Thursday, April 30, 2015

TV Show Review: Covert Affairs - Season 5

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good acting, action
Cons: Weak characters, predictable story
The Bottom Line:
Last dose of action
With Annie’s final missions
Ends on a weak note

"Everyone is Entitle to a Secret or Two, Right?"

Last season of Covert Affairs was wonderful.  They finally had a solid villain and all the episodes were part of a cohesive story.  Then along comes season 5, and the show once again drops down a peg or two.  Honestly, I was watching more out of habit than anything else by the end, so I wasn’t that upset when the show got canceled.

If you’ve missed this USA Network original series, it followed the career of Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) as she worked for the CIA.  She started out as a rookie, but after the course of five seasons, she’s proved herself, especially to her boss, Joan Campbell (Kari Matchett) and on again, off again love interest Auggie Anderson (Christopher Gorham).  Her adventures have taken her all over the globe as she’s worked to bring down dangerous international criminals.

Season 5 picks up a few months after the successful completion of Annie’s last case.  She’s been completely off the grid, but now she’s ready to come back to work.  But she is hiding something from her co-workers that might compromise her ability to work in the field.

However, she’s come back at just the right time as a terrorist blows up a satellite office of the CIA while Annie is visiting.  Fortunately, she saw something suspicious and wasn’t in the building at the time.  The location was classified, so who had access to that to sell it to the terrorists?  Meanwhile, Joan’s husband Arthur (Peter Gallagher) has started working for a private global security company headed by Ryan McQuaid (Nic Bishop), a man who has a crush on Annie from the moment they meet.  They seem to be running parallel investigations, but can McQuaid and his company be trusted?

It’s hard to figure out exactly where this season of the show went wrong.  The premise certainly sounds promising, right?  I know I was on board for those first few episodes.  But as the season continued, the plot become too obvious.  I called several twists and complications several episodes ahead of time.  And the characters started to do things wholly in service to the plot, creating some holes along the way.

Maybe that is why I felt the characters were more inconsistent this year than in years past.  At times, I liked them and understood their motivations.  At others, they just didn’t feel right to me, like they were doing things only because the plot called for it.  Some of the conflicts felt manufactured just to keep the characters apart and not an outflow of the characters we’ve gotten to know.

Part of the fun of this show has been the on location shooting.  That continues here with trips to places such as Paris, Venezuela, and Istanbul.

And the show still did a good job of action and suspense, giving us many great scenes over the course of the season.  While not a special effects heavy show, I’m sure they factored into the stunts we saw, but I was never thinking about them.

The acting was still top notch.  While the writing wasn’t up to par, the actors still gave it their all bringing the characters and story, such as they were, to life every week.

There were sixteen episodes in season 5, and they are all here on four discs in their native wide screen and full surround.  Extras are light, with just a gag reel and some deleted scenes.

Because the show was canceled after the final episode aired, there is a mild cliffhanger at the end.  I’m curious how the creators envisioned leaving their characters.  Still, it does feel like a natural place to leave things.  And I mentioned it was a mild cliffhanger, right?  It’s easy to envision the next step for the characters from this point.

Covert Affairs never quite found it’s best rhythm, but at times it was plenty of fun.  While season 5 wasn’t bad, it was never truly good either.  This is a season only fans will want to watch.  If you aren’t that invested in the show or characters, you can skip it.

Season 5 episodes:
1. Shady Lane
2. False Skorpion
3. Unseen Power of the Picket Fence
4. Silence Kit
5. Elevate Me Later
6. Embassy Row
7. Grounded
9. Spit on a Stranger
10. Sensitive Euro Man
11. Trigger Cut
12. Starlings of the Slipstream
13. She Believes
14. Transport is Arranged
15. Frontwards
16. Gold Soundz

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Jane Ryland #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting characters and a story that grows very compelling
Cons: Slow to start; one sub-plot annoys
The Bottom Line:
This abandoned house
Is hiding a dead body
Slow start turns great read

Let Me Tell You the Truth About This Book

My to be read pile is growing out of control.  I’ve enjoyed Hank Phillippi Ryan’s books since her very first one came out, and I bought her latest, Truth Be Told, back in October when it was released.  And yet I’m just now getting it read.

The Jane Ryland series is something a bit different for many of the books I read.  Told completely in third person, it switches to multiple points of view, including Boston newspaper reporter Jane and her secret boyfriend, Boston police detective Jake Brogan.  This technique is something not used enough, and I enjoy seeing how it builds the story differently from the other books I read.

The rash of foreclosures in Boston have led Jane to do an article on the entire process.  As a result, she’s at a foreclosed house where the police are emptying out the personal belongings left behind by the family who had to move out.  However, this time the police make a horrible discovery – a dead body.  How did that get in the closet?

Meanwhile, the 20th anniversary of the Lilac Sunday killing is approaching.  This murder of a teen has remained unsolved, and it was a case that haunted Jake’s grandfather until the day he died.  However, a man has just walked in and confessed to the crime.  He seems to have details that no one else would know, but Jake isn’t convinced.  Is this the killer or a false confession?

Unlike the first two books in the series, this one started off a little slowly.  The view point switches often create little cliffhangers, but in this case, we kept cutting away just as something interesting was going to happen.  The result made the story feel jerky instead of gripping.

However, once the story really got rolling, the view point switches were perfect for building the tension just like they normally do in this series.  I was soon drawn into the story and had a hard time putting the book down.  And the climax was suspenseful and perfect.

Jane and Jake are two interesting, compelling characters, and I enjoyed seeing them again.  Because of their professions, they are trying to keep their relationship a secret, which adds an interesting tension to the series.  Unfortunately, there is a further hiccup in their relationship that made me roll my eyes a bit in this book, but that was a minor annoyance overall.

The two leads are surrounded by an interesting cast of supporting characters, including those involved specifically in this case.  They are so real that they help  make the story compelling.

I will admit I was a bit worried we’d get a lecture on banks foreclosing on houses, but that was never a central focus outside how it affects the characters and the situations they’ve found themselves in.  I was glad because this is a very complex issue, and I was worried it would be reduced to a one sided straw man.

While the beginning could have been smoothed out some, the book was still a good read.  Truth Be Told, I’m interested to see what is next for Jane and Jake.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Jane Ryland Mysteries in order.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

TV Recap: Castle 7-21 - In Plane Sight

As much as I love a typical episode of Castle, it’s always nice when the show breaks out of their formula and gives us something different.  That was the case last night, which was really the Castle and Alexis show since the story found the two of them solving a murder on board a plane flying to London.  Castle is on his way there to speak to a Sherlockian society, and Alexis is going with him to enjoy a little sightseeing and meet up with friends who live there.

However, things are not as they should be.  The air marshal is missing, which has the entire crew on alert.  The pilot follows protocol and locks herself in the cockpit while Castle volunteers to help search the plane again.  They find the marshal stuffed behind luggage in the hold.

TV Show Review: Royal Pains - Season 6

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: More medical mysteries surrounded by wonderful characters and their personal drama
Cons: None worth noting
The Bottom Line:
Doctor entertains
Mixing drama, medicine
In perfect combo

"Can I Count on You Hank?"  "Don't You Always."

What I don’t know about medicine fills volumes, and it’s not a normal interest of mine.  Yet I continue to be hooked on Royal Pains because of the lovable cast of characters.  Season 6 was no exceptions as we continue to follow the adventures of the staff of HankMed.

If you are new to this fun show, HankMed is named after Hank Lawson (as played by Mark Feuerstein).  He is a doctor who, after he was unfairly fired from a hospital in New York City, wound up setting up a private practice as a concierge doctor in the Hamptons thanks to his brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo), who takes on the job of CFO.  Also on board right from the start is Hank’s physician assistant Divya (Reshma Shetty).  The business has become so successful that they added Dr. Jeremiah Sacani (Ben Shenkman), who has a little bit of trouble getting along with others at times.  Rounding out the cast is Evan’s wife Paige (Brooke D’Orssay).

This season picks up at the start of a new summer.  Hank has been gone for nine months working with Boris (recurring guest star Campbell Scott) to help him with his medical condition, but he’s back for a ceremony honoring Divya’s new baby.  But coming back just briefly doesn’t seem to be possible, and Hank gets drawn back in to the business, setting up a possible conflict with Jeremiah who has been running the medical side of the company while Hank was gone.  Meanwhile, housemates Divya and Jeremiah have to adjust to the mess that her new baby makes while she attempts to return to work.  Jeremiah, meanwhile, tries to move on from his crush on Divya and meets someone in a quite unexpected place.  But the biggest surprise of all is Emma, the new sister that Evan and Hank learn they have (played by Willa Fitzgerald).  Her appearance puts pressure on all the relationships in the Lawson family, including Paige and Evan’s marriage.  But is Emma all she claims to be?

Oh, you thought this was a medical mystery show?  Between the sometimes soap opera nature of the story lines, they do work in some medical mysteries.  Over the course of this season, they deal with pressure from the nearby hospital, take on a client who might be part of the mob, help a tennis pro, and deal with a birthday boy who gets out of hand at his own party.

As you can see, this show is definitely more about the characters than it is the medical mysteries.  Oh, the medical part is there, but if is often a sub-plot or even just an excuse to see the characters.  Whether it is the sub-plot or the main plot, I always find it believable and compelling.  Then again, as I said before, I really know nothing about medicine, so I’m probably not the best person to judge believability.

However, I keep turning in for the characters.  Really, I just love them – all of them.  At times, I might want to slap some sense into one or two, but in the end, I come back to loving them.  I think one reason I do is they all truly care for each other.  While there are some serious misunderstandings at times, they all work things out eventually.  I love to see that in a relationship and a show.  We need conflict.  I get that, but I like to see the happy endings, too.

The cast, as always, is superb.  The main actors know their characters well and bring them to life perfectly every week.  The guest cast matches that week to week, whether they just appear the once or recur though much of the season.  Sadly, some of the characters we met in the early seasons don’t seem to pop up as much as I would like any more, but that’s a minor complaint.

All thirteen episodes from the season are included in this three disc set in their native wide screen and full surround.  But it’s just a barebones release with no extras.  So if you’ve just seen these episodes, there’s little reason to rush out to buy the set, until you are ready for some fun revisiting the characters.

If you want to escape to a lovely destination spot but don’t have the money, may I highly recommend Royal Pains season 6.  And if you get sick while there, I know that Dr. Hank will be able to fix you up in no time at all.

Season 6 Episodes:
1. Smoke and Mirrors
2. All in the Family
3. A Bridge Not Quite Far Enough
4. Steaks on a Plane
5. Goodwill Stunting
6. Everybody Loves Ray, May
7. Electric Youth
8. I Did Not See That Coming
9. Oh, M.G.
10. Good Air/Bad Air
11. HankMed on the Half Shell
12. A Bigger Boat
13. Ganging Up

Monday, April 27, 2015

What's On My Nightstand - April 2015

April is coming to a close, which means it is time for 5 Minutes for Books monthly meme What's On Your Nightstand.

Right now, I'm 100 pages from the end of Musseled Out by Barbara Ross, the third in her Maine Clammbake Mystery series.  I'm reading it for review next Tuesday, and I'm expecting to give it a great review.  I don't like seafood, but I absolutely love this series.

I've got two more books from two different publishers I was sent for review in the next couple of weeks.  Up first for those is One Foot in the Grape by Carlene O'Neil.  Then I will be reading The The Final Reveille by Amanda Flower.  These are both first in new series, they both sound like fun, and I'm very much looking forward to reading them.

However, I'm hoping to slip Stuart Gibb's newest middle grade book in there somewhere early on.  Evil Spy School is the third in one of his series, and I'm very much looking forward to finding out what happens next to these characters.

Also on deck this month, I should be getting the latest in James Patterson's Women's Murder Club series, 14th Deadly Sin, in from the library.  It comes out on Tuesday the 5th, and I'm second in line.  I also need to get to Death by the Dozen, the third Cupcake Bakery Mystery by Jenn McKinlay.

That should keep me busy through most of May, but I'm hoping to sneak one or two more books into the list at some point this month.

TV Recap: Once Upon a Time 4-19 - Lily

I’d figured out a few weeks ago who Maleficent’s daughter was, and that we’d be meeting her before the season was over.  It just made sense.  So from that stand point, last night’s episode wasn’t a huge shock.  On the other hand, that final scene?  Never saw it coming.

Our flashback involves teenage Emma and her friend Lily.  Emma has finally landed in a good home when Lily shows up.  Lily manages to work her way into Emma’s new family, claiming to be a friend from a foster home.  However, when Emma sees a news report, she figures out the truth, Lily has run away from her rich adopted parents and is a wanted fugitive thanks to a convenience store robbery that her boyfriend talked her in to being part of.  Emma tries to get Lily to leave, but Lily says he needs her necklace, the only thing she has from her birth mother, which she left behind at the empty house where she and her boyfriend are squatting.

TV Show Review: Suits - Season 4

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Twists, great characters, compelling drama
Cons: A few minor niggles, but nothing major.
The Bottom Line:
Twist on the premise
Keeps show fresh and engaging
Can’t miss a second

“This Firm is Changing Names More Often than Prince.”

I never saw the cliffhanger of the previous season of Suits coming.  Considering the premise of the show is about people who work in a law firm, I never expected one of them to leave.  But I trusted the writers to keep me engaged with this latest twist on the show, and they did in spades.  In fact, season 4 was another strong season.

Yes, the season picks up with Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) starting his new job away from Pearson Spector.  He’s now working in the world of high finance as a takeover artists for businesses helping with mergers and acquisitions, some of them friendly, some of them not.  One of his first clients is desperately trying to hold on to the business he’s spent this entire life building against people who want to take it over.

And the lawyers working for the other side?  You guessed it, it’s Mike’s old friends and co-workers from Pearson Spector as lead by his mentor Harvey Spector (Gabriel Macht).  That just complicates life for everyone as they already know each other’s moves.  Caught in the middle is Mike’s girlfriend Rachel (Meghan Markle), who also happens to be an associate working under Harvey.  Harvey’s secretary Donna (Sarah Rafferty) is still attempting to keep all the friendships from going nuclear.  Also this season, Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) gets a love interest who wants to work for the firm and Louis (Rick Hoffman) makes a decision that might destroy his life.

They actually played out the Mike as corporate raider story longer than I thought they would.  But that didn’t dampen the season at all.  This show is always high stakes high drama, and that was the case again.  And since we saw both sides, it was hard to really come down on one side or the other, which was nice for a change.  Well, until the back half of the season, which picks up a new story arc from the back of the first half.

I actually did have an issue with a character in the back half.  Yes, I could see where they were coming from, but their actions were so self-destructive it was hard to watch.  Likewise, I’m really over Mike’s secret and hope they give that a rest for a little while.  Yes, I know that is the premise of the show, but I’d like it to play a backseat to some other story line again for a while.

Having said that, yes, I did still love this season.  I can’t turn away when this show is on the air, and the twists and surprises just keep coming.  I never know where a story is going to lead, and I love that.

And the actors are still in top form.  They know these characters inside and out and hit every note demanded by the scripts.  That’s not an easy task, and I’m sure the actors are exhausted at the end of a day or work.  The results for us are completely worth it.  Plus they make their characters likable.  It would be easy to hate these characters at times because of what they do, but we always see the humanity behind their choices, especially as they deal with the consequences.

As usual, the season consisted of sixteen episodes, and they are presented here in their native wide screen and full surround.  Extras are light with just deleted scenes, a gag reel, and an extra called Suits Recruits: The Paper Trail.

Once again, the season ended with a surprise, so I am anxious to see where things go from here.  But in the meantime, I will continue to enjoy sseason 4 of Suits.  It’s compelling drama done so well.

Season 4 Episodes:
1. One-Two-Three Go…
2. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
3. Two in the Knees
4. Leveraged
5. Pound of Flesh
6. Litt the Hell Up
7. We’re Done
8. Exposure
9. Gone
10. This is Rome
11. Enough is Enough
12. Respect
13. Fork in the Road
14. Derailed
15. Intent
16. Not Just a Pretty Face

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April 25th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Time to post my weekly TV thoughts.  I wasn't around on Friday to watch The Amazing Race, so I'll have to catch up in the coming week.

Once Upon a Time – Wow, that was quite a twist on Cruella.  I really like it.  And I loved how they worked her song into the show as well.  Not so happy with Emma right now, but it’s a minor issue.  I can see where she is coming from, but she still bugs me.  You can read my full recap here.

Dancing with the Stars – I’m not that sorry to see Patti go.  She was definitely among the weaker dancers left.  A double elimination next week?  I have a feeling no matter who goes I’ll be sorry to see them go.

Castle – They told us where Castle was during those two months?  I’m actually a little surprised they didn’t just toss us a clue or two.  Still not completely happy with that storyline, but this was a decent way to go about it if they had to do it.  Here’s my full recap.

The Flash – It’s interesting how they worked on some of the issues happening on Arrow during this episode, and I like how they mirror what is happening on this show.  We have the proof about Wells, too.  But what they will do with it is beyond me.

Agents of SHIELD – What is Coulson up to?  Or is he up to anything at all?  It almost feels like he is making things up as he goes along at this point.  Kind of curious to see how it all plays out.

Arrow – Maybe I’m finally out of emotion for this show.  I liked the episode, but it wasn’t as heart breaking as I think it was supposed to be.  But that’s because we’ve seen so much this season.  The exception was Felicity and Lauren’s scene.  Maybe that was when it finally hit me.  I’ll be interested to see how they deal with all this next week.

Survivor – Have all these people gone crazy?  I get that it is hard, but seriously?  What were any of them thinking?  I think Jenn was the lucky one this week.  Will is a jerk.  He went personal, and it was uncalled for.  At this point, I’m not sure who I can be rooting for to win because I don’t think I like any of them.

Young and Hungry – So I get that this boyfriend is just a plot complication in the “real relationship” of the series, but I’m at a disadvantage here.  I usually start rooting for the first relationship I see in a show, and so I’m rooting for the plot complication to work.  I wonder how long I will have to go before I am disappointed.

The Big Bang Theory – I was so afraid that Leonard was going to embarrass himself with this speech, but it actually turned out to be pretty good.  The helicopter at the end, however, was priceless.  My only question – why did Amy only get one scene?

The Odd Couple – I think this was my favorite episode to date.  Silly and predictable, but also very, very funny.

Friday, April 24, 2015

April 24th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Would you look at that?  We made it to the weekend again!  Time to celebrate with Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week's book is Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular by "Science Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith.

This is the latest in a middle grade mystery series I enjoy that includes some great science experiments.  Okay, so I've never done any of the experiments or projects, but I've also rarely cooked any of the recipes in the culinary cozies I read.

Anyway, here's now the book begins:

There was a muffled boom, and then the whole house seemed to rise about half an inch before slamming down again.  The lights flickered but stayed on.

Since I read this via an e-ARC, I'm going to approximate the 56% point in the book (the ARC file had two copies of the book in it).  So, using my best guess, I found this:

"It's a deal, she says.  Haven't you ever heard of negotiating?"
"We don't have time to negotiate,"
"That's easy for you to say.  You're not the one who just agreed to do all of you sisters' chores for the next six months!"

This is now the fifth in the series, and another book I enjoyed.  My only complaint is that Mark Carstairs (a character from the previous book), didn't show up again here.  (Not that I expected him to show up again.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book Review: 1984 by George Orwell

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Thought provoking look at a totalitarian government
Cons: Weak as a novel, but still gets the point across.
The Bottom Line:
While the plot is weak
The thoughts expressed in novel
Are still important

Learn to Love Big Brother

When I was in high school, all seniors read 1984 as part of government.  However, it’s been *mumble mumble* years since them, so the details were pretty sketchy on what happened in the novel.  My impression of it remains the same, short on the novel but long on the thought potential.

Welcome to Oceania.  Our guide to this world is Winston Smith, a member of The Party who works at the Ministry of Truth making sure that all documents conform to The Party line.  And in this socialist vision of the world, The Party, as embodied by Big Brother, is all powerful.

However, Winston is old enough to have vague memories of life before The Party took over England.  While he outwardly tows the line, he is hoping that at some point The Party can be overthrown.  As he starts a forbidden affair with Julia, it looks like his hopes might come to be.  Do they have hope of overthrowing the government?  Or is Big Brother really all powerful?

This novel is essentially broken into three parts.  (Not that I’m being terribly original since Orwell himself did that, too.)  There’s the setup, where we meet Winston and see what his world in this alternative 1984 is like.  Then there’s the part where he and Julia build their relationship.  Finally, there’s the part where Winston faces the results of his actions.

But here’s the thing – as a novel this book falls rather flat.  If I were rating based completely on the fiction portion, I’d rate this book as a 3 at best.  The pacing is very slow as we get lectures at various points in all three sections of the story.  The characters are also rather flat.  We do come to care for Winston enough to root for him to avoid his obvious outcome, but the rest are just there for the story.

This is certainly not a bright look at the future.  While I wasn’t depressed at the ending like I was in high school, it is certainly sobering.

However, the point that George Orwell was trying to make in the book is a warning that still needs to be heeded.  If we let government have too much power, we can lose our freedom and control of our very lives.  Anyone who has been paying attention during the last decade has seen this for themselves just be reading the headlines.  Frankly, it is scary looking at what is happening in American right now.  However, it is easy to point out the planks in the eyes of the other party.  I could sit here all day and pick apart what I think is going wrong based on what one side is doing just based on things I saw on Twitter this morning.  However, if we are honest, these assaults on our freedom are coming from politicians, period.  And not even just politicians.  There are organizations who will try to do whatever it takes to get their way.  It’s scary, and if we don’t watch ourselves, we will wind up living in a world like Orwell describes.  So we need to get the specks out of our own eyes while pointing out the planks in the eyes of the other side.

When Orwell wrote the book in 1948, the technology he describes was certainly fantastic, and we weren’t quite there in 1984.  However, thanks to computers and smart TV’s, we are getting closer to this vision with every year.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the internet (it’s how I’m posting this review, after all), and I watch too much TV.  However, those things can be used against us.  We need to be careful.

So, obviously, I think the message of this book is still important, and for that reason it needs to be read.  It’s why I actually gave the book 4 stars, a compromise between the rating as an average novel and the rating as an important piece of literature that needs to be thought about and dissected.  The novel part works well enough to get us involved and see what Orwell is trying to teach us.  I’m sure I would have completely tuned out a non-fiction book that made these same points.  Plus, when we see what happens to Winston, we see the points better.

Here’s another reason to read this book – it has greatly impacted our culture since it was published.  References to Big Brother and NewSpeak all come from this book.  It is always wise to know where references come from and why and what they truly mean.

I actually listened to the audio version by Recorded Books this time around.  Frank Muller did a wonderful job with the narration, which helped keep me engaged even during the slower parts.

No, 1984 isn’t going to be a page turning, highly enjoyable novel.  But it is a book that should be read by anyone who enjoys freedom.  Read it before Big Brother takes away the privilege.

This review is part of Reading to Know's Classics Book Club.  Check out the blog on April 30th for more takes on the book.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ornament Review: True Love's Kiss - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: A Prince!  Plus a scene directly from the movie!
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
A climax captured
Romance, magic for your tree
Disney fans will love

It Doesn’t Take True Love’s Kiss to Appreciate This Ornament

Just a couple of months ago, I bemoaned on another ornament review how seldom the princes appear in Disney merchandise.  But here’s another chance to get a different prince with Hallmark’s 2014 ornament True Love's Kiss.

This was the Sleeping Beauty ornament for the year, and it features both Aurora and Prince Phillip.  Aurora is on her bed asleep thanks to the curse that Maleficent put her under.  However, Phillip has just found her and is kneeling next to the bed about to kiss her to wake her up.  Between the blue of her dress and the red of his coat, this is a colorful ornament.

There are several reasons I had to buy this ornament.  As I already mentioned, it has Phillip.  Additionally, many of the Disney Princess ornaments that Hallmark releases feature the Princess in a pose of some kind, but not actually any scene from the movie.  I like the fact that this is something taken directly from the film.  The sculpt is nicely detailed as well, which definitely added to the appeal for me.

Because the ornament is Phillip kneeling by the bed, it’s no surprise that there is a nice flat base to this one.  As a result, you can set it out year round to enjoy with any other Disney displays you might have.

However, I chose to hang mine on my tree this last year.  The loop is actually on Phillip’s back.  The ornament tips slightly toward Aurora’s head, but very slightly.  However, it is a little on the large size, so odds are that you can use some branch on your tree to straighten it up or hide the tip.

Do note I’m not complaining about the size.  It really does need to big this big to fully capture the scene.  And really it’s more that it is long, which makes since because Aurora is lying on her bed.  While it is a little larger than your average Christmas ornament, it’s still smaller than ornaments that you would buy from The Disney Store, so it’s just a matter of perspective.

And from my perspective, True Love's Kiss is a great ornament.  I wish Hallmark would offer more princess ornaments with the princes and closely tied to the movies.  I’d sure buy more if they did.

Original Price: $19.95

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

TV Recap: Castle 7-20 - Sleeper

I’m still shocked by last night’s episode of Castle.  I honestly figured we’d get answers to the story of his disappearance next year at the earliest.  But they answered the big stuff last night.  As they pointed out at the end, there are still a couple of small questions remaining, but I don’t care as much about them.  (In fact, I’d forgotten one of them.)

It all starts with dreams Castle is having that he’s been having for a week.  The images don’t make sense to him, but he’s sure they are related to his disappearance.  Beckett suggests that Castle go see Worf, I mean her shrink from season 4.  The doctor uses some techniques to get Castle to focus in on what he is seeing in his dream.

The clues he comes back with are of being chased through a jungle, a foreign language license plate, and a man who looks like Chuck Norris.  Castle is warned that he might not be remembering things correctly, but he is sure he is right.

Sticky Situation Winner

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TV Show Review: Boy Meets World - Season 2

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Plenty of laughs as Cory grows a bit more
Cons: The boy/girl episodes often don’t work for me.
The Bottom Line:
Moving to new school
Expands cast but still gives laughs
Delightful and fun

Enter the High School Years

Inspired by how much I am loving Girl Meets World, I’m trying to watch all of Boy Meets World this year.  I’ve made it to season 2, which I didn’t find quite as much fun as the first season even though I still enjoyed it.

This season finds Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) nervous and excited about starting his new school, John Adams High covers grades seventh through twelfth.  (Do they even have schools like that, especially in a big city?)  That means he is going to be attending the same school as his older brother Eric (Will Friedle), much to Eric’s dismay.  Cory and best friend Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong) think they’ve left behind their 6th grade teacher Mr. Feeny (William Daniels).  However, it turns out he is not only their new principal, but still teaching their History class.  They lucked out with English as their teacher is the new teacher Jonathan Turner (Anthony Tyler Quinn).

Over the course of the season, Cory finds himself at a make out party with Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel who is now a series regular although she doesn’t appear in every episode), Cory’s dad Alan (William Russ) makes the mistake of buying Amy (Betsy Randle) a garbage compactor for their anniversary.  Cory and Shawn try to start a fake band to meet chicks but wind up with a gig where they have to play.  Cory and Mr. Feeny get tired of their reputations as safe.  And the duo also get a show on the school’s radio station.

I didn’t enjoy this season quite as much as I did the first season.  For one thing, I found the emphasis on boy/girl relationships a bit too much.  Yes, I know that is something that is an issue for seventh graders, but the episodes were more uncomfortable instead of funny.  And don’t get me started on Amy wanting all the details after Cory gets back from a make out party.  Really?  What parent would be okay with it, much less encouraging it?  That seemed out of character.  Plus there was a repeat plot about hormones hitting for the first time.  They’d already done that (and done it much better) in season one.

Despite that complaint, there are still quite a few fun episodes here, like the ones I highlighted above.  I was laughing along with the studio audience most of the time.  The situations are great and the reactions are funny.  This even includes the school bully, Harley Keiner (Danny McNulty) and his henchmen, who recur this season.

Toward the end of the season, they start to really explore Shawn’s character.  This includes an episode about his family being from the wrong side of the tracks before, in the next to last episode, his mother takes off with the trailer they lived in.  Since I’d watched the later few seasons of the show, this is something I knew they’d introduce at some point, and it was interesting to see it happening here.  Also, they tone down Topanga, who is not nearly the hippy character she was in season one.  It was interesting seeing Cory dating other girls over the course of the season since I’m so used to seeing the two of them together.  And I must say many of my favorite moments in this season are the ones hinting at their relationship.

The acting continues to be good here.  The cast is doing a great job of bring their characters to life each week.  The only week point for me is Lily Nicksay who is a little too cute and over the top as the first version of Cory’s younger sister Morgan.

The season consisted of 23 episodes, and they are all included in this three disc set.  The full frame picture and stereo sound are good.  This isn’t something that will challenge your system, but it is how the show originally aired.  There are a handful of commentaries by creator Michael Jacobs and either Ben and Danielle or Will and Shawn.  I do wish they’d been together like the previous season, but the commentaries are still fun.

While not quite as funny as the first season, there is still much to enjoy about season 2 of Boy Meets World.  I am looking forward to moving on to season three soon.

Season Two Episodes:
1. Back 2 School
2. Pairing Off
3. Notorious
4. Me and Mr. Joad
5. The Uninvited
6. Who’s Afraid of Cory Wolf?
7. Wake Up, Little Cory
 8. Band on the Run
9. Fear Strikes Out
10. Sister Theresa
11. The Beard
12. The Turnaround
13. Cyrano
14. I Am Not a Crook
15. Breaking Up is Really, Really, Really Hard to do
16. Danger Boy
17. On the Air
18. By Hook or by Crook
19. The Wrong Side of the Tracks
20. Pop Quiz
21. The Thrilla’ in Phila’
22. Career Day
23. Home

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters and humor
Cons: Pacing of stories is off
The Bottom Line:
Family sets records
In this uneven story
Just feels average

The Family May be Fantastic, but the Book is Only Average

At last year’s LA Times Festival of Books, I grabbed a copy of The Fantastic Family Whipple since the author was there signing books and a couple of friends were raving about it.  It took me this long to make the time to read it, but I didn’t find it nearly as fun as advertised.

The Whipple Family is extraordinary.  In a world obsessed with world records, this family is consistently the first and the best at too many records to count.  And this includes not only the parents but all of their kids, down to the very youngest – a two-year-old.

And then there’s Arthur.  Stuck in the middle, his attempts to break records constantly come up short.  However, when something strange happens at the family’s annual birthday extravaganza, Arthur might be the only one who is able to figure out what is happening.  Has he found his special talent at last?

The problem with this book comes down to the plot.  It is too unfocused and as a result seems to wander all over the place.  I was amused by some of the records that the family was trying to break, but that wore off quickly.  In addition to the sabotage at the party, there’s a family that moves in next door with some kind of history with the Whipple dad and, obviously, Arthur’s attempts to break a record himself.  Yet there is still so much else going on that even with three potential plots, the action seems to move forward in fits and starts.  When the story was advancing, it was great, and I was hooked.  But then it would slow down again.  It doesn’t help that there might as well be a “To Be Continued” on the final page.  Focus was really needed to make this book better.

The characters themselves are fine.  It’s hard to argue there is a lot of character development here, but we do come to care for the characters over the course of the story.  In fact, I came to care enough about them to be tempted to pick up the sequel and see how things are resolved.  I’d just get the book from the library instead of buying it.

And I mentioned being amused by the world records.  There are lots of funny moments thanks to the wacky things the family and their competitors attempt to do in this book.  Be sure to check out the end, which lists all kinds of wacky (fictional) records and some pretty funny stories, too.

I think if the pacing had been more uniform, I would have enjoyed The Fantastic Family Whipple more.  As it is, the plot needed more focus to truly be a fantastic story.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

TV Recap: Once Upon a Time 4-18 - Sympathy for the de Vil

Gold just got his wish, and in the worst possible way.  Of course, it also might lead to the healing of the rift between Emma and her parents.

This is going to have to be short because I need to be in bed.  It’s been a long weekend.  An incredibly fun weekend, but a long one.

Our flashback finds us in Cruella’s realm, which was not the Enchanted Forest at this point but a world where the 1920’s is always alive.  She is locked as a child in the tower of her home and her mother uses her two well-trained Dalmatians to keep her there.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 17th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Got a new show mixed in with the rest of the usual suspects.  And as we approach May sweeps and finale season, there's going to be lots of TV to watch over the next few weeks.

Once Upon a Time – Wow!  I never would have guessed the twist at all.  Obviously, this is how they are going to get Robin and Regina back together, but I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.  It’s a wild ride yet again, and I’m loving every second of it.  You can read my fullrecap here.

Dancing with the Stars – I’m so glad they brought Disney night back.  It was such fun.  I pretty much agree with the judges when they were harsh, but those last few dances?  Jaw dropping awesome!

The Flash – They gave us a couple of lines I’d been thinking myself (like how Central City was supposed to be the fun one).  I’m not a fan of bees at all, so that part definitely creeped me out.  And with everyone in against Wells (or almost in), things are going to heat up even more.  I’m just wondering how Cisco can be remembering something that got erased when Barry time traveled.

Agents of SHIELD – I was having TV trouble (again), so I missed a couple of key moments of the episodes.  I’m not completely sure I needed to know about how Melinda got her nickname, but it was still interesting to watch, especially with how they tied it in to everything else.

Arrow – No!  Not Roy!  I really love the character and how they have been building him this season.  I’m so bummed to see him exit. Such amazing acting from everyone as well.  But please, can we get Lance’s head on straight again?  I’m so sick of this vendetta.

Survivor – I was rooting for Joe, hoping he could pull it off somehow, but not surprised to see him go like this.  When all it takes is one slip up, sooner or later, you are gone.

Young and Hungry – One of the writers on this show is on my beach ultimate Frisbee team, so I told him I’d give it a shot.  I’ll admit, I had to watch all three episodes that were on Wednesday night to begin to enjoy it, but I was definitely laughing by the end.

Big Bang Theory – I’m surprised they ended Penny’s storyline already, but I’m glad she’s sticking with sales.  It might have been fun to see her be a successful actress, but I’d hate for her to give up a good job for something that didn’t pan out.

The Odd Couple – Very predictable story, but the laughs along the way were fairly strong.  That’s what counts, right?

Girl Meets World – On the other hand, I didn’t feel the laughs this time around.  I did like the final couple of scenes, but on the whole this wasn’t one of their funnier episodes.  And what’s up with having this episode now when we are supposedly between seasons 1 and 2?  Disney Channel promo, I suspect, but still.

Amazing Race – With two episodes back to back, I wasn’t that surprised the first episode was a non-elimination leg.  Sorry that the Olympias couldn’t turn it around since I really did like them.  Well, expect for the flat tire melt down.  I was annoyed, he was annoyed, she was annoyed.  I think that tells you just how annoying it was.

Friday, April 17, 2015

And the Readaholics Winner Is...

I have another winner to announce!  Elaine has won the giveaway for The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco.

Elaine, you should have an e-mail from me.  Please get back to me so I can connect you with your prize.

Book Review: Grand Canyon by Sandy Dengler (Jack Prester #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Continued character growth in a fast paced story
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Long awaited book
Continues character growth
In thrilling story

Jack Takes a Personal Case at Grand Canyon

Sandy Dengler has long been a favorite author since the time I started reading her books in high school.  In fact, the Jack Prester series was one of the first mysteries aimed at adults I read.  I’d long known that she had written a fifth book in the series that didn’t get published back in the 1990’s with the rest of the series.  Thanks to the advent of epublishing, the book has now seen the light of day.  Grand Canyon is a wonderful next installment in the series.

Jack Prester works for a special program in the National Park service.  He travels from park to park helping out with crises.  Over the course of the series, we’ve also watched Evelyn Brant go from city slicker budget analysis brought in to help with the first case to full-fledged partner and potential love interest.

Jack’s latest case hits too close to home when his friend Ernie Morales is gunned down outside the visitor center in Grand Canyon.  Naturally, he takes the case and his partner Ev Brant, shows up to try to keep him from ruining the case by getting too personally involved.  Unfortunately, Jack also has to contend with his father and Ernie’s father both attempting to interfere with the case.

When a tourist couple is gunned down, things seem to be heating up and the race is on to find the killer before he or she kills again.  However, Ev makes a startling observation about the tourist couple.  Is she right and what does it mean if she is?

Here’s where I have a confession to make.  Mrs. Dengler actually sent me this book as files on a CD a few years ago.  I immediately dropped everything and read it, but only decided to reread and review the series when I saw that she had put them out for Kindle.  It’s been interesting rereading it in context.

I mentioned earlier that those early books in the series were some of the first mysteries written for adults that I read.  I also wasn’t doing as much reading thanks to college, so those books really stand out in my mind.  I remembered specific lines, scenes, and plot points.  Even though it’s only been about four years since I read this book, I didn’t have that same memory of the story here.  I remembered a couple of plot points, but I couldn’t have told you who the villain was, for example.  I found that an interesting statement in how the mind works.

That also means I found the plot just as interesting and thrilling as I did before.  There’s a twist in the second half that makes this book different from many of the books I read, and I enjoyed that.  I got so caught up in things the second time through that I had a hard time stopping when I had to return to real life.  As always, the story makes perfect sense by the time we’ve reached the end.

If I’d reviewed this book after I first read it, I would have told you the character development was good.  However, now that I’ve read the book so soon after having read the previous books, I find the character development is even better.  Yes, it’s the natural next step in the arcs we’ve been witnessing, but it feels real and natural for who these characters are and the story that is unfolding.  The new characters are also quite interesting and helped pull me in to the story.

I’ve always loved Mrs. Dengler’s writing.  I am in awe of it once again.  She paints such vivid pictures of the Grand Canyon that it made me long to visit again.  Heck, she even made me want to go down into the valley and see some of what she describes from down there.  She also slips in some fun observations into the narration.  While the early part of the book is told from Jack’s limited third person point of view, she opens it up later in the book to other characters, allowing for some of the character development I talked about.

I do feel the need to point out a couple of things.  First, a by standing dog is killed along with the victim in the opening scene.  This is a Christian mystery series, although that isn’t a strong element until the second half of the book.  Even then, it never over shadows the mystery.  Finally, for those who might pick it up expecting a clean Christian mystery, there is some foul language.

One final thing.  The first four books in the series came out in the early 90’s, and this book was originally written then.  I have not read the epublished versions of those books, so I don’t know what kind of updating might have been done to them.  With this book, I did notice a couple of references to cell phones and the internet.  It’s not a major part of the story, but something I found interesting.

I’d always felt that the story wasn’t complete for these characters after the fourth book ended, so I am glad to get the resolution I wanted in Grand Canyon.  While it makes a good stand alone, it is much better in the context of the series.  If you haven’t started the series yet, do so today.  You’ll enjoy this tour of the National Parks.

And if you need to back up to read Jack and Ev's earlier adventures, here are the Jack Prester Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book.  No discussion of a review was made since at the time, there was no place for me to review it.

This review is also part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

April 17th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Has it been a week already?  Hard to believe it's time for this week's Book Beginnings and Friday 56 again, right?

This week's book is Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan

I'm not much past page 56 yet, but so far, it's good.  The review will come...sometime.  I've got a few book reviews lined up for the next few days, so I'm not exactly sure when this one will get reviewed.  Plus, I have to finish it first.

Anyway, here's how it starts.

"I know it's legal.  But it's terrible."

And, from page 56:

Lizzie's heart flipped, just for a second, wondering.  Was Aaron checking on her?  Had someone gotten wind of what she was doing?  She shook her head, trying to dismiss her silly fear.  No way.  She'd been careful.

Not quite sure how much I will get read this weekend because I am going to the LA Times Festival of Books all weekend with two plays in the evenings.  Yes, it will be jam packed but also lots of fun.

Hope you have a great weekend as well.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Movie Review: Bring It On

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Torrance and Cliff
Cons: Rest of the characters; predictable plot
The Bottom Line:
Two, Four, Six, Eight!  Who
Is sorry he watched this film
Me, me, me! That’s who!

Turns Out I Wasn’t Missing Anything by Not Watching This Movie

Over the years, I’ve heard some people talk about how much they enjoyed Bring It On, so I thought I’d missed out on something.  Plus with all the sequels (okay, direct to video sequels but still), I figured there had to be something I had missed.  Nope.  I would have been just fine skipping this movie all together.

The story followed Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst), who, as a senior, is hoping to become head cheerleader.  If so, she will inherit a great squad that has won back to back championships at nationals.  This is a top notch squad.

Things begin to fall apart when Missy Pantone (Eliza Dushku) joins the squad.  She’s just moved to the area, but she quickly tells Torrance something she doesn’t want to hear.  Those award winning routines?  They’re stolen.  And the school they are stolen from is aiming to get to nationals this year, too.  What will Torrance do?

My problem with the movie is that I didn’t like the characters.  It really is that simple.  I felt sorry for Torrance, especially since the rest of the squad doesn’t try to back her at all when she realizes what she must do.  She’s struggling to do the right thing, but no one else wants to put in the effort.  Missy is just surly until late in the film, however her brother Cliff, Torrance's romantic interest, is great.  Heck, I even liked the rival squad better than most of the squad who are supposed to be the heroes.

That’s why the predictable plot points fell flat.  I was mostly bored as I waited for the story to unfold.  I just didn’t like the characters enough to care or get caught up in the story, so I wasn’t having fun.

Heck, even the language, which was just fine for a PG-13 movie, bothered me.  It seemed excessive, although if I’d been enjoying the film I probably wouldn’t have even noticed.  Or maybe it just stood out to me more since I was watching it on TV, and the editing was rather poor.  Yes, the editing actually made the language stand out to me more and cringe more than if they hadn’t edited it.

Now this complaint isn’t on the actors.  I like Kirsten Dunst, and she was a pleasure to watch here as always.  Eliza Dushku was good as well, and the rest of the cast was fine; it was just their characters I couldn’t stand.

I will give the movie this, I enjoyed the climax.  There were some nice moments there, and the routines we got to see were spectacular.

Overall, I’m glad I just wasted my time on Bring It On.  Now that I’ve got the curiosity out of my system, I’ll move on to another movie.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ornament Review: A Visit from Santa #6 - Dove - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute final visit between Santa and an animal friend
Cons: For series fans, it’s the final one
The Bottom Line:
Santa and a dove
Cute way to end this series
For animal fans

Our Visits with Santa Come to a Peaceful End

At some point over the last few years, it dawned on me that Hallmark had three very similar series going.  There’s the long running and popular Frosty Friends series, Snow Buddies, and A Visit from Santa.  All three featured animals, the only difference being who is visiting the animal.  Obviously, having three similar series didn’t work, and so in 2014, Hallmark ended the newest, A Visit From Santa, at six.  The series went out with another great visit, however.

For his final animal visit, Santa is visiting with a dove.  He’s holding his left hand up, and the dove is resting on it with her wings up in the air.  In his right hand, Santa is holding a wreath.  He’s dressed mostly in a traditional red hat and red coat, but his coat has a fringe.  It’s changed in every ornament in the series, but this time, it’s a light blue fringe that matches his gloves and contains a leaf pattern in it.

This series has always been cute, and this ornament is no exception.  Santa and the dove are looking at each other, and that just makes me like it more.  It was the cuteness of the series that made me start it to begin with, and that continued right though until the end.  Plus I like the fact that a dove symbolizes peace and peace on Earth is a Christmas greetings.

Santa does have two little black feet that stick out the bottom of the ornament, and they help to balance it.  It’s not the most stable ornament, but it will stand on its own as long as the surface isn’t going to be bumped a lot.  You’ll also find the six in a Christmas tree, Hallmark’s series marker, on the bottom of the ornament.

The loop for hanging Santa is on the top of the ornament.  (That just sounds bad, doesn’t it?  Hanging Santa?  Yikes!)  The ornament tips forward ever so slightly when you hang it, but it’s barely noticable.

I must admit I have mixed feelings about this series ending.  I have so many Hallmark ornaments that it is getting a little overwhelming.  This series was one I wasn’t super attached to.  On the other hand, I do think the ornaments in the series are so cute.  I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have to decide, isn’t it?

If you’ve been collecting this series, you’ll definitely want to get the final A Visit From Santa to complete your collection.  It’s a great last note for this cute series.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Visits from Santa.

Original Price: $12.95

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Grave on Grand Avenue Winner!

And the winner of the Grave on Grande Avenue giveaway is...


I'll be sending you an e-mail shortly so I can connect you with your prize.

There are still giveaways going on for The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco and A Sticky Situation, so if you haven't already, feel free to join those.

Book Review: A Sticky Situation by Jessie Crockett (Sugar Grove Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters (old and new) and a strong plot
Cons: Nothing that will stick
The Bottom Line:
Body in basement
Revives sticky mystery
Delight for readers

This Book Will Stick in Your Hands

Every time I start reading one of my favorite culinary cozy mysteries, I start craving the food featured.  Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue since my favorite Saturday breakfast is real maple syrup over waffles.  Ironically, right now I’m playing in an Ultimate Frisbee beach league and don’t have time for that before I need to head out the door.  Why am I bringing all this up now?  Because that was the only downside of reading A Sticky Situation which brings us back to the Greene family’s maple syrup farm.  Still, I was thrilled with another great mystery.

Spring is almost here and the sap is running, which means that Dani Greene is out in the sugar bush every day checking on the trees and the sap flowing from them.  Not only that, but it is a month until the annual Sugar Grove Maple Festival, which brings tourists to town, and Dani is responsible for helping organize that.  This time of year also means the appearance of Dani’s aunt Hazel, a woman who tests the patience of everyone in the family, and she seems to be in rare form this year.

The last thing Dani needs is a mystery, but that’s just what she gets when a skeleton is found in the basement of town hall.  The remains are identified as Spooner Duffy, a drifter who came through town for a few months and then vanished with the proceeds from that year’s Maple Festival.  Of course, finding his body in the basement tends to bring up questions about whether he really stole the money or not.  Even though it has been thirty years since the man was in town, his reappearance starts old gossip and resentments flying.  When Dani is asked to prove Spooner didn’t steal the money, she starts asking questions.  Will she find the real thief?  Will this investigation put her on a killer’s radar?

Since this is the third book in a series, the main cast of characters already feel like old friends, and I was thrilled to get to visit them again.  Dani is a wonderful main character, and her continued journey towards independence is fun to watch.  We got to see some different sides of other series regulars as the book progressed.  Then there’s the new casts of characters who feel just as real as those we already know.  There were one or two supporting characters I wish we’d gotten to see more, but that was a minor complaint.

Between a couple of strong sub-plots and the main mystery, the pace of this book never faltered, and I was turning pages as quickly as I could, wishing I had the time to finish it in one sitting.  The sub-plots did their job – they supported the mystery and provided new insight into the characters without overwhelming the main story.  The clues were perfectly planted but hidden by enough red herrings I didn’t figure things out until just before Dani did.  Still, the solution was logical and that final scene suspenseful.

If you love maple syrup as much as I do, you’ll be thrilled to find three new maple syrup themed recipes in the back of the book.  Someday, I’m going to have to give them a try.

Once again, it’s been a privilege to head to New Hampshire and visit the Greene family.  A Sticky Situation is a pleasure to read and will leave readers with a sweet taste in their mouths.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Thanks to the publisher, I have one physical copy to give away to a lucky commentor.  Just leave your name and e-mail so I can get in touch with you if you win.  Sorry, US addresses only.

The contest will close at midnight California time on April 21st.

Good luck!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Book Review: The King's Stilts by Dr. Seuss

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Charming story and great illustrations
Cons: Lots of words so takes a bit longer to read than a typical picture book
The Bottom Line:
Balancing work, fun
Presented in fun story
That’s not work to read

You’ve Got to Have Fun

I have this feeling that I read The King's Stilts at some point in the past.  But when exactly that was, I can’t recall.  It’s certainly not one of Dr. Seuss’s better known books which is a shame because it is lots of fun.

King Britram has a very busy job.  His kingdom, Binn, lies below sea level and only the Dike Trees keep the water from coming in.  However, the Nizzard birds like to eat the tree’s roots, so he’s trained and army of patrol cats to keep the trees safe.  That requires all his attention most of the day, but at the end of the day, he enjoys spending time on his stilts as a way to relax.

However, Lord Droon doesn’t find the stilt walking very kingly, so he conspires to steal and hide the stilts.  What will happen when the king finds they are gone?

When you think of Dr. Seuss, you think of rhyming stories and a decent word to picture ratio.  That’s not the case here.  This story is told completely in prose, and most of the pages have lots of words on them. This is not a fast read, but if your child has the attention span for it, it’s a good story.  Because of that, I recommend it for older preschoolers.

The illustrations are classic Seuss, however.  His simple pen and ink style with caricatured animals and people is in full display here.  As always, they add to the charm of the story, especially as we are racing to the climax.

Adults will easily see where the story is heading, but kids won’t know.  Even if they do, it is a fun journey with a nice twist or two along the way.  And the ending for the characters?  Absolutely perfect.  Justice is served in the most creative way possible.

There’s even a moral about the importance of work and play, but it comes directly from the story and never once preaches to us.

So if you’ve missed this little gem, find a copy to read today.  It’s a shame this isn’t better known because I think The King's Stilts is pure fun.