Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Monday, October 25, 2021

Trying out some ThankFall reading


I know that Halloween is almost here and that it might feel too soon to talk about Thanksgiving but then again, making more reading plans is suitable for all seasons.

With FrightFall nearly at an end and other big challenges such as National Novel Writing Month(NaNoWriMo) and Nonfiction November on the literary horizon, I thought it might be nice to embark on a small reading journey of my own this time around.

As some of you may know, I try to promote the spirit of Thanksgiving, which seems to be downplayed more and more each year, by mentioning pop culture themes on my blog to stir up those good Turkey Day vibes.

Well, for this year I want to encourage folks to seek out books that carry that sense of holiday joy yet don’t have to be directly about Thanksgiving. I’m calling it ThankFall Reading and the main requirement for any book that you choose for this challenge  is that it has to have connections to food,family/friends and togetherness.

My trio of ThankFall reads also happens to have a shared theme of cookbooks(sort of unintentionally intentional there) and yes, two of them are cozy mysteries:

Murder in the Cookbook Nook:  In this Ellery Adams series, Jane Steward runs a hotel known as Storyton Hall where bookish events take place, along with the occasional murder.

The case to be solved by Jane and company involves a cooking competition hosted by Mia Mallett, featuring a number of popular chefs. The most obnoxious of the bunch, Chef Pierce, is soon discovered in the hotel’s culinary book spot, leaving an open position in the competition as well as a pantry full of savory suspects.

I haven’t read this series before,however I am a fan of Adams’ The Secret, Book and Scone Society novels (just finished the latest one, Ink and Shadows) and being familiar with the author’s heartfelt character development and gently guided style of sleuthing, I have full confidence in starting the Book Retreat mysteries at this particular point:

A Cookbook Conspiracy:

Brooklyn Wainwright is better at restoring old books and finding killers than she is at cooking, a talent that her sister Savannah had in abundance.

When Savannah asks Brooklyn to rebind a cookbook from the 1800s as a gift for Baxter Cromwell, a famous chef who is opening a new restaurant, she’s happy to do so and attend the launch party to boot.

While the opening seems to be going great, things come to a sudden halt as the guest of honor is found stabbed to death. To make matters worse, Savannah is also on the scene with a bloody knife in hand and the gifted cookbook  has vanished into thin air.

With the help of her now retired British secret agent boyfriend Derek, Brooklyn is out to clear her sister’s name and retrieve that cookbook , which may prove to be the real motive behind this murder.

This title is the seventh book in Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile Mystery series, one that I have been reading way out of order(recently completed the newest entry,Little Black Book, thanks to a library loan).

It does help that Carlisle does make new readers feel welcome on the page and into the social sphere of her characters as they seek the truth of the murderous matter before them. Combined with a wonderful love of books and food, Brooklyn Wainwright is someone that I would love to share a shopping spree with any time of year:

Family Tree:  This Susan Wiggs novel introduces us to Annie Rush, who has awaken from a coma into a new life.

Annie was once the producer of a successful cooking show which starred her handsome husband Martin. Discovering his lack of fidelity just before the accident that took her down for over year is only the start of Annie’s troubles.

Working on recovering her health and memories, she finds support from her family back home on their maple farm as well as Fletcher, Annie’s high school sweetheart who has come a long way from his bad boy days.

 Finding her grandmother’s old cookbook has helped to revive the past in a good way but will it lead Annie towards a brighter future?

The works of Susan Wiggs have become a welcome joy this year for me and one that lightens my spirits without being watered down escapism. Rather,  what Wiggs does is set up a showcase for the struggles of life while offering a reasonably good and well earned outcome for her fictional folk. That’s not an easy feat to pull off and I salute her for it:

While this is just my personal reading challenge for November, I invite anyone else who likes this idea to give it a try for themselves. I’m not the type that is great at arranging readathons(like Michelle Miller at Seasons of Reading for example) but I do like making suggestions there.

What I really want out of ThankFall Reading is to hold on to some of the joy of life, that element being harder and harder to come by these days. Yes, things are still bad right now but they can get better, especially if we make the effort to help each other out through this instead of sowing more chaos.

Reading a good book may sound like a small self indulgent thing but it’s really not. It’s a way to rebound your sinking spirits and reconnect with humanity by reviving your empathy. Thanksgiving is more than just a big meal to get through, it is a time to embrace what positive things are around you as we head towards the end of another year together in the world.

If you give ThankFall Reading a chance, it might make what lies ahead a little less daunting. At the very least, you could have something to savor over a slice of your favorite holiday pie and perhaps someone to share that space with you:

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A good feeling for a Fall Library Haul


Despite the calendar dates, that beautiful bone chilling feeling of autumn has been hard to come by these days.

However, yesterday was much more in sync with the season, so much so that I was willing to face strong cold winds and a brief bout of rain to make a library visit.

Since we’re in the midst of “spooky season “, my first pick was Stephen King’s If It Bleeds, his most recent collection of stories. I’m not a big short story/novella person but his well told tales are always worth sitting around the collective campfire for.

While stories such as “Rat”, where a writer makes a pact with an unusual rodent and “Mr.Harriman’s Phone” which has a young man finding out that there’s more than he bargained for with his IPhone calling plan, the title feature is the main attraction for me.

The lead story focuses on Holly Gibney, the breakout star from the Mr. Mercedes trilogy and The Outsider. She is investigating a school bombing with her true target being the first reporter on the scene. As it turns out, there is more to that guy than just finding a good news story and he’s not alone in feasting on real life horrors.

Holly gets a bit of backstory here as well and she’s definitely a fictional person of interest that I’d like to know better:

In keeping with the October spirit, my next selection was My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. I must admit that finding the recent movie tie in edition was a big incentive towards this(Rachel Weisz is quite eerily captivating on this cover!).

Also, I had just finished Kate Carlisle’s Little Black Book(her latest Bibliophile mystery) the day before and a good portion of the plot was hinged on secret messages place in a copy of Rebecca. That certainly put me in the right frame of mind here.

This Gothic themed love story in which young Phillip is possibly bewitched and definitely bothered by his attraction to his cousin’s widow is suitably sinister for this time of year and I might check out the movie if this read goes well:

With November not that far off, I do like to have a bit of historical fiction on hand and The Poppy Wife felt like the perfect find on the library shelf in that regard.

This debut novel by Caroline Scott takes place in the aftermath of WWI as Edie, a young British woman who is not sure if her husband Francis survived or not, decides to go to France in 1921 to settle the question once and for all.

She’s accompanied by Henry, her young brother in law who is still haunted by the death of his younger brother Will during the heat of battle. As the two of them get closer to learning the truth about Francis, they also must face the reality of their feelings about each other.

Scott is a historian who drew from her own family’s past as inspiration for this book, which should make for compelling reading. The true lure for taking up this storytelling journey for me, however, is seeing the depths of true love up against such an epic background like this:

With the way things are going these days, settling in with a good book is becoming more appealing and having my local library open again is a great comfort there.

Combined with the onset of wonderfully cold weather and the arrival of seasonal baking shows, this constant reader is planning on being as content as can be as the days go by:

Monday, October 11, 2021

A Fall Foliage of Reading


It’s better late than never as they say and that should apply to book preview posts as well.

Due to setting up a new late summer challenge (Autumn in August) and other matters at hand, my bimonthly book previews have fallen a tad behind.

Not to mention the growing concerns about a book publishing shortage, which is causing many release dates to be moved furthest and further back. However, all of that is no reason not to help spread the good word about upcoming titles for the rest of the season and to that end, let’s begin with a book that is arriving this week,  The Party Crasher by Sophie Kinsella.

Effie Talbot’s childhood memories have been upturned by her father’s announcement of selling Greenoaks, the long held family home. It’s bad enough that he divorced her well loved stepmom over a year ago and hooked up with Krista, who is way younger than him but now this?

As Krista is celebrating the sale with a “house cooling “ party, Effie declares that she will not attend yet this gathering could provide sufficient cover for her to reclaim a set of dolls that belonged to her grandmother.

Of course, such plans are never as simple as they seem and while finding her dolls,Effie unexpectedly uncovers a few secrets and lies along the way to possibly reconnect with her past and present life.

Kinsella is known for the good natured humor given to her character’s situations while not underplaying their problems as punchlines. This story feels like a solid example of her signature style that should provide welcome relief from your daily stresses indeed (Oct.12)


In Julie Tieu’s delicious debut, The Donut Trap, our leading lady is Jasmine, who left med school due to burnout and is now working in the family bakery called Sunshine Donuts.

While she does long to change her life, Jasmine never thought that change would come in the form of Alex, a guy she once met in school and has never run into since then.

Meeting up with him again sets off a serious spark between them that could lead to something more lasting. Can that happen,however, when a family dinner causes a commotion that promises to extinguish their spirits?

This look at life, family and the love of donuts sounds the perfect sweet treat of the season)November):

Abby Collette has shown a knack for crime solving stories served with edible intrigue and her new series , Books and Biscuits Mystery, is off to a fine start.

In Body and Soul Food, reunited twins Koby and Keaton decided to open up their own business , a bookshop with a soul food cafe.

This idea seems like a great way to begin their new lives in the small town of Timber Lake. Those dreams may be derailed unfortunately by the sudden demise of Koby’s foster brother who died in broad daylight in between light rail crossings.

While the police have no clue as to who and why, Koby and Keaton know only that they have to team up to discover what caused this sudden deadly  departure in the first place. 

Hopefully, they can find the killer before opening day of Books and Biscuits becomes a permanent closing day in more ways than one. Collette already has a fan in me with her Ice Cream Parlor mysteries (A Killer Sundae is set for next year!) and this double trouble detective tale is a welcome addition to her literary menu(Nov.).


Speaking of mysteries, the latest in Jane K. Cleland’s series of Josie Prescott Antique cozies should interest Jane Austen readers very much there.

In Jane Austen’s Lost Letters, Josie is surprised by an older woman who delivers a package supposedly from Josie’s late father without a word of explanation. The package in question not only has a letter addressed to her from her father , it also contains a pair of letters from Jane Austen herself!

Such items would be rare indeed and as Josie seeks out the mystery woman known as Veronica Sutton to learn what she knows about her father and these letters, she discovers that some secrets are deathly determined to be kept.

This series is new to me but the bookish combination of antiques and Austen is most inviting for further investigation (December):

Julia Kelly offers up a look at the end of an English era with The Last Dance of the Debutante.

In 1958 London, Lily is set to be one of the last young ladies to be presented at court, a honor that she doesn’t truly care about.

Wanting to pursue her dressmaking dreams rather turn into another society wife, Lily finds some support from her equally duty bound friends Leana and Katherine .

Yet with both her icy mother and monied matriarch of a grandmother united against her wishes, Lily’s situation is complicated even more by the discovery of a family secret that could ruin them all.

I’ve heard a great deal about Kelly’ books taking the historical fiction section by storm and it appears that her storytelling style is what truly grand excursions into the page turning past are made of(Dec.):

I hope this selection of fresh reads encourages some pre-orders and library holds for your literary season. Also, perhaps one or two of these tempting titles can give you some solace during these hectic times and let you enjoy a few holiday delights like decorating or baking a favorite dish. 

Reading is fundamental in more ways than one at any time of the year and a perfect way to relax in your own special way, despite what others think indeed!:

Monday, October 04, 2021

A Series-ous Reading serving of Blackberry Pie Murder


My Series-ous Reading start to the fall season brought me back to Lake Eden for a slice of Blackberry Pie Murder, the next in line for me in the Hannah Swenson series by Joanne Fluke.

This time out, Hannah is doing well at work but trying to plan her mother’s wedding to Doc Knight(who is a real sweetheart, I must say)is becoming a full time job.

The constant changes of plans, from food to flowers to bridesmaids dresses, is making more folks than Hannah frustrated but it’s she who is bearing the bridezilla brunt of it. Some of that tension may have been in play one morning as Hannah takes Lisa, her partner at the Cookie Jar bakery, to work during a thunderstorm storm.

The hectic road conditions and lightning strike that brings down a tree in their path leads to Hannah’s car hitting and killing a stranger. The man was truly a stranger with no one recognizing him at all. One of the few clues to be found on him was traces of blackberry pie on his shirtfront:

Despite this being an obvious accident, Hannah is charged with homicide and arrested by  the sheriff who is also her brother in law Bill(which ticks her sister Andrea off to no end!) since police detective  Mike, one of Hannah’s occasional boyfriends, refuses to do so.

I have to say that Mike generally annoys me most of the time but here, he does right. He not only refuses to arrest Hannah but takes an unpaid suspension as well based on principle. Norman, the other half of this love triangle, is on hand for emotional support and bail to get Hannah released before her arraignment, equaling things as usual.

Hannah being in jail is an interesting change of pace, although her time spent in a cell over the weekend isn’t too daunting. 

Plenty of folks bring care packages over to her and she doesn’t have to share space with anyone. It’s kind of a sitcom style of legal trouble which you know will work out in the end(or the next book in this case) but still a good bit of character development nonetheless:

The mystery here is who is the victim, which  gets into a rather elaborate plot that involves a returned runaway girl and a pimp with a diamond in his tooth(hey, Norman needed to use his dentistry expertise somehow here!), which is a little over the top but still entertaining.

At the very least, this book got me jumping right
into the next Hannah Swenson story, Double Fudge Brownie Murder, that I will be reading on my regular time. Yet, it will tie into the last book for this Culinary Cozy Feast challenge so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I did see the new Hallmark Channel adaptation in what is now called the Hannah Swenson Mysteries (instead of Murder She Baked) entitled Sweet Revenge over the summer. Loosely based on Cream Puff Murder, it’s not as lively as the earlier movies and while some of the new additions to the series were fun(Hannah’s younger sister Michelle gets her onscreen  debut!) , others were odd to say the least like Norman getting a dog? 

Sorry but I adore the mini subplot of Hannah’s cat Moishe palling around with Norman’s kitty Cuddles  over the course of the books and hate to see that altered. 

Then again, it’s not too practical to have relay racing cats in a made for TV movie, which is in it’s own cinematic universe anyway. Having Hannah Swenson back on the small screen is a welcome  enough treat as it is:

Well, onto the current Series-ous Reading selection and this title is truly irresistible; Mocha, She Wrote by Ellie Alexander.

This latest entry in The Bakeshop Mystery series focuses on Andy, the beloved barista of Torte who is entering a major coffee competition for the first time.

While Andy has the skills to win big, one of the judges already wants to whittle him down to size and when that unpleasant fellow is found dead with one of Andy’s drinks in hand, Juliet is determined to prove his innocence. Can she show that Andy is good to the last drop or will his future be grounded up for good?

I’m not a coffee person but do appreciate the love of the morning brew and so far, this book is best part of waking up for more good reading: