Monday, February 29, 2016

Monthly Reading Summary for February 2016

An extra day in February this year!  So I guess you could say this is a leap day edition of my monthly reading summary.  And the index has been updated with all my reviews, books and otherwise, for the month.

All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).

A Disguise to Die For by Diane Vallere (Costume Shop Mysteries #1) – 5
Margo Tamblyn returns home to help her father with the family costume shop, Disguise DeLimit, in time to put together a bunch of detective costumes for a birthday party.  But when the guest of honor is murdered in the kitchen and Margo’s good friend Ebony is the prime suspect, Margo has to put her own detective costume on to find the killer.

This was a fantastic start to a new series.  The plot was great with many twists and surprises before we reached the logical conclusion.  The characters were stronger and had more depth than many characters in long running series do.  And the costume element was just plain fun, as I expected it would be.  I can’t wait to revisit these characters again soon.

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

Scene of the Brine by Mary Ellen Hughes (Pickled & Preserved Mysteries #3) – 4
Coverdale is all talking about the Porter family who has just moved into town.  Unfortunately, they arrive with the family accountant in tow, and Dirk Unger is not a nice man at all.  When he is poisoned and the son of a friend becomes the prime suspect, Piper must jump in and figure out what really happened.

The book took a bit to get going, but once it did I was fully on board.  I do like these characters, and it was great to see them again.  The plot took some unexpected twists on the way to a creative climax, and I read the second half in one day so I could find out what was happening.

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

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #4) – 3
It’s the week before Christmas, and a movie crew is coming to film at Flavia’s family home. While excited, Flavia is plotting how to trap Father Christmas when he shows up on Christmas morning.  However, that takes a back seat when the lead actress is film is murdered.  Fortunately for Flavia, the suspects are trapped in her home due to a massive snow storm.  Can she figure out who the killer is?

While I do like the characters and didn’t find Flavia nearly as annoying in this book as I did the previous one, I found the plot way too slow.  The murder happened half way through the book, and the tension and set up to justify that just wasn’t present.  Once the murder took place, the book definitely picked up, however.

For Cheddar or Worse by Avery Aames (Cheese Shop Mysteries #7) – 4
Providence is hosting its first annual Cheese Festival, and several people involved in making and selling cheese are coming together to share ideas on the process.  Newlyweds Charlotte and Jordan are excited to be a part of it – until Lara Berry shows up.  Lara’s public persona hides a truly nasty person underneath, and she is murdered after telling the rest of the group exactly what she thinks of them.  Can Charlotte figure out who actually killed Lara?

This book had some of the most intense scenes in the series, although I did feel the plot got a little sidetracked a couple of times.  Still, it built up to a logical and exciting climax.  Unfortunately, this is the last book in the series, but the author has done a good job of wrapping things up for those of us who are fans.  That’s wonderful since these characters have always been strong, and they continue to be strong here.

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

Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna by Maia Chance (Fairy Tale Fatal Mysteries #3) – 5
Despite her intension to leave Paris for America, Ophelia Flax finds herself going to the country estate of her soon to be ex-fiancée to join a hunting party.  But a broken down coach brings strangers into the mix, and the next morning one of them is dead.  The locals are blaming it on the legend of an ancient beast, but Ophelia thinks poison was involved.  Can she figure out whose heart is beastly enough to be a killer?

This is such a great book!  The author weaves in elements of “Beauty and the Beast” and plays with it as a real legend while presenting a puzzling mystery filled with real characters and viable suspects.  Everything kept me guessing until the great climax, and the way this book leaves things, I hope we get more soon.

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

The Secret of the Caves by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #7) – 4
The Hardys are dealing with two cases.  While their father works on sabotage at a local security station, Frank and Joe head to a college to try to find a missing professor.  But the trail leads them to some caves south of Bayport.  What exactly will they find there?

This was actually the first Hardy Boys books I picked up many years ago, and it was fun to revisit.  I didn’t remember much about the mystery, so it kept me guessing until the end.  I did find the ending very rushed and the characters flat, but I still had fun revisiting them.

Dark Chocolate Demise by Jenn McKinlay (Cupcake Bakery #7) – 5
Fairy Tale Cupcakes are selling cupcakes at the end of the first annual Zombie walk in town, and Mel, Angie, and the rest of their staff are getting into the spirit of things.  But the fun takes a dark turn when Mel finds a body stuffed into the coffin outside their cupcake truck – a body that hits very close to home.  Who was the target and why?

This book is a little darker than others in the series based on the plot alone, but we are talking a shade darker – cozy fans will still love it.  The mystery takes a back seat at times to the characters reactions to the murder, but that was the appropriate response to the plot and I was never board while reading it.  The book reaches a logical and page turning climax, and it also features some of the funniest scenes in the series.  I think this is best for people already fans of the series, but they will love it.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of the book in hopes that I would review it.

Berried Secrets by Peg Cochran (Cranberry Cove Mysteries #1) – 3
Monica Albertson has moved to Cranberry Cove to help her half-brother, Jeff, run his cranberry farm.  But when a body is found in one of the bogs on the first day of the harvest and the victim is someone who was stealing from Jeff, Monica soon realizes she must save him from being arrested for murder.

The book started out very slowly as it was setting up characters and the location.  Unfortunately, I still had a hard time connecting with the characters until the second half.  Likewise, the plot does pick up in the second half, but a day that vanishes from the timeline bothered me.  The climax was wonderful and the killer a surprise, but overall, the book was just average.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in hopes I would review it.

Frankencrayon by Michael Hall – 5
The crayon lead production of Frankenstein is all ready to go until the giant squiggle appears in the sky.  Can they solve the problem, or will they have to cancel this book before we even get a chance to read it?

This is a delightfully funny picture book that parents will definitely appreciate.  It breaks the fourth wall as the crayons tell us the story of why they can’t tell us the story of Frankenstein.  After things are resolved, we get a couple of fun and appropriate morals that don’t lecture us.  I’m not sure the very youngest of kids will understand all the jokes, but older picture book fans should get them with some help from their parents.

Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mysteries #4) – 5
It’s the off-season in Maine, and Julia and her boyfriend Chris are operating a dinner restaurant in the building where their friend Gus has his breakfast and lunch restaurant.  When Gus comes in one morning to open, he finds a dead body in the refrigerator.  The victim had come in for dinner the night before, but he is a stranger in town.  Who was he?  And why was he murdered in the restaurant?

This book opens with the murder right away, and the pace never slacks.  I did miss a few of the usual supporting characters who are reduced to cameos here, but the new characters more than make up for it.  The book builds to a sobering climax that adds some nice depth to the book and even a couple of our characters.  I love this series, and this is another great entry.

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

What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Jane Ryland #4) – 4
Reporter Jane Ryland is hoping that a freelance assignment she’s been given might be her ticket to a new job.  She’s covering a stabbing in mid-day in a Boston park.  However, she’s barely arrived on the scene when her sister calls with news that could lead to a family crisis.  Can Jane balance the two?

Really, this book deftly blends two different plots into one compelling book.  I did find it a little slow at first as it the stories build and the new characters are introduced, but once it gets going, I couldn’t put it down.  Jane and her boyfriend, detective Jake Brogan, are fantastic lead characters, and it’s always great to see them back in action.

A sobering look at how the illiberal left is using name calling and intimidation to silence those they disagree with.  Columnist and Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers chronicles stories from the last few years of this trend to name call, demonize, and shout down those who don’t follow liberal dogma to the letter.  She shares stories from college campuses, feminism, and the war on Fox News.

There is little editorializing in the book.  Instead, she lays out story after story of how people are being attacked for saying things that aren’t deemed correct.  The result is a book that anyone who cares about America should read with their eyes wide open.

Woof by Spencer Quinn (Bowser and Birdie #1) – 3
Bowser is thrilled when Birdie and her Grammy pick him to be their new dog.  The trio has just returned from the shelter when they discover that Grammy’s prize marlin is missing.  The stuffed fish was only worth sentimental memories.  Or was it?  Rumors of a treasure map spark Bowser and Birdie’s interest.  Can they solve the mystery?

Like Spencer Quinn’s series for adults, this middle grade novel is narrated by Bowser the dog.  That part of the story is cute and feels right, although it can get over done, especially as the good reaches the end.  The human characters are just as well drawn and lovely.  Unfortunately, the plot is very uneven with a slow start and a rush to wrap things up that leaves a major plot thread unanswered.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book Review: Woof by Spencer Quinn (Bowser and Birdie Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
: Bowser and his narration are mostly cute
Cons: Plot is uneven with one major thread unresolved
The Bottom Line:
Bowser provides us
Unique narration device
Underserved by plot

Spencer Quinn Brings His Dog Antics to the Middle Grade Crowd

One of the many popular mystery series I keep meaning to get back to is by Spencer Quinn, and the twist to that series is that it is narrated by a dog who helps his PI owner solve cases.  Spencer Quinn is taking the same sort of idea and writing it for a younger, middle grade audience with the new Bowser and Birdie series.  Woof is the debut, but it unfortunately gets the series off to a shaky start.

Bowser likes Birdie and her Grammy the instant the two walk into the shelter where he is currently living, and is thrilled when Birdie decides he is the dog that she wants to adopt.  However, the trio return to the family fishing and tackle business in the Louisiana bayou to find that Grammy’s prize stuffed marlin has been stolen.

The fish wasn’t worth anything except for sentimental value since Grammy’s father had caught it.  Then Birdie and Bowser begin to hear rumors of a treasure map that might have been hidden in the marlin.  Is that why it was stolen?  Can they solve the case?

The narration in this book is perfect.  I can easily picture it being written from the point of view of a dog, and it provides many wonderful insights into the mind of man’s best friend.  Okay, so maybe this isn’t how dogs really think or how they are wired, but it feels right, and that’s the important point for a work of fiction.

All good things can be overdone, and unfortunately, that is the case with the narration.  We get that Bowser thinks Birdie is wonderful, and it is cute at times.  But it wears out its welcome by the end of the book.  Likewise, there are some other antics of the dog that are clever and cute early on but wear out their welcome by the end.

I certainly liked the characters.  Bowser is a warm dog, and it’s hard not to like him.  Birdie makes a resourceful main character, and Grammy has some layers to her we don’t get to fully see here but are hinted at and can easily be explored in future books.

Unfortunately, the mystery is underdeveloped.  Early on, things don’t seem to progress much at all.  Birdie and Bowser really do get into the case in the middle, but in the rush to wrap up the book, a major plot thread is completely dropped.  I’m not sure that kids, especially dog lovers, will notice the uneven plotting, but it did bother me.

The dog narration in Woof is a wonderful touch, and I really did want to love this book.  Sadly, the plot was just too weak to recommend it to anyone but dog lovers.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Ornament Review: Dr. Sheldon Cooper - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Captures the character perfectly
Cons: Weird pose; might have been better in red
The Bottom Line:
A pop culture piece
A couple of weird choices
But fans will want it

I Hate this Ornament of Dr. Sheldon Cooper.  Bazinga!

Like so many others, I am a fan of The Big Bang Theory.  Yes, I do like all of the characters, but the stand out for laughs is usually Dr. Sheldon Cooper, and he’s pretty much the most popular character on the show.  That’s why it is no surprise that Hallmark chose to make an ornament of him.

On the show, Sheldon (as played by the outstanding Jim Parsons) is the annoying physicist who thinks he is absolutely brilliant, probably because he is.  However, he understands nothing of personal relationships.  Plus, like all the characters on the show, he loves comic books, and he’s the most likely character to be wearing comic book logos on his shirt.

In fact, he’s wearing one in this ornament.  He’s got a green shirt on with the Green Lantern symbol on it.  He’s crouching just a bit, and I can’t quite figure out why.  Maybe he’s supposed to be bowling?  That is one of his hobbies and his shoes could pass for bowling shoes.  Anyway, both knees are bent with one foot in front of the other and his left arm outstretched.  He’s standing on a big circular base with The Big Bang Theory written on the front and the show’s atom symbol on the top.

I get that they were trying to capture the character in action, and I applaud that.  It’s much more interesting than having him standing there looking at us.  I just wish I could figure out for sure what he is going.  That’s my only complaint with the sculpt because he certainly looks like the character on the TV show.

The base is a bit distracting, but it holds the workings for the magic portion of the ornament.  That’s right, add the two button batteries to the base of the ornament and press the button to hear five great lines from the show.  Four of them are repeated lines from the character and guaranteed to get smiles from fans.  They certainly do from me.  The fifth?  It’s a classic line from the character and it’s good, but I think it could have been replaced with his famous knocking on Penny’s apartment door.  But maybe that’s just me.

The flat base, of course, means you can display this ornament anywhere you want year round if you so desire.  The loop for hanging the ornament is on his back, and you will find that he hangs straight.

Of course, I would have preferred him in red, say a shirt for the Flash.  That would stand out better on a Christmas tree.  He doesn’t blend in too much, but it certainly could have been better.

So, Dr. Sheldon Cooper isn’t as perfect as he claims to be, even as an ornament.  Still, this is a fun ornament that any fan of the character will be glad to have on their tree.

Original Price: $17.95

Weekly TV Recap for February 27th

You know you are suffering from Sweeps syndrome when two shows you love take a month off, and you aren't that upset by it.  Yes, this is the last you will see of Flash or Arrow on the list until the end of March.  I'll be ready for them to come back at that point, but for now I need a little less TV to watch.

Supergirl – I was wondering how they’d let Lord go.  Glad they did, but I seriously question how long the mutually assured destruction is going to last.  And they had a shout out to Cat Grant’s past in the Superman comics!  Loved it.

Castle – A very different episode, and not one I liked from a mystery standpoint.  However, the way they played out the drama was very effecting and very entertaining.  A good twist on the standard episode.

Team Ninja Warrior – Well, both teams I rooted for lost before we even got to the finals.  Shows how good I am at picking things.  Amazing jump early on and amazing ending to the episode.  These teams are impressive individually, but side by side is so much fun, too.

The Muppets – So now we’ve got a will they/won’t they with Kermit and Miss Piggy.  One of the worst things about this series was breaking them up.  Time to get them back together already!

The Flash – Did not see that ending coming.  So I wonder just how this is all going to play out and what the explanations for what we’ve been seeing so far this season are.  Meanwhile, some very good character development along the way as we see some natural reactions to the previous episode.  Very well done.

Agent Carter – I’m almost wondering where they will go from here.  They could have easily wrapped up the episode from this point if they’d wanted to.  But the preview of next week look intense, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it all ends.

Arrow – A heavy episode.  I figured this would be what breaks Oliver and Felicity up, but it was played out so perfectly.  And Felicity is completely correct in her breakup speech, too.  This is going to have serious repercussions on the rest of the season, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Survivor – Two weeks in a row losing does not the worst team in Survivor history make.  Although I am ready for another team to lose just because it gets boring when one teams loses that much.

Baby Daddy – I actually did not see Bonnie’s game plan coming until the end.  Guess I can be fooled at least some of the time, right?  I always like it when Mary Hart enters the show, and this was another fun episode from that standpoint, too.  Frankly, both storylines were good.

Suits – Seriously?  They are going to leave us there?  And so much for my certainty that they’d give us the cliffhanger with the jury coming back at the end of the season.  I can not picture where they are going to go next week, but I can’t wait to watch it and I’m already dreading the cliffhanger.

Legends of Tomorrow – That was the first time we didn’t have a cliffhanger or see the villain at all.  Yet it was a great episode for fans of Arrow and for more character development.  Maybe not as much action or forward progress to the story, but still great.

Big Bang Theory – I think I expected something with a bit more punch for the 200th.  Not that I didn’t enjoy the episode completely.  So nice to see Leslie pop up again, and the bits with Adam West were lots of fun.  Plenty of laughs even if it wasn’t quite as big as I expected.

The Amazing Race – I hated to see the brothers go.  I wanted them to do very well because I liked them.  But their performance the last couple of weeks made it obvious this wasn’t going to happen.  On the other end of the spectrum, Team Frisbee came in first!!!!!!!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Movie Review: Risen

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great acting, compelling story, moving theme
Cons: The ascension scene on many levels; violence near beginning
The Bottom Line:
Search for missing corpse
Roman on life changing quest
Makes for moving film

Investigating the Risen Messiah

I wasn’t going to watch Risen.  I have been burned by Christian movies in the past.  They are either too preachy or the production values are poor or both.  (In fact, often both).  Yet when a group from my church went to go see the film, I decided to join them.  I’m happy to say it was much better than I expected.

The movie opens on Good Friday as we meet Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a Roman Tribune who is putting down a zealot insurrection.  He’s barely back from that when he is asked to oversee the final moments of the crucifixion of three men, and he’s surprised to find that one of them in already dead.

However, things get more complicated when the body of one of those men goes missing two days later, even with the presence of guards in front of His tomb.  Clavius is tasked by Pilot (Peter Firth) to track down this body to squelch any rumors that this supposed Messiah has risen.  Aided by his new assistant, Lucius (Tom Felton), he begins to look for the body and track down this man’s disciples to try to get the truth from them.  Where will his search lead?

I’ve got to admit I found the premise of this movie very interesting since I’ve never really considered the Roman side of the resurrection story at all.  Who knows if anything like this truly happened or even came close to happening (my guess is the Romans didn’t think much of it at the time), but it made for a great story.  As a mystery fan, I especially enjoyed the logical way the story unfolded.  Plot wise, the movie was great.

And any reservations I had based on a Christian themed movie flew right out the window in the first few minutes, although I’m not surprised given the actors involved.  The production quality and acting here are top notch.  You will be pulled into this movie for the entire time.

Going into the film, I was fully expecting to see something that added stories to the Biblical account.  After all, that’s what historical fiction is, right?  And the stuff they added for extra drama didn’t bother me in the least.  However, the way and where they chose to have the ascension of Jesus really bothered me since this is not something that could be added like most of the film.  The Bible is quite clear on what happened.  I get the story reasons for the change in location so I could have forgiven that, but how they portrayed it was actually just ludicrous.  In fact, it was by far the weakest point in the entire movie.

The film is rated PG-13, and it is for a very good reason.  The first 15 to 20 minutes or so are violent.  Realistic and important to the plot of the film, but violent.  There are later scenes involving the hunt for corpses that are a bit much for weaker stomachs as well.  These scenes aren’t any reason to avoid the movie, but know what you are getting into when you go to see it.

What I appreciated most about the movie was the theme and how it was handled.  It is easy to guess where the film will end, but watching the characters get there is moving.  It truly was well done.

Risen will probably appeal most to Christians, and they will absolutely enjoy the film.  However, anyone who is looking for a good period drama should consider seeing this film.

February 26th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

We have reached the final Friday of February.  Can you believe it?  But that means there is time for one more Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week's book is Ripe for Murder, the second Cypress Cove Mystery by Carlene O'Neal.

Don't you just love that cover?  It's gorgeous!

The book comes out on Tuesday, and I hope you will stop back by then for a review and giveaway.  I actually just finished this book today, and here's a spoiler on my review - I loved it!!

But let's get to the beginning:

I'd taken my suitcase out of the closet three days ago, and the only other thing I'd managed to do was trip over it.

I've got to admit that I struggled a bit with page 56 since it doesn't contain much in the way of good out of context teasers.  However, it does contain this:

Seth poured her a glass and leaned against the back counter to watch her.  He crossed his arms, cupping his fists behind his biceps, which made the muscles strain against the tight fitting shirt.
"I wonder if he practices that pose at home in front of the mirror."  Antonia didn't miss much.
"I'm sure of it."

I do hope you'll come back for my review on Tuesday.  In the mean time, have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Review: What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Jane Ryland #4)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and a story that’s hard to put down
Cons: Tension takes a bit to build.
The Bottom Line:
Stabbing in daylight
While Jane’s family distracts
Builds to page turner

What I See?  Another Great Book

Over the years, Hank Phillippi Ryan has earned a reputation for her page turning novels – and that reputation is well earned.  What You See is the latest in her Jane Ryland series, and it is another book that will leave you reading well into the night.

Now this series is officially titled the Jane Ryland series, but I would argue that Jane’s boyfriend Jake Brogan should be just as much a part of the series title.  They are both equally important characters in each book, contributing to the solution of the plot.

Boston detective Jake Brogan has landed a case with too many witnesses.  A man has been stabbed in the middle of a small park near city hall at lunch time, and there are cameras and cell phones all around.  Did one of these eye witnesses see the stabbing?  Or did they capture a clue on their phone?

Meanwhile, reporter Jane Ryland is trying to land a new job.  When the call about the stabbing comes in, she is interviewing at a TV station and is the only person around, so she heads out to cover it on a freelance basis.  However, a family crisis with her sister’s wedding threatens to derail her career comeback.  Can she solve her family’s problems?

If you are new to the series, you can certainly jump in here.  Jane and Jake are wonderful characters, and it is easy to figure out their history from comments and exposition here.  While a tiny bit of a sub-plot from the previous book is spoiled (explaining why Jane is once again unemployed), nothing major from any of the previous books is spoiled.

There really are two plots in this book that weave in and out of each other seamlessly.  The book is a bit slow as the stories are built up, but once they get going, this book is a page turner.  I had a hard time putting it down, always wanting to read just a little bit more.  This book is longer than the books I normally read, but it didn’t feel like it as I was glued to the page.  Of course, everything builds to a satisfying climax.

The story unfolds from multiple viewpoints, including Jane and Jake.  This allows us to get to know several characters very well, which helps since we have a large cast of new characters here.  All the characters are real, becoming fully fleshed out before we are too far into the book.

Unfortunately, the cuts between the multiple viewpoints was part of the problem early on in the book.  In an effort to create tension, we had some quick cuts that were supposed to be suspenseful but were more annoying than suspenseful.  As we got to know the new characters and the plots built, switching to another part of the story became a welcome thing because I needed to know what was going to happen.

I saw a description of this series recently that referred to it as cozy thriller.  While I don’t know if I would go quite that far, these definitely fall closer to the soft boiled spectrum than the pure cozies I usually read.  Mostly, this is noticeable in a few well-placed swear words.  And the plot is definitely a step closer to thriller than cozies generally are as well, with more tension and more at stake but without the violence that genre usually has.  Just keep this in mind as you pick it up to read.

Because I definitely recommend you read What You See.  You’ll be caught up in the story before you know it.

Once you read one, you'll want to read the rest of the Jane Ryland Mysteries in order.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review: The Silencing - How the Left is Killing Free Speech by Kirsten Powers

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Much needed points very well made
Cons: One chapter seems to be off topic; the fact that we need this book to be written at all
The Bottom Line:
Calling out her side
For illiberal behavior
Free speech disappears

Sobering Look at Our Vanishing Free Speech

For the last 15 years, I have been a Fox News watcher.  Over the time, I have come to respect Kirsten Powers because she always brings well thought out arguments when she appears on the network.  Since she is a liberal and I am a conservative, it’s rare that I agree with her, but it’s not rare that she makes me think, which I appreciate.  The other reason I respect her is that she has no issue calling out her fellow liberals when they cross a line, and that is just what she has done in The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech.  For anyone who cares about the direction of our country, it is a sobering look at the tactics of many on the left today.

Over the course of this book, Kirsten Powers looks at the tactics the illiberal left (as she dubs them) uses to cower anyone they disagree with into shutting up.  The tactics are sadly very simple – instead of discussing what is said, they accuse them of being racists, sexist, and any other “ist” they can think of and/or then demonize them.  She then shows exactly how the illiberal left does this over and over again in any way and place they can.

She starts with how intolerant they are against those they view as intolerant.  There are then two chapters on colleges, including speech codes, trigger warnings, and how speakers and Christian clubs are treated on campuses.  She then moves on to the war on Fox News, both from the Obama administration but the illiberals in general, including the discussions of the ladies of Fox News as the Fox Bimbos.  She also talks about attacks on liberals who aren’t liberal enough, like the attacks Bill Maher received for saying the Muslims aren’t that tolerant, a charge he has made against Christians many times with no blow back at all.  Finally, she goes up against Feminists who decry sexism all the time, starting with the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case (and the facts vs. the spin) and ending with blow back people receive when they question the current college rape statistics.

The majority of the stories Ms. Powers tells come from the last 3 to 5 years, and sadly, they are nothing new to those of us who follow politics in the USA at all.  Whether or not we know the details of a particular story, the themes are all too familiar.  This book does an amazing job of connecting those threads and stories in one place so anyone with an open mind can see how wide spread the trend is and just how scary the illiberal left can be.

Ms. Powers doesn’t spend much time editorializing in the book.  She doesn’t need to.  The words of the many people in the illiberal left she quotes speak for themselves.  They are filled with such hatred that it is frankly rather scary.  Instead, she presents the action or words spoken and the reaction from the illiberal left side by side.  And, if relevant, she shares statistics and facts that actually back up the person being attacked by the illiberal left.  When she disagrees with someone, she states so, but doesn’t get into that argument.  Her focus is on how the illiberal left is treating those they disagree with.

And for anyone who has automatically tuned me out after my first sentence, the chapter on the War on Fox is absolutely required reading.  Now, I freely admit that it has a conservative bias in the opinion shows (and actually, I can’t stand to watch the opinion shows), but the chapter shows how the straight news shows actually are fairer than their rivals on CNN and MSNBC.  Don’t believe me?  Read the book.  This is the kind of thing I’m talking about.

I did feel the book went a little off topic in the chapter she spent on the Obama administration and its lack of transparency in general.  While I certainly agree this is a serious issue, I didn’t feel it completely applied here since this chapter, is more about the government trying to crack down on the press doing its job and violating the related freedom of the press clause of the first amendment than truly being about stifling free speech.  It’s a strong chapter, just maybe not right for this book.

While Ms. Powers does make occasional mention of these same tactics on the right, she only gives a very, very few brief examples.  While some might argue that it would make the book stronger to be more fair and balanced (to borrow a phrase), the premise of the book is how the left is killing free speech, so focusing on that end of the political spectrum is the correct way to go.  Besides, as she points out early in the book, if your best argument is “The conservatives do it, too,” then you’ve already lost the argument.  (And I’d like to call out my fellow conservatives on this point as well.  I’ve actually had conversations where my friends have said similar things to me.  It’s a cliché, but it’s true, two wrongs don’t make a right.)

The book focuses on the illiberal left in politics, the media, and on college campuses.  This is because it is the easiest to document.  Anyone who has tried to engage in debate has probably had these tactics used on them at some point.  Heck, while I was reading this book, I saw so many examples from other sources, including friends on Facebook, it wasn’t funny.  No, really, it wasn’t.  It’s downright scary.

And that’s why this book is so important.  While few of the myriad of examples she gives in this book (tax payer funded college campuses being a prime exception) involve the government killing free speech and therefore violating the first amendment, it speaks to a mentality that is building in our country.  The stats she shares on those who think the first amendment goes too far are chilling.  And that’s the mentality that she speaks to here.

Earlier, I said that even when I disagree with Ms. Powers, she makes me think.  There was very little of anything I disagreed with over the course of this book.  Most of the time, I was nodding my head in agreement at the points she was making and making so much more eloquently than I am in this review.  However, she still made me think about a few things in a different way.

This book is focused almost entirely on facts and stories, and only the last few pages are spent on trying to counter the problem.  There is basically only one piece of advice given, go out and make some friends who can introduce you to the other side of issues.  It’s obviously not the only thing that can help fight this problem, but it is certainly a good step in that direction.

I actually listened to the audio book version.  I was a bit surprised when I saw that Kirsten Powers herself wasn’t doing the narration.  I know that authors reading their own books isn’t always a good thing, but being familiar with her TV presence, I was confident that Ms. Powers could have done a great job.  Instead, the book is narrated by Kristin Watson Heintz.  She does a wonderful job with the text, keeping us engaged the entire way through.  I was a bit concerned whether I would enjoy a non-fiction audio book, but I didn’t find that to be a problem at all.

Of course, I’m sure the subject of this particular book helped.  With plenty of stories to back up her points, Kirsten Powers makes a solid case that things need to change in our country.  The Silencing is a sobering book that anyone who cares about the political climate in America should read and think about.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book Review: Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mysteries #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery, interesting characters
Cons: All cons shrouded in fog
The Bottom Line:
Dead body in frig
Opens page turning story
Gripping mystery

Another Page Turner

In the last couple of years, the Maine Clambake Mysteries has become one of my favorite series.  The characters are wonderful and the mysteries keep me guessing until the end.  Fogged Inn is the latest in the series, and it’s another strong book.

With winter fast approaching and the family clambake shut down for the season, Julia Snowden has opened Gus’s Too with her boyfriend Chris Durand.  Gus’s Too is focusing on dinner, using the same building that Gus has used for his restaurant for years to serve only breakfast and lunch.  Plus, Julia is living upstairs in a small studio apartment.

The Tuesday morning when this book opens, Julia is awakened by Gus yelling up the stairs that there is a body in the walk in refrigerator.  The body hadn’t been there when Julia and Chris went to bed.  Furthermore, he was a stranger in town who had eaten dinner at Gus’s Too the night before.  With no ID on the body, the police don’t have anywhere to start to the investigation.  Who was he?  Why would someone kill him?  And how did he wind up in the frig?  Since it happened just downstairs from where Julia was sleeping, she is determined to find out.

I often complain here about books that start with an exciting scene and then flashback to something before that excitement happens and tells us the story from there.  This book starts with finding the body on Tuesday morning, but things that happened in town and at Gus’s Too Monday night play a part in the book.  We are fed this information in pieces, and it never slows down the forward progress of the story, which really does start on Tuesday morning.  I loved how it was teased enough that when Julia was discussing what happened Monday night, we really wanted to know what happened, but it never slowed down the forward progress of the story.

Really, there is nothing to complain about with the plot at all.  From the great start of finding the body, the pace never lags.  We are constantly fed clues, red herrings, and surprises until we reach the climax.  The ending is logical and sobering at the same time.  It really does pack a punch, and in a great way.

Sadly, Julia’s family isn’t as big a part of this book as they’ve been of the previous books in the series.  It makes sense since the action is taking place away from the family business, and including them would have just slowed things down.  But I did still miss them.  That’s really my only complaint with the book, and it’s a very very minor issue.

We meet quite an interesting cast of characters in this book, and they are all fully developed.  I actually grew quite attached to them over the course of the story and wouldn’t complain if any of them popped in for cameos in future books.  Of course, Julia, Chris, and Gus are still fun and entertaining characters as always; I enjoyed watching Julia and Chris’s relations grow yet again in this book.

As I was reading, I was impressed with the author’s ability to remind of us things that had happened in previous books without fully spoiling any of the twists and turns in Julia’s personal life.  If you haven’t read the previous books in the series, you’ll have some big clues to what has happened by reading this book, but nothing is completely spelled out.  Still, if you want to go in completely unspoiled, it is best to read the series in order.  Once you start, you’ll want to read all of them anyway, so that’s not an issue at all.

Being a culinary mystery, we get several recipes at the end of the book.  With the focus on the restaurant, we get a soup (split pea, of course) and several entrée type recipes.  Yes, there are some fish, but for those of us who don’t like fish, there are some other great sounding choices as well.

This series just gets stronger with each book.  Fogged Inn is the best one to date, and it will leave you anxious for your next chance to visit with Julia.

If you are missing any of these great books, here are the Maine Clambake Mysteries in order.

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

Monday, February 22, 2016

TV Show Review: Boy Meets World - Season 7

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Final laughs with these great characters
Cons: Characters acting crazy for laughs at times
The Bottom Line:
Over the top end
Still providing us laughter
As the gang moves on

“She’s Going to be Mrs. Insensitive Jerk.”

Sooner or later, all shows come to an end.  Sometimes, the show has lost enough fans that no one cares.  And sometimes, fans are heartbroken to hear their favorite show is ending.  (And sometimes, a show gets both of those reactions.)  I seem to remember not being too upset when it was announced that season 7 of Boy Meets World would be the final season, but having rewatched it now, I find that there is still much to enjoy this season.

This season finds the gang still in college, and Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) and his fiancée Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel) still reeling from the revelation at the end of season six that Topanga’s parents are getting a divorce.  Topanga isn’t sure she believes in love, as a result.  Their relationship being on pause is even affecting their best friends, Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong) and Angela Moore (Trina McGee-Davis).  And while Cory and Topanga are able to get their relationship back on track, it actually takes Angela’s father to help that second couple along.

There is a wedding this season, and it happens about a third of the way through the season, leaving us plenty of time to watch Cory and Topanga settle into their new lives as a married couple.  Meanwhile, the gang plays musical roommates early on before Rachel (Maitland Ward) takes a new job as an RA and Cory and Shawn’s older brothers Eric (Will Friedle) and Jack (Matthew Lawrence) take on jobs working in the student union while preparing to graduate from college.

Which just leaves us with the adults.  While Mr. Feeney (William Daniels) is still in most episodes, we actually see less of Cory’s family than we used to.  Alan (William Russ), Amy (Betsy Randle), and Morgan (Lindsay Ridgeway) do pop up in many episodes, although the baby brother born last season is almost completely forgotten.  (No wonder I didn’t remember he existed until he popped up as a teen on Girl Meets World.)

A couple of my favorite episodes revolve around the older Matthew’s however.  When Cory and Topanga arrive back from their honeymoon, they realize they have no place to live, and Alan absolutely refuses to help them.  The lesson at the end of that is wonderful and still rings true today.

And that’s what I found while watching this show.  Even in season 7, this show could still pack in the laughs along with some good lessons about life and what’s really important.  There are several episodes that made me tear up at times.  It’s a great balance.

Of course, there are the reasons I was tiring of the show by the end.  Some of the characters are completely over the top.  Yes, I’m looking at Eric as the worst culprit.  At the same time, he can still make me laugh.  Cory is also more likely to overreact than he used to be, which is saying something.  In both cases, it is the way the characters were written.  The cast is still doing good work, but the show was becoming a bit broad.

Plus there’s the fact that a coming of age comedy has to end as the characters get older, and with some of the characters graduating college and getting married, the time had definitely come for everyone to move on.

It was also very interesting watching this season having seen what the original creator has done with the characters on the current spin-off/follow up Girl Meets World.  There is an episode that flashes forward to the future and, of course, there’s how they leave the characters.  Both give fairly accurate glimpses of what they’ve done with the characters the few times they’ve appeared on the new show.

Speaking of the show ending, be prepared for tears as you watch those lost couple of episodes.  It’s always hard to say goodbye to characters you love, and this is really no exception.

This season consisted of 23 episodes, including the two part season finale.  All of them are preserved here in full-frame and stereo sound, their native presentation.  There is nothing in the way of extras, which isn’t a surprise since there hasn’t been anything in the way of extras since season 2.

It was definitely time for Boy Meets World to end after season 7, but there are still laughs and great moments with these characters we love.  If you are a fan, you’ll be happy to relive these moments over and over again.

Season 7 Episodes:
1. Show Me the Love
2. For Love and Apartments
3. Angela’s Men
4. There’s No Such Thing as a Sure Thing
5. You Light Up My Union
6. They’re Killing Us
7. It’s About Time
8. The Honeymooners
9. The Honeymoon is Over
10. Picket Fences
11. What a Drag
12. Family Trees
13. The Provider
14. I’m Gonna Be Like You, Dad
15. The War
16. Seven the Hard Way
17. She’s Having My Baby Back Ribs
18. How Cory and Topanga Got Their Groove Back
19. Brotherly Shove
20. As Time Goes By
21. Angela’s Ashes
22 & 23. A Brave, New World

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Book Review: Frankencrayon by Michael Hall

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Funny story told in a creative way
Cons: Not all in target audience will understand it all without explanation
The Bottom Line:
Production problems
Turn into delightful book
For parents and kids

This Review of Frankencrayon Has NOT Been Canceled

While I wouldn’t want every book or show to break the fourth wall, I enjoy the occasional story that does just that, which is why I was interested in Frankencrayon when I first heard about it.  While I’m not sure that all kids will fully get this book, their parents will love it.

Before we even get to the first page, we find out that the book has been canceled.  It seems that a cast of crayons was going to tell us the story of Frankenstein, but they’ve had to change their plans because of a giant squiggle that appears on the page.  And their efforts to solve the problem just make things worse.  Can they ever fix things?

Of course, this book is framed as the crayons explaining to us why the squiggle caused the book to be canceled.  But the twist comes at the end as we actually do get to see the problem resolved.  Then comes the added fun with the morals to take from the story.  Oh, don’t worry, the book isn’t preachy.  These morals flow logically from the story and are presented for fun at the end.  We’re talking things like “Adding more squiggles doesn’t make squiggles go away.”  And the last page?  It has the best laugh of the entire book.

Which leads us into my only hesitation with the book.  Kids might not understand a few of the jokes, like the one on the last page, or the self-referential humor throughout the book.  I bet upper pre-school kids would get it with some explanation from their parents, however.  Despite the fact that Frankenstein is referenced, nothing is said that will frighten kids or is at all inappropriate for the age group.  And I bet they will love the jokes made based on the various crayon color names.

The illustrations are fairly simple, but they do a great job of conveying the problem the cast of crayons encounters and how they deal with it.

So I definitely recommend this book, just with the understanding that not all kids might get it right away.  When they do, they and their parents will both appreciate the creative storytelling that happens in Frankencrayon.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

February 19th's Weekly TV Thoughts

I mean it this time.  I have to cut down on TV somehow and somewhere.  Okay, so there are a couple of shows I'm not expecting to be back next year, but that means I can't start any new shows because there are so few on this list I want to consider giving up.

Castle (2/14) – That was a great twist on the classic formula of the show.  Yes, it borrowed heavily from other shows who have done the courtroom case things and wasn’t as original as, say, the bank robbery episode was, but it was still a ton of fun for something different.  And a pretty great way to wrap things up at the end plus tie it into the season’s storyline.

Castle (2/15) – That punishment at the end?  I’d hate it.  There’s a reason I live in Southern CA.  Glad Castle met his step-mom, although I wish she’d taken responsibility for putting the break up bug in Beckett’s ear.

Team Ninja Warrior – Just shows how unpredictable the course and the competitive nature of this course can be.  Britten out?  Wow!  The showdown was much closer than expected, too, but I wasn’t too surprised about who pulled it out in the end.

The Flash – So, we were supposed to get clues to who Zoom is in that episode, but I missed them.  And I’m wondering who is the person in the cage left behind.  I was expecting something horrible to happen to Wells’s daughter, so I was thankful she’s okay.  But Jay?  Just as we were getting good news.  Although seriously, you never stand near a portal like that, especially if it is the end of an episode.

The Muppets – And we’re back to the okay but not spectacular show this week.  I was hoping they would build on what they’d been doing.  Although with the way the ratings are sinking, it isn’t going to matter.  The show will be canceled at the end of the season.  So much for my hopes this would lead to them releasing the final two seasons of the classic show on DVD.

Agent Carter – I’m most focused on Jarvis’s wife at the moment.  I thought her getting shot would be the end of the episode, but instead they at least got her into surgery.  But will she be okay?  She’d better be okay.

Arrow – How did he get William?  Seriously, is his mom okay?  And now we know for sure why Felicity isn’t wearing her ring in the future.  And maybe that’s another candidate for the person in the grave – William’s mother.  Between this and Flash, I’m done with the cliffhangers for the week.

Survivor – For once, they actually voted out the person who was most responsible for them losing the challenge.  That seems to so rarely happen on Survivor because the person is in a strong alliance.  Oh, and that bug thing?  Just creepy and disgusting.

Baby Daddy – Back on track with plenty of laughs.  I saw some of the twists coming, especially Bonnie and her new husband.  Okay, so I just saw as far as the writers getting him off the show since he’s still just a guest star.  Still, lots of laughs.

Suits – I can’t take my eyes off the screen this season.  It’s that compelling.  I mean, I’ve always liked the show, but the stakes are so high isn’t impossible to turn away.  Two episodes left, and they are talking like this won’t be resolved.  I’m betting the jury comes back for the cliffhanger and we have to wait until summer to find out what their decision is.  Since this is the entire premise of the show, I’m wondering how they will go forward no matter how it is resolved.

Big Bang Theory – What a wonderful episode.  Plenty of great laughs and a few heartfelt moments.  Howard as a father is pretty funny, but I have faith the writers will manage to find that great balance with it like they did this week.

Legends of Tomorrow – They are doing a good job of building the team, which isn’t easy given the wildly different places they all started.  But poor Jackson hurting his leg again.  Hopefully they can fix that with some future tech.  Or maybe by merging as Firestorm?  Who wants to bet we never hear anything about it next week.

The Amazing Race – Pride goes before destruction.  Okay, so the guys aren’t actually out, but they came very close for two guys who were so confident that they’d do well.  Meanwhile, I do feel sorry for the team that got eliminated.  A bad taxi driver really kills in this game.  Granted, they made a bad choice in not taking their taxi to the location of the detour, and that ultimate got them out, so it is on them, but it’s still hard.  Meanwhile, glad to see Team Frisbee near the top, where they belong.

Girl Meets World – What was that?  That might have sounded good on paper, but it was almost painful to watch, especially with the actors playing the kids.  Ugh.  The only good joke was Lucas always being that age.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Cookie Review: Cinnamon Bun Oreos

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Delicious cinnamon filling in these cookies
Cons: Not healthy
The Bottom Line:
Cinnamon twists here
Delicious burst of flavor
Vanilla cookie

Delicious Cinnamon Twist on a Classic

So many old standbys when it comes to cookies or candy seem to be experimenting with new twists.  And, like the sucker they are targeting, I feel compelled to try them.  The latest experiment I tried was Oreo’s Cinnamon Bun flavor, and I must say it is delicious.

These cookies feature two vanilla cookies with a filling between them.  And yes, these are the plain vanilla cookies featured in the Blonde Oreos.  On their own, they would be disappointing.  However, they are perfect since they don’t get in the way of the delicious filling.  And if you love cinnamon, you’ll love them since they taste delicious.  There is a wonderful burst of cinnamon flavor with the sugary taste of frosting to boot.

Of course, you can easily argue that Oreos should have chocolate in them.  That is the classic Oreo, and I would certainly go along with that argument.  However, any issues with the name shouldn’t be what keeps you from enjoying these great cookies.  Yes, it’s really the filling that is good here, but they are so delicious.

Granted, they aren’t at all healthy for you.  They are a massed produced cookie, so plan to eat accordingly.

I’m not sure if this is a limited edition flavor or a potential new flavor they are trying out.  Either way, I’m glad I tested the Cinnamon Bun Oreos.  Now to keep from eating the entire pack at once.

February 19th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

And now it's time for this week's Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

I'm reading a middle grade book this week - Woof by Spencer Quinn.

I'm just about half way through and enjoying it.  Shall we get to it?

Two humans stood outside my cage, a white-haired woman and a gum-chewing kid.

Oh, did I forget to mention that the narrator in this book is a dog?  It's a technique that Spencer has perfected in a popular series of mystery novels for adults, and this is the first in a series for middle graders using completely different characters but a similar technique.

Moving right along to page 56:

[He stopped] just out of lunging distance.  I noticed that Birdie seemed to have forgotten about the leash, her end lying in the grass - meaning the new dude, Stevie, if I was getting this right - stood within lunging distance after all.  What a nice surprise!

And there you have it for this week.  Hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Final Winner of the Month

I'm to announce the final giveaway of February.  The prize was Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna, and the winner this time is...

... Doward!

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

Book Review: Berried Secrets by Peg Cochran (Cranberry Cove Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery and characters…
Cons: …buried in weak first half; timeline issue
The Bottom Line:
Once book got going
It became stronger.  Except
For timeline issue

Slow Start to a New Series

Over the last couple of years, I’ve heard many people rave about the books of Peg Cochran, but I have yet to pick any of them up.  When Berried Secrets came out, and I saw it was the first in a new series, I decided to give it a try.  After all, I love cranberries, so it sounded promising.  Sadly, it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be.

Monica Albertson has moved to the town of Cranberry Cover to help her half-brother, Jeff, get his cranberry farm running.  He’s having serious issues with the finances, and she soon discovers that Sam Culbert, someone Jeff thought was a friend, was embezzling from him.

The morning the cranberry harvest begins, Sam’s body is found floating in the first bog the crew tries to harvest.  While Sam wasn’t well liked in town, Monica is worried that her brother will be arrested for the crime.  Can she find the real killer before that happens?

Despite the murder happening fairly early in the book, the first half was rather slow.  I get this is the first in a series, so we need time to meet the characters, but even so, the balance just didn’t work for me.  Even as the mystery became more focused in the second half, the twists and clues were fewer and farther between then I would have liked.  Still, we do reach a logical and suspenseful climax, and the various threads were wrapped up well.

The characters were a bit slow to grow on me, too.  By the end, I did care for several of them, those who will obviously become series regulars, but it took a while.

While I don’t always mention it, one of my biggest pet peeves is slips in the timeline.  There’s a major one here.  It’s almost like the author completely forgot about a day that happened in the book.  Unfortunately, it should have had an impact on things, which really bothers me.

Of course, we do get three cranberry related recipes at the back of the book.  And with my love of cranberries, they do sound delicious.

I’ve seen others who are usually fans of this author who were a bit cool to Berried Secrets as well.  It’s not that the book was bad, but the flaws kept it from being as great a read as I expected it to be.  Here’s hoping that now that the characters have been established, the next in the series is a stronger read.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in hopes I would review it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ornament Review: Lucky Leap-Rechaun - Keepsake Cupcakes #8 - 2016 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Different choice makes for a fun ornament
Cons: Those looking for pure green will be disappointed, slight tip forward.
The Bottom Line:
Frog for Ireland?
Yes for next punny cupcake
Different yet fun

Your Luck Will Change by Leaps with this Cute Cupcake

I have to just marvel at how creative the team of artists at Hallmark is.  Their Keepsake Cupcakes ornaments have featured some unusual animals at times, but once I seriously look at the ornament, I wouldn’t want them any other way.  Take the March entry.  Naturally, we’ve got a St. Patrick’s Day theme with Lucky Leap-rechaun.  While I wouldn’t have picked a frog for the animal, it works perfectly.

Frogs are usually green, or at least they are usually depicted that way, which is fitting with the Irish theme.  Sure enough, we’ve got a green frog sitting on top of this cupcake.  He’s wearing a small leprechaun top hat and holding a four leaf clover.  And he’s sitting on a green lily pad.  The pad is on top of the blue frosting that makes up the top of the cupcake itself.  Sadly, we can’t see any of the cupcake because it is either hidden under the frosting or behind the orange cupcake liner with some orange frosting flowers accenting the blue frosting.

Now, if you are looking for an ornament that screams green, this will be disappointing.  While the frog is very green, he hides much of the lily pad, so the bottom part of the cupcake is very blue and orange.  However, the overall cupcake really works well.  I especially like how they brought in the orange color, which is the Protestant color in Ireland, something we don’t normally see when thinking about the country.

And, of course, there is the pun in the title.  As a lover of puns, I have to appreciate that.

Like the others in the series, this has a nice flat base, so setting it out to display year round is very easy.  And you’ll find the 8 in a Christmas tree series marker on the bottom of the ornament.  (Can you believe we are two thirds of the way through this series?)

When you slip a hook through the loop on the frog’s hat, you’ll find that he does tip forward.  It’s enough to be noticeable, but if you are hanging the ornament, you can probably disguise that with branches or something like that.

I would have expected a leprechaun to be on the cupcake for March, but I like the frog so much more.  Lucky Leap-rechaun is another cute entry in what continues to be a fun series.

And be sure to check out the rest of this delicious year of Keepsake Cupcakes.

Original Price: $12.95

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Next Winner

We've got another winner to announce.  This time, the book is For Cheddar or Worse, and the winner is...


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

Book Review: Dark Chocolate Demise by Jenn McKinlay (Cupcake Bakery Mysteries #7)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great character development in a different mystery
Cons: Non-fans of the series won’t fully appreciate the story told here
The Bottom Line:
Death at Zombie walk
Opens different book fans
Will appreciate

Shot at the Zombie Walk

I don’t do Zombies.  Seriously, I can handle some forms of the rest of the creepy monsters out there, but Zombies truly freak me out in any form.  So I wasn’t sure how I would respond to Dark Chocolate Demise, which starts off with a scene at a Zombie walk.  Turns out, I enjoyed it.

Scottsdale is hosting a Zombie walk with a huge party at the end, and Mel and Angie are taking their Fairy Tale Cupcakes truck down to sell some spooky themed cupcakes.  Naturally, they and their staff are dressed for the occasion, and they even have a coffin outside their truck that people can pose in for pictures.

However, the fun comes to a halt when Mel finds a real dead body in their coffin, one that looks like someone she knows very well.  Mel’s ex-boyfriend (and Angie’s older brother) Joe is trying a case involving a mob boss.  Was this a hit out to distract him from his case?  Are they in danger?

Because of the plot, this is actually a bit of a darker book than the rest of the series.  The murder hits very close to home to the characters we love, and they react appropriately.  I actually liked that aspect of the book, and I would have been bothered if they hadn’t reacted this way.  It also allowed for some great characters growth in a couple of our regulars.

And the more serious plot is balanced out by some of the funniest sub-plots and scenes in the series to date.  A couple of the scenes had me laughing at the antics of the people we met in this book.  It was a much needed tension breaker.

Now before you start worrying since I’ve talked about this book being darker than usual, I’m talking about a shade of gray.  This is still a cozy mystery, and there is nothing here that will disappoint fans of the series or the genre in the slightest.  Having said that, I think this book is best read by people who are already fans of the series since they will most appreciate the story told here.

Speaking of which, we get some interesting developments in our ongoing storylines.  I complained that one of them was turning toward soap opera after reading the last book, and I feel that this book takes a step back from that.  At least I hope so, although things are still left open for the next book in the series to fully resolve.  The other thing I have to remind myself is that book 2 through this book have all taken place in just over a year.  We readers often get impatient with the characters but fail to take into account how quickly or slowly series time is moving.  (Having said that, I hope some things are close to being resolved here.)

The mystery itself?  At times it takes a back seat to how the events are effecting our characters, but that feels right given the nature of the story.  I was never bored, and the ending comes as a surprise.

Naturally, the recipes for the cupcakes that Mel created for the Zombie walk are included in the back of the book, and they sound delicious.  A bit creepy, but delicious.  There are a total of five recipes in the back to be enjoyed later.

This is a book for the fans of the series, so if that is you, pick up Dark Chocolate Demise today.  And if you haven’t started this wonderful series yet?  Back track to book one.  You’ll be caught up before you know it.

In fact, to help you out, here are the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in hopes I would review it.