Friday, July 1, 2016

Movie Review: Finding Dory

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good characters in a fun new adventure
Cons; Not quite as good as the first.
The Bottom Line:
Search ocean again
Trio on new adventure
Different but fun

Dory Searches for Her Family

Pixar has turned out a number of sequels over the years.  While they all don’t match the originals in creativity (they are sequels after all), they are still a fun way to revisit old friends.  Their latest sequel is Finding Dory, and it fits the mold perfectly.

After an initial sequences that shows us Dory as a young fish and then growing up, we meet up with Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), Marlin (Albert Brooks), and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) one year after their first adventure.  Dory is on a field trip with Nemo’s class when she suddenly has a memory about her family.  She knows where they live – the Jewell of Morro Bay.  Marlin is very reluctant to leave home, but soon Nemo and Dory convince them to come along as they attempt to reunite Dory with her family.

What Dory remembers turns out to be a research center and aquarium right next to the ocean.  When the trio arrive, they quickly get separated, with Dory taken inside and Marlin and Nemo trying to get back to her.  Inside, Dory meets Hank (Ed O’Neil) an octopus who tries to help Dory find her way to her parents.  Will she find them?  Where are they in the facility?  Can Marlin and Nemo catch back up to her?

There are several things that keep this movie from being as wonderful as it could be.  First, Dory makes a great sidekick, and her memory loss is pretty funny for a sidekick.  However, it gets a little old when your main character is constantly forgetting things.  It’s just not as funny as it could be.  Second, Marlin seems to have reverted completely back to his worrywart persona for much of the film.  One thing I liked in the first movie was his character growth, so seeing his character build from that would have been nice.

However, the one thing that Pixar constantly gets right is the fact that they don’t force all the characters from the first movie into the sequel.  We get some cameos by a few characters from the original, but that is all.  And while a few of the plot points feel familiar, it’s never for very long.  Instead, those plot points lead us into some wild new adventures.

And the creativity that the team shows makes this movie fun.  Almost all of the action takes place around the aquarium, and it requires the fish to get from one location to another outside of water at times.  Yet, they do it in some creative ways.  Oh, I know that in real life what they do could never work, but this is a Pixar movie, and I’m willing to give them a little license.

In fact, what we see over the course of the film is remarkably believable.  If you buy into the premise, you’ll go along for a great ride.  We meet some fun new characters as well, including the already mentioned Hank and a couple of whales with their own problems.  We also learn how Dory learned a couple of her trademarks.  All this leads up to one of Pixar’s patented climaxes that will not quit.  I wasn’t sure how they were going to resolve things until it all came together in a very fun way.  We also learn what seals are really saying, too.

I do want to address the lesbian couple controversy.  To be honest, I had to look it up on Google afterward to see what I had missed.  Yes, it’s not obvious in the scene because of so much else happening, but now I can see that it was there.  It’s a very very small part of the film (one scene) and not in your face at all.  Still, it is there, and parents might want to be aware of it and be prepared for it before they let their kids watch it.

As always, the animation is fantastic.  It fits perfectly with the world they already established in Finding Nemo stylistically.  That’s not to say there aren’t some beautiful shots along the way just like there were in the original.

The voice cast is fantastic.  Along with those I’ve already named, we get Ty Burrell and Kaitlin Olson with Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy as Dory’s parents.  They perfectly bring their characters to life.

And yes, there is a short to start out the movie.  “Piper” is an adorable film about a sandpiper leaving his nest for the first time.  The animation on it is outstanding.  Part of it looked very real like so much of The Good Dinosaur did.

Oh, and be sure you stay until the end credits are completed.  Trust me on this.

While Finding Dory doesn’t recapture the magic of the first movie, it does give us a good new adventure with old friends.  If you love these characters, you’ll be glad you came along for the ride.

July 1st's Book Beginning and Friday 56

It's Friday, and the Friday of a holiday weekend!  Let's kick it off with this week's Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring The Pursuit by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg.

I'm actually out of town for work right now, and I read most of it on the plain ride out of town.  Now, I need to write the review.  It probably won't show up for a couple of weeks, but I enjoyed the book very much.  If you are a fan of the series, you will to.

I mean, how can you not enjoy a book that starts off like this:

Nicolas Fox, infamous con artist and thief, woke up in a coffin.

And, jumping ahead to page 56, we find this exchange between Kate, an FBI agent, and Nick, the con man:

"You're looking good," Kate said.
"Orange is my color."
"I'm referring to the handcuffs," Kate said.  "You were born to wear them."
"They're a bit snug."

