Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, November 26, 2018

The LRG List of Best Books I've Read in 2018

With Thanksgiving over and the big winter holidays yet to come all too quickly, it is time to reflect over what this year has brought us,pop culture wise, and give an assess of the best.

Plenty of people have already put out their "Best of..." lists by now but I felt this was the proper in-between time to get my selection of top books for 2018.

While there is still a good amount of the year left to catch up with some of the bigger titles out there(Madeline Miller's Circe is on that particular TBR for me!), this is a good rundown of some of the top novels that I've enjoyed getting to know here:

Science Fiction/Fantasy Double Feature

CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE: Tomi Adeyemi's debut YA novel introduces us to a whole new world of magic with Zelie, daughter of a diviner whose powers(along with the rest of her people) have been striped away due to the mystical edict of a vicious king.

When Zelie is given the chance to reclaim their magic,with the help of a runaway princess, she takes every opportunity and risk placed in her path to do so, finding new friends and unlikely allies along the way. Some of those risks are personal, including an unexpected romance that changes and challenges both her and the enemy in pursuit.

Children of Blood and Bone is the first in a trilogy, with Book Two intended to be released next spring. I know that I won't be the only one eagerly awaiting that second volume as well as more wonderful works of words from this author in the near future:

RED CLOCKS: In this all-too-real futuristic tale from Leni Zumas, America has passed a "Personhood Amendment", which bans any and all abortions along with in vitro fertilization. The border to Canada,where these laws are not enforced, is heavily restricted and guarded to women wanting reproductive freedom,especially teenage girls.

Among the four female characters in this story are a young woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy and fearful of the consequences in either direction, a high school teacher working on a lengthy biography hoping to become a single mother before the law fully kicks in and a reclusive healer being persecuted unjustly for only doing what was right.

The story lines are firmly grounded in character development, giving the plight of each woman a haunting depth that makes the reality of her particular situation very heartfelt and chilling to grasp. It's a subtle novel that offers food for thought and emotional costs to value as well.


THE GIRLS IN THE PICTURE: Author Melanie Benjamin showcases the early days of Hollywood through the eyes of two of it's most influential leading ladies both on screen and behind the camera.

Frances Marion intended to become an actress but quickly realized that her talents were best applied as a screenwriter, especially for rising star Mary Pickford. While both of them managed to achieve a bit of fame and fortune despite the limitations placed on women in the industry, their true struggle was to remain friends when certain life choices came between them.

Evoking old school glamour and serving up solid character driven drama, this fictional take on what Hollywood does to those ladies who dare feels very authentic and relevant to this day and age. At it's best, TGITP gives you an idea of what smart and savvy women collaborating on artistic excellence back in the day was like:

THE BAR HARBOR RETIREMENT HOME FOR FAMOUS WRITERS(AND THEIR MUSES): Debut author Terri-Lynne DeFino's look at this special last stop retreat for literary artists and it's residents is a real charmer in the best sense of the term.

When renowned author Alphonse Carducci takes his place among his former contemporaries and feels lost in more ways than one, contact with Cecibel, one of his caretakers, revives his writing spirits. He then secretly starts a novel that is quietly shared with his fellow writers(and one editor) all with the intent of pleasing only one reader.

As Alphonse gains a sense of purpose in the twilight of his life, Cecibel learns to overcome her own personal demons, which have left a mark not just on her face but her soul to boot. To top it all off, we get to read the work in progress and it's quite the thumping good read on it's own there.  If you haven't come across this enchanting novel, do so post haste! It's like listening to a beautiful melody tinged with emotional experience and fresh beginnings all at once:


THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL: Award winning mystery writer Sujata Massey introduces readers new and old to a vibrant new sleuth in 1920s India.

Perveen Mistry has the distinction of being the first female attorney in Bombay and the good fortune to be working at her family's law firm. When a case involving a trio of secluded widows arrives at the office, Perveen is sent out to talk to the ladies regarding their husband's will.

What seems to be a simple case of mismanagement turns to murder as the dubious trustee of the estate is found dead while Perveen is still on the premises. Other complications arise that force her to find the killer before it's late as well as deal with a menace from her own past that threatens her present day life.

