Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Winding down from a Winter’s Respite of reading

 It not only happens to be the last day of the Winter’s Respite  readathon (courtesy of Seasons of Reading and Michelle Miller) but also the first major snowfall of this entire winter season!

After waiting so long for a decent bit of snow, this does feel like a good reason to celebrate by doing my wrap up post a day or two early. I am also pleased to report that I finished all three of the books on my TBR for this challenge-yah me!

The newest book on this list is Kayla Olson’s The Reunion , which brings two former TV actors back together to film a reunion episode of their teen hit series Girl on the Verge.

Since those days, leading lady Liv Latimer has made a quiet acting career in various indie films while her male co-star Ransom Joel has become an action movie hero. Working together again doesn’t just bring up fun memories of the past however; Liv and Ransom came close to declaring their mutual love for one another but certain issues got in the way.

Now with the possibility of reconnecting in more ways than one, Liv and Ransom have to decide if the media scrutiny they both face from such a pairing is worth it or was theirs a love never meant to be?

Olson’s novel is a nice slow burn romance set against a modern Hollywood backdrop, complete with social media commentary and heartfelt scenes of emotional depth.

 While I do wish that there was a little more interaction between some of the other cast members (such as the ambitious Sasha-Kate) with Liv, the intimate moments between her and Ransom definitely make you want to turn the page and tune in for more:

As per my usual, a cozy mystery was added to the mix and I went with Donut Disturb, the next to latest entry in Ellie Alexander‘a Bakeshop Mystery series.

For baker Juliet “Jules” Capshaw, things are going well in her beloved town of Ashland, especially for her good friend Thomas who is about to marry Kerry, his partner in crime fighting as well as life.

When Kerry’s ex-con father shows up just before the wedding, Jules hopes that his unexpected presence won’t ruin the day for all involved. That surprise turns out to be the least of anyone’s worries when the bassist from the jazz trio to perform at the reception is found dead under the bandstand. 

Worst of all, Kerry’s dad may be a prime suspect due to an unfortunate link between the two men. Can Jules help the newlyweds find a happily ever after here or is this case the ultimate wedding jinx? 

Alexander gives us another charming entertainment here with lively characters and tasty descriptions of the treats prepared at her restaurant Torte. Oddly enough, I had just finished her most recent release, Muffin but the Truth, before this one yet that didn’t get in my way of devouring this delicious read down to the last storytelling morsel:

My final read was the second volume in The School for Good and Evil trilogy, A World Without Princes, by Soman Chainani.

Agatha and Sophie, the two “Readers” thrust into the fairytale school in the first book, are trying to adjust to life back home but that magical realm isn’t quite done with them just yet.

When each girl makes a wish regarding their past, the door between worlds is opened again and both of them are forced to return or face dire consequences.

However, they are still not safe as the twin training facilities are now divided into either all boys or all girls with both sides determined to destroy each other. Will Agatha and Sophie be able to claim a true happy ending or is this the beginning of the end?

This twist upon fairytale tropes and gender roles is incredibly engaging to say the least. The Netflix adaptation was fun(part two is supposed to under way as we speak) but the books have much more depth to them and I hope the full trilogy will be done well onscreen.

In the meantime, I do have to read the third book, The Last Ever After, soon as stopping at this book would be like ending Star Wars at The Empires Strikes Back. It’s so good to have a new take on old school notions of heroes and villains indeed:

My thanks to Michelle Miller at Seasons of Reading for a great bookish start to another year of reading. I do hope everyone who joined in had a great time and plan to sign up for Spring Into Horror this upcoming April.

For my TBR this time around, I’m planning a bit of old fashioned murder mystery fun that has an Agatha Christie flair. At least one of my picks will be a Miss Marple worth checking into for a brief visit at a certain hotel…:

Monday, February 20, 2023

Celebrate some Oscar love with these movie themed reads

 With the Academy Awards set for March 12th, it’s not too soon to feel that Oscar Night energy embrace the pop culture world.

As a long time fan (the Oscars are my Super Bowl), this year almost feels like a much needed revival as several great films are up for major honors and hopefully some of the joy expressed on that night will come from those who truly deserve to be acclaimed there.

To that end, I thought it would be enhance the movie love mood by highlighting a few fictional stories that showcase the effects of  Hollywood lore on entertainers and fans alike.

First up is While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory, where A list actress Anna Gardiner finds herself getting romantically involved with Ben Stephens, an ad executive who she only meant to have a professional relationship with.

They do start out as business casual but when Anna needs to be privately driven across country due to a family emergency , Ben offers his assistance and that time together brings them much closer than before.

Eventually their romance becomes public yet can Ben only playact the part of a camera ready boyfriend or this role the real deal for both him and Anna off screen?

It’s been awhile such I gave myself the pleasure of diving into a Jasmine Guillory novel and about high time that I did. The Notting Hill vibes of this story make me think that Anna Gardiner will be much like Anna Scott of that film; a talented actress feeling trapped by her public persona yet able to find a worthy life partner and push back at crass commenters all on her own:

Our next feature film book is Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. The title leading lady is a renowned actress who is finally telling the story of her life to reporter Monique Grant on the condition that her memoir be published only after her death.

Evelyn‘a tale of climbing the Hollywood ladder is more that just a glitzy recount of an ambitious actress ruthlessly achieving her goals. Instead she relates the real world struggles that a woman in the 1950s had to deal with in such a cutthroat business and the secrets and lies involved in doing so on her own terms.

I’ve heard nothing but great things about this book and plan to read before the Netflix adaptation is released in possibly the near future. 

One interesting factoid that I did learn is that one of inspiration for this novel was the iconic actress Ava Gardner, who planned a tell-all book with a journalist only to be persuaded by several influential people not to go through with it. She did eventually put out such a book but one wonders what the screen goddess did leave out in the final edit:

To round this up, we have Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey, a book that I have enjoyed more than once.

Aspiring screenwriter Annie hopes to become the next Nora Ephron, due to her passion for such rom com classics as Sleepless In Seattle and You’ve Got Mail(favorite movies of her late mother as well). She’s even secretly writing a script based on the unrequited romance between her best friend Chloe and the coffee shop owner that debates Chloe over her choice of music at work.

When a romcom is being filmed in their home town, Annie is lucky to be given an assistant position to the director (an old friend of her eccentric Uncle Dave) but finds the leading man of the movie, TV star Drew Danforth, to be far from a perfect casting choice.

Can Annie realize that the romantic comedy of her dreams is right in front of her or will she resign herself to being on the outside looking in always?

This is a charming story that does have a great sequel (yes, that movie about Chloe does get made!) and even if you’re not a huge Tom Hanks fan, there’s plenty to love and laugh at here:

Books and movies do go well together like a comfort meal such as soup and sandwich which balances the hearty texture of the story with the soothing warmth of cinematic delights.

Combing the two mediums is appetizing for heart and soul, especially if there’s enough popcorn on hand. I’m willing to wait for the Oscar Night magic to begin with the help of one of these good books and maybe a movie marathon or two to keep my strength up:

Monday, February 13, 2023

A trio of romantic reads that’ll put a song in your heart

With Valentines Day on the horizon, finding a fitting book for the occasion almost seems like a cliche.

However, this particular holiday is also a great opportunity for diving into some of the more recent additions to my TBR and while I might not get to them all before the day is out, rest assured that this trio of romcom reads is at the top of my sweetheart stack:

Lunar Love: This debut novel by Lauren Kuang Jessen introduces us to Olivia, who is taking over her family’s matchmaking business. Their tried and true methods of using Chinese astrology to find suitable soulmates for others hasn’t yet worked for Olivia but mixing business and pleasure is the last thing on her mind right now.

All of that changes when she meets Bennet, whose new dating app is practically a copy and paste of her family’s life work. Determined to fight back any way she can, Olivia challenges him to find her true love online before she can use her old school skills to do the same for him.

As incompatible as their birth signs are, Olivia finds herself feeling more inclined to connect with Bennet but does he feel the same and what does that say about their mutual interest in matchmaking in modern times?

Jessen’s novel was a January Book of the Month club pick that I decided to get in February as a rather picture perfect selection for the season.

 Also, the story has a bit of a Jane Austen energy (Olivia has a nice Emma Woodhouse vibe) mixed with the personal and professional rivalry of You’ve Got Mail, a favorite movie of mine, that makes my literary heart beat fonder for it indeed:

The Love Hypothesis: I’ve heard plenty of good word about Ali Hazelwood’s STEM set romance and thought it was time to see for myself the results of this experiment in love.

Grad student Olive wants her best gal pal to take an interest in a former boyfriend of hers and the only way to prove that she is over and done with that relationship is by impulsively kissing Adam, a professor known for making his research students cry before quitting his class.

With Adam needing to look more relatable at work and Olive wanting her friend to make a real live connection with her ex, the two of them agree to engage in some fake-dating.

While that mock romance brings about some benefits, they come at the expense of Olive’s professional reputation. Also, both she and Adam start to realize that their feelings for each other are far from fake. Is this a failed experiment or new theory of love that should be tested further?

I’m not a science person but chemistry is one subject that everyone is familiar with and the wave of book smart love stories that this book has inspired alone proves that this new take on the genre is worth researching there:

Something Wilder:

Christina Lauren has become a must read author for me lately and fortunately the backlist is readily accessible.

This particular book is one of their most recent titles and has a bit of an action adventure boost to the romantic proceedings.

Lily has been wanting to make her late father Duke’s life ambition come true by finding the lost treasure that he searched for for so long. Losing her boyfriend Leo on top of that made those dreams harder to fulfill.

Ten years later, Lily is still holding on to her father’s old maps while giving guided tours to the usual set of tourists. However , who shows up but Leo and a few of his buddies hoping to finally find that treasure.

Since she does want to buy back her father’s ranch, Lily agrees to work with Leo and company but a few unexpected twists along the trail makes this expedition more than a fun ride to fortune hunting.

Turns out that Lily and Leo have to put their past to the side and work together not only to discover the hidden treasure but to safely see the sunrise as well.

This does sound fun in a Romancing the Stone/Jewel of the Nile kind of way and definitely a nifty change of pace for my romance reading to be sure:

However you chose to celebrate it, I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day with plenty of half price chocolate and good books on hand. A nice love song or two is always appreciated as well , especially if it as well written as any classic story of hearts can be:


Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Keeping warm with a cool book haul

Despite few truly bone chilling days this prior week, winter seems to be on vacation this year for the most part. The lack of snow in my neck of the woods is rather dire and while I am not hoping for a blizzard, a decent snowfall would be nice.

However, to make up for such meager weather, an abundance of books has been flowing my way.

To start, a lovely surprise in my mailbox was a giveaway prize from Between the Chapters, Alan Hlad’s  The Book Spy. Set in WWII Lisbon, Maria Alves uses her librarian skills to assist bookseller Tiago Soares with his work in creating documents to help refugees escape from Nazi occupied territory.

She also does spying for the OSS and when asked to be a double agent in order to mislead a prominent banker, Maria finds herself getting closer to the action than she’d like. Putting her life and love for Tiago on the line, Maria decides to take that risk for the good of all both then and now.

This sounds like an amazing adventure to behold and since it’s based on real librarians who took such chances during the Second World War , this is proof positive that not all superheroes wear capes:

Then, I made a trip to my local library where I picked up a few titles that I’ve been meaning to get into.

One of those was A Very Bromance Christmas and before you can say “Isn’t it a little late for a Christmas book?”, I must say that I have read every book in Lyssa Kay Adams Bromance Book Club series and this was definitely a must have on my TBR.

The Bromance Book Club is made up of a group of guys who read romance novels in order to be better partners in their relationships and for this book, the focus is on Colton Wheeler, a country music star whose fortunes are starting to fade.

After a mutually romantic night with Gretchen Winthrop, an attorney specializing in immigration issues, over a year ago, Colton hears from her when Gretchen’s whiskey rich family asks her to make him a business offer that could help his flagging career.

Colton is more interested in why Gretchen has been avoiding him since that night and agrees to listen to the proposal only if she presents it to him via a series of dates. While she is considered to be the rebel of the family whose values she despises, Gretchen is hoping to be placed on the company’s charity board in order to increase the aid for her clients and reluctantly goes along with Colton’s plan.

Over time, the two of them get to know more about each other and reevaluate what they feel about one another. Yet, can they ultimately agree on anything, including the joys of Christmas?

I do like this series a lot , due to not only the romantic comedy elements of each story but the thoughtful time given to character development by Adams. This blend of heartfelt humor and bittersweet emotions is definitely worthy of a great country music ballad indeed:

I paired that with Adult Assembly Required by Abbi Waxman. 

When Laura Costello moves to LA, she’s hoping to make her life not worth but within a week, she is out on the street due to a fire that may or may not be her fault.

Lucky for her, one of the new friends she makes in town is a plucky bookseller named Nina who is more than willing to help Laura find a new place to stay. 

That place happens to be a welcoming boarding house (which might not have a proper license ) and when an ex-boyfriend comes along to give their past relationship a shot at renewal, Laura finds herself facing a fresh start at love with her too good looking to be true neighbor Bob. Can she finally be grownup enough to make such difficult choices on her own or is her meddling family right about her adulting abilities?

I did read one of Waxman’s earlier books, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill(who is the bookstore owner in this story), and enjoyed the quirky poignancy of that novel very much.  Just have a really good feeling about this one and pretty sure that my gut instinct will be well rewarded:

To round things out in this department, my Book of the Month Club box arrived with my main selection being an Emily Henry novel that I need to catch up with.

People We Meet on Vacation traces the long term friendship between Poppy, a perky travel writer living in New York, and Alex, a schoolteacher who still lives in their hometown in Ohio. 

Their polar opposite personalities are the glue that binds them together, despite the geographical distance between them and those bonds are renewed at least once a year when they share vacation time together.

This year, that vacation is more important than ever because it’s been two years since they went on one with each other, due to a fight that hasn’t been fully resolved.

In need of a revival in more ways than one, Polly proposes the trip to Alex, who is willing to take another chance at their friendship and perhaps maybe, find something more to this relationship there.

I did enjoy Henry’s Beach Read and have meant to dive into her other books but just haven’t found the right time. Well, clearly that time is now and I am looking forward to the When Harry Met Sally energy that this story and it’s many delighted readers have assured me is waiting for me with every page turn:

This won”t be the last stack of books on my literary plate to be sure and just savoring such tasty reading is a sweet sensation as it is.

Not only will these reads keep me company during whatever wintery weather comes my way, they will provide plenty of comfort as I await Oscar night on March 12. I am seriously pumped up for the Academy Awards this year since Everything Everywhere All At Once is a major contender with 11 nominations!!!

I saw this movie in theaters on my birthday last year and it was truly a gift worth getting. I must confess that I had my doubts about the Academy giving EEAAO any serious recognition but they did not skimp on the categories with four nominations in the acting competition alone!!!

I’m so rooting for EEAAO to make a major sweep , especially when it comes to Michelle Yeoh for Best Actress, The Daniels as Best Director and Best Picture. They even got a Best Original Song nomination and just seeing “This is a Life” performed on the show will certainly make up for such a lackluster winter, if you ask me: