Saturday, January 31, 2015

Reading Challenge: 2015 New Release Challenge

I've thought about doing a challenge that encouraged you to read new books or even books by your favorite authors.  That's why when I saw the 2015 New Release Challenge, I had to jump on board.

The rules are simple.  Any book you read that was released in 2015 counts.  The books do need to be 130 pages long, but any format counts, which is good for the number of ARCs I seem to be collecting.

Now comes the hard part, picking the level to sign up.  I think I'm going to go for Level 3, which is 31-45 new releases.  That's really only three books a month, so I think it is doable.

Since the challenge runs from January 1 until December 31, I'm going to start by listing the books I've already read that qualify.  And I think it is going to show why level 3 is realistic for me as well.  Further updates will happen throughout the year.

1. Feta Attraction by Susannah Hardy
2. For Whom the Bluebell Tolls by Beverly Allen
3. Ghost in the Guacamole by Sue Ann Jaffarian
4. Mr. Monk and the New Lieutenant by Hy Conrad
5. A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder
6. License to Dill by Mary Ellen Hughes
7. Story Thieves by James Riley
8. The Edge of Dreams by Rhys Bowen
9. Double Fudge Brownie Murder by Joanne Fluke
10. Puzzled Indemnity by Parnell Hall
11. At the Drop of a Hat by Jenn McKinlay
12. The Icing on the Corpse by Liz Mugavero
13. Grave on Grand Avenue by Naomi Hirahara
14. The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco by Laura DiSilvero
15. A Sticky Situation by Jessie Crockett
16. Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
17. Musseled Out by Barbara Ross
18. One Foot in the Grape by Carlene O'Neil
19. Evil Spy School by Stuart Gibbs
20. 14th Deadly Sin by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
21. Final Reveille by Amanda Flower
22. As Gouda as Dead by Avery Aames
23. Death by Coffee by Alex Erickson
24. Death of a Chocolate Cheater by Penny Pike
25. Truffled to Death by Kathy Aarons
26. Farmed and Dangerous by Edith Maxwell
27. The Longest Yard Sale by Sherry Harris
28. Peaches and Scream by Susan Furlong
29. Fatal Reservations by Lucy Burdette
30. Murder on the Bucket List by Elizabeth Perona
31. Time's Up by Janey Mack
32. A First Date with Death by Diana Orgain
33. Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney
34. Fudging the Books by Daryl Wood Gerber
35. Crushed Velvet by Diane Vallere
36. Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen
37. The Syndrome by Ridley Pearson
38. Death by Tiara by Laura Levine
39. Lord of the Wings by Donna Andrews
40. Cinderella Six Feet Under by Maia Chance
41. Trick or Deceit by Shelley Freydont
42. Stone Cold Dead by Catherine Dilts
43. The Scam by Lee Goldberg and Janet Evanovich
44. Move Your Blooming Corpse by D. E. Ireland
45. The Buccaneer's Code by Caroline Carlson
46. Dead with the Wind by Miranda James
47. Just Killing Time by Julianne Holmes
48. Floral Depravity by Beverly Allen
49. Pane and Suffering by Cheryl Hollon
50. Driving Heat by Richard Castle
51. Big Game by Stuart Gibbs
52. Flipped for Murder by Maddie Day
53. Olive and Let Die by Susannah Hardy
54. The Chocolate Falcon Fraud by JoAnna Carl
55. Neverseen by Shannon Messenger
56. A Body to Spare by Sue Ann Jaffarian
57. Fillet of Murder by Linda Reilly
58. Suspendered Sentence by Laura Bradley
59. Fry Another Day by J. J. Cook
60. The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary by Sue Ann Jaffarian
61. The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle by Laura DiSilverio
62. To Brew or Not to Brew by Joyce Tremel
63. Here Today, Gone Tamale by Rebecca Adler
64. Away in a Manger by Rhys Bowen
65. The Humbug Murders by L. J. Oliver
66. Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen by Vicki Delany
67. Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal

January 31st's Weekly TV Thoughts

February sweeps is upon us!  Okay, so it technically just started on Thursday, but we'll be seeing lots of great new episodes (I hope) in the next few weeks.

But that's looking ahead.  There was some great TV this week as well, especially Arrow and Suits on Wednesday.

Galavant – I did not see that ending coming.  I really didn’t know they were even hoping for a second season.  I was expecting things to be wrapped up.  I do hope they come back, however, since I enjoyed it.  Yes, these final two episodes were back to the fun of the first couple of weeks.  Laughs and fun singing.

The Flash – Have I mentioned this week I love this show?  I think I just did.  I’m wondering how all this will play out with Dr. Wells, but I love the characters and their interactions.  I’m wondering how the Piper knows so much, but it sounds like we’ll get the answers to that next week.  Should be very interesting.

Agent Carter – Much better than the episode two weeks ago.  Captain America’s blood?  You know that will wind up being key to something down the road.  And the enemy agent next door?  Yikes!  That was a twist I did not see coming at all.

Arrow – More than the sadness over Oliver last week, the pain of Sara’s death was the major emotion this week.  I like the fact that Laurel wasn’t so great right out of the gate.  It will be interesting to watch her journey continue.  But watching her more actively lie to her dad was just crushing, especially with how it was effecting her.  And then that twist at the end?  The writers are doing an amazing job this season.

Melissa & Joey – A bit predictable but still plenty of fun.  And yes, we got to see Ryder, but seriously, what are they doing with him now?  I really feel like they don’t know what to do with his character.

Baby Daddy – So, the secret is out and everyone is back where they belong.  But what is this going to do to the love triangle is my question.

Suits – Talk about not being able to turn away from the TV.  The tension and drama packed into that hour was incredible.  I’m really not liking Louis right now, but I’m sure that will change as the rest of the season unfolds.

Big Bang Theory – I was just thinking to myself we hadn’t seen Emily in a long time.  That sub-plot was so funny and scarily true.  Meantime, I absolutely loved Sheldon’s story, too.  His actions and reactions were just so funny.  Great episode to take us into February sweeps.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Voice cast, animation, some fun moments
Cons: Characters weak, plot too quick
The Bottom Line:
Next dragon chapter
Needed more development
Okay, but not great

More Danger with Dragons

When I finally got around to watching How to Train Your Dragon, I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed it.   I didn’t love it, but it was fun, so I was definitely interested in seeing the sequel.  I never got around to seeing it in the theater, but I finally rented How to Train Your Dragon 2 over the weekend.  Sadly, I didn’t find it nearly as much fun.

The story picks up 5 years after the first and life in Berk has greatly changed.  The dragons are now living in the Viking village and are an important every day part of life.  Meanwhile, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless are spending every minute possible exploring the surrounding area to learn what else might be out there.

They are surprised one day to run across a ship that captures dragons.  Even worse is the news that Drago (Djimon Hounsou) is using these captured dragons to build an army to start and win a war.  When Hiccup goes out to trying to find Drago and talk him into peace, he makes an even more startling discovery.  Will his world ever be the same again?

It’s been a while since I watched the first movie, so I can’t pin point exactly what has changed between the two.  I can say that the preview I saw on another DVD the next night certainly made me glad I hadn’t seen it first.  It gave away all the twists of the film except one.

And that twist that they hadn’t given away?  It was definitely one thing I didn’t like about the film, especially because I didn’t feel the payoff was worth it.

Part of that was because the movie was so focused on the story that characters didn’t really come alive for me.  Again, maybe if I’d seen the first one more times I would have connected with them better.  Honestly, there are only a few that get any significant screen time as it is (not that it helps us connect with them).  The rest of the returning cast have a very small part of the play.

Those supporting characters can be wonderful comic relief, but in this case they were wasted.  They were fine, and frankly I think I would have liked to see more of them.

The plot, which as I already said was the focus of the movie, was a bit rushed as well.  It’s almost like they tried to tell too much story for the run time of the film.

Not that the film is bad.  I was entertained while I watched it.  I just wasn’t captivated and pulled in, and I certainly don’t see a reason to buy it or watch it again.

None of this reflects on the voice cast.  As is usual for a DreamWorks animated film, there are many familiar names, and they all do great jobs bring their characters to life.

And the animation is truly wonderful.  There are some beautiful shots over the course of the film that truly make you appreciate how far computer animation has come.

So How to Train Your Dragon 2 is worth seeing if you were a fan of the first movie.  If you didn’t like the first, you can definitely skip this one.  It’s an okay movie, but nothing that will thrill anyone but the biggest fans of the original.

January 30th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

This has got to be fast tonight because I need to get to bed.  I was out playing a great ultimate Frisbee game.  My team won 16-14!  But that was Thursday.  This is Friday, which brings Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

Taking a break from cozies, my book this week is a middle grade fantasy novel - A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep & Joanne Ryder.

The book doesn't actually come out until March 10th, but I'm reading it early thanks to Amazon's Vine program.

And it begins with:

It was a lovely funeral for Fluffy, the best pet I ever had.  I was pleased with the turnout at the mansion.  Mourners filled the large backyard and mingled as the sun broke through the San Francisco fog.

And from page 56:

Before dawn, the book snapped shut, dark and still again, and all our troubles began.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review: Mr. Monk and the New Lieutenant by Hy Conrad (Monk #19)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Monk and the gang in one last adventure
Cons: Plot a little weak, it looks like the end from the franchise.
The Bottom Line:
And here’s what happened
One last mystery to solve
As Monk franchise ends

Mr. Monk Takes a Final Bow

By my count, Monk is going crazy right now with Mr. Monk and the New Lieutenant.  Why?  This is the third ending for the characters (TV series, Lee Goldberg’s final book, and now the real final book).  Plus, this is the nineteenth tie in novel to the TV show.  Heck, since I didn’t start watching the show until season 2, this makes 11 and a half years that I’ve been a fan.  For someone who loves evenness and order, all of these odd numbers are completely unacceptable.

And if you are scratching your head right now, then you’ve never meant Adrian Monk.  He was the main character of the TV show Monk, which aired on the USA Network from 2002 until 2009.  He is a brilliant detective who suffered from OCD and phobias too numerous to name (but he has a laminated list).  The resulting episodes contained a wonderfully addicting mix of comedy and mystery with great character development.  Along the way, a series of tie-in novels starring the characters were started, and this is the final book in that series.

Things are slow for Monk and Teeger, Consulting Detectives, and they have been for a few months.  Worse yet, Captain Stottlemeyer’s new lieutenant is doing his best to under pay them when they are needed to consult on a case.  However, when Monk and Natalie Teeger go to the funeral of a prominent judge, Monk immediately discovers he was murdered.  Worse yet, Captain Stottlemeyer comes down with the exact same symptoms.

Meanwhile, Natalie goes behind Monk’s back and takes on a divorce case for a woman she finds staring at their sign in the parking lot.  It appears to be a simple enough case; Natalie can knock it out on her own without Monk’s help.  Until Natalie gets a shock and suddenly needs Monk’s help.  Can they juggle this case while keeping Stottlemeyer alive?

I will say I felt the plot was a little weak in this one.  I had a pretty good handle on what was happening before the end.  However, that didn’t mean I enjoyed the book any less.  With Monk, the joy was always in the journey, not the final destination.  I read the book in one day because when I set the book down at one point, it started calling to me again and I just had to finish.  The pages always fly by, and this book was no exception.

Part of what makes this book so great are the characters that fans have come to know and love.  They are present here again, and it is easy to picture the actors delivering the lines as the events unfold.  Since Hy Conrad (one of the writers on the show) took over the novels, he’s been working on some character arcs.  Things ended where I thought they would, and I think fans who were disappointed with the final episode of the series will appreciate this ending so much more.

And, of course, there is the comedy.  Even though we know all of Monk’s quirks, I still found some things to laugh at as I was reading (usually as my roommate walked into the room, it seemed).  It might not be as fresh as it once was, but there were still some moments that caught me off guard that I really enjoyed.

But seriously, couldn’t they have put out one more book to give us 20 novels and reach 12 years for me as a fan?  Why didn’t they consult with me?  Of course, someone new might step forward and write more books, but for now it does appear this is the end of the franchise.

I really don’t recommend you jump in here if you are new to Monk.  Whether you start with the show or the earlier novels is up to you, but you will enjoy your time spent with him.  Longtime fans will find Mr. Monk and the New Lieutenant bittersweet as we enjoy one more adventure with the characters we love while also saying goodbye.

Thank you, Mr. Monk.  It’s been a wonderful ride.

Need to back up?  Once you get started, you'll obsessive compulsively read the Monk novels in order.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ornament Review: Snip 'n' Clip Fun - Making Memories #7 - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute ornament of a simple Christmas craft idea
Cons: I’ve lost what little skill I had in that department
The Bottom Line:
A snip here, clip there
Create a great ornament
Crafty memories

Snipping and Clipping the Way to More Happy Memories

Happy memories comes in all shapes and sizes.  There are the big ones, like fun vacations.  And there are the small ones like craft projects.  Hallmark’s Making Memories ornament series has been proving that with the fun memories that can be made with Christmas activities, and Snip 'n' Clip Fun is no exception.

No, this isn’t about clipping coupons.  Instead, our parent and child snowperson duo are creating paper decorations.  The child has just finished a paper snow flake and the adult has created a folded snowman chain.  They are sitting back to back (so we can see what they are creating) but look like they are about to turn around the share.  In a fun touch, the snow child is wearing a Santa hat instead of the more normal knit hat like the snow parent is wearing this year.  And in another first for the series, neither the dog nor the cat this family owns makes an appearance this year.  There is a stack of paper for more projects sitting between then, and there are scissors between the snow parent’s feet.

Now, I have a confession to make.  I did similar stuff when I was a kid, but it never looked that good.  I’m just not the crafty type.  And the little bit of skill I had as a kid fled after years of non-use.  Seriously, if I tried to make something like this now, it would be a complete and total disaster.

But that doesn’t hamper my enjoyment of the ornament in the slightest.  The idea of a parent and child sitting down and creating stuff like that is heartwarming.    Heck, it almost makes me want to see if I can reacquire a little of the skill for myself again because it looks like they are having so much fun.  It perfectly fits with the theme of the series which is warm memories passed on from parent to child.

As always, the snowpeople are sitting on a flat snowflake base.  This means you can set it out or hang it on your tree, your choice.  It also gives us a great spot for the series marker, in this case a 7 in a Christmas tree.

When you slip a hook through the loop on the side of the adult’s hat, you’ll find that it tips forward ever so slightly.  It still looks great, even with this tip, and I’m sure you can position it on a tree to use that tip to full show it off.

So, while I couldn’t sit down and create the art depicted in Snip 'n' Clip Fun, it still makes me smile.  Parents and kids will love thinking about the fun they’ve had with simple scissors and paper as they hang this ornament on their tree.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Making Memories series.

Original Price: $14.95

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Short Story Review: Early Retirement by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun short story with great plot and characters
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Delightful short piece
With satisfying story
That’s plenty of fun

Short Story with None of the Fun Retired

I don’t usually go out seeking short stories.  It’s not that I don’t like them, but my TBR pile is large enough as it is.  Still, every so often it’s fun to pick up something you can easily finish in one sitting.  So when Sue Ann Jaffarian offered me a copy of her short story “Early Retirement,” I couldn’t resist.

It’s just another Monday for Edna Brewer, the office manager in her brother’s criminal law practice.  As usual, she’s the first one there, but soon her life with change since she plans to retire in the next couple of months.  She’s really looking forward to the freedom that will bring her. 

Then the police show up asking questions about a dead body found at LAX.  What does it mean?  And what might it do to her retirement plans?

This is a fun story that moves along nicely.  Since it is a short story, it only has a handful of real scenes, but all of them are essential to understanding what is happening, just as it should be.  There is no padding at all, and I was extremely satisfied with the ending when I was done.

Likewise, there are just a handful of characters.  Edna is the only one we truly get to know, but all of them are memorable and distinct in the short time we see them on the page.

I read the story in roughly half an hour (I wasn’t really timing myself).  The time was well spent since I enjoyed every page of it.

Short stories are a great way to try new authors, so if you have yet to pick up one of Sue Ann’s wonderful books, give “Early Retirement” a chance.  You’ll soon be seeking out her novels to devour as well.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this story.  My opinion is my own.

Monday, January 26, 2015

What's On My Nightstand - January 2015

Welcome to the final Tuesday of January and the first What's On Your Nightstand for 2015.

Thanks to a day spent pretty much reading on Saturday, I'm trying desperately to catch up on book reviews this week.  But let's look ahead to what I am currently reading instead of what I have just finished reading.

I'm about a quarter of the way through an ARC of License to Dill by Mary Ellen Hughes, the second in her Pickled and Preserved mysteries series.  This one involves a visiting soccer team with a murdered manager.  So far, it's been fun.

After that will be another ARC, this one a middle grade fantasy novel entitled A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans.  I snagged this one via Amazon's Vine program.  It looks fun, and I'm definitely looking forward to it.

After that will be two of the books I got for Christmas - A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die by Edith Maxwell and Hearse and Buggy by Laura Bradford.

And then?  Probably some of the books that came out in January I just ordered.  Or books that come out in February I want to read.  We'll just have to see what is calling loudest at that point.

Book Review: Geared for the Grave by Duffy Brown (Cycle Path Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters (once developed), plot (overall), humor
Cons: Characters (when introduced), plot (too fast at times)
The Bottom Line:
Story paced too fast
Whole thing needed to settle
To make book better

Needed Some Lower Speeds

Over the last year, I started hearing lots of praise for author Duffy Brown, but her consignment shop series just didn’t appeal to me.  When I learned she was starting a Cycle Path Mystery series, I knew I’d found a series to try.  Unfortunately, Geared for the Grave wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be.

Evie Bloomfield is desperate for a promotion, so desperate she will do anything to win favor with her boss.  That’s why she heads to Mackinac Island to help Rudy Randolph, her boss’s father, who has broken his leg.  Rudy runs one of the bike shops on the island, and there are several since cars aren’t allowed.

However, when Evie arrives, she walks in on an argument between Rudy and Bunny Harrington, a wealthy citizen of the island who wants to shut Rudy’s shop down.  Then an hour later, she finds Bunny dead from an apparent bike accident.  When it is ruled murder, Rudy becomes the chief suspect.  Suddenly, Evie needs to clear him of murder to keep her job.  But can she do it?

Now I know I often talk about the pacing of a plot being slow.  I’m going to say the opposite here – the story was way too fast.  The first chapter ends with Evie finding Bunny’s body.  That’s on page 10.  And we’ve already met five characters and witnessed the fight with Rudy.  I’ve read books that started with a murder that quickly, but this one was just too rushed.  Honestly, it felt like a later book in a series where we were supposed to already know who some of the regulars were, but that wasn’t the case, and I was left running, trying to catch up to the bicycle that was the author’s story.  Once I did get into the rhythm, I enjoyed it.  The pace never really slowed.  I wouldn’t say that anything was rushed, but some of the conclusions to the sub-plots (and there are several) seemed abrupt.  One in particular that was introduced late seemed like it should have lasted at least an entire book, and preferably the second or third in the series.

I’m all for eccentric characters.  I love them.  But this book had some pretty wild ones – at least at first.  They seemed more real as the book went along, but when we first met them, they were wild caricatures instead of real people.

Normally, I’m not annoyed by characters who do stupid things, but Evie seemed more stupid than normal.  And everyone wanted to help her do stupid things to solve the case.  Meanwhile, a few of the plot points I saw coming a mile away.  I didn’t guess the killer until the end, however, so that much was great.

Now, this book wasn’t entirely bad.  As I said, once I found the rhythm and got to know the characters better, I did enjoy much of the story.  There was some nice humor along the way that made me smile if not outright laugh.  One of my favorites was a recurring bit where the town’s people, in an effort to keep the murder quiet from the tourists, constantly referred to it as the Bunny Festival.  That never got old.

While there were some flaws, there was also stuff to enjoy with Geared for the Grave.  I’m not sorry I stuck with it, but I probably won’t be back to visit Evie in the sequel.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Amazing singing, good second half
Cons: Very awkward and nerdy in the beginning; projectile vomiting
The Bottom Line:
A Cappella groups
In singing competitions
Better near the end

A Little Too Pitchy to be Perfect

Somehow, I missed what Pitch Perfect was even about until a friend learned I loved a Capella music and told me about it.  Ever since then, it’s been on my to be watched list, which means I had to set my DVR when I saw it on TV.  I think I paid about the right price.  It grew on me, but it wasn’t as great as I had hoped.

Beca (Anna Kendrick) is a freshman at Barden University, but against her will.  She wants to go to LA to start a career in music, but her father is insisting she have at least one year in school first.  And she has to join some kind of group or club and attempt to make friends.

That choice is helped along when she is overheard singing in the shower and is asked to join the Bellas, the school’s all-women a Capella group.  Last year, they made it to the national finals, something women’s groups have a hard time doing.  They are hoping to actually win this year, which means beating the all-male group at Barden, the Treblemakers.  However, Beca is quickly clashing with the Bellas’s leader, Aubrey (Anna Camp) over just about everything.  Will it work out?  Can the Bellas rise above the past and win?

The plot is perfectly fine.  It’s a fairly predictable story, but that never bothers me as long as I’m having fun along the way.  And I did have some fun – once things settle down in the second half.

I actually had several issues with the film.  The first?  Projectile vomiting.  Twice.  Enough said there, right?  Moving on, the characters are just plain weird.  I don’t know that there was a normal one in the bunch.  Now, I don’t mind oddball characters as a rule, but this movie seemed to be almost mocking them, especially in the beginning.  Considering I hate what I have termed awkward humor, situations where we are supposed to laugh at someone making a fool of themselves, I really had a problem with that in the beginning.  I realized as I was watching the film that this is part of my problem with Rebel Wilson, who appears here as Fat Amy, another of the new Bellas.  We are supposed to laugh at her being stupid, and I just don’t find it amusing.

However, as the film went on, all that began to change.  Some of the characters showed some depth.  They all stopped being completely clueless idiots.  And as they became friends, I got behind the movie and started rooting for them to get the well-deserved happy ending.  Well, most of them.  There were still a couple of jerks in the cast, but we weren’t supposed to warm up to them.

One thing that never changed for me was my opinion of the commentators.  Played by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins, they provided some color commentary for the viewers at home (I guess the contests were televised?  I never got that).  However, these comments were filled with pointless sexual innuendo and sexism.  They added nothing to the film and actually took away from my enjoyment.

However, I did enjoy the music.  Wow was it fabulous.  I’m seriously thinking about getting the sound track.  Any time the groups are singing, and there is plenty of singing, the movie is wonderful.

And the acting is great as well.  Everyone brought their characters to life perfectly.  Yes, as much as I don’t like the characters she plays, Rebel Wilson did a good job with Fat Amy.  I also really enjoy Skylar Astin as Beca’s potential love interest Jesse.

So I’m left feeling ambivalent about the film.  Pitch Perfect definitely had some moments I enjoyed, but there was also plenty that made me cringe along the way.  Even though I loved the music, I probably won’t rush out to watch it again.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

January 24th's Weekly TV Thoughts

You will notice one show not on my list below.  That's right, I finally took Gotham off my DVR.  And there is much rejoicing since I've done little besides complain about it, right?

Here's what I did watch this week.

The Librarians – I was very impressed with that final episode.  I think they referenced every episode of the season, and it all played a part in the outcome.  That’s impressive writing, especially for a show I thought was more about fun than mythology.  I under estimated it.

Galavant – On the other hand, these episodes seemed a little slow.  Either the joke is already wearing thin or they had to move people around for plot purposes and there wasn’t as much room for humor.  There were some fun moments, but not as many.

Castle – They acknowledged that a PI’s life isn’t super exciting before giving Castle his first real client and a very exciting case.  But who would watch a show about a real PI?  Plenty of fun as we worked toward a great solution.  Here’s my full recap if you want to read more.

The Flash – I was never a fan of Prison Break, so the two stars of that show’s reunion as the villains here was a side point to me.  That’s okay because there was so much great stuff here, like the interactions between Barry and Iris’s’ boyfriend.  And, of course, that last scene with him moving back in was great.  Yep, even loved the colors on his old backpack.

Arrow – Even though I knew what the final scene would have to be (remember the name of the show), this episode really packed a punch.  Yes, I was tearing up.  This show deals with the aftermath of death so well, much better than other shows seem to do.  I have a feeling when everyone sees Oliver again it will be just as emotional for me.

Melissa & Joey – I’m still on team Zander.  His scenes were just so funny tonight.  Plus I just like him better with Lennox.  The real question is where is Ryder.  He hasn’t gotten much to do in like half a season.

Baby Daddy – You know, I think I might be falling on Danny’s side in this love triangle.  He seems like a better match for Riley.  Anyway, the scene with him hiding out was so hysterical tonight as more and more people started to hide.  Another very funny episode.  So glad I started watching this one.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Tackles a hard story with the right tone; wonderful lead character; much to think about
Cons: Some of the directorial choices; for some the tone
The Bottom Line:
Fighting for her life
Katniss gives us stuff to think
About when finished

I Finally Take the Plunge into the World of The Hunger Games

It’s been hard for the last few years to not hear about The Hunger Games.  Even before the movies started coming out, everyone who read talked about the books.  While I have been holding out on reading them or watching the movies, I knew at some point I’d see what all the buzz is about.  The first movie being on ABC Family last weekend was just the push I needed to plunge into this world.

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is a typical teenager – at least in her world.  She is part of district 12, one of the outlying regions in Panem.  While the wealth is located in the capital, the rest of the country struggles to survive.  And every year, two teens, a boy and a girl, are randomly chosen from each district to compete in a brutal contest to the death until only one of them remains.

As the movie opens, it is once again time for the lottery.  When her sister is chosen, Katniss volunteers to take her place.  Taken to the capital along with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), a boy she’s known all her life, she must suddenly figure how to compete for her very life.  That includes being nice and getting sponsors who might help her during the games, something she is not very good at.  But even with help, will Katniss be able to overcome the odds and survive the Hunger Games themselves?

Since I haven’t read the books, I am coming to the movie with no preconceived ideas of how the story should be told, so you won’t find any complaints about changes from the book here.  However, I did find the story a little hard to get into.  Part of it, I’m sure, is the fact that character development is one thing always cut when a book is made into a movie.  (Okay, fine, a book to movie comparison.)  Plus, I knew how the story would have to end, at least partially, so I didn’t allow myself to get too emotionally invested in the majority of the characters.  Still, I did find the killing in the movie hard to watch, which I’m sure was the point.  Unlike slasher movies (which I do enjoy upon occasion), this movie rightly makes the killing something horrible to be reviled even though each death means Katniss is closer to winning.  The violence wasn’t graphic (at least on TV), but it was still rightfully hard to watch.

Honestly, this dichotomy has been one reason I’ve been hesitant to read the books.  I knew I’d struggle with all the death, again weird since I do read murder mysteries most of the time.  The story definitely treats the entire thing as something truly evil, as it should be, with those who celebrate the games being monsters, again as it should be.  The result is something deeper to think about when you are done with the movie.

I am thrilled to see what a great character Katniss is.  She is a selfless young woman who sacrifices for her sister.  When the games begin, she actually goes out of her way to avoid killing, only killing in self-defense and even doing her best to protect one of the youngest competitors for a time.  Mind you, she has the skills to take out the others if she has to, but she doesn’t do it unless absolutely forced to do so.  It is easy to get behind her as a result, and I was glad to see such a wonderful role model in the story.

The cast does a great job with their various roles.  Again, I came to this with no preconceived ideas of how anyone should look or act, but I thought the actors were great at bringing their characters to life.  I especially enjoyed Woody Harrelson as the only winner from District 12 who then mentors Katniss and Peeta before the games begin.  Jennifer Lawrence carries much of the movie, and she is wonderful as Katniss.

The director chose to go with the shaky camera work for the film, a technique I hate.  Fortunately, on the small screen, it didn’t bother me too much, although all the quick cuts at times made it hard to tell exactly what was happening.  That’s my biggest complaint about the film.  I also thought a few of the cut aways to other locations slowed down the story.

I think my reaction to the film fits how I thought I would feel about the franchise.  Still, I am curious how the series progresses, so I will be on the lookout for the sequel to The Hunger Games so I can watch it soon.

Book Beginnings and Friday 56 for January 23rd

I was going to have this post up early and go to bed early.  No really.  You can all stop laughing now.

But here's my Book Beginnings and Friday 56 for the week, which features Geared for the Grave by Duffy Brown.

And it begins with:

While cowering in the back of a ferryboat, head over railing and losing my lunch in Lake Huron, it occurred to me that no matter how old I am, I want to impress my parents.

And from page 56:

I yanked out Sheldon, who really did know it all - that's why I named my iPhone Sheldon - and Googled Speed Maslow jerk.  Okay, I left off the jerk part, but I was thinking it.

I'm hoping to finish up this book today so I can have the review up next week.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: Ghost in the Guacamole by Sue Ann Jaffarian (Ghost of Granny Apples #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Amazing story and plot that pull you in
Cons: Not a ghost of a con
The Bottom Line:
Sibling rivalry
With family legacy stakes
Page turning novel

Will the Family Legacy Become a Ghost?

It’s no secret that Sue Ann Jaffarian has become one of my favorite authors over the last few years.  Her characters are fun and her stories are page turners.  I’ve even made an exception to my no paranormal rule for her Ghost of Granny Apples series.  I’m glad I did because in Ghost in the Guacamole, she has topped herself.

If you are new to the series, it revolves around Emma Whitecastle, a middle aged divorcee who discovers she has the gift of communicating with ghosts when she meets Granny, her great-great-great grandmother.  That leads her to a series of mysterious and dangerous cases where secrets and ghosts from the past effect the present.  While some character development will be spoiled, you can still pick up this book and enjoy without needing to know more background than this.

Emma doesn’t quite know what to expect when she shows up at Restaurante Roble on Olvera Street in Los Angeles.  An acquaintance from her yoga class has asked her to meet there, and Emma assumes it is about ghosts since that’s what Emma is known for.  So she and Granny go to find out how they can help.

When Emma meets with Rikki Ricardo, she learns the young woman is trying to hang on to the family’s restaurant and Mexican food business.  Her older sister Lucy is determined to sell, and Rikki wants help contacting the ghost of her father, Felix, to get advice on how to convince Lucy to change her mind.  Only when Felix’s ghost makes an appearance, he insists that Rikki needs to consent to the sale or wind up like him.  Is Rikki’s life in danger?  Was Felix murdered?  With many of the employees acting strangely, who can be trusted?

The plot of this book is strong.  You can feel the tension between the two sisters as if you were in the room with them.  There are so many strange things happening that it’s impossible to guess where things are going before Emma figures them out, yet the outcome is completely logical.  Along the way, there are enough twists to keep you turning pages as quickly as possible.

A plot this strong requires great characters, and the book doesn’t disappoint here, either.  There are really only five returning characters in this book, but they all show some growth.  I especially enjoyed getting to know Emma’s parents a bit more.  The rest of the cast is made up of characters related to this case, but they are fully formed, completely believable, and complex enough to make us care about the outcome of the story.

In addition to being a great investigative aid, Granny also provides wonderful comic relief.  She’s a hundred year old ghost with an interest in current TV shows and movies, especially detective shows.  This provides many chuckles and laughs along the way.

All this added up to a book I could not put down, almost literally.  I read the second half in a day.  While I was good putting it down at the end of my lunch hour, I gave up on self-control and finished it instead of getting to an ultimate Frisbee game on time.  (And I love ultimate Frisbee, so that’s saying something.)  The humor and more serious scenes meshed well to give us a complex book with more meat to it than some of the books I read, and I loved it as a result.

As a huge I Love Lucy fan, I did get a kick out of the sister’s names.  I also enjoyed a brief cameo by Ellie Rush, the main character in Naomi Hirahara’s wonderful Murder on Bamboo Lane.

It’s consistently great storytelling that has hooked me on Sue Ann Jaffarian, and her talents are on full display here.  If you want to be pulled into a wonderful book, pick up Ghost in the Guacamole.

NOTE: I was given a copy of this book.  My opinion is still my own.

Once you get hooked with this book, you'll want to go back and enjoy the earlier adventures of the Ghost of Granny Apples in order.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ornament Review: 1928 - Steamboat Willie Premieres - Moments That Made Disney #2 - 2014 Disney Store Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Shades of gray make this a great remembrance of Steamboat Willie
Cons: Pose could be more memorably tied to the cartoon.
The Bottom Line:
Mickey Mouse starts here
And Disney’s career took off
A fun remembrance

A True Moment that Made Disney – I Just Wish the Ornament Were a Little Better

Any Disney fan will point to a few key moments in the life of Walt Disney and the Walt Disney Company as true moments that made his career.  While they might argue about some, others are obvious.  One of those was the 1928 debut of Steamboat Willie which launched the career of Mickey Mouse.  While not the first Disney character or cartoon, the use of sound blew everything else at the time away.  That pivotal animated short is commemorated in 1928 – Steamboat Willie Premieres, the second ornament in the Moments that Made Disney ornament series from The Disney Store.

The ornament features Mickey Mouse, which isn’t a big surprise.  He’s standing and waving with a big smile on his face.  While not quite as dated as he actually looked in that short, he’s definitely not the Mickey of today, either.  It’s a modern dated Mickey look, and I like it.  I also like the fact that his color is purely black and off-white, just like the original short.  Again, it’s the perfect touch to commemorate this huge moment in Disney’s life.

However, I do have a complaint about the ornament.  I’ve seen other ornaments inspired by Steamboat Willie that actually captured Mickey in a moment from the short – something more iconic than this one anyway.  At the least, he should have been holding the boat’s wheel like he is as the short begins.  He is still wearing his hat from the short, but this would have better tied the ornament to this short.  In many ways, this pose is a little generic.

Mickey is standing on a gray circular base with 1928 written across the front.  It allows you to display him year round if you so desire.  After all, there is little that makes this a truly Christmas ornament.

Like most Disney Store ornaments, this one comes with a red ribbon lopped through the hook at the top of Mickey’s head, the only color in the ornament.  Mickey actually tips back ever so slightly when you go to hang him, but by the time you put a few tree branches around him, you’ll never notice.

Ornaments from The Disney Store tend to be a little larger and heavier than your average ornament.  Just keep that in mind when you are selecting the branch to place this ornament on your tree.

My complaint about this ornament are really just a DisNerd complaints.  1928 – Steamboat Willie Premieres is a nice ornament and does a great job of commemorating one of the biggest moments that made Disney’s career.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Moments that Made Disney series.

Original Price: $19.95

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

TV Recap: Castle 7-12 - Private Eye Caramba!

With as much as I enjoy mysteries (just look at my books read post on any given month and you’ll see how much), I also know the realities of life vs. fiction.  For example, most cops don’t get shot at in the line of duty, but it happens to cops in every book.  Of course, my favorite sub-genre, cozies, features normal civilians who not only keep finding dead bodies but also solve the cases faster than the police do.  Then there are PI’s, who spend little of their time on exciting cases like we read about and more time following cheating spouses than anything else. 

Why do I bring all this up?  I was wondering how Castle would handle that with this new PI business that Castle has started.  I mean, the reality of PI work isn’t really that exciting, so it would make for boring TV, so I figured they couldn’t really go there.  They acknowledged the reality of the profession when we learn that so far, Castle’s clients have been nutcases and people who are calling with theories on his disappearance.  Heck, even his first potential cheating spouse case goes up in smoke.  But it allows him to be available to take on a client that Beckett sends his way.

The client comes from the case that Beckett is investigating.  The victim is a telenovela star who is killed just outside her apartment building.  She’d called a neighbor asking to be let in because she’d lost her purse.  She almost makes it in before someone grabs her and kills her.

Esposito is clearly star struck, especially when they show up on the set.  They do the typical interview of the co-workers, and everyone seems upset but doesn’t really have any ideas to help them.  However, one of the victim’s fellow actresses becomes obsessed with the victim’s purse.  It was a $500K purse that the co-worker had borrowed and then loaned to the victim.  She has to return it or pay for it, so she needs it back.

And that’s how Castle becomes involved.  This co-worker becomes his very first client as he is hired to track down the purse.

Book Review: Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley (Pacific Northwest Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and a fun story
Cons: Pacing could have been better
The Bottom Line:
Hiking accident
Or was it murder?  Find out
In this fun debut

You’ll Fall for This Debut

My efforts to add some exercise and fitness cozies to my reading list started months ago when I got Scene of the Climb.  This debut sounded like fun even though I’m not a super big hiker.  And there the book sat for months until I picked it up to read it last week.  I’m glad I finally got to read it because I enjoyed it.

Recent college grad Meg Reed is living on her friend Jill’s couch and desperately trying to find a job in journalism.  She’s reached the point where she will take any job, which is why she takes a job for Northwest Extreme magazine, which focuses on outdoor activities, something Meg rarely does.  Still, she pretends to enjoy them so she can land the job, hoping she can fake it.

After a couple months doing filler, she lands her first big assignment when Race the States comes to Portland to film their finale.  Meg’s assignment is to interview the contestants on this reality TV show and cover the production, which involves hiking some of the mountains in the area.  Meg is not thrilled since she hates heights.  It doesn’t help when, on a day designated for filming background, Meg sees one of the contestants plunge to his death.  While Lenny wasn’t well liked since he was a jerk, who hated him enough to kill him?

Now I’d love to say that this was a perfect first novel from new author Kate Dyer-Seeley.  Unfortunately, the plotting could have used a little more work to iron out a couple of kinks, mainly the pacing, which was off.  Part of that was because we needed some time to set up Meg getting the job.  Once the story gets going, the book is filled with plenty of events that shine the spotlight on just about all the suspects at some point.  The ending is certainly logical, however it felt a bit rushed.  Still, I was hooked the entire time and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

Part of what hooked me was the characters.  Anyone who has a fear of heights worse than mine is a realistic character.  I loved and sympathized with how Meg responded to her assignment and what it brought her way.   The suspects were all fully developed, which added to the mystery since I could picture any of them doing it.  And the series regular characters are strong as well.  There is a potential love triangle set up, and I can tell you I already know which side I’m on.  I can’t wait to read future books to see if Meg is smart enough to pick the right guy.

Plus there’s the matter of the final page.  I saw it coming, but I can’t wait to find out how it plays out in future books.

While not perfect, Scene of the Climb was a very enjoyable debut that promises more great adventures to come.  I’m looking forward to seeing where Meg’s new career takes her next, and I’m sure you’ll be along for the ride as well.

Here are the rest of the Pacific Northwest Mysteries in order.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Music Review: Coming Home by Kristin Chenoweth

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful songs, amazing arrangements, awesome vocals
Cons: Maybe one or two very small issues, but nothing major
The Bottom Line:
Concert recording
Kristin’s amazing vocals
Goose bumps guaranteed

Kristin Chenoweth is Coming Home Triumphantly

I’ve been a fan of Kristin Chenoweth since I heard her in the soundtrack to the revival of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.  I even went to see her on concert many years ago.  Every time she releases a new CD, I buy it, and love it, and Coming Home is no exception.

This CD is a recording of a concert she did in her old home town of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  It was produced and recorded for PBS, and I must admit I am kicking myself for not having seen the special – at least not yet.  There are a few times she brings someone up to sing with her, and I feel like I should know who they are and I don’t.  But that is my only complaint at the disc.  And, honestly, I don’t need to know who they are to enjoy the great music.

And there is plenty of great music on here.  We get plenty of Broadway tunes from “I Could Have Danced All Night” to “Bring Him Home” and “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.”  Yes, she does the two biggest songs from Wicked, although she does “Popular” is several languages along the way.  As the only person on the planet who doesn’t have the song memorized, I was slightly annoyed the first time through.  However, by the end, she’d won me over, and it really is a lot of fun.  Don’t worry, she still does sing it plenty of times in English.  She brings up someone from the audience for the duet that is “For Good.”  Axyl sounds a bit nervous when she first starts to sing, but trust me, she more than holds her own when singing with Kristin.  Anyway, she covers a couple country and Christian songs as well as some older works; all these songs are amazing and feel contemporary.

What long time fans won’t find are lots of songs they’ve already heard her sing.  Yes, we get the two songs from Wicked.  By my count, there are three other tracks that have been on her other CD’s.  The rest are new, at least new with Kristin singing them.  That’s a pretty good track record, and it makes the disc well worth buying for the die hard fans.

There are only a couple of songs where Kristin doesn’t do something by way of introduction before she starts to sing.  And in all of those cases, these bits are kept short and entertaining.  The result will hold up to repeated listens unlike some live albums I have that feature sections that are fun live and listening to once but don’t hold up well the more times you listen to them.

Kristin is backed up by a wonderful orchestra, and those musicians truly deliver.  The arrangements are world class, showing off her wonderful voice.  There are times I am listening to the disc and I get goose bumps.  Yes, it’s that amazing.
And that includes her old high school choir.  She has the current students in the Broken Arrow High School choir join her on a couple of songs, and they are outstanding.  In fact, they contribute the backing vocals to what is now my favorite version of “Upon This Rock,” and I have three, including Sandi Patty’s original version and Kristin’s first cover.  This is the best by far.

When I went to buy this disc, I bought the Target exclusive version, which includes three additional tracks.  Up first in the encore, then come two songs cut from elsewhere in the concert (not that you’d know it by how the disc is edited together).  These bonus tracks do include a version of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” which adds to the previous recorded songs of Kristin’s included here, but with a total of 18 tracks, there is plenty of new material.

And that material will thrill Kristin’s long term fans and bring her a legion of new fans.  Coming Home is an invitation to a great concert that everyone will enjoy.

(Target Exclusive) CD Length: 78:05
1. I Could Have Danced All Night
2. Maybe This Time
3. My Coloring Book
4. Bring Him Home
5. Fathers and Daughters
6. Hard Times Come Again No More
7. Upon This Rock
8. Over the Rainbow
9. Popular
10. For Good
11. Little Sparrow
12. Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again
13. All the Things You Are
14. No More Tears (Enough is Enough)
15. I Was Here
Target Bonus Tracks:
16. I Will Always Love You
17. Heart of the Matter
18. I’ll Be Home for Christmas

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fast moving plot that grows these great characters even more
Cons: None worth dwelling on
The Bottom Line:
The climax cometh
As demigods face battle
But who will prevail?

Will Gaea Rise Again?

It has all lead up to this.  With The Blood of Olympus, Rick Riordan is giving us the climax to his Heroes of Olympus series.  While I did feel that a book or two were slower than they needed to be, I’ve mostly enjoyed the ride.  And I certainly loved this one.

But first, a word of warning.  If you haven’t been reading the books in this series, you cannot start here.  Well, you could, but I strongly advise against it because you will be lost.  The book recaps enough so those of us who have been reading the series will remember what happened, but if you don’t know who any of the people or situations are, you will never catch up if you try to jump in here.  Besides, who reads the climax of a book before they read the first part of the book?  So really, start from the beginning.  (Whether you make that this series or the first series set in this fantasy world, the Percy Jackson series, is completely up to you.)

It is now 10 days until the forces of Gaea intend to wake her and overthrow the gods.  The resulting battle and Gaea and her minion’s plans for Earth will kill all of humanity.  Jason, Piper, Leo, and the other four demigods are racing around ancient Greece trying to find the last few things they need to potentially defeat her.  Of course, if the Greek and Roman sides of the gods don’t merge, they will have no hope at all.

Which is why Reyna, Nico, and Coach Hedge are trying to get the Athena Parthenos back to Camp Half-Blood before the deadline.  Octavian is sitting outside the camp ready to attack on August 1st.  With each shadow jump he makes, Nico fades a little bit more, and the trio are being chased by the might hunter Orion.  Will Nico’s strength give out?  Even if they get the statue back to the camp, will they be in time to save the day and heal the rift between the two demigod camps?

See what I mean?  If you don’t already know the characters, what I just said makes no sense to you.  And if you did, you’d probably already guessed that much of the story based on how the final book ended.  Let me just say that Riordan delivers on this set up expertly.  The plot might take one or two unnecessary detours, but they rarely last long.  In fact, because of how we jump back and forth between the two groups of characters, the book feels like it is moving very quickly.  I was devouring pages as quickly as I could the entire way through the book.

The biggest mistake I made with the book was thinking getting to the final 100 pages would be a good place to stop.  It was late at night when I reached there, and that’s when I realized the climax was just starting.  I didn’t want to put it down, but managed to do so, only to race through it as soon as I could the next day.  So if at all possible, plan on reading the final 150 pages in one sitting.

The character development we’ve seen in this series continues here.  All 9 of the major demigods in this story continue to grow and change.  It makes the goodbyes at the end all the harder since we won’t get any more stories with these wonderful characters.

The previous book did stir up some controversy when a character we’d known a long time revealed to another character that he is gay.  That character is back in this book, and part of his growth is dealing with who he is.  Ironically, it didn’t seem as in your face as the previous book; in fact, there were passages where you had to know what was going on to understand what was being discussed.  But it is still there.  If that bothers you, don’t read the series.

But those who have been reading this series will love the climax.  Yes it was worth it, even the earlier slow books.  The Blood of Olympus is a wild ride that will leave you happy as we bid goodbye to these great characters.

Here is a listing of both series in the complete Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus sagas in order.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  Click to link to see what else people are reading this week.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

January 17th's Weekly TV Thoughts

I had a very long week at work, and coming back to TV was a nice escape every night.  Glad some shows were back on, with more coming next week.  It's about to start getting very busy again.

The Librarians – After watching the three movies, I got all the episodes of the series watched this week.  Definitely enjoying it, although they seem to have some wildly different tones at times, and the second episode from this last week seemed very out of order character growth wise.  I’m finally caught up, and there are only two episodes left.  Still, it’s been a fun ride.

Galavant – I think I found this one even funnier than the first two episodes.  Yes, the character development in both parts was fairly predictable, but the laughs caught me completely off guard at times.  Plus, how can you complain about a recap done completely in song.  I am loving this show.

Castle – I’d been hearing that Castle’s first episode as a PI was funny, and I’d heard correct.  A better than average mystery with lots of lots of laughs.  Castle competing with everyone was great, but the scene where Castle and Beckett were trying to get information out of each other?  Priceless.  Looking for more?  Here's my full recap.

Agent Carter – Just an okay episode.  It moved the story forward, but that’s about it.  Any major twists I saw coming a ways away.  Oh well, I think it set up some fun stuff for the future.

Melissa and Joey – I’m not always the biggest fan of this show, but I found this one pretty funny.  The lines were making me laugh even if the plot wasn’t terribly original.  It will be interesting to see where they go from here.

Baby Daddy – I felt so sorry for Danny at the end.  I knew he’d be sticking around, but that was still so sad to see.  Bonnie was pretty funny in this episode, but the best scene was Ben talking through his plan with the note he hid on Danny.

Big Bang Theory – Yes, it was a rerun.  But I’ve got to say it might be one of my favorites from the season.  Both storylines are pretty funny, but I love how easily distracted the guys got.  Even funnier the second time around.

Girl Meets World – I’m glad they’ve done something to soften Maya’s mother.  I still don’t know what I think of her and Shawn as a romantic pair.  Definitely interesting that they brought Angela up and we found at that essentially he hasn’t dated anyone sense.  Overall, lots of laughs and some great tender moments – just what I love about this show.