This is the first time that I've read Massey and it certainly won't be the last. A second book featuring Perveen is due out early next year and it's so good to get in on the ground floor of a wonderful new mystery series in the making.

THE WEDDING DATE: In this lively modern day romance by Jasmine Guillory, a meet-cute turns out to be rather meaningful.

Strictly by chance, Drew and Alexa find themselves trapped in a hotel elevator with some tasty snacks and shared style of witty banter. As sparks begin to fly, Drew asks a huge favor of Alexa; to be the plus-one at the wedding of an ex-girlfriend that he's attending that weekend.

After that wedding party is over and done, they start up a real relationship which proves to be tricky due to long distance(for work related reasons) and being an interracial connection as well. Will love conquer all or was this only meant to be for just a little while?

Guillory brings a good sense of humor and charm to this engaging story that doesn't skimp on the sexy yet offers plenty of heart to the bond between the leads. She already has a new book out(The Proposal) and that will be a must-read for me in 2019 indeed. Finding a good romance novel can be as sweet as finding a first love and those in love with reading will appreciate the arrival of a fellow book lover turned writer in our midst such as her:

I know that it's been a trying year for so many reasons and there are those who think that focusing on reading may truly be a trivial pursuit in times like this. However, books and reading are what sustains people during such challenges, giving hope,guidance and a much needed moment of relief in order to let our weary spirits rest and revive.

Let us thank all of the writers out there for providing this most valuable emotional resource and cheer them on in the new year to come. Hopefully, more good books and less bad times lie ahead for us all:

Monday, November 19, 2018

My Series-ous Reading slices up a piece of Lemon Meringue Pie Murder

I was very happy to have finished up the next to last selection in my Series-ous Reading challenge, especially before the holiday readathon I signed up for got started(more on that in a moment).

Speaking of holiday, Joanne Fluke's Lemon Meringue Pie Murder does take place around a special summer occasion, the Fourth of July, where everyone in the town of Lake Eden is planning a big parade that baker Hannah Swensen will actually have a float representing The Cookie Jar in for the first time.

Her sister Andrea takes charge of the float(needing to keep busy during her pregnancy), which helps take a load off of Hannah, who is making tons of cookies for various events as well as working on the murder of Rhonda Scharf, who died in the house that Hannah's occasional beau Norman just bought!

 At one point, Andrea did want to make a red,white and blue Jell-o mold cake but couldn't find all of the right colors, which relieved Hannah greatly. Turns out that her younger sister is much better at schmoozing with folks while making her real estate deals than anything of a culinary nature:

As for the murder, for once Hannah was not the one to discover the body. That dubious honor fell to her mother who had accompanied her and Norman to the house in search of items to sell at her antique business.

One of Hannah's lemon meringue pies was found in the kitchen and appeared to had been left out long enough to attract ants, leading her to an unexpected clue in Rhonda's trash.

Norman had bought the house from Rhonda, who was planning to take a well earned vacation but wound up taking the long one that you don't come back from! The only good thing about Hannah's intrusive mother being on the scene is that she doesn't disapprove of her daughter looking into the case this time. Granted, her mom wanted to be the lead detective but quickly handed that job over to her eldest girl in order to concentrate on other things, like urging Hannah to marry Norman.

Meanwhile, we get to meet Hannah's youngest sister Michelle in this story, arriving home from college for the holiday summer fun.

Hannah does act very mother hen around her little sis, to the point of nearly freaking out big time over what turn out to be temporary body embellishments(fake tattoo and mouth fixture with gemstones).

As an older sister myself, I totally understand the protective urge regarding younger siblings there but Hannah did need to chill out a little. While Michelle is way more mellow than either of her sisters, she does have her feet on the ground when it counts:

While Hannah did find Rhonda's killer in the end, I was able to solve a more pressing mystery here and that was which love interest should I be rooting for, Norman or Mike?

For most of the series, Hannah is torn between sweet natured dentist Norman(who her mom prefers) and police detective Mike(who Andrea likes, due to her own husband being a cop). I know that many of the long time readers of the books have gotten frustrated over Hannah's romantic indecision but for me, the choice has been made clear and it's Team Norman all the way.

I can see both the pros and cons of either guy but it was a certain plot point in this book that helped me figure out who I'd like to see Hannah end up with. At the beginning of the story, Hannah decides to go on a diet,due to not fitting into a pair of new pants(turned out to be a shopping mix-up with Andrea) as well as perhaps encouraging one of her suitors to make a more romantic move.

I'm so not a fan of women feeling the need to lose weight for the latter reason but in this case, I was willing to put that aside in order to find out if either Mike or Norman would take a moment to tell Hannah "I think you're fine just the way you are."

 At one point, it's Norman who does make that type of statement and despite his building a house that is based on a design both he and Hannah dreamed up that naturally leads to most folks(and her mother) in town thinking they're going to get married soon, Norman wins in the truly good guy department.

Yes, Mike is sexy and charming but he doesn't even mention the drastic change in Hannah's eating habits(she switches over to salads and small portions rather quickly),which an alert detective should  make a polite observation of at least once, don't you think? Sure, Mike gives her plenty of push back that helps her solve those unofficial cases but Norman is not a doormat at all.  Instead, he's very supportive of Hannah in all of her endeavors and has a good sense of humor to boot

As I continue with the series, that may change but for now, Norman is the man I'm rooting for. Being patient with Hannah on this front is fine with me:

With the Christmas Spirit readathon from Seasons of Reading under way today until December 2, I will be encountering Hannah and company again with Sugar Cookie Murder soon.

For now, I'm starting things off with Rhys Bowen's The Twelve Clues of Christmas and if all goes as planned, will end with As The Christmas Cookie Crumbles by Leslie Budewitz. It's a short but sweet murder mystery ride to jump start my holiday cheer.

To complete my Series-ous Reading for the year, December will have me visiting Poldark country with The Black Moon, where Morwenna Chynoweth is first introduced and her troubled romance with Drake Carne shall begin. With the current TV show finished up for the year(and next season to be the last), this will be a fine way to revisit Cornwall indeed:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Feasting on some Thanksgiving follies with Friends

A week from today, Thanksgiving will be upon us with folks gathering together to eat and engage with one another. Hopefully, the worst argument that day will be over what to watch on TV;football or Macy's parade? (I vote parade!)

One thing that most people do agree on in that category are Thanksgiving episodes from the nineties classic sitcom Friends. While some are better than others, those hilarious holiday get togethers could always be counted on to serve up the laughs.

To get into the Turkey Day mood, I have assembled a merry meal of Friends clips that should whet your comedy appetite and perhaps inspire a little binge watching before the big day:

TURKEY TIME WITH JOEY: When comes to an appreciative dinner guest for Thanksgiving, Joey Tribbini is your man. He's ready to start chowing down, wearing his good turkey pants and reliable for cleaning his plate more than once.

However, his prankster whims sometimes clash with meal time as the one where Joey put a whole turkey on his head in order to scare Chandler. The only person he really terrified was Monica, who wanted to get that bird in the oven without Joey's head being the stuffing:

POTATO PARTY: Speaking of Monica, you have to give the poor gal her due here. While she may be very controlling and set in her ways about most things, she is always the one doing the cooking on Thanksgiving and even chefs like her would like a little time off on that particular occasion!

The first year that Monica started making Thanksgiving dinner for everyone, she was given not one, not two but three different requests for different preparations of potatoes! Personally, I feel that lumpy mashed potatoes are the worst(not sorry,Ross!) and tater tots are fine but I have to draw the line at adding peas and onions(sorry,Phoebe):

 PRECIOUS PLATES: When it comes to the time that Monica was asked to use her good wedding gift plates on Thanksgiving, I'm kind of with Chandler on that one. What good are dishes that you're never going to put out for the purpose they were intended for?

However, I can completely understand Monica's concern over using them for the first time with this bunch. While giving Joey a "special" plate at dinner was a good move, clearing those delicate plates before Rachel and her sister went at it was quite the thrill ride indeed:

SWEETS TO THE NOT SO SWEET: To be fair, there was that one where Rachel helped out in the kitchen on Thanksgiving to try her hand at making an English trifle for dessert.

Unfortunately, that after dinner treat was memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Due to a mix-up with the cookbook she was using, Rachel did a mash-up between two staples of English cusine. a trifle and a shepard's pie.

That combo is something that not even the hardiest contender on Chopped would attempt. However, at least the guests assembled did their best not to hurt her feelings and one of them did actually like it(Joey, of course!):

Many feel that these Thanksgiving episodes of Friends lead to the modern day tradition of Friendsgiving(although that actual term wasn't in regular use until 2007, long after the show was over and done with). Regardless of that, it's hard to deny that these yearly riffs on celebrating the holiday in a non traditional way did possibly assist in making that concept a bit more mainstream.

Whether or not Friends can be seen as the root of Friendsgiving doesn't really matter. The whole point of both of those annual events is that Thanksgiving is a holiday to be shared with those you love, friend or family(by choice as well as by blood). It's not important what you eat, where you're at or who is at the table-what counts is being thankful for being together. That's a lesson we all need to learn and/or relearn these days with the help of our mutual Friends:

Monday, November 12, 2018

Thankful for some tasty reads served up at the library

Sometimes, finding a good book can be like discovering a prize at the bottom of your favorite cereal box; it can be completely unexpected and a welcome delight indeed.

I made an unexpected trip to the library late last week, in the interest of helping my sister(she needed some books returned), and naturally, I couldn't resist having a bit of a browse while I was there. After all, I had returned a couple of books myself and probably won't be back until some time after Thanksgiving.

Nothing was catching my eye at first but then I decided to check out a certain display set up at the end of a section of shelves. This particular spot at my library has become a regular place for books connected by a mutual theme to be showcased and sure enough, a sign overhead announced "With a dash of mystery".

There was a combination of cookbooks and foodie mysteries arranged there, the latter whetting my literary appetite right away with the title Diners,Drive-ins and Death. It's the third book in Christine Wenger's Comfort Food Mystery series, set in the upstate New York town of Sandy Harbor.

Our culinary sleuth is Trixie Matkowski, who owns the Silver Bullet Diner, an old school fifties type of eatery and as the story begins, she's being consulted by her elaborately dressed best friend Antoinette Chloe Brown,aka ACB, about the land next to the diner being used to build an old fashioned drive-in movie theater.

Trixie is happy to support her friend in this enterprise, mainly to help ACB stop worrying about the disappearance of her new boyfriend Nick, who happens to be her former brother-in-law due to her ex-husband Sal being in prison for trying to kill her and Trixie. During the ground breaking for the drive-in however, Nick's body is discovered and not only is that messy can of worms reopened, the heat is on for ACB as a possible suspect in the case.

While this is the first time I've ever read this series(and in the middle of it, no less), Wenger does make it easy to catch up with the characters and their backstories, not to mention the quirky nature of the town itself. In addition to solving a murder, Trixie also has to help house contestants for the local Miss Salmon pageant,which has a special musical number being planned with a salute to spawning fish(this brings Miss Patty's School of Dance moments from Gilmore Girls gleefully back to life).

So far, I am enjoying this book and while Guy Fieri doesn't play a role here, I have a feeling that if he stopped by the Silver Bullet, his time would be well spent and he'd be well fed to boot:

I wound up getting three more books from the display(don't worry, there were a few left for others to borrow) and all of them are from the same series entitled A Food Lovers' Village Mystery.

Crime Rib by Leslie Budewitz is the second entree in this series where Erin Murphy has a gourmet food market called the Glacier Mercantile(also called The Merc) in the Montana town of Jewel Bay.

When a popular food TV show arrives to highlight Jewel Bay's culinary community, Erin arranges for a steak cook-off to be held at The Merc, featuring three of the best grill masters in town. Unfortunately, one of the contenders is iced before the competition and it's up to Erin to smoke out the killer before more than one fire is put out for good.

I love the whole notion of calling Erin's establishment "The Merc" because it reminds me of Food Network's Pioneer Woman,Ree Drummond, who runs a similar place in her Oklahoma small town. That homey feeling I always get from watching an episode of TPW should blend in nicely with such a savory mystery series like this:

I had to have book three in the series not just for the perfectly punny title but the movie theater cover art as well. Butter Off Dead has Erin trying to drum up some off season business for Jewel Bay by arranging a local film festival.

With the foodie film theme, she and local painter Christine are right on track but when Erin's partner in planning is found dead, more than one complication arises. The suspicious leading man in this murder is Nick, who happens to be Erin's brother and was Christine's boyfriend, quite the deadly double feature.

As she works to clear her sibling's name, Erin hopes that the film festival goes off without a hitch but by the time the first reel is being shown, she may have to worry about the end credits rolling on her own life story. Really love the film festival focus here and if the movies selected for this showcase are better than the ones shown in Stars Hollow(Gilmore Girls keep coming to mind, can't help it!), it should be a good night to remember:

The last Leslie Budewitz mystery I picked up that day is a little further ahead in the series but it's very suitable for an upcoming readathon. Along with  Joanne Fluke's Sugar Cookie Murder and The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen, I plan to read As The Christmas Cookie Crumbles for the Christmas Spirit readathon held by Seasons of Reading later this month.

As Erin is planning her own holiday wedding, a returning member of a prominent  hometown family has a true silent night, deadly night encounter that needs solving. Merrily Thornton seemed to have changed her criminal ways but what appeared to be a fallback into her former embezzling habits may have been a frame job of the fatal kind.

I'll do my best to read one of the earlier books before this one, in order to get a feel for Erin Murphy's food lover life and times, but I'm sure that this will be a real sinister sweet treat to nibble page by page here:

The Christmas Spirit readathon starts on November 19 and runs until December 2, so check in with Seasons of Reading if you want to join in. As for me, I am pleased to have gathered up a nice pile of foodie mysteries to make this Thanksgiving a feast for mind and body alike.

I do feel a tad guilty for liking this genre so much lately but then again, why should I? Such harmless fun is hard to find in times as troubling as these and the authors who labor over these seemingly light hearted mysteries are truly talented with a good knack for developing strong flavorful characters, something that any reader truly loves in any category.

So, instead of such needless remorse, I intend to be thankful for having such wonderful books to read and recommend. Books do provide true comfort and inspiration just when we need them the most with the additional blessing of having a local library around to assist us in finding that perfect tasty read that really hits the spot:

Monday, November 05, 2018

Some literary odds and ends for my future reading basket

As most lifelong readers know, one pile of books is never enough to stave off the chances of having nothing to read. While it is true that clearing a shelf or two is good home library keeping, eventually that empty space gets filled up yet again(a vicious circle, in the best sense of the term).

This past weekend, I went to a local church sale and managed to find a couple of books that were definitely worth having. One of them is Razor Girl by Carl Hiassen, where a batch of offbeat characters crisscross in bizarre ways, causing a merry spree of chaos in their wake.

For talent agent Lane Coolman, being mistakenly kidnapped by the mystery bikini clad woman who rammed into his car is a mixed blessing. While it's no fun trying to escape your confused captors, it's better than dealing with the media mess that his biggest reality star client,Buck Nance, has made due to not having Coolman on hand to make sure that a major interview doesn't go off track.

Meanwhile, Merry Mansfield,the car kidnapper, is in trouble with the mob for snatching the wrong guy and a former police detective turned health inspector named Andrew Yancy believes that solving a past crime of Merry's will give him his badge back. Yes, this does sound complicated but Hiaasen has quite the knack for making wacky people and situations work well together and it should be fun to check out this latest adventure ride:

While I have read Hiaasen before, the other book that I picked up at the sale is the third one by an author that I keep meaning to read and still haven't yet.

Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage follows the title leading man on a quest for understanding as the quartet of childhood friends he's known for years choose to suddenly cut off all contact with him.

Years later Tsukuru is a successful architect, using that abrupt rejection as inspiration for his best work. However, he continues to be haunted by that unexpected group decision and on the advice of his girlfriend, reaches out to those former friends to find out what went wrong and was it all his fault in the first place?

Murakami is known taking usual turns with his stories, adding in very surreal touches that enhance both the characters on the page and the reader turning those pages. I tried to read one of his bigger books first (IQ84) but didn't get too far with it. Perhaps I should start with something smaller in scope such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle(which I do have) but glad to have this intriguing novel on hand as well:

 The week before the sale, I had to return a library book and was pleased with only borrowing one title on that occasion(particularly since I have three other library loans at home!).

The reason that I even took out Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore is due to having won her newest book,The Secret of the Irish Castle, from Library Thing. The latter happens to be the third in a trilogy known as Deverill Chronicles and since I hadn't the first two books, I thought that this might be a book that was destined to be donated unread.

As fate would have it, I stumbled across book two(Daughters) on that quick trip to the library and there's plenty of references to the first book,The Girl in the Castle, to catch me right up. The Deverill family have owned their lands for years yet due to a curse, ghosts of the previous owners are still walking the grounds.

Some of those spirits are willing to aid the living, such as Kitty, who has adopted her half brother with her devoted husband Robert yet longs to run off to America with longtime love Jack O'Leary. Also, Kitty's ditzy cousin Celia now owns the family castle,which was damaged in a fire, and has grand ideas about restoring the estate to it's former glory. To round out this trio, Bridie has returned from New York with the hopes of reclaiming her son yet soon learns that her wishes might be better off not granted.

So far, Daughters of Ireland is an enjoyable romp and best described(as I heard in an interview) as "Maeve Binchy meets Downton Abbey." Glad I gave it a chance and if it wasn't for getting the third book, I wouldn't have given this one a second glance. Thankfully, the literary muses had other plans for my TBR.

In between both of those book acquiring bouts, a trio of paperbacks that I ordered online arrived in the mail. Yes, there is no rest for the weary when it comes to book buying!

Along with Agatha Christie's Crooked House and a Bakeshop Mystery from Ellie Alexander(Fudge and Jury),another  Joanne Fluke Hannah Swensen mystery was added to that particular growing TBR. 

Cherry Cheesecake Murder has Hannah making the title treat for a movie director new to Lake Eden, making his latest flick locally while eyeing many of the local ladies to boot. When a deadly accident with a prop gun takes him out of the picture, Hannah is ready to solve the case and whip up a fresh batch of cookies to chill out any concerns about her well being to her loved ones.

It'll be a few more books before I get to this one-at the moment I'm reading Lemon Meringue Pie Murder as part of my Series-ous Reading gig-but I am looking forward to the whole" Hollywood in a small town" set-up for this story. It's a tasty trope that I can't resist:

My TRB plate is certainly full at the moment but no doubt, room will be made for more bookish delights as time goes on. A never ending supply of books is a dream that many readers want to come true but can it be a nightmare as well?  Nah, of course not!:

Friday, November 02, 2018

My FrightFall finale for 2018

My Halloween was a happy one for many reasons, one of which was finishing up a book for the FrightFall readathon, hosted by Michelle Miller at Seasons of Reading. In fact, this was one of my better readathon achievements to date, completing six out of the seven books that I had chosen for this challenge.

In the final three(I wrote about the others in an earlier post), one of them happened to be a last minute selection, thanks to a nice little visit to the library. Agatha Christie's Ordeal by Innocence is a stand alone story with none of that good lady's regular detectives around to solve the case,although I do believe this story was adapted into a recent Miss Marple series.

The leading man of this story is Arthur Calgary, who learns to his horror that he was the alibi for a young man accused of murdering his adoptive mother, Jacko Argyle, who died in prison. Arthur is able to inform the authorities and then the surviving family but much to his surprise, Jacko's relatives are less than thrilled with the news of his innocence.

As it turns out, Jacko was quite the obvious suspect and known troublemaker in a family made up mostly of children adopted by the seemingly goodhearted Rachel Argyle. His conviction allowed the rest of the remaining Argyles to get on with their lives, including widower Leo who is making plans to remarry. Arthur's revelation stirs up a lot of old resentments and creates new suspicions about who the killer truly is:

Arthur,along with the police and an insider among the Argyles, decides to find out who the murderer is, feeling highly responsible for his inadvertent part in this familial tragedy. Answers are eventually discovered, with the lives of the whole Argyle family changed forever.

OBI is quite the riveting read, the kind of book that you have to force yourself to stop reading in order to go to bed long after midnight. The variety of suspects and their growing doubts about each other do make for a vicious round robin effect here.

While there is racially insensitive language about one of the characters(Tina, a biracial young woman also adopted by Rachel), it is sadly true to the time period and that particular person is otherwise well portrayed, despite the assumptions of those around her.  Apart from this off putting element, the book is sharply well written and quite the tension packed thriller.

This is the second stand alone Christie that I've read(And Then There Were None was the first) and it has inspired me to try another,Crooked House. That book was recently adapted into a major motion picture and the screenplay was partly written by Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes. While that movie sounds like fun, I think that I'll try the novel first, making such a devious delight last as long as possible:

On the somewhat lighter side, I was pleased to be able to indulge in Royal Blood, the fourth entry in Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness series. While Lady Georgiana may only be 34th in line to the British throne, that does not exempt her from doing her noble duty by king and country,so when asked to attend a wedding in Transylvania, it's more of a command than a question.

Georgiana was invited specifically due to having been a boarding school classmate of the intended bride, Princess Maria Theresa, who wants her as a bridesmaid.

 While she is willing to spend some time abroad, complications arise such as running into the dashing Darcy O'Mara(along with the unwelcome attentions of Prince Siegfried), the poisoning of a rather obnoxious wedding guest and a random late night encounter with a possible vampire.

Like the previous titles in this series, there is a good blend of old fashioned screwball comedy and romance, with a touch of mystery and a splash of political intrigue. One of the best things about this book is Queenie, the inept maid that Georgiana winds up hiring. She's a good natured gal who may not know how to iron a fancy dress without scorching it but does manage to stick by her employer when a mysterious man is lurking about the castle they're visiting.

Yes, the vampire notion does turn out to be a bogus one but it's still amusingly done. I wonder if there's a series with a pre-WWII vampire hanging about high society solving crimes-that would be a real kick indeed! In the meanwhile, I look forward to more of Her Royal Spyness(with Queenie in tow) and who knows, maybe another supernatural storyline in the near future:

Last yet far from least, I finished up On Thin Icing by Ellie Alexander on Halloween morning. It's the third of the author's Bakeshop Mystery series that is set in and about the town of Ashland,Oregon, which is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Juliet,aka Jules, Capshaw is happy to be back in her hometown helping her mom and their vibrant young staff make the family bakery Torte a roaring success. However, the chance to do a little off-season catering at a resort for the OSF board members is hard to resist, given the need for more money to renovate Torte's kitchen.

The actual cooking over the weekend goes well for the most part(the high altitude of the resort location causes a few baking problems) but two major events serve to shake Jules up much more; the arrival of her estranged husband Carlos and the murder of local bartender Tony. With a sudden snowstorm keeping everyone in place as well as making it difficult for the police to show up, the list of suspects is mighty short and so not sweet.

Jules is quite the engaging heroine and I really enjoy the time taken to develop certain relationships such as her mentoring of new culinary apprentice Sterling and more backstory about her romance with Carlos, who is too much of a charmer for my taste. Not spoiling anything but his explanation of why he didn't tell Jules a certain secret is serious weak sauce there!

Anyway, this was a good solid story and yes, I have the next two books in the series(Caught Bread Handed, Fudge and Jury-these tasty titles are punningly delicious!) to read later on. Ashland sounds like a great place to be and thanks to Jules, I will be seeing more of it on the page very soon:

My thanks to Michelle Miller for another wonderful holiday themed readathon and I hope that all who joined in for the reading fun had a good time. There is a Christmas readathon being planned for late November/early December and I might take part in that as I actually have two new books for that occasion(yes, one of them is a foodie mystery)!

What really made this FrightFall special was having my holiday spirits revived, especially with all of the real life terrors making horrifying headlines these days.  Even though facts are becoming scarier than fiction lately, there was good ghoulish entertainment to be had with my Halloween reading here. By this time next year, it may be easier to embrace the nightmare ride of the season and let us all have a grand literary dance party together then: