Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Ornament Review: Cinderella - Art of Disney Animation #12 - 2016 Disney Store Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Unique take on popular character done well
Cons: Unique take is a double edged sword
The Bottom Line:
Cinderella piece
Captured at start of story
Fun because unique

A Dreamy Twist on Cinderella

There are numerous ornaments of the Disney princesses, so there are numerous ornaments of Cinderella.  However, most of them focus on her in her ball gown, so the ornament that closes out the Art of Disney Animation series is unique, and I really like it for that.

You see, this ornament is actually from the first scene in the movie.  Cinderella is still in bed, and she is singing “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”  While none of the mice are in the ornament, you can actually picture them around her listening.  Her knees are pulled up, and the bed clothes are bunched up around her as a result.

And because of the different choice, I like it.  It would have been easy to have her getting her dress or something like that, but there is something cute and utterly charming about this pose.  What strikes me the most about it, however, is the bright colors.  No, they don’t overwhelm, but it will definitely stand out on a tree.  You’ve got her traditional light blue, this time on her nightgown, and the grown of the headboard and blanket.  Somehow, that combination seems to stand out to me.

Because Cinderella is in her bed, there is a nice flat base to this ornament.  That makes it easy of you want to display it year round somewhere.  If you want to hang it on your tree, you’ll find a red ribbon already attached through the loop on her head.  When you go to hang it, you’ll find that it hangs level.

While Cinderella as a whole would be hugely popular, this different pose has proven to be aimed more at the diehard Disnerds only.  That’s not a bad thing, just something I have noticed.  Still, if you are looking for something different for this character, this ornament is definitely for you.

This may not be as popular as Cinderella in her ball gown, but it is nice to have an ornament that reminds us of her beginnings.  If you are looking for something like that, this piece is for you.

And if you are looking for more of these ornaments, here are the rest of the Art of Animation Ornaments.

Original Price: $19.95

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: Die Like an Eagle by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #20)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Plenty of conflict, lots of characters
Cons: Mystery in the background at times behind other plots
The Bottom Line:
Murderous baseball
Marks return visit with Meg
Always a delight

Three Strikes You’re Dead

Jumping into a long running series intimates me.  However, when it’s a series I’ve been reading and loving for years, the number can creep up on me.  That was the case with Die Like an Eagle.  As I was reading it, I realized this is the twentieth book in the series.  20!  And yet the latest in the series doesn’t disappoint at all.

If you haven’t met Meg Langslow yet, you are in for a real treat.  These books are a ton of fun.  We always join her as she is getting involved in some activity with lots of passionate participants.  This time, it’s baseball, specifically youth baseball.  And really, who is more passionate than sports people and sports parents.

Meg’s twin boys Josh and Jamie are joining the local youth baseball league, much to the delight of Meg’s husband Michael, who is very passionate about the sport.  However, Meg has quickly learned that the local league is under the thumb of Biff Brown, a man with his own set of extra rules that he enforces strictly – on the other teams.  Things like no unscheduled practices and only coaches he has approved.  Meanwhile, the field is in a state is disrepair because he claims there isn’t enough money to do anything about it.

None of this seems to dampen the twin’s enthusiasm for opening day, and even the rest of the town is in a baseball fever, partially brought on by a four day weekend.  However, before the first game can even begin, Meg makes an unfortunate discovery – a dead body located in the single porta potty at the field.  What is going on?

Sometimes, I complain when a book has a weak mystery.  This is not one of those times.  Yes, the mystery was sometimes in the background, with Meg’s investigation being more subtle.  As you would expect, the book is filled with suspects and there were even some nice surprises at the end.  However, there were times it didn’t feel to me like the focus of the book.

The focus instead was on small town politics or more particularly the politics of this baseball league.  Honestly?  I was so caught up in that drama, I didn’t care.  I sped through this book in two days because I didn’t want to put it down; here were so many great scenes and I was having so much fun.  And these scenes allowed Meg to learn a bit more about the mystery without being in your face about it.  That’s actually a change from the normal books I read that I loved.

Meg has a very large family, and some of them have become permanent fixtures in the series.  It’s always a joy to see them again.  Over the course of the series, we’ve made some friends in town as well, and I just love it when they show up.  In fact, I’ve realized one thing I love about this series is the sense of community.  When someone or something needs help, everyone pitches in to get the job done.  There is a character I’ve been complaining we hadn’t seen for a couple of books who shows up here again as well, which delighted me.  Naturally, we get great suspects that keep us guessing until the end.

This series is also known for its humor.  I had to laugh at some of the lines and situations Meg got into along the way.  At times, the humor is subtle, but it adds another layer of delight.

With each book it gets harder to say goodbye to these great characters, and I’m already looking forward to my next visit with them.  Pick up Die Like an Eagle today and get ready for a delightful read.

Looking for more laughs with murder?  Check out the rest of the Meg Langslow mysteries in order.

Monday, August 29, 2016

TV Show Review: Arrow - Season 4

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great acting and action, mostly good story
Cons: Over the top final couple of episodes
The Bottom Line:
Darkest DC show
Goes over the top at end
Still fun overall

“I Love How Playing Superhero is What We Consider Normal.”

Little did I know four years ago when I decided to start watching Arrow that it would turn into a gateway drug.  Because of it, I now have a superhero show that I watch every night Monday through Thursday nights.  While I do find myself looking forward to these others a bit more than the original, I still enjoyed season 4 of Arrow.

The producers recognized that season 3 got very dark, and they promised to lighten the tone of the show.  Part of that was having Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) take on the mantel of Green Arrow, who has more quips – at least in the comics.  Unfortunately, that didn’t quite pan out this season, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Season 4 picks up a few months after the end of season 3, and finds Oliver Queen and his girlfriend Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) living in domestic bliss.  They’ve moved to a suburb of Star City and are leaving all of their responsibilities behind.  That is until Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and Thea (Willard Holland) show up at their door.  Star City is facing a new threat, and they need the two of them back to help take him down.

That new threat is Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), who is not being subtle about his desire to take over the city.  What isn’t clear is his end game.  What does he want?  We certainly know that he isn’t above using family and friends against our heroes, as Diggle (David Ramsey) finds out when a face from his past resurfaces.

While our heroes try to figure that out, Felicity deals with her responsibilities as the new CEO of Palmer Tech, her mother (recurring guest star Charlotte Ross) starts a relationship with Captain Lance (Paul Blackthorne), and we meet her father (Tom Amandes).  And in a surprise announcement, Oliver decides to run for mayor.  What no one knows is, before the season is over, someone will die.

Think I just gave a big spoiler?  Actually, we are told that much in a flash forward during the season premier.  We are then left to wonder who it might be until much later in the season.  But I could tell from that moment this wasn’t going to be the light season that the producers promised us going in.

While I would have enjoyed a lighter tone (I do like light in case you haven’t noticed), I’m not complaining about the tone here.  This is still a solid show most weeks, and the characters are continuing to grow, which I enjoy.  The action is fantastic, and the standalone episodes are great.

Unfortunately, we do have some issues this season.  The biggest to me was the final few episodes, which were very over the top for the show.  Yes, we are used to saving the city, but here the characters were having to save the world.  And no, it wasn’t part of a multi-show team up, which definitely would have been cool.  Instead, it felt very 24 to me.  While I loved that show, that’s not what this show is, and the result seemed over the top and melodramatic to me.

In January, the newest DCverse show from this creative team started – Legends of Tomorrow.  This show spends a couple of episodes setting up the new show, which makes sense since it is populated with supporting characters from Arrow and The Flash.  The only time it felt like a weakness to me was during the November crossover with The Flash, which was about introducing a few of the characters and setting up the villain of that show.  I’m not saying that episode wasn’t fun, it just felt like what it was, a backdoor pilot.  On the other hand, we get the payoff to something set up in season two in these two episodes.

And they still haven’t abandoned the flashbacks.  Personally, I’ve never really felt they added much to the show.  Here, at least, they do tie into the main story near the end of the season.  Rumor is season 5 will be the final year of the flashbacks.  Personally, I’m can’t wait.

But as I said, the strengths of this show still certainly shine through.  We’ve got great characters who continue to grow and entertain.  The acting is great as well as all the actors have grown into their roles.

I already mentioned the action, but it bears repeating.  Each episode features plenty of stunts and action and fight scenes, and I just love them.  The work that goes into this show each week, shows.  While Arrow isn’t as heavy on the special effects as some other shows in the DCverse, but I find the ones they do have perfectly believable.

This set gives you wide screen and full surround on all 23 episodes from season 4.  They even throw in the first part of the crossover with The Flash to give you 24 episodes.  The extras feature two on Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Vandal Savage, which tie into Legends of Tomorrow and that 2-parter.  Related to arrow, we get the 2015 ComicCon panel, deleted scenes, and a gag reel as well as a featurette on Damien Darhk.

While Arrow continues to be the darkest of these shows, it continues to entertain as well.  Season 4 kept me tuning in episode after episode.  I can’t wait to see where we go next with season 5.

Season 4 Episodes:
1. Green Arrow
2. The Candidate
3. Restoration
4. Beyond Redemption
5. Haunted
6. Lost Souls
7. Brotherhood
8. Legends of Yesterday
9. Dark Waters
10. Blood Debts
11. A.W.O.L.
12. Unchained
13. Sins of the Father
14. Code of Silence
15. Taken
16. Broken Hearts
17. Beacon of Hope
18. Eleven-Fifty-Nine
19. Canary Cry
20. Genesis
21. Monument Point
22. Lost in the Flood
23. Schism

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne (Harry Potter #8)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: More time with the Harry Potter gang
Cons: Plot feels a little out there, issues of reading a script
The Bottom Line:
Read scripted magic
Revisit Harry Potter
Fun visit for fans

A Different Trip to the Harry Potter World

When I first heard that there was going to be a play sequel to the Harry Potter series, I was intrigued and hoped at some point I’d get to see it.  When they announced they were going to release the rehearsal script, I was happy, but didn’t plan to buy it right away.  I should know me better than that.  Yep, I caved and bought Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the week it came out.

If you aren’t yet familiar with the world of Harry Potter thanks to the wildly successful novels and equally wildly successful movies, then this book isn’t for you.  It assumes you know the backstory to what happens here, and if you don’t, you will be positively lost.  There are references to events and cameos by characters from the past books.  However, if you are already a fan, you’ll love diving into the latest story.

What is most notable about this book is that it is a bound copy of the rehearsal script for the play.  That means it reads very differently than a novel.  Essentially, it gives us dialogue and minimal stage direction and even less description.  It’s a different type of read, and you need to be in the proper mindset going into the book as a result.

The play actually opens with a scene we are already familiar with - the epilogue of the final novel.  In it, we see an adult Harry Potter sending his middle child off to his first year at Hogwarts.  From there, we see Albus Severus Potter landing in the unlikeliest house in the school and making a surprising best friend.  We breeze through a few scenes before really landing on the heart of the story, which involves time travel, alternative realities, and a chance to save an innocent from dying.  But when things go wrong, can Albus Potter undo what he has done?  Can Harry Potter work with his son to save the day?

I’ve seen some fans complain about this book being glorified fan fiction, and I can see their complaints.  The plot seems a little wacky overall, not the carefully thought out books in the series.  Yet, every time I started to feel that way, the characters pulled me back into the story and I forgot my complaints.  If you know and love these characters, it’s hard to not cheer for them.  I still feel like the basic premise of the story doesn’t sit completely right, but I don’t mind so much.

And that’s because I love the core cast of characters, and it was great to see them again.  I’m not sure I bought Ron’s personality in the story, but that’s my only real quibble with the characters.  There was a surprise ally along the way, and I loved seeing that relationship develop.  There were some truly touching moments as well.  Many of them were predictable, but that didn’t make them any less touching.

Those used to the immersive world of the Harry Potter novels will definitely miss that here.  Once again, we are reading a play, which is mostly dialogue.  The details of Harry’s world aren’t here because we would see that on stage.

And maybe that’s part of the reason I always had a hard time getting truly into the world like I would the books.  I kept picturing actors on a stage as events unfolded.  And the short scenes always made me think of how the scenes would change for an audience.  I tried to picture how they’d do the magic on stage as well.  That was distracting, although it is a personal issue.

The book is only 300 pages, so shorter than most of the novels.  Couple that with lots of white space because this is a script, and you have a very fast read.  Again, I think this helps explain some of the complaints from fans.

While I don’t think this will ever be anyone’s favorite book in the series, I’m certainly glad I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  If I ever get a chance to see it, I’ll jump.  If you are a fan, go into it expecting a play script instead of a novel, and you’ll be just fine.

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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

TV Show Review: Castle - Season 8

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: The actors, a few of the episodes/moments
Cons: Set up for the season ruins everything we love about the show.
The Bottom Line:
Characters we love
Ruined by writer’s choices
For bad last season

“You, Me, and a Crime Scene – Just as Nature Intended.”

I have been a fan of Castle since season one, episode one, day one.  The mix of banter, romance, and mystery was perfect for me.  Okay, so the mysteries weren’t the strongest, but I fell in love with these characters and couldn’t wait to revisit them week after week.

Which is why I am still trying to wrap my head around what the writers did to them in season 8.

Yes, I was actually one of the many who was glad the show was canceled when this season ended so we were all put out of our misery.  There were parts I enjoyed, but for the most part it felt very forced this season.

And I’ll warn you now that this review might devolve into rants a few times.

The season opens with a brilliant two part episode that finds mystery writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) investigating the disappearance of his wife, newly promoted NYPD Captain Kate Beckett (Stana Kantic), with the help of two of her detectives, Kevin Ryan and Javier Esposito (Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas).  Then, in the second part, we get Beckett’s side of things until both halves come together for a wonderful climax.  Well, it would have been wonderful if they hadn’t decided to completely mess with the show.

See, the plot of this two parter revolved around Beckett learning there was more to the conspiracy surrounding her mother’s murder, something I thought we had finally put to bed a couple of seasons ago.  Beckett learns that she is in danger, and in an attempt to keep Castle and his mother and daughter, Martha and Alexis (Susan Sullivan and Molly Quinn) safe, she announces she needs a break for their marriage and moves out.  No explanation to Castle about what is really going on.  Nothing.

Now, this is supposed to recapture the old magic of the show when Castle was pursuing Beckett and she was resisting.  And they returned to Castle working as a PI to bring him into these cases of the week.  But seriously, let’s go back to that premise for a minute.  What bad guy is going to stop going after your family because you left them a week ago?  A month ago?  Seriously?  You think that’s going to keep them safe?  They are going to go after them to get at you just as much today as they did before you left.  Plus, with no warning to them, they are in more danger.  If you stayed or at least told them why you left, they’d be more on their guard, so better protected, than if you just walk out of their lives.

Not to mention that this show is as much romantic comedy as it is mystery show.  After watching the will they/won’t they tension and the building of their relationship leading up to their marriage last season, I don’t want to see things go backwards.  I actually liked the show after it got Castle and Beckett together because it showed growth for their characters and built a solid relationship between them.  This was a huge step backwards.

And frankly, this overshadowed the case of the week aspect of the series.  While it might have had a bit more overarching storyline this year, there were still plenty of cases of the week, but the spark wasn’t there because I was so frustrated by the breakup.  Still, over the course of the season, we get mysteries such as the death of Castle’s writing idol, a murder aboard a cruise ship that has just set sail, and a corpse in the theater where Martha’s latest show is rehearsing.  Many of these individual episodes are good and have great moments, but overall they can’t rise about the premise of the season.

Of course, with Beckett as a captain now, Castle shares more detecting scenes with Ryan and Esposito, and that chemistry isn’t the same, which does nothing to help the show.  Mind you, I love the characters, but they aren’t Castle and Beckett together.

Fortunately, the complete breakup didn’t last all season as Beckett did finally clue Castle in to what was happening, leading to a repeat of season 5 where the two where sneaking around.  Are you sensing a theme here?  Reruns.  No new ground, nothing but reruns.  The writers did try to tie in Castle’s missing memory from last season to the mystery this season, but it just felt forced.

And speaking of forced, this season’s big bad is also very forced.  The payoff for all the angst was so underwhelming it left me scratching my head as to why anyone thought it would be a good idea.

Now I’m not pointing my finger at any of the actors.  They all did a great job with what they were given, and when they had a moment to shine, they took full advantage of it.  Praise also much go to new actors Toks Olagundoye and Sunkrish Bala who had the thankless job of stepping into roles in a season that the fans didn’t like.  I have nothing against them, but the changes they represent to the show, on the other hand….

Late in the season, word came down that Tamala Jones, the actress who plays medical examiner Lanie Parish, as well as Stana Katic were not going to be back for a potential next season.  While some started cries of sexism (and that might be the case, I don’t know), I spent all of my time trying to wrap my head around doing this show without Beckett.  Oh, I know the show is called Castle.  But reference my earlier comments about this being a romantic comedy.  If budget constraints were the reason (and that’s the reason ABC gave), then you fire the rest of the cast and retool the show to just be about Castle and Beckett.

Fortunately, ABC came to the right decision and canceled the show at the last possible moment, giving us a chance to see the ending that wrapped things up instead of the cliffhanger.  (Two different endings for the season were shot.)  However, that ending felt so tacked on and forced that it left me feeling cold.  You want a good ending for this series?  Look back at the season finale for season 7.  That was a great ending to the show, and that’s where I intend to stop with Castle.  This last season?  It was a fevered dream I had about fan fiction featuring the characters and nothing more.

For the record, if you are looking for this set, you’ll find 22 episodes here in widescreen and full surround sound.  In the way of extras, you’ll find a couple of audio commentaries, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a featurette showing the cast of the show trying to solve puzzles to get out of an escape room.

If you are a fan of Castle, do yourself a favor and skip season 8.  It is a mess that ruins the characters and the legacy of the show.  Even this completest collector plans to skip this season with a clear conscious, which tells you just had bad it truly was.

Season 8 episodes:
1. XY
2. XX
3. PhDead
4. What Lies Beneath
5. The Nose
6. Cool Boys
7. The Last Seduction
8. Mr. & Mrs. Castle
9. Tone Death
10. Witness for the Prosecution
11. Dead Red
12. The Blame Game
13. And Justice for All
14. G.D.S.
15. Fidelis Ad Mortem
16. Heartbreaker
17. Death Wish
18. Backstabber
19. Dead Again
20. Much Ado About Murder
21. Hell to Pay
22. Crossfire

August 27th's Weekly TV Thoughts

What happens when you don't spend Friday night at home?  You miss out on talking about your Friday night show, of course.  But here's the rest of what I watched this week.

Rush Hour – I had to watch it on demand with commercials because it was preempted here for a pre-season football game.  And people wonder why I hate sports so much.  But seriously, I am so glad I watched it.  As I hoped, they did a good job of wrapping things up.  Lee found out about his sister and his parents and they took down the bad guys.  I think there were some of the funniest lines of the show in there as well.  It really worked as a series finale, although if it had been a season finale, I certainly would have been back.  I’m glad I gave this show a shot.

American Ninja Warrior – I noticed from the beginning that they usually talk about how they made the first few obstacles harder, but they didn’t think time.  In fact, I think they took out some of the Plexiglas in the giant wheel to make it easier.  And they still didn’t have any finishers.  It proves what I’ve been saying that they are making it too hard these days.

Dead of Summer – Wow!  The show has gotten good.  In a very dark and twisted way, of course.  The twists in this episode were phenomenal, and they all work with what has come before, too.  It’s like a well done mystery with massive horror elements, of course.  Now I’m anxious to see how they resolve everything next week.  They definitely had enough for two episodes, unlike my fears from last week.

