Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, March 29, 2019

Looking into the face of fear and seeing Us

After the success of Get Out, many filmgoers were eagerly awaiting to see what writer/director/producer Jordan Peele would do next on the big screen and his latest film does way more than meet fan expectations.

Us stars Lupita Nyong'o as Adelaide Wilson, a wife and mother who begins to get worried as her family sets out on their usual summer vacation. While her hapless husband Gabe(Winston Duke) feels that there's nothing wrong, Adelaide's sense of foreboding is rooted in a childhood incident that occurred at very same beach they're visiting.

Her worst fears are confirmed that night as the Wilson's vacation home is invaded by a bizarre set of visitors that somehow form a family. This sinister suburban quartet are deadly doppelgangers who are part of a larger group of underground dwellers that called themselves "The Tethered" and their intentions are far from friendly:

I don't want to say anymore than that regarding the plot but I will make mention of a couple of other details in this write-up to talk about the themes of the movie(so,mostly spoiler-free).

While Peele does place a number of pop culture references within the story that are easy to spot, there are a few particular ones that came to mind for me that perhaps may be a bit more subtle.

For example, the ragged physical appearance of the Tethered,clad in red jumpsuit style uniforms, are a striking contrast to their upper world counterparts that evokes the Eloi and the Morlocks of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine.

In that fantasy classic, the hero travels into a future where the peaceful,contented Eloi seem to want for nothing and have little to no curiosity about where the bounty of their world comes from. As it turns out, their blissful existence is due to the Morlocks, a gruesome looking bunch who use underground machinery to keep the Eloi comfortable. Their main goal is to have those softened up surface dwellers be an essential part of their balanced diet,so to speak.

The term Morlock has also been part of the X-Men universe, as the name of several mutant groups that live in sewers and other hidden places as outcasts from both the human and mutant society. They also strike out against their upper world oppressors despite having a hand held out in friendship by those they insist are their enemies. In either fictional context, Morlocks and Eloi are symbols of class warfare which is at the heart of the story of Us:

Class is one of those things that American society tends to deny still exists but many of our best books and films deal with this subject over and over again due to it's timely nature and continuing relevance.

While Get Out dealt with both the horrors of racism and the hypocrisy from those claiming to be "the good ones", Us hits a deep nerve about the haves and the have-nots of our present day society that is probably a lot scarier to some than that previous film was.

In interviews,Peele has mentioned several social commentary touches made in the film, with one being the prison industrial system. It's not a coincidence that the Tethered are wearing brightly colored jumpsuits and that part of their violent behavior,as we learn during the film, is due to being trapped in an isolated,underground setting and forced into repetitive actions that do nothing to advance them as viable beings.

While prisons are meant to be for the common good, more often than not, they have become sources of unnecessary evil that do little to make the inmates better people able to properly function in the world once their sentence is over. We've seen this imbalance portrayed on screen before, most notably in The Shawshank Redemption that happens to be based upon a Stephen King novella. Interesting how horror writers are more able to humanize the socially despised than  many of the so-called "well intended" folks out there:

There's more than one way to strip a person of their humanity and Us highlights just how far such demeaning treatment can go before before payback is unleashed on those who least expect it yet they should.

We are given quite a lot to unpack with the terrors piled into this fearsome treasure chest of a film. However, key among them is the whole concept of "othering"-making an entire section of the population appear to be either the cause of everything that's wrong with the world or condescended to with makeshift solutions that don't follow through towards truly leveling the playing field.

In a bizarre mirror fashion, we see this reflected in real life as we do in reel based realms especially in sci-fi and fantasy. It's become a main staple of comic book lore over the years and strongly showcased in their adaptations,whether on TV or in movie theaters. Regardless of whether you call them mutants,metahumans or space aliens, most of the time the true danger comes from the suppressed secrets and polite lies that "regular" people tell each other and expect everyone to believe:

I would love to dive into more depths about Us here but for those reading this who haven't seen the movie yet, I don't want to ruin that initial experience for you. What I will say is that Jordan Peele is not just a burgeoning master of modern day horror, he is doing something no one else in Hollywood appears to be doing ; respecting the intelligence of the audience.

Unlike those who want to spoon fed plot points to movie goers, Peele balances the entertainment elements of his films with a hearty amount of mental meat on the story bone for them to enjoy engaging in afterward. That's not easy to do,granted, but when it's done well, it's worth noticing and encouraging others to be just as daring.

 Us has quite a bit to say for itself and maybe if we all paid a bit more attention to the real world fear factors that the movie is holding up a huge horrifying mirror to, perhaps we will get a little closer to being our true best selves.

 In my opinion, one of the most haunting images of the film is a nod to Hands Across America, an event in the 1980s that was intended to be unifying but instead is a symbol of many an empty gesture that was to come. Let's not ignore what this movie is telling us about our present and possible future by gazing into a glaring error from the past:

Monday, March 25, 2019

Tuning into some out of this world TV shows this season

Given the nature of our current reality these days, it's no wonder that many of us are looking forward to the return/revival/adaptation of TV series with a fantastical world view.

The major one for most is the final season of Game of Thrones ,starting on April 14. While impatience for the remainder of the books in G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice saga is nearly neck in neck for this last televised look at the residents of Westeros, consider this:

At some point, it must have been decided that it would be best to release the last of the books after the HBO series was completed. Think about it, many of the fan debates online and off had two camps; readers and non readers,some of whom argued over possible spoilers or certain things from the source material that were left out of and/or changed on the show.

In order to keep all of the viewers on the same page,so to speak, holding off on publication appears to have been the hard choice that was made. You must admit that certain events and character actions from the prior season were quite a surprise there, to say the least. I don't see this as a bad thing and while I have no proof that this was so, it just makes all too perfect sense to me.

We've had over a year to wait for this final season and I have no doubt that it will have been well worth the time and effort into creating this shared experience for all of us faithful viewers:

Speaking of long awaited adaptations, Amazon Prime will be streaming Good Omens by the end of May. Based on the beloved fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman and the late great Terry Pratchett, this series stars Michael Sheen as the angel Aziraphale who reluctantly teams up with David Tennant's demon Crawley in order to prevent the Apocalypse.

The two of them have been on Earth since the beginning and after all this time, the one thing that they both agree on is that the world is much too comfortable for them to co-exist on that they don't want to see it destroyed.

They do try to delay the seemingly inevitable by switching the newborn Anti-Christ with a regular kid but that only makes thing worse. With all supernatural sides gathering around to save the day or start the end times, can this pair of frenemies finally do something right?

Fans of the original novel should note that parts of an unfinished sequel to the book have been added into this version by Gaiman himself, which ought to make this limited run series nicely surprising. As I enjoyed the book yet don't have Amazon Prime(there are way too many streaming services out there,folks,to be able to subscribe to), perhaps I will see this on home video one day. For those fortunate enough, this amusing take on the end of days could put our own current state of crisis into comedic perspective:

Another  new streaming service series happens to be a new run of The Twilight Zone, the classic Rod Serling anthology scare show that is scheduled for viewing at CBS All Access starting April 1st(no that is not a joke!).

Most of the episodes will be original pieces, with one notable remake of a huge fan favorite, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"-this time it's 30,000 feet-and the cast includes quite a few TV friendly names such as Adam Scott, Jessica Williams,John Cho and Tracy Morgan. The biggest name attached to this project is Jordan Peele, who is one of the executive producers as well as the series narrator.

Given Peele's status as a modern day master of horror, seeing his spin on this treasured small screen fear fest should be shiver inducing fun:

Last but far from least on my list, season 3 of Netflix's suburban zombie series  Santa Clarita Diet will be on your viewing menu by March 29.

While my interest in zombie fare is pretty minimal at best(I bailed out on The Walking Dead in the middle of S2), there's something about mixing a bit of humor into the monster mix that makes a show like this totally work for me.

That blend gives the "monster" more of a relatable personality and while drama is not completely off the creative table, it does make for a better nuanced story, in my opinion. SCD and iZombie(which starts it's final season on the CW in May) have become welcome exceptions to my "take it or leave it" approach to this scary subgenre.

