Monday, September 30, 2013

TV Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.1 - The Heart of the Truest Believer

I was told that I had to start my recap of last night’s Once Upon a Time with the line, “Unlike last year, this year’s premier didn’t suck.”  Of course, I did like last year’s season premier.  It definitely took things in a new direction, but once I adjusted, I thought it was good.

Unlike last year, there was nothing especially earth shattering or show changing.  It was the logical next step in the story they set up in the finale last year.  And it was so great to have the show back.

Let’s start with Henry. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ornament Review: Cinema - Noelville #8 - 2013 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Sweet looking cinema
Cons: Doesn't have quite the flair of the early ornaments in the series
The Bottom Line:
Ready for a film
In old fashioned cinema
With candy touches

Snacks are on the House at the Noelville Cinema

Every town needs a fun place to hang out and enjoy some relaxation.  Now that we are eight buildings into the Noelville series, this town has finally gotten that with the Cinema.

Each building in this series features a decorated gingerbread house.  We've had several shops, two houses, a church, and a schoolhouse.  But this year is the cinema.  It has, as you would expect, plain brown sides.  But it has a marquee sticking out the front with Cinema written on it and a star on either side.  There's also a ticket booth sticking out from the front with a gingerbread ticket taker ready to help you attend the latest blockbuster.

Being a gingerbread house, there are decorations like the gumdrops of various colors on the roof.  There are half cupcakes sticking out of the sides with frosting on top.  And the sides all have red licorice on them.  But I think my favorite touch is the half candied orange sticking up from the roof of the cinema.  It even has Noelville written on it.  Finally, there's a mound of frosting sticking up behind the orange for the perfect finish.

But what first attracted me to this series was the fact that you can attach it to a light string and get color shining through various parts of the ornament.  You can see the glow through the doors and windows, which isn't a surprise.  But the gumdrops on the roof and the half orange also light up.  Those are the touches that make me smile.

On the whole, I really do like this ornament.  It immediately makes me think of a movie theater.  I do wish it had the details and various colors of the earlier entries in the series, but it is a good addition to the series.

Like the others, the bottom of this ornament is flat.  What do you expect from a building?  Since this is the 8th in the series, you can find the Christmas tree series marker on the bottom as well.

The ring for hanging this ornament is on the top of the frosting cone on the roof.  It's centered and the ornament is balance, so it hangs perfectly straight.  Of course, when you attach the lights, that might shift, but you've got a perfect place to start.

So sit back and enjoy a movie.  Maybe It's a Sweet Life or A Christmas Cane Story is playing inside.  Either way, you'll enjoy your visit to Noelville's Cinema.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Noelville series.

Original Price: $19.95

Friday, September 27, 2013

September 27th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Friday roles around, which means it is time for Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week's book is Deadly Heat by Richard Castle.

Okay,  if you aren't familiar with the TV show Castle, Richard Castle is the main character.  He's a writer who is supposedly writing books inspired by the cases he works shadowing a police detective around.  Someone somewhere brilliantly decided to start publishing those books, and this is the fifth one that's come out.

Here's the first sentence.

NYPD Homicide detective Nikki Head double-parked her gray Crown Victoria behind the coroner van and strode toward the pizza joint where a body waited.

And, moving ahead to page 56:

"Oxford is kind of why I'm here," she said.  "I need to ask you about your old classmate."

I'm a fan of the show, so I find these books fun.  The mysteries are decent enough I think anyone could enjoy them, but fans will get the most out of them, I think.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Review: Mama Rides Shotgun by Deborah Sharp (Mace Bauer #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun, dynamic characters in a good story
Cons: Plot could be stronger at times
The Bottom Line:
Seriously fun
A trail ride you will enjoy
Without saddle sores

Death Rides the Modern Trail

So many books, so little time.  It’s a common lament among readers, and one I’ve said many times myself.  But it explains why it’s taken me so long to get to Mama Rides Shotgun, the second in the series about Mace Bauer and her family.  I’m glad I did finally make it back to the series because I enjoyed it.

With Mama’s fifth wedding coming up, she thinks it is time for some bonding with her daughters.  That’s how Mace finds herself on the Florida Cracker Trail, traveling the trail that the old Florida cowboys would take after driving their cattle across the state to market.  This is a big annual event that draws a good side crowd.

The second night of the trip, the stop is at the ranch of Lawton Bramble.  He went to high school with Mama, and his son Trey went to high school with Mace.  Lawton and Mama even dated while in high school.  Lawton is making his famous chili for those on the ride, but before dinner is served, Mama and Mace find him dead by his cooking fire.  Everyone immediately suspects his heart finally gave out, but Mace suspects something else.  And considering the threats Mace's family starts to get, she may be right.  If so, can Mace stay alive long enough to find the killer?

Even though it had been a couple years since I read the first book, I felt right at home with the characters.  It helped that the story started out with just Mace and Mama returning from the first book and slowly grew to include the returns of Mace’s sisters, Mama’s fiancĂ©e, and even Mace’s ex.  As they came on the scene, their personalities were quickly reestablished, and I remembered bits about them.  There is some real growth in Mace, and you even see some in the rest of the cast.

There are a host of new characters as well.  They are just as strong and I never had a problem keeping everyone straight.

The plot starts quickly and does move ahead at a steady pace.  There seems to always be something happening to Mace or her family, although I do feel like it could have used a few more clues.  Even so, I was always entertained and the ultimate climax made sense.

Despite the rather serious events of the book, there is a thread of humor that runs through the book.  I was grinning often and laughed a few times.  The humor stems from the characters, especially Mace’s relationship with her family.  It rings true – they love each other yet they can drive each other crazy.  I think it’s because I recognize that dynamic that I truly came to love them.

So it won’t be as long before I go back for the sequel.  Mama Rides Shotgun is a fun mystery that fans of the lighter side of the genre will certainly enjoy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

TV Recap - Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1-1: Pilot

Hi.  I’m Mark, and I’m a hypocrite.

10-15 years ago, I was a big fan of Joss Whedon’s work - Buffy and Angel specifically.  Yes, that’s right, I’m the one person who watched Firefly who wasn’t taken with it.  But I noticed something – Joss is horrible about how he ends his series.  I hated the final episodes of Buffy and Angel, and Serenity ruined what little enjoyment I got from Firefly.

I swore I’d never watch another series of his again.

And yet here I am starting Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I’m doing it for two reasons.  First, I think Marvel/Disney will keep some of his tendencies to ruin a franchise in check.  After all, he is playing in their playground and not completely making things up on his own.  Second, I really enjoyed The Avengers.  It reminded me just how good he could be when he is on.

The episode itself was a typical pilot.  We met the characters.  We were teased with story to come over the course of the season.  And we were given a case of the week that brought everyone together.

Let’s start with the team.

September 25th's Waiting on Wednesday

It's time again for Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Today's pick from me is one that I'm sure lots of people have included - The House of Hades by Rick Riordan.

Now this comes despite the fact that I was less than impressed with The Mark of Athena.  I like his books, but there is a formula to them, and I thought that one was more formulaic than most.  Still, between that cliffhanger and needing to know what happens next to Percy and his friends anyway, I'm looking forward to the next chapter in his story.

The book is will be out in just a couple of weeks on October 8th.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TV Recap: Castle 6-1 - Valkyrie

It really is frustrating when you are waiting all summer for a cliffhanger to be resolved, and then one of the main characters of the show is kidnapped by aliens before you can even get an answer to the question.  At least Bigfoot showed up to help track Beckett down.  However, the time traveling ninjas at the end of the episode were too much.

Oh, sorry.  I’m getting the fake spoilers I’ve been feeding to friends who watch the show but haven’t seen the premier yet with what really happened.  (And I’m already concocting a story for next week involving pirates and shark jumping.)

The reality of the season premier is not borrowed from one of Castle’s wild theories.  Instead it picks up just where the finale left off.  Castle’s just gotten down on one knee and asked Beckett to marry him.  Beckett, meanwhile, has decided to take the job working as a federal agent in DC….

Movie Review: The Little Mermaid (1989)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Music, characters, animation, and fun
Cons: No consequences for Ariel's rebellion
The Bottom Line:
Go under the sea
For a drastically changed tale
With a poor moral

"Teenagers.  You Give Them an Inch, They Swim All Over You."

Everyone with a passing knowledge of Disney history agrees that The Little Mermaid ushered in a renaissance of animation when it was released in 1989.  And if you look at the movies that had come out during the two pervious decades, it really is hard to argue.  There is much that is right with it.  And yet, there is one fatal flaw that always bugs me when I watch it.

The story is loosely (and I do mean loosely) based on a fairy tale from Hans Christian Andersen.  It tells the story of Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) a mermaid who is fascinated by the life of the humans above the waves.  She collects bits and pieces much like an archeologist would.  Her friends are Flounder (Jason Marin) and Scuttle the seagull (Buddy Hackett).  Ariel has gotten most of her knowledge of humans from Scuttle, but since he makes it up, it’s mostly not helpful.

Her interest in the humans has upset her father, King Triton (Kenneth Mars), who orders his court composer Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) to watch over Ariel and report back to him.

But it has also attracted the attention of Ursula (Pat Carroll), a sea witch who thinks she should be ruling the ocean instead of Triton.  When Ariel falls in love with the human Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barns), Ursula thinks this is the key to taking over the kingdom.  But will her plan to use Ariel work?

Anyone familiar with the source material will be shocked to discover just how much Disney has changed the ending.  They’ve also made some other changes along the way, like making Ursula a villain instead of just a plot devise.  All this leads to a typical happy ending to the story, which I don’t really mind.  I prefer happy endings, although it does ruin the moral of the original story.

What sets this movie apart from the rest they’d been releasing in the 80's was the music.  By hiring Broadway composers Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, they created songs that truly make this an animated musical worth watching.  At times, the songs in the Disney movies since Walt died had felt put in because they put songs in the film.  Here, they are an important part of the story, either by advancing the story or providing character development.  Oh, there are still a couple that are a bit pointless, but when you think of this movie, you can’t help but think of “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” and “Kiss the Girl.”  These songs are outstanding, and I love them to this day.

The animation is a step above the rest of the decade.  While I do enjoy the watercolor backgrounds we’d see in many films from the 70’s and 80’s, that technique pretty much died with this film.  You’ll see a couple examples of it, but for the most part, this was a new commitment to beautiful backgrounds that look more real.  A few of the shots are breathtaking, in fact.

The voice work is great as well.  Until I rewatched it recently, I hadn’t realized that Ariel is silent for almost half the film.  Yet Jodi Benson uses the time she spends as Ariel’s voice to make the character someone we want to root for.  The rest of the cast brings their characters to life with just as much intensity, which makes them much more than drawings on our TV (or the movie screen originally).

So what’s my problem with the film?  It’s the moral of the story.  For the entire film, we’ve had Ariel rebelling against her father.  For his part, Triton comes across as an ogre who is trying to control Ariel.  A scene where he destroys her grotto springs immediately to mind.  Now I realize this is an animated film, and subtlety isn’t a strength of the genre, but it would be nice to have a little nuance to the characters.  Heck, Triton is almost a villain in his own right until the last 10 minutes of the film when he more than redeems himself.  Instead, we’ve got the typical rebellious teen and hard nosed parent that are so stereotypical in pop culture.

You know what it would have taken to completely redeem the film for me?  One scene.  If Ariel had gone to her father and apologized for all the trouble she caused and he had apologized for his behavior, I would love this film and whole heartedly endorse it.  Instead, we get a film with a heroine who selfishly goes after what she wants, almost destroys her father’s kingdom in the process, and in the end gets her way without learning anything in the process.  And that’s what rankles me.

Do I like the film?  Yes.  Do I appreciate it in Disney history in ushering in a new era of great Disney films?  Absolutely.  But the flawed message of the film will always keep me from loving The Little Mermaid the way I do other Disney films.

Monday, September 23, 2013

What's on Your Nightstand - September 2013

Can you believe it's almost the end of September already?  I sure can't.  But it's time for What's on Your Nightstand?

I just finished Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.  I guess I should point out I was rereading the book.  It's a fun early to middle grade book that shows just how bad behavior can get out of hand if you let it, but in a very humorous way.  Want to find out more?  Here's my review.

I am currently 200 pages into Mama Rides Shotgun, a humorous mystery by Deborah Sharp.  I'm definitely enjoying it and wondering why I didn't get to it sooner.  That's the second time I've been wondering that this month, too.

And what's on deck?  Well, I did just list out my books for the next three months when I joined Fall Into Reading 2013 (still time to sign up if you want).  But in my immediate future are Deadly Heat by Richard Castle. (Or a ghost writer.  Nah, it's got to be the character from the TV show.)  Then comes Death al Dente by Leslie Budewitz.

Ornament Review: A Carol by Candlelight - 2012 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good design, nice sound clip
Cons: Essentially an unlabeled repaint.
The Bottom Line:
Candlelight service
With quiet organ prelude
Fun but a repeat

Winter Falls for A Carol by Candlelight

I am a sucker for stained glass windows, so I was thrilled in 2012 to see Don Palmiter continue an unofficial series of church ornaments.  A Carol by Candlelight is great even if it is basically a repaint.

If you have 2011's This Little Light of Mine, you know what this ornament basically looks like.  It's a white clapboard church, or more off-white this year.  It's a long rectangle with two little Christmas tree shaped bushes out front.  There's also a belfry on the front top of the ornament.  The main differences in how the ornaments look is the fact that A Carol by Candlelight has snow on the ground while the previous year's ornament has green grass.  The color of the roof has changed to green and the door and foundation are now red.  And there is a wreath in front of the circular stained glass window over the door.

There is a hole in the back of the ornament, but that's a feature not a flaw.  It is designed so you can enter a light from a standard string of Christmas tree lights.  When you do that, you'll find that all the yellow windows glow softly.  The window over the door and a window in the back are multi-colored.  I wish all the windows were like last year's church, but that's a minor complaint.  It still looks great.

And they have sound.  This year, it's "Silent Night."  It's a slow, reverent version of the song done mostly by an organ.  No vocals this year, but it is beautiful to listen to.  The clip lasts about 30 seconds and covers most of a verse of the song before it slowly fades out.

The base of the ornament is nice and flat, which means you can display it on a shelf if you want.  Personally, I like adding it to the official Candlelight Services series that Hallmark stopped a few years back.  It makes for a fun shelf.

But if you chose to hang it on your tree, you'll find a brass loop at the center of the roof.  It hangs slightly to the front, but you have to be looking for it to notice it.  Besides, one you get a light in the back, that's going to have more of an effect on how it hangs than anything else.

There is a part of me that is bothered by the fact that the design is so similar to last year's ornament.  And there's a part of me that laughs because I buy repaints all the time.  If they'd called it that, I wouldn't mind at all.  However, I like the sound clip, and it is certainly different this year.  And I really like how it looks.  You can picture a Christmas Eve service with all the candles glowing.

There is a third church coming in 2013, and it is a very different design.  I'm looking forward to adding it to my official and unofficial series.

While I do wish it showed a little more creativity, I do still like A Carol By Candlelight and am glad I have it in my collection.

While not an official part of the series, check out the ornaments in the Candlelight Services series.

Original Price: $19.95

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fall Into Reading 2013 - My List

I'm sad that it is time once again for Fall Into Reading.  It's not because I don't love this reading challenge.  I'm just sorry to see summer officially end.

Anyway, this no stress challenge is being hosted again by The Musings of a Book Addict.  You can find other opening posts here.

With my temp job probably ending in a month, I'm unsure how much I will read.  I might have tons of time to read.  Then again, I might get stuck with a job far away so I'll have little time to read.  We'll just have to see how the season progresses, right?

Either way, I am going to have a long list.  Just too many books I want to read right now.  Here goes.

Currently in Progress
Mama Rides Shotgun by Deborah Sharp

New Releases to Read:
Deadly Heat by Richard Castle
Nick and Tesla's High Voltage Danger Lab by Steve Hockensmith
Stone Cold Dead by Catherine Dilts
Melissa Explains It All by Melissa Joan Hart
Exile (Keeper of the Lost Cities 2) by Shannon Messenger
Secondhand Stiff by Sue Ann Jaffarian
The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
The Chocolate Book Bandit by JoAnna Carl

Christmas Books:
Secret Santa by Fern Michaels et. al.
Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews
Brush with Death by Karen MacInerny (also my only left over from Spring)
End Me a Tenor by Joelle Charbonneau

Other Books:
2 books for the Vintage Children's Lit Challenge to be named later
Kingdom Keepers VI by Ridley Pearson
Bridge to Neverland by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Tell No Lies by Gergg Hurwwitz
Drive Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Gluten for Punishment by Nancy J. Parra
Death Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz
Mayhem at the Orient Express by Kylie Logan
You Cannoli Die Once by Shelley Costa
Dead Man's Switch by Tammy Kaehler
Wicked Eddies by Beth Groundwater
Lost and Fondue by Avery Aames
Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet: Clash of the Class Clowns by Kirk Scroggs
Bran New Death by Victoria Hamilton

Okay, so obviously I'm going for quantity over remotely possible to finish, especially if I'm working all Fall.  But we'll see what I do get through, right?

Keep checking back for reviews as I finish.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Music Review: Mary Poppins - Original Live Cast Recording

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Old favorites and great new songs
Cons: A few don't work without visuals; too many Jane and Michaels
The Bottom Line:
Musical on stage
In front of live audience
Proves it's delightful

A Second Broadway Cast Recording for Mary Poppins

Last year, I finally got to see Disney's Broadway musical Mary Poppins.  Not surprising since I love the movie, but I loved the play version as well.  And since I love to get soundtracks for plays I've seen, I bought the Original Live Cast Recording afterward.

There are already two cast recordings floating around out there, which is surprising for a show that isn't that old.  I chose this one because they have made some tweaks to the show since it first opened, including adding the song "Playing the Game."  Since this is the version I saw, this was the version I decided to get.

You might have noticed that this is a live recording, something I don't remember seeing for other soundtracks before.  I was recording down in Australia over the course of five nights.  The sound quality is excellent, and you'd never know it wasn't recording in the studio while the cast is singing.  You do get applause between most of the songs, which doesn't bother me at all.  The only time you get the audience over the singers is during the final "Bows" track.  No big deal there since they should be clapping.  The only real issue I have is that they used five different sets of kids to play Jane and Michael Banks over the course of those five nights, and you can tell since their voices keep changing between songs.  A minor point.

If you haven't seen the Broadway version of the show, you are in for some surprises.  Yes, you'll recognize many of the song titles from the movie, although not all the songs make it over.  However, their place in the play and at times the words of the songs are often quite different.  True, you get some songs like "A Spoonful of Sugar" that haven't been touched.  The same is true of the lyrics of "Jolly Holiday," although the setting is different and there's an interlude with the kids.  "Let's Go Fly a Kite" is lyrically the same as well.  The heart of "Step in Time" remains the same, and outside of a few pronouns, the didn't mess with "Feed the Birds."

But then there are the songs that are very different.  The best example is "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."  There are so many new lyrics to this song, it is an absolute delight.  I can't help but laugh at some of what they came up with.  And Mary Poppins really does say the word backwards here, not syllable by syllable like in the movie but actually taking the letters backward.  It's quite impressive.

And of course, there are the new songs.  "Anything Can Happen" is my favorite, and I think it's a song that Disney himself would have loved with it's optimistic look at life.  They repeat melodies and lyrics from some of the songs, most noticeably "Precision and Order" and "A Man Has Dreams" in multiple tracks.  It really helps give the soundtrack a more unified feel.

Then there's the song "Playing the Game."  It's a pretty song with a haunting melody in a minor key.  Yet it's a bit creepy as Mary seems to turn a bit mean as she brings Jane and Michael's toys to life to try to get the kids to treat them properly.  It was definitely the scariest part of the play, and that comes across in the song.

And that includes the songs sung by Miss Andrew, Mr. Bank's old nanny who appears at one point here.  Her two tracks, both entitled "Brimstone and Treacle" are so over the top they are kind of fun.  Okay, so they don't work out of the context of the play like so many of the classic songs do, but I like them.  The second time around is her showdown with Mary Poppins, and much of that is lost without the actual action on stage, but I would have been disappointed if they had left it out.

One thing I appreciate is that there is enough music here you can follow the story.  It helps that I had seen it first, but as I listen to the sound track again, bits and pieces of it come back to me.  Between the dialogue they include and the 25 tracks, you get a good chunk of the play.

So let's talk accents.  Despite the fact that this was recorded down under, I feel the characters sound British.  And those accents never get in the way of understanding the lyrics.  Bert's voice can sound nasally at times; I miss Dick Van Dyke's Bert, bad accent and all.

The CD comes with a think booklet with all the lyrics and spoken bits from the CD attributed to the correct character.  That's helpful on a couple of songs, although after a couple of listens it's easy to tell who is who.  There are also pictures of those songs from the stage on each page, which is a fun bonus.

While I will also love the songs from the original movie, this version of them is fun, too.  I'm glad to have Mary Poppins: The Original Live Cast Recording in my collection.

CD Length: 1:15:48
1. Prologue/Chim Chim Cher-ee
2. Cherry Tree Lane Part 1
3. The Perfect Nanny
4. Cherry Tree Lane Part 2
5. Practically Perfect
6. Jolly Holiday
7. Let's Hope She Will Stay
8. A Spoonful of Sugar
9. Precision and Order
10. Feed the Birds
11. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
12. Playing the Game
13. Chim Chim Cher-ee (Reprise)
14. Entr'acte: Run Away
15. Brimstone and Treacle Part 1
16. Let's Go Fly a Kite
17. Good for Nothing
18. Being Mrs. Banks (Reprise)
19. Brimstone and Treacle Part 2
20. Step in Time
21. A Man Has Dreams/A Spoonful of Sugar (Reprise)
22. Anything Can Happen
23. The Task is Done
24. A Shooting Star
25. Bows/Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Reprise)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Book Review: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald (Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun stories that show the dangers of bad behavior.
Cons: Not quite as magical as a couple of the books
The Bottom Line:
Some new ideas
So misbehaviors beware
Fun consequences

Giving Kids a Taste of Their Deepest Wishes

How to explain the appeal of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle as a kid’s book.  It’s really not easy to do.  This early to middle grade book takes kids with huge behavior problems and fixes them.  So why would kids enjoy reading them so much?  I certainly know I did as a kid.

This is the first book and it sets the pattern for all the books to come.  The first chapter introduces Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.  She’s the widow of a pirate who lives in an upside down house.  While she never had kids of her own, she welcomes them to her house with open arms.  She serves tea, bakes cookies, and lets the kids use her clothes for dress up.  The boys dig for pirate treasure in the backyard.  And she helps them look at their chores as games, racing the clock to get them down before the wicked witch or evil queen comes to lock them away if they aren’t done correctly.

From there, the rest of the book focuses on specific kids who have special behavior problems.  They each get their own chapter, and these seven chapters form their own short stories with no plot arc tying them together.  When the parents get fed up with their kid’s behavior, they turn to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle who offers them help.  There are cures of selfishness, slow-eater-tiny-bite-taking, fighting, not wanting to take a bath, talking back, not wanting to go to bed, and not putting toys away.

In later books, the parent gets a piece of magic from Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and those can be quite funny.  However, this book is slightly more realistic.  The cures Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle offers are basically to let the child completely indulge in their bad behavior for a few days and then have to deal with the consequences.  The results are funny if exaggerated.  No one would become as weak after four days of not eating as in the chapter on the slow eater, for example.  It's a bit of reverse psychology in a way.  You think you want this?  Well then here you go.

And that, actually, is what makes this book appeal to kids.  Yes, they are moral lessons about why certain behavior is bad.  But they are funny because the bad behavior is exaggerated to the extreme.  While you might recognize your bad behavior, you can see the reason why it is so bad and laugh along the way.

The stories are very formulaic and pretty short.  We’re talking an average of 15 pages each with a detailed line drawing illustration by Hilary Knight in each chapter.  I blew through the book quickly as an adult, and I’m sure kids won’t have an issue with it either.  This would make a fun read aloud at bed time since the chapters are short.  Plus they are funny and not remotely scary, a good thing at bed time.

There is also little in the way of character development.  How could there be in something so short?  But as a kid, I just enjoyed sailing through the books and enjoying seeing the bad behavior exaggerated.

This book was written in the 40’s, and it is definitely dated.  The parents do spank the kids a time or two.  But most comical to me was how the adults talked to each other as Mrs. this or Mrs. that.  Also, in a few of the chapters, the fathers were next to useless.

I enjoy another couple of the books in this series better, but Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is still a fun book that will warn kids about bad behavior in a way that will completely entertain them.

This review is part of Friday's Forgotten Books (more can be found here) and Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (more found here).

September 20th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

It's that time of the week!  Time for this week's Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week's book is Dearly Depotted by Kate Collins, the third in her flower shop mysteries.  And it starts this way.

"Red, white and blue carnations...That's what you ordered, right?"

Jumping ahead of page 56, we find:

I gave her an outraged look, but she merely turned to Claymore and called in a dulcet voice, "It's worse than we thought, lambkins.  Jack Snyder is -"  I clapped my hand over her mouth.

And yes, the line really does cut out there.  I wasn't removing a spoiler.

I've actually finished the book, so if you are interested in my thoughts, here's the review.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review: Dearly Depotted by Kate Collins (Flower Shop Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun characters and story
Cons: A few weaknesses, but they are minor overall
The Bottom Line:
Death at a wedding
Just complicates Abby’s life
As she tracks killer

Stiff Penalty for Crashing This Wedding

Several years ago, I started the Flower Shop Mysteries.  I enjoyed the first two, and bought the third.  And there it sat on my to be read mountain range for at least a couple of years.  But I finally dusted it off and gave Dearly Depotted a read.  I’m wishing I’d gotten to it sooner.

The series focuses on Abby Knight, the owner of a florist/coffee shop in a small Indiana college town.  If you think flowers are safe, you are sadly mistaken since this is the third murder Abby’s been involved with in as many months.

Abby’s 4th of July is anything but restful.  First, she’s providing flowers for a party.  Then, she has her cousin Jillian’s wedding.  Not only is she doing the flowers there, but she also is a bridesmaid and it turns out she has to provide a last minute escort for herself.

But that’s nothing compared to her job of keeping the groom’s grandmother from wandering off during the reception.  When the grandmother does disappear, Abby tracks her down – next to the corpse of a man who crashed the ceremony earlier.  With a friend of Abby’s as the chief suspect, she springs back into action to find the killer.

Even though it had been a while since I read the previous book in the series, the characters and their relationships quickly came back to me as I got into the story.  And I discovered just how fun they are all over again.  Abby is nosy, but she’s also loyal and determined.  She can be a bit blunt when dealing with others, but it is a flaw she is working on, and it causes her some problems as she investigates.  The rest of the cast is equally as charming, although they could use a tad more development at times.

There are several sub-plots that weave their way in and out of the mystery.  I had many of them figured out before Abby did, although that didn’t hamper my enjoyment at all.  Likewise, I did peg the killer before the end, but I wasn’t completely sure.  The mystery could have used another twist of complication along the way.

It’s easy to sit here and nitpick this or that, but the truth is this was a fun read.  The flaws are there, but the entire time I was reading, I was wishing I had gone back to visit Abby sooner.

The writing is strong and flows well, which made it easy to get lost in the story.

I’m wondering why I let Dearly Depotted fall so far down my to be read pile.  I’ve got to make time to read the next in the series soon.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

September 18th's Waiting on Wednesday

Welcome to the mid-point of the week and this week's Waiting on Wednesday.  This week's book is The Chocolate Book Bandit.

This book is the 13th book in the Chocoholic Mysteries, a light and fluffy cozy series.  The main character and her aunt run a gourmet chocolate shop in a resort community on the shores of Lake Michigan.

These books are always easy reads.  I sail through them.  But the plots are always engaging and the characters are always fun.  I really do liken them to chocolate.  Not necessarily that good for you, but perfectly delightful and well worth the calories.

Speaking of which, these books don't have recipes in them (a change for the genre), but they do have chocolate trivia.

I always feel the need to have some chocolate on hand when I read these books.  Nothing fancy like they sell in the shop, but enough to satisfy the cravings that always develop.

The Chocolate Book Bandit comes out in a couple of weeks on October 1st.

And as long as I have your attention, if you are looking for a light, no pressure reading challenge for the Fall, be sure to check out Fall Into Reading 2013, which starts on Sunday.  No, I'm not hosting, but I am participating, so come back on Sunday to see my list.

Monday, September 16, 2013

TV Show Review: Arrow - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Engaging characters and a compelling story
Cons: A few subpar episodes and the island backstory
The Bottom Line:
Fresh take on Arrow
With characters you will like
Story that excites

"I Wear a Hood and Shoot Arrows into Bad Guys.  I Grade Complicated on a Curve."

Every May, it’s the same thing – I swear I am going to stick only with the shows I already watch and not start any new ones.  And every year when September and October roll around, I start several new shows.  Of the shows I started in the fall of 2012, there was only one I watched more than two or three episodes, and that was Arrow.

I wasn’t super familiar with this DC Comic character before I started watching the show.  As a result, I don’t know how much they have messed with the details of the character.  I do know they set things up perfectly in the pilot, so this newbie could follow the character and the story and hang on for the ride.

The story centers around Olive Queen (Stephen Amell).  Five years ago, he vanished in a boating accident and was presumed dead.  In reality, he washed up on the shore of an island and spent the years surviving.  Along the way, he honed his skills as an archer.

Now that he is back in Sterling City, he is going to complete a mission.  His father, also on the boat, gave Oliver a journal before he died, telling Oliver to take down these men who are abusing the citizens of Starling City.  And so Oliver uses his new archery skills to do just that, putting fear in the hearts of these often rich and powerful men with his alter ego, dubbed “The Hood” by the media.

Of course, his one man vigilante act is complicated by the people who are now back in his life.  His mother Moira (Susanna Thompson) is now running Queen Consolidated, the family business, with the help of her new husband Walter Steel (Colin Salmon).  His sister Thea (Willa Holland) is partying and getting into trouble much like Oliver did before he vanished.  Then there’s his best friend Tommy Merlyn (Colin Connell) and his ex-girlfriend Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), relationships made more complicated by romantic feelings long forgotten and a blossoming love triangle.  Well, and Laurel’s father, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) also wants to arrest The Hood.

But any good hero needs sidekicks, and Oliver has those, too.  Originally assigned as a body guard, it's not long before veteran John Diggle (David Ramsey) is helping out as much as he can.  Part way through the season, a third member of the team is added as computer expert Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) starts adding her expertise to the team.

While Oliver goes after the bad guys one at a time, he is only partially aware of a growing conspiracy against the city.  Will he be able to stop it?

What pulled me into this store from the get go is the characters.  By the time the pilot was over, I felt they were real and were already showing depth.  A few of the episodes didn’t play to this strength, but for the most part, I spent an hour each week delving into the lives of real characters.

Not to say the story isn’t strong.  I was just as interested to find out how Oliver would handle his latest problem or crisis or bad guy as I was in seeing the characters grow and develop.  Between the two, this was an hour of can’t miss TV most weeks.

As I already mentioned, there were a few episodes where I felt the characters were a little flat.  But if one week I didn’t care for the characters, the next week had me completely back on board.  It was a few episodes along the way, but it does keep the season from being perfect.

Then there are the island flashbacks.  Trust me, life for Oliver on the island for those years was not boredom and loneliness.  Each week, we get flashbacks to his time there and a building story there as well.  While my roommate, who I managed to hook on this show, loved this aspect of things, I wished we would spend more time in the now.  Maybe between Lost and Once Upon a Time, I’m wearing out on the back story approach to TV storytelling.  Even so, I did begin to get into even this aspect of the show by the end of the season.

The acting on the show is wonderful.  All the actors nail their characters every week, which is why I was pulled in by the characters so quickly.  With all the drama, this isn’t some light superhero show.  Yes, there are some light moments, but this is a serious drama with a superhero element to it.  The actors capture that perfectly and bring the right amount of seriousness to it.

Proving that this is more about the characters, this show isn't as special effects heavy as some shows in the genre.  However, when they do have effects, they are great.  There are plenty of stunts and fights, and here the show shines.

The 23 episodes of the first season are being offered on DVD and a Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet combo pack.  The shows themselves are in their native wide screen and full surround, which isn't much of a surprise, which isn't a surprise.  Also not a surprise is the inclusion of deleted scenes and a gag reel.  There are three featurettes, one of the creation of the show that includes interviews with the creators and cast, one of the stunts and fights of the show, and one with highlights from the Paley Fest panel.

The show was a huge hit for the CW, but if you happen to be one of those who has missed the boat, go get this set today and catch up before season two starts.  You’ll be done with season one of Arrow before you even know it.

Season 1 Episodes:
1. Pilot
2. Honor Thy Father
3. Lone Gunmen
4. An Innocent Man
5. Damaged
6. Legacies
7. Muse of Fire
8. Vendetta
9. Year's End
10. Burned
11. Trust But Verify
12. Vertigo
13. Betrayal
14. The Odyssey
15. Dodger
16. Dead to Rights
17. The Huntress Returns
18. Salvation
19. Unfinished Business
20. Home Invasion
21. The Undertaking
22. Darkness on the Edge of Town
23. Sacrifice

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Book Review: NERDS - Attack of the BULLIES by Michael Buckley (NERDS #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun action to wrap up the series
Cons: A couple minor quibbles worth noting only in passing
The Bottom Line:
Fanciful series
Ending that fans will enjoy
Filled with lots of fun

NERDS VS. BULLIES – So What Else is New?

I discovered Middle Grade author Michael Buckley about the time that his NERDS series premiered.  I have been following along with every book, enjoying the insane and fun ride.  Attack of the BULLIES is the final book in the series, and it closes things out with a bang.

This series focuses on a team of five kids who are secretly spies out saving the world.  Each member of the team has been given nanobyte upgrades that turn their weaknesses into strengths.  They have such abilities as super speed, an allergy warning system, and mechanical braches that can create anything you need.  These are a huge help since the kids live in a world of super villains out to take it over at a moments notice.

Ruby’s family is facing a crisis.  Both sides of the family are coming together for a giant Hanukkah/Christmas celebration.  The problem is, these family get togethers always seem to end with giant fights.  And her parents are counting on her to keep everything organized.

But Ruby’s family crisis will have to wait.  Ever since Miss Information appeared on the scene, she has been running the NERDS ragged.  They aren’t even pretending to attend classes as they set off around the world stopping her various plans.  But now her plans include creating her own team, the BULLIES.  She’s also planning to kidnap the First Daughter.  Will Ruby be able to lead the team to stop her?

Each book in the series has focused on a different member of the team, and this time it is Ruby’s turn.  As usual, she gets developed nicely.  Unfortunately, the rest of the team usually suffers as a result, but kids won’t mind.  I really noticed this only is passing.

The action is fast and steady in the book, but there is a good story holding it all together.  I enjoyed every page as I waited to see how it would end.  The ending might have been a bit stronger, but I don’t really mind and the middle grade audience won’t mind either.

As you might have figured out, there is a fantasy element in the series, and this book is no exception.  That just adds to the fun.

All this is mixed with a dose of humor.  Yes, we’re talking end of the world spy kind of action, but there are some jokes slipped in when you least expect it.  Plus the villain is a hoot at times as is the reaction of her minions.

And I can’t leave out the illustrations from Ethen Beavers scattered throughout the book.  They aren’t in every chapter, but they are fun when they do appear.

I’m sorry to see NERDS end, but Attack of the BULLIES sends things off with a bang.  Fans of the series of any age will enjoy every page.

Missed these books?  You'll want to back up and read the NERDS Novels in order.

This review is part of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  Follow the link to check out the other entries.

Friday, September 13, 2013

September 13th Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Hi and welcome to another Friday!  That can only mean one thing.  Yes, my first post since Tuesday night.  But also time for Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

I just finished book 5 of NERDS by Michael Buckley.  This one was called Attack of the BULLIES.  And it's a fun end to the series with lots of action and humor with some fantasy thrown in, too.  Everything the target middle grade audience will love.  I'll have a full review Sunday night as part of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  But in the mean time.

This is from the Prologue:

The principal of Thomas Knowlton Middle School was working at his desk when the ninjas attacked.

And chapter one:

"How did I get here?" Ruby Peet grumbled to herself as she climbed onto the roof of a British express train.

And jumping ahead to page 56:

"What's on CNN?  Oh, a report about a squirrel that water skis.  Well, that's huge international news, right?  Watch this - he's going to jump a ramp.  Wow, that animal is fearless."

Yes, it really is as fun as these sentences make it sound.  Read them in order, and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book Review: First-Degree Fudge by Christine DeSmet (Fudge Shop Mysteries #1)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Fast moving plot, recipes, supporting cast
Cons: Gaping plot hole, Ava
The Bottom Line:
The giant plot hole
And Ava’s actions ruined
Book I hoped to like

Fudged Up Debut

It’s funny how life works sometimes.  Exactly a month ago, I was in Wisconsin for the first time for a friend’s wedding.  Then a couple weeks later, I heard about First-Degree Fudge, the first in a new cozy series centered on a fudge maker.  The setting?  The shores of Lake Michigan in Door County, Wisconsin.  Between the cozy hook (I love fudge.  Who doesn’t?) and the setting, I made this a must read book.

Ava Oosterling is moving back to her hometown of Fisher Point, Wisconsin.  She’s started making and selling fudge, sharing space with her grandfather in his bait shop right on Lake Michigan.

Ava is working on creating specialty flavors, and is hoping her latest, Cinderella Pink Fudge, will be a hit with Rainetta Johnson, the visiting actress who will then help spread the word about it.  However, before the fundraiser the actress is in town for can even start, Rainetta is found dead with a piece of Cinderella Pink Fudge in her mouth.  But the bigger surprise is when a diamond is also found in Rainetta’s mouth.  How did the diamond get in Ava’s fudge?  With the sheriff investigating her and her family, can Ava prove she is innocent?

The book started strongly with Rainetta dying early and Ava jumping in to investigate.  While I did find Ava annoying at times, I loved many of the supporting characters and was willing to overlook that.  And the plot was moving forward at a steady pace.

And then we hit the half way point.

About that time, there was a twist that created a giant hole in the plot.  I could certainly understand why Ava didn’t catch that hole right away, however, I expected her to pick up on it at some point.  There were several conversations that would have lead her to realize it, but she never made the connection I did.

Furthermore, Ava’s immediate reaction to this twist was to do something so incredibly stupid that any sheriff would arrest her for obstruction of justice.  I know, I know, this is a cozy.  I regularly ignore that fact in the others I read.  But come on, this was so idiotic.  Furthermore, she had her best friend get involved.

From that point, it was hard to ignore Ava’s selfishness and recklessness.  Couple that with her fatalism, and I was ready for the book to be over.

Really, it is Ava and her actions that I didn’t like.  I actually did love the supporting cast and would enjoy seeing them again.  But Ava was too annoying a main character to read any more books.

There are three fudge recipes in the back (shocking, I know).  While I’m still not sure about the Cinderella Pink Fudge (white chocolate and cherry), the others sound good enough to try.

While I wasn’t in Door County when I was in Wisconsin, I was probably an hour away, so I did enjoy the setting.  It reminded me of the fun I had last month, and it made me want to go back to hang out with those friends all over again.  There were several references to things that are uniquely Wisconsin that I wouldn’t have picked up on before the trip, but I had to smile at now.

But in the end, it wasn’t enough to rescue this debut.  I wanted to like it.  Really, I did.  But First-Degree Fudge will be the last book I read by this author.

Monday, September 9, 2013

TV Show Review: Castle - Season 5

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: "Best Handshake Ever."  "Yeah."
Cons: "That Theory is Highly Improbably.  And Coming from Me, that's Saying Something."
The Bottom Line:
The romance heats up
And mysteries keep coming
Served with lots of fun

"In Your Dreams."  "Look at My Life.  My Dreams Come True."

After four years of will they won’t they, the only question on the minds of fans of Castle while waiting for season 5 was, “Now what?”  Season 4 ended with author Rick Castle and police detective Kate Beckett locked in kiss as we faded to black.  All the press over the summer was asking how the show would avoid the curse of the main couple getting together.  Personally, I wasn’t worried.  Then again, maybe that’s because their relationship has always been secondary to me.

The season picks up the morning after season 4 ended.  Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Beckett (Stana Katic) are shocked to be interrupted when his mother Martha (Susan Sullivan) returns to the loft unexpectedly.  And that’s when the two of them make the decision to keep their relationship a secret, at least for the time being.

The season premier also brings Beckett face to face with the man behind the conspiracy that lead to her mother’s murder and gets her reinstated on the force.

As far as on going stories go, we get some fun as Castle and Beckett try to keep their relationship a secret from his family and her co-workers.  But keeping a secret from a bunch of detectives?  That’s going to take some work.

But the heart of the show is still the case of the week.  And we get some fun ones.  Castle himself becomes the chief suspect in a murder.  A romantic weekend in the Hamptons becomes an issue when a dead body turns up in Castle’s backyard.  Detective Ryan (Seamus Deaver) goes back undercover with the mob while Detective Esposito (Jon Huertas) takes on a trouble youth much like he once was.  And Captain Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald)?  They soften her character some as she goes through some humorous sub-plots while still coming down on Castle when the occasion calls for it.  While she hasn’t warmed to him completely, she isn’t as quick to blame him for everything this year.  Frankly, I liked that.  And fans of Esposito and Lanie (Tamala Jones) will be happy to learn that there may still be sparks between the detective and the coroner.

A few other stand out episodes include the 100th episode which features a great tribute to Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window.  And the February two parter finds college freshman Alexis (Molly Quinn) in trouble when she and a friend are kidnapped.  Fans of Firefly and sci fi in general will love an episode set at a science fiction convention.

As you can see, there are plenty of great cases and great moments here.  In fact, the stolen moments between Castle and Beckett are as good as the unresolved tension between them used to be.  The quips and jokes keep coming as well.  While the clips show does highlight their best moments together, there are still some great ones this season.

Speaking of that clips show, don’t skip it.  There is a moment at the end that truly matters, and some great moments along the way.  Plus, seeing Castle’s greatest hits all in one place is plenty of fun.  The episode came about because ABC asked for a last second additional episode, and I think it works well.

Overall, this season was lighter than last season.  Yes, there are a few more suspenseful or dramatic episodes, but they have recaptured the fun of the show.  And seriously, just because Caskett is finally together doesn't mean the sparks have stopped flying.  Looking for the hottest scene on TV this season?  I would gladly submit the handshake scene from early in season 5 as one of them.

I will say the arc the show started on leading up to the season finale and the cliffhanger was the weak point in the season.  I got so frustrated with Beckett and her behavior.  It didn’t help that Castle was being a clueless guy, but really, work on things better, okay?  And the cliffhanger was a bit weak and predictable.  But these are minor issues.

My other minor complaint is that the mysteries are formulaic.  But considering how many episodes they crank out a year, it would be hard to do something that was truly surprising each week.  And since the cases are really just an excuse to spend time with these characters I love, it’s a non-issue overall.

The actors continue to do a great job bringing their characters to life and since the characters are the heart of it, that is very important.  Castle and Beckett get new layers this season, and the actors are perfect and portraying those.  The rest of the cast fills out their characters as well and shine when the occasion calls for it.

There were 24 total episodes in season 5, and there are all included on this five DVD set in their native wide screen and full surround sound.  Extras include deleted scenes, a gag reel, and fun behind the scenes featurettes.

Frankly, I found nothing major to complain about when it came to season five of Castle.  The show is still serving up chuckles with fun characters and good mysteries.  If that sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll love this set.

Season 5 Episodes:
1. After the Storm
2. Cloudy with a Chance of Murder
3. Secret's Safe with Me
4. Murder He Wrote
5. Probable Cause
6. The Final Frontier
7. Swan Song
8. After Hours
9. Secret Santa
10. Significant Others
11. Under the Influence
12. Death Gone Crazy
13. Recoil
14. Reality Star Struck
15. Target
16. Hunt
17. Scared to Death
18. The Wild Rover
19. The Lives of Others
20. The Fast and the Furriest
21. The Squab and the Quail
22. Still
23. The Human Factor
24. Watershed

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Book Review: Deadweather and Sunrise by Geoff Rodkey (Chronicles of Egg #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great main characters and a fun adventure story
Cons: A little slow at the beginning
The Bottom Line:
Egg's story begins
With danger and adventure
In a fun debut

Egg's Life is Turned Upside Down

I never would have read middle grade book Deadweather and Sunrise if I hadn't won it and the sequel in a contest a few months back.  While they sounded fun, I didn't bump them to the to of my to be read pile.  I should have given them a higher priority because I really enjoyed this book.

Egbert "Egg" Masterson has grown up on the Island of Deadweather.  His family runs a fruit plantation, and the rest of the island is overrun by pirates.  It's about as pleasant as it sounds.

On Egg's thirteenth birthday, his dad surprises the entire family by announcing they are traveling to the neighboring island of Sunrise.  Life on this island is pleasant and fun and about as opposite as you can get from life on Deadweather.  Trips there are always a treat.

Except within hours of landing there, Egg finds himself alone.  Soon, someone has tried to kill him.  Alone and scared, can Egg figure out why someone wants him dead and stay alive long enough to get home?

The setting of this book is a little hard to describe.  No, I don't mean the islands themselves.  It feels like a parallel world during the exploration period of history.  It's definitely not our world, yet it's also not pure fantasy.  I felt at home right away, too, so the target middle grade audience will jump in with no issues.

The book does start a little slowly as it is setting up the plot and introducing us to the characters and a setting.  Even then, it is entertaining.

However, once the story gets going, it is very hard to put down.  I read the last 120 pages in one day, and then I was only stopping for such pesky things as the end of my breaks or lunch hour.  It certainly appealed to me thanks to pirates and adventure.

I also really liked Egg.  He's a resourceful hero who is doing the best he can after finding himself in way over his head.  The other main characters are equally as engaging.  Honestly, their fate was another big reason I was glued to the find third of the book.  Not all the characters are as well developed, but most of them are only on the page for a little bit of time, so it doesn't matter.

All this is told with a little bit of narration that keeps things moving.  Kids will have no issue with the vocabulary, and will easily get lost in the fun of the story.

There is a little romance that will appeal to girls, but the pirates and adventure will definitely appeal to boys.  They should love this one and come back for more.

Speaking of coming back for more, I am repositioning the second on my to be read pile as we speak.  Deadweather and Sunrise definitely leaves you wanting the next chapter in Egg's adventure.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  Follow the link to find other entries.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ornament Review: Sewing for Cinderelly - 2013 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great sculpt of Jaq and Gus
Cons: Tips when you hang it
The Bottom Line:
Gathering some cloth
Jaq and Gus ready to help
Make their friend a dress

Jaq and Gus are Ready to Help get Cinderella's Dress Ready for the Ball

I always pay attention to Hallmark's limited edition offerings, so there was one I knew I wanted to buy in July.  With as big a DisNerd as I am, is it any surprise that I knew I wanted Sewing for Cinderelly?

This ornament features Jaq and Gus, the two mice with the most screen time from the movie Cinderella.  Jaq is standing up straight and looking up while smiling.  Gus is also smiling, but he is bent over.  Both of them are holding up a piece of pink cloth for the other mice to use is sewing the dress for Cinderella to wear to the ball.

This ties in perfectly with another ornament that Hallmark released this year - Cinderelly! Cinderelly!  That ornament shows the dress that the mice create for her and have a clip of the song they sing while they make it.  Of course, these mice are really out of scale if you place them side by side.  Jaq is about two thirds as large as the other ornament.  Of course, I think even as mini ornaments, it would be hard to create them the correct size, especially with any kind of detail.

And this does have good detail.  The faces are large and expressive.  Jaq is wearing his orange and red while Gus wears his green outfits from the movie.  Even the pink cloth they are holding is plastic, but it looks great with some folds to it as if it were real.

The cloth also forms part of the base of the ornament.  Between that and the feet of the mice, you've got a great base to use to display it on any shelf or flat surface year round.  Because, let's face it, there isn't much Christmassy about the ornament.

Gus does have a loop on his left year, so if you want to hang it on your tree you can.  I wasn't too surprised to find that it tips when you hang it.  After all, the loop isn't centered.  It tips back and to the right, so toward Jaq's tail.  In some ways that's good because you can see the expression on Gus's face better.  And it would be fairly easy to disguise in the branches of your Christmas tree.

Jaq and Gus are popular supporting Disney characters, so I wasn't too surprised to learn that Sewing for Cinderelly was a popular limited edition ornament.  I know I'm thrilled to have mine.

Original Price: $14.95