Saturday, May 30, 2020

May 30th's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Titan Games – I’m not sure how I feel about the regions thing.  I think last season was simpler and it is going to wind up being overly complicated now.  But I’ll give it a few more weeks to see how it all shakes out before I decide for sure.  The Mt. Olympus course is crazier this year, that’s for sure.  And the new challenges look tough.  There is no way I could be on this show at all, but I will enjoy watching it.

The Baker and the Beauty – I didn’t see a few of those twists coming.  Like the ex saving the day when Daniel was arrested.  For that matter, it was nice to see someone actually facing consequences for punching another person out.  Anyway, it was nice to see Daniel and the ex come to a better resolution.  And then the kiss with Mateo?  I mean, that, I saw coming.  I wasn’t expecting the breakup with Noa.  And I hope that Natalie and the mom are going to be less problematic going forward.

Stargirl – I’m very shocked at what they did.  I figured that this guy was going to be our big bad of the season, so the fact that they fought him and apparently defeated him already is a completely surprise.  Yes, they kept him in a coma, so he can always come back, but still, wow!

Legends of Tomorrow – That was as fun as I hoped it would be.  No, they didn’t really capture the flavor of Friends, but I thought they did a good parody of Star Trek.  That’s the fun and funny show that I have been missing so much this season.  I have a feeling that next week will be painful, but I’m glad we got to enjoy this week.  And, as much as I never really warmed up to Mona, it was fantastic to see her again.  If everyone is alive in this timeline, I’m wondering if we will hear anything more about the original where several characters had died.

Game On! – I thought I’d check this new show out since it sounded like another fun collection of wacky games.  I was sadly disappointed.  After the first one, most of the rest didn’t really appeal to me.  I’ll probably give it another week, but that might be all.

Holey Moley – New holes!  And some revised holes from last year, too.  I also have to remind myself as I’m sitting in my hot condo that this films in the winter, so it is cold to be going in that water.  I feel for the golfers even as I root for them to get wet.  Yes, I’m rather mean like that.  I do feel sorry for the diver.  I get they were going for laughs, but he should have been able to move on.  He looked mad, and rightfully so.

To Tell the Truth – I tuned in again this week, and boy am I glad I did.  If you didn’t watch the episode, I suggest you watch the entire thing.  And that’s all I am going to say.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Ornament Review: Tea Time! #4 - Chimney Sweep Snowman - 2019 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Creative and fun set
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Snowman chimney sweep
Fantastic ornament set
Brings the tea time fun

Chilly Chimney Sweep

There are some job combinations I would never expect.  For example, a snowman as a chimney sweep?  I mean, fire makes snowmen melt, so I would think they would not be in favor of helping with fires at all.  But a snowman chimney sweep is exactly what we got with 2019’s two ornament Tea Time set.

The bigger, teapot inspired ornament is a snowman.  He’s got his top hat on, and he’s dressed in a vest with a green jacket over it.  His scarf is a reddish color, and it not only wraps around his neck but is long enough to form the handle for the teapot.  One arm is out and holding a brush that forms the spout.

The second, smaller ornament, is the cup of the tea set.  In this case, the outside is decorated to look like bricks.  And there are three lumps of sugar floating in the top of the cup.  Or, as I always say, three mini marshmallows because the liquid looks like hot chocolate to me.

I’m a little surprised that the snowman’s hat isn’t the cup in this set, but that’s a minor complaint.  I do love the way these ornament looks, and I find a snowman working as a chimney sweep oddly appealing.

Since these ornaments represent a teapot and cup, it’s no surprise that they stand on their own.  You can add them to any display you wish, although the ornaments are made of porcelain, so they will break easily if knocked off.

They also hang straight as well.  The snowman tips forward ever so slightly, but he is leaning back a little when standing, so it looks natural both ways.

This is the fourth in a planned series of five, so you’ll find the four on the bottom of both ornaments.

Tea Time has featured some fantastically creative sets, and this fourth set is no exception.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Tea Time ornament sets.

May 29th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Welcome to the final Friday in May.  I'm celebrating with a sweet entry for Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week's book?  Sprinkles of Suspicion by Kim Davis.

This is the first book in her Cupcake Catering Mystery series, but Kim is no stranger to cozies or blog since she runs the fabulous Cinnamon and Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder blog.

This books jumps right into the story.

One glass of cheap California chardonnay cost me my husband, my job, and my best friend.  Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of my troubles.

That definitely made me want to read more.

Meanwhile, at 56% into the book, we find:

"I'll be back with a warrant to continue my search."
"When will that be?  My mother is coming with a real estate agent in the morning, and it would be awkward if you came while they were both here."

And with that, I'm going to wish you a happy weekend.  Want to know more about this book?  I'm reviewing it on Wednesday as part of a book tour, so I hope you'll come back then.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Book Review: Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders by Tessa Arlen (Woman of World War II Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Poppy, details about the time period
Cons: Much of cast weak, uneven pacing
The Bottom Line:
Murder in village
Poppy must patrol and solve
Book could be stronger

Strangler in the Village

I’ve been making a concerted effort to read more historical mysteries, which means trying out new authors.  Since I had Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders sitting on my bookshelf, I decided now was a good time to travel back to World War II.

It’s the summer of 1942, and Poppy is doing her part for the war effort as the air-raid warden for her village of Little Buffenden.  Her job is to walk around each night and make sure that all windows and doorways are covered up.  With an American Air Force base near her small village, their chance of being the target of an attack have increased.

The Americans nearby have caused quite a stir in the village, with some denouncing them outright while others, especially the young women, seem to find them fascinating.  When not one but two young women who have started dating Americans turn up dead, the evidence quickly points to one of the Americans.  Poppy just doesn’t buy it, however.  Teaming up with a handsome American pilot, Poppy sets out to find the truth no matter where it leads.  But has she just made herself a target of the killer?

World War II is one of the time periods that fascinate me, so I was happy to disappear into that time and Poppy’s corner of England.  The author has clearly done her research, and details of daily life fill the page.

Unfortunately, they also push out the plot at times.  I found the mystery very uneven.  Some interesting developments would be followed by pages of Poppy rehashing them as she goes about daily life.

Which is a shame because I love Poppy.  She is an interesting main character, and I could see some growth in her character here.  She is strong enough to carry a series.  The rest of the cast doesn’t hold up quite as well.  I never felt like we got to know most of the residents in the village.  A few stood out, but not quite enough to draw us into Poppy’s world.

This isn’t a bad book, and I would get drawn into the story at times.  But I wasn’t captivated as much as I had hoped I would be.

So Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders turned out to be a mixed book.  If the time period interests you, pick it up.  Hopefully, the series will improve as it goes along.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Book Review: The Murder of Twelve by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land (Murder, She Wrote #51)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong, page turning plot
Cons: Character relationships
The Bottom Line:
Trapped in a blizzard
With a killer on the loose
Page turning thriller

Weddings are Murder

When I describe cozies to those who haven’t read them before, I often compare them to Agatha Christie and Murder, She Wrote.  The two come together for The Murder of Twelve, which is a page turning read.

The blizzard of the century is bearing down on Maine, with predictions of three feet of snow in Cabot Cove.  Jessica Fletcher isn’t in any hurry to get back to her suite at Hill House, the hotel where she has been staying while her home is being rebuilt.  Instead, she is happy to help Sheriff Metzger figure out what is happening to the stranger found just outside of town, dead in his car.  At first, it looks like a tragic accident, but Jessica quickly finds evidence that it was murder.

When she does finally return to the hotel, she discovers that a wedding party has checked in.  However, the bride and groom are missing and the family can’t seem to stand each other.  Then the bodies begin to pile up.  What is happening at the hotel?  How does it tie in to the stranger in the car?

Make no mistake about it, this book reads much more like a thriller than a cozy mystery.  Or, more accurately, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  There’s no foul language and the violence is kept to a minimum, but it is tense.

Now, that isn’t to say that this isn’t a good book.  I was very much caught up in the story and had to know what was going to happen next.  Jessica is kept very busy trying to stop a string of murders from continuing, and I couldn’t wait to see how she would do it.

With much of the book taking place at Hill House in the middle of the record storm, we don’t see as much of any of the series’ supporting players.  The focus of the book is on Jessica and the suspects, and they are more than enough to support this book.  I came to care for many of the suspects, which made me care even more about the outcome.

This isn’t to say that we don’t see some of the regular supporting players here, we just don’t see as much of them as we normally night.  In some cases, that helped cut down on the issues I’ve noted in their relationships in the previous books.  I will say, I am getting very tired of Harry McGraw’s one joke.  It’s time to do something different with that character if we are going to continue to see him.

The descriptions of the weather are excellent.  I was reading this book as the weather was finally starting to warm up for a Southern California spring, but it made me shiver with winter cold.  Considering how much I hate snow, it might not take much to make me feel cold, but still, I was very impressed with how much I could feel the cold seeping into my body.

All the complaints really are minor.  I couldn’t get through this book fast enough, and I was satisfied when I turned the final page.  The Murder of Twelve will keep you engrossed far longer than you had planned once you pick it up.

NOTE: I received an ARC of the book.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Book Review: The Study of Secrets by Cynthia Kuhn (Lila Maclean #5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong plot and characters
Cons: Some timeline issues
The Bottom Line:
On sabbatical
Lila makes time for murder
More page turning fun

Sabbatical with Murder

It is rare for a book to end with a cliffhanger, but when that happens, I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.  That was why I was so anxious to pick up The Study of Secrets, the fifth Lila Maclean mystery.  I’m glad to say it was worth the wait.

Lila Maclean has been taking her semester sabbatical with family friend Bibi Callahan.  She’s been finishing up her book on the mysteries of Isabella Dare as well as writing a mystery of her own.  With the final weeks of the fall semester winding down, Lila is facing the prospect of returning to her normal life.

Over the months, she has gotten to know some of Bibi’s friends, so she is happy to lead a book club meeting for them on one of Isabella Dare’s books.  The night starts out with fun and laughs but ends in tragedy when one of the women is murdered.  Bibi asks Lila to help look into the murder.  Fearing her friend will wind up accused of the crime, she is only too willing to jump it.  What secrets will she uncover?  How did they leave to murder?

The book doesn’t take too long to dive into the mystery at hand, and it keeps us engaged the entire way through.  There are multiple secrets in the past that could play into what is going on in the present, and Lila has to figure out how that all plays into the current death.  I loved watching her peal back the layers, and I was surprised by some of the twists and turns of the plot.  The climax was logical and answered all of my questions.

I did feel the timeline was a bit squishy.  We seemed to lose or gain days at random intervals.  None of that impacted the unraveling of the mystery, but this is a pet peeve of mine, so I did notice.

The characters are wonderful, but this is no surprise to series fans.  Most of them are new, but they are so real that I didn’t want any of them to be killed or be the killer.  I just knew it would be hard on Lila and the others.

Lila has been facing a complication in her love life, and we get further developments on that here.  I enjoyed how it was resolved, although parts of it felt a bit rushed.

I mentioned that Lila has been taking a fall semester sabbatical earlier, and I did that on purpose.  That’s right, much of the action takes place in December, and we get some fun scenes set around Christmas activities.  As a Christmas lover, I loved that added element.

Fans of the series will be thrilled to find out what happens next to Lila in The Study of Secrets.  The charming characters and engrossing plot make the pages fly by all too quickly.

Check out the rest of the Lila Maclean Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, May 25, 2020

TV Show Review: The Good Place - Season 4

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: A few laughs, the cast
Cons: Too many annoying characters, maudlin ending
The Bottom Line:
Fate of the world stakes
Misses the comedy mark
Doesn’t stick landing

“Everything I Do Blows Up in My Face. I’m Like a Hot, Blonde Wile E. Coyote.”

I had a mixed reaction to the news that The Good Place was going to end with season 4.  While part of me was sad that a show I loved was ending so soon, I was happy to know they were going to go out as planned when they felt they were out of stories to tell.  Unfortunately, I felt the final season was a letdown.

If you haven’t seen the show, not only will jumping in here be confusing, but it will contain some spoilers for fun twists and turns to the story.  You really don’t want to start here.  Or read this review yet either, for that matter.  So go back and watch season 1, which I most definitely do recommend.

This season picks up exactly where season 3 left off.  Former demon Michael (Ted Danson), After Life Assistant Janet (D’Arcy Carden), and the Soul Squad, aka Elanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason (Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto) are getting ready for their experiment to prove that humans can improve.  Unfortunately, The Bad Place has chosen humans who are not only the worse people imaginable but also will personally annoy our heroes.  Among them is Chidi’s ex-girlfriend (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), so Chidi has had his memories erased and becomes part of the experiment as well.  Will Elanor and the others be able to prove that humans can get better?  Or is everyone doomed to be wiped out?

So, what went wrong this season?  For starters, the new characters who are part of the new experiment.  They aren’t funny.  They aren’t endearing.  They are painful to watch.  While Elanor could be painful at times in season one, she was also sympathetic enough to make us root for her.  These new characters are just plain painful.  I get that we were supposed to find them funny, but they weren’t.

Then there’s the ending.  No, I’m not going to spoil it, but I saw it coming an episode or two before it aired, and I was sorry to be right.  It was sad.  In fact, the entire finale was more maudlin than funny.  It was not the upbeat ending I was looking for.  I get what they thought they were doing with it, but it didn’t work at all.

Now, this isn’t to say that there weren’t good moments this season.  I still laughed in most episodes.  But those moments were fewer and further between than normal in these final thirteen episodes.  The strongest batch of episodes were a bunch in the middle that focused on the characters we’d seen in earlier seasons.

And the acting was still top notch.  I can’t fault the cast.  In watching some interviews around the time the series wrapped up, you can tell how much the actors enjoyed working together, and that chemistry and love comes through on the screen.

I always hate it when a show I love doesn’t stick the landing.  I had such high hopes for The Good Place, but season 4 left me disappointed.  I will enjoy the brilliance of the earlier seasons, but I doubt I will revisit this one very often.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Disney Pin Review: it's a small world - Minnie Mouse is the Main Attraction #4 - 2020 Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Two pins capture ride in a fun way
Cons: Minnie herself looks odd
The Bottom Line:
small world pin set
Two of the pins make me smile
But Minnie looks odd

A Favorite Attraction, but Minnie Looks Odd

Of all the things impacted by the situation going on in our world right now, one of the least stressful has been my pin collecting.  Okay, so I may have stressed a bit trying to get the releases for Minnie Mouse: The Main Attraction (and I’m still missing March’s release), but I was extremely happy to get the release for April, even though this set inspired by it’s a small world is my least favorite to date.

For the first time in the collection, Minnie Mouse has stayed relatively close by in her travels.  In March, she was visiting the Tea Cups, and in April, she has moved on to it’s a small world, just a couple of minutes walk away.

The pin set features three pins as always.  The first is the clock face.  And I do mean face.  It’s a giant circle with the smiling face on it.  On the attraction, it ticks and tocks back and forth.  Here, it’s a hot pink color with a teal green face painted on it.  The second pin is the Minnie Mouse ears.  They are pink and purple with flowers on the ears.  The bow itself is teal with the numbers on the side of the clock face on it.  I love that touch.  In fact, I love these two pins.  I tend to think of small world as white, which is the color of the outside, at least here in California, but I recognize that the teals, pinks, and purples are also associated with the ride.

It’s Minnie that is the problem for me.  They’ve decked her out in pink and teal and purple as well, including her skin.  It just looks weird.  I know I got used to the stylized colors on the Disney Wisdom Collection last year, so I might adjust to this one eventually, but it won’t be right away.

But two out of three pins is still good, and the other two pins are great.  As I’ve been saying, I do love this attraction, so that’s a huge plus for me as well.

I’m hoping that The Disney Store gets their website working right as I will be buying these from the site for the foreseeable future.  I almost gave up on getting this series beyond the first two, but I am glad I tracked down the pins for it’s a small world and look forward to visiting more attractions with Minnie Mouse.

If you are looking for pictures, please stop by Instagram account.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

May 23rd's Weekly TV Thoughts

Batwoman – I can’t believe Mouse thought he was going to convince Alice to do things his way.  As soon as I saw that scene where he gave his ultimatum, I knew he was dead.  A villain with Bruce Wayne’s face.  That will be interesting.  And Commander Kane is going to be an even worse foe going forward.  I’m having problems with kryptonite being the only thing that can destroy the batsuit.  Seems like lazy storytelling on someone part – whether than came form the comics or not.  That wasn’t as bad a cliffhanger as I thought it would be.  Still, I’m hooked enough I’ll probably be back when it returns next year.

Supergirl – Again, not a super bad cliffhanger.  If I didn’t know better, I would have said most of that was planned as the season finale.  I mean, we did wrap up several pretty major storylines, including Kara and Lena.  I was definitely smiling about that.  Of course, we still have to take down Lex.  In some ways, it’s a shame he’s been on this show so much with Superman getting his own show in the fall.  But I have been enjoying his mayhem over here, so I’m not complaining too much.  I’m pretty sure they can save Brainy now that they know he’s in trouble, so I’m not too worried about him.

The Beauty and the Baker – Definitely a downer episode with some major cliffhangers.  Realistic, and I definitely can’t wait to see where they are going to go with these plot lines, but not the light, upbeat show we are used to seeing.  Is it next week yet?  I’ve got to know what happens next.  Yes, safe to say I am hooked on the show.

Stargirl – Thank you, CW, for introducing a new series right now.  I’m going to need it.  This has the potential to be fun.  I enjoyed the second half much more than the first.  I felt like I was two steps behind until we started getting exposition in the back half.  But it is a pilot.  With all this set up out of the way, I think we are really going to have fun now.

Legends of Tomorrow – I thought that next week’s episode was the one we were doing tonight, so you can imagine my frustrating at dealing with zombies all hour.  I hate zombie!  Obviously, they didn’t really kill of Sara despite how it looked with the Zobmies.  But did they kill off Gary?  As annoying as he could be, he is fun in small doses.  He’s been one of the lighter sides of a dark season, in fact.

Celebrity Escape Room – I’m no good at puzzles, so I’m not sure I would have figured any of those things out.  I’m glad they are smarter than me.  It was mostly fun, although Jack Black got annoying at times.

Holey Moley – They have really made the holes hard this year!  I do like the fact that they have cut down on the rounds, which gives us time to see everything that happens.  But they are definitely aiming to make the contestants fail this year.

To Tell the Truth – I wasn’t planning to watch this one, but I flipped over part way through.  Not sure I will be back every week, but I had to laugh when Will Shorz was the person they were about to start guessing when I tuned in.  He’s created the crosswords for all the Puzzle Lady mysteries I read as well as creating the Crossword Puzzle Mysteries for Hallmark.  I didn’t know which one he was, but it was fun to put a face with the name.

Friday, May 22, 2020

May 22nd's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Not only is it a Friday, but it is a holiday weekend Friday here in the states!  I'm kicking things off with Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm offering a teaser from The Study of Secrets by Cynthia Kuhn.

This is the fifth book in the Lila Maclean mystery series.  It comes out on Tuesday, and I'll be back when with my review.

In the mean time, here's how the book begins.

"Have you found any buried treasure in the study?" Bibi asked, pouring me another cup of tea.

Meanwhile, at 56% , we find:

"Back up, please.  Why did you go to the police station?"

Short and sweet this week.

Hope you have a great weekend and will come back Tuesday for my review of this fun book.