Thursday, July 31, 2014

Book Review: A Question of Death - An Illustrated Phryne Fisher Treasury by Kerry Greenwood

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: 13 entertaining mystery stories
Cons: Assumes familiarity with the series characters
The Bottom Line:
It is worth the trip
For mysteries down under
Flapper detective

Travel Down Under and Back in Time with Phryne

Several months ago, I had a friend visiting me from Australia.  Before she left, she gave me a present of A Question of Death, explaining that is starred a character who was very popular down under.  Bad friend that I am, I didn’t read it until now, but I’m glad I gave it a chance since I enjoyed getting to meet Phryne.

This book is a collection of 13 short stories starring Phryne Fisher.  She’s an independent woman in 1928 Australia who makes her living as a detective.  In this collection, she solves several murders, including the murder of two brothers at one of her parties and the murder of a general at a Christmas in June party.  However, she also solves a few other cases, like a young man who confesses to a murder even when no body is found, a stolen lucky hat, and a missing family heirloom.

As a bonus, this book also contains a few recipes, about half for drinks and half for food, and a few other items fans of the character will love.

This was a bit of an odd choice for jumping into the series.  While there were explanations about who some of the characters were, I never felt like I truly knew who everyone was, especially since some of them were only in one or two stories.  On the other hand, as long as I could track everyone for the current story, I had no problem following the action.  I’m quite curious about Phryne’s background since she appears to be wealthy on her own, but I’m sure that is explained in the earlier novels.

The stories themselves are quite entertaining.  A few of them hinge on Phryne just happening to stumble on the right clue, but for the most part she is presented as a very smart woman who is able to piece things together in a logical way.  None of the solutions seemed forced, and several of them were actually quite clever, especially given the short space of each story.

The author admits in the introduction that one of the stories was created so she could play around with a setting and characters she intended to use in a book.  I suspect that a few of these others were also such exercises, although I have no proof.  That’s not to say that it diminishes their enjoyment as all.  Each story stands quite well on its own.

So yes, I’m glad I spent time with Phryne Fisher.  I’m not sure this was the best place to learn about the character, but even so A Question of Death entertained.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ornament Review: Toymaker Santa 15th Anniversary Limited Edition - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great way to celebrate a 15 year old series
Cons: None for fans of the series
The Bottom Line:
These toys are complete
Santa is packing his bag
Here's to fifteen years

Santa Celebrates 15 years as a Toymaker by Packing Some in His Bag

Hallmark likes to mark anniversaries for their more popular ornament series with limited edition ornaments.  Since Toymaker Santa hits fifteen years in 2014, they released a great limited edition ornament to celebrate.

The ornament features the Santa we've all gotten to know from this series.  He's a little fat but very jolly, in fact his eyes are crinkled as he grins.  He's wearing a tan apron over a green shirt and red pants, and he's got a hammer in the side of his apron.

However, instead of making another toy, he's packing some toys he's made into his giant red bag to be all ready to load up his sleigh and leave for his Christmas Eve trip delivering toys.  In his hand, he's holding a teddy bear (entry #5), and already in the bag is a drum (#11), rocket, (#14), and jack-in-the-box (#13).  These toys are smaller than they originally were, but they have to be to all fit in the bag.

And I really like this ornament as a result.  Obviously, they couldn't include all fifteen toys, but the fact that they highlighted a few of them is great for the collector.  The focus is on some of the more recent entries, although I found the teddy bear interesting since he was just part of the wagon that I took to be the main toy in that year's entry.  Anyway, it fits in with the rest of the series since Santa looks like he always does.  I do like Santa here since he always looks like he's having so much fun no matter what toy he's currently testing.

Since Santa is standing behind his bag, it's very easy to see that the ornament sits on its own fairly easily.  You can display it on any flat surface and be reasonably certain that he will stay there all year long.

However, since he's an ornament, he's really designed to hang on your tree.  There's a little brass loop on the top of Santa's red hat.  Slip a hook through that, and you'll find that Santa tips back just a tad as you raise him in the air.  It's actually hardly noticeable unless you are looking for it, but the result is actually a better display than when the ornament is sitting.  The ornament still looks level, but Santa is facing out a bit more instead of down at the bag.

Since this was a limited edition ornament, fans of the series snapped it up at Premier a couple of weeks ago.  As a result, you'll have to start hunting on the secondary market if you want to add this piece to your collection, and I expect the value will rise until the new year if not longer.

That's why I am glad I was able to add the Toymaker Santa 15th Anniversary Limited Edition ornament to my collection this year.  It's the perfect way to celebrate fifteen years of making kid's Christmas wishes come true.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Toymaker Santa series.

Original Price: $17.95

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Movie Review: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1988)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: A story that I still absolutely love
Cons: Over acting; poor effects; slow pacing
The Bottom Line:
A Narnia tale
Slow and dated production
Worse than remembered

Slow Paced Journey to a Magical Country

I fell in love with Narnia when I first discovered it in third grade.  I was in junior high when our local PBS station starting airing the BBC production of the novels.  Naturally, they started with the first, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  It was three hours long, and I was enthralled.  I watched it several times twenty plus years ago but hadn’t watched it since until this last weekend.  I’m sorry to find that time has not been kind to it.

As with the book, it is the story of four children – Peter (Richard Dempsey), Susan (Sophie Cook), Edmund (Jonathan R. Scott), and Lucy (Sophie Wilcox).  They are sent out of London during the German bombings at the start of World War II and find themselves in an estate deep in the countryside.  In a spare room, Lucy finds an old wardrobe with the ability to transport you to another world.  At first her siblings don’t believe her, but soon they are all drawn into this world of danger where a White Witch (Barbara Kellerman) has made it always winter but never Christmas.  Are they the key to overthrowing her reign?

Even though I’m sure it’s been twenty years since I watch, I’m surprised at just how quickly parts of this version of the story came back to me.  It was originally shown in three, one hour segments here in the states, and I could tell you where those breaks were as we got closer to them.  I guess they were originally broken into six half hour parts because that’s how we got it on this DVD.

What surprised me was just how slow it felt.  They take plenty of time to show us all the character’s reactions to some things, and there are ridiculous set ups and scenes that don’t really advance anything.  For example, we get a scene of the kids walking to the mansion the first time.  Not a word is spoken, and it really adds nothing to the story at all.

On the other hand, they are very faithful to the book.  Much of the dialogue comes directly from the original novel.  This has always been my favorite in the series, and I got pulled into the story all over again despite the faults of this production of it.  I want to see my favorite scenes unfold again no matter how poorly they turn out here.

Which is a good thing because there are some serious flaws.  The acting is adequate at best.  Most of the kids do okay, although they all could be better.  The White Witch is so over the top, however, that she really detracts from any scene she is in.  Yes, some of her stuff should be over the top, but it is way too much here.

Likewise, the production leaves much to be desired.  The animals are all humans in costume.  It works, and I can’t really fault them for it.  However, they have the wolves (the Witch’s secret police) transform into real wolves for any scene where they are running, a choice that is laughable.  Also laughable are the scenes that include some of the more fanciful creatures, all of whom are animated.  It’s not worked into the rest of the scene very well and looks pretty fake.  The exception to this is Aslan, the lion.  He is a full sized robotic animatronic character, and he is very well done.

And yet, as I said, I couldn’t stop watching.  My love for the story carried me beyond the flaws of the production.  Still, my first choice for this story will always be the far superior recent theatrical version which captures the story perfectly with much better effects and acting.

So if you can find this version cheap (I got a set with all three for $5), it is worth getting this version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  However, be prepared for very low budget and dated effects and over the top acting.

This review is part of the 2014 Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.  (I know, I know.  But I've already reviewed all of the books.  What can I say?)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review: The Sasquatch Mystery by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #25)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Camping with Trixie and her friends
Cons: Uneven plot, Diana not in character
The Bottom Line:
Idaho camp trip
Unexpected visitor
Uneven entry

Meet the Cousins

Even though I grew up on the west coast, I had never heard of a Sasquatch before I read The Sasquatch Mystery, one of the entries in the Trixie Belden mystery series for kids.  Turns out, it is another name for Big Foot.  Now if you think that would make for a great mystery, you’re in for a disappointment.  This book isn’t bad, but it’s not what I had hoped it would be.

This book finds Trixie Belden and her brothers and friends camping in Idaho visiting some Belden cousins.  While we had previous met Hallie, this is our first time meeting her older brothers Knutson “Knut” and Capelton “Cap.”  Talk about some strange names!  The entire gang, although with Miss Trask as the chaperon, are camping deep in the forest.  Frankly, I love to camp, and this is one of only two times the gang comes close to my home state of California, so I wanted to love it just for that.

Anyway, their first night, there is an awful smell and sound, and Trixie’s cousins Knut and Cap are exchanging looks.  Early the next morning, Trixie wakes to find a Sasquatch outside their camp.  Is it really there?  And what about the rest of the strange things happening around camp?

The pace of the book is rather uneven.  The beginning feels a bit slow, then in the second half things pick up and suddenly we are racing toward the climax.  In fact, the second half is much more suspenseful for the series.  Even so, the clues are there, and it is easy to follow how we get to the solution.  One aspect of the wrap up is still very weak, but everything is resolved by the end.

This author does a fairly good job with the characters.  The series regulars could use more personality, but they aren’t the annoying versions that don't seem remotely related to the characters we know that sometimes pop up in the books.  Considering some of the stress they go through late in the book, they actually keep the fighting to a minimum, and I find the few flair ups to be believable and expertly handled.

The exception to this is Diana Lynch, one of Trixie’s friends who is along for the adventure.  She is one the various ghost writers often had a hard time getting right, and she is definitely not right here.  Now, she’s never one of the most adventurous characters in the series, but here she is so afraid of everything that it quickly gets annoying.  She’s got more of a backbone than that, at least when in the hands of a good writer.

So once again, this isn’t the best book for those new to the series to jump in and read.  Instead, I recommend you start at the beginning and work your way up to The Sasquatch Mystery.  By then, you’ll be a full fledged fan and want to read all the books no matter how uneven they are.  It’s sad this is one of the uneven ones.

And if you haven't met Trixie before, be sure to check out the rest of the Trixie Belden Mystery series.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Book Review: The 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun story, great characters, fun humor
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Familiar story
But differences from movie
Both worth enjoying

In Search of Puppies

When I first moved to Southern California, I was browsing my local library one day and spotted (pun intended) The 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.  I knew the Disney movie of the same name came from a book, and I’d always been curious to read it.  Now all these years later, I decided to reread the book, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did before.

It’s a double wedding for Pongo and Missis and their pet Mr. and Mrs. Dearly.  The new couples are settling in to their life in London, and even more exciting, Missis is expecting puppies.

However, the newlyweds are living down the street from Cruella de Vil, an old school mate of Mrs. Dearly.  Cruella loves furs so much she actually married a furrier.  And after seeing Pongo and Missis, she’s decided that a Dalmatian coat would be lovely.  So when the puppies go missing soon after they are born, Pongo suspects he knows who stole them.  But can they find them in time?

Now, if you are familiar with the movie, then you know the broad strokes.  Details are different, and some of the scenes from the book were cut, but the general outline of the story remains the same.  I found it easy to forget the movie and get lost in the fun that is this story.  The biggest change is with Perdita, who plays a very different part in the movie than she does here (a case of combining characters, which also happens to some humans).

And if you haven’t seen the movie, you will still find this book enjoyable.  The plot, while not completely believable, works, and the world that the author has created is so fun you want to believe it could be.  Dogs communicating via barking at certain times?  Charming and fun.  They even work together with cats a couple of times.

Likewise, the characters are charming – both human and animal.  They are infused with so much personality it’s easy to root for the heroes to get their way.  And Cruella?  She’s so over the top she’s so fun to love to hate.   Plus she gets a better comeuppance than she does in the movie.

What surprised me was the comedy.  Yes, the Disney movie is funny, but it is more broad, slapstick comedy.  While the book does have a little of that, overall this is much more subtle, often creating humor from how dogs view the world (we are their pets) or characters names.  We even learn more about the de Vil family, which is quite clever and funny.  I’m honestly not sure how much of this kids will get, but I loved it.

The majority of the book takes place the week before Christmas, and that plays a bit of a part in how the story unfolds.  Yes, the movie mentions this briefly, but the overall effect here is much bigger.

So if you are a fan of the more famous movie, you owe it to yourself to read the book.  And if you are fresh to the concept, dive in here and enjoy.  Either way, you’ll be glad you spent time with The 101 Dalmatians.

This book is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  It was also read as part of the Reading to Know Classics Book Club.  You can read other entries from the book club here.

And finally, if you haven't seen the movie, here's my review of Disney animated classic 101 Dalmatians.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 26th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Wipeout - Well, we finally got a non-themed episode of the show.  Jill's bits just weren't that funny, but it was still a decent enough episode.  I was rooting for Second Vest, but he lived up to his name, coming in second.

America Ninja Warrior - Kacy is still the only woman to finish the semi-finals.  Still, that was a great run.  I knew the Weatherman would dismount based again from the promos.  Still, it was an impressive moment.  And I was a bit surprised to see some of those who hadn't finished running later in the show.  I thought they ran and showed them in the order they qualified with the weakest at the beginning.

Royal Pains - It's so nice to see Jeremiah is love with someone other than Divya.  So much going on this season, but I am really wondering just where the plot line with the sister is going.  And yes, that last scene with Hank and Evan was so great.  Nice to see them having fun as brothers.

Covert Affairs - Joan and Arthur are going to have a rough patch before the season is over, but just which issue will cause it I can't quite decide yet.  I just hope they resolve things since they have come so far.  Nice to see them getting a good story this season.  Auggie is in trouble with the two women in his life; nobody knows it yet, however.  And Annie?  I hope she is going to step back like Auggie told her she needed to there at the end.

Mystery Girls - I'll admit I have fun with this one.  I guess I'm warming up to the series, although the references to Beverly Hills 90210 were fantastic.  Not to mention the great scene where they caught the bad person.

Suits - There for a few minutes, I thought things were looking up.  Now everyone is hitting rock bottom, and it looks like they'll keep digging next week.  I love this show because you can just never tell how they will resolve things.

Graceland - Speaking of which, I can't see them getting out of the mess here very easily either.  At least they have Paige back, although her scenes were so intense tonight.  I wonder how they will move forward on everything next week.

Girl Meets World - Okay, maybe it was the fact that when I watched it on Saturday morning I was pretty tired, but I had tears in my eyes for much of that episode.  Yes, I laughed at parts of it, but the emotions coming from the actors was so great.  Yes, I knew what Cory was going to do for the Father/Daughter dance (in fact, I saw several of the plot points coming), but it didn't make them any less good.  Seriously, I love this show!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ornament Stand Review: A Year of Disney Magic Stand - Released by Hallmark in 2014

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great looking stand for Disney ornaments
Cons: Wanted just a one ornament stand for the Year of Disney Magic series
The Bottom Line:
Disney magic stand
Great for holding ornaments
Not great for series

The Perfect Stand for Holding Twelve Disney Ornaments

I was not at all surprised when Hallmark announced their plans for a year long series of ornaments with Mickey and friends.  After all, their series with the Peanuts gang was a huge success.  And since that series had a stand, I was expecting Mickey to get a stand of his own.  I was a little surprised at the form the Year Of Disney Magic Stand took.  I love it, but I’m not sure I love it for the series.

What kind of stand do you create for a Disney series?  Mickey ears, of course.  This stand is a big circle with two ovalish circles sticking out on the sides.  The result is a very good Mickey head.  The circle sticks into a stand at the bottom with screws that hold it into place, and the ears are attached to the sides with screws as well.

The stand is big – 17.5 inches tall by 20 inches wide.  And that’s the idea because it is set up to hold 12 ornaments at the same time.  Two ornaments go in each ear and two go in the top row of the main part of the head.  There are two more rows in the head, and they hold three ornaments each.

Now don’t get me wrong, the DisNerd in me loves this stand.  As the box says, you can use it to hold 12 of your favorite Disney ornaments period, and there is a big appeal in that.  The ornaments can’t be too big since, even with the size of the stand, you really only have room for an ornament that is 3 to 3.5 inches tall, maybe 4 inches, depending on where in the stand you put it.  However, there are still plenty of possibilities, and you could even change it out every month if you so desired.  Many of the Disney ornaments aren’t Christmas specific, so you could use this display year round.  All these were reasons why I bought it.

However, the stand was sold as a stand for the Year of Disney Magic series, and that’s where I’m disappointed.  I loved the stand for the Peanuts series, which featured 12 different backgrounds and was obviously designed to display one ornament a month.  That, to me, was part of the fun of the series.  I was hoping for a similar stand for this year’s series, and this just doesn’t quite cut it.  I love it for the reasons I already mentioned, but it’s not what I really wanted.

On the other hand, it looks like the hooks in the stand will hold all the ornaments in the series so they face the room.  Not all the hooks on the Peanuts series worked right with the stand, so that is an improvement over the series from last year.

So am I glad I bought the Year Of Disney Magic Stand?  Yes, and I will have fun putting Disney ornaments in it.  However, I wish they had done something smaller for the year long series so I could just display one a month.  As it is, I will probably display the Disney and the Peanuts series together, but I’m keeping my eyes open for something even better.

What could be more magical than the entire Year of Disney Magic?

Original Price: $49.95 but discounted to $29.95 during Ornament Premier weekend

July 25th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Time again for Book Beginnings and Friday 56.  Yep, it's almost the weekend!

Usually, I just go with my current read, but this week, I've finished two books (one humorous mystery and one middle grade book) and am reading a third (another middle grade book).  So I did give it a little thought.  Still, I decided to go with the humorous mystery, The Good, the Bad, and the Emus by Donna Andrews.

This is the latest in the long running Meg Langslow mysteries with feature Meg and her wacky collection of family and friends.  This time, they are going on an emu hunt and learning more about a long lost branch of the family tree.

And it all starts with this:

"Be careful!" I said, looking up from the boxwood hedge I was pruning.  "We don't want another trip to the emergency room.  We've used up our family quota for the week."

Jumping ahead of page 55 (Page 56 only has a couple of lines on it.), we find:

I shut my eyes for a moment.  Apparently, Grandfather was also going to film the emu roundup for another of his popular Animals in Peril documentaries.

Want to learn more?  I finished this one early enough in the week that my review is already posted.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Emus by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #17)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, plenty of fun, final chapter
Cons: The mystery is a little underdone
The Bottom Line:
Emus run amok
With a killer on the loose
Meg must track them both

Hunting Emus…and a Killer

It’s been quite a few books since Meg’s adventures have taken her outside of Caerphilly, the Virginia college town that she and much of her family call home.  That’s changed for The Good, the Bad, and the Emus since we relocate to a town about an hour away for an emu hunt.  Fans will be thrilled even if it isn’t the strongest in the series.

It's been a couple of years now since Meg's long lost Grandfather surprised everyone by finding them and becoming part of the family.  Now, Grandfather, aka Dr. Montgomery Blake, has hired local PI Stanley Denton, to track down his one time love, Cordelia, aka Meg's Grandmother.  However, Stanley finds that Cordelia died six months ago in a town not that far away from Meg's family, and her surviving cousin is a recluse.  This cousin will only share memories of Cordelia if Stanley and Meg can find Cordelia's killer.

Fortunately, Dr. Blake comes up with the perfect cover for the investigation.  The town has a feral emus population thanks to a failed emu farm just outside of town.  With a TV crew and a bunch of volunteers, knows as Blake's Brigade, they hope to track down the emus. Meg and her family join Burke’s Brigade, partially to find the birds and partially to find a killer.  But when a member of the brigade is struck down by poison, is there a new killer in the mix?  What about the murder six months ago?

The books in this series are always a combination of wacky antics from a cast of fun characters and a mystery thrown in.  Sometimes, the mystery takes a back seat to the other goings on, and that was definitely the case here.  Meg never completely forgets about it, but she is often distracted by the emu round up.  There is an exciting climax and a logical resolution, but on the whole the mystery was a tad underdone.

However, we do have the emu round up as a pleasant distraction.  I found a couple of scenes laugh out loud funny, and most of the time it was very amusing.  Between the volunteers and the birds, we have quite a bit of the usual crazy antics that have made this series so popular.

And the cast of characters is strong.  We have a few of the usual characters here, but mostly this book is filled with new comers.   That wasn’t an issue for me since I felt like I knew them all very well by the end and I’m sorry they won’t be back in future books.

Which brings us to the last chapter.  Series fans will absolutely love it.  That’s all I’m going to say, but do know it won’t be as special if you don’t already know the characters.

So if you are a fan, don’t hesitate to pick up The Good, the Bad, and the Emus.  If you are new to Meg, back track and get to know the characters before you tackle this book.  This may be book seventeen, but you’ll be reading it before you know it.

And if you are missing a few of Meg's adventures, here are the Meg Langslow Mysteries in order.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cookie Review: Chips Ahoy! Oreo Creme Filled

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Oreo Crème middle
Cons: Really doesn't work with the rest of the cookie
The Bottom Line:
Sweet center filling
Overwhelms rest of cookie
So better apart

Sweet Flavor, but Doesn’t Really Belong in These Cookies

The cookie aisle is a dangerous place in the grocery store – or at least it is for me.  I was walking down it recently when I spotted Chips Ahoy! had a new flavor out – Oreo Creme Filled.  I was curious, so I had to try it.

These cookies are in the Chewy line of Chips Ahoy! cookies, meaning they are softer cookies.  Since those are the cookies I prefer, that is a point in their favor.

And these cookies are just as you’d picture them.  From the outside, they look like your standard chocolate chip cookie.  However, inside they hide a layer of white cream that is usually at the center of an Oreo cookie.

Now don’t misunderstand what I am about to say.  I love Oreo cookies.  And their creamy middle is wonderful with the chocolate outer cookies.  However, they don’t belong in a chocolate chip cookie.  The Oreo cream overwhelms the rest of the cookie, so it is all you can taste.  The result is just very sweet.  It’s not bad, but it needs more other flavor to balance it out.

This is one combination that shouldn’t have happened.  It’s not bad, but it’s not that great either.  I won’t be tempted to buy Oreo Creme Filled again in the future.  I'll stick with Oreos or regular Chips Ahoy! cookies.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: My New Friend is So Fun! by Mo Willems

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Laughs and a good message gently taught
Cons: Brian doesn’t look like a bat to me
The Bottom Line:
Playing with new friends
What does that mean for Gerald?
We get laughs and warmth

New Friends – And Old

I have fallen in love with the Elephant and Piggie books.  Whether the books have a lesson to teach or not, they are always just plain fun.  That’s the case once again with My New Friend Is So Fun!

On this particular day, Gerald is talking to Snake.  The two are alone because Piggie, Gerald’s best friend, is spending the day playing with Brian Bat, Snake’s best friend.  At first, both of them think it is nice because their best friends are so much fun.  But then they start to worry.  What if their best friends are having more fun without them?  Will they lose their best friends?

So obviously, this is a book with a lesson in it, and that lesson is just because your best friend is making new friends, it doesn’t mean they like you any less.  And the reason I love this book is because it teaches that lesson with warmth and humor.  In fact, it never once “teaches” us this lesson in words.  The lesson comes solely because of the actions of the characters.

And there’s still plenty of humor.  As Gerald and Snake start to panic about losing their best friends, the reactions get over the top.  Even the climax, while sweet, is also pretty funny.

As usual, the story is told through dialogue and illustration, making it a fast, fun read.  The dialogue is fairly easy to read, making it a good book for beginning readers.  My only complaint in this department is Brian the Bat.  He just doesn’t look like a bat to me at all.  Mo Willem’s illustrations are always stylized, but normally they do look like what they are supposed to look like.  Here, Brian looks more like a Rabbit to me.  But I’m complaining about a very minor thing over all.

Because truly, My New Friend Is So Fun! is so fun.  There’s plenty of humor and a good lesson that will entertain Gerald and Piggie’s many friend, both old and new.

Monday, July 21, 2014

What's on My Nightstand - July 2014

We've hit the fourth Tuesday of the month, which means it is time for What on Your Nightstand.

I can tell you what is coming off my nightstand - The Good, the Bad, and the Emus by Donna Andrews.  As in I just finished it 10 minutes ago.  It's the latest in her Meg Langslow comedic mystery series.  Not the best in the series, but still lots of fun.  My full review will be up later this week once I've had a chance to write it.

Coming up next, I will be reading The 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.  I'll be reading it for the Classic Book Club hosted by Reading to Know.  I've never been a part of this book club before, but this seemed like a good excuse to reread the book.  I read it close to 20 years ago, so it will be interesting to see what I remember of the book.  I'll be posting that review on Sunday, if all goes according to plan.

After that?  I'll be working away on my goal of eventually reviewing all the books in the Trixie Belden series.  Up next?  #25, The Sasquatch Mystery.  From there it will be a book that a friend from Australia gave me months ago.  I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I haven't read it yet.  Finally, I will be reading the fourth Cheese Shop Mystery by Avery Aames, To Brie or Not to Brie.

That should carry me into August.  From there, I've got some new releases by favorite authors I'll need to get my hands on.  I'm still hoping to get in some Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books.  And I have another couple series I want to reread, not to mention I still have a towering pile of new books screaming my name.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'd better get reading.

Ornament Review: Four Calling Birds - Twelve Days of Christmas #4 - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Beautiful ornament with some unusual colors
Cons: The wings look more vulnerable than normal.
The Bottom Line:
Another winner
In this beautiful series
Bold works well again

And Just What Is a Calling Bird, Anyway?

A friend made an interesting point as we were waiting to see just what Hallmark artist Edythe Kegrize would do for the fourth entry in the Twelve Days of Christmas ornament series.  There is no such thing as a calling bird.  After a lifetime singing the song at Christmas, I was startled to realize she was right.  Oh, there are theories about what it meant in the old days, but really, we don't know for sure what this verse means.  As a result, Four Calling Birds might be a bit more fanciful than the others in the series, but that doesn't make it any less beautiful.

Just how fanciful?  Well, the bird is done in blues and purples if that gives you any idea.  The bird has a pretty dark purple head and a blue body and tail with a light blue over light purple wings.  The bird is wearing an acorn top on its head and the dangle element is a light green acorn as well.  There is a fuzzy light blue piece of cloth tied around the bird's neck.  As usual, the wings have lyrics from the verse printed on them with music on the back wing.

Now I will admit that purple and blue isn't the first color I think of when I think of a bird of any kind.  And yet, this ornament is just as beautiful as the others in the series.  It's really hard to describe the ornament in any other way.  The choices may be bold and outside the box, but they work so well together that I can't wait to get this one on my tree.  Being dark, it might blend into the tree a bit more than some of the others in the series, but that's my only complaint with how it looks.

I so worry a bit about the wings on the bird.  The previous entries in the series have all had wings that just stuck out a tiny bit from the body.  This time around, they stick down from the body and most of the ones I've looked at already curve a little.  I'm very worried about the wings breaking, mostly likely when I wrap it up to store it, but even if it were to drop, that might break them.  (I really wish Hallmark would include the plastic storage they used to use for this series to protect the wings.)

Since this is a bird and there is the acorn dangling down from the ornament, there is no way to stand this ornament up for display.  You have to hang it.  The good news there is that the ornament appears to hang straight to me, although it's a bird.  If it didn't, would you really be able to notice.

Since this is the fourth in an official series, you'll find a 4 in a Christmas tree somewhere on the ornament.  It's pretty much where I expected it to be, although I will let you hunt for it if you are so included.

Real of not, Four Calling Birds is a beautiful addition to what is my favorite Hallmark series.  I'm not sure what Edythe will do for next year's rings, but I've no doubt I will love it as much as I do this ornament.

Of course, you'll need to get all of the 12 Days of Christmas series.

Original Price: $12.95

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book Review: Earthquake Shock by Marlane Kennedy (Disaster Strikes #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5 (for the target audience)
Pros: Action and good characters
Cons: None for beginning readers in early elementary school.  Adults will find it light and short
The Bottom Line:
The earth starts to shake
Will these four friends make it home?
Early chapter book

This New Series is Not Off to a Shaky Start

Growing up in California, earthquakes are a fact of life.  I’ve been in quite a few small ones, but only one major earthquake.  Even then, it wasn’t located close enough to really disrupt my daily life.  Still, I found it interesting that earthquakes were the main focus of the first in the new Disaster Strikes series from Marlane Kennedy.  I approached Earthquake Shock with a little more interest than I will some of the others just because I know a little more about them.

Joey is thrilled to be allowed to stay late at the skate park even if it does mean having to come home with Dylan.  He is trying to learn some new tricks on his new skateboard, and he’s enjoying practicing them with his friends Fiona and Kevin.  However, as the four of them are on their way home, an earthquake hits Los Angeles, separating the group.  Is everyone okay?  What will they find when they get home?

The series is aimed at young readers just graduating up to chapter books.  It’s only 110 pages long, and there are pen illustrations once or twice a chapter.  As a result, I found it to be a very fast read, and it certainly isn’t over complicated.  But it is just right for the target audience.

Take the plot.  It’s really more a series of encounters that the friends have after the quake hits as they try to get home.  There are some close calls, which definitely caught my interest, but they were resolved fairly quickly so we could move on to the next thing.  Still, it works well for the target audience, who will find each encounter very interesting.  I know I did.

Considering how short the book is, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of character development, and the characters and their growth are fairly obvious to adults.  However, kids won’t care because they’ll be interested in the action.  And even with the limited amount of page time she had to work with, Marlane still managed to give us some good characters we care about.  I did tear up at the end, after all.  And I really did like Joey, who bravely did what he needed to do in several situations.  He makes a great hero.

The author even manages to work in just a bit of humor.  It’s not enough to make light of the bad situation, but it does help lighten the mood.

So what about details of the quake itself?  Again, I haven’t been as close to the center of a big quake as these characters are, but I certainly did recognize the way it was described from the quakes I’ve been through.  The aftermath felt real to me as well.

Earthquake Shock really is a great book for young readers because the story will catch and keep their interest.  Heck, I might have a few nitpicks, but even so I got caught up in it and am glad I read it.

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 19th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Wipeout - The writers on this show are wonderful with how they can develop and expand on a pun.  I always enjoy the puns.  I'm a bit surprised at the theme of the winner getting to date Jill.  The first guy they introduced us to won, and I was rooting for him all along.  I've got a pretty good track record this season, or at least better than usual.

24: Live Another Day - I had suspected we'd get that ending all along.  I was hoping we wouldn't, but I had suspected as much.  And after they showed the coffin, I thought I knew who was in it as well.  Again, hoped I was wrong.  And yet?  Those scenes still packed a wallop.  Never a comedy, never a happy ending, but always a wallop.  I think the hardest scene was the President's monologue at the end.

American Ninja Warrior - They really did kill Kacy's finish with the promos, however, it didn't make it any less fun and amazing to watch.  And I loved how her boyfriend climbed up to celebrate with her.  Talk about a true gentleman.

Royal Pains - I'm surprised they brought the mafia guy back, but obviously he's around for several episodes at this point.  I wonder exactly where they are going with him.  Likewise, I'm wondering where they are going with the sister storyline.  And look at Divya pulling a Hank to save a patient.  I'd really want them on my side if I had a mystery illness.

Covert Affairs - Don't characters realize that when you hide a secret, it only comes back to bite you in the end?  Auggie and Annie are in for it now.  In other news, they got me when that guy came in and attacked Annie, but as soon as we saw him, I knew that the gun would come into play.

Mystery Girls - Well, they finally let us see the pilot.  It wasn't that great an episode, but few pilots truly are.  In this case, it was especially true since they didn't solve a mystery at all!

Suits - That show packs more twists in an hour….  The Donna/Louis plot line really had nothing to do with anything, and yet it was so much fun and really made me smile at the end.  As to the rest, I feel like a broken record, but this is very interesting and getting more interesting all the time.

Graceland - That felt like the lead up to a season finale, or at least a mid-season finale.  The way they played all those cliffhangers was just perfect.  I am very intrigued to see where they will go next week.

Girl Meets World - I absolutely love this show!  Okay, so I really don't see Lucas's reaction at the end being realistic, but it was nice.  Auggy's sub-plot was hysterical, and it was nice to see Topanga get a little more to do.  So many great lines, and a very clean comedy, too.  Well, except for the shaving cream and potatoes, of course.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review: Drizzled with Death by Jessie Crockett (Sugar Grove Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Dani and the cast; entertaining mystery
Cons: Could use a better sense of place; maple syrup cravings
The Bottom Line:
A series debut
Sweetened with characters and
Humor that pleases

Dani Finds Herself in a Sticky Situation

When I spotted Drizzled with Death in coming soon listings, there was no doubt in my mind I would read the book.  You see, I love maple syrup - the real stuff, forget those imitations that they sell in stores and taste horrible.  So a mystery series themed around a maple syrup grower was something I had to support.

The Greene family has owned a maple syrup tree farm in New Hampshire for generations.  Also part of the family tradition is providing the syrup for the town’s annual All You Can Eat Pancake fundraiser for the local fire department.  Never mind that Dani’s Grampa wins every year, people still love to attend.

At this year’s breakfast, Alanza Speedwell and Grampa are the last two eating when Alanza flops face first into her plate.  No, it isn’t a food coma, it was murder, and people begin to suspect that her syrup was poisoned.  Dani has been working hard to grow the family business, and this could be a huge setback if it doesn’t shut the place down all together.  And it's not like Alanza hadn't made plenty of enemies in the short time he'd been in town.  Can Dani find the killer before the business is the next victim?

Let's get my one complaint with the book out of the way right away.  I felt like we were plunked down in the story with little to no context or description to aid us.  References are made to regular events, and we have to infer what they are from the scene eventually set there.  Either the author got better with this or I got the setting because by the end of the book, I wasn't having this problem at all.

So let's get on to what I did enjoy, starting with the characters.  They are an eccentric and fun bunch, just the kind you'd expect in a small town setting in the middle of New Hampshire.  And yet they always felt real.  Okay, maybe one or two were out there, but they were such fun I didn't care.  Dani herself is a wonderful main character who grows in some surprising ways over the course of the book.

The plot was great fun.  The book is filled with a wide variety of viable suspects, and I didn't zero in on the killer until Dani did.  And yet the solution was completely logical with a wonderfully done climax that had me turning pages quickly.

Which brings us to the humor.  Between Dani's love life and the exotic animals roaming the area, there was actually quite a bit of humor in the book.  I wasn't expecting it, but it was a touch I really enjoyed.

I mentioned loving real maple syrup, right?  Then you will understand that I had maple syrup cravings while I was reading this book.  They were so powerful that I had to go out and buy some and have waffles for breakfast over the weekend.  (Waffles are one of my favorite maple syrup holders.)  If you are like me, you'll be glad to find two recipes in the back.  I don't drink, so the Maple Magic Martini doesn't interest me, but the Who'd a Thunk It sounds divine.

Just like having one pancake (another favorite maple syrup holder), just reading the first in this series isn't going to be enough.  Good thing the sequel just came out this month.  You can bet I won't wait to read it as long as I waited to read Drizzled with Death.

July 18th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

We've made it to another Friday!  So let's get the final work day of the week started with Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week, I'll be pulling quotes from Drizzled with Death by Jessie Crockett.  Yes, a maple syrup themed cozy mystery series.  Just when I think they've found all the topics they can cover, they pull out a few more.

And here is how the book begins:

I knew as soon as I lied to my mother, the night would turn out badly.

And jumping ahead to page 56, we find:

I was a bit worried about my leisure time in the upcoming summer.  What if by some miracle Piper managed to net the kangaroo with [the hammock] and the kangaroo struggled free, tearing a huge hole right through the side?

Yes, you did read that right, a kangaroo.  It's part of a subplot that brings a lot of great humor to the book.

I actually finished the book on Wednesday, and my review is right here if you want to read more about the book.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ornament Review: Minnie Has a Ball! - A Year of Disney Magic #1 - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun idea and a great sculpt
Cons: None at all
The Bottom Line:
Beach ball, sand, and fun
Nothing more you could ask for
In magic debut

Have a Ball with Minnie at the Beach

When I first learned of the year long Peanuts ornament series that Hallmark started last July, I almost predicted that they would do one with Disney characters this year.  I would have been right.  At Ornament Premier this year, they released the first in this new series – Minnie Has a Ball!  And it is a lot of fun.

Officially the ornament for August (they sell them a month early), this ornament features Minnie Mouse.  She’s dressed for the beach in an orange bikini (don’t tell Walt), but she still has her pink bow in her hair.  The colors they’ve chosen seem to work together well even if I don’t normally picture them going together.  They also die in to the sandals on her feet, which are orange with pink bows.  She’s actually turned sideways like she is running by us, and in her hands, she’s holding an inflatable beach ball.  Just like many traditional balls, it has white and colored stripes on it.  She’s standing in the sand, and there is a starfish at her feet.

Despite my comment earlier, Minnie’s bikini is actually very tastefully done and looks nice.  It didn’t even dawn on me what she was wearing until I looked closer to write my review, and you could say it is more of a two piece suit.  Minnie is smiling and clearly enjoying her time at the beach.  But then again, who wouldn’t?  I mean, it’s the beach.  It’s always fun there, right?

Because they have added the sand around Minnie’s feet, the ornament has a nice base for standing.  That makes it perfect for setting out to display every August (or year round if you prefer).  It will display nicely with any beach scene you want to set up, including Pig Pen from last year’s Peanuts entry, Fun at the Beach.

However, if you want to hang the ornament, there is a loop on Minnie’s head so you can do just that.  Minnie is perfectly balanced, so she hangs nice and straight no matter what you hang her from.

Speaking of which, Hallmark did sell a Mickey head stand you can use to hang up to 12 Disney ornaments.  (There are 12 in this monthly series.  Coincidence?)  The hooks in this series are perfectly designed so that you can hang Minnie in it and she faces the room with ease.  It looks like the entire series should hang correctly.  I sure hope so.  This stand was extremely popular during Premier and is already sold out, at least from what I’ve been hearing.  The ornaments will still be available, however, so you can pick them up and enjoy as the year goes along.

And enjoy them you will.  A Year of Disney Magic is off to a great start with Minnie Has a Ball!  I’m going to enjoy collecting this series for the next twelve months.

What could be more magical than the entire Year of Disney Magic?

Original Price: 12.95

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Movie Review: Glory (1989)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Powerful story and great performances
Cons: Most characters slightly underdeveloped; predictable story
The Bottom Line:
Historic soldiers
Fighting in historic war
Historical film

Fighting For Your Own Freedom

I will freely admit to having pre-judged Glory long before I saw it.  Just knowing what it was about was enough to make me feel I'd know my reaction to it.  When my roommate recorded it off TV, I decided to test my theory, and I was right.

The movie tells the story of Colonel Robert Shaw (Matthew Broderick), a northern who is part of the army during the Civil War.  He isn't seeing much action.  While home on leave, he is offered the chance to lead up the first regiment made up of runaway slaves and free black men.  When he takes the job, it proves much tougher than he ever expected.  Can he get his men into fighting shape?  Will they ever see combat?

It's a war movie, and that really tells you everything you need to know about the plot.  And that was one thing I had judged this movie on before I saw it.  I found as I watched it that I was completely right in how my expectations were met.

Now, as I always say, that doesn't mean the movie can't still be very entertaining, and it was.  I was pulled into the story of the regiment and everything they had to endure.  Even though this was set in history, I was outraged at some of the abuse that Shaw had to fight against.  I even learned a thing or two about the Civil War I didn't know before.  (No, I'm not taking a movie at face value, but these new facts appear to be backed up elsewhere as well.)

Where the movie could have done better is the characters.  We really get to know Shaw, but the rest of the men are fairly interchangeable.  Even Shaw's friend and fellow officer Major Forbes (Cary Elwes) could have been better developed.  That would have made the predictable ending even more powerful to me.

I'm not faulting the actors one bit.  Okay, I had a bit of trouble picturing the usual comedic Matthew Broderick in a serious role, but he was great in the part.  Likewise, Cary Elwes was a great actor with the scenes he was given.  Among the African-American soldiers we have the likes of Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman who bring their usual outstanding acting to this film.  Really, it was the script that should have developed the characters better.

Being a war film, there are several battle scenes, and they looked as realistic as I wanted them to look.  Since I'm fairly squeamish, I don't mind if things are toned down a little, but I bought what I saw.

In case you haven't figured it out, I expected Glory to be a powerful but predictable war movie.  While I felt stronger characters would have made it more powerful overall, I'm pleased to say that I was mostly right.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff; Illustrated by Felicia Bond

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Charming and creative
Cons: A tad simple
The Bottom Line:
The charming pictures
And creative progression
Make this a winner

Just Look What a Mouse Eating a Cookie Leads To

I know how I missed If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.  It came out after my brother was too old for picture books.  But somehow, it only vaguely crossed my radar before a recent family vacation with my niece.  After reading it, I can see why kids and parents still enjoy it almost 30 years later.

Giving a mouse a cookie might seem like a simple kindness, but you never know where it might lead.  After all, milk has to go with a cookie, but somehow that leads to housework and even creating art.

Now if the book sounds simple, that's because it really is.  There is just a minimal plot (if that).  All you are wondering is just what the current action will lead the mouse to want to do next.  I like the fact that he isn't all selfish or demanding since some of the time he's helping you.  And I love the creativity of where each action leads next.  I certainly never would have come up with this list, yet it does have a certain logic to it.

The illustrations add to the fun.  Each page just has a sentence or two on it, but the pictures fill in any gaps.  They are detailed and great to look at on their own.

Combined the two, and you have a very charming picture book that kids and their parents will love.

Laura Jobbe Numeroff and illustrator Felicia Bond are to be commended for taking a simple idea and combining things for a charming book.  If you haven't read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie yet, find a child to read it to today.  You'll both enjoy it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ornament Review: Officer Snoopy - Spotlight on Snoopy #17 - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Honoring police officers
Cons: A bit plain; forward tip
The Bottom Line:
Snoopy takes new job
Honoring the officers
With festive display

Officer Snoopy Says, "Stop and Look at This Ornament."

Once upon a time, the only Hallmark ornaments I collected regularly were the Spotlight on Snoopy series.  (And how my bank account longs for those days.)  While I quite obviously buy more than that these days, I do still make one of my first purchases the new ornament in this series.  For 2014, the entry is Officer Snoopy, and it's a nice companion to an earlier entry.

As you could probably guess from the title, this ornament features Snoopy as a police officer.  He's actually still mostly white, but he's wearing a blue police officer cap with a black bill and he's got a black vest on as well.  His left hand is holding a silver whistle, and his right hand is out in a stopping motion.

And just who is he stopping?  Why Woodstock, of course, who has also been in ever ornament in the series.  In this case, Woodstock is driving in a small red car that is actually attached to Snoopy's foot to hold the ornament together.

I mentioned earlier that this one shares a connection with a previous ornament in the series.  Five years ago, Snoopy was a firefighter.  Now he's doing another ornament honoring those who put their lives on the line to keep us safe.  From that stand point, I do like the ornament.

However, overall the ornament is a little plain.  If it weren't for Woodstock's red car, it would be easy to dismiss this one as completely black and white.  I know Snoopy is a white character, but usually they work in a bit more color than this.

The other issue with this ornament is a tip forward.  The loop is on the top of Snoopy's hat, which is located about two thirds of the way back in the ornament.  It's just not centered.  With most of Snoopy and the car in front of it, it's not that big a surprise.  It's not a bad tilt, and depending on how you place it on your tree, you might even be able to correct it or disguise it.  And I don't see how they could have repositioned the ring to correct it, either.

Another option would be to set it out for display.  Between Snoopy standing on his feet and Woodstock's car, the ornament stands upright with ease and is fairly steady.  You'll find the 17 in a Christmas tree series marker on the bottom of the car.

While Officer Snoopy is not my favorite entry in the series, it is a nice addition to it.  If only it didn't tip quite so much it would be even better.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Spotlight on Snoopy series.

Original Price: $12.95

This review is part of the 2014 Funny Pages Write-Off.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Book Review: Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Charming story perfect for young readers
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Unusual cast
Fast moving story; great pics
Make for charming book

Oliver's Explanation is a Fun Adventure for Us

Even though Oliver and the Seawigs isn't out for another week and a half, I'd already started hearing great things about it.  So when a copy came up on Amazon's Vine program, I snagged it.  I'm very glad I did because I really enjoyed it.

Oliver has spent all of his ten years of life exploring thanks to two parents who love nothing else.  But with no parts of the world left to explore, they are going to settle in a house by the bay.  While his parents aren’t happy, Oliver is excited to have his own room, make friends, and even go to school.

However, when they arrive, Oliver’s parents spot some islands in the bay that weren’t there before.  They go out to investigate and vanish – as do the islands.  Oliver doesn’t panic, however, but begins to try to find them.  Just where will the search lead?

While the first chapter starts out looking a bit ordinary (and so far, I've just described that first chapter), it quickly turns into a fantasy adventure.  After all, we have a talking seagul and a nearsighted mermaid as two of the other main characters, plus a few surprises I'm not going to spoil.  (One of which explains the Seawigs part of the title, but again, no spoilers).  This is definitely a story that boys will be interested in reading, and I'm sure girls would enjoy it as well.

Obviously, since I've just talked about the first chapter, it is a fast moving story.  Something is always happening, which I found interesting, and I know the kids will enjoy as well.  The climax was perfect.

Plus there are wonderful characters.  Keeping the target age in mind, they are a bit simple, but they are still utterly charming.  I loved them and loved rooting for the heroes to win.

There are lots of illustrations in this book.  Some pages are just text while others are almost all illustration.  They are fun and charming in their own right and really do compliment the story.

The target age for this book is grades 2-5.  As such, it's a great transitional book for those looking to move beyond easy readers.  I read it in a couple of hours, and it would obviously take the target audience longer, but the illustrations help break up the text and will help them get through the almost 200 pages with ease.

This book has a charm that snuck up on me, but the ending was perfect and perfectly adorable.  If you have a young reader, they will get hooked on Oliver and the Seawigs.

Note: I received an ARC of this book from Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.  A shorter copy of the review will be posted on that site as well.

This review is part of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July 12th's Weekly TV Thoughts

A great week of TV viewing, and back to full summer strength after the holiday last weekend.

As always, I'd love to read your thoughts in the comments or on your own blog, just leave me a link.

Wipeout - So far, we've had nothing but themed episodes this year.  All American was a bit of a stretch, but they made it work.  I think this might be the first time that someone I was rooting for actually won.  Go DJ Fish!

24: Live Another Day - Wow.  They actually made me jump with the twist at the end.  Looks like we'll get multiple hours in the final episode.  Still very curious to see how that is going to work.  And, I don't see how they will wrap things up in one episode.  Then again, I think I always say that.

American Ninja Warrior - I can't believe how few people finish all because of that one obstacle.  The first one to do it doing the flip?  I never would have thought of it, much less landed it.  Always rooting for Evan "The Rocket" since I love American Gladiators, so hoping he gets a wild card spot.

Royal Pains - I had forgotten all about the hospital being bought out last year, yet I was glad to see that brought back.  I wonder where they are going with HankMed opening a hospital because you know that's what Evan R. Lawson is going to be in favor of doing.  Meanwhile, several other great plots and three medical mysteries.  That episode was jam packed.

Covert Affairs - So, with their only lead dead, where do we go from here?  Obviously, the main point of the episode was for Annie to spend more time with the new love interest.  I'm really wondering what his story is and how it will all come together.

Mystery Girls - Am I getting used to the overacting?  I actually didn't mind this one as much.  I was surprised there wasn't something fake haunting the house, but it was actually fun if still very over the top.

Suits - I think Mike just made the biggest mistake of his life.  And that's saying something considering he's doing his best to alienate every single person at the old firm.  How in the world will they make all this better in the end?

Graceland - I think this was my problem with the previous season.  They have so many plots going, it's really hard to keep track of them all.  However, I do like the story with the widow and how that is progressing.  Very interesting what they are doing there.  You just know that trouble is waiting around the corner.

Girl Meets World - I love this show!  Yes, the lesson was very obvious, but it was still true.  And the laughs along the way were great.  Over acted a bit, but still so much fun.