 It also helps that Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant have solid chemistry as Sheila and Joel, a married couple who keep trying to make thing work despite the missus developing an incurable taste for human flesh. From the recent trailer, it looks as if Sheila wants Joel to truly become a part of her eternal lifestyle and that is just going to lead to some seriously funny complications indeed:

Well, if taking a break from the news of the day means diving into some far out fantasy/fear fare, perhaps this is the respite we truly need to continue onward with a refreshed spirit. As for summer time, there are Stranger Things to look forward to, in the best sense, and hopefully just on the entertainment front:

Friday, March 22, 2019

My Series-ous Reading takes a meeting with The Secret,Book & Scone Society

One good thing about the topsy turvy weather we've been dealing with these days is the urge to just stay put and do some good reading gets easier to give into. It's certainly been beneficial to my Series-ous Reading as I recently completed the first book in a new cozy mystery series and started another debut in the same genre.

Ellery Adams has several other mystery series,some that focus on books such as Book Retreat and Books By the Bay and others on food like The Charmed Pie Shoppe. This particular one combines both of those loves and adds in an extra dash of personal intrigue.

The Secret,Book & Scone Society is set in the North Carolina town of Miracle Springs, where folks come to find a bit of physical and emotional healing. Most of the businesses in the area highlight that aspect such as Hester Winthrop at The Gingerbread House, who makes new customers "comfort scones" that perfectly suit their food memory needs.

Another therapeutic spot is Miracle Books, run by Nora Pennington who is a newcomer to these parts. She was once a librarian in a marriage that seemed to be completely happy but a tragic turn of events left her alone in the world with burn scars that nearly matched the ones on her spirit.

However, thanks to the literary recommendations from a kindly nurse, Nora has become a bit of a bibliotherapist,who matches the right sort of reading for those in a quandary about their lives. Her choices range from fiction to nonfiction,with the former being preferred. Despite her reclusive demeanor, she can't resist reaching out to help people with the power of a good book in that enchanting Kathleen Kelly from You've Got Mail sort of way:

While awaiting a new customer, a newcomer like herself named Neil Parrish, a man concerned about the real estate investment group he's involved with, Nora learns that he died not long after leaving the Gingerbread House with a comfort scone in hand.

Neil's demise by train is quickly ruled as a suicide by the local sleazy sheriff Todd(called "Toad" behind his back for good reason) but Nora refuses to believe that and teams up with three other ladies in town to look into the matter further.

Hester is one of them,along with June Dixon, who works at the local spa and Estella, the only home town girl in their midst who runs the Magnolia beauty salon. I like all of these women who form the title club but Estella is a strong favorite with her flirtatious manners and easy charms that remind me a lot of Golden Girls' southern belle Blanche. Much like Blanche, Estella does enjoy the company of men yet has more emotional depth and insight than most people would think she has:

The leading lady,however, is Nora as she sets a lot of things in motion by directing some of the first moves of the TSB&SS, one of which unintentionally makes Estella a prime suspect in the next murder from those formerly associated with Neil Parrish.

That spurs Nora,June and Hester to get bolder in their inquiries as well as Nora's new friends urging her to get a bit bolder in recognizing that the handsome new EMT,Jed, is interested in her as more than a friend and a bookseller.

While this is a mystery story, the novel feels more like a contemporary tale of female friendship and that's a great distinction in it's favor. By having each member of the group share a personal secret in order to build trust, all of the ladies are granted their emotional spotlight that allows both them and us as the reader to appreciate their character growth and depth all the more.

Plus, the descriptions of Miracle Books, which is a former railroad station converted into a welcoming book space that has delightful non bookish surprises on the shelves(due to flea market finds) and Hester's home, that is decorated with gorgeous baking tins and old fashioned metal advertising signs, makes you wish they were real place to visit as soon and as much as possible.

This is the first time that I've read Ellery Adams and it won't be the last as I already have the second book,The Whispered Word, in this series and will check out one or two other from her other works. For a starting point, Adams makes this group of ladies very grand company and this book alone would be a great pairing with a tasty scone of your choice:

 For my next Series-ous Reading selection,I'm going to try another brand new series by first time author Vivien Chen. Actually, I've already started Death by Dumpling, the first of her Noodle Shop Mystery books and it's a hard to put down read so far.

The story in set in Ohio, where Lana Lee has returned to her family's restaurant after a bad break-up with both her last job and last boyfriend. When the sudden death of the owner of the shopping center that the family business is located in places the probable cause on the take out order that Lana delivered, she finds herself having to track down the real killer.

