Sunday, October 13, 2019

Book Review: The Caboose Who Got Loose by Bill Peet

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Colorful pictures, good story, good moral…
Cons: …that may be a bit too complex for all to grasp
The Bottom Line:
Katy has her dreams
Difficult ones for caboose
Good, complex moral

Dream but Enjoy the Present

It’s been years since I originally read any of Bill Peet’s books, so I am fuzzy on many of them.  When I sat down to reread The Caboose Who Got Loose, I really didn’t remember anything about the story, but it turned out I really liked it.

This book tells the story of Katy.  Katy is not happy with her life as a caboose, however.  She wants to be in one place, not constantly being dragged from place to place.  She dreams of not constantly having to travel.  However, she gets another point of view in the train station from people who wish they could see the world like she is.  Will she see the other perspective?

I’m about to do something I rarely do, and spoil the book.  But since this is a kid’s picture book, I am assuming you won’t mind.  If you do, then please stop reading now.

You see, I can’t describe why I liked the book so much without getting into the story.  Katy actually does begin to enjoy seeing the world around her until one day the coupling holding her to her train breaks, and she finds herself traveling on her own before coming to rest between two trees.  And she is quite content with being stuck in her new location.  What I really appreciated is the moral and Katy’s attitude late in the book.  No, she never gives up on her dream, but she learns to enjoy where she is.  I’m sure I didn’t pick up on this as a kid, but it is a good lesson to remember.  We get so caught up in dreaming about the future that we don’t take the time to enjoy life as it is happening around us.  There’s nothing wrong with the dream, but we need to enjoy the present, too.  I realize this is probably too subtle for kids, but maybe I’m underestimating them.

Okay, deep breath.

Bill Peet always filled his books with colorful illustrations, and this book is no exception.  We’ve got blue sky, trees, colorful buildings, and Katy, who is red.  There is plenty here for kids to look at as the book is being read to them.

This is one of the books that Bill Peet wrote in rhyme.  It makes the story really flow and adds a fun touch.  These are definitely not early readers, but the rhymes will help readers who are ready to move on to more challenging books figure out new words.

Whether kids get the subtle message of the book or not, they will enjoy the story and the colorful pictures.  That makes The Caboose Who Got Loose a winner.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

October 12th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Three of the four fall Arrowverse shows returned this week.  Or premiered in the case of Batwoman.  It's getting harder to keep up with everything.

God Friended Me – Kara doesn’t love Miles?  Or if she does, why can’t she tell him?  Yes, that’s what I took from the episode.  Oh, and Joy needs to calm down just a tad.  I’m curious where they are going to go with Simon and the reporter.  And, for that matter, how long is Kara going to stay in Paris?  I’m guessing one more episode, but we’ll find out.

Batwoman – I’ve been very worried that this show would be political.  So far, it isn’t that bad.  Oh, it’s there, and it could go much worse, but I enjoyed it.  I’ll definitely be back next week.  Unfortunately, I think my favorite part is Alice and all of her references to Alice in Wonderland, and as a villain, I fear she won’t be around long.

Supergirl – The politics is still in this show, I see.  Lectures about the press and how it should be vs. how it is going now.  And how no one is respecting it.  Yawn.  So this is what is going to turn Lena Luthor into a villain, huh?  And for a minute, I thought they were going to have her really forgive Kara.  That will be interesting to watch.

Dancing with the Stars – We are at the point where two groups of celebrities are forming – those who are able to really learn how to dance, and those who are trying but not really getting it.  It’s nice to see another one or two joining the upper group, but we will see if they can stay there.  Meanwhile, we have a few weeks of easy eliminations yet.  I’m surprised that Sean Spicer is still around, although there are still several dancers who are as weak as he is.  Have we seen any 9’s yet?  It seems like we normally see a 9 or two by now.  Next week is Disney week!  Can’t wait!!!

A Very Brady Renovation – With all the shows coming back this week, I also didn’t go back for the “bonus scenes” episode.  I’m so glad I did.  This was more from the “kids” points of view, and I enjoyed that so much more.  Their tidbits and reactions are so much fun.  It really makes me want to pull out my DVD’s for the show.

The Flash – Nothing like finding out you only have two months to live.  And that date is the Tuesday of crossover week.  I wonder if that’s going to be the cliffhanger episode.  I honestly can’t remember what is airing when.  When will people learn that dark matter is bad news?  I mean, it’s right there in the name, for Pete’s sake.

This is Us – Better episode than last week.  The scene at the end with the three characters laughing at the AA meeting was great.  I love how they worked Timothy Omundson’s real life stroke into the backstory for his character (that’s the actor playing Kate and Toby’s new neighbor).  And Kate walking with him was perfect.  I knew the assistant (or whatever her position was) would be fired when she spoke up, but I wasn’t thinking that the proposal was going to be a proposal.

Survivor – If the rest of the group plays it right, I was see leaving with an idol.  It’s bad; I get it, but it’s a sign that the other team members are really good at playing the game.  Still, I always feel bad for that person.  Not surprised who lost and went since we spent almost the entire episode with that tribe.  Seriously, was the other tribe all hugs and bunny snuggles while this was going on?

American Horror Story: 1984 – I’m beginning to think everyone is absolutely crazy.  And I’m kind of over the show again.  It’s just that disturbing.  This is why I haven’t watched it before.  I may see if I can read recaps and find out what happens for the rest of it that way.

The Good Place – Torture makes you a better person.  Or, another way to say it is might be no pain, no gain.  Or, “Those whom God loves, He also disciplines.”  Discipline really is a good thing.  Of course, this episode showed that with so many laughs along the way it was great.  The best line was Chidi’s line, “I made God cry?”  Especially with how he delivered it.

Carol’s Second Act – That was the best one so far.  Carol had calmed down a little.  The plot was completely predictable, but it was still fun.  Missed her daughter, and I hope they don’t just humiliate the one doctor.  I mean, it was funny and he does deserve it, but if that’s all they do with him, it will become predictable.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Book Review: Read It and Weep by Jenn McKinlay (Library Lovers Mysteries #4)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters, twists to mystery
Cons: Love triangle overshadows everything
The Bottom Line:
Love life the focus
When play brings danger to town
Overall book’s slow

Romance Overshadows Mystery

Being multiple books behind in the Library Lovers Mysteries, I know some things that were coming in the series.  One of them was that main character Lindsey Norris’s love life would take several left turns.  That particular storyline really takes shape in Read It and Weep, the fourth in the series.  Unfortunately, I felt like it overshadowed the mystery.

This fall, Lindsey’s friend Violet La Rue is directing a local theater production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and she is encouraging everyone to try out for it.  Lindsey is more interested in working behind the scenes on the costumes, but many of her friends land parts in the play.  Even Ms. Cole, the sour circulation librarian, is in the cast.  The one non-community member cast is Violet’s friend, Robbie Vine, a celebrated actor.  He brings with him his wife and his girlfriend, but he still is immediately smitten with Lindsey, and he starts flirting with her, which does nothing but irritate Sully, Lindsey’s ex.

However, Lindsey’s romantic troubles aren’t the biggest issue on the stage.  Instead, a series of increasingly more serious accidents seem to be happening in the theater.  Is someone out to destroy the production?  Is one particular person the target?  Will Lindsey get to the bottom of things before someone dies?

Since I’ve pretty much already said this, I’ll start with the romance, which overshadows everything.  Honestly, Sully has been an idiot (I thought his actions at the end of the last books were so stupid, I wanted to smack him), and the appearance of Robbie doesn’t make things any better.  Unfortunately, we are left with a collection of romantic comedy moments in the book.  A few would have been fun or cute, but they got repetitive.  Then again, I’m a guy.  While I will enjoy the occasional romantic comedy and don’t mind the romantic sub-plots in cozies, this kind of story is not what I normally pick out.

It doesn’t help that the mystery doesn’t fully kick off until later in the book.  Yes, there are some events and people are taking them seriously, but the focus is still on Lindsey’s love life.  Once the plot gets started, it is decent and kept me guessing until the end.  Even then, Lindsey’s love life is a focal point, we just have more mysterious things happening to help us keep reading.

I definitely enjoyed the characters.  We get to see a different side of a couple of the series regulars, which I greatly enjoyed.  While Violet has been in the series since the beginning, I haven’t felt like we’ve really gotten to know her yet, and that definitely changed here.  On the other hand, the suspects were rather weak; I think this was mostly caused by – you guessed it – the emphasis on Lindsey’s love life.

And I still really enjoy the setting.  Briar Creek seems like a charming small town that it would be a pleasure to visit – between murders, of course.  And I can’t leave out the fact that it is on the coast.  I’d probably join the summer crowds, but I’m sure I’d love it.

This series includes quite a few extras.  We get a recipe, a craft project idea, and discussion questions.  No, not for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  If you want to find out what book is featured at the end, you’ll have to pick up a copy.

This book is not up to author Jenn McKinlay’s usual standards.  However, I’ve read enough of her books to suspect that Read It and Weep is blip from an author I usually adore.  If you are a fan of the author and this series, you’ll still want to pick it up, but if you are new to her books, I suggest you start elsewhere.  Me?  I’m looking forward to visiting Lindsey again soon.

Need to check out more books in the series?  Here are the Library Lover’s Mysteries in order.

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Ornament Review: Piranha Plant - 2019 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Perfectly captures this video game nemesis
Cons: Only if you don’t time your jump just right
The Bottom Line:
A limited piece
Fun Mario nemesis
Glad to have this one

You’d Better Jump This Ornament Right to Your Tree

Once again, I started out the year by saying I was going to cut down on Hallmark ornament purchases.  And once again, I am completely failing.  But when I saw the Piranha Plant ornament, I knew there was no way I could resist.

If you aren’t familiar with the Piranha Plant, then you aren’t a fan of the Super Mario games.  These are the plants that pop out of some of the pipes, killing you on contact if you aren’t able to jump over them.  And this ornament looks just like them.  The plant has fully come out of the pipe, and has its mouth wide open.  We get the green pipe, green stem and leaves, and red plant with white spots with an open mouth and those teeth.  Heck, there’s even a tongue inside, which I don’t remember seeing before.  It looks just like the character does in the games.

And that’s why I had to have it.  I’ve loved the Mario characters since he and Luigi were just regular characters and not super.  I’ve spent many an hour over the years jumping over these plants, or timing things just right to run by them, so buying this ornament really was an obvious choice.  No, it isn’t a hero, which is what I normally gravitate to, but it was too much fun to ignore.  Honestly, I’m having too much of a hard time ignoring all of the Nintendo ornaments Hallmark has this year.  These games inspire such nostalgia, which seems to be my weakness when it comes to ornaments.

You might not think of a pipe as something that stands on its own, but in this case, that is true.  The pipe is solid enough and the base flat enough that you can set the ornament out to enjoy year round.  And maybe I need to do that since I have more ornaments than I can fit on a tree (or in my condo, but that’s another issue).

If you are brave, you can also hang this ornament on your tree.  Why do I say that?  Because the loop is in the middle of the plant’s mouth, so you’ll need to slip a loop in there quickly before the plant’s jaws shut.  Okay, so maybe this is really made from plastic and that won’t happen.  Anyway, the ornament does tip slightly, but you won’t be able to notice once you get it buried in the middle of tree branches.

No, I don’t regret adding Piranha Plant to my ornament collection.  No, to make sure I hang him on my tree away from my Mario ornament.

Original Price: $17.99

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Movie Review: A Killer Engagement - A Matchmaking Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery
Cons: Hallmark cheese, chemistry between leads
The Bottom Line:
Engagement party
Ends in a tragic murder
Starts new, fun franchise

“Police Work is Serious.”  “And Matchmaking Isn’t?”

When Hallmark announced that this fall they’d be introducing the Matchmaker Mysteries, I was excited.  No, not because of the subject matter or because of the main star.  I’m a fan of one of the supporting stars, so I was happy to get to see more of him.  Fortunately, A Killer Engagement lived up to my expectations.

Angie Dove (Danica McKellar) has always had a knack for finding the perfect match for people, and she’s turned it into a career with the launch of a local TV show in her hometown of Philadelphia.  As the movie opens, she’s getting ready to film an update on one of the couples she’s set up on her show, and it’s a great one.  Aaron (Randy Thomas) is getting ready to propose to Emma (Helena Marie) on the show.  Naturally, she says yes, and the happy couple invite Angie to attend the engagement party they are going to throw that Sunday.

However, the party doesn’t turn out to be a happy occasion.  When Angie arrives, she discovers that Aaron is nowhere to be found and Emma seems distracted.  She mentions wanting to ask Angie for advice, but then is pulled away.  A few minutes later Emma is dead.  Detective Kyle Cooper (Victor Webster) is assigned to the case, and he quickly begins to look at Aaron, who seems to have vanished, as his prime suspect.  Angie is certain that her client is innocent, but can she prove it?

The cast member I mentioned earlier?  Actually, that’s Bruce Boxleitner, who plays Angie father, Nick Columba, a retired homicide detective who just happens to have been Kyle’s training officer.  These relationships prove to be fodder for some fun along the way to the end.

The mystery is good.  There are several motives, or potential motives, spread out over the cast of suspects, and it was interesting seeing how Angie and Kyle figured out what was really going on.  I was actually impressed with how Angie figured it all out in the end; the solution was perfectly logical given everything we knew.

I did feel the supporting characters could have used a little more development.  We meet a few people who work on Angie’s show, but I’d like to know exactly what it is they do.  Or maybe it was mentioned briefly in passing and I missed it.  Either way, this is a minor complaint, and something I’m sure will be expanded on in future movies.

Which brings us to our three leads.  Ironically, for a matchmaker, Angie appears to have a rough love life herself, and her father’s is no better.  I’ll be interested to see if they explore this a bit more in future movies.  Normally, I feel the chemistry between the leads in these Hallmark Mystery Movies, but in this case, I found it a bit lacking between Angie and Kyle.  Again, the irony.  But I’m willing to be proved wrong as the franchise continues.

Overall, I found the acting fine from the entire cast.  The movie has the standard Hallmark cheese warning from the writing and the acting, but it’s a pretty average dose, not something that is going to be an issue if you know to expect it going in.

While there has been no official announcement about more movies starring these characters, I’d be surprised if we don’t get to revisit them again next year.  Based on how much I enjoyed A Killer Engagement, I will be looking forward to our return visit.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Book Review: A Legacy of Murder by Connie Berry (Kate Hamilton Mysteries #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, good mystery
Cons: Pacing off, especially early
The Bottom Line:
Christmas in England
Comes complete with a murder
Good second entry

Kate Finds a Christmastime Murder

Earlier this year, I traveled to Scotland with Kate Hamilton, and I immediately started looking forward to her second case, A Legacy of Murder.  This time, the action takes us to England, where Kate finds herself caught up in another intriguing case.

Kate has traveled to the small village of Long Barston.  Her daughter, Christine, is spending her semester break working at Finchley Hall as one of several college aged interns who work on the premises.  It works out well for Kate since it is near Tom Mallory, the policeman she met in Scotland and is falling for.  She is hoping to be able to spend some time with her daughter and Tom and have a bit of time to look for antiques to take back to her shop in Ohio before she returns home in time to spend Christmas Eve with her mother back in the states.

On her first day, Kate is taking a tour of Finchley Hall.  The guide is talking about the murders that have taken place on the estate when a scream interrupts the discussion.  Kate and several others run to find one of the interns dead.  The police are quick to label it murder.  With Tom on the case, it is cutting into the time Kate thought they would have together.  But she can’t help but worry.  Is Christine in danger since she is an intern?

This book gets off to a quick start – what I’ve teased is just from the first couple of chapters.  As the book unfolds, we get to know the characters well, and there is a large cast of characters.  I never once had a hard time remembering who the various characters were and how they were involved in the story.

Unfortunately, I did feel the story wandered a bit.  Maybe it was my mood, but I didn’t find this one quite as gripping as the first in the series was.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a good mystery here, and we get some twists and surprises along the way.  The climax is very suspenseful and perfectly logical.  It just seems like it could have been tightened a bit and the book would have been better.

