Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, December 28, 2020

Bringing in the new year with some brand new books


The end of 2020 is almost here and never have I ever seen a year that so many people are eager to be rid of as soon as can be.

The reasons for that are good and rather plentiful, yet one of the things that sustained during this horrible time were books. Fortunately, we have more great reads ahead of us, starting with January/February of 2021.

We are,after all, still going to be spending some time indoors, due to the chilly weather and sadly still ongoing health crisis, so perhaps one or two of these upcoming titles will go nicely with a warm mug of tea this season:


Greta Kelly's debut novel, The Frozen Crown, is the first half of a story featuring a warrior princess dealing with royal politics and hidden powers and from what I've read of this book so far, a sequel is most desirable indeed.

Askia has been battling the invading forces of the Rovan Empire in order to claim her rightful throne but to no avail. With very limited options left, she crosses the sea to visit an emissary of the Emperor Amiaan of Vishir to ask for assistance.

However, the reception she gets is rather chilly, requiring Askia to play the polite game of court intrigue instead of the direct approach that she's more comfortable. What's truly treacherous is the need to conceal the magical gift that she was born with as such powers are rare in this reality.

Askia is willing to do what she must to save her people but when a possibility of romance is thrown into the mix, how much is she willing to sacrifice for the good of all?   Kelly really seems to have caught some story telling lightning in a literary jar and opening it up is part of the page turning fun(January):



I fondly recall the engaging portrait of Charlotte Lucas Collins that Molly Greeley gave us in  2019's The Clergyman's Wife and now the author takes another look at a well known yet seldom heard from character in Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice.

The Heiress focuses on Anne De Burgh, the sickly and mostly silent daughter of the intimidating Lady Catherine De Burgh. While her mother has made plans for her whole entire life, Anne begins to wonder if her health problems are part of that plan as well.

Deciding to make a change, Anne goes to London to stay with her cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam and discovers that she's not as helpless as she and others believed her to be. This sets the stage for many new avenues to explore, one of which may lead to a most unexpected happiness, if only her mother would not block her way.

Taking a new look at a character that has been easily dismissed before is not as easy as it sounds but knowing how wonderfully well Greeley did this in her first novel makes me most delighted to take this book up as soon as may be(January):


A modern day setting is part of the framework for debut author Lauren Edmondson's Ladies of the House, which places Austen's Sense and Sensibility heroines in Washington ,DC.

Daisy is dealing with the aftermath of her father, Senator Gregory Richardson, as best she can, not only for her mother and younger sister Wallis but her own political career goals as well.

However, her father left a bit of scandal behind and while Daisy struggles to keep his legacy as respectable as possible, matters are made worse when an old friend arrives in town to do a major feature on the late senator. In addition to that, Wallis gets romantically involved with Blake, a politician who is on the other side of the aisle in more ways than one.

Seeking peace with their father's past and hoping to make a better future for themselves, Daisy and Wallis do clash yet can each of them handle their present with a combination of head and heart? This sounds like a great way to examine Austen's themes while bringing  a pair of classic sisterly characters to modern life in the best way possible for readers old and new(February). 



Kristin Hannah's upcoming novel, The Four Winds, has us revisit the Great Depression through the eyes of Elsa Martinelli, who is still determined to keep her husband's family farm going.

When abandoned by her spouse, Elsa finds that her best bet to keep her children thriving is to leave their Texas home and head to California, where work is said to be plentiful.

Once she and her kids settle down in the town of Welty, they are treated with scorn and given low wages for picking cotton. As her salary gets smaller and times being tougher, Elsa finds herself at a crossroads as to whether or not fighting for her rights will be worth the trouble.

Hannah does have a solid connection to people from the past and the best of her work showcases that beautifully. No doubt that this book will be another fine example of her heartfelt handiwork(February):


In Better Luck Next Time , Julia Claiborne Johnson introduces us to Wade, who has fond memories of his time working at a resident cowboy at the Flying Leap Dude Ranch, which wasn't involved in cattle drives.

The Flying Leap was a temporary residence for women seeking divorce in Reno during the 1920s(you had to live within the state for at least six weeks in order to get a quick divorce) and Wade was meant to be a guide on the local trails as well as a dance partner for the ladies.

Some of his best times back then were with Emily, a soft spoken woman whose daughter Portia shows up unannounced and Nina, a tough talking pilot who takes Portia under her wing. While Wade doesn't wind up with any of them in the long run, he has great tales to tell of their wild times to last him the rest of his life.

This story has the flair of an old school film with snappy dialogue and engaging characters full of lively wit, which should be a good time had by all here(January):


Well, here's to the promise of a much better new year and much wicked pleasure in sending this horrid old one packing! I do believe that 2021 will eventually brings us towards a brighter tomorrow, so we must be patient and cautious as the mess of 2020 is cleared away.

I wish you all a safe and Happy New Year's Eve celebration with a special song that I think sums up our collective feelings about this event devilishly well:


Monday, December 21, 2020

Keeping my Christmas Spirit readathon page turning bright


As we get closer to a certain date in December, it feels like the perfect time to do a check-in on my progress with the Christmas Spirit readathon(hosted by Michelle Miller at Seasons of Reading).

With the CR readathon being much longer this year, that gives me the gift of time to get in many more books than usual here. I first treated myself to a reread of Christmas Shopaholic, the most recent installment in Sophie Kinsella's entertaining series featuring Becky Bloomwood.

Becky is used to having her parents hold the major holiday celebrations but this year, her folks have announced that they're moving to the trendy neighborhood of Shoreditch, tapping their daughter for the dubious honor of hosting Christmas.

Since she does love to shop and arrange things, Becky is willing to give it a try. However, she is quickly overwhelmed by the need to make everyone around happy for the holidays. To make things even more complicated, Becky is determined to get her husband Luke the perfect present and is willing to join an all-male billiards club in order to do so.

Also on her plate is a growing feud between her mother and her mother's best friend, the reappearance of a former boyfriend turned musician with his overly ambitious girlfriend in tow and worrying about Jess, her environmentally inclined half sister who may or not be having martial troubles. Oh, and dealing with the fall out of a made up Swedish holiday along with hunting down a popular tree ornament and trying to store a bigger than expected order of smoked salmon on her front lawn.

I've read all the books in this series and Becky is pretty much an old friend, fun to drop in as she does her best to make things work for all concerned. I do love British humor and these books have a sweet blend of Absolutely Fabulous(a much nicer version) and Mr. Bean style antics that make Becky and company a delight to visit more than once:

For a fresh read, I chose one of Livia J. Washburn's Freshly Baked Mysteries, The Christmas Cookie Killer and this cozy culinary mystery did sate some of my seasonal appetite indeed.

Our leading lady is Phyllis, a retired schoolteacher and widow, who shares her home with a set of roommates including a widower named Sam. During the annual Christmas Cookie Exchange, Phyllis looks on her next door neighbor Agnes with a plate of her special lime sugar snowflake cookies, which are greatly appreciated so much so that Agnes asks to borrow her cookie cutters.

By the time that she returns, Agnes is dead on the floor, the victim of an attack that also has Phyllis receive a bump on her head for her troubles by the fleeing killer. While the police wind up arresting Randall, Agnes' grandson who has been hiding out in her attic due to legal issues, Phyllis is not completely convinced that he actually did commit the crime.

With the backup of Sam,plus a little information from her police officer son Mike, Phyllis sets out to see if someone closer to home have a reason to do Agnes in. While she does uncover some surprising secrets and lies among her nearest neighbors, that still doesn't help her narrow down her list of possible suspects. Can she find the true killer before the notion of Randall's guilt is fully baked in the eyes of the law?

This is my first time with this series and I do like the Golden Girls vibe of Phyllis and her live-in friends(even though the setting of the story is in the small town of Weatherford,Texas rather than Miami). More importantly, it's the feeling of warmth and family that binds many of the characters together within the plot,especially while sharing cooking time in the kitchen that has me wanting to taste more of this homemade story sweetness:

Also, I have a last minute addition,thanks to an ebook library loan, of The Diva Cooks a Goose by Krista Davis. I had so much fun with the first book in Davis' Domestic Diva series(set during Thanksgiving) that I skipped ahead to Christmas here.

Sophie Winston is the title diva and in this holiday caper, she has plenty of mysteries on her serving platter to handle. Who robbed an entire neighborhood of presents on Christmas Eve? Who left a basket containing two adorable kittens on Sophie's back step? Most important of all, who set a deadly trap in a music box for another potential domestic diva to unwittingly open?

That last victim was Bonnie, a local home organizer who was trying to break up a possible engagement between her son Beau and Shawna, one of Sophie's in laws, while also breaking up the marriage of Shawna's parents to boot! While the case becomes more tangled than a box of tree lights, Sophie balances her holiday fears and holiday cheers well enough to save the season.

I really appreciate how easy it is to get into the story lines and character history, not to much the not so friendly rivalry between Sophie and Nastasha, a Martha Stewart type of celebrity diva who is also dating Sophie's ex-husband Mars. Gives me Rory Gilmore/Paris Geller flashbacks of the fun kind.

I do plan to dive into this diva-licious series in the new year and hope that more books are coming our way, regardless of what time of year it is:

The Christmas Spirit readathon runs until January 6th, giving me room to add yet another ebook library loan(Mistletoe Murder by Leslie Meier) as well as pick up a physical copy of A Catered Christmas Cookie Exchange by Isis Crawford. I hope to finish the latter by next week, in for A Catered New Year's Eve there.

In the meanwhile, happy holidays to all and special thanks to Michelle Miller for keeping us going strong during this most trying year with good reading. I hope everyone taking part in the CS readathon is having a great time and that we all stay safe and stay home for the holidays.

Yes, it's not ideal but totally necessary to make sure that we can all be together for many more  celebrations around this time in 2021 and be able to attend next year's end of year parties to toast the better days to come. Being as safe and healthy as we can until our ongoing health crisis is halted is the best gift to give to each other.

 Normally, I put up a Christmas music video post during this week but instead, here's a postmodern twist on a modern day classic that should set the mood just right. I'll see you folks before the year is out and hope that you do get what you want for Christmas, one way or the other:

Monday, December 14, 2020

A Jane Austen birthday and a P&P anniversary all in one


It should be a truth universally acknowledged that when the birthday of a beloved author happens to coincide with the anniversary of an adaptation of one of her most popular works, both occasions must be combined for a true celebration.

As this year marks the 245th birthday of Jane Austen as well as the fifteenth anniversary of the most recent big screen version of Pride & Prejudice, I decided to treat myself to a rewatch of the 2005 film. After all, I am in the midst of a reread of the book, so seeing this movie again felt like I was completing a full circle.

While I do find the 1995 BBC miniseries to be the best book-to-screen version of this novel, there are some merits to this cinematic rendition. Granted, it doesn't have everything that a Jane Austen reader would want yet there is something to be said for what the film does have in abundance.

For one, Keira Knightley gives an excellant performance as Elizabeth Bennet(frankly, I never understood the objections to her being cast in this role). 

She not only connects well with her sisterly co-stars(particularly Rosemund Pike as Jane Bennet, a far cry from her future Gone Girl leading lady) and other talented stars such as Dame Judi Dench's Lady Catherine, Brenda Blethyn as a delightfully ditzy Mrs. Bennet and Donald Sutherland as a laid back Mr. Bennet, Knightley fully embodies the energy and lively spirit of the character.

Even in a scene with the dutifully dull Mr. Collins, who admires the boiled potatoes at dinner with about as much zeal as he does the marriageable merits of the Bennet girls to become his wife, Knightley's Elizabeth shares a bit of dialogue with her father that subtly mocks their obnoxious guest without missing a beat. It's smoothly done without her drawing too much attention to herself but she does sparkle in that moment nonetheless:


Knightley also has great chemistry with her major co-star, Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy. The two of them create enough romantic tension to cause the air around them to crackle with emotional electricity(maybe that's why Darcy flexs his hand so much here!).

Macfadyen's take on Darcy is decidedly moody,which I'll get into in a moment, yet he is more than capable of bringing the right amount of intensity when needed.

Both of these actors were at the time following in the footsteps of legendary stars such as Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier ,David Rintoul and Elizabeth Garvie, not to mention the iconic Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Taking on such roles is not easy for any actor, especially if there is a fan base already out to judge you beforehand.

However, this onscreen duo give their audience a set of striking performances that is well chorographed as any Regency ball dance arrangement:


This is a very visual movie, as director Joe Wright displays his full powers behind the camera with beautifully vivid scenes that highlight just how crowded the Netherfield and Meryton balls were, along with Elizabeth's inner turmoil upon reading Darcy's letter and later her joyof the outdoors with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner.

Such choices were made to attract a younger generation, which is not a wholy bad notion. In order to keep a classic alive, new admirers must be  shown that these stories can fit well into their lives and while some shortcuts were taken to achieve that, the overall themes of the story are still intact.

Yes, some of those scenes do have a touch of Bronte rather than Austen at times. To some, Darcy is too withdrawn and more like Heathcliff on the moors towards the end. I find that influence to be only a touch at best and besides, given that Jane Austen did enjoy a Gothic romance or two in her day, she might actually find this approach amusing. 

Also, that early morning arrival of Darcy in the mist is rather gorgeous and one that I would not give up viewing more than once:

So, does this version of Pride & Prejudice hold up well, fifteen years later? My answer is yes and particularly for those who find such period dramas to be "British comas"(as my younger sister often calls my favorite genre), this may change a few hearts and minds.