At this early stage in the story, there's a great blend of food and family love that has me already owning the second book, Dim Sum of All Fears, and eager to get the next couple of books in this series as well. A good punny title is as hard to resist as a good meal made with love, in my opinion:

Monday, March 18, 2019

Arranging a fearful bouquet of Spring Into Horror reads

I know we're in the midst of March but since the sign ups for April's Spring Into Horror readathon(hosted by Seasons of Reading's marvelous Michelle Miller) have already begun, my sinister spring time reading pile must be made.

Truth be told, I've been planning this one since the start of the new year, as relief from the almost daily horrors being reported(my deepest condolences to the good people of New Zealand and in particular Christchuch) is most keenly needed.

This is not to say that reality should be avoided but a break from the relentless torrent of awful events on the news is necessary in order to recharge your emotional batteries and be prepared to deal with what lies ahead. While you don't have to read only scary books for this readathon, I do like to reconnect with that fear factor in many frightful flavors, like a layer cake that features more than one taste of terror:

INTO THE DROWNING DEEP: I've heard of Mira Grant before, with such scary subject matter as zombie novels like Feed and sci-fi fare such as Parasite. This ,however, called to me in the manner of a deadly siren with two words: killer mermaids.

Years after a crew of mockumentary film makers went missing ,complete with found footage that strongly hints at the source of their demise, a group of scientists lead by Victoria "Tory" Stewart are being financed by the very same sci-fi themed TV network that arranged the first deadly voyage to cover the same watery territory in search of answers.

While Tory is personally motivated(her sister Anne was a member of the earlier doomed crew) as well as professionally, others aboard have less than scientific goals such as a pair of big game hunter types eager to trap and taste a mermaid,plus Dr. Jillian Toth, looking to validate her theories about the legendary maidens of the sea but at what cost?

This book sound like a lot of good gruesome fun, in the manner of many an underwater creature feature,yet with some engaging character development and a solid use of imagination not always to be found in similar Hollywood fare. Of course, the real bookish bait for me is the whole "killer mermaids!" concept and yes, I'm already hooked:

FIONA BARTON AND HER KATE WATERS SERIES: When it comes to readathons, I do like to include a reread and here, my choice is Barton's debut novel The Widow yet I will be reading for the first time, her follow-up entitled The Child.

Journalist Kate Waters appears in both books and in the latter, she's looking into the story of the discovery of the skeletal remains of an infant at a construction site. This sad find also intrigues two other women, one, a book editor who may know more than she wants to admit to anyone,especially her college professor husband.

The other is an ex-nurse, who lost her job due to suspicions over what happened to her newborn daughter supposedly taken from the hospital. As Kate connects the dots as well as the two women possibly linked in this tragic puzzle, the true picture of who this child was becomes chillingly clearer.

Barton displayed quite the compelling tone in that first book that makes me want to continue onward with her work and while her Kate Waters stories don't have to be read in order(yes, I do have the latest entry, The Suspect), I think that my appreciation of this particular character will grow stronger if I do directly follow her fictional footsteps:

COFFEEHOUSE MYSTERIES: On the other hand, sometimes reading out of order can be a good thing. Last year, I enjoyed Cleo Coyle's Dead to the Last Drop, the latest in her growing series of cozy coffee themed mystery novels and decided to take the literary plunge by snapping up the first four books in the series.

For this readathon,however, I only intend to taste test the first three books: On What Grounds, Through the Grinder and Latte Trouble. These stories are centered around Clare Cosi, a divorced single mom who manages a coffeehouse in New York's Greenwich Village section with the help of her ex-mother-in-law.

When murder lands at her doorstep,or the back of her restaurant kitchen, Clare is on the case with the aid of Lt. Mike Quinn, a homicide detective who isn't always willing to have the extra assistance. Clare's considerable charms and her knack for finding the course of trouble do win him over in the long run there.

Funny thing is, I am so not a coffee person(total tea drinker) yet I do appreciate the aesthetics of that beloved brew indeed. No doubt that I will read book four,A Murder Most Frothy, at some point but in this instance, I didn't want to risk getting such a major literary caffeine rush :

Spring Into Horror begins on April 1-no joke-and lasts until the 30th and there's still plenty of time to join in for the fearsome fun. One of the things that I really like about this readathon is that just one scary book is required and it can be from any genre as your fright mileage may vary.