I definitely know some of that is me.  While Kate is an American, she has always loved England, and she is relishing being there in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  I’m not quite as enamored with the country, however, and that disconnect was part of my problem.  If you are more like Kate, you’ll find yourself drawn to this book and loving every page.

I will say this – the further I got into the book, the more hooked I was as the pace picked up.

As a confirmed Christmas fanatic, I definitely enjoyed the fact that the book takes place in the month of December.  There is a lot going on here outside of the holiday, so we don’t get long passages about holiday traditions and events, but there were enough to make me smile.

A Legacy of Murder wasn’t as strong as Kate’s debut, but I’m still glad I read it.  This is a series that anyone who loves the British Isles needs to pick up today.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Movie Review: Hocus Pocus

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Fast paced, nostalgia for some
Cons: Overacting by witches
The Bottom Line:
90’s comedy
With massive cult following
Doesn’t work for me

“It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus.”

I feel like, as a DisNerd, I should regularly watch Hocus Pocus, especially during the month of October.  I’ve seen it once, and I didn’t particularly care for it.  I decided to give it a second chance this year and see if I liked it any better.  I really didn’t.

The story takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, and opens in 1693.  That’s where we meet three sisters, Winifred, Sarah, and Mary (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy).  They also happen to be witches who are trying to steal the souls of the town’s children so they can stay young and live eternally.  They are caught in the act and executed, but not before Winifred makes sure that one day they will return.

Fast forward to the present day of 1993 (when the movie came out), and we meet Max (Omri Katz), who has just moved to town.  He hears the legend of the sisters, but he doesn’t believe it.  Still, he’s willing to go check out the house on Halloween night with his sister, Dani (Thora Birch), and his crush Allison (Vinessa Shaw).  While there, he accidentally resurrects the sisters.  Can the three defeat them once and for all?

I can see why this movie has fans.  I really can.  It is fast moving.  It is the right level of spooky to scare kids without scaring them too much.  It is a PG rated Disney film, after all.  The three leads are fun and relatable, even if their character arcs are fairly predictable.  (This is a PG rated Disney film, after all.)  If I’d seen it as a young teen, I have a feeling I would enjoy it for those reasons, and the nostalgia factor would make it a favorite today.

However, I watched it the first time as an adult, and I just can’t quite put on the kid glasses needed to fully appreciate the film.  Much of it comes down to the acting for me.  Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy are all over the top as the witches.  I realize it was an acting choice, but to me, it doesn’t quite feel right.  It adds to the whole frenetic feeling of the movie, and just puts me off.  The acting from the rest of the cast is fine, and I understand what the director was going for, but it just doesn’t work for me.

Part of my hesitation is also the evil feel of the film.  With real magic and jokes about hell and Satan, this is digging into territory that doesn’t work for me as entertainment.  I know, I know, I can laugh at witchcraft in Bewitched or the 1990’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch sitcom, but the witchcraft presented here in definitely evil, and I don’t find it fun or entertaining.

I was surprised when I was watching it to find it was directed by Kenny Ortega.  He seems to have made a career out of directing some major cult favorite Disney films.  If you don’t recognize the name, he also directed Newsies, the High School Musical movies, and the Descendants movies.  No, this isn’t a musical, although there are a couple of musical numbers.

One thing I appreciated is that the kids do try to get adults to help them, and the movie does a decent job of explaining why that doesn’t work.  I mean, it is a kid’s movie, so of course it is up to the kids to save the day, but we do try to get parents to help along the way.

For a movie that is now 26 years old, the special effects hold up remarkably well.  And there are plenty of them.  The computer-generated lightening that Winifred uses is the only thing that jumps out as especially dated.

Hocus Pocus just isn’t for me.  I can see why people enjoy it, but I doubt I’ll be giving it another watch.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Book Review: Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibbs (Charlie Thorne #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong lead characters, plenty of action
Cons: Slow start to the book
The Bottom Line:
Science equation
International spy race
New series starts well

Can Charlie Be as Smart as Einstein?

New books from Stuart Gibbs are automatic buys for me.  Yes, I’m not his target audience, but I find his novels so much fun.  He’s been teasing a new series for a while now, and I was happy to get my hands on Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation. 

Meet Charlie Thorne.  She is highly intelligent, a great athlete – and twelve-years-old.  She is attending college, if you can call only showing up on test days to be attending college, just biding her time until she is legally an adult.  Until the day the CIA shows up and strong arms her into helping them on a mission of critical importance.  It is believed that Albert Einstein developed an equation in the 1930’s that rivals his theory of relativity in importance, but he hid it to keep it from falling into the wrong hands.  While people all over the world have been looking for it for decades, the race to find it has heated up, with the fate of the world potentially in the balance.  Because Charlie is so smart, they think she can more easily decode the clues that Einstein left behind.  Will Charlie be able to follow the clues to find it?

Since this is the first book in a series, it required a bit of set up to get to know the characters before the story really got going.  As a result, the book felt a little slow at the beginning, but the second half more than made up for it as Charlie has to run for her life and faces betrayals and set backs on her quest to find the equation.  I got caught up in the events by this point and had a hard time putting the book down.

Of course, we do need that set up since we are meeting everyone here for the first time.  We get to really know Charlie and another couple of characters as the book progresses.  In the midst of all the action, there are some great moments of character growth for each of them, which doesn’t surprise me at all.  This isn’t to say the rest of the characters aren’t as good, but they don’t have the page time these three do, so it isn’t as surprising that we don’t get to know them as well.  They are developed enough to keep us engaged in the story and care about the outcome, which is all that truly matters.

Usually, when I pick up a Stuart Gibbs books, I know I can expect quite a few laughs over the course of the book.  In this case, the tone was more serious.  Yes, I still laughed a few times, but it wasn’t as hard or as consistent as in other books.

But that more serious tone is in keeping with the more serious nature of the story.  There are several deaths over the course of the story.  Don’t worry, there isn’t anything that isn’t appropriate for the targeted middle grade audience, but it definitely helps up the stakes over some of his other series.  Or maybe it’s that some of the action, especially in the Spy School series, feels so over the top it is hard to take them as seriously as I do these events.  Either way, only the most sensitive middle grade readers will be bothered by the content.

The ending of this book leaves you anxious for more.  Sadly, we will have to wait for Charlie’s next adventure.  But anyone who has read Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation will be waiting to find out what happens to her next.

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

Saturday, October 5, 2019

October 5th's Weekly TV Thoughts

One more returning show this week.  However, with three of four Arrowverse shows starting up next week, that's when I will really have a hard time keeping up.

God Friended Me – So glad this show is back for season 2.  The feel-good aspect, the characters, the God account intrigue.  I wonder who long Joy is going to be around.  (I don’t know if she is a new main character.)  And how long with Cara be in Paris.  Since they are shooting over there, I figure it has to be multiple episodes.  I’m very intrigued by where her story is going to go.

Dancing with the Stars – As soon as they announced there was an injury, I knew no one was going home.  They can’t get rid of people too quickly, after all.  The best are definitely improving, and they are fun to watch.  The rest are still struggling.  I’d like to see them improving a bit more, but I get it.  Some people just can’t dance.

Very Brady Renovation – I’m so glad I gave this series a try.  I think I was smiling the entire way through the show tonight (and every week).  Now, I really want to know what they are doing with it now that they have finished the renovation.

This is Us – I’m back to thinking I may be over the show.  The formula is getting very predictable.  On the other hand, I did appreciate how real the characters were with each other.  It felt very nice.  And it was wonderful to see the show focusing on the Pearson family this week in all the timelines.

Survivor – The blind sides start already.  I wonder if Molly would have been as big a threat as everyone thought.  It’s hard to know for sure after just two episodes.  At this point, I’m usually in favor of getting the annoying people out since I don’t want to hear about them any longer.  Oh well, I guess this is why I don’t play the game.  So far, the tribes have each lost one.  And both people who have gone to Island of the Idols has lied about it, in much the same way.  It will be interesting to see when the truth comes out.

American Horror Story: 1984 – As I was watching, I was thinking I didn’t need this and should stop watching.  But with those twists today, how can I stop.  I wasn’t surprised at who the first casualty of the main cast was.  But seriously, is anyone at the camp who they appear to be at this point?  And that ending?  Yikes!

The Good Place – An actual tender, quiet moment on this show.  Is that a first?  Loved that scene between Eleanor and Michael.  Frankly, loved most of her scenes this week as she finally did what she had to do.  But my favorite moment?  The book crashing into Chidi after he had looked away.

Carol’s Second Act – This second episode was definitely better than the first.  Still not completely sold on it, mainly because Carol is so over the top excited.  The blood draw sub-plot was hysterical, however.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Book Review: "O" is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #15)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and mystery
Cons: All cons have been outlawed
The Bottom Line:
Case from Kinsey’s past
Captivates from the first page
Another great book

Mystery from Kinsey’s Past

Fans of the Kinsey Millhone series know that she has been married twice.  In an early book in the series, we met her second ex-husband.  However, we’ve never gotten to learn much about her first marriage or husband.  That changes with the fifteenth book in the series, “O” is for Outlaw.

Kinsey is surprised to get a phone call from a guy claiming he found some of her stuff in an abandoned storage locker.  Intrigued, Kinsey heads out to meet him.  It’s mostly old school papers and projects, and Kinsey figures they must have been things she left behind when she moved out before divorcing Mickey.  Among those things is some mail – it’s mostly junk, but she finds a letter to her in the stack.

Reading the letter shocks Kinsey.  It sheds new light on her marriage to Mickey and the events that led to her leaving him fourteen years before.  As Kinsey begins to hunt for Mickey to learn exactly what happened, she also begins to look into the murder that lead to her leaving Mickey.  Will she learn the truth about what happened all those years ago?

I will admit that I had figured that Kinsey’s first marriage was just some character background, and I wasn’t that curious out this part of her past – until I started this book.  It didn’t take long before I was very intrigued about what happened all those years ago.  We get the background we need fairly early in the book, but it is presented in an intriguing way without feeling like it is slowing down the story.

Frankly, nothing slows down this story.  I was hooked from the beginning, and I never felt like things lagged.  We were constantly getting new information either from the past or the present that compelled us forward to find the truth.  Yes, the past is our ticket into the story, but the past is influencing the present, and the two are balanced perfectly to keep us engaged the entire time.  The ending wraps things up well and answers our questions.

This series has never been super strong from a supporting character standpoint.  Yes, there are some regulars in Kinsey’s life, but we only see a couple of them here.  Honestly, I felt like we got more time with the regulars in the last book in the series, and we spent most of the book out of Kinsey’s native Santa Teresa.  Not that I’m complaining because the few scenes we do get with the people in Kinsey’s life are always well worth it.  Kinsey herself is a strong enough character to keep us engaged in the story, and the growth we see as a result of what she learns here is wonderful as always.

I’m also not complaining because the new characters are fully alive and draw us into the story.  I know I have praised Sue Grafton’s ability to craft characters in the past, but I have to repeat myself.  We know these people as soon as they pop onto the page.  It really is remarkable.

I have finally reached the new narrator on the audio books.  I’m not going to lie; I did miss Mary Pfeiffer.  I’ve been with her for fourteen books, and her take on Kinsey and company is what I’ve gotten used to.  That isn’t to discount Judy Kaye as a narrator at all.  It wasn’t too long before I was buying her as Kinsey, which is important since this is a first-person narrated book.  Some of the voices she used for characters sounded good, but some of them felt a little cartoony to me.  This was especially true for the men in the story.  However, I grew accustomed to it as the book progressed, and I’m sure I won’t have any trouble with her narrating as I get further into her books in the series.

“O” is for Outlaw will certainly captivate Kinsey’s many fans as they learn just a bit more about her past.  Even if you are new to the series, you’ll be quickly hooked on this story as well and ready to spend more time with Kinsey.

Need more time with Kinsey?  Here are the rest of the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries in order.

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