There you have it for the week.  Enjoy your holiday weekend no matter which side of the border you are on.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 2016's Monthly Reading Summary

Who can believe that the year is half over already?  I certainly can't.  But here we are at the end of June, so it must be time for another monthly reading summary.  And yes, the index has been updated as well.

All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).

A Muddied Murder by Wendy Tyson (Greenhouse Mysteries #1) – 5
Megan Sawyer’s plans to revitalize her family’s farm and open a small store and café are constantly hitting the road block of Simon Duvall.  Simon is the head of the local zoning commission, and he keeps failing her on every inspection.  After the latest one, Megan finds Simon murdered in the farm’s barn.  Naturally, the police are looking at Megan as a suspect, but all Megan can wonder is why Simon was killed in the barn.

This is a wonderful debut!  There are some secrets in Megan’s family that come to light over the course of the book and add another layer to the story.  I can’t wait to see where that goes next.  The mystery of Simon’s murder is also very well done with plenty of surprises along the way.  Top that off with great characters.  I can’t wait to return for the sequel.

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems – 5
Piggie is thinking about all the people who have enriched her life, so she decides to thank them all.  While Gerald likes the idea, he worries she will forget someone important.  Will she miss anyone?

This is the final (sob!) Elephant and Piggie book from the talented Mo Willems, and it works well as a series finale.  Viewing it as another in the series, it will seem a little weird, but knowing this is the final one makes it very special.  There are some fun cameos, including one from Pigeon.  And the lesson about thankfulness is good but presented in a fun way.  In other words, it’s another great book in the series.

Éclair and Present Danger by Laura Bradford (Emergency Dessert Squad #1) – 4
On the day Winnie Johnson has to close her bakery due to a huge rent increase, she inherits an antique ambulance.  She decides to use it to reopen her bakery as a mobile business, rushing her desserts to those in need.  But when her neighbor is murdered, it puts a definite damper on her plans.  Who would kill an elderly man?

The mystery aspect takes a back seat at times to getting the new business up and running, but I find the concept of this business absolutely brilliant.  I’m wondering why no one hasn’t tried this in real life.  The mystery does reach a logical conclusion that wraps things up.  The characters are strong, and I’m looking forward to seeing where relationships go in future books.  Rush out and get this debut.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Grilled for Murder by Maddie Day (Country Store Mysteries #2) – 5
Robbie Jordan is keeping her restaurant open on a Saturday night for a special welcome home party for Erica Shermer.  However, not everyone is thrilled that Erica is back, as Robbie sees when Erica fights with several of the guests.  Still, she’s surprised when she comes down the next morning to find Erica dead in the restaurant.  What was Erica doing back at the restaurant?  And who killed her?

I fell in love with these characters when I read the first in the series, so it was great to be back spending time with them again.  The new characters are just as fun and make wonderful suspects.  One item introduced as part of the plot was left open, but I can easily see it being resolved in a future book.  The main mystery of who killed Erica is well done, giving us a steady dose of clues and suspects until we reach the logical and suspenseful end.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Calamity Cafe by Gayle Leeson (Down South Cafe Mysteries #1) – 4
Amy Flowers is ready to follow her dream of opening her own cafe, and she’s hoping to do it by buying the local greasy spoon.  However, Lou Lou, the owner, is not at all interested in selling.  Amy stops by the cafe late one night and finds Lou Lou dead in her office.  Naturally, Amy knows she has a good motive.  Can she clear her name?

This is a fun start to a new series.  The book focuses a bit on Amy starting her café early on, but the mystery begins to be the focus as we gear up toward the logical climax.  Some of the characters could have been stronger, but I still came to care for them before the book ended, and I look forward to getting to know them better as the series progresses.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Desperate Housedogs by Sparkle Abbey (Pampered Pets Mysteries #1) – 4
Caro has built a successful life in as a pet therapist, helping owners deal with their pet’s bed behavior.  Two hours after a session with Kevin trying to get his dogs to stop barking, the police find Kevin dead and start looking at Caro as a person of interest.  Why were his dogs barking?  Can Caro solve the murder?

This debut is a lot of fun.  The mystery starts out a little slowly as the book gives us some background on Caro and a few other characters, but once it gets going it delivers some great twists.  The character, while relatable, are a bit over the top, but that’s part of the fun.  They help contribute to the laughs and grins mixed into the murder and mayhem.

Voodoo River by Robert Crais (Elvis Cole/Joe Pike #5) – 2
Actress Jodie Taylor wants to find out about her birth parents, so she hires Elvis Cole to go to Louisiana and track them down.  She just wants medical history, so she is trying to keep the search quiet.  Cole is trying to keep his inquiries a secret, but he’s hardly started when someone starts following him.  What has he stumbled into?

Unfortunately, what he has stumbled into is a rather weak entry in the series.  The plot rambles all over the place before finally introducing us to a crime that Cole seems to care about.  By the time that happens, the book just has time for a rush to climax, and the climax is yet another weak dues ex machina.  The characters are interesting and save the book, although I can’t help but roll my eyes at the way women fall all over Cole.

Fatal Brushstroke by Sybil Johnson (Aurora Anderson #1) – 5
Rory Anderson is shocked when the body of a well-respected tole painter, Hester Bouquet, is found buried in her backyard.  With a police chief who hates her, Rory knows if she wants to avoid going to jail, she needs to find the killer.  But who might it be?

This is a strong debut.  The plot was steady with interesting suspects and shifting clues and motives.  I thought I had it figured out a couple of times, but it turned out I was wrong.  The characters are fantastic as well, and I can hardly wait to visit the series regulars again.  Plus I loved the fictional coast town setting.

Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #1) – 4
Midwife Sarah Brandt is returning to visit a mother and newborn when she learns there has been a death at the home.  A boarder was strangled during the night, and it turns out this is the younger sister of someone she knew years ago.  Determined to see justice done, Sarah teams up with the very reluctant Frank Malloy, the detective assigned to the case, to find the killer.

This book really does feature two detectives as both Sarah and Frank are active contributers to seeing justice done.  The hopping back and forth between them only enhances the story and gives us more twists.  All the characters are strong as well, and I truly liked spending time with them, especially the leads.  I did feel the climax was over the top, but that is my only complaint with this mystery.

Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower (Magical Bookshop #1) – 4
When Violet Waverly arrives in Cascade Springs, New York, she finds that her grandmother isn’t sick like she’d been told.  Instead, her grandmother needs to tell her some family secrets involving the old bookstore that she runs.  Violet isn’t interested in learning about them, however, and plans to leave the next morning.  Only in the morning, her grandmother’s beau is found strangled.  With her grandmother a suspect, Violet must stick around to figure out what happened, and she will get some help from a very unlikely source.

I normally try to avoid magic in my mysteries, but this concept sounded like so much fun I had to give it a try.  I’m glad I did since I enjoyed the story very much.  Magic does play a part, but only a small part, in solving the mystery.  Most of the book is still spent following Violet around as she attempts to figure out what is happening.  The characters are strong, and I can see them feeling like old friends soon.  A couple of sub-plots felt predictable and slow things down a tad at times, but that’s a minor issue overall.

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

Presumed Puzzled by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady #16) – 5
Roger Martindale is missing, and his wife, Pamela, has received a crossword puzzle.  That evening, he returns home only to be hacked to death.  Chief Harper thinks that Pamela did it since she was found with the bloody knife in her hand, but the twists for Puzzle Lady Cora Felton are just beginning.

And twists there are.  Yes, Cora is right in the thick of things, and as the book progresses she gets even more involved.  The characters are a little thin, but they usually are in this series.  The real star here is the verbal battles the characters have, which are fun and funny as always.  The quick wit and the banter made me laugh several times before we reached the logical conclusions.

Reading Challenge Update: New Release 2016

Three months ago, I was surprised to realize I'd only read 13 books toward the new release challenge.  My update now is a bit more what I was expecting.

14. Killer Takeout by Lucy Burdette
15. Rest in Peach by Susan Furlong
16. Vanilla Beaned by Jenn McKinlay
17. Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen
18. A Girl's Guide to Landing a Greek God by Bill Fuller
19. Wedding Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
20. Spaced Out by Stuart Gibbs
21. All Murders Final! by Sherry Harris
22. Irish Stewed by Kylie Logan
23. Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
24. Sayonara Slam by Naomi Hirahara
25. The Final Tap by Amanda Flower
26. Let the Wind Rise by Shannon Messenger
27. Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
28. 15th Affair by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
29. Decanting a Murder by Nadine Nettmann
30. Murder Most Fowl by Edith Maxwell
31. A Muddied Murder by Wendy Tyson
32. Eclair and Present Danger by Laura Bradford
33. Grilled for Murder by Maddie Day
34. The Calamity Cafe by Gayle Leeson
35. Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower
36. Presumed Puzzled by Parnell Hall

My original goal was 45+.  I should have no trouble reaching that, right?