From horror tales to tension packed thrillers and even a cozy mystery, all are welcome in this page turning welcome to spring and it's promise of warm weather. As for lingering chills, a good Gothic story should deliver those delightfully dreadful goods  as even Miss Jane Austen would recommend. Yes, that lady liked a solid scare or two as her wink and nod to the genre in Northanger Abbey shows and if it's good enough for the creator of Mr. Darcy, it can be for you as well:

Monday, March 11, 2019

A little literary haul that makes my TBR larger than before

I mentioned the other week that I was struggling with a late winter cold and am pleased to report that brief illness was,indeed, brief. Part of my motivation for getting better was being well enough to make a library run(I had at least three books to return!) and that paid off quite nicely.

My plans for seeking a new library read were pretty open ended but I was curious to see if a certain mystery series that I had just heard about was on their shelves.

Author Ellie Alexander( she writes the Bakeshop Mysteries,among other cozy mystery series) has a YouTube channel that I check out regularly and in her latest " 5 Things Friday" video, she talked about what was on her To Be Read pile. One of those books was part of the Kate Shackleton series by Frances Brody(aka Frances McNeil) and as it happens, A Death in the Dales was right there as if it was waiting for me.

Kate Shackleton is a detective in post WWI England and in this tale, she is taking her niece Harriet to a country house in Yorkshire as part of the young girl's recovery from a recent bout of illness. The house belongs to Lucien Simonson, a doctor who grew up in those parts and who happens to be Kate's suitor.

Lucien inherited the place from his late aunt and during their visit, Kate finds herself being consulted by one of the locals regarding a mystery that his Aunt Freda was involved in many years ago. She witnessed a murder from her window and swore that the man convicted of the crime was innocent but to no avail. That's not the only situation that Kate gets involved in, with a new friend of Harriet's disappearing and a few other secrets and lies cropping up among her new acquaintances.

As I'm a fan of Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness books, this felt like a similar cup of tea that I would enjoy and so far, that has proven to be the case. This title is number seven in the series but it's not too hard to get into the swing of it and I might look for a couple of the earlier entries in the near future. Much thanks to Ellie Alexander for making this delightful introduction to a brand new author(for me at any rate!):

I paired that with Meg Wolitzer's The Female Persuasion, which seemed like a good change of pace read. I've tried to read her before(The Interestings) and while her writing style is great, my momentum for the work faded too fast.

However, sometimes it's just a matter of finding the right book and perhaps this one may be the key to unlocking her words for me. The leading lady of the novel is Greer, a young college student who's looking for guidance at a school that wasn't her first choice in higher education.

When dynamic feminist speaker Faith Frank arrives to make a speech, Greer finds herself speaking up during the Q and A portion, revealing a disturbing frat house party incident that the college gave a less than helpful response to her about. That encounter with Faith leads Greer to work for her new mentor in her post graduate years,feeling as if she's on the right path to where she wants to be in life.

However, things may not be that clear cut as time goes by and Greer winds up having to reconsider her goals, both personal and professional. This story has a very finger-on-the-pulse vibe to our current state of affairs that should be worth exploring and I hope, leads me to reading more of her books(not to mention trying The Interestings again):

In addition to that bookish trip, I received a couple of review copies of upcoming novels in the mail. The first one was The Binding by Bridget Collins, set in a Victorian era type of realm. Emmet , a farmer's son, has suffered from a recent illness that makes him no longer fit for working the land but strangely suited to a mysterious calling.

He is apprenticed to Seredith, a bookbinder whose volumes do not contain works written by any sort of mortal being. What her trade consists of is erasing painful memories from people willing to pay for such a privilege and placing those unwanted remembrances in specially made books.

When Seredith's collection becomes the property of an unscrupulous relative,willing to use these potentially dangerous books for his own selfish ends, Emmet has to make a choice that could affect both his past and his future. This April release does sound intriguing, a Dickensian version of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with a dash of Harry Potter tossed in for fabulous fictional flavor:

The other title that appeared on my doorstep also has a blend of genres within it's fictional stew. The Confessions of Frannie Langston by Sara Collins is a debut historical fiction with elements of gothic story telling in the manner of the sisters Bronte.

The novel takes place in London of 1826, where Frannie is accused of murdering her current master George Benham and his wife Marguerite, having been "gifted" to them by former West Jamaican plantation owner John Langton.

She was born into slavery and used by John as a sexual servant and scribe of his twisted racial experiments upon those bound to his estate. George shares a similar interest in this so-called "science", which furthers Frannie's despair at her lot in life.

However, she forms a bond with Marguerite, who covers her own misery with daily does of laudanum. Is Frannie truly a killer or just an easy choice for prosecution? Can she save her own life by telling the full story of her experiences or will her tale of woe be fatally underappreciated? I am most curious to find out and so should many other of my fellow readers when this engaging novel appears everywhere this May:

Truly my literary cup is overflowing and so is my TBR, which has several sets of piles(I am so not kidding about that) and while I do manage to whittle down some space via local thrift shop donations,the books just keep on showing up.

Granted, I do some of this to myself by buying books the way some folks buy shoes or clothes but it's a hard habit to break as the song says! My library visits do offset this a bit yet I should be careful or my TBR will become a serious toppling threat to my literary safety, I suspect:

Friday, March 08, 2019

My Series-ous Reading serves up a batch of sweet sleuthing with the Fudge Cupcake Murder

So far, my new year of Series-ous Reading is back on track, with Joanne Fluke's Fudge Cupcake Murder being the latest culinary cozy mystery to be checked off on my list.

Although, truth be told, I really should've read this sooner but I skipped ahead to Sugar Cookie Murder for a Christmas readathon last season. Since that one was rather short, I don't think that I missed out on much there but still...

Regardless of that, this fifth entry of the Hannah Swenson series has our resident baker getting ready for Halloween and the upcoming election for Sheriff, which her brother-in-law Bill is running against the incumbent and cranky at times Sheriff Grant.

She's got plenty on her plate as it is, what with her beloved cat Moishe being stubborn about eating the senior diet chow that the vet wants him to,younger sister Andrea in the midst of her second pregnancy and conducting cooking classes that are also testing grounds for local recipes meant to be collected in a published book that has had it's due date pushed up.

Hannah is juggling those plates with a smile and an occasional sigh yet the last thing she expected to land on her doorstep is another murder. Sure enough, after the latest cooking class at the high school, she discovers Sheriff Grant dead in the dumpster with the remains of one of her cupcakes in hand:

Things get worse as Bill becomes a suspect and his partner Mike(who also dates Hannah on occasion) puts him on suspension. While Hannah is told not to interfere with the investigation, just about everyone,especially her sister, expect her to ,anyway.

Hannah does,of course, believe in Bill's innocence and sets about solidifying his alibi,which is the basic "I was home alone" deal. Other minor mysteries crop up such as trying to find out what the "secret ingredient" is in the title cupcake recipe submitted for the Lake Eden cookbook and who is the mystery man that her mother Delores is dating?

Clearing Bill's name is first and foremost,as his suspension has him spending more time at home with Andrea, who is growing annoyed at his determination to keep busy by doing household projects, which disrupt her way of home making. On top of that, Andrea is put on bedrest by her doctor, which leads to more insistent calls to Hannah about the case. All of this puts Hannah in quite the situation, not to mention raising a bit of havoc in her love life:

As I have mentioned before in when it comes to Hannah's romantic interests, my allegiance is to Team Norman, the laid back dentist who is very supportive of her in all endeavors and shares her off beat sense of humor to boot. He comes in late in the game in this story but is more than welcome by not just Hannah.

While it's not really Mike's fault that Bill had to be suspended(he was just doing his job there), he is very much in the wrong when it comes to one of his other co-workers.

His attentions to Shawna Lee, a temp who is covering for the former sheriff's regular secretary, could be innocent in nature, on his side at least. However, telling Hannah that Shawna Lee makes brownies so good that she ought to ask for the recipe AND put them on her bakery menu is too much!

Dude, you do not tell the woman you're dating that another woman's baked goods are better than hers, particularly if she's a professional baker! For a top detective, Mike is not that alert when it comes to culinary social cues,seriously!:

All in all, this was an enjoyable book with the cupcake recipe tying in rather nicely with the main mystery to be solved. I do know that the whole Shawna Lee issue gets somewhat dealt with in Sugar Cookie Murder but there may be more to discover when the time is ripe for Peach Cobbler Murder later this spring.

In the meanwhile, my next Series-ous Reading selection is the first in a new series by Ellery Adams, The Secret,Book & Scone Society, which I just picked up recently. The title group are a set of ladies in the town of Miracle Springs, a locale that focuses on wellness and healing, who band together to solve a mysterious death in their midst.

