Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Review: What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: The illustrations are great
Cons: The rest is not Seuss’s best work
The Bottom Line:
Choosing a new pet
In book that Seuss abandoned
Nothing that special

Should You Get Dr. Seuss’s Newly Discovered Book?

July saw the release of new books from two beloved authors.  While the focus has been on Harper Lee’s new novel, I was most curious about the new Dr. Seuss book.  (We can discuss what that says about my literary tastes later.)  Having gotten to read What Pet Should I Get?, I feel fairly certain it should have stayed unpublished.  It’s not a bad book, but it certainly won’t be remembered as one of his better books.

The story follows a brother and sister who are sent to a pet store to pick out one new pet.  The brother, our narrator, immediately wants a dog, and his sister wants a cat.  But the more they begin to look around, the more choices they see.  What will they wind up taking home?

The plot really didn’t surprise me based on the title.  I just wasn’t sure if it was going to feature real animals or animals straight from the imagination of Dr. Seuss.  The answer is…yes.  Eventually, the book does feature two imaginary creatures, but most of the book does focus on real pets.

And that’s part of the problem.  Those two imaginary animals almost feel forced into the story.  If Dr. Seuss was going to follow his flights of fancy, it would have been a much larger part of the book.  Instead, it felt like it was just there to fill pages.

The book does rhyme, but it doesn’t flow like the best of Dr. Seuss’s books.  Some of the rhymes did feel forced, and other lines feel like they are changing the rhythm mid-book, something he never did.

The illustrations are classic Dr. Seuss, however.  They are the one thing that really does shine.  For that reason, I suspect that kids will still enjoy this book even if it doesn’t hold nearly the same appeal to adults.

But let’s discuss the ending.  It leaves the final choice the children make open.  I’m sorry, but when you ask a question in the title, shouldn’t you answer it in the book?  That bothered me.

The book ends with several pages about Dr. Seuss, his pets, his career, and his work habits.  It talks about how he’d go through 1000 pages making sure everything was perfect before he was happy with it every time he wrote a book.  It also points out how similar the children are here to the ones in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and theorizes that this book eventually morphed into that one.  All this leads me to the conclusion that he knew this wasn’t his best work and he never would have wanted it to see the light of day.

Now, I’m not saying it is horrible.  I’m not condemning anyone for publishing it or buying it.  I’m just saying it’s really average.

So back to my question in the title.  Should you get What Pet Should I Get?  If you have young children who love animals, they might get a kick out of it.  But if you are only curious, I’d go to the library to read it.

July 31st's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Can you believe we are on the last day of July already?  Yikes!  Where did the month go?  But it is the 31st and it is time for this week's Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week's book is Crushed Velvet by Diane Vallere.

I'm about half way through this book and really enjoying it.  That's not too surprising since I enjoyed the first in the series so much last year.

The book opens with just a simple sentence:

The crash was louder than I expected.

I'm going with a simple line from page 56 as well:

"I know they say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but I'd rather the fabric store not be linked to another homicide."

Want to know more about the book?  I'll be reviewing it (and hosting a giveaway) next Friday.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Book Review: The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (Flavia DeLuce #2)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, second half
Cons: Plot in first half is very slow
The Bottom Line:
Flavia is back
Plot needed better pacing
Characters still strong

The First Half Strings Us along a Bit Too Much

I’m trying to rotate through four series on audio, and July brought me back to Flavia DeLuce.  I enjoyed her first mystery a few months back, and was looking forward to visiting her again in The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag.  Sadly, the first half just took too long to get started.  Once the mystery finally got started, the book did take off, however.

If you haven’t meant Flavia, she is an 11-year-old living in the small town of Bishop’s Lacey in England in 1950.  Oh, and she has a fascination with chemistry, poison, and death.  These were only heightened by a murder she found herself involved in and solving just a couple of weeks before this book opens.

That opening finds Flavia sitting in the cemetery.  Her thoughts are interrupted by a woman crying.  The woman is Nialla, the assistant to famous puppeteer Rupert Porson.  They are on a nationwide tour performing his amazing version of Jack and the Beanstalk, but their van has broken down.  While they await the repairs, and to earn some money to pay for those repairs, they agree to do two performances in the village, and Flavia finds herself helping them set up.

However, before the performances are over, someone is dead.  Flavia and her family witness the deed, and Flavia immediately begins to investigate.  Will she once again find the killer?

As I hinted at earlier, that murder doesn’t take place until almost the half-way point.  Yes, some of what happens before that is important to the solution of the case, however, the tension just isn’t there.  It’s more a series of events that we just don’t care about for far too long, and I was a little bored at times.  Honestly, some of these revelations could have been worked into the story after the murder takes place so we care about what we are learning.  It would have made the book stronger.

Once that second half hits, the pace definitely does pick up, and I began to enjoy it much more.  The climax is not as suspenseful as the first book, but it is gripping in other ways and very well done.

The characters are still absolutely wonderful.  Well, Flavia’s older sisters are truly horrible to her, but then again, Flavia isn’t a saint to them by any means either.  We meet quite a few new characters in this book, and they all come across as real.  These characters are the true strength of the book.

Flavia is not your typical 11-year-old, and her observations, especially in the first person narration, are often funny.  This isn’t a humorous novel overall, but you will find lines that will make you smile if not laugh.

Once again, the audio book was narrated by Jayne Entwistle.  I can’t imagine anyone better suited to read this story for us.  Her voice perfectly captures Flavia’s age, spunk, and personality.  Even if I were to read a book in the series, I’d still hear her voice narrating it in my head.  But I seriously doubt I’d pick up an actual copy of the book since I’d miss Jayne’s narration too much.

And yes, I do intend to continue the series.  While The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag could have been paced better, I’m still curious what happens next to Flavia.

Find out what happens next with the Flavia de Luce mysteries in order.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ornament Review: Cool Icicles #3 - Nutcracker - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Traditional nutcracker fused with an icicle
Cons: Very green, so will blend in with tree
The Bottom Line:
Cracking and crunching
Nutcracker closes series
Wish it were not green

Cracking the Ice in the Final Icicle

I was not surprised when Hallmark announced that 2015 would feature the final ornament in the Cool Icicles series.  Was I happy?  No.  But seeing how poorly the first two did in sales, I knew that series hadn’t caught on, so it would have been a poor business decision to keep it going past #3, the minimum for a series.  Fortunately, we do get one final Christmas icon – a Nutcracker.

This is a very traditional looking nutcracker.  He’s painted green, and from the waist up, he looks just like any other nutcracker you could buy.  He’s got a hat, white hair, and gold trim where you’d expect it.  However, it’s that bottom half that makes this series different.  The bottom half is an opaque going to clear icicle with ridges and a point at the bottom.

The way the ornaments in this series catch the light in the icicle part is wonderful, and it’s something I’ve enjoyed with the first two and know I’ll enjoy with this one as well.  The look is perfect, and I do love nutcrackers so I’m glad they got that right.  About my only real complaint with the ornament is the color.  Green will blend into the tree too much.  I wish they’d gone with red so it would stand out more.  That also feels like a more traditional nutcracker color to me.  I’m actually a little surprised they went with green.  Don’t misunderstand, I do love the color and think the ornaments looks great, but I just know it will get lost on the tree.

No, this isn’t a working nutcracker.  The mouth doesn’t move, as you can tell by how the beard is attached.  We do have a crack around the mouth and the handle in the back, which is again glued into place.

Since the ornament comes to a point at the bottom, there is no way to stand the ornament up, so you have to hang it to display it.  Fortunately, that isn’t an issue since, when you slip a loop through the hook on the top of the ornament, you’ll find that it hangs perfectly straight.

Being the third in the series, you’ll find a 3 in a Christmas tree hidden on the back of the nutcracker’s head.  It’s very small, but it is there if you look for it.

I can think of several other Christmas icons I would have liked to see as part of this series.  It’s too bad the series never caught on because I think it could have been great for many years.

But that was not to be.  With the series wrapped up with the Nutcracker, we will have to let the Cool Icicles that could have been melt away.

Like what you see here?  These are the earlier Cool Icicles ornaments.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review: Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney (Dewberry Farm Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and setting and a good mystery
Cons: Plot does bog down a little in the second quarter
The Bottom Line:
Farming in Texas
Makes delightful new setting
Sure to please readers

Lucy Finds Herself in a Killer Jam

Since I’ve been reading and enjoying Karen MacInerney’s Gray Whale Inn series since it started, I knew I had to move with her from Maine to Texas and start the Dewberry Farm Mysteries as well.  Naturally, that meant when I was offered an ARC of Killer Jam, I jumped at it.  As I expected, I enjoyed this new series debut.

Investigative reporter Lucy Resnick has changed the trajectory of her life.  The former investigative reporter has bought the farm – literally.  In this case, it was the farm her grandparents owned outside the small town of Buttercup, Texas.  While the property has been owned by Nettie Kocurek the last few years, the farmhouse and barn were left untouched.  After the summers Lucy spent there, the land holds warm memories for her.

She’s been there a few months when she gets a surprise visitor, a man who claims he is there to investigate the possibility of oil on her farm.  It seems that when Nettie sold the land, she retained the mineral rights.  When Lucy confronts Nettie about this, Nettie seems proud of herself and the trouble she is causing for Lucy.

But Lucy isn’t the only one who has issues with Nettie.  At the annual Founder’s Day Festival, someone stabs Nettie inside the tent erected for the jam judging.  The local sheriff, the victim’s nephew, doesn’t think he has to look any further than the outsider – Lucy.  Can Lucy resurrect her investigative reporter skills to find the killer?

One of the things I have always loved about the Gray Whale Inn mysteries is the island setting.  Then again, I love islands, so I connected with that setting right away.  It did take me a little longer to warm up to this small Texas town, but by the end I loved it as well.  The people and the location were charming, and I would love to go for a visit.

Speaking of people, the characters were great.  Lucy is a strong woman, which is good considering what she faces over the course of the book.  Her friends in town and the suspects are equally well drawn.  Honestly, they are a huge appeal of the book, and I can’t wait to see them again.  I really do hope that a potential new friendship being formed near the end is explored further in later books as well.

The plot is the only place the book stumbles.  Overall, it is very good with twists and surprises along the way.  In fact, I wasn’t completely sure how it was going to end or even what the motive might have been as we were closing in on the climax.  However, I did feel like it bogged down without much forward progress in the second quarter.  Once it got going again, however, it kept moving toward a wonderful climax.

A quick couple of notes.  A sub-plot in the book involves Lucy’s friend Quinn and her abusive ex who is not paying any attention to the restraining order against him.  Personally, I felt this added some great depth to the book.  Additionally, there are questions about some supernatural elements that are left to the reader’s imagination.  As you can tell by the number of supernatural books I read (or don’t read), that’s not my favorite thing in a mystery, but here it didn’t bother me at all.  The one note that bothered me the most is a scene that where Lucy and Tobias, her potential love interest, completely forgot their reasons for their “date” and just had the date.

Of course, there are recipes.  There’s the Dewberry Jam referenced in the title as well as a Strawberry Custard Pie that sounds divine.  We also get cottage cheese and glazed maple twist recipes along with directions for making beeswax candles.  And if you are curious about the name of the farm, we even learn about dewberries in the book.  Personally, I’d love to be able to try them sometime.

For fans of the Gray Whale Inn books, there is a connection to this new series.  It’s a small moment that made me smile near the beginning.  Not that you need to read that series to enjoy this series debut at all.  This book would stand up well even without that connection.

Now that I’ve gotten to know the residence of Buttercup, I can’t wait to visit them again. Killer Jam is filled with a good mystery, delightful characters, and a fun setting that will bring cozy readers back for many more visits.

Enjoy more visits with the rest of the Dewberry Farm Mysteries in order.

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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ornament Review: A Little Crab Cake - Keepsake Cupcake #1 - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Beautiful looking cupcake perfect for beach season
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Crab introduces
Delicious and cute series
You’ll want to collect

You’ll Be Crabby if You Don’t Start the Keepsake Cupcake Series

Why did it have to be cupcakes?  After two years of collecting Hallmark’s monthly series, I was ready for them to come up with a property I wasn’t that interested in collecting.  For one thing, I am fast running out of space for displaying things.  Yet when I saw the 2015 – 2016 monthly series, Keepsake Cupcakes, I knew I had to collect it.  The series starts with a winner – A Little Crab Cake.

Like the previous two years, the series is starting with a beach theme.  The cupcake itself is vanilla, with just a hint peeking out of the blue cupcake foil.  The blue frosting swirled on top is just a shade lighter than the foil and is made to look like waves with a little starfish and a shell attached to it.  But sticking out of the top is the red crab that gives the ornament its name.

Now I’ve been collecting and enjoying the Christmas Cupcake series Hallmark has done for the last few years.  That series is made mostly from felt.  Here, we are back to plastic.  It’s a minor detail mainly worth noting only in passing.

That’s because this ornament is so cute!  The vanilla cupcake looks just like sand, and the blue they used is a pretty color for the waves.  The result is warm and friendly and makes me want to head out to the beach.

Because it is a cupcake, it should be no surprise that the ornament has a flat bottom.  That’s perfect because I intend to keep this collection in the Bakery Display that Hallmark sold as a compliment to the series.  If you do want to hang it, you’ll find a hook coming out of the crab’s head.  The ornament does hang ever so slightly forward, but not enough you’ll notice unless you are looking for it.  You’ll find the series marker on the bottom of the ornament.

A Little Crab Cake gets this new series off to a wonderful start, and the rest of the series is pretty much this adorable as well.  I didn’t take long to cave on this series, and I will be glad I bought them.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Keepsake Cupcakes series.

Original Price: $12.95

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book Review: Commander Toad and the Planet of the Grapes by Jane Yolen

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Puns, good story, great illustrations
Cons: The character introductions in the beginning
The Bottom Line:
Toad exploring space
He and crew on strange planet
Slow start leads to fun

A Grape Space Adventure

The other day, I suddenly remembered the Commander Toad books.  Since these were written in the early 80’s, they were definitely books we found in the library when my younger brother was the appropriate age.  The only title I remembered was Commander Toad and the Planet of the Grapes, so that’s the one I decided to get out of my library.  While a bit simpler than I remembered, I did find it fun.

Commander Toad is most definitely a spoof on science fiction shows, specifically Star Trek and Star Wars.  After all, the commander and his crew are traveling the galaxy exploring it.  Even though this is the second book that was written about him, the first few pages introduce us to the rest of the crew aboard the Star Warts, including co-pilot Mr. Hop, Lieutenant Lily, Doc Peeper, and navigation expert Jake Skyjumper.

The story really gets going when the crew finds a new planet to explore.  Commander Toad and Lieutenant Lily take a shuttle down, only to find that Lily is allergic to the planet.  Commander Toad still steps on the planet and is immediately swallowed by a giant red lump.  What kind of planet is this?

As if the names didn’t give you a clue, you are in for some grape puns before the book is over.  Since I’m of the opinion that there is no such things as a bad pun, I’m obviously okay with that.  In fact, I really liked it.  The puns and the spoof of science fiction were my favorite part now.  While I don’t think I quite got all of the spoofs as a 10-year-old reading this for the first time, I know I appreciated the humor then as well.

As I said, the story felt a bit simple the first time I read it recently, although I did feel it was stronger the second time around.  The characters have just enough personality as well.  But hey, this is a picture book.  It’s about what you’d expect.

In fact, this definitely belongs in the Easy Reader category.  While the character names will be a challenge, that is about the only thing that should challenge young readers.  The rest of the vocabulary is fairly easy to sound out.

And the illustrations by Bruce Degen really do add to the charm of the book.  They perfectly capture the characters and the situation they find themselves in.

It seems to take some work to track down Commander Toad these days, but it is definitely worth it.  Despite a bit of a slow start thanks to the character introductions, Commander Toad and the Planet of the Grapes goes on to be a pun picture book.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

July 25th's Weekly TV Thoughts

American Ninja Warrior – It seems they are making it harder and harder for ordinary people to get through the course.  I mean, only three finishers tonight?  But oh man, the people to do make it through or very far.  Their stories are amazing.  And I’m rooting for the one husband to get a wildcard spot.  He deserves it with how far he went even if he wasn’t fast enough, and it would mean so much with his wife.  Yes, I’m falling for the sob story, but it is so inspiring.

Royal Pains – So much better than last week’s episode.  I knew part way through that Evan and Paige weren’t going to get the baby, but I actually loved how it played out.  Seeing Hank with his ex again sure was interesting.  And Divya and Rog are together again.  I never would have guessed that after season 2.  Loved the last scene with Hank and Evan.  Definitely curious to see where they will go with everyone next season.  It’s going to be a long wait.

Scream – Are they counting Tyler’s death as the death for this episode?  Because he was the first one killed, so that shouldn’t count.  I was surprised when no one died.  And where was the sheriff’s son?  The real question is, who staged the scene at the hospital?  Because I sure didn’t find any clues there, although it sure was creepy.  I really was expecting Brook to die tonight since they are working so hard to give her growth and maturity.  You know that means she’s the next to die.  Although since Tyler is the only guy they’ve killed, it might be time for one of the male characters to meet the mask.

Melissa & Joey – They finally get Ryder back, and it’s for a clips show?  Not that there weren’t some fun moments we got to relive, but that wasn’t what I was hoping for tonight.

Baby Daddy – And another clips show.  And all those clips from the episodes before I started watching made me really wish I could go back and see those earlier episodes.

Suits – It really does amaze me sometimes how the characters pull things out of their hats like with Jessica at the end.  And I think the therapy was all happening at the end?  Or at least near the end?  That was actually more confusing than a good storytelling technique.  I think we have the next villain in the firm for sure now, but how this is all going to play out with what Harvey is going through is going to be very interesting.

Graceland – Well, we did finally wrap one storyline up, but we immediately started another.  Can’t we wrap up another one first and focus on two instead of having, what, four to keep track of?  Yeah, can you tell I’m beginning to get frustrated with the show again?  And with my schedule as crazy busy as it is right now, I should start thinking about dropping it.

Girl Meets World – I knew where this one was going early on, although I didn’t know what food Auggie had given Chelsea.  Still, a very funny episode, and mostly without the adults, too.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ornament Display Review: Keepsake Cupcakes Display Case - 2015 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: A mini bakery display case that is perfect for the new series.
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Bakery display
Perfectly highlighting these
Festive cupcakes.  Yum!

Wonderful Way to Display Your Cute Keepsake Cupcakes

While I’ve enjoyed the yearlong series that Hallmark has released over the last two years, I was seriously hoping that, if they did a third year, it wouldn’t appeal to me at all.  Maybe Barbie or something like that.  That wasn’t the case, however, because Hallmark decided to release a series of cupcakes.  And they are so cute!  Fortunately, they have also provided the perfect display case for this new yearly ornament series.

How would you display cupcakes?  In a bakery display case of course.  Yes, this display really is that simple.  It’s essentially two pieces, a white piece of plastic with two levels to it and a clear plastic covering.  The display does have a very small Keepsake Cupcakes logo on the top and larger one on the front, but that’s all that identifies it with this particular series.  Any more than that would detract from the nature of the display and the wonderful cupcakes.

And that’s all you really need.  Honestly, this display case is part of what sold me on the series.  Even though I just have the first cupcake, I already have the display case out in my room, and I love it.  It looks just like the display case in a bakery, and I can’t wait to fill it up.  And yes, this is a decided change for the stand for the Year of Disney Magic series, when I was disappointed because the entire year was displayed together.  Either having that display stand opened me up to this idea or this display case is just that much better.  Honestly, I’m thinking it is both.

Which does bring up my only question about this display case.  I can easily see it fitting the twelve ornaments that are part of the main series.  However, there will be a thirteenth (to make a baker’s dozen).  I’m wondering if that ornament will fit in the display case or if it will have to sit on top.  I think the bottom shelf is wide enough that you can squeeze them all in, but I won’t know for sure until next June.

Since these cupcakes are ornament size, this case is small enough to fit on display somewhere.  It is 12.5 inches long by almost 8 inches high.  I’ve got mind sitting on top of the TV in my bedroom, and it looks great.

I should also point out that, to insert the cupcakes, all you need to do is remove the clear covering.  And it does just pop right off, so it’s super easy to get in and set up any display you want to create.

I can hardly wait to fill in the Keepsake Cupcake Display Case with the decorative cupcakes that will make up this new yearlong series.  It is going to look so incredibly festive when I’m done.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Keepsake Cupcakes series.

Original Price: $29.95 or $19.95 with any purchase during Ornament Premier

July 24th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Just home from another ultimate Frisbee loss.  My summer league team just can't seem to hold it together for an entire game.  But I'm putting that behind me.  And why is that?  Because it's time for Book Beginnings and Friday 56!!!

This week, I'm featuring a book that I finished today - Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney.

The book's official release date is Tuesday, and I'll have my review of it posted then.  I was fortunate enough to get an eARC, so I've already enjoyed it.

And the book begins like this:

I've always heard it's no use crying over spilled milk.  But after three days of attempting to milk Blossom the cow (formerly Heifer #82), only to have her deliver a well-timed kick that deposited the entire contents of my bucket on the stall floor, it was hard not to feel a few tears of frustration forming in the corners of my eyes.

Since I was reading an eBook, I'll skip ahead to 56% in the book, where we find this:

I didn't argue, but foreboding filled me as I sliced another piece of buttermilk pie for a new order.

And there you have it.  Have a wonderful weekend.  I'll be busy tomorrow with a mud run and a play.  Fortunately, I'll have a few hours to kill, so I can get some reading in my new book done in between.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Book Review: The Chocolate Clown Corpse by JoAnna Carl (Chocoholic Mysteries #14)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good story and characters
Cons: Story a little slow to get started
The Bottom Line:
Murder of a clown
Heats up Winter Carnival
Slow start to fun book

Nothing Funny about the Murder of a Clown

It’s amazing how time gets away from us.  I’ve been reading the Chocoholic series since it started, and I bought the latest book as soon as it came out.  Almost nine months later, I’m finally making the time to enjoy The Chocolate Clown Corpse, an entry that will please fans of the series.

This winter, the town of Warner Pier, Michigan, has themed their annual Winter Carnival around clowns.  All the businesses are getting into the spirit, and TenHuis Chocolade is even working on specially molded clown chocolates to have during this week.  Not only is Lee Woodyard overseeing the chocolate shop, but she’s on the carnival committee, so she has to make some appearances as a clown herself.  The only downside is that Moe Davidson, the owner of the clown shop next door to TenHuis Chocolade, was killed just the month before.  The homeless man who confessed to the crime is behind bars, but Moe would have done very well with the merchandise in his shop.

Things start to heat up the week before the carnival is set to open, however.  It starts with a phone call expressing surprise that anyone is accused of  Moe’s death.  Then Joe, Lee’s husband and a lawyer, is assigned to take over the case of the man accused of the crime, and Lee meets Moe’s family since she’d love to expand TenHuis Chocolade into the area next door.  The more she learns, the more Lee begins to question the official story.  With Aunt Nettie and Chief Hogan gone on vacation, can she figure out what is happening?

Like all the books in this series, the mystery is light yet satisfying.  I will say I felt things started off a bit slowly, but once the story got going, it was another page turner.  It is a little easy to spot the solution, but there is enough going on that it is still fun getting there.

I had hoped with Aunt Nettie and Chief Hogan out of town, we’d gets to see more of the other supporting cast.  Sadly, they still didn’t make more than their one or two scenes in this book.  I know I complain about this is almost every book, but I do wish we could see more of the supporting cast.

The characters we do interact with are wonderful, however.  Lee is a strong woman despite her tongue tangles, which are still present but kept to a minimum in the book.  Joe is just as strong, and I love the active part he plays in this book.  The suspects are real and interesting, and I really did grow to like them as the book progressed.

As usual for this series, there are no recipes.  Instead we get Chocolate Chats, which this time look at the history of chocolate in Latin America.

Like a piece of chocolate, these books are over much too quickly.  They may be light, but they are fun.  If that is what you are looking for, pick up The Chocolate Clown Corpse today.

And if you want earlier adventures, check out the rest of the Chocoholic Mysteries in order.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ornament Review: Toy Store Dreams - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Light, sound, and motion add a nice touch to this piece
Cons: I hate pull strings to start ornaments
The Bottom Line:
Toy store window scene
Light, music, motion are fun
But why the pull string?

Dreaming of a Toy Shop in this Christmas Windows Companion Piece

I sometimes wonder what exactly makes Hallmark decide to do something as a series companion piece instead of as part of the regular ornament line.  In this case, the magic element of Toy Store Dreams is the obvious divider, but it could easily be part of the regular Christmas Windows series.

Since Christmas Windows is a Keepsake Ornament Club series, not everyone who buys Hallmark ornaments will be familiar with it.  The series, now up to 13 ornaments features a child outside the window of a different store all decked out for Christmas.  The ornament has stuff on all sides, so it’s one to spend some time studying and enjoying.

In this case, we have a little girl outside a toy store.  She is looking in with longing at the rocking horse in the window.  There’s also a plane hanging from the ceiling.  Sitting outside the window to the girl’s left in a teddy bear.  When you turn the window around, you can see a game of checks, an art kit, a train, and a doll house on the shelves under the window.

The regular ornaments in the series are done in alternating years by Tammy Haddix and Nina Aube.  Tammy sculpts with boys outside the window, and Nina always has girls.  Since this is an odd number year, Tammy did sculpt the regular series window, but she got to sculpt this one as well.  It’s fun since it gives her a chance to sculpt a girl.  Additionally, the sheet music for “Toyland” is featured in the regular series ornament for the year.

Why do I bring that up?  Because, as I said before, this is a magic ornament, and it features light, motion, and sound.  The sound is the music to “Toyland.”  I’m not familiar with the song, I must confess, but the music is beautiful to listen to, and I love how it ties in to the official series piece of the year. 

All of the magic is supported by three button batteries, and your first set is included with the ornament.  To actually start the show, you have to pull the cord that dangles down from the ornament.  When you do that, you get the music, a light comes on in the window, and the rocking horse starts to go back and forth.  The music and light lasts about 45 seconds, although the horse seems to stop rocking about half way through.

However, I’m not completely thrilled with the pull cord.  First of all, I always display my Christmas Windows series on the ground under my tree.  While there is still a nice flat base, that string is going to look weird sticking out from under the ornament.  Second, it seems like it is too easy to break.  One of the displays in my store is already broken.  The cord hangs down all the way – you can’t retract it and you can’t get the show to start.  For as expensive as their piece is, it shouldn’t be this fragile.

If they’d used a button to start the show like on most magic ornaments, I’d have loved it.  The window itself is nice, and the show adds a wonderful touch.

There is a loop at the top of the house for hanging the ornament on your tree.  Slip a hook through it, and you’ll find it hangs straight.

I really truly wish they hadn’t used a rope on this ornament.  Without that, it would be a great compliment to the Christmas Windows series.  As it is, I do like Toy Store Dreams, but every time I pull the rope, I will be afraid of breaking it.  That’s not the right way to enjoy something like this.

Original Price: $29.95

Looking for more ornaments like this?  Check out the others in the Christmas Windows series.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Review: A First Date with Death by Diana Orgain (Love or Money Mystery #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Page turning story, strong main characters
Cons: Mystery was weak, many characters on the flat side
The Bottom Line:
Reality death
And complicated romance
Very fun debut

Date This Debut

It’s always a delight to see an author you like start a new series.  Since I was a fan of Diana Orgain’s earlier series starring a new mother, I was thrilled to see A First Date with Death hit the shelves.  This new series is off to a fun start that promises many more adventures to come.

Georgia is doing something she never thought she’d do – go on a reality show.  Worse yet, she’s a contestant on a dating show, trying to decide which of the bachelors on the show are in it for the money or which are in it for love.

The first group date ends early with a tragic accident, however, and Georgia gets a huge shock when her former fiancée, a man who left her at the altar, takes that contestant’s place.  Paul is a cop, so that must mean that there was something sinister behind the accident and he’s only on the show to investigate, right?  The next day, another of the contestants is found dead.  What has Georgia signed up for?  And will she pick the right contestant if the show even continues?

The book starts out with that first group date, and it was a scene that fed into my fear of heights, so it definitely got the blood pumping.  I was intending to read just one chapter before I went to sleep, but I read another couple because I couldn’t stop there.

That level of interest never wavered as I was reading the book.  However as I read, I realized that the mystery often took a back seat to the dates and the choice that Georgia was facing as a contestant on this reality show.  But here’s the thing, I was so into that aspect of things, I didn’t mind the mystery taking a back seat.  That’s not to say that there wasn’t some deduction happening.  The mystery came to a logical and satisfying conclusion, although that part was rushed at the end.  Hopefully, the mystery will be stronger in future books in the series.

Likewise, the characters weren’t quite as strong as they could have been.  Georgia and a couple who are obviously going to be series regulars are strong.  In fact, it was Georgia and how likeable she is that really drew me into the story.  Part of the issue with character development is that there were just so many characters.  I was surprised at how easily I was able to keep track of them, but most of them weren’t quite as developed as I normally would have liked.  For those who didn’t stick around long, that wasn’t an issue, but this could have been a bit better overall.

Now neither of these complaints is to say I didn’t enjoy this book.  While I was aware of the flaws, I was also busy turning pages anxious to see how things would turn out.  And I had to keep from cheating to see if Georgia made the correct choice at the end.  That’s how much fun I was having and how much I cared for her.

So I am definitely looking forward to Georgia’s next adventure.  In fact, I’m very curious how Diana Orgain will be continuing this series.  If they are as good as A First Date with Death, I’ll be along for the entire ride.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Murder on the Bucket List Winner Is....

One last giveaway winner for July, this time for Murder on the Bucket List by Elizabeth Perona.  And the winner this time is...


Please be sure to check your e-mail and reply so I can connect you with your prize.

Thanks everyone for entering.  I'm with so many of you that travel would be on my bucket list.  Elaine wants to attend mystery conventions, which is also definitely on my bucket list.  For now, however, I will have to keep reading to get in my travel and connecting with mystery authors and fans.

Movie Review: Terminator 2 - Judgment Day

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great action and special effects in a fun film
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Action and sci fi
Combine for a fun movie
Holds up well today

I Can See Why So Many Consider This Sequel Superior to the Original

After watching the first Terminator movie a couple of weeks ago, I was quite anxious to move on to the sequel.  After all, I have heard over and over again how it was a rare case where the sequel was better than the original.  I didn’t have to wait long since I’d recorded Terminator 2: Judgment Day off TV.    The result?  I can see why everyone praises it so much.

The movie picks up 10 years after the first one, and we get to meet John Conner (Edward Furlong).  Unfortunately, he is living with a foster family that hates him since him mom, Sarah (Linda Hamilton), is in a mental hospital for sharing and acting on the events of the first film.

Even worse, two more terminators are coming back from the future to try to kill John Conner so he will not be able to lead the uprising against the machines in the future.  While one is the old model that Sarah encountered in the past (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the other is a new upgrade that can heal and disguise himself as anything or anyone (Robert Patrick).  Which one will find John first?  Will Sarah get free of the mental hospital in time to help her son?

This movie is an action movie, pure and simple.  Since most of the story takes place in the (then) modern world of 1991, much of it plays out as pure action.  Yes, two of the main characters are unstoppable robots, but really, how are they that different from the typical action hero?  No, really.

And those action scenes are tons of fun.  There are some chases in pretty unique places around LA, where the film is set, and they keep you riveted to the screen.

Yet the story actually holds together better than a typical action movie.  In fact, there’s a great twist to the story in the first half.  Sadly, it’s such a part of pop culture most people know what it is already, but if you do go into the movie unspoiled, you’ll really enjoy it.  I enjoyed watching it play out even though I knew what was coming.  There is one part of the story that feels a little forced in the second half, but I soon got on board and it sets up a wonderful climax.

Earlier I dismissed the science fiction aspect of the film, and now I’m going to contradict that.  After all, time travel does play an import part of the story.  Yes, the movie does fall into the typical time travel traps, but it’s easy to ignore that because the film is so much fun.  While the movie is at its heart an action film set in 1991, the science fiction elements do give it something that makes it stand out from the others and make it something special.

The special effects actually stand up pretty well almost 25 years later.  Our glimpse of the future looks much better than the original, that’s for sure.  The more advanced of the terminators sets up the need for some pretty advanced effects for 1991.  Today, we’d think nothing of it, but back then it was jaw dropping stuff.  Honestly, knowing how advanced they were for the time, I find them pretty impressive today.

The acting is top notch as well.  Yes, it is an action movie, but we get some slower moments that develop the characters, and the actors hit those out of the park as well.  Schwarzenegger is the only exception since she’s still a little robotic, but since he’s playing a robot programmed to kill, it works.

So if you’ve missed this film like I had, you’ll want to fix that today.  Terminator 2: Judgment Day is fun escapism, and if that’s what you are in the mood for, you’ll be glad to you sat down to watch this film.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Book Review: The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy (Hero's Guide #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Laughs, characters, great story
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
League of Princes fans
Rejoice as this sequel is
As great as the first

You’ll Have Fun Storming This Castle

Somehow, I let almost a year go by since I read Christopher Healy’s first book.  I mean, I’ve had both sequels sitting on my TBR pile the entire time calling my name.  I finally made the time to read The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle, and I loved it just as much as the first one.

If you’ve missed this series, don’t start here.  Really.  You get enough background that you could follow the story in this book, but why would you want to jump in to the middle of things?  Plus, the series is so delightful you’ll want to enjoy them all anyway.  As a crash course, we follow the adventures of four Princes Charming who are trying to make names for themselves outside of the way they have been portrayed in the stories that made them famous.  In the first book, they met and stumbled on a plot to kill the bards who wrote the songs about them only to have the story of the rescue not paint them in the most flattering light.

This book picks up a year after those events.  Prince Liam has been living away from his kingdom since he refuses to marry the spoiled Briar Rose, something that has made him extremely unpopular.  In fact, he’s been living with Prince Frederick and his fiancée Ella.

However, one day Liam is kidnapped by Briar Rose to force their marriage to finally take place.  Frederick and Ella act fast sending notes to Prince Duncan and Prince Gustav in hopes of stopping the wedding.  Things go hilariously wrong, and the League of Princes finds themselves tasked with a mission from Briar Rose herself to steal something from the Bandit King or spend the rest of their lives in a dungeon.  But what might her true purpose in this mission be?

I had forgotten just how funny these books are, but it didn’t take me long to be reminded.  I was laughing before the first chapter was over.  It’s hard not to laugh as the characters are so comical, which leads to some great situations and witty banter.  As if that weren’t enough, each chapter begins with an excerpt from how to guides written for heroes or villains.  Those two or three sentences alone are often enough to get laughs.

I will admit I had to take a couple of chapters to remember who all the characters are and their relationships to each other, but there were enough reminders that I was back on board in no time at all.  While the Princes can still be a bit silly, it didn’t bother me this time around like it did in the first book, and I really enjoyed seeing the character growth in all the characters.  The women got just as much development here, and the book left me wondering where the various relationships were going to go in the next book in the series.

The story starts out simply enough but soon gets complicated with plenty of twists along the way.  It kept me so glued that I read almost half of it in one day.  I just had to know how things were going to end.

If you are like me, the title of this book makes you think of The Princess Bride.  Fans of that movie will be delighted at a throwaway line in the book that is a clear reference to the film.  And if you aren’t a fan of the film, obviously you need to watch it again.

The third book is calling my name as loudly as ever.  I’m hoping I can get to it in the next few months and find out how Christopher Healy brings his story to an end.  He certainly set up many possibilities fun possibilities in The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle while giving us a great tale that stands on its own.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  Hit the link to find more great Middle Grade novels.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

July 18th's Weekly TV Thoughts

America Ninja Warrior – So many people going out at the same spot.  Not too surprise considering how few people made it beyond that point last round.  But the people who made it to the last few obstacles?  So inspiring with such great stories.  Really, I don’t remember having so many great stories in the past.  Is my memory just that bad, or are they ramping up the backstory factor this season?

Royal Pains – Evan and a bird?  Seriously?  We get that for an episode in an eight episode season?  And where has Paige been for two episodes now?  Plus no Jeremiah?  About the only thing I felt they moved forward was Divya’s relationships.  Seriously, a disappointing episode.

Scream – The first death that actually meant something to me.  Why couldn’t it have been Brook?  Because she’s the easy target, I know.  And I know just about everyone in the cast is going to die, so it will happen at some point.  And they had the main murder of the episode at the end this time just to throw me off, too.

Melissa and Joey – Normally, I might be upset by an adult acting that childish, but somehow Mel acting as she did over cake for breakfast was so funny.  And Lennox grabbing her nose was so great as well.  What’s truly amazing to me is no guest stars, just the three main cast members.

Baby Daddy – A little farce is always fun, and the mix ups with the ring were great.  I do wish that Bonnie had actually loved the ring at the end, but she is Bonnie, after all.

Suits – So how long do you think Harvey and Louis have patched things up.  I’d love to think this would take, at least for the rest of the season, but I doubt it.  Then again, it looks like I might be wrong in my predictions about Mike and who is next to learn his secret.

Graceland – A very dark episode, especially there at the end.  I was getting uncomfortable in places.  Yet I’m hooked enough to really want to know what comes next.

Girl Meets World – I never would have recognized Mr. Turner at all, but I did love how they worked him into the show and the call backs to the Boy Meets World I’ve been watching this year.  So glad I’m going back through the show, too, because episodes like this mean so much more to me now.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Review: Mrs. Pollifax Pursued by Dorothy Gilman (Mrs. Pollifax #11)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Well plotted story and strong characters
Cons: A bit more coincidence than normal to bring plot threads together
The Bottom Line:
Adventure in states
Starts with Mrs. P. running
Where will it all lead?

Mrs. Pollifax Calls Carstairs

The first ten books in the Mrs. Pollifax series have a certain formula to them.  Carstairs offers Mrs. Pollifax a job for the CIA that will be easy, she accepts, and finds herself in way over her head once she lands in the foreign country.  There’s a twist on that formula in Mrs. Pollifax Pursued.  Yes, there is still plenty of danger, and the plot has international implications.  But it starts out with danger finding Mrs. Pollifax all by itself.

If you’ve missed this delight series, you should know that Mrs. Pollifax is the world’s unlikeliest spy.  When we first meet her, she is a grandmother, garden club member, and widow who is looking to be useful again, so she heads down to the CIA and volunteers.  Her path crosses that of Carstairs, who hires her.  The result is 14 books of international intrigue with plenty of danger and fun.  And don’t count Mrs. Pollifax out.  She might not have any formal training, but she has a way of getting out of any situation she finds herself in.

When her second husband, Cyrus, takes a trip to the American Bar Association meeting, Mrs. Pollifax expects that the most exciting thing on her agenda will be the upcoming garden club meeting.  However, her curiosity is aroused when she keeps seeing a van drive by her country home.  Even more surprising is finding a young woman hiding in one of her closets.  While trying to sneak Kadi Hopkirk away from the house, Mrs. Pollifax finds herself followed.  With nowhere to turn, she calls Carstairs at the CIA, who whisks her away to a most unusual safe house with a mystery all its own.  Can she make sense of what is happening there?  What have she and Kadi stumbled into?

One unique feature in this series is that the fourteen books were written over the course of 35 years.  While the characters never really age, each book is set in the world of the day with current politics and villains.  This book came out in 1995, and with communism on the retreat and terrorism not on our radar like it is now, there was no obvious villain to choose.  Instead, author Dorothy Gilman invented the small African country of Ubangiba.  However, I can picture these events applying to many countries in the continent.

I first read this book about 15 years ago, and I have a vague recollection that I didn’t like it as much as some of the others.  I sure can’t figure out why at this point.  Maybe it was because of some breaks from formula?  I certainly enjoyed it on the reread.

Unlike most books in the series, this one takes place almost completely in the United States.  We only leave the country for the climax.  Still, the plot moves forward quickly with several seemingly unrelated threads coming together in the end.  Coincidence may play a larger role than normal in the series, but it doesn’t really bother me.  I actually expected everything to tie together in the end somehow, so I wasn’t disappointed when that happened.  The way things wind up fitting together is actually quite remarkable since so many of the events seem unrelated at first.

Most of the time in this series, Mrs. Pollifax is on her own and resolves things, and the scenes with Carstairs and his assistant Bishop are almost comic relief as they try to piece together what is happening from events that are a couple of chapters old by the time they hear them.  In this book, Carstairs drives the plot more than anyone else.  Yes, Mrs. Pollifax has a piece of the story to unravel, and she does, but Carstairs is the one who figures out the big picture and is really responsible for the climax.  That may have been what bothered me the first time around, but it didn’t bother me this time.  In fact, I loved getting to watch him work.  Obviously, I’ve always loved the character.  (Yes, my screen name is in honor of him.)

The series is light on recurring characters, but those we have are always a delight.  That’s true once again here.  The supporting players brought in are always a colorful bunch, but that’s double true here since some of the book takes place in a traveling carnival.  Still, the characters, no matter how colorful, always come across as real and never caricatures, a strength to this series I’ve always loved.

So I’m glad I picked up and reread Mrs. Pollifax Pursued.  While this isn’t your typical book in the series, the story is strong and the characters are fun.  What else really matters?

Want more adventures with the world's unlikeliest spy?  Be sure to check out the Mrs. Pollifax series in order.

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

July 17th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

My mind has been in Friday mode all week.  I'm so glad it is finally really Friday.  Of course, that means it is time for Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week's book is A First Date with Death by Diana Orgain.


The books jumps right in with this opening:

The bungee-jumping harness bit into my shoulders and legs as I looked over the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge.  To say the water looked frigid was an understatement.  The whitecaps of the bay screamed out glacier and hypothermia.
Jumping to page 56, we find:

"You think it was a set up?"
"Yes," Paul said.
My breath caught in my throat.  I thought about Theresa Valens.  "You think it was intended for me?"

I actually just finished the book, and I enjoyed it.  Look for my review next week.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Fatal Reservations Winner Is....

We have a winner for the copy of Fatal Reservations I was giving away last week.  And the winner is...


I've sent you an e-mail, so please be sure to check it and get back to me so I can connect you with your prize.

Ornament Review: Jiminy Cricket - 2015 Hallmark Limited Edition Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Captures Jiminy at the beginning of the movie perfectly
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Jiminy Cricket
Parachuting in to tree
For fun ornament

Jiminy is Dropping onto Your Tree

I wasn’t going to get him.  I got the mini Jiminy Cricket from a couple years ago, and I have Jiminy as part of the Mickey’s Christmas Carol ornament series.  So I was going to let the limited edition Jiminy Cricket that Hallmark just released go by without buying it.  Then I looked at him, and I caved.

Actually, it’s fairly easy for a DisNerd to justify buying this ornament.  See, unlike the others I just mentioned, this ornament features Jiminy at the beginning of Pinocchio.  In fact, this is just as he is jumping into the story – literally.  He’s holding his umbrella over his head and floating down.  The only difference is, he’s not wearing the rags he is wearing when we first meet him but the spiffy clothes the Blue Fairy gives him at the beginning of the movie.  So maybe it is from a scene later in the film (I must admit it’s been a while since I’ve watched the movie), but I can’t help but think of that first scene.

And that’s why I wound up buying him.  No, I didn’t need Jiminy on my tree again, but I loved this different look for him.  The floating aspect added to the fun and really makes it perfect for an ornament.  This is also Jiminy on his own as a full sized ornament, and I prefer those over the mini ornaments as well.

Since Jiminy is floating, his feet are not flat.  In fact, only the toes of one reach the ground.  This means there is no solid base for setting this ornament out to display, so you’ll have to hang it.  That’s perfect fine because so much of the fun of this ornament is the angle he is hanging.  It looks like he is floating down.  Have I mentioned how fun I find that?

I must not have been alone in loving Jiminy since he was a very popular limited edition ornament selling out quickly in many stores across the country.  So if you want Jiminy Cricket for your Christmas tree, I recommend you track him down soon.

Original Price: $14.95

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: Time's Up by Janey Mack (Maisie McGrance #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Mostly enjoyable coming of age story
Cons: This book is not a mystery, some clichés, especially in characters
The Bottom Line:
There is some fun here
I am just not the correct
Audience for it

Got Any Change for This Career Change?

I try to be as selective with review requests as I am with the books I purchase.  After all, I’m going to spend the same amount of time reading and reviewing a book whether I buy it or take it for free.  I will admit I hesitated when I was offered an ARC of Time's Up, but that was mainly because I had other books I was dying to read.  The premise sounded good and unique, however, so I accepted it.  Sadly, it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.

Maisie McGrane is the youngest child in her family and the only girl.  She is planning to follow in the footsteps of her father and three of her five older brothers and become a cop.  That is until her psych evaluation comes back.  She failed.

Coupled with the disgrace of washing out, Maisie must also pursue a new career path.  While her mother, wants Maisie to become a lawyer like she and Maisie’s other two brothers are, Maisie hits on another path – meter maid.  Sorry, I mean parking enforcement.  Her reasoning is that if she can prove she can handle this job, she can prove her psych evaluation wrong and get reinstated as a cop.  But does she really have what it takes to handle this job?

Now let’s clear one thing up right now – the genre.  Right on the cover, this book says it is a mystery.  It isn’t.  Yes, there is a dead body (two actually), and yes, Maisie does figure out who the killer is in the end.  However, that is a sub-plot at best and by far the weakest part of the book.  Instead, the focus is on Maisie and her new job and the trouble she gets into on this job.  It’s really more coming of age than anything else.  Then again, I'm the one who classifies Lisa Lutz's popular (and wonderful) Spellman books as dysfunctional family comedy instead of mysteries, so what do I know?

Once I figured the true genre out, I did begin to enjoy the story.  Yes, there were still slow spots, but for the most part, I couldn’t wait to see how Maisie’s actions would get her into trouble next.  The book twists in some unexpected directions, which also helped keep me entertained.

The characters are a mixed bag.  Some of them are very predictable.  Maisie having five older Irish brothers doesn’t exactly break new ground, especially when she complains about her dating life.  Honestly, we really only get to know a couple of the brothers, which does leave room for the others to be developed in future books, because, once again, the focus is on Maisie’s job.

And there we get some great characters.  They are fun and memorable.  Maisie herself is also a delight to spend time with.

I saw one person compare this book to Janet Evanovich, and I’d say that’s a fair comparison.  It’s Evanovich light, but if you enjoy her Stephanie Plumb books, you’ll probably enjoy this.  I’ve only read the first two books in that series, so I probably wasn’t the right audience to begin with.

And like Evanovich, this certainly has more language and sex than I normally read.  Just keep that in mind when you pick up the book.

And that’s what makes rating this book so hard for me.  It’s not that the book is bad, I just don’t think I’m the right audience for it.  If you like Evanovich, consider giving Time's Up a try.  Otherwise, feel free to pass in favor of another book.

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Peaches and Scream Winner Is....

Wow!  Thanks so much to all of you who entered the contest for Peaches and Scream.  That has got to be one of my best contests yet.  Unfortunately, there is only one winner, and that winner is...

Mary H!

Mary, I've just sent you an e-mail, so check your inbox so we can connect you with your prize.

Ornament Review: Five Golden Ring - 12 Days of Christmas #5 - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Gorgeous colors with rings working into the details
Cons: Not the usual take on this day
The Bottom Line:
Unique idea
Used for stunning ornament
Once you accept bird

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me…Wait, What?????

The big question on everyone’s mind when Hallmark started the 12 Days of Christmas series was how artist Edyth Kegrize was going to handle the fifth day.  We actually got a sneak peak of it last year, and it set off a bunch of talk on the Hallmark ornament message board I’m part of.  It’s a different take on Five Golden Rings to be sure, but it also is a beautiful ornament.

You see, Edyth went with a bird.  Yes, that’s right, a bird is representing the rings.  It’s not just any bird, it is a ring-necked pheasant, and apparently it was a traditional dish at the Twelfth Night feasts.  According to some sources, it is what was meant by the golden rings of the fifth verse.  I haven’t done my own research, so I’m trusting Hallmark and Edyth here.  While I still grates a little to see a bird, I really do love this ornament.

Our pheasant is mostly reds and oranges.  His coloring is very much in line with the colors of Three French Hens two years ago, only darker and richer in hue.  The wings are blue and green.  The back wings have a few notes on them, and the front wings have words.  When the head is facing to the right, you see Five Golden Rings written in fancy calligraphy.  On the other side, the wings have the fifth verse in smaller calligraphy.  And the tail on this bird is very long.  Look on the underside of the tail to find the series marker.

In a nod to what we normally associate with this verse, the crest attaching the wings to the body is made up of five interlocking rings.  The same is true of the dangle hanging from the bottom of the bird.

The colors are bright and really stand out more than anything we’ve seen in this series before, and I love them.  This series continues to be so artistic and beautiful.  It’s definitely one of the ornaments I can stare at for hours.  What won me over to this take on the verse was that fact that the rings we in America associate with this verse are hidden on the ornament.  It’s a nice nod to today while also using some long forgotten tradition for the main part of the ornament.

Like the previous ornaments in this series, you can’t set it out.  It’s a bird and has something dangling from it, after all.  When you do slip a hook through the loop near his neck, you’ll find that he hangs straight.

It’s taken me some time to warm up to this take on Five Golden Rings, but the result is another ornament I love.  The colors and artistry continue to be breathtaking.  Give the idea behind the ornament a chance, and I think you’ll love it, too.

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

Original Price: $12.95