Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, October 29, 2018

Looking for some holiday cheer with these November/December releases

While I know that Halloween is only a couple of days away, it's still high time to start preparing for the rest of the big holiday season.

Granted, this past week alone has been more than enough to try the souls of humanity, not to mention dampen the celebratory spirit although. However, we should hold on to some hope for the future and make an attempt at reviving our holiday cheer.

Well, nothing cheers me up better than a new book and this list of upcoming titles due out this November and December might help you do just that, along with finding that perfect page turning gift or two for your loved ones:

TRICK OR RETREAT?: Liane Moriarty gathers together Nine Perfect Strangers at an isolated resort, folks hoping to restore their peace of mind after whatever situation has shaken them out of their usual routines in life.

From romance writer Frances, who is worried about the future of her literary career to Zoe, a young woman trying to reconnect with her parents on the anniversary of a tragic family event, all of the guests expect to have an experience that changes their lives for the better. However, the agenda of the retreat's director may be very different from theirs...

Despite the ominous tone of the plot, there is plenty of good humor to be found here and Moriarty certainly does know how to deliver a solidly good story telling time indeed(November): 


 First up in our leading lady league is Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani. The title spouse in question is Chi Chi Donatelli, whose marriage to rising singing star Tony Arma feels like a dream come true.

They seem to be the perfect show biz couple, as she writes the songs that he turns into number one hits. Even when parted due to WWII, Chi Chi and Tony feel more united than ever in their love.

Unfortunately, once the war is over, they start truly living together and learning just how different their goals in life are. With Tony pursuing one adulterous affair after another and Chi Chi wanting to be more than simply a suitable piece of arm candy for his career, it's pretty clear that their love is no longer in full bloom.

Trigiani is a marvel at creating heartfelt female friendly dramas and her flair for period pieces lately has gotten better and better with each book. I have no doubt that Chi Chi Donatelli is destined to be one of her best heroines who certainly deserves to be center stage in her own life story(November):

Next up is Jennifer Robson's The Gown, which connects more than one generation together. Upon finding a pearl encrusted set of embroidered flowers in her late grandmother's possessions, Heather wonders how these exquisite made posies ever belonged to her seeming sewing adverse grandmother Ann and decides to investigate further.

As it happens, Ann used to work for the best dressmaker in London during the aftermath of WWII, along with Miriam, who did fine embroidery for Christian Dior before the invasion of Paris.

Ann and Miriam became fast friends, hoping to find true love and achieve an artistic goal by working together on the wedding gown for Princess Elizabeth's upcoming nuptial to Lt. Mountbatten. While they each have a bit of romance, there's also some industry intrigue to avoid as the designs for the royal wedding dress are being pursued by rival designers.

Robson is starting to become quite the rising star among the historical fiction set and it looks as if her newest novel will be another top of the line literary creation there(December).


 Arriving in softcover for the season is Miss Bingley Requests by Judy McCrosky, which features one of the best known and most disliked of Jane Austen's famous supporting characters from Pride and Prejudice.

While Caroline Bingley desires nothing more than to be the wife of her brother's good friend Mr. Darcy, annoyances are cropping up that distance her a great deal from that lifelong goal. In particular, one Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who dares to stand in the way of what should be Caroline and Darcy's grand destiny together.

However, there is a certain Mr. Tryphon who has been introduced into her society and his appeal as a possible companion in life has not escaped Caroline's notice. What ever can a proper lady like herself do with such options before her? While Miss Bingley may fancy herself too much of an accomplished woman to be headlining such a story,  there is plenty of reason to assume that she is well worth a romantic tale of her own(November):

Also appearing in paperback, the third entry in Julie Klassen's Ivy Green series,The Bride of Ivy Green, has a good amount of intrigue blended with romance.

A new dressmaker in town with a mysterious past is causing a great deal of talk among the residents, while Jane Bell is torn between marrying a man she loves and keeping her independence in order to run the inn that she's grown to love as well.

In addition, Jane's friend Mercy can no longer run her school for girls and might have to become a governess and while there is a rather predictable wedding being arranged for Miss Brockwell, who the groom may ultimately be promises to be a most unpredictable surprise for all to discover.

This book is meant to be the last in a trilogy but given the drawing power of Klassen's writing, this may lead to the start of something new for her readers to enjoy in the future(December).


 In a series of autobiographical essays, Ann Hood discusses the role that food has played in her life from good times to bad. Kitchen Yarns goes from her father's love of cooking(yet his meals were far from tasty) to learning how to make her grandmother's meatballs and then seeing food on a whole new level upon her marriage to food writer Michael Ruhlman.

Hood talks about cooking as a way to cope with the harsh blows that life brings her such as the passing of her older brother and the unexpected death of her young daughter. Despite the sadness, she manages to find some joy and a path towards healing while preparing family feasts or small simple plates.

Food and family can often be taken for granted but Hood uses her literary skills to remind us all of the part both play in all of our lives so well(December):

I know that simply reading a good book(or any book, for that matter) can't solve all of our problems or make things better in the world. However, they do provide comfort and solace, which we all need  these days, and turning to something that requires some introspective mental effort is a smart step in the right direction.

Also, it would be healthy for everyone to embrace the holiday season, which promotes unity and good will towards one another, regardless of race, religion and identity. Let's just try to be good to each other and develop a sense for snow, which, as Lorelai Gilmore can tell you, can be a great gift for all to share:

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Congratulating the winners of The Great American Read

Earlier this year, PBS launched The Great American Read, a literary event that gave readers across the country the chance to vote for their favorite novel of all time. Whether it was online, on the phone or by text, people voted in large numbers and the official rankings were announced this past Monday.

From a list of one hundred titles that ranged from classics to contemporary, the top five finalists were mostly twentieth century fare,with one notable exception. In the interest of brevity,(check out the full results tally here) I'll just discuss a few of the top five in detail in this post.

Full disclosure; I have read four out of the five books that made it to the top and enjoyed them all in different ways. The one series that I haven't read(unless The Hobbit counts) is simply due to time and being well satisfied with the film adaptations, a true rarity indeed:

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD: We might as well start with the book that was number one and Harper Lee's pivotal tale of a young girl learning the realities of life in the American South during the 1930s has proven to be a timeless classic for readers today.

It's not surprising in both a good and sad way that TKAM was number one on this list since the first day of voting, it's position never wavering. I first read it only a few years ago and the beauty of the prose is powerful. Plus, Harper Lee had a strong sense of characterization that makes such fictional folk as Scout, Atticus,Tom and Boo Radley as vividly real as our own friends and neighbors.

The sad part comes from the issues of racial prejudice and injustice within the story, issues that are still with us,especially these days. Some continue to find that examination of those topics here to be controversial, causing the book to be placed on banned book list time and time again.

 It would be nice if some of those censors would actually read the novel and see just how socially relevant it is and how young and old alike could benefit from a conversation about those issues using the book as a platform for further understanding.  TKAM does at least give us hope that things may be better for the next generation, a message well told and taken to heart:

OUTLANDER: Diana Gabaldon's popular series of genre mashing novels(time travel, historical fiction, romance) came in at number two. However, I have no doubt that fans of both the books and the cable TV show based upon them will see this saga as number one in their hearts.

While the small screen adaptation has drawn in more fans and readers(my mother and I love the Starz series, it's one of "our" shows), the true love for these stories in either format comes from the characters, particularly the feisty Claire Randall Fraser, a woman who knows her own mind no matter what century she's in.

I've read the first two books in the series(all of them are lusciously long page turners) and holding off on the rest of them for the moment in order to avoid spoilers. Not easy to do but at the moment, that will work for me.

While Gabaldon does embrace more than one genre in her tales of Claire and her Highlander soul mate Jamie, I do think that the fantasy elements of the long ranging story are part of what made Outlander land in the top five, along with the Harry Potter series (No.3) and The Lord of the Rings (No.5). People turn to fantasy fiction in troubled times and more often than not, those flights of fancy have proven to be solid ground for many of us to steady our weary souls upon:

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: Jane Austen's most beloved book was given the fourth place on the GAR top five and rightly so.

While many of my fellow Austenites would have preferred to see P&P occupy a much higher ranking on the list, to my mind, it is far better to have this truly delightful novel be included among the upper five than not at all.

Pride and Prejudice does have the distinction of being the only novel in the top five that has lasted with readers for over two centuries now. It is amazing how many different editions have been published(enough to get a book of it's own!) as well as various media adaptations ranging from plays to feature films and made for TV miniseries have kept this sharp witted romance of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy feel as fresh as if it were released just yesterday.

It's a testament to the power of Austen's writing that P&P is still a viable fictional framework for each new generation to make their own while allowing the main points of the original story to still be felt. Whether it's a Bollywood inspired musical, a Nora Ephron romcom or an award winning web series, Pride and Prejudice has more stamina than any battery powered bunny could ever hope to possess:

The Great American Read was a wonderful event and the best part about this was the chance to discover and/or rediscover such literary wonders in our midst. I know that plenty of book lovers of all ages and backgrounds were able to find common ground, thanks to this great excuse to discuss our joy of reading.

With any luck, some of this good feeling can extend beyond the pages of a book but we shall see. For now, a hearty congratulations to all of the nominated books is in order and three cheers for the real winners, all of us who took the time to read and share with friends, old and new:

Monday, October 22, 2018

Fearsome flicks from the ladies of American Horror Story

One of the annual delights of the fall TV season has been a new season of American Horror Story, an anthology series that goes above and beyond anything The Twilight Zone ever dreamed up.

Fans have both loved and hated certain seasons yet this time out, the current run "Apocalypse" seems to be a crowd pleaser.

 I've been watching the show and despite having only viewed three out of the eight seasons(Coven,Freak Show and Hotel) of AHS, the crossovers from the past have been amazing to behold. Of course, this series is not going to be everyone's cup of Halloween brew but with such fine female actors giving their all to the various characters that they've portrayed over the years, it would be a shame not to see some of their scary silver screen work.

This particular quartet has been on AHS more than once and all of them have made an appearance on AHS:Apocalypse(some more than others) and perhaps one or two of their frightening films might be a nice addition to your Halloween movie marathon plans:

JESSICA LANGE/HUSH: Lange has been a mainstay of AHS, winning Emmy awards for such roles as witchy Supreme Fiona Goode and murderous matriarch Constance Langdon(the latter being recently revisited for Apocalypse).

While she hasn't made a lot of horror/suspense films, there is one that does evoke some of the deadly diva antics that were perfected on the series. 1998's Hush cast Lange as Martha Baring, a seemingly sweet Southern belle of a mother in law, who slowly but surely terrorizes her pregnant daughter in law Helen(Gyneth Paltrow).

Granted, this isn't a great movie unless you're in the mood for some campy cult fun. Lange earned a Golden Raspberry nomination for her over the top nuances here(including forcing Paltrow to experience natural childbirth in captivity!) yet it's hard to resist a gruesome giggle at her demented diva performance:

KATHY BATES/DOLORES CLAIBORNE: Bates came on board AHS in season three entitled Coven and won an Emmy for her role as resurrected racist Delphine, becoming a main staple of the series as well.

Most people would go straight to her Oscar winning role in Misery but it doesn't really reflect the detailed character development given to her AHS personas such as Freak Show's sorrowful bearded lady or Hotel's manager mother willing to protect her self destructive son at all costs.

For that, I recommend Dolores Claiborne, another Stephen King adaptation that has showcased her talents to perfection. Bates plays the title role of a hard as nails woman accused of killing her longtime employer, which brings her distant daughter Selena(Jennifer Jason Leigh) back into her life.

While the two of them deal with that investigation, the truth about the death of Dolores' abusive husband Joe(David Strathairn) is brought back to vivid life, unleashing a horror that both hoped to be long forgotten. Like most of Bates' roles on AHS, the real fear factor comes from the depths of reality involved in her character's  tragedy:

EMMA ROBERTS/SCREAM 4: Roberts also arrived at AHS in season three as snarky witch with a "b" Madison Montgomery. She came back for very different roles on seasons Freak Show and Cult, along with another Ryan Murphy series, the short lived Scream Queens, and is now back as mouthy Madison once again.

Roberts does very well in ensemble casts, which Scream 4 proves nicely. Here, she plays Sidney's cousin Jill, one of the younger generation being targeted by a new Ghostface killer. This sequel is actually a vast improvement from the horrible third act meant to complete this fear franchise and worth seeing for it's own merits.

However, Roberts gives a grand performance in this one and while I refuse to reveal any spoilers, let's just say that her character is not as innocent as she seems and delivers one hell of a speech towards the end:

TAISSA FARMIGA/THE FINAL GIRLS:  I first saw Farmiga in the Coven season as Zoe, a distraught young woman who found out about her magical abilities the hard way but she was part of the show since Season One,aka Murder House, as distraught daughter Violet.

 Both of those roles have brought her back to AHS this season and while I think we'll see more of Zoe than Violet, a good movie to catch Farmiga at her best as distressed would be The Final Girls. 

She plays Max, the distraught daughter of recently deceased scream queen Amanda, who joins her friends in a horror movie screening of her mom's most infamous slasher film, Camp Bloodbath. Somehow, Max and friends wind up trapped within the movie and have to follow the rules of cinematic survival in order to escape.

It's a bit of a horror comedy but the tone is properly balanced between those genres and Farmiga does have a few solid emotional scenes as Max tries to connect with the fictional version of her mother. The movie is rated PG-13,which dilutes some of the scares yet some might find that a welcome advantage there:

If you still want to catch up with the current AHS season, there's still time to do so and trust me when I say it does take a few twists and turns that you might not expect. For some reason, this season does feel as if it's going to be the last one and while I could be wrong, making AHS: Apocalypse the final take on this strange small screen ride isn't a bad call to make.

Like I said, my notion could be completely incorrect and they may flip the script for a whole new version of the show in the last episode of this season. Either way, American Horror Story is well established as an icon of Halloween TV at it's best,thanks to the talent behind and in front of the screen,especially it's lethal leading ladies:

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Some page turning tricks and treats to savor on my FrightFall journey

At this point, I'm at the half way mark for the FrightFall readathon and to date, my total of finished books is three, with two in mid-read and a couple of others awaiting their turn on the shelf.

The most Halloween themed of the former group is Kiersten White's The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, which takes the classic Mary Shelley tale of reanimation in a whole new direction.

We begin with Elizabeth, a ward of the Frankenstein family, going in search of eldest son Victor with her good friend Justine, the governess to the younger children of the household. It has been months since Victor has written to them and not even mutual childhood friend Henry has been able to get fresh word about how Victor is or the progress of his unusual studies.

Elizabeth is concerned about her position in the Frankenstein home due to his absence; as a young girl, she was brought into the family as a companion to the troubled Victor in order to keep him calm and collected. Now, that they both have grown up and he is able to make his way in the world, she fears being cast out without anywhere else to go.

She is not just motivated by the need for her own security(although that is a pressing concern) but worries about Victor's state of mind and their mutual affection for one another. For years, Elizabeth has known of his dark obsession with the mysteries of life and death and has been lovingly willing to protect him from any of the consequences that pursuit might place at his doorstep:

When she and Justine,with the help of a new friend Mary, do discover Victor's whereabouts, Elizabeth is both relieved and horrified.

Victor is gravely ill but still alive, What is more serious than that, his isolated location conceals some rather grisly experimentation going on there. Elizabeth is able to get him the medical help he needs while shielding her companions from the worst of the horrors inside his secret lab.

She feels more secure after destroying the lab and Victor's notes yet as it turns out, his tinkering brought a monstrous being to life. A wrathful creature that seeks revenge against his creator. Despite being told not to concern herself with any of that, Elizabeth is bound and determined to find the monster and stop him from ruining her future happiness:

Yet, despite her plans, a string of tragic events unfolds and Elizabeth finds to her true horror that things are not as they appear to be, especially when it comes to Victor and his creation. Finding herself trapped in a situation that leaves her very limited options, she decides to make new allies and find a solution that will reveal who the real monster in their midst is.

Keirsten White weaves a new and imaginative narrative from this classic cloth, echoing the themes of the original Frankenstein yet also evoking the feminist writings of Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, as well. At times, her leading lady has the dark complexity of a Gillian Flynn character combined with the Gothic undertones granted to many a heroine of that genre.

It's a compelling read that explores the nature of a destructive co-dependent relationship , the meaning of real love and the role of women during that time period. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is a well layered chiller with plenty of food for thought served up up with style and I highly recommend it indeed:

On the much lighter side, I caught up with the third title in Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness series, Royal Flush.

 Once again, Lady Georgiana Rannoch is called upon to do a little detective work for Queen and country and that duty calls her home to Scotland, where her brother Binky and sister-in-law Fig are being plagued with American guests. One in particular that is most troubling is also seen as a most unwelcome escort for the future king of England, Wallis Simpson.

What is quite distressing is the increasing number of "accidents" that target members of the royal family and an insider among that crowd  is suspected. Georgiana is eager to find the culprit as well as avoid being matched up with the annoying Prince Siegfried and keeping an eye on Darcy O'Mara, the dashing yet impoverished nobleman who may or may not be on Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Each entry in this series grows more and more entertaining, with a good dash of history and mystery given a twist of old fashioned humor. The romance between Georgiana and Darcy has a lovely screwball comedy vibe to it,adding the right note of fictional flavor here:

Speaking of flavor, I took a second bite of the Bakeshop Mystery series by Ellie Alexander and got a good taste of A Batter of Life and Death.

Our culinary heroine Jules Capshaw is given an unexpected opportunity to get both publicity and funds for the family bakery Torte by being a contender on The Pastry Channel's competition series, Take The Cake. Jules also has to host a couple of the contestants,the glitzy Southern belle Linda and vegan baker Nina,at Torte's kitchen as part of the deal, making the contest a little too close for comfort.

Competing for the top cash prize becomes more challenging when fellow competitor and very drunk chef Marco is found dead on the set, face down in a vat of buttercream, by Jules. Her last brush with murder left Jules a bit wary yet she still can't resist looking into the case. Can she find the killer before another contestant is cut for good?

The book and series so far has a really nice sense of place, making the Shakespeare festival driven town of Ashland feel very real and welcoming to the reader as well as Jules. I also like that Jules is a well developed person in her own right, with a solid love of cooking and family, plus her conflicted feelings about where her troubled marriage with cruise ship chef Carlos is heading(along with the potential for revived romance with high school sweetheart Tommy).

A nice bonus here is the whole baking competition concept; as someone who has watched several seasons of such shows on Food Network, this plot line is sinfully sweet and sassy. While the theme is not Halloween, this story has enough sugary scares to truly take the cake for holiday reading fun:

Right now, my FrightFall status has me diving into Agatha Christie's Ordeal by Innocence and the next Her Royal Spyness book, Royal Blood(which sends Georgiana to Transylvania for a possible vampire encounter!). There's also On Thin Icing and The Silent Corner to explore and with any luck, one of the latter will be finished by All Hallow's Eve.

I do hope that everyone else taking part in FrightFall is having a good time with their TBR piles and getting ready for Halloween as well. In my house, we take part in a community trick or treat table for the neighborhood kids and figuring out our costumes is tricky, to say the least.

 I wouldn't mind a book related one but those can be difficult to explain,especially if there isn't a movie version involved. Oh well,  there's still time before the witching hour to make some dress-up magic!:

Friday, October 12, 2018

A library visit adds literary leaves to my FrightFall pile

Well, fall weather seems to be arriving at long last and the cooler days make diving into my reading for the FrightFall readathon all the more inviting.

I'm doing pretty good on that front yet couldn't resist adding on another book to that TBR pile,thanks to my latest library haul. As luck would have it, a copy of Agatha Christie's Ordeal By Innocence was readily available in the mystery section and I had to have it.

The plot deals with Arthur Calgary, a man who discovers far too late that he could provide an alibi for Jacko Argyle, accused of murdering his own adoptive mother. Jacko died in prison and Athur wants to make amends to the Argyle family not only by clearing Jacko's name but also finding the real killer, a task that some of the family may not thank him for.

There's been some buzz about the book lately, due to a new adaptation being aired on Amazon Prime recently. Even though I won't be able to watch that(there are other versions, including a 1985 feature film and an episode of Christie's Marple in 2007), reading a stand alone story by the amazing Agatha Christie should be suitable for seasonal chills there:

Since I happen to be in a Dean Koontz mood, Ashley Bell was also a must-have. The leading lady of this novel is Bibi Blair, a tough as nails kind of gal who is not even fazed when given the diagnosis of a terminal brain tumor.

She's prepared for the fight of her life but a sudden,rather miraculous cure throws Bibi fully off balance. According to a psychic, Bibi's life was spared in order that she protect the unknown Ashley Bell, who she attempts to find in time to repay her debt to the universe,so to speak.

