Monday, August 31, 2020

August 2020's Reading Summary

 Here it is the end of August already.  Must be time for my reading summary for the month.  No update to the index this month.  Too much else going on and my computer is acting up.

The links will take you to my full review.

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

 

The Last Mrs. Summers by Rhys Bower (Royal Spyness #14) – 4

It’s fall 1935, and Lady Georgiana O’Mara is back from her honeymoon and settling into her new married life until Darcy is called away on another of his assignments.  Suddenly at loose ends, Georgie jumps at a chance to join her friend Belinda is looking at the cottage she just inherited in Cornwall.  However, the cottage turns out to be more of a shack.  The friends are deciding what to do when they run into Rose, a childhood friend of Belinda’s.  Rose announces she is now the mistress of one of the nearby mansions, and insists that Georgie and Belinda stay with her.  However, something is off about life at the mansion.  Will Georgie figure out what is going on before tragedy strikes?

It's always fun to slip back into Georgie’s world, and I picked up this book with anticipation.  As usual, the book opens with updates on Georgie’s various friends and family, and I enjoy finding out how life is going for them.  Once the story gets going, we are treated to a mystery filled with confusing happenings and plenty of atmosphere.  The plot is minimally inspired by the classic Rebecca, and it uses the gothic elements well.  I’m not familiar with Rebecca, but not picking up on nods to that book didn’t diminish my enjoyment at all.  The new characters we meet along the way help pull us into the book.  Naturally, everything makes sense once Georgie figures it all out.  When you pick up this book, be prepared to be swept back in time.  Fans of the series will be thrilled to catch up with Georgie’s latest adventures.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Killer Chardonnay by Kate Lansing (Colorado Wine Mysteries #1) – 5

Parker Valentine’s dream is coming true today with the opening of Vino Valentine in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado.  However, her joy turns to worry when renowned local food and wine blogger Gaskel Brown shows up.  He is notoriously hard to please, and his blog can make or break local restaurants.  After sampling her chardonnay, Gaskel dies, and the police are quick to label it poison.  Everyone is blaming Parker for the crime, and no one is coming to her store for fear they will be next.  In order to save her dream, she has to find the killer.  Can she do it?

Since I don’t drink wine, I almost passed on this debut, but I’m glad I picked it up.  The book starts quickly, introducing us to characters while also setting the murder in motion.  The pace continues to be strong with plenty of secrets and motives before we reach the climax, where everything fell into place.  All the characters were also fantastic, with some good growth thanks to the subplots.  The book is written in first person present tense, which is a bit unusual, but I quickly got used to it as I read.  There are a handful of four-letter words, but they are worth noting mostly in passing.  If the food descriptions make your mouth water, you’ll welcome the three recipes and wine pairings at the end.  This book was aged to perfection, and I’m already looking forward to Parker’s next case.

 

The Key Lime Crime by Lucy Burdette (Key West Food Critic Mysteries #10) – 4

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is proving to be very busy for Hayley Snow.  In addition to her regular food related articles for local magazine Key Zest, she is also covering the key lime pie contest, which is filled with more tension than Hayley expected.  Meanwhile, her new husband, cop Nathan Bransford, is working overtime due to all the visitors on the island for the holiday.  So when Nathan’s mother decides to come visit, Hayley finds herself playing hostess for a woman she’s never met before.  Even worse, the pair stumble upon one of the pie contestants dead.  Has the contest turned deadly?  Or is there another motive for murder?

I’m always happy to escape to Key West via the pages of this series, although after reading this I may skip the New Year’s time period when I get to visit in real life.  It sounded a little too crowded for me.  Still, I loved getting to catch up with the characters, who are always a delight.  We got to know one of the regulars much better here, which I really appreciated.  The mystery itself could have been stronger, although we did have some good suspects and I was engaged and kept guessing until the end.  Plan ahead before you pick up this book – I had to buy a key lime pie I was craving it so much.  There isn’t a recipe for the pie at the end (we’ve gotten one in an earlier book), although one of the eight recipes is for a delicious sounding key lime parfait.  This is another pleasant trip to Key West that will please the series’ fans.

NOTE: I received and ARC of this book.

 

Murder on Sisters’ Row by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #13) – 5

Midwife Sarah Brandt’s latest client is a woman in an elegant house.  However, over the course of her labor, Amy reveals that she is being held against her will by a madam.  Sarah enlists some others to help her free Amy and her baby only for someone to turn up dead.  With Frank Malloy assigned to the case, the duo finds themselves investigating another intriguing mystery.  Can they figure out what happened?

While the book delves into a serious subject, it does it without forcing the details on us, something I appreciated as I read.  Instead it does an excellent job of bringing life in 1890’s New York City to life once again and shining the light on another part of society during the time.  I love Sarah, Frank, and the rest of the gang.  While all the characters shine, there isn’t any movement in the ongoing storylines, so you could jump in here without being too lost.  The new characters represent a wide part of society, and they are all brought to life well.  The plot kept me engaged.  I was a step or two ahead of Sarah and Frank at times, at others I was heading in the wrong direction.  Everything comes together for a page turning climax.  I’m doing my best to catch up on this series.  If you are as behind as I am, you’ll be delighted with this entry in the series.

 

The Murder List by Hank Phillippi Ryan – 4

Rachel North is a non-traditional law student at 36, but she plans to join her husband, Jack Kirkland, in his practice as of one Boston’s premier defense lawyers once she graduates.  But first she has to survive a summer internship with ADA Martha Gardiner.  To say that Jack and Martha hate each other is putting it mildly, but Rachel thinks it will a good opportunity for opposition research.  When Martha takes a personal interest in Rachel, Rachel is flattered.  But can she navigate the two lawyers now in her life?  Or is she being played?

This book not only switches between the present and when Rachel first met Jack and Martha six years ago, but it also incorporates all three character’s viewpoints.  Don’t worry, it all flows smoothly, and you can always tell who and when you are currently learning about.  I will admit I had a bit of a different idea what a book called The Murder List might be about, but I quickly got hooked on the story being told here.  This is a suspense novel, with plenty of twists and surprises along the way.  My biggest struggle was the characters.  This really is Rachel, Jack, and Martha’s story, and all three are deeply flawed.  I found it hard to root for them at various points in the story; I usually like to have at least one character I can root for.  Overall, I did enjoy this book and I’m glad I read it.

 

Bad News Travels Fast by Gar Anthony Haywood (Joe and Dottie Loudermilk #2) – 5

When Joe and Dottie Loudermilk sold everything to enjoy their retirement on the road, one advantage was that it would make it hard for their kids to drag them into difficult situations.  However, when they arrive in Washington DC, Dottie arranges for them to have dinner with their son Eddie.  The next morning, Eddie is arrested for killing his former roommate.  The murder weapon is Eddie’s knife, and the victim was killed after Eddie had a very public fight with him.  Despite all of this, Joe and Dottie believe Eddie when he claims to be innocent.  But can they prove it?

I’m glad I got to revisit these characters this year because this was a delightful mystery.  It was a fast read, but there wasn’t a wasted word as Joe and Dottie track down one lead after another.  The twists and turns kept me engaged the entire way through.  Joe’s temper is toned down a bit from the first book, and Dottie is a strong narrator of the events.  The rest of the cast is just as sharp.  While travel is a theme of the series, the little bit of sightseeing that Joe and Dottie do always also serves the plot.  I could have done without the smattering of foul language scattered throughout the book, but that is worth nothing mainly in passing.  Everything is mixed together with a dash of humor that I enjoyed.  If you’ve missed this book, I’ve got great news – you’ll enjoy it.

 

The Red Trailer Mystery by Julie Campbell (Trixie Belden #2) – 5

Jim's run off, and it's up to Trixie and Honey to find him. But trailer thieves and a family on the run complicate things. A very fun book with great characters. And it includes one of my all time favorite scenes in the series, too.

 

Digging Up the Remains by Julia Henry (Garden Squad Mysteries #3) – 4

Fall has arrived in Goosebush, Massachusetts, and Lilly Jayne is busy with the two weekend fall festival.  Kicking things off is a 10K through town.  Lilly and her friends Delia and Roddy are making sure the path is clear before the race starts when the find the body of reporter Tyler Crane partially buried in a pile of leaves.  Tyler hasn’t been in town long, but he’s made several people upset as he has dug to uncover family secrets.  He was teasing new stories coming soon.  Was one of those the reason he was murdered?

I really enjoyed getting to visit these characters again.  Lilly leads a large and diverse cast of characters, and they are all charming.  They are also distinct, so it is easy to keep them all straight.  The book reintroduces us to the characters and town while introducing Tyler and the suspects.  The pacing is a bit off early on, but the time is being put to good use as it sets up the mystery.  Once Tyler is found dead, we are off with suspects as strong as the main characters and many secrets for Lilly and the others to uncover before we reach the climax.  Meanwhile, we get some advancement in storylines introduced in earlier books.  I suspect we’ve got some seeds that will bloom in future books here as well.  I wish I could garden as well as the characters in this series, but I can dream while I read these fun mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Cat Me If You Can by Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks #13) – 4

Charlie Harris, his fiancée, and his cat, Diesel, are heading to Asheville, North Carolina for a week of tourism and talking about favorite mystery authors with the members of the Athena Public Library mystery group.  Unfortunately, an outside member has crashed the trip and picks a fight with several members.  When he turns up dead the next morning, Charlie feels the obvious suspect couldn’t have done it.  Can he figure out what really happened?

Pulling off a vacation mystery in a series can be tricky.  In this case, it works well since we have several of the supporting players on the trip and we get updates from some of the others.  Of course, the series really belongs to Charlie and Diesel, and we get plenty of both, but I was happy to see more of Helen Louise than usual, and I enjoyed spending time with the other regulars on the trip.  Unfortunately, some of the suspects could have been stronger, but that didn’t stop me from getting involved in the mystery.  As usual, the tension is high and the twists are plentiful.  While the climax does answer all our questions, I felt a few lines made it more preachy than it needed to be.  Still, this is a strong book that fans of the series will find hard to put down.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

What Happened at Midnight by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #10) – 4

Frank and Joe Hardy are shocked when they get the new request from their father, famed detective Fenton Hardy.  He wants them to break into a house and steal something.  Of course, it is to keep an invention for his client safe.  However, doing that puts the boys on the radar of a gang of smugglers.  Will they be able to protect the invention and round up the smugglers?

I remember as a kid the title really intriguing me.  Yes, several scenes take place at midnight, but the title isn’t as relevant to the story as it might be.  That hardly matters since the story is so action packed that it is hard to put it down.  Coincidence rules quite a bit, and the characters are thin.  Elements are also very dated today.  So in other words, it’s a typical Hardy Boys book.  Still, I take that into account when I pick up one of these books, and I enjoy the nostalgia I get from revisiting these old friends.

 

The Falcon Always Wings Twice by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #27) – 5

Meg Langslow is spending the summer at her grandmother’s craft center helping with the Renaissance Faire Cordelia is hosting on weekends as Cordelia’s second in command as well as doing blacksmithing demonstrations.  Her husband, Michael, is in charge of the actors in “The Game,” which is the code for the improvised scenes he and the rest are doing during the day about who will inherit a fictional kingdom.  They are mostly having fun with it, but Terence, one of the other actors, is making life difficult for everyone.  Meg isn’t super surprised when he is found dead one morning, but as she goes about her day, she keeps picking up information related to the murder.  Will she solve it?

This entry is the series at the top of its game.  The murder may take place a little later than some books, but the time is well spent setting up the suspects and motives.  I was hooked before the body dropped and happily followed the investigation after it happened.  Everything is wrapped up in a climax that has us on the edge of our seats and makes us laugh.  The characters are at their most charming – funny without being annoying.  I laughed many times as the pages flew by.  All the characters are great, and I found myself tearing up at some of the development we got thanks to some strong sub-plots.  Since Meg is a blacksmith (not that we see her doing it much in the series), I’m surprised we haven’t been to a Renaissance Fair with her before, but this entry was well worth the wait.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Disney Pin Review: Dumbo - Crests of the Kingdom - 2019 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great crest for another classic attraction
Cons: All cons flew away
The Bottom Line:
This crest for Dumbo
Is made to make your heart soar
And to make you smile

This Crest Soars

There are many iconic Disneyland attractions.  Most of the ones that people immediately think of are the roller coasters, but start discussing the family friendly attractions, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant would come up quickly.  So is it really that surprising that Dumbo got an entry in the Crests of the Kingdom pin series?

As usual, the front is raised pewter, but it is still easy to see the crest.  Dumbo is front and center, as he should be.  On either side is a feather.  Behind him, you can see the impression of a circus tent.  Down at the bottom is the banner with the perfect Latin phrase, “Volantem Elephanti,” or “Flying Elephants.”

The inside illustration is perfect as well.  It features Dumbo himself flying over the circus.  Timothy is sitting in Dumbo’s hat.  It’s exactly what you’d expect inside this pin.

I must admit that Dumbo isn’t one of the attractions on my must do list every time I visit Disneyland, but it always makes me smile when I see it.  And, I’ve got to admit, I still enjoy it when I do ride it.  The nostalgia from memories of riding it as a kid or with the kids in your life is magical.

And that’s why I enjoy this pin; it reminds me of the fun of this attraction perfectly with a wonderful crest.  I’m glad I’ve added the Dumbo Crests of the Kingdom pin to my collection.

If you'd like to see what this pin looks like, I hope you'll hop over to my pictures on Instagram.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

August 29th's Weekly TV Thoughts

 Saying goodbye to another show this week.  Season finale.  No decision on whether it will be renewed or not.  But I've got a returning favorite coming back on Monday!

Tell Me a Story – I’d been interested in this show for two reasons.  One, the fairy tale aspect.  That has certainly been darker than I intended.  I was also interested because the show comes from Kevin Williamson, and I am obsessed with the Scream franchise, which he started.  I definitely noticed those origins in this episode.  Phone voice.  The murder.  Yes, some definitely dark and twisted turns.  I will be interesting to see where the show goes from here.

United We Fall – This episode was the show at its best.  So many funny lines and the crazy family being funny without being annoying.  It was even sweet at the end.  But so many laughs along the way.  If the show comes back for more, this is what they need to capture to make season 2 stronger.  (And yes, that was the end of season 1 already.)

Cannonball – Wow!  I get that the balls in the net challenge is hard.  I doubt I’d do well at it.  But that was the lowest scoring round I’d seen.  Half of them didn’t get any points, and the highest scores were 2.  Pretty amazing.

Friday, August 28, 2020

August 28th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Welcome to Friday, which means it is time again for Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring The First Wave by James R. Benn.

                                                 

This is a little different for me.  Yes, it is a mystery, but it's not a light cozy mystery.  It's set during World War II and puts you directly in the action.

You'll see what I mean by how it begins:

It was dark, and I was at sea, hunkered down in a flat-bottomed landing craft, slamming through four-foot swells and chugging noisily toward shore, leaving the relative safety of our troop transport behind.

We get action again on page 56, although a shorter quote:

Ten minutes later I was up on the roof and headed back to friendly territory.

I'll be reviewing the book on Tuesday, so I hope you'll come back to see what I thought of it.

As always, have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Book Review: The Falcon Always Wings Twice by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #27)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Laughs, plot, characters
Cons: I smite all cons!
The Bottom Line:
Renaissance Faire book
Great characters, strong story
Filled with warmth, humor



The Game’s Afoot!

I was shocked when I saw that Meg Langslow was working at a Renaissance Faire for The Falcon Always Wings Twice, the twenty-seventh entry in the series.  If you aren’t familiar with the series, Meg is a blacksmith (although it is rare that we see her blacksmithing in the series), so it seems like a Renaissance Faire was a natural setting for one of her adventures.  But thinking back, I couldn’t think of that setting in any of the previous entries.  Finally going to a Renaissance Faire with Meg was well worth the wait.

Meg’s grandmother, Cordelia, has decided to host a Renaissance festival on her craft center property on the weekends this summer, and naturally the entire family has gotten involved in various capacities.  While Meg is selling her wares and doing blacksmithing demos (and working as Cordelia’s second in command), her husband, Michael, is in charge of the actors in “the Game,” which is what they have named the scenes they are doing featuring improv about who will inherit a fictional kingdom.  Michael is one of the actors, but he’s filled out the cast with friends who need summer jobs.

Unfortunately, one of the actors is Terence.  Terence has gone out of his way to make just about everyone miserable at some point over the course of the few weeks that the faire has been opened, so Meg isn’t terribly surprised when Terence’s body is found in the woods early one morning.  And she can’t help but get involved in the investigation as she goes about her day.  Can she figure out what happened?

When this series is at the top of its game, it is a pure delight.  And this book is the series at its best.  The murder might take place a little later than in some books, but the time is well spent setting up suspects and motives and getting to know Terence, so once he is killed, we are ready to jump in and figure out exactly what happened.  There are so many balls in the air that we are kept engrossed the entire time.  I never wanted to set the book down.  The climax does a great job of putting Meg in danger, answering the remain questions, and making us laugh all at the same time.

Yes, the humor in this book is top notch.  The series regulars are at their best here – making us laugh without annoying us.  Plenty of humor comes from the new characters as well, including Terence before he dies.  Yes, his behavior is reprehensible at times, but some of what he pulls is pretty funny, too.

And yet the characters aren’t caricatures.  We truly do care about them, and some of the development here made me tear up a little.  And can I say how much I love how Jamie and Josh, Meg and Michael’s twins, are maturing.

I suspect we’ve had next summer’s mystery set up in this book, although we’ll have to wait a while to see if I’m right since we get a new Christmas mystery first.

The Meg Langslow mysteries are comfort reads – time spent smiling and laughing with characters we know and love.  The Falcon Always Wings Twice is another excellent example of exactly why the series has so many loyal fans.

Enjoy more humor and mystery with the rest of the Meg Langslow mysteries.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Book Review: What Happened at Midnight by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #10)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fast paced action
Cons: Thin characters, coincidence in plot, dated
The Bottom Line:
Protect invention
While taking down some smugglers
Fast paced nostalgia




Nighttime Crime

I remember as a kid being intrigued by the title of the tenth Hardy Boys mystery – What Happened at Midnight.  For one thing, I never stayed up that late then, so the idea of being up so late was intriguing.  I remember enjoying it as a kid, and it is still fun as an adult.

Frank and Joe Hardy have just been given an unusual assignment.  They’ve been asked to break into a house and steal something.  And their dad has asked them to do it.  Famed detective Fenton Hardy is on the West Coast with his client, but the client thinks someone is going to break into his house and steal his new invention.  He doesn’t have a spare key, so he needs Frank and Joe to break in and get his invention first to make sure it is safe.

While Frank and Joe are able to get the invention, doing so puts them on the radar of a smuggling ring.  Why are they after the invention?  Can Frank and Joe help round them up?

I’ve only ever read the 1950’s version of this title, and I do wonder if midnight played a more important role in the original book.  Don’t get me wrong, several key scenes take place at midnight.  However, it doesn’t quite seem like midnight is as important to the story as the title suggests.  Minor complaint, however.

There is plenty of intrigue in the book with the Hardys and their friends being in danger several times.  As a mystery it is a bit light since we know who the villains are almost the entire time.  Instead, we spend much of the book trying to track them down.  Coincidence rules the plot, but I know this is a hallmark of the series, so I expected it.

The characters continue to be thin as well.  They have a little personality, but there is so much action we don’t get to know much about them.

As an adult, there is a particular plot point, encouraged by an adult, too, that absolutely bothers me.  Clearly, this book is written for kids.  It’s a minor issue, and it was more funny to me than truly upsetting.

Here’s the thing, however.  I know all of this going into one of these books.  So I sit back and enjoy them for what they are and the nostalgia they produce.  As a kid, none of this bother me that much, so I’m sure today’s kids looking for an action-packed story will be glad they picked it up.

Reading this now, especially, I had to laugh at some of the elements in the book.  It is clearly dated between the clothes they wear (a tie on a regular basis) to the technology involved.  But I think that is part of the charm.

Even with all the things I pointed out, there is still something about time spent with Frank and Joe Hardy that is fun.  If you want a nostalgia filled trip back in time, you’ll enjoy learning What Happened at Midnight.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Book Review: Cat Me If You Can by Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks Mysteries #13)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Lovely series regulars, engaging mystery
Cons: Suspects could be stronger
The Bottom Line:
A death out of town
Mystery group hides killer?
Charming and fun book



Get Away with Murder

Sometimes you have to feel sorry for series sleuths.  Even when they take a vacation, they still find themselves embroiled in a murder mystery.  That’s exactly what happens to Charlie Harris in Cat Me If You Can.

In this case, Charlie, his fiancée Helen Louise Brady, and his cat Diesel (of course) are heading to North Carolina for a week in Asheville.  They are going with the mystery group from the Athena Public Library.  The Ducote sisters organized the trip, and the idea is to spend a week touring the area and discussing their favorite mystery writers.

Unfortunately, their group has been crashed by an unwelcome visitor.  Not only does he show up unexpectedly, but he picks fights with several members of the group.  Then he dies mysteriously.  There’s an obvious suspect in their group, but Charlie isn’t buying it.  Can he figure out what really happened?

Pulling off a vacation entry in a long running series can be hard since part of the charm of a series is the supporting characters.  In this case, enough of them are present and we have contact with some of the others, so it doesn’t feel like we are missing too many of them.  Plus, this series is really about Charlie and Diesel.  While taking Diesel on this trip is a stretch, I would have really missed him if he hadn’t been part of the book.  (Besides, how can you have a Cat in the Stacks mystery without the cat?)  We get plenty of Diesel’s antics over the course of the book, so I was plenty satisfied.

And the supporting characters we do get?  I was thrilled to see Helen Louise along for the ride.  I really enjoy her character, and it was nice to see her have a large presence in this book.  I also really enjoy the Ducote sisters and their ward, Benji, who had their own spin off series for a while.  I was thrilled to see so much of them, too.

In typical fashion for this series, the tension starts almost right away.  We get to know a little about the victim and his relationships with the rest of the group before he dies, and then Charlie spends the rest of the time building on what he already learned until he figures out who did it.  While some of the suspects could have been stronger, the plot comes together for a logical climax.

I did feel the climax was heading toward the judgmental.  It was just a few lines in the narration that I didn’t feel needed to be there, and most people probably won’t give them a second thought.

That issue aside, there is much to enjoy about this book.  Diesel’s many fans will race their way through Cat Me If You Can and then join me in waiting anxiously for his next adventure.

Be sure to catch the rest of the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, August 24, 2020

TV Show Review: The Flash - Season 6

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and action, handling of Crisis
Cons: Darker than the early seasons, angst
The Bottom Line:
Two villains; Crisis 
All crammed in shortened season
You’ll watch in a…flash




“Will There Be Waffles?”  “There Had Better Be Waffles.”

The sixth season of The Flash looked a little different than the seasons that came before, and I’m not just talking about the shortened season due to the pandemic.  Instead, the show planned carefully around The Crisis on Infinite Earths mid-season event, and gave us two major villains.

As the season starts off, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and the rest of Team Flash face a vicious new foe in the form of Dr. Ramsey Rosso (Sendhil Ramamurthy).  Dr. Rosso has been hard at working trying to treat a deadly blood illness, but the side effect has been to turn him into Bloodwork, and his evil is taking over the entire city.

While fighting the latest foe, Barry has to deal with the knowledge that Crisis is coming, and he is fated to die during it, so he spends time preparing the rest of his team to carry on in his absence.  But what will happen when Crisis actually arrives?

The Flash was only second to Arrow in the build up to the main event of the season.  That’s hardly surprising since Crisis was alluded to during the pilot episode of this series, and it has been teased and discussed the entire series to date.  While the episodes that lead up to it might sound depressing, many of the storylines with Barry talking to his friends were surprisingly touching.  They provided some great moments for character growth for everyone.  Sometimes, they also provided some very funny storylines.

The back half of the season provided a new villain for Team Flash to face while also dealing with the fallout of Crisis.  I’m not going to say more about that so I don’t spoil anything.  I’ll just say that I enjoyed it.

And, for the most part, I did enjoy this season.  It’s definitely not the light, fun show that we originally got in the first season, and at times, the angst was getting to be a bit too much for me.  I hope that we get to enjoy more light moments in the seasons ahead.

Another issue was this season’s Dr. Harrison Wells.  While Tom Cavanagh continues to be great in the part, I just never warmed up to the newest version of the character.

Tom Cavanagh isn’t the only one who is fantastic in their roles.  The entire cast has always been great, and they leap into the challenges their characters fact this season with gusto.

As I hinted earlier, this season ended early, at only 19 episodes, when production was shut down due to the pandemic.  Yes, that left the second storyline of the season far from resolved.  However, the producers plan to finish this story off at the beginning of season 7.  I can’t wait to see how they will resolve things.

Overall, I’m still enjoying The Flash.  The characters draw me in as I wait to see what dangers they are facing each week.  If you are a fan of the show, you’ll enjoy season six.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Disney Pin Review: Taran - Windows of Magic - 2019 Release

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good depiction of two rare characters
Cons: Nothing to recommend except to movie’s fans
The Bottom Line:
Hero and sidekick
Captured in stained-glass themed pin
Movie’s fans will love

Quest to Stop the Cauldron

How little do I remember about The Black Cauldron?  While I remembered the name of the villain, I had to look up the name of the hero as I was getting ready to write my review of the Windows of Magic pin themed around the movie.  Okay, so maybe I should have rewatched the film to get more context, but that didn’t happen.

As with the other pins in this series, we get a hero to go along with the villain that was part of the companion Windows of Evil series.  This time, we get Taran, the young boy who sets out on a quest to destroy The Black Cauldron.  He’s got a sword in front of him and behind him are swirls of blue and white.

But that’s not all.  The bottom third of the window includes the sidekick character Gurgi.  He’s a creature of some kind, this is a fantasy story after all.  His part of the window has two apples, one on each side, or as he likes to call them, “munchings and crunchings.”

The border of this window is fairly plain.  There are some bits of design, but nothing I recognize as related to the film.  The exception is the very top, which has a cauldron on it.

As with the Windows of Evil pin, this one is mainly for the film’s fans.  I know I haven’t said nice things about the movie, but there are a few of them out there, and I’m sure they are delighted to get something for their movie.  I just love stained-glass, and I had fun tracking down all of the pins in both series.  If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have bothered getting this pin.

For the casual collector, Taran’s Windows of Magic is one you can skip.  Only if you are a fan of the movie will you be super delighted to own it.

If you'd like to see pictures, I hope you'll stop by my Instagram account.

Disney Pin Review: The Horned King - Windows of Evil - 2018 Release

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good representation of a rare villain
Cons: Nothing really to recommend except to diehard fans
The Bottom Line:
Unusual choice
A rare villain depicted
Film’s fans will delight

Evil Grows Horns

Probably the biggest surprise in the Windows of Evil and Magic pin series were the pins themed around The Black Cauldron.  Disney does very little with this movie, and with good reason – it really isn’t that good or popular.  But, being the collector I am, I bought the Windows of Evil pin for The Horned King.

I have the movie, of course, (what kind of DisNerd would I be if I didn’t), but it’s been years since I watched it.  As a result, my memory of it is weak.  I do remember enough to recognize The Horned King, basically a skeleton dressed in red, looking at us from the top of the pin.  The bottom part of the pin is the Black Cauldron itself, with some dangerous green mist coming out of it.

As always, the faux stained-glass element of the pin is fantastic.  There is a cauldron up at the top of the border, but other than that, the pin’s border just looks like decoration to me.

Of course, if I were more familiar with the movie, I might recognize something else.  As it is, I think this is just a pin for fans of the movie.  I’m sure they were shocked and delighted to get something for this movie since it is very rare to see that happen at all.  These are the only merchandise I can think of that I have related to this movie.

Without a connection to the movie, I can’t say I’m drawn to the Horned King Windows of Evil pin.  This one is for completists like me or fans of the movie only.

If you'd like to see pictures, I hope you'll stop by my Instagram account.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

August 22nd's Weekly TV Thoughts

 We are in the final days of summer, which means that there isn't much to watch right now, as you can see below.  I'm not sure that fall will have much more for me.  Most of that is because I find I watch mostly the superhero shows on the CW right now, and they won't be starting back until Spring, so this column could be pretty empty until January.

But let's worry about that more later.  For today, let's talk about what I watched this week.

Tell Me a Story – I watched last week’s and this week’s episodes Tuesday night.  I feel like I’m watching a train wreck.  Everyone is doing the worst possible things they could do, and I can’t look away.  Seriously, could these characters be any stupider?

United We Fall – Either I wasn’t in the mood for the episode (which is highly possible) or I’m losing my interest in the show.  I was expecting to really laugh over the premise (weekends aren’t relaxing when you have a family), but I didn’t find it that funny.  Not that I’m going to give up on the show right now.  It’s not like I have much else I’m watching (obviously).

Cannonball – I don’t remember seeing the punching bag before.  With all but one of them making it to the end, I can see why they would decide to not use that one as much.  Not that much drama since it seemed a bit easy.  Having said that, I would have fallen off almost right away myself.

Friday, August 21, 2020

August 21st's Book Beginning and Friday 56

 It's Friday, and boy am I ready for the weekend!  But first, here's this week's Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring The Falcon Always Wings Twice, the 27th and newest Meg Langslow mystery from Donna Andrews.

                                                      

I must admit, I picked this book this week purely for the opening line.

"I think they're plotting to bump off Terence today," Michael said.

I mean, how perfect is that, right?  Especially since this is a murder mystery.

Page 56 isn't nearly as exciting.

 

"Sorry," he said.  "On the phone with my beastly boss."

"I didn't mean to interrupt you."

"Actually, I'm glad you did," he said.  "It can be like pulling teeth getting him off the phone."


I love this series, and this book was a fantastic entry in the series.  I'll have my official review next Thursday, so I hope you'll come back to see what I thought then.

Meantime, have a nice relaxing weekend.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Book Review: Digging Up the Remains by Julia Henry (Garden Squad Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful characters, solid mystery
Cons: Pacing at the beginning
The Bottom Line:
Body in the leaves
Sets of plot filled with secrets
And great characters



Which Story Got a Reporter Killed?

It’s hard to believe that it is time to start thinking about fall, but I know the schools around me are starting back in the next week or two.  And next week sees the release of Digging Up the Remains, the third Garden Squad Mystery, which has a Halloween theme.

Somehow, the fall festival that Goosebush, Massachusetts, has planned this October has morphed into two weekends.  While most of the events will take place on Halloween weekend, including a haunted house in front of Lilly Jayne’s house, things are kicking off a week early with a 10K.  Lilly and her friends Delia and Roddy are doing a last check on the course the morning of the race when they find reporter Tyler Crane half hidden under a pile of leaves.

Tyler hadn’t been in town long, but he had upset plenty of people.  He was digging for dirt on everyone in town, and his methods were shady at best.  He’d been planning to tease several stories over the course of that Saturday.  Was one of them the motive for his murder?

Even though I don’t have much of a green thumb, I have fallen in love with this gardening themed series.  I can dream about being able to grow plants like Lilly and her friends can.  Of course, it helps that the core cast are all fantastic.  Yes, there are quite a few main characters, but they are all distinct, so it is easy to remember who they are.  That’s a good thing since we also get suspects introduced here that could have committed the murder, so there are plenty of characters in the book.  These suspects are all as strong as the series regulars.

The plot took a little bit of time to get going as we reentered Goosebush and caught up with everything Lilly is involved in.  She may be a woman of a certain age, but she is extremely busy.  While this is going on, we are also meeting Tyler and the suspects, so once his body is found, we jump right in trying to figure out who did it and why.  From here on out, the plot moves quickly, revealing some good motives before the climax resolves everything.

Along the way, we also get some movement in ongoing storylines for the series.  I suspect that some seeds for future books have been planted here as well.  While you could jump in here, you’ll find this is a much richer experience by reading the series in order.

As I write this in the middle of triple degree heat, it’s hard to imagine that cooler days are just around the corner, but that’s what the calendar says.  If you are ready to start getting in the fall mood, pick up Digging Up the Remains today.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Ornament Review: NES Console - 2020 Hallmark Release


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Captures the NES Console perfectly – with sound!
Cons: Tips to the right front
The Bottom Line:
Classic game system
Complete with famous game sounds
A must for my tree




Home Video Game Nostalgia

As much as I love video games, I’ve never been one to collect every console on the market.  For one thing, I didn’t have the money to do that as a kid.  I only had two growing up, and one of those was the NES Console, so I was immediately drawn to this ornament from Hallmark this year.  I’m so glad I got it.

Just in case you aren’t completely sure which console we are talking about, this is the original Nintendo home video game system.  Aka the gray box.  And that’s just what this ornament looks like.  Trust me, if you had this video game system, just looking at the ornament will make you smile.  It looks just like you remember it looking.  It’s even got the output holes on the sides and back.  The system had two controllers, and they are resting on the top of the ornament with their cords connected to the plugs in the front.

I almost missed this cool feature.  The flap that covers where the cartridge goes flips open.  When you do that, you’ll see that they are currently playing Super Mario Bros.

Of course, I already knew that.  You see, this is one of Hallmark’s magic ornaments.  It needs two button batters to operate, and your first set comes with the ornament.  Once they are in place, all you need to do is press the power button in the front of the console.  (And how perfect is that?)  When you do, the red power light comes on, and you get to hear sounds from Super Mario Bros.  I’m not sure which level they are supposed to be playing; it really sounds like a collection of sounds from the game instead of recreating any specific level.  Don’t worry, if you played the game, you will recognize each one.  All told, the sounds last for just under 30 seconds.

It was the sound that put me over the top.  I was already tempted to get this ornament, but hearing the sound I knew I had to get it.  I loved that game and I spent many happy hours playing it and other games on my NES.

Being based on a video game system, you won’t be surprised to learn that it has a nice, flat base.  You can set it out and enjoy it anywhere at any time of the year.

If you decide to hang the ornament, you’ll find the ornament’s only flaw.  It tips slightly to the right front.  You’ll be able to disguise it with tree branches, but I’m surprised they couldn’t get it to hang perfectly straight.

But that’s a minor flaw.  Based on how popular the ornament has been at my local shop, I’m not the only one captivated by the perfect nostalgia the NES Console creates.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Book Review: Bad New Travels Fast by Gar Anthony Haywood (Joe and Dottie Loudermilk #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fast paced mystery with strong characters and humor
Cons: A bit of foul language
The Bottom Line:
DC mystery
Sidelines a couple tourism
For page turning fun



Capital Crimes

When I finally read the first of Gar Anthony Haywood’s Joe and Dottie Loudermilk series this year, I wanted to try to get back to the second before the year was over.  It’s only two books, so it would mean I could start and finish the series.  It was a great goal this year since I really enjoyed Bad News Travels Fast.

Joe and Dottie are a retired couple who sold everything and are enjoying life in an RV.  One of the reasons they did that is to get away from their kids, who are nothing but trouble.  Joe has long wanted to visit Washington DC, and that’s their next destination.  Dottie happens to know that their son, Eddie, is in town, and she sets up a dinner for their first night in town.  She figures one dinner can’t be that bad, right?

Turns out she is wrong.  At some point after dinner that night, Eddie’s former roommate is killed at a bar with Eddie’s knife after Eddie had a very public fight with him.  The police are quick to arrest Eddie, which makes sense based on the evidence, but Dottie is sure her son is innocent.  So instead of touring all the sites in town, Dottie and Joe spend their time roaming DC trying to figure out what really happening.  Can they clear him?

These books were originally released in the 1990’s.  This time around, I read the ebook version that was put out a few years back.  There was a brief introduction that pointed out the time period when the book is set before we get into the action.  After all, without cell phones or the internet, this book unfolds very differently than it would today.

And what unfolds is wonderful.  This book is a little shorter than many books I read, but there is not a wasted word.  We still get plenty of twists and turns along the way, and there are enough suspects to keep us guessing.

The characters are sharp as well.  In the first book, I felt Joe’s temper got to be a bit too much at times.  Here, he still has a temper, but it is kept in check and we get to see other sides of his personality.  Dottie is our narrator, and she is a fantastic character.  The rest of the cast are distinct and help pull us into the story, making us care about the outcome as the wild ride unfolds around us.

With a theme of travel, it isn’t a surprise that we get to see a few of the sites of DC along with the characters.  Each time, there was a scene important to the plot taking place at that location.  I still haven’t gotten to spend much time in the capital, so this made me want to visit again and really play tourist for a week or so.

All of this is mixed together with a healthy dose of humor.  I laughed multiple times at one of Dottie’s observations or the circumstances that Joe and Dottie found themselves in as I was reading the book.

As with the first book, there are a smattering of foul words spread throughout the book.  I didn’t feel they were needed, but they are worth noting in passing.

I still have a couple short stories with these characters to read, and I’m looking forward to seeing where those adventures take them.  If you’ve missed Bad News Travels Fast, I’ve got great news for you – you’ll enjoy this book.

Monday, August 17, 2020

TV Show Review: Batwoman - Season 1

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some good writing, Alice
Cons: Mostly mediocre acting, dark
The Bottom Line:
Batwoman steps up
First season is just okay
Many weaknesses



“If I Were Going to Save You in Some Dramatic Fashion, I Would Totally Dress as Wonder Woman.”

When Batwoman was originally announced, I wasn’t sure about watching the show for multiple reasons.  However, knowing that the character was going to be a part of the giant Crisis on Infinite Earths Crossover event last fall, I decided to give the show a try.  Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out what I thought of the first season.

The show follows Bruce Wayne’s cousin Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) as she takes on the bat mantle left behind by Bruce.  And does Gotham City ever need a hero.  The police are all but disbanded and the city is instead protected by a private security firm run by Kate’s father Jacob (Dougray Scott).  Assisting Kate in her new quest is Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) son of Bruce’s friend Lucius Fox.

Kate’s quest to drive out the criminal element in her city is hampered by her complicated family life.  Not only does her father think that Batwoman is a vigilante who must be stopped, but she has a step mother and step sister, Catherine and Mary (Elizabeth Anweis and Nicole Kang) who think that they should be able to dictate Kate’s priorities now that she’s back in town.  Meanwhile, Jacob’s right hand woman is Sophie (Meagan Tandy), Kate’s ex who Kate still has feelings for.

But it’s Alice (Rachel Skarsten) who complicates things the most.  Kate had a twin sister who supposedly died in an accident years ago.  However, she survived, and her experiences turned her into the psycho Alice, who has delusions based on Alice in Wonderland.  Kate’s joy at learning her sister is indeed alive also includes the heartbreak of seeing what has happened to her.  As Alice begins to terrorize the city, will Kate find a way to save her?  Or is it too late for Alice?

One reason I was hesitant to watch this show is that Kate’s character was described in the early press for the show as an out, woke lesbian.  Considering how much the shows in the Arrowverse can preach at us when they want to, I was worried that this show would do that.  Don’t get me wrong, there are moments that do preach at us, but instead the writers focused on the characters and story and left the sermons out of the show for the most part.

Another reason I was hesitant to watch the show was because I know how dark Batman and related characters can be.  I’m not a big fan of Batman as a result.  Here, the show met my expectations.  While the majority of the episodes were okay, there were a few shows that got very dark, especially shows that dug into Alice’s backstory.  If you don’t like dark, you’ll definitely want to avoid this show.

Of the shows in the Arrowverse, this is the one that most people seem to dislike.  I can certainly see why.  The writing was only okay.  I could see about half the twists coming, although the ones that surprised me were very good.

I think the worse part was the acting.  While Ruby Rose’s acting did grow on me, she never seemed to be completely comfortable in the role.  That affected the rest of the cast as well, who seemed to be better in scenes she wasn’t in.

The standout in the cast was Rachel Skarsten.  She is clearly having fun as Alice, and that comes through to us.  I couldn’t look away from the screen when she was on it.  And yes, I do realize I’m praising the darkest character on the show while complaining about the show being dark.

And it was Alice and her storyline that kept me coming back to the show.  I was rooting for there to be a happy ending with the character.  I want to see her caught and punished (I’m a guy who likes justice), but I also want to see her redeemed and return to her former persona.  I think that could be an epic storyline over the course of many seasons if the writers do it right.

Like many shows this season, we only got 20 of the planned episodes of the show.  That’s unfortunate since the writers weren’t able to wrap up any storylines.  Instead, things stopped rather suddenly.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a great cliffhanger, but the normal climax for the season isn’t here.  Just to be clear, that is no one’s fault, and I fully support them suspending production to protect the cast and crew.  But it does taint the season.

Honestly, I was still debating whether I was going to keep watching the show in season 2 (I’ve been the fence about the show all season), when Ruby Rose announced that she wouldn’t be back next season.  Instead of recasting the character, the producers have decided to introduce a new main character to become Batwoman.  That makes me wonder just what the rest of the cast is going to do since everyone is defined by their relationship to Ruby’s character.  Not to mention, how are the cliffhangers I just talked about going to be resolved?  Or are they just going to start something new with season two and not get back to that for a while?  Eventually, they have to address the cliffhangers, but I don’t see them doing that for several episodes as they basically start from scratch.

Fortunately, I don’t have to decide yet about season 2 since it won’t be premiering until January.  If you haven’t started watching Batwoman yet, I’d wait to see how the show handles season 2 and the reaction to it.  There is no reason to rush out and watch season 1 until you see whether anything introduced here is resolved or becomes an unrelated prologue to the new character.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Book Review: The Murder List by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong, twisty plot
Cons: Characters were more flawed than I like
The Bottom Line:
Rachel caught between
Past, present, and two lawyers
Who can she trust now?




Internship Games

I’ve been playing catch up on a lot of different authors this year, something I’ve greatly enjoyed.  I had let myself fall behind on Hank Phillippi Ryan’s stand-alone thrillers, but by reading The Murder List, I’m now ready for this month’s new release.

This book introduces us to Rachel North.  At 36, she’s not your traditional law student, but she is married to Jack Kirkland, one of Boston’s premier criminal defense lawyers.  Once Rachel graduates, the plan is to join forces and form an unstoppable partnership.

Before that can happen, Rachel has to complete a summer internship, and she’s landed one with ADA Martha Gardiner.  Jack hates the idea because he and Martha have crossed paths multiple times over the years in court and neither likes to lose.  Rachel argues that this will give her the opportunity to learn the opposition’s tactics so she can be a stronger partner after she graduates. Martha seems to single Rachel out on the first day of the internship and spends extra time with her.  But is Rachel caught in the middle of a twisted rivalry between Jack and Martha?

This book takes place partially in the past, mostly in the present, and includes scenes from Rachel’s first-person point of view as well and Jack and Martha’s third person point of view.  Before you let that worry you, each change is very clearly marked so it is easy to follow.

Just how easy is it to follow?  While I do own the book, I listened to the audio narrated by Angela Dawe, and I had no problem at all following when and who I was with as the events unfolded.

I knew very little about this book before I started it outside of the title and the idea that a cat and mouse game was going to be involved.  In this case, I think reading a teaser might have helped me a bit.  My preconceived notions lead me astray at first since the book wasn’t what I was expecting.  However, I soon got caught up in the story that was being told.  And yes, this is completely on me.

The story that is told is intriguing for sure.  Poor Rachel, and therefore poor us, doesn’t quite know what is going on and what she can and can’t share with someone.  That is if there is anyone trustworthy she can confide in.  The book keeps you guessing until you get to the climax.

My bigger issue were the characters.  This book really is about Rachel, Martha, and Jack.  They are deeply flawed characters, and we seem to be seeing them at their worst.  At various times I was rooting for one or more of them, but my loyalty shifted as the book went along and I the bad sides of all the characters.  I prefer to have at least one character I can root for the entire way through, so this was an issue for me at times.

Still, I’m glad I finally got The Murder List read.  If you like twisty suspense, this is definitely the book for you.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

August 15th's Weekly TV Thoughts

 I can't believe the number of shows that had finales this week.  My TV viewing is going to be much, much smaller over the coming few weeks.  And since the Arrowverse shows aren't coming back until January, I'm really not going to have much to watch over the new few months.  At least American Ninja Warrior will be back next month.  I'm very excited about that.

Anyway, here's what I watched this week.

The Titan Games – I don’t know why I was thinking it would be complicated this week.  They’ve already established what they do with three people.  I’d forgotten that The Rock’s pick for the mid-west was defeated in the mid-west finals.  Still, the mid-west represented themselves well with two champions.  I must admit, my west coast bias was showing in who I was rooting for, but all of them are truly deserving.

Stargirl – That’s what I’m talking about.  They took a final act to give us some great moments with the characters.  It’s rare a show does that, and I appreciate the show for it.  I should have seen a few of the twists coming, but they got me with them.  And yes, I cheered at the very end of the battle.  Looks like they are setting up a great season 2.  I’ll definitely be back.

United We Fall – I almost wish they’d married the mom off and written her into a recurring character instead of a main character.  I’m finding her annoying as the show goes on.  Did enjoy the storyline with the niece.  Predictable outcome, but still fun.

Killer Camp – If it had been Sam, I would have thought things were too easy.  Carl really fooled everyone there.  They seemed to be too upset by it.  While I often am bothered by the “it’s a game” defense in Survivor, here I definitely buy it.  Especially since this was over in 5 days.  Not sure if a second season was filmed or not, but I don’t think I’ll be back.  Just a bit too hockey overall for me.

Cannonball – What a close finish!  One inch determined the winner.  With how they edit, I was expecting the bagger to be gone earlier since it seems like the first one usually loses.  He still lost, but he hung on until the last contestant.  Personally, I was rooting for the juggler, so I was sorry to see him go.

Holey Moley – You can color me shocked.  I never would have guessed that the Cookie Lady would win tonight.  Guess this show is at least some about skill and not physical endurance.  Although the one guy got robbed.  Supposedly the better chip shot and he winds up in the sand.  That’s really what cost him.

Don’t – So close to the $100K they talk about.  That’s impressive.  And I guess it is possible to go over if you play a game perfectly.  Fun set of siblings.  And I can say is Woo!

Friday, August 14, 2020

August 14th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

 We made it to Friday once again.  Time to check in with Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring a Digging Up the Remains by Julia Henry.


                                                       

As you might have guessed, this book takes place around Halloween.  It doesn't come out until 8/25, but I'll be reviewing it early - next Thursday.

Here's how the book beginnings:

"Lilly, I have bad news," Delia Greenway said quietly, leaning in toward her friend Lilly Jayne so the others couldn't overhear her.

So much intrigue on page 56, but I'm going to go with this quote:

"Lilly, one of the posts he did this morning says he's going to unearth a secret lily.  I assume he's talking about what he was threatening you with last night."

I do hope you'll come back on Thursday to read my review.

In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Book Review: Murder on Sisters' Row by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #13)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and story immerse us in the past
Cons: All cons left in the past
The Bottom Line:
Woman in brothel
Her rescue leads to murder
Excellent story



Rescue Leads to Murder

I try to space out books by the same author for several reasons.  I have so many authors I’m trying to read it is hard to get to them all.  If I read books by the same author too close together, I start to notice the quirks of their writing too much.  But I’m becoming addicted to the Gaslight Mysteries.  I’m loving each trip back to New York City in the 1890’s, and Murder on Sisters’ Row is another wonderful book.

As a midwife, Sarah Brandt helps everyone who comes to her and goes anywhere in the city.  So she doesn’t think twice about the elegant home she’s been summoned to this particular day.  However, as she helps Amy give birth, she begins to realize that Amy is a prostitute trapped at a brothel.  Amy begs for Sarah’s help getting away, even offering the name of a woman who can help, so Sarah does her part to get Amy and her new baby to safety.

Unfortunately, a murder follows Amy’s rescue from the brothel.  New York Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy is assigned to the case, and once again he finds Sarah gathering information he needs to solve the case.  As the investigation continues to uncover secrets, will Sarah and Frank find the killer?

Obviously, this book delves into some serious subjects, however it does so delicately.  We know what Amy is, and there is talk about prostitution and why women would turn to it in the 1890’s, but we don’t get needless details.  The subject matter is handled appropriately, and it gives the book a more serious tone.

I keep saying that I love these characters, and it continues to be true.  Sarah and Frank are fantastic main characters, both contributing something to the solution at the end.  While this is the thirteenth in the series, you really could jump into the series here.  There is little about any ongoing plot threads, including the romance between the two leads.  Still, the series regulars are all here and all fantastic characters to spend time visiting.  There’s quite a variety of new characters here, and they all come to vivid life as the story unfolds.

The mystery itself is strong.  I often feel like I am a step ahead of Frank and Sarah while reading these books.  Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong, and that’s usually in the same book.  That happened again here.  I figured a few things out before the characters, but it was never long before they had caught up to me.  A couple of times, my deductions proved to be incorrect.  It all lead to a logical and page turning climax.

One thing I like about the series is that it brings society of the time to life along with the characters.  While Frank and Sarah are rarely dealing with historical events, they do encounter attitudes of the time.  These moments help color the story without slowing it down or preaching to us.

As always, I turned the last page with regret.  I will miss Sarah and Frank until I get a chance to visit them again.  If you haven’t caught up on the series yet, you are in for a treat when you pick up Murder on Sisters’ Row.

Enjoy more historical mysteries with the rest of the Gaslight Mysteries.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Movie Review: Airplane!

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Lots of laughs
Cons: Some laughs don’t work; a bit dated
The Bottom Line:
A food poisoned flight
Provides opportunity
For laughs a-plenty



If You Don’t Laugh, It’s a Real Catastrophe

Somehow, I’ve missed seeing Airplane!  I know, someone with my sense of humor?  How did that happen?  I was able to fix that recently.  While I certainly enjoyed it, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

The movie tells the story of Ted and Elaine.  Ted (Robert Hays) was a pilot in the war, but after a horrible accident, he’s been afraid to fly.  Elaine (Julie Hagerty) is a stewardess.  Ted really loved Elaine, but she is tired of waiting for him to move on from his past, so she is leaving him.  She’s moved out and left him a note.  However, he found it before her next shift as a stewardess begins, and he tries to talk to her at the airport.  When that doesn’t work, he faces his fear and buys a plane ticket for her flight from LAX to Chicago.

However, things get rough when half the passengers get food poisoning thanks to some bad fish.  Unfortunately, the entire pilot crew also ate the fish.  Now, the only hope for landing the plane successfully is Ted.  Can he overcome his fear of flying to save everyone?

This movie is a spoof of the disaster flicks of the 70’s, but takes much of the plot from a 1958 movie – Zero Hour!  Never having seen the inspirations behind the film, I just took this film based on its own merits.

As I said earlier, I did enjoy the film.  Parts of it were a bit out there, and I think trying to follow another film’s plot so closely hampered it a little bit.  For example, we know early on that something will happen to get Ted into the cockpit, but it still takes the film almost half the running time to get to that point.

The attempts at humor are non-stop.  As is the case when that happens, some jokes work and some fall flat.  Considering this is a PG film, I was a bit surprised at some of the sexual jokes they managed to get into the film.  Today, it would definitely be considered PG-13.  However, there were many jokes that work, made all the funnier by the fact that the actors were delivering the lines in such an earnest manner.  Then there are the puns and running gags.  A couple of the running gags get old, but others grew more outlandish, making them more fun.

As I just hinted, the cast is perfect.  They make the outlandish believable and keep their characters real so that we care about the outcome.  It’s a very fine balance, and they do a great job at it.

I think another reason for my reaction might be the fact that the film is from 1980.  Yes, it’s almost 40 years old.  Some elements are just more dated now, making them less funny.

While I didn’t love Airplane! as much as I thought I might, I can see why people consider it a classic.  I’m glad I watched it and got quite a few laughs from it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Book Review: The Key Lime Crime by Lucy Burdette (Key West Food Critic Mysteries #10)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters, Key West
Cons: Mystery, while good, could be a little stronger
The Bottom Line:
Key lime pie contest
Murder on crowded island
Enjoy this escape




Murder Never Takes a Holiday

Ever since I started reading the Key West Food Critics Mysteries, I’ve been dying to visit the island.  I almost got the chance one year for New Year’s.  After reading The Key Lime Crime, I think I’m glad that didn’t work out – and that’s not even factoring in the murder.

You see, this book is set during that week between Christmas and New Year’s.  Newlywed Hayley Snow is having to adjust to married life while working hard.  In addition to her normal column for Key Zest, she has been assigned the key lime pie contest that is happening this week.  As if the island weren’t already crowded with visitors trying to enjoy a tropic new year, people are coming to sample the various key lime pies the pastry chefs on the island will be entering.  All of the visitors are keeping Hayley’s husband, cop Nathan Bransford, busy with overtime.

As if life weren’t chaotic enough, Nathan’s mother decides to come for a surprise visit.  Hayley has never met her mother-in-law and wants to make a good first impression.  However, that doesn’t happen when the pair find a dead body dressed like Santa.  Mrs. Bransford seems to be invested in figuring out what happened.  The victim was one of the chefs in the key lime pie contest, and she’d had a very public fight with the contest’s organizer.  Is that the motive for murder?  Or is there something deeper involved?

I’ve got to admit, this book made me glad my trip a couple years ago didn’t work out.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still dying to visit the island, but the constant talk of the crowds there that week made me think another time of the year would be a saner choice for a visit.

The mystery in the book is good.  While it could have been stronger overall, there were several decent suspects, and I didn’t guess who it was until the villain was revealed.  I was engaged the entire time I was reading.

The characters really stepped up in this book.  We learned something about a character here that really explains a lot about their behavior in previous books.  In fact, it’s made me warm up to them in a new way, which made me happy.  Yes, I’m being vague on purpose.  I enjoyed getting to spend time with the rest of the regulars and getting to know the suspects as always.

A word of warning – this book will make you crave key lime pie.  I went out and bought one while I was reading, the desire was so strong, so plan accordingly.

Ironically, key lime pie isn’t one of the recipes at the end of this book.  We have gotten a recipe for it in a previous book in the series, however, so I’m sure that’s why it wasn’t included here.  One of the eight recipes is for a key lime parfait, so there is something fitting the theme at the end to enjoy later.  As always, all the recipes sound delicious.

 Someday, I will get that trip to Key West.  But until that happens, I’ll be content to visit in the pages of this series.  If you are looking for a virtual trip to Key West, then you’ll be happy to visit the pages of The Key Lime Crime.

Enjoy more trips to Key West with the rest of the Key West Food Critic Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Ornament Review: Charlie Brown - Mini Ornament - 2020 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great looking mini Charlie Brown ornament
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Charlie Brown skating
Makes fun mini ornament
Hope to get the rest




Don’t Worry, Charlie Brown, You Make a Great Mini Ornament

Since I’ve been collecting the Winter Fun with Snoopy series, I have lots of mini ornament featuring Snoopy and Woodstock.  I don’t have any with the rest of the Peanuts gang, so I was thrilled to see several of the characters pop up this year.  I wasn’t the only one, since my store sold out of them right away.  The only one I was able to snag – for now – is Charlie Brown.

The characters are all ice skating for these miniature ornaments.  Charlie Brown looks like he is not super comfortable with this sport.  He’s on his back foot with one foot out in front of him.  His arms are out to the side, and he has a very worried look on his face.  It’s almost like he is struggling to keep his balance but is about to fall over.

Speaking of falling over, if you try to set this ornament out, it will fall over.  With just one leg to stand on, and an ice skate blade on the bottom of his foot, this doesn’t really surprise me.

I love this little ornament.  Even though I think of Charlie Brown as a good skater thanks to the Christmas special, I can see him struggling at times, so this seems to be in character.  Couple that with blue pants and a red jacket, and he looks great.

I’m mentioned this is a mini ornament, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when I tell you he is only an inch tall.  Yet we can still see detail on his jacket and the expression on his face is plain.  As long as you know the size before you get this ornament, you’ll be fine.

The impression that Charlie Brown is falling is heightened when you go to hang him on your tree.  The loop is off center in his hat, and the result is that he tips to the side.  However, it looks good.  It really does look like his is falling, so I’m sure it is on purpose.

Since we are still early in Hallmark’s ornament season, I’m hopeful that I can snag the other two Peanuts minis in the next few months.  I’m very happy I was at least able to snag Charlie Brown right now.