Sunday, November 29, 2020

Cookie Review: Caramel Coconut Oreos

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Caramel coconut combined!
Cons: Chocolate cookie clouds crème
The Bottom Line:
A fun new flavor
Overshadowed by cookie
Wish it were stronger

Good Flavor, but Could Be Stronger

I love caramel.  And I love coconut.  So when I spotted the Caramel Coconut Oreos, there was nothing to think about – I knew I had to try them.

The outsides of these Oreos are the traditional chocolate cookie.  However, the crème inside is a tan color – you could call it a caramel color if you wanted.  And that crème has a caramel coconut flavor to it.  I know, I know, very shocking.

As a caramel coconut fan, I definitely like the flavor.  And I appreciate the fact that they combined the two since they are great alone or together.  My issue is that the flavor isn’t strong enough.  The chocolate cookies are always dominate when you eat a traditional Oreo.  That’s true again here.  Just a bit more flavor would be amazing since it would allow these flavors to mix.

Don’t misunderstand, I definitely enjoy the Caramel Coconut Oreos.  But just a bit more flavor would make them even better.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

November 28th's Weekly TV Thoughts

 Didn't get too much watched this weekend.  Some of my shows were preempted anyway, but I didn't make it to everything that was on.  But here's what I did watch.

LA’s Finest – I’m really getting concerned about Dante.  Something happened to it, and it can’t be good.  The undercover assignment is going to be very interesting.  And they still haven’t solve the heist story.

Dancing with the Stars – I’m not surprised that Kaitlyn won.  Bachelorette stars seem to have lots of luck on this show.  But I’m disappointed Nev didn’t win.  He was amazing all season.  Have to give Kaitlyn props for two great routines tonight, however.  Heck, everyone was dancing well tonight.  Still, I really did want it to be Nev.

The Weakest Link – I felt like the team was doing worse than that.  Yes, the total was still pretty bad overall, but they managed to bank more than I thought they did.  That final round was almost comical in how many they got wrong.

Friday, November 27, 2020

November 27th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

 Happy Friday.  Happy very long holiday weekend Friday to those in the US.  I hope you are enjoying Thanksgiving this year no matter how you are celebrating.

Since it is Friday, it's time for Book Beginning and Friday 56.  And, since it is the day after Thanksgiving, it must be time for another Christmas mystery.  This time, it's Murder in Season, the newest Murder, She Wrote novel by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land.

The book jumps right in with this quote:

"The holidays are murder, I tell you."

No, I'm not going to tell you who said that, but if you are a fan of the series, I'm sure you can guess.

Stopping 56% of the way into the book, we find this quote:

"I've got some exciting news, Aunt Jess."  Grady beamed at me, boyish and wide-eyed as ever.

"Don't make it too exciting," I warned him.  "I am getting older, you know."

This book has just hit the shelves, perfect to pick up and read right away.  I'll have my review on Tuesday.

In the meantime, have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is Thanksgiving here in the USA.  It's a very different Thanksgiving this year, which is no surprise.  The entire year has been different.  No matter who you are celebrating with, I hope you have a great day.

As always, I am thankful for all of you who read my blog.  It's always so heartwarming when someone tells me they enjoyed something they read about here.  So thank you for that as well.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Book Review: Sign of Foul Play by Penny Warner (Connor Westphal #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and mystery
Cons: Some elements put it on the edge of cozy
The Bottom Line:
Construction site death
Was it caused by an earthquake?
Twisty mystery

All Signs Point to a Winner

I don’t know how people in other parts of the country feel, but I’ll admit, I roll my eyes a bit when I read a book or watch a show set in California that deals with an earthquake.  I’m not sure why since earthquakes aren’t that common in fiction when I stop and think about it.  However, I’ve got to say the earthquake set up in Sign of Foul Play quickly won me over.

If you’ve missed this series, Connor Westphal runs a small, weekly paper in the touristy town of Flat Skunk, California.  The town is in gold country in the Northern California Sierra Nevada foothills.  It’s a small town with plenty of intrigue.

The thing that sets Connor apart from most cozy sleuths is that she is deaf.  Fortunately, she is very adept at reading lips, but it adds an extra element to the series, and I really enjoy learning more about how she excels despite being deaf while reading the books.

Two earthquakes in the middle of the night made it hard for Connor to sleep.  However, she is going about her Monday morning when she gets a message from her friend Dan telling her there is a news story at the construction site he is working at.  When Connor arrives, she finds that someone has discovered the dead body of Cullen Delancy.  The working theory is that he fell to his death when the earthquake struck, but what was he doing on the site in the middle of the night?

As you can see, the earthquake plays a very important part of the set up of the mystery, and I quickly got on board with the premise.  It’s a great mystery with twists and turns that kept me engaged.  I did figure a few things out before Connor did, but much of it was still a surprise to me when she pieced things together.

Connor is a fantastic sleuth.  She’s strong, determined, and gets into plenty of danger no matter what she tries to do to stay safe.  I really am glad to revisited her.  There are only a few characters back from the first book, but I enjoyed seeing them again here, and seeing their relationships with Connor grow.  Meanwhile, the suspects are all strong.

The book is slightly edgy for a cozy.  A couple of scenes could have been toned down, there are a handful of four letter words, and one twist is a bit dark.  Keep all this in mind and you’ll be fine.

This book was originally published in 1998.  As a result, Connor doesn’t have a cell phone to text people but must rely on TTY phones and she can only check her email on her computer.  Can you believe how much our lives have changed in the past 20-something years?

Sign of Foul Play is a wonderful second book in this creative series.  I’m glad I have picked these books up again and look forward to my next visit with Connor.

Be sure to pick up the rest of the Connor Westphal mysteries.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Book Review: Open for Murder by Mary Angela (Happy Camper Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great location, fun plot, and characters
Cons: Motives early on are weak (but get better)
The Bottom Line:
A grand opening
Also invited murderer
In series debut

Opening Weekend Features Murder

I’m always on a lookout for a cozy with a different hook, so I was immediately attracted to the Happy Camper Mysteries by Mary Angela.  The main character owns a souvenir shop in the Black Hills area of South Dakota.  It sounded like fun to me, so I picked up the first in the series, Open for Murder.

As this book opens, Zo Jones is thrilled to have her good friend, Beth Everett, back in the area.  Beth visited her aunt in the town of Spirit Canyon every summer for years, and the two were inseparable when she was in town.  Beth is back with her family to reopen the lodge that her aunt owned.  After renovating it, Beth is ready to reopen it Memorial Day weekend.

The opening night party with the first guests is cut short by a thunderstorm, but the following morning, a dead body is found in one of the guest rooms.  The woman owned competing lodges in the area, and had even offered Beth money to shut down her lodge.  With the police looking at Beth as their prime suspect, Zo calls on her days as a reporter to try to figure out what really happened.  Can she do it?

As I said, the setting is something that appealed to me, and it delivered in spades.  I have yet to visit South Dakota, although I want to.  This book made me want to visit even more.  Plus, Zo’s shop is one I’d definitely love to visit.  The souvenirs sound so appealing.  Heck, I’d probably wind up spending more than I should on the stuff she sells.

The book spends a couple of chapters introducing us to Zo, Beth, and others who will be regulars before we meet the suspects and victim, but as soon as the victim walks on to the page, we know who it is will be.  The mystery was good with several suspects to keep us guessing.  I’ll admit, I felt some of the motives were weak early on, but the further we got into the book, the more fleshed out motives became, which I appreciated.

Likewise, the characters grew on me.  They definitely still have room to grow, but that is often the case with a first book in a series.  The suspects were as real as the series regulars.

While this isn’t a culinary cozy, we do get a receive for a S’more brownie at the end.  Yum!  They sound absolutely delicious.

Open for Murder introduces us to a promising new series set in a great location.  If you are open to a new series, you should definitely check this one out.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Short Story Review: Ghosts 'N Graveyards by Sue Ann Jaffarian (Ghost of Granny Apples #6.1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great to see these fun characters
Cons: Story just an excuse for the visit
The Bottom Line:
Short story visit
Great to see these characters
For this Thanksgiving

Haunted Thanksgiving

I read series because I love the characters.  I can’t wait to get back and find out what is going to happen to them in each story.  It’s been a couple of years since we visited Emma and Granny, the main characters in the Ghost of Granny Apples series from Sue Ann Jaffarian, but we get to see how they are doing with “Ghosts ‘N Graveyards,” a new short story.

It’s Thanksgiving, and Emma and her new husband, Phil, are planning a quiet holiday with their friend Jeremiah and his friend Rose.  Like Emma, Jeremiah is also a medium who has solved mysteries with Granny, the ghost of Emma’s great-great-great grandmother.  That’s going to come in handy with Granny shows up.  It seems that one of the ghosts in Julian’s Pioneer Cemetery is more upset than usual.  It sounds like she thinks someone is about to die.  Is she right?  Can Emma and Jeremiah stop it from happening?

Since this is a short story, many of the series regulars aren’t here; there just wasn’t room to include them.  Granny really is the star of the series, and it was great to see her.  The living human characters are just as wonderful to spend time with again since we have met them all in past books.

The story was a bit simple, even for a short story, but it was more an excuse to visit the characters again.

And I had a fantastic time visiting the characters again.  As I said, this is why I love reading series, so I was very happy while I was reading the story.  We even get a brief mention of what might be coming up next for Odelia Grey, the star of one of Sue Ann Jaffarian’s other series.

Since this book is set during Thanksgiving weekend, now is the perfect time to download and read it.  It took me less than an hour, so it is quite easy to slip it in during the holiday, especially this year when things are different.

This is a story for the fans, and they will love getting to read “Ghosts ‘N Graveyards.”  If you haven’t met the characters yet, dive in with the first novel and meet this great cast.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this story.

You won't want to miss the rest of the Ghost of Granny Apples Mysteries.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Disney Pin Review: Jungle Cruise - Crests of the Kingdom - 2019 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Gives a favorite attraction a wonderful crest
Cons: This pin cruises along with no cons
The Bottom Line:
Cruises to a crest
Captures attraction’s spirit
Another fun pin

The Point of This Crest?  Fun!

While Disneyland itself is nothing but fun, there are some rides that are extra fun.  One of those is the Jungle Cruise with all the puns the guides give us in the narration.  Being a rather punny guy myself, I love the Jungle Cruise as a result, so I was thrilled to add the Jungle Cruise entry from the Crests of the Kingdom pin series to my collection.

As always, the front is raised pewter, so it is all silver.  However, the design is very evident.  In this case, the main feature is one of the boats that serve as the attraction vehicle, taking us deep into the jungles of the world.  Helping to decorate the crest are a couple of oars and a spear.  The Latin on this crest is “Excitando exploratio ridiculum iocis” or “Exciting exploration with silly jokes.”  If that doesn’t describe this attraction perfectly, I don’t know what does.

The inside of the crest shows a scene from the attraction.  It’s the scene were the rhino is getting his point across to the explorers trying to climb the pole to get away from him.  We only see the bottom explorer and the rhino, but anyone who has been on the ride will know exactly what is being depicted.

Once again, Disney has perfectly captured this ride with the pin.  Fans of the attraction, and I’m definitely one of them, will get it.  I love it as a result.

Since this was released last year, you’ll have to hunt for it on the secondary market now.  But if you are a fan of the attraction, I’m sure you’ll appreciate it.

This series has been fun to see just how Disney would honor some of their signature attractions with an old-fashioned crest.  They have nailed most of them, and the crestfor The Jungle Cruise is definitely another winner.

If you'd like to see my pics, which include the inside, stop by my Instagram post.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

November 21st's Weekly TV Thoughts

Supermarket Sweep – If it had been me, I definitely would have gone for the $100K in the first half hour.  They had so much time left.  Meanwhile, I would have walked away with $25K in the second half because there wasn’t enough time left to go for it.

Card Sharks – I couldn’t believe that first round.  I mean, that woman couldn’t miss.  And she got very easy cards.  No middle of the pack wonders for her.  I feel a bit sorry for her opponent since this is his second time on the show (sort of), and he never got to guess any cards either time.  The second time was a bit more like normal, including both of the contestants getting ties one right after the other.  I felt sorry for that contestant getting the final one wrong, but she still won a nice bit of money.

LA’s Finest – Patrick didn’t take the truth well.  Not that Nancy is telling the complete truth yet.  I’m really wondering who snagged him.  We are supposed to think Nancy is involved from the cliffhanger at the end, but I’m a little suspicious of that.  The case of the week is certainly interesting.  I wonder how they are going to track down the thieves.

Dancing with the Stars – Johnny left!  And Nev is in the finals!  I don’t know that I cared about much beyond that.  Only the first round scores mattered since everyone got a perfect score in the second round.  There were definitely some beautiful dances tonight, too.  Now, let’s go Nev!

The Weakest Link – The team was actually doing pretty well for themselves – until that final round.  Even so, I think that’s the most I’ve ever seen a team get on the remake.  Definitely impressed.

Tell Me a Story – I am so loving this season!  I’m a bit surprised they went there with the shoe.  They are leaning into the fairytale more this season, especially with that storyline.  I’m not surprised the dad got shot.  I just hope he is okay.  I’m surprised the captive got away.  I’m even more surprised the old boyfriend is still alive.  I figured he wasn’t going to make it out of the episode alive.

The Amazing Race – I’m bummed.  I was rooting for Leo and Alana.  Okay, part of it was the underdog factor since the alliance seemed to be actively going against them.  Part of it was the fact that I liked them.  They seem like nice people.  That alliance of 5 is going to break apart pretty quickly and there is going to be some major drama when it does.  I can’t believe the blondes are still around.  Two non-elimination leg finishes plus a barely surviving finish in between.  I hope they last another leg or two, but we’ll see.  Leo and Alana probably wouldn’t have lasted too much longer either, to be honest, although I’d like to see how some of these teams would do without each other helping them.

B Positive – I was prepared to make this the last episode I watched.  And then this one came along and it wasn’t as bad as the first two.  Am I getting used to the characters?  Is it getting better?  Or was this a one off?  I’ll find out.

Star Trek Discovery – It is rare that I enjoy time loop stories.  I just get frustrated if we do too much recap not enough moving the story forward.  (Not saying it doesn’t happen, but they aren’t my favorite.)  I did enjoy the twist on this one that it wasn’t Michael who realized they were in the time loops since it is almost always the main character, or at least the character we are going to focus on in this episode.

Friday, November 20, 2020

November 20th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

 Welcome to Friday!  It's time again for Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring a short story - "Ghosts 'N Graveyards" by Sue Ann Jaffarian, an story featuring characters from her Ghost of Granny Apples series.

This is a fun little story for fans of the series.

Here's how the story begins:

"Got a job for us," a disembodied voice said.

And at 56% into the story, we find this:

"I think that's them, Emma.  That's the men that was here before."

Hope you have a great weekend.  I'll be back on Monday with a review of this story.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Book Review: Swift Edge by Laura DiSilverio (Charlie and Gigi #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun characters, fast paced plot
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Missing ice skater
Must find before Olympics
Has action and laughs

This Book Swiftly Had me on the Edge of My Seat

I read the first of Laura DiSilverio’s Charlie and Gigi mysteries years ago.  I really enjoyed it so I rushed out…and read other books by Laura, which I also enjoyed.  I’m actually a little embarrassed that it has taken me so long to get back to the series with Swift Edge, but I’m glad I finally picked it up.

Charlotte “Charlie” Swift is a PI in Colorado Springs.  She has recently very reluctantly taken on a partner in the form of Gigi Goldman. Gigi’s ex-husband was a silent partner in Swift Investigations, and when he ran off, he just left Gigi their house and his interest in Charlie’s business.  Now Charlie is saddled with Gigi who is as much of a hinderance as a help.

Their newest client is Dara Peterson, an Olympic figure skater.  She needs Charlie to track down her pairs partner, Dmitri Fane, who has disappeared just days before the Olympic trials are set to take place.  No one else seems to be that concerned, especially since Dmitri has pulled something like this once before.  But as Charlie investigates, she is attacked and she finds someone she goes to interview left for dead in the middle of an ice rink.  Is Dmitri okay?

This is a fast-moving story with plenty of action to keep the pages turning.  I didn’t have all the clues put together until Charlie figured it out at the end, but I was quite happy getting lost in the action, including the suspenseful, and funny, climax.

These books definitely fall into the comedic mystery category.  There are some sequences that really only work in this series.  Like the climax, for example.  Most of the humor comes from Gigi, who has no experience as a PI, but is enthusiastic.  She causes some complications for Charlie that are very funny.

And yet she doesn’t come across as a one joke character, which would be easy to do.  She has some depth to her that makes us care for her.  The same is true of Charlie, of course.  Since Charlie narrates most of the book for us, we get to know her the best.  The rest of the cast is great, and fit perfectly into the world that is being built here.

While most of the book is first person, there are a couple of passages from Gigi’s third person point of view.  It’s easy to follow when we switched, and those scenes definitely add to the story.

This book just skirts the edge of cozies, with a tad more violence and language than a typical cozy.  We really are talking shades here, so as long as you know to expect that you’ll be fine.

Swift Edge is just as much fun as I remember the first in the series being.  I’ve got to get to the third one soon to find out what happens next to these characters.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

TV Show Review: Carol's Second Act - The Complete Series

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Amusing, got stronger near the end
Cons: Everyone is trying too hard to be funny
The Bottom Line:
Medical interns
Sitcom often amusing
Could be funnier

They’re Try to Be Funny, and You Can Tell

I’ve long enjoyed the traditional 3 camera sitcom, which are a rarity on TV these days.  I’m always on the lookout for a good one to watch, so I decided to give Carol’s Second Act a try last fall.  It was often amusing, and since I had little else on Thursdays, I kept tuning in.

The show follows Carol Kenney (Patricia Heaton).  When her husband left her, she decided that a career change was in order, so she followed her passion to medicine.  She’s just finished medical school and is starting her internship.  She’s working alongside fellow interns Lexi Gilani (Sabrina Jalees), Caleb Sommers (Lucas Neff) and Daniel Kutcher (Jean-Luc Bilodeau).  Her fellow interns are young enough to be her children.  In fact, her daughter, Jenny (Ashely Tisdale), is their age, and she regularly visits them at work since she is a pharmaceutical sales rep.  All of the interns are under the watchful eye of Dr. Maya Jacobs (Ito Aghayere).  Rounding out the cast is the head of the hospital, Dr. Stephen Frost (Kyle MacLachlan).

The plotlines in the show were fairly predictable.  Carol tries to mother her fellow interns.  There are jokes about millennials.  Each episode typically had a main story and a sub-plot, as most sitcoms do.  I usually found the secondary story to be the one that actually made me laugh the most.  The main story often came across as too earnest to be as funny.

The main problem with the show was that it felt like everyone was trying too hard.  The jokes felt forced and the actors were working hard to get laughs from us and the studio audience.  If you have to try that hard, it isn’t as funny as it should be.

Again, I found the show amusing, so I would tune in each week.  But I also wasn’t that heartbroken when the show got cancelled.  Ironically enough, I felt the last few episodes of the season were the strongest, and the season ended with a shift in the show that could have brought some good storylines to a second season.

The season consisted of 18 episodes.  They are being released on this DVD set with a gag reel.

I know Carol’s Second Act had its fans, and they will be happy to get it on DVD.  Personally, once was enough and I will now move on in my quest to find a truly can miss sitcom on TV right now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Book Review: The Enemy We Don't Know by Liz Milliron (Homefront Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong main character, interesting historical mystery
Cons: Pacing, some supporting characters need more development
The Bottom Line:
Sabotage at plant
Betty jumps in to solve it
Historic debut

The Enemy at Home

One period of history that has always interested me is World War II.  As soon as I heard about Liz Milliron’s Homefront Mysteries I knew I had to give them a try, and I’m glad I picked the first book up, The Enemy We Don’t Know.

This book takes us to Buffalo, New York in November of 1942.  It focuses on Betty Ahern.  With her brother and fiancé fighting the war overseas, she is doing what she can at home.  Specifically, she is working for Bell Aircraft on the airplanes that will be used in the war effort.

However, not everything is going well at Bell.  Someone is out to sabotage the plant.  Betty is a fan of mystery movies, especially Sam Spade.  Having had some success solving a murder just the month before, she begins to try to solve the case.  But when a dead body turns up, is she in over her head?

A quick note about that previous murder Betty has solved.  The character was actually first introduced in a short story that was part of the Mystery Most Historical anthology.  While I have that anthology, I haven’t read it or this story yet.  There are several references to the events of that story, but nothing that would constitute a spoiler.  If, like me, you start here, you’ll be fine.

When we study wars, we usually focus on battles and troop movements and the leaders of the countries involved.  Rarely do we look at the people left behind.  I appreciated that about this book.  Yes, it is a mystery, but it is a mystery that couldn’t take place any other time.

Why do I say that?  The motives and suspects that Betty uncovers are definitely a product of their time.  I appreciated that as I read the book.  The pacing was a bit uneven, but for the most part this book held my interest as Betty went about trying to figuring out what was happening at her job before the factor was completely shut down.  Along the way, we get a good picture of what life was like at home during this period of time.  Everything leads up to a great climax.

The characters are also interesting.  Betty, as our main character, comes fully to life.  Her friends and co-workers are just as real.  We see glimpses of more to her family, and I hope they are further developed in later books in the series.

The Enemy We Don’t Know is a promising debut.  I’m looking forward to seeing what else can happen to Betty during the days of World War II.  If you are interested in what was happening here at home during the time, this is a debut you need to check out.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Music Review: Step into My Story by Selah

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: 10 strong tracks of timeless truths
Cons: All cons stepped out of this release
The Bottom Line:
Tracks of timeless truth
Uplifting hymns and anthems
Not one track to skip

Jump into Selah’s Newest Release

Fans of Selah know what to expect from one of their releases – new arrangements of hymns plus new soaring, uplifting anthems.  We could all use some encouragement right now, right?  I know I can.  That’s why Step into My Story is exactly what I need.

The disc opens with an a cappella version of “God Leads His Dear Children Along.”  Allan takes the lead on this one, and his voice is wonderful with fantastic harmonies.

Next comes the title track.  This is one of those uplifting anthems I mentioned earlier.  Amy takes the lead this time she celebrates God stepping into our lives to walk with us and help us through those hard times.  It’s up tempo, fun, and encouraging.

Similarly, themed is “Hello, Grace,” the first radio single from the disc and a song where Todd takes the lead.  This is a midtempo track that talks about God’s grace to make it through this day despite the problems we are facing right now.  Again, it’s is encouraging and wonderful.

I will admit I cringed a bit when I saw “Joshua Fit the Battle” on the track list.  I’ve just never been a fan of this spiritual.  Until now.  Selah has given it a rock arrangement that is fun.  There is no other word for it.  My head was nodding and I was smiling within seconds the first time I heard it.

Other hymns here include “What a Friend We Have in Jesus, “He Leadeth Me,” and “Nothing but the Blood.”  That last hymn does include the African language of Kituba for a verse or two.  As often happens when they do that, this one has a bit of a tribal arrangement to that track, which adds to the fun.

I didn’t recognize “Living Hope” from the title, but as soon as Amy started singing, I knew it.  This is a cover of one of Phil Wickham’s recent hymns and fits in perfectly with the rest of the tracks.

There isn’t a weak track on this disc.  The timeless truths presented in the lyrics are captures in fresh arrangements that bring the often familiar hymns to life in a new way.  It’s why Selah has such a loyal group of fans.

Don’t hesitate to get Step into My Story.  This is another timeless release you’ll enjoy for years to come, and if you aren’t already a Selah fan, you’ll discover just what you’ve been missing.

CD Length: 39:47 
1. God Leads His Dear Children Along
2. Step into My Story
3. When They Hear It
4. He Leadeth Me
5. Hello, Grace
6. What a Friend We Have in Jesus
7. Nothing but the Blood
8. Joshua Fit the Battle
9. Living Hope
10. Shall We Gather at the River/The Water is Wide

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Disney Pin Review: Sorcerer Mickey - Window of Magic -2019 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Sorcerer Mickey in great looking pin
Cons: All cons magically washed away
The Bottom Line:
Sorcerer Mickey
Uses magic to create
A fun window pin

Mickey Conjures Up a Great Magic Window Pin

Fantasia has a special place in the Disney cannon for having the first (and one of the rare) appearances of Mickey in a full length theatrically released movie.  Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a pop culture icon, and that roll is captured in one of the Windows of Magic pins.

This pin is the counter to the Windows of Evil pin for Chernabog.  Not that they share any screen time or even fought each other.  But they were both in Fantasia but in completely different segments.  Still, since they are from the same movie, I can see why they were paired up for these pin series.

This is a very red pin.  The background behind Mickey is red, and it makes it stand out.  Mickey’s face is centered in the window, and he’s wearing the blue sorcerer’s hat.  Down at the bottom, there’s one broom with two buckets.  We’ve got swirls of blue water and bubbles in the background as well.  The frame for the window has some stars and clouds as well as the suggestion of waves.

I really like this pin.  It’s bright and colorful.  Even though this is a pin and not a real stained-glass window, it catches enough light to look like one.  While we have plenty of merchandise with Sorcerer Mickey, I don’t have that much, so this is a fun addition to my collection for that reason.

I wasn’t the only one who liked this entry in the series.  While some were more popular than others, this is one that was immediately sold out on release day, so if you are interested in it, you’ll have to be patient until you can find one in your price range.

Sorcerer Mickey has plenty of merchandise, but this fun Windows of Magic pin is still a great addition to your collection.

Pictures are up on my Instagram.

Disney Pin Review: Chernobog - Windows of Evil - 2018 Release

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: A rarely done character
Cons: Too dark to really capture the stained-glass magic.
The Bottom Line:
Demon in window
Doesn’t work as faux stained-glass
Because it’s too dark

Evil Reigns Overnight with This Pin

I’m always surprised when I see Chernabog show up in anything related to the Disney villains.  I guess I don’t consider the Fantasia movies when it comes time to think of characters or marketing.  Yes, I do have a few pieces themed to other segments in the movie, so I don’t know why my mind works that way.  Anyway, this rambling is just to introduce the Chernabog Windows of Evil pin.

Like the others, this pin is designed as faux stained-glass.  It’s a very dark pin, which fits since Chernabog is part of the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment.  This god of evil is taking up much of the window.  Behind him, we see some darkness as well as smoke up at the top.  He’s sitting on the top of Bald Mountain, and some of his subjects are at the very bottom raising their hands to him.

This pin stands out a bit from others since it has a bit more silver in it, including the mountain.  It’s not just the outside that is silver this time.  And I’m not talking about silver parts of the window, but opaque silver that isn’t supposed to look like a piece of stained-glass.

However, it doesn’t really work for me.  This pin is mostly brown and dark blue as it is, and the silver parts don’t catch much light.  While none of these pins are actually stained-glass, the way the pins reflect the light makes it look like they are.  Here, we’ve got nothing that would help with the illusion.

The frame on this window has a skull at the top, but nothing else really to set it apart.

Despite my rant earlier, there are enough Chernabog fans that this pin has proved to be more popular than I expected.  Still, it’s not a stand out in the series to me.

Pictures are up on my Instagram.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

November 14th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Supermarket Sweep – That first round was very close.  Down to the cents.  So thrilled the couple managed to win it all.  Couldn’t believe the returning players couldn’t find the Capri Suns in the second round.  Of course, I was blanking on the name, but I was picturing them.

Dancing with the Stars – I am surprised that Johnny was in the bottom two.  Guess I’m not the only one who isn’t a fan.  I’m surprised that it was a split decision, not that he was saved, but that it wasn’t unanimous.  And as everyone is talking about their icons, I’m trying to think of mine.  I don’t know that I’d list anyone I listen to as an icon.  Maybe it’s just because the term isn’t usually used in Christian music.  I mean, I do listen to the biggest names from back in the day.  Definitely food for thought.

LA’s Finest – I think I’m beginning to like these characters.  I was actually drawn in to Syd’s family drama.  Not too surprised with how the episode played out, but I still liked it.  Next week, McKenna’s going to be in the hot seat, and rightly so.  It won’t be pretty, but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.  And yes, I feel horrible for that lifeguard.

The Weakest Link – I’m actually very impressed.  Kaya not missing a question?  That’s amazing.  You can tell she was guessing on some of them.  I’m surprised she wasn’t voted out at the end.  Certainly would have been the smart thing to do.  I do have to give Spencer credit as well.  He hung in there with her, even forcing a run off.  Considering his performance in the earlier rounds, I didn’t suspect that would happen at all.

Tell Me a Story – I’m really surprised they took out the stalker already.  I figured he was going to be around for the season.  I do feel a bit sorry for the kidnapper, but clearly, he is deranged.  And where is the story with the stepmother going to go?  All three stories definitely have my interest now.

The Amazing Race – Wow!  I couldn’t believe who got eliminated at the end.  Not that I mind at all because that was a team that got on my nerves.  Obviously, the teams didn’t know clutch as well as they thought they did.  Although it has been so long for me, that I would need to refresh my skills before going on the race.  I’m sure due to pressure that would be me.  The one team asked if they got to throw pies at people when they were done, but then they all got pies thrown at them instead.  I would have failed the art challenge for sure.  But I would have loved the carnival games.

B Positive – Gina really isn’t growing on me.  She’s such a train wreck.  I get that she’s supposed to be funny, but I don’t know if I can really put up with her long term.  Not quite ready to bail yet, but I’m close.

Star Trek Discovery – I get interested in the show at the end of the episode, but I’ve lost interest again by the time it comes on again in a week.  I’m predicting that Discovery will save the admiral (or whatever her rank is) and she’ll think differently about it.  It’s a bit of a cliché, so we’ll see if I am right.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Book Review: Design for Murder by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #2)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, good mystery
Cons: Mystery takes a took long to get going
The Bottom Line:
Planning a murder
Puts Annie in middle of
A real life murder

Needed a Better Design

While I am new to the Death on Demand series, I have read other books from Carolyn Hart over the years, so I know that, like all authors, she occasionally turns out a book that isn’t up to her usual standards.  That’s what happened with Design for Murder, the second in the series.

Annie Lawrence is thrilled when she is asked to create a murder mystery for the nearby town of Chastain, South Carolina.  In fact, her head is brimming with all kinds of plots and characters and can’t wait to put it all together.  The event will run over several nights with teams each night reviewing the evidence and interviewing the locals playing the suspects.

What Annie doesn’t realize is that she has stumbled into a town already boiling with anger at one of their prominent citizens.  When that citizen is found murdered just before the first mystery night begins, Annie once again finds herself cast as a suspect since she’s an outsider.  Can she clear her name while keeping the evening events running smoothly?

The problem with the book actually happened early.  Annie is super excited about planning the mystery, and she throws out lots of ideas before settling on one.  Or two or three.  This series is famous for its references to other mystery series (Annie owns a mystery themed bookstore, after all), and this entry gets most of those out of the way early on as Annie lists all the books she could get inspiration from.  A little of this is fine, but it goes on a bit too long.

That isn’t to say that we aren’t meeting the victim and the suspects during this time.  In fact, it is very obvious early on who the victim will be, and getting to know the motives means we can jump into the detecting when the murder finally happens.  Notice I said finally.  So much time is spent to creating the events early on.  The plot doesn’t truly get going until the murder happens, and that needed to happen sooner.

Another issue I had was the dual mystery.  Because the suspects in the real murder were also (mostly) playing the suspects in the fictional mystery, I found it hard to keep track of who was who in which mystery.  Since I listened to the audio, that may have been part of my problem.  If I could have more easily gone back and referenced characters, it would have helped.

Now, this isn’t to say that the book is all bad.  Both the mystery that Annie has created and the mystery that happens that Annie must solve are well plotted.  The characters are all strong and have unique motives.  The solutions to both are brilliant, with well planted clues that make sense once Annie reveals the what happened.  And Annie and her fiancé, Max, are an enchanting pair of sleuths.  I love spending time with them.

And I’m certainly not going to blame the audio version.  Kate Reading is a fantastic narrator.  She brings the characters and story to life brilliantly.

Even though Design for Murder wasn’t as strong as the first in the series, I’m looking forward to visiting Annie and Max again soon.

Read the rest of the Death on Demand Mysteries.

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

November 13th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

It's Friday the 13th.  I think I am going to stay inside and stay safe with Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm going back in time with The Enemy We Don't Know by Liz Milliron.  Yes, it's a mystery, but it's set in Buffalo, New York in World War II.

This is the first book in the Home Front Mysteries, and I enjoyed it.  Here's how the book begins:

I wish life was more like a movie.  See, in the pictures, it's easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys.  The good guys wear white hats and the music is real positive.  The bad guys wear black hats and their music is grim.

Jumping ahead to 56% into the book, we find this.

I almost said something, but for once in my life I thought twice about it.  I looked between Marcus and William.  I knew that look.  Lee would definitely tell me to beat feet, and this time he'd be right.

I'll be reviewing the book come Tuesday, so I hope you'll come back to see what I thought.  Meanwhile, have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Book Review: Final Fondue by Maya Corrigan (Five-Ingredient Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and characters
Cons: Pacing could be better
The Bottom Line:
Weekend guests, fondue
Murder and a festival
Make for a fun book

Fatal Festival

I have been making more of a concerted effort to look for books on my to be read pile that are in series I’ve already started instead of always starting new series when I have a free spot in my reading schedule.  So I decided it was time to dip back into the Five-Ingredient Mysteries with Final Fondue, the third in the series.

The town of Bayport, Maryland is holding a festival to celebrate their tri-centennial.  Val Deniston is participating with a booth featuring food from her café, while her grandfather is hoping to win one of the contests with his chocolate fondue.  And Val has talked Grandfather into renting out some rooms in the house they share to visitors in town for the weekend.  These particular guests are there to start work on planning a wedding to take place in the area the next spring.

There are some strange undercurrents in the wedding party, but the last thing Val expects is to find one of them dead in the backyard.  While it is obvious that a murder has taken place, Val can’t help but wonder if the killer got their intended target.  With easy access to the rest of the wedding party, she begins asking questions.  Can she figure out what happened?

Val also has some people from her past popping back into her life in this book, further complicating things for both her and the case.  That’s not unexpected in a cozy series, but I enjoyed seeing how Val dealing with her past played out and played into this story.  At times, I did feel like it slowed down the story a little, however.

The book does have a good mystery.  I’m always impressed with how the clues in this series are woven into the story.  Once Val has things figured out, it’s obviously the only solution, but I once again only began to suspect just before Val figured things out.  As I said above, the pace could have been a little better, but that’s my only real complaint with the book.

The more books I read in the series, the more I’m getting to know Val, her grandfather, and the rest of the regulars, and the more I like them.  Grandfather is a hoot all by himself, and he provides some great laughs.  Val is strong, and we get to see another side of her here.  The suspects are distinct, and I had no trouble keeping them apart.

And, of course, there are the recipes.  We get a total of six of them here, including a couple of variations on fondue as well as a casserole and a stroganoff.  As always, all these recipes have five or fewer ingredients.

Final Fondue has all the ingredients to be another winner.  If you are looking for a tasty read, dip into this book.

And then enjoy the rest of the Five-Ingredient Mysteries.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Ornament Review: Something There - 2020 Hallmark Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Belle in a rare outfit
Cons: Dress seam, slight tip
The Bottom Line:
Belle in rare outfit
With compliment ornament
Moment love begins

Belle Enjoys a Winter Visit with a Bluebird

Belle is my favorite Disney Princess, so I do pay attention to the ornaments that Hallmark releases for her.  Having said that, I don’t buy all of them every year.  Since I bought the limited-edition ornament of Beast that compliments Something There, I decided I had to get this ornament this year.

As you might have guessed from the name of the ornament, this is an ornament inspired by the song as Belle and Beast are starting to fall in love.  This ornament focuses on Belle.  He’s in her pink dress and red cape from the beginning of the song.  She’s got one hand raised and a bluebird sitting on it.

We rarely see Belle in this outfit, so that’s another reason I’m happy I got this ornament.  It captures her well in a contemplative moment as she watches the bird and thinks about her relationship with Beast.

However, I do have an issue with the ornament.  There is a white line down the front of the dress.  I’m sure it is supposed to be the fastener, and I’m sure if I watched this scene closely enough I’d see it there in the movie.  But in this ornament, it looks odd.

Belle is slightly kneeling, and she has her dress and cape flowing out around her.  That means the ornament has a nice base, so you can easily set it out to enjoy year round.

The ornament does tip slightly to the back and right when you go to hang it.  It doesn’t look bad that way, actually, so this is a minor issue.

I wish the dress didn’t have the white line through it, but that is my only complaint.  Something There will be a proud part of my ornament collection.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Book Review: Some Like it Haute by Diane Vallere (Samantha Kidd #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery, Samantha
Cons: A personal gripe, but it’s minor
The Bottom Line:
Samantha attacked
Only the start of danger
Fast paced and fun book

Haute Time in a Small Town

Style and fashion are not things that have been at the top of most people’s minds this year since we are spending so much time at home.  But a good mystery never goes out of style, so I picked up Some Like it Haute, the fourth in the Samantha Kidd Mysteries, expecting to have a great time.

Samantha Kidd has landed yet another temporary job in her home town of Ribbon, Pennsylvania.  This time, she’s helping her ex-boyfriend’s maybe ex-girlfriend prepare a fashion show.  Amanda is going to turn heads with this collection – assuming nothing goes wrong before then.  Samantha thinks everything is going well, so she is surprised when she is fired the night before the big event.  Then she is attacked on her way out to her car as she leaves.  But when disaster strikes the show, Samantha begins to suspect that something larger is at work.  Can she figure out what is going on?

This book did start out with one of my least favorite storytelling techniques – putting Samantha in a situation and then backtracking to see how she got there.  (15 plus years later, and I’m still not over Alias season 3, which WAY over used that.)  Fortunately, it was only a couple of chapters before we were up to date and could move forward, so this is a minor issue.

And what a plot we got.  It really does jump right into the story, and Samantha is moving from one suspect or event to another non-stop as she tries to figure out just who attacked her, why, and how it ties into what happened at the show.  The climax was suspenseful and completely satisfying.

Even with the fast pace, we still had time for character growth.  It was nice to see Samantha mature a little over the course of this book.  We see a bit more of some of the supporting characters in the series as well, but this is really Samantha’s show, as is usually the case for the books in this series.  Not that this is a complaint in any way.  The rest of the cast feel real as we are reading the book.

I’m a guy, so fashion isn’t exactly my thing.  Here, it is the background to the mystery, and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not being more knowledgeable on the subject.  At the same time, I was impressed with how Samantha’s expertise lead her to pick up on a couple of clues.

Some Like it Haute is a wonderful mystery from start to finish.  It will capture your attention and leave you ready to find out what happens to Samantha next.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Samantha Kidd Mysteries.

Monday, November 9, 2020

TV Show Review: Tell Me a Story - Season 1

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Eventually engrossing stories
Cons: Stupid characters made it hard to care early on
The Bottom Line:
Fairytale adjacent
Stupid actions, hard to care
But hooked by the end

Dark Stories Very Loosely Inspired by Fairytales

Being the fairytale fan I am, I was intrigued when I heard about Kevin Williamson’s Tell Me a Story.  It was being advertised as a dark and twisted modern take on fairytales.  Since it was on CBS All Access and I have resisted streaming services (at least so far), I didn’t sit down and watch it until The CW picked it up this fall.  It took me a while to get into season 1, but by the end I was enjoying it.

The season sends us to New York City for three different stories extremely loosely connected to each other.  In the first, Jordan Evans (James Wolk) and his new fiancée Beth Miller (Spencer Grammer) go ring shopping and find themselves caught up in a robbery by three robbers wearing pig masks.  Shades of three little pigs anyone?

Next, we get the story of Tim Powell (Sam Jaeger) who has taken a job in New York City in hopes of starting over with his daughter Kayla (Danielle Campbell).  They’ve moved in with his mother, Colleen (Kim Cattrall).  Kayla makes some poor choices, including sneaking into a bar and hooking up with a cute guy she meets there (Billy Magnussen).  Imagine her surprise when she finds out this guy is her new long-term substitute teacher.  Trying to figure out the fairytale still?  It might help if I mention a red cape shows up a few times.

Finally, there’s the story of siblings Gabe and Hannah Perez (Davi Santos and Dania Ramirez).  When Gabe gets into trouble for an accidental death after partying with a stranger, neither realize just how much danger they are in.  This was the story that took me the longest to figure out.  However, I did eventually follow the bread crumbs to find the sweet sibling related fairytale they were riffing on here.

As you can see, stories are very much takes on the classic tales and not modern retellings of them.  You can recognize the touchstones, but you are going to be surprised by the twists and turns the stories take.

It also isn’t always apparent how these three stories are tied together.  There are some superficial tie ins early, but they do come together at the end.  In fact, I was actually very surprised at how they tied together.

If you are thinking “Fairytales, this must be a cute, light show,” please read this next paragraph carefully.  These are dark tales with plenty of violence.  Since I watched this on The CW, I’m sure that the violence was toned down, but it was still very violent.  And there was near nudity that might have been full blown nudity when originally shown on CBS All Access.  This show is for adults.

Another word of warning – if you are sick of politics right now, know that politics comes up in the first episode or two.  Honestly, they could have done without their self-important lectures early on.  However, once the story did get going, they dropped that element of the show.

It took me a bit to get into the story.  For one thing, I spent too much time trying to figure out how these wildly different tales were going to connect.  Second, the characters do some pretty stupid things early on.  I mean extremely stupid, bordering on self-destructive.  I found it hard for root for them as a result.

But I kept on.  After all, there isn’t much new on TV this fall.  And I eventually found myself getting hooked on the story.  By the half way point, I was on board.  Of course, it was then that some of the characters were trying to stop the slide their early actions had started, and I wanted to see how things would turn out.  Since there are only 10 episodes in the season, there wasn’t that big a time commitment before I was hooked.

And none of this is the fault of the actors.  The story puts them all through their paces, and I believed everything I saw on screen.

Again, I am going to point out that this is dark and twisted stuff.  Kevin Williamson is famous for a few projects, one of them being Scream.  I definitely felt that in some of the twists the story took.  Of course, being a fan of the slasher franchise, I am not complaining about those elements.

The show was designed as an anthology series, so these 10 episodes wrap up the story.  Season two is all new characters and stories with only a couple of the season 1 cast coming back to take on a new characters.

I’d been curious enough about Tell Me a Story that I’m glad I watched the show and stuck with it.  Overall, I had a mixed reaction, but I did come back for season 2.  If you are curious, you should check out season 1, but otherwise, you can skip it.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Book Review: Spy School Revolution by Stuart Gibbs (Spy School #8)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, story, action, laughs
Cons: As usual for this author – none
The Bottom Line:
Ben faces danger
From an old conspiracy
Great entry again

Is Erica a Traitor?

The previous book in the Spy School series wrapped up some storylines that we’ve been following since the series began, so I was wondering just where Stuart Gibbs was going to go with Spy School Revolution.  The one thing I knew was I’d enjoy the book no matter what direction the book went, and I was right.

If you are new to the series, it follows Ben Ripley, a young spy in training, and the friends he’s made at Spy School, the secret CIA training facility for the next generation of spies.  Ben has gotten much more real-world experience than most students his age as he’s been targeted by secret organizations.  They’ve even worked out his identity and gone after his parents, too.

And that’s why the CIA has decided to pull them in, tell them the truth, and then relocate them via the Witness Protection Program.  Ben and agent Alexander Hale have just started that conversation when the CIA building they are meeting in is attacked.  More shocking is the identity of the attacker – Alexander’s daughter and Ben’s friend Erica.

Erica wouldn’t be the first friend of Ben’s to turn out to be working for an evil organization, but Ben doesn’t think Erica is actually working for the enemy.  However, as far as the CIA is concerned, she must be found at all costs.  Can Erica be trusted?  If so, why did she attack the CIA?

And just like that, we are off on another wild and thrilling ride.  I love how this book weaves a conspiracy going back to the days of the American Revolution, a period of history I love, and makes it seem real.  Yes, it’s all fiction, but it was plausible enough that I had no trouble believing it as I read the book.

Of course, I wanted to believe it.  Why?  Because the book itself is so much fun.  There is plenty of action to keep the pages turning.  In between the action, we get a tightly plotted mystery that kept me guessing until we reached the logical climax.

And we get plenty of laughs.  These books always include lots of humor, quite often in the middle of the action.  I grinned and laughed multiple times over the course of the book.

None of this takes away from the characters at all.  They are sharp and grow as a result of what happens here.  I’m very anxious to see where some of these relationships go, in fact.

These books are aimed at the middle grade audience.  That hasn’t stopped me from enjoying them at all.  In fact, Stuart Gibbs is on my auto buy lists – for me.  His books are that enjoyable.

If you are looking for an entertaining read for you or the child in your life, you’ll be thrilled you picked up Spy School Revolution.  The change of focus hasn’t changed the enjoyment level for this series in the slightest.

Enjoy more action and fun with the rest of the Spy School series.

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

Saturday, November 7, 2020

November 7th's Weekly TV Thoughts

 Before we get to the shows I watched all of, I do want to mention I caught the very end of Young Sheldon this week, and I absolutely loved it!  Great to hear Amy and find out they had a son - even what they named him.  Definitely made this Big Bang Theory fan smile.

Now, on to the main event.

Supermarket Sweep – One second left.  Wow!  And the guys in the first game didn’t wind up making it.  I was so sure they would win it all until they couldn’t figure out the last clue.  Not that I knew what they were supposed to be looking for, so I wouldn’t have done any better.  I really could have done without all the vote reminders in the first half hour.  Seriously, I wanted to get away from politics when I turned on this show.  We know when the election is.  We don’t need you to be constantly reminding us.

Card Sharks – And that’s why it is called gambling.  Ouch!  I get the temptation.  I really do.  I probably would have saved out a quarter, so I would have at least won something.  Wow, that ending hurt.

Dancing with the Stars – I always hate to see a celebrity have to leave for medical reasons.  How incredibly scary for Jeannie to have it be life threatening, too.  I mean, wow!  Chrisell was improving, so I’m sorry to see her go, but it was understandable since she is near the bottom most of the time.  Down to seven.  Hard to believe we are closing in on the finals in just a few weeks, isn’t it?

LA’s Finest – At least with the carried over case of the week, the motive wasn’t a general hate crime but something personal.  I appreciated that.  What a way to find out you have a half-sister.  I feel for Dante.  But now everyone is made at each other, which isn’t going to help the larger case.

The Amazing Race – I always feel sorry for a team that gets super behind and never can catch up, so I was thrilled this was a non-elimination leg.  I do wonder how far behind they really were.  I have done the bottle dance in Fiddler on the Roof, so I appreciate just how hard that bottle dance was.  In fact, it’s hard than anything I did, and I had a hat to help keep it on my head, too.  But I didn’t have to get down on my stomach with the bottle.

B Positive – I keep hoping that Chuck Lorre will create another great sitcom.  This doesn’t appear to be it.  Between the kidney storyline, which is pretty serious, and the other lead being so out of control, it just didn’t work for me.  I spent more time cringing than I did laughing.  And don’t get me started on that creepy opening title sequence.  I’ll give it another week since series premiers can be weak, but it needs to really improve if I’m going to stick around beyond that.

American Ninja Warrior – Joe!!!  No!!!!  That was hard for me since Joe is one of the athletes I root for hardest.  On the other hand, I was also rooting for Daniel Gill to make it to the end since he came so close last year, so I am thrilled with the results.  I couldn’t believe how nervous I got when the two of them were running.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Book Review: Murder on Fifth Avenue by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #14)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and plot, bits of humor
Cons: A few predictable twists (but many that I didn’t expect)
The Bottom Line:
Body at a club
Must solve the who, why, and how
Page turning again

Death at a Gentlemen’s Club

It is always a pleasure to return to the 1890’s via Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mysteries.  In fact, the further I get into the series, the more anxious I am to find out what is going to happen next to the characters, so I was smiling when I picked up Murder on Fifth Avenue.

When a member of the Knickerbocker club dies one afternoon, everyone assumes it was a heart attack – until they move the body and discover that he had been bleeding.  Midwife Sarah Brandt’s father, Felix Decker, is a member of the club, so he immediately calls Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy to investigate.  He knows that Frank will be thorough and as discrete as possible.

The victim was Chilton Devries, the head of a wealthy family.  However, Frank soon learns that Chilton was not a well-liked man.  With Sarah using her status in society to gain access to the family, the two begin to gain a long list of suspects.  But who actually killed the man?

One thing I love about the series is the inventive murder methods.  The how becomes as big a puzzle as the who and the why here, and I loved that.  It’s just one more thing to draw me into the story.

And this book definitely drew me in.  I devoured it, reading much too late two nights in a row to finish it faster than I had planned.  I just had to know what was going to happen next.

I often say that I spread out authors because I begin to notice tricks and themes, which make me see some of the twists in a story coming early.  I do think that is the case here because I figured a couple of things out before Frank and Sarah did.  However, there was still plenty that stumped me, and I was confused up until they pieced things together.  The suspects are all strong and are very much a part of what drew me into the story.

As I hinted at the beginning, I love these characters.  It’s always great to pop in and see what they are up to and get the latest in their lives.  Because we know the characters so well by this point, I found some of the interactions in this book laugh out loud funny.  Overall, the tone is still the same – more on the serious side – but there are scenes, especially involving Sarah and her parents, that are very funny.

The book ends on a bit of a small cliffhanger, more of a tease, really.  I hadn’t been planning on returning to the series until after the first of the year, but that seems like a long time to wait to find out what is going to happen next.  (And that’s even with suspecting I know what is going to happen next.)

I’m so glad I started the Gaslight Mysteries.  These trips back in time are always a delight, and Murder on Fifth Avenue is another wonderful entry in the series.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Gaslight Mysteries.

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