Bibi feels up to the challenge but forces both seen and unseen conspire against her and she may need the help of Paxton Thorpe, her boyfriend who is away on a mission with his SEAL team. Oddly enough, Pax is growing aware of her plight via telepathic messages and is trying to reach Bibi but can the two of them reconnect in time?

It's been a good while since I've read Koontz and yet his blend of suspenseful storytelling with supernatural elements is quite familiar to me. Not completely sure if Ashley Bell will make the FrightFall cut(I do have The Silent Corner to get to first) but it sounds like it's worth a try:

To balance things out, I did pick up something from the non-fiction section. Educated by Tara Westover chronicles the hard scrabble childhood of the author, who grew up in a rural Idaho home with a strict religious father that held his family under his sway with his paranoid rants and determination to avoid any involvement with the government.

Westover and several of her siblings didn't have birth certificates for many years and no formal education due to the "keep off the Grid" philosophy of her father while her mother was forced into midwifery and home remedies not only to make money but to tend to the various injuries and illnesses that came from assisting their father in his junkyard salvaging work.

Westover details her slowly but surely escape into the wider world and the challenges that she dealt with there as well, experiencing a good deal of culture shock along the way. This memoir has had it's share of praise and censure, with some of her family disputing her version of certain events.

To be fair, Westover does admit to not being completely sure about how some things went down and includes differing accounts from her relatives at times, which is rather honest and gives credence to her side of the story,if you ask me. So far, the book is sadly compelling and beautifully written, a true "hard to put down" tale of an independent life that was hard won, to say the least:

At this point in my FrightFall reading, I have finished one book(Royal Flush) and close to completing two more hopefully by the end of this weekend. Sure, throwing a couple of library books into this mix does amp up the volume but this is a reading challenge after all, emphasis on challenge!

I'm so happy to have library book options and this last visit was extra fun, as my younger sister joined me. There was an interesting reversal of roles, with me being the one waiting for her to finish up browsing for books, something that I've often done to others at any literary location. She did take out two books(one of which was poetry) and it was nice to share this time with her. It was also nice for me not to be the Rory Gilmore for once!:

Monday, October 08, 2018

My Series-ous Reading serves up a Blueberry Muffin Murder as a bookish breakfast treat

In this new batch of Series-ous Reading that I'm doing for the remainder of the year, I get to sample more of Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen mystery stories with a culinary twist(and recipes to boot).

In her third go-around, Hannah finds a Blueberry Muffin Murder almost on the doorstep of her small town bakery in Minnesota called The Cookie Jar. Actually, she discovers the victim in the walk-in freezer who was tasting one of the title goodies just before her demise.

That unfortunate soul is Connie Mac, a celebrity chef/homestyle guru who comes to Lake Eden not only to take part in the local Winter Festival,arranged to bolster late winter spirits as well as revenues, but to do a signing for her new cookbook and attend the grand opening of one of her retail boutiques as well.

Connie is also bringing a special cake for the town banquet that gets damaged en route,so Hannah agrees to let her use The Cookie Jar's kitchen to make a new one. Hannah is usually happy to help out in town events but the more she sees of Connie, the less she likes her. Despite her sweet and sunny manner in public, Connie's attitude can turn downright vicious in private,especially towards her staff:

Even though Connie was a living terror, Hannah is still distressed by her murder and eager to solve the case, particularly since The Cookie Jar is shut down due to being an active crime scene.

Plenty of folks already expect her to find the killer and are willing to help Hannah out(not to mention give her some kitchen space to fill the shop orders for the festival). Even her younger sister Andrea turns out to be very useful with her realtor connections and natural charm.

However, one person who doesn't want Hannah on this case is Mike, her police detective would-be suitor. Mike acknowledges that she's good at this yet is concerned for her safety. Granted, a bit of jealousy about his rival in romance, dentist Norman, plays a part here as Mike tells Hannah that Norman may be a serious suspect in Connie Mac's death:

That suggestion about Norman encourages Hannah to look further into the case and by the time another body is found, Norman is no longer on that list of suspects. Yet, that doesn't narrow things down as Connie Mac made too many enemies along her way to fame.

Hannah also uncovers a secret or two during her search but those revelations may not be the answers that she's looking for. Can she find the killer before a fresh slice of death is served?

I do enjoy this series,as it's as comfortably inviting as a warm plate of homemade muffins on a cold winter's night. Hannah's small town world is engaging and authentic plus the relationship with her sister Andrea develops well, growing from more than a half baked sibling rivalry to at times a real meeting of the minds between them as they work together on the case.

A favorite motif of mine in this book is how much detective work gets done at local eateries, with Andrea having the need to take major meal breaks all the time while steadily denying that she's pregnant(spoiler alert; she is). Those food stops do give both ladies a chance to review their findings and make some conclusions while sharing a plate of fries(or in Andrea's case, stealing most of them from her sister):

The books in this series are fun and yes, tasty reads,especially during stressful times such as the one we're all going through right now. To be sure, a foodie mystery may not be your preferred style of mental relaxation but I do recommend finding a thumping good read of any genre as a source of self care in the harrowing days to come.

Meanwhile, my next Series-ous Reading selection is another Hannah Swensen story, Lemon Meringue Pie Murder. Since I'm in the midst of a readathon right now, this sinister sweet slice of pie will have to wait until November(which is more of a pie month, if you ask me).

 No doubt that this book will be as delicious as anything that British Baking Show judge Mary Berry can whip up in a flash with a dash of clever sweetness,just like Hannah herself:

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Looking for some Halloween thrills at the Movie Trailer Park

One sure sign that Halloween season is upon us is the arrival of suitably scary movies at our local multiplex. Granted, these days truth is scarier than fiction but that's all the more reason to enjoy a cinematic fear fest with some fresh popcorn on hand.

The most iconic movie for this time of year is John Carpenter's Halloween and yes, Virginia, we are getting a new film with that very name. Directing this particular Halloween is David Gordon Green(who co-wrote the script with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley) and his take on this classic slasher is to recapture the spirit of the original.

In order to achieve that goal, this film ignores all of the prior sequels(including the ones with Jamie Lee Curtis) and sets itself 40 years after the infamous Haddonfield slaughter spree. Reprising the role of Laurie is Jamie Lee Curtis, whose family finds her way too cautious on Halloween night yet as it turns out, her decades long preparations for the return of Michael Myers were not in vain.

Reinvention is nothing new to this series, with the latest attempts by Rob Zombie getting a rather mixed treat bag of reviews from critics and audiences alike. However, the people behind this revamp do seem sincere about their love of old school scares, so it might be worth checking out there:

Already out in theaters is Hell Fest, starring Amy Forsyth as Natalie, one of a group of friends eager to visit a horror theme park that starts up around October. During their tour of the attractions, a death takes place that at first, all of them think is just a part of the show but soon turns out to be all too real.

As they are stalked by the mysterious Other through out the night, no one who officially works there is willing to believe them. One by one, Natalie's companions are hunted down and it becomes clear to her that she is the only one who can stop the Other before the night is truly over for them all.

While this movie hasn't gotten the best reviews(it did manage to make the box office top ten this past weekend), word of mouth has been pretty good and this might be a spooky sleeper in the making:

However, if you're looking for something a bit more kid friendly, then Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween should be your best bet in that department.

Jack Black does return as horror writer R.L. Stine but the main focus of the plot appears to be about two young friends, Sonny and Sam(played by Jeremy Ray Taylor and Caleel Harris) who go into Stine's abandoned residence and find a certain book that shouldn't be opened.

Once the boys realized that they have unleashed sinister living dummy Slappy,who plans to create a permanent Halloween on Earth with the help of some of his bad to the bone buddies, they seek out Stine to save the day. They wind up doing battle with those forces of evil as well, with Sonny's sister Sarah(Madison Iseman) tagging along for the fright fight there.

While I haven't seen the first movie, I'm sure that won't be necessary for anyone to enjoy this. This does sound like a Hocus Pocus/Monster Squad type of film where the pre-teen set get to be the heroes in a monster mash realm, so this might be a treat for kids of all ages(for a matinee at the very least):

No doubt, there will be a couple of other fear flicks coming out just in time for Halloween movie going and you can always catch a good scary movie on TV or online as well. True, you don't have to wait until October to chill out with a horror film but it is a fun tradition to uphold.

Speaking of waiting, that new remake of Suspiria is receiving a limited release on Oct.26 with a wider one set for early November. Sounds like a missed opportunity to me yet the original version is still available for true All Hallow's Eve viewing parties,only you might want to eat before the movie starts(you have been warned!):