Monday, August 21, 2017

TV on DVD Review: Supergirl - Season 2

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Mostly good action and characters
Cons: Interjection of politics
The Bottom Line:
Supergirl still flies
Political messages
Do undercut fun

“I Am Not a Redshirt.  I Am Not a Redshirt.  I Am Not a Redshirt.”

Season 2 of Supergirl brought a huge change to the show – it moved from CBS to the CW.  Honestly, I had been surprised that the show didn’t start out on the network like its brethren did.  Naturally, that meant a few changes to the show, and the result was certainly weaker than season 1, although the biggest weaknesses weren’t because of the change.

The season opens with Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist), aka Supergirl, making a huge decision.  She’s no longer going to be an assistant at CatCo., but she’s going to become a reporter.  All this comes as Cat Grant (guest star Calista Flockhart) decides to go out and travel the world, leaving James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) in charge of the media company.  While Kara’s desires to fight for justice and her knowledge as Supergirl sometimes get in the way of her job as a journalist, she begins to grow as a writer.

Other developments this season?  Winn (Jeremy Jones) is now working for the DAO.  We learn who was in the space ship at the close of season one – Mon-El (Chris Wood), an alien from the neighboring planet to Krypton, and Kara takes him under his wing to help him adjust to life on Earth.  Speaking of aliens, Hank (David Harewood) learns he isn’t the only Martian hiding out on Earth.  And Kara’s sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) makes a major discovery about herself and comes out as a result.

But there’s a growing fight looming as Lillian and Lena Luthor (Brenda Strong and Katie McGrath) move to town.  Despite her cousin Clark’s battle with Lex, Kara starts building a friendship with Lena.  However, Lillian is definitely up to no good.  Plus there’s the group that wants all aliens removed from Earth.  Can Kara survive the coming upheaval?

More than any other show this season, this show wound up embroiled in controversy.  Some of it was just with fans.  Lots of people seemed to hate Mon-El.  I will freely admit, I found him annoying in the beginning of the season, but he really grew on me, and I loved him by the end.

I have friends who have stopped watching this show because of the political bent the show took.  Just look at the titles of the final two episodes of the season as a perfect example.  The alien storyline was a not so thinly condemnation of anyone who is against immigration of any kind even just illegal immigration.  I don’t watch a superhero show to be lectured at.  Ironically, I found the show to be making the exact opposite point when it comes to immigration in the final couple episodes of the season.  Meanwhile, while some praised Alex’s storyline as brave this season, I found it completely predictable early on, although it did get better in the second half of the season.

Despite all of this, I still found much to enjoy.  James got an interesting storyline as he becomes the superhero Guardian.  While he wasn’t in every episode, this tweaked the dynamic of the show for sure.  I also really enjoyed Lena and Kara’s friendship.  I have no clue where they are going with the character, and I like it that way.  Most of the episodes didn’t get too preachy and still managed to entertain.  But when they wanted to preach, boy did they.

Because the show needed to cut its budget due to the network change, production moved to Vancouver from Los Angeles, and as a result Calista Flockhart didn’t stay on full time.  I really did miss her Cat Grant, and she brought a lot of fun to the episodes she was in, the first two and last two of the season.

Those episodes also feature the first appearance on this series of Tyler Hoechin as Superman.  He was excellent in the role.  If they brought him on full time, I wouldn’t complain at all.

Those looking for connections to older Superman shows will be interested to know that, in addition to the actors we’ve already seen, Terry Hatcher, Lois of Lois and Clark, shows up here late in the season for multiple episodes.

Since the show was on the CW for the season, there was more effort to work it into the larger Arrowverse.  Kara was part of the big crossover event a third of the way into the season, although it was hardly mentioned on this show.  Later in the season, more characters do crossover to The Flash for a fun musical episode, although again, not much of the action for this crossover happens on this show, although the episode on The Flash does play out many of the storylines happen on Supergirl at the time.

While I didn’t like all of the choices the writers made this season, I did still find the actors all did a great job.  There’s not a weak link in the cast anywhere.  Meanwhile, the special effects also continue to impress.

The season consisted of 22 wide screen and full surround episodes, and they are all on this disc.  Extras include video from the 2016 Comic Con panel, an audio commentary, and three featurettes and some trivia.

The good of Supergirl Season 2 definitely outweighed the bad.  I do hope that the show can get away from politics and focus more on the super as it moves to season 3.

Season 2 Episodes:
1. The Adventures of Supergirl
2. The Last Children of Krypton
3. Welcome to Earth
4. Survivors
5. Crossfire
6. Changing
7. The Darkest Place
8. Medusa
9. Supergirl Lives
10. We Can Be Heroes
11. The Martian Chronicles
12. Luthors
13. Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk
14. Homecoming
15. Exodus
16. Star-Crossed
17. Distant Sun
18. Ace Reporter
19. Alex
20. City of Lost Children
21. Resist
22. Nevertheless, She Persisted

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book Review: The Bungalow Mystery by Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fast paced and fun
Cons: Weak characters; obvious plot points
The Bottom Line:
Stolen bonds, orphans
Give Nancy next mystery
Fast paced page turner

The Mysterious Guardian

While I can remember certain Nancy Drew mysteries I read as a kid, I am not sure if I read The Bungalow Mystery before or not.  A couple of scenes seemed vaguely familiar to me, but the rest of the plot was completely unfamiliar, so I probably did read it but it didn’t make much of an impression on me.  If that’s the case, I’m not sure why because I enjoyed it as an adult.

The story starts on a dark and stormy afternoon when Nancy and her friend Helen get caught in a sudden storm on a lake.  They are rescued by Laura, a teen who has recently become an orphan.  She’s in the area to meet her new guardians.  However, when she does meet them, something seems off, and Nancy and Helen agree with that assessment.

Meanwhile, Nancy’s father, Carson, is helping a friend by trying to figure out how bearer bonds disappeared from a bank.  He’s in and out of town as a result, but when he is in town, he asks Nancy to help him investigate.  Will she find any clues in this case?  What is going on with Laura’s new guardians?

And once again Nancy is off on another exciting, fast paced adventure.  It is amazing just how much happens to Nancy and what she pieces together in these 180 pages.  Some of the twists are a little obvious, but I wasn’t completely sure how everything would fit together or how Nancy would prove it until the end.

We still haven’t met Nancy’s usual crew in this book.  Helen, who is older and getting married soon, is around near the beginning but isn’t really part of the action here.  A potential boyfriend character is around in the second half of the book.  I can’t remember when Bess, George, and Ned show up, but I miss them.

Not that the characters in this series are super strong.  With only 180 pages, the emphasis is on plot with characterization being fairly basic.  Still, I remember not caring as a kid, so I’m sure today’s kids won’t mind either.

There are a few dated references and expressions in the book, but I think the biggest thing that will date these books for today’s kids are the pictures.  Still, I doubt most kids will care.

It’s fun every so often to revisit friends from your childhood.  While most of the usual cast wasn’t here, I still enjoyed spending time with her in The Bungalow Mystery.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Movie Review: Garage Sale Mystery - Murder by Text

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and characters
Cons: It’s a Hallmark movie
The Bottom Line:
Suicide, murder?
Question about band member
Light but fun movie

“So My Air Tight Locked Up and Done Suicide is Now a Murder?”  “Not Yet.  But Can We Take a Closer Look?”

As a fan of cozy mysteries, you quickly forgive stories that involve your main characters but only partially pertain to the theme.  That’s what happened in the second Garage Sale Mystery that Hallmark is premiering this month – Murder by Text.

You see, this mystery revolves around the local modern country band Dalton.  Yes, Jennifer Shannon (Lori Loughlin) gets involved with this mystery when members of the band come into the shop she co-owns with her best friend Dani (Sarah Strange).  But that’s about the only connection to Rags to Riches or garage sales we really have in the movie.

It turns out that Dani is a huge fan of the group, so much so that when she meets front man John Dalton (Kurt Teixeira), she can hardly speak.  Dalton is releasing a new CD and about to launch a new tour, but they are starting off with a sold-out concert for members of the group’s fan club here in town.  When Jenn and Dani get invited to the sound check, they jump at the chance.

However, the sound check doesn’t go as planned when the base player, Lita, doesn’t show up.  Then she sends a text message to everyone in the band that looks like a suicide note.  Two band members rush over to her home to find her dead from an apparent suicide.  But is something else going on?

Once again, Jenn faces a good puzzle because there are very few clues that this isn’t what it appears to be, a tragic suicide.  Watching Jenn piece it together is entertaining as always, and I was engaged the entire way through.  The clues were great, and I didn’t figure out the killer until the final 15 minutes.

The rest of the cast gets some interesting sub-plots.  Dani is dealing with a visit from her sister, Beth Anne (Gabrielle Miller).  The two don’t get along super well and haven’t had much contact in years.  Why is she visiting now?  Meanwhile, Jenn’s husband Jason (Steve Bacic) and daughter Hannah (Eva Bourne) are fighting over an old building in town.  Jason’s company has just gotten a contract to tear it down and put in condos but Hannah is fighting to save it as a historic building.  Neither sub-plot is exactly original, but they do add some fun and give us a chance to see the rest of the main cast, which isn’t a problem since I love them.

Yes, my usual cheese warning applies, although it doesn’t seem as bad this time around.  Still, there are moments where the acting or the writing are less than they could be.  Honestly, I was caught up in the story so much I didn’t really mind.

So even though this didn’t have as much of a connection to garage sales, Murder by Text is still a fun chance to hang out with characters we love and watch Jenn solve a great mystery.  Fans of the series will be delighted with it.

August 19th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Here's what I watched this week.

American Ninja Warrior – It was so hard watching James struggle through the course and come so close to making it and yet not making it.  On the other hand, Jamie and Joe were incredible finishing it.  The women were amazing, and I feel sorry for Michelle going so far and still not making it to Vegas.  The female superstars of this sport are truly amazing.

Hollywood Game Night – Naturally, as a fan of This is Us, I was rooting for the cast to win.  That was an amazing come from behind win by the other team.  Carson was so annoying.  But the cast of This is Us was having such a fabulous time together.  You can tell they’ve really bonded because that sure looked like so much more than acting.

Suits – I’m glad to see Louis maturing again.  I certainly hope that lasts.  I’d feel sorry for Mike but it is actually nice to see him get what he deserves.  Still, I am very curious to know what exactly Alex is up to.  And I am rooting for them to find a way to get justice for these prisoners.  What has been happening is very wrong.

Battle of the Network Stars – Knowing how important the tug of war is, my money was on sci fi for the win, but I didn’t expect them to dominate all day like they did.  Wow!  Funny watching Jill actually do an obstacle course, although it was nothing like the ones on Wipeout.  Nothing at all.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review: Star Island by Carl Hiaasen

Stars: 1 out of 5
Pros: I liked Ann
Cons: The rest of the book didn’t work for me
The Bottom Line:
A falling starlet
Dysfunctional characters
I just couldn’t like

Fallen Stars

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I have three authors I rotate on audio, and if the next in one series isn’t available from either of the library systems I have access to, I’ll switch to a different author in the rotation and circle back around when the audio book is available.  I recently had the horror of not being able to snag books by any of these authors the weekend before a trip, so I spent some time looking in the library for something else to listen to.  That’s when Star Island caught my eye.  I’d been curious to try the books of Carl Hiaasen for years now.  I know many people find him hilarious, but I was concerned I wouldn’t enjoy him.  Turned out, I was right.

Cherry Pye is getting ready to release a comeback album, her second.  And her career hangs on this album and the related tour doing very, very well.  The problem with that is that Cherry has gone the way of too many teen celebrities.  She’s been a pop star since she was fourteen, and at twenty-two has only increased the partying.  In fact, it’s gotten so bad that her family has hired a double to cover for when Cherry is too strung out on drugs to appear in public.  Ann DeLusia. fools people from a distance, and that’s all the family cares about.

However, things are about to go off the rails.  Without much time before the tour starts, Cherry is heading to rehab and Ann is about to be kidnapped.  As things spin out of control, we meet a slightly deranged paparazzo who thinks that Cherry is his meal ticket, a former governor of Florida who left office and vanished decades ago, and a bodyguard with a very unusual prosthetic to name but a few of the oddball characters in this novel.  Where will it all lead?

Carl Hiaasen’s books are often lumped into crime fiction, and I can see that since several crimes do occur over the pages of the book.  However, this isn’t mystery in the truest sense of the word.  Instead, I would classify it as over the top comedy.

If you haven’t picked up on it from my description, these characters are definitely out there.  About the only one who seemed normal was Ann.  Trust me, you don’t know anyone like this group.  (And if you do, you have my deepest sympathies.)

But that’s where the book failed.  Ann was the only character I truly liked in the bunch.  The rest?  If there had been a big shootout and they’d all died, I probably would have cheered.  Many of them are people I’d attempt to avoid in real life, and spending time with them fictionally wasn’t any more pleasant.  It didn’t help that these characters were swearing so often I was actually cringing at times.  It lost all effectiveness very early on in the book and just kept right on going.

Obviously, since I was finding the characters disgusting, I missed the humor.  Oh, I get that we were supposed to find all of their antics funny.  They weren’t at all funny.  I laughed a couple of times, but not nearly as often as I was supposed to laugh.

And maybe that’s because we are supposed to be laughing at characters self-destructing.  Sorry, I don’t find that funny.

Despite not liking the characters, I did get caught up in the plot enough to want to know how it ended.  The point of view shifts to many of the characters at various times, which gives us a very clear picture of everything happening, a technique I always enjoy.

Stephen Hoye was the narrator for this audio book.  He did a great job bringing the story to life without getting in the way.

Obviously, I’m not in the market that Carl Hiaasen aims for.  I’d been curious for enough years that I’m glad I enjoyed Star Island, but I won’t be picking up any more of his books in the future.

August 18th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

We've made it to Friday again, so it must be time for Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm highlighting Gila Monster by Sandy Dengler.

This is the fourth in a Christian mystery series that features two police officers in the Phoenix area.

I just love how this book begins:

Joe Rodriguez, at five-feet-eleven, weighed just over 160 pounds and almost none of it was fat.  Beside him stood his partner, Tom Flaherty.  Tom, six-feet-one, weighted maybe 155 if he let his unruly red hair grow really long and then soaked it.  Before them crouched a thickset lizard about fourteen inches in length, weighing in at maybe two pounds.
The lizard, outweighed 157 to 1, was winning the standoff hands down.

That last line makes me smile.

Jumping ahead to page 56, we find:

A kid stuck his head in the doors at this end of the hall.  "Mayday!" he yelped and disappeared.

That's it for this week.  I hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ornament Review: Where's Waldo? - 2017 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Perfectly captures Waldo
Cons: Won’t blend on your tree like he does in the books
The Bottom Line:
Waldo has been found
He’s hiding out on your tree
In fun ornament

Where’s Waldo?  Hiding on Your Tree This Year

Over the last couple of years, I’ve become aware of some traditions of hiding things in the days leading up to Christmas.  There’s the Elf on a Shelf.  There’s the German tradition of hiding a pickle.  Not having any kids, I don’t get into any of those.  But when Hallmark introduced a Where’s Waldo? ornament this year, I jumped at a chance to get it.

For those who aren’t familiar with this character, he’s the star of several children’s books.  Each book features multiple two-page spreads with very busy illustrations.  You mission?  Find Waldo wherever he is hiding on those pages.  With his distinctive blue pants and red and white striped shirt, you’d think it would be easy, right?  You’d be very wrong since those are the predominate colors in each illustration.

The ornament just features the character, but they’ve captured him perfectly.  He’s wearing his iconic costume including the red and white hat and glasses.  He’s turned his face to look at us, and he has a cane in his left hand.

And anyone who knows Waldo will immediately know exactly who this ornament is.  And that’s the appeal.  If you love the character and want him on your tree, you won’t find a better chance ever again.  The ornament is simple, but in this case simple definitely works best because you really don’t need anything else.

Of course, the thing that made finding Waldo such a challenge was always the fact that everything and everyone else around him was dressed so similarly.  On a Christmas tree, he will tend to stand out.  But I can still see family members trying to hide him around the tree for fun.

And you’ll definitely need to hang him on your tree.  The ornament captures him mid-step, which is how he usually is in the books.  But it means that you can’t set him out to be displayed.  That’s not a problem, however, since he hangs straight.

For fans of the books, this Where’s Waldo? ornament is a delight.  As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to add it to my collection.  Now, to figure out how to hide him in my tree.

Original Price: $15.95

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Her Majesty's Winner

I just pulled the final winner for the month.  The copy of On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service goes to ...


I just sent you an e-mail, so please get back to me so I can pass have the publisher send you the book.

Book Review: Club Deception by Sarah Skilton

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, interesting story
Cons: Weak sub-plots and ending
The Bottom Line:
A magicians’ club
Politics behind the scenes
Fun, could be stronger

Pay Attention to the Woman Behind the Magician

Every year, my local library puts on a local author day, and this last January, I met author Sarah Skilton there.  She had her first adult novel coming out in July, and since it involved magic, I thought it sounded like fun.  Unfortunately, Club Deception didn’t live up to my expectations.

The book follows four characters as their lives begin to intertwine in the world of Club Deception, an exclusive club for magicians in Los Angeles.  There’s Claire, the wife of club president Jonathan.  Jonathan has long cheated on Claire even though she is the mind behind his act and the real person who keeps the club running smoothly.  Then there’s Jessica, the new wife of traveling magician Cal.  Now that they are married, Cal is ready to return to Los Angeles after a three-year absence.  Meanwhile, Kaimi has been hired to sell some pages from a rare manuscript by the master of card tricks.  Finally, there’s Felix, a former baseball player interning with Jonathan in hopes of becoming a world class magician.

Now, this book touts itself as a mystery.  Despite the fact that was are told in the prologue (before we back up six weeks for chapter one) that one of the characters has been poisoned, it really doesn’t fit my definition of a mystery.  Heck, that portion feels like sub-plot because even when we do catch up to the point of the murder, the book focuses on how it impacts the characters and less on the who done it.

And that’s okay because this book is more of a character study than anything else.  I quickly realized that and adjusted my expectations accordingly.  Now this isn’t to say that the book didn’t have an interesting story going on.  There are some secrets from the past, betrayals, and complications for the characters to deal with, and I found myself getting caught up in their stories.  It helps that the inner politics of the club is fascinating, and it features into the story quite a bit.

And this was despite the fact that the characters weren’t always likable.  Mainly, it was Claire I had a problem with.  She is manipulative at times, but at others we see a human who is hurting.  The rest of the cast make some choices I would disagree with at various times, but for the most part I liked them the entire way through.  All four of the characters I mentioned earlier take their turns as our third person point of view narrator, and that gives us amble opportunity to get to know them.  It also gives us different takes on some of the other characters, which is always interesting.

Still, when I got to the end, I felt like it was missing something.  Maybe it’s because I am used to the tropes of the mystery genre instead of general fiction, but I felt like a couple of the storylines didn’t go anywhere.  And I get what the author was trying to do with the ending, but I felt like the characters hadn’t really learned anything from what had happened before and there was more to the story as a result.  Again, maybe that is me.

This is definitely a departure in another way from the mysteries I normally read – the amount of sex on the page.  But it is in keeping with the harder mysteries I listen to, however.

Am I sorry I picked up Club Deception?  No.  There were certainly parts I enjoyed.  I think a little more focus on what the novel wanted to say would have made it stronger, however.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

TV on DVD Review: Once Upon a Time - Season 6

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Wonderfully developed characters in a still magical story
Cons: So far, magic covering any cons
The Bottom Line:
Magical intrigue
Characters continue to
Grow in great season

“I Killed You.”  “Did You Really Think It Would Be That Easy?”

When asked my favorite TV show currently on the air, I answer without hesitation Once Upon a Time.  Yes, the show has changed significantly since it started, but all good shows of this kind need to grow and change.  I still find the show, well, magical, and season six was no exception.

If you are new to the show, you will be lost here.  There’s no way to avoid it with a show of this kind.  The basics?  Every fairytale character you know is real and is currently living in the town of Storybrooke, Maine.  They originally arrived there via a curse, and they’ve faced several more over the years.  As they have faced multiple threats, families have grown and relationships have changed.

And, honestly, that’s one of my favorite things in the show.  These characters are growing and are not the people they were in season one.  That adds a richness to things that makes every moment mean so much more.  And it’s another reason not to jump in here.  You won’t fully appreciate what we do get to see this season.

As the season opens, our heroes are trying to welcome a lot of new visitors to town.  The residence of the Land of Lost Stories have arrived, and are now getting on with their lives and their stories.  At the end of last season, Regina (Lana Parrilla) tried separating herself into her two halves, Regina and the Evil Queen, before crushing her Evil Queen part.  It didn’t quite work out as she has planned, and it isn’t long before everyone learns that the Evil Queen is back, ready to exact her revenge on Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and David (Josh Dallas).  Naturally, their family, including daughter Emma (Jennifer Morrison) jump in trying to keep that from happening.  However, Regina’s half-sister Zelena (Rebecca Mader) is drawn to the Evil Queen side and might not prove to be an ally to our heroes.

While the season still aired in two parts, the season didn’t have two distinct story arcs.  Some characters from the Land of Untold Stories would pop up for one episode, some for more, and some would play a large piece in the overall arc.  This season, we get to meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Hank Harris and Sam Witwer), Captain Nemo (Faran Tahir), and Aladdin (Deniz Akdeniz) and Jasmin (Karen David) as well as a new version of Jafar (Oded Fehr).  (No connection to the Jafar of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, unfortunately for fans of that show.)

The season had actually opened with Emma getting a vision of her impending death, something that begins to play out more in the back half of the season as we get a new threat.  Honestly, I had negative flashbacks to another show when this storyline was fully introduced for the mid-season cliffhanger, but the way it played out was actually well done and erased my concerns as the show built toward the ultimate battle between good and evil.  Who will survive?

I already gave you my big draw to this show – the characters.  I love them, and I love spending time with them.  This show sucks me in each week, and when things are over, it’s hard to believe it’s been an hour already.

Of course, the storylines help with that.  I still find them compelling.  Yes, they are repeating themselves at times, never more so than in the season finale, but I still enjoy it.  I even get what they were trying to do with the season finale, but it still felt like too much of a retread to me.  My only real complaint for the season.

The actors are at the top of their game, and I love watching them on screen.  They have these characters and their relationships down, and the chemistry between them no matter who is on screen in wonderful.  Praise, as always goes to the two standouts – Robert Carlyle, who plays Rumpelstiltskin, and Lana Parrilla.  She is clearly having a blast playing both halves of Regina this season.

Before the season is over, we get a musical episode.  I will admit it took me a couple of times to fully enjoy it, but it works, and it certainly works well in a series about magic.

Speaking of magic, this show is filled with special effects.  There are usually a couple of episodes a season where things don’t work, but for the most part I buy what they see.

Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, the creators of the show, felt that the journey for most of the characters ended here at season six, so the season finale feels like a series finale in many ways.  It does wrap things up in a wonderful way for everyone…until the final few minutes which set up a season seven that will be missing much of the cast we know and love.  I am intrigued by this new direction.  I am withholding full judgment until I actually see it, and I hope my faith is rewarded.  If not, we will have to pretend the final few minutes of this season didn’t happen because I really could have lived with this as a series finale.

All 22 season six episodes are included in this set.  Naturally, they are in wide screen and full surround as are most shows today.  Extras on the set include deleted scenes, bloopers, one audio commentary, and a behind the scenes look at creating the musical.

For me, the magic and fun of Once Upon a Time have continued in season six.  Any fan of the series to date will continue to enjoy watching their favorite characters in these episodes.

Season Six Episodes:
1. The Savior
2. A Bitter Draught
3. The Other Shoe
4. Strange Case
5. Street Rats
6. Dark Waters
7. Heartless
8. I’ll be Your Mirror
9. Changelings
10. Wish You Were Here
11. Tougher than the Rest
12. Murder Most Foul
13. Ill-Boding Patterns
14. Page 23
15. A Wondrous Place
16. Mother’s Little Helper
17. Awake
18. Where Bluebirds Fly
19. The Black Fairy
20. The Song in Your Heart
21. The Final Battle Part 1
22. The Final Battle Part 2

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review: Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett (Detective by Day #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and mystery filled with humor
Cons: Romantic sub-plot is weak
The Bottom Line:
Looking for reward
Day gets involved in murder
A must read debut

Hit and Run Murder

Earlier this year, I started reading the Chicks on the Case blog, and through that I decided I wanted to read at least one book by all of the Chicks.  (And yes, I’ve still got one I need to get to plus more books by the authors I’ve already read.)  Kellye Garrett is the last of these ladies to have her debut novel published.  Hollywood Homicide came out about a week ago, and it is wonderful.

Dayna Anderson, Day to her friends, has retired from acting after a successful career of one commercial campaign for a fast food company.  As you can imagine, that didn’t line the pocketbooks forever, and she is hard up for money now.  Making matters worse, her parents are going to lose their house unless Day can find a way to give them the cash they need.

Which is why the billboard catches her eye.  The LAPD is offering a $15K reward for information leading to the arrest of the driver of a hit and run.  The young woman who had been hit died at the scene.  Day realizes she and her friends had actually driven by the scene not too long after it happened, so maybe they know something.  This isn’t the worst things an actress in Hollywood has done for money, and it should be easy money, right?

Spoiler alert – it isn’t easy money.  If it were, this would be a short story and not a novel.  Of course, Day’s lack of experience as an investigator plays into her lack of ability to solve the crime quickly, but her stumbles and dead ends were completely realistic.  Not that I would be much better about solving the crime than Day.  In fact, at one point, I thought I had the killer pegged only to know I was wrong half a chapter later when Day decided that person was the killer as well.  The ultimate solution is surprising and satisfying, and we get some fun twists along the way.

Meanwhile, the characters are wonderful.  They are quite an assortment, yet they all come to believable life.  I know there is more to some of them than we see here, and I can’t wait to get to know them better as the series unfolds.

My biggest complaint was with the romantic sub-plot.  It all felt very Jr. High to me.  Yes, it does play into the plot of the mystery, so I see the need for it.  This is a very minor complaint overall, and I’d probably behave more like Day does than I care to admit, so I can’t criticize too loudly.

Do note that the content is pushing the edges of the cozy sub-genre in a couple of scenes.  It’s nothing too graphic, and the scenes are played for laughs.

These aren’t the only scenes that are played for laughs.  There are plenty throughout the entire book.  As much as I am a Southern California Hollywood loving guy, I had to laugh at many of the correct observations made about my part of the country.  The light tone made the book that much more enjoyable.

Hollywood Homicide is not only my favorite debut so far this year, but one of my favorite reads of the year period.  Do yourself a favor and get this book today.  You’ll be very glad you did.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

TV on DVD Review: Legions of Tomorrow - Season 2

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Action with plenty of time hopping fun
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Time travel action
Great characters, lots of fun
Enjoyable show

“Stein’s About to Kill Sara in the Library!”  “With the Rope or the Candlestick?”

Of the superhero shows on the CW, most people seem to be less interested in Legends of Tomorrow.  Personally, I don’t see it.  It certainly has a different tone, one that is lighter overall, but I really enjoy this improbably time traveling crew.  And that didn’t change in season 2.

As season two picks up, the legends have scattered and tried to get on with their lives in the present.  However, historian Dr. Nate Heywood (Nick Zano) has discovered a time anomaly that could destroy the world as we know it.  With the help of Oliver Queen (guest star Stephen Amell), he reunites the team Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), Ray Palmer (Brandon Roth), Dr. Stein (Victor Garber), Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh), and Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell), and they head back to 1942 to protect Einstein and stop the Nazi’s from detonating an atomic bomb.

While back in time, they meet the Justice Society of America.  However, their trip ends in a disaster that brings Amaya Jiwe (Maisie Richardson-Seller) to the crew thanks to her desire for revenge.  It also shows the team that they are fighting a new threat, the Legion of Doom – a trio made up of Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), and Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher).

Now the Legends must race through time in an effort to stop the Legion of enacting their plan, which involves a spear that could permanently change time.  Can they stop these villains before time runs out?

Quite often, time travel can make my head hurt if I think about it too much thanks to the anomalies it will introduce.  Honestly, I don’t worry about that too much with this show.  They usually acknowledge any anomalies themselves if the crew isn’t trying to fix these problems in the first place.

Plus, the show continues to be fun.  Yes, it is definitely the most over the top of these DC Comics shows, and some of the acting reflects that.  But honestly, I don’t really mind.  Things are light and fun, and the trips through time are a pure delight.  Oh, I know this isn’t real history (Civil War zombies, anyone?), but the various settings are fun.

The characters are all given arcs again this season.  Obviously, we get to know the two new characters the best, but over the course of the season, Sara finds herself taking on a new leadership role when Arthur goes missing, Ray tries to be a hero without his suit, Rory deals with the loss of his partner and spending so much time around heroes, and Stein must face some unexpected consequences of their time hopping.

And the actors are all up to the task.  Yes, as I said, the acting is a little over the top at times, but it fits the show perfectly.  The most obvious is Dominic Purcell, who eats the scenery in his scenes in a completely delightful way and gets some of the best lines.

Any superhero show needs lots of special effects, and this one is no different.  They all look real to me.  Considering the number of effects in this show and the limitations of a TV budget, that’s saying something.

The season consisted of 17 episodes, and they are all included in this set in their native wide screen and full surround.  Extras include the obvious deleted scenes and gag reel as well as the shows 2016 Comic Con panel and a documentary on this shows part in the big four episode crossover from early December.

If you are looking for a show that best captures the feel of a light, popcorn summer action flick, this is the show for you.  Stick Legends of Tomorrow – Season 2 into your player and enjoy.

Season 2 Episodes:
1. Out of Time
2. The Justice Society of America
3. Shogun
4. Abominations
5. Compromised
6. Outlaw Country
7. Invasion!
8. The Chicago Way
9. Raiders of the Lost Art
10. The Legion of Doom
11. Turncoat
12. Camelot/3000
13. Land of the Lost
14. Moonshot
15. Fellowship of the Spear
16. Doomworld
17. Aruba

Saturday, August 12, 2017

August 12th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Last week was small, but this week was even smaller.  Honestly, I'm trying to figure out how I watch so much TV during the year since I feel like I'm barely keeping up with the little bit I"m watching this summer.

American Ninja Warrior – There is a reason some of these big names are big names.  Jessie Graff was the fourth finisher over all.  Amazing.  And I loved her reaction to how far she got.  And Drew was a beast!  I do wish we had a few more finishers.  I’m not saying everyone needs to finish, but if only one person finishes, maybe the course was too hard?

Suits – Who’s surprised that Mike’s secret it coming out so quickly?  Not me, that’s for sure.  I’m happy, too, since it would be a recycled story if it dragged out for a long time.  I’m certainly curious where they are going with this because clearly there is something behind it.  But how does it connect to the client who wanted this dropped?  That’s the big question.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Movie Review: Garage Sale Mystery - The Beach Murder

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery, fun sub-plots
Cons: Usual Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
How does surfer drown?
That’s what Jenn must figure out
In this fun movie

“It’s Probably Nothing.”  “It’s Never Nothing with You, Jenn”

Amateur sleuths need a way to keep getting involved in murder.  Some people have a very large family and an abundance of friends.  But if you have a shop that can help bring in new ways to get you involved in murder, too.  That’s how Jennifer Shannon gets involved in The Beach Murder.

Jennifer (Lori Loughlin) has a new customer who is interested in vintage surf boards.  That’s because Anne’s husband Steve (David Paetkau) is obsessed with all things surfing, being an avid surfer himself.  Jennifer and Anne (Chiara Zanni) have become friends thanks to the many boards that Jennifer has been able to add to Steve’s collection.

However, things take a tragic turn when the police call to say that Steve’s body has been discovered on the beach.  It appears to be an accident, but Anne isn’t buying it.  Steve was a championship swimmer and a former lifeguard.  She just can’t believe he drown accidentally.  And Anne’s questions make sense to Jennifer, who begins to find things that make her question the official results as well.  What really happened to Steve?

Of course, we know Steve was murdered.  If he weren’t, there would be no movie for us to watch, or at least a very boring movie.  I had figured out the how earlier than Jennifer did, but coming up with the who was still a lot of fun.

The rest of the gang is around with a couple of sub-plots.  At Rags to Riches, the second-hand store that Jennifer owns with her best friend Dani (Sarah Strange), they are caught in the middle of a couple who is fighting by selling off each other’s things.  Meanwhile, on the home front, Jennifer’s son Logan (Connor Stanhope) is attempting to go out for the school play because of his crush on the lead actress.  Both are fun.  Yes, the mystery could use another couple more suspects to sustain a full movie on its own, but any fan of the series will be engaged thanks to these subplots.

Of course, this comes with my usual Hallmark movie warning.  The acting is adequate, but certainly nothing spectacular.  That’s hardly surprising since this is the first of four movies in the franchise we are getting this month, and this isn’t the first Garage Sale Mystery movie of the year, either.  Then again, some of the lines the actors have to say aren’t the best either.  Just keep that in mind when you sit down to watch and you’ll be fine.

I was smiling the entire way through the movie, and I’m sure any fan of this movie franchise will feel the same way about The Beach Murder.

August 11th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

We've made it to Friday and you know what that means - Book Beginning and Friday 56 time.

This week's book is Hollywood Homicide, the debut mystery from Kellye Garrett.

This is the first in a new series.  I finished the book earlier this week.  Assuming I can get my review written, I'll be reviewing it on Monday.  I really enjoyed it.

Here's how the book begins:

He stared at my resume like it was an SAT question.  One of the hard ones where you just bubbled in C and kept it moving.

Jumping ahead to the 56% mark in the book, we find this:

If this were some cheesy TV show, the screen would have cut to black so the network could spend the next five minutes trying to get you to buy toothpaste you already bought anyway.  It wasn't.  Instead, Emme came back.  "Ben's calling the police.  They won't use their sirens."

Seriously, if you like mysteries, you really need to give this book a shot.  I hope you'll come back on Monday to see why I feel it is worth your time.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dressed to Confess Winner

I just pulled the winner of Dressed to Confess.  And the book goes to...


Please be sure to check your e-mail and get back to me so I can make sure you get your prize.

Book Review: Cat About Town by Cate Conte (Cat Cafe Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Charming characters and setting, great mystery
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
New sleuth and her cat
Charm their way into your heart
Solve great mystery

Cats, Clues, and Killings

The instant I heard about the Cat Café mysteries, I was on board.  After all, a mystery set on a summer resort island off the coast of Massachusetts?  How could the book go wrong?  Cat About Town is that series debut, and it lived up to my high hopes.

Maddie James is back on Daybreak Island for her grandmother’s funeral.  Thanks to an understanding business partner and owning her own business, she has taken extended time to be with her family, especially her grandfather, who is understandably taking the loss hard.  She’s even staying with him, and she’s picked up a stray cat she found at the cemetery.

However, Maddie’s grandfather is facing more than just his beloved wife’s death.  Frank O’Malley wants to buy his house, tear it down, and turn the location into a centralized rental location.  Frank happens to be the president of the local chamber of commerce, and is used to being able to throw his weight around to get what he wants.  However, the house has been in the family for generations, and Maddie is immediately as upset as her grandfather at the thought of selling.

So, Maddie goes to confront Frank.  When he repeats his veiled threats, Maddie begins plotting ways to stop him.  However, that becomes unnecessary when Maddie’s new cat leads her to Frank’s body during the start of summer food stroll.  With the police considering Maddie and her grandfather as prime suspects, Maddie feels the need to find some new suspects.  It seemed that many people didn’t like Frank, so there is no shortage of them.  But who killed him?

You might be wondering how the cat café comes into play.  Heck, you might even be wondering what it is.  That unfolds as the book progresses, so I’m not going to spoil anything for you here.  I will say it isn’t what I expected, but I’m okay with that.

The book starts out strongly with Maddie getting hints of the trouble brewing.  There are several explosive scenes before Frank is killed, and once Maddie finds the body, we are really off and running.  The clues and twists kept me guessing until the very end.  I didn’t know who the killer was until Maddie figured it out, but once she did it made perfect sense.

Maddie is a warm and friendly main character, and it’s hard not to fall in love with her right away.  Her grandfather is charming, and their relationship is wonderful.  There is the beginning of a love triangle here.  I have a feeling I know which way things will go, and fairly quickly, too, but I’m anxious to see if I am right.

Then there’s JJ, the cat that Maddie rescues.  If he doesn’t completely melt your heart, there is something seriously wrong with you.

I also loved the island setting as much as I thought I would.  It’s a wonderful way to enjoy a vacation for free.  This is the kind of town you visit and wish you could stay.  Thanks to the series, now you can, getting an insider’s eye to what life is really like on an island dependent on tourists.

Cat About Town is a fun book that will leave you anxious to find out what happens next to Maddie and the rest of your new friends.  Snuggle in with your favorite cat and get lost in a wonderful debut.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pin Review: Casey at the Bat - Storybook Classic Collection #12 - 2017 Disney Store Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: A rare character in two scenes
Cons: Both scenes from book not short
The Bottom Line:
Casey and ego
Parade through two scenes on pin
Both based on the book

Casey is the Final Pin in this Series

It’s summer, and that means baseball season.  And what better time for the Storybook Classic Collection to feature Casey at the Bat, right?  That’s what someone figured since they wrapped up the series with this character.

The front of this pin is mostly light blue.  Casey’s leaning on a bat and several of his fans are crowding around.  He’s obviously glowing in their praise, letting his ego grow.  The title is over the top of the picture in red, and the illustration is outlined in a dark blue.

The pin opens just like a book, and inside you’ll find a full color illustration of Casey walking up to his fateful time at bat with several bats over one shoulder.  He’s doffing his cap at the cheering crowd.  The colors in this picture are still simple, but they are great at capturing Casey in action.  This is also the pose they used for the related ornament, which wasn’t always the case in the series.

And the pin must definitely be based on the book Disney release and not the animated short.  Why do I say that?  Because neither of these pictures appeared in the short at all.  Since I didn’t grow up with the book, that bothers me a little.  I wish these pictures were from the cartoon.  But this is a storybook series, so that’s my fault.

Like the rest of this series and any of Disney’s heavier pins, this one has two posts in the back to use to attach it to your lanyard if you want to do wear it.

I do like getting these rare shorts and characters in pin form, so for that reason I’ve enjoyed the Storybook Classic Collection.  Casey at the Bat is no exception.

Check out the rest of the Storybook Classic Collection.

Ornament Review: Casey at the Bat - Storybook Classic Collection #12 - 2017 Disney Store Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Perfectly captures the character
Cons: Not as good as some others in the series
The Bottom Line:
Casey takes a swing
In this good ornament just
Not quite as detailed

Does This Casey Ornament Hit a Home Run or Strike Out?

We’ve reached the final ornament in The Disney Store’s Storybook Classic Collection, and they’ve picked another rare character to close things out.  We are ending with Casey at the Bat, an ornament based on a segment from Make Mine Music.

Again, I had to rewatch this part of the movie since it’s been years since I sat down to watch the 1940’s package features.  The story is about Casey, a baseball superstar.  His team is down by two runs going into the bottom of the ninth.  By the time Casey comes up to bat, there are two men on base.  The crowd is going crazy since they assume the game is in the bag.  Casey is likewise so confident that he lets the first two balls go by.  And then he swings at the third pitch, and misses to everyone’s horror.

The ornament captures Casey before his comeuppance.  He’s walking up to the plate with multiple bats over his shoulder.  And his cap is doffed as he acknowledges his fans.

It’s a great moment – that isn’t actually in the short.  I had to watch that scene twice because I thought it had to be.  I mean, it fits the character so perfectly, I’m shocked it isn’t actually there.  I’m guessing it was an illustration in the book that have also been the inspirations for these ornaments, however.

While the moment itself isn’t in the short, it doesn’t capture the character overall very well.  The details we get, down to the lavender shirt look just like he does in the short.

Since the ornament is just him, I do feel like it is a bit simple.  When you look at some of the other ornaments we’ve gotten in the series, they are so detailed and really works of art.  I’m not saying this ornament is bad looking, it’s just not the best in the series.

Casey is walking on grass, and that grass forms a circle that is the base of the ornament.  It’s nice and flat, so you can set it out to be displayed year-round if you like.  There is a red, white, and blue banner around the base, and that is a touch I love.

This ornament comes with a yellow green ribbon through the loop instead of The Disney Store’s traditional red.  I assume the attempt was to coordinate with the ornament better.  When you pick up the ornament by the ribbon, you’ll find that it tips a little bit to the side.  It’s noticeable, but once you get the ornament in the tree branches, you won’t really be able to tell.

So the Storybook Classic Collection isn’t finishing off with the strongest entry in the series.  Still, those who like the Casey at the Bat short will like having this in their collection.

Check out the rest of the Storybook Classic Collection.

Original Price: $19.95

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Chime and Punishment Winner

It's time for the first winner of the month.  I just pulled the name of the winner of Chime and Punishment.  And the book goes to...


I just sent you an e-mail, so please be on the look out for it and get back to me as soon as possible.

Book Review: On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness #11)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: History, mystery, fun
Cons: Might start slowly for those new to the series
The Bottom Line:
Head to Italy
30’s politics, murder
Served with side of fun

Royal Favor in Italy

I always look forward to my yearly visit with Lady Georgiana, a minor royal in 1930’s England.  She seems to find herself in a new location for each book, and the opportunity to travel a historical Europe is wonderful.  Plus, the books are just so much fun!  On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service is no exception.

This book takes place in spring of 1935.  After several delightful months with Darcy, her fiancé, at his family’s castle in Ireland, he’s set out on another mission.  Georgie finds herself growing restless, so when she gets two letters, she’s thrilled.  The first is from the Queen, asking for a meeting about the roadblock to Georgie and Darcy’s wedding – he’s Catholic, so Georgie would have to renounce her claim to the throne.  Since she is currently thirty-fifth in line, she is very willing to give it up to marry Darcy.  The second is from Georgie’s unmarried friend Belinda, who is hiding out in Italy so she can have a baby in secret.  Georgie decides to visit Belinda to keep her company after her meeting with the Queen.

When Queen Mary finds out about Georgie’s travel plans, she’s delighted.  It seems that the Prince of Wales and his friend Mrs. Simpson are going to be attending a house party in that area of Italy, and she wants Georgie to go find out if the two have married in secret.  The house party is being thrown by someone Georgie went to school with, but didn’t really get along with.  Still, how does one say no to Her Majesty?

After a quick visit with Belinda, Georgie arrives at the party only to find a strange assortment of guests, including her mother, who has a mission of her own for Georgie.  Can Georgie pull off what seems to be impossible?

As usual, this book gives us time to get updates on many of the people in Georgie’s life as she is traveling from one location to another.  I love these characters so much that I enjoy the updates.  There’s one development in this book that I’ve seen coming for a while now, but I’m very curious to see how it will play out in future books.  This part might not be as interesting if you are starting the series here, but if you’ve been reading these books since the beginning like I have, you won’t mind in the least.

Once Georgie arrives at her destination, we are quickly drawn into a story that has multiple threads.  I love how author Rhys Bowen gives us a glimpse of the politics of the time in a way that fits into the story.  While the coming events of history are starting to creep into the book, they don’t overshadow the overall tone of the book.  There is still some humor and a mystery to keep us entertained.

The mystery may start a little late, but when it does, it is strong.  I had a piece or two of it figured out, but there were quite a few pieces I had missed until Georgie put it all together.

All of these experiences are causing Georgie to really grow.  I love some of her early scenes in the book for that very reason.  Some of the other series regulars are continuing to develop as well, and the new characters we meet here are quite intriguing as suspects.

Fans of this series will enjoy Georgie’s latest adventure.  And if you have yet to start the Royal Spyness series, you need to start these wonderful trips back in time today.  You’ll be enjoying On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service before you know it.

These books are so much fun, you'll definitely want to read the rest of the Royal Spyness series.

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, August 15th, so please leave your comment before 12:01AM Pacific Time on 8/15.  You will have until midnight on 8/20 to get back to me, or I will choose a new winner on 8/21.

Monday, August 7, 2017

TV on DVD Review: Smallville - Season 10

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great acting and characters, good arcs
Cons: A few bits of the ending, some standalones slow down season
The Bottom Line:
Clark Kent’s journey ends
As he becomes Superman
Show ends 10 year run

“We Need a Good Old American Hero in Red, White, and Blue.”

I’ve finally made it.  Thanks to TV on DVD, I’ve been able to watch Smallville, a show I missed during its original run.  (The problem of too much good TV to watch really is nothing new.)  While it was not a perfect send off, I found much to enjoy in this final season.

As often happens, we pick up moments after the finale of the previous season.  That means that Clark Kent (Tom Wellington) has just crashed onto the streets of Metropolis.  Fortunately, Lois Lane (Erica Durance) saw him fall and knows that he really is the Blur.  Saving his life and knowing his secret doesn’t keep her in town, however, and she soon follows through on her plans to head to Africa, at least briefly.  Meanwhile, Chloe (Allison Mack) makes a shocking deal to rescue a captured Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley).

The problem is there is an ancient evil that has been released into the world, and Clark needs to figure out a way to stop it.  Unfortunately, people are leading the call against the heroes of the world, making it hard for Clark, Oliver, and their friends to fight the evil.  Meanwhile, Tess (Cassidy Freedman) has made a couple of surprising discoveries while gaining enough trust to take over Watchtower from a missing Chloe.

As all this is going on, Clark and Lois continue to build their relationship and Clark takes the final steps toward becoming the Superman we all know.  How will it all end?

As I said, I was hooked for much of the season.  The various plot threads that were woven into the season were compelling, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.  Even the stand alone episodes, and we get several of those, were just as good.  The character growth we saw was fantastic, especially with Tess.  I’ve enjoyed wondering just which side of things she was on, but I really enjoyed seeing her here having made her choice.  It was a very refreshing change.

Since they knew this was the final season going into it, they were able to bring back many former characters over the course of the season.  We get to see Jonathan Kent, Lionel Luther, Lex Luther, Brainiac, Supergirl, and Zod to name a few.  Heck, we even made it back to Smallville High thanks to a homecoming episode that was the show’s 200th.  Each time they brought someone back, it was believable and helped advance the story.

But the final season definitely has its flaws.  There were times they left us with a twist or cliffhanger at the end of an episode and then had a standalone episode up next that didn’t deal with that issue.  In fact, it felt like there might have been a couple too many standalone episodes since the last couple of episode felt rushed as they tried to resolve everything plus take Clark the last few steps to his destiny.

Many people have complained that we really only get glimpses of Superman in the final moments of the finale.  Maybe because I knew that would be the case, I wasn’t that upset about that.  Personally, I always felt that we weren’t going to see that in this series since everyone was always so adamant that this wasn’t what the show was ultimately about.  So the lack of Superman didn’t bother me.

However, I felt the producers felt they had to undo several things in order to make the show fit the continuity of the comics.  The results felt a bit forced and undid things I absolutely loved that they’d done over the course of the show.  Don’t get me wrong, the ending wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t nearly as good as I’d hoped it would be.

As always, the actors are fantastic.  Allison was only in a handful of episodes this season, and I missed her the rest of the time.  The other four main characters more than made up for it, however.  And I really do have to give a special shout out to Tom and Erica.  Their Clark and Lois were always fantastic, and I truly believed their relationship.  Speaking of Lois, they get another piece of wonderful casting as Terri Hatcher makes an appearance via video as Lois’s mother.

There are 22 episodes in this final season (or 20 regular episodes and a double length finale if you want to get technical).  They are all preserved here in wide screen and full surround.  We get commentaries with cast and crew on two episodes (but not the finale) and deleted scenes on some of the episodes.  There are two documentaries on the final disc, one on father/son relationships in the show and one on creating the 200th episode.  I really wish they’d done something related to the finale of the show and its 10 year run.

While I wasn’t completely thrilled with how season 10 of Smallville ended, I still enjoyed it and I’m glad I watched the show.  If you want a different, younger take on Superman, check out this show.  And fans of this show will find much to enjoy in the final season.

Season 10 Episodes:
1. Lazarus
2. Shield
3. Supergirl
4. Homecoming
5. Isis
6. Harvest
7. Ambush
8. Abandoned
9. Patriot
10. Luthor
11. Icarus
12. Collateral
13. Beacon
14. Masquerade
15. Fortune
16. Scion
17. Kent
18. Booster
19. Dominion
20. Prophecy
21. Finale Parts 1 & 2

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Book Review: The House on the Cliff by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong, fun story
Cons: Weak characters
The Bottom Line:
Smuggler in Bayport
But Hardys are on the case
It’s still mindless fun

Hunting for Smugglers

Just about every lover of mysteries as an adult started by reading teen detectives when they were a kid.  While Trixie Belden is my first love, I actually started the genre by reading the Hardy Boys.  They are still fun to revisit, which is what I did recently via The House on the Cliff.

Frank and Joe Hardy are anxious to help their father, famous detective Fenton Hardy, on another case.  It just so happens that he is working on a case involving smugglers in the Hardy’s home town of Bayport.  His assignment to his sons is simple, take his telescope and see what they can observe in the bay.  He even recommends an abandoned house on a cliff that will give them a great view.

Frank and Joe grab their friends Chet and Biff and head out.  They observe something strange happening in the bay, but before the can get back to report to Mr. Hardy, they hear a cry from inside the house, someone steals part of the telescope, and they witness an attempted murder.  Is any of this related to the smuggling?

I’m sure I read this book as a kid, but it’s been years, and I didn’t really remember much of what happened.  I found myself enjoying the story as it unfolded.  Yes, it has some of the typical Hardy Boys weaknesses, like the characters always making the right deduction right away, but it’s fun.  What really struck me with this book is how long the climax is.  We pretty much have everything figured out by three quarters of the way through the book; it’s just a matter of seeing if the Hardys can bring the criminals to justice.

Another weakness of the series is the cardboard characters.  There are attempts to give each character some personality, but it’s mostly superficial.  Yet, I had probably read over 30 of them as a kid before this started to bother me, so obviously, it’s a minor issue.  We actually see quite a few of Frank and Joe’s other friends in this book, at least for a scene or two.  I was also struck by the fact that we get a couple of chapters from these friends’ point of view.  This is the only time I can remember it not just being Frank and Joe we followed.

I’m mostly familiar with the edited versions of the story from the late 50’s and 60’s.  The most dated thing in these version is the pictures.  I can’t imagine any kids these days wearing ties on a regular basis.  I doubt that any of the kids picking up the book today will care.  They’ll get caught up in the action.

While these books will never be confused with great literature, they are still fun to revisit, and today’s kids will enjoy reading them as well.  The House on the Cliff is another example of that.