Here's my original post that lists all 36 of the books I've read for the challenge so far this year.

Reading Challenge Update: Mount TBR 2016

When it comes to the Mount TBR challenge, I always start out strong and then fade as the year progresses.  That's because, I start out with lots of books from the previous year yet to read, and then I get distracted by the current year's books or books I've heard about for the first time this year.  So I'm not too surprised to say that I've only read seven books for this challenge in the last three months.

And those books are:

14. No Comfort for the Lost by Nancy Herriman
15. A Gilded Grave by Shelley Freydont
16. Out of Circulation by Miranda James
17. The Skeleton Takes a Bow by Leigh Perry
18. Desperate Housedogs by Sparkle Abbey
19. Fatal Brushstroke by Sybil Johnson
20. Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson

Still, since my initial goal was 12 and I'm well past that, you can see that I'm doing well.  I'm still not worried about hitting 24 at all.  And if you counted the books I've read from the library (which this challenge doesn't, it's only owned books), the numbers are even better.

You can see my full list of books read over at my original post.

Reading Challenge Update: Audio Book Challenge

Since we are half way through the year, it's time to post an update on the Audio Book Challenge.

My goal has been to average one a month, and I'm well ahead of schedule, as you can see.

1. "C" is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
2. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
3. The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech by Kirsten Powers
4. The Ambitious Card by John Gaspard
5. The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly
6. Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
7. "D" is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton
8. Voodoo River by Robert Crais

Those links will take you to my review of the book.

And I'm actually in better shape than that because I have two more books I've listened to, but I'm holding the review to fill in while I got on vacation this summer.  I've slipped in a couple I wasn't planning to listen to when the year started, and I've been working hard on my audio series.

I'm really getting hooked on audio books, can't you tell?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book Review: Presumed Puzzled by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady Mysteries #17)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun and funny mystery
Cons: Characters a little thin (as usual)
The Bottom Line:
Be prepared to laugh
As Cora faces puzzles
Fast paced mystery

I Presumed I Would Enjoy This Book, and I Was Right

If you enjoy verbal sparring and word play, there is no better series than the Puzzle Lady series.  Yes, since we are on the seventeenth book in the series, it is getting hard to believe that there are still criminals in Bakerhaven, Connecticut, who would use puzzles when they commit their crimes.  But I’m glad they do because Presumed Puzzled is another rollicking good time.

It’s been a slow few months in Bakerhaven, but things are about to heat up again in a big way.  It all starts when Police Chief Harper calls Cora Felton, famed puzzle lady and part time PI, to go to see Pamela Martindale.  Pamela has reported her husband, Roger, missing, but it hasn’t yet been the 24 hours required to start an official police inquiry.  Cora reluctantly goes only to learn that Pamela received a crossword puzzle that day.  Cora knows she was played by the chief.

Things turn interesting that evening.  With the man now officially missing for 24 hours, the police get word that he is headed for home.  Cora and Chief Harper head over to the Martindale house to find out what happened only to discover Pamela holding a bloody knife and Roger dead on the living room floor.  Naturally, Chief takes Pamela into custody, but she maintains she is innocent.  What is going on?

And with that set up, we are off on another wild, wacky mystery.  This one takes place more in a courtroom than many in the series, but that doesn’t keep the twists from coming.  I was surprised by several of the events of the book.  But you can rest easy, we reach a logical conclusion before it is all over, and the book reads so quickly it will be over all too soon.

The characters have never been the strength of this series, and that continues to be true here.  Oh, they are developed enough for us to care about them, especially if we’ve been reading the series from the beginning, but they don’t have as much depth as many of the books I read.  Think of them more as characters in a sitcom – you love them, but you don’t see every side of them in every episode.

Having said that, Cora has taken a step forward with another of her nasty habits, something I was thrilled to see.

And as I hinted before, the humor is still flying fast and furious.  Yes, the verbal sparring gets to be a little harsh at times, but those scenes never last long.  Instead, I found myself chuckling and laughing all the way through the book.  Jennifer, Cora’s three-year-old grandniece, was especially funny here.

And we get a couple of crossword and Sudoku puzzles to solve over the course of the book.  Or if, like me, you just want to know what happens in the mystery, you can read on until the characters solve it for you.

I’ve found that, for most people, this is either a series you love or you hate.  Personally, I enjoy my time with Cora.  If you are like me, you’ll enjoy Presumed Puzzled.

And if you haven’t met Cora yet, here’s a list of the Puzzle Lady Mysteries in order.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Movie Review: Murder, She Baked - A Deadly Recipe

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun mystery with delightful characters
Cons: Usual Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
Death of a sheriff
Gives us fun mystery as
Hannah must clear Bill

“What Did You Put in Those Cupcakes?”

While I have become addicted to Hallmark’s cozy mystery movie franchises, my favorite remains the Murder, She Baked movies since they are based on the Hannah Swensen books, a series I’ve been reading since the very first book came out.  A Deadly Recipe is the latest movie, and it is once again very fun.

Things are heating up in the little town of Lake Eden, and Hannah (Alison Sweeney) is caught in the middle.  Sheriff Grant (Ty Olsson) is up for reelection, and Hannah’s brother-in-law, Bill Todd (Toby Levins), is running against him.  This is causing quite a bit of friction in the department.  While no one likes Grant, he is throwing his weight around and making people more miserable than normal.  For example, Bill has been working on a string of car jackings, and just as he is getting close to cracking the case, Sheriff Grant takes the case away from him.

Fortunately, Hannah does have a project that she is using to distract her.  She’s in charge of compiling the Lake Eden Cookbook with recipes from everyone in town.  She’s been given a well-loved recipe for fudge cupcakes that is unfortunately missing a key secret ingredient.  She’s working on a batch to find that secret ingredient at a meeting of the cookbook committee when Sheriff Grant stops by, snagging a cupcake on the way out.  When Hannah and her sister Andre (Lisa Durupt) leave a little while later, they find Grant dead, the cupcake still in his hand.  With Bill a natural suspect, Hannah has to step in and solve the case.

Since I love these characters so much, I’m having a great time revisiting them in the movie version.  Yes, there are some differences from the book (for starters, this is the fifth book but fourth movie), but I don’t care.  I find myself smiling the entire way through.

Speaking of the books, I’m not sure why, but this movie was given a different title than the book.  While the movie is A Deadly Recipe, fans of the series will immediately recognize the plot as that of Fudge Cupcake Murder.  But the title doesn’t matter at all.

While I am able to remember details of the character arcs from the books, I must admit I was rather hazy on the who-done-it before I started watching the film.  All I could remember was who the victim was, for example.  But parts of the plot started to come back to me as I watched as the various suspects were introduced.  Still, I found the ending a surprises.

This series is known for its love triangle, and that is heating up in the movies as well.  Both Detective Mike Kingston (Cameron Mathison) and dentist Norman Rhodes (Gabriel Hogan) are great guys (as they still were at this point in the books as well), and it’s hard to say who I am rooting for, assuming the movies stay away from the resolution we just got in the books.

About the only thing that the movie is missing the book has are the recipes.  However, some of the items featured in the book gets prominent mentions in the movie, especially the Apple Orchard Bars (which are absolutely delicious, by the way).

Of course, this does come with my standard cheese warning since this is a Hallmark movie.  But I’m finding it less and less of an issue the more of these movies I watch.

So if you are a fan of cozy mysteries, sit down and enjoy Murder She Baked: A Deadly Recipe.  It’s fun to watch and will leave you hungry for more.

If you've missed the book, here's my review of Fudge Cupcake Murder.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Review: Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower (Magical Bookshop Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, fun setting, good mystery, light magic
Cons: A couple of sub-plots slow things down a little
The Bottom Line:
Magical bookstore
Will leave you under its spell
After this debut

New Series Off to a Poetic Start

This has turned into a month of first in series.  That wasn’t my goal, and I’ve got plenty of in progress series I should be working on, but there were too many new series I was dying to try.  The latest of these is Crime and Poetry, the first in the Magical Bookshop series.  I was planning to pass it by, but I’d heard so many good things about it, I had to pick it up.

When Violet Waverly gets the word that her grandma Daisy is sick, she rushes to Cascade Springs, New York, to be by her side.  Only when she arrives, she learns that Daisy is in perfect health.  Daisy really wanted Violet to visit so she could reveal some family secrets involving the bookstore and the role Daisy needs to take on.

Violet has no desire to move back to Cascade Springs, however.  She left the town twelve years ago and plans to head back to Chicago the next morning.  Only when she gets up the next morning, she finds Benedict Raisin dead in her grandmother’s driveway.  Benedict and Daisy had been dating, and Benedict is found strangled with one of Daisy’s scarves.  Violet can’t leave with a cloud of suspicion hanging over Daisy’s head, so she starts looking into the crime, getting help from a most unexpected source.  Can she interpret the clues she is getting to find the killer?

Since I usually avoid the paranormal, I was going to skip this series since it is the Magical Bookshop series.  (And yes, I’ve now spoiled a couple of things I left vague in my plot teaser.)  However, I actually find the idea of a bookstore where the books choose you to be quite fun.  Yes, the bookstore also plays a part in solving the crime, but it fits in with the world that author Amanda Flower has created, and it’s a minor part of the mystery.

The majority of the mystery still involves Violet talking to suspects and weighing what she learns against the other clues she is getting.  There is a lot going on in this small town, and that keeps us guessing who the killer is until the end.  I thought I had it figured out about half way through, but it turned out I was wrong.

Because Violet grew up in Cascade Springs, she has a history with some of the people there, a history that plays out over the course of the book without slowing things down.  Instead, it gives her a bit of depth that I enjoyed.  There are plenty of characters that we are meeting for the first time right along with Violet, and I really liked them as well.  I can see this group of characters becoming friends in a hurry.

The fictitious village of Cascade Springs is located a few miles upriver from Niagara Falls.  Frankly, I found this location to add to the charm of the book.  Maybe it’s because I’ve visited Niagara Falls a couple of times so I could picture the area, but I felt right at home in this touristy town.

While the book had some needed set up, especially with the bookstore, I did feel this slowed down the story at times.  Likewise, there is Violet’s conflict over her plans to leave versus the desire to stay she is denying.  We all know how that will end since this is the first in a series.  Overall, these were minor issues to me, however.

Unlike some series I’ve started this month, this is a series I’m now up to date on since Crime and Poetry just came out in April.  However, I’m looking forward to revisiting these characters as soon as the sequel finds its way into my hands.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in hopes that I would review it.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ornament Review: North Pole Tree Trimmers #3 - Glitter Elf - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Cute elf doing a fun job
Cons: Shaking glitter into the middle of the ornament?
The Bottom Line:
A cute ornament
But with confusing image
I do still like it

Cue the Sparkle

Sometimes, Hallmark ornaments don’t photograph well, so I learn early on not to judge an ornament until I had seen it in person.  That’s the case with the third North PoleTree Trimmers ornament.  Yes, this 2015 release is fun, yet the pictures didn’t quite do it justice.

This series focuses on the elves who help Santa create decorations, and this elf has a fun job.  He gets to shake the glitter on and in the ornaments.  And I do mean shake.  He’s actually holding a salt shaker filled with glitter and he’s shaking it until the middle of a purple ornament.  He’s very particular about his job, as you can tell by the look of concentration on his face as he works.

Yes, you did read that right.  He is putting the glitter into the middle of the ornament.  Honestly, this is one reason why the ornament looks so odd in pictures.  It doesn’t make complete sense even in person.  Why would you put glitter into the middle of an ornament when you want the sparkle to shine on the outside of the ornament?  Makes little sense to me.

While that’s an issue, it is a minor issue to me.  The elf is cute as always, and I love the idea behind the ornament overall.  Maybe there’s something I’m missing, like a diorama that is going to go into the ornament by the elf in the next step of production?  Yeah, we’ll go with that as what is happening here.  This isn’t the final elf to work on the ornament.  Or maybe, since I’m not super familiar with the old fashioned ornaments, this is just a particular kind and it’s supposed to look like this.  It certainly doesn’t look bad this way, and the glitter in the opening is lots of fun.

Whatever the story is, the elf and the ornament do provide a nice, steady base, so you can set this ornament out to enjoy is a display if you so wish.

The series marker, a 3 in a Christmas tree, was in the third place I looked for it, which seems appropriate somehow.  I’ll let you have fun finding it, but know it is there.

The loop for hanging the ornament is on the glitter shaker.  Slip a hook through it and you’ll find that it tips slightly toward the ornament.  But that’s okay because it still looks good that way.

The ornament does look very cute in person, so I was happy to add 2015’s North Pole Tree Trimmer to my collection.  I’m not completely sure the idea behind the ornament translates, but I do still like it.

Looking for more elves?  Here's the North Pole Tree Trimmers series.

Original Price: $12.95