With that, I wish Our Dear Jane a very happy birthday and a happy anniversary to 2005's P&P adaptation. Even though it may not please everyone, pictures of perfection can make one sick of seeing them and we never want that to happen to Elizabeth and Darcy!

The best thing about any adaptation is that it encourages people to take up the original book and walk into a special realm of delights. In this case, that goal was completely achieved:

Monday, December 07, 2020

My Second Act of Series-ous Reading wins A Medal for Murder

 During this whole bizarre year, I have managed to keep to this Series-ous Reading schedule as well as stick to my secondary challenge of Second Acts, highlighting the number two title of certain bookish series.

Well, as they say, the best was saved for last with A Medal for Murder by Frances Brody, that set the pace for her lady detective Kate Shackleton. Kate is a widowed photographer in post-WWI England(she does hold on to some hope that her MIA husband is still alive) who has taken up sleuthing, with an ex-policeman Jim Sykes as her assistant.

While she specializes in missing persons, Kate does help out in other matters such as a pawnshop robbery where the owner wishes to discretely inform his clients about their items being taken. Since one of the parties involved happens to be in Harrogate, where Kate already had made plans to visit an old friend, she agrees to help out.

Upon arrival, her friend Meriel is delighted to take Kate to the opening night of her latest theatrical production , a play starring several local young people such as the lovely Lucy Wolfendale, who hopes to make this leading lady role a stepping stone towards bigger and better things.

During the show, an obnoxious business owner Lawrence Milner(whose son Rodney is also part of the cast) is in the audience and not shy about making his unseemly, not to mention unwelcome, intentions towards Lucy known. However, after the play, the elder Milner is found dead with a knife in his heart not far from the theater and Lucy is nowhere to be found.

 Along with being a witness to the body's discovery, Kate is further drawn into this strange situation by Lucy's grandfather and guardian, Captain Wolfendale, who is sent a ransom note for his granddaughter's safe return:

As it turns out, Lucy is faking her own kidnapping in order to get her grandfather to give her the inheritance that was promised to her long ago. With the help of Dylan, another young man in the show, she's hiding out at a remote location but that plan is starting to backfire in the worst way.

Meanwhile, Kate's inquiries are revealing some unexpected secrets from Captain Wolfendale's past, which could affect more than one future and may or may not be connected to Milner's demise, as he was a man despised by all, even his own son.

As these points slowly yet steadily draw together, Kate not only has to find the killer and Lucy yet also make a serious decision about what truths need to be brought to light and which should remain in the dark. I really like the emotional/moral complexity that Kate has to grapple with here, as just who the murderer is and why is not an easy answer with plenty of right and wrong issues to be debated.

This story has a wonderful Agatha Christie flavor to it, steeped in a bittersweet brew that finds a way to provide true justice for all concerned. While I'm more of a Miss Marple person than a Poirot(and I suspect Kate Shackleton would be agree with me), this does put me in mind of a certain Christie tale that dealt with similar issues and Brody honors that legacy well in her own unique way:

Before I get into the last on this list for 2020, let's take a look at my Series-ous Reading plans for the new year.

The 2021 SR theme is going to be "A Cozy Culinary Feast", featuring authors such as Joanne Fluke(still have a lot of Hannah Swensen books to finish!), Diane Mott Davidson, Avery Aames and Livia J. Washburn.

 I will keep an open spot for any new authors in this category and hope that all of you out there enjoy tucking into these tasty reads along with me.

To round out this year, I'm reading the third Kate Shackleton mystery, Murder in the Afternoon, where Kate meets her birth sister(she was adopted) and is asked to look into the possible murder of her brother-in-law. So far, this is an intriguing case and Kate's niece Harriet, who sadly found her father's body which later went missing, is a right clever girl that both her aunt and I wish to known better:

Monday, November 30, 2020

The LRG Best Books of 2020 list


While this year has been one that most of us are eager to forget as soon as possible, it would be a shame to forget the many wonderful books that arrived in time to give us something else to focus on than the awful news headlines.

In making up my list of best books of 2020, I noticed that most of them were on the scary side, which really defines the overall mood of this whole year there.

Nonetheless, there was joy to be found even in the terror filled pages that I quickly turned and fortunately, I was not alone in enjoying these amazing reads during our national downtime:



I know that for some, Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic is an introduction to this writer's beautifully rendered prose and her realms of supernatural elegance, yet for me, this book was destined to happen.

Having been recommended her works by others, watching Moreno-Garcia's writing taking so many next level steps has been enchanting. While praise for her prior novel,Gods of Jade and Shadow, gave her a literary spotlight, this homage to the Gothic genre has turned that wattage up considerably.

This particular novel has quite a classic heroine, Noemi Taboada, a 1950s socialite who is tasked to check in on her newly married cousin Catalina at the remote estate known as High Place.

 Upon meeting the Doyle family that her cousin has now joined, Noemi's sense of danger is switched on yet finding any sort of help for Catalina's declining condition, not to mention the toxic nature of the house itself, grows more futile and deadly with every action. However, she is not one to give up and give in but the price for that persistence could be rather costly indeed.

A blend of Hammer films and Daphne Du Maurier, Mexican Gothic is a rich concoction of  the old and new with a touch of heart:

As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood, I was instantly drawn to The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, which satisfied my bookish blood thirst quite nicely.

The story is set between the later end of the 1980s into the early half of the nineties as true crime reader Patricia develops a sneaking suspicion that new neighbor James Harris is not just a charming good old boy. 

Instead, he's a blood drinking monster who intends to make their quiet little suburb his own nesting place and the other side of town his personal feeding grounds. Getting anyone, from her obnoxious husband to her best book club gal pals, to believe her is a challenge but one that Patricia feels she has to take on for the sake of the children.

Yet, as everyone around is determined to convince her otherwise, Patricia seems to give in yet she never really surrenders to the enemy in their midst. As time goes on, she gathers up enough allies to face down the threat from within but not without making a bit of a mess along the way. 

Hendrix doesn't just serve up nostalgia on a plate; he also adds humor, heart and the power of friendship to make this suburban sanguine meal simmer to page turning perfection:



I was very pleased to take part in the blog tour for Natalie Jenner's debut novel The Jane Austen Society and it's still a book that brings a smile to my face.

Set in post WWII, we are introduced to a delightful ensemble of character in the village of Chawton, where Jane Austen spend a good part of her writing time. At this point in time, this fact is known mainly to locals but with the passing of one of Austen's descendants, the fate of the author's home is in jeopardy of being cast aside for more modern concerns.

The title group is lead by Adam, a farmer still mourning the loss of his loved ones and with assistance from folks like Mimi, an American actress, Evie, a housemaid who has taken to cataloging all of the books within the Austen family library and Adeline, a widowed school teacher seeking a new life and love, band together to keep this literary legacy alive.

Yes, this will appeal mostly to the Austen initiated but I do believe that this lovingly told story of people using a common interest to get through the tough times can spread it's wings among the non-Austen readers. Perhaps it will inspire them to see what the fuss is all about(and they will not be disappointed!):




Superhero novels are tricky to pull off but Natalie Zina Walschots knock this genre take out of the park with Hench, which could be seen as The Office meets The Legion of Doom(yes, I like my DC Comics along side Marvel!)

Our leading lady is Anna, who regularly picks up freelance work from agencies that specialize in hiring supervillian help. While her latest gig isn't the best, she gets more than she bargained for when a superhero gives her a major injury during the scene of a crime.

The financial toll on her life is bad enough yet what Anna really resents is the full on denial that this caped crusader casually gave her permanent damage with no consequences. Once she's able to work, Anna signs up to work for his arch nemesis and uses her intense data analysis skills to take down their now mutual enemy.

This book is a smart and savvy look at office politics, superhero tropes and seeing just far you're willing to go long to get along. Things are far from being simply good guys vs. bad guys here and I hope that more great stories like this hit bookshelves and comic book stands alike:

 While Hench was a debut, Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson is the latest in a long line of books from this author yet this was my first time reading his work. I doubt it will be my last

When bookseller Malcolm Kershaw is questioned by an investigator from the FBI about an old blog post, he finds it hard to take seriously.

 His list of mystery novels that are examples of the "perfect murder" is a mix of well known classics like Strangers on a Train and lesser known title such as The Drowner yet someone seems to be taking his reading suggestions more as guides to committing the ultimate crime without punishment.

As Malcolm gets deeper into this case, there are twists and turns that change more than one life forever. I refuse to say anything more about the plot because it is just that good to not spoil for future readers.

I honestly had one of those "stay up all night" experiences while reading this book and the sleep I did get was well earned. Swanson weaves a tangled tale that is worth following to the bitter end and if Hitchcock was around today, worthy of his cinematic touch:

 2020 has certainly been a bumpy ride yet thankfully we had plenty of great books to keep us company along the way. Granted, there is still a ways to go yet, however having a faithful companion of literature by our side will help get us through the last of this calendar year with hope for better things to come in 2021:

Friday, November 20, 2020

Getting into the Christmas Spirit readathon of things


As I mentioned earlier this week, my reading is embracing the spirit of Thanksgiving yet that doesn't mean that the rest of the holiday season is on the literary backburner for me.

Starting next week, I will be taking part in Seasons of Reading's annual Christmas Spirit readathon(hosted by Michelle Miller, who is also running a similar challenge on another site).

 This time out, the readathon will last until January 6, due to the ongoing health crisis, and while you don't have to read only Christmas themed books(one will do), my TBR is going all the way to Santa Town here:

A CATERED CHRISTMAS COOKIE EXCHANGE: While I'm still enjoying Isis Crawford's Catered Thanksgiving,thanks to an ebook library loan, my interest in the sleuthing Simmons sisters was peaked enough to purchase a physical copy of one of their seasonal adventures.

In this tasty tale, Libby and Bernie are thrilled to be part of a baking TV show that is hosting a contest for a Christmas Cookie Exchange Club. Unfortunately, one of the club's members-odds on winner Millie Piedmont-has perished in an auto accident and as her niece Amber works for their catering company, Libby and Bernie feel honor bound to look into the matter.

Turns out that Millie made a lot of enemies among her cookie making friends, which makes just about everyone involved a suspect. To complicate things further, Amber wants to take her departed aunt's place in the competition, making it hard for the sisters to remain as judges. Can they solve the murder while being fair to all or is this cookie caper destined to crumble?

This is book nine in the series but I have no trouble in getting into the Thanksgiving entry so Christmas should be fine and dandy. Plus, cookies are hard to resist any time of year:

A CATERED NEW YEAR'S EVE: This more recent entry in the Catered mystery series has the sisters being hired by a distant relative, Ada Sinclair, for a family gathering on the title evening.

While the rest of the Sinclair relatives are unpleasantly surprised by that choice, they become less than thrilled when Ada suggests at the end of the night that her late father was murdered by someone attending the party! Chaos ensues as one of the dinner guests actually drops dead, causing Ada to flee the scene.

When another death occurs, Libby and Bernie decide to find the real killer as Ada has become the prime suspect and with any luck, they can keep her from celebrating the next year behind bars.

You don't see that many New Year's Eve cozy mysteries(or in many of the mystery categories for that matter )as Christmas does take up a lot of room in this field. Since this readathon is expanding into the New Year's celebration time period, it feels like the right music to keep the bookish party going:

CHRISTMAS SHOPAHOLIC: In addition to catching up with a book that I didn't get to last year-Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan-I'm treating myself to a reread via Sophie Kinsella and her delightful diva Becky Bloomwood-Brandon.

Becky has been tasked with hosting Christmas this year, her first time ever, due to her parents moving to a small apartment in a very trendy neighborhood. She's nervous but intent upon making the holidays picture perfect for friends, family and loved ones alike.

However, some of that involves becoming the first woman to join a men's billiards club in order to get her husband Luke the best present, scouring the city for a popular tree ornament and being stuck with a massive amount of smoked salmon. Making everything great for everyone is daunting enough without Becky's knack for getting herself into complicated situations that are hard to get out of indeed.

I did have a good time with this book last year and happy to have a wonderful excuse to join Becky and company for Christmas hijinks and good cheer once again:

There's still time to sign up for either the readathon or the challenge(or both,both is good!) and I placed a link in the second paragraph to SOR if anyone wants to check it out. Thanks as always to Michelle for keeping our reading spirits bright even in this time of national crisis.

I'm going to take a mini-break for Thanksgiving but will be back with more content by the end of the month(that includes my best books of the year list!) and may you all have a safe,healthy and happy Turkey Day.

I also wish you all the same for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa and other holiday celebrations as well. This year has certainly been a challenging one and we're not out of the woods yet, however, we can still hold on to a few traditions as best we can. No matter how odd those traditions may be:


Monday, November 16, 2020

Getting comfortable with some cozy Thanksgiving mysteries


While Thanksgiving is about a week away, this is the time to start getting into the spirit of the season(which is NOT just about grocery shopping!). Granted, this year's celebration is going to be very different, embracing the whole "being thankful for what you have" feeling is going to be important in dealing with the entire holiday season to come.

To that end, I'm reading a trio of cozy mysteries that have a Thanksgiving theme(along with a couple of recipes), two of which that I'm currently in the midst of at the moment.

My first course in this mystery meal is Turkey Day Trot by Leslie Meier, a more recent entry in her Lucy Stone series. With her kids grown up and mostly out of the house, Lucy's turkey day plans are rather low key this time. 

Most of her focus has been on training for the annual Turkey Day race of the title and while doing an early morning run with the family dog Libby, Lucy discovers the body of a young woman drowned at the still frozen Tinker's Cove lake. The deceased is Alison Franklin, whose rich and obnoxious father Ed is quick to blame her sudden demise on drugs,despite little evidence of that.

As Lucy, in her role as part-time reporter for the Pennysaver, looks into that angle, she is also dismayed at the bigotry being shown to new resident and restaurant owner Rey Rodriquez and his son Matt. When another closely connected death occurs, Lucy is determined to find the real cause behind all of this and possibly restore a little sensibility to her friends and neighbors.

This particular story line has a sharper edge than most of the Lucy Stone books I've read so far(I read them seasonally rather than in publishing order) but I do appreciate the author for taking a tougher plot path. Also, we do get some Thanksgiving goodness as even though foul play is afoot, Lucy is still tasked with making fall treats like apple cider donuts for local events:

My next serving happens to be A Catered Thanksgiving, courtesy of Isis Crawford and her sister sleuths, Libby and Bernie Simmons.

While the culinary success of their business,A Little Taste of Heaven,makes both ladies thrilled yet exhausted, they nonetheless take on a grueling task by bringing a Thanksgiving feast to the fiercely fighting Fields family during a snowstorm.

During the dinner prep, the sisters are visited in the kitchen by Monty Fields, the miserly head of the family, and his inspection of the turkey leads to a rather gruesome end. Trapped by the blizzard, Libby and Bernie have no choice but to play detective and figure which of the loathsome next of kin is responsible for this appetite killing crime.

This is my first time with this series and the book is easy to get into despite being the seventh title. Libby and Bernie are very likable, along with their former police chief father(spending the holiday in Florida with his sister) and I'm already planning to read more of their adventures soon!

Plus, there's a bit of a Knives Out vibe to this story that adds some delicious deviousness to the proceedings indeed:

Once I finish with either of these books, my dessert read will be Krista Davis' The Diva Runs Out of Thyme, which is also the first book in her Domestic Diva mystery series! I do like a culinary mystery that goes right for a major holiday there.

The diva of the title is Sophie Winston, starting her life over after a difficult divorce by entering the Stupendous Stuffing Shakedown, a contest that has her childhood rival Nastasha Smith competing for the top prize.

Since Nastasha has a steady winning record in this competition, Sophie is determined to take her down especially Nastasha is one of the big reasons her marriage went bust.

 However, Sophie's path to victory is blocked by more than one dead body she winds up discovering, leading the local authorities to suspect her of foul play that doesn't involve filling up a turkey. Can she clear her name before the holiday dinner table is set or is her next menu plan being prepared for prison? 

I've heard good things about this series and happy to give it a try, although I must confess to not liking stuffing as a side(hey, just giving others at the table more to enjoy, I say) but respecting the dish all the way:


So, whatever you need to do to make your Thanksgiving safe and sound will be worth it and do try to take a little time to relax with some seasonal entertainment. Given that Christmas is already at our heels(which is fine but can those endless made for TV  holiday movies wait a little before taking over the airwaves?), finding a Thanksgiving themed delight can be tricky yet not impossible.

For many of us, staying home this season instead of attending a big family get-together is hard but consider the fact that this is a prime opportunity to have your holiday meal in peace. Avoiding certain relatives and their sure to inflame opinions is a blessing, if you think about it.

 Plus, Adele may be able to release a new album next year, giving us some great music to share at the dinner table...:

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players of Pride & Prejudice


At this point in my reread of Jane Austen's Classic Six, I'm just having fun with the folks of Pride & Prejudice for I am fond of follies and nonsense at times and try to laugh at them whenever possible(plus, I love Mr. Bennet and his pleasing ability to throw shade at every opportunity!).

There are many reasons that this particular novel is the MVP of the bunch; the romantic twists and turns, cutting social satire and a strong willed heroine who is willing to acknowledge the best and worst in others as well as herself, Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

However, my main focus here will be on some of the less than helpful supporting characters, the most irritating and self delusional people you would ever meet and truly dread being stuck in their inconsiderate company for long.

 P&P is one of those rare literary joys that makes you enjoy such horrible beings and look eagerly forward to seeing them again(much like Mr. Bennet, who does have his faults but encouraging fools to make themselves more ridiculous is not one of them!) during a reread like this:

CAROLINE BINGLEY: This snarky sister of the good natured Mr. Bingley, aided by her married sister Mrs. Hurst, does enjoy sniggering on the sidelines at those she considers inferior, mainly the Bennet family.

Of course, apart from snobbery, her chief concern is keeping Mr. Darcy within her sights and shooing Lizzie with her "fine eyes" away from any serious romantic considerations. Caroline is savvy enough to drop her hints to both Darcy and Elizabeth separately, insisting that her comments are "kindly meant" but we all know better.

What trips her up at times is her over confidence, especially with Darcy, who I think does find her amusing at times but only up to a point. It's very entertaining to watch Caroline whip herself up into a frenzy only to be cut down rather smoothly by a cool reply from her intended object of  affection:

MR. COLLINS: While he does take up more than his fair share of story space, this pompous preacher is nothing more than a rather silly side dish made up of flavorless flattery.

His attempts to woo one of the Bennet girls into marriage(in order to make up for "the crime of inheriting " their Longbourn home and yes, entails are bad)are so obviously self serving that it is hard to have any sympathy for the profound refusal given to him.

As odious as he is, Mr. Collins offers himself up as a good source of entertainment to sly folk like Mr. Bennet, who can't help but use the man's complete lack of self awareness against him, particularly when it comes to his adored patroness(who I shall not neglect here, I promise!):

LADY CATHERINE DE BOURGH: This most notable lady has an opinion about everyone and everything that comes across her path and not not shy about giving her advice(or rather, issuing orders) whether it has been asked for or not.

Being Darcy's aunt, it is understandable that she has some interest in his personal affairs but determining who is suitable for him as a wife is certainly beyond those boundaries.

 Her insistence upon having a shave in all conversations only shows just how important she needs to make herself feel constantly but having any sympathy for such behavior becomes pointless when faced with her Ladyship's unyielding stubbornness. Having a laugh at it is the best way to cope with Lady Catherine there.

 Naturally, her devoted subject Mr. Collins would think otherwise(poor Charlotte Lucas, having such an intrusive neighbor with so much influence upon her husband around, closet shelves not withstanding) yet Elizabeth refuses to buckle under the pressure placed upon her by such a determined diva, which is good for the both of them in the long run:

Lastly, I must give a shout out to Mrs. Bennet, a woman who couldn't embrace subtlety if it was thrust right into her open arms. She does have her defenders and to be fair, I do agree that securing good marriages for five daughters in such times and in those circumstances is difficult at best.

However, her purpose would be better served, along with her girls, if she took things down a very considerable notch. Mrs. Bennet's over the top antics and bold as a neon billboard hints about marrying for money undermine all of her matchmaking schemes. Then again, if Mr. Bennet can find her and those "poor nerves" of hers good enough company, so can we all:

Monday, November 09, 2020

Delighting in a surprise prize pack of Sci-Fi Fantasy literary goodness

 As all of us received a most welcome surprise this past weekend(congrats to President Elect Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris!), I found a bookish surprise in my mailbox ,thanks to Virtual Con.

During the same time this past spring when I bought my first mystery box, I also won a gift pack of books from this online event that I was greatly looking forward. After much delay,due to the ongoing health  crisis and other issues, a box of books finally arrived with a letter of apology for the wait.

Needless to say, I am very happy on more than one front and pleased to showcase some of the science fiction/fantasy titles that were gifted to me:

GODDESS IN THE MACHINE: The teen heroine of Lora Beth Johnson's debut YA novel is a sci-fi Sleeping Beauty who awakens to a strange new world in more ways than one. Andra Watts was told that she and her family would be in cryo-sleep for a hundred years as part of their interplanetary move to Holymyth. Instead, she is revived a thousand years later with none of her family or friends left alive.

Seen as a newborn deity, Andra is uncomfortable with being worshiped and plans to return to what remains of Earth. To do that, she makes an alliance with Zharde, an exiled prince with a devious reputation, in order to gather the materials for a return ship which also draws the unwelcome attention of his regal brother Maret, who is very much in a position to do them both harm.

Can Andra find her way home-if it still exists-or make a new one with possibly a new love by her side? This does sound intriguing and since there's a sequel in the works, getting in on the ground floor of a rocketship speed series certainly feels right to me:

BONDS OF BRASS: In this first entry of the Bloodright Trilogy, author Emily Skrutskie introduces us to Ettian and Gal, fellow cadets at the intergalactic military academy of the Umber Empire.

As a war orphan from Archon, steadfast pilot Ettian appears to have little in common with the carefree Gal, who comes from a more privileged background. However, when his contemporaries from Archon learn that Gal is the heir to the Umber throne and seek payback, Ettian is determined to protect him at all costs.

When political forces arise to target Gal as well, he goes to Ettian for help. The two of them flee the academy and with the aid of a new companion, street savvy Wen, seek sanctuary in a neutral star system.

Being on the run is not new to Ettian but soon he is torn between his duty to his home world,whose residents are still fighting for their freedom, and his growing affection for Gal. Will they stay true to another one or be divided by the numerous worlds at war between them? I do like how this tale of love, friendship and space war is arranged and look forward to seeing how the stars of fate align for these characters.

THE MERMAID: Writer Christina Henry blends a bit of fact and fantasy in this novel about a sea maiden teaming up with P.T. Barnum for an exhibition that may prove profitable to both parties.

The title character is Amelia, who left her ocean realm out of love for a fisherman named Jack, who lived on a remote island. Now a widow, Amelia wishes to travel the world and takes up the offer by Barnum's recruiter Levi Lyman to appear in his American museum.

Dealing with the wider world is hard for Amelia, who finds her tank confining but not as constricting as the meek and mild manners expected of her as a woman. However, she manages to stand her ground both on land and sea, perhaps finding new love along the way.

I adore mermaids and this seaworthy story is right up my alley. Also love the charmingly compact paperback edition that will be a pleasure to place among my completed reads sometime soon:

THE MOTHER CODE: Carole Stivers sets her futuristic saga in a world affected by a plague caused by a military bio-weapon that threatens the continuance of human life.

To prevent that from coming true, a series of robots are created to incubate genetically enhanced children, each one given the title code as a way of bonding with their human offspring until the time is seen as right to have their charges reclaimed by "society".

When the mechanical matrons are deemed to be no longer controllable, government forces decide to take action and take the kids. One such mother and child, Rho-Z and her son Kai, are quite determined to not be parted and those who try to do so have a hell of a fight on their hands indeed. 

Stivers offers a complex story that blends science, fear and the true nature of motherly love together in a package that is also action packed to boot:

After all of the insane stress of this year, it's nice to have a few things go right. I hope that all those who took part in this contest receive their prize packs soon and spend many happy hours of reading with them.

As recent  events have shown us, good things can come to those who wait and some surprises are truly of intergalactic proportions of joy and renewed hope like this:

Friday, November 06, 2020

My Series-ous Reading gets a taste of Cinnamon Roll Murder


Things may be tense as we collectively wait for certain national results yet my Series-ous Reading goes on with more Joanne Fluke.

 After the bomb shell revelation at the end of Devil's Food Cake Murder(Norman tells Hannah that he has to marry his new business partner/former love interest Bev in order to see the daughter he didn't know that he had!), it was a good thing that I had already planned to read Cinnamon Roll Murder next.

While she's still reeling from that announcement, Hannah and her youngest sister Michelle come across a crashed bus that happened to be taking a well known jazz band, Cinnamon Roll Six, into town.

Although the bus driver didn't make it out alive, the rest of the band and their traveling companions are well enough to be transported to the local hospital. The only one with a slightly serious injury is Buddy Neiman, the charismatic keyboardist whose charms are completely lost on Hannah. Buddy may be able to finesse others ,particularly those impressed with his fame, but as a patient, he's far from being agreeable:

At least this time around, Hannah is not the one to find Buddy stabbed to death with hospital scissors(that dubious honor falls to her mother Delores, who volunteers there and I think dating one of the doctors as well). 

While looking into the case, she discovers that Buddy and Beverly seem to have a connected past in Seattle, causing wonder about other secrets that Bev may be hiding.

Speaking of secrets, Hannah's family and friends become determined to find out Bev's real background in order to stop the upcoming wedding and insist that Hannah is being too nice and "not fighting for her man." Granted, I want Norman and Hannah together as well but in such situations, if you try to directly interfere, you often come out looking like the bad guy. I don't blame Hannah for backing off on this one.

However, she and sister Andrea do go out on a far fetched journey to get some of Bev's daughter Diana's DNA in order to prove that Norman is not the father, a plot point that I didn't care for. My concern was that this innocent kid(who is only ten) would be dragged into this mess but fortunately, Bev's mother brought their friendly real estate agent and client routine enough that they were able to get the evidence without this poor girl being at all involved.

As it turns out, Diana is pretty much being raised solely by her grandmother, who is happy to do so and not shy about expressing her suspicions about her own daughter to strangers.  Also, it took awhile for Hannah and Bev to have a showdown, which made the threat of her a bit too remote there. Everything turned out alright in the end but this whole story line was a bit too much:

As to Buddy, his ties to Bev didn't lead directly to his demise but it did open up another can of worms that lead to the capture of his killer. Of course, I really was more interested in the Norman situation and as it turns out, Norman came to his own rescue.

Hannah wisely didn't let him know about her side investigation and it looks as if those two will get back together for now at least. Yes, I do know that Hannah marries someone else later in this series, however, I am convinced that they are Meant To Be-as Phoebe Buffay would say, Norman is Hannah's lobster:

So now that the whole Norman situation is resolved, I can take a break from Hannah and friends by reading the last of my Second Act selections(see, I didn't forget about that!), A Medal for Murder by Frances Brody.

This second entry in the Kate Shackleton series has our leading lady stumble upon a shocking murder in the back alley of a theater. The deceased was a rather obnoxious man who had designs upon the young lady starring in the play that Kate saw that night(she even had to sit near him but moved at one point).

So far, this story has a pawnshop robbery, a mysterious client of that shop being hard to trace, a fake kidnapping in progress and two men linked by a dark secret as soldiers during the Boer War. Quite a change of pace for me here and it's very much welcome indeed:

Monday, November 02, 2020

Finishing up a FrightFall of reading

 With all that's going on right now, it was such a relief to be able to focus on finishing up my reads for FrightFall this past weekend. It was a good idea for Seasons of Reading to extend this particular readathon(thank you, Michelle!) to a two month period.

While I didn't get to all of the books on my initial TBR, at least my goal to read two Leslie Meier cozy holiday mystery titles was completed. Trick or Treat Murder is an early entry in her Lucy Stone series, with our leading lady deciding to investigate a growing number of arson fires in her small Maine town of Tinker's Cove.

The most recent blaze took the life of Monica Mayes, a client of Lucy's husband Bill(who restores old houses for a living) who was not expected to be at her summer home. Was her death an unfortunate yet unintentional result or a planned execution? With Monica's spouse Roland having a wandering eye for other women-including the new aerobics instructor in town!-the latter possibility is appearing to be the answer.

Of course, Lucy has to juggle her other responsibilities including taking care of her baby daughter Zoe, dealing with her other kids and making numerous cupcakes for a local haunted house event in time for Halloween. Nevertheless, she persists in keeping a sharp eye and ear out for trouble.

 I do like the small town sitcom vibe of this series, especially during portions of the story where Bill has been drafted for the town historical buildings committee(who frowns upon any changes to local property) and the contentious meetings that lead Lucy to another possible suspect in the arson situation. It's such a great Murder She Wrote meets Stars Hollow feeling that makes these stories such fun to tune into:

The other Lucy Stone title I read was my first ebook library loan,Wicked Witch Murder, set in more recent times where she's a reporter for the local Pennysaver and happens to find a strangely burned body in the woods.

Much of the ruckus in Tinker's Cove lately is due to the arrival of Diana Ravenscroft, who runs an occult shop and claims to be the high priestess of a Wiccan coven. While her presence is exciting to Lucy's teen daughters Sara and Zoe, it enrages another new resident,Ike Stoughton, whose strict religious beliefs drive him to an open campaign against Diana that gathers a few followers.

Lucy is trying to stay neutral but when the burnt body she found is revealed to be Malcolm, the high priest of the coven who was thought to be in England, concerns about Diana's influence grow strong. However, she's fully against the targeted harassment and acts of vandalism that threaten Diana's store and life.

What I really liked about this book was a side character that appears to be a more authentic witch than Diana and yet she's not in direct opposition to her at all. Rebecca Wardell and her humble vegetable garden/produce stand not only keeps her abilities low key but at times, shows up to help Lucy out in unexpected ways such as during a violent rain storm or when her small owl Oz flies by just as Lucy is in search of a clue.

Granted, the main mystery has a more reality based cause yet those subtle hints at magical assistance from a "good witch" are a sweet spice to this plate of seasonal story line cookies:

 The final book for FrightFall was partly due to a library loan-after staying up all night to finish The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires(which will be on my best of the year list), I decided to buy the ebook version of Grady Hendrix's My Best Friend's Exorcism and that was money well spent indeed.

Set during the 1980's, this novel tells the terrifying tale of Abby and Gretchen, best friends since they were ten whose bond is severely tested by a demonic force targeting Gretchen and everything she holds dear in the world.

During a sleepover with gal pals Margaret and Glee, a chance encounter with what seems to be inactive LSD changes Gretchen into a snarling and sickly version of herself, driving nearly everyone but Abby away.

Abby is determined to help her best friend in any way that she can but when Gretchen seems to have gotten "better", that's when the real horrors begin. With only a body building novice as the exorcist, Abby risks all to save her friend's soul and their relationship but is it too late for any of that?

Drenched in eighties nostalgia and old school gore, this story is a loving tribute to the power of friendship that makes Stranger Things look tame in comparison. There are plans to turn this book into a film and in the right hands, My Best Friend's Exorcism could make heads and hearts spin with terror and joy:

Once again, thanks to Michelle Miller at Seasons of Reading for hosting another wonderful readathon and best wishes to all for a happy holiday season to come.

Hopefully, we'll soon know the direction that things will be heading in and fingers crossed for a sign of better days ahead of us(it does help if you vote!). Meanwhile, I'm just planning to get to Thanksgiving without too much stress and maybe a lot more to be thankful for:

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Finding a good book to fall into this November/December

We're now in the midst of autumn and this year, it's not just the holiday season that is fast upon our heels. A certain major event will be happening early next week and hopefully, things will go well on that front(I voted via absentee ballot and got it in early, along with my family) for all concerned.

How that night will turn out is a key factor in our collective attitude going forward to the end of this rather hectic year. Either way the die is cast, a good book is going to be a big help in getting through these most challenging times.

So, this short but snappy list of upcoming titles for November and December ought to be useful whether you're making a seasonal gift list or in the mood for a page turning delight:


In Philippa Gregory's second entry in her new Fairmile series, Dark Tides , her leading lady Alinor is now living with her daughter Alys in London of 1870.

Hoping to make a new life as a wharf owner, Alinor is still distraught over the passing of her son Rob, made worse by the manipulations of her daughter-in-law Livia. Suspicious of  Livia's claims, Alinor asks her granddaughter Sarah to go to Venice to find out the truth about Rob's demise.

Meanwhile, another blast from the past returns as James, the royal spy who abandoned her long ago, arrives to proclaim his desire to marry Alinor and claim their mutual child. She insists that the child is not his and any promises from those days have been broken completely.

Those worries, along with her brother Ned  making a new life in New England, are a heavy toll upon Alinor yet perhaps her gift of second sight might prove useful to seeking more than one solution. Gregory's knack for weaving intricate plot points into a story telling tapestry are well known and seeing her latest pattern laid out for these characters should prove to be elegant fictional embroidery at it's finest(November):




It is an undisputed fact that Agatha Christie is considered "the Queen of Mystery" and yet one of the biggest mysteries connected to her has never been solved.

In the upcoming novel The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict, we get a fictional possibility as to what occurred during those eleven days in 1926 in which one of the most famous writers in the world seemed to have vanished into thin air.

Was she truly in danger or was this a planned happenstance, due to her husband Archie's constant betrayals of their wedding vows? As clues mount up and the police are fixing their sights on him as the prime suspect, Archie finds himself having no choice but to play out the hand that his wife has dealt him.

Questions abound-can Archie pull himself back from the brink before it's too late? Even if Agatha is fine and well, where is she and how is she able to manipulate things from her hidden location? Will things ever be the same between the two of them again, once this is all said and done with? 

Benedict does like to portray engaging women and Agatha Christie is quite the challenge yet I suspect that her literary solution to this real life puzzle will by the end form a solid picture for mystery fans to enjoy(December):



Speaking of Christie, Anthony Horowitz certainly celebrated the spirit of her work in his novel Magpie Murders awhile back and now he's bringing that vibe back again with a character from that book in Moonflower Murders.

After her harrowing experience with the final novel by late mystery writer Alan Conway, Susan Ryland has left the publishing world to live a more peaceful life on the island of Crete. Nonetheless, her knowledge of Conway's great detective Atticus Pund has a set of worried parents seeking her assistance.

Eight years ago, the wedding of Cecily Treherne and Aiden Macneil was marred by the murder of a guest at the hotel used for the ceremony. A foreign born maintenance man was blamed for the crime yet the bride felt that he was innocent.

With Cecily now missing, the Trehernes offer Susan a good amount of money to help in this case, particularly due to their daughter's use of the third book in the Atticus Pund series as a blueprint for solving this crime. Despite her better judgement, Susan decides to play detective and even consults that particular book to see what Cecily was thinking.

Perhaps, Cecily was too close to the truth and Susan's sleuthing might not render the results that the Treherne family is looking for. Yet, she may do some good and possibly bury her own demons from the past as well. Magpie Murders was an amazing read and it will be hard to top it but Horowitz ought to be more than capable of giving us another fun thrill ride(November).


Ellie Alexander's Bakeshop Mystery series is rather addicting(to me, at least!) and it's good to see that we're getting another delicious slice of cozy mystery cake from her before this year is out.

Chilled to the Cone has professional baker and occasional detective Juliet Capshaw happy to add another business project to the already expanding ones centered at her family bakeshop Torte.

Setting up a pop-up ice cream shop during the spring season in Ashland sounds like a great opportunity yet before the the first scoop can be sold, a death lands on Torte's doorstep that puts the whole project into a deep freeze.

Can Juliet find out who killed the beloved street performer known as "The Wizard" to thaw out her new venture in time or will this meltdown lead to a chilling end?  This may not feel like ice cream season but Alexander is great at delivering a sweet surprise to her readers in any and all fabulous flavors(December):


Like I said at the beginning of this post, with any luck, things will start to look better for our future after next Tuesday and regardless of that, we need to hold each other up as best as we can. Still going to be a tough road ahead no matter what.

In the meantime, I'm going to try and take things in stride-if we can make to Thanksgiving without too much hassle, that'll be fine with me. While this upcoming holiday season is not going to be the same, we can always find comfort among the chaos with our loved ones, plus don't skip the rolls!:

Thursday, October 22, 2020

A Surprise Sunday book haul


Much has changed this year due to the sadly ongoing health crisis and that includes the getting of books.

What with shutdowns affecting both libraries and bookstores(not to mention issues with the post office, a rather overly maligned public service these days), having a new book to enjoy almost seems like a rare luxury at times. However, sometimes, things just work out well and for me, a blessing from the Book Fairy granted me a book haul on Sunday of all days. 

While it was understandable that my latest order from Better World Books would be a little late because of the most recent holiday, it was quite a pleasant surprise to find that light green bundle of goodness on my doorstep. 

One of the delights inside was Philippa Gregory's Tidelands, the first in a new series of historical fiction from her(so loving season two of The Spanish Princess,btw!). Set in 1648, Alinor supports her family with the talent of her healing arts, risking accusations of witchcraft from the newly empowered Puritans who have forced King Charles into exile.

When she meets James, a priest who also happens to be a spy, Alinor and her loved ones are drawn into a plot to free the former king with promises of better lives for all concerned. Her interest in helping James becomes more personal as time goes on, which places her heart as well as her life on the line. Can Alinor find true happiness for herself and her family or is this a path toward future ruin here?

I do like how Gregory puts the spotlight on women and their particular issues during these power struggles between men. Her characters are often engaging in or out of royal circles and by giving us this tale set among regular folk, it's easy to see how some things never quite change indeed:

The book that accompanied Tidelands was The Institute by Stephen King, a most unlikely pair, I grant you. Yet, I suspect that those two authors might get along well with each other on a few points.

The title location is where young Luke Ellis has been taken to by mysterious government forces who have killed his parents. Their interest in him is due to his psychic abilities, a special gift that he and many of his fellow inmates share.

Being manipulated by their captors to perform on command for future unknown purposes, Luke and his new friends become determined to break out. It's quite a risk since no child has escaped before but as things grow worse, any chance at freedom is the only viable option left.

King does know how to tap into the pulse of current fear and this story certainly does have a ripped from the headlines vibe to it. Yet, if anyone can mix the horror and humanity of a situation like this, he certainly can. The man wears the crown of literary terror for good reason:

Later that same day, I checked my e-mail and found a notification from my local library(which is still physically closed) that one of my ebook holds was now available.

Thanks to a kind gift from a family friend, I now have a new ereader that allows me to borrow books electronically and it's nice to have a little library loan joy back. The book in question is The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, which is so suitable for this scary season!

Our leading lady is Patricia, a 90's housewife whose main excitement in life is her reading group that devours true crime stories together. After a shocking encounter with an elderly neighbor gone suddenly savage, she meets a charming newcomer to town claiming to be that woman's nephew.

As James Harris breezes into her life and the lives of her family and friends, a string of disappearances on the other side of town soon leads to her own backyard, forcing Patricia to consider the possibility that James is not what he seems. However, getting anyone to believe her is another matter entirely as even her best book buddies are a little reluctant to take up stakes on her behalf.

Nonetheless, Patricia gears up to battle the blood drinking forces of evil at hand and she becomes a power to reckon with on more than one front. I'm reading this right now and it is a total blast, a combo of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood with a special love for old school horror. So loving this and if you get the chance to sink your teeth into one, do so with gusto!:

Considering all of the chaos swirling about us these days, it's good to have a book or two nearby to ground you to the world. Hopefully, our collective tomorrows will be brighter but in the meanwhile, we need to stay focused on what's right as well as take a moment to regather our strength there.

So, making the best of things is something that folks have done well in the past and should be good enough for our present circumstances. You might not be able to catch up on all of your reading at the moment but when you get a small special book bonus like I was given here, you need to make the most of it: