Monday, March 30, 2015

TV Recap: Once Upon a Time 4-16 - Best Laid Plans

Wow!  That was a lot to take in this week.  So let’s get to it.

Our flashback finds Snow and Charming trying to determine whether their child will be good or bad.  They go to a unicorn for help because holding its horn will give them a vision.  And Charming sees a sweet and good child.  However, Snow sees their child ripping out Snow’s heart.  When Snow says, “But I’m your mother,” the teen replies, “I don’t care.”

While they are walking home trying to figure out what their competing visions mean, they meet a peddler who warns them about Mal’s nesting down the road (literally since she’s laid an egg) and sends them to someone who can provide answers – the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  When they reach his cottage, they learn that the baby could be good or bad, and there is no way to guarantee it.

Well, there is one way, a spell that will send the potential for evil in their unborn child into another vessel – another unborn child.  And so Snow and Charming decide to steal Mal’s egg and use that as the vessel.  They get past Mal’s two guards (Cruella and Ursula) and manage to steal the egg from the dragon Mal.  However, she turns into her human form and pleads for them to return the egg.  They say they will – as soon as the spell is enacted.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 28th's Weekly TV Thoughts

I'll just warn you know I went a little fan boy rambly there at the end.  But seriously, when does season two of Girl Meets World start?

Once Upon a Time – I’m surprised, but it looks like they got rid of Ursula already.  Then again, they’ve never given her that much to do.  It’s still obvious that they are going to send Emma down a dark road, but how far she will go remains the question.  I can’t wait to find out.  Here’s my full recap.

Dancing with the Stars – Take it seriously from week one.  I’m so sorry to see someone who obviously put some work into it for week two gone, but he should have taken it seriously sooner, obviously.  There are some strong contenders near the top, that’s for sure.  Looks like another great season.  Plus a Disney night coming up.  Can’t wait for that!

Castle – I love seeing the minor characters in the spotlight, and Ryan really shown this week.  A bit more of the others than some of the spotlight episodes have had in the past, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment at all.  Here’s my full recap.

The Flash – So he actually just lived the day over again.  I thought there might have been two of him.  Kind of cheats the whole Cisco death thing, but I knew they wouldn’t kill him one way or the other.  And it shows us just how bad of a guy Dr. Wells truly is.  The rest of the season is going to be very interesting.

Agents of SHIELD – Not quite as good an episode, but at least we got to see what was happening with Ward.  Obviously, I’m missing something since I thought he killed his brother.  Anyway, they explained what is happening, but it felt a bit like set up for the fireworks it looks like we will get next week.

Arrow – So much going on, we hardly needed the clich├ęd flashback.  Not that I think the character is really dead.  They will be able to resurrect him if they want to.  I doubt Diggle is leaving team Arrow.  The drama between Oliver and Ray was great, and their confrontation scene perfect. Except for one thing.  Why did Oliver walk away and not go to help Roy?

Survivor – Every time you throw a challenge, it bites you.  Every single time!  Yep no one has learned that yet.  Also, you don’t attack someone and then expect them to be on your side.  But that’s just basic humanity 101, which very few people on the Blue Collar tribe seem to have.  Can’t believe we are at the merge already (only two tribals as two tribes?) but that is going to make things extremely interesting next week for sure.

Girl Meets World – How long until we get season two?  So cute and so funny.  I’m not the biggest fan of Auggie and his “girlfriend” but even their scenes were funny.  I wonder where they are going with the brother/uncle, but it was interesting to see him get what he’d been giving out.  And Riley and Lucas?  So cute together.  I think Lucas is actually my favorite character.  Having said that, Lucas’s scenes with Cory were some of my favorites just because of how funny they were.  I know The Disney Channel doesn’t always release season sets of their shows.  I will be first in line to buy this season.  I loved it.  Seriously loved it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Reading Challenge Check Point: Mount TBR

The official link won't be up for a few days, but I'm also going to create my update post for the Mount TBR challenge today.

My original goal for this challenge was 12 books.  So far this year I've read:

1. Zero-Degree Murder by M. L Rowland
2. The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
3. Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley
4. Geared for the Grave by Duffy Brown
5. A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die by Edith Maxwell
6. Hearse and Buggy by Laura Bradford
7. Buttercream Bump Off by Jenn McKinlay
8. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
9. Death is Like  Box of Chocolates by Kathy Aarons
10. Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly
11. Wouldn't It Be Deadly by D. E. Ireland

Yes, that's right, I'm almost done with the challenge, and we are only a quarter of the way into the year.  That's an even faster climb than I did last year.

I'm tempted to keep going and head to the next check point.  But I also think this year will find me reading more and more books that come out in 2015.  I think I'm going to hold at where I am, at least for the moment, and see how things are looking in June.  I don't want to over commit, after all.

Reading Challenge Update: Audio Book Challenge

It's time for the first check point for the Audiobook Challenge.  As a reminder, I signed up for the Stenographer level, which is 10-15 books during the year.

So far, I've completed and reviewed 3 books:

1. The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
2. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
3. The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

I currently have my fourth book, The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, out of the library.  I'm planning to get to 1984 before April is over as well.

My plan has been one a month, but I am getting a little addicted, especially as I consider the possibilities of the series I've always been interested in but never found the time to read.  Time will tell if I still with my plan or wind up listening to more books as the year goes on.

March 27th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

It's Friday, it's payday, and tomorrow is the part of my beach ultimate Frisbee league.  What could be better than that?  Nothing, as far as I am concerned.  Well, maybe participating in this week's Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week's book is The Icing on the Corpse by Liz Mugavero, which I was fortunate enough to finish today thanks to an ARC.  My review (and a giveaway) should be up on Tuesday, aka release day.

And it starts like this:

Groundhogs invaded the basement of the Frog Ledge Unitarian Universalist Church.  They came in all shapes and sizes, at least sixty of them - tall, short, fat, skinny, fluffy tails, flat tails.

I must admit, page 56 doesn't have anything super fun or exciting on it, but there is this quote:

Stan hopped in the passenger seat of Amara's little Prius.  "Can you believe how yesterday turned out?" she asked.
"So sad."  Amara backed out of the driveway and turned the car toward Main Street.  "She was a nice lady.  A little abrupt, but she was old enough that she was entitled, you know?"

There you have it.  Hope you have a fantastic weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: At the Drop of a Hat by Jenn McKinlay (Hat Shop Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Growing characters, good mystery, plenty of fun
Cons: Scarlett and Viv’s motive for investigating is weak at best
The Bottom Line:
Charming and fun book
Investigating dead boss
To clear a new friend

Fun is Not Dropped from this Book

When I learned the title of the third Hat Shop mystery from Jenn McKinlay, I had to laugh.  I have used the phrase At the Drop of a Hat for years (and this is coming from a guy who only wears a hat one weekend a year).  My connection to the title must have been a good omen since this is my favorite in the series to date.

The series follows Scarlett Parker and her cousin Vivian Tremont who are running the hat shop they inherited from their grandmother.  Scarlett has recently moved over from America, where she was raised except for summers with Mim and Viv.  She’s only been over there a few months and is still adjusting to her new life.

Ariana Jackson walks in to Mim’s Whims one day with a hat that Mim made years ago.  She is hoping that Vivian can repair it for Ariana’s upcoming wedding to Scott, one of Harrison’s friends.  Viv is honored to be asked to repair the hat and begins to make her plans.

However, Ariana never responds to any of their calls or texts to approve things before Viv actually gets to work.  Finally, Scarlett decides to visit her at work, only to arrive to the sound of a scream.  Rushing through the office, Scarlett finds Ariana in the backyard of the office/house kneeling next to the body of Ariana’s boss, Anthony Russo.  The police seem to think that Ariana had something to do with Anthony’s death, and every piece of evidence seems to back them up.  But Scarlett and Viv are certain that Ariana is innocent.  Can they prove it?

The plot moves forward at a steady pace.  A couple of sub-plots slow things down a tad early on, but they are entertaining.  The further we go into the book, the more the mystery takes center stage, and there are twists and clues to keep us confused.  I did figure out part of the solution about five pages before Scarlett did, but I didn’t have all the pieces until she revealed them.

Speaking of Scarlett, I find her growth as a character charming.  As our first person narrator, she’s always been the strongest character in the series, however Viv plays a bigger part in this book, and I enjoyed getting to know her better as well.  The rest of the cast are equally charming and memorable be they series regulars or suspects.  In fact, there are a couple of new characters I wouldn’t mind seeing pop up again.

After the last book, I’d complained about Scarlett’s relationship with Harrison Wentworth, her love interest and part owner of the business.  I’m happy to see that things have smoothed out some in this book, which shows the character growth in both of them, actually.

In fact, the only complaint about this book is that Scarlett and Viv really don’t know Ariana well enough to be investigating.  However, their lack of motive to investigate didn’t matter much to me since I was having so much fun.

There are some very funny moments in the book that delighted me.  They drew a few laughs and plenty of smiles from me.

While the mystery is resolved, there is a cliffhanger on the last page that will leave you desperate for the next book in the series.  I’m guessing it won’t be out until early next year, but I want it now!

Obviously, I really did enjoy this visit across the pond.  At the Drop of a Hat is a charming and fun mystery that will leave you wanting more, so pick it up today.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ornament Review: 1942 - Bambi Premiers - Moments that Made Disney #7 - 2015 Disney Store Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Beautiful ornament of a quiet moment from Bambi
Cons: None, and I planned to list one
The Bottom Line:
Cute Bambi moment
In beautiful ornament
Collectors will want

Stunningly Beautiful Ornament Commemorates the Premier of Bambi

As much as I am enjoying the Moments that Made Disney monthly ornament series from The Disney Store, there is a major item they have neglected from the series – Disneyland.  One could argue that Mary Poppins should be in the series as well, but Disneyland is definitely missing.  They seem to have pretty much hit the rest of the milestones from Disney’s life and legacy.

Why bring this up now?  Because, when it came time to write my review of the February ornament, I expected to knock some stars off it for that very reason.  I get that Bambi is a huge movie in the Disney cannon for various reasons even though it isn’t my favorite.  And this seems like, being the fifth animated film that Disney released, it doesn’t need its own ornament.  Then I saw Bambi Premiers.  It is absolutely beautiful.

The ornament depicts Bambi with his mother.  They are hiding out under branches during the winter time, and you can see snow over the top of their shelter as well as in front of it.  Bambi and his mother are looking at each other in for foreground, and in the background, you can see the dark winter sky.

Words and pictures don’t do this ornament justice at all.  It is absolutely stunning to look at.  When I got it and opened the box, I couldn’t stop staring at it.  The colors and sculpt are absolutely perfect.  Whether you like the film or not, this is a beautiful work of art.

Like the rest of the series, you can easily set this one out to enjoy year round.  The bottom is large and nice and flat, so there is no question it will be secure no matter where you set it.

Being on the large size, it is nice that The Disney Store includes a red ribbon through the loop on the top of the ornament.  This ribbon is sturdy enough to hold the ornament.  You’ll want to make sure you hang it from a sturdy branch.  When you do, you’ll find that the ornament hangs straight.

Yes, I still think the Moments that Made Disney series should have included the opening of Disneyland.  However, if including Bambi Premiers gave us this stunning ornament, I am glad it was included.  Any Disney fan will love this ornament regardless of how much you love the film.

Original Price: $19.99

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

TV Recap: Castle 7-18 - At Close Range

I always enjoy it when they give the supporting players a chance to shine on Castle.  It helps fill in a little more about them, but it also allows us a twist on the formula of the show.  Last night was Ryan’s turn to shine, and what a night it was.

From time to time, they’ve mentioned the extra jobs that Ryan is taking on to pay for the growing needs of his family.  One of those lands him in the middle of a case.  He’s working for his brother-in-law, a former cop who now does private security.  Their assignment tonight is a Representative with huge political aspirations.  Yes, there is the potential for death threats, but they also need to make sure no one attacks the Representative and makes an embarrassing scene.

The event is actually for the Representative’s friend who runs a charity dedicated to getting clean water out to those who need it in less developed countries.  The two are talking back stage just before he goes on to introduce her speech when three shots ring out.  Ryan had been momentarily distracted by a hotel staff member, so all he sees is the friends going down.  His brother-in-law was on stage, and he runs backstage.  Ryan spots the shooter and takes off after him, only to lose him when the hotel security blocks him.

Book Review: Wouldn't It Be Deadly by D. E. Ireland (Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters in a fun, twisty story
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Familiar duo
Become detectives in this
Delightful debut

Loverly Debut

I only had one reservation when I learned who the detectives were in Wouldn't It Be Deadly.  See, I love My Fair Lady up until the end when Eliza Doolittle returns to Henry Higgins despite how he’s treated her for the entire length of the play.  However, when I learned that the duo writing as D. E. Ireland would be sticking closer to the original ending for these characters in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, I was fully on board.  And the debut delivered everything promised.

The book opens in 1913, two months after the events we already know.  We find Eliza working for Emil Nepommuck, Henry Higgins’s chief rival, teaching proper English to anyone who needs to blend in with the upper classes.  Higgins is incensed, not only about Eliza working there but also because Nepommuck is taking credit for her transformation.

And so Higgins digs up some dirt on Nepommuck and shares it with the newspapers.  The day the dirt hits the paper, Eliza finds Nepommuck dead in the hallway outside their offices with a knife in the back.  Scotland Yard thinks that Higgins makes the best suspect, but Eliza is sure he couldn’t have done it.  Together, Eliza and Higgins begin searching for other suspects.  What they learn is that many of Mepommuck’s students had reasons to kill him.  But did any of them actually do it?

Both Eliza and Higgins really are the stars of this book, and the narration divides time between both of them as our third person point of view characters.  They and the rest of the characters returning from the play are perfectly in character.  As a result, this already feels like a second book in a series and returning to old friends.  But if you have never met the characters before, don’t worry.  What you need to know will be explained.  The cast of fresh characters are just as interesting and charming as the returning characters.

The story moves forward at a steady pace with some twists along the way.  I sure was taken by surprise a few times as we headed to the logical climax.  And what fun that climax was (which is all I will say so I don’t spoil it).  The story is the perfect way to showcase these characters and even works in all the minor characters from the play logically along the way.

Plus we get a dash of humor that added to the fun.  Some of the scenes are dramatic and funny at the same time as Eliza slips back into her old ways or Higgins goes overboard yet again in his own behavior.  (Really, he can be such a jerk at times.)  I was certainly laughing along the way, which I always enjoy.

While the book is set in 1913 London, that was used as a great backdrop to the story without slowing it down.  We get the occasional observation about life back then, but more than anything it provides a great setting to the story that is unfolding before us.

With this perfect blend of great characters, twisty plot, humor, and historical background, it’s no wonder that Wouldn't It Be Deadly is a winner.  I’m already looking forward to seeing where solving murder takes Eliza and Higgins next.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What's on My Nightstand - March 2015 Edition

It's the fourth Tuesday of the month, so that means it is time once again for What's on My Nightstand as hosted by 5 Minutes for Books.

I have a feeling that, for me anyway, this is going to be turning into What Books Have You Agreed to Read This Month.  I've been added to the blogger roster for Berkley Prime Crime starting in April (and I'm thrilled about it since I read so many of their books anyway), but that means I will be reading those books around the first of the month and any other review copies I have on hand.

For example, I've got two reviews in the pipeline that will be posted this week.  But starting today, I will be reading the first of my ARCS.

I've got, The Icing on the Corpse by Liz Mugavero (which is actually not a Berkley book but published by Kensington), Grave on Grand Avenue by Naomi Hirahara, The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco by Laura DiSilverio, and A Sticky Situation by Jessie Crockett on deck for my next four reads.  And yes, they are all books I would have chosen to read on my own, so I'm very happy to be reading them for review.  And if any of those sound good to you, there will be giveaways for all our of these when I review them.

After that?  Well, I will get to dive into my TBR pile.  I'll probably be reading As Gouda as Dead by Avery Aames and The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward.  On audio, I'm hoping to get The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs any day now, and then I plan to listen to 1984 by George Orwell to participate in the Reading to Know book club in April.

So yes, I have a very busy reading month planned.