Monday, December 11, 2017

Ornament Review: Death Star - Star Wars Storytellers - 2017 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great looking Death Star with clips from the movie
Cons: Plug keeps it from sitting out
The Bottom Line:
New technology
Brings Star Wars movie to life

Worth buying for fans

Star Wars Fans Take Note: You’ll Want This Ornament (and Series)

Hallmark is out to make me poor.  Oh, they would probably say it is all about making money for them, and as an accountant, part of me completely understands that.  However, they keep coming out with new things that I just have to have.  For example, I was going to resist their new Storytellers line, but one look at the ornaments, and I was hooked.  That includes all three of the Star Wars releases for this year, including the Death Star.

The ornament itself is a little larger than a typical Hallmark ornament; it’s almost four inches in diameter.  And, just as you’d expect, it is a sphere.  What’s cool about it is that they have all the ridges you’d expect from the Death Star.  Looking at it, it looks just like the ship in the movie, and the ridges make it extra cool.

Now, this isn’t the first time that Hallmark has done the Death Star.  So, what makes this one special?  It’s the new Storyteller technology.  They have a special cord (sold separately) that you plug into this ornament.  Up to seven ornaments can be plugged into one cord.  And when you do, you’ll find that these ornaments interact.  They have released three Star Wars ornaments this year, with two more to come for the next two years, making a total of seven.

When you press the button on this ornament, you’ll heard dialogue from the scene from early in Star Wars when Princess Leia sees just what this new weapon can do.  And the Death Star itself lights up and changes color as the scene plays out.

If you just have this ornament, you’ll get the one scene that lasts about a minute ten.  However, if you have all three of the ornaments released this year, all of them play their scenes when you press any of the buttons.  They also release additional dialogue so all three go for about four and a half minutes, so it’s worth getting all of them.

Earlier, I called this ornament a sphere, but that’s not quite true.  It has a flat bottom, so you would think you could set this ornament out to be displayed.  Unfortunately, that’s where the cord fits into the ornament, so it doesn’t actually sit flat.  On the other hand, it hangs perfectly straight, and since the button that starts the show is on the bottom, hanging the ornament allows better access to that.

Of the three they released this year, this one is my favorite for one simple reason, it is the one that lights up the most.  I love lights on my tree and having ornaments that light up is even more fun, so this one is perfect for me.  The scenes are a nice touch.  I can wait to see what additional dialogue we get with the four additional ornaments that will be released.  Yes, these ornaments are on the expensive side, but they are just so cool.

So, if you are a Star Wars fan, you’ll definitely want to start getting these with the Death Star and start saving your pennies for the next few years to complete your set.

Original Price: $39.95

Sunday, December 10, 2017

TV Special Review: Olaf's Frozen Adventure

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some laughs
Cons: Too long overall
The Bottom Line:
Christmas traditions
Olaf finds humor in search
Short nothing special

The Search for Tradition

While the devotion to Frozen is dying down some, there are still enough fans to make follow up stories understandable, which is why we got to revisit our friends in Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, a 22-minute story that premiered before Pixar’s new film Coco.

We return to Arendelle just in time for Christmas.  Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) are thrilled to be opening up the castle to the citizens of their country.  After the ringing of the bell, which officially signals the start of the holiday, they are planning to have an open house.  However, the citizens aren’t interested in staying because they have their own traditions to get back to.

While Elsa and Anna are disappointed, it’s Olaf (Josh Gad) who is truly upset since Anna and Elsa don’t have a tradition of their own.  And so Olaf sets off with Sven to search the kingdom for the perfect tradition for his friends.  Will he find it?

This short definitely has some fun moments.  If nothing else’s there are Kristoff’s (Jonathan Groff) traditions.  Remember, he was raised by trolls, so you can imagine what some of them are.  Olaf is a funny character all by himself, and he carries much of the story.

However, it feels drawn out.  Overall, this is a long 22 minutes.  And the songs don’t help.  The special opens with a song clearly meant to riff off songs from the original, but it is obviously a pale imitation.  The version Olaf sings while searching for traditions is actually fun and clever.

Really, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure feels like a television Christmas special, which explains why it’s now been pulled from the theater and is going to air on ABC.  That’s where it should have stayed, in my opinion.  It’s fun a time or two, especially for fans of the original, but it isn’t going to become a tradition.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

December 9th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Many more mid-season finales this week.  It's going to start looking pretty bare around here for the next couple of weeks.

Supergirl – So we are going to slow play Reign even knowing who she is.  I still feel so sorry for her since she really is a nice person.  And it is going to kill Kara when she learns the truth.  And was it just me, or did this episode seem to pretty much ignore anything from the crossover, which none of the rest of the shows can do.

Lethal Weapon – That was a very fun episode with some great lines.  But I guess I am not a tourist here since I don’t remember ever seeing any of those double decker buses.  I’m interested to see if Riggs makes this relationship last.  I really didn’t see it going this far a couple episodes ago.

The Flash – I did not see any of that ending coming.  We’ve got a new look to the villain.  And Barry is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.  Although, mystery reader that I am, as soon as he picked up that knife, I knew it meant trouble.

Legends of Tomorrow – Jax is leaving, too?  That one I didn’t see coming.  I’m sorry to see both of them leaving the show since I liked their characters.  Not quite as emotional as last week, but still did pull on the heart strings some for sure.

Survivor – I have a winner for dumbest challenge on Survivor ever.  Match rocks to spend time with your loved one?  That’s the best you could come up with?  Really?  Crissy and Ben both need to leave now.  Although I have to give him credit for having a real necklace.  Everyone voted for him, yet he didn’t go home.  Wow!

Designated Survivor – They certainly didn’t take into account any travel time.  I mean, wasn’t the one case supposed to be in Florida?  And where were the bee farmers?  All that aside, I enjoyed the episode and seeing how the three letters played out.  They’ve been slow playing this investigation, and I’ll be glad to see some big action on it next week.

The Big Bang Theory – That was such a fun episode.  Honestly, I’d love to go to that wedding that Sheldon and Amy were planning.  It sounds so funny.  And this Raj/Howard split has been a while coming and provided some great laughs.  Glad to see they are going to play this out.

The Orville – That was a bit of a disappointing episode.  Okay, so there was the part where they preached at us about the evils of religion.  But really, the solution seemed to be anti-climatic.  And something that happened off screen.  I’d call it one of the weakest of the season.

Arrow – I actually thought that Rene was going to die out there in the field at one point, proving his worth again.  Instead, we’ve got two teams at odds with each other, and that means we’ve got someone who is willing to testify against Oliver mad at him.  Meanwhile, Caden James has a strong team all out to get Oliver.  And we don’t get the next chapter for five weeks.  I’m glad it will be a busy five weeks.

Friday, December 8, 2017

December 8th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

I took a couple of weeks off from Book Beginning and Friday 56, but it's time to get back into it.

I'm getting in the Christmas spirit this week with Purring Around the Christmas Tree, the sixth Pawsitively Organic Mystery by Liz Mugavero.

The instant I read this first line, I knew I had to use it for Book Beginning.

The whole night could've been straight from a Norman Rockwell painting, if only Santa hadn't dropped dead in his sleigh as he rode up to light the Frog Ledge Christmas tree.

Grabs you attention, right?  Let's see what we find on page 56.

"I don't want to think they're in trouble."

I hope you have a fabulous weekend.  Me?  I need to get some Christmas shopping done.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Book Review: And Death Goes To... by Laura Bradford (Tobi Tobias #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, twisty mystery
Cons: Strong sub-plot takes over at times
The Bottom Line:
Award show murder
Mystery is filled with great twists
Characters you’ll love

Award Winning Fall

You’ve heard of deadly competition, of course, but that’s usually just a figure of speech.  However, things really do turn deadly at an awards show in And Death Goes To…, the third Tobi Tobias Mystery.

For those who haven’t met Tobi yet, she runs her own ad agency in St. Louis, and this year, she’s thrilled to be nominated for the Golden Storyboard at the St. Louis Advertising Awards.  This is the biggest and best award she could be nominated for.  She doesn’t think she will actually win – yet.  But some year, she hopes to snag the award for herself.

However, the evening ends horribly when a platform under one of the winners collapses, and the winner dies.  Despite vowing to stay out of it, Tobi is shaken when she realizes it could have been her, so she starts poking around.  What really happened that night?

Author Laura Bradford is wonderful at creating characters we love, and this series is no exception.  I couldn’t wait to revisit Tobi and her friends and family, and everyone is present and accounted for and at their charming best.  Naturally, we get to know the suspects over the course of the book as well, and they are strong enough to keep us confused until the end.

It’s a good thing I love the series regulars as much as I do because there is a strong storyline involving a couple of them that hijacks the mystery at times.  I was fully invested in this part of the book, don’t misunderstand, but I honestly felt that Tobi was a bit slow to figure things out.  That really frustrated me as things went on.

And this isn’t to take away from the mystery.  There were some wonderful twists to the story, and the suspenseful climax came as a surprise to me.

It’s no mystery to me why I keep coming back to Laura Bradford’s books because her characters are so much fun to spend time around.  If you haven’t tried any of her stories yet, And Death Goes To… is a great place to change that.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Movie Review: Coco

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun first two acts; music; visuals; voice actors
Cons: Final act is very dark
The Bottom Line:
The Day of the Dead
Forms backdrop for Pixar film
That is very dark

Dark Visit with the Dead

I look forward to each new Pixar movie and despite the unusual setting for Coco, it was no exception.  Since I spent Thanksgiving with my own family, I wasn’t able to go until this last Friday night.  It wasn’t the film I was hoping for, although I think part of that was me.

The movie features the Mexican festival of the Day of the Dead and centers around Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez).  He’s a boy living in a family known for two things, the shoes they make and their ban on music.  It seems that his great-great grandfather was a musician who left the family, and music has been banned ever since.  There’s just one problem, Miguel loves music, and he’s very good at it.

Unable to abide by the family’s ban on music any longer, Miguel decides to enter a talent festival his village is hosting this year for the Day of the Dead.  The problem?  He needs a guitar, so he decides to steal one from the tomb of his idol, the late Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).  However, when he grabs it, he finds himself magically transported to the land of the dead.  Will he meet up with his family?  Can he find his way back to the land of the living?

Obviously, as a Christian, I disagree with the premise of the film, but I went in with an open mind, viewing this as a fantasy.  I was hoping for a light comedy, and I was expecting a moral on the importance of family.

I definitely got that moral on the importance of family.  In fact, this movie drives it home in a very strong way.  Since I agree that family is important, I was very happy with that.  I also appreciated how they played out Miguel’s desire to play music against his family’s ban on music.

And yes, I did get some laughs.  The first half of the movie is very fun.  A couple of scenes might be a little scary for kids, but most kids should be okay with them.

However, when we reached the third act and geared up for another of Pixar’s patented Climaxes That Will Not Quit, things took a very dark turn.  Mind you, I am very impressed with their story telling, and I get what they were doing.  However, I honestly think the movie may be too dark for kids.  As a result, I definitely recommend you view this movie before you let them watch it.

And here’s where my own week comes into play.  I’d had a very long, stressful week, and I think I took that into this movie.  As a result, I took this final act very hard.  Oh, I know I would have been tearing up, but it actually left me depressed.  I know that isn’t what they were going for, but a few elements of that third act were that dark.  This is why I saw watch it before you let your kids see it.

For a movie that focuses on music, you’d expect the music in this film to be wonderful, and it truly is.  The soundtrack will have you smiling along with the antics of the characters for the first two thirds.

The cast was mostly unknown to me, which just means I can get lost in the action that much easier.  I certainly have no complaints in that department.

Likewise, the animation is fantastic, but I expect no less from Pixar.  Visually, they are at the top of their game.

But it’s that third act that troubles me.  I suspect on another night, I might not have been so bothered by it, but I still can’t recommend enough that you view Coco before your kids and decide if they are ready for it.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

And the Winner Is....

I just pulled the winner for Hark the Herald Angels Slay.  And that winner is....


I just sent you an e-mail, so be watching for that.

And be sure to check out the giveaway I just posted this morning.

Book Review: Live and Let Fly by Clover Tate (Kite Shop Mysteries #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, enjoyable plot
Cons: Pacing in second half
The Bottom Line:
Kite contest judge killed
An entertaining cozy
With great atmosphere

Local Celebrity Murdered

Earlier this year, I enjoyed the first book in the Kite Shop Mysteries, and I was looking forward to returning to the town of Rock Pointe, Oregon, and seeing what happened next to Emmy Adler.  Live and Let Fly is that second visit, and it is fun.

August is the height of tourist season for this coastal town, and Emmy’s new business, Strings Attached, is booming.  However, she is looking ahead to winter and how she will make money during that season.  There’s a kite festival coming up in a couple of weeks, and Emmy is hoping her original design will win the contest, which will in turn drive people to her shop.  Of course, that means she has to finish her design, something that is hampered by the unexpected appearance of her accident-prone sister, Sunny.

The judge for this contest is Jasmine Normand, a local who gained international fame as the winner of the reality dating competition Bag the Babe.  She’s returned a few days early to reconnect with friends a family, and when Emmy finds Jasmine and an obviously smitten Jack, Emmy’s semi-boyfriend, she doesn’t react well.  That night, Jasmine dies, and the sheriff doesn’t think it was an accident.  With a tabloid reporter sniffing around Emmy, she needs to figure out what happened to Jasmine before her reputation is ruined.

I truly do love the coastal town that Emmy lives in, and I can almost hear the sound of crashing waves as I read.  It’s warm and inviting, except for the murder rate, just what cozy readers want in a setting.

The story starts out full force, reintroducing us to everyone from book one and introducing the new characters.  However, about half way through the pace cuts back to a breeze.  There are still a couple of twists to come, however, and the climax will have you holding on to anything that might fly away.

In the first book, Emmy had some issues with her temper, but I felt that has learned some patience.  Then again, I didn’t think it was too bad in the first book.  Heck, I would have lost it with Sunny, but Emmy manages to keep her cool there.  This makes her more pleasant to be around as we watch her solve this case.  The other series regulars get some interesting development, and we even get a cameo from someone I didn’t expect to see again.  Meanwhile, the new characters are memorable and entertaining as well.

I did find one rather frustrating continuity error involving a sub-plot at one point.  It doesn’t ruin anything story wise, but it is the kind of thing a good edit should have caught and that drives me crazy.

Truly, that is a minor issue, however.  I found Live and Let Fly to be as pleasant as flying a kite myself.  Sit back and drift away with this enjoyable book.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.


Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of this book to give away.  Because it is a physical book, the contest is limited to residence of the US.

Just leave me a comment with your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you win.  I will pick the winner next Tuesday, December 12th, so please leave your comment before 12:01 AM Pacific Time on 12/12.  You will have until midnight on 12/17 to get back to me, or I will choose a new winner on 12/18.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Ornament Review: Winter Fun with Snoopy #20 - Supper Dish Sledding Redux - 2017 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fresh take on a fun idea to celebrate 20 ornaments
Cons: Idea was already used in series
The Bottom Line:
Racing down a hill
Snoopy, Woodstock side by side
Happy twentieth!

Paying Tribute to 20 Years with Another Supper Dish Race

This year marks the 20th anniversary for the two longest running Peanuts ornaments series that Hallmark has ever done – Spotlight on Snoopy and Winter Fun with Snoopy.  Just goes to show how popular Snoopy is, right?  For the Spotlight on Snoopy series, we got an original series ornament and a complimentary anniversary piece that harkens back to the original ornament in the series.  But for Winter Fun with Snoopy, we get one ornament that almost does both.

You see, the original ornament in this series featured Snoopy and Woodstock racing down a snowy hill in Snoopy’s supper dish.  And the duo are back at it this year, however this time they are racing side by side.  Yes, Snoopy’s in his red supper dish, but Woodstock is racing in his nest.  And it looks like he might be a little ahead, at least at this moment.  They both must be going quickly since Snoopy’s red and gray striped hat is flowing out behind him.

Yes, I immediately picked up on the similarity between the two ornaments, and I do wish we’d gotten a completely original idea.  However, I don’t care overall.  The design is original enough to make it fun.  I love the idea of Woodstock sliding downhill in his nest.  And the detail on his nest is pretty impressive considering this is a miniature ornament.

Let me emphasize that point.  This is a miniature ornament.  It’s barely over an inch tall.  If you buy this looking for a full sized ornament, you will be disappointed.  But if you have been collecting the series, you already know what to expect.

The ornament has a nice, flat bottom that lets you set this ornament out to be displayed.  However, I recommend you hang it.  You see, it hangs at an angle that adds to the illusion of the downhill race.

You’ll find the 20 in a Christmas tree series marker on the bottom of the ornament as well.

As much as the repeated idea disappoints me, the fresh take on supper dish racing and the tie back to the first ornament in the series makes 2017’s Winter Fun with Snoopy still fun overall.

Missing some winter fun?  Here are all of the ornaments in the Winter Fun with Snoopy series.

Original Price: $7.95

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Book Review: Kermit the Hermit by Bill Peet

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good moral wrapped in an entertaining story
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Kermit stops hoarding
We see generosity
Entertaining book

The Generous Hermit (Crab)

One thing I appreciate about Bill Peet is that his characters really are good.  I can only think of one character in one book that turns out to be all bad.  So even when you meet Kermit the Hermit, you know that he will have a change of heart before the book is over.

You see, Kermit is a hermit crab living in Monterey Bay.  He has a crevice in a rock that he calls home, and he has filled it full of things he finds valuable.  He spends his day looking for more treasures and trying to keep others from taking stuff from his stash.

One day, his searching takes him to the sand, where a dog gets a hold of him and starts digging a hole.  Kermit is saved for a horrible fate by a boy who is walking on the beach.  Kermit immediately searches for something he can do for the boy.  How will this change him?

Obviously, there is a moral to this story about the joys of being generous.  We actually get to see quite a transformation in Kermit, and that’s a great thing.  In fact, adults will probably pick up on how the details make this a strong parable.  But the best part is that we aren’t preached at.  Instead, this transformation because of one kind act is actually what drives the story, so we are entertained the entire time.

Bill Peet’s illustrations are always wonderful, and this book is no exception.  They are full color and contain plenty of detail.

This is one of the books that Bill Peet wrote in verse.  Since I have no ability to write poetry at all, I am in awe of those who can and make it look so effortless.  This book isn’t an easy reader, but it would be a good step in an early reader’s life since the verse might help them figure out what some unfamiliar words are.

Kermit the Hermit is another example of Bill Peet’s wonderful storytelling.  It’s a shame he isn’t as popular as he used to be.  Try this book today, and you’ll definitely treasure it.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

December 2nd's Weekly TV Thoughts

I did it!  I managed to get completely caught up on TV this week.  You might think I pretty much did nothing but watch TV after work.  And you'd be right, but I'll deny it if you ask me about it face to face.

Lethal Weapon (11/21) – When this show tries to do serious, I don’t enjoy it as much, and this was definitely the case here.  The dreams Riggs was having were just weird.  Roger can be an idiot, and his sub-plot designed to create humor just didn’t work for me.  The last few scenes were good, but overall, this wasn’t their best episode of the season.

This is Us (11/21) – Powerful!  I knew this would be a tough episode based on the tag last week (and I’m so glad we got that warning), but the way they played it out was great.  Rebecca’s scenes with the adult Kate were absolutely perfect, and once again I find myself liking Toby as they are writing him this season.  They do seem to have resolved the grief pretty quickly, or maybe that is just me, but I’m quibbling at this point.

Survivor (11/22) – So we have Joe going out of his way to be annoying so that he will be kept around, and the alliance is falling for it?  Oh man, that guy is absolutely driving me up a wall!  I can’t wait for him to go.

Arrow (11/23) – Oliver arrested?  I’m really not sure where they are going with the storyline this time since they’ve dealt with it in the past.  They are certainly playing it out longer this time.  Thea is awake!  That’s good news for sure.  And just in time for this week’s crossover.

Lethal Weapon – Now that’s more like it.  The stuff with the movie was fairly predictable, although I didn’t see that coming into play in the mystery until it happened.  Still, the laughs mostly worked.  Now, if Riggs will see that he really loves his old friend, we’ll all be better off.

This is Us – Not nearly as powerful as last week’s episode, probably because I never really warmed up to Deja since I knew she’d leave at some point this season.  Obviously, we’ve met their foster son, so I will be interested to see how that goes.  Poor Kevin is going to be in trouble when having his niece in the car wasn’t his idea or his fault.  Hopefully being arrested for drunk driving will help him straighten himself out.  I’m not enjoying his story so far this season since I don’t like train wrecks.  Of course, Kevin has a tendency to go that way anyway.

Crisis on Earth X – Yes, I’m going to handle the massive crossover in one post.  If you watched, you know they weren’t really calling it by the regular show names anyway, and I watched it all in one night.  I love these characters, and I laughed at so many of the lines.  They didn’t seem to deal with as many of the on-going storylines of the respective series this year.  We did get Barry and Iris’s wedding, although them getting married was a bit anti-climactic.  I was more surprised they gave us Oliver and Felicity’s wedding in the same way.  Heck, I’m surprised they got married so soon after them getting back together.  The really, this was about saying goodbye to Stein.  I knew the actor was leaving the show, but I was hoping he’d ride off into the sunset and get to live with his family.  I got spoiled, but even knowing that, the scenes in the final episode just about killed me.  Wow!

Survivor – They got rid of Joe!!  Okay, so it took them two hours to do it, but still, that made me so happy.  Although I would have been okay with Ben.  He is next on my chopping block for sure.  They just need to listen to me.

Designated Survivor – There were references to everything else going on, but they pretty much ignored everything else.  Looks like we will see more of these storylines going forward.  I’m most curious about this romance for Leor.

Big Bang Theory – They made it sound like the secret was bigger than that in the previews, but I really enjoyed the flashbacks and the modern story and how it all came together.  I also always enjoy seeing Zach, so those scenes were fun.  Plus, I was laughing so hard at Raj not talking to women, and Amy’s early encounter with Penny.

The Orville – I didn’t actually expect that promotion to stick, although we now have a main character in engineering, so it does make sense.  Nothing too clever or original in the storytelling, but it was fun despite a few gross out moments.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Review: Void Moon by Michael Connelly

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Thrilling ride
Cons: Pace near the beginning; characters hard to root for
The Bottom Line:
Ex-con character
Created issues for me
Story still thrilling

Cassie Black Finds More Danger than She Bargained For

Michael Connelly is best known for his Harry Bosch novels, especially now that the character is starring in an Amazon TV series.  But he has a few standalone novels out there, and I’m am trying to work them into my reading schedule as well.  That’s what brought me to Void Moon, which is different in some ways and classic Connelly in others.

Cassie Black is an ex-con who served five years after the robbery of a guest in a Las Vegas casino went horribly wrong and is 10 months into her parole.  She’s managed to get a transfer approved to Los Angeles, and she is working at a Mercedes dealership.

Despite Cassie’s desire to go straight, she finds herself needing cash in a hurry, so she decides to go back to her old life for one last crime.  In fact, she becomes part of a plan to rob a high roller at the very casino where her life fell apart six years ago.  Will things go better this time?

I’m being vague on purpose because this is one of those wonderful plots that you need to watch unfold for yourself.  And in this way, this book is classic Michael Connelly.  He creates fabulous stories and executes them perfectly for maximum suspense.  I got very caught up in this story and had to know how it would all play out.  I did feel the beginning was a bit too slow and technical, but once the book really took off, I was hooked, and it became a first-rate thriller.

On the other hand, the characters in this book could be better.  I hate rooting for criminals, so it took me a long time to truly begin to root for Cassie.  As the book goes along, it becomes impossible not to root for her as the other characters are just as nasty.  Still, this book doesn’t have the clear-cut line between good and evil that I normally want in my fiction.  I have an issue with Oceans Eleven for the same reason.

I actually listened to the unabridged audio book as read by L. J. Ganser.  He does a great job of bringing Cassie and this world to life.

While this book is technically a standalone novel, it does have some references to the events of an earlier Harry Bosch book.  It isn’t necessary to have that background to understand this book, but it is a delightful Easter egg for Connelly’s fans.

Don’t get me wrong, Void Moon is a wild, thrilling ride from a true master.  I had enough of a problem with the characters that I couldn’t love it, but they probably won’t be an issue for most readers.

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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

November 2017's Monthly Reading Summary

Here we are on the last day of November, so that must mean it is time for the monthly reading summary.

I didn't make it to the index this month.  I will be sure to do that next month, however.

All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).

A Deadly Éclair by Daryl Wood Gerber (French Bistro Mysteries #1) – 5
Mimi Rousseau is just months into her new venture of a French bistro and hotel in the heart of Napa County.  This weekend, she is hosting her first event, the wedding of Angelica Edmonton, noted TV talk show host and the niece of Bryan Baker, Mimi’s benefactor and mentor.  However, when tension at the pre-wedding dinner on Friday night leads to a dead body on Saturday morning, Mimi finds herself looking into the murder.  What is going on?

It’s fun to find a series set in Napa County that doesn’t focus on wine, although wine is certainly present.  The French food will definitely leave your mouth watering as you work your way through this good first mystery.  The initial chapter has a bit of a data dump in it, but once beyond that, the mystery picks up and the pace never slows down again.  The characters are outstanding, and the relationships between the series regulars is already strong.  I’m looking forward to seeing that grow as the series progresses.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Assault and Buttery by Kristi Abbott (Popcorn Shop Mysteries #3) – 4
Rebecca Anderson’s popcorn shop is under renovation, which is how she finds a mysterious diary in the kitchen’s wall.  She is trying to figure out who the writer was when someone dies after eating her popcorn – popcorn that was poisoned.  Her attempts to clear her reputation and save her business end with her in prison for impeding a police investigation.  What’s going on?  Will Rebecca get out of jail?

This book has a unique first half as we get flashbacks to what landed Rebecca in jail.  It absolutely works; I was engaged the entire way through and the plot comes together perfectly at the end.  There’s some fun humor, although a couple of scenes that were supposed to be funny irritated me.  Likewise, I didn’t feel the repercussions of the jail plot twist were adequately dealt with.  We didn’t see quite as much of the series regulars, but I did enjoy what we saw.  And the new characters were wonderful.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

City of Lies by Victoria Thompson (Counterfeit Lady Mysteries #1) – 5
Elizabeth Miles makes her living as a con woman, an unusual profession for a woman in 1917.  However, when her latest con goes south, she finds herself on the run from the mark’s goons.  In her attempts to escape, she joins a group of suffragists outside the White House and is delighted when they are arrested.  But has she truly escaped the men searching for her?

If you pick up this book expecting a murder and five suspects, you’ll be disappointed.  However, with those adjusted expectations pick up this book because it is wonderful.  The story is captivating and moves quickly; I always had a hard time putting the book down.  This may be the first in a series, but the characters are already strong.  I’m not normally one to root for a criminal, but I couldn’t help but root for Elizabeth in this book.  Real history is woven in without slowing down the fictional story at all.  I’m not sure where the series will go from this wonderful beginning, but I can’t wait to find out.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Seeds of Revenge by Wendy Tyson (Greenhouse Mysteries #3) – 5
When Megan Sawyer sees a woman stranded during a winter storm, she offers her a ride to town.  The woman is Becca, who is coming to Winsome to spend the upcoming Christmas holiday with her aunt.  However, when she goes to drop off Becca, Megan witnesses a confrontation between Becca and her very estranged father, Paul.  When Paul dies a few days later, Becca quickly becomes the chief suspect.  But Megan thinks there is more to his death, especially since it mirrors an unusual death in one of Megan’s aunt Sarah’s books.  Is the killer using the book to send a message?

The Christmas setting is in contrast to the plot of this book.  In fact, it makes it seem darker as a result.  This is a plot that will stay with you for a while after you are done.  Little things that appear to mean nothing come into clearer focus when we reach the climax of the tightly plotted story.  I enjoyed seeing the returning characters again, but the new characters really steal the show.  They are very strong, even Paul, which is unusual for a murder victim.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

The Last Detective by Robert Crais (Cole and Pike #9) – 5
While PI Elvis Cole is watching his girlfriend Lucy’s son, Ben is kidnapped.  The caller says it is payback for something in Cole’s past, but he can’t figure out what that might be.  As more people get involved in the case, the kidnapping puts a strain on Elvis’s relationship with Lucy.  Can he find Ben?

This is a thrilling read from start to finish.  Since we have gotten to know Lucy and Ben over the last couple of books, we care about the outcome here.  I was so pulled in at the climax that I didn’t want to stop.  The characters are strong as well, including Elvis and his partner Joe Pike.  They are becoming more human.  The flashbacks to Elvis’s past help with that, and they manage to be as engrossing as the main story instead of slowing it down.

Spy School Secret Service by Stuart Gibbs (Spy School #5) – 5
The evil organization SPYDER is back, and they are planning to assassinate the President.  Because of Ben Ripley’s success fighting them in the past, he is sent under cover into the White House to try to find the sleeper agent.  However, with the large number of people in the White House each day, Ben soon realizes just how mammoth the task is.  Can he figure out what is going on in time to save the President?

This premise sets us off on another wonderful wild ride into the world of espionage.  Oh, the fact that Ben is only twelve-years-old might be unrealistic, but it is so much fun and author Stuart Gibbs makes it work here.  There are lots of twists leading up to the wonderful climax.  The characters are good, although they could be a little stronger.  That’s probably just the adult in me talking, however because it certainly wasn’t on my mind when I was busy turning pages.  The book also packs a fair number of laughs that caught me off guard and truly made me laugh out loud.  Kids of all ages will love this book.

A Perfect Manhattan Murder by Tracy Kiely (Nic and Nigel Mysteries #3) – 5
Nic and Nigel Martini are back in Manhattan for the Broadway premier of their friend Patty’s play.  While Nic is happy to see Patty and their mutual friend Harper, she is less enthused about seeing Harper’s husband Dan, a Broadway critic who is as boorish in real life as his reviews are harsh.  The morning after the play’s premier, Dan is found dead, and the police quickly zero in on Harper as their prime suspect.  Nic is certain that her friend is innocent, but can she prove it?

Once again, we are treated to a fantastically fun story.  We get to know Dan and meet the suspects before he dies, which means we don’t waste any time diving into questioning suspects.  I didn’t see the ending coming at all.  The characters are a little on the thin side, but I don’t mind.  The quips and banter flies fast here, and I was constantly laughing.  This series continues to be a wonderful homage to The Thin Man.

“I” is for Innocent by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #9) – 5
Five years ago, Isabelle Barney was murdered on the day after Christmas.  While her estranged husband was acquitted of the crime, her ex-husband is now suing him in civil court in a wrongful death case.  Kinsey has been hired to help the lawyer win the case, taking over from a PI who just died.  His notes were a mess, so she is completely retracing his steps.  But as she goes, she begins to wonder just who committed the murder.  Is she helping the court case, or hurting it?

Kinsey is back in top form in this book.  The plot twists all over the place before coming to a perfectly logical climax.  Henry and Rosie are involved in a very fun sub-plot that provides some laughs.  The suspects are strong, and we meet a couple of new supporting characters since Kinsey has had to move her office.

Nightfall by Shannon Messenger (Keeper of the Lost Cities #6) – 5
This book picks up moments after book five in the series ends as Sophie is dealing with the fact that the Neverseen have kidnapped her human parents.  After getting her human sister hidden away, Sophie begins to hunt for them.  The only clue is Nightfall, a clue that leads to Keefe’s mother, Lady Gisela.  But can she be trusted?  Or is she using Sophie and her friends for her own purpose?

I’ve been waiting a year to get the next chapter in Sophie’s story after the cliffhanger of the last book, and I wasn’t disappointed.  This really is a next chapter, so if you haven’t read these books, don’t start here since you will be lost.  But fans will quickly find themselves turning the 800 pages in this book.  The plot really stalls only once about two thirds of the way, but it isn’t too long before we are ramping up for the climax.  Meanwhile, all our favorite characters get some development and their moments to shine while we meet a fantastic new character.

Hark the Herald Angels Slay by Vicki Delany (Year-Round Christmas Mysteries #3) – 5
Things are gearing up for Christmas in July in the town of Rudolph, New York, and Merry Wilkinson is looking forward to the town’s new tradition, Santa arriving for his vacation in a boat parade.  However, things get complicated when her ex-fiance, Max Folger, shows up in town wanting to rekindle his relationship with Merry.  When he turns up dead in Merry’s shop, she finds herself drawn into the investigation.  Can she figure out what is going on?

I love this series for the Christmas spirit that author Vicki Delany infuses into every page, and just because this book is set in July, that Christmas spirit hasn’t diminished at all.  The mystery takes off into some surprising areas that kept me turning pages until I reached the end.  The series regulars are their normal charming selves, and I was pleasantly surprised by the growth we saw in the suspects as well.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Ornament Review: Luke Skywalker - Star Wars #21 - 2017 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Decent likeness of the older Luke
Cons: Details could be a little sharper
The Bottom Line:
Old meets new here as
We get an updated Luke
Draw for Star Wars fans

Luke is a Mysterious Figure

The new Star Wars movies have all us geeks buzzing as we count down each year to the latest part of the sage from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  It has also breathed new life in Hallmark’s official Star Wars ornament line.  Honestly, I think they were running out of ways to feature the characters from the original trilogy, but now they can feature the classic characters from the new movies.  That’s what they’ve done with 2017’s Luke Skywalker.

This ornament features Luke from his brief cameo at the end of The Force Awakens.  Honestly, that is a bit of a surprise since I’m sure he will be a much bigger presence in The Last Jedi, which opens this year.  If it were me, I would have tied it into the new movie.  But that’s a minor issue.

Anyway, Luke is standing with his robe flowing behind him.  Yes, he’s uncovered his head, and he is standing with his hands clasping each other.  We can clearly see that one of his hands is artificial.  He’s mostly tans and whites, with gray hair and goatee and that black artificial hand.

Like most of the ornaments in this series, it is that simple since they usually focus on a character.  I really like this chance to get the classic characters updated for the new movies.  The detail on this one is good.  It doesn’t quite look like Mark Hamill in his one scene, but it is a close enough likeness that anyone will know who it is supposed to be by just looking at it.

Between Luke’s feet and his robe, there is plenty here for a solid base, so this ornament stands very well on its own.  You’ll also find the series marker on the bottom.  Hard to believe we are at number 21.

Of you can hang this ornament on your tree.  The hook is on the back of Luke’s head, which allows him to hang straight.

Fans of both the new movies and the original trilogy will definitely want to pick up Luke Skywalker.  He’s been a hot seller at my local store, so obviously, there are a lot of us out there who like this ornament.

Fan of Star Wars?  You'll want to check out the rest of the official Star Wars ornaments series.

Original Price: $17.95

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Book Review: Hark the Herald Angels Slay by Vicki Delany (Year-Round Christmas Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Christmas infused cozy mystery
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Christmas in July
Another murder in town
Christmas spirit filled

Christmas in July Turns Deadly

For the first two books in the Year-Round Christmas Mysteries, we visited the town of Rudolph, New York, for Christmas itself.  But when a town draws in tourists by celebrating Christmas all year long, there are other celebrations.  For Hark the Herald Angels Slay, we are visiting for their Christmas in July, and it’s a wonderful visit.

This July, the town is trying something different.  Instead of Santa coming for his vacation in a traditional parade, the town is going to do a boat parade.  Merry Wilkinson is looking forward to starting this new tradition in her role as Mrs. Claus, and she’s hoping that it will draw in tourists to help her store, Mrs. Claus’s Treasures.

What she isn’t counting on is her ex-fiance Max Folger showing up.  They split when he started dating Erica, the owner of the magazine where they both worked.  While Max claims he is in town to do a feature on Rudolph, he makes it very clear that he regrets letting Merry go and wants her back.  The only trouble is, Merry doesn’t want him back.

Things get more complicated when Merry finds Max strangled to death in her shop.  Everyone keeps insisting that Merry stay out of it, but she finds herself being drawn into the investigation.  Will she figure out what happened to Max?

I love Christmas, and one thing I absolutely loved about the first two books in the series is the Christmas spirit the infused the pages.  I wondered if that would be the case in this book since it is set in July.  I didn’t need to worry.  While the weather may be warmer, I still felt that Christmas spirit.  It certainly helps that the contents of Merry’s shop sound delightful.  I have a feeling I would spend way too much money there if it were real.

Of course, I am reading this book for the mystery, and this is the strongest one in the series to date.  There were several complications that left me turning pages as quickly as I could.  Things lead up to an exciting and logical climax.

And I love these characters.  Merry and the other series regulars are a lot of fun.  Well, there are a couple that are annoying, but since Merry is annoyed by them as well, I know I’m in good company.  I was actually surprised by the suspects introduced in this book.  They showed more growth than we usually see in the mysteries I read, which I enjoyed.

Hark the Herald Angels Slay is the strongest book in this series to date.  No matter when you read it, you will be filled with the Christmas spirit as you watch Merry solve a fun mystery.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.


Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of this book to give away.  Because it is a physical book, the contest is limited to residence of the US.

Just leave me a comment with your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you win.  I will pick the winner next Tuesday, December 5th, so please leave your comment before 12:01 AM Pacific Time on 12/5.  You will have until midnight on 12/10 to get back to me, or I will choose a new winner on 12/11.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Music Review: It's Finally Christmas by Casting Crowns

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great mostly original Christmas songs
Cons: Only six tracks (but priced accordingly)
The Bottom Line:
Six new Christmas tracks
Are mostly originals
Sure to be well played

This EP is a Christmas Gift You’ll Want to Unwrap

Since their debut, Casting Crowns has been one of my favorite groups, so when I saw they were releasing a second Christmas project, I jumped at a chance to own it.  It’s Finally Christmas turned out to be a six song EP, but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for it at all.

At first glance, this disc looks like it is broken down half new tracks and half original numbers, but that’s not quite right.  The only truly traditional song on here is “O Holy Night,” and it’s is a gorgeous version of the song.  “What Child is This?” starts out sounding traditional, but they’ve tweaked the chorus.  I love it for the variety.  Their women take the lead on the vocals for these two tracks.

Which means that Mark Hall is the lead vocalist for the rest.  The disc opens with “Gloria/Angels We Have Heard on High” which does incorporate a few lines from the hymn into the song, but it is mostly new material focused on what the birth of Jesus means to sinners.  The title track celebrates the joys of traditions this time of year.  “Somewhere in Your Silent Night” reminds us that Jesus is still with us and ready to reach us where we are this Christmas and any time.  Finally, “Make Room” is a plea to live for Jesus.

Stylistically, this fits perfectly within Casting Crown’s adult contemporary wheelhouse.  There’s nothing here that will surprise their fans.  Since I’m one of them, I definitely consider this a strength.

Yes, I already have Casting Crown’s first Christmas release, and I enjoy it every year.  I can already tell that It’s Finally Christmas is going to get just as much air time each Christmas.

CD Length: 25:28
1. Gloria/Angels We Have Heard on High
2. It’s Finally Christmas
3. What Child is This (Christ the King)
4. Somewhere in Your Silent Night
5. O Holy Night
6. Make Room

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Book Review: Nightfall by Shannon Messenger (Keeper of the Lost Cities #6)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and story keep the pages flying
Cons: Slows down a little at one point, but not for long
The Bottom Line:
Sophie in action
Trying to protect loved ones
Engrossing again

Sophie Races to Save Someone Close to Her

I’ve been very impatiently waiting for a year to find out what happened after the cliffhanger that ended book 5 in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, so that means I was keeping my reading schedule clear to start Nightfall as soon as I could after it was released.  It was definitely worth the wait.

If you are new to the series, you need to fix that today.  This is a wonderful middle grade fantasy series.  It stars Sophie Foster, an elf who was raised by humans until she was a teenager, at which point she learned why she never felt like she quite fit in with the humans around her.  But that was just the beginning of her journey.

Before we go further, I need to issue a spoiler warning.  Because of how this book starts, it will be impossible to discuss this book without spoiling the previous book in the series.  I am NOT going to spoil anything in this book, however.  Because this story is really one story broken down into books, you really need the read the previous books before you pick up this one anyway.

The book picks up exactly where the previous book ended – Sophie has just gone to check on her human family only to learn that they have been kidnapped by the Neverseen.  Only her “sister” is still there.  The only clue that Amy overheard when their parents were kidnapped is the name Nightfall.

Unfortunately, this clue leads Sophie and her friends straight to Lady Gisela, Keefe’s mother.  She is obviously using this situation to manipulate Sophie.  Can Sophie use Lady Gisela to learn where her parents are being held without giving Lady Gisela what she needs for her plans?

If all of this leaves you lost, then this book isn’t for you – yet.  As I said before, these books build on each other.  So all that means is, back up and begin with book one.  Author Shannon Messenger does a good job of reintegrating us into Sophie’s world, but I’m sure the explanations would only go so far for someone who has never picked up a book in the series.

For fans of the series, this book will satisfy.  There are plenty of the twists and close calls that we’ve come to expect in the series.  I did feel that things slowed down a bit about two thirds of the way into the book as Sophie started hitting dead ends, but it wasn’t too long before we were ramping up for the climax.

Over the course of the series, Sophie has made a lot of friends, and there is room in this book for all of them to shine.  Some get more page time than others, but they all get their moments and all get some development as characters.  Fans of Keefe will be happy to learn he gets plenty of page time to make up for the previous book.  Plus, we get a delightful new character here.

What I’ve been dancing around is the length of this book.  It’s 800 pages.  That’s daunting for sure, but I can’t point to anything I think should be cut out.  The pages certainly do fly by, and I got lost in the story any time I sat down to read.

I’m not too surprised that we get a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of this book.  It’s not nearly as bad as the last cliffhanger, but it is certainly enough to leave me wondering what happens next.

Seriously, this series is fabulous, and Nightfall is a great next chapter for Sophie and her friends.  If you’ve been counting down like I have, your patience will be rewarded.

If you need to catch up, here are the rest of the books in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

November 25th's Weekly TV Summary

I didn't get very far into my TV watching this week since I'm out of town for Thanksgiving.  I'll be working on catching up next week, but here's what I did get watched.

Once Upon a Time (11/17) – Two hours of magical goodness.  I should have picked up on Gothel being the witch in the tower.  So, is she really Eloise, or was Hook really searching for someone else?  I assumed it was his daughter all along.  And then there’s the fact that his daughter is Alice/Lily.  Didn’t see that coming either.  I still want to know what safe guard Ivy put in place.  And who is Regina going to search for in San Francisco.  Is that going to be Zelena or someone else?  I would have sworn that Rumple was awake, but he sure didn’t act like it, so what’s his game?

Supergirl – I’m a bit surprised that they have now introduced Reign.  And right before the four-way crossover, too.  I wouldn’t have expected that until early next year.  On the other hand, as soon as Mon-El was so worried about the one chamber, I knew that was his wife.  No idea where they will go from here going forward, however.

Dancing with the Stars (Monday) – Please, Len.  Everyone knows who is going to win.  Jordan has been a shoe in since the very first episode of the season.  I can’t remember when we had a season this obvious so early on.  Not that he doesn’t deserve it as the dances tonight showed.  There were some great ones, and the freestyles were awesome for sure.  Not surprised it was Drew who went out tonight.  These are the final three I’ve been expecting for several weeks now.

The Flash – As stupid as Barry was, at least they didn’t make us takes weeks to confirm the identity of The Thinker.  Nice to see that they are changing up their formula.  Now, we just need to figure out his end game.

Legends of Tomorrow – I don’t like Grodd, so the fact that he’s now going to be a part of this show doesn’t make me happy at all.  Like the sub-plot with Mick.  Sara must feature heavily into the crossover since they gave her the episode pretty much off.

Dancing with the Stars (Tuesday) – As I said, Jordan won.  No surprise, and that’s a good thing.  He deserved to win.  I mean, did he ever really have a bad week?  I was perfectly okay with the order of the finishes, in fact.  Great season.  And did I hear right that they are only doing four weeks in the spring, and all athletes?  Very interesting.  I bet this is thanks to American Idol.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Book Review: "I" is for Innocent by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #9)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and characters
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
A five year old case
Gives Kinsey plenty of twists
Series in top form

A Change Brings Kinsey Back in Top Form

The end of the previous book in the Kinsey Millhone series found our PI main character getting fired from her part time job at the insurance company California Fidelity.  It left me wondering how author Sue Grafton would move the series forward in “I” is for Innocent.

The book opens a few weeks later, and Kinsey has landed a new office, this time inside a law firm.  Once again, she is independent, agreeing to take some cases for the lawyer while still taking on her own clients.  But in this case, she is taking on a case for the lawyer, Lonnie Kingman.  Five years ago, Isabelle Barney was murdered on the day after Christmas.  Her husband, David Barney, was arrested for the crime, but acquitted.  Now, David is being brought into civil court.  Ken Voight, Isabelle’s ex-husband, is suing David for wrongful death.  Lonnie is actually Ken’s lawyer, and Kinsey is being asked to reinterview witnesses and shore up the case.

Kinsey gets the case a couple of weeks before the trail is supposed to start due to the death of a fellow PI due to a heart attack.  His notes are a mess, so Kinsey finds herself retracing his steps.  But as she interviews Isabelle’s friends and family, she begins to wonder just what happened five years ago.  Could David actually be innocent?  If he is, who really killed Isabelle?

I thought the last book in the series was the weakest to date, but I am happy to report that Kinsey is back in fine form here.  The plot kept me engaged the entire way through, and it surprised me several times along the way as well.

The focus on this series is always Kinsey, but I found that I had missed her landlord, Henry, and Rosie, who owns the neighborhood bar, in the last couple of books.  I’m pleased to say they are back in fine form here and provide great comic relief.  The other supporting players we’ve gotten to know in previous books are just reduced to mentions, which makes sense since they are employees of California Fidelity, and we appear to have moved beyond that.  I have a feeling we’ve met a couple of new supporting players in this book, and I liked them.

Which leaves us with the suspects.  As with most of the books in this series, we spend the most time with Kinsey talking to them, and this batch of suspects is wonderful.  When Sue Grafton is in top form, she can create complete characters with just a few lines, and that’s what she does here.

I’m continuing this series is audio, and Mary Peiffer is still the narrator.  She so perfectly captures Kinsey and her world.

I can see how partnering with a lawyer will bring Kinsey a wider variety of cases, and if “I” is for Innocent is any indication, we are in for some wonderful rides.  Don’t hesitate to pick up this book today.  I’m anxious to see where things will go next.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

TV on DVD Review: The Librarians - Season 3

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Mixes comedy and fantasy with ease
Cons: Effects could be better at times
The Bottom Line:
God resurrected
Causing Chaos on the Earth
More fantasy fun

“I Hate Prophecy More Than I Hate Time Travel.”

I’ve gotten so I watch mostly shows on the traditional five networks.  Honestly, that’s gotten to be more than I can handle.  (I need to cut back somewhere.)  One of the rare shows I enjoy on the non-traditional networks is The Librarians, and the show is just as much fun in the third season.

Now if you are thinking this show is about books and people who take care of them, you’d be completely wrong.  In this case, the library is really a place for collecting artifacts – magical artifacts.  That means our librarians, Ezekiel Jones (John Harlan Kim), Cassandra Cillian (Lindy Booth), and Jake Stone (Christian Kane), are collecting these objects before they fall into the wrong hands.  You can see how this would cause some excitement in their lives.  Helping them out is their guardian Eve Baird (Rebecca Romijn).  As far as the library itself goes, there’s Jenkins (John Larroquette), who has curated the collection for a long, long time.

This season finds the librarians fighting chaos.  Okay, so that’s pretty standard, but in this case, Chaos is a person, an ancient Egyptian god, in fact.  And he’s determined to regain his power and take over the world.  The librarians have a way of stopping them, but it will require a sacrifice.  What will that sacrifice entail?

The show is actually a spinoff of a series of made for TV movies that starred Noah Wiley.  He continues to serve as an executive producer and returning to play Flynn Carsen.  He’s not in every episode, but he appears in more of them here than in the first two seasons.  Also reprising a role from the movies this season is Jane Curtin as Charlene, another of the librarian’s curators.

Of course, the fight against Chaos doesn’t occupy the entire season.  Along the way, we get Baird trying to stop a prophecy of her own death, a spontaneous combustion death at a wellness resort, and a spooky carnival.

What is hard to capture is the exact feel of this show.  It’s quite obviously a fantasy.  But unlike many shows on today that seem to want to take things super seriously, this show is part comedy.  It creates some pretty wacky situations for the characters and milks them for laughs.  That light-hearted feeling translates to a lot of fun for us.

Yet the show takes itself seriously enough.  When things do get serious, and they do, it plays those moments perfectly, too.  There is a fine balance, and the show makes it look very easy.

Of course, the cast deserve their fair share of the credit for that.  No matter which notes they are expected to play they hit it out of the park.  There is not a moment you can point to as a problem.

The biggest weakness the show has is special effects.  I’m sure it’s no surprise to learn the show has quite a few of them, and most of them work, but it is easy at times to tell that this is a lower budget show.  Still, this is worth noting only in passing.  I’m always having so much fun, I don’t really mind.

The other issue this season is a personal pet peeve.  I am not a fan of the device where a show starts out in an interesting situation and then flashes back to show us how the characters got there.  This season, the writers employed it for a long string of episodes in the middle of the season.  Not a deal breaker for sure, but definitely annoying.

There were 10 episodes in this season, so there are 10 episodes in this set.  In addition, we get commentaries and vlogs on all 10 episodes.

If you are looking for a show that is just plain fun and isn’t trying to be anything else, you’ll want to check out The LibrariansSeason 3 continues that fine tradition of being completely entertaining.

Season 3 Episodes:
1. And the Rise of Chaos
2. And the Fangs of Death
3. And the Reunion of Evil
4. And the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
5. And the Tears of a Clown
6. And the Trial of the Triangle
7. And the Curse of Cindy
8. And the Eternal Question
9. And the Fatal Separation
10. And the Wrath of Chaos

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ornament Review: Keepsake Korners Bakery - Keepsake Korners #3 - 2017 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Bakery with fun tie ins on display
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Bakery ready
Showing off festive displays
That are fun tie ins

Delicious Addition to Keepsake Korners

Every town needs a bakery.  There is nothing like fresh delicious treats to brighten any day.  Fortunately for the residence of the Keepsake Korners series, there is the Keepsake Korners Bakery.

This ornament is a building, and this time around the building is yellow.  The building is obviously wood, and the yellow makes it stand out.  The door on the building is red, and it is in the middle with two giant display windows on either side.  In keeping with the others in this series, the displays in the window harken back to other popular series.  In this case, the ornaments chosen are recent ones.  In the left window, we see Santa floating in an ice cream hot air balloon, which was the 2011 ornament in the Santa’s Sweet Ride series.  The right window features a display of sugar cookies arranged on a plate to look like a Christmas tree.  This was the popular 2015 Season’s Treatings ornament.

Of course, the four ornaments in this continuity series itself are inspired by the popular Nostalgic Homes and Shops series.  This building features light.  You can put a light from a Christmas light string in the back of the ornament, which helps light up in the inside of the shop.  There is a scene paint on the back of the ornament showing a helpful employee wrapping a purchase next to the cases of baked goods ready for you to buy.  It adds a nice touch and separates these ornaments from the mother series.

Yes, this is essentially a building, but I find the tie ins to the old ornaments in this series to be lots of fun.  The added light is also a draw for me.

Being a building, this ornament has a nice, flat base, which is a good thing because I’m thinking of creating a display of these and the rest of the Nostalgic Homes and Shops series this year.  After all, I never have displayed those ornaments before.  If you do want to hang the ornament, you’ll find the hook on the roof is perfect to balance them.

The four Keepsake Korners ornaments released this year have proved to be very popular, so if you are interested in the Keepsake Korners Bakery, I suggest you snag one now.  Just like delicious baked goods, it is going quickly.

Original Price: $15.95