Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TV Recap: Castle 7-1 - Driven

Of all the season premiers this year, I was most looking forward to Once Upon a Time and Castle.  Sunday night’s Once was okay, but that was about it.  And Monday’s Castle?  I think I get what they were trying for, but it just didn’t work.  They wrote themselves in a corner and couldn’t get their way out of it, at least in one episode.

The episode picks up moments after the finale from last season ended.  Beckett has just shown up at the scene of Castle’s car crash and is trying to get into the burning car.  Esposito and Ryan show up, closely followed by Martha and Alexis.  When the firemen put out the fire, Beckett realizes that no one is in the car.  And so the hunt begins for Castle.

Ornament Review: Mrs. Claus's Kitchen Sink - 2014 Hallmark Ornament


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Rich in detail for a lovely piece
Cons: Nothing
The Bottom Line:
Decking out the sink
Filled with beautiful detail
Collectors will love




Who Would Have Thought to Deck the Sink?

I know people who go all out for Christmas decorations.  (Yes, even more than me).  They’ve got trees everywhere and other things to place all around the house.  And yet, I don’t know of anyone who has gone all out for their kitchen sink.  I mean, it’s something that needs to be used every day, right?  But I guess when Christmas is your life, you think of ways to decorate every last surface, which is why Mrs. Claus's Kitchen Sink is so fancy.

This ornament is actually part of an unofficial series the Hallmark artists have been collaborating one for the last few years.  Each artist did one little part, but it all comes together for a wonderful ornament.

This is a sink unlike any I’ve seen in recent houses.  There are selves around it and even over it.  That actually aids in the decorating since it gives Mrs. Claus more places to put things.  And what a collection there is around the sink.  There’s a Santa mug and a green nutcracker.  There’s a white teapot shaped like possibly Mrs. Claus herself.  There is a stuffed bear holding a spoon, a stuffed deer, and a stuff penguin.  A stuffed elf is leaning against a red package on the top shelf.  The faucet and sink themselves look almost like an antique, or maybe like the faux antique sets you can buy in most stores these days.  And under the sink?  You’ll find a whisk broom and dust pan, a mixer, and even some candy molds.

Of course, there has to be a window over the sink, right?  There’s one here as well, and it has a scene painted in it of snow and trees on a starry night sky.  It actually looks very cozy and inviting despite how cold it must really be.  This is the North Pole after all.  There’s a white wreath that hangs over the window, and this is the only part of the ornament that moves.  It can even sound a little funny as it swings back and forth in the box if you don’t know what is happening.

The ornament is a little bigger than some of the others that Hallmark produces.  Part of that is because of all the items in the ornament.  But the result is an ornament that is so rich in detail.  Like others in the unofficial series, I can spend hours looking at it and still find new little details to make me smile.  Truly, this is a work of art.

The sink features four feet for a nice, flat base, which means you can display it on a shelf, as part of a scene, or anywhere else you might want.  It is a little top heavy, so be sure it is some place where it won’t be bumped a lot.

There is a hook hidden behind the wrapped package to hang it from your Christmas tree if that’s your desire.  Since it’s located on the top shelf right in the middle, so it’s no surprise that the ornament hangs straight.  However, the ornament is heavy, which isn’t a surprise given its size.  You’ll want to make sure it is well back on a sturdy branch when you hang it.

The ornament was only released at the artist signings held around the country in 2014.  As a result, it is pretty rare.  Although it hasn’t been announced, if they hold true to form a repainted version will be available to members of the Keepsake Ornament Club next year, but right now it isn’t a guarantee.

If you’ve been collecting the Claus furniture unofficial series, you’ll be delighted with this addition.  Mrs. Claus's Kitchen Sink is rich in detail and beautiful to look at.  And it might even make you wonder just what you can do to your own sink this year.

Original Price: $39.95

Monday, September 29, 2014

TV Recap: Once Upon a Time 4-1: A Tale of Two Sisters

My goal for the new TV year – do my recaps but make them shorter.  Yeah, I know, we can all start laughing at me now.  Let’s see how I do.

I’ve got to admit, I’ve been looking forward to last night all week.  Yes, I had other TV premiers, but I was so looking forward to Once Upon a Time (and Castle tonight).  I wasn’t sure how I felt about them doing a Frozen arc.  And after last night, I’m still not sure.

Let’s get to it, with the flashback.

The episode started on a stormy sea.  Elsa and Anna’s parents are on a ship.  Just before it goes down, their mother is able to throw a message in a bottle into the ocean.

We then flash forward 5 years to the kingdom of Arendelle.  The events of the movie have taken place, and it is the day before Anna is to marry Kristoff.  While Anna is trying on their mother’s wedding dress, Elsa discovers their mother’s diary. It reveals that their parents did not go on a diplomatic mission.  They were going to attempt to find out something about Elsa’s powers.

TV on DVD Review: 24 - Live Another Day



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Jack Bauer.  Need I really say more?
Cons: A few familiar plot points still rear their heads
The Bottom Line:
Heart stopping action
Condensed into half the time
Will still thrill the fans




"It Was Great Seeing You Today.  Just Like Old Times."

Some ideas are just too good to die.  That’s why, four years after 24 ticked out its final second, it came back.  No, we didn’t get a full 24 hours (although a full day is still covered).  Instead, 24: Live Another Day consisted of 12 episodes.  This show still knows how to get your blood pumping.

Just like it’s been four years for us, it’s been four years for Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland).  During all that time, he’s been in hiding, trying to avoid the Russians who are out to get revenge for his behavior in season 8.  However, he resurfaces in London, and his first act is to break Chloe O’Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub) out of CIA custody.  Chloe has become a wanted hacker, disillusioned with the government and fighting to reveal the secrets they are trying to hide.  Jack needs Chloe’s skills and her new friends in his effort to stop a terrorist plot.

Yes, even on the run, Jack has managed to get intel about Margot Al-Harzi (Michelle Fairley, a terrorist who is plotting to take over drones and kill President Heller (William Devane).  Heller is in London at the moment, to sign a drone treaty, along with his daughter Aubrey (Kim Raver), who Jack still loves, and Aubrey’s new husband Mark (Tate Donovan).

Of course, breaking Chloe out of the CIA doesn’t go unnoticed (especially with Jack’s lack of subtly).  Soon he has CIA location chief Steve Navarro (Benjamin Bratt) overseeing his capture with agent Kate Morgan (Yvonne Strahovski) hot on his trail.  Only Kate isn’t so sure Jack is the man they should be hunting.  Can he gain any allies in his efforts to stop the terrorists?  What will happen before the last second ticks out?

The producers claimed that this season was going to be different because it was shorter.  Heck, they famously promised that the show was going to dump us in the middle of the action.  I will admit the premier episode was definitely more ramped up than some of the old premiers, but they still took the time to explain all the new relationships and the set up for the season.  There was just more action going on in the background.

I will give the producers this – I don’t think there were any wasted sub-plots this season.  You know, the sub-plots we never cared about but were there to fill up time as characters moved from one spot to another.  While one or two sub-plots seemed unimportant, they eventually tied in better to the overall story than the sub-plots did in the full seasons.

However, there are clichés on 24, and many of them were still evident.  If you watched this without knowing there had been four years in real time between season 8 and this run of episodes, you wouldn’t know by any fresh plot twists.

But you know what?  That truly doesn’t matter.  As the season progressed, I was on the edge of my seat multiple times with my heart racing and the blood pumping hoping Jack could manage to save the day yet again.  The show has always been a thrill ride, and this season is absolutely no exception.  And there were one or two twists I didn’t see coming.

And the acting is still top notch.  Four of the actors from the show returned (although it has been a couple of seasons since we’d seen now President Heller and Aubrey).  They slipped right back into their characters as if no time had passed.  The cast of new actors were absolutely wonderful as well.  I do have to give a special shout out to Yvonne.  I loved her on Chuck, and it was great to see here again here.

This season is available on either DVD or Blu-Ray.  Either way, you get all twelve episodes in wide screen and full surround.  Both sets include deleted and extended scenes as well as a featurette on shooting in London, one on how they used headlines to shape the season, and finally one on filming while staying green.  If you buy the Blu-Ray set, you also get an extension to the season.  With the price difference between the two sets not being that great, if you have a Blu-Ray player, that’s definitely the set to go with.

There are rumors that the producers are open to doing another event series like 24: Live Another Day.  With how they left Jack, I’d say they absolutely need to do that.  If it does happen, I’ll be back on the 24 roller coaster for every second.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Review: The Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson (Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun characters and great humor
Cons: Plot gets a bit sluggish in the middle
The Bottom Line:
Sudden kidnapping
Will Hilary find Miss Pimm?
More fun and danger




This Book is Very Piratical
  
Last year, I took a chance on an ARC offered via Amazon Vine on a debut that sounded like lots of fun.  I fell so in love with the book that this year, I went out and bought the sequel.  The Terror of the Southlands did not quite live up to the first one, but it was still a fun adventure.

Before you start, you need to be ready for a world until anything you’ve seen before.  This world involves pirates and treasure – it just so happens that the treasure they crave is the magical kind.  Our main character, a young female pirate, even has a gargoyle, magical of course, for a sidekick.  There’s humor and fun along with plenty of adventure.

Hilary Westfield is relishing her new life as the Terror of the Southlands.  Unfortunately, she hasn’t found much adventure in the last few months.  In fact, this has come to the attention of Captain Blacktooth, the president of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates.  He gives Hilary a warning and issues an ultimatum – do something piratical or be kicked out of the league.

Before Hilary can head off on one of her appointed quests, she finds a letter from Miss Pimm asking for assistance.  While Hilary left Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies without finishing, the two have become friends, so naturally she goes to help.  However, when she arrives, she learns that Miss Pimm has been kidnapped.  Can Hilary find her?  Will Blacktooth consider this piratical enough?

There is quite a collection of characters in this books, villains, pirates, a gargoyle, high society girls, and even a former governess.  All of them have their own personalities, and all of them are fun for various reasons.  All of them provide some bits of humor as well, which I really enjoyed.

The best humor in the book comes from the between chapters writing.  We get letters or excerpts from newspapers and newsletters that help fill in bits of the story and provide much of the humor.  Granted, I did laugh at some of the things that happened in the story as well, but I found these between the chapter bits to be the funniest parts.

Unfortunately, the plot isn’t quite as good as the first one.  It starts and ends well, but it gets bogged down in the middle with not much happening.  I was entertained, but I wanted Hilary to make more progress in finding Miss Pimm.  Everything does come into play eventually, however.

This book is filled with a strong assortment of characters, male and female.  We do have a female pirate (even if she is young) as the main character, and she certainly earns her place as a pirate.  But all the characters add their own strengths to the story and by the end everyone has contributed in some way to the outcome.

Overall, I once again enjoyed spending time with Hilary and am already looking forward to seeing what happens to her and her friends next.  Those looking for a fun ride will definitely want to read The Terror of the Southlands.

This review is my entry this week for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

September 27th's Weekly TV Thoughts

The first full week of the fall TV season.  Can you tell by how many shows are on my list this week?

Don't forget to post your own thoughts on anything you watched on your blog and link back here.  I can't wait to read it.

The Big Bang Theory – I must admit I often don’t find their season premiers to be the funniest episodes of the season.  Whether it’s too much expectation on my part or just them having to get characters back to normal or both I don’t know, but the pattern held true again this year.  However, that second episode?  Both story lines were so incredibly funny.  I hope my roommate wasn’t quite in bed yet (I watched late on Monday) because I was laughing pretty hard and pretty loudly at Howard and Sheldon in class.  Amy playing both sides with Penny and Bernadette was pretty funny, too, especially that last scene.  Classic episode of the show right there, and this is season 8.  Very impressive the show can still be that funny.

Gotham – After about 15 minutes, I was ready to give up.  It was very over blown and melodramatic.  And then it got better.  I wish we weren’t dragging out the Waynes’ murder, but I knew we would.  Still, the characters got compelling, and I’m looking forward to at least next week.  The fact that this is from the creator of The Mentalist does give me pause since I got tired of that show about a season and a half, but for now I’m going to stick with this one.

Dancing with the Stars – It always amazes me the stars who sign on to this show and are busy in the first few weeks.  That’s when you need the most practice because everything is new.  I can understand being double booked late in the season, especially if you expected to be voted off by then.  Oh well, plenty of time for the book tour now.

Agents of SHIELD – I feel like it was a bit of a reset on many things, or at least setting up the characters and relationships for the new season.  Not saying I didn’t enjoy it, but it didn’t completely blow me away.  However, the reveal about Fitz was a shock, and I feel so sorry for him.  That’s the story line I’m not interested in at the moment.

Survivor – We are half way to getting the Twinnies gone!  Yes!!!  I was so bummed when I heard they were going to be on the show this season.  And really, don’t get have an all female alliance every season?  Yet they were going to be historic and do it?  (Or was it that they usually fall apart?)  There are some very interesting personalities, so this is going to be an interesting season.  And I’m confused.  I guess Redemption Island was only for the first couple of days.

The Amazing Race – I’d almost feel sorry for Lisa and Michelle, but since they stole Boston’s place on the flight, is it any wonder Boston treated them the way they did at the cab?  Not that it was right, but it is understandable.  Of course, I do wonder if there was more to the story that we didn’t see behind the scenes.  And if I were those people, trying to measure out paces, I think I would have dug in the general area a bit more instead of just all in one place, especially with how shallow everyone else’s boxes were buried.

Girls Meet World – That wasn’t quite as funny as I thought it might be, but it had its moments.  I knew the woman on the bench would turn out to be somebody important, and I definitely appreciate the fact that the ended with a subtle balanced business approach, not just saying it was evil, which is how Farkle was acting.  Now that I think back on it more, there were some good laughs in the episode.  Still not the strongest in the series, but definitely fun.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief by Dorothy Gilman (Mrs. Pollifax #10)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Mrs. Pollifax and other characters; plenty of fun
Cons: Climax works, but definitely weak
The Bottom Line:
Meeting an old friend
Danger, adventure, and charm
The usual fun




Mrs. Pollifax, a Signature, and Danger in Sicily

I really do wish I had more time to reread books.  Take for instance the Mrs. Pollifax series.  I’ve been on a mission to reread and review that series for years now, and I’m only up to book 10.  I did make the time to reread Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief, and I was reminded why I loved this series so much when I first discovered it almost 20 years ago.

In case you have yet to meet the charming Mrs. Pollifax, she is a grandmother, garden club member, and part time CIA agent.  All of her cases find her taking on what appear to be simple assignments that become much more complicated when she is in the field.  When the series started out, she was a recent widow, but along the way she has remarried, although Cyrus is absent from most of the books (which is a shame because I like him.)

While the characters never really age, the times definitely change, each book being set in the time it was first published.  The first book was written in 1966 and transports us to a time with a very active cold war.  By this book, we’ve hit 1993.  Some of the books provide insight into the politics around the world of the day, but this one doesn’t do that.  It’s still a fun read, however.

Mrs. Pollifax was looking forward to a few days at home alone when she gets the call from Bishop.  Farrell, a friend from two previous adventures, is in trouble in Sicily and he has specifically requested Mrs. Pollifax.  But first, she needs to go to a funeral and take pictures of the attendants.

That weird request out of the way, Mrs. Pollifax flies to Sicily, but she’s hardly made contact before she, Farrell, and their contact are being followed by multiple cars.  Farrell was in the country to confirm a signature reported to be from Julius Caesar, but after he glimpsed an old foe both he and Mrs. Pollifax know, he found himself in danger.  Was he correct in his ID?  Is that why he is being followed?  And what about that funeral?

Now if all those elements seem random and disjointed, I can promise you there is a reason for everything, and things come together perfectly pretty early in the book, actually.  From there, it’s just a matter of hanging on as we watch yet another wild ride unfold.  The climax doesn’t quite come together as well as the random elements do early in the book, but it works okay.  It’s really my only complaint with the book, actually.

The characters in this series are always a delight, and this book is no exception.  Mrs. Pollifax herself is charming and fun, and I love watching her in action.  It’s always great to see Farrell again.  We meet quite a few new characters here, and they are well developed and fun to spend time with as well.

Despite the deadly danger, there is a bit of humor as well.  Mrs. Pollifax and her observations on things are often funny.  But the best scenes involve Bishop and Carstairs back in the states as they react to what they hear is happening.  They are often behind the times, which just makes those scenes even more fun.  These are not full blow comedies, but the bit of humor is a very nice touch.

Many of the books in the series really do stand alone, but this one references quite a few of the previous books and really spoils Farrell’s second appearance in Mrs. Pollifax on Safari.  I do recommend you read at least that one before picking up this book.

While I do wish the climax were stronger, I still loved spending time with Mrs. Pollifax again.  The fun and adventure of Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief is not to be missed if you are a fan of this series.

While not completely necessary, you'll enjoy the books more if you read the Mrs. Pollifax Series in order.

This is an entry in this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

September 26th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

It's finally Friday again, which means it is time for Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

Actually, this week, I think I'm going to do a double feature, just because I can.

Up first is Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief by Dorothy Gilman.  It's a reread for me, and the review is right here.


If you aren't familiar with Mrs. Pollifax, she's a grandmother and part time CIA agent.

The book begins with:

Mrs. Pollifax stood under a dripping umbrella and wondered why it so often rained at funerals.

Now I am cheating a bit for my 56 from this book.  I'm actually going to page 53.  But this exchange just so perfectly describes the series I had to use it.

"This sudden request to help you sounded so easy and uncomplicated," Kate said.
Mrs. Pollifax sighed.  "They often sound like that - as I've discovered all too often myself."

Leaving that book behind, let's completely switch genres to middle grade fantasy with The Terror of the Southlands, the second Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates book by Caroline Carlson.




This book involves a young female pirate, magic, and lots of humor and adventure.

It's a bit tricky picking out the true first sentence since the book opens with a news report and a letter before we get to chapter one.  However, I'm going with the first sentence of chapter one.

The Renegade arrived just after breakfast.

Between each chapter, there are excerpts from news stories, letters, or the memoir of the main character's gargoyle.  And a selection from The Gargoyle: A History of a Hero is exactly what we find on page 56.

If you're not a magical creature, dear reader, you probably don't understand how unpleasant this is.  Your heart feels funny, like it might explode without any warning, and your whole body starts to shake.  Even worse, you're forced to protect rude, selfish people who don't seem to notice that your arms are crumbling to bits.

I finished this one just a couple of hours ago, and my review will be up on Sunday if all goes according to plan.

Meanwhile, don't forget to come back tomorrow and participate in Weekly TV Thoughts.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ornament Review: Season's Treatings #6 - Cake Pops - 2014 Hallmark Ornament



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Festively decorated cake pops
Cons: Only ones an overly logical person would point out
The Bottom Line:
Setting festive mood
With cake pops in the making
More treatings for sure




This Ornament Will Pop Right Off the Tree at You

I know they are the latest craze, but I have yet to have a cake pop.  It’s just never happened to work out that I’ve been at a place that had them, although I’ve seen pictures.  Those pictures are why I can appreciate 2014's Season's Treatings entry which features some very decorated cake pops.

In fact, there are three finished cake pops on display in this ornament.  There’s a Santa, a Snowman, and an ornament with holly on it.  All three of these are sitting in a stand with 2014 written on it.  The stand is on a silver tray, and the tray has another cake pop sitting on it waiting to be decorated beyond the layer of frosting it already has.  There’s a bowl of frosting and a bowl of sprinkles there to help with the decorating and two more sticks for future cake pops.

Now I must admit, my first thought when I saw this one was all the work that went into decorating those three finished pops.  Seriously, who would take the time to do that on something so small when you are making so many of them?  Now why that was my thought for this one but not for the cupcakes that were the second entry in this series, I have no clue.

That aside, I really do like this entry.  The finished cake pops look fun and also delicious.  While I’m not a frosting person, I do like chocolate frosting, so that really appeals to me, too.  The silver tray is a tad more overwhelming than in some of the other entries in the series, but it really can’t be helped.  Overall, this is a great addition to the series.

As with the others, you can use it as part of a display.  After all, it has that nice, flat bottom of the sheet as a back.  But really, it’s not that much fun sitting flat with the cakes popping off the surface.  The back of the tray does provide a nice spot for the series marker, which in this case is a 6 in a Christmas tree.

The ornament just cries out to be hung.  The loop is sitting in one of the holes in the cake pop stand, and when you slip a hook through it, it hangs at a jaunty angle.  Frankly, that’s one of my favorite things about this series is the fun angle they are designed to hang at.  Despite the loops being surrounded by pops, it’s really not that hard to slip the hook through it.

Seasons Treating's continues to create festive and delicious looking entries, and this year's addition to the series is no exception.  Is it any wonder it is such a popular series?

And check out the rest of the Season's Treatings series.

Original Price: $9.95

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

TV on DVD Review: Necessary Roughness - Season 3



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Change of setting really helps the show
Cons: Case of the week still contrived
The Bottom Line:
Therapy improves
As Dani joins company
Strong final season




Ironically, this Show Really Improved in Its Final Season

Necessary Roughness was always a hit or miss show for me.  I enjoyed it when it was focusing on the clients, but the instant we went to the main character’s personal life, I lost interest.  I must not have been alone because it always struggled in the ratings on the USA Network.  With season 3, they tried to change things up.  While it didn’t help with the ratings, it certainly made it more enjoyable for me.

If you are new to the show (and you really could jump in here), the show centers around Dr. Dani Santino (Callie Thorne), who, after one high profile client success, became a therapist to the stars.  For the first two seasons, she was also the team therapist for the fiction New York Hawks football team, but a new owner this season fires her.  Also written out as a result is head coach/love interest Matt Donnal (Marc Blucas who guest stars in the first episode this season).

Dani lands on her feet, however, when she is hired by V3, the premier sports and entertainment management company in the country, with clients that include singers, authors, and sports figures in every sport.  Now, Dani is exclusive to them, treating all their clients and only their clients.  And who did they just sign?  TK (Mehcad Brooks), her biggest client from the last two seasons, and a wide receiver for the Hawks.  Also working for V3 is Nico (Scott Cohen), the mystery man who has recently sparked Dani’s interest romantically.  Over the course of the season, Dani helps a self-help author who doesn’t believe in therapy, a struggling singer, an accountant with a secret, and of course TK.

However, things aren’t quite as good as they would appear at V3.  Dani hasn’t been there too long before the company gets into a war with their biggest rival.  Meanwhile, Nico is there investigating suspicious activity for the FCC.  Is Connor (John Stamos), the owner, behind it?  Or is someone else to blame?

As you can see, there is plenty happening in each episode to keep your interest.  The only real change is that the work place drama and ongoing story replaced any and all drama from her personal life.  This was a great change.  I’m sure the point of the personal drama was to show a human side of Dani and prove she didn’t have it all together, but it just never worked for me.

Another positive change came in TK.  Yes, he still messes stuff up and blows it.  However, he seems to have grown quite a bit since we first met him, and I liked him as a result.  At times in the past he was that car wreck you couldn’t stop watching.  This season, he was still far from perfect, but he was definitely learning and growing into a better person.

Of course, my complaint about the formula to the case of the week and the contrived way Dani figured out that client’s issues remains.  The show never did quite overcome that, but it is hard to cure someone in 42 minutes and get to the rest of the plot lines.

The story revolving around V3 was very intriguing.  I wasn’t sure who was doing what to whom most of the time, including Connor and his CFO Troy, as played by recurring guest star David Angers.  If nothing else, I wanted to keep watching just to see what would happen there.

Obviously, the returning actors knew their characters and were able to step into them again with no issues at all.  The new cast blended in just as easily and I never had an issue with the acting.

Fortunately, the producers wrapped up most of the storylines this season.  There were obviously some directions they would have explored had the show been renewed, but there is no cliffhanger and the final episode really works as a series finale.

Season three only consisted of 10 episodes, but there are all here in wide screen and full surround.  Extras include a couple of deleted scenes and a gag reel.

Each of the first two years, I really didn’t care if the show was coming back or not and I debated about watching the new season.  After the third season of Necessary Roughness aired, I was actually hoping for a fourth.  Unfortunately, that never came to be.  But if you watched the first two seasons, definitely give this one a shot.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how they improved the show.

Season 3 Episodes:
1. Ch-Ch-Changes
2. Gimme Some Lovin’
3. Swimming with Sharks
4. Snap Out of It
5. V3 for Vendetta
6. Good Will Haunting
7. Bringing the Heat
8. The Game’s Afoot
9. Sucker Punch
10. Sympathy for the Devil

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review: Do or Diner by Christine Wenger (Comfort Food Mystery #1)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Plot that builds; interesting characters
Cons: A few things that need to be ironed out in later books
The Bottom Line:
Comfort food poisoned
With extra ingredient
Mostly fun debut




As If Taking Over a Business Weren’t Hard Enough

Comfort food.  The very term brings to mind food that isn’t good for you, sometimes served in a greasy diner on the side of the road.  That’s exactly the setting for Do Or Diner, the first in the Comfort Food Mysteries.  While I did take a few issues with the book, overall I did enjoy it.

Looking to change her life, Trixie Matkowski has agreed to buy out her aunt from the family diner.  Located in the town of Sandy Harbor, New York, the diner is a popular place for those looking for old fashioned comfort food.

Her first day as the owner, the health inspector comes to call and dies from poisoned mushrooms in a complementary meal he was eating.  However, the diner has never served mushrooms.  With her new business losing customers fast, Trixie springs in to action to find out who really killed Marvin Cogswell.  Being relatively new to town, can she do it?

I had heard some people complain that the plot was slow, but I didn’t find that to be the case at all.  Yes, the early part of the book did focus a bit more on Trixie not really knowing how to run her new business, but the murder was never really in the background, and as the book continued, the murder took center stage more.  It builds to a suspenseful climax that I only partially figured out.

The cast of characters could have been a tad better developed, but I’m being picky here.  They were strong enough to keep me engaged in the story and care about the outcome.  I’m sure as the series progresses, the characters will get stronger.

Having said that, I do have some issues with the book.  Trixie’s constant discussion of how good Ty, the deputy and her new neighbor, looks and then commenting on how she wasn’t paying attention, got old.  It was cute at first, but not by the end.

I really felt like the time in the book was fluid.  At times, it seemed to rush by, and at other times Trixie had time to interview multiple suspects in the same morning.  Or maybe I was just distracted by the fact that Trixie hardly slept.  Honestly, she would have collapsed by some point before it was over.  (Or maybe that’s just how tired I get.)  I will point out the timing of the epilogue was certainly off for what was supposedly happening.

And yes, there are recipes.  There are several delicious sounding desserts but the pot roast and pork and scalloped potatoes sound equally good.

Overall, I’m glad I didn’t listen to others and read Do Or Diner for myself.  My complaints are really minor; this was a fun debut in what could become a strong series.

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Nightstand - Summer 2014

It is the fourth Tuesday of the month (or close enough) which means it is time for What's on Your Nightstand.

This has been another great month of reading.  We will see if it continues since I am a TV addict and the new fall season is starting this week.  Watch for my recaps of Once Upon a Time and Castle starting next week when they return.  (And if you like TV as well, be sure to join my new meme Weekly TV Thoughts.)

But enough TV talk and shameless self promotion.  We're here to talk about books.

Tonight, I just finished rereading Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief.  This is the 10th in the series, and I really enjoyed getting a chance to revisit the story.  Honestly, it had been so long I'd mostly forgotten what happened in the book, so it was lots of fun  For those who are not familiar with Mrs. Pollifax, she is a grandmother, garden club member, and part time CIA agent.  (BTW, her boss at the CIA is named Carstairs, in case you were wondering about my user name.)  Her adventures are suspenseful yet plenty of fun with some good humor mixed in along the way.  My review of the book should be up on Friday.

Tomorrow, I will be delving into the world of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates with Terror of the Southlands, the second in this series.  It features a talking gargoyle, magic, and a young female pirate captain.  I read the first one last year and absolutely fell in love with it.

After that, it will be Raging Heat, the latest Nikki Heat book by "Richard Castle."  If you aren't familiar with this series, these are the books that the character on the TV show Castle is supposedly writing.  There are fun nods to the series, but they've turned into a great series on their own.

Also on deck will be the latest short story anthology from Chesapeake Crimes.  This collection features short stories set on various holidays, including Halloween and Christmas, but also President's Day and Talk Like a Pirate Day.  I've taken this one on to review, and I'm looking forward to it.

Also this month, I hope to get to a reread of A Model Murder by Sandy Dengler and read for the first time Stirring the Plot by Daryl Wood Gerber and The Legend of Sleepy Harlow by Kylie Logan.  Plus there are a few other books I want to read.  Obviously, it's going to be another busy reading month.

TV on DVD Review: Royal Pains - Season 5



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun characters and interesting stories
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
A medical show
Compelling by characters
You can’t help but love




"You are a Genius."  "I'm with You So Far."

How do you top a touching and romantic winter wedding?  If you are Royal Pains, you come back with season 5.  Yes, this is a medical mystery show, but by this point I keep watching because of the characters, and I think the writers know that.  This show is more about them than it is about medicine.  Not that I’m complaining.

As this season opens, Hank Lawson (Mark Fueerstein) is returning to work at HankMed after taking some time off work due to his own medical emergency.  He’s trying to ease back into things, but with summer starting up, life is about to come at the small medical practice full tilt.  There’s a professional fund raiser who might be getting sick because of work.  Other patients this season include a shock jock, a candy maker, and an elderly couple.

But I was talking about personal stories.  Obviously, Hank’s health is one that opens the season, but that is quickly eclipsed by Divya (Reshma Setty).  The physician assistant learns that she is pregnant, something she thought we be medically impossible and something that will change all of their lives, especially Dr. Jeremiah Sacani (Ben Shenkman) who has had a secret crush on Divya for a year now.  Evan and Paige (Paulo Costanzo and Brooke D’Orsay) try to adjust to life as a married couple while Evan runs for town council.  And Evan also tries to settle ruffled feathers in the neighborhood that might just get HankMed kicked out of the guest house they’ve used as a home for two years.  Paige’s dreams of being an interior designer seem to be building when she lands a dream internship.  Secrets will be reveals when Hank learns something surprising about their rich benefactor Boris (Recurring guest star Campbell Scott).  Meanwhile, a medical company called Symphony has bought out the hospital and is trying to buy out HankMed as well.

Quite obviously, there is a lot happening.  Some episodes focus more on the characters and their lives with the medical mystery being a sub-plot while others are the reverse.  Either way, the show is always entertaining.  Why?  I love these characters.  Yes, they might have their differences with each other, but at the end of the day, they are there for each other, and that really appeals to me.  Take Paige and Evan.  Their first year of marriage turns out to be rockier than they had expected, so they seek out a councilor to work on their issues.  It was so nice to see a couple commit to each other that quickly (and a relief they didn’t drag out their fighting or tear them apart since I love them together).

I’m generally not a fan of medical mystery shows because I am very squeamish.  This shows has some moments that make me want to turn away, but it’s never for very long and always part of the medical mystery part of the show.  Those storylines are generally formulaic, but they are still fun and mysterious and I enjoy them, too.  Granted, I find the stories with the main characters more compelling, but the two are combined so well it works perfectly for me.

The cast does a perfect job of bringing their characters to life each week.  The chemistry is perfect between every one, and I enjoy watching them interact with each other.  I don’t know for sure that they all have fun together behind the scenes, but it sure seems like they do based on what we see.  The star stars fit seamlessly into this world and are just as good at bringing their characters to life.

Season 5 consisted of 13 episodes, and they are all presented here in their native wide screen and full surround on three discs.  And we can’t have a set without a few deleted scenes and a gag reel, can we?

Because the characters are such a huge part of why I love Royal Pains, I suggest starting from the beginning and working your way up to season 5 if you haven’t seen it before.  But if you are already a fan, you’ll want to dive in and enjoy these episodes over and over again.

Season 5 Episodes:
1. HankWatch
2. Blythe Spirits
3. Lawson Translation
4. Pregnant Paws
5. Vertigo
6. Can of Worms
7. Chock Full O’ Nuts
8. Hammertime
9. Pins and Needles
10. Game of Phones
11. Open Invitation
12. A Trismus Story
13. Bones to Pick

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ornament Review: Scout Trooper - Stars Wars #18 - 2014 Hallmark Ornament



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Creative way to get Troopers into the series, okay overall
Cons: Bit plain over all (like the characters themselves)
The Bottom Line:
Trooper scouting for
A place on your Christmas tree
Won’t you hang him up?




Hallmark Comes Up with a Way to Almost Slip a Neglected Character into the Official Star Wars Series

Honestly, I’m not quite sure what Hallmark was thinking back in the late 90’s when they started the official Star Wars ornament series.  They went ahead and released several very popular characters as standalone pieces.  Over the years, they’ve managed to work a couple of those back into the series by pairing them with another character or giving them some other bonus (or both).  Now they come to the Storm Troopers, er, I mean Scout Trooper.  Yes, that’s how finicky they are being, but it’s a difference die hard fans will love.

While I do like the movies (hence me collecting the series) (and yes, I just used hence in a review), I must admit I had to do a little research on what a Scout Trooper even was.  Turns out, these are the smaller troops who were superior marksmen and were the advance party on Endor in the third film.  (The real third film – Return of the Jedi).  Think sharpshooter Marines to regular infantry men.  Turns out, they were the ones on the speeders in the redwood forest scene and not regular Storm Troopers.  Shows all I know.

To the casual observer, you’d never realize these were different characters.  They are still all decked out in white with black in the middle and on their joints.  Their arms and upper thighs are black while on a traditional Storm Trooper they are white.  This particular Scout Trooper is standing on a patch of brown and holding a small gun in his hands for the pose for this ornament.

Now, if you are a casual fan or collector and don’t have the previous Storm Trooper ornament, this will easily fill in the hole in your Star Wars collection.  No one but you will even know the difference.  Trust me.  And he looks good representing either type of Trooper.  The gun in smaller, there is more black, and the mask is more compact as well.  But seriously, few people are even going to know unless you tell them.  This ornament is almost more of an off white – in fact the shows have lots of tan on them – because this Scout has obviously been out in the field getting dirty while he scouted

Because of that patch of ground, the Scout stands up just fine, meaning you can hang him on your tree or display him year round.  The series marker is on the bottom of this patch of ground – in this case an 18 in a Christmas tree.

The little loop for hanging this Scout is on the pack on his back.  As a result, he tips forward slightly, but only the most critical will notice.

This is a base where die hard fans will be overjoyed to get a rare character but casual fans won’t really know the difference.  For those wanting a true Scout Trooper on their tree, they will be overjoyed with this addition to the series.  The casual fan might skip it thinking they already have the character, although they should put more thought into it since the variation does make it unique.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Star Wars ornament series

Original Price: $17.95

Saturday, September 20, 2014

September 20th's Weekly TV Thoughts

I promised you this would be a slow week, and it was, at least for me.  I do know a few new shows premiered and a few summer shows ended, so if you watched any of them, feel free to comment or link up to your posts.

Not exactly sure what this is all about?  Feel free to check out my introduction last week.

Next week, I've got so many shows premiering it isn't even funny.  But for now here are my thoughts on what little I did watch this week.  (On the other hand, it made for a great reading week.)

Dancing with the Stars – There were some pretty impressive first dances.  It will be interesting to see how they do when they only have one week to prepare instead of 3 weeks.  Still, this is shaping up to be a pretty amazing season.  The quality just seems to increase every year.  And then there were the ones at the bottom.  Frankly, I felt sorry for both of the bottom two, and especially Lola who could do the step but messed it up during the routine.  I have to admire someone who is so hard on herself.  Even worse than the judges, she was her harshest critic.

American Ninja Warrior – This just goes to show what I was saying.  No one had finished stage 3 on American soil, and then once people started doing it, several people do.  Of course, they were rock climbers, so that certainly helps.  Just I wonder just what has happened to the Japanese team twice?  Is it that the American course is harder?  Or is it nerves?  Bad luck?  Something else?

Girl Meets World – Ok, seriously, what is the fascination with the 60’s?  Would Cory really be that into the decade?  I can get why his parents and grandparents (and the creators/writers on the show) would be, but Cory?  Even that aside, I didn’t find this episode as charming or funny as normal, although the final scene where the final connections from 1961 came together was good.  But their first true clunker after 7 or 8 – that’s not bad at all.  Next week looks pretty good.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Review: Foul Play at the Fair by Shelley Freydont (Celebration Bay Mysteries #1)



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Rich characters and a mystery you truly care about
Cons: Only if you don’t enjoy festivals
The Bottom Line:
Harvest festival
Finds Liz juggling murder
Richly developed




Debut Worth Celebrating

At some point in the last 12 months, the Celebration Bay Mysteries truly hit my radar, and I knew I had to check them out.  I mean, seriously, what’s not to love about a town that throws an event for every holiday?  That’s what lead me to Foul Play at the Fair.  After all, with a harvest festival theme, this was the perfect time to read the book, right?

After the mill closed down, Celebration Bay, New York, decided to live up to its name.  The residents keep the local economy going by putting on big events to celebrate the season, no matter what the season might be.  These events have gotten so big that they’ve hired a full time event coordinator, Liz Montgomery, who has gladly moved out of Manhattan and is looking forward to settling in and enjoying her new life.

Unfortunately, her first big event is marred by murder when one of the juggling troop brought in for the harvest festival is found murdered – stuffed in an apple press on a local farm.  Even more shocking is the victim’s true identity.  With ties to the local community, suddenly everyone is looking at each other with suspicion and the future of the festivals is under attack.  Liz knows the only way to save the town she wants to call home is to find the killer.  But can she get anyone to open up to her so she can learn the truth?

You want the truth from me?  I was surprised at how quickly I came to care for these characters.  I felt like this was several books into the series instead of just the first.  I was actually tearing up a few times near the end as the final secrets were being revealed – that’s how much I cared.  It certainly helped that Liz was new to town, and we got to know the characters through her.  She is a strong and sympathetic heroine, and I know that helped draw me in as well.

Needless to say, with characters I cared about that much, I was fully invested in the story.  It felt just a tad slow at the beginning as the characters were being introduced and established, but before I knew it I was turning pages quickly, always upset when I had to put the book down and go back to the real world.  By the end, I didn’t regret any time spent on character introduction and was trying to figure out who the killer might be that wouldn’t leave me upset.  The climax was original and very suspenseful as well.

One thing I appreciated was how the story explored how the characters were feeling about events.  It did this without slowing down the plot in the slightest, but when I saw how everything happening truly affected the characters, it made me that much more invested in the outcome.

Fortunately, the next book in the series is set at Christmas, so I have already included the book in my list of books to read in December.  If it holds up to Foul Play at the Fair, I am in for another fun and exciting mystery with wonderful characters.

And once you visit, you want to read the rest of the Celebration Bay Mysteries in order.

September 19th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

I know I mentioned I started a new job 4 weeks ago.  So far, I'm really happy there, but there are a couple of crazy days during the month, and this month, those days fell on Thursday and Friday.  All that to offer an excuse for why I missed Book Beginning and Friday 56 last week.  But I'm back and ready to go.

This week's book is Do Or Diner by Christine Wenger.




I'm about half way into it, and so far I'm enjoying it.  But this isn't review time (that will be next week for this book).  Instead, let's get to some quotes.

Here's the first sentence:

What on earth did I do?

Now if that doesn't catch you attention, I don't know what will.  It certainly made me want to read more.

From page 56:

"Did you come to arrest me, Deputy Brisco?"
"You know, I liked it better when we were just Ty and Trixie."
"That was before you accused me of being a murderer."

Okay, so I did a little editing out of the action of the characters, but that is a fun exchange without Trixie doing some cooking in the kitchen of her diner.

Have a great weekend, all.  Personally, I get to do a mud run tomorrow.  First one since June, and I can't wait.

Meanwhile, I've like to invite you back for my own new weekly Meme.  It's not book related but story related - Weekly TV Thoughts.  You can follow that link to read more about it.  I know the TV season doesn't start in earnest until next week (I hardly had any TV to watch myself this week), but feel free to jump in this week or next week or whenever you want to join.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ornament Review: Cookie Cutter Christmas #3 - Christmas Caroling - 2014 Hallmark Ornament



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great scene framed by an appropriate shape
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Singing in a bell
Mouse gives us this next cute scene
Outstanding series




Christmas Caroling Inside a Bell

While I collect many of Hallmark’s ornament series, there are a few that are easily my favorites.  One of those is Cookie Cutter Christmas.  This series is just so incredibly cute.  And the 2014 entry is another perfect example of why.

This series features a mouse doing something Christmassy from inside a cookie cutter.  This year’s shape is a bell.  And the mouse?  He’s going door to door singing Christmas carols.  He’s currently standing in front of a door with his music in front of him singing his heart out.

This scene would be cute enough, but what makes it sweeter is that the landscape is made out of treats.  The house where he is caroling is a gingerbread house.  The bush out front is a cupcake.  The doormat is a bar of chocolate and the light pole behind him looks like the straight part of a candy cane.  The snow he’s standing on is really frosting, and a little bit of it is leaking out of the bottom of the bell.

All this combines to give us a very cute scene.  It would be great as it is, but I think it is even better because it is in the bell cookie cutter shape.  Or maybe I’m just in awe because I couldn’t imagine coming up with something so detailed and great looking that fits inside a certain shape and still looks great.  Plus, for this year, we’ve got our mouse singing while inside a musical instrument.  How perfect is that?

Because the ornament is shaped like a bell, this isn’t an ornament you can stand to display.  You’ll definitely be using the hook on the top of the ornament, and when you do, you’ll find that it hangs straight.

This is the third official piece in the series (there have already been two companion pieces).  As a result, you’ll find a 3 in a Christmas three on the back side of the cutter along with the handle.  This is supposed to be a cookie cutter, remember?

The small details and the creativity make this a winning series, and 2014's Cookie Cutter Christmas continues the trend.  You’ll definitely be glad you got this great ornament.

Be sure to check out the other cute ornaments in the Cookie Cutter Christmas series.

Original Price: $12.95

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TV on DVD Review: Friends - Season Six



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Still plenty of laughs and fun moments
Cons: The one that is an ad for Pottery Barn
The Bottom Line:
Six friends, more great laughs
As characters keep growing
And writing sparkles




The One with Musical Roommates

Like many shows that are on the air a long time, Friends declined in quality somewhere along the way.  Mind you, I always enjoyed it, but I think every fan will agree the early seasons were the best.  For some reason, I had in my mind that season six is when the quality went downhill.  Having just rewatched the season, I can say I found it very funny and enjoyable with no loss of quality at all.

This season picks up where the last one ended – Vegas.  Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) have just gotten married!  However, it was a huge drunk mistake.  When the gang arrives back in New York, that means that Ross has to get divorce number three, something that is a running joke for the rest of the season.

Also on the return to New York, Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Monica (Courtney Cox Arquette) decide to move in together.  And so some of the most stable roommates on the show so far get switched up.  Rachel winds up moving in with Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) while Joey (Matt LeBlanc) searches for a new one.  For a little while, it’s hot dancer Janine (recurring guest star Elle MacPherson).

As the season progresses, Chandler and Monica figure out living under the same roof.  Ross gets a new job teaching at a university and finds a forbidden romance with one of his students, Elizabeth (guest star Alexandra Holden).  Phoebe and Rachel have a tragedy at their apartment.  Joey’s lack of a roommate forces him to take a job at Central Perk.  We meet one of Rachel’s sisters (guest star Reese Witherspoon).  Joey might finally land his big acting break, if he can get along with his cheesy co-star.  And the gang spends one hour imaging what might have been if their lives had taken on turn differently.

There may not be quite as many classic moments during the course of this season, but there are still plenty of great laughs.  I laughed through every episode, both the ones I’ve seen several times before and the ones I didn’t really remember.  The characters are still growing and that leads us to some great lines.  The writing hasn’t faltered a bit and things are still crisp and sharp.

Want to know how much we still care for the characters?  Watch the last few minutes of the season finale.  I teared up both times I watched it just now, once without and once with the commentary.  That’s good stuff.

The actors are still at the top of their game as well.  No matter what the writer’s throw at them, they bring it to life with hilarity grounded in reality.  Yes, we still believe what we are seeing even as we laugh along the way.

And as a bit of trivia, this is not only a rare season without a Ross/Rachel cliffhanger, but without a cliffhanger of any kind.

About the only real misstep is one the feels like a giant ad for Pottery Barn.  The idea behind the episode is funny, and if they’d used a generic store I would have loved it.  But as it is, I’m not the biggest fan of the episode.

This season consisted of 25 episodes, but two of them are two parters that aired the same night as “events.”  They are all preserved here on four discs in their native full frame and surround sound.  Frankly, surround doesn’t do much most of the time on a sitcom filmed before a live audience, but it is nice to have.  In the way of extras, we get three audio commentaries, two of them on the two hour long episodes.  (And it explains why Ross wasn’t in that final scene of the finale.)  Frankly, the commentary on the finale was fascinating as the three creators talk about things they almost did in the finale; trust me, it is a great thing that they went with that they did.  The last disc also has a featurette with interviews with four of the recurring guest stars and a very funny gag reel from the season.

The laughs really still are good in season six of Friends.  It’s been too long since I did more than catch a random rerun, and I’d forgotten just how fun the show can be.  Hopefully, I can make some time to dive into the next season’s laughs soon.

Season Six Episodes:
1. The One after Vegas
2. The One Where Ross Hugs Rachel
3. The One with Ross’s Denial
4. The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance
5. The One with Joey’s Porsche
6. The One on the Last Night
7. The One Where Phoebe Runs
8. The One with Ross’s Teeth
9. The One Where Ross Got High
10. The One with the Routine
11. The One with the Apothecary Table
12. The One with the Joke
13. The One with Rachel’s Sister
14. The One Where Chandler Can’t Cry
15. The One That Could Have Been Part 1
16. The One That Could Have Been Part 2
17. The One with Unagi
18. The One Where Ross Dates a Student
19. The One with Joey’s Fridge
20. The One with Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E.
21. The One Where Ross Meets Elizabeth’s Dad
22. The One Where Paul’s the Man
23. The One with the Ring
24. The One with the Proposal Part 1
25. The One with the Proposal Part 2

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review: Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran (Read 'Em and Eat Mysteries #1)



Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters, setting, realistic reactions to death
Cons: Pacing uneven with the plot
The Bottom Line:
Unlikely victim
Leads us to uneven plot
In lovable cast




Plot Doesn’t Live Up to Characters and Setting

Last month, many of the blogs I read were talking about and reviewing Well Read, Then Dead, the first in a new mystery series from Terrie Farley Moran.  Being the rebel that I am, I waited until this month to read it.  (Okay, so it might have had something to do with just not having time to read it myself until this month.)  Unfortunately, I didn’t love it quite as much as everyone else did.

When life threw them lemons, Sassy and Bridgy headed south.  The lifelong friends went from New York to Florida and opened a combination café and bookstore called Read ‘Em and Eat on the Barrier Island of Fort Myers Beach.  Over the last few years, they’ve made friends, especially through the book clubs that Sassy runs.

Which is why it is upsetting and shocking when Delia Batson turns up dead one morning.  Even more surprising is that it was murder.  Delia was a quiet woman who would never cross anyone if she could help it.  When her cousin, Augusta, asks Sassy to look into the murder, she begins to stick her nose into the investigation.  But what will she find?

Many people praised the characters and setting, and that much is completely true.  These were real people, and I enjoyed spending time with them.  Likewise, I loved the setting and would enjoy visiting in real life.  Unlike many of the books I read, the murder affected quite a few people, and I enjoyed seeing them deal with their grief.  This was handled realistically without being depressing for us and was a refreshing and realistic change.

However, that was one of the things that helped slow down the plot.  Overall, I felt like the pacing should have been tighter with more investigating happening earlier in the book.  Now this isn’t to say there weren’t some twists to the story, I was surprised a time or two before we reached the logical ending.  And the climax was definitely one of the more creative ones to come along.  I loved it! 

Of course, we can’t have a mystery set in a café without a recipe, right?  In this case, there’s a recipe for buttermilk pie at the end.  I’ve never had that kind of pie, but it sure sounds delicious.

With a tighter paced plot, Well Read, Then Dead would have been a winner.  I’m hoping things improve in the sequel because I really did love the characters enough to revisit them.