Tuesday, March 31, 2015

TV Recap: Castle 7-19 - Habeas Corpse

This episode felt once again like classic episode for the show.  While I really don’t like the Castle disappearance mystery, the stand alone episodes have been top notch this season, and since those are the majority of what we get, I’ve been loving the show still.

Our victim this week is the Bulldog, a personal injury lawyer who runs late night ads with his face on the body of a bulldog.  He has a reputation as an ambulance chaser, which gives him plenty of potential killers - either people whose cases he’s lost or people who lost to him in court.  His secretary certainly doesn’t know who it might be, although the Bulldog was acting funny over the last few days.  (But then again, which victim on this show doesn’t act funny in the few days before they are killed.)

Book Review: The Icing on the Corpse by Liz Mugavero (Pawsitively Organic Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Developing characters in a mystery that comes together very well
Cons: Pacing a bit slow at the beginning, but everything is important in the end
The Bottom Line:
A fall of a push?
That’s what Stan must figure out
Fun pet themed cozy

Celebration Ruined by Accident.  Or Was It Murder?

When I think about Groundhog Day, I usually think of Pennsylvania, however The Icing on the Corpse, the newest in the Pawsitively Organic mystery series, takes us to a celebration up in Connecticut that is interrupted by murder.  That’s a great thing for us since this is a fun addition to the series.

Frog Ledge is one of the only communities in Connecticut to celebrate Groundhog Day, and they go all out.  Kristan “Stan” Connor is thrilled to be asked to make the official gift from the town to the groundhog, a true honor for anyone but especially a newcomer.  However, this year the festivities are cut short when Helga Oliver is found dead in the basement of the town museum after having fallen down the stairs.

Helga was the town historian and well loved by everyone in the community.  In fact, several people viewed her as a surrogate mother or grandmother, including Stan’s boyfriend Jake and his family.  While everyone in town seems convinced that it was a tragic accident, Stan’s friend Betty is certain it was murder, and she offers some pretty compelling evidence to support her claim.  Could she be right?  If so, can Stan figure out who the killer is?

Since this is the third in the series, these characters, two and four legged, are becoming friends, and it was great to pop in and see them again.  The returning cast is just as fun as before, and we get to see some different sides to a couple of them.  I appreciate that.  Of course, the book is filled with fresh suspects, and they seem just as real as the returning characters.

The plot feels like it takes a while to get going, but that’s because the author is introducing some plot threads that become important to the story later on.  I figured this was the case, and as the book moves along, the pace definitely improves with the twists and clues become more frequent.  The climax was wonderful, and I liked how the sub-plots were resolved as well.

I will admit that I found the doggy wedding that Stan was asked to cater a bit eye rolling, but that’s more because my allergies have kept me from truly loving dogs and cats than anything else.  Honestly, it’s a very small sub-plot and I’ve got to admit I found parts of it cute even if I’m not part of the audience that would get it.

For pet owners, there are three treat recipes in the back of the book so you can pamper your own pets with healthy and delicious treats.

While this book will appeal to pet lovers the most, the characters and story will draw in any reader looking for a fun mystery.  If that’s you, pick up The Icing on the Corpse today.

From here, you'll want to check out more of the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I was sent an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


I'm going to host a giveaway to one lucky reader who leaves me a comment.  The winner will get either an ebook (international) or physical copy (US only) of the book.  Just let me know if you prefer dogs or cats for pets.  Be sure to give me your e-mail address so I can get it touch with you if you win.

Me?  I'd much rather have a cat, although my allergies to both dogs and cats would make me miserable either way.

I will do the drawing on Tuesday, April 7th, so you have until then to enter.

Monday, March 30, 2015

TV Recap: Once Upon a Time 4-16 - Best Laid Plans

Wow!  That was a lot to take in this week.  So let’s get to it.

Our flashback finds Snow and Charming trying to determine whether their child will be good or bad.  They go to a unicorn for help because holding its horn will give them a vision.  And Charming sees a sweet and good child.  However, Snow sees their child ripping out Snow’s heart.  When Snow says, “But I’m your mother,” the teen replies, “I don’t care.”

While they are walking home trying to figure out what their competing visions mean, they meet a peddler who warns them about Mal’s nesting down the road (literally since she’s laid an egg) and sends them to someone who can provide answers – the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  When they reach his cottage, they learn that the baby could be good or bad, and there is no way to guarantee it.

Well, there is one way, a spell that will send the potential for evil in their unborn child into another vessel – another unborn child.  And so Snow and Charming decide to steal Mal’s egg and use that as the vessel.  They get past Mal’s two guards (Cruella and Ursula) and manage to steal the egg from the dragon Mal.  However, she turns into her human form and pleads for them to return the egg.  They say they will – as soon as the spell is enacted.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 28th's Weekly TV Thoughts

I'll just warn you know I went a little fan boy rambly there at the end.  But seriously, when does season two of Girl Meets World start?

Once Upon a Time – I’m surprised, but it looks like they got rid of Ursula already.  Then again, they’ve never given her that much to do.  It’s still obvious that they are going to send Emma down a dark road, but how far she will go remains the question.  I can’t wait to find out.  Here’s my full recap.

Dancing with the Stars – Take it seriously from week one.  I’m so sorry to see someone who obviously put some work into it for week two gone, but he should have taken it seriously sooner, obviously.  There are some strong contenders near the top, that’s for sure.  Looks like another great season.  Plus a Disney night coming up.  Can’t wait for that!

Castle – I love seeing the minor characters in the spotlight, and Ryan really shown this week.  A bit more of the others than some of the spotlight episodes have had in the past, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment at all.  Here’s my full recap.

The Flash – So he actually just lived the day over again.  I thought there might have been two of him.  Kind of cheats the whole Cisco death thing, but I knew they wouldn’t kill him one way or the other.  And it shows us just how bad of a guy Dr. Wells truly is.  The rest of the season is going to be very interesting.

Agents of SHIELD – Not quite as good an episode, but at least we got to see what was happening with Ward.  Obviously, I’m missing something since I thought he killed his brother.  Anyway, they explained what is happening, but it felt a bit like set up for the fireworks it looks like we will get next week.

Arrow – So much going on, we hardly needed the clichéd flashback.  Not that I think the character is really dead.  They will be able to resurrect him if they want to.  I doubt Diggle is leaving team Arrow.  The drama between Oliver and Ray was great, and their confrontation scene perfect. Except for one thing.  Why did Oliver walk away and not go to help Roy?

Survivor – Every time you throw a challenge, it bites you.  Every single time!  Yep no one has learned that yet.  Also, you don’t attack someone and then expect them to be on your side.  But that’s just basic humanity 101, which very few people on the Blue Collar tribe seem to have.  Can’t believe we are at the merge already (only two tribals as two tribes?) but that is going to make things extremely interesting next week for sure.

Girl Meets World – How long until we get season two?  So cute and so funny.  I’m not the biggest fan of Auggie and his “girlfriend” but even their scenes were funny.  I wonder where they are going with the brother/uncle, but it was interesting to see him get what he’d been giving out.  And Riley and Lucas?  So cute together.  I think Lucas is actually my favorite character.  Having said that, Lucas’s scenes with Cory were some of my favorites just because of how funny they were.  I know The Disney Channel doesn’t always release season sets of their shows.  I will be first in line to buy this season.  I loved it.  Seriously loved it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Reading Challenge Check Point: Mount TBR

The official link won't be up for a few days, but I'm also going to create my update post for the Mount TBR challenge today.

My original goal for this challenge was 12 books.  So far this year I've read:

1. Zero-Degree Murder by M. L Rowland
2. The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
3. Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley
4. Geared for the Grave by Duffy Brown
5. A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die by Edith Maxwell
6. Hearse and Buggy by Laura Bradford
7. Buttercream Bump Off by Jenn McKinlay
8. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
9. Death is Like  Box of Chocolates by Kathy Aarons
10. Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly
11. Wouldn't It Be Deadly by D. E. Ireland

Yes, that's right, I'm almost done with the challenge, and we are only a quarter of the way into the year.  That's an even faster climb than I did last year.

I'm tempted to keep going and head to the next check point.  But I also think this year will find me reading more and more books that come out in 2015.  I think I'm going to hold at where I am, at least for the moment, and see how things are looking in June.  I don't want to over commit, after all.

Reading Challenge Update: Audio Book Challenge

It's time for the first check point for the Audiobook Challenge.  As a reminder, I signed up for the Stenographer level, which is 10-15 books during the year.

So far, I've completed and reviewed 3 books:

1. The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
2. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
3. The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

I currently have my fourth book, The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, out of the library.  I'm planning to get to 1984 before April is over as well.

My plan has been one a month, but I am getting a little addicted, especially as I consider the possibilities of the series I've always been interested in but never found the time to read.  Time will tell if I still with my plan or wind up listening to more books as the year goes on.

March 27th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

It's Friday, it's payday, and tomorrow is the part of my beach ultimate Frisbee league.  What could be better than that?  Nothing, as far as I am concerned.  Well, maybe participating in this week's Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week's book is The Icing on the Corpse by Liz Mugavero, which I was fortunate enough to finish today thanks to an ARC.  My review (and a giveaway) should be up on Tuesday, aka release day.

And it starts like this:

Groundhogs invaded the basement of the Frog Ledge Unitarian Universalist Church.  They came in all shapes and sizes, at least sixty of them - tall, short, fat, skinny, fluffy tails, flat tails.

I must admit, page 56 doesn't have anything super fun or exciting on it, but there is this quote:

Stan hopped in the passenger seat of Amara's little Prius.  "Can you believe how yesterday turned out?" she asked.
"So sad."  Amara backed out of the driveway and turned the car toward Main Street.  "She was a nice lady.  A little abrupt, but she was old enough that she was entitled, you know?"

There you have it.  Hope you have a fantastic weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: At the Drop of a Hat by Jenn McKinlay (Hat Shop Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Growing characters, good mystery, plenty of fun
Cons: Scarlett and Viv’s motive for investigating is weak at best
The Bottom Line:
Charming and fun book
Investigating dead boss
To clear a new friend

Fun is Not Dropped from this Book

When I learned the title of the third Hat Shop mystery from Jenn McKinlay, I had to laugh.  I have used the phrase At the Drop of a Hat for years (and this is coming from a guy who only wears a hat one weekend a year).  My connection to the title must have been a good omen since this is my favorite in the series to date.

The series follows Scarlett Parker and her cousin Vivian Tremont who are running the hat shop they inherited from their grandmother.  Scarlett has recently moved over from America, where she was raised except for summers with Mim and Viv.  She’s only been over there a few months and is still adjusting to her new life.

Ariana Jackson walks in to Mim’s Whims one day with a hat that Mim made years ago.  She is hoping that Vivian can repair it for Ariana’s upcoming wedding to Scott, one of Harrison’s friends.  Viv is honored to be asked to repair the hat and begins to make her plans.

However, Ariana never responds to any of their calls or texts to approve things before Viv actually gets to work.  Finally, Scarlett decides to visit her at work, only to arrive to the sound of a scream.  Rushing through the office, Scarlett finds Ariana in the backyard of the office/house kneeling next to the body of Ariana’s boss, Anthony Russo.  The police seem to think that Ariana had something to do with Anthony’s death, and every piece of evidence seems to back them up.  But Scarlett and Viv are certain that Ariana is innocent.  Can they prove it?

The plot moves forward at a steady pace.  A couple of sub-plots slow things down a tad early on, but they are entertaining.  The further we go into the book, the more the mystery takes center stage, and there are twists and clues to keep us confused.  I did figure out part of the solution about five pages before Scarlett did, but I didn’t have all the pieces until she revealed them.

Speaking of Scarlett, I find her growth as a character charming.  As our first person narrator, she’s always been the strongest character in the series, however Viv plays a bigger part in this book, and I enjoyed getting to know her better as well.  The rest of the cast are equally charming and memorable be they series regulars or suspects.  In fact, there are a couple of new characters I wouldn’t mind seeing pop up again.

After the last book, I’d complained about Scarlett’s relationship with Harrison Wentworth, her love interest and part owner of the business.  I’m happy to see that things have smoothed out some in this book, which shows the character growth in both of them, actually.

In fact, the only complaint about this book is that Scarlett and Viv really don’t know Ariana well enough to be investigating.  However, their lack of motive to investigate didn’t matter much to me since I was having so much fun.

There are some very funny moments in the book that delighted me.  They drew a few laughs and plenty of smiles from me.

While the mystery is resolved, there is a cliffhanger on the last page that will leave you desperate for the next book in the series.  I’m guessing it won’t be out until early next year, but I want it now!

Obviously, I really did enjoy this visit across the pond.  At the Drop of a Hat is a charming and fun mystery that will leave you wanting more, so pick it up today.

And when you want more, check out the rest of the Hat Shop Mysteries in order.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ornament Review: 1942 - Bambi Premiers - Moments that Made Disney #7 - 2015 Disney Store Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Beautiful ornament of a quiet moment from Bambi
Cons: None, and I planned to list one
The Bottom Line:
Cute Bambi moment
In beautiful ornament
Collectors will want

Stunningly Beautiful Ornament Commemorates the Premier of Bambi

As much as I am enjoying the Moments that Made Disney monthly ornament series from The Disney Store, there is a major item they have neglected from the series – Disneyland.  One could argue that Mary Poppins should be in the series as well, but Disneyland is definitely missing.  They seem to have pretty much hit the rest of the milestones from Disney’s life and legacy.

Why bring this up now?  Because, when it came time to write my review of the February ornament, I expected to knock some stars off it for that very reason.  I get that Bambi is a huge movie in the Disney cannon for various reasons even though it isn’t my favorite.  And this seems like, being the fifth animated film that Disney released, it doesn’t need its own ornament.  Then I saw Bambi Premiers.  It is absolutely beautiful.

The ornament depicts Bambi with his mother.  They are hiding out under branches during the winter time, and you can see snow over the top of their shelter as well as in front of it.  Bambi and his mother are looking at each other in for foreground, and in the background, you can see the dark winter sky.

Words and pictures don’t do this ornament justice at all.  It is absolutely stunning to look at.  When I got it and opened the box, I couldn’t stop staring at it.  The colors and sculpt are absolutely perfect.  Whether you like the film or not, this is a beautiful work of art.

Like the rest of the series, you can easily set this one out to enjoy year round.  The bottom is large and nice and flat, so there is no question it will be secure no matter where you set it.

Being on the large size, it is nice that The Disney Store includes a red ribbon through the loop on the top of the ornament.  This ribbon is sturdy enough to hold the ornament.  You’ll want to make sure you hang it from a sturdy branch.  When you do, you’ll find that the ornament hangs straight.

Yes, I still think the Moments that Made Disney series should have included the opening of Disneyland.  However, if including Bambi Premiers gave us this stunning ornament, I am glad it was included.  Any Disney fan will love this ornament regardless of how much you love the film.

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

Original Price: $19.99

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

TV Recap: Castle 7-18 - At Close Range

I always enjoy it when they give the supporting players a chance to shine on Castle.  It helps fill in a little more about them, but it also allows us a twist on the formula of the show.  Last night was Ryan’s turn to shine, and what a night it was.

From time to time, they’ve mentioned the extra jobs that Ryan is taking on to pay for the growing needs of his family.  One of those lands him in the middle of a case.  He’s working for his brother-in-law, a former cop who now does private security.  Their assignment tonight is a Representative with huge political aspirations.  Yes, there is the potential for death threats, but they also need to make sure no one attacks the Representative and makes an embarrassing scene.

The event is actually for the Representative’s friend who runs a charity dedicated to getting clean water out to those who need it in less developed countries.  The two are talking back stage just before he goes on to introduce her speech when three shots ring out.  Ryan had been momentarily distracted by a hotel staff member, so all he sees is the friends going down.  His brother-in-law was on stage, and he runs backstage.  Ryan spots the shooter and takes off after him, only to lose him when the hotel security blocks him.

Book Review: Wouldn't It Be Deadly by D. E. Ireland (Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
: Great characters in a fun, twisty story
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Familiar duo
Become detectives in this
Delightful debut

Loverly Debut

I only had one reservation when I learned who the detectives were in Wouldn't It Be Deadly.  See, I love My Fair Lady up until the end when Eliza Doolittle returns to Henry Higgins despite how he’s treated her for the entire length of the play.  However, when I learned that the duo writing as D. E. Ireland would be sticking closer to the original ending for these characters in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, I was fully on board.  And the debut delivered everything promised.

The book opens in 1913, two months after the events we already know.  We find Eliza working for Emil Nepommuck, Henry Higgins’s chief rival, teaching proper English to anyone who needs to blend in with the upper classes.  Higgins is incensed, not only about Eliza working there but also because Nepommuck is taking credit for her transformation.

And so Higgins digs up some dirt on Nepommuck and shares it with the newspapers.  The day the dirt hits the paper, Eliza finds Nepommuck dead in the hallway outside their offices with a knife in the back.  Scotland Yard thinks that Higgins makes the best suspect, but Eliza is sure he couldn’t have done it.  Together, Eliza and Higgins begin searching for other suspects.  What they learn is that many of Mepommuck’s students had reasons to kill him.  But did any of them actually do it?

Both Eliza and Higgins really are the stars of this book, and the narration divides time between both of them as our third person point of view characters.  They and the rest of the characters returning from the play are perfectly in character.  As a result, this already feels like a second book in a series and returning to old friends.  But if you have never met the characters before, don’t worry.  What you need to know will be explained.  The cast of fresh characters are just as interesting and charming as the returning characters.

The story moves forward at a steady pace with some twists along the way.  I sure was taken by surprise a few times as we headed to the logical climax.  And what fun that climax was (which is all I will say so I don’t spoil it).  The story is the perfect way to showcase these characters and even works in all the minor characters from the play logically along the way.

Plus we get a dash of humor that added to the fun.  Some of the scenes are dramatic and funny at the same time as Eliza slips back into her old ways or Higgins goes overboard yet again in his own behavior.  (Really, he can be such a jerk at times.)  I was certainly laughing along the way, which I always enjoy.

While the book is set in 1913 London, that was used as a great backdrop to the story without slowing it down.  We get the occasional observation about life back then, but more than anything it provides a great setting to the story that is unfolding before us.

With this perfect blend of great characters, twisty plot, humor, and historical background, it’s no wonder that Wouldn't It Be Deadly is a winner.  I’m already looking forward to seeing where solving murder takes Eliza and Higgins next.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mysteries.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What's on My Nightstand - March 2015 Edition

It's the fourth Tuesday of the month, so that means it is time once again for What's on My Nightstand as hosted by 5 Minutes for Books.

I have a feeling that, for me anyway, this is going to be turning into What Books Have You Agreed to Read This Month.  I've been added to the blogger roster for Berkley Prime Crime starting in April (and I'm thrilled about it since I read so many of their books anyway), but that means I will be reading those books around the first of the month and any other review copies I have on hand.

For example, I've got two reviews in the pipeline that will be posted this week.  But starting today, I will be reading the first of my ARCS.

I've got, The Icing on the Corpse by Liz Mugavero (which is actually not a Berkley book but published by Kensington), Grave on Grand Avenue by Naomi Hirahara, The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco by Laura DiSilverio, and A Sticky Situation by Jessie Crockett on deck for my next four reads.  And yes, they are all books I would have chosen to read on my own, so I'm very happy to be reading them for review.  And if any of those sound good to you, there will be giveaways for all our of these when I review them.

After that?  Well, I will get to dive into my TBR pile.  I'll probably be reading As Gouda as Dead by Avery Aames and The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward.  On audio, I'm hoping to get The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs any day now, and then I plan to listen to 1984 by George Orwell to participate in the Reading to Know book club in April.

So yes, I have a very busy reading month planned.

Movie Review: Hop

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: A few moments and the acting
Cons: Predictable story and fewer laughs than it tries for
The Bottom Line:
Attempts new classic
Doesn't hold enough magic
You can Hop on by

Hop Wants to be an Easter Classic, but It Doesn't Quite Pull It Off

When you ask someone about a holiday classic movie they love, odds are they'll name a Christmas movie.  It's not that others haven't tried to make a movies around other holidays; they just don't usually grab the same punch as the Christmas movies.  Hop is another example.  It wants to become a beloved Easter movie, but it's just average.

E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand) is destined to take over the job of Easter Bunny from his dad (voiced by Hugh Laurie).  There's just one problem - he wants to be a drummer and has no interest in candy or eggs.  Meanwhile, in Van Nuys, Fred O'Hare (James Marsden as a live actor) attempts to find a job he'll be excited about.  His unemployment has gotten to the point that his family holds an intervention for him.

When E.B. runs away to Hollywood to fulfill his dreams, his path crosses with Fred's.  While Fred tries to get rid of E.B. and figure out his life, E.B. worms him way further and further into Fred's life.  Will E.B. ruin Fred's chance at a job?  Will E.B. get to become a drummer?

I can see kids loving this movie.  The plot is pretty well put together, and the story advances quickly.  Not to mention that E.B. is incredibly cute.  The computer animation blends so well with the live actors that you forget that you are watching a blending of the two.

However, adults will find the movie slow.  The plot is fairly predictable, although a couple of things caught me by surprise.  The bigger problem for adults is that the comedy just doesn't work.  Instead of being funny, I found many of the scenes cringe worthy although a few made me laugh.  While kids may enjoy it, I think their parents will not.

I'm not going to lay the blame on the cast.  They try to make the material work.  Honestly, with the actors involved, I'm a bit surprised the film doesn't work better.  Other members of the cast include Kaley Cuoco, Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins, and Hank Azaria as the voice of the Easter Bunny's chief assistant.

I guess for me, as I watched, I couldn't help drawing comparisons to The Santa Clause.  The plots are really only similar in passing, but as I watched, it just made me want to watch the Christmas classic instead.

There is a good idea in Hopbut it ultimately just doesn't work as well as it could have.  I guess we'll just have to keep working to find that Easter classic.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

TV Recap: Once Upon a Time 4-15 - Poor Unfortunate Soul

I really want to know how they do it.  Once Upon a Time has the same length as every other show on TV, but they seem to cram more into one hour than any other show on TV.  It might be that the flashbacks take up some of the “down” time other shows have, but I always come away feeling like I’ve watched at least two hours, yet still wanting more.  And that’s just one reason I love the show.

So, shall we unpack tonight’s goodies?

We’ll start where the episode started – in the past.  Hook (and Smee and other crew members) are on the Jolly Roger when they start to hear a beautiful voice that mesmerizes all of them.  It stops just in time, however, and Hook is able to steer the ship away from rocks that could have sunk the ship.

The voice belongs to a mermaid, a young Ursula.  As the ship passes, her father, Poseidon, talks to her quite upset.  He wanted her to use her voice to destroy the ship, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to do it.  It seems that humans killed his wife, Ursula’s mother, and he wants his revenge on all ships, especially pirate ships.

The next time that Ursula and Hook cross paths, she is singing while she waits tables in a bar, hoping to earn gold to get to a destination her mother had talked of where Ursula hopes to make her living singing.  It seems she and her mother shared that amazing voice, and singing reminds Ursula of her mother.  Hook is so enchanted, he promises to give her passage in the morning.

Book Review: The Mystery of the Velvet Gown by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #29)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good characters, fast moving plot
Cons: Plot a bit of a stretch in the end, some ignored characters
The Bottom Line:
Drama with teacher
Why is she acting strangely?
Weaker Trixie book

Dressy Clue

There are some fans of the Trixie Belden series who have little good to say about the second half of the series.  While I absolutely acknowledge that the earlier books were the strongest, I still find I enjoy many of these later books.  Then there’s The Mystery of the Velvet Gown.  It’s not that the book is bad, but it’s got some serious flaws.

Many people seem to have missed the Trixie Belden series, but I was lucky enough to find it about the time I was tiring of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.  It’s the same idea, a detective series aimed at middle graders, but the characters were much more real to me.  Plus, Trixie had a great family and group of friends, the Bob-Whites that rounded out the cast, and she had to get out of chores to do her sleuthing.  I could definitely relate to all of that.

Every year, the freshman class at Sleepyside Junior-Senior High School comes together to put on a play.  This year’s play, under the direction of Miss Darcy, is Romeo and Juliette, and Trixie’s friend Diana Lynch has landed the part of Juliette.  Everyone is thrilled for her – well almost everyone.  There’s Jane Morgan, who wanted the part and seems to have a grudge against the Bob-Whites in general.

However, Trixie’s focus is on Miss Darcy.  Just as rehearsals are getting under way, Miss Darcy learns that her father, a diplomat, has been kidnapped in London.  Naturally, she’s upset, however, her actions still seem a bit odd.  Even odder is her fiancée, Peter Ashbury.  Can Trixie figure out what is really happening?

Sometimes, in a book, the plot makes perfect sense while you are reading it, but once you set the book down, you scratch your head at what the characters did.  That’s absolutely the case here.  While reading this book, things seem logical, and I bought it as a kid.  But now, it seems like the villain went to great lengths to get what he wanted, and it really doesn’t make any sense.  Still, the clues are there, and the story progresses at a good clip.  The sub-plot with Jane is interesting; it’s nice to see a fellow student who doesn’t love Trixie and her friends.  However, a sub-plot involving Reddy does help provide a couple of plot points but pretty much seems useless to me.

The characters are mostly in character here.  There are a couple of things that seem inconstant with previous books, but they are minor.  However, I have to object to Dan being written out of this book.  Not only do I miss the character, but his absence is explained in a way I’ve never bought.  While Diana is part of the book, she is sidelined for much of it by preparing for the play.  It seems like this would have been a chance for her to shine instead of being ignored.

The result is a mostly forgettable entry in the series.  It’s not a terrible book, but the flaws are enough to keep The Mystery of the Velvet Gown from being a favorite entry.  Only read this once you’ve met Trixie and fallen in love with the series.

Need to read others in the series?  Here's my list of the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 21st's Weekly TV Thoughts

Once Upon a Time – So, if Mal put Aurora in the sleeping spell before Snow White even grew up, how was she still in it or back in it unaged when the rest of the realm went to Storybrooke?  Other than that paradox, I really did enjoy the episode, as you can see from my recap here.

Dancing with the Stars – We are off to another great start, although it is well past time for Derek to get an older less athletic woman.  Still, the early favorites seem to be doing well, so this should be another fun season to watch.

Castle – The mystery was a bit convoluted, but I enjoyed the episode over all.  Character bits were fairly predictable, but it really was still fun.  Full recap here.

The Flash – Mind officially blown.  I have no clue how they are going to resolve things, even with just that little bit of time travel involved.  The last act was just so remarkable I couldn’t look away.

Agents of SHIELD – You know, Skye’s father isn’t turning out to be the nice guy I thought he was.  In fact, I can’t quite tell what side he’s on or what is goal is at all.  But those last few minutes.  Another SHIELD?  And HYDRA?  I don’t know whose side to be on at this point.

Arrow – So they didn’t quite go with the easy character stuff I thought we might see on the show tonight, but I’m not sure why I’m surprised.  They haven’t been doing any easy character stuff all season.  And I love the show for it!  That battle at the police station was pretty spectacular, that’s for sure.

Melissa & Joey – Ryder is back!  I going to focus on that because all the talk about making babies was a bit more than I was looking for.

Baby Daddy – So telling us they were closing out the love triangle was clearly just a ploy since obviously they have no desire to do that at all.  Still, I did enjoy the episode, especially Tucker’s sub-plot.

Survivor – Things got very crazy when they switched up the tribes the second hour.  I was a little surprised they did that, although I shouldn’t have been with how far into the season they were.  We had fairly equal teams before this, and we don’t any more.  I’m a little surprised they decided to vote out Max at the end since he was one of their better chances to win challenges.  Without that, they are going to keep losing.  Would probably happen anyway, but now I think they are really doomed, but we shall see in the weeks to come.  Oh, and that first hour?  I’m actually on the side of the woman who was voted out.  While that jerk is right, his attitude is completely sexist.  Doesn’t make him wrong, just makes him and the rest of the men he’s talking about sexist.  I’d really like to see him gone, but I have a feeling they are working to make him a villain of the season.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review: The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly (Mickey Haller #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Engrossing plot and great characters
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
More courtroom drama
Twists, characters draw you in
From start to finish

Haller and the Conspiracy Theory

When my first choice for audio book wasn’t available this month, I snagged one of my fallback books – The Gods of Guilt.  I’d been debating about holding out a little long before I listened to it since it would bring me up to date on the Mickey Haller series, but I’m glad I went ahead with this book.  It is another riveting tale.

If you’ve missed the books, you might be most familiar with the character from The Lincoln Lawyer movie starring Matthew McConnaghey.  That movie was actually based on the first book about Mickey Haller, a defense attorney who works out of his Lincoln town car.  And there are a couple of fun references to the movie in this book.  Each entry in the series finds him on another high profile case, and I enjoy watching the chess match that ensues in court as he tries to win for his client.

Things have been slow for Michael Haller and Associates, and they desperately need a big case to keep the firm afloat.  That’s why Mickey is immediately interested when Lorna texts him about a potential new client arrest for murder.  The catch?  The victim is prostitute Gloria Dayton, a former client that Mickey thought he turned around and got of the life eight years ago.  That’s not the case since Mickey’s client is Gloria’s pimp.

Despite his emotional attachment to the case, Mickey takes it on.  Or maybe because of it, since he wants to learn what really happened to the woman.  A little digging into Gloria’s background begins to turn up the makings of a great alternate theory to feed the jury that might get his client off.  But then Mickey uncovers some facts that just might turn that alternate theory into the truth.  Can he and his team pull the evidence together to prove their client is truly innocent?

Once again, I quickly got caught up in the story.  How caught up?  Enough that I was sometimes yelling at the book as I listened to it in my car.  Not more than a word or two, but I was definitely part of the action.  The story has plenty of twists to keep you engaged, and the courtroom scenes are tense, adding to the story.  For the last third of the book, I was upset whenever I reached my destination because that meant I had to stop listening.  I just had to know how everything was going to play out.

And yet, we still get time to see more character growth in Mickey.  I truly do like his character, and I want to see him happy at the end of a book.  His personal life is complicated, and that’s the case here again, but I truly do like watching him deal with that in addition to the current case.  The rest of the supporting cast makes appearances as well, and I truly do like them.  The new players in this courtroom drama are just as strong, making this book even more mesmerizing.

If you are looking for a wonderful narrator, look for Peter Giles.  He does an expert job of reading the story and bringing it to life without his acting getting in the way.  The book is first person, and I get so lost in the story I forget that it isn’t really Mickey Haller telling me the tale.  I wish the narrator on Michael Connelly’s older Bosch books would take a lesson from these in how to properly narrate an audio book.

Whether you read it or listen to it, The Gods of Guilt is a wonderful book.  While I still have plenty of Connelly’s books to read, I do hope he returns to Mickey Haller soon so I can get my next fix.

More courtroom drama can be found in the rest of the Mickey Haller series.

March 20th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Time again for Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

I've got a treat for you today - Wouldn't It Be Deadly by D. E. Ireland.

This is the first in a series about Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins.  It finds the duo having to play detective after the events of the play we all know.  I just finished it tonight, and it was a pure delight.  My review will be up Tuesday with more details.

For now, let's get to that first line:

The shadowy hallway seemed as black as the heart of Jack the Ripper.

Jumping to page 56, we find this bit of dialogue:

"That bastard Nepo you work for.  I been there twice this mornin' banging on 'is door, but 'e ain't got the knockers to open."

And yes, I did choose one of the few lines of dialogue and characters who speaks with enough of an accent they write it that way.

One day of work and then a two day ultimate Frisbee tournament.  Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

TV Show Review: Home Improvement - Season 3

: 4 out of 5
Pros: Loving family with plenty of laughs.
Cons: Formula already very obvious
The Bottom Line:
Construction and tools
In this family sitcom
Combine for great laughs

“The Day I Come to My Senses is Still a Long Way Off.”

Building on the success of the first two season, Home Improvement season three was another huge success for the family sitcom.  There are a few changes, but nothing too big, which means the laughs continue, and fans will continue to be delighted.

If you’ve missed the show, this was a 90’s family sitcom that centered on the Taylor Family.  Father Tim (Tim Allen) also hosted the successful local show Tool Time with his assistant Al Borland (Richard Karn).  This season, they get a new announcer in Heidi (Debbe Dunning).  At home, he is married to Jill (Patricia Richardson), and they have three kids, Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Tayler Thomas), and Mark (Taran Noah Smith).  Tim is constantly messing things up, both his projects and in his relationships, so he often finds himself getting advise from their neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman).

In addition to Heidi, the changes come in some of the supporting characters for the season.  Al gets his first serious girlfriend in Ilene (Sherry Hursey), who recurs throughout the season.  The Taylors also get some new neighbors in Joe and Marie Morton (Robert Picardo and Mariangela Pino), and the wife becomes a friend for Jill, which is nice since her friend Karen (played by Betsy Randle) from the first two seasons had left to become Amy Matthews on Boy Meets World this year.

So what exactly happens this year?  Jill and Al team up with some women to put together a Habitat for Humanity house racing Tim and his team of athletes.  With a little help from his parents, Mark takes Brad and Randy on for one of their pranks on him.  And speaking of pranks, everyone gets in on one against Tim on Halloween.  Tim’s attempts to get a Christmas picture and decorate the house for the holiday both meet with disaster while Brad wants to skip the holiday for a ski trip with friends.  Meanwhile, Tim finally finishes his hot rod and winds up racing it against Bob Vila.  And Jill spends much of the season trying various things to raise money for the library as well as reuniting with her best friend/enemy at a high school reunion.  Over at Tool Time, we also get a man’s bathroom and a man’s kitchen.  And Randy uses old love letters while chatting with a woman on a dating site.

There is lots of fun to be had here.  The jokes are plentiful, and the situations are completely relatable.  There are times it’s hard to understand why Jill hasn’t killed Tim since he can be so clueless, yet I like the fact that they still work everything out by the end of the show.  Ultimately, there is a love in this family that makes the rest of the show so much fun to watch.  I do wish Tim weren’t so mean in his put downs at times, especially to Al, although Al begins to hold his own a bit more.  I especially loved watching them reverse roles when they fill in on a cooking show in one episode.

My complaint with the show is how formulaic it is.  Yes, all shows, especially sitcoms, can be, but this one is especially noticeable, even this early into the show’s run.  There are still plenty of wonderful and funny moments, but a little more creativity in the plot structure would be nice.

Having said that, the actors are continuing to bring the characters to life in a great way.  The kids are turning into find actors as well, although the stand out continues to be Jonathan Taylor Thomas whose Randy steals many of the scenes he’s in.

There were 25 episodes in season three, and all of them are preserved in this three disc set in their native full frame and stereo sound.  The only extra we get is a visit to Tim’s tool corral, where we can watch clips from that season of the gags involving those tools.  It’s not that exciting, especially if you’ve just finished watching those episodes.

Home Improvement might not be made as much for watching the episodes back to back, but there are still plenty of wonderfully funny moments in this season three set.  Fans of the show will be delighted to revisit these characters.

Season Three Episodes:
1. Maybe, Baby
2. Aisle See You in My Dreams
3. This Joke’s for You
4. A Sew, Sew Evening
5. Arrivederci, Binford
6. Crazy for You
7. Blow-Up
8. Be True to Your Tool
9. Dollars and Sense
10. Frozen Moments
11. Feud for Thought
12. ‘Twas the Blight Before Christmas
13. Slip Sleddin’ Away
14. Dream On
15. Reel Men
16. The Colonel
17. Room for Change
18. Eve of Construction
19. Too Many Cooks
20. It was the Best of Tims, It was the Worst of Tims
21. Fifth Anniversary
22. Swing Time
23. What You See is What You Get
24. Reality Bytes
25. The Great Race II

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ornament Review: Simple Gifts - Marjolein's Garden #1 - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Beautiful ornament with a great spring theme
Cons: Green can blends in on tree, missing series marker
The Bottom Line:
Red flowers, green can
Reminder of spring on tree
This series starts well

Simple but Lovely Start to New Ornament Series

I was so close.  I collect so many of Hallmark’s ornament series that my goal at this point is to start as few new ornament series as possible each year.  I succeeded in only starting one series in 2014 – until the after Christmas sales.  That’s when I gave in and bought Simple Gifts, the first in the new Marjolein’s Garden series.

This series of ornament is inspired by the artwork of Marjolein Bastin, and it’s off to a great start.  The subject is a watering can.  The can is a light green in color.  However, this isn’t a normal watering can because it has red flowers coming out of the top.  The amaryllis are open and the blooms are so pretty.  They are so pretty, in fact, that they’ve attracted a bird, who has landed on the spout of the watering can.

The ornament just shouts spring, and it really is very nice.  My biggest hesitation all year was whether it really fits on a Christmas tree.  I know, I know, the guy who puts tons of Disney ornaments on his tree is worried about an ornament with more of a spring theme.  However, I’ve decided that I will display this series on my ornament tree display stand that came out in 2013.  This one fits nicely on some of the upper hooks of that stand.

Unlike most Hallmark ornaments, it doesn’t have a loop at the top of the ornament, but a piece of brown twine that loops over the top of the watering can and ties around the flowers.  There really isn’t enough of the twine to slip it over a branch, so you’ll still need to slip an ornament hook through that twine.  Unfortunately, the ornament tips.  There is a slight forward tip but most of it is to the side so it looks like someone is trying to tip it to pour water out of the spout.  It actually looks nice this way in addition to sitting straight.

If you want it to sit upright, you can set it out to display.  The bottom of the can is flat, and it sits up perfectly.  However, you won’t find the series marker on the bottom of the can, or anywhere else.  There was a production error, and the 1 in a Christmas tree was left off the ornament.  You will find Marjolein’s signature on the back of the can, however.

As much as I like this ornament, my biggest issue with it is with the can being green.  The ornament looks great when you display it by itself, but if you hang it on your tree, that green is going to blend in.  I’m not sure what other color the can should be, but that’s a definite issue.

Even so, I’m glad I gave in and started the Marjolein’s Garden series.  Simple Gifts is a pretty ornament to display at Christmas, during spring, or any other time of year.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Marjolein's Garden series.

Original Price: $17.95

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

TV Recap: Castle 7-17 - Hong Kong Hustle

The new season of Dancing with the Stars premiered last night, which can only mean one thing – new episodes of Castle!  So nice to have our favorite crime fights back, isn’t it?

As the episode opens, Beckett has just learned that one of the people who went through the police academy with her has been promoted to captain.  It makes her feel inadequate since she is still a detective.  Even Castle pointing out that she is the best in the city doesn’t make her feel any better.

They are discussing this as they walk up to the victim, a man who was found in the park by a jogger in the middle of the night.  However, when the jogger found him, there was an Asian woman going through his pockets.  Yet wallet, cash, etc. are still there.  If it was a mugging gone wrong, the mugger was pretty bad.

The jogger meets with a sketch artist to come up with a drawing of the woman he saw, and Ryan and Esposito show it to the victim’s landlord when they go to look at his place.  She says the woman is actually in the apartment now.  Ryan and Esposito head up there only to be unarmed by this woman.

Book Review: Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly (County Cork Mysteries #1)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Setting comes alive, enjoyable characters
Cons: Mystery is almost forgotten for much of the book
The Bottom Line:
Maura discovers
Her Irish roots as we wait
For plot to begin

If I’d Known This was Chick Lit Instead of a Mystery….

One of my rules is never buy more than one book from an author until I know whether I like the author or not.  It seems like every time I don’t listen to myself, when I try the author, I don’t wind up liking their books.  Yet, I’ve now bought the first in each of Sheila Connelly’s three series and just now am reading my first book written by her.  Buried in a Bog is the first in her newest series set in County Cork, Ireland.  Sadly, it was very disappointing.

Maura Donovan is fulfilling a promise to her Gran to visit the part of Ireland where Gran lived before she immigrated to Boston.  Maura has never been outside of the Boston area, so this is a very new experience for her.  She quickly connects with a couple of Gran’s friends from before Gran immigrated to America and begins to enjoy learning about Gran’s early life.  She even manages to get a job at the local pub.

However, the first morning she is there, a body is found in a local bog.  Just after Maura potentially stumbles on a clue to the dead man’s identity, a much more modern corpse appears.  What is happening in this corner of Ireland?

I wanted to like this book.  And there was stuff to like about it.  I’ve never visited Ireland (although I’d love to go someday).  Yet, while reading this book, I felt like I was right there with Maura.  Her adventures learning to drive a stick and on the wrong side of the road at the same time were also relatable.

Likewise, I liked the cast of characters.  Some seemed a bit prickly at the beginning, but by the time it was over, I had really come to care for all of them.

So where did the book go wrong?  It was the plot.  If this had been advertised as chick lit, it would have been accurate.  This book is about a young early twenties woman figuring out what to do next in her life while she learns about her family tree.  The mystery is a sub-plot and even then not a very well developed one.  I got to the point where I started skimming the book until the mystery came back into the picture again.  Since the book advertised itself as a mystery, that is what I was expecting.

The author herself is Irish and has visited the part of that country where this book is set since her own relatives come from there.  I felt when I read the book that she wanted to make us love that part of the world as much as she does.  That desire out shown anything else happening in the book and caused the mystery to take a back seat.

I know that the author has plenty of fans, so I will certainly give the first in her two earlier series a try.  However, it will take a lot for me to return to Ireland and find out what happens to Maura after Buried in a Bog.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Broadway Review: Wicked

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great acting, sets, story
Cons: Music isn’t completely memorable
The Bottom Line:
An alternate Oz
Fill with great sets and costumes
Great theater time

So That’s What All the Fuss is About

I know, I know, I’m very late to the party.  I just finally saw Wicked for the first time, and that’s despite all the praise I’ve heard for it for years.  I must admit, I wasn’t completely sure what I thought of it as the story was unfolding, but in the end I was thrilled I saw it.

In case you’ve missed all the buzz, this Broadway Musical tells the story of Elphaba, aka the Wicked Witch of the West in Oz, and what led up to the story we know when Dorothy enters the picture.  We meet her as she is going to college, but not really as a student but as a companion to her younger sister, who has been in a wheelchair all her life.  See, Elphaba was born with green skin, and has been shunned by others, even her father, all her life.  Unfortunately, she winds up rooming with Galinda, a spoiled brat who is used to having everything going her way, and neither are especially happy with the arrangements.

But then things begin to change as Elphaba begins to come into her own.  Will they develop a friendship?  What will Elphaba’s stands on things she sees are wrong mean for her future?

I really didn’t know much about the story going into it beyond the basics I just shared.  Let me tell you, this is a very different take on the characters we already know from Oz.  Still, there are many fun moments as we get to see things falling into place for Dorothy’s arrival even if they aren’t the real version.  (And I’m sorry, but I’m going with the original Wizard of Oz book as the real version of events).

I thought I might have an issue since I am reluctant to root for a wicked person.  However, they do a great job of setting things up so that we can root for heroes and against villains.  As I was watching, I began to be afraid how I would feel about the ending until we actually got there.  Then I loved it.  So just rest assured that it is a good ending.

The songs?  There are a few standouts like “Popular” and “Defying Gravity,” not to mention the extremely popular duet “For Good.”  Most of the songs work best in the context of the play, so you might now find yourself humming the songs the next day, but it is still enjoyable.

The cast, costumes, and sets I saw here in Los Angeles recently were quite good.  The part of Galinda is hard since it really does fit Kristen Chenoweth (who originated it) to a T, and it’s hard to come out of that shadow.  Still, I got into the story and bought everyone in the cast.  I always enjoy seeing how sets are created and changed in the big productions, and this one didn’t disappoint.  The costumes are perfect as well, and really help transport you to Oz.

So if you get a chance to see Wicked, I highly recommend it.  It’s a fun night of musical theater.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

TV Recap: Once Upon a Time 4-14 - Enter the Dragon

There are times I wish I didn’t pay attention to the guest cast as much as I do.  It kind of spoiled tonight’s cliffhanger.  So if you don’t want to make my mistake and haven’t watched yet, ignore those names that flash by early in the episode and just watch the episode unfold.

Having said that, it’s late, so let’s get to it, shall we?

Our flashback shows up Regina and Maleficent’s first meeting.  And we go back to the time when Regina was an apprentice and Snow White was still young.  Regina’s found Mal’s spell book and has been studying it behind Rumpelstiltskin’s back.  And she wants to meet Mal and see if she can learn magic faster from her than she has from Rumple.  Rumple isn’t happy about the idea, but he magically transport’s Regina to Mal’s territory.

However, Mal isn’t the sorceress she once was.  She can’t change into a dragon and can’t create fire.  In fact, since (then) Prince Stephen defeated her sleeping curse on Briar Rose, Mal’s been in a funk, using pricks of watered down sleeping potion like a drug.  Upset and disappointed, Regina starts the long journey home – that is until she learns that Princess Aurora is about to marry Prince Phillip.  Aurora?  That would be Stephen and Briar Rose’s daughter.

Book Review: If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff illustrated by Felicia Bond

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Charming illustrations bring a creative story to life
Cons: Only if you run out of muffins
The Bottom Line:
Creative story
Filled with some wild connections
Great illustrations

Of Moose, Muffins, Jam, and …

Having found the charm in Laura Numeroff’s books last year, I didn’t hesitate when I found If You Give a Moose a Muffin on a friend’s bookshelf recently.  It was another delight that kids especially will enjoy.

When you see a moose out your kitchen window, you might be tempted to give him a muffin.  That is, of course, a nice gesture.  But can you really eat a muffin without jam?  And that jam might make a mess, and then who knows where that might lead.  Somehow, I think it will be a fun tale (or is that tail).

These are simple books with just a sentence or two on each page.  As a result, they are very quick reads.  However, the illustrations from Felicia Bond absolutely make them worth reading.  The detail is wonderful and the way she takes a wild story and draws the pictures adds to the comedy.

Of course, the story itself also makes the book worth reading.  If I told you were this book wound up, you’d think I was crazy, and yet it all makes perfect sense as you read along.  Seeing just what the current action leads the Moose to want to do next is the entire fun of the book, and watching those connections again and again make repeated reading fun.

So you need to see for yourself just what happens If You Give a Moose a Muffin.  You’ll be pleased with the results, I’m sure.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

March 14th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Off to my first mud of of the year today!!  Meanwhile, here are my TV thought for the week.

Once Upon a Time – I’m so surprised they already told us Mary Margaret and David’s big secret.  We don’t have all the details, but we have enough to them.  It’s obvious that Emma is going to go dark at some point, but the question is how dark?  So far, I’m really loving this back half of the season.  You can read my full recap here.

Agents of SHIELD – And just when I was thinking of giving up, they produce a fun episode like this one with great character moments and plenty of action that didn’t seem weirdly over the top.  A show like this I could keep getting behind.  Hope it continues.

Melissa & Joey – I really thought Joe’s daughter would be sticking around longer – like through what will turn out to be the end of the series.  Oh well, that was a great storyline while she was there, and it looks like Ryder is back from making movies, I mean New Orleans, next week.

Baby Daddy – So I thought they were going to resolve the love triangle early in the season, but they seem to have dropped it.  Still, there was plenty to laugh at in this episode.  And I want to vacation in that “condo.”

Survivor – As much as I know the deaf woman is shooting herself in the foot with her behavior, I sympathize.  Been there done that too many times in my life.  Still, I hope she gets things straightened out fairly quickly.  Not too surprised by who they sent home this week since he’d keep being a handicap at challenges.

Big Bang Theory – I’m so with Leonard on this one, and Sheldon’s attitude would infuriate me, too.  However, Howard’s last line of the episode was classic as was how everyone played it off.  Heck, if they’d wanted, they could have had Bernadette’s actress doing Mrs. W’s lines and kept the character alive.

The Odd Couple – Oscar sure can pick them, can’t he?  I like the heart underneath his character.  And I didn’t miss Dave Foley’s character in the slightest.

Amazing Race – You can tell which teams are falling apart pretty easily, and it isn’t that surprising that it is the Blind Date teams.  They just don’t have the relationship to deal with the stress of the race.  The elimination was pretty much a non-factor this leg.  It almost makes you wonder why they didn’t just eliminated them last time except they probably pick the non-elimination legs before hand.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Review: Puzzled Indemnity by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady #16)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good, puzzling story, fun word play
Cons: As always, characters could be stronger
The Bottom Line:
Is wife in danger?
Word play helps tell good story
A light and fun read

Is a Murder Being Plotted?

Despite my lack of interest in puzzles, I find myself enjoying the Puzzle Lady series.  Part of it is because Cora, the main character, actually can’t solve crossword puzzles either.  That opens the books up to the rest of us right there.  But I also love the word play between the characters.  That was on fine display in Puzzled Indemnity, the latest in the series.

The winter blues have definitely hit Cora Felton, and she is anxious to find anything she can to get her out of the house.  Unfortunately, the town of Bakerhaven is having an unusually quiet spell when it comes to crime.  The only crime is a robbery of the local liquor store by someone in an Iron Man mask.

Then lawyer Becky Baldwin gets a new client who wants her husband followed to see if he is having an affair.  Even worse, this client thinks that her husband has taken out a life insurance policy on her with a healthy double indemnity clause.  Naturally, Becky turns to Cora to conduct the surveillance.  Almost immediately, Cora finds the proof she’s looking for.  However, the wife hesitates when confronted with the truth.  And then things really explode.

Now if you do love crossword puzzles, you’ll be delighted to learn that there are three puzzles that pop up over the course of the book that play a part in the story.  For the rest of us, just keep reading and they will be solved within a few pages for us.  There is also a Sudoku involved.  Now you might think that the criminals in Bakerhaven would have learned to stop leaving puzzles to get Cora involved in their crimes, but don’t think too hard.  It spoils the premise of the series.

As much as I enjoy this series, the entries can be hit or miss.  This is definitely a strong one with a plot that takes some interesting twists along the way to the solution.  The ending is a bit rushed, but it does all make sense if you read it carefully enough.

Even after so many books, it’s hard to call these characters fully developed.  However, they are interesting enough to make us care about the outcome, and that’s the case again here.  And there is an interesting development in Cora’s life that I picked up on early into the book.

The real star here is the banter and word play, and that’s in fine form.  However, it never tries to take over the story (like it does in some books), but instead amuses us as it advances the story.

Because of the banter and the short chapters, this book is a very fast read.  The pages always fly by in this series, and this book is no exception.

So don’t pick up Puzzled Indemnity when you are looking for something serious or weighty.  But if you want a grin or two and are looking for a good puzzle, you’ll find it here.

Want to read Cora's earlier adventures?  Here are the Puzzle Lady Mysteries in order.