Suits – I saw two of the twists coming.  Heck, I called that the witness had died last week.  And I figured at the beginning of this episode that Mike’s nemesis would figure out what he is up to.  But I didn’t see Mike’s deal getting pulled.  That’s going to make things very interesting, especially since Kevin’s about to learn the truth.  I love how the writers still managed to put the characters in more and more of a pickle after all these years.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Book Review: Murder Has Nine Lives by Laura Levine (Jaine Austen Mysteries #14)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Comedy, mystery, and comedy
Cons: All cons have lost their ninth life
The Bottom Line:
Prozac, TV star?
Cat’s big break leads to murder
And big laughs for us

Diet Cat Food is Murder

After thirteen books, I’ve come to rely on Jaine Austen.  The books in this series are always light, funny, and a pleasure to read.  Murder Has Nine Lives is the fourteenth book, and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.

If you’ve missed the series, Jaine is a freelance writer living in Southern California.  She is owned by a very demanding cat name Prozac.  Her life seems to be filled with murder and mayhem since these books are just as heavy on the laughs as they are on murder.  While I am a firm read in order person, these books really do stand alone, so you can pick them up in any order.  Trust me, once you start, you’ll want to read them all.

This book opens in the vet’s office.  Jaine has brought Prozac in for her annual checkup, but before they even get to the appointment, an animal agent spots Prozac and is convinced that Jaine’s cat is perfect for a new commercial for diet cat food.  All Prozac has to do is eat and sleep – the two activity she excels at.  The trick is she has to do it on command, but Prozac behaves well enough at the audition to land the part.

The day of the shoot, things are going along well until it comes time to shoot Prozac’s final scene, when she starts becoming her usual temperamental self.  The creator of Skinny Kitty, Dean Oliver, calls for a half hour break.  When everyone returns, Dean films his big scene, where he announces the cat food is so good he will eat it himself and takes a big bite.  Only after he does, he keels over dead.

Jaine had already witnessed that Dean wasn’t a very nice man, but it seems that just about everyone on set had a motive for murder.  The police include Jaine in that number, and tell her not to leave town.  But with a vacation to Hawaii on the horizon, Jaine needs to make sure she is cleared of suspicion, so she begins digging into the suspects and motives.  Can she find the killer in time to go on her trip?

The mysteries in these books are always good.  We’ve got a nice collection of suspects, and as Jaine talks to them, we learn more about motives and opportunity.  It always seems like the top suspect is changing as Jaine talks to everyone until we reach the logical solution.

The books are filled with sub-plots as well.  In one, Jaine agrees to go on a blind date with the nephew of her biggest client.  It’s fun to finally actually see the owner of Toiletmaster since we’ve heard lots about him over the course of the series.  As always, we are also treated to the latest in her parent’s retirement community in Florida thanks to a string of e-mail exchanges.  This time around, her father has decided to enter the annual Scrabble tournament and defeat the reigning champion Lydia Pinkus, his arch nemesis and Jaine’s mother’s best friend.  The results are completely hilarious, which was no surprise to me.

At times, these sub-plots take over the story, especially Jaine’s blind date.  However, I really don’t mind because they are so much fun.  While there are plenty of laughs in this book, some of the best come from these two stories.  Trust me, you won’t begrudge a page spent on either of them.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, these books are a little over the top, which is much of their fun.  The characters are likewise outrageous in a fun way.  They are real enough for us to care about the outcome, but they are not the complex people I might praise in another series.  Still they fit the series perfectly and anything different would feel odd.

Author Laura Levine has a background in comedy writing, and it really shows.  In fact, I often describe these books as sitcoms with murder, and the description really does fit.  Don’t pick them up when you want anything dark or serious, but if you are in the mood for laughs with your murder, this is the perfect series for you.

Fans of Jaine’s adventures have nothing to worry about, she is still going strong in Murder Has Nine Lives.  And if you have yet to start the series, I’ll say it again – drop everything and do so today.  You’ll be binge reading these books and laughing through them all.

Need to catch up on Jaine’s other adventures?  Here are the Jaine Austen Mysteries in order.

August 26th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Welcome to Friday!  Of course, that means it is time for Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week's book is Die Like an Eagle, the latest Meg Langslow mystery by Donna Andrews.


Usually, I read a book every three days.  I read this book in two.  That's how much I was enjoying it.  My review will be up on Tuesday.
The book centers around youth baseball.  And yes, it is a mystery.  But the youth baseball helps explain the beginning:

"No fair!  I wasn't ready!"

So are you wondering how baseball and a murder can be in the same book?  Maybe the 56 will help with that:

"Right now, this whole field could be the crime scene, and we may need to send all these people away for a few hours.  We'll have to delay the first game - possibly cancel today's games, depending on how our investigation goes."

How does it go?  Is the field a crime scene?  You'll have to read the book to find out.  But come back to see my review Tuesday as well.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ornament Review: Beauty and the Beast 25th Anniversary - 2016 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Looks great, wonderful song clip
Cons: Would be even better if it lit up
The Bottom Line:
Gives reason for ornament
Fans will truly love

Celebrate 25 Years of the Tale as Old as Time with this Timeless Ornament

It’s hard for me to believe that Beauty and the Beast is celebrating 25 years this year.  (I was in high school when it came out, and I just can’t be that old!)  Never one to miss a good anniversary, Hallmark released an ornament to commemorate the film’s silver anniversary this year, and any fan of the movie will want it.

The ornament doesn’t depict any particular scene from the film, but it perfectly captures the movie.  The main feature is the figure of Belle and Beast dancing like they do in the famous ballroom scene.  Yes, they are even all dressed up in the yellow dress and blue suit.

Now I know what you’re thinking – so far, this sounds like a scene from the movie.  And you’re right.  However, it’s the rest of the ornament that I’m talking about.  See, Belle and Beast are standing on a stone ledge in front of a stained glass window.  On the window, we can see the rose and Belle dancing with the transformed prince.

Even better, this is one of the many ornaments Hallmark has been releasing recently with songs from Disney animated movies.  Not surprising, we have a clip of Angela Lansbury singing “Beauty and the Beast.”  The clip lasts for about 40 seconds, and we get the first verse of the song.  To play the sound clip, you need to install two button batteries, and your first set is included for you.

The ornament is very cool as it is, and I am thrilled with it.  But let’s talk about what would make it cooler.  I wish you could light up the stained glass window.  Either an internal light that comes on when the song plays or a way to use Christmas tree lights to light it up would be so cool.  Unfortunately, the back of the ornament is thin with no way to shine a light through there.  On the other hand, the very back of the ornament does have a couple lines from the song on it.

Between the workings for the sound clip and the design of the ornament, we have a nice flat base.  You can set this out to display anywhere at any time.  In fact, I currently have mine out in my cubicle.

The loop for hanging the ornament is on the very top of the window – no real surprise there.  Slip a hook through it and you’ll find that it hangs straight.

It is so great to see such a wonderful movie get such a wonderful ornament to celebrate its 25th anniversary.  Don’t hesitate to add this ornament to your collection.

Original Price: $24.95

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Book Review: On the Road with Del and Louise by Art Taylor

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting, well developed lead characters…
Cons: …Who happen to be criminals
The Bottom Line:
Go on this road trip
With reforming criminals
Watch characters grow

Character Growth on a Road Trip

On the Road with Del and Louise is a very different book from what I normally read.  As the subtitle says, it is a novel in stories.  The book is a collection of six short stories that follow the same characters across the country.  Along the way, we get to know them and root for them to get a happy ending.

These main characters are Del and Louise.  We meet them as Del is about to pull one last job.  You see, he’s a thief, and Louise meets him when he robs her at the 7-11 where she is currently working.  She gives him her number, and the two of them start dating.  But the book starts as they are about to hit the road, and Del is hoping that the money from this one last job will set them up in their future.

It’s that future that seems to be in constant jeopardy.  Del really wants to leave this life of crime behind so Louise isn’t dragged further into it, but things never seem to go as planned.  We catch up with them in Victorville, California, the Napa wine country, Las Vegas, and North Dakota before the duo head to Louise’s hometown in North Carolina to get married.

The six stories and the trouble that Del and Louise find are all very different, and I’m not going to spoil any of that for you.  Most of them fall into the caper side of the crime genre spectrum, but there is one traditional mystery along the way.

All of them are platforms for us to really get to know Del and Louise, especially Louise as she is our narrator.  They are both very complex characters, which is one reason I grew to like them.  Yes, my main complaint with the book is that our main characters, very sympathetic main characters, should be in jail.  Yet I constantly found myself rooting for them to do the right thing and avoid jail time.  Fortunately, their crimes are minimal, and that makes it better for me.

Each story starts slowly, building up to the tease that opened that section.  But once we get to the main plot of the chapter, things really get interesting.  With each chapter being a different plot, there’s no repetition so no reason to get bored.

Because this book is more a character study than a mystery novel (even though it is classified as a mystery), the novel in stories approach works well.  There are themes that weave through all the stories, which help tie things together.  Del and Louise are really the only characters in all the stories, although we get references to some in multiple stories, and Louise usually does talk to her mother (or at least about her mother) in all the stories.  If I could compare it to anything, it would be to a series of books where tiny things from each entry pop up in the others.  And all the time, Del and Louise are growing as characters, which helps keep us invested.

And I know I’m probably the only one who will talk about this being more character study than mystery.  Yes, the plots of the stories are crime related, but that aren’t the focus at all.  I maintained the same thing about Lisa Lutz’s Spellman Files series while devouring each one.  Yet several of them were nominated for top mystery awards, just like this book has been.  I guess I’m just extremely picky in my classifications.

My reservations about our heroes aside, On the Road with Del and Louise is an interesting road trip with two characters who you truly come to care about.  If you are looking for something different in the crime genre, this book is for you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Crowned and Dangerous Winner

I just pulled the winner for Crowned and Dangerous.  And the winner is...


I just sent you an e-mail, so please look for it so I can pass your address on to the publisher.

TV Show Review: Legends of Tomorrow - Season 1

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun action and comedy with great characters
Cons: All cons lost to time
The Bottom Line:
A fun trip through time
Fighting immortal villain
Escapist delight

“To Quote Every Star Wars Ever Made, I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This.”

I’ve become so hooked on the DC Comics universe that has been unfolding on the CW that as soon as it was announced, I knew I’d be jumping on board with Legends of Tomorrow.  After all, they were culling supporting characters from Arrow and The Flash, and both shows spent so much time setting up this spin off early in the season.  I could hardly wait for season 1 to premier in January.  And my faith was rewarded.

The show begins as Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) appears in 2016.  He’s from the future, and he has a mission he needs help with.  In the future, Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), an immortal, has taken over the world as a dictator.  The only hope is for him to assemble a team from the present day to fight Vandal across time.  This group of “heroes” include Ray Palmer and his Atom suit (Brandon Routh), both halves of Firestorm, Dr. Stein (Victor Garber) and Jax Jackson (Franz Drameh), Mick Rory and Leonard Snart better known as Heat Wave and Captain Cold (Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller), a resurrected Sarah Lance aka White Canary (Caity Lotz) and Kendra Saunders and Carter Hall also known as Hawkgirl and Hawkman (Ciara Renee and Carter Hall) who have had many run ins with Savage over the centuries.

However, it isn’t long before this ragtag group learns that this mission isn’t exactly sanctioned by the Time Lords that Rip Hunter claims to work for.  Furthermore, defeating Savage appears to be even harder than they first thought.  What other secrets is Rip hiding?  Will this team be able to come together to defeat Savage?

Actually, Rip Hunter is the only character that viewers of Arrow and The Flash hadn’t already met since much of the backstory for the series was set up in the annual crossover event that aired in November.  As a result, the two part season premier moved quickly since we could jump into the action once the team is assembled.

Since Rip has a time ship, we jump around in time quite a bit, which is a lot of fun.  A visit to small town Oregon in the 1950’s becomes a bit preachy, but other than that, we focus on the story and the complications our heroes face in each time while tracking Savage.  We spend time in Russia during the Cold War and even the Wild West.  There are actually several two parters, or at least two shows set in the same period, which gives us some interesting cliffhangers.  A few episodes stood on their own and even didn’t tie in directly to the quest to stop Savage, but they were always fun.

I was actually worried that with a cast this big, we wouldn’t get to know the characters that well.  On the contrary, we got some great development for all the characters over the course of the season.  Some episodes focused more on some characters than others, but everyone had something to do, and we had some nice arcs before the season was over.

Those looking for action will find plenty to enjoy here as well with several action scenes each episode; this is a comic book show after all.  I think this show has more action than the others in the TV DCverse, but it could just be that the scenes can be more epic with the larger cast of heros.

The acting is just a touch on the over the top side of the spectrum.  This is especially true from Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell.  Actually, this adds a very fun campy feel to the whole show, and I loved it.  When the show called for a series moment, the actors always hit it out of the park.

And the writers give these characters some funny lines.  There are some classic one liners in the show, mostly coming from Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell’s characters, but everyone gets their fair share of great lines.

While the show premiered in January, production started the previous fall, so we got 16 episodes in the first season.  Naturally, they are all in this set in wide screen and full surround.  In the way of extras, we get parts from the 2015 Comic Con panel about the show, a featurette on the time travel ship, a featurette on the old West episode, which included Jonah Hex, a third featurette, this time on the fact and fiction of the history our characters experience, and a gag reel.

So if you are looking for a fun trip through time fighting evil, Legends of Tomorrow is for you.  Season 1 is pure escapism, and you’ll love every second of it.

Season 1 Episodes:
1. Pilot, Part 1
2. Pilot, Part 2
3. Blood Ties
4. White Knights
5. Fail-Safe
6. Star City 2046
7. Marooned
8. Night of the Hawk
9. Left Behind
10. Progeny
11. The Magnificent Eight
12. Last Refuge
13. Leviathan
14. River of Time
15. Destiny
16. Legendary

Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review: No Virgin Island by C. Michele Dorsey (Sabrina Salter #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Well-drawn characters, good story
Cons: Starts off a tad slowly as pieces are introduced
The Bottom Line:
Murder of a guest
Sabrina’s past catches her
Engrossing debut

No Escaping the Past

Like everyone else, I pay attention to recommendations for new authors because it’s hard to keep up with everything coming out.  So when I heard from multiple people praising No Virgin Island, the debut from C. Michele Dorsey, I paid attention.  It took me until now to read the book, but I’m glad I did because I enjoyed it.

Sabrina Salter ran away from a past in Boston and settle on St. John in the US Virgin Islands.  There, with her friend Henry, she runs a service maintaining rental villas.  All is peaceful, and she hopes to put her past completely behind her.

Unfortunately, it all comes rushing back when she finds a dead body one morning.  Carter Johnson was due to check out of his villa today, but he checked out permanently thanks to a gunshot.  With the police and the media once again hounding her, Sabrina needs all the help she can get to survive the coming storm.  Will the real killer be caught, or will Sabrina be blamed for the crime?

This book has a bit of a somber atmosphere, contracting perfectly with the bright and sunny setting.  Sabrina, Henry, and Neil, Sabrina’s lawyer/love interest, all have pasts they hoped to escape by running to St. John, and that feeds into the tone of the book.  That tone helped captivate me and made me feel like I really knew the main characters.  The rest of the cast are sharp as well with pasts of their own that come out as the story unravels.  By the time the book was over, everyone really did feel like real people.

The story is actually told from multiple points of view with Sabrina getting the most page time.  We’re only in one person’s head at a time, so it’s always easy to follow.  It’s refreshing to get a book with a different narrative technique, and I enjoyed it.

It does mean that the mystery unravels a bit differently than in the books I would normally read.  That’s not a complaint, just an observation.  I actually figured a few twists out before they were officially revealed, but I didn’t mind because the drama I knew was coming made me want to keep reading.  And we get great climatic scenes, both for the mystery and the drama, that left my heart pounding.

I will admit that I felt like the book was starting off a little slowly.  It’s only as I got to know the characters that I appreciated all the ground work that was laid early on.  So this isn’t a barn burner right out of the gate, but it is well worth reading in the end.

Quite often when characters have pasts, we get data dumps to fill us in on this backstory, and if you haven’t noticed by now, I hate that.  By the time the backstory is presented here, we actually are curious about what happened to Sabrina, and we get bits and pieces for the others, but I have a feeling there is more to their story to learn as the series progresses.  I appreciated how this important aspect of the characters was handled.

No Virgin Island is a well done debut that promises more great books to come.  I will be hopping down to St. John as soon as I can for another visit with this great new cast of characters.

Enjoy the rest of the Sabrina Salter Mysteries.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Book Review: Legacy of Secrets by Ridley Pearson (The Return #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Advances overall story; tons of magical fun
Cons: Characters still weak
The Bottom Line:
Story in two times
Advances mythology
And turns DisNerds green

Hunting for Walt’s Pen

As a DisNerd, I have always loved the idea behind the Kingdom Keepers novels.  Five teens who get to wander the Disney theme parks at night at holograms?  What’s not to love?  For The Return, the sequel trilogy, author Ridley Pearson upped his game, and I couldn’t stop wishing I were the Kingdom Keepers as I read Legacy of Secrets.

You see, as the last book ended, the Kingdom Keepers found themselves having traveled through time to Disneyland opening day in 1955.  (And after dealing with holograms fighting Disney villains, this isn’t much of a stretch at all.)  Yes, they are on a mission.  It seems that Walt Disney’s pen, a pen with magic in it, has disappeared and the five teens must find it and make sure it is preserved so when they need it in the future it is there for them.  Teaming up with a young Wayne, Finn and the rest have to follow clues left by Walt himself to uncover its hiding place.

Meanwhile, in the present, Amanda and Jess are uncovering secrets of their own.  While trying to find a way to help the Kingdom Keepers return when their mission is over, they stumble upon a buried piece of Disney history that could explain everything that has happened.  What does it all mean?

The book balances the two time lines perfectly.  Both are engaging, and both dovetail off each other nicely.  We learn some things that explain a lot about the characters and what has happened previously in the series here, things I didn’t know I cared about but was thrilled to learn.

Quite often, the middle part of a trilogy knows it is such and feels like a placeholder.  While we didn’t get the action and fights with the villains we would normally have in this series, the pace never slowed.  The trail the Kingdom Keepers were following in the past was interesting, and the secrets that we were learning in the present were just as page turning.  It’s a different kind of story for the series, but it absolutely works.

Of course, part of that may have been my jealousy coming through.  I couldn’t help but be green at times as I read about what the Kingdom Keepers were seeing and experiencing.  I would love to be able to go back to 1955 and see Disneyland as it was when it first opened.  Again, I’m jealous of these characters, and loved living vicariously through them.

The one flaw of the series continues here – the characters could be better.  They are strong enough to care about them, but they never feel completely real to me.  Of course, I have read about them for how many books now?  Obviously, it isn’t a huge issue for me.  Fortunately, the characters have few conflicts with each other here, something that could really annoy in earlier adventures.  Also, the young Wayne we get to know here loses his 50’s “Golly gee” type slang not too far into the book.  If it had continued the entire way through, that would have been very annoying.

While this book is the middle of a trilogy, this trilogy is a sequel series to a seven book series.  It does its best to introduce things, but to really follow and appreciate what we learn here, you need to back up and start from the beginning.

I’m anxious to find out what these new revelations (and the ending of this book) mean for the Kingdom Keepers, their friends, and the Disney legacy, so I will be waiting impatiently for the final book to come out this spring.  In the meantime, pick up Legacy of Secrets and be ready for another magical adventure.

If you need the history to fully understand this book, here are the rest of the Kingdom Keepers novels.

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

Saturday, August 20, 2016

August 20th's Weekly TV Thoughts

I've been watching the Olympics.  Lots and lots of Olympics.  And that's just to watch the prime time stuff.  I wish they'd show more of the other events, especially diving.  I have managed to track down all the diving this week, but even so, they only show a very small fraction of it.  I will be glad when it is over so I have a little less to watch.

But here's what I watched that wasn't Olympics related.

Rush Hour – Interesting twist giving the villain a connection to Carter.  Really well done twists to the story, too.  Definitely felt like one of the better episodes overall.

Dead of Summer – I was one for two.  I noticed that Amy hid her hand, so I knew she was a demon.  But I thought putting the bones in the lake would actually be a bad things.  Looks like it was a very, very good thing after all.  I’m kind of wondering how they will fill two more episodes, however, because it looks like we are ready for the final battle right now.

Scream – I was worried they wouldn’t fit everything into the final hour in this one.  What a ride.  Nice call backs to the second Scream movie with the theater scene and the police car scene.  But seriously?  That’s the killer?  I’m so bummed!  Of course, this season does answer the questions left over from the previous season and the killer makes sense logically, so I’m happy with both now.  And that ending?  I’d love to see a third season to find out what that is all about.

Suits – No wonder Kevin doesn’t want to talk about anything.  Ouch!  He’s in a true no win situation.  Meanwhile, this subplot with Rachel has taken a much more serious turn with her having a deadline.  And Louis’s confession turned out to be much better received than I thought it would be, but how he can be so focused on that with the firm in such bad shape is beyond me.

Girl Meets World – Best line of the night goes to Cory.  “I’ve been meeting the world most of my life.”  Love it!  The episode didn’t quite go the way I thought it would, but I liked it.  It is very important to remember that the capacity for good and evil lives in both of us.  It is way too easy to sit back and judge what others do and not watch out for evil to hit you.  Of course, as a Christian, I do believe that the only good truly comes from God, but that’s a discussion for something outside a sitcom or a short paragraph written about one.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Ornament Review: Teacup for Two - 2016 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute ornament sure to make you smile
Cons: All cons spun away
The Bottom Line:
Mickey and Minnie
Are ready for Tea Party
This DisNerd loves it!

A Great Ornament - And That's No Spin

One of the most iconic rides at the Disney theme parks is the Mad Tea Party, aka the teacups.  People either love it and love to spin them as fast as they can, or they hate them because of their motion sickness.  Hallmark has appealed to those who love the ride with Teacup for Two.

The ornament features Mickey and Minnie sitting in one of the teacups.  The teacup is gray and features purple flowers, accents, and designs just like the real teacups do.  Mickey and Minnie are sitting facing each other with their hands on the spinner in the middle, ready to start spinning as soon as the ride begins.  You can just bet that they will have a blast spinning all over the place by the smiles they have on their faces.

Of course, being an ornament, they don’t actually spin, but you can easily picture them being ready to spin in just a couple of minutes.  Mickey and Minnie, the teacup – everything just looks fantastic.  It’s hard not to smile when you look at it.

This is the part where I pull out my DisNerd hat for just a second.  It would have been super cool if they had put Alice and the Mad Hatter in the cup since the ride is based on the Alice in Wonderland movie.  However, this is a very, very, very, very minor issue.  I do love the thought of Mickey and Minnie enjoying the rides in the park, and as I said, this ornament makes me smile.

The base of the teacup is wide enough you can easily set this ornament out to be displayed year round.  Even better, the loop for hanging the ornament is on the spinner in the middle of the cup, so not as obvious as usual, which makes it easier to use this as a year round decoration.

The downside of the loop’s placement is that you need a large hook to get past Mickey and Minnie’s head to hang from a branch.  Again, that’s a very small issue.  When you do go to hang the ornament, you’ll discover that it tips back ever so slightly, but that’s easy enough to disguise with a tree branch.

Really, I can’t say enough good things about Teacup for Two.  It will rekindle warm memories of trips to Disney parks.  I hope Hallmark releases more ornaments like this in the future.

Original Price: $17.95

August 19th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Time again for Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week I'm going to feature No Virgin Island by C. Michele Dorsey.


A mystery set in the US Virgin Islands?  Yes, please!

Here's how the book begins:
Sabrina Salter was a woman who didn't like surprises, even nice ones.

And jumping ahead to page 56, we find this exchange:

"And then?" Neil asked as he dipped a conch friter into green habanera hot sauce.
"And then he did it again."

I finished this book up over the weekend.  Look for my review coming up on Monday.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Winner of Clock and Dagger

I'm back on track, pulling the name of my next winner tonight.  The book was Clock and Dagger, and the winner is...

...Deb Forbes.

I just sent you an e-mail, Deb, so please be looking for it so I can make sure your prize is sent to you.

Book Review: Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper (Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun, wonderful mystery, great characters
Cons: One minor niggle
The Bottom Line:
Death of a bridesmaid
Complex and fun mystery
Fantastic debut

No Reason to be Terrified – This is a Fantastic Debut

Sometimes, when you try a new author, you know by the end of the first chapter you are going to love the book.  For me, that was the case with Terror in Taffeta, the debut mystery by Marla Cooper.  The smile I had on my face stayed with me for the rest of the book.

As the book opens, destination wedding planner Kelsey McKenna is working on getting her latest bride and bridesmaids down the aisle for a wedding.  The wedding is taking place in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and the wedding party went out drinking the night before, so they are feeling a little hungover.  That’s why Kelsey is only annoyed when Victim, a last minute bridesmaid, collapses just as the ceremony is ending.  Kelsey quickly hurries everyone out of the chapel to the reception only to realize that Dana Poole isn’t suffering from a massive hangover – she’s dead.

The police quickly rule it a homicide and arrest the maid of honor, who also happens to be the sister of the bride, for the crime.  That’s when Mrs. Abernathy, the very demanding mother of the bride, demands that Kelsey find out what really happened.  Pointing out that playing detective is outside her skill set is beside the point, so Kelsey begins to investigate.  It turns out that Dana wasn’t a very nice person, and the list of potential suspects is rather long.  But can Kelsey figure out what really happened?

The reason I fell in love with this book so quickly was the humor.  Kelsey has a very fun way of narrating the book, and it provides plenty of smiles and laughs as things progress.  She’s been a wedding planner long enough that she’s seen everything, or at least she thinks she’s seen everything since this is the first time there’s been a murder at a wedding she planned.

And while she may not know what she is doing as a detective, she manages to uncover quite a few clues and red herrings over the course of this book.  There are some wonderful twists and surprises before we reach the logical climax.  I did think that one red herring wasn’t completely wrapped up, but maybe I’m just being extremely picky.  Either way, it is a very minor issue.

And the characters are great.  Kelsey is a charming and resourceful main character.  There are only a couple of characters who will be series regulars here, but I liked them as well.  And the rest of the cast?  Some edge toward over the top, but I loved them for it.  The rest are very realistic and keep things grounded.  My favorite, however, as the mother of the bride.  Mrs. Abernathy was definitely over the top, but she was fun.  I looked forward to seeing her pop up on the page.

San Miguel is a nice backdrop for this debut.  While the focus is the mystery, we still get some glimpses into this location, and that adds a nice touch to the book.

Humor, fun characters, a great mystery, and an exotic location.  What more could you want?  RSVP yes for Terror in Taffeta today.  Personally, I’ve already saved the date for the sequel.

NOTE: While I am reviewing this book as part of a blog tour, I bought the book for myself back in April.  My thoughts are, as always, completely my own.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala Winner

I know, I know, I'm a day behind in picking the winner of The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala.  I had an ultimate Frisbee game last night and didn't get home until almost midnight.  But I'm home tonight and I have a winner.  That winner is...


I've sent you an e-mail, so please be looking for it so I can make sure you get your prize.

Ornament Review: 12 Little Days of Christmas Set 1 - Days 1-3 - 2016 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Simple yet elegant mini ornaments
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
The 12 days get shrunk
Simple, elegant designs
Can’t wait to get more

Revisit the First Three Days of Christmas with This Classy Set

My favorite series that Hallmark is currently releasing is their 12 Days of Christmas.  I’m not alone since each entry regularly pops up on the bestselling lists for premier and debut every year.  With Hallmark working to bring back their miniature ornaments, this seemed like a great series to mine, so they are bringing out the 12 Little Days of Christmas this year in four sets.  Days 1-3 came out in July, and it sold me on them.

Since this is the first three days of Christmas, we get the Partridge, Turtle Doves, and French Hen.  These ornaments bear a close resemblance to their regular series counterparts, right down to the dangle elements with the day.

However, instead of being full color, these ornaments are white and gold.  In fact, the majority of the ornament is white, with bits of gold accent.  These are mostly around wings and tail feathers, eyes and beaks.  With only two colors, we don’t get a lot of detail, but they still look wonderful.

In fact, my usual complaint about the mini ornaments is the lack of detail.  Here, that isn’t an issue at all.  You can look at them and know exactly what it is, but you don’t feel like there is something you are missing by them being so small.

And the simple white and gold gives them an elegant look.  I’m not sure how else to describe it.  These ornaments are made from porcelain, so they are more fragile than Hallmark’s usual plastic, but it really helps add to the look.

As with the regular series, these ornaments must be hung.  However, you’ll find that they hang straight.  That’s no surprise since their full size counterparts do as well.

The rest of the 12 Little Days of Christmas will be coming out before Christmas this year, so we will have a complete set (and sneak peaks of the rest of the regular full line) in 2016.  Be sure to pick up Days 1-3 so you have them all.

Of course, you can't stop here.  Here are the rest of the 12 Little Days of Christmas ornaments.

Original Price: $24.95

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Review: Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness #10)

Stars: 4 out of 5
: Character growth and a puzzling mystery
Cons: A bit slow to get started, but entertaining throughout.
The Bottom Line:
Georgie must clear
Her future father-in-law
Or marriage is off

Elopement Interrupted by Murder

When last we saw Lady Georgiana and her fiancĂ©e Darcy O’Mara, they were eloping.  Now I thought that this would mean this book would find them figuring out their new life as a married couple, but Rhys Bowen couldn’t let them get off that easily.  I’m glad she didn’t because there is a lot of fun to be had in Crowned and Dangerous.

If you are new to the Royal Spyness series, prepare to travel back in time to 1934.  That’s when we get to spend time with Georgie, thirty-fifth in line for the throne of England.  Of course, being a minor royal isn’t as easy as it sounds since Georgie has to figure out how to support herself during a depression.  Oh, and there are the murders she keeps stumbling upon.

This book picks up minutes after the previous book ended.  In fact, we are still in the car with Georgia and Darcy.  But before Georgia and Darcy can tie the knot, they get the news that Darcy’s father has been arrested for murder.  While Darcy is the son of an Irish lord, the O’Mara family is poor and Lord Kilhenny, Darcy’s father, has had to sell off the family estate.  Now the current own of the family castle has been murdered and the police think that the hot headed Lord Kilhenny is the prime suspect.

Naturally, Darcy dashes off to Ireland to help his estranged father.  It isn’t long before Georgia decides she needs to stand by her future family, so she follows Darcy to help him clear his father’s name.  But the evidence seems to point to Lord Kilhenny quite clearly as the killer.  Can Georgie pull off the impossible?  Or will a tainted family name ruin her chances of marrying Darcy?

The book got off to a bit of a slow start, mainly because Georgie is once again wondering where she will live.  This is a constant sub-plot in the books, and it is very obvious to us where she will be heading; she just needs to figure it out.  Since this is the tenth book in the series, we’ve gotten a large group of Georgie’s family and friends that we’ve come to know and love.  They mostly get cameos during this part before Georgie plunges full on into the case.  It’s nice to see these characters and get updates on them since we love them, so the time wasn’t wasted, at least for fans of the series.

However, once Georgie decides to head to Ireland, things really pick up.  We are presented with a well-constructed puzzle that unravels with some great surprises and twists before we reach a logical ending.  I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough to find out what would happen next.

Since this book involves a member of Darcy’s family, we get more of him than in some of the books.  I loved seeing him with his friends and family from his early years, and this gave him another facet to his character.  We got some much needed development in a few of the other series regulars, and I hope it sticks in future books.  Georgie, of course, continues to entertain.  She is a lovable protagonist, and time with her is always pleasant.  Plus we get an absolutely outstanding new character here.  I would not complain at all if she is Georgie’s sidekick again in future books.

Oh, and do Darcy and Georgie ever get married?  Well, you’ll have to read this book to find that out.

Fans of this series will be delighted to spend more time with Georgie as we get the next chapter of her life.  And if you have yet to meet her, fix that today.  You’ll race through the books and be enjoying Crowned and Dangerous before you know it.

If you need to catch Georgie’s earlier adventures, here are the Royal Spyness mysteries in order.

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


Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of this book to give away.  Because it is a physical book, the contest is limited to residence of the US.

Just leave me a comment with your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you win.  I will pick the winner next Tuesday, August 23rd, so please leave your comment before 12:01AM Pacific Time on 8/23.  You will have until midnight on 8/28 to get back to me, or I will choose a new winner on 8/29.