Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Review: Murder Most Fowl by Edith Maxwell (Local Foods Mysteries #4)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Enjoyable characters, good mystery
Cons: Plot pacing a little uneven
The Bottom Line:
A suspicious death
Gets Cam into more danger
Sit back and enjoy




Return to the Farm to catch a Chicken Hearted Killer

Most of the culinary cozies I read revolve around desserts or other such treats, so it’s good to get a little healthy food into my reading diet every so often.  I need a balanced reading diet, right?  (If only it were that easy to have a healthy diet based on what you read.)  In all seriousness, I do enjoy visiting Cam and her farm in the Local Food Mysteries.  Murder Most Fowl is the latest in the series, and fans will enjoy it.

Cam Flaherty. has taken over her great-uncle’s farm in a small town in Massachusetts.  What she didn’t count on was the murders she would find.  This is her fourth time being involved in a murder.

The victim this time is Wayne Laitinen, who owns a poultry farm not too far from Cam’s own Attic Hill Farm.  He’s nice and friendly and always willing to give Cam some advice on the few chickens she has herself.  Wayne’s body is found just hours after his farm was attacked by a group of very radical animal rights activists.  While the police suspect murder, they can’t find any proof of how Wayne died.  Was it murder?  Did the animal rights activists come back to make things personal?  Or did someone else want Wayne dead?

I’m an indoor person and always have been, but I must admit there is something appealing about Cam’s life.  I get jealous of the description of her life on the farm, always out in the great outdoors.  Of course, if I tried it, I’d probably be sun burned all over by the end of the first week.  Still, it’s always fun to live vicariously through her.

Working on the farm also gives Cam plenty of time to mull over the clues she’s found.  While it does slow down the pace, she manages to find some good information, too, which gives us several good suspects and red herrings.  Things build toward a logical murderer and a fantastic climax.  Plus, there are seeds for the next book planted here, and I can’t wait to see what they grow into.

I must admit I was disappointed to find a couple of the series regulars out of town for this book.  One in particular, Ellie, the high schooler who helps Cam on the farm, is my favorite character in the series.  I quickly got over that as the rest of the regulars are great, and I enjoyed spending time with them again.  I am pleased to see that Cam’s romantic life seems to be growing nicely.

And yes, there are three recipes in the back of the book.  They are for Irish stew, carrot muffins, and lamb ragout.  All three feature plenty of the vegetables that have been mentioned in the book.

With spring turning into summer, it’s growing season, which means it is the perfect time to visit Cam in Murder Most Fowl.  And if the book leaves you craving healthy food, all the better, right?  It will certainly leave you anxious for her next crop of mystery.

Need more mystery down on the farm?  Here are the rest of the Local Foods Mysteries in order.

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

Monday, May 30, 2016

TV on DVD Review: Suits - Season 5



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Compelling storytelling at its best
Cons: None at all
The Bottom Line:
Drama at law firm
TV you can’t stop watching
Binge this set today




“It Was a Piece of Cake.”  “You Went to Donna, Didn’t You?”  “That’s Why It Was a Piece of Cake.”

I always forget how much I love Suits until the new season starts.  At that point, I am once again captured by the high drama high stakes soap opera the show has become.  Oh, let’s not pretend any differently, that’s what it is.  We may not have bed hopping, but the power struggle inside the law firm of Pearson, Spector, Litt plays out much the same way, and I can’t look away.

This season picks up with a monumental change.  Harvey Spector (Gabriel Macht) has lost his long time secretary Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty) to his frenemy Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman).  Harvey doesn’t take his defeat well.  In fact, the resulting panic attacks send him to therapy where he must face some of who he is.

Meanwhile, the firm’s old partner Daniel Hardman (guest star David Costabile) is making a play for the firm again, and his new plan to take the firm from her takes up Jessica Pearson’s (Gina Torres) attention.  Caught in the crosshairs is Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), Harvey’s protégée, and Mike’s fiancée Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle), a paralegal in the firm who is finally following her dream of going to law school to become a full-fledged lawyer.

However, before the season is over, the thing that our characters have been dreading for years comes upon them.  Will anyone be left standing when the dust clears?

You’ll notice the one thing I haven’t mentioned – court cases.  While the main characters are lawyers, the court cases are often irrelevant.  Yes, in the past, we’ve usually had one big case that the majority of the characters are working on as they fight each other for power, but this season it’s all internal struggle with any court cases just something for them to fight over.  Well, that changes in the second half, but that’s just an outgrowth of everything else happening.  Since we know the characters, it’s easy to get caught up in the story.  I do sometimes wonder about their billable hours as I watch the show, but that’s a minor issue; I’m just having too much fun.

Then comes the winter episodes.  The first 10 episodes aired during the summer of 2015, and they left us with quite the cliffhanger.  The episodes that picked up in the winter of 2016 were ten times as compelling as normal for this show.  Normally, I can’t take my eyes off the screen when this show is on, but I felt like I couldn’t move when these episodes were airing.

Obviously, the writing is still sharp.  They keep giving these characters twists and turns that would leave me wondering how the characters would get out of their latest predicament.  I do wish the characters were given fewer expletives to say, but it’s something that’s been going on the entire run of the show, so I can’t complain too loudly about it.

And the acting is just as sharp as ever.  The actors take the words they are given and bring them to life with passion.    Their performances are another reason I can’t turn away from the screen.

As I hinted earlier, season 5 consisted of sixteen episodes.  They are preserved here on four discs with their native widescreen and full surround.  In the way of extras, we get deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a couple of behind the scenes featurettes. 

I’m not sure that season 5 would make the best place to jump into Suits.  Part of the drama comes because we already know and love these characters.  But go back to the beginning.  You’ll be binge watching and caught up on this show before you know it.

Season 5 Episodes:
1. Denial
2. Compensation
3. No Refills
4. No Puedo Hacerio
5. Toe to Toe
6. Privilege
7. Hitting Home
8. Mea Culpa
9. Uninvited Guests
10. Faith
11. Blowback
12. Live to Fight
13. God’s Green Earth
14. Self Defense
15. Tick Tock
16. 25th Hour

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Book Review: The Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #35)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Mostly good characters, return of a character from an earlier book
Cons: Fairly obvious mystery, characters not as strong as earlier books
The Bottom Line:
Sleepyside arson
As final five books begin
Not the best; still fun




Ka-boom! During the Parade

We’ve reached the controversial final five books in the Trixie Belden series.  These books were in print only a couple of years before the series got canceled in the mid-80’s, so they are rarer and therefore harder to find.  Some fans hate them.  Personally, I still enjoy them while acknowledging that they aren’t the best in the series.  The first of these final five is The Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire.

If you’ve missed meeting her, Trixie Belden is a fourteen-year-old detective.  Think the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew.  She and her family and friends live in the town of Sleepyside on the Hudson, New York, which seems to be a hotbed of crime since this is the thirty-fifth book in the series.

As the book opens, Trixie and her friends, the Bob-Whites of the Glen, are lined up on Main Street for the annual Memorial Day parade.  However, the excitement is soon dimmed when an explosion a few blocks away halts the parade.  When the smoke has cleared, a store and warehouse have been burned.

The store belongs to the father of one of Trixie’s friends.  When Nick Roberts’s father is questioned for starting the fire on purpose, Trixie knows that that Mr. Roberts would never do anything like that.  But can Trixie uncover the real arsonist?

Those who don’t like the later books in the series have valid points.  One thing that draws Trixie’s fans to the series are the characters.  We love them because they are richer than many of the other series characters for kids.  But as the series went along and more and more ghost writers tackled the characters under the pen name Kathryn Kenny, they lost some of their spark and depth.  This is especially obvious if you read the series in order.  And I can’t argue with that observation.  While the characters are still more realistic than the perfect Hardy Boys or Nancy, they have become defined by one or two big traits here.

Likewise, the mystery is fairly obvious.  I even had it pretty much figured out the first time I read it back in high school.  Still, it does unfold in a logical way.  My biggest gripe is actually that someone else had to point out the solution to Trixie.

And yet….

I can’t help it, I like this book.  It probably helps that I read these books in any more I could find them in originally, so this was one of the first 10 I read.  While the flaws are very obvious as an adult, they were less so as a kid, and I didn’t have years of loving the characters to build up expectations here.

One aspect I like is that this book brought back a character from a previous book.  Nick Roberts first appeared in book 20, The Mystery off Old Telegraph Road.   I hadn’t read that book when I read this one the first time, and the author does a good job of telling us what we need to know without spoiling the earlier book.  Heck, we don’t even get a hint of what the mystery in that book was about.  It’s rare that non-series regular characters popped up again, so I love it when it happens.

Plus all the Bob-Whites appear in the book.  No, they aren’t all in every scene, but all of them at least make fairly regular appearances.

These last five books include pen and ink illustrations at the start of each chapter.  As a kid, I had never seen the earlier, hardcover editions, so this is the first time I’d seen illustrations inside the books.  I find it fun, although some of them border on spoilers.

So don’t pick up this book expecting the earlier books in the series.  But if you sit down for The Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire remembering that this is one of the later books in the series, you’ll still enjoy your visit with these old friends.

Looking for Trixie's earlier books?  Here are the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ornament Review: A World Within #1 - Snowy Scene - 2015 Hallmark Ornament



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good scene inside a very small ornament
Cons: Size and subsequent lack of detail
The Bottom Line:
Snowy winter scene
Captured inside ornament
Shrunk to mini size




Hallmark Introduces a New Miniature Series of Miniature Panoramas

I tend to avoid Hallmark’s miniature ornaments.  They are so small that they don’t have the detail I normally love.  That’s why I was originally planning to pass on A World Within, the miniature series that Hallmark premiered in 2015, but eventually I caved.

This is one of several series Hallmark has going right now that feature a scene inside something else, and I seem to be hooked on these series.  This time, we are going to get a scene inside each miniature ornament.  The first ornament is a small round red ball.  And the scene inside the ornament?  There’s a snowman in the foreground with a house and a couple trees in the background.

I spent some time looking at this ornament in the store and debating about buying it before I finally caved in and got it.  There are two reasons why I was debating, and the first is the scene itself.  It’s good, but, as I mentioned earlier, it just doesn’t have the detail I normally like.  Oh, you can tell what everything is, but it doesn’t look at sharp as it does in the pictures Hallmark has created for publicity.  That’s always a disappointment when I first look at it, but the more I looked at it over the months, the more I grew to like it despite that.

The second reason is the size.  This is a small ornament.  It is just over an inch and a half from top to bottom and that’s the longest distance.  I think many of the pictures I’ve seen of the ornament are actually larger than the ornament itself.  The miniature ornaments are very easy to lose in your tree.  I’m actually excited about a mini tree that Hallmark is planning to sell this year for that very reason, it will give me a place to display the few mini ornaments I have.

Because this ornament comes to a point at the bottom, it won’t sit out anywhere.  You have to find some place to hang it.  But when you do hang it, you’ll find that it hangs straight, which isn’t too much of a surprise given the shape of the ornament.

Since this is the start of a new series, you’ll find a 1 in a Christmas tree on the back of the ornament.  It’s actually surprisingly big for the size of the ornament and not that hard to spot at all.  There’s also a snowflake painted on the back side of the ornament.

While I don’t think the miniature ornaments will ever be a favorite, I am glad I broke down and started the A World Within series.

And if you enjoy this, be sure to check out the rest of the A World Within series.

Original Price: $7.95

May 28th's Weekly TV Thoughts

I knew this was going to be a light TV week, but it turned out to be even lighter than I was expecting.  CBS has pulled Rush Hour from their schedule.  I knew it had been canceled, but I thought they'd play the rest of the episodes.  I guess not.  I wonder if they will ever see the light of day or not.

Meanwhile, here are the few final season finales on my plate for this May, and one show just building to its series finale.

The Odd Couple – Saw the first episode coming pretty much from the get go.  Doesn’t make it any less fun, however.  The second one?  I’m hoping that Charlotte sticks around since I really do like her.  And it will be interesting to see how things have changed when Emily comes back.

Dancing with the Stars – Nyle won!!!  He certainly deserved it, too.  I can’t imagine dancing as well as he does, and I can hear the music.  Wow, what he did just blows my mind.  And, while there might have been some sympathy vote on America’s part, there wasn’t on the judge’s.  He earned those scores from them.  And, honestly, he deserved to win.  What he did out there each week was amazing for anyone on the show, much less someone who is deaf.

The Flash – Right actor, wrong part.  I had told a friend I was hoping that Henry was in the mask somehow.  It’s not Henry, but it is the same actor, and now it’s even more fun since that actor played The Flash (but Barry Allen version) in the 1990 TV show.  Still, I will miss Henry since he provided such a nice heart to the show, a heart that was missing much of this season.  I like how they defeated Zoom, too.  Barry didn’t have to give in to his anger.  But those final moments?  What is that going to mean for next season?  That’s what I’m wondering about.

Arrow – At least they addressed the fact that everything turned dark this season despite their promise to be lighter.  Still got the 24 vibe off this episode – maybe since we were dealing with nukes.  With almost everyone gone, I’ll be interested to see how they bring them all back in the fall.  At least I assume everyone is coming back.  Haven’t heard anything about anyone else leaving the show, so hopefully they will all be back next year.

Royal Pains – Jeremiah’s story arc was pretty predictable, yet it was so sweet.  It was great to see him get some development like that.  And I’m glad that Hank and Evan were only fighting this episode.  Certainly understandable, but I like it better when they are on the same team.  But who was after Boris this time around?  I’m definitely intrigued.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Movie Review: Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Acting, effects, decent story
Cons: No connection to the book, ending a bit rushed and forced
The Bottom Line:
Second adventure
No connection to the book
As Alice helps friends




“It’s Impossible!”  “You Know How I Feel About That Word.”

I don’t follow upcoming movies nearly as much as I used to, so I hadn’t heard Disney was making Alice Through the Looking Glass until this year.  I honestly wasn’t sure whether to be excited, warry, or both.  I enjoyed Tim Burton’s 2010 variation on the classic to a certain extent, and since this was going to be a sequel without him involved, it could be good or horrible.  And they weren’t even thinking about following the book with the same name but doing something with time.  I’ll admit, I didn’t really go into the movie with an open mind, but I wound up enjoying it.

It’s been three years since we last visited Alice (Mia Wasikowska).  During that time, she’s been traveling the world as the captain of her father’s old ship, buying and selling things to bring back to England.  Only when she returns, she learns that her father’s partner’s son is now in charge.  That man just happens to be Hamish (Leo Bill), the man she embarrassed by publicly turning down when he proposed marriage.

Hamish has not forgiven Alice, and he has concocted a way to get even with her.  While she is still reeling from his plan, she spots Absolem (voiced by Alan Rickman), the caterpillar turned butterfly.  He leads her through a mirror and back to Wonderland.

And she’s arrived just in time, too.  It turns out the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) has just seen something that reminds him of his family.  He didn’t leave on good terms with them, and then they died before he could make amends.  The reminder is slowly killing him.  The only chance to save him is for Alice to go back in time and save his family.  To do that, she needs the chronosphere, which is carefully guarded by Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen).  Can Alice go back in time and fix things?  Or will she run out of time?

Those who know the book are already shaking their heads.  This has nothing at all to do with the book of the same name.  Having said that, there is a fun scene near the beginning that winks at a couple of things from book before the adventure really begins.  Of course, almost every movie version of the books combines elements from both to begin with.  For example, Tweedledee and Tweedeldum (Matt Lucas) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) are both from Through the Looking Glass and not Alice in Wonderland at all.  So really, you have to take this film on its own merits.

And those merits turn out to be pretty good.  I’ve got to say, I actually was surprised by a twist or two along the way.  Not to say the ending is completely original, but it is fun.  The way the moral is layered in is good as well, and it never gets in the way of the story.  In fact, it helps Alice out of a jam or two before everything is said and done.  The ending did feel rushed and that hurt the film, but that’s a minor point overall.

And, yes, Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen is back again as well.  She’s not quite as over the top this time around, and I actually liked her character better here as a result.  In fact, the original actors or voice actors are all back, and they do a fantastic job again.  Meanwhile, the new cast members fit perfectly into this wacky world.

Special effects are king here as they were the first time around, and you can tell how much better they’ve gotten in the past 6 years.  I had a hard time with some effects early on in the movie, but as it went along, I had an easier time believing what I was seeing.  Or maybe it was because I got caught up in the story.

So forget everything you think you know about the book when you go to see this film.  Yes, it’s a sequel, but it turns out that Alice Through the Looking Glass is a sequel worth watching.

Book Review: The Skeleton Takes a Bow by Leigh Perry (Family Skeleton Mysteries #2)



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, unique plot
Cons: No bones about it, I couldn’t find a con
The Bottom Line:
Skeleton backstage
Hears murder in this unique
And clever cozy




Sid Becomes an Ear Witness

As much as I enjoy the cozies I read (or I wouldn’t keep reading them), it’s fun every so often to find a twist on the genre.  That’s definitely the case with the Family Skeleton mysteries.  The Skeleton Takes a Bow is the second in the series, and it’s a lot of fun.

You see, this series features Sid, a walking, talking skeleton.  He’s best friends with our main character, Georgia Thackery.  Sid walked into her life when she was kid, and he’s still there.  Georgia is an adjust professor and single mother, currently living at her parent’s house while she teaches at a local college.  Want more background on Sid?  That was the subject of the first book in the series.  This book does a good job of not spoiling that book, so you can read them in either order.

It’s Georgia’s daughter, Madison, and Sid who conspire to get the trio into the latest mystery.  See, Madison is in the drama department at her high school, and the spring play is Hamlet.  She figures that Sid would be perfect as Yorick, and Sid is always looking for a way to get out of the house, something he can’t normally do without frightening people.  Georgia is more hesitant, but she eventually goes along.

However, one night early into rehearsal, Madison gets distracted leaving school and accidentally leaves Sid’s skull backstage.  That night, Sid hears two mean fighting, then one gets hit over the head and dies.  Sid doesn’t know who they are, and the body has been moved before school starts the next day.

Fearing that Madison might not be safe at school, Georgia and Sid start to investigate.  Without a body, the police won’t take anything they say seriously.  But who was the victim?  Where is his body?  Can they find the killer?

As I said, there is a nice twist on the cozy formula here since Sid and Georgia have to work out the victim before they can identify the killer.  The plot seems a little slow at the beginning, but as the book goes along, you see that the author was setting things up for later in the book.  The plot gains speed as it goes along until it reaches the logical climax.

One thing I love about these books is that, while we have a living skeleton, Sid has to keep his existence a secret.  He rarely gets to leave the house, and if anyone does happen to spot him, they freak.  This adds a level of believability to the story that I truly appreciate.  It does make it a little harder to keep him part of the action, but the author does a great job of believably making him an important part of the story.

Yet Sid isn’t a skin and bones character.  He is fully fleshed out in a way that makes him so real.  The same goes for the rest of the cast, all of whom are wonderful.

I don’t normally stick my toe in the paranormal end of the cozy spectrum, but this premise intrigued me enough I had to give it a shot.  Outside of Sid, there is nothing paranormal about the book, so that element is very light and shouldn’t bother most cozy fans like me who avoid that kind of thing.

So pick up The Skeleton Takes a Bow today.  Its unique take on the cozy formula will leave you happily turning pages.

May 27th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Welcome to the Memorial Day Weekend edition of Book Beginning and Friday 56.  Anyone else ready for the long weekend?  (At least here in the states.  I know this is only an American holiday.)

This week, I'm back to just one book, A Muddied Murder by Wendy Tyson.




I'm about a third of the way through the book and really enjoying it.  It's part of what is turning into a theme week for me - farm week.  Come back next week for two books and an ornament related to that theme.

But that's next week.  For today, what do you say we get to some quotes.  Here's how this book begins.

Early mornings at Washington Acres were dead quiet.  It was usually Megan Sawyer's favorite part of the day, a time when the farm's inhabitants went about their daily routines silently, ghosts in a tranquil pre-dawn landscape.  Today there was a disturbance in the air, an almost palpable sense of something amiss.

I'm going to cheat a little with the 56 this week.  Page 56 doesn't have any grabber quotes.  But on page 54, we find this one:

"My grandmother is in her eighties.  It's absolutely ridiculous to think she'd have anything to do with Simon's murder."
"I know, Megan.  I know."  Clover looked up.  "But then why is she being so secretive?"

That's it for this week.  Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.  On my agenda?  Finishing this book, of course.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Movie Review: Flower Shop Mystery - Snipped in the Bud

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun characters decent plot
Cons: Major changes from books; Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
Murdered professor
With florist as the suspect
Big changes from book

Black Roses and Murder

Since I’ve only read the first three books in the Flower Shop series, I don’t have the huge attachment to the characters and setting that many long term fans have.  As a result, I haven’t been that bugged by the changes that Hallmark has made for their Flower Shop Mysteries series loosely based on the books.  (And I do mean loosely.)  However, having watched the second movie, Snipped in the Bud, I am very curious about just how different it was from the book.

As the movie opens, Abby Knight (Brooke Shields), owner of Bloomers, has just gotten an order for black roses to be delivered to Bruce Barnes (Daniel Kash) one of the pre-law professors at the nearby college.  Since Abby’s daughter (Celeste Desjardins) is struggling with the professor this semester, Abby decides to deliver the flowers personally and try to put in a good word with the professor.

However, almost as soon as Abby steps on campus, she runs into Carson Howell (Jeff Teravainen), a lawyer turned professor that Abby has dealt with in the past.  In fact, they went head to head just over a year ago right before Abby left law to open her flower shop.  They get into an argument while walking inside.  Before Abby can leave campus, Carson is murdered, and the police think that Abby might be the killer.  Can she find the real killer before the police arrest her?

This is the fourth book in the series, and the one that I’ve had on my TBR pile for a long time since I’ve read the first three.  (Seriously, it’s right there if I ever make the time to read it.)  As a result, I can’t comment specifically on how they might have changed the plot, but I am very curious.  See, in the books, Abby is younger and never married with no kids at all.  And she never practiced law.  You can see from those two facts and my brief plot teaser that we’ve got major changes to the story already.  But it makes me curious how these elements are worked out in the book because the plot works very well with the changes made for the movie.  (I’m sure it does in the book as well, but I can’t comment on how.)

And the mystery definitely works here.  I guessed the killer early on in the movie, but I didn’t have the motive figured out at all.  That’s not to say that the other suspects weren’t viable.  I certainly could have seen any of them as the killer.

I must be getting used to the Hallmark movie effect, or the acting was better than some of the others.  Yes, there is a hint of cheese to the acting and directing, but I didn’t find it as bad as I have in some of the others I’ve watched.  I have a feeling I’m just getting used to the style of these films.

The actors do a decent job of bringing their characters to life.  This is especially true of the main cast, who also includes Beau Bridges as Abby’s father and Brennan Elliott as Marco, the potential love interest for the widowed Abby.  I must say that Abby’s flirting with Marco continues to be one of my favorite aspects of these films.

If you can forget the books, you’ll find Snipped in the Bud to be a diverting mystery movie.  If, however, you love the books too much, you’ll probably want to skip this film.  (I can’t say anything if you fall into the second category.  I’ve felt the same way about movie versions of other books in the past myself.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book Review: Decanting a Murder by Nadine Nettmann (Sommelier Mysteries #1)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun, fast moving story; Katie
Cons: Ending a bit too quick, Tessa at times
The Bottom Line:
A deadly party
Set up for charming debut
You’ll want to savor




Full Bodied Debut with Hints of More to Come

When I went to Malice Domestic last month, I had a list of books I planned to buy while I was there, but I’m sure it’s a surprise to no one that I also make multiple spur of the moment purchases.  One of those was Decanting a Murder, the debut from Nadine Nettmann.  I was so excited about it, I dove into it as soon as I had a break in my reading schedule.

Katie Stillwell’s life revolves around wine.  She’s been practicing for her Sommelier Certification while working as a wine expert at a San Francisco restaurant.  And this weekend, she is getting the experience of a lifetime – she’s been invited to an exclusive party at Frontier Winery.  The winery is normally closed to the public, but it is open this weekend to celebrate its 100th anniversary.  Katie’s best friend Tessa works there, and managed to get Katie an invitation to the exclusive event.

The party seems to be going well until Katie hears a scream.  When she goes to investigate, she finds the winery’s owner, Mark Plueger, floating in a vat of wine.  Suddenly, the party is over, and Tessa is nowhere to be found.  Where did she go?  Did she have something to do with the murder?  Can Katie figure out what is happening?

The book starts out well and never lags in pace.  There is always something interesting happening to keep us turning pages, and I had a hard time putting the book down.  The ending caught me by surprise, although I wish it had been given a bit more time to breath.  While everything is explained, it felt very rushed.

Katie is a strong main character, and I really did like spending time with her.  Tessa could be a bit much, seemingly all over the place at times, but most of the time I liked her as well.  A couple of the other characters could have been more fully developed, but overall, the rest of the characters are good and provide us with viable suspects.  I’ve just finished this book, but I’m already interesting in visiting Katie to find out what happens next to her.

I was bothered by how the detective investigating the case, Detective Dean, seemed to include Katie in his investigation at times.  I know enough to know that was a highly unrealistic aspect of the book.  However, I was having too much fun to truly be bothered by it.

Instead of wine tips at the back of the book, each chapter is paired with a different wine.  The pairings are actually quite clever and give a hint of the action to come.  Since there are 31 chapters, there are plenty of suggestions if you want to broaden your pallet after you’ve finished the book.

Decanting a Murder is an enjoyable debut that promises more great mysteries to come.  The elements are there to allow this series to age like a fine wine.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ornament Review: Steeped in Spirit - 2015 Hallmark Ornament



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute Christmas themed teapot and cup
Cons: None worth mentioning
The Bottom Line:
Cute Christmas tea set
Shrunk to fit on Christmas tree
Great series prequel




Two Ornament Set that is Steeped in Spirit for a Tea Lover

When I look over the selections from Hallmark each year, there are the ornaments I know I will buy right away and the ones I know I’m not interested in purchasing.  Then there are the ones that are cute, but I really want to resist buying.  In 2015, I did remarkably well at resisting Steeped in Spirit.  In 2016?  Yep, I broke down and bought it off the secondary market.

This is actually a set of two ornaments – a tea pot and a tea cup.  But these aren’t just your normal tea pot and cup, they are a Christmas themed set.  The tea pot is a snowman.  He’s got a scarf around his neck, and his arms form the handle and spout (just like in that “I’m a little teapot” song we used to sing as kids).  He’s wearing a black top hat and red earmuffs and mittens.  Likewise, the cup is also a snowman, or at least a snowman head.  It just has the face, but it is wearing earmuffs, green this time.

My only issue with this set is that clearly the drink in the cup portion of the ornament is hot chocolate.  The color is a rich brown, and there are three marshmallows floating in the top.  So maybe there’s hot water in the tea pot instead of brewed tea?

But trust me, that’s a minor issue.  This set is very cute.  The snowmen are smiling and clearly go together.  I can picture this as part of a great Christmas tea set in some of the mysteries I read.

This was originally offered exclusively to members of Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornament Club.  But what made me give in and buy it is the fact that it is the prequel to a new five part official series of Christmas themed tea pots and cups that is starting this year in Hallmark’s regular line.  Yep, they got me with the series yet again.  (Must learn to resist series.  Must learn to resist series.)  Plus, with my display ideas for my food themed ornaments, I don’t need to make room for them on my tree, right?

Being a tea pot and cup, it’s not surprise that these ornaments have flat bottoms, so you can display them on any flat surface.  If you go to hang them on your tree, you’ll find that the teapot tips at an angle to look like he’s actually pouring water.  That’s a fun touch.  The cup hangs straight.  We don’t want to spill that hot chocolate, do we?

A quick word of warning, these ornaments are porcelain, so they are more fragile than the normal Hallmark ornament.  Treat them a little more carefully, and you’ll be fine.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the official series goes.  But for now, I’m enjoying having Steeped in Spirit in my collection.

If you enjoy this pair, you'll want to collect the official ornaments in the Tea Time series.

Original Price: $19.95

Monday, May 23, 2016

Book Review: Out of Circulation by Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks Mysteries #4)



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fantastic character and a plot filled with tension
Cons: Diesel doesn’t like cons
The Bottom Line:
A social diva
Makes too many enemies
Enjoyable book




Fundraising Galas are Murder

I was quite anxious to get to Out of Circulation, the fourth book in Miranda James’s Cat in the Stacks Mysteries.  Since I’m already up to date on the spin-off Southern Ladies series, I wanted to read the book where Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce Ducote, the stars of that second series, were introduced.  Plus, of course, I’ve been enjoying this series, and I wanted to continue it.  This entry didn’t disappoint in the slightest.

Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce are both on the Friends of the Library board in the college town of Athena, Mississippi, and Charlie Harris, our main character in this series, has joined the board as well.  They are currently working on the library’s major gala held each December.  As always, this gala creates conflict between the Ducote sisters and Vera Cassity, who thinks she should be the grand dame of Athena society, injecting herself in every fundraiser in the community.  The ironic thing is, if she weren’t so pushy, people would actually welcome her help.

As always, the Friends of the Library fundraising gala is being held at the Ducote mansion, much to Vera’s dismay.  However, the evening ends with Vera at the bottom of the mansion’s back stairs – dead.  Charlie finds the body along with his housekeeper Azalea.  There was no love lost between Azalea and the victim, and the sheriff is quick to zero in on Azalea as the prime suspect.  But why does Azalea hold such a grudge against Vera?  Was her death a tragic accident?  Or did someone push her down the stairs?

Those familiar with the series will quickly wonder why the police are considering Azalea as the prime suspect.  See, in the past books in the series, we’ve dealt with Kanesha, who happens to be Azalea’s daughter as well as the local detective.  It’s her boss that zeroes in on Azalea as the prime suspect, leaving Kanesha off the case.  I actually enjoyed this aspect of the book since it gave us a chance to see Kanesha in a different light, really enhancing her character.

We are getting a large cast of characters in this series, and I enjoyed getting to catch up with all of them again.  Naturally, the book is also filled with new characters to be the suspects, and I found them all interesting characters as well.  Obviously, that includes the Ducote sisters, who are as delightfully fun here as they are in the series they star in.

While the murder comes later than in many of the books I read, the time is filled with setting up suspects and motives.  Believe me, the tension is there for the entire book.  The climax surprised me while being completely and perfect logical.  I loved it!

And I can’t forget about Diesel, Charlie’s Maine Coon cat (and the cat of the series title).  Of course, he’s a regular part of the action.  I did get a little tired of the constant talk about how adverse he is to tension and conflict since, as always, the book is filled with it, but that is a minor issue.

Out of Circulation is a fabulous book that will please any lover of cozy mysteries.  If you haven’t started this series, you need to fix that today.

You fall in love with Diesel and want to read the rest of the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries in order.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Book Review: If You Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, DON'T! by Elise Parsley



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Creative story, fun illustrations
Cons: My logical brain just can’t wrap itself around this book
The Bottom Line:
Piano at beach?
What could possibly go wrong?
Delight for your kids




Taking a Piano to the Beach is Just a Little Ridiculous

Last year, I was completely charmed by Elise Parsley’s debut picture book, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, If You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, DON’T!  After all, the possibilities are ridiculous, right?  Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite turn off my logical brain to fully enjoy this book.

Once again, the book features Magnolia, a young girl who thinks she has wonderful ideas that turn out to be not so great.  Her family is heading to the beach for the day, and when her mother tells her to gather something to bring, she decides to bring the family piano.  Her mom tells her that she needs to keep track of it and not lose it.  This is a piano, it’s huge!  That won’t be a problem at all.  Or will it?

While Magnolia is the main character, these books are actually narrated in the second person.  Once again, the style reminds me a bit of the still popular If You Give a Mouse a Cookie books, although these are much more outrageous.  I mean, who would even think about bringing a piano to the beach in the first place.

In fact, that’s where the logical part of my mind takes over.  You just can’t do some of what she does with this piano.  It’s too heavy to even be moved.  Then we get to the fact that Magnolia’s mom never reacts to what happens over the course of the book.  I was okay with what happens when you bring an alligator to school, in fact I loved the creativity in that book, but I couldn’t accept the absurdity humor of this book.  Go figure.

But that’s why I think it is more of a personal problem than a problem with the book.  I have a feeling that kids will laugh at some of the things Magnolia goes through in this book.

The pictures will certainly help.  They are creative and showcase just how absurd the situation is and are absolutely fun to look at.

Kids will certainly enjoy If You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, DON’T!  And since they are the target audience, that’s all that truly matters, right?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

May 21st's Weekly TV Thoughts

So the TV networks announced their schedules for fall this week.  I'm not sure there were any big surprises for me.  Supergirl moved to the CW (but same night and time).  Honestly, it should have always been there.  Honestly, I'm just glad to see it back anywhere.

So I'm trying to look at the new schedule and decide what if anything I want to add.  Yes, I know, I know.  I keep saying I need to cut shows out of my schedule, not add more.  But I also hate to miss out on the next big thing.  With Castle gone, and giving up Scream Queens and Agents of SHIELD, I've got three hours of free time.  Plus, Amazing Race isn't coming back until next year some time.  So I could take on more, right?

To be honest, I am tempted by Lethal Weapon.  I liked the movies, and the TV show trailer looks interesting.  Designated Survivor looks like it would be a fun ride, and it has Keifer Sutherland and Maggie Q.  But both of those are on Wednesdays, which would make for a very packed evening (Arrow and Survivor are already on that night).  I'm interested in MacGyver, although I never watched the original series since I didn't watch TV growing up.  That's on Friday, when I have nothing to watch right now.  Although I could easily watch movies that night.  I've clearly been neglecting movies the last few years.

All these tough decisions!

Tuesday is looking like my easiest night of the week with just The Flash.  I'm usually using Tuesday to catch up on Dancing with the Stars anyway, so that's a good thing.  Plus it's more reading time.  And the way I'm feeling right now, I might not start any new shows so I can read more.  But there will probably be something I decide to try out when we hit September.

Okay, enough about the fall.  Shall we get to the shows I actually watched this last week?

Once Upon a Time – Is it September yet?  I enjoyed the finale, which in some ways was little more than set up for next season, but what a great set up it is.  I love Jekyll and Hyde and can’t wait to see this played out.  Plus the Evil Queen is out to play, too.  It’s going to be a wild ride and I just can’t wait!

Dancing with the Stars – The right two couples did go home, although boy was it a tough call.  Everyone was amazing tonight.  I’m still on team Nyle.  I mean, he was out there dancing deaf and blindfolded and didn’t miss a beat.  How does he do that?

The Odd Couple (5/16) – Somehow, Felix’s competitive nature felt completely natural when it comes to chess.  A bit of a sappy ending, but a fun episode overall.

Castle – That’s it?  That rushed mess is how we end the series?  And the flash forward seven years was so obviously tacked on it felt ridiculous.  This season was so disappointing.  I think I’ll pretend that the show stopped in season seven and forget this mess of a final season ever happened.

The Flash – Did I call it last week or what?  I just hate it that I was right, too, since Henry being back was giving the show such wonderful heart again.  Do you think Wally is going to figure things out after Barry took off like that?  Katie was amazing as Siren.  At least they gave us one more geek out moment with Henry and Tina, aka two stars of the 1990 Flash, sharing a couple of scenes before they killed him.

Agents of SHIELD – Of course, I got this one completely wrong.  I was sure it was going to be Fitz or Simmons, with my money on Fitz.  They’ve done a good job of weeding out some of the other agents and getting back to the core team.  Oh, and it looks like they also took out Ward for good, which makes me very happy.  Naturally, I’m curious who the new director of SHIELD is.  I’ll have to read about it to find out because I truly still don’t intend to come back next season.

Arrow – As much as I like Felicity, I’m not sure I found the revelations about her family that shocking.  Still, what Curtis said about her relationship with Oliver is interesting.  I wonder if that will lead to them getting back together.  I love how awkwardly they shot around Alex’s body so they didn’t have to pay him for another episode.  Damien is going to be out to end the world now for sure, and I still have no clue how we will stop him.

Survivor – I guess I just don’t get the Tai fascination.  I found him wishy washy and overbearing.  I’m glad Michelle won, although I think I would have been okay with any of the ladies winning.

Royal Pains – So what’s up with Eddie?  They made it sound like he’s dying, so that can’t be it.  What secret is he hiding this time?  So much happened in the last nine months, wow, that was a lot of catch up on.  Still, such wonderful characters, and I love how they all support each other.  As disappointing as last season was, I’m really going to miss this show.

Legends of Tomorrow – What a great ending.  A bit big and over the top, but what else would you expect from this show.  That ending was something else as well.  What does it all mean?  Can’t wait until September to find out.

Odd Couple (5/19) – Two wonderful episodes on Thursday.  I enjoyed Emily and Oscar as friends, and I hope they play with that in the future.  Just a line or two is fine.  And Felix learning to drive was a riot.  With the show being picked up for a full season, I hope they can keep episodes like these coming.

Rush Hour – Did not see that twist at the end coming.  It was a great job of piecing things together along the way while on the run, too.  Loved the scene at the end in the courtroom.  I’m sorry this show has been canceled.  It may not be a favorite, but I’m really going to miss it next season.  Fortunately, we’ve got a few episodes to go, and I hope they resolve things with the sister.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Book Review: "D" is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #4)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting set up and great twists
Cons: Characters not as sharp, plot stalls a bit near end
The Bottom Line:
Tracking down client
Leads Kinsey to complex web
Fun case for readers




Trouble from a Bounced Check

I know many authors struggle with explaining where they get the ideas for their novels.  But as a reader, I often find it fascinating.  Take "D" is for Deadbeat, the fourth Kinsey Milhone Mystery from Sue Grafton.  It starts out simply enough, but the book quickly takes off in a surprising new direction.

It’s a Saturday in the fall and Kinsey is in her office trying to catch up on some paperwork.  She isn’t expecting any new clients to walk in so she is surprised when she finds a man standing in her doorway.  He introduces himself as Alvin and asks Kinsey to track down someone named Tony for him and give that person a check.  Kinsey’s not sure she completely believes the story he tells about how he got the money and why he wants to give it to Tony, but she accepts the job along with an advanced check for her services.  As Alvin is leaving, he lobs the first surprise Kinsey’s way – Tony is a teenager.

A couple of days later, her bank lets her know that the check from Alvin bounced.  Frustrated, she treks down from her native Santa Teresa to Los Angeles to track down Alvin.  Only then does she learn that Alvin isn’t his real name.  His young wife says that he is back up in Santa Teresa, but before Kinsey can track him down, “Alvin” is dead.  Will Kinsey find Tony?  Who would want her client dead?

Maybe it’s just because I don’t read many PI novels, but making the connection from bounced check to murder and the complications it leads is not something I would ever come up with.  And yet it works wonderfully here in this novel.  The plot makes complete sense as it unfolds before us, and there are some fun twists along the way.  I did feel the novel stalled out a little as it neared the climax, but the climax will leave you turning pages quickly.

The characters in this series are usually very sharp and distinct.  I thought they weren’t quite as memorable this time around, but again that was a minor issue overall.  And maybe that was just me since we meet a group that is overly obnoxiously Christian and I didn’t care for them at all.  Kinsey is still a wonderful lead character.  A couple of supporting characters really only make cameos here, and I found I missed them, although I’m definitely curious where the subplot involving Kinsey’s love life is going to lead.

Once again, I listened to the audio version narrated by Mary Peiffer.  She is an outstanding narrator, and brings the characters and story to life without getting in the way of the story.

The creative direction of this story will keep you entertained from beginning to end.  "D" is for Deadbeat is another fun case for Kinsey to solve.

You'll definitely want to read more of Kinsey's adventures.

This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

May 20th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Welcome to this week's Book Beginning and Friday 56.

Since I started doing this over three years ago, I have always picked my quotes from the same book.  Well, this week, all that's going to change.

Right now, I'm reading The Skeleton Takes a Bow by Leigh Perry.




This book has a wonderful opening:

I should have known better than to let Madison talk me into letting Sid appear in Hamlet.  Of course, he was made to play the part she had in mind for him.  Like Yorick, Sid was a fellow of infinite jest and most excellent fancy, had borne me on his back a thousand times, and his flashes of merriment were indeed wont to set the table on a roar.  More to the point, Sid and Yorick were both dead.

But page 56 from this book?  While it's fun, it's not that big a deal out of context.

Which brings us to the book I finished on Wednesday, Decanting a Murder by Nadine Nettmann.




While the opening of this book wasn't as good as the one I already shared, it has this great exchange from page 56:

Jeff approached me from the driveway.  "Is everything okay?"
I shook my head.  "No, I need to find Tessa.  Now.  This is all my fault."
"What do you mean?"
I shook my head.  "It doesn't matter, I need to find her."

So you can see why I would want to share from both.

Reviews of both books are planned for next week.  And I'll be back with teasers from just one book for next week's memes.

Ornament Review: Cookie Cutter Christmas #4 - Visions of Sugar Plums - 2015 Hallmark Ornament



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Cute scene, creative display
Cons: Simpler than others in the series
The Bottom Line:
Dreaming of sweet tweets
Cute but a little simpler
Still worth collecting




This Ornament Will Give You Visions of Sugar Plums

For pure cuteness, Hallmark’s Cookie Cutter Christmas series is rapidly attempting to take that crown from many of their longer running series.  Not only is it cute, but it’s also very clever.  While 2015’s entry eems like a step down to me, it’s still a great ornament.

Each ornament in the series features a cute little mouse doing some kind of holiday activity.  This year, he’s dreaming of delicious treats to come.  Yes, he’s on his back in bed.  His bed is facing us, and on the wall behind him, we can see the candy he’s dreaming of finding in his stocking the next day.

One of the things I do like about this series is the way candy is incorporated into the scene.  In this case, the bed’s legs are candy canes, and the lamp on the bedside table is a gumdrop.

The best part of this series is that each scene is inside a different cookie cutter shape (hence the series name).  In this case, the ornament is a star.

Overall, I do like this ornament, but when you compare it to the others in the series, it just seems a bit plain.  The candy our mouse is dreaming of is painting on the wall behind him.  The bed and table are in the middle of the scene, and the rest is empty.  Mind you, I would be hard pressed to do something this nice if I were designing the ornament, but it’s still the simplest scene we’ve gotten in this series to date.

The legs on the star are thick enough that you can easily set this ornament out to be displayed in any collection of ornaments you want.  Its stable enough you don’t have to worry about it falling over.

You’ll actually find the series marker on the back of the ornament.  There’s plenty of room back there for the 4 in a Christmas tree.

And you’ll find the loop for hanging the ornament on the top of the star.  Slip a hook through there, and you’ll find that it hangs straight.

While 2015’s Cookie Cutter Christmas is a bit simpler than the earlier ornaments in the series, but it still a nice piece.  Fans of the cuteness of the series will be delighted to add it to their collection.

Be sure to check out the rest of the delightful Cookie Cutter Christmas series.

Original Price: $12.95

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Book Review: 15th Affair by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Women's Murder Club #15)



Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: The plot is good
Cons: Little of many characters; Lindsay/Joe; resolution to previous book’s cliffhanger
The Bottom Line:
One case, many prongs
Underuses most of cast
Resulting in mess




I Should Be Careful What I Wish For

If you go back and look at my reviews of the Women’s Murder Club series, I’ve constantly complained that the books usually contain two or three unrelated mysteries the main characters are working on parallel to each other.  I’ve wanted to find a book where all the ladies are working on one case again.  That’s what we get in 15th Affair, but the result is pretty horrible.

This book opens with San Francisco Homicide Detective Lindsay Boxer about to go home for the day only to be called to a crime scene at a hotel.  A man has been gunned down in his hotel room.  And two people were also murdered next door.  What makes it really weird is that the security cameras completely failed when this attack took place.  What was happening?

Lindsay gets the shock of her life when she is reviewing surveillance related to this case and discovers her husband Joe has crossed paths with their investigation.  But Joe has vanished.  Did he have anything to do with this?

I’m just scratching the surface of this book that brings in some other plots to keep things complicated and keep the pages turning.  The mystery aspects of this book actually worked well, I thought, and I enjoyed them.  The pace was fast, and the climax was logical with the other storylines brought in all playing off each other for one complex case.

But here’s where things start to go downhill, and they actually crash fast.

First of all, the previous book ended with a cliffhanger.  Remember it?  A drug dealer has decided that Lindsay has the drugs or money he was cheated out of when one of his underlings got arrested by the cop.  So he is going to go after her.  I was expecting that to be a major part of the book.  Instead, it’s like the authors decided they had a new idea that was better and wrapped that up in a paragraph.  No, I’m not kidding.  Why even introduce it then if you aren’t going to deal with it now?

While there is one case with several prongs being worked on, the rest of the Women’s Murder Club only get cameos at best.  Yuki literally has nothing to do.  I’m trying to remember if she even gets a line of dialogue.  Of course, considering some of the storylines she’s had over the series, that’s actually an improvement for her.    Claire and Cindy do fair better since they provide some clues along the way.  But there is no real character development for these three characters or anything new in their various relationships.

Which brings us to Lindsay and Joe.  I get that Joe did some things that upset Lindsay in this book.  I truly do.  But Lindsay blew them way out of proportion.  She went some places she never should have gone emotionally, and let those emotions drive her to make some decisions that drove me crazy.  And here’s a tip for you, you will never work anything out if you aren’t willing to talk about your issues with the other person and listen to each other.  And, frankly, the explanations for what happened with Joe are fairly logical and only make Lindsay seem even worse in her overreactions.

Plus they end with another cliffhanger.  But after how they handled the one from the previous book, I don’t know if I trust them to resolve this one at all.

At least I got this book from the library.

If you are already a fan of the series, see if you can get this book cheaply.  Even then, it might be worth skipping the mess that is 15th Affair.

Check out some of the better books in the Women's Murder Club series.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

TV on DVD Review: Angie Tribeca - Season 1



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Laughs held together by decent mysteries
Cons: Weak pilot, character development thin
The Bottom Line:
Mysteries excuse
For hilarious humor
That does mostly work




Delightfully Silly Cop Show Spoof

I keep saying I am not taking on any new TV shows, and then I keep breaking that promise.  Heck, I had no interest in watching Angie Tribeca until something right before the marathon that TBS had back in January made me decide to give it a try.  I’m glad I did because I wound up enjoying season 1.

Angie Tribeca (Rashid Jones) is a detective with the LAPD who prefers to work alone.  As the series opens, however, she’s been assigned a new partner, Jay Geils (Hayes MacArthur).  And it just might prove to be a good thing as the two of them must solve cases like a murdered baker, a murdered ventriloquist, and an illegal pet ferret ring.

While you may not figure it out from their caseload, this is a comedy pure a simple.  Oh, there is a mystery, but that is just an excuse for the laughs.  Furthermore, this falls into the spoof camp with many absurd jokes.  If anything can be taken literally, the characters will.  There are so many sight gags as well as verbal humor, and I laughed so many times over the course of these episodes.

Naturally, this kind of humor is aimed at someone very specific.  Personally, I watched the pilot and felt baffled by the show.  It just wasn’t working for me.  But since I had all ten episodes of the show on my DVR already, I decided to give the next episode a chance.  As I watched that one, I was laughing so hard, and I was hooked.  I blew through the rest of the episodes, and I’m glad that season two starts up in a couple of weeks.  This show is a delightful riot.  Granted, not every joke works.  For example, there is a rookie cop who throws up at every crime scene.  Not really that funny.  However, there is a fellow detectives DJ Tanner (Deon Cole) and his partner.  His partner just happens to be a dog, but no one seems to realize that.  The results are wonderful.

The mysteries aren’t half bad either.  Yes, they are just an excuse for the laughs, but they usually hold together fairly well, and considering how seriously I take my mysteries, even my comedic mysteries, that’s saying something.

The characters don’t fare quite as well.  Any attempts at character development comes across as forced, probably because they are usually played for laughs.  This isn’t a knock on the actors, who are hilarious in their various roles.  It’s just not in the nature of the show, and a weakness worth noting only in passing.  You’ll be laughing too hard to care.

Season one consisted to 10 episodes, and they are preserved here in their native wide screen and full surround.  There are several behind the scenes features that show just how much work goes into making a show like this from the writing to the acting and directing and even the stunts.  Plus there's a behind the scenes look at each episode.

The first season of Angie Tribeca proves once again why I seldom judge a show by the pilot episode.  If you enjoy wacky humor, you need to give this show a chance.

Season 1 Episodes:
1. Pilot
2. The Wedding Planner Did It
3. The Famous Ventriloquist Did It
4. The Thumb Affair
5. Commissioner Bigfish
6. Ferret Royale
7. Tribeca’s Day Off
8. Murder in the First Class
9. Inside Man
10. The One with the Bomb

Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz (Evan Smoak #1)



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great action, fun main character
Cons: A minor issue or two, but nothing major
The Bottom Line:
Meet this agent as
New series gets off to a
Fast paced beginning




You’ll Definitely Want to Meet Orphan X

While I have enjoyed Gregg Hurwitz’s standalone thrillers, I’ve often wished I could revisit some of his characters in a series.  He’s taken that leap back to series with Orphan X, and what a thrill ride it is.

Evan Smoak was approached as a twelve-year-old and trained to become a top member of a program you’ve never heard of.  Branded Orphan X, he was sent on multiple top secret assignments involving assassination and other black ops.  As thanks, Evan has landed on most wanted lists the world over, including the USA.

When Evan left the program, he set himself up in a fortress in Los Angeles.  Now, he spends his time helping people get out of impossible situations.

Only his newest client seems to be more than he bargained for.  At their initial meetings, someone shoots up the restaurant where they are.  Can Evan save her?

Obviously, this is not the kind of book I normally pick up to read, but when I do pick up one of Gregg’s books, I never regret it because they are such fun.  This one is no exception.  Evan is a blast to be around.  Okay, so he might be a bit of a superhero in some ways, but as the book goes along, we do see the human side of him, and I look forward to seeing him be fully fleshed out as the series continues.  I can definitely see how that would happen given some of the supporting characters we meet in this book.  They definitely have the potential to really draw Evan out, and they felt very real to me already.

I was tempted to write off the beginning of the book as set up, but as the book continued I fully understood just how important it all was.  And once Evan meets with the main client, things really take off and we never look back.  This is a delightful ride that left me turning pages as quickly as I could.  And that ending makes me wish the next in the series were out already.

We get some flashbacks to Evan’s past that help set the scene for this book.  They are sprinkled into the beginning of the book but never feel like they slow things down.  The fact that they aren’t dumped on us all at once helps not break the pace of the current story.

Evan Smoak may be larger than life, but he is going to be a fun character to revisit.  Orphan X will leave you breathless for his next adventure.