Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Monday, June 28, 2021

Preparing for a bookish blockbuster season this July and August


As we approach the Independence Day weekend, it's clearly time to acknowledge the big pop culture explosion of entertainment arriving in time for the summer.

Since my main focus here is on books(not to mention movie theaters still not quite available for many of us), I thought that showcasing new titles for this upcoming July and August should have a cinematic theme.

 After all, most of the best movies are from books and you can have some popcorn on hand while diving into these page turning motion pictures for the mind:



Grady Hendrix does it again, creating a pop culture/cult classic inspired narrative that charms,excites and gives pure character love in The Final Girl Support Group.

Lynette is a member of the title bunch, a therapy group made up of women who survived horrific massacres that became horror movie franchises. Despite not being seen as a "real Final Girl" due to her literally playing dead during the Christmas themed slaughter fest she went through, Lynn is the only one alert to an outside threat that seems to be targeting them all.

As she goes on the run to find the true killer, Lynn has to face her ultimate fears and prove to herself just how much of a strong survivor she really is. 

I was lucky enough to get an ebook ARC of this book and I finished it lightning fast. Not only are there dozens of Easter eggs for slasher movie fans to scoop up and enjoy, Hendrix adds in plenty of his own creativity and emotional character development to make this story more than just a frightful fun house ride. A total must-read for horror fans and those who long for more kickass heroines in all forms of pop culture(July):


In Samantha Downing's new thriller, For Your Own Good, we are introduced to Teddy Crutcher, an English Lit teacher at the prestigious Belmont Academy.

Teddy's proud of his Teacher of the Year award yet his urge to "fiddle" with those students he feels are in need of special attention gets no acclaim, which does bother him to no end.

When a school parent turns up missing, Teddy is not concerned about anyone looking in his direction but perhaps he should be. Seems that the talented editor of the school newspaper, Courtney Ross, has good reason to wonder about the other strange disappearances that have been connected to Belmont lately.

Can she make a case for Teddy being more than a helpful mentor or will the powers that be see Courtney as their culprit instead? Worse still, what if Teddy decides to downgrade her for good?

Downing has quite a knack for mixing the seeming steady suburban story with bizarrely believable twists and a dash of chilling humor to boot. This latest suspense shocker ought to be engagingly entertaining as well as educational evil(July):



Helen Hoang adds another offbeat love story to her romance roster with The Heart Principle. Violinist Anna Sun is feeling pressured as it is with her unexpected success due to a YouTube video of one of her performances going viral without her potential fiancee dropping a bombshell in her lap.

Seems that he wants to have an "open relationship" before settling down, which Anna is less than thrilled about. So she decides what's good for the gander can also be good for the goose and sets out to find plenty of temporary hook-ups with as many bad boys as she can get.

Her first try brings her to Quan, whose tattoo and motorcycle appearance conceals a sensitive soul that takes to Anna's plight right away. Instead of a one night stand, the two of them start to form a real bond that gets tested once a family situation becomes critical .

Hoang's love stories are down to earth escapades that entice the reader with warmth,honesty and passion,making this new novel a welcome treat that gives you a good excuse to seek relief from the summer heat indeed(August).


A new case of murder brings police chief Kate Burkholder back to her past in Linda Castillo's Fallen. The victim, Rachael Schwartz, was like Kate, formerly Amish and had left her home town long ago. In fact, Kate remembers babysitting Rachael as a child and wonders why she felt the need to return.

While looking into the matter, Kate learns that Rachael had a bad habit of blackmailing people, both Amish and "English" alike. Finding the killer promises to unearth plenty of secrets that could reach out to take down Kate as well but her sense of official and ethical duty is the tie that truly binds.

This book is the 13th entry in Castillo's series about Kate Burkholder yet it can be read as a standalone, which is great as that gives you plenty more to explore here. Word of mouth and critical praise for these books might bring about a future adaptation to these works that should make for smartly written entertainment worth watching there (July):



Fans of the delightful Dear Mrs. Bird will be very much pleased to learn that writer AJ Pearce has a follow-up to her story of Emmy Lake and friends during WWII in London.

Yours Cheerfully has Emmy still writing for Women's Friend magazine yet a new responsibility is added to her plate when requested to chronicle the life and times of women at work for the war effort.

She's happy to help as always yet upon looking beyond the government issued spin on the situation, realizes that things aren't quite what they seem for the ladies on the factory front lines.

Despite the disapproval from the higher-ups, Emmy is determined to make things better for those women whose sacrifices are just as significant as any man's during such troubled times. Can she do all of that and get to her own wedding on time as well?

The lighthearted nature of Dear Mrs. Bird and this upcoming sequel shouldn't make you think that these stories are mere fluff. Far from it, the power of positive thinking and action are sound principles both for life and a good book(August).


I wish you all a happy July Fourth and will see you soon after the holiday weekend. In the meanwhile, do enjoy a good book and a fun movie as safely as you can. While there are way too many streaming services around these days, I am beyond overjoyed to have one that will let me watch the next major DC Comics movie in the air conditioned comfort of my own home(and I hope all of you can as well):

Monday, June 21, 2021

Setting up some summer duets of reading


As it is officially-according-to-the-calendar the first day of summer, I thought this would be a good time to arrange a few bookish duets.

By that I mean pairing up some of my TBR titles based on author and my own personal seasonal needs. To start, a recent completed read of mine is Jennifer Weiner's latest novel That Summer, where two women with similar names met up yet only one of them knows the real connections between them.

When Daisy Shoemaker keeps getting emails addressed to a Diana S, she's sort of not surprised since her actual name is Diana(her husband Hal insisted on calling her Daisy). By letting the "other Diana" know of the messages she's missed, Daisy finds herself striking up a friendship with this woman, who seems to be more sophisticated and polished than herself.

As it turns out, Diana is not what she seems but her intentions are not directly about Daisy; rather it's about what happened to her fifteen years ago at the same Cape Cod beach where the Shoemakers still vacation at. Those events changed her life in a profound way and finding those responsible for that may change Daisy's life as well.

I don't want to say more to avoid spoilers but many of the themes and plot points have current event connections. The interwoven narratives here(including Daisy's offbeat and charming daughter Beatrice) form an emotional quilt that creates a solid canvas for the characters to showcase their inner lives and outward concerns upon. It's been awhile since I've read Weiner but she doesn't miss a beat in setting up her story lines and making them work in a way that would please Tim Gunn very much indeed.

It turns out that Weiner's previous novel, Big Summer, is briefly referenced in That Summer, which gives me plenty of reason to go back and fully read it this time around.

When budding Instagram influencer Daphne gets a call from high school frenemy Drue, she's more than justified in wondering why. A prank that Drue played on her lead to Daphne's internet fame but it was the last straw in a series of passive aggressive mind games that shut down their alleged friendship for what Daphne considered to be permanent.

Drue is about to get married in a high society Cap Cod set wedding but has no real gal pals to act as her bridesmaids. She begs Daphne to do her this one last favor, stating that it would help both of their public personas. While not fully trusting her, Daphne agrees to be part of the wedding and at first, things seem to go well. Unfortunately, a shocking tragic event places her at the center of a murder mystery that needs to be solved to save her own future!

This sounds like one of those "why-didn't-I read-this-sooner?" books but hey, better late than never, right? Especially when it comes to one of my all-time favorite writers and yes, Jennifer Weiner is high on that list:

I am planning to do some rereading this summer and for that reason, Daisy Jones & The Six is on my literary playlist. I first read this much talked about Taylor Jenkins Reid novel as a library loan(back in the before times!) mainly to see what all the fuss was about.

Well, this oral history of the title music group(said to be loosely based on Fleetwood Mac) was a truly pleasant surprise. As the unseen interviewer brings the various  talking point by members of the band, torn between original lead singer Billy Dunne's artistic vision and newcomer Daisy's more improv approach to music, you get a full fledged portrait of fellow travelers on the musical journey of their lives.

However, before climbing aboard that tour bus again, I want to dive into TJR's latest novel, Malibu Rising.  Set in the summer of 1983,  Nina Riva is preparing to host her annual beach party despite the fact that her tennis pro husband's split with her is very much public news.

Nina is the eldest daughter of famed singer Mick Riva, a distant parent at best. That made Nina the go-to for her other siblings such as pro surfer brother Jay, their half brother Hud whose photography has helped bolster their careers and younger sister Kit, determined to make her own mark on the surfing world.

As this present day party gathers together, some secrets from the past(and a few recent activities) make their way to the surface, making this family reunion more of a fire hazard than a late season festival to say the least.

If that doesn't sound like ideal summer reading, I don't know what is! So far, the book is good juicy entertainment and should offer plenty of fun out of the sun page turning delights as I go on:


Arriving in August is another cool novel from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, this time set in the 1970s, Velvet Was The Night. As the gorgeous cover art suggests, this a noir tale where a dreamy eyed secretary named Maite becomes caught up in a missing person case that may lead to murder and political intrigue.

While looking into the disappearance of her neighbor Lenora, an art student involved in the protest movement against the government, Maite at first teams up with Ruben, Leonora's exe.

As time goes on, Maite crosses paths with Elvis, a young government operative who usually is sent to break up student protests. However, when ordered to track down Leonora, he finds himself drawn to Maite and the two of them join forces to seek out Leonora along with the truth.

Since it'll be awhile before that book is out and about, that gives me time to read one of SMG's earlier works, The Beautiful Ones.

When Nina makes her debut into society during the Grand Season, she hopes that her special telekinetic abilities can stay hidden long enough to make a good first impression.

Unfortunately, that doesn't work out too well for her yet the return of Hector Auvray to town is a game changer for her. His powers are similar to hers and have made him a famous performer with world wide approval.

Hector is charmed by her talents and offers to tutor Nina, who soon falls in love with him. Those feelings are not quite mutual as Hector's motivations for seeking her out stretch back to a former romance with someone in Nina's family circle, who is none too pleased with his supposed change of affections.

This blend of period drama and magical powers is the type of amazing story telling that SMG is an expert in and brings to vivid life on page. The Beautiful Ones should make waiting for Velvet Was The Night a pleasant experience in more ways than one:

I'm sure that many of you out there can match up some of your lingering TBR titles to create a duet or two for summer reading season.  It's almost like a musical duet as you find the right words to tap your mental feet along to and perhaps even share with one of your super friends to enjoy:

Monday, June 14, 2021

Announcing the Autumn in August summer movie festival!


As some of you may know, I have in the past set up the month of August as Bad Movie Month where the best of the worst was reviewed. While that was a lot of fun, the terrible no-good very bad year we shared in 2020 didn't feel right for such an entertainment outing.

The RomCom Comfort Food film fest that I did instead was a nice change of pace that I hope amused other folks as well during such a rough time. 

For this upcoming late summer season, my creative spirits decided to do something a little different yet again. So, LRG is happy to announce the Autumn in August movie festival, a quartet of films that just have that Fall feeling, plus are literary inspired as well. After all, those dog days of summer tend to be heavily humid and what better time for a good book and movie combo to chill out with?

 THE HOUSE OF MIRTH: Since I've been rereading Edith Wharton lately, it only seems fitting to include a couple of her adaptations here. This 2000 film stars Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart, a socialite in late 19th century New York who is starting to age out as a viable candidate for a wealthy marriage.

Part of Lily's problem is her utter lack of guile in claiming a husband, something that one of her married frenemies Bertha Dorset(Laura Linney) has in abundance. Particularly when it comes to Lawrence Selden (Eric Soltz), a bachelor lawyer who has no issue with a discreet affair or two yet can't bring himself to declare himself in love with Lily. 

The downfall of a social butterfly who is truer to her scruples than the upper class folk around is bittersweet and beautiful, with director Terrence Davies giving Lily Bart the true elegance that she yearns for onscreen:

THE AGE OF INNOCENCE: The first Edith Wharton novel that I ever read was due to this 1993 version, a pet project of director Martin Scorsese who saw little difference between the honor code of the criminal underworld and the  strict yet silent social order of New York in the 1970s.

As Newland Archer(Daniel Day-Lewis) finds himself torn between his sweetly doting fiance May(Winona Ryder) and hoping to be divorced Countess Ellen Olenska(Michelle Pfeiffer), it turns out that more than his heart is at stake. 

Subtle forces from within and without his immediate social circle do their best to steer him in what they consider to be the right direction yet the strong weapon in that arsenal is most unexpected indeed.

The film did win Best Costume Design at the Oscars that year but it really should have gotten Best Adapted Screenplay as well with Scorsese and co-writer Jay Cocks bringing this tightly woven world of words to a richly vivid cinematic life:


PERSUASION: Of course, I had to bring Jane Austen into this and like Age of Innocence, I was drawn to this posthumous work due to a film version. This 1995 Roger Mitchell(Notting Hill) production showcases the passionless plateau that Anne Eliot, played by Amanda Root, finds herself upon.

Stuck between her cold hearted father and chilly older sister Elizabeth, who must "retrench" due to their lack of financial management, and her always fancing herself ill younger sister Mary's household, Anne soon discovers that her former love interest Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds) is back and has done well for himself in his naval career.

Each of them finds the other in their social orbit at differing times, not sure of being just friends or reconnecting their romance. Will Anne allow herself to be influenced again in this situation or will this decision be taken out of her hands by other means?

While I know that other Persuasion adaptations are in the works as we speak, this one holds a special place in my bookish heart that no other can possess. Yes, I will certainly give the newer films a fair chance and appreciate them on their own merits yet this down to earth edition is like the porridge that Goldilocks chose for me:

YOU'VE GOT MAIL: Yes, folks, a film actually set in modern times! Although the technology necessary for the plot is rather old fashioned, it is fitting as director/writer Nora Ephron based this 1998 NYC located movie on a 1940 Jimmy Stewart romcom.

As rival booksellers Joe Fox(Tom Hanks) and Kathleen Kelly(Meg Ryan) run into each other while fighting to claim a section of the city as their literary providence, romance is not far behind.

When Joe realizes that his secret online pen pal is Kathleen, things change in more ways than one but is a happily every after completely ruled out here?

Out of the three romantic comedies that Hanks and Ryan starred in together, I find this one to be the absolute best(Joe Vs. The Volcano is, however, highly underrated). The dialogue is a delight as are co-stars such as Jean Stapleton, Dabney Coleman and Dave Chappelle. Plus, the movie starts in the fall, so it's truly picture perfect for this occasion:

So, this is my line-up for Autumn in August and I cordially invite you all to stop in for a spell later this summer. My favorite time of year happens to be Autumn and it will be nice to relax during heat wave season with the promise of cooler days when school supply shopping is a treat for all ages:

Monday, June 07, 2021

Starting my summertime Series-ous Reading with a taste of Arsenic and Adobo

 Yes,Virginia, summer is definitely here and it's such a perfect time to stay in the shade with a tasty culinary cozy mystery at hand along with a cool glass of iced tea to sip between chapters.

My latest Series-ous Reading selection is a debut novel from Mia P. Manansala called Arsenic and Adobo, meant to be the first of Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery series set in Shady Palms,Illinois. Lila is our leading lady, who has recently moved back to town to help her Aunt Rosie with the title restaurant.

Lila is also trying to get over a major bad break-up and it doesn't make it easier when her obnoxious high school exe keeps showing up for dinner. Derek Winters is a food blogger who persists in giving bad reviews of Tita Rosie's Kitchen yet keeps coming back for more and this time with his stepfather Ed Long, who happens to be the landlord.

 While the restaurant has a strong following for it's flavorful dishes, those reviews are making it harder for Tita Rosie to make ends meet but Lila is determined to not let Derek and Ed ruin the good food feeling for everyone:

 Ed's been looking to shut the place down for awhile now and during this visit, might have a solid reason to do so as Derek drops dead during the dessert course!

 Even though Derek was diabetic, his death wasn't caused by that ailment which puts Lila in the top spot as prime suspect in the case. In order to clear her name and have the now closed restaurant reopen, Lila has no choice but to investigate as the detective in charge is quick to blame her for what's happened.

With the help of her friend Adeena, Lila discovers that other local eateries have been targeted by Derek and shaken down by the health inspector who happens to be good friends with Ed Long. Is that the  reason for Derek's demise or is there something even more unsavory afoot here?:

I do love restaurant settings in books and Mia P. Manansala makes the most of that element here as part of Lila's inquiries take place at various other eateries, which is a smart way to expand the horizons of this story(as well as establish future mystery locations!). Also, Lila's bond with her family and friends added some good character seasoning to this first course of what I hope is a feast of great tales to come.

Detective Park did annoy me a little as even I could tell that Lila was being framed(okay, you get an anonymous call about hidden incriminating items right AFTER a very public death at the restaurant and those objects just happen to be exactly where you were told they were, easy to find? Seriously, dude, way to be a dupe there!) However, it seems that he's going to be a future love interest as well as his brother(who I like way better!), so I'll give him a chance in the next book.

The next entry in this series is Homicide and Halo-Halo, due out in February of 2022 and this time around, Lila has to look in a revived beauty pageant in order to keep her cousin Bernadette from being accused of offing the head judge! Food,family and murder is what makes a delicious cozy mystery page turning good:

Meanwhile, for this month's Series-ous Reading selection, I'm heading back to Lake Eden to sample Hannah Swensen's Red Velvet Cupcake Murder.  After  all, my mom is still way ahead of me when it comes to Joanne Fluke and I really need to catch up!

The title treats are being served at the opening of a luxury hotel/condo by wealthy owner Roger Dalworth, which goes smoothly until the police secretary Barbara Donnelly has a sudden fall from the penthouse balcony!

While Barbara managed to survive that incident, her fuzzy recollections send Hannah off on another mystery only to be sidetracked by the death of Doc Bev, her former rival for Norman's affections. Can she solve both cases in time to avoid an arrest warrant by Mike, who is more loyal to the law than to any of his lady friends, that's for sure!

As it happens, this story is set during the summer season and a cupcake sounds like a great way to have a winter delight taste just right in heat wave times: