Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: Fry Another Day by J. J. Cook (Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mysteries #2)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful characters, fun story
Cons: The mystery was extremely weak
The Bottom Line:
A food truck contest
Filled with murder and mayhem
And weak mystery

On Your Mark, Get Set, Die!

I always intended to get to Fry Another Day before now.  After all, I enjoyed the first book in the series, so reading the next one was an obvious thing to do.  Somehow, I kept putting it off until last week, but sadly, I found it lacking in one key detail.

Zoe Chase has entered her food truck, The Biscuit Bowl, in a food truck race.  A field of 10 food trucks will be stopping in several cities in the south east participating in challenges as they sell their signature dishes in each city.  The cash prize is $50,000, the amount that Zoe needs to really fulfill her dream of remodeling her diner.  So, with her Uncle Saul and a few friends, she packs up and drives to the starting line of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Things get off to a rough start when Reggie Johnson dies before the first morning’s challenge can begin.  His Dog House food truck, specializing in hot dogs of course, was the only other truck from Zoe’s hometown of Mobile, Alabama, but the two rarely got along.  It appears to be a tragic accident, but as the race continues with more strange things happening, Zoe begins to wonder if it was really an accident.  With the police looking at one member of her crew as a killer, she has motive to solve the case.  Can she do that and still win the race?

It had been roughly a year and a half since I read the first in the series, so I was a little fuzzy on the characters.  I remembered liking them, and it wasn’t long before I remembered why.  They are a different group from the normal in a cozy mystery, and I enjoyed getting to know them better as the book progressed.  And yes, all the series regulars are back in this book since they join Zoe on the race.  We only get to know a few of the competitors in this book, but they are a good as well.

Likewise, the race makes for a great plot.  I enjoyed seeing just what each day would bring in the way of a new challenge and how Zoe and her team would overcome it.  I’ve read several books with cooking contests in them recently, but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the device here at all.  There are some sparks in the air between several characters as well, and I loved seeing these new relationships develop.

But you’ll notice I haven’t talk about the mystery yet.  Sadly, that’s the weak point of the book.  And for a mystery, that’s a serious problem.  It truly is a sub-plot at best.  While Zoe is thinking about the strange events often, she hardly does any actual investigating.  Instead, things happen to her or to someone around her.  I was really going to give it a bit of a pass until I reached the end.  There was such a rush to wrap up the mystery that we get the briefest of explanations for most of the plot points and one remains completely unexplained.  I think the things that were explained make sense, but more time should have been spent making sure that was the case.

Being a culinary mystery, there are a few recipes in the back from the book.  We also get the recipe again for the deep fried biscuit bowl that is Zoe’s specialty.  I really do want to try some of her creations.

I completely enjoyed the book even with the weak mystery until the even weaker ending.  If you haven’t started the series, I don’t recommend you start with Fry Another Day.  I love the characters enough to give the series another try.  Hopefully, the mystery is a bit more of the focus in this next one.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Movie Review: Murder, She Baked - Plum Pudding Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun mystery with characters I love
Cons: Some editing and acting issues, but minor
The Bottom Line:
Christmas elf murdered
Fans note differences from books
Still fun to watch film

A Plum Good Christmas Mystery Movie

There was a collection “Huh?” a few months back when Hallmark announced it would follow up the first movie in the Murder, She Baked franchise with Plum Pudding Mystery.  Considering this is the second movie they were going to make based on Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen series, why were they going to base it on the twelfth book?  I’ll admit I was among those scratching his head, but I set that aside to watch it when it premiered this past weekend, and I really enjoyed it.

It’s the week before Christmas, and Eden Lake is getting ready for the holiday.  That means that things are really hopping for Hannah Swensen (Alison Sweeney) down at The Cookie Jar where she is creating delicious holiday desserts in addition to her cookies.  Many places in town are buying up those cookies, including Crazy Elf Christmas Trees, the biggest Christmas tree lot in town.  As a special request, Hannah even makes a special plum pudding for owner Larry Jaeger and his fiancée.

Stopping by after a date with Norman (Gabriel Hogan) the dentist one night to pick up a check, Hannah is shocked to find Larry on the floor, murdered.  Despite warnings from detective Mike (Cameron Mathison), Hannah’s other beau, she begins to poke her nose into the investigation.  Can she find the killer before Christmas?

I must confess that the book is a little fuzzy in my mind.  I mean, I remembered that Larry was the murder victim, but I couldn’t tell you what else happened in the book.  It began to come back to me as I watched the movie and we met the various suspects.  I would wager that the mystery element was pretty close to the original.

Of course, being the second movie, details of the character’s personal lives were different from the book because they had to be.  I’m talking about things with Hannah’s mother Delores (Barbara Nivens) and Hannah’s sister Andrea (Lisa Durupt) specifically, but there are other subtle changes with many of the other characters in addition to characters who haven’t even been introduced yet.  (Truly, the book series has a very large cast of characters.)  While I had fun spotting the differences, even pointing out a huge one from the final scene to my roommate, it really doesn’t matter.  I knew to set realistic expectations going into the movie, so I just took what they presented.

And the reason it was so easy for me to do that is because I was having fun.  As with the first film, the spirit of the books was preserved.  Oh, the characters might behave slightly differently then I picture them while reading the books, but I enjoy getting to see the world I’ve pictured for 15 years come to life.  (Having said that, I do hope they tone Delores down soon.  Yes, she’s overbearing in the early books, but she’s mellowed quite a bit these days.)

My only real complaints come from a technical standpoint.  There are times when the scene breaks are a bit too abrupt, creating scenes that are a bit too short, which made the movie feel disjointed.  The acting was mostly good, but a few moments were cheesy.  Still, these are worth noting only in passing.

So if you are a fan of light mysteries, check out Plum Pudding Mystery.  And if you are already a fan of Hannah, relax and enjoy watching her world come to life.  Just keep your expectations realistic (like you should with all book to movie adaptations) and you’ll love it.

Want to read the book?  Here's my review of Plum Pudding Murder.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Review: Suspendered Sentence by Laura Bradford (Amish Mysteries #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and story that shows them off
Cons: A little overwritten at times, but a minor issue.
The Bottom Line:
Long buried body
Secrets revealed today
Compelling reading

You are Hereby Sentenced to another Great Read

I’m so glad I started Laura Bradford’s Amish mysteries.  To show you how much I’ve enjoyed them, I’ve just finished Suspendered Sentence and am now up to date on the four book series.  When you consider the books waiting on my TBR stacks to be read, reading all four books this year is really saying something.

The series focuses on Claire Weatherly, who has moved to the town of Heavenly, Pennsylvania.  She’s living with her aunt Diane and helping a little with the bed and breakfast that Diane runs in town, but Claire’s also opened a shop specializing in selling items that the local Amish make.  Through the shop, she’s made many friends in the English and Amish communities and those friendships get her involved in the local mysteries.

A barn fire on the Stoltzfus farm brings the entire Amish community together to rebuild.  However, in the middle of the barn raising, bones are found on the farm.  They are quickly identified as the bones of Sadie Lehman, who disappeared almost 20 years earlier while in the middle of her Rumspringa, the time when Amish youth experience the life of the English to see if they want to stay in the Amish community or leave.

The discovery of Sadie’s body on what was her family farm at the time of her disappearance reopens the two decade old mystery.  Once again, Claire finds herself drawn into the mystery as her friends in both parts of town are affected by the discovery.  But what really happened to Sadie? And what will these new revelations mean for those alive today?

What is truly amazing about these books is the way they draw me in.  When I pick one up, I’m no longer in Southern California but in this small town on the other side of the country.  These people and places are that real to me.  Yes, the new characters are just as vivid within a few pages as the characters we’ve gotten to know for the previous three books.  And the returning characters?  The growth we see here is amazing, and I was glad to see it.  Characters are clearly Laura’s strength.

I will admit, the plot could be a bit stronger.  I figured as couple things out early, although I didn’t figure it all out until the end.  But the book really isn’t about the twists but about how the secrets coming to light are impacting the characters.  And make no mistake about it, there are secrets waiting to be uncovered.  The ending felt a tad rushed to me, but everything did make sense before I turned the last page.

The book also feels a little over written at times, especially when we are digging into Claire’s feelings.  There were a few times I rolled my eyes at what we were told, but maybe that’s because I’m a guy.

Honestly, both of these are very minor complaint, however.  As I said, the characters have drawn me in for four books so far, and I have really enjoyed the ride.

I’m definitely looking forward to book 5, which hits shelves this coming March.  In the meantime, if you haven’t picked up Suspendered Sentence yet, do so today and get lost in a great story.

You'll appreciate the character growth best if you read the Amish Mysteries in order.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ornament Review: Captain Phasma - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great sculpt of a new Star Wars character
Cons: Not so thrilled with collecting the villains
The Bottom Line:
This new character
Cashing in on new movie
Delights Star Wars fans

The First Order Leader is Ready for Your Tree

I was going to resist.  Really, I was.  I wanted to see The Force Awakens, the new Star Wars film before I started buying ornaments from it.  And yet, I’ve caved and bought both of Hallmark’s ornaments for 2015 based on the film already.  I was too afraid they’d sell out before I had a chance to buy them if I waited until I had a chance to see the movie.  Captain Phasma was the second of these ornaments released, and it looks like a great ornament.

Disney is keeping these new character descriptions very close to the vest, so very little is known about Captain Phasma.  We know the character is a woman, and the leader of the First Order, who appear to be the villains in the new movie.  (And how interesting is it that both of the ornaments released this year are of villains?)  And, of course, we know how the character looks.

Even before I looked up information on the character, I had a feeling she was a villain.  Why?  Because of her mask.  It looks an awful lot like a Stormtrooper mask, doesn’t it?  Of course, the difference is that it is made of metal.  In fact, almost her entire armor is made from metal.  The only thing not is the black cape in the back.  She is also holding a gun, ready to fire.

Hallmark seems to have actually used metal in making this ornament, or at least metal plating.  The result gives the ornament a little shine (until fingerprints smudge it, or course).  But the result is also a heavier than normal ornament form Hallmark.  You’ll definitely want to make sure this one is far back on a sturdy branch to keep it from sliding off part way through the Christmas season.  On the plus side, the hook is on the top of her helmet, and the ornament is balanced well, so it hangs straight.

Captain Phasma’s stance has her feet apart.  She’s obviously bracing herself for that shot she’s about to fire.  Her feet are just far enough apart that you can set this ornament out on any flat surface.  However, it is uneven, so any time that surface is bumped, she will probably fall over.

The sculpt on this ornament really is quite good.  It looks like just pictures and clips we’ve seen from the trailers so far.  It’s hard to imagine a better ornament of this character.

My only real hesitation is that I tend to stick with heroes for my ornament collection.  I have made a few exceptions for iconic villains.  Hopefully, I’ll feel that Phasma fits into that camp after I see the movie.

The main reason I caved was to have some ornaments from the year that The Force Awakens actually came out.  For that reason, I’m glad I bought Captain Phasma.  Even if I don’t like the character in the film, I will like this ornament for that reason.

Original Price: $17.95

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Review: Astronauts, Spies, and Hippopotami by Stuart Gibbs

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Three first books in three different series that will entertain
Cons: None, none, none (Once per books)
The Bottom Line:
Different series
From same talented author
All three worth reading

Variety Pack with Triple the Fun and Mystery

While I never completely lost my love of middle grade novels, I have recently started to make more time to read the books.  Naturally, that means I have some favorite authors for that age group, and one of those is Stuart Gibbs.  He is currently writing three different series, and if you have missed out on his books, Astronauts, Spies, and Hippopotami is the perfect way to jump in.  Why?  Because it contains the first book in each of the different series.

Stuart’s first series was FunJungle, which kicked off with Belly Up.  The setting is a giant zoo in the middle of Texas and our hero is Teddy Fitzroy.  His parents are both working at FunJungle, which leaves him free to explore.  That’s how he witnesses something one night makes him think that Henry Hippo, the park’s mascot, was murdered only two weeks after the park opened.  But who would kill a hippopotamus?  What could the motive possibly be?

I actually found Stuart’s books when this book was brand new, and it was what hooked me on his writing.  The setting, the characters, the plot – everything is perfect.  I’m not a zoo person, but I still love the behind the scenes tour we get of this fictional zoo.  I love (or love to hate, depending on who we’re talking about) the characters, plus Teddy is blessed with responsible parents, often a rarity in Middle Grade novels.  And the plot moved forward at a great clip.  It’s just great fun.

Spy School is the next book in the collection, and it is the first in the series of the same name.  This series focuses on Ben Ripley, a twelve-year-old who is recruited for training as a spy at an elite boarding school.  Of course, when he arrives as the top secret spy school (his parents think he’s going to a special science school), he discovers that not all is as it seems.  Someone is out to kill him, and an evil organization wants to recruit him.  Who can he trust?

I wasn’t completely sure about this series when the first one came out, but I’m thrilled I gave it a try.  Once again, the characters are great.  The plots are a bit over the top, but this is a spy series with just a hint of fun in it, so you can’t help but smile as you read.  The twists are great and the pages fly by all too quickly.

Moon Base Alpha is Stuart’s newest series.  In fact, Space Case, the book included in this set, is the only book in the series out so far.  (Book two, Spaced Out, is coming in April.)  This one is set in the near future on the first colony on the Moon.  However, one of the group’s members walks out of the base and dies, leaving Dashiell Gibson, our hero, to think he’s been murdered.  Can he prove it?

I was really looking forward to this book because the setting was so different from most of what I read, and it didn’t disappoint.  I felt like I was in the base with Dashiell and this new group of friends.  The plot twisted in some unexpected directions, and the ending surprised me.  In other words, it’s another great book from Stuart.

This collection includes the paperback version of each of the three titles.  The books are just over 300 pages each, so you have plenty of great reading ahead of you when you pick up this set.  And if you are older than the target audience, that’s okay, too.  I am, and I can’t put them down.  Anyone who wants a great read should pick up this set.

As you can see, the series are very different from each other, but the great writing, characters, and plot are consistent no matter which series you are reading.  Plus they are all just plain fun.  If you pick up Astronauts, Spies, and Hippopotami today, you’ll be lost in a fun new world full of mystery tomorrow with two more waiting to be explored.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

November 21st Weekly TV Thoughts

I think I'm going to make it.  I think I'm going to make it.  The hard part is always getting everything in plus packing on Tuesday of this coming week.  Of course, if I skip my run for the night I would be fine.  We'll just have to see how I'm feeling on Tuesday.

But that's next week.  Let's talk about what I watched this week, shall we?

Once Upon a Time – Before, two hour events fit together.  That definitely wasn’t the case last night.  In fact, that second hour felt a bit like filler, which was frustrating since we got so many twists and surprises in the first hour.  Still, both were solid hours, and it was fun to see Dr. Whale, Mulan, and Red again, although I’m not happy with the rumored Lesbian relationship to come on the show.  My guess as of now is Mulan and Red.

The Librarians – Fun episode, and I wonder how they are going to build on that.  They seem to have a lot of balls in the air this season, and I’m really wondering how everything will tie together in the end.

Supergirl – If there are continuity issues with them playing this episode out of order, I didn’t notice.  And now I’m really intrigued.  What really happened to her dad?  I’m really really hoping he’s not really dead since I like the stunt casting they did for post of her parents.  And this seems to confirm that the guy Alex works for is really an alien.  So what is he up to?

Dancing with the Stars – Not super surprised that they didn’t have an elimination this week.  They wanted four stars for Monday night, after all.  Very impressive dances from all the stars remaining, at least at some point.  But we all know that Bindi is going to win.  Seriously, can we not give Derek the young, athletic partner next season?

Castle – Good mystery with some nice twists, although they rushed things at the end.  Nice to see they’ve got Ryan and Esposito back together.  Sure hope they do the same for Castle and Beckett next week.  I’m so over this whole thing.

The Muppets – An okay episode.  Pretty much still holding on for the reboot in the Spring.  Hope it is worth the wait.

The Flash – I’m not too surprised that Barry healed on his own so quickly.  They’ve already established that he heals fast.  But I loved seeing his dad back again, and I loved the advice he gave him.  The relationship between Barry, his Dad, and his Foster Dad was part of the heart of the first season, so I was glad to see it back again.

Agents of SHIELD – Seriously, this show has too many storylines.  I just can’t seem to care about them because we don’t get enough time with any of them.  Cut out a storyline, and I’m on board.

Scream Queens – Boone’s back and now he’s dead for real.  And we still don’t know who the twin, aka the second killer is.  I did know Boone was dead as soon as he set down the knife.  How stupid can you get?  Of course, why any of these characters haven’t already fled is beyond me.  Oh, and I’m wondering if Hester is really dead or not.  I could almost see that fixing her neck for good in the twisted world that is this show.

Arrow – So where is this going with Diggle’s brother now?  That is going to be an interesting road.  I have a feeling we won’t really be following up on it right away since we’ve got the team up crossover happening in two weeks.  And can I just say I’m so looking forward to that!

Survivor – Not Wigglesworth!  I was so rooting for her, although I have a feeling she wouldn’t have made it further than that since everyone would have voted for her in the finals.  And it sounds like she wasn’t that upset to leave, either.  Is it just me, or have we had a blindside every single episode this season.  It is the most unpredictable season to date, which I love.  Except when they blindside someone I want to stick around.

Heroes Reborn – This show is just too convoluted for me, I guess.  With so many moving parts, I’m just having a hard time finding and connecting to any single character enough to care about the outcome.  I mean, I want them to save the day, and I know they will, but right now I’m struggling.  At least there are only three episode when it comes back in January.  Oh, and I’m still struggling with Matt Parkman being a villain.

The Big Bang Theory – It really was a fun episode.  I think my favorite storyline was actually Leonard and Penny.  So fun and so funny.  Although the final scene with Amy and Sheldon was so heartbreaking.  Perfectly writing and acted and definitely right for the characters and the show.  Can’t wait to see what they do with these two next.

The Amazing Race – When have they ever had a Speed Bump that hard?  Some of them have been downright easy.  Laughably so.  But in this case you both have to do a very time consuming Road Block?  Plus there’s a U Turn (and a single U Turn at that, can’t remember the last time it wasn’t a double U Turn)?  Yeah, the Texas boys had no chance at all.  Well, if they hadn’t been U Turned they might have made it (who knows with editing on the show being what it is).  I’d really grown to like them again, so I’m sorry to see them leave.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Music Review: God with Us by Laura Story

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” a couple of the new tracks aren’t bad
Cons: A couple of the new tracks aren’t that great
The Bottom Line:
New tracks? A mixed bag
Traditional carols? Good
Hoping for better

Sadly, Not as Good as I Hoped It Would Be

I have so much Christmas music, that I don’t need any more.  Still, every year, I seem to add a few discs when artists I like release new music.  That’s how I got God with Us, the first Christmas release from Laura Story.  Sadly, it’s not as good as I hoped it would be.

There are two things I look for in a new Christmas disc.  The first is impressive new songs.  Unfortunately, this disc is a mixed bag in that department.  The disc starts out with the upbeat “Love Is Here,” which celebrates Jesus coming to earth.  It’s a great way to kick off the disc because it’s fun.  The other new song I like is “Emmanuel.”  There’s nothing terribly new in the lyrics, but I love many songs that remind us of just what Christmas is all about – as the title of the disc says, God with us.

Unfortunately, the rest of the new tracks aren’t that impressive.  “Just Another Christmas” is a prayer that we won’t get so caught up in the events and demands of the season that we won’t focus on what it really means.  Unfortunately, it’s a mid-tempo song that doesn’t really catch me melodically or lyrically.  “Behold the Lamb of God” is too repetitive for my tastes, and I find myself zoning out.  While I love Psalm 121, “I Lift My Eyes” is way too slow.  Plus, it feels like it should have been on a regular disc, not a Christmas disc.

So that leaves us with the five traditional carols.  “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” is great to have since it’s not a commonly recorded song.  Plus Laura has added a new chorus to it that is wonderful.  Many of the arrangements of the classics are simple, but it really works for them.  “Angels We Have Heard on High” is a perfect example.  The heavy piano and slower than normal pace allow the lyrics to really capture us.  “O Come All Ye Faithful” is heavy on guitar with a more upbeat pace that makes this version fun.  And the disc closes with “Silent Night,” which is beautiful as always.

That just leaves us with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”  The version Laura offers here is absolutely stunning.  The track is completely a cappella, and Laura is joined by a choir.  It is haunting and will give you goosebumps as you listen to it.

It’s not that God with Us is bad, but it’s also not outstanding.  I’ll mix these tracks in with the rest of my Christmas music digitally, but it won’t be one I pull out and listen to often on its own.

CD Length: 40:48
1. Love is Here
2. Just Another Christmas
3. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
4. Angels We Have Heard on High
5. O Come All Ye Faithful (with Steven Curtis Chapman)
6. Behold the Lamb of God (with Brandon Heath)
7. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
8. Emmanuel
9. I Lift My Eyes
10. Silent Night

November 20th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

We've made it to the weekend again!  And that means it is time for Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm reading The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle by Laura DiSilverio.

The book won't actually be out until December 1st, and I will have a review and giveaway posted on December 3rd.  But in the meantime, here are a couple of teases to hold you over.

Like how the book begins:

Choosing a book for the Readaholics to read is a tough task, and the five of us who make up the book club take the responsibility seriously.  Usually.

Page 56 finds us at the grand opening of a pub that the main character's brother owns.  Why am I telling you this?  To give you a little context for this next sentence.

"Oh, gross, the toilets are overflowing!"  A woman popped out of the restroom near the bar and made her announcement like she was calling a Rockies game and needed to be heard by everyone at Coors Field.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got 35 pages left in the book, and I think I need to finish it.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Book Review: Fillet of Murder by Linda Reilly (Deep Fried Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Decent mystery
Cons: Uneven plot, characters could use more development.
The Bottom Line:
What held great promise
Needed another edit
For some more polish

Something’s Fishy Here

You know those annoying times when you smell something, whether good or bad, but you can’t quite find the source.  That’s how I feel about Fillet of Murder.  The book just didn’t quite work for me, but I’m at a loss to completely figure out why.

This book introduces us to Talia Marby, who has moved back to her small home town in Massachusetts after quitting a job she hated and dumping her fiancée.  Until she figures out what her next step is, she’s gone back to work for her good friends Bea and Howie at Lambert’s Fish & Chips, their fish and chips restaurant.  Since Howie is out sick right now, Bea really needs the help and is thrilled that Talia is there.

However, there is trouble in the small shopping center where Lambert’s is located.  A comic book store wants to move in, and Phil Turnbull, who owns the classic lamp store across the courtyard from Lambert’s, is pressuring everyone to keep it out.  After an especially hostile encounter, Talia and Bea find Phil’s dead body in the back of his store.  With the police looking at Bea, can Talia find the evidence to clear her friend?

The book started out well with plenty of conflict and the murder happening fairly quickly in the story.  We get plenty of suspects, and things are advancing well.  And then we hit a section that seems to stall out the story.  I now get what the author was trying to do, but it felt like it slowed things down and left me anxious to get back to the mystery.  The climax was logical and suspenseful and wrapped up all the mystery related loose ends well, although a few things are thrown at us in the last few pages out of nowhere.

Meanwhile, I had a hard time connecting to the characters.  They were good characters, but they just didn’t feel fully formed to me.  Only near the end of the book did I feel like that was changing, but by that point the story was over.

There are two recipes at the end of the book, one for coleslaw and one for deep fried pickles.  I must say, those pickles sure did sound good over the course of the book.

Many people seemed to love this book when it came out, which is why I decided to read it.  I’m not sure what I was missing, but Fillet of Murder unfortunately didn’t live up to my expectations.  It’s not that the book is bad, but it needed a little more work to iron out some issues.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in hopes that I would read and review it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

JellyTelly Review: Galaxy Buck - Mission to Sector 9

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: A great Biblical message about being used by God
Cons: The story isn’t as entertaining as much of Phil’s previous work
The Bottom Line:
Mission in deep space
Contains a great message but
Lacks entertainment

Boldly Taking the Gospel Where No Man Has Gone Before

If you dig back into my archives, you’ll find it no secret that I really enjoyed Phil Vischer’s What’s In the Bible? series of videos.  Using giant puppets, he went through the entire Bible exploring the themes of each book and how it fit into God’s overall redemption plan.  So when Galaxy Buck: Mission To Sector 9 was announced as the first part of a follow up project, I was excited.  After seeing it, I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be.

This 40 minute video reunites many of the major characters we got to know through What’s in the Bible?, but forget everything you thought you knew about them.  Much like how the characters of VeggieTales change their role based on the story, we now find Buck Denver and most of the gang working for Pastor Paul, who has an intergalactic broadcast sending the Gospel to the far reaches of the solar system.  Buck and the rest of the crew work in the phone banks, helping people get their tote bags and other goodies.  But Buck isn’t satisfied.  He knows God wants him to do great things.

Buck thinks his opportunity has come when a report of a down transponder comes in from Sector 9.  So, under the supervision of Sunday School lady, Buck leads Clive, Owen, and Marcy out to this distant uninhabited planet to fix the transponder so that Pastor Paul’s message can still go out.  Only when they get there, they encounter danger and aliens.  Will Buck succeed in his mission?  Or has he doomed his friends?

I honestly had a hard time getting past the new jobs everyone had.  It took me longer than expected to get into the story as a result, although it didn’t help that the story was slow, period.  Yes, I’m familiar enough with Star Wars and Star Trek to get the fact that we were getting some spoofs of them, but it just wasn’t that funny to me.  Instead, I kept waiting for something to happen.

Since we are talking about spreading the Good News we learned about in the earlier videos, I was expecting a little more about that, too.  Honestly, I think the initial idea of Buck and his crew working a phone bank a pretty good indictment of many Christians today.  However, I didn’t feel like the story went much beyond that.  But since this is the first of these videos, maybe I was expecting everything at once.

I will say I loved the moral.  Buck has to learn that God wants him just to be available, not to look for big things to do Himself.  That’s very Biblical.  Plus, when you are open to God and His leading, you’ll find yourself doing bigger things than you ever dreamed even if they aren’t what you think are big things.

Yes, I am looking at this as an adult, but an adult who has enjoyed much of Phil Vischer’s previous work.  I’ve always found good lessons mixed in with fun stories and great jokes.  This video had one out of three, at least as far as I was concerned.  Kids might enjoy it more.

It’s a shame that Galaxy Buck: Mission To Sector 9 isn’t more entertaining because it absolutely has a great message for all to learn.  Here’s hoping that the next Galaxy Buck adventure has more entertainment with its lesson.