Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, February 01, 2019

Wrapping up a thrilling Winter's Respite of reading

With today being February 1st, that marks the official end of Seasons of Reading's first big readathon of the year known as Winter's Respite. 

Overall, I did pretty well despite replacing one of my intended reads with another. That last minute choice was a real winner as Kiersten White's Slayer brought back those delightful memories of watching new episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This YA novel is set well after Season 7 and dovetails with an event in the BTVS comics where Buffy had to destroy the Seed of Wonder,the source of all magic in our world. As that fateful act occurred, the last Slayer was chosen and she happens to be the daughter of two Watchers.

Nina(short for Athena) is also a twin and while her sister Artemis trains to be an active Watcher, Nina is fine with her role as a Healer. They are living with what remains of the Watchers Council in a transported castle in Ireland,wondering what the future holds for their ancient legacy as the majority of Slayers out there(including the elusive Buffy) have no need for them.

When a hellhound attacks their compound, Nina's powers emerge and to say that she is less than thrilled is an understatement. She has no love for Slayers, especially Buffy, and Artemis is shocked that she wasn't the one tapped for this honor. Things get more complicated when their stern mother shows up, along with a mother and son Watcher team that Nina has a complicated relationship with.

As Nina ventures outside the protective zone that her family and friends have arranged for her, she discovers that not all demons are evil,that the powers granted to her are both a blessing and a burden and that people can not be easily judged. She even gets to the point where her long running resentment towards Buffy(who only appears in shared dream experiences) simmers down and Nina starts to understand why the break between Slayers and Watchers came about:

White really recreates the vibe of the original series while adding a few new twists of her own(you have to love a bright yellow happiness demon who's a huge Coldplay fan). The emotional hurdles that Nina faces with determination and a sense of humor make her a suitable Slayer as well as a very relatable teenage girl.

For new fans and older ones, Slayer is a fresh new start to this series and is the first of a trilogy, which is a nice bonus to boot! I do like getting an inside look at the Watchers and a few inside jokes along the way are fun.

.My edition of this book came with a short story featuring Faith,that other outsider of a Slayer,which had a few hints of things to come. I hope that either Faith or Buffy appear directly in the next couple of books as two Slayers are always better than one in facing off challenges from without and within:

Around the same time, I finished The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie which is one of her Hercule Poirot stories.

Here, Poirot is being taunted by a killer who sends him warning of his intended crimes and leaves a gruesome calling card at each scene; a copy of the ABC railway guide that also brings him to each victim in alphabetical order.

Not only is Poirot working with the authorities, he also has the aid and support of Arthur Hastings, an old friend eager to stop this rash of murders before the body count grows higher.

 By the two of them looking into those connected with the recently deceased, ties between any of those targeted appear to be remote at best yet by the time a crime is announced for the letter D, those links begin to slowly but surely appear.

As I read more of the Poirot books, I can see why he's such a favorite among Christie fans(although I still prefer the subtle sleuthing skills of Miss Marple) and this particular story divides itself between Hasting's point of view and the third person, a necessary narrative move. I did enjoy the way the plot came together by the end and while I probably won't see the recent BBC adaptation of this book, I might check out the version featuring David Suchet,which ought to be just as engaging if not more so:

I rounded things off with Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. This particular group of title characters meet up at a remote spa run by the strangely charismatic Masha who,along with her devoted assistant Yao, have a ten day treatment in mind for this bunch that switches tracks on them in more ways than one.

This story has plenty of twists worthy of a M. Knight Shymaylan movie(think more The Visit than The Sixth Sense) but is richly abundant with character development that enhances the up ending of their situations.

 One of my favorite characters is Frances, romance writer at a turning point in her career who is also dealing with the aftermath of a online scam that targeted her  heart along with her purse strings. Her forthright style comes in handy during certain tricky moments but her vulnerability about not only the crisis at hand, but where her path in personal and professional life is going, makes her truly endearing.

Also, the dynamics of the Marconi family, where daughter Zoe feels as if she has to always give more of herself to her parents during the anniversary of her twin brother's death, are strongly compelling. Not everyone has a dire tale to tell, as one couple deals with adjusting to unexpected wealth via a lottery ticket, a vain divorce lawyer has to decide whether or not to fully commit to his partner and a newly divorced woman is determined to remake herself in order to impress her ex-husband and his younger new wife.

This was quite the page turner and if it follows the adaptation route that Moriarty's Big Little Lies did, this story would make one hell of a miniseries there. At the very least, NPS is a good example of not diving into an intense intimate experience without looking into things a little further. However, it also showcases the notion of taking new chances on life and love, no matter what form those opportunities come in:

While I put aside The Clockmaker's Daughter(it just wasn't the time,pun slightly intended), I did finish up a couple of other books this month-The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes and The Matchmaker's List by Sonya Lalli. That puts my monthly total at eight books, which is a good start to my new year of reading if you ask me!

A huge thanks to Michelle Miller of SOR for another great readathon and I'm already making plans for the next one, Spring Into Horror. So far, a nice stack of scary reads are being piled up with a mix of cozy mysteries and female focused thrillers,plus a killer mermaid. So let us cheer for the fear to come with the warm weather and hopefully no real reader nightmares:

1 comment:

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

Sounds like you enjoyed your reads. I'm watching the Amazon ABC Murders as I type this. Not sure about Malkovich as Poirot, though I do like him as an actor.

Thanks for joining us. Looking forward to seeing you for Spring into Horror. It will be here before we know it!