Saturday, July 2, 2022

July 3rd's Sunday/Monday Post

Welcome to Sunday, the middle point of a long weekend, and another Sunday/Monday post.  As usual, I'll be linking up to:

Sunday Post
Sunday Salon
Stacking the Shelves
Mailbox Monday
It's Monday, What Are You Reading

I had to work all five days this past week.  After taking off the last two Fridays in a row, that definitely felt a little weird.  However, it's another month end, so I had a busy week.  We were supposed to get off two hours early on Friday, but I only got off an hour early.  I just had too much to try to finish to make this coming week go better.  Yes, I am off on Monday for Independence Day, so that will be nice.

Yep, I went paddle boarding Saturday morning.  The friend who got me into paddle boarding hasn't been able to go for several weeks, but we met up at the lake today and enjoyed a spin around it.  It was nice to be out there and be out there with her again.

A friend posted this on Facebook this week.  I figured everyone would appreciate it.  And I'm hoping you can help me out since I'd really love to buy some of the books on my wish list know what the animal in the picture is.

I signed up for COYER Seasons Summer this week.  A chance to log every book I read over the next three months?  Sign me up!

I also started the Pod Meets World podcast this week.  Danielle Fishel, Will Friedle, and Rider Strong, aka Topanga, Eric, and Shawn and going to watch Boy Meets World and share their reaction to the show now and memories of filming it.  I need to rewatch the Pilot episode and then listen to that episode, which dropped this week, but I have listened to the introductory episode, and it was a lot fun.  I watched the later episodes of the show when it was on, but I bought a DVD set and watched it all a few years ago.  (You can find all the reviews on the blog if you are interested by going to the index, but here's the direct link to season 1 to get you started.)  I think I'll try to rewatch with them to see what I think.  At least that's the plan now.  We'll see if it continues over the next three years.

That's about all the excitement around here.  Shall we move on?

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Sunday/Monday Post (You are here!)
Monday - Candy Bar Review: Snickers - Cinnamon Bun
Tuesday - Book Review: A Perilous Pal by Laura Bradford
Wednesday - Movie Review: The Pajama Game
Thursday - Book Review: Death by Bubble Tea by Jennifer J. Chow
Friday - Friday Post
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts (which will be very light)

Book Haul:

For my book haul this week, I present three new releases.  Movieland by Lee Goldberg actually came out on 6/21, but my late pre-order from Amazon didn't arrive until this week.  It's the fourth in his Eve Ronin series.  Yes, this is a police procedural and not my typical cozies, but I've been reading Lee's books for years, and I enjoy them.

My other two are cozies that both came out this last Tuesday.  Gone but Not Furgotten is the sixth Cat Cafe Mystery from Cate Conte.  I'm actually allergic to cats, but this series always makes me wish I could go adopt one or two myself.  Meanwhile, Dairy, Dairy, Quite Contrary is the first in a new series from Amy Lillard that sounds like fun.

Naturally, I'm anxious to get to all three of them.  It's just a matter of when.

What I'm Currently Reading:

Case in point, you'll notice that both of these books have been in the book haul section, but it's been a few months.  Actually, I don't remember when I bought The Drinking Gourd by Katherine Fast, but I know it's been in the past few months since it came out in the past few months.  I actually just finished that one up (Saturday afternoon when I'm typing this).  The plan is to move into Poison Pen by Sheila Lowe, which I bought at the LA Times Festival of Books back in April.  (We won't even talk about the earlier edition of the book that I bought years ago and have never read.  I bought this edition because it's been edited, so I decided this was the one to read.)  I'm hoping to get enough reading done to be 2/3 of the way through Poison Pen Monday night so I can finish it up Tuesday.  I'll be reviewing both of these books the week of July 10th.

For those in the US, have a great and safe holiday Monday.  I hope everyone has a great week!

Reading Challenge Update: Audiobook Challenge 2022

 We are half way through the year, so it's time for an update on the audiobook challenge, hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer and That's What I'm Talking About.

When I signed up back in January, I signed up for the Stenographer level, which is 10-15 books.  I did that because I typically listen to one audiobook a month.  Given that pace, I'm right on track.

Here's what I've listened to so far this year.

1. The Reversal by Michael Connelly (relisten)
2. "U" is for Undertow by Sue Grafton
3. A Little Class on Murder by Carolyn Hart
4. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
5. Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan
6. Island of Thieves by Glen Erik Hamilton

What's interesting this year is I have listened to them a bit more in bursts this year instead of steadily listening to one a month.  But, the end result is I'm on track for another 12 audiobooks this year.

July 2nd's Weekly TV Thoughts

American Ninja Warrior – Not quite as many names that I recognized tonight.  I feel like they didn’t have quite as many finishers as normal due to that next to last obstacle.  But I get it.  I was looking at that thinking how incredibly hard it was.

The Weakest Link – As I’ve watched the show, I’ve thought about them voting people out in order or from one side to the other just so Jane doesn’t waste as much time swinging from one side to the other.  But this is the first time I’ve been them do it.  And perfectly in order, too.  I’m impressed they kept it up.  However, the guy who missed the Calvin and Hobbes question should have been the first to go.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Peanuts, too.  But never mixed them up.

Superman & Lois – Wow.  That was an episode.  I really thought Lana and Kyle would work things out after how worried about him she was.  I’m not happy with that development.  The rest?  So great.  I worried when we got 20 minutes of wrap up that something majorly bad was going to happen, but it didn’t.  Still, they started a few interesting threads for next season.  Even without those, I would definitely be back.  Although is there anyone who doesn’t know Clark’s secret at this point?

Ms. Marvel – Am I supposed to care about the cousins?  Honestly, most of the stuff with them left me bored.  I feel like they’ve taken a decent movie and stretched it out to make this series.  Sadly, that isn’t anything new for Marvel’s TV shows.

The Flash – This show has become such a muddled mess.  It’s just incredibly hard to follow with some of these storylines.  I truly do hope this whole time sickness nonsense is behind us because that really made no sense to me.  Without the couple of teases for next season, this would have made a wonderful series finale.  And yes, I wasn’t at all surprised that Iris didn’t die.  I mean, she hasn’t had the kids yet, so of course, she can’t be dead.

Friday, July 1, 2022

July 1st's Friday Post

Welcome to this week's Friday Post.  And it's the start of a holiday weekend here in the states, so that's an extra reason to celebrate. Let's get to it.  I'll be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

The quotes I will be pulling for the first three will be from Death by Bubble Tea by Jennifer J. Chow.


This is the first in what is looking like a fun new series.  I enjoyed it.  Let's jump in with a teaser for Book Beginnings and Friday 56:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a book.

Isn't that a fantastic opening line?  I loved it!

From 56% of the way into the book for Friday 56, we get something a little more plot related:

A shadow loomed over us.  "Any break throughs yet?" a male voice asked.  "Because time's running short."

The book comes out on Tuesday, and I will have a review up on Thursday next week, so I hope you'll come back then to see my full thoughts on the book.

Time to move on to the Book Blogger Hop for the week.  And the question is:

What is your favorite movie adapted from a book?

I'm going to go with The Princess Bride, and I suspect I won't be the only one.  Honestly, I'm not a fan of the book, but the movie cut through all the clutter and too clever for its own good parts of the book and gives us a great story.

That's a wrap for this Friday. Hope you have a great weekend, especially if you get a long one.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

June 2022's Reading Summary

We are half way through the year.  Rather hard to believe, isn't it?  2022 is just flying by.  But, since it's the end of June, that must mean it is time for my reading summary for the month.  I feel like the books were a bit more all over the place than normal.  Or, I was just being a little pickier.  Or both.  It's completely possible that it is both.  I also read a lot of first in series - more than I typically would.  I started a couple of series I've been meaning to try and a couple of favorite authors started new series.

Anyway, here is what I read in June.  And the index is updated.

Links take you to the full review.  All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).

 


Murder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #21) – 4

Frank and Sarah are upset to learn they can’t legally adopt Catherine, the little girl that Sarah has been caring for for several years, because, in the eyes of the law, Parnell Vaughn is her legal father.  Fortunately, the actor is willing to sign his rights over to Frank and Sarah, but his fiancée wants some money from them.  When Frank goes back to deliver the payment and get Parnell’s signature, he finds the actor dead in his dressing room.  With Frank accused of the crime, he and Sarah have to clear his name.  Who really murdered Parnell?

It's always a pleasure to pop back in on Sarah and Frank in 1899 New York City, and this book was no exception.  I love the characters.  As is often the case these days, we get parts of the story from four different points of view, and it is always easy to tell when we switch from one to the other.  I did feel the plot wasn’t quite as good as usual for this series.  There are a few twists and a strong climax, but it got bogged down in the middle.  Still, fans will be happy to spend time with these characters we love.  I know I did.

 

Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan – 3

Lily Atwood is living a charmed life.  A TV reporter with awards and millions of fans by day, she is a devoted single mother to a charming seven-year-old daughter by night.  Her fans think she has it all, and Lily works hard to project that.  Things take a turn when her latest anonymous source starts feeding her secrets from her own life.  Can Lily keep her perfect life?

The book started well, and I was quickly pulled in.  The use of multiple narrators and a large chunk back in the past was easy to follow thanks to headings at the start of every chapter.  However, as I got further into the book, I started to get more frustrated.  A whiney character was annoying, and I felt like some of the book was driven by manufactured suspense.  If the characters would just listen to each other, they’d get the answers they wanted.  Having said that, one twist got a gasp out of me near the end.  The ending was a bit of a letdown since it left me wondering what the point was.  All told, this was a mixed bag.

 


Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron (Vintage Cookbook Mysteries #1) – 4

Ricki James-Diaz is looking to start over in New Orleans, and her interest in opening a vintage cookbook store is a perfect match for the Bon Vee Culinary House Museum.  As she gets to know her new coworkers, she quickly realizes just how much of a grump Franklin Finbloch is.  Still, the man isn’t fired until he is caught trying to steal from Ricki’s new gift shop.  Then his body turns up in what Ricki thought was a trunk of books donated to Bon Vee.  With the suspicion falling on people Ricki was beginning to consider friends, she jumps in to figure out what really happened.  Will she solve the case?

As is often the case with a series debut, the beginning was a little slow as it set up the premise of the series and began introducing us to the characters.  The ending was a bit abrupt, although everything that happened did follow logically from what came before.  And what came before?  It was wonderful, with plenty of twists to keep me engaged.  The sub-plots helped as well.  Ricki has quite the interesting background, and I appreciated how it was doled out as we needed it.  Being a series debut, the potential series regulars also serve as suspects, and that made me care about the outcome that much more.  Naturally, there are recipes at the end, but in a twist that fits this book, all six are from vintage cookbooks.  This is a fun series debut.  I’m already looking forward to revisiting Ricki again soon.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

The Navigator’s Daughter by Nancy Cole Silverman (Kat Lawsone Mysteries #1) – 4

When Kat Lawson’s father gets a letter from the DOD that someone has found the wreckage of his downed plane from World War II, he asks Kat to go to Hungary and take pictures of it for him and find out what happened to the people who rescued him.  Since Kat’s personal life is in a state of flux, she agrees.  What she finds when she gets there are people who are almost too willing to help her.  Are they up to something?  What will she learn about her father’s past?

This book takes place in 1996 and the setting just after Russia had left Hungary makes for an entertaining read.  It allows us to get caught up in not only what happened to these characters during World War II, but also in the decades since.  Honestly, if the book had stayed focused on that, I would have been completely satisfied with it.  There is a crime fiction element, but it came across more as a sub-plot, and I felt it was a little forced into the book.  However, it appears to be setting up future books in the series, and I will definitely be back for them.  I enjoyed getting to know Kat and watching her grow as the book progressed.  The other characters helped pull me into the story.  This is a promising debut that I enjoyed.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

The Tuesday Night Survivors’ Club by Lynn Cahoon (Survivors’ Book Club Mysteries #1) – 4

After surviving cancer, Rarity Cole moves to Sedona, Arizona, and opens a bookstore.  One of her ideas for connecting with the community is to start a book club for other cancer survivors.  However, when Martha, one of the members, misses a meeting, Rarity becomes concerned.  Can she and the other members figure out what happened to Martha?

I’ve been meaning to read one of Lynn Cahoon’s books for years, and I figured the start of a new series was a great time to do just that.  Overall, I did enjoy the book.  I did find the characters’ motivation for investigating the crime weak.  On the other hand, I really liked the four main characters.  The rest of the cast could be stronger, but that will come as the series progresses, right?  I did find a few unfortunate errors in the book that should have been caught with good editing – a timeline issue and something setup that was dropped.  I did get pulled into the plot.  I pegged the killer a little early, but I didn’t have the motive figured out until Rarity put it together.  I completely enjoyed the setting and I’m ready to go visit Sedona.  The cancer survivor hook was good as well.  I’ll definitely be back to visit these characters again.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Up to No Gouda by Linda Reilly (Grilled Cheese Mysteries #1) – 4

After losing her husband, Carly Hale has moved back to Balsam Dell, Vermont, and followed her dream by opening Carly’s Grilled Cheese Eatery.  Her new business is threatened when the building it is in is bought by her high school boyfriend, Lyle Bagley.  Lyle wants her to move out so he can turn it into a clothing boutique for his fiancée.  The day after Lyle makes his announcement, he is found behind Carly’s restaurant.  When her server becomes the prime suspect, Carly starts investigating.  Can she figure out what really happened?

What lover of culinary cozies could resist a book featuring grilled cheese as the hook?  Not me!  I’m glad I picked it up.  The cast is filled with some unique characters for a cozy mystery – or at least a slight twist on the normal characters we’d see, and I really enjoyed that.  Carly herself is an entertaining and engaging lead character.  The pacing was slow a few times, but overall, this was a solid mystery with plenty of suspects and a couple of nice twists on the way to a surprising conclusion.  And yes, you’ll find three grilled cheese sandwich recipes at the end to satisfy your cravings.  I will definitely be returning to find out what Carly gets up to next.

 

Island of Thieves by Glen Erik Hamilton (Van Shaw #6) – 5

Van Shaw has been hired by an eccentric businessman to assess the security of the art gallery on his private island during a several day business meeting being hosted there.  Van isn’t sure he believes the story he’s been given, but the money is good, so he agrees to the job.  When he arrives, he finds the man’s normal security forces more hostile than expected.  Then he finds a dead body on the beach.  What has Van stumbled into this time?

I picked up this book expecting another thrilling adventure, and I wasn’t disappointed.  The plot was a little slow in the set up, but once it got going, there were plenty of twists and action to keep us engaged.  I was surprised to see the book switch to third person point of view, which made it a little harder than I expected to connect with Van again, but the multiple points of view we had for the climax made it clear why this book needed that switch.  And the changes from one point of view to another were always easy to follow.  I did have a little trouble connecting the characters to which side they were on, but that might be me.  We do see some of the other series regulars, and I love how they bring out other sides in Van.  Overall, this is another great entry in the series.  If you are a fan of thrillers and you haven’t started these books yet, do so today.

 

The Drowning Sea by Sarah Stewart Taylor (Maggie D’Arcy #3) – 3

After quitting her job, Maggie D’Arcy is spending her summer in Ireland with her daughter, her boyfriend, Conor, and his son, as they get serious about Maggie and her daughter moving to Ireland.  They’ve rented a cottage on a West Cork peninsula, but their vacation hits a snag when the body of a young man who disappeared months ago washes ashore.  Even though Maggie isn’t a cop, she can’t help but ask questions.  Where has he been for the last few months?  Who would want him dead?  Can Maggie find the answers even without her badge?

Since I’ve enjoyed the first two books in this series, I was curious to see where the series was going to go in this book.  Once again, the writing was atmospheric and made me feel like I was there with Maggie.  The characters are well drawn, although I did have a little trouble keeping all the relationships of the villagers straight.  Still, I loved getting to spend time with the core cast again.  Unfortunately, the pacing of the book was off, lagging at times in the middle and leaving us with a weak climax, although the climax did answer all our questions.  The book is written in present tense, and it took my brain a bit to adjust to that.  Most of the story is told from Maggie’s first-person point of view, but we do get some chapters from other characters’ points of view to help flesh things out.  Fans of the series will be glad they picked up this book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Scone Cold Killer by Lena Gregory (All-Day Breakfast Café Mysteries #1) – 4

Gia Morelli is trying to put her ex-husband’s financial scandal behind her as she moves from New York City to central Florida.  Not only is she closer to her best friend, but she’s opening her own diner, the All-Day Breakfast Café.  Her first day ends horribly, however, when she finds her ex in the dumpster behind the restaurant.  What was he doing in Florida?  Who killed him?

I love breakfast, so the hook of this series definitely appealed to me.  While Gia’s phobias were a little over the top for me, I loved the character’s overall.  The relationships Gia is forming are strong, and I can’t wait to spend more time with everyone.  The story starts quickly, but it could have been a little stronger overall.  Still, I couldn’t put the book down, finishing it in just a couple of days.  Sadly, we don’t get any breakfast food recipes here, but the food talk definitely made me crave breakfast while I was reading.  Overall, this was a solid debut, and I would definitely enjoy spending more time with the characters in the future.

 

22 Seconds by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Women’s Murder Club #22) – 1

With the crackdown in cities all across the country on guns, things are tense, and San Francisco is no exception.  San Francisco Homicide Detective Lindsay Boxer is doing her part to collect the now illegal guns until she starts hearing rumors about a coming shipment of illegal guns and drugs coming into the state from Mexico.  Soon, she is working on this, hoping to stop it before the guns and drugs are disbursed throughout the entire country.  Can she stop it?

I realize I can’t blame the authors that this book felt ripped from recent headlines with guns once again being at the forefront, but that timing was off-putting to me from the start.  Unfortunately, it went downhill from there.  The rest of the women were given very little to do, one of them just getting a glorified cameo.  The characters are two dimensional at best, which is nothing new.  The star of the book is supposed to be the story, but it’s just a mess.  There are too many angles, and the conclusion does a poor job of tying things together.  Worse yet, a character in danger early on is suddenly fine with no explanation of what happened.  Another plot point is dropped in a similar manner.  Then there’s the geography errors that 5 minutes research would have fixed for them.  We’ll see how I am feeling next spring, but I’m thinking this may be my last visit with the ladies.

 

Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra by Stuart Gibbs (Charlie Thorne #3) – 4

Charlie Thorne is once again on her own, and she’s decided to find out what Cleopatra left behind over two thousand years ago.  To do so, she needs to slip into the apartment of a rich Egyptian playboy.  Naturally, things don’t go as planned, and Charlie finds herself being chased by not only the man’s security, but several different countries’ agents.  Can she dodge them and still find what Cleopatra left behind?

This series has a couple of issues for me.  One is Charlie, who can come across as a perfect character for far too long.  Eventually, we do see some weaknesses, but it takes a while.  I suspect this is something that adults will pick on more than kids do.  Then there’s the data dumps.  We need some of that information to have the context for the action, but it can get to be a bit much.  However, overall, I do like these books, and this one in particular.  There are plenty of action sequences and twists.  I’m curious where the series is going to go from here.  I like the core cast, yes, even Charlie.  And I mentioned the action, right?  Fans of good stories will enjoy this book.

 

Muddled Through by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mysteries #10) – 5

Spring usually means that Julia Snowden is trying to get ready for the busy season with her family’s clambake, but this year, she is being distracted by local politics.  Specifically, there is the heated debate in town about turning the downtown area into a pedestrian mall on Friday and Saturday nights during the tourist season.  On opposite sides of the issue are business neighbors Zoey Butterfield, who owns the pottery story where Julia’s sister works, and Phinney Hardison.  When Zoey’s story is vandalized, the only motive she can think of is this controversy.  Then a dead body is found.  Is local politics the motive for the violence?  Or is something else going on?

I’ve been anxiously waiting for this book since the last one came out.  Yes, we do get to the storylines left open from the previous book, and I was actually impressed with the growth in Julia that came out of them.  Of course, the book left me wondering where we were going to go next, but that’s a good thing.  Yes, if you are new to the series, you could jump in here, but you’ll appreciate the growth better if you’ve read the earlier books.  This is such a great series you’ll be glad you did.  As always, Julia leads a great cast of new and returning characters, and I loved spending time with them.  The mystery for this book is strong, and I was once again amazed at how everything was plotted when I reached the end.  Fans will be happy with this book.  If that isn’t you, fix that today.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

A Test of Wills by Charles Todd (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries #1) – 3

Ian Rutledge has returned from the Great War, and is back at his old job at Scotland Yard.  However, he is still dealing with the horrors of what he saw and did during his five years away.  His first case back takes him to a small village that has asked for help after a beloved colonel was shot on his estate.  Rutledge quickly realizes the political ramifications of the case, but can he figure out really happened?

I’ve heard about this series for a long time.  I suspected it would be too dark for me, but I decided to try it anyway.  Sadly, this is definitely darker than my normal choices.  Rutledge and several other characters are dealing with some serious consequences of war.  It’s realistic, but dark.  On the other hand, Rutledge is an interesting character, partially because of this darkness.  Where the novel really fails is the plot.  After a good start, it bogs down in the middle before giving us a whiplash climax.  It is logical, but too abrupt.  I’m glad I gave the series a try, but I doubt I will be back.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Reading Challenge: COYER Seasons Summer 2022

 The season has changed, and that means it is time for another COYER Seasons reading challenge.  Since we've turned the corner to summer, that means it is a free for all.  During July, August, and September, any book you read counts.  Any format.  Any price.  Sounds super easy, right?  I mean, how can I resist?

As always, I'll list the books below as I finish them.

1. 

Book Review: A Test of Wills by Charles Todd (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Interesting main character
Cons: Darker than I wanted; weak plotting
The Bottom Line:
War hero’s murder
Gives us a dark first entry
That has weak plotting



I Don’t Believe I Will Read More in This Series

I’ve heard of the mother/son writing team Charles Todd for years, and I’ve heard their books praised.  I suspected their books weren’t for me, but I finally got curious enough that I decided to give A Test of Wills, their first, a change.

The year in 1919, and Inspector Ian Rutledge has returned from his time leading soldiers in the Great War.  Before the war, Rutledge was good at his job solving crime for Scotland Yard, but things have changed after the war, and he is unsure of himself now.

Still, he’s been assigned to his first big case back.  Colonel Harris was shot on his estate in the English countryside, and the local police have asked for Scotland Yard to come in and take over the investigation.  When Rutledge arrives, he quickly learns that the most logical suspect is another war hero with ties to the Royal Family.  Despite the potential political ramifications of the case, Rutledge does his best to investigate.  However, no one in the community can find any negative words to say about the colonel.  Will Rutledge find the truth?

I had suspected these books might be darker than my normal choices.  I was right.  This isn’t a slight on the authors, however, there were some things that really bothered me.  Rutledge has returned from the war damaged.  We learn that early on, but we don’t learn the reason until later in the book in a powerful scene.  There are some other characters we meet along the way who are reacting horribly to tragedy.  All of this is realistic, but it gets to be a bit much as the book goes along.  However, there was one character whose damage was too much for me.

On the other hand, it does make for some fascinating characters.  I was drawn into the story because Rutledge is an intriguing character.  We want to see him succeed, and spending time with him, even with his issues, is interesting.  Or maybe it is interesting because of his issues.  As the investigation progresses, we slowly begin to learn more about the suspects, and we can’t help but care for many of them as well.

Which brings us to the plot.  Honestly, this is the biggest weakness of the book.  After an initially interesting setup, the investigation stalls.  Even though Rutledge also feels the frustration, it really doesn’t help us.  We’re stuck in place for a while until Rutledge finally begins to piece some things together.  I was impressed with his deductions, but the climax, when it comes, is too abrupt and rushed.  While it does make logical sense, it also induces whiplash.

Since I was curious about the series, I’m glad I gave A Test of Wills a chance.  However, I don’t plan to return and find out what happens next to Inspector Rutledge.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Book Review: Muddled Through by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mysteries #10)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Character growth and great mystery
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
A good mystery
And some great character growth
Will thrill series fans



Did Town Politics Lead to Murder?

A new book in Barbara Ross’s Maine Clambake Mystery series is always a reason to celebrate.  I was especially interested to see where she was going to go with some storylines in Muddled Through.  As always, the book was wonderful.

Spring has sprung, and Julia is beginning to work toward opening the Snowden Family Clambake for the year.  However, she keeps being distracted by the big controversy in town - the proposal to turn the downtown shopping area into a pedestrian mall on Friday and Saturday nights during the summer tourist season.  On opposite sides of the controversy are Zoey Butterfield, owner of the Lupine Design pottery studio and her neighbor, Phinney Hardison.  This is just the latest in their ongoing disputes.

So when Julia’s sister, Livvie, finds Zoey’s shop vandalized when she goes to open one morning, Phinney is the obvious suspect.  However, before the police can make their case, someone is murdered.  Julia has questions, and she can’t help but investigate.  Is the pedestrian mall the motive for the violence?  Or is something else going on?

Fans of the series will note that this book takes place almost a year after the events of Shucked Apart, the previous book in the series.  I found that interesting when I realized it and wondered how that would impact those storylines I was talking about earlier.  Don’t worry, we get the logical next steps in those stories.  I’m still curious to see just how those stories play out in future books.

What I really appreciated about these storylines is how they contributed to some real growth for Julia.  She’s always been a strong character, but I can definitely see how what she is dealing with is making her grow.  Of course, she leads a great cast of characters, and I enjoyed seeing a bit more of some of the regulars then we’ve seen for a few books.  And the new characters are good as well.

No, all this isn’t to say that the mystery of this book takes a back seat to the stuff I’ve been talking about so far.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  The plot is strong, and the pacing is steady.  As if often the case, I found myself in awe at the end as I realized just how the clues had been layered into the story along the way.

With all the talk about the storylines that carry over from the previous book in the series, I am going to put in a plug for reading the series in order.  You could easily jump in here since the background you need is explained.  However, what happens will mean more to you if you have the full background.  And, since this is such a great series, you are going to want to read them all anyway, so why not go back to the beginning.

As always, we get some recipes at the end of the book.  This time, there are half a dozen, and they range from soup to a cocktail.

Fans who have been waiting impatiently for Muddled Through will be very happy with this book.  I can’t wait to visit Julia again.

Here are the rest of the Maine Clambake Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, June 27, 2022

TV Show Review: Obi-Wan Kenobi - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong story overall
Cons: Some weaknesses in the first couple of episodes
The Bottom Line:
An untold story
Action filled fun for this fan
After a weak start






"You’re Bleeding All Over My Floor.”  “Well, Everybody Bleeds.”

Of the Star Wars projects that had been announced for Disney+, the one I was most excited about was Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Having mostly watched the movies that hit the big screen, those are the characters I know best, so I wanted to see what they would do with this previously unknown chapter of the saga.

The story starts ten years after the events of Revenge of the Sith.  Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) is hiding out on Tatooine while keeping an eye on Luke from a distance.  Keeping who he is, both his name and the fact that he is a Jedi, as secret is of upmost importance since the Empire is hunting the galaxy to kill Jedi.  This effort is led by the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) and Inquisitor Reva (Moses Ingram).

However, Obi-Wan is drawn out of hiding when someone kidnaps Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair).  Reluctant at first because he fears it is a trap, Obi-Wan soon sets out.  But can he keep who he is a secret while rescuing the ten-year-old?

I will be the first to admit that the show started out a little rough.  And I’m not talking about pacing.  There was so much laughable about the first couple of episodes.  Take, for example, the scene where Leia is kidnapped.  The way it is staged, it looked like someone’s home video movie, not a professional production.

Then there’s the fact that Leia is a brat, at least at the beginning.  Honestly, I would have been tempted to leave her behind a couple of times.  Fortunately, she quickly starts maturing and then I was able to enjoy the show.  In fact, by the end, it was easy to see the character we know and love from the original trilogy.  She’s still got spunk, but she is mature enough to know when to use it.

It was like the writers and the cast really found their groove with episode 3.  That’s when things started to click for me.  The characters were beginning to show growth and the story kicked into high gear.  There are lots of great moments of character, suspense, and action over the course of the series (yes, even those first two episodes), and as the show progresses, the stakes continue to rise for the characters.

I’ll admit I’m not a super fan of Star Wars, but I didn’t spot any potential continuity issues for the movies caused by this show.  In fact, it might help explain a couple of small moments that happen in the later movies.

Outside the one scene I mentioned earlier, the production values are good.  We get plenty of exotic planets, and they look amazing.  One or two special effects didn’t quite come off, but the majority of them did.

And the acting was uniformly good.  While I complained about Leia early on, this was the fault of the script and not the young actress who played her.  As I said earlier, we could easily see a spark of A New Hope’s Leia is her portrayal in the last episode.

While this was designed as a one off, they did leave some doors open for further adventures with Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Based on this first season, if they do decide to come back for more, I will definitely come along for the ride.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Book Review: Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra by Stuart Gibbs (Charlie Thorne #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great action, interesting story
Cons: Charlie at times; data dumps throughout book
The Bottom Line:
Charlie in Egypt
What did Cleopatra leave?
Overall, it’s fun



Charlie’s Following Cleopatra’s Footsteps

When I hear the name Cleopatra, I don’t necessarily think of scientific discoveries.  (To be honest, I think more of Shakespeare than anything else.)  So I was a bit surprised that she was the subject of the third Charlie Thorne adventure from Stuart Gibbs.  However, Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra proved what a good choice that was.

If you have yet to meet Charlie, she is not only the world’s smartest thirteen-year-old, but she is one of the world’s smartest people period.  After her brother, Dante, recruited her to help the CIA uncover something that Einstein had left behind, Charlie has discovered that there are other treasures out there from other scientists, and she is on a mission to recover them.

As this book opens, Charlie is once again on her own, and she’s decided to find out what Cleopatra left behind over two thousand years ago.  To do so, she needs to slip into the apartment of a rich Egyptian playboy.  Naturally, things don’t go as planned, and Charlie finds herself being chased by not only the man’s security, but several different countries’ agents.  Can she dodge them and still find what Cleopatra left behind?

Of Stuart Gibbs’s series, I will admit Charlie Thorne is my least favorite.  As I was reading, I figured out what the reasons are.  The first is Charlie herself.  She is just a little too perfect – smart, physically able to handle many things, etc.  This isn’t to say she doesn’t have some flaws, but they are small compared to these strengths.  Of course, as a kid, I love the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, which are even more perfect characters than Charlie is, so I am sure this is something I will notice more as an adult than the target audience will be bothered by.

Then there’s the data dumps.  We get multiple ones over the course of this book as Charlie shares the history and background on where each clue she uncovers is taking us.  Yes, we absolutely needed some of the information to understand the plot.  And, some of it gives us more information on Cleopatra.  I will definitely be looking at her in a different light going forward, which is a good thing.  However, they seemed to go on a bit longer than they needed to.

But this is Stuart Gibbs, and the story is still overall enjoyable.  We get several great action sequences and a couple of twists to the story.  With how he left the characters here, I am very anxious to see where he is going to take them next.

Charlie’s brother and a few other recurring characters are a part of the action again, and I appreciated what they bring to the story, and to Charlie as a character as well.  Honestly, I was reminded how much I like the core cast again by the time the book was over.  The things I mentioned above are minor issues.

Which means that Stuart Gibbs has another winner on his hands.  Fans of good stories will enjoy Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra.

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