Monday, July 22, 2019

Book Review: Scone Cold Dead by Karen MacInerney (Gray Whale Inn #9)


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and story
Cons: I’m not cold hearted enough to list any cons
The Bottom Line:
Lobstermen in stew
As conflict leads to murder
Always great visit




Can Natalie Find a Scone Cold Killer?

It’s always a pleasure to return to Cranberry Island.  Karen MacInerney has expertly brought it to life through the eyes of Natalie Barnes, the owner of the Gray Whale Inn bed and breakfast.  Of course, the island does seem to have a murder problem, as evidenced by the fact that Scone Cold Dead is the ninth book in the series.

It’s late spring, and trouble is once again brewing on the island.  There is tension boiling over in the lobster community as people are being accused of trying to skirt the laws to harvest more lobsters and therefore gain more money.  Since Natalie’s new nephew-in-law is one of the lobstermen, this naturally concerns her.  But when a dead body turns up, things get even worse.

Meanwhile, bookings at the inn have been down, and Natalie is hoping to gain some publicity by entering a scone recipe competition a newspaper on the mainland is holding.  And her niece, Gwen, has recently opened an artist’s commune on the island.  Will this distract Natalie from figuring out the latest murder?

As you can see, there are several sub-plots in this book, and they weave in and out of the main plot quite skillfully, sometimes influencing each other in the bargain.  The story is always moving forward, and I devoured the book as quickly as possible because I had to know what was happening.  The climax made perfect sense when we reached it, and it was very suspenseful.

I already stated I love the location, but one huge reason for that is the characters.  Natalie’s world is filled with characters we’ve all come to consider friends over the course of the series, and it was great to spend time with them again here.  A couple of the sub-plots directly involve them, and that helped pull me into the book faster than the murder would have all by itself.  Of course, the suspects are just as strong and compelling, making it hard to figure out what exactly is happening until Natalie pieces it all together.

There are several delicious sounding recipes at the back of the book.  Given this book’s theme, I’m sure it is no surprise that three of them are scone recipes.

Scone Cold Dead is another winning book from Karen MacInerney.  Grab your favorite scone and settle in to see what Natalie and the rest of the gang are up to now.

Be sure to book more time on Cranberry Island with the rest of the Gray Whale Inn Mysteries.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Disney Mug Review: Jiminy Cricket - Disney Wisdom Collection #7

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Nice mug with another fun quote
Cons: Don’t like the color
The Bottom Line:
Another fun mug
Characters, quote are both great
Conscience glad I got

Don’t Prick Your Conscience.  Buy This Mug

I’m at the point I need to do some serious rearranging in my cupboards for the mugs I’ve been buying this year as part of the Disney Wisdom Collection.  Not that it has stopped me from starting the second half of the series with this mug inspired by the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio.

This month’s quote is “Always let your conscience be your guide.”  It is featured on one side of the mug in blue and red surrounded by doodles.  I love the way they’ve chosen to display the quote.  Of course, with it being a shorter quote, they can do more with it.  On the other side are the characters for the month, Jiminy Cricket and Figaro.

My biggest issue with this mug is the color.  Since Jiminy is the featured characters, they’ve gone with a yellow-green.  Now, I agree that it is appropriate for the character since crickets are close to that color.  I just have never been a fan of yellow-green.  So, as you can imagine, that takes away some from my enjoyment of the mug.  In person, the color is a bit more of a pea soup color, which is better but still not ideal for me.  As usual, the characters blend into the mug a bit, but they stand out better than Cogsworth and Lumiere did last month.

Like the rest of the set, I appreciate the fact that the bottom is notched so it is stackable.  I can fit more in my cupboards that way.  It is a little shorter than some mugs, but it is wider, so you get a 14 oz mug that is dishwasher and microwave safe.

Color aside, I do appreciate this addition to my Disney Wisdom Mug collection.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to figure out where it is going to rest in my cupboard.

Disney Pin Review: Jiminy Cricket - Disney Wisdom Collection #7

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun set and good quote
Cons: Not a fan of the color
The Bottom Line:
Pinocchio set
Overall these pins are great
Not fan of color

This is Your Conscience Speaking.  Buy This Pin Set

We are starting in on the second half of the Disney Wisdom Collection.  Hard to believe that the 2019 is flying buy so quickly, isn’t it?  But here we are with a Disney pin set featuring a quote from the movie Pinocchio.

The character being quoted is the Blue Fairy.  I must admit, it took me a minute to remember this was her quote.  Why?  I associate “Always let your conscience be your guide” with Jiminy Cricket’s song “Give a Little Whistle.”  But when he sings that, he’s just quoting the Blue Fairy who said it first.  Anyway, I do like this quote, and I’m not surprised it is included in the collection.  The one caveat I would add is that you need to make sure you are feeding your conscience with truth or it can and will lead you astray.  But God did give us a conscience to help lead us.

As usual, we have a three pin set.  One of the pins is the quote.  The second is Jiminy Cricket, which doesn’t surprise me.  He has his back mostly turned to us, and he is doffing his cap to someone.  I’m going to say it is the Blue Fairy as she sparkles out of the scene.  Rounding out the set is Figaro, the cat, who is smiling.

With the Blue Fairy not an official part of the pin set, this means that we have had the speaker of the quote represented in the set three times and not represented four times.  I suspect we will continue to drop below 50% in the months to come.

The color for the month is a yellowish green, which is no surprise since the main character of the month is Jiminy Cricket.  However, I’m not a fan of the color in general, so that part of the set bothers me.  Naturally, it looks great on the Jiminy pin, and the way the quote is arranged on its pin looks fantastic.  Sadly, Figaro looks a bit weird with this color, but I’m sure I will get used to him quickly as I have some of the others.

The color is the only drawback to the newest pin set.  For those, like me, who are collecting the series, it’s an overall good set.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

July 20th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Some scripted shows appear again!

American Ninja Warrior – When they started announcing the Power Tower and prize for the city finals, I was thinking that those who won it in the first round would be disappointed they couldn’t win it this time.  Then we found out they would still get to run to try to get the prize.  That made me happy, as I’m sure it did them.  I suspected the Kevin Bull wasn’t going to finish, but I’m glad he at least made it to the national finals.  Glad to see Sweet T advance as well.

Suits – Can people really come in and take over a firm like that?  I mean, it makes great drama, but it isn’t right if it is true.  I’ll be interested to see how they play this out over the rest of the series.  Loved the shout outs to Mike and Rachel.  Man, I still miss those characters.

Pearson – I had hopes for this episode since we already had a backdoor pilot a year and a half ago on Suits.  But this felt like more of a TV pilot than I was expecting.  I’ll stick with it for now, but I am not completely sold on it.  I think part of my problem is realizing that her boyfriend is just a guest star character.  I love him and their relationship, so I didn’t want to see more drama between them.  And, I still had the tease and then flashback style of storytelling, and we got that in what I guess is a tease from the season finale.  I’ll give it a few episodes, however, before I decide anything for sure.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Movie Review: The Lion King (2019)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Looks great
Cons: Adds nothing to the story we already know
The Bottom Line:
This faithful remake
Brings nothing new to story
But looks amazing

Stunning Visuals in a Pointless Remake

25 years ago, I went to my first opening night of a movie to see the original version of The Lion King.  I loved it then, and I still love the movie.  And the Broadway show.  So, I was intrigued by the new remake of the film enough to go see it on opening night.  (Oh, Thursday night might be considered a preview night, but with as many showings as they are doing, it was opening night.)

If you aren’t familiar with the story, it takes place completely in the animal kingdom.  We meet Simba as a young cub (voiced by JD McCrary).   He is the crown prince of his lion pride, the son of Mufasa (James Earl Jones).  However, his uncle, Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), wants the throne and he will do anything to claim it.  What will the outcome of his actions be?

Now, let’s get one thing straight from the beginning.  No matter how Disney may be marketing this, it is NOT a live action remake.  It is a highly realistic CGI remake – a different type of animation, but animation none the less.  And let’s give full credit to the visuals – this movie looks amazing.  These look like real animals on the screen interacting with a real background.  It’s easy to let your mind go and believe everything you are seeing on the screen.  Yes, a few insects look fake, but that’s a minor complaint when you are looking at an almost two-hour movie.  And some of the actions the characters do at times helps make it seem like these are real animals.  They not only look like real animals, but they move like them and at times behave like them.

On the other hand, in all the glut of Disney remakes, this one is the most pointless to date.  It isn’t a shot for shot remake of the original animated version, but it is close, and some scenes certainly are.  They have added about half an hour to the original story, and there are bits and pieces snuck in throughout the movie.  A couple of sequences are obviously expanded, but there is no scene that is clearly added just for this movie.

But that also means there really is nothing new to the story.  As much as some of the recent remakes have been retreads of the main story, they have still added character background or a new sub-plot.  Here, we really get nothing new.  We are watching this movie purely for the stunning visuals.

Now hear me out.  I’m not saying this movie is bad.  The story is still powerful, and it is easy to get into the events as they unfold yet again.  While a few of my favorite lines aren’t here, there are some new ones that are great – especially a joke at the beginning of the climax that had the audience I saw it with laughing hard.

The voice cast does a good job overall.  There are a couple of scenes where things feel a bit off, but that’s probably just my take on it because I’m so used to the original.  James Earl Jones reprises his role as Mufasa, and it is hard to imagine anyone else’s voice bring the character to life.  He’s the only returning actor.  In addition to the ones I already mentions, we get the likes of Donald Glover, Beyonce, Penny Johnson Jerald, Seth Rogan, and Bill Eichner.

All the song we love from the animated film are here, and they are easily a highlight of the film.  Fans of the Broadway version will recognize some of the songs from that version in the soundtrack as well.  Honestly, I wish they had fully put them in the film because they are powerful songs that add so much to the characters, but that’s a minor complaint.

I really did enjoy the remake of The Lion King.  It would be nice if the filmmakers had put their own spin on things, but even as it is, this is a visual feast that retells a great story.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

And the Winner is....

I just pulled the winner of The Pawful Truth.  And that winner is...

...Christi!

I just sent you an e-mail, so if you can please confirm your address, I'll make sure you get your prize.

Book Review: The Tell Tail Heart by Cate Conte (Cat Cafe Mysteries #3)


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Complex plot, great characters, atmosphere
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Murder, coming storm
And someone claiming her cat
Complex and fun book




Off Season Murder and an Approaching Storm

All of us have vacation destinations we love, and we dream about living there full time.  One reason I love cozy series is because we get to do just that – at least in fictional locations.  But what is a location like when the tourists aren’t as prevalent?  We get a peek at that in The Tell Tail Heart, the third Cat Café Mystery from Cate Conte.

Things on Daybreak Island have gotten quieter now that it has entered November and the season is officially over.  Maddie James is using the time to work on renovations to her cat café to make it even better for guests when the tourists return in the spring.  There are still a few locals who drop in, but she’s really surprised about the man who came in, paid for a week in advance, and spends most of his time working on his laptop despite the noise of the renovations.

However, things get interesting when a woman shows up and announces that she believes JJ, Maddie’s cat, is really her cat.  Naturally, the encounter upsets Maddie, but it is soon pushed to the back of her mind when a body is found floating in the water next to the yacht club.  With a Nor’easter approaching the island, will that interfere with the investigation into the death?

Actually, I loved that storm.  It helped give the book some wonderful atmosphere.  Even though I started the book over the 4th of July, I still felt the cold rain and wind as I was reading.  It also made the island feel even more isolated, kind of like a classic Agatha Christie setting.  I also got a kick out of Maddie’s thoughts about not being used to cold weather after living for several years in California since I often talk about the exact same thing.

My teaser just scratches the surface of what is happening in this book, and I love how the events conspired to keep Maddie and ourselves guessing about killer and motive until the end.  By the time we reach the end, it all makes sense, and we get a great climax.

Author Cate Conte used this book to dig deeper into one of the island characters introduced in the first couple of books.  I don’t think this character has had more than a handful of scenes in the earlier books, and I just thought he was just there to provide a little color.  I enjoyed getting to learn more about him as the events of the story unfolded.  There are plenty of new characters introduced to be suspects as well, and I found them interesting.

Naturally, we see the core cast as this book unfolds, although a few of the recurring characters don’t get much page time here.  I love this cast, so it was fun to spend more time with them.  And I’m quite anxious to visit them again after the ending of this book.

The Tell Tail Heart is another great addition to this already fun series.  Pick it up today and be prepared to be charmed.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Ornament Review: Nine Ladies Dancing - 12 Days of Christmas #9 - 2019 Hallmark Ornament


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Beautiful coloring on the lady dancing
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Elegant dancing
As series keeps spinning on
A delightful piece




Elegant Lavender Lady Dancing

We have firmly turned the corner in Hallmark’s current 12 Days of Christmas series this year since this is our second year with humans.  It only makes sense since this year we get Nine Ladies Dancing.

Okay, so we really just get one lady dancing, but she elegant.  She is wearing a very pretty lavender dress and shoes.  Around the bottom of her dress are the notes and words for her verse of the song.  In her hand, she’s holding a gold heart with nine on it, the substitute for the dangle element we got with the birds.  Her hair is up in a bun, and she has a hint of a smile on her face.

I do miss the almost decoupage feel of the earlier ornaments in this series, but that is a minor complaint.  This ornament looks so elegant.  With her on her toes, she feels like she is in the middle of dancing for us, and the heart she is holding would become a prop in the dance.  Imaging eight more dancing with her would be quite the show.  While the majority of the ornament is plastic, there is a real ribbon tied around her waist.

Because she is on her toes, she wouldn’t stand up on her own, but none of the series would stand on their own, so that’s no real surprise.  Fortunately, she is perfectly balanced, so when you hang her on your tree, you’ll find she hangs straight.

No, the 9 on the heart she is holding is not the series marker on her.  It’s hidden where you’d expect it to be, on the underneath part of her dress between her feet.

The color also blends well with the light blue that was used last year for the Maid a Milking.  The two will be pretty together side by side.  It makes me look forward to seeing the color we will get for next year’s ornament.

While the style of the series might have changed a little, I am still quite happy with the look of this year’s Nine Ladies Dancing.  I can’t believe we only have three years left in the series.

Missing earlier entries?  Here are the rest of the 12 Days of Christmas series.

Original Price: $12.99

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Review: Ripe for Vengeance by Wendy Tyson (Greenhouse Mysteries #5)


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters make for a compelling story
Cons: None ripe enough to discuss
The Bottom Line:
Friends from Denver’s past
Bring tension, murder to town
In compelling book




Corporate Volunteer Event Leads to Murder

Obviously, I enjoy a wide range of tones in my books, from comedic to the more serious.  Wendy Tyson’s Greenhouse Mysteries definitely fall into the more serious side of the spectrum, but the depth of character makes them so good.  Ripe for Vengeance is no exception.

Megan Sawyer is excited because some of her boyfriend’s friends are coming to Winsome, Pennsylvania, and she’s looking forward to seeing a different side of Denver Finn.  They all work for BOLD Pharmaceuticals, and have been volunteered to mentor students at a nearby private school for troubled teens, starting with a weekend camping trip in the local state park.  They have arrived in town a day early, and Megan and Denver are joining them for dinner the night before.  However, the dinner doesn’t go the way that Megan expects, with tensions just barely hiding below the surface.  Even Denver seems uncomfortable around his old friends.

Unfortunately, the trip ends with the death of one of Denver’s friends, and the police are absolutely certain that it was murder.  Among the teens going on the trip is Dillon, the foster son of Denver’s aunt, and he was the one who found the body.  Given Dillon’s horrible past, the police think that he snapped and committed the murder, but Denver’s aunt is certain that the teen is innocent, and Megan herself has her doubts.  Instead, she thinks the focus should be on the remainder of Denver’s friends.  Can she figure out what really happened in the woods?

I mentioned the characters already, so let’s start there.  For the first time, the book doesn’t focus on Megan’s past and her own mixed up family.  Instead, it explores Denver more.  But that didn’t make it any less compelling.  I enjoyed getting to see more of Denver since I love his character.  We do get to see many of the characters we’ve already met in the series, although we don’t spend much time with them.  Instead, the focus is on the new characters involved in the current murder and how the unfolding events are affecting them.

While brings us to the plot.  This may not be a page turning book filled with twists and turns, but it is still page turning.  Because the characters are so real, they draw us into the story quickly and we need to know how the events unfolding around them will impact them when all the dust settles.  Now, this isn’t to say that the book has no twists or surprises – this is a mystery, after all.  The clues and red herrings are in place, and I was confused as to who the killer might be until Megan figured it out.  Then, it made perfect sense.

This series definitely falls a bit more on the traditional side of the spectrum.  There is a very light smattering of foul language as the book goes along, and the more serious tone keep this from feeling fully cozy.  But if you enjoy a solid story that will pull you in, you need to read this serious.  Just make sure you are in the mood for something more serious so the book is a good match.

Not that the book is all dark.  There is a very fun sub-plot involving a pig, and enough animal cuteness to keep the book from getting too dark.

Ripe for Vengeance is a character driven page turner that will hook you quickly and pull you into Megan’s world.  Plan to set aside quite a bit of time when you open this book because you won’t want to stop reading.

Enjoy more great mysteries with the rest of the Greenhouse Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Ornament Review: Golfer Snoopy - Spotlight on Snoopy #22 - 2019 Hallmark Ornament


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Snoopy, Woodstock, Golf.  What’s not to love?
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Ready to hit ball
Great moments for these two friends
Fore golf, Peanuts fans




There’s Just One Word for 2019’s Spotlight on Snoopy Ornament.  Fore!

As I’ve mentioned several years when reviewing the Spotlight on Snoopy series, I grew up in Santa Rosa, where Charles Schultz lived for most of his career.  But what I haven’t mentioned is that took golf lessons at one point when I was in Jr. High.  (No, I haven’t played in years.)  The pro shop had a signed Peanuts strip about golf.  Why am I bringing this up?  Because it all came flooding back to me when I saw that this year we were going to get Golfer Snoopy.

The ornament is pretty much what you’d expect from the title.  Snoopy is decked out as a golfer with a red visor, blue collared shirt, and brown golf shoes.  He’s holding a wood and is about to tee off.  There’s just one complication – Woodstock is sitting on the ball looking up at his friend.  If he doesn’t move, he’s about to go on an unplanned flight.

Obviously, this ornament makes me smile.  While I haven’t played golf in ages (outside of miniature golf), I did enjoy the golf I played as a kid.  (Then again, the fact that I was playing with my grandpa and my uncle and other family members may have had something to do with that, too.)  This brings those memories back in a rush, especially with the connection to the strip in my memories.

As a Peanuts fan, I appreciate this ornament as well.  Snoopy played plenty of golf in the strip, so there is the obvious tie in.  Woodstock and Snoopy look great, as always.  Fans of the characters, especially golfers, will feel like I do about this ornament.

Snoopy is standing in grass, and that grass provides a nice, flat base, so you can easily set the ornament out to be displayed.  You’ll find the 22 in a Christmas tree series marker on the bottom of the ornament as well.

Or, you can hang this ornament on your tree.  The hook is in the top of Snoopy’s head coming out of his visor.  While Snoopy is on one side of the ornament, he is the heaviest part, so the ornament almost hangs straight.  Honestly, you have to be looking for it to see the tilt.

A lot of the Hallmark ornaments I enjoy inspire nostalgia in me, and Golfer Snoopy captures that perfectly for me.  I’m thrilled to have it in my collection.

Love Snoopy?  You won't want to miss any of the Spotlight on Snoopy ornaments.

Original Price: $14.99