Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

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: