Monday, September 30, 2019

September 2019's Monthly Reading Summary

Another month rolls to a close.  Can you believe we are three quarters of the way through the year?  I sure can't.  But that's where we are, so it must be time for another monthly reading summary.  And we are going three in a row with updating the index as well.

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

The Zombie Ball by John Gaspard (Eli Marks #6) – 4
Magician Eli Marks has been hired at the last minute to perform as the opening act at the Zombie Ball, an annual local fundraiser, when the originally scheduled magician backs out.  He hasn’t been going out much since his divorce, but he needs the money, so he agrees to do the gig that night.  Of course, Eli quickly sees tensions going on behind the scenes, including two competing top donors who everyone is handling with kid gloves and trying to keep away from each other.  Then someone is murdered, and Eli finds himself involved with the case.  Will he figure out what really happened?

While this is the sixth book in the series, it is mostly set in the past, with events taking place before book 1.  While I missed seeing some of the series regulars and getting some updates on ongoing storylines, I was quickly caught up in the story, and I enjoyed seeing a different side of the few regulars we did see.  The body isn’t found until later in the book than normal, but I was enjoying spending time with Eli and getting to know the suspects.  Sure enough, things that happened and we learned came into play once the murder has been discovered, and I was impressed with how Eli pieced everything together.  The story hinges on the suspects being strong, and fortunately, they are.  This story is shorter than many of the books I read, but it was long enough to tell the story, and it was nice to breeze through a book quickly.  While we don’t learn any of the secrets of magic, I still enjoy the behind the scenes glimpses we do get of the life of a magician.  Whether a new or returning fan, you’ll be glad you picked up this book.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Terns of Endearment by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #25) – 4
Meg Langslow’s grandfather has taken a job on a cruise ship for one voyage presenting nightly lectures on animals and the environment.  Primetime, the cruise line, has offered a discount, so Meg and several other family members have joined this cruise to Bermuda.  However, things don’t go as planned.  The first morning as sea, the passengers wake up to find that the ship is dead in the water.  Then, as the captain is briefing the passengers on the situation, another crew member bursts into the meeting to say that one of the passengers has gone overboard.  It appears to be suicide, and the captain is willing to write it off as such, but Meg’s dad isn’t so sure.  While the passengers wait for the ship to be fixed, he goads Meg into doing a little investigating.  What will she uncover?

Yes, the usual assortment of Meg’s relatives join her for this cruise, and they are up to their usual antics.  I don’t find these books as funny as they used to be, but I still find them highly amusing, and I completely enjoyed my time with the characters as usual.  The ship is filled with new characters, and I loved how they were developed as the story went along.  The action was a little slow getting going, but once the ship got stuck, things really picked up and I was hooked.  I finished the book from that point on in about 24 hours, and that included time to sleep and work.  The ending is a bit rushed, but everything is explained before we turn the final page.  Fans will be delighted to find the series is still going strong twenty-five books in, and I enjoyed a reference to something from the early books in the series.  This is another relaxing mystery, although you might not want to take it on your next cruise.

Fatal Cajun Festival by Ellen Byron (Cajun Country Mysteries #5) – 5
Maggie Crozat’s grand-mere has come up with the idea of Pelican, Louisiana, holding a musical festival in the days leading up to New Orleans’s famous Jazz Fest. Tammy Barker, a native who has gained fame as the winner of the TV singing competition, has agreed to return to headline the event.  This isn’t good news for Maggie’s friend, Gaynell, however.  Gaynell and Tammy went to high school together, and Tammy seems to have it out for her, even sabotaging Gaynell’s shot at auditioning for Jazz Fest.  So when a murder takes place after Tammy’s set opening night of the festival, all eyes are on Gaynell.  Can Maggie clear her friend?

This is the fifth book in the series, and it was wonderful to get to visit our friends in Pelican again.  Maggie leads a strong cast.  While there are quite a few regulars plus the suspects, I didn’t have any trouble keeping the characters straight while I was reading.  However, there is a handy character guide in the front of the book if you do need it.  The plot is strong with a couple of equally as strong sub-plots to keep the pages turning.  I especially enjoyed a sub-plot involving Grand-mere.  The twists and turns lead us to a logical climax.  My only complaint is how Maggie works with the police, but it was a minor issue overall.  We get five recipes and some fun background on things we learn in the story at the end of the book.  I always feel like I’ve visited Louisiana when I read one of these books, and this one is no expectation.  Fans old and new will be glad they picked it up.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Judge Thee Not by Edith Maxwell (Quaker Midwife Mysteries #5) – 4
Midwife Rose Carroll is surprised to step into the Amesbury, Mass., post office one June afternoon and find Mayme Settle complaining loudly about postmistress Bertie Winslow.  The problem isn’t poor service but Bertie’s untraditional lifestyle, specifically that she lives with another woman.  Mrs. Settle doesn’t feel this is proper, and is making her feelings known.  While Rose is upset for her friend, Bertie is more than willing to let the slight go.  However, one morning Mrs. Settle is found dead in her bed, and the police are quick to rule it murder.  Unfortunately, they are just as quick to focus on Bertie as their prime suspect.  Can Rose help the police find the truth?

The mystery is good with several viable suspects; however, I felt the pacing was off.  It was a bit too slow in the beginning and a bit rushed at the end.  While it wraps everything up, we get a lot of information thrown at us rather quickly to do so.  It is always fun to spend time with Rose, and I love her friends.  There were some interesting developments with her family in this book, which I enjoyed.  The suspects were strong, but I felt the victim was a bit of a clichĂ©, needing more time alive to become more real to me.  My feelings on the victim also plays into my issues with the theme.  As the title suggests, we get a few passages that look at how humans judge others.  The problem was I felt these were too modern for a book set in the 1880’s.  Mind you, I haven’t done the research, so maybe I’m the one judging too harshly.  Other viewpoints were certainly not shown as anything other than wrong, and Rose comes off as almost judging others a few times herself.  The title comes from a version in Matthew 7 in the Bible, and is taken out of context, as it usually is.  These issues pulled me out of the book (and certainly bothered me) when they popped up, but the focus of the book was mostly on the mystery.  Those who have enjoyed previous books will want to pick up this book and judge it for themselves.  Most will probably be glad they did.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

A Dangerous Man by Robert Crais (Elvis Cole & Joe Pike #18) – 4
Joe Pike’s trip to the bank for a routine deposit ends when he witnesses two men try to kidnap his teller, Isabel Roland.  Joe being Joe, he jumps into action and rescues her.  However, when the kidnappers are released from jail, they are both murdered.  Was kidnapping Isabel a crime of opportunity, or was she a target?  Is she safe?  Why would someone target her?

Those familiar with the series will notice a similar set up to a previous entry, but that’s where the similarity ends.  This book takes off in some unexpected places, and author Robert Crais uses multiple viewpoints well to hook us as events unfold.  This is a thriller that kept me glued the entire time.  While we don’t learn much new about PI partners Elvis Cole or Joe Pike, it is wonderful to spend time with them and see them in action again.  Most of the new characters are wonderful and fully developed, but a few very minor characters are very annoying.  Likewise, I don’t find John Chen, a recurring character in the series, that funny.  I’m sure the characters who annoy me are supposed to be comic relief, but I just don’t get it.  While the book certainly has more language and violence than the cozies I normally read, I didn’t feel it was excessive here.  Elvis and Joe have a huge following, and I’m sure there many fans will be thrilled with this book.  Pick it up and hang on because it is going to be a very wild ride you won’t want to put down.

Fashionably Late by Lisa Q. Mathews (Ladies Smythe and Westin #3) – 5
It all starts with a fashion show.  It’s fashion week in Milano – Milano, Florida, that is, and Summer Smythe has snagged tickets for herself and her friend Dorothy Westin to the luncheon and fashion show that are kicking things off.  However, things take a strange turn when Angelica Downs, one of the models, asks them for help before the show starts.  When they try to track her down, they find her dead body.  Angelica’s mother, Frankie, is living in the part of their senior center for those with memory issues, and Dorothy and Summer are worried that Frankie might be next.  However, when they go to talk to Frankie, that only leaves them with more questions.  Is a killer after Frankie?  Who killed Angelica?  Can Dorothy and Summer figure out what is really going on?

Having read the previous two books in this series, I knew what to expect, and I wasn’t disappointed.  The plot starts off strongly.  We don’t seem to be gathering any clues right off the bat, but there is still plenty happening to keep our interest.  Naturally, much of that comes back into play as the book leads us to the logical conclusion.  The climax was a tad rushed, but it was also fun and answered all of our questions.  The characters range from fairly realistic, like Dorothy, to less so, like Summer, to outright wacky.  The mix works for this book.  We care enough to want to see justice done, but we also are having fun laughing and smiling as things go along.  The book is set in December, but the holidays only color events a little.  Instead, this is more about the fashion shows and the events happening in connection with them.  If you are looking for a delightful book, this is definitely one to pick up.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

A Killer Carol by Laura Bradford (Amish Mysteries #7) – 5
Christmas is approaching in Heavenly, Pennsylvania, and Claire Weatherly has her hands full.  Not only does she have the normal tourists coming into her shop, Heavenly Treasures, but she is organizing the first annual One Heavenly Night event designed as a chance for residence and tourists to enjoy the town at Christmas.  However, murder rears its ugly head once again one night.  Annie, the Amish teen who works for Claire, is out Christmas caroling with some friends, and when they stop at the Esch’s farm, they find both of the them dead.  Detective Jakob Fisher is quick to realize it was murder.  Unfortunately, the last people to visit the victims were Claire’s Amish friend Ruth and her new husband Samuel.  Even worse, the couple appear to have a motive for committing the crime.  Claire doesn’t believe they could have done it, but Jakob has to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if it ruins the unofficial inroads he has made in building relationships with the people who used to be his family before he left the Amish community.  Can Claire help him solve the case before that happens?

This series works best when the characters are driving a strong mystery, and that’s definitely the case here.  I’ve felt like I knew the series regulars from their first appearances in the series, so it was fantastic to spend time with them again.  They are still just as strong as ever, and the new character are just as compelling.  Since Heavenly sits on the edge of an Amish community, life is a bit slower, and that is reflected in the plot.  This isn’t a twist a page type of book, but that faster pace wouldn’t feel right.  Don’t get me wrong, we do have twists and surprises, but the impact on the characters is just as important, and the two combined keep me glued to the book.  I had to fight to keep from peaking ahead and making sure everyone was going to be okay.  Honestly, just reading about Heavenly refreshes my soul, so picking up this book was great.  The Christmas setting was an added bonus since I love that season so much.  There are a couple of niggles with the book, but they are minor.  This is a fantastic addition to a favorite series.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Have Yourself a Beary Little Murder by Meg Macy (Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mysteries #3) – 4
This December is proving to be especially busy for Sasha Silverman.  Not only are there the usual activities in town, but the Silver Bear Shop and Factory has won a prize with their design for a Beary Potter bear, and they are rushing to meet demand in time for Christmas.  So, the last thing that Sasha needs is to get involved in a murder, but that’s just what happens.  The highlight of the annual Christmas parade is Santa Bear, and once again this year, the town’s mayor, Cal Bloom, is playing the part.  However, with the parade start time drawing near, no one can find him.  Sasha and her mother start searching only to find him dead on a bench in his costume.  It appears his death wasn’t natural, so what happened to him?  How did he get to the park bench?

The book wastes little time in killing off Mayor Bloom, and we get some good clues and suspects along the way to the logical climax.  Sasha and her immediate family are strong characters, and it was great to spend time with them again.  The suspects are also good characters.  Unfortunately, the rest of the characters are hard to keep straight, but that doesn’t impact following the plot, so it didn’t bother me too much.  Despite the cute and cuddly nature of Teddy Bears, this series has always had a bit more bite to it for a cozy, and this book is no exception.  However, the Christmas setting adds a festival feel to the book, and I really enjoyed that addition.  Heck, I wanted to join the company employee Christmas party – it sounded delightful.  And I was drooling over some of the goodies they were eating.  If you are ready to get in the Christmas spirit a little early, this is the book for you.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Christmas Cocoa Murder by Carlene O’Connor, Maddie Day, and Alex Erickson – 5
Kensington has released another Christmas novella collection, this time featuring three authors that haven’t been featured before.  All three stories feature hot cocoa is some capacity.  Up first is “Christmas Cocoa Murder” by Carlene O’Connor, which takes place in an Irish village leading up to Christmas.  Her series main character, Siobhan O’Sullivan, is just a couple of weeks away from joining the police force, but she gets pulled in early when the village’s Santa’s stunt at the annual panto goes horribly wrong and he’s found floating in a dunk tank filled with hot cocoa.  Next, we get “Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse” by Maddie Day.  Robbie Jordan, the star of the Country Store Mysteries, is looking forward to a quiet Christmas, but first she must figure out what happened to Jed Greenburg who was found dead while out walking a dog and drinking some of Robbie’s special hot chocolate mix.  Finally, comes “Death by Hot Cocoa” by Alex Erickson.  Krissy Hancock, his main character, has been talked into doing a Christmas themed escape room, but when she and the rest of the participants finish the first part, they find themselves locked in a second room with the body of their host next to a puddle of hot chocolate.

All three of these stories are fun.  The only series I read regularly is Maddie Day’s, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying all of them.  The plots are all wonderfully constructed and perfect for the shorter novella format.  I did feel a little lost with some of the series regular characters in the first story, but that’s to be expected since I haven’t read the series before.  However, it didn’t hamper my overall enjoyment at all.  The main characters all come to life in the stories, and the suspects are just as vivid.  Each story is filled with Christmas detail that will put you in the holiday spirit no matter what time of year you read them.  A couple of the stories even feature some recipes, including two different versions of hot chocolate.  So, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate (or maybe not given the theme of this book) and snuggle up and enjoy.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking by Leigh Perry (Family Skeleton Mysteries #6) – 5
When Dr. Georgia Thackery’s dog, Byron, gets out one afternoon, and when she and her daughter Madison find him again, he is clutching a bone.  Naturally, the two assume it is part of Sid, and they race home to apologize to their friend.  However, all of Sid’s bones are present and accounted for, so they get the police involved.  It turns out that Byron has found part of a normal skeleton (you know, not walking and talking), and the police are able to determine that the skeleton was murdered.  The police have no leads on who the skeleton might have been in life, but Georgia’s friend and fellow adjunct, Charles, approaches her.  He thinks he might know the victim, but the only way to give the police that information might lead the police directly to Charles.  And so Georgia jumps into action again, with Sid doing his best to research the case on the internet.  Was the victim Charles’s friend?  If so, who killed her?

If you are new to the series, you might be a bit lost.  You see, Sid is a walking, talking skeleton and Georgia’s best friend.  That’s the only paranormal element to the series, and it is done is a realistic manner, which makes it feel very natural.  The characters, including Sid, are very strong, which certainly helps make it all seem real.  The plot, while not a traditional cozy mystery plot, is very strong with plenty of twists and surprises along the way to the climax.  In fact, I liked the fact that it was something different plot wise, and it certainly kept me engaged the entire time.  I did think that Christmas aspect could have been stronger, but that’s my only complaint and a very small one at that.  As a lover of puns, I absolutely loved the puns and other humor in the book.  If you are just now meeting Sid, you are in for a treat.  If you are already a fan, you’ll love this newest visit with him.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Disney Mug Review: Sword in the Stone - Disney Wisdom Collection #9

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great color and quote
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Pretty lavender
Really makes this mug stand out
Features a great quote

Let Me Share My Knowledge About This Mug

We’ve reached three quarters of the way through the Disney Wisdom Collection.  My cupboards are overflowing with mugs, but I don’t regret starting to collect these for a minute.  This month’s mug is a great addition to the series.

This month the quote comes from Wart, aka King Arthur, in The Sword in the Stone.  It is “Knowledge and wisdom is the real power.”  And this is a power that anyone can use.  I kind of like the fact that wisdom is showing up in this quote from the Disney Wisdom Collection.  Feels appropriate, right?

The mug itself is lavender while the inside color is a deep purpose.  The two combined are beautiful.  One side of the mug features the characters for the month – Merlin and Madam Mim.  They both look to be dancing, but Merlin is a bit more on his feet with his wand waved.  Mim is dancing with complete abandon, and I actually like how she looks.

The other side features the quote in yellow and orange.  It’s a great choice and stands out from the lavender well while complimenting it.

The squiggles around the quote and characters this month are stars and diamonds.  I also feel like they are magic from the two characters bouncing around.  These squiggles have always been appropriate, but I feel this is especially true this month.

The mugs are designed with a base slightly smaller than the rest so you can stack them.  That has definitely helped my cupboard space a little.  It’s short but wide, so it holds 12 oz. of liquid.  As you’d expect from a contemporary mug, it is completely dishwasher and microwave safe.

I haven’t been a big fan of the colors chosen for the last couple of months, but I am loving this one.  I think it will become a favorite in the series.

If you have been collecting this series, you’ll be glad to add the September mug to your collection.

Disney Pins Review: Sword in the Stone - Disney Wisdom Collection #9

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great quote, fun character poses
Cons: I don’t have the knowledge to find any
The Bottom Line:
Knowledge and wisdom
Factor into this pin set
Great for the series

September Gave Us this Powerful Pin Set

When I saw the quotes for the Disney Wisdom Collection earlier in the year, I immediately recognized almost all of them.  However, one of them came from a movie I must admit I didn’t really recognize, and that’s this month’s release, which is taken from The Sword in the Stone.

The quote is from Wart, aka King Arthur before he pulls the sword from the stone.  It is “Knowledge and wisdom is the real power.”  For the first time in the series, I don’t have a context to place this quote in, but I do find it quite ironic given that it is a movie filled with magic.

Speaking of magic, we get the two biggest magicians as the characters to go along with the quote.  One of them is Merlin, which isn’t a big surprise.  The other is Madam Mim.  I do believe this is the first time we have a villain in the series, although I don’t remember her being completely evil.  Still, it’s an interesting change.

The color of the month is purple.  The two characters are purple with lavender accents.  They both look a little like they are dancing, although Merlin has his wand out like he is casting a spell.  Mim is definitely dancing, and shows the most action we’ve had in the series so far.  The third pin in the set is the quote itself, with the words written in yellow and orange.  It looks very nice.

Since Wart is not part of the pin set, that means the person giving us the quote has been included in the set only 3 out of 9 times.

And I do like the quote.  Even without the context, it reminds us that, as fun as magic is to dream about, it takes knowledge and wisdom to actually accomplish anything.  Both seem to be in short supply in the world right now.  I’d add that being wise enough to know when you don’t know something can also be powerful.

So this is another great addition to the Disney Wisdom Collection and my pin collection.  I will be enjoying it for quite some time to come.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

September 28th's Weekly TV Thoughts

And the fall TV season is officially in full swing.  Several season premiers, one series premier, and a series finale in the line up this week.  Still fairly quiet until the Arrowverse shows start up again in a couple of weeks.  They I won't have time for anything else.

Dancing with the Stars – I’m surprised Mary was the first to go.  Of course, we do seem to have several stars down at the bottom right now, so the next few weeks should be easy.  I’ll have to see how the judges picking who ultimate goes plays out.  It’s too early to tell right now.

Very Brady Renovation – This was the first time I felt like we got a real view of how long this all took.  Six months, and I can believe they found the stuff they needed to make the house real.  But the work?  I’m so impressed.  So far, the backyard as been the biggest disappointment, but I’ll let that pass since they couldn’t do much else with it due to lack of space.

This is Us – Remember how I wasn’t sure about continuing on?  I thought I’d give the season premier one shot to see what I thought.  I have a feeling I will be hanging around for the season again.  I’m intrigued to see where they are going to go with these new characters.  It is nice to know that baby Jack is going to grow up and be okay, although if we regularly have storylines in the past, present, and future, that’s going to get very confusing for us.  And yes, I am going to need a few episodes to get used to Jennifer Morrison as someone other than Emma.  I really only know her from Once Upon a Time, so that is what I am used to thinking when I see her.  Having said all of that, I would have liked more of the Big Three than the brief glimpses we got of them at the end.  Maybe introduce these new characters only one at a time instead of making them the focus of a new episode?

Survivor – So the advice from Rob and Sandra will be at least partially scripted.  Good to know.  I liked the fact that they were hiding during tribal.  I think this twist will be very interesting.  (Although I am wondering how much they are being paid to be out there.  And how much they get to eat vs. finding food on their own.)  I wonder what was in Rob’s back pocket.  And how people will react to Elizabeth when the truth comes out.

Suits – That wasn’t quite the final I was hoping for.  I was glad they got rid of Faye in time to wrap some other things up.  I like the fact that we got to see Louis’s baby, and the scenes with his therapist were good.  But Harvey and Donna getting married like that?  No.  That’s just not right.  And moving across the country?  That came completely out of left field.  Love Harvey and Mike working together again, but the show didn’t earn that ending.

AHS: 1984 – Seriously, that camp director is driving me up a wall.  Not only is she completely wrong with her theology, but she is obviously just there to make Christians look bad.  The fact that we have a ghost in the story is very interesting.  I figured the Nightstalker was just there for the beginning of the season, so it’s interesting that he has shown up as well.  Could have done without the deadly wedding backstory.

The Good Place – I am going to miss this show when it ends this year.  I mean, I’m glad they are going out when the story ends, but it is so dang funny.  That elephant was a blast.  Linda going off was great.  Derek’s “I have been murdered” video was pretty good.  I’m very curious where they will go with this season, and I’m going to enjoy every second of it unfolding.

Carol’s Second Act – I’d forgotten that Ashley Tisdale was in it, and boy, I didn’t recognize her at all.  There is some promise in there, but overall I felt like the show was trying too hard.  For every joke that really made me laugh, there were three or four that were saying “Look at me, I’m funny.”  If they tone the show down, it will be a better show with a long life.  Otherwise, I won’t make it through more than a handful of episodes, and I doubt most people will either.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Movie Review: Mystery 101 - Dead Talk

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery, fun characters
Cons: Usual Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
A trip out of town
Still leads Amy to murder
In this fun movie

“I Guess We Aren’t in Garrison Any More, Dorothy.”

When I was reviewing last week’s Mystery 101 movie, I mentioned that the movie really has three core characters.  They proved it this week by sending those three out of town for Dead Talk.

Amy Winslow (Jill Wagner) has been invited to give a talk on mysteries in Seattle as part of the Teachable Talks series.  However, not everyone is 100% enthusiastic about her giving that talk because the person behind them is Tim Bishop (Matthew James Dowden), Amy’s ex-boyfriend.  While Amy’s dad, Graham (Robin Thomas), always intended to go along, Detective Travis Burke (Kristoffer Polaha) decides to use some vacation time and go along as well.

The conference where Amy is giving her presentation is also supposed to be the launching pad for a new computer software that is going to solve crimes faster than humans can.  While Amy is skeptical, the Seattle police department has already signed on.  However, when the inventor, Mitchell McHale (Mark Krysko) is killed, Amy and Travis can’t help but begin to investigate despite the fact that it is well outside of Travis’s jurisdiction.  Will they solve the crime?

While I said this mystery franchise is about the three leads, Amy, Graham, and Travis, even Graham disappears for much of the second half, leaving it to Amy and Travis to carry the movie, and the investigation, on their own.  Not to worry, I was completely hooked the entire time, and I didn’t even notice Graham’s absence until I was thinking about it later.  We get to see some of the other regular characters at the beginning and end, but they are more cameos than anything else.

It’s not really an issue since there are plenty of new characters, including old love interests for both Amy and Travis.  (Seriously, these two need to officially start dating already!)  Granted, these characters are mostly suspects, but they are entertaining on their own and kept me guessing.

The plot in this movie was great.  I had no clue where it was going until Amy and Travis figured it out.  I never would have made the connections they did, but when they laid everything out, it was all perfectly logical.

The usual Hallmark cheese in both the writing and acting was there.  It was a bit more prevalent than in the previous movie, but still not enough to be an issue if you know to expect it going in.  For the most part, the acting was fine.

Fans of Hallmark mysteries will be delighted with Dead Talk.  If you are looking for a light, engaging mystery movie, this is definitely the film for you.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

A Killer Carol Winner

I just pulled the winner of A Killer Carol.  And that winner is...

... Brian!

I've sent you an e-mail, so be sure to look out for it so I can connect you with your prize.

Book Review: The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking by Leigh Perry (Family Skeleton Mysteries #6)


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and mystery held together by fun and humor
Cons: None worth dwelling on
The Bottom Line:
Bone from an old corpse
Georgia and Sid on case
Another fun book




That Bone Isn’t Sid’s

I really have become addicted to the Family Skeleton Mysteries from Leigh Perry.  They are something different in the cozy market, and the little bit of paranormal, something I normally avoid, adds a lot of charm to the proceedings.  So I could hardly wait to dive into The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking, the sixth book in the series.

If you have missed this series, it does take a little explaining.  The main character is Dr. Georgia Thackery, an English professor who has not been able to get a tenure track position and is instead an adjunct, working at various colleges wherever there is an opening.  This book finds her back living with her parents as she is teaching at nearby Bostock College.  So far, it sounds like a fairly normal cozy, right?  Here’s what sets it apart, Georgia’s best friend is Sid, a walking, talking skeleton.  I was a bit skeptical when I first heard the premise, but I gave it a try, and I’m glad I did.  While the first book deals with Sid’s background, the rest of the books just focus on the current case and treat Sid’s existence as part of the world.  In that way, it keeps the paranormal to a minimum.

When Georgia’s dog, Byron, gets out one afternoon, and when she and her daughter Madison find him again, he is clutching a bone.  Naturally, the two assume it is part of Sid, and they race home to apologize to their friend.  However, all of Sid’s bones are present and accounted for, so they get the police involved.  It turns out that Byron has found part of a normal skeleton (you know, not walking and talking), and the police are able to determine that the skeleton was murdered.

The police have no leads on who the skeleton might have been in life, and Georgia isn’t planning to get involved in another mystery.  Then her friend and fellow adjunct, Charles, approaches her.  He thinks he might know the victim, but the only way to give the police that information might lead the police directly to Charles.  And so Georgia jumps into action again, with Sid doing his best to research the case on the internet.  Was the victim Charles’s friend?  If so, who killed her?

The plots in this series don’t always unfold in a traditional cozy manner, and this book is a prime example.  What do I mean by that?  We don’t have a body and 5 suspects who could have all done it.  Yes, we have a body, but because the murder didn’t happen in the present, we have to figure out who the victim was and then try to figure out who might have wanted to kill her.  Actually, I like this break from the usual formula.  Author Leigh Perry knows what she is doing plotting wise.  This is a strong book with twists, turns, revelations, and surprises along the way.  Of course, when we reach the end, everything makes perfect sense, but it kept me guessing until the very end.

What makes this book work is the fact that the characters are all very real.  And yes, that includes Sid.  He may be a skeleton, but he is a fully fleshed out character.  (Trust me, he’d love that pun.)  Georgia is a sympathetic main character, and I enjoyed getting to see her entire family again.  The characters we meet along the way to the climax are all just as interesting as the main characters, whether they are around for one scene or pop in and out of the novel.

One reason the fact that Sid is real works for me is that Georgia keeps his existence a secret.  The rest of her family knows about him, but that is it because they know the rest of the world would be freaked out if they met him.  In other words, this is a realistic world with just one slight tweak.  However, Georgia has found quite a few ways to include Sid in the investigation and her life, and I love seeing this creativity in action.

The only aspect of the book I found disappointing was the Christmas component.  I didn’t feel like we got quite enough Christmas atmosphere to fully feel the Christmas spirit.  But then again, I do love Christmas, so maybe I was expecting a bit much.  Overall, this is a very minor issue and worth noting only in passing.

I can’t leave out the puns and humor.  If we haven’t gotten every bone pun in existence by this point in the series, I’d be surprised.  Since I love puns, this is high praise from me.  There are plenty of other jokes and characters that made me smile if not outright laugh as I was reading along.

I truly have come to value any time I get to spend with Georgia and Sid, and The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking was purely delightful.  Whether this book is your introduction to Sid or you want a chance to catch up with old friends, you’ll savor every page.

Need more Sid?  Here are the rest of the Family Skeleton Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Book Review: Christmas Cocoa Murder by Carlene O'Connor, Maddie Day, and Alex Erickson


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Three fun Christmas mystery novellas
Cons: Doesn’t come with hot cocoa to sip while reading
The Bottom Line:
Christmas novellas
With some holiday murders
You’re sure to enjoy




Snuggle Up for this Christmas Novella Collection

Christmas seems to be becoming increasingly popular for cozy mysteries.  While I don’t normally associate murder with Christmas, I do find it a super cozy time of year, so it fits from that standpoint.  If you find the holiday season too busy to read a full-length book easily, then you can easily pick up Christmas Cocoa Murder.  This book has three novellas in it, so you can more easily fit one of them into your busy December schedule.  As a bonus, all three of them are delightful.

The book starts off with the title story from Carlene O’Connor.  I’ve never read anything by her, so this was my introduction to Siobhan O’Sullivan, the main character in her popular Irish Village Mysteries.  This story finds Siobhan a few weeks from joining the local police department in her small Irish village.  Even though she’s not supposed to officially join until after the first of the year, she finds herself getting involved in a case just before Christmas.  First, her family’s dog goes missing.  Then the intermission entertainment at the holiday panto goes horribly wrong.  Paddy O’Shea, the village Santa, has been obsessed over how to top the Santa from the neighboring village, and he’s come up with what he thinks is the perfect way.  He’s had a custom-built dunk tank made, and he’s going to challenge people to dunk him in hot chocolate.  However, before the show is over, Paddy is found floating face down in the hot chocolate.  Who killed Santa?

As I said, this was my introduction to the characters, and I did struggle a bit keeping Siobhan’s family straight, and there are some references to things going on in her personal life that I didn’t get.  However, these were very minor issues in an overall fun story and easy enough to ignore.  As you might have guessed from the description of the story, there is some humor involved in the events, but it does have plenty of serious moments as well.  These were balanced perfectly.  I really enjoyed getting to know Siobhan and the suspects were all strong enough to be believable as the killer.  The plot kept me engaged until we reached the great climax.

Next comes “Christmas Cocoa and a Corpse” by Maddie Day.  With how much I love her books, I’m sure you’ll find it no surprise that this is the reason I picked up the collection.  It features the characters from her Country Store Mysteries, so we travel to Indiana to catch up with Robbie Jordan.  It’s the week before Christmas, and business is booming at Robbie’s restaurant, Pans ‘N Pancakes.  However, not everyone is in a festive mood.  Local businessman Jed Greenburg is found dead on the sidewalk while he was out walking a Chocolate lab puppy, the spilled contents of a mug of Robbie’s special hot chocolate blend next to him.  What happened?

Since I love this series so much, it’s no surprise to me that I enjoyed this novella.  Several of the series regulars are away for the holiday, which actually works out very well since this is a novella.  We are able to focus on the characters important to mystery.  Robbie’s boyfriend’s family are actually key to the events as they unfold, and it was great to get to know them a little better.  The mystery was strong, and I enjoyed watching it unfold.  As always, the scenes in the restaurant made my mouth water, and I am now craving breakfast foods.

Finally, we get “Death by Hot Cocoa” by Alex Erickson featuring Krissy Hancock from his Bookstore CafĂ© Mysteries.  Krissy has been talked into doing a Christmas themed escape room by her friend Rita.  The game starts out with the participants being placed in separate rooms, but when they all meet up in the second room, they find the body of their host, Lewis, lying in a pool of spilled hot cocoa.  Is Krissy locked in a room with a killer?  Can she figure out the clues to the crime and the clues to escaping the room?

I read the first book in the series, but I haven’t made it back to the series again.  As a result, I really didn’t remember much about the characters in the series, but that is okay because almost the entire story takes place at the escape room.  With Krissy trapped in a room with all the suspects, it is easy to get to know them.  I haven’t tried any escape rooms yet, but I appreciated how this modern trend was used to update the locked room staple of the genre.  It was well done with the clues to both parts of the mystery layered in to the events.  This one definitely kept me turning the pages.

All three stories feature plenty of Christmas atmosphere to put you in the holiday spirit no matter when you read them.  And there are a couple different recipes for hot cocoa as well as another couple Christmas treats in the book to make part of your Christmas traditions.

These stories will entertain you and leave you with a warm Christmas feeling.  So make yourself a cup of hot chocolate (or maybe not given the theme of this book) and snuggle in with Christmas Cocoa Murder.

If you enjoy the story here, you'll want to read the rest of the Country Store Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Book Review: Have Yourself a Beary Little Murder by Meg Macy (Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mysteries #3)


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery with plenty of holiday spirit
Cons: Supporting characters are hard to keep straight
The Bottom Line:
Parade mascot dies
Leading Sasha to danger
Christmas infused book




Who Killed Santa Bear?

Teddy Bears and Christmas.  They just seem to go together, right?  So it seems natural that the third in Meg Macy’s Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear mystery series would be Have Yourself a Beary Little Murder.

This December is proving to be especially busy for Sasha Silverman.  Not only are there the usual activities in her hometown of Silver Hollow, Michigan, like the annual parade and the open house her family’s company hosts for everyone in town, but the Silver Bear Shop and Factory has won a prize with their design for a Beary Potter bear, and they are rushing to meet demand in time for Christmas.

So, the last thing that Sasha needs is to get involved in a murder, but that’s just what happens.  The highlight of the parade is Santa Bear, and once again this year, the town’s mayor, Cal Bloom, is playing the part.  However, with the parade start time drawing near, no one can find him.  Sasha and her mother start searching only to find him dead on a bench in his costume.  It appears his death wasn’t natural, so what happened to him?  How did he get to the park bench?

The book wastes little time before Mayor Bloom dies.  We get just enough pages to set things up before he is found, and then we are off and running trying to figure out what exactly happened to him.  There are plenty of clues and suspects to think about before we reach the climax, which expertly wraps everything up with a nice bow on it.

My struggle with this book is the same one I’ve had with the earlier books in the series – there are too many characters, and it is hard to keep them straight.  Now, let me be perfectly clear.  Sasha and her immediate family are good characters, and I never had any trouble keeping the suspects straight.  However, I struggle to remember the rest of the townspeople’s relationships to each other and which businesses they own.  This doesn’t impact my ability to follow the plot, so it doesn’t bother me too much.  However, Sasha and her family are wonderful, and I was happy to catch up with them again.

Despite the fact that Teddy Bears are naturally super cute and cuddly, this series tends to have a bit more of a bite to it, working in some darker themes than you might expect for a cozy.  No, there is nothing super dark or disturbing here, but the fact that this book is set at Christmas doesn’t change things.  However, the two balance each other out perfectly.  And if you love Christmas, you are in for some treats (and I wouldn’t mind tasting some of the treats they ate in this book).  Frankly, I want to go to the employee Christmas party – that sounded like so much fun.

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is only three months away.  If you are ready to get into the Christmas spirit a little early, Have Yourself a Beary Little Murder is the book for you.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, September 23, 2019

TV Show Review: Legends of Tomorrow - Season 4


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun trips through time
Cons: Too many new(er) characters
The Bottom Line:
Legends numbers grow
As they chase demons through time
Overall, it’s fun




“Sounds Like Classic Legends Hijinks to Me.”

Of the four Arrowverse shows, Legends of Tomorrow continues to be my favorite.  How could it not be since it doesn’t take itself so seriously?  It’s just plain fun.  I thought that might change this year, but they proved to still be the most fun of the shows with season 4.

The Legends should learn about unintended consequences.  Yes, they defeated Mallus, but unfortunately that just means they have unleashed more time demons, and those demons have scattered throughout time.  So Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), and Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell) team up with John Constantine (Matt Ryan) to travel through time and track them down.  There are stops and Woodstock and the Salem Witch Trials among other places and times to capture them.

Unfortunately, one of them has a familiar face, or at least freezes as a familiar face.  Vixen (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) hits on trying to gain the Legends sympathy by looking like Amaya.  Yes, it throws Nate (Nick Zano) for a loop, but he has other things to worry about since he has opted to stay in the present working as a liaison of sorts between the Time Bureau and his father (recurring guest star Thomas F. Wilson), the senator in charge of their budget.  That means he finds himself working alongside Gary (Adam Tsekhman) and Ava (Jes Macallan) as they try to keep some magical creatures contained.  Will that work?  Will the rest of the Legends round up the rest of the demons?

The fact that we were actively chasing time demons with Constantine worried me going into the season.  I could see it getting very dark and, well, demonic.  However, they kept the sense of fun the entire way through the season.  While they did go darker for the final couple of episodes, it still wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be.  This isn’t to say there aren’t some more serious episodes and plot twists as the season progressed.  But overall, the tone was light and fun.

My issue with the show is the characters, mainly the new ones.  Yes, the show has always had a revolving cast of characters.  However, I feel like the new characters are beginning to outnumber the characters we already know.  That includes characters like Vixen because, even though we already know the actress, it’s really a new character.  Part of it is that I just haven’t warmed up to all the characters.  Gary is a series regular this year, but he is best in small doses, like a few scenes every few episodes.  (And the less said about his nipple, the better.)  Ramona Young joined the cast this year as Mona Wu, but her character seemed to be superfluous to the rest of the season until the very last couple of episodes.  She could have been a guest star.  On the other hand, I was happy to see more of Ava and Nora Darhk (Courtney Ford).  For that matter, I still haven’t warmed up with Zari (Tala Ashe), and she’s been on the show for two seasons now.  Instead of introducing new characters, let us get to know the ones we already have a bit more.  That’s hard to do with such a large cast, but it would really help the show.

Now, this isn’t a criticism of the actors.  They are doing what they can with the material they have.  It’s the writers who are taking on too many characters and storylines to fully flesh them out.

Of course, the other side is, if there is a character you don’t like, they only get a couple of episodes where they have significant screen time since there are so many characters to juggle.  Still, I hope they reign in the impulse to create new characters a bit.

Wow, I’ve been ranting.  Maybe this bothered me more than I realized.  On a weekly basis, it really didn’t bother me that much, however.  Each episode was fun, usually making me laugh several times along the way.  This is science fiction action at its finest.  Because of that, the show features a large number of special effects each week.  A few times the budget and production schedule become evident with some weaker effects, but most of the time I’m fine with what we are watching on the screen.

One thing I enjoy about the Arrowverse shows is the annual crossover.  Legends of Tomorrow wasn’t invited to participate this year.  However, the multiple realities episode they aired during that week (with a wonderful joke about the crossovers) was hilarious and made up for not being included for me.

This show has always had shorter seasons than its sister shows, and season 4 was the same with only sixteen episodes.

Yes, at times it is silly, but season 4 of Legends of Tomorrow is fun.  I’m hoping that the characters get a bit more focused but the fun continues as the show goes forward.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Cookie Review: Maple Creme Oreos


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Delicious maple flavored cookie
Cons: Limited edition
The Bottom Line:
Maple flavored treat
Certainly a hit with me
Grab them while you can




This Maple Lover is Addicted

I swear, I wasn’t looking for sweets!

I was in my local Wal-Mart recently, and they had the new limited Maple Creme flavored Oreos in the center aisle.  I couldn’t miss them when I walked by; it wasn’t my fault!  Being the maple fan that I am (anything is better with maple syrup on it), I had to try a package.  They are as delicious as I thought they would be.

The Oreos are made with the golden cookies, which mean they have a vanilla base.  The center is a delicious maple flavored creme.  That’s it.  Nothing elaborate or that surprising if you are a fan of Oreos and their various flavors.

But boy does this flavor work.  The maple creme is delicious, tasting very much like real maple syrup and not the artificial syrup that some people sell.  (Yes, I am a maple syrup snob, why do you ask?)  Yes, the artificial flavor is more noticeable if you eat several of these cookies at once, but if you have just one or two at a time, they don’t taste overly artificial.  Or maybe I was expecting the artificial taste so I don’t find it overwhelming when I grab a cookie or two.

And that’s a good thing because cookies should be enjoyed one or two at a time and not multiples at once.  (Notice I said should.  We aren’t talking about my actual cookie eating habits.)

Part of me is bummed these Maple Creme Oreos are limited editions.  I could see myself enjoying them quite a bit if they were a regularly featured flavor.  But it might be best they are limited in nature because I could see myself gaining weight from eating these delicious cookies.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

September 21st's Weekly TV Thoughts

This is it, the final summer week of TV.  Makes since because Monday is the first day of fall.  Two shows with finales this week and the first fall premiers as well.  I'll definitely be getting back in the grove of TV shows next week, for better or worse.

American Ninja Warrior – I’m not surprised that it was Drew who won.  He was one of the people I was rooting for if it wasn’t going to be Joe.  Ironically, Daniel was one of the others, so it was hard to know who I was rooting for more when both of them made it to stage 4.  I am glad that Daniel didn’t finish.  Since they both couldn’t win, I’m glad that it was someone finished and someone else didn’t instead of both of them finishing and one losing because of time.  That was so rough last time they had a winner.

Dancing with the Stars – Politics is going to get a bad name when it comes to dancing.  They need to find some good political dancers.  No, I don’t think the judges were picking on Sean Spicer with his score.  His dance looked painful from a dancing standpoint.  He was having fun.  But how about Summer (was that her name) who stepped in for her mom?  Impressive after three days.  She’s got potential.  James seems to be the dancer to beat, at least at this early stage.  I always marvel at how the judges can say such different things to people and then score them so close to each other.

A Very Brady Renovation – I don’t quite get where they put the study in relation to anything else.  For that matter, was the fireplace in the living room last week when they were working on that?  They are putting a lot of work into this house.  But it looks so amazing when they are done.  I had to laugh at the rain in LA part.  We definitely had a wetter than normal winter this last year.  Affected a lot of things all over the state, actually.

Suits – I really have missed Mike.  And I get why they are at odds right now, but they had better be friends when the dust clears.  Because wow, their scenes together prove why I always saw them as the heart and soul of the show.  As tired as I am of all the infighting, I really enjoyed this episode.  It’s especially nice to see Faye getting some hard truths.  Seriously, that woman is extra toxic.

Pearson – Seriously?  Destroy her relationship with Jeff (which was always one of my favorites, even on Suits), make the teaser from the beginning of the season into a non-issue, and leave us with only one thing resolved – the cousin’s storyline.  That’s it?  I’ve been watching all along for that?  What a disservice to the Jessica Pearson character.  If the show comes back by some fluke, I highly doubt I will keep watching it.

American Horror Story: 1984 – Yes, I’m giving this show a chance this season.  I’m that addicted to slasher stories.  I can see why I haven’t given the show a chance in the past.  The characters are pretty annoying.  It’s clear they are setting Emma Robert’s character up as the final girl.  The question is, will they follow the standard formula or give us a twist down the road.  I might or might not find out.  The show was pretty brutal for me, so we will see if I make it all the way through.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Music Review: Nothing to Fear by Aaron Shust


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Many strong tracks
Con: “Death is Not the End”
The Bottom Line:
Aaron Shust is back
Offering more praise, worship
I will sing along




Aaron Shust Fans Have Nothing to Fear – This is Another Strong Release

Aaron Shust represents a departure from my normal music choices.  He’s mostly a praise and worship artist, and I tend to stick to the pop and soft rock sides of the Christian market.  However, I definitely enjoy his releases, so I make sure I get everyone.  He’s just released Nothing to Fear, and it’s another strong disc.

After a brief intro, Aaron launches into “Your Word,” a song taken from Psalm 119.  It’s a nice mid-tempo track to start us off.  Definitely one of the more fun songs on the disc is “None Like You.”  It’s got a hint of Jewish music flavor, and I just love it.

Speaking of which, there’s “Zion.”  This is definitely a song with Jewish roots as it relates God’s promises to His chosen people.  It’s a great song that reminds us just how much God loves and cares for all His people.  As a bonus track, we get a recording of Aaron singing it live in Israel.  It’s nice to have, but I’m not completely sure we needed it twice on one disc.  Still, with twelve tracks, it’s definitely easy to count this as a bonus song.

For me, the biggest misstep on the disc is “Death is Not the End.”  I certainly agree with the premise – because of the hope we have in Christ, we know there is something beyond death.  I was even reminded about other songs I do love with similar themes.  However, this one just doesn’t work for me.  I think it might be the simple lyrics coupled with the slow music.  This is definitely the slowest song on the disc, and that helps make the song very depressing, the opposite of the message of the song.

But the rest of the tracks are great.  We get reminders that Jesus is the “Savior of the World,” a song about the “Rest” we find in God, and a prayer for Him to “Heal Our Land.”  We certainly need that last one, don’t we?  We even get a new recording of the classic hymn “Just As I Am.”  The themes may not be anything new, but the lyrics are strong and point our hearts and minds to God.

In the past, I’ve found that some of Aaron’s discs tend to blend together for me as all the songs sound the same.  That’s not the case here.  Each one is distinct enough to keep my attention as I am listening.  Yes, it’s mostly modern praise and worship, and fans of the genre won’t find many surprises here.  But then again, if the purpose is to lift our focus to God, then the music shouldn’t be getting in the way of us singing along, right?

Nothing to Fear is a release that Aaron Shusts’s fans will enjoy.  I know I’ll be listening to and singing these songs for years to come.

Length: 49:26
Tracks:
1. Intro
2. Your Word
3. None Like You
4. More Than Welcome
5. Savior of the World
6. This I Know
7. Zion
8. Rest
9. Death is Not the End
10. Heal Our Land
11. Just As I Am
12. Bonus: Zion (Live from Jerusalem)

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Book Review: A Killer Carol by Laura Bradford (Amish Mysteries #7)


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, compelling mystery
Cons: None worth mentioning
The Bottom Line:
Killing at Christmas
Draws Claire into the drama
Strong, refreshing book




A Killing at Christmas is Anything but Heavenly for Claire

Quite obviously, there are a number of series I enjoyed, but some series stand out above the rest.  Every time I pick up one of Laura Bradford’s Amish Mysteries, I know I can sit back and relax into the story.  That held true with A Killer Carol.

Christmas is approaching in Heavenly, Pennsylvania, and Claire Weatherly has her hands full.  Not only does she have the normal tourists coming into her shop, Heavenly Treasures, to buy gift items, some of them crafted by the Amish, but she is organizing the first annual One Heavenly Night event designed as a chance for residence and tourists to enjoy the town at Christmas.  She is focusing on it, wanting to make sure that every detail is perfect.

However, murder rears its ugly head once again one night.  Annie, the Amish teen who works for Claire, is out Christmas caroling with some friends, and when they stop at the Esch’s farm, they find both of the them dead.  Detective Jakob Fisher is quick to realize it was murder.  Unfortunately, the last people to visit the victims were Claire’s Amish friend Ruth and her new husband Samuel.  Even worse, the couple appear to have a motive for committing the crime.  Claire doesn’t believe they could have done it, but Jakob has to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if it ruins the unofficial inroads he has made in building relationships with the people who used to be his family before he left the Amish community.  Can Claire help him solve the case before that happens?

This series works best when the characters are driving a strong mystery.  This book is a perfect example of that.

The characters in this series have always been super strong.  I felt like I knew them from the first time they walked on the page of book one.  That continues here.  There are a large group of series regulars, but I never have a hard time keeping them straight, and I can’t help but smile when they first appear in this book.  I was thrilled to get to spend time with these old friends.  That extends to the new characters as well.  They are just as strong as the returning players, and, honestly, I want updates on some of them in the future.

Heavenly, being a town right on the edge of an Amish community, always feels like it has a bit of a slower pace to it, and that does come across in the plots of the book.  This is not a mystery with a twist on every page.  Now, don’t misunderstand, there are twists and surprises as well as a logical conclusion.  However, they are spaced out a bit more.  But anything faster paced in this setting wouldn’t feel right.  And, it also allows us time to see how the characters process what they are learning.  Honestly, this is much of the charm of the series and why the characters are so strong.  They aren’t just getting clues, but those clues are impacting them.  And it’s because of this that I found this book impossible to put down.  The mystery is driving forward, but I need to make sure my friends will be okay when it ends.  In fact, this series is the one I am most tempted to peak at the ending when I’m reading.  (No, I didn’t actually do that.)

Then there’s the setting itself.  I want to visit Heavenly.  It seems like I’m always rushing to get something done, and Heavenly, with its slower pace, is just what I need to relax.   Reading this book is the next best thing, and I can feel my spirit being refreshed just by reading the first page.  As much as I love Christmas, the fact that this series has a Christmas setting makes this one even more relaxing.  The Christmas details are fun and really do add to the charm of this book.

Yes, I did have a couple of niggles with this book as I was reading, but they didn’t bother me that much.  I was enjoying spending time in the setting and with the characters too much.

A Killer Carol is a fantastic addition to one of my favorite series.  It will provide a nice bit of calm to enjoy in December.  Or now if, like me, you wouldn’t be able to wait that long to catch up with Claire, Jakob, and the rest of the characters.

Be sure to enjoy all of your visits to Heavenly with the rest of the Amish Mysteries.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Giveaway!

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 Thursday September 26th, so please leave your comment before midnight Pacific Time on 9/26.  You will have until midnight on 10/1 to get back to me, or I will choose a new winner on 10/2.