Monday, August 31, 2015

TV Show Review: Castle - Season 7

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: More laughs, great characters, and clues
Cons: Anything connected to Castle’s disappearance
The Bottom Line:
Horrid storyline
Only dark points in season
Show still mostly strong

“You Still Remind Me a Little of Hooch.”

I still don’t know what the writers were thinking at the end of season 6 of Castle.  That cliffhanger?  It was downright stupid.  Some fans were so incensed that they didn’t tune in to see how season 7 would deal with that.

It was their mistake.

Now I will be the first to say that anything related to Castle’s disappearance (the new “mythology” since Beckett’s mother’s murder had been resolved as of the end of season six) was poorly handled mainly because it was a stupid thing to happen.  However, the rest of the season?  Some of the best stuff we’ve seen in a long time.  The humor was great, the characters were awesome, and the mysteries…okay, the mysteries were as formulaic as ever.  But really, this was a great season.

While the season premier started off exactly where the last finale left off as everyone tries to figure out just what happened to Castle on his wedding day, we quickly jumped a head a few months to when author Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) was found floating on a boat in the ocean with no memory of the time he was missing.  All this time, his fiancĂ©e Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) has not stopped looking for him.  While it takes a bit for the two of them to adjust to the big questions in their lives, they quickly get back into the rhythm of their relationship.

And that relationship continues to constitute solving murders under Captain Victoria Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald) at the twelfth precinct.  Working alongside them are Detectives Esposito (Jon Huertas) and Ryan (Seamus Dever) as well as medical examiner Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones).  And what a variety of cases they have.  There’s a pool shark killed by a mysterious force.  Castle goes undercover with a group of second graders to find a killer.  Castle gets involves with a group of action actors after an 80’s action star is killed.  The 3XK killer is back, or is he?  They even get to solve a murder on Mars – well sort of.

On the home front, Castle and Beckett do tie the knot this season before honeymooning to a guest ranch in Arizona (okay, so they are really under cover on the case although they had gotten married).  Castle’s daughter Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) continues her college education while his mother Martha (Susan Sullivan) gets a break in her acting career comeback and even considers moving out.

You’ll notice earlier that I compared Castle’s disappearance to Beckett’s mother’s murder.  Many fans who were watching the show complained that it wasn’t explained in the first few episodes of the season.  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that.  I figured they’d drag it out as long as they could, just like the six seasons it took us to resolve the cold case Beckett murder.  However, since it wasn’t clear until May whether the show would be back or not, they actually did wrap things up, just late in the season.  There might be one or two things still unexplained, but if they never bring it up again, that’s fine with me.  I’d much rather forget it ever happened.  Likewise, the actually wedding of Beckett and Castle was nice in some ways (their vows) and disappointing in other (the cheesy CGI backdrop, only Martha and Alexis as guests).  Still, overall, I did like it.

But if when we start looking at the cases of the week, we find a show that is still in fine form.  Oh, as I mentioned, the mysteries are formulaic, but they are just excuses to visit the characters.  The banter between them is as sharp as ever, and I laughed at many lines this season.  Furthermore, Castle starts contributing things to solving the case as a writer again, something we’ve been missing since probably season 3.  I had enjoyed his different take on the cases early on in the show’s run, and I was thrilled to see that back again.  There’s even more about his writing career and several mentions of the latest Nikki Heat novel – again things I enjoyed in early seasons we’ve been missing recently.  We also got great growth in all the characters as the season progressed.  Truly, there was much to love here.  Heck, I even enjoyed an arc mid-season that found Castle investigating cases on his own as a private eye.

The actors contributed some of their best work this season as well.  Whether it is a lighter moment or one of the more serious episodes, the acting was always perfect, making me get lost in the world of the series.

As I mentioned, the renewal came in very late, so the season finale was crafted as a potential series finale.  Honestly, if the show had ended here, I would have been happy.  It was a satisfying final scene.  Having said that, I am thrilled the show will be back and can’t wait to see what happens to the characters next.

This season of Castle consisted of 23 episodes, and all of them are preserved in this six disc set in their native wide screen and full surround sound.  In addition to the episodes themselves, we get two audio commentaries with various cast and crew, one of the season premier and one on the second half of the February two parter.  Other fun extras include Ryan and Esposito’s music video and Castle’s webmercial for Raging Heat and well as the standard bloopers and deleted scenes. 

Yes, everything connected to Castle’s disappearance was bad.  I will never pretend otherwise.  But the majority of the episodes in season 7 are still winners.  Fans of Castle will love having those moments in their collections.  And if you’ve missed them, get the set today and enjoy them for the first time.

Season 7 Episodes:
1. Driven
2. Montreal
3. Clear & Present Danger
4. Child’s Play
5. Meme is Murder
6. The Time of Our Lives
7. Once Upon a Time in the West
8. Kill Switch
9. Last Action Hero
10. Bad Santa
11. Castle, P.I.
12. Private Eye Caramba!
13. I, Witness
14. Resurrection
15. Reckoning
16. The Wrong Stuff
17. Hong Kong Hustle
18. At Close Range
19. Habeas Corpse
20. Sleeper
21. In Plane Sight
22. Dead from New York
23. Hollander’s Woods

Sunday, August 30, 2015

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X Challenge

Somehow, I have missed the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge for the last nine years.  But I found it in time for the 10th edition, so here I am for R.I.P X.  It's being hosted this year at Estella Society.

So, what's this challenge?  Between September 1 and October 31, read books related to horror, suspense, or mystery.  I know, right?  Could this be any more up my ally?

Which is why I am signing up for Peril the First, which is to read four books that fit within the category.  I might not chose which four I'm going to count for this so I can pick some that might be a little scarier than others.  It's too bad I've already read Lord of the Wings and Trick or Deceit (review and giveaway coming on Thursday) since, being Halloween books, they'd both fit in so well.  I might also work in a review of the Scream Queens pilot.  Again, too bad I've already reviewed the few scary movies I've watched.

I'm looking forward to a RIP couple of months.

1. Move Your Blooming Corpse by D. E. Ireland
2. Just Killing Time by Julianne Holmes
3. The Mystery of the Whispering Witch by Kathryn Kenny
4. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
5. A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry


I Know What You Did Last Summer

Book Review: The Mystery at Maypenny's by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #31)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters, presents an underrepresented side in an important debate
Cons: Very weak mystery, important debate more one sided than I would have liked.
The Bottom Line:
Weaker mystery
As town debate takes the stage
Characters still strong

Sadly, Not as Good as I Remembered It

I remember being impressed with The Mystery at Maypenny's when I first read it as a teen, but I know many fellow Trixie Belden fans who think the book has serious weaknesses.  Rereading it for the first time in many years, sadly, I was able to see just what those weaknesses are.

If you aren’t familiar with Trixie Belden, she is a teen detective.  Think the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew with better defined characters.  She lives in a small town in New York called Sleepyside and she, her two older brothers, and their friends, including Trixie’s best friend Honey, have formed a club called the Bob-Whites.  Sleepyside might be a small town, but they seem to be a hot bed of crime as once again there is trouble brewing in the small town.

However, this time, that trouble comes in the form of International Pine.  This furniture company has already built a factory in town, and they want to expand production by building another one.  The site they want to use is located in the Wheeler’s preserve.  However, Honey Wheeler’s father doesn’t own all the land.  Part of it is owned by Mr. Maypenny.  While Mr. Wheeler has agreed to sell the land, Mr. Maypenny absolutely refuses.  As the issue heats up, it divides the town and even the Bob-Whites.

Meanwhile, Mr. Maypenny gets a surprise when his long lost nephew makes contact.  Throw in an out of town environmentalist, and you’ve got plenty of trouble.  How will it all be resolved?

And more importantly, where is the mystery?  While I vividly remembered certain scenes and plot points in the book, I couldn’t exactly remember what the mystery was.  There was a reason for that.  The mystery was shoehorned into the book almost as an afterthought.  Even when it does come to the forefront, we only get a glimpse before it is all being wrapped up for us by other characters in a few exposition heavy scenes.  The focus, instead, is on the proposed expansion of the furniture factory, which provides more than enough conflict to keep us reading.

Here’s the part I liked most when I first read it as a teen.  By the time I got to this book in the series, I realized one key factor – everyone but the villain would get a happy ending.  As we went along, I just couldn’t see how that was going to happen this time.  The ending was a bit of a cheat in some ways, but it also does show the importance of thinking outside the box.

I also remembered this book as being fairly even handed in the growth vs. environment debate.  Sadly, that’s not quite the case.  Instead, the book definitely takes the pro-growth side with the environmentalist character introduced here being more a caricature than anything else and that side never quite getting a fair explanation in the book.  However, I still like the fact that the author even tried.  So often, when this subject comes up, the arguments for growth are overlooked.  This is an important debate with two sides with information that we should be considering.  Sadly, this isn’t quite as even handed as I wish it could be.  Then again, this is fiction, and fiction aimed at middle graders, so I was probably expecting too much out of it.

The characters are actually fairly strong in this book.  While Di Lynch is written out for at least half of the story, Dan actually plays a bigger role than normal here which makes sense since he lives with Mr. Maypenny.  The rest of the Bob-Whites are at their best as are the supporting characters in the series.  From a character standpoint, this is definitely one of the stronger books in the later part of the series.

Overall, however, the underdeveloped mystery makes The Mystery at Maypenny's weaker than it could have been.

But don't let a weak book keep you from checking out the rest of the Trixie Belden Mysteries.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

August 29th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Wow, only two new shows this week.  Looks like summer season is winding down.  Time to start thinking about fall TV again.

Either that, or I decided to only talk about shows that start with the letter S this week.  I'll let you decide.

Scream – So my two top suspects have had the finger pointed at them tonight.  One just broke out of jail, the other is on the run.  Plus, the sheriff is missing.  Again, I’m a little surprised at how low the body count really has been so far this season, but I have a feeling this could change next week.  Honestly, I’ll be okay if it doesn’t, however.  Either way, I’m really thrown off on who it could be and can’t wait to watch the finale.

Suits – I’m not a big fan of the flashback episodes on this show, usually because I don’t feel it adds that much to the story.  For example, here, I didn’t care about Harvey’s past storyline at all.  I did get choked up at the payoff for Mike’s flashbacks.  Maybe it was the reader in me, but seeing him crying when he found those books.  Wow.  And I sure hope that this gets Mike out from under that secret once and for all.  It would be nice to watch this show without them falling back on that chestnut all the time.

Friday, August 28, 2015

August 28th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

This again for this week's Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week, the book is Trick or Deceit by Shelley Freydont.

Yes, I'm continuing in the Halloween theme.  This book will actually be published on September 1st, but I'm reading it for review and giveaway next Thursday.

I must admit, the book doesn't jump out there with the best first line:

Liv Montgomery stopped at the bottom of the town hall steps to button her jacket.

However, on page 56, we find this:

Liv was just thinking, Whew, almost home free, when a cry arose from the park across the street.

And there you have it for the week.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Book Review: Commander Toad in Space by Jane Yolen

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: A good, fun story
Cons: None worth dwelling on
The Bottom Line:
Commander Toad starts
Exploring watery place
Fun easy reader

In Space No One Can Hear You Splash Down

I’ve decided I need to reread all the Commander Toad books this year.  Research to find the best to give my niece and nephew for Christmas, or at least that’s the excuse I’m using.  I went back to the very first one with Commander Toad in Space, which is very fun book.

Commander Toad and his crew on the Star Warts are always looking for strange new planets to explore.  They’ve just found one that appears to be made up completely of water, so they take a floating lily pad with them so they can land on the surface.  However, they quickly discover they are not alone on the planet.  Who or what at else is there?  Will they be able to escape?

It’s been so long since I read the books that I didn’t remember anything about this book before I sat down to reread it.  I was very pleasantly surprised at just how much fun it was.  The plot was decent and moved along at a good pace.  It helped that the characters were introduced quickly at the beginning of the book.  The illustrations by Bruce Degen are delightful and really help tell the story.

Of course, the jokes that spoof science fiction, specifically Star Wars and Star Trek are numerous and add to the fun.  I’m sure I missed many of them as a kid, but as an adult I got them and really enjoyed them.  There are also some puns that I greatly enjoyed.

These books are categorized as Easy Readers, and I agree with that.  The short sentences are a bit choppy, but that’s a minor complaint and will be perfect for young readers.  More importantly, the vocabulary is simple enough for young readers to read.  A few words, mainly the characters’ names, might cause the reader to need some help from an adult, but that challenge will be good for them.

I’m glad I remembered these books because they are fun.  If you’ve missed them, pick up Commander Toad in Space.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ornament Review: 'Tis the Seasoning! #2 - Salty and Peppy - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Nostalgic and cutesy seasoning pair
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Salty and Peppy
A throwback seasoning pair
Made me love series

Kitschy Classics Coming to Your Tree

As I’ve been saying this month, I wasn’t planning on starting the Tis the Seasoning! series by Hallmark.  When we got a sneak peak at this year’s offering, I wasn’t that impressed.  But the instant I saw them in person, I was blown away and I knew I had to collect this series.

This year, we’ve got Santa and Mrs. Claus, or as they prefer to be known, Salty and Peppy.  Mrs. Claus is Salty and Santa himself is Peppy, the pepper shaker.  They are mainly red and white.  While the pair of ornaments is shaped like more traditional salt and pepper shakers, it’s the paint on them that really makes them come alive.  This isn’t the traditional Santa and Mrs. Claus, but they are just a shade off traditional in a cutesy way.

A friend of mine described it as kitschy.  You know, that overly cute stuff you’ll see in stores and some kitchens.  Honestly, these make me think of my grandma and the type of things she’d put in her kitchen.  No, they aren’t overly elegant or proper, but they are cute and fun, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

But here’s a detail I love.  You can see the wood grain in the shakers.  No, the ornaments are not made of wood, but they sure look like it.  It’s those kind of details that make Hallmark ornaments so special, and this one blew me away.

As salt and pepper shakers, these have nice flat bottoms, so you can set them out on display.  I don’t see an obvious stopper to refill them, so if they were real, they would have to have screw tops.  Both pieces have 2 in Christmas trees as the series marker on the bottom.

And both of them hang straight as well.  Since this is a pair of ornaments, they each have a ring on the top, and they are both perfectly balanced.

This series has completely won me over, and I can’t wait to see what they release next.  It’s like collecting salt and pepper shakers but at half the size (and decoration only).  That’s really making Tis the Seasoning! fun for me.

Be sure to check out the rest of the 'Tis the Seasoning! series.

Original Price: $14.95

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Review: Lord of the Wings by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #19)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful characters in a great mystery
Cons: I was hoping to see more of someone introduced a couple of books ago
The Bottom Line:
Halloween party
Includes crime wave and murder
More fun times for us

I’m Raven about Meg’s Latest Adventure

I love Donna Andrews’s books, so I bought Lord of the Wings and started reading it without even bothering to find out what it was about.  I quickly figured out the book was set a few days before Halloween, and I thought about putting it down and saving it for October.  But I could never wait that long and devoured it right away.

The town of Caerphilly has decided to throw a giant Halloween festival this year in an effort to bring more money to their small economy.  Meg Langslow isn’t in charge of it – that has fallen to the Lydia, the new hire in town responsible for all the festivities they put on over the course of a year.  Meg is just in charge of the Goblin Patrol, the group of volunteers who are helping with security for the wide spread event.

However, a few days before Halloween, things obviously begin to go haywire.  Someone breaks into the town’s haunted house.  While Meg is chaperoning a trip to the zoo with her twins, a fake foot is found in with the alligators.  And a dead body is found behind the zoo.  With so much happening, can Meg make sense of anything before the craziness of the holiday really hits?

This is a wide ranging plot with several very diverse elements.  I loved that because it kept me quite confused as to where the story was really going.  And between everything Meg was juggling, the pace never slowed down.  I was turning pages as quickly as I could until I reached the logical climax.

The series has introduced us to a large cast of characters, which is no surprise for a series that’s been running this long.  The series regulars are all present and accounted for, and it was fun to see them again.  We actually got to see more of Meg’s brother Rob and his computer company, Mutant Wizard, in this book than is often the case, and I enjoyed that.  Of course, my favorite characters are still Meg’s twins, who steal many a scene in this book.  There are a nice group of suspects as well who are well developed and help keep us from guessing the ending too soon.

I found all the Halloween revelers to be quite amusing and had to laugh as some of their antics over the course of the book.  Couple that with Meg’s crazy family and the twins, and you’ll be smiling and laughing as the pages fly by.

About my only disappointment is that a potential new series character introduced a couple of books ago is once again only referenced in passing.  I guess I need to let my hope that we’d see more of this person go.  Other characters who were in earlier books of the series have dropped by the wayside as others have taken their place.  I guess that will be the case here as well.  It just seems a waste since there is much character growth potential in the series regulars that could be explored here.

And, trust me, this is a minor complaint.  I enjoyed spending time with Meg and her family again.  Lord of the Wings was over all too soon, and I am already looking forward to my next visit.

Missing an adventure or two?  Here are the Meg Langslow Mysteries in order.

What's on My Nightstand - August 2015 Edition

Well, it's been a couple of months since I've done What's on Your Nightstand.  And I have a very good reason for it - I've completely forgotten.  Heck, I almost forgot again today, but suddenly remembered as my brain was waking up this morning, so here you go - a very quick post before I get ready for work.

Actually, most of what's on my nightstand you can see over on the left in the "Upcoming Book Tour Stops" section.  I've got a full September, and I'm digging into that first book right now.  So, officially on my nightstand are:

Cinderella Six Feet Under by Maia Chance
Trick or Deceit by Shelley Freydont
Stone Cold Case by Catherine Dilts
Move Your Bloomin' Corpse by D. E. Ireland

That will keep me very busy this month, however, I'm hoping to slip in another couple of books:
Red Velvet Revenge by Jenn McKinlay
The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

And I've got a list of audio books I've requested through my library.  My guess is they will all come in at once as well.  But they are:
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton
The Black Ice by Michael Connelly

Yes, all this should keep me very busy in September, don't you think?  It will be interesting to see how much of this I actually get read/listened to.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Movie Review: Terminator: Salvation

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Action, breaks formula of franchise
Cons: Characters could be stronger
The Bottom Line:
Creative story
Stands out in franchise.  Fun but
With weak characters

Salvation for the Franchise Comes by Breaking the Mold

When I watched the third Terminator movie a couple of weeks ago, I felt like it was beginning to feel old, familiar, and predictable.  Still, that movie’s ending, I was curious to see how the story would advance in the next film, Terminator Salvation.  I was surprised to find they told a different kind of story in the familiar world of the franchise, and I liked the movie for that.

For the first time, the entire movie takes place in the post-apocalyptic future, aka 2018.  John Connor (Christian Bale) is leading the resistance, or at least part of the resistance, in Los Angeles.  While on a mission, he uncovers a device that might lead to the complete destruction of SkyNet.  And the timing couldn’t be better since a new hit list has just come out with John as number two.  Number one?  A teenager named Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin).

Tests of this new weapon are proving to be successful, but there’s a complication.  Destroying SkyNet might also mean the destruction of Kyle.  John now needs to find a way to save his father, and he might have to rely on the most unlikely of sources for that help.

While we have seen glimpses of the future in the past movies, this is the first time we’ve spent much time there.  That alone was a nice change of pace since we can now see the future we’ve been hearing about and dreading.  Normally, I’m not a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, so the fact that I was ready to explore this world says something about the franchise.

Another change that I liked was the fact that we didn’t spend the entire movie running from terminators.  Yes, that aspect of the franchise was still there, but it wasn’t the focus of the movie.  Instead, the focus was taking the battle to SkyNet while still preserving the past.  Plus we get a bit about the power struggle happening inside the resistance.

The thing we do still get are wonderful action scenes.  They had me glued to the screen since so much was happening so quickly I couldn’t keep track of it any other way.  Was what we saw possible?  Probably not.  But it was so well done I really didn’t care.  The special effects were wonderful as always for the franchise, too.

The one flaw I can see in the movie is the lack of character development.  I know, that’s not usually a strong point in an action movie, but it is a flaw again here.  The only character I truly felt connected to was John Connor, and that was because this is the fourth movie telling his story.  Even then, he could have been a stronger character.

Not that I’m blaming the actors.  They do a great job with the material they have.  It’s the script that could have been stronger.

Speaking of actors, there is a noticeable absence in this film.  When the movie was made, Arnold Schwarzenegger was busy being the “governator” here in California, so the brief appearances of his face in the film are all CGI.

Weak characters aside, I still loved Terminator Salvation because it told a new story in the world we already know.  Like the rest of the franchise, it’s a fun ride, so pop it in, sit back, and enjoy.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book Review: It You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't! by Elise Parsley

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Delightful pictures and story
Cons: This section eaten by the alligator
The Bottom Line:
Take a fun premise
Mix in great story, pictures
Result?  This great book

Seriously, Wouldn’t an Alligator Make the Best Show and Tell Ever?

I was wandering in Barnes and Noble the other night when I spotted If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't! on a special display as the picture book of the month.  Well, with a title like that, I had to read the book.  It’s as delightful and fun as I expected.

The story follows Magnolia, who has come up with the best show and tell ever for nature day.  Instead of a hollow stick or a bird’s nest, she has brought in an alligator.  She promises her teacher that the alligator will behave and not eat anyone, but oh the trouble that he gets into – drawing funny pictures, making paper airplanes, and so on.  Will it be worth it in the end?

While there is definitely a main character and a name, the book is actually told in second person.  It’s not a narrative style you normally see, but it does seem to work here.  That means we become Magnolia as we read the book.

It also means it reminds me of the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series.  No, this doesn’t have the logical steps and conclusions of those books, but you’ll definitely be reminded of them as you read this book.

Ultimately, what it comes down to is if this book is fun, and that I can answer with a resounding yes.  The premise has the potential for quite a bit of fun, and we actually get to see that played out as the story progresses.  No, the alligator never does anything too bad, and the trouble he gets into is just plain funny.

Adding to the fun story are the wonderful pictures.  There are reactions and jokes in those pictures you’ll definitely want to watch for.

This is a book that kids will want to read over and over again, and parents won’t mind in the least because it is so much fun.  Don’t hesitate.  Go out and get If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't! today.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ornament Review: 'Tis the Seasoning! #1 - Gingerbread and Milk - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Beautiful shakers, great pair, fun
Cons: Needed glue visible at the bottom of the salt shaker
The Bottom Line:
Milk and gingerbread
Start new savory series
A perfect pairing

Such a Creative Official Start to This Series

I had written off the 'Tis The Seasoning! series based on the unofficial release in 2013, but I almost changed my mind when I saw the official first in the series that came out in 2014.  It took until this year to get me to go back to collect last year’s, but I’m glad I did.

This series features two ornaments, a salt and pepper shaker combo, with a holiday theme.  And for the first year, the pair is a milk bottle and a gingerbread cookie.  The milk bottle is the salt shaker, obviously.  It’s clear, so you can see that it is mostly filled with salt, represented by pieces of glitter.  The gingerbread boy is the pepper shaker.  He’s not painted in traditional Christmas colors but in blues with a little yellow.  He also has glitter on his frosting, giving him a nice glow.

What really drew me on this was the milk bottle as the salt shaker.  It drew a smile from me when I saw it.  And the gingerbread pepper shaker is lovely to look at.  The colors truly pop off the ornament.  Together, they make a striking pair that makes me want a nice gingerbread cookie and a glass of milk.  Oh, I know they are supposed to be salt and pepper shakers, but I can’t help it, I want a delicious snack.

Unfortunately, the milk bottle does have a little flaw in it.  The bottle actually consists of an outer and inner layer with the “salt” inside the inner layer.  In two corners down at the bottom, you can see the glue that holds the inner layer in place.  But it’s the only flaw in the ornament.

The bases on both pieces of this set are wide enough that you can stand them up to display them that way if you want.  And they both have the series marker on their bottoms.  Additionally, you’ll find the indentation for the stopper on the gingerbread cookie’s bottom.  Obviously, you screw off the top to add salt to the milk bottle.  If, you know, they were a real set.

However, if you want to hang these ornaments on your tree, you’ll find the rings on the top of the ornament.  They are both perfectly balanced and hang straight.

I didn’t need to start this series, and I resisted as long as I could, but I’m glad I caved.  This first ornament in the 'Tis The Seasoning! series is full of the little details I just love.

Be sure to check out the rest of the 'Tis the Seasoning! series.

Original Price: $14.95

August 22nd's Weekly TV Thoughts

Time to slip in this week's Weekly TV Thoughts.

America Ninja Warrior – One finisher, although a few others came close.  If this is how hard the course is this year, will there be any finishers next year?

Scream – Oh wow, things are getting so interesting.  I had figured out the baby twist.  The only question now is how is it.  Obviously the teacher is out since he’s now the prime suspect.  I’m still on the Sheriff’s son being involved somehow.

Suits – Mike’s secret causing problems again and the firm about to go under.  This is amazing, and I didn’t want it to end.  I can’t figure out how this is going to be resolved.  And I loved seeing Trevor having turned his life around.  That was not the direction I thought the show was going to go at all.

Girl Meets World – Ah yes, the defunding of the arts episode.  Do they have to hit every high horse this season?  Or can’t we just let the characters have fun without preaching at us every week?  Yes, I still laughed at the episode, but come on, let’s just have fun for a few weeks now.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Puzzling mystery to keep you turning pages
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Murder on stuck train
Classic Christie book set up
Entertaining read

Even Knowing the End, This is a Wonderful Mystery

While I love mysteries, I must admit my knowledge of the early masters of the genre is very limited.  I’ve only listened to a handful of Agatha Christie stories on CD over the years, for example.  Still, over the years I’d had the ending to Murder on the Orient Express spoiled for me.  When I decided to listen to it on CD recently, I was wondering how that would affect my impression of the story.  I need not have worried; I still loved it.

Hercule Poirot had hoped to have a few days to spend in Istanbul on his way home from a case in Syria, but when he arrives, he finds himself being summoned back to England.  Even though travel is usually light in the winter months, he still has a hard time finding passage on the next train, only getting on because he is friends with someone who works for that particular line.

On the train the first day, he is recognized by Mr. Ratchett, an American who asks for Poirot’s help since Ratchett is in fear for his life.  Poirot refuses for one simple reason, he doesn’t like the man’s looks.  Something about him really bothers the detective.

However, that night, Ratchett is indeed murdered in his first class sleeping compartment.  Since the train is stuck in a snow storm, Poirot is asked to help find the killer.  It is quickly determined that the killer is still on the train, but the clues at the crime scene point to two very different killers, and all the passengers seem to have alibis.  Can Poirot solve this case?

It was actually fun reading this story knowing the ending.  (No, I’m not going to spoil anything.)  Even then, I couldn’t quite see how Poirot was going to figure it all out.  I was in awe as he worked the solution out over the course of the book.  And yes, it is a logical ending.  Even knowing what it was, I wasn’t sure if I would buy it or not, but I did completely.

I’ve heard that Agatha Christie isn’t super strong when it comes to characters, but I didn’t feel that here at all.  We have a large cast, and I didn’t have any trouble keeping them all straight.  They were real enough to make me care about the outcome, and I felt for some of them as the story progressed.  That’s important as the case draws to its climax.

I know some of that was helped by the narration provided by Dan Stevens in the audio version I listened to.  I must admit, in the first few minutes, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to follow the story.  The voice he did for Poirot was so quiet I could hardly hear it while the rest of it was just fine.  However, after about 15 minutes, I found the problem went away and I was able to fully enjoy the story.  I’m happy because he did a great job with the very diverse cast, really helping bring the story to life.

So I’m glad to finally know the full story of Murder on the Orient Express.  No matter whether you go into the story spoiled or not, this is a book you’ll enjoy reading.

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

August 21st's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Welcome to Friday and this week's Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week's book is Lord of the Wings, the latest in the long running Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews.

I actually just finished the book a few minutes ago, and I loved it!  If I'd realized it had a Halloween theme, I might have saved it for October, but I'm kind of glad I didn't know that since I had so much fun reading it.  Full review to come next week.  But for now, let's get to some teasers, shall we?

Here's how the book begins:

"Someone's broken into the Haunted House!"

And from page 56:

The loiterers began inching closer.
"Stand back," I snapped out.  "Goblin Patrol!"

Look for the full review at some point next week.  Exact date still to be determined.  Meanwhile, have a fantastic weekend.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

TV Show Review: Extreme Treks - Sacred Mountains of China

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting and beautiful look at remote areas of China
Cons: Episodes blend together if you watch back to back
The Bottom Line:
Trekking some mountains
Exploring other cultures
Beautiful and fun

Extreme Treks through Some Beautiful and Dangerous Country

I don’t normally go for travel logs or documentaries, so I was hesitant when I was offered a copy of Extreme Treks: Sacred Mountains of China for review.  Yet something about it appealed to me, so I decided to give it a try and I really enjoyed it.

This was also my introduction to Ryan Pyle, a photographer, our host, and the adventurer who sets out to travel around four of the sacred mountains in China.  These are remote, mostly in the Tibet region, and the only way to do so it to hike them.  Oh, and did I mention the altitude?  This is not a simple day stroll but a multi-day adventure that could turn deadly if proper precautions aren’t taken.

The disc consists of four episodes, each dedicated to a different mountain.  The format is pretty much the same.  He arrives and spends a little time acclimating to the altitude and explaining to us a bit about how this mountain is considered sacred.  Then he sets out with his support crew, and we get breathtaking shots along the way as he encounters obstacles ranging from weather to exhaustion and hints of altitude sickness.

As I was watching, all I could think was “I’d never survive this.”  What he went through in his treks is awe inspiring.  But I’m glad he did because the shots are absolutely beautiful, and I doubt I’d ever learn about this region any other way.

Because these are roughly 45 minute made for TV episodes (and I don’t know where they initially aired), we get just an overview of what he saw and experienced over the multiple days he spent filming and hiking.  Honestly, at times, I felt like I could have watched more just to see the landscape.

At other times, however, I felt like things were a little repetitive, maybe because I watched them several nights in a row.  If I had spaced them out, I don’t think I would have felt this way.

While Ryan did travel with a support crew made up of locals, this is definitely his show.  Almost all the dialogue is him telling us about what has happened, either in voiceover or directly into the camera from the trail.

This Blu-Ray consists of four episodes of the show, so roughly 3 hours of material.  There are no bonus features.  However, you do get the shots in glorious HD, which helps you feel like you are right there.  The sound is in stereo, and it is great as well.

A quick note (that is also included on the disc packaging) that there are a couple of uses of unbleeped language on the shows.  He also strips down to take a dip in a creek at one point.  Keep that in mind if you are thinking of watching with your kids.

Ryan’s passion for China comes through on this disc, and I certainly learned about these mountains and the culture surrounding them while I was watching.  It was well worth taking these vicarious Extreme Treks.

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ornament Review: Mickey's Fire Brigade - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Details, motion, sound, Clarabelle
Cons: Must keep cranking to enjoy the magic, could break easily if dropped
The Bottom Line:
A couple of flaws
Don’t dampen my enjoyment
A DisNerd must have

Delightful and Surprising Ornament if Willing to Spend the Money

For me, one of the biggest surprises of Hallmark’s 2015 line was Mickey's Fire Brigade.  Why?  First off, they released an ornament based on this short last year as part of the Mickey’s Movie Mousterpieces series.  Second, I’m surprised they created an ornament this elaborate and expenses based on one of the shorts.  Having said that, I really do like it.

The short features Mickey, Donald, and Goofy as firemen called to the scene of a burning building.  Of course, the fire gets out of hand (mainly because it is alive and fights back).  Additionally, they have to try to rescue the clueless Clarabelle Cow who is taking a bath in the upstairs of the house.

This ornament captures the mayhem pretty well.  The main part of the ornament is the blue house, which is square.  We can see gray smoke and clear orange flames coming out of the windows.  In the front, we have Clarabelle in the tub hanging out of the upper window with Goofy on a ladder trying to get to her.  Mickey is being spun around on a hose while Donald is dumping water on the fire on the side of the house from a different upper story window.

Yes, you read that right.  Clarabelle Cow is actually in an ornament.  And all the DisNerds like me just rushed out to buy it.  I must confess, that was a huge draw for me.

This ornament is a magic ornament, which in this case means it has added sound and motion.  The ornament takes three button batteries, and your first set is included for you.  When they are installed, you turn the crank to get the action started.  You’ll see Clarabelle tip in and out of the window, Donald and the flames bob as well, Goofy’s ladder rocks back and forth, and Mickey turns round and round on that hose.  Meanwhile, you’ll hear music, sirens, and other sounds from the short.

Taken together, this ornament is a lot of fun.  No, the scene the ornament depicts is not strictly from the short.  Here’s the thing, I don’t care.  All of these elements happened at some point, and taken together it provides a great summary of the short.  (A shorter short?)  The motion is fun and the music is wonderful.

Plus, have a mentioned that we get Clarabelle?

The ornament has a nice flat base, so you can set it out to enjoy year round.  After all, there’s nothing specifically Christmas about it.  Meanwhile, there is a hook you can use to hang it on your Christmas tree.  It is heavier than your average ornament, so plan accordingly when you place it on your tree.  It tips slightly forward, but it’s not too bad, and you’ll find it easy to disguise with branches on the tree.

I do have a couple of complaints.  First, I hate having to use a crank to get the magic aspect to work.  And you have to keep cranking it.  Since the ornament is really powered by batteries, I don’t see why they couldn’t have used a button like they usually do for their magic ornaments.

This is couple with the fact that the ornament appears a bit fragile.  The smoke and flames look like they could snap off easily if you drop the ornament.  This is made of plastic, after all.  When you consider the price, why would you want to make something that fragile and then increase the temptation to touch it, thereby increasing the likelihood that it will break?

On the other hand, the detail is wonderful.  There is a lot happening in a very small space, but it looks great.  Because of the size of the scene, the characters are small, but they still look really good.  The movement and music add a great touch.  Plus, we get Clarabelle on an ornament.  (Or have I mentioned that fact already?)

Yes, I have a feeling I would have bought this ornament no matter what it was like because Clarabelle was part of it.  However, I am mostly pleased with Mickey's Fire Brigade.  It’s one I will carefully enjoy for quite some time to come.

Original Price: $39.95

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Malice at the Palace Winner!

One last winner for this month.  This time, the prize was Malice at the Palace.  And the winner is...

...Deb Forbes!

Deb, I've sent you an e-mail, so be sure to get back to me so we can connect you with your prize.

Book Review: Death by Tiara by Laura Levine (Jaine Austen #13)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Laughs, characters, mystery, sub-plots
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Be prepared to laugh
Jaine takes on beauty pageants
Another delight

What a Beautiful Way to Go

I’ve been reading Laura Levine’s Jaine Austen series from the very beginning, and loving every book along the way.  This comedic mystery never fails to make me laugh at the wild situations that Jaine finds herself in.  Death by Tiara is the latest in the series, and it is just as great as the others.

Jaine’s latest freelance writing client is Heather Van Sant.  She’s hired Jaine to write lyrics for her daughter Taylor.  With visions of number 1 hits, fame, and fortune in her eyes, Jaine quickly agrees only to find out that these are lyrics that Taylor will be singing at the talent portion of the Alta Loco Miss Teen Queen America Beauty Pageant.  Jaine is a little less enthused, but a job is a job, so she accepts.

Heather pays for Jaine to attend the competition at the Amada Inn in Alta Loco.  While there, Jaine witnesses altercations and bad behavior – and that’s the contestant’s mothers.  It’s hardly surprising when someone is murdered, beaned to the death by the tiara that should have been used to crown the winner.  With the police looking at Heather as a prime suspect, Jaine must put on her part-time semiprofessional PI hat to find the killer.

These books are not as mystery heavy as some series I read.  In addition to the murder, we get sub-plots involving Jaine’s love life (yes, she actually has a boyfriend in this book), her neighbor Lance’s love life (he has a new boyfriend, no surprise there), her parents (and I think their story tops the ones they’ve had before), and her cat Prozac (involving a contest of wills over a new piece of furniture).  But there’s no need to fear, all of them are expertly juggled, and they make the pages fly by.

Before the murder takes place, we get several potential suspects and hints of motive, but we quickly get more when Jaine starts to investigate.  The spotlight shines on several believable suspects before we reach the logical conclusion.

The characters are a bit over the top to truly be believable, but that is part of the charm of the series.  We buy them as suspects and people in Jaine’s wacky world, and that’s all that matters.

Which brings us to the humor.  Between the crazy situations Jaine finds herself in over the course of the book, the lines she imagines Prozac is thinking at various points along the way, and Jaine’s first person narration, there are plenty of laughs throughout the book.  If you aren’t laughing, you will certainly be smiling.

Mixing all these elements together is a tough balancing act, but Laura has done it once again.  Don’t pick this up unless you are in the mood for something light and fun, but when you want to laugh, there is no better book to turn to than Death by Tiara.

And if you want more laughs, check out the rest of the books in the Jaine Austen Mystery series.

Monday, August 17, 2015

TV Show Review: Once Upon a Time - Season 4

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: The second half of the season
Cons: The Frozen arc
The Bottom Line:
Uneven season
Frozen arc falls flat but the
Second half redeems

“This Could Be the Worst Idea You’ve Ever Had – And You Hired the Wicked Witch as Your Nanny.”

Sooner or later, all shows hit a bump.  Even my favorite shows have episodes or seasons that make me wonder what the producers/writers/show runners were thinking.  That was certainly the case with the first half of season 4 of Once Upon a Time.  Fortunately, the show righted itself with the second half.

If you aren’t familiar with the show, it follows the saga of your favorite fairytale characters who are under a curse from Snow White’s Evil Queen.  They have landed in Storybrooke, Maine, a town in our world where magic always seems to continue making their lives very complicated.  Of course, there’s so much more to it than that, so I suggest you start from the beginning to fully follow the evolving relationships on the show.

Once again, the show had a split season, with half the episodes airing in an uninterrupted block in the fall and the second half running in the spring.  And again, we got two distinct arcs to the show.

The first half of the season kicks off with some of Disney’s newer characters visiting Storybrooke.  As teased in the third season finale, Elsa (guest star Georgina Haig) has arrived, and she is desperately searching the town for her sister Anna (guest star Elizabeth Lail).  She is also having trouble controlling her powers and creating some ice and snow across town.  Naturally, that draws the attention of our heroes, but it is Emma (Jennifer Morrison), also trying to understand and control her new magical powers, that bonds most with Elsa.  Unbeknownst to anyone, that is just the goal of a mysterious town resident (Elizabeth Mitchell), who has an agenda all her own.

So what went wrong with this part of the season?  Honestly, it plays out like badly written Frozen/Once Upon a Time fan fiction.  Most of our normal characters aren’t given much to do, and the focus is on the guest stars, many of whom are over enthusiastic in their acting.  What works for an animated film doesn’t work as well in real acting, I guess.  The whole thing just seemed off to me, and I know many longtime fans felt the same way.

Fortunately, the show recovered well for the second half of the season.  This finds a disgraced Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) teaming up with the guest starring Queens of Darkness – Ursula (Merrin Dungey), Cruella de Vil (Victoria Smurfit), and Maleficent (Kristin Bauer van Straten), to get their happy endings from the mysterious author of Henry’s story book.  In the efforts to defeat them, Regina (Lana Parrilla) attempts to go under cover, but will this be too much for the reformed Evil Queen?

This arc brought the show back to its former glory with intrigue and twists worthy of the show.  Plus, while they gave us plenty of information on the guest villains, we still got plenty of character development for our main characters.  While I didn’t like all of it, for example the added back story for Mary Margaret/Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and David/Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) didn’t quite ring true, it made for compelling TV.  On the other hand, what they did with Cruella and how they worked her into the show was genius and worthy of some of the best takes on classic characters they’ve done.

Plus there were great continuing stories that bridged the entire season, like the love triangle between Regina, Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), and his returned wife Marian (Christie Laing).  Unfortunately, I’m still trying to figure out why they brought in Will Scarlett (Michael Socha), aka the Knave of Hearts, from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.  He was pretty much wasted all season and they never really explained his presence in Storybrooke.

Despite what I said earlier, I wouldn’t say that any of the acting this season was truly bad.  Some of it was over the top, but it fit the characters the actors were trying to portray.  I just think the entire Frozen arc was ill advised and rushed to try to capitalize on the popularity of the movie.  The regular cast was fantastic and the guest stars also brought their characters to perfect life.  If the characters had flaws, it came from the writing.

The special effects suffered a bit.  They tried too hard to create entire environments filled with CGI, especially, again, in the first half of the season.  Many of those looked obviously fake.  Things got better later in the season, and they had wonderfully good effects too, like the Troll King in the first half.

This season consisted of 23 episodes, including a two hour event in each half season.  They are all included here in their native wide screen and full surround, and look and sound great.  Extras include a featurette on the Frozen arc as well as a backstage tour.  A third featurette focuses on some minor characters who have stayed in Storybrooke.  There are also bloopers, deleted scenes, and audio commentaries.  So far, it appears there is no difference in extras between the DVD and Blu-Ray set, but in the past, there has been an added featurette and commentary for the Blu-Ray version.

While the first half was only average, the second half redeemed season 4 of Once Upon a Time.  It’s not the best the show has to offer, but fans will be satisfied with the continuing adventures of their favorite characters reimagined.

Season 4 Episodes:
1. A Tale of Two Sisters
2. White Out
3. Rocky Road
4. The Apprentice
5. Breaking Glass
6. Family Business
7. The Snow Queen
8. Smash the Mirror Part 1
9. Smash the Mirror Part 2
10. Fall
11. Shattered Sight
12. Heroes and Villains
13. Darkness on the Edge of Town
14. Unforgiven
15. Enter the Dragon
16. Poor Unfortunate Soul
17. Best Laid Plans
18. Heart of Gold
19. Sympathy for the de Vil
20. Lily
21. Mother
22. Operation Mongoose Part 1
23. Operation Mongoose Part 2

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Book Review: The Syndrome by Ridley Pearson (Kingdom Keepers #8)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Better character development in a compelling story
Cons: A couple of narration issues and some sloppy editing
The Bottom Line:
Between series books
Tells page turning story that
Leaves us wanting more

It Turns Out the Kingdom Keepers Aren’t Ready for Their Happily Ever After

While I have complained about a couple of books in the series, I really did enjoy the Kingdom Keepers books.  Hey, I am a DisNerd after all.  So when Ridley Pearson announced that he was working on a sequel series, I knew I’d have to read it.  The Syndrome is actually a transition book designed to bridge the gap to the new series.  I just read it, and I’m definitely hooked on this next chapter.

Not familiar with the franchise?  The Kingdom Keepers are a group of kids who work to protect the Disney Kingdom from the Overtakers, a group of Disney villains out to destroy the magic.  They do this by crossing over to the parks as holograms while they sleep.  Joining the main core of five ordinary kids are Amanda and Jess, two “Fairlies” who have special powers.  Confused by all this?  It does make sense if you go back and read the earlier books, although the bare essentials are explained here.  There are some spoilers for earlier books, however, so jump in here with caution.

As this book opens, Amanda and Jess are settling into their new lives in California.  They are both in Disney’s school for future Imaginers and really enjoying their new lives.  However, it’s been a few days since Amanda has heard from Finn or any of the other Kingdom Keepers.  Naturally, this worries her so she takes all their combined savings to fly back to Orlando.  When she tries to reconnect with her friends, she is stonewalled by their parents who are clearly hiding something.

Meanwhile, Jess has had one of her visions.  Along with some images from Disneyland, she also sees men capturing a young woman, someone who looks a lot like Amanda.  What do those images mean?  Can Jess find a way to protect Amanda?  What is going on with the Kingdom Keepers?

Anyone familiar with the franchise can easily guess the answer to that last question based on the title, but it isn’t too far into the book before we get that confirmed.  The whys take up much of the rest of the story and provide another great story.  There are some wonderful complications along the way to the climax which has some nice twists to it but definitely leaves us with plenty of question to launch into the new series.

In the past, I’ve complained about the character development or lack of it.  That actually wasn’t the case here.  With a smaller cast of characters, we got to know them better than in previous books.  I loved seeing how Amanda and Jess have grown and continue to grow in this adventure.

Of course, it helps that we get the story from their first person points of view.  In fact, there are four characters who share first person narrating duties.  It’s not something done too regularly, but with the headings when the point of view changed, I found it easy enough to follow.

Of course, this does contribute one of my complaints about the book.  There are times that we get the same scene from a different character’s point of view and it doesn’t seem to add much to the narrative.  Those rehashes could have been easily cut without hurting anything.

Another issue involves the timing of some scenes.  Especially early on, it seems like we are getting scenes from different characters next to each other that feels like they should be hours apart.  Maybe it was just the time zone, but it threw me off.

The final issue was the poor editing.  Mistakes happen.  I get it.  But this book had multiple instances of words out or their mixed up order being.  I can let a couple roll off without bothering me, but this was bad enough I had to point it out.

On the other hand, the scenes in the parks are top notch as always.  This has consistently been my favorite part of the franchise, and this book didn’t disappoint in the slightest.

So Kingdom Keeper fans will be pleased with The Syndrome.  It will leave them wanting to read more.  In fact, I’m going to have to make time for the first book in this new series (which is already out) soon so I can figure out just exactly what is happening now.

If the premise sounds appealing, it really will be best to read the Kingdom Keepers Adventures in order.

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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ornament Review: 'Tis the Seasoning! - Snow Couple - 2013 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Introduced us to a great series
Cons: Production issues keep it from matching up like in the picture.
The Bottom Line:
Pre-series starter
Gives us shaky beginning
Completests only

I’m Still Cool to this Unofficial Start of the ‘Tis the Seasonings Series

Just in case you hadn’t notice, I have a serious Hallmark ornament problem.  My collection has outgrown my ability to display or store, yet I keep buying more.  At least half of what I buy each year are series ornaments, which is why I swear every year I will not start any new series.  Already this year, I’ve caved, and that was on an already in progress series.  That found me going back to get the 2013 'Tis the Seasoning! to complete my new collection.

The idea behind this series is that each release is actually a pair of ornaments, a themed salt and pepper shaker set.  The first year’s release was actually a pre-series set released only to the members of Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornament Club.  It features a pair of snowmen.  They are decked out in hats (with the holes for the salt and pepper to come out if they were real shakers) and scarfs.  They are leaning in to kiss, and they are each holding a candy cane.  When you place them next to each other, the candy canes meet to form a heart.

Or at least that’s the way it is supposed to work.  I know from friends who are also collectors that many received candy canes that didn’t come close to meeting.  I bought mine off the secondary internet market, so I was pretty much going to be stuck with what I got.  They don’t quite meet like they do in the picture on the box, but it isn’t too bad.  The female snowman’s candy cane is too straight up and down and needed to be angled back more to really form the heart.  So this is a strike against this set.

Additionally, while these are cute ornaments, they aren’t super special.  The scarfs are certainly colorful enough, so I can’t quite figure out why I don’t love them.  Maybe it’s because I’m a guy (and a single guy at that), and having something that is kissing doesn’t appeal to me.

Because these are supposed to look like salt and pepper shakes, they have nice flat bottoms.  I’m coming up with a display idea I can make this series part of that doesn’t involve hanging them on a tree, so this will be wonderful.  Since this was a pre-series release, there is no series marker on the bottom.  However, you can see the molded stoppers that you would use to add the salt and pepper if, you know, they were real salt and pepper shakers.

However, you can also hang the ornaments.  The loops are in the top of the hats, and when you hang them you’ll find they hang straight.  Unless they hang crooked, or course.  Which is very different from being crooked.

I used the fact that I wasn’t a fan of this set as a reason not to start ‘Tis the Seasoning last year.  Now that I’ve given in, I bought this set, but I have a feeling this snow couple will always be at the bottom of my favorites in this series.

Be sure to check out the rest of the 'Tis the Seasoning! series.

Original Price: $14.95