Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book Review: Gluten for Punishment by Nancy J. Parra (Baker's Treat Mysteries #1)



Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: The characters are fun and charming
Cons: The plot is poor and the editing is worse
The Bottom Line:
Characters I like
Underserved by mystery
Edits do not help




Doesn't Rise to the Level of the Best Debuts

I love puns, which is a good thing since so many cozy mysteries have very punny titles.  Take for example Gluten for Punishment, the first in a series about the owner of an allergy conscious bakery.  With a title like that, how could the book go wrong?  Unfortunately, I found out as I read it.

Toni Holmes has moved back to her hometown in Kansas and is setting up a storefront to compliment her internet gluten and allergy free bakery, Baker's Treat.  Yes, it's a risk in the heart of wheat country, but since she is allergic to gluten herself, she is willing to take the risk.

However, at the grand opening, there is one wheat farmer (and might I add wacko) who is an out spoken critic of her bakery.  Before they even cut the ribbon, someone is throwing wheat filled balloons at her front door.  Then a body is found outside the bakery's door the next morning.  Can Toni figure out who is behind the crime?

I will say I liked the characters.  Toni is a strong main character who takes quite a bit in this book, but takes it without complaining too much.  She is surrounded by family and friends.  Grandma Ruth is especially fun, and I loved best friend Tasha.  These are people I would definitely enjoy spending more time with.

If the plot were better.

Sadly, this book is an example of lots of action with very little detection.  Toni gets a little bit of information, comes up with a theory, then when it doesn't work sits back and waits for more information to fall into her lap.  The events are what passes for twists, and there were lots of them as someone is out to scare Toni into minding her own business.  The climax was extremely weak, though logical.

Top that off with the poor editing.  There was the case of the teleporting character, who in one paragraph was involved in the conversation Toni was in and in the next was catching Toni's attention from across the room.  There was at least one day that a character completely forgot.  But the worst example was the party that Toni is asked to cater.  It's in three weeks, the first weekend of November.  Suddenly, she busy planning what she will serve at the party that weekend, the middle of October.  Since the party wasn't even central to the plot, I don't see what the point was.

Being a culinary mystery, there are recipes in the back for several of the gluten free items that are mentioned in the book.  They certain do sound mouth watering and fairly easy to make as well.

I like the characters and wish I had enjoyed spending time with them more.  However, the weak plotting and poor editing make Gluten for Punishment a poor debut.  I won't be reading any more from this author.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

TV Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1-20 - Nothing Personal

Have I mentioned recently how glad I am I stuck with this show?  Because I am.  It is showing the typical Whedon storytelling, and we are in the good parts where the action is ramped up and we can't miss a second.  It will be interesting to see how the show proceeds to tell stories for season two, assuming it does tell stories for season two.

But that's speculation for another time.  For now, let's look at what happened tonight.

The episode picks up where the last one left off.  Triplet, Coulson, Fitz, and Simmons have returned to the base only to find no one home.  They have video of only the exit doors, so they know May left followed several hours later by Ward and Skye.  When Simmons and Fitz decide to make some food for everyone, Simmons finds the body of Agent Eric Koenig while Fitz finds a hidden message from Skye - Ward is Hydra.  He refuses to believe it for a while until the autopsy confirms that Ward was the only one who could have killed Eric.

Ornament Review: Christmas Window #4 - Toy Shop - 2006 Hallmark Ornament


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Cute toys in a fun toy shop
Cons: Narrow so hard to see in; tip
The Bottom Line:
Christmas of toy dreams
In a narrow ornament
Blocks some of the fun




Enjoying the Toy Store's Christmas Window from 2006

Honestly, if you are going to do a Christmas Window series featuring kids looking into store windows, it just seems like a Toy Shop would be a logical choice.  That's why, in a way, I'm surprised it took them until the fourth entry to release an ornament like that.  However, this window is another winner.

This ornament feels a bit narrower than the earlier entries in the series, and the window looks more like a bay window.  As a result, it is a bit hard to see inside since the girl looking in is blocking much of the display.  He's wearing a red coat and holding a teddy bear in her right arm.  Also on the outside is a small Christmas tree in a pot with red garland wrapped around it and a light dusting of white snow on parts of it.  There's also a small red bird on the ground.  The ground itself is covered in snow with some foot prints in it.  There are two patches of snow hanging onto the roof as well.

What about the store itself?  In the window, we've got a teddy bear, a jack in the box, and some blocks.  But my favorite detail of the window is the remote control airplane.  It's hanging from the ceiling and actually moves around as you move the ornament.  There are shelves underneath the window display that you can see when you turn the ornament around.  These shelves include a doll, a toy car, and a red wagon filled with wood blocks.

I mentioned earlier that the window display is a little hard to see.  That's the case with many of the ornaments in this series, but the narrower window seems to make it especially the case here.  The jack in the box is blocking the girl completely, and the tree sticks up just enough to be in front of the teddy bear.  Don't get me wrong, this is still a wonderful ornament to look at, it just isn't quite as easy as some of the others.

I like to make a village out of this series and display it under one of my trees.  As a result, I'm really glad the series continues to have nice wide, flat bases.  Since this is a series (and a Keepsake Ornament Club exclusive series at that), you'll find a 4 in a Christmas tree on the bottom of the ornament.

Yes, there is still a loop for hanging the ornament up on the roof of the shop.  This one actually tips toward the outside quite noticeably.

Between the narrow window and the tip, this isn't the best window in the series.  Still, the Toy Shop is a cute addition to a charming ornament series.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Christmas Windows series.

Original Price: $20.00

TV Recap: Castle 6-21 - Law and Boarder

What a fun episode last night.  The comedy sub-plots were outstanding, and the mystery was pretty good.  It helped that an actress from my favorite TV show of all time had a brief part in the episode (that should have been much longer).

The episode starts out with a motorcycle rider chasing a skate boarder down and shooting him.  As the detectives arrive on the scene, we learn that the victim, Logan, was a professional skateboarder in town for an extreme sports competition.  And since he'd been taped fighting with another professional, they have their first suspect.

Of course, that person points out that Logan broke into the event organizer's office.  The event organizer knew nothing about who had done it, but yes, someone broke in, trashed it, and took his gun.

We also learn that Logan had ties to the area, including a friend from LA.  He'd sent a package of some kind to the friend in LA, but she had no idea what was in it.  He also crashed a few nights with a trust fund kid who was a friend from his time growing up.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Music Review: Great God Who Saves by Laura Story


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun worship songs with great lyrics
Cons: Music is a little simple
The Bottom Line:
Laura starts singing
Lyrics that lead in worship
With fun melodies




Simple but Worshipful Debut

Odds are even if you've never heard of Laura Story, you are a fan of one of her songs.  "Indescribable," the song made famous by Chris Tomlin, was actually written by Laura.  Great God Who Saves is Laura's solo debut, and it is a good intro to her music.

With one exception, Laura wrote or co-wrote every song on this disc.  She is a gifted worship song writer because there are several great tracks here.

The disc starts things out with the upbeat "Bless the Lord."  It's a good song of praise for who God is and what He does since He is always working for our good.

I was in the choir at my church for a little bit, and the first song we did after I joined was "Immortal, Invisible."  I wasn't even aware it was one of Laura's songs, but I was really glad to get it here.  This is not a new version of the classic hymn with the same name, but instead a completely new song with those words in it.  The song looks at those two attributes of God, how they define Him, and how he has broken them when He became man for us in the form of Jesus.  The mid-tempo song has a catch melody which I enjoy even more now that I don't have to sing harmony on it.

And yes, Laura does do her song "Indescribable."  I love this song that reminds us just exactly who the God we worship is via a look at His creation.  This is a more quiet and understated version than Chris Tomlin did, but fans of the song will like it.

"Great God Who Saves" marvels at God saves us and we can turn to Him during the trials of life.  Again, it's upbeat and fun, but the lyrics are wonderful.

"Grace" is easily my favorite in the second half of the disc as Laura sings about God's unconditional and unending grace.  The fact that God will continue to help us with our struggle in sin as we seek His face is truly amazing.  She must love the song, too, since she rerecorded it for her newest release, God of Every Story

The one song that Laura didn't have a hand in writing is "Might to Save."  I really like this praise chorus, so I don’t mind her covering it here at all.  It is a good version of the song, although there isn't anything to set it apart from other recordings.

And that is the one complaint I have about the disc.  The music, while good, is limited.  The songs are keyboard and drum heavy with some guitar thrown in on other songs.  Fortunately, the various tempos help keep the songs from running together.  I have a feeling that the budget for the CD was limited (although I have nothing to back that up with.)  Because the lyrics are so good, this is a minor issue overall; I really do enjoy this disc.

Since I'm not a big fan of buying worship music, I've been slow to jump on the Laura Story bandwagon.  Great God Who Saves has already been out for several years, but I'm glad I finally bought it so I can enjoy it for some time to come.

CD Length: 38:41
Tracks:
1. Bless the Lord
2. Immortal, Invisible
3. Mighty to Save
4. Indescribable
5. Great God Who Saves
6. There is Nothing
7. Make Something Beautiful
8. Grace
9. I Think of You
10. Perfect Peace

TV Recap: Once Upon a Time 3-19 - A Curious Thing

Wow.  What an episode last night.  Several mysteries resolved and a few plot points wrapped up.  Not to mention some heart stopping moments along the way.

I just hope I remember to cover everything.

We will start in the Enchanted Forest of the missing year.  The first scene takes place as Snow and Charming are about to announce Snow's pregnancy to the rest of the kingdom.  Regina is trying to talk them out of it, saying it is too dangerous with Zelena on the loose.  Belle arrives and shares the news about Neal and Rumplestiltskin.  Aurora and Phillip are there as well, and they finally confess that Zelena has been blackmailing them into spying for her.  Which is when Zelena shows up and turns them both into flying monkeys.  Nope, never saw that coming.  She then confirms that Snow's baby is the one she needs and takes off again.

We then flash forward eight months as the new counsel of war is trying to determine what to do about Zelena.  Snow is almost ready to have the baby, and she doesn't want to lose it to Zelena.  The decision is made to go see Rumple.  Since he helped with the last threat (Regina), maybe he can help with Zelena.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Book Review: Blue Sea Burning by Geoff Rodkey (Chronicles of Egg #3)



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great story and characters continue from previous books
Cons: Ends the series, so no more to look forward to reading
The Bottom Line:
Pirates and danger
As Egg fights to save the day
A great final book




Egg's Final Thrilling Adventure

Pirates, true love, adventure, and a bit of comedy.  No, I'm not talking about The Princess Bride (although that qualifies).  I'm talking about Blue Sea Burning, the final book in the Chronicles of Egg middle grade adventure trilogy.  I just finished the book, and it sends the series off with a bang.

If you haven't found this series yet, it's set in a non-magical alternative world.  There are natives and pirates and countries we've never heard of.  No magic, but it doesn't need it to spin a wild and wonderful tale.

Just don't start here.  This book assumes you've read the first two.  There's just enough background to jog my memory, but not enough to fill in a new comer.  Not only will you be lost, but some of the twists of the previous two books will be spoiled.  Now, you'd hate for that to happen, wouldn't you?  But the ride is well worth it.

This book picks up where the last one ended.  Egg and his friends are on the ship of the pirate Burn Healy.  Fortunately, Burn has just saved Egg from being killed by the greedy slave owner Roger Pembroke (you know, Egg's true love Millicent's father).  Unfortunately, the ship is sinking and they are being chased by ships determined to finish them off.

Even if Egg survives that crisis, he still needs to figure out how to defeat Pembroke once and for all.  Considering his connections and wealth, that is going to be much harder than it sounds.  Meanwhile, he meets Cyril, the other contender for Millicent's heart.  How will it all end?

Honestly, even as the end of the book was drawing near, I kept asking that question.  Nothing comes easy for Egg, and the twists keep coming until the very end.  However, all the plot threads from the series are wrapped up by the time we reach the end.  Along the way, there were multiple scenes that had me turning pages as quickly as I could.

The characters have always been fun, and here they are no exception.  Once again, there is some growth in and between them, and I enjoyed the time I spent around them.

And there are some nice bits of humor in the book as well.  One character in particular had me cracking up near the beginning with his attempts to be more polite.  There are other funny bits scattered throughout that made me grin if not outright laugh.

At almost 400 pages, this is the longest in the series.  I found the pages flew by, and I'm sure the target audience will as well.

Whether you are in middle school or not, I recommend Blue Sea Burning to anyone looking for a fun ride.  Just be sure you start with the first one.  You'll be smiling as you finish this book before you know it.

This is an entry in Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  Check out Shannon Messenger's Blog to find other entries in this weekly event.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

4/26's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Amazing Race - I'm sorry to see the Globe Trotters go since they are always so much fun.  But they just had too much to battle back through to keep going.  As much as I'm not on team Brachel (or whatever they were calling them), I don't see how Brennan and Rachel did anything wrong.  They played the game.  The U-Turn is part of it.  And you don't have to tell another team, your competition, where things are.  Seriously, stop getting upset over that!

Dancing with the Stars - No real surprise that Drew went home.  As much as I love him, he probably did deserve to go at this point.  Sadly, I fear Candace is next, but there are fewer weaker dancers left.  But seriously, can we get Cheryl an amazing partner next season?  I want to see her win again!

Melissa & Joey - Again, the A plot with Melissa and Joey was a little lame.  However, the dynamic with the three teens is pretty good.  Zander and Lenox need to get back together!

Survivor - Tony found a truly magic idol?  No!!!!  The guy is not to be trusted, and I seriously want him gone now.  I mean, he was lying to everyone at tribal after saying he was going to cut that out.  However, I do agree that he deserves to win right now with all the moves and strategy he's doing.  I just don't have to like it.  Oh, and Tony?  If people want to do something else when you want to talk strategy, don't go off and pout.  Sometimes, people need time off to process.

Arrow - I did not see those last few minutes coming.  I was watching in open mouthed horror as it happened.  This will definitely drive the last few episodes of the season.  I'm so sorry we lost that character, but I definitely think it is going to make the show so much stronger going forward.  But wow, amazing scene.

The Big Bang Theory - I was hoping for something funnier than that.  It was an amusing episode, but it just didn't seem to be as funny as anything can happen implies.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ornament Review: 1225 Kringleville Drive - 4th and Final in the Kringleville Series - 2013 Hallmark Ornament


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: More fun lever action
Cons: Rather plain looking overall
The Bottom Line:
Sliding down chimney
As we bid series farewell
Fun but bit too plain




Santa's Delivering a Present in Our Final Visit to Kringleville

I'm not too surprised that the Kringleville ornament series from Hallmark didn't last longer than four entries.  After all, it's a village series, and they already have Nostalgic Homes and Shops as well as Noelville (Christmas Windows depending on how you count) to fulfill that need.  Yes, there were some different twists to this series, but obviously others agree that it just wasn't enough.

Fortunately, the series goes out on a fun note with 1225 Kringleville Drive.  As the name implies, we're got a house this year.  It's fairly square, but it does have a nice bay window.  Inside that window we can see a Christmas tree next to the fireplace.  There are also two stockings hanging over the fireplace.

One of the fun things in this series is the optional lighting effect.  If you so desire, you can insert a light bulb from any string of Christmas tree lights.  When the bulb is lit, you'll find that it shines light out of the windows and over the interior scene.  It adds a nice tough to the ornament.

What really sets this one apart is the slide action.  There is a lever on the right hand side.  When it is all the way forward, Santa is waving to us from the top of the chimney.  When you slide it back, he slides down and appears coming out of the fireplace with a present in his hand.

Honestly, that slide factor is the one fun thing about the series, and it was why I started collecting it in the first place.  However, the rest of the ornament is rather plain.  The snow is just plastic (although I do enjoy not getting covered in glitter when I handle it).  It's a good ornament, but nothing special, honestly.

Being a house, it's got a nice flat bottom, so you can display it on any flat surface if you don't want to hang it on your tree.  You can also find the 4 in a Christmas tree down there since this is the fourth in the series.

But if you want to hang it from your tree, you'll find the ring on the top of the roof.  No surprise since it's in the middle of a square ornament, but it hangs perfectly straight.

Of the village series Hallmark had going, this was the most kid friendly.  They would have a ton of fun sliding that lever, so for their sake, it's sad to see the series end.  However, I am not sorry to see the series end after 1225 Kringleville Drive.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Kringleville series.

Original Price: $17.95

April 25th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Another week's coming to an end, which means it is time for this week's Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week I'm going to pull from my current read, Gluten for Punishment by Nancy J. Parra.


Yep, it's another culinary cozy mystery.  This time, the sleuth is running an allergy conscious bakery and all the items are gluten free.  I've just made it to page 56 myself, but so far I'm enjoying it.

The book starts like this:

"Turn the house into a bed-and-breakfast."  My best friend since grade school, Tasha Wilkes, pursed her lips and eyed the 1970s decor of the rambling 1885 Victorian house my mom left me.

And from page 56, we'll take the last two sentences I've read in the book myself.

I wasn't going to ask if the day could get any worse.  That would be asking for trouble now wouldn't it?

As I say, that ended a chapter, and I haven't started the next one yet.  But I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the day would definitely get worse.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Review: Murder on Bamboo Lane by Naomi Hirahara (Ellie Rush #1)


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Deep characters and an interesting mystery
Cons: None worth dwelling on
The Bottom Line:
A new character
In engrossing new series
Already a friend




Rookie Cop and a Personal Murder

Sometimes, you learn things about your part of the country from fiction books.  For example, until I started hearing about Murder on Bamboo Lane, I wasn't aware there was a bicycle patrol division in the LAPD.  Naomi Hirahara has turned that fact into the basis for a new series, and the debut is a true winner.

Ellie Rush is a rookie in the LAPD's bicycle patrol based in the downtown area.  She's only been on the job for a few months, but she hopes to climb through the ranks quickly and become a full fledged detective.

Her chance to prove herself comes sooner than she expected when she is asked to provide the preliminary identification for a former college classmate.  Jenny Nguyen and Ellie shared a class, but Ellie still feels a connection to her.  With the encouragement of her aunt Cheryl, the LAPD's assistant chief and the highest ranking Asian American woman, Ellie starts to turn up some clues.  But are they helpful or is she hurting her own career?

Knowing that Naomi has written another series, I was expecting the characters to be strong right out of the gate, but I wasn't expecting them to be this strong.  By the third chapter, I felt like I had known them for much longer and really cared about them.  Ellie especially, at just twenty-three, is struggling to figure out how to navigate life as an adult while still having her parent's expectations in her life.  She's got friends still in college, so that's part of the struggle as well.

The book introduces some sub-plots early on that take a back seat as the murder investigation heads toward it's climax.  This may make the pacing seem a little off at times early on, but those sub-plots really help with the characters.  The pay off is well worth it.

And the mystery itself is strong.  There are some nice red herrings and twists along the way.  Ellie, being new, is still feeling her way at times, but these blunders help make the story even better.

One thing I found interesting, the book is written first person present tense.  Since it is a rare writing choice, I found the result gives the book a different feel.

By the time the book reached the climax, I was so pulled into the story I felt much of what Ellie was going through personally.  This has a depth to it that the cozies I normally read don't have.  I really appreciated that factor.

Obviously, I'm a fan of this book.  I'm not sure where Naomi Hirahara will be taking Ellie over the course of the next few cases, but I'll be along to find out.  Murder on Bamboo Lane is a wonderful series debut.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America - The Winter Soldier


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters give heart to the action and effects
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Captain, meet action
Blockbuster is filled with heart
Enjoyable ride




"On Your Left."

I know, I know.  I did it in the wrong order.  There was all kind of talk about how important it was to watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier opening weekend before continuing on with the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  And yet, I blindly kept watching the TV show and only watched the movie last night.  While that meant I was spoiled for some events of the film, I still enjoyed it immensely.

Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), is settling into life in the modern era.  He's still trying to catch up on culture he has missed, but the missions he goes on for S.H.I.E.L.D. are helping keep him busy, which he appreciates.

However, after one mission almost goes wrong because Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) has a separate mission, Steve begins to question his place in the organization.  At the same time, Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) begins to suspect there is something very rotten in his organization.  Couple that with a Russian assassin called The Winter Soldier who has a surprising connection to Steve's past, and you have a situation getting more complicated by the minute.  Who will survive?

Being a superhero movie, you'd expect lots of action, and you won't be disappointed.  The stunts and effects are outstanding, and I loved every minute of them.  This is a big budget event film living up to its expectations in every way, and I loved that.

However, sometimes that means the movie skimps on character as a result.  I didn't find that to be the case here at all.  In fact, the characters felt better defined for me than they did the first time around.  I really connected with Captain America and his struggle to find the right side to be fighting for.  When things turn personal late in the film, I really felt for him.  Yes, even as the explosions were going on around us, I was worried about his personal story.  I also loved his new friend Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie).

All this means the actors had more to do than in a normal action movie, but they did a wonderful job.  There are some great small moments that mean so much.  Heck, I think one reason I connected with Sam so quickly was that Anthony Mackie makes him so likable from the very beginning.  Chris Evans has the right mix to make us care for Steve, which is hard in a character as almost perfect as he is playing here.  Scarlett Johansson is having a blast as Black Widow, and that comes across for us as well.  Samuel L. Jackson is given the most to do in any of these movies so far, and he makes the most of it, too.

There is a nice smattering of humor in the movie, too.  It's just enough to lighten the mood without destroying the tension they are building.

And I mentioned the action and effects, right?  Because that climax was a sight to behold, and I loved it.

I'm definitely ready for the next stop in this franchise, both Marvel over all and Captain America specifically.  I hope they keep building on the success that is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

TV Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1-19 - The Only Light in the Darkness

Much better.  Last's night's episode was so much better.  It felt like the story actually progressed somewhere, while last week felt like it pretty much marched in place.  I know they were moving the chess pieces around, but still.

We start out in the hatch.  With the revelation that the villains SHIELD had previous locked away were out, Coulson is anxious to start rounding them up - one in particular.  But before any of that happens, Eric, the guy in the hatch, wants to vet all of Coulson's team with a series of questions while hooked up to the ultimate lie detector, some of the logical, some of them random.  Everyone passes with flying colors except Ward (big surprise there), but even Ward manages to get passed eventually.

That formality out of the way, Coulson takes off with Simmons, Fitz, and Trip to go track down the first of the escaped prisoners.  May begs to go along, but Coulson still won't have anything to do with her after learning she was reporting on him all along.

Their target is Marcus Daniels, aka Blackout, a villain who takes power from light and energy of any kind and uses it to hurt of kill those who stand in his way.  When they captured him before, he was stalking a cellist - Audrey - the woman who became Coulson's girlfriend.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review: Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham (Veronica Mars #1)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery and characters
Cons: I missed Veronica's voiceover narration
The Bottom Line:
Missing college girl
Veronica keeps tracking
Great for series fans




Spring Break Kidnapping in Neptune

2014 has been very good for Veronica Mars fans.  The franchise, which hadn't seen any action for almost 10 years, is back not only with the big screen movie last month but The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, the first in the proposed series of novels featuring Veronica and her friends.  Naturally, I had to grab it, and I enjoyed the results.

This book is set a few months after the recent film.  The events from the movie are brought up a few times, so by all means, make sure you have seen the movie before you read this book.  You won't want to be spoiled do you?

Spring break turns Neptune into a party town every years as college students are bussed in for a week of fun and relaxation (read drinking and passing out).  This year, however, things are different because one of the college girls vanished after a party.  Since Sheriff Dan Lamb isn't doing enough about it, the Chamber of Commerce hires Veronica and Mars Investigation to find the missing girl.  Can she do it?

A tie in like this lives or dies based on how the characters come across.  In this respect, the novel is perfect.  I could easily picture the main actors in the roles they played for so long saying the lines their characters had.  The new characters were equally well developed and interesting, which is a good thing since we spend quite a bit of time with them, too.

About half way through, I thought the plot was looking a little too simple.  I really should have known because that always happened in the show, too, right before a twist came out of left field that changed everything.  I'm happy to say that by the time the book was over, I was very impressed with the plotting and felt it deserved it's place in the Veronica Mars universe.

That's not to say that I don't have a couple of nitpicks.  The first involves Dan Lamb.  I struggled the entire way through the book to remember he wasn't the Lamb brother we are used to dealing with in Neptune.  I get why Rob Thomas created the character for the movie, and I realize that means the book was saddled with him, but still, can't we have someone with a completely different name to fight against?

The larger issue for me was the narration.  The book is third person, and I found I missed Veronica's narrative voice from the show and movie.  Those voice overs were always fun.  Yes, we get Veronica's sarcasm, but not as much of it, and I would have loved to seen it.  Maybe it's because I normally read cozies, most of which are first person, but I really did find the narration kept me a little more outside the story than I'm used to in a novel.  Of course, when the more intense scenes came, I was still glued to the book turning pages as fast as I could to find out what happened next.

Overall, I enjoyed The Thousand Dollar Tan Line.  The mystery is great, and it's wonderful to spend time with the characters again.  You can bet I will be back for the next book.

TV Recap: Castle 6-20 - That 70's Show

I'm of two minds about the episode last night.  I really didn't care for the mystery, but I loved the 70's stuff.  So let's get the mystery out of the way, shall we?

It starts with a body found in the cement foundation of a building that is being demolished.  Castle is actually the first to figure out the victim is a mobster that vanished in 1978.  They start the investigation in the usual places, the man who took over for the victim and that man's wife.  A rival mobster.  But that leads them to a man who was the victim's right hand man and who was also his closest confidante.

Monday, April 21, 2014

What's On My Nightstand - April 2014

With there being over a week left in the month, the fourth Tuesday almost snuck up on me.  Fortunately, I remembered since that means it is time for What's On Your Nightstand as hosted by 5 Minutes for Books.

The last book I finished and reviewed is Poached by Stuart Gibbs.  It's the second in a middle grade mystery series set at a zoo/amusement park.  In this book, the main character is accused of kidnapping the newest attraction, a koala.  Since no one is looking for any other suspects, Teddy sets out to prove his innocence.  It was a great mystery with several funny and several suspenseful scenes.  You can click on the link to read my full review.  I think the target age will love it as much as I did.

Then last week, I finished Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line.  This is the first tie in novel to the Veronica Mars TV show as is set after the recent movie.  I've long been a fan, so I enjoyed it.  The review is coming Tuesday or Wednesday, I promise!

Right now, I'm about 80 pages from finishing Blue Sea Burning by Geoff Rodkey.  It's the 3rd in his Chronicles of Egg middle grade series, and I'm really enjoying it.  In fact, I may try to finish that up as soon as I get this posted.  Either way, look for the review to show up on Sunday in time for next week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

What's on deck?  Next up is Murder on Bamboo Lane by Naomi Hirahara, the first in a new series about a female Japanese American bike cop who gets involved in a murder in Little Toyko here in Los Angeles.  From there, I'll be moving on to ARCs of The Pickled Piper by Mary Ellen Hughes and Death Run Adrift by Karen MacInerney.  Both are coming out the first week in May, and I've promised reviews of both the first week of May?

Beyond that?  I haven't quite decided yet, but with the depth of my TBR pile, I'm sure I'll find something no problem.

Ornament Review: Christmas Window #3 - Pet Shop - 2005 Hallmark Ornament


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute ornament with a boy wishing hard for a puppy
Cons: Nothing for cat people
The Bottom Line:
Wishes for puppy
Through wintry Christmas window
Will this dream come true?





How Much is that Puppy in the Christmas Window?

2005 brought Tammy Haddix's first chance to contribute to the Christmas Windows series from Hallmark.  After this ornament, she would continue to contribute in the odd numbered years to this series.  And the Pet Shop she contributed to start with would help set the tone for the rest of her contributions.

Like the others in the series, this ornament features scenes on two sides of a wall.  In this case, it's a brick wall with a green roof.  On the outside is a little boy looking through the window at a cute little puppy.  He's also holding on to the rope from his sled.  The sign above the window says "Pet Shop."  And in the window is a temporary sign that says, "Take Me Home for Christmas."

Inside the pet shop is the puppy in one of those window displays.  He's got a ball and a chew bone to play with as well as a ribbon tied around his neck.  Underneath this display are more chew toys as well as containers of dog food and dog treats.  On one side, they've ever got a puppy stocking hung.

Now let's flip back to the outside because there's one more detail.  We can see a piece of paper sticking out of the back pocket of the boy peering through the window.  And what does that paper say?  "Wishlist: Puppy."

And right about there is where my heart melts.  While my allergies have kept me from becoming a dog person, I do love a good story of the bonds between pets and owners.  As a result, I do find this ornament incredibly cute.  Cat people might note that this ornament is all about that puppy, no references to cats anywhere.

This ornament has a perfectly flat base, so you can display it on a shelf or mantel or, like I do, under your Christmas tree.  And yes, the 3 in a Christmas tree is also on the bottom of the display.

If you do decide to hang this ornament, you'll find it tips ever so slightly to the front.  Trust me, for most people it is such a small amount it won't even be noticed.

But did he get the puppy?  Well, in 2006, part of the regular line ornaments was an ornament featuring a boy and a puppy playing in the snow.  They looked remarkably like these two.  And Tammy's other ornaments in this series almost all feature a boy and a puppy.  I'd say it is safe to say yes.

That's another reason why this ornament is so cute - knowing the rest of the story.  It's why I'm glad I've added this Pet Shop to my Christmas Window collection and recommend it for others looking for a fun, heart warming ornament.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Christmas Windows series.

Original Price: $19.95

Sunday, April 20, 2014

TV Recap: Once Upon a Time 3-18 - Bleeding Through

For the last couple of days, I've been watching the commentaries from my season 2 Blu-Ray set.  One of those is on "The Miller's Daughter," aka the episode where Mary Margaret killed Cora.  That led me to remember that this was the one story line from the show that seems to have been forgotten by the writers (and me often, obviously).  While they didn't deal with Mary Margaret's heart turning black and Regina's promise that she would turn dark and destroy everyone she loves, they at least did deal more with some fall out from that.

But we'll get to that in a moment.  First, I want to point out from the "Previous on" recap that we know whose brain Zelena is after - Gold's.  She'd already made a reference to his brain, and she made several more tonight.  She now has most of the elements she needs - she just needs Mary Margaret's baby, and it just for an ingredient in the spell, not for any of the classic Oz things.

But before we get there, let's go to the flashback which once again centered on Rose McGowan's young Cora.  When we first see her, she is moonlighting as a tavern to make some extra money.  She's still the miller's daughter. (And how this exactly fits in with the previous flashback to her, I'm not certain.  All of it before?)

She meets a man who is quite taken with her.  Then he turns out to be Prince Jonathan.  He proposes and she accepts, promising to be back in two weeks to turn her straw ring into gold.  She suggests they go up to his room until he has to leave….

Book Review: Poached by Stuart Gibbs (FunJungle #2)


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery, characters, and humor
Cons: One or two minor things, but I'm not a quibbler
The Bottom Line:
Missing koala
How did Teddy get the blame?
It's page turning fun




Kazoo, the Kidnapped Koala

I have been a fan of Stuart's books since I read his very first book several years ago.  While I have loved all of them, I've been hoping we'd return to the world of FunJungle again.  We finally have in Poached, and the return trip was well worth waiting for.

This series is set at a zoo/amusement park deep in the heart of nowhere Texas.  Teddy Fitzroy, the main character, is the only kid who gets to live on the premises, and that's because his parents are both employees.  Just as the park was opening, he stumbled on evidence that the park's hippo mascot had been murdered.  Now he's about to find himself the center of another animal related crime.

When Kazoo, the koala that is on loan to FunJungle, is stolen, Large Marge, the head of park's security, only has one suspect - Teddy Fitzroy.  After all, the only person they have on the security cameras going into the koala habitat the night Kazoo went missing is Teddy.  Couple that with her vendetta again Teddy, and she doesn't want to search much further.

However, Teddy knows he didn't do it.  While he has done his share of pranks in the park, they were never this mean or vindictive.  Now he has to stay free long enough to prove his innocence.  Suddenly, facing Vance, the bully at his new school, sounds easy.

Everything I loved about that first book is back.  First, there is the setting.  While FunJungle did come across as a bit more of a zoo than a hybrid with an amusement park this time, that's a minor complaint.  The idea of being the only kid who lives at a zoo that is a major tourist attraction still appeals to the kid in me.  How much more would it appeal to kids?

Plus I love the characters.  The cast expands quite a bit since it is no longer summer and Teddy is in school.  They new characters are great.  However, I loved Teddy and his parents in the first book, and they are just as great here as they were then.  My only real complaint with this book comes in that department - Summer, the owner's daughter, wasn't in the book as much as I would have liked.  Really, it's a minor issue, however.

Then there's the plot.  It's fast moving and fun with some nice clues and red herrings before the reveal.  I felt like I should have figured it out before Teddy did because the clues where there, but I didn't.  Along the way, we get some very suspenseful scenes.

But there is comedy to balance it out.  I couldn't help but laugh at a few of the predicaments that Teddy managed to get himself into (and out of) over the course of the book.  And while his parents might have been a little lenient on him at times, that was my only complaint about their characters.  The middle grade audience will never even notice anything with his parents and laugh even harder than I did at these scenes.

I couldn't turn the pages of Poached fast enough, and I'm sorry to see it over.  Fortunately, the author is hard at work on the next animal mystery, so a return trip to FunJungle won't take quite as long as this one did.  Middle grade readers (and reluctant readers) will find themselves caught up in this fun story, and adults who love a good mystery will enjoy it as well.

After one visit, you'll definitely want more trips with the FunJungle series.

This is my entry for this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  Be sure to check out the other entries.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 19th's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Amazing Race - I felt sorry for the team that got eliminated.  Not that I expected them to stick around much longer, but again with the cab costing them the race.  Plus they thought there was still a team behind them.  Surprised to see the Afganimals helping the last two teams, however.  With a Double U Turn coming on Sunday, I wonder who will be turned beside the Cowboys (you just know they will be one of the teams).

Dancing with the Stars - I LOVED this Disney song episode.  They need to start doing it every season.  The judges seemed to like it, too, since they gave out some higher scores than normal.  The energy and fun were just infectious, I guess.

Survivor - The wrong person got blindsided.  Not only did LJ do nothing wrong, but Tony deserves to go.  Can't stand the guy.

Arrow - I'm a little surprised that Laurel kept the info to herself.  Yes, she almost told her father what she knows about the Arrow, but was surprised she didn't tell anyone about it.  I think Thea is reacting a bit too harshly, but what do I know?  I've never been in her shoes (fortunately).  And the stage is set for an even bigger battle.  I have no clue how they will get out of this.

Melissa & Joey - Loved the sub-plot with Ryder and his need to make money, and I loved how they tied the two together.  Mel's dad is still a jerk, however.

The Crazy Ones - Two good episodes to tie things together.  Loved the Frankenstein references in the first one.  And I'm surprised with how they ended things with Syd and Andrew.  Well sort of.  He does have a girlfriend right now.  If this were a series finale, I'm sure it would be different, but they are expecting to come back next year.  We'll see if I do or not.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ornament Review: Toymaker Santa #14 - Rocket - 2013 Hallmark Ornament


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun toy for older kids
Cons: The silver strand holding the rocket in the air.
The Bottom Line:
Rocket launch is now
Santa working on fun toy
For older children




Blast Off with 2013's Toymaker Santa

Santa doesn't just make toys for little kids - at least not in this series from Hallmark.  In previous entries, he's made slot cars and remote control airplanes.  And for 2013's Toymaker Santa, he's made a rocket.

The ornament features Santa kneeling down next to a red launch pad that looks like a stool.  On his head, he has a silver helmet.  His right hand is holding a remote control.  Santa's just pressed the remote control since a silver rocket is flying off the launch pad.  Like the other ornaments in the series, Santa is wearing a tan work apron with a hammer slung in the loop on one side.

Now here is my only problem with the ornament.  The rocket is actually quite a ways from the launch pad.  In fact, it's nose is above Santa's head.  In order to get it up there, it is connected to the launch pad with a silver wire.  The wire is stiff enough to hold the rocket in place, although it does have some give (not that you want to play with it and run the risk of ruining the ornament, or course).  The same thing was done in the remote control airplane ornament, and it doesn't bug me at all there.  But here, for some reason, I find it a little off putting.  I still like the ornament, but I feel that metal takes away from the overall look.

I honestly wasn't completely sure how this ornament would sit from looking at it.  However, Santa's toes and knees and the launch pad make enough of a base that you can display it on any flat surface if you choose to.  It's steady enough it would take a good thump to tip it over.

The ring for hanging the ornament is off to the side of Santa's helmet.  The ornament is perfectly balanced since Santa and the launch pad hang straight when you slip a hanger through that loop.

Since there is no flat official base, the copyright information and series marker aren't on the bottom of the ornament.  They were in the second place, I looked, however.  I'll leave it to you to find them.

I am coming to appreciate the silver spike a bit more since it allows the rocket to lift off.  So while I do like 2013's Toymaker Santa, it's not my favorite in the series.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Toymaker Santa series.

Original Price: $14.95

April 17th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Is it really Friday already?  Yikes!  But that means it is time for Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I've got selections from a middle grade mystery I read this week.




Poached is the second mystery by Stuart Gibbs in his FunJungle series.  (He has another couple series out as well.)  The setting is a giant zoo/amusement park.

Stuart crafts some of the best first lines I have ever read.  For example:

I would never have been accused of stealing the koala if Vance Jessup hadn't made me drop a human arm in the shark tank.

See what I mean?

And moving ahead to page 56 we find:

"You know what this means, Teddy?"
"Yeah," I said sadly.  "I do."
"If you want to prove you're innocent, you're gonna have to find the bad guy yourself."

I'll be reviewing this book on Monday so I can get it in this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, so come back then to see just how much I loved this book.  (Should I have issued a spoiler alert for my review?)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

TV on DVD Review: Sabrina the Teenage Witch - Season 7


Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some funny episodes, mainly in the second half
Cons: Too familiar; weak first half
The Bottom Line:
The final magic
Done in by a slow first half
For the fans only




"Fast Unexplained Exits are Kind of Her Specialty."

I think by this point, it was time to say goodbye to Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and I think just about everyone knew it.  I mean, when your main character is no longer a teenager but that's part of the title of the series, it's just time to move on, right?  Despite some attempts to changes things around (or because of it), season seven isn't my favorite, although it does provide some fun moments.

After cramming three years of high school into the first four seasons, Sabrina Spellman (Melissa Joan Hart) manages to graduate from college in just two.  She and her roommates/friends Roxie (Soleil Moon Frye) and Morgan (Elisa Donovan) move into her aunt's house as they try to start their lives by finding jobs.  Her aunts?  In the weirdest resolve of the weirdest cliffhanger, they are turned into teenagers themselves and go back to the other realm.  (Never mind that Caroline Rhea has a cameo in the series finale).  That just leaves a few random bits of magic around the house in addition to Salem the cat (voiced by Nick Bakay).

Sabrina gets a job at a hip trendy magazine called Scorch and spends much of the first half of the season trying to prove to her boss that she can do her job.  It gives us plenty of chances to see actors playing musicians, and, of course, spells to go wrong.  She, Morgan, and Roxie join a singing competition thanks to some magic talent.  Plus she switches personalities with a mean rapper.

Late in the season, Sabrina meets Aaron (Dylan Neal), a handsome record label owner.  The two quickly fall in love and plan to get married.  The only problem is Harvey (Nate Rickert) is still in the picture.  Does he still love Sabrina?  Will that stop her from marrying Aaron?

Actually, I find the season picks up once Aaron comes into the picture.  Until then, we've got the same old same old with a different setting.  Substitute Roxie and Morgan for the aunts, for example.  They get many B stories like the aunts used to get, only these don't involve magic.  And Sabrina still creates spells that get out of hand, only now she needs Salem and Harvey to point that out to her instead of her aunts.

My problems with the first half of the season are two fold.  First, Sabrina's desperation at work just isn't funny, and I never can warm up to Annie (Diana-Maria Riva), her boss, who is mean to Sabrina for no reason.  Second, watching Sabrina's magic get out of hand and her over react is funny as a teenager but cringe worthy in an adult.  Not to mention, she should have learned how to control it by now.

Not to say there aren't some very fun episodes here.  I enjoy "In Sabrina We Trust" where the out of hand spell gets the entire city trusting Sabrina.  The magical systems check the house undergoes at the beginning is pretty funny as well.  Her attempts to be perfect in "Present Perfect" are pretty good as well, and the Wonderland theme in the episode where she first meets Aaron is lots of fun.

There is a certain amount of overacting from the cast, but it fits the show and helps make the wacky just that much more believable.  The special effects are great, and with all the magic there are quite a few of them.

Despite what the packaging says, there were 22 episodes in season seven.  The final two were just aired back to back, and they are lumped together here as well to give us "21" episodes.  They are all presented in their original full frame and stereo sound.  The issues I had with my season six set have been fixed, and I didn't have any problems with this set.

Which brings us to the special feature.  That's right, for the first time in the series, we actually get one.  It's the TV movie Sabrina Goes to Rome.  Don't ask me why we haven't seen the other two movies released on earlier sets or why this wasn't part of the season 2 or 3 set since that's when it was filmed.  But since it was the better of the two TV movies I've seen, I'll take it.

This movie finds Sabrina and stowaway Salem heading to Rome to try to open a locket.  Sealed inside the locket is an aunt she hasn't heard of before who was banished after revealing her secret to a mortal.  Unfortunately, Sabrina's new roommate Gwen (Tara Charendoff Strong) is a struggling witch who gets them noticed by Paul (Eddie Mills), a cute guy that Sabrina has run into - literally.  Paul is a tabloid journalist who starts getting close to Sabrina to get proof of her secret so he can become rich.  Or will love win?

Like many episodes of the series, the ending of this one is never in doubt.  And yet it's fun.  The story draws you in and makes you care. (Although considering how serious Sabrina was about Harvey at the time, why is there no mention of him?)  The story moves along quickly, and the acting and special effects are on par for the series.  It was actually filmed in Rome, and that makes it feel real and helps draw me in as well.

Honestly, Sabrina Goes to Rome is the best part of this collection.  Don't get me wrong, there are still some fun episodes in season seven, but the best of Sabrina the Teenage Witch was definitely behind us.  I'm glad it ended here.

Season 7 Episodes:
1. Total Sabrina Live
2. The Big Head
3. Call Me Crazy
4. Shift Happens
5. Free Sabrina
6. Sabrina Unplugged
7. Witch Way Out
8. Bada-Ping!
9. It's a Hot, Hot, Hot, Hot Christmas
10. Ping Ping a Song
11. The Lyin', the Witch, and the Wardrobe
12. In Sabrina We Trust
13. Sabrina in Wonderland
14. Present Perfect
15. Cirque du Sabrina
16. Getting to Nose You
17. Romance Looming
18. Spellmanian Slip
19. You Slay Me
20. A Fish Tale
21. What a Witch Wants
22. Soul Mates

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TV Recap: Agents of SHIELD 1-18 - Providence

I didn't get to watch last night's episode until today.  Somehow, I'm still having a hard time getting excited about writing the recap.  (Heck, I just swept my balcony if that gives you any idea how much I'm trying to avoid writing this.)

I guess it's because the episode was kind of "meh" overall.  After last week's big exciting episode with so many twists and turns, this one was rather pedestrian.  I was expecting something more as a follow up since they'd obviously been building to that episode over several weeks.

Book Review: The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Funny and charming
Cons: Only if Pigeon doesn't get in the tub
The Bottom Line:
A dirty Pigeon
Wanting out of needed bath
Will he stay dirty?




Can You Talk Pigeon into a Bird Bath?

Poor Pigeon.  It seems like no matter what he does, he wants to do things he shouldn't do (like driving a bus) and tries to avoid things he really needs to do.  He's facing another issue in his new book, The Pigeon Needs a Bath!

It seems that Pigeon has had a fun day, but as a result, he's pretty dirty.  He needs a bath, but he doesn't want to take one, so he's going to offer every excuse in the book to try to get out of it.  What will it take to finally get him in the bath?

I really don't see how Mo Willems does it.  His books contain nothing but dialogue, yet they tell a story while entertaining and charming along the way.  Making it even harder in his Pigeon books, Pigeon is the only character who really talks.  (There are a couple of exceptions in this book, but only for a page or two.)  It does help that Pigeon is carrying on his conversation with us as he attempts to get out of getting into the bathtub.  You can make this book more interactive with your kids as you read to them by asking them how they'd respond to Pigeon.  Maybe they can get him to take a bath.

Mo's illustrations are charming as well.  They are fairly simple, but they are perfect for helping to tell the story.  And if you pay attention, you'll get some laughs from them as well.

Yes, laughs.  Through exaggeration, you get some good laughs as you read about Pigeon's excuses to get out of taking a bath.  Even if your kid tries to get out of a bath, they'll still laugh at Pigeon's antics.

I'm not going to spoil the ending except for this tease.  Getting Pigeon out of the tub might be a good subject for the next in the series.

Whether you buy these books or stand there in a library or store and read them, you'll love The Pigeon Needs a Bath!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Music Review: Welcome to the New by MercyMe



Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some fun songs
Cons: Sound and lyrics too similar to each other
The Bottom Line:
Some tracks I enjoy
But overall disc is flat
Not better effort



I'm Trying to Embrace the New, but It Doesn't Feel That Exciting to Me

Ever since I started listening to MercyMe, I've enjoyed their blend of fun music with good lyrics.  Rarely do they ever have anything truly outstanding to say, but the mix is still very enjoyable.  Unfortunately, Welcome to the New doesn't quite have that same mix to it.  It is their first release that has left me under impressed.

Over the years, the group has evolved from an adult pop/soft rock feel toward more rock and less pop.  That change is evidenced here with the rockiest release they've had yet.  There are lots of upbeat tracks here with only a few slower moments.  Unfortunately, they haven't found a way to differentiate the rock tracks from one another, and that is probably one of the biggest weaknesses of the disc.  These songs just sound too much alike to me.  Even after a week of listening, it's hard to remember which song is which.

Unfortunately, the lyrics don't help at all.  The songs are about the new life we can have in Jesus and the changes that brings into our lives.  Again, it's nothing especially original (or should I say new?), but it is a theme worth exploring.  Unfortunately, none of the lyrics ever go too deep and many could be exchanged with any other song.

Now before I get any more negative, I should point out that I do actually enjoy some of the songs here individually.  It's just taken as a whole where they start to get too repetitive.  For example, the title track starts things off with a wonderfully upbeat number that is hard not to like.  "Gotta Let Go" reminds us to leave our past back there and press on to live for God now.  "Greater" is based on the reminder from I Peter that God is greater than anything we will face in the world.  And "Flawless" reminds us that thanks to the mercy and grace of the cross, God doesn't see the sin in our past.

Oh wait, even with those four songs, I've already hit on two very similar themes, haven't I?

My favorite song on the disc is the final track.  "Dear Younger Me" find the band looking at the past and wondering what they could say to smooth out life without changing who they are.  Ultimately, it's about remembering who God has made us then about what we've done along the way.

Several of these songs will be enjoyed mix in with other artists in iTunes, but the rest of the disc is just average.  Hopefully MercyMe goes back to penning better songs because Welcome to the New wasn't one of their better efforts.

CD Length: 37:31
Tracks:
1. Welcome to the New
2. Gotta Let It Go
3. Shake
4. Greater
5. Finish What He Started
6. Flawless
7. New Lease on Life
8. Wishful Thinking
9. Burn Baby Burn
10. Dear Younger Me

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ornament Review: Christmas Windows #2 - Sweet Shoppe - 2004 Hallmark Ornament


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Details are lovely to look at
Cons: None to be found in this display
The Bottom Line:
A sweet ornament
The details bring it to life
It's fun to display



Sweets from the Sweet Shoppe

In 2004, Hallmark's Christmas Window series started what would become the pattern.  Yes, this was the first window done by Nina Aube, but she has now down half the series.  The series also now features nothing but stores, and the Sweet Shoppe is a mouth watering start to the tradition.

This is a truly 360 degree series with something to look at on all sides.  Looking through the window is a little girl with yellow pigtails down her back.  Next to her is a dog in a red sweater.  Having from the roof in a lantern, although it is unlit at the moment.  Above the window is 2004, the year the ornament was released.

And what are the girl and the dog looking at so intently?  In the window is a gingerbread house.  It's small (although to scale for the ornament) and looks delicious with lots of peppermint and other candies plus glittery powdered sugar snow on the roof.  Next to the house is a small Christmas tree on one side and a snowman on the other.  And in front of the house?  A tiny snowman.

You can see the back of this display when you turn the ornament around.  Additionally, there are some candies on the shelves that can only be seen when you turn it around.  You can see a jar of licorice or some kind of stick candy that is red white and green sticking out of a jar.  Then there is a tray of peppermint candies and some other kind of candy I don't recognize, but I'd be more than willing to try a piece.

The detail on this ornament is superb.  There are tiles on the roof and rocks on the front of the building.  Even with how small the gingerbread man or snowman are, they have faces and decorations.  It's fun to look at this one for hours.

You can hang this one from your tree and get it perfectly balanced no problem.  That's not a surprise since the hook is pretty much in the center of the roof, which is centered in the ornament.

However, I like displaying this ornament along with the other series on a flat surface, kind of like a village.  The nice, flat base helps make that possible, and you don't have to worry about the ornament tipping over at all.  The bottom is also where you'll find the 2 in a Christmas tree, indicating the ornament's place in the series.

Since I just started collecting in the last few years, I had to track this series of ornaments down.  I'm glad I did because they are such fun, and Christmas Window 2004 is no exception.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Christmas Windows series.

Original Price: $19.95