Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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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:

Monday, October 12, 2020

Booking some future fun reads for your cozy mystery shelf


While things are far from certain these days, you can at least rely on the power of a good book to help you get through the bad times. For cozy mystery fans like myself, a great way to find something to look forward to in the future is to check out the new releases that lie ahead for us in the new year.

For example, Ellery Adams will be bringing forth the fourth entry in her newest series entitled The Secret,Book and Scone Society this upcoming January. Ink and Shadows has Miracle Springs bookshop owner Nora dealing with a bit of censorship as a few of the locals object to the titles showcased in her Halloween window display.

Another target of this harassment is Celeste, whose new shop sells CBD oil based goods, and as disrupt acts and vague threats keep cropping up, Nora and her group of friends band together to calm the worsening situation down.

However, when a suspicious death occurs in town, the stakes become even higher. Is the cause of this untimely demise connected to the current wave of controversy or to a secret from Celeste's past that won't stay buried ? 

 This series is really growing on me with it's strong set of female friendships and engaging mysteries that are as inviting as one of the special scones made by Nora's baking buddy Hester, which are personally flavored to soothe your emotional appetites:

By March of 2021, you might be in the mood for ice cream and that's when A Game of Cones by Abby Collette is set to arrive.

The second book in the Ice Cream Parlor series has our leading lady Bronwyn "Win"Crewse feeling more confident about revving the frozen treat family business yet a fresh death on her doorstep promises to dampen that mood.

Not only does Win have to defend one of her good friends being unjustly accused of killing a new developer in town planning to set up a big box shopping mall, her flighty aunt, who pretty much ran the ice cream shop into the ground, is back to claim what she thinks is hers.

Fighting more than one battle on several fronts is challenging enough but Win is determined to save her friend, her new workplace and the day as best she can. Hopefully, the victory on all of these fields will not be bittersweet. I truly enjoyed An Inside Deadly Scoop, which launched this new series and this second sinister sweet sundae will definitely be worth the wait:

While Bakeshop Mystery series writer Ellie Alexander is going to have an ice cream themed book out later this season(Chilled to the Cone), her summer story for next June is rather warm brewed indeed.

In Mocha, She Wrote,  professional baker and amateur detective Juliet Capshaw is proud to have her top barista Andy take part in a coffee competition that could earn him a big pay day, along with some percolating prestige.

However, when the head judge is so appalled by Andy's initial offering that he spits that first sip out, his odds for a win grind to a halt. Even worse, that judge is found dead not long after, making Juliet's prize employee a prime suspect!

Can Juliet clear Andy of making a murderous cup of brew or are his chances of getting off truly a mug of mud? The wonderfully punny title is a nice tip of the hat to the classic mystery TV show, Murder She Wrote and while I suspect that Jessica Fletcher was more of a tea drinker, she would more than likely  appreciate this caffeinated crime scene:


 If you haven't read any of these cozy mystery series before, this is the right time to catch up and for those of us who have, putting in a pre-order or placing a hold at your nearest library might be a good start for your 2021 reading plans.

Whatever you choose to read, just remember that mystery books are the perfect present to give yourself. Unlike other "mystery" gifts, they'll keep you guessing for all of the right reasons and perhaps prevent a family argument or two:

Friday, October 09, 2020

My Series-ous Reading samples a sinfully good slice of Devil's Food Cake Murder

I know this latest installment of Series-ous Reading is a tad late but as one of my favorite comedians would say "Things have been crazy!"

Nonetheless, this challenge will go on and today's focus is on Devil's Food Cake Murder, which is the fourteenth entry in Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen culinary cozy mystery series. I'm still trying to catch up to my mom(who has read nearly every one of these books!) but at this point, I think that I'm gaining ground here.

This time around, Hannah is looking into the death of substitute minister Matthew Walters, who is covering for regular reverend Bob Knudson as he and his new bride Clare finally get to take their honeymoon(this romance has been a long running subplot and it's nice to see that story piece fit neatly into the overall puzzle).

Matthew is an old friend from childhood, who once staid with Bob's grandmother during his teens, along with his troublesome cousin Paul. Grandma Knudson is happy to host Matthew again but gets concerned when he reveals that his chocolate allergy from back in the day is long gone. That makes her wonder if this is the real Matthew as cousin Paul bears a striking resemble to him(very Patty Duke Show there!).

Hannah does check Matthew out and he appears to be legit(also you can outgrow/overcome chocolate allergies) which relieves both ladies greatly. However, it's not long before Hannah finds him dead at his desk, with a mynah bird overhead squawking "the wages of sin are death!"

Yes, the bird happens to also be a guest of Grandma Knudson's and that feathered friend provides a pivotal clue in the case. It's not long before Hannah gets her crew into gear to solve the murder mystery with assignments to her sisters Andrea and Michelle as well as Norman(who drops a major bombshell later on in the story), plus her Cookie Jar partner Lisa is gathering details to make her dramatic retelling of Hannah's latest deadly discovery a must-attend event. 

At this point, it is becoming a regular feature of Lake Eden; Hannah Finds Another Body(and/or her family does!)and much like a certain vampire slayer, she has her own Scooby Gang ready to take action on her behalf:

While Hannah does her best to figure out who the killer is, complications do rise up such as her fastidious mother Delores insisting on going undercover at a local dive bar(complete with rented costume!) and the "real" Matthew showing up, claiming that it must have been his ex-con cousin Paul who was done in.

Quite a stir occurs with that last bit, as the legitimacy of  local religious services(weddings, baptisms, etc) is under question, not to mention who exactly is after Paul. A big help is all of this comes from a rather unexpected source-Grandma Knudson, who also has a small Scooby Gang of her own.

Not only does Grandma Knudson figure out a few clues, she comes to Hannah's rescue when the true killer is discovered(no unmasking, alas) and even figures out what the murderer was searching for in Matthew's office that lead to his untimely demise. I swear, Grandma Knudson could be the next Miss Marple and maybe even give Hannah a run for her money in the small town detective game there:

What stunned me completely in this book was Norman's big revelation regarding Doctor Beverly, the former love of his life who has joined his dentistry clinic.

Ever since she came on the scene, Norman has been secretive with Hannah and clearly miserable about something. By the time the case has been resolved, Norman talks to Hannah alone, asking her to help him find his beloved cat Cuddles a new home.

Hannah wonders why and it's because Beverly claims to be allergic to cats. When questioned as to why that matters, Norman tells her that after he and Beverly broke up, she discovered that she was carrying his child(a girl named Diana) and never bothered to tell him about it. Now, after all these years, she's only willing to let Diana see him if Norman marries her!

What the what?!? Wow, that's so...what gets me is that Beverly has been openly dating Hannah's other beau, police detective Mike during this return to town and yet she's determined to set her hooks into Norman?! I am so getting Gilmore Girls Season Six flashbacks from this plot twist....:

Fortunately, Hannah can take Cuddles in as her beloved cat Moishe gets along great with Norman's kitty but the other news has her reeling back in shock to say the least.

With such a major emotional hit like that at the end, it's good that my current Series-ous Reading selection is Cinnamon Roll Murder, the very next Hannah Swensen book to follow! So far, our leading lady is dealing with the death of a keyboard player from a jazz band called Cinnamon Roll Six and Norman's plight hasn't been a big part of that yet.

However, I'm sure that something will happen on that front as even romantic rival Mike is concerned about what's going on there. For now, just thinking about the sweetness of cinnamon rolls is soothing enough for me: