Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, September 30, 2019

Filling up my literary treat bag for some FrightFall reading fun

While the weather outside is taking awhile to connect with the calendar, capturing that special fall feeling is as easy as grabbing a good book to hunker down with your choice of warm beverage.

Tomorrow not only begins the countdown to Halloween but also heralds the start of FrightFall, Seasons of Reading's annual salute to scary reading. My list for this challenge is small but sinister sweet in more ways than one:

WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE: At least one out and out form of fearful fiction is required for this readathon and this Shirley Jackson classic certainly fits the bill rather nicely.

Our leading lady here for the most part is Merricat Blackwood, an offbeat young girl living with her sister Constance and their wheelchair bound uncle Julian on their gloomy family estate.

 The locals avoid contact with them, due to a poisoning incident that claimed several lives including Constance and Merricat's parents. The remaining three seem sadly content with their quiet existence until the arrival of a distant cousin shakes things up and not for the better.

Granted, part of my interest in this story is due to the recent film adaptation(which I have not seen yet) but there's no doubt in my mind that this tale of family ties that bind all too tightly will give me plenty of theater worthy chills right off the page:

THE READAHOLICS AND THE FALCON FIASCO: This trio of cozy mystery novels by Laura DiSilverio I happened to read in reverse order. The middle book(The Poirot Puzzle) was the one that I discovered first and then the third entry(The Gothic Gala) became my second.

Ending off with the first book is weird but worth it to me as this one sets up the reading group in Heaven,Colorado where event planner Amy-Faye Johnson loves sharing detective books with her good friends. Unfortunately, a member of the group, Ivy, dies under unusual circumstances that the police believe to be self inflicted rather than foul play.

Amy-Faye and the rest of the group don't see it that way and wind up taking notes from their favorite authors in order to find out who truly did in their friend. So far, there aren't other titles in the series,which is a shame, as I like to read genre themed books by someone who definitely enjoys genre themes:

LIVE AND LET PIE: Having just finished Ellie Alexander's Till Death Do Us Tart and preparing for the Christmas themed entry A Cup of Holiday Fear, it only makes sense to add this particular Bakeshop Mystery title to my TBR here.

Pastry chef sleuth Jules Capshaw can't even go on a simple picnic without stumbling across a dead body or in this case, a skull at the local park. While that find appears to be connected to an unsolved murder from the 1960s, the demise of Jules' grumpy landlord is really too close to home for comfort.

Meanwhile, Jules also has to contend with expanding the family business, dealing with the reality of her mother's new marriage and figuring out her own relationship status with estranged husband Carlos. I'm sure that this will be a delicious treat with mysteries that are not as easy as pie to solve yet sweet to savor:

LETHAL WHITE: The fourth title in J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith's detective series has reclusive private investigator Comoran Strike looking into a case where a young man named Billy claims to have witnessed a crime as a child yet has trouble recalling all of the details.

As he sorts through the few facts clinging to Billy's story, Comoran is also dealing with new challenges in his life such as becoming so well known to the public that it may interfere with his chosen profession.

More importantly, there are personal and professional changes in his relationship with Robin Ellacott, who has an equal share in the business and a special place in his heart. Can the two of them work together in such a highly charged atmosphere or must they part ways on at least one front?

I haven't watched the made for cable TV series that the prior books are based on but I do know that part of the reason that this particular entry is so lengthy is due to the whole Comoran/Robin deal and that's fine with me. Having seen their connection develop over the course of the first three books, it stands to reason that the "will-they-or-won't-they" situation would need to be addressed and this is as good a place to make that turning point as any,in my opinion:

 I'm looking forward to starting this spooky reading season off by the morrow and much thanks to Michelle Miller of Seasons of Reading(along with Castle Macabre, which is doing some Halloween themed reading as well) for making this possible.

Best wishes for fun and fearful fictional reading, fellow bookish fiends and just remember, page turning terror is truly in the eye of the beholder:

Monday, September 23, 2019

Some rebellious reading for Banned Books Week

Yesterday was start of Banned Books Week, which runs until September 28 and given the strong political divisiveness we're dealing with these days, championing the freedom to read is a more valiant cause that ever before.

While there are many topics to be highlighted in this area, I'm choosing to focus on books that encourage resistance to leadership that is clearly headed in the wrong direction.

For one, I found it interesting that recently, a private school in Tennessee decided to ban the Harry Potter series using the claim that the spells in the books are "real" and can cause evil spirits to rise up against people. While this ridiculous notion is eyebrow raising and head shaking worthy, let us consider this: what are they really worried about here?

It has been said that this generation has been more than prepared to stand up and speak out against injustice, due to books like Harry Potter(and others that I'll mention in a moment) where the young characters unite to fight against those elders who misuse power.

After all, Harry Potter does lead Dumbledore's Army,once the rightful headmaster of Hogwarts is unduly ousted and replaced by lackeys of Voldemort who insist upon not properly educating the students against the very real threats facing them.

Bringing most of the houses in Hogwarts together to learn the right way to cast Defense Against the Dark Arts spells, Harry and friends take up a challenge that the prior generation had thought was completed in their time. Much like our young people today, Harry Potter and his contemporaries decide not to wait for the adults to catch up to them and instead begin to make their own stand:

Another series written for young people that's been targeted by censors is The Hunger Games, a trilogy which is set in a distant future yet has plenty to say about class struggles in the here and now.

Katniss Everdeen becomes the major talking point for a resistance movement when she chooses to spare her younger sister from being the latest victim of a celebrated death match meant to entertain the masses. In truth, this annual bloodsport only amuses those in the upper "Districts" who even when they do take part, advantages are clearly given to those of their kind.

She never intended to lead a revolt but by letting those in power see that she was willing to play their games on her terms, Katniss sounded the charge to push back for a better world for all to strive for:

 Of course, these youthful leaders aren't just found in the pages of science fiction and fantasy. One YA novel that is featured on the current list of most challenged books(it's in the top five,actually) is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas where it's heroine Starr Carter finds herself having to take a stand that's very personal.

Upon witnessing the death of a childhood friend during an unlawful police shooting, Starr is beset on numerous sides to either speak out or stay silent about what really happened. Some of those pressures not only come from the adults in her community but from peers both within her neighborhood and at the private school across town Starr attends.

Wanting to do what's right but contending with differing sets of social norms that she's expected to comply with. Starr finds the courage to protect her loved ones and bring to light the racial bias that lead to the untimely death of her friend, an ongoing struggle that we keep seeing play out over and over again. Hopefully, with those both young and old following Starr's example, such daily terrors can be truly overcome some day soon:

So when folks insist that certain books should be removed due to "questioning authority", what they're actually saying is that they want kids to adhere to the old fashioned standard of "be seen but not heard." Well, if we all did just that, America wouldn't even exist in the first place and none of the freedoms that make this nation what it is would be around to defend.

Also, it's not only up to the youth of our country to stand for what's right-we older folk need to stand beside them and give them the support and respect they deserve. A book may be a small place to start but upholding one vital freedom leads to another.

 During this Banned Books Week event, please take a moment to consider the future that taking away the right to read and think freely will sadly lead to and I sincerely hope that it's not one you want for anyone to have to live through:

Thursday, September 19, 2019

My Series-ous Reading is ready to dish it out before Another One Bites the Crust

While I just did a write-up of new series titles to enjoy, my Series-ous Reading schedule is still going full speed ahead. In fact, it's so far ahead that my latest selection, Another One Bites the Crust by Ellie Alexander, is ready for it's own curtain call before the calendar month is near it's end.

No doubt that reading the prior entry, A Crime of Passion Fruit, this summer revved me up for this book, which has Juliet "Jules" Capshaw returning home to Ashland with a renewed sense of purpose and her mom Helen engaged to be married to the charming head homicide detective known as The Professor.

Jules is happy to be back, with the expansion of the family bakery Torte going along well and the annual Shakespeare Festival about to begin. What does concern her is the demeanor of Lance, the artistic director of the local theatrical company who is surprisingly having trouble with the board as well as at war with the new leading man,Anthony, who is set to star in the first of the season production of Antony & Cleopatra:

While Lance can be charmingly over dramatic at times, even Jules can see that he's seriously stressed out here. The theater is truly his life and she's willing to do anything to help him out.

Lance does ask a favor of her; to help out at the special opening season party that he's quickly planning. The official party was catered by local business rival Richard Lord(whose taste in food is worse than his fashion sense which consists of loud enough to wake the dead golf clothes) with the aid of Anthony, who seems to have it in for Lance,which is puzzling given the big break that Lance has granted him here.

Jules is a little worried about how tense Lance is and not crazy about having to dress up in period garb for the party, which is totally Shakespearean style with a live peacock thrown for good measure. However, she is willing to do what she can for a good friend and some of the dressing up isn't too bad at all.  In fact, the party turns out to be quite the smashing success despite the late in the evening fight between Lance and Antony, which ends peacefully enough for the time being:

That peace is suddenly shattered as Jules gets a late night visit from a frantic Lance, covered in blood and in shock over finding Antony stabbed to death on a nearby park path. As the police take over the case, even inviting a detective from another town to look into the matter, it appears that Lance is the prime suspect. Can Jules clear him of wrong doing before Lance is made to take his final bow?

I really loved the behind the scenes action of this plot, which allowed for a few extra suspects such as Vera, the wardrobe lady who knows a few secrets about Tracy, the current leading lady, Judy, a theater volunteer that overhears a rather pertinent conversation and prop man Thad who has personal reasons for helping Tracy keep her secret.

Also, I appreciated the time given to both Jules and her mother to deal with the reality of Helen's remarrying and their mixed feelings about the whole thing. The Professor is a great guy(and very receptive to his fiancee's emotional state) but it's understandable that Jules and Helen would miss their father and husband all the more due to this important life change and it's nicely handled here.

While I do have a Series-ous Reading title picked out for October(more on that in a moment), I'm already continuing with the Bakeshop Mysteries on my own with the next book, Till Death Do Us Tart, where Jules and the whole town is setting up a surprise Mid Summer Night's Eve wedding for Helen and The Professor!  Granted, I do want to be fully prepared for the new entry in the series, A Cup of Holiday Fear,  but also because it's lovely to sample the sweets of Ashland with a mystery murder flavor or two to savor:

Meanwhile, my October pick is The Quiche of Death, the first book in M.C. Beaton's beloved Agatha Raisin mystery series. I have read one of the later books recently but would like to take up the first one for some Series-ous Reading fun.

Agatha Raisin is a well established London lady who decides to retire from her successful PR firm in order to live in a small village set in the Cotwolds, a childhood dream of hers. However, it's hard to fit in with the locals and bribing her way into the annual quiche contest seems like a great way to break the ice.

Unfortunately, when the contest judge winds up dead, Agatha is instantly under suspicion and she has to use her wits in order to clear her name and then some. I happened to catch the recent BBC made for TV adaptation (Season One and anxiously waiting for Season Two to be available on Netflix!) and was hooked right away on this Bridget Jones meets Miss Marple approach. This should be wicked fun for Halloween reading indeed:

Monday, September 16, 2019

Seeking some literary sisterhood on the path of series-ous reading

With my regular blog challenge of Series-ous Reading, it can be tricky to find fresh new works to not only write about but to enjoy merely for the pleasure of reading.

However, a good number of new bookish opportunities do come my way and I'm rather partial to those with solid female leads. One recent example arrived by my having won a copy of The Prisoner in the Castle from Library Thing.

This happens to be the eighth book in Susan Elia MacNeal's Maggie Hope Mystery series, set in WWII where Maggie has gone from being Winston Churchill's secretary to a major spy who has encountered the likes of Princess Elizabeth, Eleanor Roosevelt and even the Queen herself during her various adventures. Here, she's deemed too risky to be in the field so Maggie is sent to a distant island along with other agents sharing her unofficial status.

While their confinement is not severe,due to being kept at a mock Tudor mansion where the previous owner gave his prior guests the quite the grisly end, there is plenty of danger to be had as one by one, Maggie's fellow exiles are being eliminated. Since all of them have been trained to kill, this makes the suspect pool both wide spread and growing narrower with each death.

Granted, this story is placed far within the series yet the plot set forth has an echo of Agatha Christie's classic tale of deadly isolation And Then There Were None, a story that I'm pretty familiar with there. Yes, I have decided to read a couple of earlier titles in this series as well but do plan to walk along these story shores with Maggie Hope as she searches for the killer before she gets taken off of the playing board:

Of course, it's also good to check in with old friends and thanks to Netgalley, I had an early holiday visit with Becky Brandon,nee Bloomwood as she turns into a Christmas Shopaholic.

Becky is expecting to have Christmas with her parents as usual, only they decide to move to the trendy neighborhood of Shoreditch(think hipster Brooklyn, if you're a New Yorker) which passes the celebratory baton to her instead.

Since holiday prep involves a good amount of shopping,which is still her greatest strength and weakness, Becky feels that she can handle this challenge but things get topsy-turvy at a steady pace.

In between hunting down the perfect gift for husband Luke(which has her breaking a long standing tradition for membership at a billiards club), finding that special must-have llama ornament for her tree and juggling various menu requests, Becky's buying powers are getting stretched to limits beyond her credit line on an emotional level.

Despite the mounting stress, Becky is determined to give all of her loved ones the happy holiday they deserve, just like the made for TV Christmas movies that she's become hooked on lately. During these current challenging times, I've found myself taking comfort in more of Sophie Kinsella's invigoratingly charming novels and this upcoming one(due out in October) is a welcome indulgence in British holiday humor indeed:

Meanwhile, there are those dazzling debuts that you are eager to invite in and hope that they stay around for more engaging tales. I feel that may be the case when it comes to The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis.

This first novel in a historical mystery series has the Bronte sisters themselves in search of the titled lady in question. Their brother Branwell announces a possible murder at the local estate of Robert Chester, whose first wife died via a fall from a window.

The second Mrs. Chester is missing and, due to the gruesome state of her bed chamber, is feared to have shared a similar fate. While Anne and Branwell team up to look into the household staff at the Chester estate, Charlotte and Emily decide to use their intuitive skills as interviewers, seeking answers to dangerous questions. Can the combined cleverness of the Bronte women reveal the truth of the matter or are they risking more than their reputations here?

This does sound like an intriguing premise for a new literary themed series and while I'm more of a Jane Austen fan(who has had a few mystery series written about her), I would be very willing to see where the detecting tales of the Bronte sisters would lead to:

Whether it be standalone or a series, reading is a true constant in turbulent times. However, it does help to be more flexible and I've had to deal with reading a series out of order on occasion and surprisingly, it can be more rewarding than starting from the beginning.

Of course, there's also the added bonus of playing catch-up which only gives you more great books to read and enjoy, regardless of their numerical status. If you're lucky enough to find a series that you really like, just go with it and if you have a plucky heroine to boot, you have been blessed by the literary deities indeed:

Monday, September 09, 2019

Embracing the approach of autumn with a bookish glee

Granted, the calendar proclaims it to be September but I suspect that the weather will be taking it's sweet time before allowing those chilly breezes and falling leaves to properly make it so.

Nonetheless, I decided to start this season off right with a visit to my local library, a joy that I delayed due to the excessive heat that runs roughshod over August.

 It helped that I went close to my limit of book renewals to get as much time as possible to finish most of the literary loans that I made(3 out of 4, not too bad!) to tide me over. Returning those books,plus renewing my library card, to get a fresh batch of new reads was a wonderful way to begin the fall here.

The first book that I knew on sight that I had to have was The Bride Test by Helen Hoang, a novel that I've heard nothing but great things about.

Esme Tran is a single mother working at a hotel in Vietnam when she gets a most unusual offer from a well-off woman who emigrated to America.  This lady is looking for a wife for her younger son Khai, who is considered "shy" and willing to sponsor Esme for the summer in order to see if they might make the perfect couple.

Khai has no interest in getting married or being in any sort of relationship but reluctantly lets his mom have her way for just this summer. While Esme has no wish to marry someone simply for money, she does see the chance to better her life as well as her five year old daughter's, so she takes this opportunity to find out if America or Khai could be right for her.

As Khai and Esme get to know each other, some sort of spark begins to grow between them and the possibility of this arrangement actually working out is strongly increasing. However, there are a few things that Esme hasn't told Khai or his family about that might become a deal breaker yet maybe not, if their feelings are true for one another.

So far, this is an immensely likable book and while I know that this story is a standalone that is within the same universe as Hoang's earlier novel The Kiss Quotient, it looks like I may have to get that one,too, as these engaging characters will no doubt have equally engaging friends to get to know and appreciate all the more:

Another title that I was delighted to find was Miriam Parker's The Shortest Way Home, set in Sonoma Valley where our leading lady decides to make a major change in her life.

Hannah Greene does have a good job waiting for her as soon as she and boyfriend Ethan Katz finish up business school together but upon visiting a beautiful family owned winery, feels as if she is meant to be part of that seemingly sedate world.

While Hannah is considering exchanging one dream for another,perhaps better one, she's not alone in wondering what the next step in life ought to be taken. Linda, the matriarch of the winery clan, still has her heart set upon Jackson, a former love who became a musician and who has always managed to pop in and out of her life.

 In addition to that, Linda's son William wants to pursue his dreams of film making yet a family crisis forces him to rethink that notion, not to mention Hannah becoming another compelling reason to stay around.  With so many different pieces in play, it can be hard to see the big picture until the puzzle is complete and yet, Hannah is willing to make her move in order to do just that.

A major reason that I was happy to borrow this book is that I've meet the author, back when she was a book rep and a nicer person would be harder to find. She was kind and generous enough to meet up with a small book store clerk at BEA (yes, I mean me!) and I've never forgotten her good nature and love of books. She mention back then that she was working on a novel and I'll be pleased to savor the fictional fruits of her labor this season:

To round things off, I thought it would be fun to check out Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid which is a Reese Witherspoon book club selection and plans for a miniseries adaptation are already underway.

Told via interviews, this fictional look at a rising rock band from the 1970s and how they fell apart focuses strongly upon two people; Billy Dunne, the original lead singer of The Six and Daisy, the new addition to the group. Like it or not, her sassy soulful style changes the band's fortune yet at quite the cost.

I do like the type of books that Reese Witherspoon picks out and since this author is new to me, that's a solid enough recommendation there.  Also, TJR has said that she was inspired by Fleetwood Mac and their inter-band struggles on and off stage for this novel, which is fine by an old school Stevie Nicks fan like me:

 After checking that trio out, I come home to find a brand new book awaiting me in the mail. I happily binge read Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns series over the summer and a bonus in doing that was being ready in time for the final chapter in this smartly sinister saga.

Five Dark Fates picks up where the previous book had left off, as the island of Fennbirn is dealing with a rebellion that's supposed to be lead by the "Legion Queen" who is no longer able to control her complex powers.

Reigning Queen Katherine has many secrets to keep,including a deadly alliance that brought down one of her most trusted advisors. However, she's about to have one of her fugitive sisters join her side, more out of duty for the protection of the realm rather than willing to concede to her cruel sibling's hold on the throne.

 Can the dark legacy of the past queens be cast aside for a brighter future or will these royal sisters be the last in line for all time? Kendare Blake certainly has a killer cool instinct when it comes to portraying the power games that many of her fierce heroines have no choice but to play and this finale should be richly rewarding indeed:

Well, my fall reading is certainly off to a fine start and hopefully, the one place that we can all take solace in these days is within the pages of a good book. I really do love fall, it's such a calmly exciting time of year.

While some might feel that it signals the end, it's actually more of a beginning as the old season sheds it's skin in vivid colors to reveal a new stage for the coming winter to present itself in all of it's frosty glory.

Okay, I'm getting a bit carried away there but this is a crisp pause between seasons that makes me feel like taking a brisk walk to a bookstore or library and maybe picking up a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils along the way:

Thursday, September 05, 2019

How I spent my Series-ous Reading summer with Miss Fisher & friends

For my big summer read for my Series-ous Reading challenge, I decided to go with a three-in-one collection from mystery writer Kerry Greenwood. Due to the popularity of the made for TV adaptation of her Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries(and yes, I've seen all three seasons of the show), I've been anxious to check out this series in it's original form.

Introducing the Honourable Phryne Fisher has the first three novels and we begin with Cocaine Blues, where our leading lady decides to take a trip to Australia where she eventually settles in.

 Phryne's family has come into wealth due to the demise of a few relations during WWI and while she's happy to be living the good life, she does want to be useful to others. Her talent for sleuthing has caught the attention of Colonel Harper who is concerned about his married daughter Lydia living in Melbourne with a rather disreputable husband named John Andrews.

Wanting a change of scene, Phryne takes the job and upon arriving in Australia meets up with an old friend, Dr. Elizabeth MacMillian. During the course of her investigation, our Miss Fisher makes a few new acquaintances such as Dot, a young woman in need of a respectable job, Communist leaning cab drivers Bert and Cec and while visiting the strangely ill looking Lydia, a handsome Russian dancer who sweeps her off her feet and then some:

Once that case is resolved, we move on to Flying Too High(which was not part of the TV series line-up) as Miss Fisher acquires a house and a rather fast car that she handles as speedily as a professional racing driver.

Phyrne finds herself involved in two cases, one a kidnapping and the other a family dispute that leads to murder. Both of these situations call upon her talent at flying(the family in question runs a flying school) and knack for inventive problem solving.

She also makes a new friend of sorts on the police force, Inspector-Detective Jack Robinson, who at least is willing to have her help out, unlike the pompous ID in charge of the murder case. While Phyrne and Jack don't seem to be as romantically involved as they are on the show, they do make for an engaging pair of characters to follow.

The last book in this collection(which is definitely a Season One episode) is Murder on the Ballarat Train, where Phyrne and Dot are hoping to take a pleasant trip across country on.

However, during the night, an unexpected stop due to chloroform being dumped in the air vents leads to the demise of an elderly woman who was traveling with her adult daughter. The lady in question gave her only child a rather hard time, especially regarding her daughter's boyfriend, a young man studying medicine who is in desperate need of money.

A possible witness to the crime is a young stowaway who claims to have no memory, a girl that Phyrne decides to call Jane. As she looks into Jane's past and the mysterious death on the train, both of these separate scenarios wind up making quite the connection:

These books are a delight and while there are some differences from the TV series(which is to be expected), getting to know the delightful Miss Fisher in any format is a treat. She's smart and capable and for that time period of the 1920s, rather progressive when it comes to women's issues, bigotry and self expression.

While the first book takes some time to set up the character, the other two fly by quickly on the page and I suspect the other titles in the series do the same. If you haven't watched the show, this is a good intro to Miss Fisher and for those who have, a great way to relive those daring adventures indeed.

Now that summer is over, it's back to one at a time reads for this challenge and my next Series-ous Reading selection is Another One Bites the Crust by Ellie Alexander.

Having finished my time with Miss Fisher a tad early, I was able to catch up on a couple of other cozy mystery titles including A Crime of Passion Fruit, which took Torte baker Jules Capshaw back on the open seas. Now that this seventh entry in the Bakeshop Mystery series has her back home in Ashland, I'm ready to start my fall season with her.

Of course, there's plenty of high drama to be had on land as the annual Shakespeare Festival gets under way and a murder to solve but rest assured, there will be some tasty recipes worked lovingly into the plot as well. A savory serving of mystery soup is the perfect way to get into the autumn mood, if you ask me:

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Wrapping up my High Summer with a bit of well written drama

Now that we're in September, the High Summer readathon hosted by Seasons of Reading is definitely over. While I'm near the finish line with one last read from that list, I did complete a book that may have had a small page count but it reached depths more successfully than some lengthy big reads have.

Meg Wolitzer's The Wife caught my attention due to the acclaim given it's recent film adaptation(which almost gave Glenn Close an Oscar win) but this novel has plenty of merits on it's own accord.

 I do intend to see the movie at some point but trust me, this emotional portrait of a woman who truly has suffered for art is is solidly compelling in print.

The title spouse here is Joan Castleman, who has been married to Joe, a well established literary author for several decades. They met in collage, where he was the professor and she the student. He was also married to another woman at the time but despite the scandal when their relationship was revealed, Joan and Joe stayed together.

Their marriage has had it's fair share of ups and downs, some of which relate to their three children, yet Joan has never seriously thought about leaving Joe until the announcement that he's won a major international prize for his novels. That award puts their entire married life in a new perspective that has Joan considering a major change in hers as they travel to claim the prize:

She recalls their early days, when Joe introduced her to the literary world due to Joan's budding talent with words. As thrilled as she was to be praised for her efforts, it was easy to see that Joan was already seen by everyone as his girlfriend and not much more.

While she did think about becoming a writer herself, that relationship with Joe, who can talk a great game but not play it as well as others can, along with the disregard given to female authors by professionals and the public made it seem simpler to put those dreams aside:

However, did she really step away from the typewriter or did she give away her right of authorship in the name of love?

Many suspect the truth, such as would be biographer Nathaniel Bone or their own troubled son David. Joan is both angry at herself as well as Joe, who eagerly gobbles up the praise and glory given to him.

 In fact, his self centered behavior combined with the attitude that he's doing Joan a great favor just by being with her makes this whole award ceremony event more intolerable to bear. Plus, Joe still indulges his wandering eye for other women, along with other unhealthy appetites, which really test Joan's resolve to maintain the illusion of their artistic front to the wider world:

Wolitzer does more than merely present a martial melodrama; she opens up Joan's whole inner life to display the reasons behind the choices she made, the regrets that still linger and the pride that keeps her from exposing the truths of her marriage. I have no doubt that the film version does justice to the source material but I think that by reading the novel, you get a fuller sense of the character's heartfelt journey.

At the moment, I'm getting closer to the conclusion of The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams. The main portion of the plot is set during WWII as reporter Leonora "Lulu" Randolph is set to Nassau in the Bahamas in order to get some good gossip on the infamous Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

While Lulu winds up writing the "Lady of Nassau" column for a major magazine with the approval of Duchess Wallis Simpson, she also discovers a few unpleasant truths about the exiled royals and the crowd they run with.

Plus, she falls in love with Benedict Thorpe, a biologist who may also be a spy for the British. When he becomes the captive of the Germans, Lulu is determined to do everything possible and then some to win his freedom and that include spilling the considerable tea on what the Duke and Duchess are really up to in Nassau.

Lulu and Thorpe's relationship is contrasted with an earlier romance, between Thorpe's German born mother and an Englishman who had some secret doings of his own for king and country. How these story lines are going to connect, I'm not sure yet but it will be a pleasure to find out. Williams truly has a flair for historical fiction that makes you feel like you're watching a classic movie that's never been seen before:

All in all, this has been a fine summer of reading and much thanks to Michelle Miller of SOR for making this happen. Once I finish that last book, I'll be making plans for the next readathon, Fright Fall, in October. It may be hard to find something scarier than the daily headlines but I think that I can manage to gather up a handful of sinister stories worth talking about there: