Saturday, June 19, 2021

June 19th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Legends of Tomorrow – They got me.  I must admit, I did not see that ending coming.  So, if Sara is a clone now, what will that mean?  Or will we bring back the “real” Sara at some point?  The show is certainly getting weird again this season.  It’s lost the pure fun it used to be.

Batwoman – Still lecturing us some.  Really enjoyed getting to see Diggle.  I’m wondering what they are going to do with Jake Kane.  I thought we might be turning a corner with Alice (for better or worse), but then they went and killed Ocean – again.  Makes sense – can’t have her happy.  But that’s going to really send her off the deep end again.  At least Jake publicly apologized to her.

Lego Masters – I wanted Tim and Zach to go far.  They were a fun team and I was enjoying how they worked together.  Not that I wanted any of the teams in the bottom three to go.  I’m so impressed with how the mothers did.  They were so far behind, yet they wound up in the top three.  I’m not sure I see them going all the way, but they are proving that they deserve to stick around a while longer.

The Flash – That was a weird episode.  Then again, any time a show goes inside a character’s head like that, it gets weird.  Nice to see that they are writing in Sue for a few episodes.  I felt sorry for the actress when they wrote out Ralph earlier this season.  And her dance with the lasers was so fun.

Superman & Lois – I’m surprised.  I was expecting them to play some of this stuff out for another few episodes.  I can’t imagine how this is going to go for the rest of the season, but I can’t wait to see it.  I feel like we are close to the end of the season than we truly are.  And I’m still loving the dynamic with Lana and Lois and Clark.  Very mature relationships, which I feel like we don’t get to see very often.  I just wonder if Lana is going to figure out who Clark really is as a result.

Press Your Luck – Wow!  No money given out at all.  None.  That’s amazing.  Everyone had a great attitude about it, but I’m sure it was disappointing.  The guy sure had the right strategy in the initial rounds – make the person with 3 Whammies take all the chances.  It’s just too bad that he didn’t get anything in the bonus rounds.

Loki – That’s an interesting twist.  Where is Loki going?  What is the ultimate plan?  Is our Loki really in on it or not?  The pacing could be a little better.  Again, I feel like they are stretching things out that don’t need to be stretched out.  But overall, I am having fun.

United States of Al – I knew the dog wasn’t going to be a permanent part of the family.  It was an obvious plot point.  But I like how they brought out by Riley and Vanessa’s perspectives on things and how they are both right and both wrong.  I like how they are building the characters and bring out some deeper issues.  I do wish the jokes were funnier, but overall, I like the show.

Holey Moley – Lots of new holes this season so far and some serious upgrades.  I thought Corn Hole might be a replacement for Hole Number 2, but then they showed that was back with an upgrade.  Loved the Christmas connections the first time they showed that hole.  I was worried that the twerker would go on to the season finale, so I was glad to see her eliminated.  And that proposal in the second episode!  I loved it!  So sweet.  I wonder if that hole will always have couples on it.  We’ll have to watch and see.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

June 18th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

 Welcome to Friday!  Must be time once again to dive into Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring A Distant Grave by Sarah Stewart Taylor.

This is the second book in a series about homicide detective Maggie D'arcy.  And, like the first book, it partially takes place on Long Island and partially in Ireland.

With that out of the way, shall we get to how the book beginnings?  I'm actually offering two teasers this week, one from the prologue and one from chapter one.  Up first, the prologue:

The cold was different here.
It got inside you, the raw knife edge of it slipping beneath your clothes at your collar and your cuffs, taking your breath and setting your nerves to alarm.  The skin on his face and neck stung; his hands and feet were going about the business of going numb, but until they did, they were going to do their best to warn him.

Isn't that wonderfully evacuative?  Now, from chapter one:

Marty is waiting for me in the parking lot.  I know he's nervous because he can't keep his hands off the buttons of his coat and even from across the parking lot I can see that hsi forehead is creased with worry.

Jumping ahead to page 56, we find this.  To get the scene, Maggie is talking to her daughter, Lilly:

"Lil?  One thing I need to tell you.  Marty wants us to be a bit careful the next few days, until we go.  So that means keeping doors locked and alarms on.  You know the drill.  Okay?"
"What happened?"  Lilly's used to periodic upgrades to our home security because of something going on with my work.  She's not overly concerned.
"Nothing specific.  Just a precaution, okay?"

This book is great.  It officially comes out on Tuesday, and I'll have a review of it ready to go that morning, so I hope you come back then.

In the meantime, have a great weekend.

Book Review: Murders and Metaphors by Amanda Flower (Magical Bookshop Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good characters, engaging mystery, fun premise
Cons: All cons magically vanished
The Bottom Line:
Deadly book signing
Violet tries to clear friend
Glad to revisit

Local Author Returns to Murder

While I enjoyed the first two books in the Magical Bookshop Mysteries, I didn’t make the jump when the series moved to a new publisher.  It was simply a matter of too many books calling my name.  But I finally made the time to read Murders and Metaphors, and I’m wishing I’d read it sooner.

Violet Waverly is mostly thrilled that Charming Books has been asked to provide the books for Belinda Perkins’s book signing taking place at Morton Winery, just outside of Cascade Springs, New York.  Violet’s past with the Mortons is her only hesitation, but she is determined to do her part to make the event great.

Belinda grew up in the village, and has gained great success as a sommelier.  However, not everyone is happy to see her.  Violet finds Belinda’s body in the vineyard, stabbed with a grape harvesting knife.  Belinda was estranged from her sisters, including Violet’s friend Lacey.  Unfortunately, Lacey’s attempts to reconcile had led to a huge scene during the signing.  Violet knows that Lacey is going to be the prime suspect.  Can she figure out what really happened?  And why does the bookstore keep putting copies of Little Women in her path?

It’s been quite a few years since I last visited Violet, and I remembered who she and a few of the characters were, but I didn’t remember many of the particulars.  There was enough background that I was able to jump back in pretty quickly with some teasers about the events of the first two books.  I really wish I remembered more about them, but that’s on me for letting so many years go between books.

And yes, this is one of the few series I read with some supernatural elements to it.  Honestly, I love the idea of a bookstore that tries to communicate with the owner and where the store helps the reader select the perfect book.  I want to visit in real life.  If only it were real.  It’s a charming set up that really appeals to this reader.

Of course, we do have to have a murder in these cozy mysteries, and Belinda makes a wonderful victim.  I say that because, as Violet investigates, she begins to find plenty of suspects.  I was kept guessing until Violet pieced it together at the end, but once she did, everything fell into place.  The suspects were great at their job of confusing me.

Which brings us to the series regulars.  I really felt like only a few had enough page time to become fully developed here, but I loved them.  I especially appreciated the growth we got in Violet.  And the ones that didn’t spend much time on the page felt real, just not as rich as the others.

I’m glad I dipped my toe back into the Magical Bookshop Mysteries.  I already have the next in the series, and, now that I’ve met everyone again in Murders and Metaphors, I’m anxious to find out what happens next to Violet and her friends.

Let the rest of the Magical Bookshop Mysteries choose you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Movie Review: 'Til Death Do Us Part - An Aurora Teagarden Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters, mystery, wedding
Cons: The obvious budget issues for the wedding (which are universal to TV weddings)
The Bottom Line:
Roe and Nick’s big day
But must solve a murder first
Great movie for fans

“Why Do I Bother with Pleasantries?  I Should Have Known You Two Would Be Up to Something Ghoulish.”

We have reached a major milestone for me – this is the first time I am watching a wedding in a Hallmark movie.  Granted, I tend to stick to the mystery movies, but this is the first time a mystery franchise has lasted long enough to get the main couple down the aisle.  Even then, it took Aurora Teagarden two boyfriends and sixteen movies to get there.  Naturally, Roe and her fiancĂ©, Nick Miller, have to solve a murder before they can get to the wedding in ‘Til Death Do Us Part.

As the movie opens, it is four days before the wedding, and the guests are beginning to arrive.  Roe (Candace Cameron Bure) is thrilled that Nick (Niall Matter) is finally going to meet her father, Charles.  Meanwhile, Sally (Lexa Doig) and Aida (Marilu Henner) are still trying to nail down the final details of the wedding, not always agreeing on what they should be.

In the middle of all of this comes word that a human skeleton has been found buried under concrete in a warehouse that is being renovated.  One of Aida’s clients has just bought the warehouse, and the previous owner was one of Charles’s friends from when he lived in town.  When the remains are identified as belonging to Sam Woods, Charlies realizes he knows the victim.  With her dad now caught up in a twenty-four-year-old murder, Roe can’t help but try to figure out what is going on.  Can she solve it before her wedding?

If you are at all familiar with this Hallmark movie franchise, you won’t be surprised to learn that Roe gets clues and hunches at the absolutely worst time given all that is involved in a wedding.  That adds some comedy to the movie, and I’m not complaining in the slightest.

We get a fabulous mystery here.  The suspects are good, and the twists kept me engaged.  I wasn’t sure what was going on until we reached the end.  Because the suspects are people Roe knows, it seems to hit a bit closer to home, which contrasts with the happy subject of a wedding, yet the movie balances the two perfectly.

Because of the wedding, the movie doesn’t focus exclusively on the mystery.  I’m happy about that.  If it had we wouldn’t have been satisfied as fans.  Newcomers to the franchise might not be quite as invested as long time fans are, but it is a minor issue, and the mystery does still take up the majority of the running time.

Which brings us to the wedding itself.  I am of two minds about it.  The first is a complaint that I have had with many TV weddings – the lack of a budget to do the wedding right.  Oh, I’m not complaining about the looks of the wedding, which was wonderful.  But poor Nick didn’t even get his brother to come be his best man?  Seriously?  And I’m not buying that excuse they gave.  It just always feels like the budget constraints are an issue.  I’m just picking on this movie, but I have felt that way about most weddings I watch on TV, even on hit TV shows.  Also, what was up with Aida’s purse?  She looked awkward carrying it as she walked up and down the aisle.

On the other hand, when we got to the ceremony itself, it was wonderful.  No, we didn’t see the entire thing, but I absolutely enjoyed what we got to see.  It fit the characters and the franchise perfectly.

If you’ve been following the Aurora Teagarden movies for a while, you’ll be satisfied with ‘Til Death Do Us Part.  Catch it as soon as you can.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Book Review: A Treasure to Die For by Terry Ambrose (Seaside Cove Bed and Breakfast Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery, interesting main characters
Cons: A few things early on that I got used to as the book progressed
The Bottom Line:
Dead guest on the rocks
Rick must sift through lies for truth
Interesting start

Finding the Truth in a Hunt Filled with Lies

Try as I might, I don’t hear about every series that comes out, which is why Terry Ambrose’s A Treasure to Die For just cross my radar last year.  The story and the characters had to grow on me a bit, but I was definitely enjoying the book by the end.

When Rick Atwood inherits the Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast from his grandfather, he is looking to start his life over, so relocating to the town on the California coast with his ten-year-old daughter, Alex, seems like a great idea.  He’s still learning the business with the help of Marquetta, who used to work for his grandfather, when a group of treasure hunters book a weekend stay.  They are there to try to find a long sunken ship, but something seems off about the group.  They are constantly fighting for starters, so Rick wonders just how good a team they will wind up being.

His questions appear to be answered when one of the members of the group is found dead on the rocks near the B&B.  The local police are not used to handling a murder, and the mayor asks Rick to brush off his reporter skills and help with the investigation.  Even Alex gets into the mix, much to Rick’s dismay.  His guests seem to lie to him every time they open their mouths.  Will Rick figure out what is really going on?

Rick and Alex are both central viewpoint characters in this book.  Most of the book is written from Rick’s third person viewpoint, but we get some chapters from Alex, either writing in her diary or in first person present narration.  These changes happen at chapter breaks, and it is always clear who we are following for that chapter.  I’ll admit, having Alex so involved in the book took some getting used to, and I wasn’t quite sure about her character early on, but she grew on me as the book progressed.

It took me a while to keep the suspects straight.  It probably didn’t help that sometimes, they were referred to by their first names and other times by their last names.  However, as the book progressed, I was able to remember who was who.

Now, if it sounds like these were major issues, they weren’t.  They were definitely things I was noticing as I was getting into the story.  If they had continued the entire way through the book, it would have been a problem.  But as I got caught up in the story, these issues began to fade away.

And this book does have a wonderful mystery.  As I teased earlier, everyone is lying, and it takes Rick quite a bit of work to figure out where the truth really lies.  I loved how the story unfolded and really got caught up in trying to figure it out with Rick.  When he reaches the solution, it makes perfect sense.

Meanwhile, there is some backstory to the characters that is teased here.  I’m curious to find out where those threads will go.

Since this is a bed and breakfast set mystery, we get a couple of delicious sounding breakfast bread recipes at the end.

A Treasure to Die For sets up what looks to be a promising cozy mystery series.  I’m going to have to book a return visit soon.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Ornament Review: Linus - 2020 Hallmark Mini Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Captures Linus perfectly in a miniature ornament
Cons: Only if you aren’t expecting a miniature ornament
The Bottom Line:
Linus goes skating
Miniature ornament
Perfectly captures

Linus is Securely Skating

One thing I enjoyed about the miniature ornaments of the Peanuts gang skating that Hallmark released last year was that the character’s personalities came through.  Nowhere was that more evident than with Linus.

If you know Linus, you know what to expect.  Yes, he’s skating, and he’s in his typical orange coat and green hat.  And what else does he have with him?  His trusty security blanket, of course.  He’s holding it in his left hand, and he’s sucking the thumb on his right hand.  And yes, he’s skating out on the ice confidently.

Linus, in many ways, is the character who just goes with the flow the most in the Peanuts comic strip, and that’s what I feel is captured here.  And I love it for that reason.  He’s doing his thing and enjoying it.

Once again, I will point out this is a miniature ornament.  Linus is only about an inch in size.  When you consider that, it makes it even more outstanding that they so expertly captured not only Linus’s looks but personality.

Linus is gliding on one of his skates, so this ornament won’t stand on its own.  Given the size, you might not want to set it out anyway.  It’s not a problem since it hangs perfectly straight.

If you like Peanuts and miniature ornaments, you’ll want to track down Linus.  I know I’m glad I have him in my collection.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Cookie Review: S'mores Oreo

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Graham cracker outside cookies are good
Cons: The insides are sweet with no distinctive flavor
The Bottom Line:
A summer flavor
Recreated favorite?
Does not work for me

Not too Surprised with My Reaction, but I Wanted to Like These S’more

I’ve learned that there really is no substitute for Marshmallows.  I’ve tried many things that are supposed to have those flavors in them over the years, and I always feel like the taste is artificial.  I still had to try the new Limited Edition S’mores cookies from Oreo.  They were about what I expected.

These cookies are a twist on the classic Oreo.  The outside cookies are tan graham cracker flavored cookies.  The inside has two layers - one chocolate, the other marshmallow.  Or, at least that is the way it is supposed to be.  The reality is that the inside is just sweet.  There isn’t quite enough of either flavor to really taste them individually.  And yes, I know that the s’more combines the chocolate and marshmallow flavors as well, but this just doesn’t work.

I think part of the reason it doesn’t work here is that the marshmallows in a s’more are hot.  That gives them a different flavor, and it warms up the chocolate as well.  Here’s they taste sweet, but it’s a fake sweet.  Sometimes, if I really concentrate, I can get a bit of chocolate flavor or marshmallow flavor, but that isn’t enough to recommend them.

The best part is the graham cracker cookies.  They taste pretty much like real graham crackers.  But I’d rather have the originals, either with real chocolate and marshmallows or on their own.  (I know they are considered a kid’s snack, but graham crackers on their own really are good every so often.)

I can’t say I’m disappointed because this is what I was expecting when it came to the S’mores Oreos.  But I can’t recommend them either.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

June 12th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Before we get to what I watched, I have to comment on Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist being cancelled.  I'm not surprised since the ratings weren't that great, but I'm bummed.  While I have some nits to pick with the season, it was overall a light, fun, enjoyable show.  Yes, even with the heavy subjects they dealt with.

Legends of Tomorrow – I’d forgotten this was the animation episode until it happened.  Loved the “all animated princesses know how to sing” line.  So true; so funny.  Not getting the Sara storyline at all at this point.  I’m hoping she is back with the rest of the crew again soon.  I’m more than ready.

Batwoman – That wasn’t quite as painful as I thought it would be.  Yes, there were lecture moments, but it wasn’t all lecture.  Hopefully, they will concentrate on major storylines since we are drawing close to the end of the season.

American Ninja Warrior – The teens are killing it again.  I’m surprised but I’m not, if that makes any sense.  Thrilled, as always, to see Joe make it to the buzzer.  I’ll be rooting him on once again as the season progresses.

Lego Masters – I loved it!  So many epic scenes and so many epic explosions.  I’d have no idea how to build things like that, so the fact that so many got it right really impressed me.  I’m sorry to see Jack and Dawn go because I like them.  I’m not surprised they were one of the first to go, and I understand why the judges picked them.  But I will miss them.

The Flash – A nice send off for Cisco.  I’m going to miss him; I hope this means that Cisco-light will get more time and I’ll get to like him more.  I figured out what Barry and Caitlin were doing early on, but that scene where they finally all really talked was the one that made me tear up.

Superman and Lois – The reveal with Kyle was expected.  It was cool how they did it, but I still pretty much expected it.  And the conversations with General Lane were very long overdue.  I was cheering for both of them.  However, that ending reveal?  I did not see that coming at all.

Loki – So far, this seems like Marvel’s version of Legends of Tomorrow.  Not that I’m complaining.  Definitely intrigued by the revelations at the end, but the set up was pretty slow.  Hopefully, the show will pick up now that we’ve established the world the show will be set in.

Press Your Luck – Obviously, there have been people who have Whammied out of the game before.  But I don’t remember seeing anyone Whammy out with four Whammies in a row.  I feel for you.  It was rather obvious the guy was going to hit a Whammy there at the end.  He didn’t have any, and it was down to the wire.  And what a roller coaster ride in the bonus rounds.  She made the right decision to walk away when she did.

United States of Al – The characters are really growing on me each week.  And I love how they are treating the serious and the funny and making it work together.  I’m not sure this is a must watch show for everyone, but I’m truly enjoying it.  And I loved the Frisbee scene, although I’m not so sure either of them had played too much before.  Then again, I’d look funny trying to throw it in a very small and controlled space.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

June 11th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

 It's Friday, and I'm back with another entry for Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring A Treasure to Die For by Terry Ambrose.

This is the first book in the Seaside Cove Bed and Breakfast Mysteries.  It's been out for a few years, but I just discovered it.  It took me a bit to get into, but I enjoyed it overall.

Let's take a look at how it begins, shall we?

Hey Journal-
We have a real Indiana Jones staying at the B&B!

Makes sense with a treasure in the title, right?  Jumping head to page 56, we find this:

"I know how this looks, but it's all perfectly innocent."

I have a hard time believing any character who would say that, but especially a character in a mystery novel.  But who knows, maybe it is perfectly innocent this time?

I'll be reviewing this book on Tuesday, so I hope you'll come back to read it.  In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend.

Book Review: Killing in a Koi Pond by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran (Murder, She Wrote #53)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Jessica, most other characters, good mystery
Cons: Suspects are a bit thin, pacing at times
The Bottom Line:
Jessica on trip
When friend accused of murder
Classic franchise feel

Jessica Gets Back on the Road to Murder

I know I’ve jumped in very late to the Murder, She Wrote novels, basically picking up with the last few in the series.  However, I noticed something with the books I have read – they had all mostly centered on Cabot Cove.  Since I keep trying to point out how much Jessica Fletcher traveled in the show, I am quite happy to see her back on the road in Killing in a Koi Pond, the first novel in the series from Terrie Farley Moran.

Jessica has traveled to Columbia, South Carolina, to visit her college friend Delores.  Delores has recently remarried, and she is still very much in love with Willis.  Delores thinks that Willis is just wonderful, but at dinner that first night, Jessica sees a different side of Willis.  He appears controlling and manipulative to the family and friends who are there.

Jessica wakes up early the next morning and gets ready to go for a quick jog.  However, she only makes it as far as the Koi Pond.  That’s when she finds Willis’s dead body.  Jessica immediately suspects foul play, but Delores can’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt Willis.  When the police begin to look at Delores as a killer, Jessica jumps in to figure out what really happened.  Can she prove her friend innocent?

As much as I enjoyed the previous books in the series (the only ones I’ve read), at times they felt a little off from the series.  There was more of a thriller component to them than the series usually had, and some of the climaxes were stretching credibility for what Jessica would be able to do.  This book feels like a return to the franchise that we’ve known for almost 40 years.  We’ve got a murder and a limited number of suspects, with Jessica trying to figure out exactly what is going on.

While we get cameo appearances from a couple of regulars, this is pretty much Jessica’s show.  Anyone who loves the character will be thrilled to get to spend more time with her.  Delores and several other characters are equally as charming; I especially loved how Delores grew as the book progressed.  I did find Delores’s step-granddaughter, Abby, to be much younger than she was supposed to be.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the character, but she felt like she should have been four or five years old.

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the suspects were as well developed.  It might have helped if we’d spent more time getting to know them better.

And the thinner suspects made it harder to me to stay engaged in the plot.  Don’t get me wrong, it was entertaining, and there were some good twists and a classic Murder, She Wrote climax.  But I felt the pacing was uneven.

Overall, I did enjoy the book.  It reminded me very much of a classic travel episode from the show, and we got so many of them over the years.

I really got a kick out of some references to a mystery convention that Jessica had attended right before her trip.  The conference is obviously Malice Domestic, a conference devoted to cozy mysteries.  It only came up in passing a couple of times, but it made me smile.

If you are a fan of Murder, She Wrote, you’ll enjoy Killing in a Koi Pond.  It’s got that wonderful feeling of being a missing episode of the TV show.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.