Sunday, January 31, 2016

Candy Review: Strawberry Shortcake M&M










Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Delicious strawberry flavor; look great
Cons: Too much white chocolate flavor at the end
The Bottom Line:
A bold new flavor
With too much white chocolate
To be next classic

Shorter than I’d Hope For in the Taste Department

I have a serious weakness for candy, and I love trying out new favorites from brands I like, so when I found out that M&M’s were creating two new flavors for Valentine’s Day this year, I had to give them a shot.  Target got the exclusive right to sell the White Strawberry Shortcake M&M's, which aren’t bad, but they aren’t that good either.

The first thing you notice when you open the bag is the smell.  The strawberry is very overwhelming, and I was afraid that it would be too much.  So I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t.  Yes, it is artificial strawberry flavoring, but it tastes pretty good.  What is a disappointment is the white chocolate base of the candy.  That aspect of the candy overwhelms at the end, and it just doesn’t work with the strawberry flavor we got earlier.  It’s not so bad I’d never have these again, but I also wouldn’t rush out and buy them next year.  I think they were trying for the cake and whipped cream part of strawberry shortcake, but they missed.

I’ve got to say the color pallet of these M&M’s is wonderful.  The bag is filled with little pink, cream, and white candies, perfectly capturing the idea of strawberry shortcake.

I do like white chocolate, but in this case, it just doesn’t quite work with the candy.  White Strawberry Shortcake M&M's aren’t truly bad, but they aren’t all that great either.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ornament Review: Cheshire Cat - Art of Disney Animation #4 - 2015 Disney Store Ornament



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great pose taken from the film
Cons: A couple of small manufacturing defects
The Bottom Line:
Standing on your head
New meaning given in this
Moment from the film




Standing on His Head for Your Tree

While Alice in Wonderland (both the book and Disney’s animated movie) is filled with wacky character, the Cheshire Cat is one of the strangest.  A cat that can disappear and reappear?  Not something you see every day, even in fantasy.  And one of his other parlor tricks is captured in this ornament in the Art of Disney Animation series from The Disney Store.

When we first meet this character, he is showing off for Alice, and one thing he asks is, “Can you stand on your head?”  And that’s just what he’s doing on this ornament – standing on his head.  Of course, he’s not going it in the way you or I would mean if we did.  His head is detached from the rest of his body, and he is literally standing on it with one foot.  The other is pointing off to the side and his arms are up in the air.

And that right there is enough to make me smile since it’s a pun and it’s such a fun throw away moment in the movie.  It helps that the sculpt is good.  It captures the look of the character and this moment.  And the circular base of the ornament is decorated to look like a formal collar you’d expect to see in the film as well.

Unfortunately, the one I got has an obvious blob of glue connecting his head to the base of the ornament.  I don’t know if this was a universal problem or not since these were only sold online, but it certainly takes away from the charm of the piece.  Additionally, there’s a bump or something up where his neck should be (if he weren’t standing on his head, of course) that definitely doesn’t belong.

That circular base allows you to display this ornament year round if you so desire and have the space to do so.  It would certainly be a fun piece to have out.  If you want to hang it on your tree, you’ll find a red ribbon already through the loop on Cheshire Cat’s shoulder.  With how he’s balanced on his head, it’s not too surprising to find that he tips slightly to the right.  But with how he is standing, it’s hard to tell unless you are looking for it.

While I already have the Cheshire Cat in my ornament collection, I couldn’t resist getting him again because of the very fun pose here.  Anyone who likes this character will be thrilled add this ornament to their collection.

Original Price: $19.95

Love Disney animation?  You'll want to check out the rest of the Art of Disney Animation ornament series.

January 30th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Another week, another show back.  Boy, was I looking forward to Suits coming back, but we'll get to that in a minute.

Galavant – I laughed so many times at this episode, but I think my favorite line was the Princess Bride reference, probably because I was thinking about it when the episode started.  And so many self-referential moments, like when the battle will take place, how long the cat fight had been coming – Loved them!  Could have done without the kiss and tell song, but that was the only blight on the night.

Supergirl – So the Supergirl team is getting their own jail for aliens ala what they do on The Flash.  Interesting.  I had forgotten that Cat had an older son, but I liked seeing how that progressed, and I think it will be interesting watching the awkward date in the future.  But I loved what they did with Hank this episode, giving him more backstory and allowing the woman to talk him down from making the wrong decision.  Of course, that won’t be the worst of the consequences he faces for his actions.

The Flash – So we got one last episode with Patty, and I loved her scenes.  The goodbye was especially good.  In fact, there was a lot of great emotion in this episode.  And it was interesting have Reverse Flash back in the mix, too.  I’m wondering which side Wells is on, still, and if we can cure Jay or not.  So much going on, and I’m enjoying so much of it.

Agent Carter – So now I’m thinking this zero matter stuff isn’t the same stuff from Agents of SHIELD.  Or at least it’s acting very differently.  So fun to see Stark being Stark.  Glad the one scientist isn’t really dead, just temporarily a ghost.  But what has it done to the actress?  That can’t be good for her or anyone else at all.

Team Ninja Warrior – Okay, I think I got the format down now.  Round one is just for show, but round two is all that counts as is the relay.  The sub for the finals lives in my town!  So many close moments, it really is a fun twist on the show to watch.

Arrow – The scenes between Felicity and Felicity were a lot of fun, and I like how she worked through her issues.  I thought that was some nice character development for her.  Glad to see Diggle’s relationship with his brother smoothing out as well.  Although I’m wondering if Andy will be the one in the grave.  I’m trying to remember if it is a regular cast member or not.  Of course, since it doesn’t sound like the writers have decided yet, my guessing might be a moot point.

Suits – That hour just flew by!  So glad to finally get the next chapter of what happens to Mike and the fallout from it.  Sounds like we are just waiting for a season ending cliffhanger, but glad we have five more episodes to watch this story unfold.

Legends of Tomorrow – What?  I’m in shock over Carter’s death.  I was not expecting that to happen at all.  Was he only in two episodes?  Or how will we find him again?  Meanwhile, I don’t get how Atom’s device was so close to the college.  That was pure coincidence.  Probably covered in a cut scene since there was once again a lot crammed into that episode.  I mean, seriously, so many characters and three stories?  Completely enjoyed it, but boy that is a lot.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Movie Review: Terminator Genisys



Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Great action scenes and special effects
Cons: Confusing story that negates much of the franchise and leaves some major questions
The Bottom Line:
Another sequel
Nothing truly new to say
Easy to skip it




“Time Travel Makes My Head Hurt.”

I spent last summer watching the Terminator movies for the first time, fully intending to finish off the run by watching Terminator Genisys, the sequel/reboot that launched into theater this summer.  I didn’t wind up making it to the theater to see it, but that might have been a good thing in this case.

The movie starts off in the not so distant future as humans are finally about to win the war on the machines.  However, that means that the machines are about to send the terminator back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor.  So her son, John Connor (Jason Clarke) prepares to send his friend Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect Sarah (Emilia Clarke).

As any fan of the franchise knows, that’s exactly the premise of the first film.  And there are some nice nods to that original movie in the early scenes when Kyle arrives.  However, he quickly determines that there is a T-1000 Terminator (Byung-hun Lee) also running around in the past and in fact it is Sarah who saves Kyle.  She is working with her Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a reprogrammed terminator who came back to save her even earlier in her life.  But when it is determined that they might be able to stop this madness once and for all by traveling to 2017, the sparks really begin to fly.  Can they agree on the plan?  Will they be able to save the day?

There is a reason I pulled the particular quote from the movie as the title of this film.  Yes, time travel makes the head hurt of anyone who tries to think about the plot of a movie like this logically.  We are set up with alternative time lines and we just have to accept what they are telling us.  I think there are probably a plot whole or two big enough to drive a school bus through, but I decided to just go with it.

Unfortunately, that’s not the biggest problem with the film.  This is now the fifth film in the franchise, and we are still seeing the exact same story unfold.  Oh, there are variations on the theme, but essentially, this is the same story told again and again.  I know, sequels are never completely original, but this franchise is one of the worst about it.

And that’s not to mention the twist in the film that pretty much negates everything we’ve been trying to accomplish in the franchise.  I know they were going for different and shocking, but I just didn’t like it.

Then there’s the fact that they left a huge question hanging.  I’m sure they intend to address that in any sequels planned for this film.  If this were a normal franchise, I might let that slide like I did with the recent Star Wars film, but let’s think about it for a moment.  This is only the fifth Terminator film and the first came out in 1984.  Furthermore, the last film was supposed to be the start of a new trilogy, but it got abandoned in favor of this reboot.  So how are we supposed to trust them to come back and answer these questions?

Then there’s the acting, which is passable at best.  No, I’ve never expected anything outstanding from this franchise, but this one seems especially weak in that department.

Of course, if you are watching this film for the action, you will be highly rewarded.  There are several wonderful action sequences that will leave you on the edge of your seat.  Going along with that, the special effects are outstanding.

But that’s pretty much the only reason to watch the film.  The story barely holds the action together and it will leave fans of the franchise who are looking for any kind of decent story frustrated.  Terminator Genisys is by far the weakest film in the series to date.

January 29th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Time for the last Book Beginning and Friday 56 of the month.  How did we get here already?

My book this week is A Disguise to Die For by Diane Vallere.



This is the first in a new series that goes on sale on Tuesday.  And I will have a review and giveaway for it up on Tuesday, so I hope you'll come back to see what I thought.  (Spoiler alert - I loved it!!!!!)

And it grabbed me from the very beginning with this as the opening:

"Give me the knife," demanded the cranky man in the wheelchair.
"I don't think so," I said.
"I'm not playing, Margo.  Give me the knife."

Kind of hooks you, doesn't it?

Moving on to page 56, we find:

The only explanation I had of her behavior was that she was guilty of something.  Could that something be murder?  Lover's quarrel or jealous rage?  Add in that she was planning on a morning of tennis the day after her fiance had been murdered, and something was rotten in the state of Denmark - or Nevada, as the case may be.

I do hope you'll come back on Tuesday to find out more.  In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Review: Classified as Murder by Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks Mysteries #2)



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery and enjoyable characters
Cons: A little slow to get started
The Bottom Line:
Rare book collection
Was it motive for murder?
Have fun finding out




Why Did I Wait So Long to Return to This Series?

It’s been almost two years since I read the first book in the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries.  I loved it, and I fully did intend to read Classified as Murder before now.  (Although in my defense, I did read the two books in the spin off series.)  I was very happy to return to revisit librarian Charlie Harris and his cat Diesel in this charming sequel.

In addition to his work at the Athena College in the rare book room, Charlie also volunteers at the local public library.  It’s through his work at the library that he’s come to know James Delacorte.  They are on a friendly basis, but nothing more, which is why Charlie is a bit surprised when James asks for his help.  It seems that James is a private collector who has amassed a huge collection of rare books.  However, he thinks someone has stolen something from his collection, and he wants Charlie’s expertise to help find if something was stolen and what it is.

As a result of this request, Charlie meets James’s family, an odd and greedy lot who seem to constantly be at each other’s throats.  However, Charlie doesn’t expect to return from lunch on his first day to find James murdered.  With a possible motive for the murder being a theft from James’s private library, Charlie has to keep on the job.  Had someone stolen a rare book?

It’s actually funny.  In reading the authors two Southern Ladies Mysteries, I commented on how both felt like modern day Agatha Christie stories.  In this book, Charlie himself, our narrator and a huge mystery fan, beat me to the punch.  That comparison is definitely true and that’s not a bad thing at all.

I will say the mystery started out a little slowly.  We needed time to get Charlie involved with the Delacorte family and meet the possible suspects.  There is also a sub-plot introduced involving Charlie’s grown son Sean, who has arrived unexpectedly for a visit.  There is tension here, but not as much as I would have liked.

That changes once the murder takes place.  At this point, we are in for a great ride as Charlie starts looking for clues in addition to any missing books.  The twists and red herrings kept me guessing until the killer was revealed at the end, and the climax was wonderful.

The cast of characters is strong.  We don’t have too many returning characters from the previous book, but that gives us more page time to get to know the suspects.  They are all memorable characters, and that makes it much harder to figure out who done it.  Charlie gets some great character development in this book, and I also liked seeing his relationship with the police grow here.

While I was expecting the tension that developed once the murder happened, I wasn’t expecting the laughs.  We got a couple of them over the course of the book, and some of that came from the antics of the animals.  Charlie owns a Maine Coons cat named Diesel, and Sean shows up with his dog Dante.  Both steal any scene they are in and will completely steal your heart.  They did mine, and I’m not much of an animal person.

My goal for this year is to read several books in this series, so I need to build on this great start.  I’m expecting all of them to be as enjoyable as Classified as Murder.

And if you need to catch up on the series, here are the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries in order.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ornament Review: Pinocchio 75th Anniversary - 2015 Hallmark Ornament



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great looking ornament with a clip from a famous song
Cons: I do wish it had a different song clip
The Bottom Line:
Anniversary
Brings us this great ornament
Famous song and all




My Enjoyment of This Ornament Comes with Strings Attached

2015 saw anniversaries for several of Disney’s animated movies, and Hallmark did their best of honor them with various ornaments, sometimes even more than one per movie.  That was the case with Pinocchio, which got two.  One of them harkens back the beginning of the film and even includes the best known song.

The ornament captures Pinocchio at the very beginning of the film.  He’s still a puppet, and an inanimate puppet at that.  Heck, he even still has strings.  The ornament finds him as a marionette, with strings attached to the handles that make him move.  He is captured in a fun pose with his arms out and one foot in the air.  The handle is attached to a holder, and Pinocchio himself is standing on a circular stand with 75 Years of Pinocchio on the front.

This is a magic ornament, which is this case means sound.  Press the button on the side of the ornament, and you’ll hear a just under 30 second clip of Jiminy Cricket singing “When You Wish Upon a Star,” one of the best known songs from the Disney musical canon period.  Naturally, this requires batteries to run, but you are in luck since your first set of two is included with the ornament.

And I must admit that song is my only complaint with the ornament.  Whenever I see the ornament, the song “I’ve Got No Strings” from later in the movie pops into my head.  And that’s the song I want to hear.  Oh, I know that “When You Wish Upon a Star” is the most famous song from the film and an appropriate song to play since it opens the movie and Pinocchio is a puppet on strings at the beginning of the movie.  But I want the other song!

Who ever said DisNerds had to be rational all the time anyway?

That complaint aside, this is a very good ornament.  It captures Pinocchio so well and it just looks great.  Heck, he arms even wiggle when you jiggle the handle connected to the strings, although this is designed as a decoration and not a toy and if you jiggle it too much, I’m sure it would break.  And yes, the quality of the sound clip is great as well.

With that nice circular base, I’m sure it’s no surprise that the ornament can be set out to be enjoyed year round.  And since there is nothing completely Christmassy about it, that’s a great thing.  Of course, if you choose to hang it on your tree, you’ll find the loop in top of the stand that Pinocchio is hanging from.  Slip a hook through it, and you’ll find that he hangs straight.

My silly complaint aside, I do love this ornament, song and all.  This is a great way to celebrate Pinocchio's 75th Anniversary for many years to come.

Original Price: $22.95

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review: Slayed on the Slopes by Kate Dyer-Seeley (Pacific Northwest Mysteries #2)



Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Great characters
Cons: Uneven plotting
The Bottom Line:
Remote cabin death
An uneven mystery
Saved by characters




Murder in a Blizzard

Outdoor settings don’t seem to be super popular themes for cozy mysteries.  (I mean, if I gained or lost weight based on the books I’d read, I’d be in more trouble than I already am.)  One of the few series trying to fill that void is the Pacific Northwest mysteries by Kate Dyer-Seeley.  Slayed on the Slopes is the second book, but it has some problems.

Meg Reed has been working hard to fit in at her new job for Northern Extreme magazine, even going so far as to sign up for survival classes from the Crag Rats, a group that specializes in search and rescue.  The Crag Rats are planning to start an offshoot that would offer their services as guides to those who want to climb to the summit of Mount Hood, and Meg figures that their training would make for an interesting article, so she tags along on a weekend retreat at the Silcox Hut near the top of Mount Hood.

However, when she arrives, Meg quickly finds that the group is filled with tension.  Ben Rogers, who is financing the new group, has a huge ego, and none of the rest of the men like him.  A blizzard hits, trapping them in the cabin, but when Meg takes a quick trip outside, she thinks she hears a gun shot.  The next morning, she finds she is right when a dead body is found in the snow.  Which of these outdoorsmen is a killer?

The real problem with this book is the pacing.  The book starts off very slowly with some extraneous scenes that could have easily been cut.  Once we arrive at the cabin, the pace picks up, and I must say the climax had my palms sweaty.  However, again, the pacing was off again at the end, and that is all I will say to avoid spoiling anything.

Since the book takes place away from Portland, the author needed to work in Meg’s friends somehow, however, the way she did that felt a bit too forced.  Their presence did provide for movement on a couple of threads that carried over from the first book, and they were certainly interesting.  In fact, I am quite confused (in a good way) where one of these threads is going, and I really do want to know about that part of Meg’s recent past.

Because here’s the thing that is a strength for the book – the characters.  I like Meg.  She reminds me a bit too much of me when it comes to outdoors stuff, so I can sympathize when she gets in over her head.  Her friends are a great bunch as well so I was happy to see them pop up, and I love how they have her back.  The suspects were appropriately mysterious and helped keep me confused about the outcome.

The back of the book provides some survival tips as well as more detail about some of the places mentioned in the book.  It’s fun to learn a bit more about this area of the country.

It’s a shame the mystery in Slayed on the Slopes isn’t stronger because I really do want to love these books.  I’m curious enough about Meg’s life to pick up the next in the series; hopefully, the mystery will be stronger.

Here are the rest of the Pacific Northwest Mysteries in order.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Short Story Collection Review: Edgar Allan Cozy by Various Authors



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Modern twists on some Poe stories
Cons: Could have been longer
The Bottom Line:
Short stories redone
Slightly lighter, more modern
Great tribute to Poe




Should You Skip This Collect?  Nevermore!

What do you do when a group of your favorite authors put out a short story collection?  You make reading it a priority, especially when they offer you a copy.  That automatically bumped Edgar Allan Cozy written by several of the Wicked Cozy authors and two accomplices to the top of my TBR list last week.  It’s a short collection released to honor Edgar Allan Poe by offering a contemporary cozy spin on some of his stories.  Even though I’m not super familiar with his work, I still enjoyed this collection.

The collection actually begins and ends with poems, and up first is Barbara Ross’s poem “Raven.”  Could they really offer a collection without a new take on the classic poem?  My poetry is horrid, so my hat is off to Barbara as she expertly weaves a new tale of a man and a telephone scam with the same rhythm and rhyme structure of the original poem.

Closing out the collection is an equally great poem, this time by Sherry Harris.  “Anna, Bella, and Lee” tells the story of a twisted love triangle.  And yes, I am just as impressed with her ability to weave a new story into a set poetic pattern.

In between these two poems, we get four short stories, all taking place in the town of Raven Harbor, Maine.  (These are the Wicked Cozy authors, after all, who set their stories in New England.)  And if you think that’s fun, watch for some other references in “The Lighthouse,” the first of these stories.  Sherry Harris, the only author with two entries in this collection kicks things off with a writer who is on a mission to find out what happened to her great-great-grandfather, who disappeared from this town.  The thing is, no one is town is even willing to talk to her.  This one was felt like it had a rushed ending, but I certainly didn’t see it coming.

“Found in a Bottle” by Sheila Connolly is up next, and this one finds a distraught young man paying for drinks for a sailor who spins some great yarns.  I definitely haven’t read the Poe story that inspired this tale, but I can imagine this being quite interesting.  The reveal on this one is a lot of fun.

Edith Maxwell’s “An Intolerable Intrusion” is a modern take on “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  This is one of the few Poe stories I distinctly remember reading, and Edith does a great job of bring it to the modern age.  In fact, I’d say her modern twist on things in brilliant.

The final story in the collection is “Within These Walls” by Sadie Hartwell, the story of a woman who plans the ultimate revenge on a cheating husband.  I completely enjoyed this one as well.

I can tell from reading these stories that Poe is definitely dark.  These stories don’t shy away from that at all, and yet they clearly have that cozy touch.  Not being super familiar with Poe’s work, I’m sure there are many parallels and nods I missed, but I completely enjoyed the collection for what it was – some fun short mystery stories in homage to a master of the genre.

With just four short stories and two poems, this is definitely a short collection.  I think I probably read it in right around an hour (I didn’t sit down and read it straight through).  It’s a fun collection as is, but I wouldn’t have minded another couple of stories.

Whether you are a diehard Poe fan or not super familiar with his work, you’ll find something to enjoy in Edgar Allan Cozy.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this collection in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Book Review: The Mystery of the Vanishing Victim by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #33)



Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Creative mystery, decent characters
Cons: Mystery is really a sub-plot
The Bottom Line:
Hit and run victim
A creative mystery
That is not focused




The Plot, Like the Victim, Vanishes for Much of the Book

While I am a confirmed read in order person today, I wasn’t always that way.  As a kid, I would read books in whatever order I could find them.  When I found Trixie Belden, I read many books in the first half of the series, and then wound up jumping straight to book 33, The Mystery of the Vanishing Victim.  It was a bit of a jarring experience, but even as an adult I find this book has flaws.

Trixie Belden and the rest of her friends are working on putting together a rummage sale to benefit the town’s hospital.  When they get a donation of an antique car, they are shocked and thrilled, until it breaks down on the way home.  A stranger stops to help them only to be the victim of a hit and run as soon as he leaves them.  While he recovers from his injuries in the hospital, Trixie can’t help but wonder if he was hit on purpose.  Who was he?  And what is he doing in Sleepyside?

Whenever I describe this series to people unfamiliar with it, I explain that Trixie Belden is similar to the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, only with better characters.  One of those difference is that Trixie actually gets a birthday in book 10.  When I jumped to book 33, I expected to find that another year or two had gone by, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that Trixie was still fourteen and the oldest of her friends hadn’t gone off to college yet.  Of course, now I know that she was lucky to become fourteen at all since they froze the character’s ages in the rest of the series.

Leaving that all aside, I still don’t find myself drawn into this book.  It’s a shame because there is a very creative mystery happening behind the scenes.  However, much of the book focuses on the rummage sale and the efforts to bring in lots of donations.  Furthermore, the title gives away a key plot point that doesn’t happen until the second half of the book, and we get a rush of exposition at the end.  Everything makes sense at the end, and I love what the author tried to do, but the execution left much to be desired.

While the characters don’t have quite the personality they do early in the series, I do find that they are fairly faithful to their personalities in this book.  There are no pod characters or moments that make you think the author doesn’t really know them.

The books in the series have often referenced previous books in the series in an attempt to get you to buy them, but this one gives away a bigger chunk than normal of one of the books.  Believe me, I wish I’d read The Mystery of the Ghostly Galleon before I read this one.  I also think there is a reference to the next book in the series as a mystery that has been already solved, too.  I know they worked on multiple books in the series at a time this late in the series, but this is the first time I remember seeing that happen.

Because of how slow this book is, I can’t recommend The Mystery of the Vanishing Victim to anyone but die hard Trixie Belden fans.  It’s not a bad entry, but it’s not all that great, either.

Looking for more of Trixie's cases?  Here are the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Movie Review: Real Murders - An Aurora Teagarden Mystery


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery
Cons: Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
A murder fan clubs
Stalked by a real murderer
Delightful puzzle




Murder Hits Really Close to Home

I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a club of people who meet to discuss real life murders, but that’s the premise of Real Murders, the second Aurora Teagarden Mystery movie from Hallmark Movies and Mystery.  The premise is executed perfectly, too, and anyone who enjoys a light mystery will enjoy this one.

Aurora Teagarden (Candace Cameron Bure), Roe to her friends, has long been a member of the Real Murders club, a group of true crime lovers who meet to discuss the details of long ago famous cases.  However, this particular night the meeting never happens because one of the members has been found murdered.  When Roe hears about it, she immediately recognizes the similarities to the case they were planning to discuss that night.

The coincidence is too much for Roe, who is certain that someone in the club is the killer.  However, when she and her mother Aida (Marilu Henner) are sent a box of poisoned chocolates the next day, she realizes that the members of the club might also be the next target.  Can Roe figure out the next target in time to stop the killer?

Okay, so the type of group might be original, but the basic plot of a group being targeted by one of their own isn’t exactly new.  Still, it is very expertly done, and I was completely stumped on who the killer might be until Roe figured it out.  There are several suspenseful scenes before everything is wrapped up, and we get a laugh or two as well.  I also liked the fact that the first murder really impacts the group.  Yes, I read and watch a lot of murder mysteries for fun, but it is nice to see some real emotion connected with the death upon occasion.

I actually watched the two films on back to back days, so I was able to see how some characters and their relationships grew.  I enjoyed that, especially since it meant Roe was getting the recognition she deserved for figuring things out.  On the other hand, I did notice some strangeness since Roe seems to have not moved in to the house she got in the first movie.  Probably has something to do with the fact that the books these movies were based on were published in a different order than the movies are being made.  Don’t ask me why, but it’s a minor detail as far as I am concerned.

It might also explain why Roe has a different love interest in this movie.  While a brief mention is made of things not working out with the minister from the first film, new love interest Robin Daniels (Robin Dunne) gets plenty of screen time since he is a mystery writer who plays a big part in helping solve these murders.

I do have to issue the standard disclaimer.  This is a Hallmark original movie, and there is a certain amount of cheese to be found here both in the dialogue and the acting.  Keep that in mind, and you’ll be fine.

The movie is based on a book originally written by Charlene Harris.  If you are paying attention, some of her books get a pretty prominent display at one point in the movie, but you do have to be watching for it.

This movie won’t be for everyone, but those who enjoy light mysteries will certainly enjoy Real Murders.  It’s a twisting mystery that will keep you engaged until the end.

January 23rd's Weekly TV Thoughts

Two new shows this week and one ending.  I don't have time to keep up with everything, and it's not even a sweeps month.  I don't know what I'm going to do next month.

Galavant – I was laughing so hard at the Forest of Coincidence that I had to pause the show.  Yes, it was completely and totally stupid, and just a way to advance the plot, but they did it in such a funny way.  Plenty of other laughs as always, and how they are advancing the story is great.  I’m wondering how they will resolve anything at this point.  And you might have heard me gasp during that final scene.

Supergirl – So I thought Kara’s aunt was going to be the big bad of the season, but now my money is on Maxwell Lord.  But maybe it will be both somehow?  Either way, his backup videos and his spy camera are definitely not good news at all.  Our heroes are in some serious trouble, and it has nothing to do with a stolen kiss.

Team Ninja Warrior – This is definitely an interesting twist on America Ninja Warrior, and I like it.  I’m not sure I completely get the point of the rounds, but it is fun watching people actually go head to head and seeing how that changes the challenge.  Nail biting TV, even more than normal.

Agent Carter – I was looking forward to this show coming back, as long as they weren’t going to have Agent Carter having to hide her investigation from the rest of her “team.”  I’m thrilled to see they aren’t making that mistake.  I like how this is tying in to SHIELD with that weird substance being part of the plot.  I’m very intrigued about how it will all tie together, in fact.  We are off to a wonderful start.

The Flash – Did Patty really just leave?  I actually thought she’d stay around longer, although I knew she wasn’t going to be a long term team member.  And Barry never got to tell her his secret, either.  Got to say, I loved the Turtle as a villain since his power was so anti-Flash.

Arrow – I figured they wouldn’t kill Felicity now or in a few months, so no big surprises there.  But where was that ring in the future?  (Yes, I did pick up on that all by myself.)  I’m dreading find out who is in that grave.

Heroes Reborn – Seriously, you come back to do a limited run series, and you still leave us with a cliffhanger?  And that kind of bittersweet ending?  Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed with how it went out or the season as a whole.  Glad it’s over with.

Legends of Tomorrow – I’ve been looking forward to this show since it was announced, and I know that Arrow and Flash have both been leading up to this show all season.  I’m jazzed.  This looks like as much fun as I was expecting it to be.  I wish someone from Flash had been able to guest star in this episode, but that’s a very minor complaint.  Great fun overall.

Girl Meets World – Again with the lectures!  While I certainly have no issues with the premise of this episode, it’s supposed to be a comedy, and the laughs were in very short supply tonight.  They’d better start making me laugh again soon, or I’ll reconsider watching the show.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Book Review: Better Homes and Corpses by Kathleen Bridge (Hamptons Home & Garden Mysteries #1)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery and atmosphere
Cons: Pacing a little uneven, took a bit to get into the story initially
The Bottom Line:
Rich woman murdered
A gorgeous and fun setting
Debut worth reading




Murder of the Rich and Famous

I might have passed on Better Homes and Corpses if it weren’t for the TV show Royal Pains.  Like Royal Pains, this book is set in the Hamptons, and I’ve become very fascinated with that location in New York.  While this is a debut, it is easy to see that author Kathleen Bridge is a very talented author.

Meg Barrett has moved out to the Hamptons in an attempt to reset her life.  She’s starting her own interior design business, using her knowledge as a former editor at a home and garden magazine to provide her clients with beautiful homes.  She is thrilled when she is asked to assess the antiques in the home of Caroline Spenser, one of the biggest names in the Hamptons.  It helps that Meg was college roommates with Caroline’s daughter Jillian, but this could be a huge boost to her business.

Unfortunately, Meg is running a little late the morning of the appointment, and when she arrives, she finds Jillian on the floor next to the dead body of her mother.  Jillian has no memory of what happened, and Meg takes on the job of cataloging the assets of the estate for insurances purposes partially to keep an eye on Jillian in case the killer decides to come back and attack her.  Will Jillian be the next victim?  Or can Meg figure out what happened first?

Now, I must confess that I am actually not a fan of antiques or interior design - that whole male thing coming into play again, I guess.  So if it were just that hook alone, I might have never picked this book up in the first place.  I found that the book spent a little too much time for my taste talking about antiques and design, but that just might be my lack of interest in it.

However, the mystery was very well done.  It had quite a few good twists and kept me guessing until the end.  In fact, I was amazed at how the author was able to pull the plot off.  Overall, the book has a very gothic feel, and that atmosphere set the story apart from many books I read.

I did find I had a bit of trouble getting into the book at first, like the writing style was keeping me slightly at bay.  But I quickly got used to it and soon found myself getting completely caught up in the story.

Much of that is thanks to the characters.  As the book progresses, we get to know them better, and I started to really care about the outcome.

As you might expect, the back of the book includes some tips for repurposing vintage finds, something Meg does over the course of the book.  However, you might be surprised to find that there are recipes for a delicious sounding meal, provided by Meg’s father, who is a gourmet cook.

While there is some room for improvement, overall this is a good debut that shows a lot of promise.  Based on Better Homes and Corpses, I think Kathleen Bridge has a bright future as a mystery writer.

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

January 22nd's Book Beginning and Friday 56

It's that time of the week again.  Can you believe it?  Time for Book Beginning and Friday 56.

And the book this week is one I actually just finished, Classified as Murder by Miranda James.  Can't believe it's taken me two years to get back to this series.  Shouldn't have waited so long.



Here is how the book begins:

When I was a boy growing up in Athena, Mississippi, forty-odd years ago, the public library occupied a large one-story house built in 1842.

I must admit page 56 is a bit of a challenge to pick a sentence from.  We are meeting the cast of suspects, and it's nothing too exciting.  However, there's this little gem over on page 57.

I gazed on in horrid fascination until I heard a strangled gasp from Mr. Delacorte.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ornament Review: Little Cupiggy - Keepsake Cupcakes #7 - 2016 Hallmark Ornament



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Cute ornament built on a pun
Cons: Behind the bow and arrow just looks weird
The Bottom Line:
Fall in love with this
Cute Valentine Cupiggy
Design flaw, still fun




This Year, Love is Getting Some Help from a Little Cupiggy

You can’t go wrong with a pun.  So I’ve been looking forward to getting the Keepsake Cupcake entry that represents February.  Why?  Because it is a Little Cupiggy.  And while it is cute and punny, it does have a serious flaw.

As you might expect, we have a pig sitting atop the cupcake this month.  He’s playing the part of Cupid, with wings sticking out of his back and a bow and arrow in his hands.  And his arrow tip?  A heart, of course.  He’s rising out of whipped cream with little hearts on it.  The cupcake itself is chocolate, the candy most associated with the holiday, and surrounding the cupcake is a nice red foil.

I’ve pretty much given up expecting them to pretend the animal on top of the cupcake is made out of anything edible.  I figure it’s the plastic decoration you take off before you enjoy the yummy goodness below.  So that’s actually not my disappointment with this ornament.  Instead, it’s the fact that behind the bow and arrow, you can see lots of pink.  Yes, he’s partially pulling it back over his chest, but it still looks pretty bad back there where his arm is supposed to be.  There’s definitely some part that should be air.  But I’m probably expecting too much out of this ornament, which is somewhere between a traditional Hallmark ornament and a mini ornament in size.

On the whole, I do like this ornament.  It’s cute as always, and the pun in the title makes me smile.

As always with this series, the fact that it is a cupcake gives us a nice flat base for setting this ornament out, like in the display case that was sold separately.  You’ll also find the 7 in a Christmas tree down there, representing the ornament’s place in the year long series.

If you do want to hang this ornament, you’ll find a loop on Cuppigy’s head.  He tips forward a little, but overall you’ll find that the tip isn’t too bad.

I really wish they had done something different behind the bow and arrow.  But that is the only flaw in what is a pun ornament.  It’s truly easy to love Little Cupiggy.

And look for more delicious treats with the rest of the Keepsake Cupcakes.

Original Price: $12.95

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Book Review: Mother's Day Out by Karen MacInerney (Margie Peterson #1)



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Laughs, twists, and great characters
Cons: One issue with the plot for me, but most people won’t be bothered by it.
The Bottom Line:
Wacky mystery
Kicks off promising series
You won’t put it down




Grab Your Fry Phone and Hang on for the Wild Ride

I’ve been reading and enjoying Karen MacInerney’s cozy mysteries for years, but I was hesitant to read Mother's Day Out.  Karen herself said it wasn’t in her normal cozy vein, so I wasn’t sure how I would react to it.  I’m happy to say that I really did enjoy it.

Margie Peterson is a stay at home mom trying to help pay for her kid’s preschool, so she takes a part time job as a PI.  Her first case ends in personal disaster when she loses her daughter’s favorite toy, a fry phone from a McDonald’s happy meal, after getting the shot of the cheating husband she was tailing.

But things go from bad to worse that night when Margie takes on a second case.  Before the night is over, she stumbles over the body of a dead transvestite.  Even more surprising is what she finds on the victim’s phone.  Can she solve a case that has suddenly become personal?

If I hadn’t said this wasn’t a cozy before, you would have figured it out by now.  Transvestites aren’t your normal cozy mystery victim (although I can think of one or two where it has come up).  This isn’t a full on PI book or anything dark or heavy.  I’d classify it as soft boiled with a strong humorous bent, in fact.

While some of the humor in this book is supposed to come from Margie embarrassing herself (which usually makes me cringe instead of laugh), I still found plenty to laugh at, including a scene with a cat that had me laughing out loud in the break room at work.  While I’ve only read a couple of Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, that was still the best comparison that came into my mind in terms of content and humor.

Of course, one of my complaints with Janet Evanovich is that her characters are shallow (just look at my reviews of the series she is co-writing with Lee Goldberg).  That’s not an issue in this book at all.  Margie is a fully formed and sympathetic main character.  You get where she is coming from and why she does what she does.  Her kids are realistic, her mother-in-law and mother both pains….  The list could go on.  Really, all of the cast comes across as very real, and it’s hard not to wonder what will happen next to them.

Couple that with a wonderful plot.  This may be Margie’s first case, but she is already a great detective.  Oh, she has a few missteps, but they are completely realistic, and the way she puts things together at the end was great.  Margie is clearly on her way to being a sharp PI, and I’m sure that will be developed as the series goes forward.  I did have one issue with the plot as a Christian (being vague to avoid spoilers), but that is a difference in how Karen and I view the world and not something that will take away from most people’s enjoyment of the book.  Truly, the mystery is very solid, and I was racing to the end to find out just what all was going on.

So Mother's Day Out proves to be another winner from a talented author.  If you are looking for a wacky mystery that will have you laughing and turning pages, this is the book for you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Copy Cap Murder Winner

Time for this week's winner to be announced.  The book is Copy Cap Murder, and the winner is...

... Margo!

I've sent you an e-mail, so please be sure to look for it and get back to me ASAP so I can connect you with your prize.

Movie Review: Flower Shop Mystery - Mum's the Word

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Decent mystery; plenty of fun
Cons: Typical Hallmark cheese; lots of changes from the novels
The Bottom Line:
Hit and run; murder
In film with changes from books
Cheesy yet still fun

I Won’t Keep Mum About This Fun New Hallmark Movie Franchise

Since Hallmark Movie and Mystery seems to be making movies out of many cozy mystery book franchise, I have to watch them.  After all, it is one of my favorite genres, right?  Sunday night saw the debut of a new franchise for them, Flower Shop Mystery, with Mum’s the Word.  I really enjoyed myself while watching it.

After becoming a widow and losing interest in her profession as a lawyer, Abby Knight (Brooke Shields) has returned to her small home town and opened up a flower shop that she runs with her best friend, Nikki Bender (Kate Drummond).  It also means getting to spend more time with her father, retired detective Jeffrey (Beau Bridges).  It’s a quiet life, but one she is enjoying.

That is until one day when Abby’s car is hit by a car speeding out of an ally.  The car takes off, and she only gets a partial license plate.  Then comes the news that a murder happened in that ally.  Could the car that hit Abby have held the murderer?  Working with the handsome former PI who now owns the bar next door, Marco (Brennan Elliot), Abby intends to find out.

I have several books in this series, but I’ve only read the first three, and that’s been a while ago.  It’s not that I didn’t like the books, but so many other books keep jumping off my TBR mountain range at me.  As a result, I didn’t catch the many changes made from the books that my friends who do like the series have pointed out.  Things like where Abby lives (apartment vs. house), characters who were cut out, her description (short and red haired).  I did catch a big one since Abby in the books is significantly younger than she is here and never married.  I just had to let that go when I sat down to watch this film.  Many fans of the book are upset by the numerous changes, however, so if you are a fan of the books, be prepared for them before you start watching this.

As I stated earlier, I did enjoy this film.  The mystery was good, and as bits and pieces of it came back to me, I think that part was fairly faithful to the book.  Even so, I wasn’t completely sure what was going on until the movie ended despite the limited number of suspects.  Yet the conclusion was perfectly logical and wonderfully executed.  The characters we did get were fun, and some of the lines between Marco and Abby made me chuckle if not outright laugh.

Of course, the typical Hallmark movie cheese comes into play, both from the acting and the writing.  You just have to accept that it will be there going into the film, and you’ll be able to enjoy it.

Flower Shop Mystery: Mum’s the World is a fun, light cozy mystery movie.  And since that’s all it set out to be, it succeeds brilliantly.  Fans of the genre will enjoy it, but fans of this particular book series will have to forget the book to be able to enjoy it.

Looking for more information on the book?  Here's my review of this book in the series.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review: Murder Most Finicky by Liz Mugavero (Pawsitively Organic Mysteries #4)



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Memorable characters and a complicated mystery
Cons: Most series regulars only get cameos
The Bottom Line:
Pastry chef’s death
Complicates foodie weekend
New setting still fun




Only a Finicky Reader Wouldn’t Love This Book

Two of the biggest themes in the cozy mystery world are pet cozies and culinary cozies.  Expertly balancing the world between the two is Liz Mugavero, whose main character creates organic treats and meals for pets.  Murder Most Finicky is the fourth book in the series, and it’s another winner.

Kristan “Stan” Connor has agreed to participate in a culinary weekend in Rhode Island with famed chef Sheldon Allyn.  Sheldon is looking to put together a great group of chefs he works with to pull off an impressive dinner for a potential group of investors, one of whom has a cat.  If they are happy, there might be a Food Network show for all of them plus money to help Stan expand her Pawsitively Organic pet treat business.

The location of the weekend is top secret; in fact, everyone is blindfolded on their way there.  The only chef missing for the grand unveiling is pastry expert Pierre LaPorte, but Stan quickly finds him with his throat slit.  How did he find out the top secret location?  Who else knew where it was in order to kill him?  Those are just the beginning of the questions as more and more strange things happen.  Can Stan survive long enough to figure things out?

The book is mostly set in Rhode Island, and the supporting characters we have come to love over the previous three books are still at home in Connecticut.  To be perfectly honest, I missed them.  We did get some updates on them via phone calls, but they aren’t as prevalent as normal.  That’s my only complaint with the book, and it’s a minor one.  Still, I’m hoping we are back to Frog Ledge, Connecticut, and all of our friends there in the next book.

To make up for that loss, this book is filled with a wonderful cast of suspect characters.  They are all a bit larger than life, but frankly that added to the fun.  It also made it easy to remember who they all were as the plot progressed.  We do get to learn more about Stan as we watch her in this different setting, so fans of the series will appreciate that character development.

Speaking of character development, I do need to amend one thing I said earlier.  One of the series regulars does wind up showing up for several chapters.  The result is some major character development for this character, and I loved that aspect of this book.  I think it will change how Stan interacts with him or her in the future, and I’m looking forward to seeing that.  (And no, I don’t think I could have been more vague on who it is.)

The mystery continues to twist and turn in many unexpected directions before we reach the climax.  I had no clue how everything was going to be resolved until we got there.  Yet, when the villain is revealed, the clues fell perfectly into place.

Even though most of the chefs in this book make food for humans, the recipes in the back are still treats for pets.  And yes, they still sound delicious.  I think they are healthier than most of the recipes in the culinary cozies I read, too.  So if you make these for your pets and sneak a few for yourself, I won’t tell anyone.

If you love pets, you really need to read this series, but loving pets is not a requirement to enjoy this book.  Anyone who loves a good mystery should read Murder Most Finicky.

If you are interested in more of Stan's adventures, here are the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries in order.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ornament Review: Don't Worry, Be Happy - 2015 Hallmark Ornament



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Tropical feel in a fun way
Cons: I’m too happy to list any cons
The Bottom Line:
Tropical delight
Combined with fun upbeat song
Combine to bring smiles




Don’t Worry.  You’ll Be Happy You Bought This Ornament

While I freely admit that my Christmas tree theme is eclectic, usually I prefer classic Christmassy ornaments or ornaments that reflect places I’ve been or an interest of mine.  And yet, I couldn’t pass up Don't Worry, Be Happy, part of Hallmark’s 2015 ornament line.  It was just so much fun.

The ornament invites you to go tropical.  The main portion of the ornament is a coconut that has been hollowed out for drinks.  It’s also had a face carved in the front - a Santa face.  I guess that does give it a Christmas connection, but that's not necessarily the first think you think when you see this ornament.  Inside the coconut is a lime green drink, and sticking out of it is a green straw and a little purple umbrella.  Perched on the side of the coconut is a parrot.

While the coconut itself is brown and tan and a tad bland, the other parts of the ornament more than make up for it, especially the parrot.  The result actually looks fairly colorful and definitely gives you that tropical feeling.  It makes me want to be out on the beach, drink in hand, watching the waves on the shore between chapters in my book.  Ahhh, relaxation.

Of course, the title of the ornament is a reference to the 1988 song from Bobby McFerrin, and Hallmark didn’t miss this opportunity to include a sound clip.  Install the two button batteries in the back of the ornament and press the button on the side, and you’ll hear a 30 second clip of the song.  Don’t think this is a Christmas song?  Ask Pentatonix about that.

Yes, the ornament may be a coconut, but through the magic of Christmas, it does have a nice flat base.  That means you can easily set this ornament out year round because tropical happiness isn’t reserved just for Christmas.

If you want to hang this ornament on your tree, you’ll find the loop on the straw.  Not too surprising since the straw is at the back of the ornament, you’ll find that it does tip forward.  It’s not too bad, and you can probably disguise it with the branches on your tree.  Either that or put it up high enough that you don’t notice.  Either way, this is the only flaw I can find.

And it’s not worth dwelling on when an ornament makes you smile as much as this one does.  Don't Worry, Be Happy is a fun ornament that is a great addition to any collection.

Original Price: $17.95

Saturday, January 16, 2016

January 16th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Less than last week on TV, but that's about to change with my DC shows coming back in full force next week.  Can't wait!

Galavant – The plot certainly thicken this week, at least in the love interest front.  But I was dying at all of Richard’s various problems.  Really, such a fun show.  More people need to watch it!

Heroes Reborn – I actually am glad that Matt Parkman had that accident.  And since I loved him and the actor, that’s saying something.  In 13 episodes, they’ve managed to remind us of the good and the bad of the original show.  I’m interested in how they will save the day, but it’s been so slow I will be very glad when it is over.

Big Bang Theory – I thought this would be a funny episode, and it didn’t disappoint!  I was sorry Amy was still out of town at first, but her scenes were hilarious.  But we got to see Emily again!  I was beginning to wonder what happened to her.  That first scene with the ladies talking superheroes might have been my favorite, but the whole thing was great.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Second Winner of the Week

Between a crazy late night at work and an ultimate Frisbee game last night, I did select a winner last night for A Second Chance at Murder.  But I'm going it right now, and that winner is...

...Libby!

I'm off to send you an e-mail, so please look for it and respond ASAP so you can get connected up with your prize.

January 15th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

It's after 1 AM, and I need to get to sleep because I think tomorrow is going to be a very long day.  But before I do, I'm going to pop in with this week's Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week's book is Slayed on the Slopes by Kate Dyer-Seeley.




And here's how the book begins:

You're an idiot, Meg.
Yep, that's pretty much the first thing that came to mind as I frantically scanned the frozen sky.

Page 56 is also the start of a new chapter, and this is how that chapter begins:

"Henry, are you okay?"  I jumped to my feet.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Review: Don't Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good character development and plenty of tension
Cons: A bit slow to start
The Bottom Line:
Madman in jungle
Pages turn and tension builds
Addictive thriller




Danger Lurks in the Jungle

While I have fallen into the cozy subgenre and can’t seem to get out (not that I’m trying that hard), I do enjoy the occasional darker book.  One of my go to authors for thrillers is Gregg Hurwitz because they are always page turners.  In fact, I try to save them for plane rides if I can, and a recent business trip across the country provided me with the perfect chance to read Don't Look Back.  I was glad I allowed uninterrupted hours to read this book.

For her tenth anniversary, Eve Hardaway plans to take the long dreamed of trip to the jungles of southern Mexico.  After purchasing the trip months in advance, she learns her husband is leaving her for another woman.  However, instead of canceling the trip, she decides to go to, hoping that the time away from her life will help her rediscover who she is.

The ultimate destination for this trip is a remote camp, and Eve is enjoying relaxing and the beautiful scenery around her.  Then, without realizing it, Eve makes a terrible discovery.  When she does learn what she has stumbled upon, she realizes that she and everyone else at the camp are in danger.  With a rain storm moving in to the area, will they be able to stay alive long enough to get out?

The book did take a while to get going while we were introduced to Eve and the rest of the potential victims of the madman that would be unleashed on the group.  Once things got started, the tension builds and never lets up even with all the time we spend hiking in the jungle.  There are logical reasons why the group doesn’t just leave quickly but must seek other ways to get help.  Trust me, by the end, I was turning the pages as quickly as I could to find out how things would turn out and I was glad I had a long plane ride to finish it.

I liked Eve and sympathized with her right away, which is good since this is really her story.  The other characters were a bit of a mixed lot based on first impressions.  Some of them grew on me as the book progressed, others actually get on my nerves more, but that was by design and shows how a person’s true nature comes out when faced with serious danger.

The antagonist was an interesting character.  At times, he felt a bit over the top or supernatural, like the villain in a slasher film (or maybe that’s just my obsession with the genre).  However, he became more human as the book progressed.  Not that I ever liked him; he was pure evil.

As the story reached the climax, I marveled at just how Gregg used things that had happened earlier in the book later in the story.  Nothing is wasted, although the beginning does still seem a tad slow overall.

One reason I love his books is because Gregg is such a fantastic writer.  He knows how to give us the details of a scene without breaking the tension at all.  And boy does he know how to build the tension.

If you are looking for something with more tension and thrills, Don't Look Back is definitely for you.  Once you get started, you won’t look back until you finish the book.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Movie Review: Murder, She Baked: Peach Cobbler Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun visit with characters I love
Cons: Typical Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
Rival bakery
Leads to sweet murder in this
Fun adaptation

Peachy Movie Adaptation

When you are a fan of a series of books, the movies can be a blessing or a curse.  If they are close to the books, you find yourself enjoying them, but if they take too many liberties, then they annoy like crazy.  Hallmark Movie and Mysteries’ versions of the Hannah Swensen series are filled with differences from the books, and yet I am still loving them.  Peach Cobbler Mystery is the latest Murder, She Baked movie, and I completely enjoyed myself again.

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and everyone in town is buzzing about the upcoming wedding of the mayor’s daughter.  However, Hannah Swensen’s (Alison Sweeney) mind is on the Magnolia Blossom Bakery, which just opened across the street from her own Cookie Jar.  Thanks to huge promotions, all of Hannah’s regular customers are heading over there.  Melanie (Michelle Harrison), the owner, is also a friend of Mike (Cameron Matheson), one of Hannah’s potential boyfriends.

Melanie’s signature dish is peach cobbler, and when Hannah accidentally starts a fight over the dessert, it flairs up in public.  The night of the wedding, Melanie is supposed to provide some cobbler for the reception, but she never shows.  Instead, Hannah finds Melanie shot in the kitchen of the Magnolia Blossom Bakery.  With the finger of suspicion pointed at her, Hannah has to work fast to find the killer.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of this movie before I started watching it.  Because they have made the movies seemingly at random (this is the third movie but the seventh book), the character continuity is all off.  The victim was actually introduced a couple of books before she was killed here, she had a different name, and even the people who got married at the beginning of the book were different.

And yet, as I sat down to watch this film, all those potential objections faded away.  I got caught up in the story and enjoyed once again watching these characters come to life.  Every time one of Hannah’s cookies was mentioned, I had to smile (and I had to laugh at the reaction she got to them at one point, something that certainly doesn’t happen in the books).  I’m having so much fun watching this world I have long imagined come to life even if the details are all wrong.

As with the last movie, I didn’t remember who done it when I sat down to watch, but it came back to me as the story progressed.  The ending was great and it really made me cheer, although I think the part that made me cheer most wasn’t in the book.  Plus it was nice to finally see Norman (Gabriel Hogan), Hannah’s other potential boyfriend, getting more than a superficial part in the proceedings.  The love triangle is definitely heating up, and I’m wondering how they will play it going forward.

I’ve been watching several Hallmark movies recently, and I’m beginning to wonder if the issues I am seeing with their movies are weak acting or weak writing.  Some of the weak moments in this film definitely came from dialogue that was sub-par.  But considering how much I was smiling while watching it, this isn’t a huge issue for me at all.

The cast confirmed on Twitter last night that they are starting to film the next one in March, but there was no word on which one it might be.  If the Easter egg I spotted in the movie is any hint, then the next one will be Fudge Cupcake Mystery, but I might be reading too much into a flash on the screen.  No matter which one it is, I will be back.

Because these movies are just that much fun.  As I keep saying, they aren’t great cinema, but if you are looking for a light, fun cozy mystery movie, Murder, She Baked: Peach Cobbler Mystery will keep you completely entertained.

Interested in the book that inspired the movie?  Here's my review of Peach Cobbler Murder.