This should be interesting to check out as Adams has several other mystery series such as The Charmed Pie Shoppe, Books By The Bay and Supper Club,that I might like to sample as well. With this one, the combination of food and books that bring people together promises to be a tasty mental feast with some fictional flavor for the soul:

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

A book haul is the best medicine for a late winter cold

I know we're supposed to be getting ready for spring but that seems like a long ways off at the moment, due to the up and down temperatures along with the flurry of sudden snow storms within the last two weeks.

All of that has brought on a bit of a head cold for me, which thankfully is minor but still draining my batteries somewhat there. However, with the combo of rest, hot cups of tea(plus a touch of modern medicine) and a few books to read, my brief illness will be just that, brief.

Yes, I did some online book buying as there are sales aplenty this time of year, and snagged myself a nice quartet of new books. I've already finished one of them, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the memoir by Lee Israel that was the basis of the same titled movie which earned Melissa McCarthy a Best Actress Oscar nom recently.

Lee was a celebrity biographer back in the early 1970s and 80s who fell out of favor with the literary world(partly due to a battle with Estee Lauder over an unauthorized bio of the cosmetics queen) and found herself struggling to make ends meet. With rent to pay and a sick cat to care for, she turned to forging letters from literary legends such as Dorothy Parker, Noel Coward and Edna Ferber.

With a mix of factual information and well honed invention, Lee made a tidy profit with various booksellers and memorabilia dealers who sold her letters for rather high prices, with a couple of them even winding up cited in a published biography or two.

While she did take pride in her work, those shady dealing lead to a fall as the validity of a Noel Coward letter came into question, leading to an investigation by the FBI who were able to get one of Lee's late in the game cohorts to point the finger at her. She did get a reduced sentence(no actual jail time) yet was permanently banned from all research libraries and archives.

 I did see the movie before reading this(McCarthy gave a great performance) and while the book is less sentimental, Lee's sharp wit echoes through the pages as she recounts the ways in which she crafted many of the letters that are reproduced within the memoir. Her no holds barred approach to story telling does make her an engaging,although not completely trustworthy, character that you do wish to know better.

Lee Israel passed away in 2014 and I think she would find it a real hoot to have this resurgence of interest in her creative capers. It's too bad that she went down the path that she did but no one can accuse her of not having the last word on her literary legacy:

 I also picked up the first two books in a cozy mystery series by Ellery Adams, the first being The Secret, Book & Scone Society. Set in the small town of Miracle Springs, a book club made up of four women get together not only to talk about good books and food but to solve a local murder as well.

Headed up by Nora, a former librarian who now runs a bookstore in town, the ladies are determined that the death of Neil Parrish, who they all had contact with before his fatal encounter with an incoming train, was not an intended event as Sheriff Todd insists that it is.

With another sudden demise and one of their own being accused of the crime, Nora and friends are out to smartly save the day. I like the idea of a book club banding together for some detective work and that each member has to share a deep secret with the others as a sign of trust makes everything all the more intriguing.

The next book in this series is The Whispered Word and despite not having read Adams before, it felt right to take a chance on this set of bibliophile sleuths. I might add these books to my Series-ous Reading project, we shall see.

Last but far from least, Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns rounded off my  buying spree. The crowns of the title are destined for a trio of sisters, each of whom is gifted with a specific magical talent.

Mirabella  has the power to control the elements while Katherine is able to bear the pain of poison with ease. Their third sister can call upon plants and animals alike but only one of them is allowed to rule the realm.

They must battle to the death, with the lone survivor taking the role as Queen Crowned as her brutal prize. While Mirabella has displayed some of her ability, the other two girls have not and the question is, can they or be destroyed each in her turn? Another dilemma is can Mirabella bring herself to slay the only family she has and is the crown worth such gruesome trouble?

I know that this is the beginning of a longer series and I've heard many good things about it from fantasy fans, so this feels like the right time to give this wickedly wild tale of sinister sisterhood a chance there:

Hopefully, we will all feel the joys of spring time weather soon and that my bout with a seasonal cold comes to an end well before then. Granted, a cold can be inconvenient at it's worst and best yet it's never truly welcome at any time. Sure, it does allow you some extra reading time but not in great shape for a good old school literary debate,especially of a Austenesque nature: