Saturday, September 24, 2022

TV Show Review: Superman & Lois - Season 2

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters in a mostly good story
Cons: Some turns were a little out there, at least for me
The Bottom Line:
Good second season
Not quite as strong as the first
But still worth watching

“It’s Not Like I Have a Red Superman Phone.  Although That’s Not a Bad Idea.”

With as much as I enjoyed the first season of Superman & Lois, I couldn’t wait to dive into season two.  While I enjoyed this season, it didn’t work for me quite as well as season one did.

As this season opens, summer is over and everyone is looking forward to settling into their fall routines.  For Jonathan Kent (Jordan Elsass), that means football, although the players on the team have a big secret they are keeping from the rest of the school.  For Jordan Kent (Alex Garfin), that means learning a bit more about the powers he’s developing and spending time with his girlfriend, Sarah Cushing (Inde Navarrette), who has returned from a summer away with a secret.  Meanwhile, Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) is trying to make things work with her new business partner, Chrissy (Sofia Hasmik) at the Smallville Gazette.  But Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin) is developing problems with his vision that could spell larger trouble, and General Lane’s (Dylan Walsh) retirement means dealing with someone who isn’t as trusting of Superman as the General was (which is really saying something).

But even more trouble is coming as a superman with some bizarre behavior shows up.  And when Lois attempts to reconnect with her sister, Lucy (Jenna Dewan), it doesn’t go well thanks to Lucy’s association with Ally Allston (Rya Kihlstedt), who Lois has written an expose about in the past.  Meanwhile, Lana and Kyle Cushing’s (Emmanuelle Chriqui and Erik Valdez) problems might derail Lana’s run for mayor.

I will admit, my first issue with this season is absolutely silly.  It got too crazy science fiction for me.  I know, I know, Superman is an alien.  I just can’t quite put my finger on why the main storyline of the season didn’t work as well for me.

It certainly wasn’t the storytelling, which was once again top notch.  They raised the stakes every episode, even when I thought the stakes couldn’t be any higher.  Seriously, the last couple of episodes left me wondering not only where they were going to go from here but also how Superman could save the day.

Some of the characters took some interesting turns this season.  I wasn’t happy with all of them.  I can see what the writers thought they needed to do, but to me, it wasn’t what I wanted based on what was established in season one.  Other storylines were fantastic, of course, and I was definitely invested in them from the very beginning.

None of this is a reflection on the actors.  They were all outstanding once again, making me believe in their performances each week and drawing me in to the story.  Likewise, the special effects were great.

And, overall, I still enjoyed this season.  While it was out there at times, I was hooked, wanting to know how the characters would survive the madness happening around them.  I’ll definitely be back for season three.

If you enjoyed the first season, you’ll want to see where the characters go in season two of Superman & Lois.  It may not be quite as good as season one was, but it is still entertaining TV.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Book Review: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good characters
Cons: Rambles, some issue with the plot overall
The Bottom Line:
Come meet orphan Anne
Well loved classic that has charm
But flaws annoyed me

It’s Hard to Imagine a More Romantic Story, but It Didn’t Quite Work for Me

I’ve heard about Anne of Green Gables all my life, and I know at some point I watched the movies with Megan Follows as the main character.  But that’s been years ago, and I really don’t remember much of anything about them.  But, since I have a trip coming up where I will be visiting Prince Edward Island, the setting for the story, I decided I should give the first book a try.

The story takes place around the turn of the twentieth century since the novel came out in 1908.  It tells the story of Anne Shirley, an orphan girl who is sent from the orphanage to live with the Cuthbert siblings, Matthew and Marilla.  The problem?  They were looking for a young boy to help Matthew around their farm, Green Gables.  However, against their better judgement, they find themselves liking Anne, and then beginning to love her.  So she stays.

This book follows her for five years of her life as she grows into a young woman of sixteen.  She is talkative and imaginative and sensitive about her red hair.  Will she make friends with the kids in her new village of Avonlea?  What will happen to her as she continues to grow?

The book is definitely dated.  There are some words here that aren’t used the way they are here anymore.  No, there is nothing offensive about the language.  It’s just dated.  I’m sure today’s kids will still enjoy the story, and it is a window into another place and time.

However, the story didn’t quite work for me.  I think part of it is because I’m the wrong age and gender for the book.  Of the people I know who are fans, almost all of them are women, and most of them first read it when they were pre-teens or teens, Anne’s age in this book.  I can see the appeal for them.  But, coming to it as an adult, I just didn’t find it as appealing.

Part of it is how much time passes.  I find books that cover that much time harder to get into.  It does allow us to see some maturing in Anne, but it also makes things very episodic, which isn’t my preferred style of novel.

While a rags to riches story is always appealing, and I love rooting for the underdog, this book got a little ridiculous by the end.

Having said that, I will say again I can see the appeal.  I definitely grew to like the characters, and a part of me is curious to see what happens to them next.  There are some charming and funny stories in the book that made me laugh.

Fans will immediately recognize what I am riffing on with my review title.  Anne is always imagining this or that, and she is constantly captivated by the romance of this or that happening.

I listened to the audio version narrated by Shelly Frasier.  She does a great job of bringing the story and characters to life.

I’m glad I read Anne of Green Gables since I’ve always heard so much about it.  We will see if I wind up continuing on with the books or not.  Despite the flaws, I enjoyed it just enough to want to know what happens next to Anne and the rest of the characters.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Ornament Review: Scrabble - Family Game Night #9 - 2022 Hallmark Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good representation of the classic game Scrabble
Cons: Usual series tip; for me, not as much nostalgia
The Bottom Line:
Use tiles to make words
Classic game ready for tree
With festive touches

Let Me Spell Out My Thoughts on This Ornament

I’ve always struggled with spelling.  As a result, word games weren’t always my strong suit.  Couple that with the fact that my parents were not fans of Scrabble, and I didn’t play it growing up.  Still, it’s such a classic I’m not surprised it got an entry in the Family Game Night ornament series from Hallmark.

Since I’m not familiar with the game in general, I’m not familiar with the era of the box design.  The box is a bright red, which is perfect for a Christmas ornament.  In addition to having Scrabble written on it, the box also has three words spelled out in tiles on it: Win, Way, Plays.

Part of the game board is coming out of the game box.  We can see the squares of the playing field as well as the bonus squares.  Someone has written three words for us on the playing field: Family, Festive, Fun.  On the sides of the board, we have two trays with words on them: Naughty and Nice.

Now, while I’ve rarely (if ever) played Scrabble, I have been playing Words with Friends for years now.  (I’m carstairs38 if you want to take me on.)  As a result, I know that the way the board is set up and the tiles in the trays are definitely set up for a photo op.  But you know what?  I really don’t care.  It’s a great set up for the ornament and captures the spirit of the game and the season at the same time.  In fact, I love the words in the tray; they are perfect for a Christmas ornament version of the game.

Since the base is a game board, it’s not surprise that it has a nice, flat bottom.  You can easily set the ornament out to be displayed year round.  The 9 in a Christmas tree series marker is on the bottom as well.

Unfortunately, the ornament does tip forward when you go to hang it.  That’s an issue many ornaments in this series have given the ornament’s basic design.

While I may not have any nostalgia associated with this game, I still definitely enjoy the Scrabble entry in Hallmark’s Family Game Night series.  I can imagine fans of the game will be very happy to add it to their collection.

Enjoy more game memories with the rest of the Family Game Night ornaments.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Book Review: Deadly Director’s Cut by Vicki Delany (Catskill Summer Resort Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, plot, setting
Cons: A niggle with the set up for the climax
The Bottom Line:
A movie filming
Brings murder to the resort
Well done mystery

The Director Is Cut Out of the Picture

I’ve often commented how popular the Hollywood comes to town storyline is, especially in cozy mysteries.  It appeals to those of us who are fascinated with the entertainment industry (and I certainly count myself among them), and it automatically creates a bunch of suspects and a victim for the author to play around with.  Author Vicki Delany uses it to great effect in Deadly Director’s Cut, the second in her Catskill Summer Resort Mystery series.

If you’ve missed this series, it features Elizabeth Grady.  She is helping her mother run Haggerman’s Catskills Resort, which her mother, a famous dancer, inherited from a fan.  And it’s set in the 1950’s.

As this story opens, Hollywood has come to the area as director Elias Theropodous has decided to use the area as a backdrop for some of the scenes in his new movie, Catskill Dreams.  Much of the cast is staying at a neighboring resort, but they are actually filming at Haggerman’s.  While Elizabeth is happy with the money they are earning, she is less than thrilled with the demands that Elias is making and the disruption to the smooth running of the resort.

One night, the cast and crew have a private dinner at the resort followed by mixing with the rest of the guests for some dancing.  As Elias is leaving that night, he starts to feel sick only to die later at the hospital.  The doctor is quick to suggest that it was poison.  With her resort’s reputation on the line, can Elizabeth figure out what really happened?  Or will the movie be shut down, scattering the best suspects before the case can be resolved?

As I hinted in the opening, authors love returning to the Hollywood comes to town storyline because it works.  This is another great example of that.  The story is strong with plenty of twists and action to keep us engaged.  In fact, a time or two I kept reading just a little further because some twist caught me by surprise.  When we reached the end, the result was perfectly logical, and the climax was a lot of fun.  Having said that, there is a continuity error in the climax with what came before.  It’s minor, doesn’t impact the solution, and I didn’t think about it until a couple of days later myself.

Sometimes, when you have such a strong influx of new characters like this, the series characters can take a backseat.  That isn’t the case here.  Several series regulars get strong sub-plots that feel like natural outgrowth of what we saw in the first book in the series.  That isn’t to say the Hollywood characters aren’t strong.  Everyone mixes well in this book.

I always enjoy books in resort or vacation settings, and this is no exception.  While Elizabeth, as our guide, is more focused on the running of the resort than I’d be as a guest, it is still easy to picture what a vacation here would be like.  And, I’ve got to say, I’m ready to book some time there.  As I was reading, I could feel the summer heat.  Okay, so it might have helped that I was reading it during a Southern California heat wave, but it still felt very real.

The 1950’s setting is just that, a setting.  There aren’t any major historical events involved in the story.  Yet it infuses every chapter of the book.  I felt like I was back in time as I was reading.

And Catskill Dreams?  I know this is a completely fictional movie, but I really would like to watch it and see just how things turned out for the characters in the film.

I got lost in the pages of Deadly Director’s Cut.  If you are looking for a fun historical cozy, look no further than this book.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Movie Review: Tremors

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some laughs and a few jumps
Cons: Cheese, several hard to like characters
The Bottom Line:
Underground monsters
Mix of horror, comedy
For mixed bag movie

Something Underground is Stalking You

I’ve always had an interest in horror movies, so Tremors has been on my radar for a long time.  However, it wasn’t high enough to make me actually sit down to watch it until a friend wanted to rewatch it.  While he said it was as good as he remembered, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much.

The story takes place in the very, very small town of Perfection, Nevada.  It’s isolated with only one way in or out.  Two of the residents have had enough and are finally going to leave town.  However, as Val and Earl (Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward) try to leave, they keep getting stopped by strange things they see.  Eventually, they realize that large, underground worms are in the area eating anything they can find.  Will anyone in the community survive?

This movie is at once a monster movie and a comedy.  It tries to find the line between comedy and light scares.  It is rated PG-13, after all, so this isn’t a graphic horror movie.  There are a couple of jump scares, but most of the time, you know the monsters are coming before they show up.

Honestly, it’s hard to take the movie seriously as a horror movie thanks to some of the special effects.  The monsters themselves are fine.  They look a little dated, but the film was made in 1989, so that’s to be expected.  However, the blood effects just look so fake.  And some of the underground shots are pretty strange as well.

I guess cheesy is the best way to describe the film.  As I’ve been saying, the effects for certain are cheesy.  Some of the dialogue is as well.  The characters fall into cliches, which makes it easy to laugh and hard to take them, and their fates, seriously.  I also found some of them hard to like, thanks to how they treated each other.

I’m not blaming the cast for this.  They are all fine.  In addition to the two I already mentioned, we get Michael Gross (who has continued with the franchise) as well as Reba McIntyre and Ariana Richards, best known for Jurassic Park.  My issue is with their characters, not the performances themselves.

Now, this isn’t to say I hated the film.  I did jump a time or two, like I was supposed to.  There were enough twists to keep things interesting along the way.  The internal logic of the movie is sound and holds up.

And there are some genuine laughs along the way.  I especially appreciated the scenes with Michael Gross and Reba McIntyre, who played husband and wife.  Their characters and their reactions to things were some of the best moments in the film.  And the scene in their basement is a classic.

Overall, however, Tremors was just a little too cheesy for my tastes.  I think viewing this with nostalgia glasses will help you enjoy it more.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Book Review: Under Lock and Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian (Secret Staircase Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery, great characters, fun
Cons: A bit too much backstory to really absorb early on
The Bottom Line:
Hidden room; body
Create puzzle for Tempest
Fun series debut

The Body in the Sealed Off Room

I keep wanting to read more of Gigi Pandian’s books.  I’m woefully behind in her two other series, but when I saw she was starting a new series, I decided that I would keep up with the Secret Staircase Mysteries.  It still took me six months to get to Under Lock and Skeleton Key, the first in the series, but I enjoyed it.

Tempest Raj has returned home after an almost deadly accident ended her career as a magician in Las Vegas.  She’s finding comfort in being around her family, with her grandfather’s excellent cooking and the fun of her father’s business, Secret Staircase Construction, which builds custom secret rooms, staircases, etc. for their customers.

Her father’s current project involves a renovation for a single father.  Tempest is there as the crew is starting their destruction of the part of the house they will be working on.  They discover a secret room that appears to have been sealed up for decades.  Only, when they open the wall, a body falls out – the body of a woman that Tempest knew.  How did the victim get into the room?  Who killed her?

Gigi Pandian has always enjoyed writing a locked room mystery, and that is going to be a feature of this series.  As such, the book focuses as much on the how of the mystery as the who done it.  I found myself caught up in both aspects of the puzzle and enjoyed seeing Tempest try to unlock the answer.

I did struggle with the book initially, however.  Tempest has a lot of backstory, and it slows the book down at the beginning.  No, we don’t get a data dump, but we get multiple teases about things, and I found that almost as frustrating.  However, the further I got into the book, the more I was trapped by the story, and the backstory was all important to the story we are told here and understanding Tempest.  There is certainly more to come with Tempest’s backstory, and I’m curious to see where it goes.  This about this book like the pilot of a TV show, and you’ll be fine.

One thing that kept me reading the entire way through was the characters.  I liked Tempest from the start, and her family and friends grew on me almost as quickly.  In a fun touch, a supporting character from the author’s Jaya Jones series also appears here.  I’ve only read a few books in that series, but I didn’t feel like there was anything you needed to know from those books to understand the character here.

This book also made good use of the many hooks.  We’ve got magic.  We’ve got secret rooms.  We’ve got a locked room mystery.  As a result, some aspects reminded me of the middle grade mysteries I read as a kid.  I mean that as a compliment since it made me smile as I was reading.

While I wouldn't call this a culinary cozy, there is a lot of talk about the recipes that Tempest's grandfather makes.  If you want to try them for yourself, you'll be happy to find four recipes at the end of the book.

Under Lock and Skeleton Key is a promising start to a new series.  I’m anxious to see where Tempest’s story goes next.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Disney Pin Review: Mad Tea Party - Cuckoo for Disney Pins - 2021 Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun take on a classic attraction
Cons: A little more would have been nice.
The Bottom Line:
It’s tea party time
Fun cuckoo clock themed design
That fans will enjoy

I Believe it is Tea Time

Since the Mad Tea Party is an attraction that so many people associate with the Disney Parks, it’s no surprise that it pops up regularly in various pins series.  It got an entry in the Cuckoo for Disney Pins series, and it is a fun one.

The main part of the pin is a cottage.  It immediately looks like one that we saw in the Alice in Wonderland animated movie as well as the house that holds the operating booth for the attraction at Disneyland.  Now, I’ll admit, the cottage I’m picturing in the movie when I look at this pin isn’t from the tea party scene, but it’s been a while since I watched this movie, so maybe that’s on me.

Anyway, the clock itself is a pin on pin.  While we don’t see any numbers, it is pointing to 11:40.  Or is it 7:55.  It’s a little hard to tell which hand is the minute hand and which one is the hour hand.  Dangling from the clock we have the weights that make the cuckoo clock part work.  In the middle, we have a tea pot.  On the sides, we have stacks of tea cups.

This pin is immediately recognizable as Mad Tea Party related.  It would have been nice if they’d included a couple more nods to the attraction, although I’m not sure what.  The clock face is too small to really have much else on it, for example, and if it had been bigger, it would have hidden the rest of the cottage.  Additionally, it would have been fun to have the clock pointing to traditional tea time.  On the other hand, the tea party in the movie was non-stop.

Okay, so I’m being a bit nitpicky.  Overall, I do like this pin.  It’s a fun take on the attraction.

So, if you are a fan of the Mad Tea Party, you’ll be happy to add this cuckoo clock themed pin to your collection.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

September 17th's Weekly TV Thoughts

You can tell we are in transition with how little TV there is on this week.  Fall shows start premiering next week, however, so this never lasts that long.

Stargirl – I find it so funny that Courtney is the one talking about balance now.  I’m not completely sure that all the pieces are going to work this season, but this was definitely better than last season, and it was fun.  I love how this show will go for extended fight scenes.  I hope they do make Sylvester’s arc a good one this season.  I see potential there, now.  Something tells me that Barbara’s work life is going to get harder despite Artemis’s best efforts.

The Challenge USA – If you had told me that only two people would finish, I would have been shocked.  And I would have expected Tyson to be one of them.  I feel sorriest for the woman who was eliminated because Enzo panicked and quit.  I was glad Angela was eliminated after opting to sleep instead of complete her solo challenge.  Definitely felt sorry for Ben being taken out medically.  The rest of them?  I completely understand why they quit.  I would have, too.  But then again, I don’t handle cold well at all.  They worked hard, and they just couldn’t do it.  I empathize.  Both of the winners definitely deserved to be there after surviving like they did.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law – I see where the humor was supposed to come in, but I just didn’t find the episode that funny.  These Marvel shows seem to be either super fun and addictive or blah.  This is definitely a blah show.

Friday, September 16, 2022

September 16th's Friday Post

Welcome to Friday!  We made it!!!  It's time for another Friday post, where I will be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

This week, for the first three, I will be featuring Under Lock and Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian.

This is the first in a new series from here, and it really is a lot of fun.  Here's how the book begins:

Tempest Raj tested the smooth, hardwood floor once more.  Following the floorboards from the beaten-up steamer trunk with three false bottoms to the window letting in moonlight, she didn't hear a squeak anywhere.  Good.

Jumping head to page 56 we find this:

This isn't the family curse, Tempest told herself as she backed away from [the] body.

Yes, the book actually identifies the corpse, but I'm going to keep that redacted.  You'll have to read the book to find out who the victim is.  Overall, I enjoyed this one.  I'll be reviewing it Monday, so I hope you'll come back and see what I thought.

Let's turn to this week's Book Blogger Hop.  Our question is:

What are your favorite characteristics of a main character?

That's a good question.  I definitely prefer someone who is smart.  While we all make mistakes, that's different from just being stupid.  I also love spending time with characters who are friendly and have great relationships with their family and/or friends.  Obviously, there are exceptions to every one of these.  Basically, someone I'd want as a friend is someone I want to read about.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Book Review: Buttercream Betrayal by Kim Davis (Cupcake Caterer Mysteries #5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong, and charming, characters I enjoy spending time with
Cons: Mystery could be a little stronger
The Bottom Line:
Dog training murder
Great to see Emory here
Fans will eat it up

Murder Goes to the Dogs

It’s always fun to catch up with Emory Martinez and see what is going on with her life, so as soon as I heard about Buttercream Betrayal, the fifth Cupcake Caterer Mystery, I jumped to read it.  I was not disappointed.

In an attempt to train her woefully misbehaving dogs, Emory has signed them up for a dog obedience class run by Shawn Parker.  The class has gotten rave reviews online, but Emory finds that it has done little for her two dogs, as evidenced by their misbehavior at the graduation potluck.  It’s also at this potluck that Emory begins to hear gripes and grumblings not only about Shawn but his mother, Eloise, who is President of the condo association where most of Emory’s fellow students live.  A few hours later, Emory stumbles over the dead body of Eloise in the condo’s community center.  With the rumors that Emory has heard, can she sort out who killed Eloise?

One thing I enjoy about this series is that it is set in Southern California.  It’s always fun to me that Emory is running around locations not too far from where I live.  Unfortunately, I don’t get to spend too much time in the actual locations where Emory is solving crime, but that’s a minor complaint.

The draw also continues to be the wonderful cast of characters.  Everyone we know and love is back, and there’s a relatively new character we are getting to know better as well.  Just being in their presence makes me smile.  Then there are the suspects.  We don’t get to know them as well as the series regulars, but they provide some good distraction from what is really going on.

The pacing could be a little stronger, but there was enough action in the story to keep my interest.  I’ve got to admit, I didn’t see the ending coming, but it made perfect sense.

There is some discussion about what has gone on with the main characters in the last few books, some of it will, by necessity, spoil the events of the previous books.  If you want to watch these events unfold without knowing what is going to happen, you’ll want to read the series in order.  As a fan of the series, I would recommend all the books anyway, so why not start at the beginning?

The story is set in September, but instead of a typical fall pumpkin theme, this book embraces apples for most of the cupcakes and other treats that Emory is making here.  Many of them sound delicious, too, which makes me happy to have the recipes at the end of the book.

This is a charming series, and its fans will be happy to catch up with Emory in Buttercream Betrayal.

Enjoy the rest of the Cupcake Caterer Mysteries.

I am reviewing this book as part of a blog tour.  Check out the rest of the participants here.

And please enter the tour wide giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.