Saturday, June 23, 2018

June 23rd's Weekly TV Thoughts

Everything I watched this week was on Monday.  I know it's summer, but that just feels so wrong.  Of course, there is a new show I want to check out that premiered Thursday, but I am currently out of town for my parent's 50th anniversary, so I will have to wait until I'm back in town to watch.  Look for my thoughts on it next week.

Supergirl – Wow!  I was not expecting all of those changes.  I knew Winn wasn’t going to be around full time next season, and I knew Brainy was, but I wasn’t expecting him to go to the future.  I wasn’t expecting Mon-El to return, either.  I’m glad he made that choice, however, and I respect him and Kara so much for it.  I’m glad they saved Sam.  Really, it seems like just about everyone has major changes going into next season.  But what was up with that ending?  Lena’s turning evil?  Kara has a double?  Is the show back yet?

American Ninja Warrior – So fun to see Isaac back again.  I feel for the Towers of Power.  I’d love to see them both make it to Vegas.  Those bars looked hard; I know I would have struggled with them.  Then again, I wouldn’t have made it beyond the blocks.  All the balance obstacles look impossible to me.  Okay fine, I think I could make it beyond the floating steps, but that would be about it.

American Ninja Warrior: Ninja Vs. Ninja – Of these four final teams, I would have been okay with any of them winning, but I was rooting the most for LaBrekfast Club.  I’m not sure quite why I love them so much, but I do.  Naturally, that means I was thrilled with the outcome.  Such a close final race, too.  Amazing!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Book Review: "K" Is for Killer by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #11)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Engaging, creative mystery filled with strong characters
Cons: Ending a bit rushed
The Bottom Line:
Kinsey gets cold case
With some intriguing questions
Another great book

Kinsey Faces a Daunting Case

I’ve often commented in my reviews of the Kinsey Millhone series how fun it is that something other than a murder initially draws Kinsey into some of her cases.  However, there is never anything other than murder involved in “K” is for Killer.  Even so, this is a very creative book.

Kinsey is working late one night at her office when she is interrupted by a woman.  The woman wants to hire Kinsey to find out what happened to her daughter, Lorna.  The catch?  The daughter died 10 months ago, and when she did, no one found the body for two weeks, meaning the police couldn’t even determine the cause of death.

Lorna was a night owl, and as Kinsey begins tracking down leads, she finds herself beginning to follow the same pattern.  Kinsey unravels a world that Lorna’s parents knew nothing about.  But could any of it have led to her death?  Was she even murdered?

Okay, so I knew early on that we were dealing with a murder, but not being able to pin down how added an extra wrinkle to things that I loved.  We learn that Lorna was involved in a porn movie, so some of the subject matter is definitely outside my usual cozies.  Even so, the details were kept to as much of a minimum as possible; same with the state of the body.  I did feel the ending was a bit rushed, but that was my only complaint with the book.

We don’t get to see much of the series regulars in this book.  Kinsey’s landlord is out of town, and she is spending most of her time up at night and sleeping during the day.  Still, Kinsey really is the star of the series, and I loved spending time with her as always.  We only got a brief mention of the thread introduced in the previous book, which disappointed me, but I’m not too surprised, to be honest.  Sue Grafton is a master of character, and she shows it again here as each character we meet along the way comes to vivid life.

I’m still enjoying this series on audio as narrated by Mary Peiffer.  She does such a great job bringing Kinsey and her world to life that it is a pleasure to listen to them.

Once again, we are left wondering how Kinsey will deal with the events of this book, which means I’m anxious to get to the next in the series.  “K” is for Killer will keep Kinsey’s many fans engaged from start to finish.

If you are missing any of Kinsey's adventures, here they are in alphabetical order.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Review: Back in the Habit by Alice Loweecey (Falcone and Driscoll Investigation #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Growth for Giulia
Cons: Character growth overshadows mystery at times
The Bottom Line:
Back to former life
Provides great character growth
And good mystery

The Return of Sister Mary Regina Coelis

Last year, I started several new to me series that already had several books out.  And, true to form, I let new releases and other new series keep me from getting back to some of them.  But I’m making some time to return to those series, which is what brought me to Back in the Habit, the second book featuring former nun Giulia Falcone.

In the eighteen months since leaving the convent, Giulia has gone to work for PI Frank Driscoll.  She is slowly shedding her ways as a nun as well.  And then her former life walks through the door when Sister Mary Fabian, her former Superior General, comes into the office.  One of the Novices has recently committed suicide, and her parents haven’t accepted Fabian’s statements as to why.  She is looking for some outside person to come in and figure out what happened.

Unfortunately for Giulia, that means going undercover and returning to her life as a nun, once again becoming Sister Mary Regina Coelis.  The timing is perfect because nuns from around the country as coming for a feast day.  Will she be able to figure out what happened?  Or will returning to her former life be too much for her?

This is Giulia’s second mystery, and it is interesting to see her return to her former life.  The contrast between her life now, which is still very sheltered, and her life back then is amazing, at least for me, and we get to see some true character growth in her.  Unfortunately, it also means we don’t get to see as much of Frank or Sidney, the other main character at this point in the series, although they do get a few great scenes.  Their interactions provide some of the humor in the books, so I missed that.

This book doesn’t provide a shining picture of life as a nun, but that isn’t too surprising when you think about it.  Giulia left for a reason, and, like Giulia, the author is a former nun herself.  Plus, this is a mystery.  There has to be something shady and underhanded going on for Giulia to investigate.  Having said that, the book does provide us with sympathetic characters who are nuns for the right reason and who do feel the call.  I wouldn’t call it a balanced, but again, we are talking about a mystery.  That’s not the point of the book.

The point of the book is to tell a good story, and it does.  While the mystery isn’t a typical mystery, it is well done.  I do feel that more time was spent on the character growth for Giulia than the mystery proper, but I was never bored.  The book always pulled me into Giulia’s world.

The book has some funny passages as Giulia interacts with her new life and as she readjusts to her old life.  However, the book has plenty of darker edges.  It certainly isn’t as dark as the first book in the series, but it is darker than some part might lead you to expect.  There is also more foul language than in a typical cozy.

Speaking of the first book, some of what happened in the first book is discussed here, which spoils things.  Keep that in mind when you decide what order to read them in.

I’m glad I made it to Back in the Habit.  Now, I need to make time for Giulia’s next adventure.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Movie Review: A Will to Kill - A Hailey Dean Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery ends plot line well
Cons: Mild dose of cheese
The Bottom Line:
Hailey faces past
Wraps up major mystery
Fans won’t want to miss

The Answers About Will

When we first met Hailey Dean in the Hallmark movie franchise, we learned about her murdered fiancĂ© Will and how his death had impacted her life.  We’ve gotten hints about what happened all those years ago over the movies that followed, but when I heard that A Will to Kill would be focusing on his murder, I knew we’d get answers.

Hailey Dean (Kelly Martin) is finally ready to go back and reopen the cold case investigation into Will’s death.  Oh, it’s been investigated over the years, but they’ve hit dead ends.  Hailey is hoping that her emotion state might help her dig up something she didn’t remember from that time.

Looking through a box of mementos from that time in her life, she realizes she’s lost touch with one of her friends from college.  In fact, no one has heard from her in all those years.  Could she be the key to what happened all those years ago?  Where is she?  And was Hailey really the target?

This movie is definitely worthy of this major mystery in Hailey’s life.  There are plenty of twists and turns.  I went into the movie with a theory, and I got so caught up in the action I rather forgot my theory.  Yes, fans will be satisfied with the outcome as well.

The mystery was such a focus of the movie that there wasn’t much time for supporting players or sub-plots.  Yes, Fincher (Viv Leacock) gets one involving his new girlfriend, but that’s about it.  I’m a bit surprised we didn’t see Hailey’s family at all considering how personal this case was, but I didn’t even think about it when I was watching.  That’s how caught up in the case I truly was.

Not only is the case personal for Hailey, but it’s also person for Danny (Giacomo Baessato), Will’s younger brother who became a cop as a result of Will’s death.  While the movie does focus on Hailey and her reaction to everything, Danny gets a few moments to shine as he also deals with all of this.

Maybe it was because everything was so focused, I felt the cheese factor was lower than normal in this movie.  It was definitely the best of the three we’ve seen this month.  Oh, it’s still there, but it’s mild.

Fans of these movies will be happy to finally have this mystery from the past solved in A Will to Kill.  I’m curious to see where the character will go from here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Book Review: With a Little Bit of Blood by D. E. Ireland (Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mysteries #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and sense of time
Cons: Plot seems to start slowly
The Bottom Line:
House party murder
Maybe hunting accident?
More fun with duo

Henry and Eliza Must Solve a Murder at a House Party

1913 has turned out to be a very murderous year for Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins.  As With a Little Bit of Blood opens, the duo, made famous by the play Pygmalion that was turned into the musical My Fair Lady, are about to be faced with their fourth murder case.  And readers can rejoice because it’s another great one.

This time they have been invited to join the first country house party being thrown by the new Lord and Lady Ashbury (she the former Clara Eynsford-Hill).  Considering the series of bad luck that Eliza and Henry have been having, this is perfect because they need a place to stay.

While Eliza is excited about her first fox hunt at the end of the week and the ball that will take place that night, Henry is afraid that he will be bored out of his mind.  Things only get worse for Henry when one of the fellow guests is a woman who stalked him several years earlier.  It’s not until the first morning that things take a deadly turn, however, when one of the guests is shot on the rabbit hunt.  While Henry is quick to chalk it up to a hunting accident, Eliza is certain that it was murder.  But do any of the guests have a reason for wanting that man dead?

I will admit I found the book started rather slowly.  It was only later that we realized just how some things were playing into the overall plot.  Additionally, the time was used to introduce the victim and suspects.

Once the murder happens, things do get much more interesting as lies and secrets are uncovered.  I really didn’t suspect who the killer was, but once Eliza and Henry figured it out, everything made perfect sense.

A few of the series regulars are really reduced to cameos here.  We get brief updates on them before Henry and Eliza head to the house party.  However, there are more than enough suspects to make up for it.  We actually have a rather large cast, but the characters are all strong.  I never once had a hard time keeping them straight.  We continue to see some growth in the series regulars, and I’m anxious to see how some relationships move forward after what happens here.

The authors do a good job of bringing the world of 1913 to life with such new things as cars and airplanes factoring into this book.  Yet, with the fun they have with some of those things, there are more serious things happening in the world at large, which come into the plot a time or two as well.

As the series goes on, it has gotten further from the original roots of the famous play and musical while still staying true to the authors’ take on the characters.  That’s not to say that fans of the source material will be disappointed.  In fact, I think they will be as enthralled as I am by how the duo who comprise D. E. Ireland have moved these characters forward.

With a Little Bit of Blood is another winner for fans of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins.  It’s a fun trip back in time to England 100 years ago.

And be sure to enjoy the rest of the Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins mysteries.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Ornament Review: Welcoming Wreath - Marjolein's Garden #4 - 2017 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good wreath, nice birds
Cons: Not quite as charming; green will get lost in tree.
The Bottom Line:
Wreath hanging outside
Makes welcome home for these birds
Good but lacks some charm

Nature’s Wreath

Since the earlier ornaments in the Marjoleain’s Garden series have all been nature scenes, I was a bit surprised to see the fourth entry was a Welcoming Wreath.  After all, a wreath is a traditional Christmas decoration.  However, I do like the ornament.

As you’d expect, the ornament is a mostly green wreath.  However, in keeping with Marjoleain Bastin’s work, the wreath is made up of many different kinds of greenery, not just holly.  It has red apples substituting for the berries, and there is some snow draped over the top.  But what really makes it stand out are the two birds.  One is just taking off from the top with its wings spread while the other is sitting in the lower part of the wreath sampling the apples.

So no, this isn’t a wreath on your door that welcomes others to your home, but this is a wreath that has welcomed birds.  I do like that idea and how it is played out here.

However, I do still miss the other scenes we’ve gotten for this series.  This is missing that touch of charm and whimsy that the captured my interest with the earlier pieces.  The details are great, and I do like the bird sampling the apple, but it’s not quite the same.

Since this is a wreath, you have to hang it somewhere.  Being so green, it could get lost in a Christmas tree easily, another strike against it.  However, when you do go to hang the ornament, you’ll find that it hangs straight.

And yes, the 4 in a Christmas tree series marker is on the ornament, but I’m going to let you discover where.  It’s a bit hidden, but not that hard to find.

I’ll confess that I bought Welcoming Wreath after Christmas because it was part of a series.  I will still display it some, but it won’t get as much rotation as some of my other ornaments.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Marjolein’s Garden series.

Original Price: $17.95

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Book Review: The Missing Map of Pirate's Haven by Sigmund Brouwer (Accidental Detectives #12)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery that is lots of fun
Cons: Buried with the treasure
The Bottom Line:
Mystery host
And pirate treasure combine
Fast paced and fun book

Will the Accidental Detectives Find the Pirate Treasure?

One of the reasons pirates are so popular is their treasure.  Who doesn’t dream of stumbling over a huge treasure and being insanely rich as a result?  And the Accidental Detectives aren’t the first fictional characters to stumble into a hunt for a treasure a pirate left behind.  But just because the premise is familiar doesn’t mean that The Missing Map of Pirate’s Haven isn’t wonderful.

Ricky Kidd, his friends Mike, Ralphy, and Lisa, along with Ricky’s younger brother Joel, are heading to San Diego.  During the morning, they are to help Lisa’s uncle paint the house he just bought, but they will have afternoons to enjoy summer in Southern California.  It sounds like a dream vacation.

After they’ve landed, Lisa’s uncle tells them a legend about a pirate that operated in the area a hundred years ago.  He supposedly buried his treasure nearby.  It sounds farfetched…until Joel finds two silver coins.  Meanwhile, Lisa’s uncle is acting strangely himself.  Will Ricky find the treasure and figure out what is going on?

I’ve read this book a couple of times over the years, but it’s been well over a decade since the last time.  As a result, I remembered a couple of scenes, but that was it.  Pieces of the plot came back to me as I read it, but I was once again in awe of how the mystery was laid out.  Little things become big clues later, and every piece Ricky needs to solve the mystery is laid out for us.  Yet I still didn’t pick up on everything.

And the characters are fun.  They feel well rounded, which is impressive considering this is a 130 page middle grade mystery.  It helps that the characters are teasing each other and get involved in some other things that make me laugh.  Laugh with someone, and you feel you know them, right?  I do feel that a couple of the characters introduced in the book make some major changes rather quickly.  I don’t remember feeling that way in the past, and I’m sure kids won’t complain about that at all.

This series is a Christian series, and some spiritual themes are worked into the book.  They are a natural outflow of the characters, however, and don’t feel forced into the book at all.  Additionally, they never slow down what is a very fast paced plot.

Every time I pick up an Accidental Detectives book, I’m reminded just how much I love them.  No matter your age, if you are looking for a great mystery, I can’t recommend The Missing Map of Pirate’s Haven enough.

Check out more of Ricky’s adventures with the rest of the Accidental Detectives series.

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

Saturday, June 16, 2018

June 16th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Another summer week, another short weekly TV thoughts.

Supergirl – It was a set up for next week’s finale.  It knew it.  We knew it.  But it did a remarkably good job of being entertaining.  I’m very curious to see how we are going to save the Earth without ruining everything we know and love.  I mean, is the skyscrapers fall, that can’t be undone in a few episodes, and I don’t see them dealing with that fallout for a season.

American Ninja Warrior: Ninja Vs. Ninja – Michelle lost her first race, but man, it was so close.  That was epic.  And then to fall on the salmon ladder.  I loved her teammates jumping in the water with her at the end there.  It will be interesting to see who comes out on top this season.

American Ninja Warrior – They got me.  We never get a finisher before the 20 minute mark, but they actually had a finisher as the first person to run the course.  I couldn’t believe it!  I was so happy for him, too.  I really do want to root for everyone to finish.  It was hard to see JJ go out early like that.  Fortunately, Jesse finished.  I always love watching her.  I’m dying to know what movie she is working on, so that teasing worked.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Book Review: Murder on Mulberry Bend by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and sense of time and place
Cons: Mystery could be stronger
The Bottom Line:
Visit this duo
Compelling trip back in time
Another murder

Murder of a Poor Teen

With the way the previous book in the Gaslight Mysteries ended, picking up the next book as soon as possible was a given.  Not that I’m complaining because Murder on Mulberry Bend was about good book.

Through her renewed friendship with Richard, Sarah Brandt has discovered the Prodigal Son Mission.  Despite the name, this mission actually ministers to teenage girls who might ordinarily be out on the street.  They are taught all manner of things to help them make a respectable life for themselves. 

And it gets her involved in another murder when Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy asks her to identify the teenage woman who has been found in the park.  It’s one of the residents of the mission that she’s just met.  With no one to fight for justice for this young woman, Sarah insists that Frank track down the killer with a little help from her.  But will they uncover any leads?

Yes, I know I said I had to pick up this book because of a cliffhanger.  That involves an ongoing storyline involving the murder of Sarah’s husband.   We get some significant developments there as well, and I am still hooked.  I have to know what is going to happen next with this cold case.

The pace of this mystery is weaker than some of the other books in the series.  Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly hooked the entire time.  But it just felt like the twists I’ve come to expect weren’t there.  Or maybe that was because I had a feeling I knew what was going on early in the book.

But as I said, I was still hooked as I was once again transported to New York City in the 1890’s.  The little details of everyday life transport us back in time with ease.

And I was thrilled to see these characters again.  Yes, I’m getting a little tired of how Frank and Sarah interact at times, but I’m still enjoying their extremely slow burn romance.  It helps to remember that it’s only been a few months for them, and their social classes make them think they could never be together.  The rest of the cast is extremely sharp as well, which is no surprise at this point in the series since the characters are always sharp.

I’m quickly coming to realize that any time spent with Sarah and Frank and their world is time well spent.  No wonder this series has so many fans.  Now that I’ve finished Murder on Mulberry Bend, I’m plotting how quickly I can return and visit them again.

Continue your trip back in time with the rest of the Gaslight Mysteries.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Movie Review: A Marriage Made for Murder - A Hailey Dean Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Solid mystery
Cons: A little heavy on the cheese
The Bottom Line:
A dead art dealer
Starts a solid mystery
Great for Hailey fans

“Now I See.  This Isn’t a Date; It’s an Investigation.”  “Why Can’t It Be Both?”  “With You, It Usually Is.”

When I heard the title of the second Hailey Dean Mystery Movie this month, A Marriage Made for Murder, I must admit I assumed that we’d be dealing with a couple who committed murder.  Turns out I was quite a ways from the truth, but the title makes perfect sense by the end.

The victim in this movie is Victor (Matthew J. Dowden), the owner of an art gallery that Clyde (Chad Lowe) regularly purchased art from.  Hailey Dean (Kelly Martin) tags along when Clyde goes to offer his condolences.  At that point, everyone seems to think he’s had a heart attack.  It’s only when Hailey asks her boyfriend Jonas (Matthew MacCaull) to speed up the death certificate does she learn that the hospital has no record of Victor in their computer.

That’s odd enough for Hailey to call in the police, who are able to determine it was murder.  As the secrets in Victor’s life start coming to light, motives multiply.  But who killed him?

So how does the title play into the mystery?  I’m not going to tell you; you’ll have to watch it to find out for yourself.  I got so caught up in the motives that were coming to light that I couldn’t figure out who the killer was going to be.  Things make sense at the end, and the final quarter of the movie is wonderful in how it plays out.

Meanwhile, having Clyde back in Hailey’s life continues to help her deal with her fiancĂ© Will’s murder.  That appears to be the main focus of the next movie in the franchise, so I’m looking forward to getting some answers on this mystery.

Being a Hallmark movie, there’s a fair amount of cheese to be had here, both in the writing and the acting.  It seemed to me to be a little worse than normal here, but it still only damped my enjoyment a little.  The usual cast of supporting players are all here and enjoyable as always despite the cheese.

A Marriage Made for Murder provides an enjoyable hour and a half of mystery and sets us up for the next movie in the franchise.  Hailey’s fans will enjoy this one and be anxiously waiting for the next.