Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

It's a Friday before a long weekend.  And I've almost survived my first week at a new job (only one day to go until I've officially survived)!  Let's celebrate with this week's Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I've actually been rereading a book from 20 years ago, and I really enjoyed visiting it again.  The review will be up in a couple more hours.

Yes, it's a murder mystery and yes, it's set in Death Valley, how appropriate is that?

And here's how it all begins:

A hundred feet off the deck and eighty feet below sea level!  He glanced again at his altimeter to make sure.  Flatline.  He did it!  Now to get out of here before someone read his numbers.

And skipping ahead to page 56, we finds:

Walking through this jam-packed campground behind Hippo made Jack feel like a tugboat follwing an ice breaker.  He simply strolled along in the wide open swath Hippo's bulk cut.

Let the speculation on what it means begin, and enjoy your long weekend if you live here in the states.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

TV on DVD Review: Arrow - Season 2

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Action, strong story, characters
Cons: Flashbacks don’t really add much
The Bottom Line:
This action filled show
Grew the characters this year
For a strong season

"We Have to Work on Your Excuses."  "I Know."

After quickly getting addicted to the CW’s new superhero show Arrow, I couldn’t wait for season two to start.  Fortunately, it continued to build on the wonderful first season with more action and drama.

The show is based on the DC Comics character of Green Arrow.  Honestly, I know little about him outside of this series, but that’s okay.  What is here works so well I don’t need to know much more.

In the aftermath of the season one finale, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) returned to the island where he’d been stranded for five years.  However, it isn’t long before Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity (Emily Rett Rickards) head back there to track him down and get him to return to Starling City.  With his mother, Moyra (Susanna Thompson), in jail, it falls to him to run Queen Consolidated, and his return has come just in time since Isabel Rochev (guest star Summer Glau) has been brought in by the board and doesn’t seem to have the same vision for the future of the business as Oliver does.  Meanwhile his sister Thea (Willa Holland) is running the nightclub he started.

Unfortunately, Oliver’s return is just in time since someone has arrived in town with designs to destroy the city.  However, this time it is much more personal than Oliver knows.  Will he figure out the plot in time to stop it?  Who is behind everything?

Actually, the second season is even more complicated than this since I haven’t really talked about Roy (Colton Haynes), Thea’s boyfriend and Oliver’s secret apprentice in the justice business.  Then there’s the Lance family.  Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) has been demoted to patrol while Laurel (Katie Cassidy) has joined the DA’s office and is targeting the Vigilante (aka Oliver).  But the big surprise is the new superhero in town with some ties to Oliver’s time on the island.

Once again, those flashbacks to Oliver’s time on the island proved to be the weakness to the show.  They definitely tie in more to what happened this year, but I just don’t see the point of them most of the time and felt they slowed down the present day story.

However, the present day story more than makes up for any weakness.  You might have figured out that there are a ton of characters in this show, but that’s because there are tons of things happening.  There are some case of the week type episodes, but they are fewer this season, instead tying in much of what happens to the overall season arc or at least the character development.  The show is very suspenseful at times, too, with the characters facing overwhelming odds.  I had a hard time figuring out how they were going to succeed.

There is plenty of character growth here this season.  Just about everyone gets grow to a certain extent, and watching them deal with everything they are facing is incredible.

Which means all the actors have stepped up their game this season.  We might have one or two scenes that aren’t the best, but there wasn’t anything that threw me out of the show.  I especially love Felicity, who gets the funniest lines and some serious growth this season.

Because the show is more grounded in reality, it relies more on stunts than special effects, although both are handled perfectly when they appear.

As a fun note, they set up the CW’s new series The Flash with a couple episode guest spot early in the season.  I can’t wait for that show to appear this fall.

The second season is being released in the DVD only set and a Blu-Ray/DVD/UltraViolet combo set priced at only $10 more than the regular set.  Both sets feature all 23 episodes from season 2 in their native wide screen and full surround.  The sets also have the same extras, which include an episode commentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and three featurettes, one that chronicles Oliver's journey in the eyes of Starling City so far, one that looks at the action and special effects of the show, and one that focuses even more on the stunt work of the show.

Arrow is exactly what it sets out to be – a strong and fun superhero show.  You won’t be disappointed with season two at all.

Season 2 Episodes:
1. City of Heroes
2. Identity
3. Broken Dolls
4. Crucible
5. League of Assassins
6. Keep Your Enemies Closer
7. State Vs. Queen
8. The Scientist
9. Three Ghosts
10. Blast Radius
11. Blind Spot
12. Tremors
13. Heir to the Demon
14. Time of Death
15. The Promise
16. Suicide Squad
17. Birds of Prey
18. Deathstroke
19. The Man Under the Hood
20. Seeing Red
21. City of Blood
22. Streets of Fire
23. Unthinkable

This review is part of the 2014 Funny Pages Write-Off.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ornament Review: Hangin' with Count Snoopy - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Snoopy as Dracula, Woodstock and friends, sound
Cons: Only if it leads me to other Halloween ornaments
The Bottom Line:
Snoopy and Woodstock
Along with a couple friends
Are in spooky mood

Snoopy’s Definitely Ready for Halloween

I resisted.  I really did.  After all, until 2014, the only Halloween ornament I’d bought from Hallmark was part of last year’s Happiness is Peanuts All Year Long series.  But come on, how could I resist Hangin' With Count Snoopy?  I just hope this isn’t opening the flood gates to more Halloween ornaments.  (Really, I don’t decorate for Halloween.  I did resist the Halloween series that started last year, after all.)

As you might guess from the title, this is another Peanuts ornament.  Snoopy is sitting on top of his doghouse, only he’s wearing a vampire cape and a black pointed hat.  His arms are holding the cape and out to the side, so the cape is spread out to look like wings.  At the bottom of the doghouse are two pumpkins in the grass.  And across his doghouse is a black banner with orange letters reading "Happy Halloween!"

Obviously, Snoopy is dressed up as Dracula.  So why is it called Hangin’?  That’s where the fun really come in to play.  Hanging from the side of the doghouse, upside down, are Woodstock and two of his little bird friends.  They are wearing fake vampire wings as well.  And they are attached as dangles, so they move a little when you actually brush them or tip the ornament.

On looks long, this ornament is so cute.  The birds on the side of the doghouse are just that perfect touch that makes you smile.

However, this is a magic ornament, so there is sound as well.  When you pressed the button, you hear “Spooky Halloween Music.”  That's what the box claims, anyway, but you might better recognize the music as Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in d minor".  You know, “Dindinin, dundundundun dun.”  (Okay, fine, I had to ask someone else myself since I recognized it but I couldn't remember the name.)  Again, it’s a great touch with the dramatic organ music and two different selections from the piece, but the perfect finish is actually still to come.  You get to hear Snoopy do an evil chuckle at the end, and he sounds like he is trying to fit the Dracula part.  Snoopy's laugh comes at the end of both sound clips.  Again, it’s just absolutely perfect.

Since I don’t decorate for Halloween – really, I’m serious – I’m happy to report that this ornament has a nice, flat base.  That means I can up it out somewhere to enjoy every year in October.  I’ll probably put it next to Linus from last year’s series.

However, if you do want to hang the ornament, you’ll find the little ring off the side of Snoopy’s hat.  He hangs straight, so no matter what you find to hang him from, he’ll look great.

Truly, this can’t be the start of anything new.  (Although the Halloween Cupcake is calling my name as well.)  I just couldn’t resist Hangin' With Count Snoopy.  Any fan of the character will fall in love with it.

Original Price: $24.95

This review is part of the 2014 Funny Pages Write-Off.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Review: Bloom and Doom by Beverly Allen (Bridal Bouquet Shop Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful characters, tons of fun
Cons: Plot does slow down a little in the middle
The Bottom Line:
Language of flowers
Delightful new characters
Mixed up in murder

Debut That Blooms

I almost passed up Bloom and Doom this spring.  After all, it's a cozy mystery series set in a flower shop, and I'm a guy.  Flowers just aren't my thing.  (Not to mention my allergies to pollen.)  However, I heard such good things about it that I had to give the book a try.  I'm glad I did because this was a completely delightful debut.

Audrey Bloom and her cousin Liz have settled in the town of Ramble, Virginia, and set up a florist shop.  Audrey has learned the language of flowers and uses them to help craft beautiful and meaningful bridal bouquets.  Her latest client is Jenny, a former friend who is now marrying Derek, the most eligible bachelor in the county.

However, two weeks before the wedding, Jenny has decided to call the entire thing off because she’s realized she doesn’t love her fiancĂ©e.  The morning after she does, Derek is found murdered in his car outside Jenny’s apartment.  With the evidence pointing to Jenny, Audrey feels the need to step in and save her former friend.  Derek wasn’t well liked, so the list of suspects is actually long.  Can Audrey find the truth about what happened to Derek?

The thing that really drew me to this book was the characters.  There is already a full cast, and they are all delightful.  I didn't have any trouble keeping them all straight as the book progressed because they were fully formed already.  I'm sorry the book is over because I really wasn't ready to say goodbye to them, which means I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel.

Unfortunately, the plot did slow down a little in the middle, but the characters kept me turning pages.  Once the story picked up again, it didn't slow back down until we reached the logical conclusion.  I had a couple of sub-plots guessed correctly, but I didn't figure out who the killer was until right before Audrey did, and even did I didn't have all the clues correct.

This is all mixed together with a dose of humor.  There are two scenes that are fun and some great lines scattered throughout.  There is plenty on the language of flowers as well, but it is all presented in an interesting way that never detracts from the story.

I'm glad I listened to those great reviews for Bloom and Doom because I really enjoyed this book.  You can bet I'll be lining up for the sequel with no hesitation at all.

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Nightstand - August 2014

Another month is winding down already.  Can you believe it?  Heck, summer is winding down, school has started up again (and my niece is in kindergarten!).  All that can only mean one thing - time for What's on Your Nightstand, as hosted by 5 Minutes for Books.

For me, I've been upping my game silently all year aiming for a higher and higher total of books read.  Now, I'm making it official - I'm going for 100 books.  Of course, I'm counting picture books, audio books, and traditional books read.  I'm at 73 right now, so I'm in fairly good shape, but I'm going to have to keep those pages flying if I'm going to make it.

I just finished Bloom and Doom, the first in a Bridal Boutique Mystery series.  While obviously not normally something I'd go for, the positive reviews made me decide I had to give it a try.  I'm glad I did because I really enjoyed it.  My review is posted right here if you are interested..

That frees me up to start a reread of Death Valley, the first in the Jack Prester Mysteries by Sandy Dengler.  It's been over 20 years since I read this book, but I loved the series when I first read it.  I'm hoping to get up to book #3 by the end of the year since that one is set at Christmas.

Beyond that?  I've got a middle grade reread where I will actually hold the review until October and time it for Halloween.  Then I may read Topped Chef by Lucy Burdette.  From there, I'm not really sure, but the stack of books I want to read is long, so finding the next book won't be an issue at all.

TV on DVD Review: The Big Bang Theory - Season 7

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Seven great characters that will make you laugh
Cons: I can’t stop laughing long enough to think of one
The Bottom Line:
Show still going strong
As these seven characters
Make us laugh each week

"How Did She Get You to Do Yoga?"  "Well, To Be Honest, I Thought She Said Yoda."

At some point, every show that is on TV for a long time declines in quality.  (Heck, some short lived shows fall off in quality, too, which is why they are short lived.)  Frankly, I’m still waiting for that to happen to The Big Bang Theory.  It just finished its seventh season, and the show is still as strong as ever.

This season picks up exactly where the last one left off.  Leonard (Johnny Galecki) is on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a research trip.  Back at home, the gang must learn to deal with his absence, especially his roommate Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and his girlfriend Penny (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting).  However, when he comes back, his desire to spend some time with Penny over Sheldon shows the beginnings of the first changes in the group, a theme that actually echoed through the season.

What do I mean?  Well, following up on the sixth season finale, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) is now able to talk to girls even when he’s sober.  What didn’t change there is that he still isn’t a lady’s man, although it does open up a few new relationship possibilities for him.  Speaking of relationships, Sheldon and Amy (Mayim Bialk) wind up taking what for them is a huge step forward in their relationship on a romantic train ride up to the Napa Valley.  Penny makes a huge change to forward her career as an actress and finds herself in a less than desirable roll opposite a surprising co-star.  I would argue that the only main characters not to have major changes this season are Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), but since they adjusted to married life last season, maybe that’s for the best.  They still get some great stories, like Howard’s drastic change after trying to help out his mother and how they deal with having Raj has a house guest for a week.  They also have to deal with Howard's mother (voiced by Carol Ann Susi) when she breaks her leg.

Now I know some argue that the addition of Amy and Bernadette have actually harmed the show.  I will certainly agree it has changed the show (there’s that word again).  Penny spends more time with them than she does the guys, and Penny's dynamic with the guys was always fun.  However, the show is just as funny as it always has been.  How do I know?  I regularly watch reruns any time I find it on TV, and I laugh at the old episodes just as much as I do these new ones.  Heck, how can you not have fun with a city wide scavenger hunt or an old fashioned murder mystery game (both compliments of Raj)?  Or Howard wearing an itchy sweater to prove a point to Sheldon.

And the geekiness continues.  Stuart (Kevin Sussman) and his comic book store regularly appear in the series.  When the guys don’t get into Comic Con, Sheldon decides to start his own, leading to a day with James Earl Jones.  Speaking of which, the show finally celebrates Star Wars day in what is a touching and funny episode featuring the third appearance of comedy legend Bob Newhart.

My big complaint with the show continues – it often goes of the sex joke.  It can be just as funny with clean jokes when it wants to be.

But make no mistake about it, this show is hilarious.  They definitely still use the awkwardness of the characters for humor, but it is a loving kind of humor that is never too mean.  It does not matter how many times I’ve seen an episode, I still laugh the entire way through it.  And yes, I will watch these reruns just as much as I will watch reruns from previous seasons.

As always, Jim Parsons gets the majority of the praise and awards for his work here, and it is well deserved.  Sheldon is the most awkward of the characters, and I’m sure he isn’t easy to play, but he gets so many of the best laughs.  However, the entire cast shines as they bring their characters to life each week.  It is a shame that the rest don’t get the praise they deserve.

As with the last couple of seasons, this season is being released in a DVD set and a combo Blu-Ray/DVD/UltraViolet combo pack for just $10 more.  That's the set I'd recommend.  In addition to the 24 half hour episodes, the set has several bonus features including one on James Earl Jones's guest spot, highlights from the 2013 ComicCon panel, Johnny Galecki crashing a writer's panel, and of course a gag reel.

For pure laughs, there is no better comedy than The Big Bang Theory.  If you are new to the show, you’ll be glad you discovered why it is so popular.  Season seven is just as funny and as much fun as what has come before, so sit back and get ready to laugh.

Season 7 Episodes:
1. The Hofstadter Insufficiency
2. The Deception Verification
3. The Scavenger Vortex
4. The Raiders Minimization
5. The Workplace Proximity
6. The Romance Resonance
7. The Proton Displacement
8. The Itchy Brain Simulation
9. The Thanksgiving Decoupling
10. The Discovery Dissipation
11. The cooper Extraction
12. The Hesitation Remification
13. The Occupation Recalibration
14. The Convention Conundrum
15. The Locomotive Manipulation
16. The Table Polarization
17. The Friendship Turbulence
18. The Mommy Observation
19. The Indecision Amalgamation
20. The Relationship Diremption
21. The Anything Can Happen Recurrence
22. The Proton Transmogrification
23. The Gorilla Dissolution
24. The Status Quo Combustion

This review is part of the 2014 Funny Pages Write-Off.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book Review: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun look at bad days
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Bad day just gets worse
Told in entertaining way
So we can enjoy

Fun Look at Bad Days – Even in Australia

While it was never a staple in our house growing up, I know we read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day at some point.  Seeing an ad for the movie coming out in a couple of months reminded of the book, so I decided to check it out from the library.  It’s just as fun now and I remember it being.

Alexander just knows it will be a bad day when he wakes up with gum in his hair and trips over his skateboard.  And sure enough, his teacher doesn’t like his picture, his best friend demotes him from best friend to third best friend, and he gets in trouble for fighting when he was only responding to someone else’s taunts.  Will his day ever get better?

It’s hard to describe just what makes this book fun.  After all, we are seeing bad thing after bad thing happen to Alexander.  I think part of it is the attitude that comes through in his narration.  While you immediately sympathize with him, you also can’t help but laugh at his attitude and just how truly rotten his day is.

I really appreciate the fact that his bad day is partially just bad luck (no prize in his cereal box) and partially because of his bad attitude and actions (getting in trouble for fighting).  While the book is written from Alexander’s first person point of view, it does allow parents to talk about how life is unfair and yet how our attitude can affect our day.  Both are important lessons to learn at any age.  (I know I still need them at times.)  Neither of this is preached from the book, yet it is easy to discuss them as the bad events unfold.

One thing that helps lighten the mood is the repetition of the title in the book as well as Alexander’s stated desire to move to Australia.  We never do learn why he thinks that place is better than his home, but it does create some fun that keeps the book from just being a list of bad things that happen to Alexander.

And the illustrations by Ray Cruz are outstanding.  They are simple pen and ink, but they capture poor Alexander and the events of the day with warmth.

It’s easy to see why Judith Viorst’s book has become such a classic.  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is fun to read on good days and bad days no matter how old you are.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Movie Review: The Rocketeer

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Action and fun story with a great period feel
Cons: Lothar’s killing is a bit too brutal for the rest of the film.
The Bottom Line:
A flight to the past
In a fight against Nazis
Make period fun

"How Do I Look?"  "Like a Hood Ornament."

I know I’ve seen The Rocketeer at least a couple of times, but it’s probably been at least a decade since I watched it (if not much longer).  After picking up Hallmark’s ornament based on the movie this year, I got really curious to see it again, so I borrowed the movie from the library.  I’m glad I did because I enjoyed it.

The story is set in 1930’s Hollywood and revolves around Cliff (Bill Campbell).  He’s a pilot whose dreams of competing in an upcoming flying competition are shot down, literally, when he accidentally flies his plane over a car chase.  What he doesn’t know is that the car chase involves a self-contained jet pack designed by Howard Hughes (Terry O'Quinn).

When the chase comes to his hanger, Cliff finds himself in possession of the jet pack.  Instead of turning it over to the authorities or finding the owner, Cliff and his friend Peevy (Alan Arkin) make a few modifications to it, and Cliff puts it to use.  What he doesn’t know is that the Nazi’s, lead by film leading man Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) will stop at nothing to get their hands on this rocket.  And Cliff’s girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelly) just happens to be working on his latest movie….

In many ways, this is a typical superhero origin story.  We meet Cliff and his friends and see how he acquires his powers, in this case the rocket pack.  However, it doesn’t feel like one – possibly because the villain is not developed in quite the same way the villains in today’s movies are.  First of all, he’s human.  Secondly, we spend just enough time with him to know his motivation and plans, but that’s it.  Instead, the movie focuses on Cliff.

And this movie is fun.  With that 1930’s feel, it actually captures a bit of what life was like for the well connected in Hollywood of the era.  The production did a perfect job of making you feel like you were back in that era between the sets and props and costumes.  Plus there are so many perfect little moments where I couldn’t help but smile.

Of course, I do have to point out the one thing that still turns me off - Lothar, who is a big brute who looks remarkably like Frankenstein's monster (although no one else makes the connection).  He’s downright scary, and he kills a couple of people rather brutally.  I’m not saying it’s anything bloody or graphic, but what we do see still turned my stomach a little. (And yes, I know I’m the guy who reads all those murder mysteries.)  I think more than anything it’s that these deaths seem out of character with the fun that is the rest of the film.

On the other hand, I loved Jenny.  While yes, she does provide plot complications for Cliff and she ultimately does need saving, she’s not a typical damsel in distress and does her best to fight back, even helping Cliff at one point.  Plus, she gets my favorite line in the movie (no, not the one used in the title).

The acting is wonderful.  It’s obvious the cast is having fun making this film and it comes through in the performances.  It may not be award worthy, but it fits the film.

Sadly, the special effects don’t hold up as well today.  You can tell that the flying scenes, especially the ones outside, are fake.  But what do you expect for a movie that first came out in 1991?  Considering the time period, it actually looks pretty good.

The box office wasn’t great for The Rocketeer, and it’s fallen into cult classic status.  If you are one of those who hasn’t seen it yet, I recommend you find a copy and fix that today.

This review is part of the 2014 Funny Pages Write-Off.

August 23's Weekly TV Thoughts

It's that time of the week again.  As always, feel free to share your thoughts on what you watched either in the comments or via a link to your own blog post.

Wipeout - I was surprised this was only an hour episode since they seem to go for two hours when they have teams like this.  You'll notice that teams that sniped at each other the most tended to be the ones who didn't make it as far.  Still, I can't imagine wanting to be on the show enough to get back with an ex for it.

America Ninja Warrior - Not too much to comment on here.  The number of people making it to stage two is pretty standard so far, and the ones who have made it are the ones I expected to make it.  The year of the woman continues since, while not finishing stage one, we've had one make it past the Spider Jump.  I'm really curious to see how Kacy does in two weeks on that one since she's so short.

Royal Pains - I love it when everyone makes up.  I was definitely surprised about the shooter and so pleased with Paige for figuring it out.  I don't know why I didn't consider Boris for the backer of HankLab, so that's a perfect choice.  Really, this was a great episode that left me with such a perfect glow.

Covert Affairs - Okay, I admit I don't know what to think about McQuaid.  One minute, I think he's guilty.  The next, I think he's clean and truly being set up by someone.  Obviously, that's because of great writing.  Very curious to see where they go with this next week.

Mystery Girls - After last week's disappointing episode, I wasn't expecting much.  Is that why I enjoyed this episode or what it actually that much better.  I certainly found myself laughing at a few of the lines, and overall, I really enjoyed it.

Suits - Knowing this was the summer finale, I kept waiting for the shoe to drop.  Yet I never saw that ending coming.  Louis Litt as a named partner furious with the other two?  This is going to be very interesting when the show comes back.  So glad to know it's already been renewed for another season once we get the back half of this one this winter.  I'm guessing that's January, but we'll find out for sure later.  And those last two scenes?  Absolutely amazing acting from all three of the actors involved.

Graceland - I am most curious about that tape, and yet once again it is completely ignored.  I have a hard time seeing how any of this will get wrapped up in three episodes.  And unless they wow me, these might be my final three episodes of the series.

The Quest - I'd say this wasn't a good challenge for the ladies, but one of them did win it all.  Of course, three were in the bottom.  I know with my lack of balance, I wouldn't have done well.  And that was an interesting twist that "pick your team" really meant "pick your targets."

Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Review: Kneading to Die by Liz Mugavero (Pawsitively Organic Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Stan and the other characters, human and animal
Cons: Plot could be a little stronger
The Bottom Line:
The cute animals
Make this mystery charming
For all cozy fans

Murder that Kneads Solving

One cozy sub-genre I don't venture into that frequently is the pet cozies.  There's a simple explanation for it - I'm allergic to dogs and cats, and as a result have never grown too found of many of them.  It's not that I hate them, but I'm not comfortable being around them.  However, since I'm trying out all the books by the Wicked Cozy Authors, I picked up Kneading to Die, and I'm definitely glad I did.

Kristan "Stan" Connor's life has taken a turn she never expected.  She's lost her PR job and is struggling to figure out what to do next.  Hoping a change of scenery will help, she buys a house in a small Connecticut town and moves there.

Of course, with the move, she needs to find a new vet for her cat, Nutty.  After Carole, the town's only traditional vet, comes by and introducers herself, Stan takes an early morning appointment for her cat.  However, when she arrives, she finds the vet dead on the floor.  Between the police and the gossip in town, Stan suddenly feels herself under a cloud of suspicion.  Can she find the killer before her reputation in town is ruined?

Animal lovers will certainly rejoice in the pets in this book.  It seems like just about everyone has one, and they are all charming.  Yes, even I was able to see that, and I would like to meet them (after taking my anti-histamine, of course).  I could tell how much I cared by my reaction to some late in the book events.

Speaking of which, the plot felt a bit uneven to me overall.  Or maybe it was that the book could have used an extra twist.  Either way, the story was still entertaining and I never would have figured out who the killer was.  The climax was very suspenseful, and I had no clue how Stan was going to get out of that mess.

Most of the series I read feature main characters who process the horror of what they are going through rather quickly.  Honestly, I don't think about that too much since I'm focusing, with them, on solving the murder.  Stan, however, takes much of what happens to heart more than normal.  I liked that because it felt more real and actually made me like the character more.

There are several other strong characters in the cast, and I was left wondering how things will develop between some of the characters or wondering about the history between a few of them.  Also, I like the fact that Stan's sleuthing caused some issues with her new neighbors.  I hope that is resolved in later books, but I liked how it wasn't swept under the rug like in many books.  Yes, I think I'm hooked enough to read the next book to find out more.

Speaking of hooks, this book isn't just about pets, but about organic, natural treats for pets.  There are three recipes in the back that Stan makes over the course of the book that you can make for your own pets.  Obviously, I haven't tested them, but we won't get into how many culinary cozies I've read and never tried the recipes, either.  (I really need to fix that).

So I am looking forward to seeing how Stan and the rest of the cast grow in the next in the series.  Kneading to Die is a good debut that animals loves will absolutely love.