthusiasm for this DC comic book flick at bay:

One movie that I'm not hiding my joy for is Glass, the long awaited follow-up to Unbreakable. M. Knight Shyamalan was able to bridge the cinematic gap between these films with the movie Split(I need to see that one,too!) and all three major characters are set to do battle here.

Unbreakable was an underappreciated film that has grown to cult status and one of my favorite of M. Knight's works,so I am so happy to see this unique take on comic book lore be continued. Another delightful surprise is having Sarah Paulson in the cast as Dr. Ellie Staple(is it just me or do I get a Harley Quinn vibe off of her?).

Glass is scheduled for January of 2019 and hopefully will be one of the big hits of the after holiday season. Seeing Samuel L. Jackson in true archvillian form is a fine start to a new year,if you ask me:

While there were plenty of movies talked about at SDCC, a good amount of TV trailers were highly promoted as well and two of them made major news that I just had to share.

Along with a trailer for the next season of Supergirl(set to air on Sunday nights starting in October), it was announced at SDCC that transgender activist/actress Nicole Maines would be joining the cast as Nia Nal, aka Dreamer. Based upon the DC superheroine with precognitive abilities known as Dream Girl, this  new version of the character will be working at CatCo and learning to deal with her powers.

This is a first for representation in the live action comic book arena and I'm so proud to be a fan of this show. Hey, DC-if your big screen adaptations were as progressive as your small screen ones, you would be more than heroes,you'd be legends:

Speaking of legends, the trailer for the upcoming web series from DC Universe Titans become infamous already. This live action take on the Teen Titans has a young Raven(Teagan Croft) seeking out former Batman partner Dick Grayson(Brenton Thwaites) for help with her growing demonic powers.

Along the way, they recruit space alien princess Starfire(Anna Diop) and shapeshifter Beast Boy(Ryan Potter) to battle the forces of evil, with guest appearances by Donna Troy,aka Wonder Girl and another Boy Wonder,Jason Todd. The trailer depicts quite the bloodthirsty Robin, who stomps on the necks of henchmen and says things like "F**k Batman!" Yep, this is not your old school Teen Titans, that's for sure!

As a fan of the 1980s John Romita/George Perez take on Titans, I'm not opposed to a mature content adaptation but the tone is feeling wrong here. Maybe the trailer is not the best depiction of the show but it's causing folks to be turned off by the initial vibe that this series is giving off. Plus, it would've been cool to have Cyborg as well(guess they prefer to have him in more Justice League movies and I believe a Cyborg solo movie is in the works).

While I find the cartoon series Teen Titans Go to be too goofy, at least that show looks like way more fun than this web series is going to be:

Well, it does seem as if there is much to look forward to on the cinematic and televised horizons as time goes on,which ought to be a welcome relief from our current day woes. However, as our friends facing Stranger Things strive to remind us, the past is not as safe as some of us would like to think:

Friday, July 20, 2018

Reaching the high point of my High Summer readathon

Taking part in the Seasons of Reading series of readathons has certainly helped with keeping my TBR piles on balance. Granted, my goals for the current High Summer reading event are pretty modest but I have managed to make a couple of sets of books that were waiting in the wings a bit smaller.

The first book that I completed for this challenge was appropriately titled By The Book, a debut novel from Julia Sonneborn. Our leading lady is Anne Corey, an English professor at Fairfax College who's struggling to gain tenure and hoping to publish her first book.

When it's announced that Adam Martinez is the new president of Fairfax, Anne is thrown for quite the loop. The two of them were a romantic couple during her own college days but she broke up with him due to pressure from her academic advisor as well as her family. While she does her best to maintain a professional relationship with him, Anne does find those old familiar feelings returning, along with tinges of regret.

She does get a bit of welcome distraction from new writer-in-residence Rick Chasen, who has some past history with Adam as well. Yet, Anne still feels attached to Adam in some ways, even discovering that very special copy of Jane Austen's Persuasion that he gave to her so long ago and can not bear to part with.

Yes, this story is a modern take on Persuasion(my favorite Austen novel) but it also adds a few tidbits from Jane Austen's other works such as the name of the college, which is from Emma, and Rick Chasen has much in common with a certain Mr. Wickam.

There's even a hint of Northanger Abbey as Anne's collegiate buddy Larry falls in love with an actor starring in a" based-on-the-hit-YA-series" movie called Jane Vampire,which is Twilight meets Charlotte Bronte. Larry gets Anne to watch that film with him upteen times, really stretching those boundaries of friendship there!

All in all, the book is a fine tribute to Jane Austen that creates plenty of original characters and situations that let the author make her own mark. It's a lovely read that even a non-Austen reader can enjoy and hopefully, will inspire those who haven't to take up Persuasion for the first time:

After that, I picked up Jean Kwok's Girl in Translation, which did make me think of Gilmore Girls at times but Lorelai and Rory never went through half of the hard times that this mother and daughter team did.

Twelve year old Kimberly Chang and her mother were able to emigrate to America just before their homeland of Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese control, with the aid of her Aunt Paula. Their welcome to their new country turned out to be less than inviting as the apartment set up for them is in a nearly abandoned building infested with bugs and mice.

Also, Kimberly's mother has to repay her sister Paula for their passage and has to work at the family garment factory, a job that Kimberly(along with other children of employees) helps out with on a daily basis. Attending school is difficult for Kimberly due to language and cultural barriers but her sharp skills in math and science allow her to get a full scholarship at a prestigious private school that will open doors to her for a future Ivy League education.

As times goes on, Kimberly is torn between focusing solely on her academic goals in order to lift her mother out of poverty and taking part in some of the teenage fun that's all around her. A deeper complication develops as her heart is drawn to Matt, who also works with his mother at Aunt Paula's factory, yet fellow student Kurt has eyes only for Kimberly.

This book is a compelling read, as Kimberly's ups and downs are enriched by the love of her mother and a bond with Annette, her first and only American friend who has no idea just how hard things are for Kimberly. Kwok establishes a solid narrative with Kimberly, creating a voice that's realistic as well as engaging.

Girl in Translation was so good that I wanted to read more, even after turning that last page. Jean Kwok,fortunately, has another novel out called Mambo in Chinatown and I'll find a way to get a hold of that soon. Her writing does dance across the page, so it'll be interesting to read a book of hers that does involve actual fancy footwork:

Just last night, I finished rereading Northanger Abbey and it stuck me that it's been awhile since I fully reread an Austen novel. Well, this country girl meets big city tale was a welcome relief from the heat indeed.

Catherine Morland is a sweet enough heroine but not as well developed as many of the other Austen leading ladies(due to this being an early in her writing career novel that wasn't published until after Austen's death), which does make her a rather believable teenager.

Her shock at the behavior of her new friend Isabella is authentic yet Catherine can not resist thinking the worst of General Tilney, despite her pleasant regard for hid daughter Eleanor and most particular regard for his son Henry, who is such a snarky fellow that might  be unbearable if not for his ability to restrain his mirth with good sense. Do not be angry at me, Tilney fans, I do like him, I do!

What does strike me this time around with Catherine is not only the delightful snark of the narrator who gleefully winks at the Gothic genre that our lead girl is so influenced by, it's the subtle desire of Catherine to wish for a touch of the dark side to embrace her.

While her worst impulse turns out to be mostly harmless(a little snooping at best, followed by an unfortunate conversation), that urge to explore beyond her boundaries is what makes Catherine more than a potential damsel in distress type. She proves herself to be more resilient in unexpected situations than thought possible, even by her parents!  She may be not as lively as an Elizabeth Bennet or an Emma Woodhouse but I dare say that Catherine would be someone that I would love to attend a book club with(and she'd probably adore Twilight!):

At the moment, I'm rereading Val McDermid's version of NA for a little compare and contrast. There are a few library books that I'm catching up with and at least one more book from my pre-selected TBR for this readathon that I will get to before long.

Looking this over, I have been drawn to more Jane Austen related material these days. Perhaps as stress relief and it's also a huge incentive to have word of a new Jane Austen adaptation in the works. Sanditon, an unfinished novel of Austen's, is set for PBS and to be written by the wonderful Andrew Davies, oh such joy!

The only other attempt at adapting this work that I've seen is the Pemberley Digital web series and that was a delight to behold. Well, having a full film version only means more rereading and that should fit into another readathon that my fellow Seasons of Reading companions ought to be thrilled with indeed:

Monday, July 16, 2018

A luxury library haul with a surprise twist of mirthful mystery

Some people make summer plans that involve going to the beach, visiting theme parks or just heading out to the coolest spot they can find. Me, I make library plans,picking up(as well as renewing) some sweet reads to sip slowly in the shade.

My recent library visit lead me to select a pair of novels that feature the love of reading and writing,which I was definitely in the mood for after completing Veronica Henry's How to Find Love in a Bookshop(which was truly a stay up all night book for me!).

First up was a new release; The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers(and their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino. Set in the year 1999, the title establishment was created by a pair of infamous authors setting up a future place for themselves along with their literary contemporaries to live out the remainder of their days in comfort.

One of those writers, Alfonse Carducci, has now arrived to take up residence,due to ill health which doesn't trouble him as much as the case of writer's block that is currently plaguing him. In addition to meeting old friends and rivals such as the still fiery Olivia Peppernell and Raymond Switcher, Alfonse also strikes up a new relationship with one of the staff, a young woman with a scarred face and powerful love for his work.

Cecibel Bringer has been an orderly at the Bar Harbor Home for several years, taking comfort in her work yet unable to fully recover from the accident that left more than one mark on her life. Her growing bond with Alfonse may help to break Cecibel out of her self imposed shell but will this connection ultimately be good for the both of them?

I've already started reading this and so far, it's very good indeed. The writing is crisp and keen, like biting into a freshly picked fall apple. DeFino's depiction of this aging group of artists is quite charming without being cloying and I look forward to becoming better acquainted with them all:

Along with that debut, I added Gabrielle Zeven's The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry to my library loan list. Having read Young Jane Young, I was curious to see what this particular novel of hers is like,given the great word of mouth that it has gotten over the years.

A.J. is a widowed bookseller, whose loneliness leads to excessive drinking and the slow financial ruin of his business. That sad decline of his is fortunately interrupted by a bizarre exchange as a valuable manuscript disappears from the shop while a young girl is left by chance to Fikry's care.

Given a new chance at life(plus a possible new romance with a book rep), Fikry regains his sense of purpose and revives the spirits of those around him. This plot line does remind me of George Eliot's Silas Marner, a book that I did enjoy(and no, it wasn't a school assigned read) and seeing someone take a modern day approach to this classic work sounds good to me:

Meanwhile, I wound up renewing Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray, a novel that I am in the midst of at the moment. We have a pair of heroines divided by time, starting with Ondine, who as a sixteen year old girl in 1936 is surprised to find herself as  the private chef to Pablo Picasso.

Picasso is staying at a house near the cafe that Ondine's family runs and she is charged with bringing the great artist his lunch on a daily basis. She's also sworn to secrecy about reveling his presence in their remote seaside town as he's avoiding both his angry wife and current mistress in Paris.

Ondine is getting over a heartbreak as well yet can not resist the persistent charms of Picasso, who wants her to cook for him more often and to have her as a model for a painting as well. Decades late, Ondine's granddaughter Celine learns of the painting from her much put upon mother and determined to free her parent from the control of a pair of step siblings, searches for that lost art in order to reclaim an inheritance more valuable than money.

The book has a slow and steady pace that lulls you into reading more and more but not too quickly. The word portraits that Aubray has painted on the pages are the type that bear close scrutiny , a true leisurely excursion of entertainment. By giving myself a reading extension here, my voyage with the rest of this simmering stew of a story should be a fulfilling one indeed.

Just before my library visit, I received a welcome surprise in the mail(of course, a book) and it happens to be a wedding themed mystery with a touch of spy fare and a twist of historical fiction to boot.

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding is the twelfth novel in author Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness series that has a lively heroine with regal connections yet little fortune. Granted, I haven't read the earlier books but this seems to be the kind of story that allows you to catch up to the important details of the characters while enjoying the unraveling plot points.

Lady Georgianna Rannoch is the 35th in line for the British throne, a place she is happy to give up in order to marry her beloved Darcy O'Mara, an Irish man with a government position that often allows Georgie to use her detective skills to help save the day. Being offered the use of her godfather's estate for the wedding, she is delighted to accept, having pleasant memories of the place and staff.

Once Georgie arrives, however, it appears that the affection is not mutual. The new members of the staff are less than impressed with her and after a couple of near deadly incidents, it looks as if something sinister is afoot and that Georgie may have more to worry about than getting her bridal gown ready on time. This sounds like good old fashioned fun and I'm happy to see what trouble this delightfully spirited lady sleuth is going to get into:

A pile of books may not seem like much of a vacation but when you think about it, it's almost perfect. You don't have to worry about packing up your things, hitting the road on time or dealing with unexpected delays. A good book doesn't require you to buy a new bathing suit, sandals or even to get dressed for the occasion(you probably should get dressed,anyway, as a general rule).

With the excessive hot weather, not to mention excessive stress from the news just about every day, taking a mental break is vitally important. Yes, going out into the real world, if you can, is good as well but if your resources are limited, your reading doesn't have to be:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Pamper yourself with paperbacks to beat the summer heat

Summer time these days is a tricky thing,as we go from one heat wave to another with the most viable cool spot around is right in front of whatever source of a/c is available to you.

Since a spot ought to be reserved for some good reading and I've always found that paperbacks do well for warm weather relaxation, there's a trio of softcover books that should keep my spirits quite refreshed this season.

At the moment, I'm in the midst of Veronica Henry's How to Find Love in a Bookshop, a story that's giving me wonderful Maeve Binchy vibes indeed. The bookshop of the title is called Nightingale Books, located in the small English village of Peasebrook and run by single father Julius to one day hand over to his beloved daughter Emilia.

Sadly, Julius has passed away sooner than expected and Emilia does want to keep the store going but she may need some help. Her father wasn't the best business man and already making an offer for the place is Ian Mendrip, a slimey real estate owner determined to buy the shop by any means necessary.

However, Emilia is determined to honor her father's memory as well as maintain the love of books that has been the hallmark of the shop. Plenty of folks are more than willing to assist her even as a few sneaky characters are lurking about,including a fella sent by Ian to influence Emilia any way he can:

Nightingale Books,as it turns out, has other stories to tell with customers such as Henrietta, a shy cooking teacher who is learning to find her voice and perhaps love, Sarah, the local lady of the manor who had a more intimate relationship with Julius than anyone else knew and Bea, a bored wife and mother who may find purpose in helping the shop survive.

The writing is both compelling and lulling, with a sure steady hand at the storytelling wheel. This is Veronica Henry's US debut(she has a good number of novels in the UK) and she makes a very good impression and then some here.

I love how Henry brings her characters to vivid life, from young people working out their life and love situations to older folks reflecting on their affairs of the heart. Nightingale Books is a vital character as well, serving as the emotional nexus point of Peasebrook as well as the ideal bookstore you'd love to get lost in for a few hours. How to Find Love in a Bookshop is great all year round reading but for the summer, it's a sweet treat that you want to last as long as possible:

Once I do finish that, I plan to engage in a little risky reading at The Dirty Book Club. When M.J. Stark moves to Pearl Beach upon the disappointment of missing out on a promotion at the New York magazine she worked at, the last thing she expected to do was join a book club with her new neighbor Gloria Golden.

Turns out that M.J. is meant to take Gloria's place, along with a trio of other ladies who were chosen by the original members of the reading club. While the feisty founders go off to Paris, M.J. and her new set of book buddies learn to bond over risque literature, not to mention a few shared life experiences.

I'm not familiar with Lisi Harrison's writing style(she's best known for her YA novels) but I do like the concept of a multi-generational book club with a specialized taste in reading material. Should be good fun with maybe a couple of book recommendations to boot.

Speaking of book recommendations, I was inspired to get this novel for my TBR due to Food Network Star. One of this season's culinary contenders is Jessica Tom, who wrote Food Whore, which is subtitled "a novel of dining and deceit."

Our leading lady is Tia, a recent culinary school graduate looking for a prime opportunity on the New York food scene. When approached by top restaurant critic Mark Saltz to be his ghost eater(he's lost his sense of taste) and writer, she takes him up on it,especially when one of the perks allows her to update her wardrobe with style.

However, the pressure of keeping this secret and the other complications that arise from this dubious gig causes Tia to lose her appetite for the foodie life. The vibe of this book sounds like The Devil Wears Prada While Going to Dinner and that sounds like a great recipe for a tasty read to me:

Summer reading ought to fun, first and foremost and I think this set of three should do just that. With all of the extra stress out there right now, it would be nice to have not getting ice cream on my current read be the biggest concern in my life. Yet, I still feel that you can have your summer book fun and eat ice cream safely,too(just maybe not a cone):

Monday, July 09, 2018

Resetting my Series-ous Reading 2.0

I started this new year of reading with a rather ambitious literary plan; to read Stephen King's entire Dark Tower series(except for the prequel The Wind in the Keyhole) and another Outlander book to boot. After my prior successful year of Series-ous Reading, where I caught up on a couple of book series that had been languishing on my TBR piles, my confidence level was quite high.

However, this time out, the Dark Tower titles have become more of a chore than a challenge and the one thing about my reading goals that I've always tried to hold true to is that it should be both fun and fulfilling. Halfway through the third book (The Wastelands), it became clear to me that I needed to make a new game plan.

This isn't the fault of the book themselves, it's more like the timing for this particular bookish mountain climb is not right. I do have other options here and with the rest of the reading year now in reset, pages should start turning in a more agreeable direction:

POLDARK: While I also put aside Voyager(just too late in the year to tackle that), I felt that the Poldark saga was well within my reach and have already begun with Warleggan, which highlights that dreadful nemesis of Ross Poldark and his various schemes.

After I get though with that, The Black Moon is next and with any luck, both books will be finished by the time the next season of the show premieres on PBS this fall. Perhaps I might save TBM for that time frame, we shall see.

I did enjoy reading Jeremy Poldark earlier this year and happy to head back to Cornwall,where plots may be a-brewing but those who stand against them stay right on course:

MURDER MOST FOODIE: A new interest of mine lately is food themed mysteries and since many of them turn into series, why not fully embrace that?

As a tasting sample, Ellie Alexander's Meet Your Baker is now on the Series-ous Reading list as it is the first of her Bakeshop Mystery books. Our leading lady detective is Juliet Capshaw, who returns to her small Oregon town to help her mother out at their family bakery known as Torte.

At the local Shakespeare festival, a  new board member is found dead under unusual circumstances and Juliet's high school flame Thomas is the lead investigator on the case. Not only is this a chance to use her bakery brain power, Juliet also has a fair shot at rekindling an old love. There's plenty of literary riffs to be expected here, which should make this introductory read extra entertaining indeed.

One foodie mystery series that I've developed an appetite for is Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen books, having devoured the first two(as well as skipped ahead to a Christmas themed tale) murderous morsels with true delight.

I plan to continue with the third(Blueberry Muffin Murder) and on to the fourth(Lemon Meringue Pie Murder). I do have the next couple of books after that but don't want to gobble down something this sweetly amusing right away.

There's just something about Hannah and her small town bakery called The Cookie Jar, along with her quirky family and friends(not to mention two almost boyfriends!) that relax my spirits as well as spark my inquisitive imagination. Fluke does have a flair for sinister sweetness with a warm from the oven goodness that's hard to resist:

THE SPYING GAME: If I have any time left before the end of the year for this challenge, I hope to squeeze another of Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation books.

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine is the fifth title in the series,which I skipped over last year and really should make proper amends for. The Regency era heroine of this tale is Lady Charlotte, a young women who is more comfortable reading her favorite thrillers than looking for a potential husband in a ballroom.

Her cousin, Robert, the Duke of Dovedale, is home from India and while her own formidable grandmother is making marriage plans for him, Charlotte still has a crush on him yet based on her reading material, is wondering if Robert is a member of the infamous spy ring in their midst. With my rereading of Northanger Abbey these days, my appreciation for young ladies dealing with the influence of a literary inspired imagination is rather keen:

So, that is my new set of plans for Series-ous Reading for the rest of 2018. While I have some regrets about abandoning my original goals, I think that it's for the best to do this. Why persist in reading something that is not keeping me engaged? It's unfair to myself and the books in question, if you think about it.

Perhaps in the future, I can walk down that Dark Tower road again and continue to it's conclusion. Time will tell and anyway, the books will be ready for me when I am for them. In the meanwhile, it's good to forge on ahead with new reads instead of constantly looking back.

Don't get me wrong, folks, rereading earlier books in a series can be fun and useful to update yourself for the next installment. With this reset,however, I have some ground to regain here, so onward I go!:

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Some songs to reflect our current feelings of Independence

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, when we traditionally celebrate the birth of our nation and while I am proud to be an American, it pains me to admit that those feelings have been harder to maintain for awhile now.

Don't worry, I'm not about to go off on a big political rant here. However, I try to be a pop culture observer and for this particular moment in time, I feel that the best way to express my inner angst about the state of things is through that spectrum.

Since music is a major part of the Independence Day holiday, I found a few songs that I think best capture the turmoil that we're all experiencing these days that also encourage us to hold fast amidst the various storms being sent our way:

HAMILTON MEDLEY: Who better than one of our original Founding Fathers to give us inspiration at a time like this? Lin-Manuel Miranda's brilliant historical musical teaches us many things about the beginnings of our country and of the follies of human nature as well. This reenactment of two songs from that award winning show reminds everyone to not just sit back and to not give away our best shot at making things right:

MORE HAMILTON THOUGHTS: This musical has inspired many to read,think and challenge the status quo and that includes the Hamilton Mixtape, where one of the best songs points out how foolish it is to discount our immigrant population and heartlessly cruel to persecute them as we have been lately:

EVERYBODY GOES TO RICK'S: There's a classic musical stand-off in the film Casablanca, where the local German forces are loudly singing their anthem at the nightclub, much to the chagrin of the crowd, many of whom had to flee their homelands due to the invading Nazi regime.

With a quiet nod of approval from Rick and an open show of defiance from rebel leader Victor Lazlo, the house band strikes up a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise that gets the oppressed audience up on their feet. For those who insist that confronting evil in public is not "nice", this shows how that can be done with true elegance and sincere belief that negates their sad stance:

 HEAR THE PEOPLE SING: I have to tell you that with all of the news getting worse and worse these days, songs from the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical Les Miserables have been on my playlist quite a bit lately.

Yes, it's French but France has always been a good ally to America, from our own Revolutionary War to WWII and beyond. Granted, I'm more into English literature but I did read the Victor Hugo novel and can appreciate the contributions that France has given to the world in the terms of promoting freedom.

Not to mention that this story has lasted for nearly two hundred years for good reason and some of those life and history lessons in song are well worth listening to,especially today:

I hope that by this time next year, the country is in a way better place, emotionally and politically, than we are right now. We can all do our part to make that happen, even if it's just signing a petition or getting out to vote this November.

What I sincerely believe that everyone wants, regardless of what side you're on, is to have that wonderful spirit of unity back again, the one that gave us comfort and strength during the other hard times that have confronted us over the years. Also, we need to regain that welcoming spirit for those wanting to make a better life in America,which is the core of our country. Let's make people happy to be part of this country again with a song in our hearts,people: