Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Book Review: A Quiet Undertaking by Penny Warner (Connor Westphal #4)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong, unique mystery with a unique main character
Cons: Some stupid behavior from the main character
The Bottom Line:
Ashes in locker
Complications for a friend
Some flaws, but still good



Scandal in Flat Skunk

When I was looking at a January with plenty of open spots on my reading schedule, I started looking at the series I’m behind on I haven’t read for a while.  One that immediately jumped back onto my radar was the Connor Westphal series from Penny Warner, so I put A Quiet Undertaking on my nightstand.

If you aren’t familiar with this older series, Connor is a reporter for a weekly paper in the California Gold Country town of Flat Skunk.  You’d think that this would be a quiet place to run a paper, even a weekly paper, but Connor keeps finding herself getting to exercise her investigative reporter skills when murder pops up.

But I haven’t mentioned the thing that sets Connor apart from the other sleuths I read about – she’s deaf.  Fortunately for the story, she is good at lip reading, so she is able to conduct her own investigations.

Even Connor is shocked when she learns about a disturbing discovery at a nearby self-storage facility.  The owner has discovered that one particular storage space contains human ashes that were supposed to be scattered at sea.  Jasper Coyne had been hired to carry out this duty, but before he can answer any questions on what he was doing with the ashes and why, he is found dead near his houseboat.

Many of the ashes found were sent from the mortuary owned by Connor’s friend, Del Rey, so Connor uses getting the story for her paper as an excuse to help her friend get clear of the scandal.  However, Del Rey has a few secrets of her own that make her look guilty.  Can Connor find out what is really going on?

This was a premise that grabbed me from the first chapter and made me want to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next.  There are lots of surprises and complications in this inventive plot along the way to the logical and suspenseful solution.

However, I do have to say, I was bothered by Connor’s behavior at times in this book, especially near the climax.  I’m usually pretty forgiving of to stupid to live moments since how else are amateur detectives going to solve the case?  Connor crossed that line in this book.  Ultimately, it did help solve the case, but I couldn’t believe she’d do some of what she did here.  That is balanced by plenty of times she did the right thing, which I appreciated.  On the whole, this was a minor issue for me, but you might feel differently.

It’s a shame I felt that way because I do love Connor overall.  She has not let her disability slow her down, and she is such a positive example of living life to the fullest.  Her silent world is brought to life for us with wonderful writing, and it makes several suspenseful scenes even more suspenseful since Connor can’t hear what is going on around her.

The book is filled with colorful characters.  I enjoyed getting to know the regulars better, and the suspects were memorable and fun.

While I do still consider this book a cozy, I do need to point out the foul language is more plentiful than usual, even by the standards of some of today’s cozies, which are pushing the envelope.  Know this going in, and you’ll be fine.

I read the original paperback published in 2000 (yes, this book has been sitting on my to be read pile for quite a while), and there is a line early in the book that actually contained a spoiler for an even that we didn’t learn until later.  It threw me since I couldn’t figure out how Connor came to that conclusion.  Hopefully, that has been corrected for the ebook version.

Speaking of the date, yes, this book does take place over 20 years ago.  While some characters have cell phones, Connor isn’t one of them yet since they were just phones back then.  Talk about almost ancient history.

While I obviously have some nitpicks with this book, overall, I enjoyed A Quiet Undertaking.  I’m glad I’m finally catching up on Connor’s adventures.

Enjoy the rest of the Connor Westphal mysteries.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Book Review: The Self-Working Trick (and Other Stories) by John Gaspard (Eli Marks #8)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Twelve magically fun short stories
Cons: All cons vanished as if by magic
The Bottom Line:
Eli and magic
Short stories collected here
Delightful for all



Eli Faces Lots of Crime in This Short Story Collection

After seven full length novels in the Eli Marks series, author John Gaspard decides to collect the short stories he’s written with the character, sprinkle in a few new stories, and release them as the eighth book in the series.  The result, The Self-Working Trick (and Other Stories), is a great place for fans old and new alike.

If you haven’t met Eli yet, he is a magician who also runs the magic store opened by his uncle, the famed magician Harry Marks.  And, this being a mystery series, he also finds himself involved in quite a few tricky real-life mysteries where his skills as a magician come in handy helping the police figure out what really happened.

While this book is being sold as the eighth book in the series, it’s actually a great place to jump in and meet the characters.  These stories don’t rely heavily on knowledge of the series characters and their relationships.  Anything you do need to know is included in the stories, and there is nothing that would really spoil anything from the novels.  These will give you a feel for the series without ruining the pleasure of watching things unfold.

This book consists of twelve stories, two of which have been previously published and the third was released as an exclusive for the author’s newsletter readers.  That means the rest are brand new for fans.

What will you find here?  Eli must help his ex-wife and her new husband figure out what happened in a bizarre murder/suicide case.  Eli finds himself being questioned by the police when someone who gave him a one-star review is found dead.  Eli finds himself being sent in by the police to perform magic for a man who refuses to come out of his house.  And Eli and Harry figure out what happened to a man shot in front of a crowd on Halloween night.

There are a couple of stories that don’t involve a crime.  They were still compelling, and I enjoyed seeing a little different side of Eli in those stories.

And there were stories that involved Eli (and Harry) talking to the police and solving a case while sitting in a bar.  I had an Encyclopedia Brown vibe with these stories.  And, considering how much I loved Encyclopedia Brown as a kid, that’s a compliment.

What I really enjoyed about these stories is how, in each case, what appears to be a perfect crime comes down to a principle of magic that Eli recognizes and is able to use to solve the case.  We’ve got locked rooms and other types of puzzles that seem so simple once Eli has figured things out.

If you are like me and don’t want to know too much of how magicians do their tricks, don’t worry.  We get the principles of magic explained to us, but not the specifics of any of the tricks that come up, so we can still be amazed when we see a magic act again.

There’s some humor thrown into the stories as well.  Eli narrates with a wry observation on the world around him that is fun.  Occasionally, there’s the perfect line of dialogue as well to make you smile or laugh.

The final story in the collection is the longest.  “The Self-Working Trick” involves an audience member being killed during the opening night of a play.  For this story, John Gaspard included a crossover with the Como Lake Players Mysteries he writes as Bobbie Raymond.  This story made me want to dive into those mysteries.  I have the first, so it’s just a matter of making time to enjoy them.

I keep saying this short story collection is fun, and that’s because it is.  If you are looking for some short mostly mystery fiction that will thoroughly entertain you, you’ll be glad you picked up The Self-Working Trick (and Other Stories).

Once you've met Eli, you'll want to check out the rest of the Eli Marks Mysteries.

Included Stories:
1. The Invisible Assistant
2. The Trick That Cannot be Explained
3. The One-Star Review
4. The Vanishing Man (Redux)
5. The $100 Gift Certificate
6. The Crazy Man’s Handcuffs
7. The Secondary Convincer
8. Magician in Trouble
9. The Death of the Black Knight
10. The 38 Steps
11. The Last Customer
12. The Self-Working Trick

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book

Monday, January 24, 2022

Movie Review: Zoolander 2

Stars: 1 out of 5
Pros: Um…um…a couple of laughs?
Cons: Just about everything else
The Bottom Line:
Stupid comedy
Emphasis on the stupid
So not worth watching



I Should Have Known Better

I don’t know what I was thinking.  I didn’t particularly enjoy the first Zoolander, but for some reason, I decided to go ahead and watch Zoolander 2.  At least I didn’t spend any money to watch it.

The movie starts with some assassins chasing Justin Bieber.  Just before he dies, he says, “We will never reveal the chosen one.”  It turns out this isn’t the first music star who has been killed recently.  European police are wishing that they had help from some another source to figure out what is going on – a source like Zoolander.

At that point, we get caught up on what has happened to Zoolander and Hansel in the 15 years between movies.  They have gone their separate ways and given up modeling, living away from civilization.  However, an offer to model for the current hit designer in Italy is enough to lure them out of their self-imposed obscurity.  Will they accomplish their personal goals?  Or is it a trap?

The plot was just an excuse for some rather outlandish comedy.  Oh, the story holds together okay.  It’s over the top and a tad on the stupid side, but that fits the movie.  For the world they’ve build in these movies, it certainly works.

What really didn’t work for me was the comedy.  Oh, I get it was supposed to be a so stupid it is funny movie.  In fact, I get where it was supposed to be funny.  Here’s the thing – it wasn’t.  Oh, a few of the gags were funny, but most of the movie was just so painfully stupid I couldn’t laugh at all.  In fact, I felt brain cells dying as I watched.

Of course, that’s no surprise since Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller are best known for those kind of comedies.  And they are good here bringing those characters to life.  I just didn’t find their characters, or the rest of the characters, that entertaining.

Fortunately, I caught this movie on TV, so all I wasted was my time.  Lesson learned – if they make a sequel to Zoolander 2, I will most certainly be skipping it.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Music Review: Healer by Casting Crowns

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Several great new songs of encouragement and challenge
Cons: “Scars in Heaven” is more bitter than sweet for me
The Bottom Line:
Seven track release
Encouragement and challenge
Good for this group’s fans



Facing Hard Time by Looking at the Healer

New music from Casting Crowns is an automatic purchase from me, so as soon as I saw Healer on release calendars, I made a point to get it.  I was a bit surprised to see it was going to be only seven songs, but they still brought their usual mix of challenge and encouragement.

This release starts off with two power anthems of encouragement.  Up first is “Desert Road,” which is about facing adversity with God by our sides to help us.  Then comes “The Power of the Cross,” a wonderful reminder that no matter what is in our past, God has forgiven it.

Next comes “Scars in Heaven.”  This is a very bittersweet song, reminding us that the only scars in Heaven will be on Jesus after all the results of sin have been erased.  That sounds encouraging right?  That was my first thought until I really listened to the verses, which are about a recent loss.  The grief is very raw here, and it is enough to make me start crying.  While I can see it being an encouragement to some, for me this song is way more bitter than sweet.

“Anything but Easy” brings us to the challenge section of the disc.  This song is about love being anything but easy, as we consider witnessing to a great friend who isn’t a Christian.

“Crazy People,” comes next.  As you might have guessed if you know Casting Crowns, this upbeat soft rock song is about how the world views us Christians.  I love their take on classic Bible stories in the first verse, and it’s a good reminder that’s also a bit of a challenge that we should stand apart from the world.

Next up we get the title track.  This is again a combination of challenge and encouragement.  The theme is that what this world needs is Jesus, the “Healer.”  Why do I say challenge and encouragement?  It’s encouraging to remember that Jesus is the answer, but it’s a challenge when I think about what I am looking at to help our country and world instead of Jesus.

Finally comes “2nd Opinions.”  I’ll admit, I’m of two opinions about this song.  (I’ll take the pun, although I wasn’t trying for it, honest.)  I get what they are going for – calling us to return to God’s word and not pop psychology in the world or social media.  It seems like a weird song to end the disc with, and the slightly country ting to the song is a little weird as well.  I also have to laugh that Pinterest is the only social media platform they call out even though I find much more dangerous stuff on the others.  (Or maybe I just use Pinterest differently.)

I’ve been feeling like several new CDs I’ve gotten recently are coming out of the struggles we’ve gone through as a world in the last two years, and that’s the case again here.  There’s nothing wrong with that, and it makes the lyrics all the more powerful.  These truths are both timely and timeless.  Which means I will be listening to the disc for a long time to come.

And yes, while I have a couple of tracks that don’t quite work for me, overall, I know I will listen to the rest regularly.  Casting Crowns is one of my favorite groups, and I’m always happy to get new music from them.

If you are also a fan, you’ll be glad you picked up Healer.  While I wish it were longer, there is much to think about over from these seven songs.

CD Length: 25:57
Tracks:
1. Desert Road
2. The Power of the Cross
3. Scars in Heaven
4. Anything but Easy
5. Crazy People
6. Healer
7. 2nd Opinions

Saturday, January 22, 2022

January 22nd's Weekly TV Thoughts

A new show enters this week, and I make a decision on one of the new shows I started last week.  (Think I've decided on the other as well, but I'm less certain of that decision.)  All this and more on this week's Weekly TV Thoughts!

Around the World in 80 Days – Rather predictable main story this week.  And it’s ironic since my brother was preaching on the dangers of listening to “You deserve to be happy no matter what” and this real woman pops up in the show who did just that, abandoning her kids in the process.  I wonder just how much of what was presented here was true.

Legends of the Hidden Temple – I called this one early.  I knew the circus performers had the advantage, so I’m not surprised they made it to the temple.  I’m only surprised they actually won because everyone has had such a hard time getting the items from the temple, but I’m happy for them that they won it all.  Definitely didn’t need that political comment early in the movie, especially since it doesn’t make any sense – at least at whom they were aiming it.  He has plenty of moral failings, but that particular comment wasn’t one of them.

Superman & Lois – I called a couple of those plot twists early on.  This storyline with Lois’s old story was how we were going to get Lucy to Smallville.  I wasn’t that shocked about Sarah’s kiss; I thought she would have completely decided she was a lesbian over the summer with the way she was reacting.  And I knew Lana was going to run for mayor.  I’m still not sure what is in the mine, but it can’t be a good thing.

Naomi – I think I’m in.  This was a much better episode without all those quick cuts.  The mystery of who/what Naomi really is was intriguing as well.  If the show finds its footing, I’ll gladly continue on.  I found it interesting that Naomi pretty much ditched her glasses already.  Considering she was supposed to wear them to protect her eyes, I find it funny no discussion has been made about her not wearing them – even with her parents.  Speaking of whom, her dad is going to have an interesting job working on an anti-alien task force even while having an alien daughter.

Wipeout – I was hoping that the cat parents would lose, but they were good.  And when I saw how long the twins took to finish, I was surprised that the cat parents won.  I was rooting against them mainly because they don’t need any more 15 minutes of fame.  Shallow, I know.  Probably as shallow as their fame.

The Book of Boba Fett – I’ve caught up on all four episodes this past week.  I’ve never been a die-hard Boba Fett fan, so I wasn’t excited going into this, but I feel like this is moving slower than The Mandalorian does.  Part of it is the endless flashbacks.  I’m more interested in the here and now than in what happened in the past, but with the newest episode, that was once again the majority of it.  I hope the pacing picks up soon.

Legends of Tomorrow – And the winner of best sitcom this week goes to this show.  Seriously, I was laughing so hard at this episode with so many little bits.  I don’t know how the writers came up with all of this, but it was brilliant with so many great little moments.  And the episode allowed for some great characters growth, too.

Batwoman – Clearly, Pam isn’t going to kill Mary.  So what will happen now that the two of them have met.  Did Mary kill the man in the woods?  Or was that Pam?  Why was Diggle in this episode?  He was mostly irrelevant as far as I was concerned.  Yes, he was in the B story, but it felt like he wasn’t really needed even then.

The Amazing Race – I thought they might bring back more than the two eliminated teams since, by my count, they are still down more than they should have been.  I’m glad they were invited back.  But I guess it didn’t make any difference since the two eliminated teams came in the bottom two slots, and the first team was the first team eliminated again.  And is the race really the time to face your fears if you don’t have to?  What was Sheri thinking doing that challenge on the mountain side.  I do think with my fear of heights I might have been okay with that one since they had the ropes they were attached to.  Wouldn’t have been in the front of the pack, but I think I would have been faster.

United States of Al – The story of Al and poker was pretty predictable, but there were so many great laughs along the way.  Like that final line from Hazel.  The  B story with Lizzy and her new relationship were great.  Frankly, I’m loving that two of The Big Bang Theory occasional actors are showing up here regularly.

Pivoting – I didn’t laugh.  I didn’t smile.  I cringed most of the episode.  That’s it.  I’m out.

Friday, January 21, 2022

January 21st's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

 I'm back this Friday with another Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring The Self-Working Trick and Other Stories by John Gaspard.

While this book is being called the eighth in the series, it's also a collection of short stories.  As such, my two teasers are from two different stories this week.

As you've probably figured out, the main character in this series is a magician.  Yes, it is a mystery series (because this is me and I read lots of mysteries).  However, both of these teasers focus a bit more on the magic side of things.

Here's how the opening story, "The Invisible Assistant," begins:

"Now for my next effect, I'm going to need another volunteer."

Short and sweet.  I've got a longer teaser from 56% of the way into the ARC I read, which is from the story "Magician in Trouble."

Usually, this point in the trick gets a bit of a reaction from the audience; an 'ooh' or an 'aah' as they realize their card has disappeared entirely from the deck.
Leon, as the situation had already made clear, was not my typical audience.
"You lost the card?" he said, sounding frantic.  "You don't know where it is?"

This book actually comes out the first of February, but I'll be reviewing it on Tuesday.  I hope you'll come back then to see what I thought of it.

In the meantime, have a great weekend.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Book Review: On Thin Icing by Ellie Alexander (Bakeshop Mysteries #3)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters in a classic mystery set up
Cons: Plot is too thin for the novel
The Bottom Line:
Retreat in the snow
Catering to a killer?
Mystery is thin



Thin on Plot

I’ve talked before about how much I enjoy reading books near when they are set.  I discovered that I had done that twice this month without even meaning to.  The second time was On Thin Icing, the third in the Bakeshop Mysteries from Ellie Alexander.

Jules Capshaw is hoping to expand the catering portion of Torte, her family’s bakeshop, so when she is asked to cater the off-season retreat for the board of directors of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, she doesn’t hesitate.  The meeting is taking place at the Lake of the Woods retreat center in one of the mountains around Ashland, Oregon.  Jules expects to work hard, but to have a successful weekend.

However, she’s hardly arrived when she is shocked to find her estranged husband is right behind her.  He’s hoping to work through their problems, and Jules finds his presence distracting.  Then, Jules finds the dead body of the center’s bar tender in one of the freezers.  The bar tender had made a nuisance of himself the night before, but Jules didn’t think anyone would have wanted to kill him.  As a storm rages, cutting them off from the rest of the world, Jules wonders who she is stranded with on the mountain top is a killer.

Obviously, this is a classic set up.  I love it when the author uses the characters to acknowledge it, which we get here.  As much as I don’t like snow, I was ready to pull up a blanket and settle in for a cold read.  The fact that Carlos, Jules’s husband, showed up meant we should have had plenty of plot to keep us interested.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case.  Way too much time is spent in the kitchen cooking.  I wouldn’t have minded if we had gotten story advancement during those scenes, but we didn’t.  Yes, I get that this is a culinary cozy, and I certainly expect some of those scenes, but here it really slowed things down in the first half.

Things did get better in the second half.  Even then, the mystery seemed a sub-plot to us finally getting more of what happened with Carlos and Jules and seeing them confront their issues.  It’s interesting to finally see that happen, so fans of the series will be pleased.  We also do get a solution to the mystery.  It is logical, and Jules does get the clues that lead to the solution.  I just felt like that portion of the book really should have been a short story.

Which is a shame because I do like the characters.  Even Carlos, who I was determined not to like when he showed up, wormed his way into my good graces.  I’ve very conflicted about the romantic arc for this series, which I’m sure I’m supposed to be.  Obviously, we don’t see all the main characters of the series here, but they at least all get cameos.

Naturally, we get seven delicious sounding recipes at the end of the book.  While most are pastry and dessert themed, we do get a few others since Jules was cooking as well as baking in this book.

On Thin Icing could have been better with a stronger plot.  Here’s hoping that’s the case with the next in the series.

Mouth watering for more?  Here are the rest of the Bakeshop Mysteries.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Movie Review: John Wick

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: A few individual moments of laughs and action
Cons: Overall, the movie is a poorly written mess
The Bottom Line:
He’s out for revenge
Extremely poorly written
You can pass on it



“How Good Is Your Laundry?”  “No One’s That Good.”

I had no real interest in watching John Wick.  I don’t do revenge movies as a general rule (a few slip in that I wind up enjoying), and this one just didn’t appeal to me.  But when my two friends both decided to watch it, I gave in to peer pressure.

The story follows John Wick (Keanu Reeves) a former assassin who gave up everything to marry the woman he loves.  But when she dies and John is still grieving, Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) goes after him to steal his car, killing the new dog John just got from his late wife in the bargain.  Now John is out for revenge.  The people who he is gunning for know what to expect since Iosef’s father, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), used to be John’s boss.  Will John get his revenge?

I have issues with the premise of revenge movies in general.  It’s one thing if someone is out to rescue a family member, but to root on someone killing people to get revenge goes against so much morally.  So right away, I wasn’t on board with that.  And, as much as John was grieving, to go after these people for stealing his car and killing a puppy?  I get it, the puppy is cute, and he was a gift from John’s late wife.  But still.  There really is no justification for the violence to come.

Leaving that aside, this is just a ludicrous movie.  Very little thought was put into the script.  Honestly, as I was watching the film, I couldn’t believe that, out of the thousands of movies that get submitted and reject by Hollywood, this one somehow got beyond the gate keepers to get made.  The dialogue was so horrible.  It was beyond laughable to cringe worthy at times.  It makes the Hallmark mystery movies I watch seem like well written, award worthy masterpieces by comparison.

Then there are the characters.  To say they are cardboard is to insult cardboard.  We know very little about them, and we just follow John around as he goes about getting his revenge.  I don’t need a complicated backstory, but a little bit of connection to something or someone would help.  Or maybe emotion from John.

Yes, part of that problem might have been the actors, but that would mean the entire cast was acting robotically.  I know there are some good actors in the cast, but they just didn’t have much to work with.  Still, I do feel that Keanu Reeves could have given us a little more emotion at times.  I have a feeling this was an acting choice, but if so, it was one that didn’t benefit the movie.

If you want mindless action, you’ll find this movie is perfect for you.  As I was watching with my friends, we had to keep reminding each other to not ask the obvious questions that the screen writers ignored as the plot unfolded.

It should also be pointed out that this movie gets its R rating from this almost constant violent action, although there is some foul language as well.

The movie does have great individual moments and stunts.  However, most of the time, the action is so large and over-the-top that it gets ridiculous.

While there are some pretty obvious unintentional laughs in the movie, there are also some fun moments that made us laugh on purpose.

And my friends and I had some fun mocking the movie, so I definitely enjoyed that part of it.

Still, the fact that John Wick has started a franchise is beyond me.  I just don’t see the appeal.  But I will be finding out if the franchise gets better as it goes along.  It’s hard to imagine it getting worse.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Book Review: Cement Stilettos by Diane Vallere (Samantha Kidd #7)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery, great character development, fun
Cons: A few of the details didn’t quite mesh for me
The Bottom Line:
Body in showroom
Samantha tries to help Nick
A fun case for us



A Case Samantha Can’t Refuse

As much as I’ve been enjoying the Samantha Kidd Mysteries, one thing I have noticed is that her love interest, Nick Taylor, is one of the least developed characters in the series.  It makes sense because he hasn’t gotten too much page time.  That changes in a great way in Cement Stilettos, the seventh in the series.

It’s been a week since Samantha said yes to Nick’s proposal of marriage, and they have been floating ever since.  However, they are about to crash back down to reality when Samantha finds a dead body in Nick’s showroom.  His assistant has been murdered and stuffed into one of the cabinets.  Then Samantha gets a phone call that hints Nick isn’t all he seems to be.

Despite the usual warnings from the police, Samantha can’t stay out of this.  She wants to help Nick.  But Nick is being very silent.  As Samantha begins to investigate, she uncovers surprises that makes her question if she knows the man she’s agreed to marry.  Can Samantha solve the case?  Will her relationship with Nick survive is she does?

As I said earlier, Nick hasn’t gotten much page time over the course of the series.  He’s a shoe designer, and he is quite often in Italy for work.  However, with him being the focus, it gave us a real chance to get to know him better.  I enjoyed that, and I also enjoyed seeing Samantha grow as their relationship grew.  I can see how she is maturing as the series goes along, and I am enjoying the journey.

It’s no surprise to fans of the series that the mystery is filled with twists and turns.  While the book does reach a logical conclusion, I did feel like a few of the details didn’t quite mesh along the way to the ending.  It’s a small issue for me.  Overall, the case and the solution make perfect sense.

I’ve talked before about enjoying reading a book in the season when it is set if I can.  I didn’t even plan it, but this book takes place in January.  That was a nice bonus for me.

While Samantha might be maturing, that doesn’t mean the comedy is going away.  Yes, there are some serious moments and themes, but on the whole this book is fun, with plenty of smiles if not outright laughs along the way.

The Samantha Kidd Mysteries continue to be completely fun and entertaining.  If that’s what you are looking for, be sure to give them a chance.  Whether you start with Cement Stilettos or go back to the beginning, you’ll be hooked before you know it.

Enjoy the rest of the Samantha Kidd Mysteries.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Ornament Review: Super Soaker - 2021 Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Memories of a Super Soaker shrunk for your tree
Cons: The water stream is a bit odd
The Bottom Line:
Ready to get wet?
Warm memories with this piece
Water stream is weird



Is This Ornament All Wet?

Somewhere in my garage, I have a Super Soaker.  I never used it too much, in fact, I’ve rarely used water guns period, but it was a blast the few times I did use it.  So, when I spotted the Super Soaker ornament from Hallmark this last year, I jumped on it.

This ornament was released to celebrate the Super Soaker’s 30th anniversary.  (And now, we all feel old, right?)  If you are familiar with these squirt guns, you’ll know exactly what to expect.  The majority of the gun in yellow, but the tank is a lime green.  The ornament even has the decals on it, so you know this is an Air Pressure Super Soaker 50.

The one thing that seems a little weird about the ornament to me is the water shooting out the front.  There’s a good-sized stream, and I guess there is a strong wind blowing because it is actually going backward from the nozzle and looking like it is about to hit the shooter.  I’m of two minds about this.  On the one hand, it looks very cool.  On the other, it doesn’t seem like something that would happen very often.  The water is represented by a clear plastic.  As I said, it looks cool, especially with Christmas lights reflecting on it while it is on the tree.  Honestly, I didn’t even think about how odd the direction of the water was until I started working on this review.

The water aside, this ornament looks perfect.  Anyone who saw these water guns would know immediately what they are, and the ornament will bring back lots of happy memories.

Since the ornament is just the gun, you can’t set it out to be displayed.  In fact, because of the water, it is very awkward when you set it on a flat surface.

The ornament does tip forward a bit when you go to hang it.  It’s not bad; it looks pretty natural that way, in fact.  I didn’t notice when it was on my tree last month.

I know I keep saying I want to cut back on ornaments, but the instant I saw the Super Soaker ornament, I knew I wanted it.  Just don’t think about the weird water too much, and you’ll be glad you got it, too.