Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Review: A Palette for Murder by Sybil Johnson (Aurora Anderson Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery filled with twists
Cons: Characters, while good, could be a little better
The Bottom Line:
Rory finds neighbor
Start of twisty mystery
That’s hard to put down

Murder of a Neighbor

We are currently having our first real Southern California winter in several years.  (Rain!!!  Yeah!!!!)  Ironically enough, I have selected two books in a row set during summer heat waves.  (I had no idea, I swear!)  It was certainly fun to enjoy warmer weather vicariously through A Palette for Murder.

Because Vista Beach, California, is right on the beach, not everywhere has air conditioning.  After all, it’s only a few days a year that things get hot enough to truly need it.  However, a heat wave in the small, Los Angeles County community is making residence leave their windows open in the hope that they can cool off a little.  A group of thieves in neighboring towns are taking advance of that.

And it looks like those burglars have finally hit Vista Beach.  One morning Aurora “Rory” Anderson finds her neighbor Willow dead on her kitchen floor.  It looks like a robbery gone very wrong, but the police aren’t so certain.  In fact, they start looking at Dawn as a suspect.  Dawn has been a good friend to Rory and her family, so when Dawn asks for Rory’s help finding the killer, Rory agrees.  As she begins to investigate, she learns that Willow had many hidden secrets.  But which one of them lead to her murder?

The characters in this book are good; we care enough about them to care about the outcome.  I’m definitely rooting for Rory to get her love life figured out, and I really enjoy her best friend.  I do feel they could be stronger, but that’s not a reason to skip this series.

The mystery in this book is very strong.  There are so many secrets and twists along the way that my jaw actually dropped a couple of times.  I did figure out the killer a bit before Rory did, but I didn’t mind at all since the ride was so delightful.  I had a very hard time putting the book down and finished it up in just a couple of days instead of my usual three.

Those familiar with the series will know that Rory is a toll painting enthusiast.  It continues to color Rory’s world with Willow having taken some classes in addition to being Rory’s neighbor and Dawn being an instructor.  I really enjoy this theme since painting isn’t something that pops up in many of the books I read.

Watching how the twists of the plot come together for a logical solution makes reading A Palette for Murder a lot of fun.  Fans of the series will be delighted to return to Vista Beach.  If you are new to Rory’s world, settle in for a good book today.

Enjoy more art mixed with murder in the rest of the Aurora Anderson Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Movie Review: Captain America - Civil War

Stars: 3 out of 5
: Great action
Cons: Too much left open at the end
The Bottom Line:
Split in Avengers
Gives us some great action scenes
With little wrap up

“This Doesn’t Have to End in a Fight.”  “It Always Ends in a Fight.”

By now, everyone knows about the vaulted Marvel Cinematic Universe.  As a result, I have been trying to follow the movies in the order of release.  I’ve just let myself get behind.  In my efforts to catch up, I just watched Captain America: Civil War.  It’s definitely not the best in the Marvel franchise.

The Avengers are finally having to face some consequences for their actions.  While many still consider them heroes, people who have been effected by their huge battles are putting out a cry for some kind of oversight.  An international organization has answered the call, but the camp is being split into two with Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), on one side and Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), on the other.

While the rest of the superheroes are choosing sides, Steve’s friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) resurfaces, accused of committing a horrible crime.  Steve is quick to defend his friend, and these actions only further the rift between the two sides of the Avengers.  Is Bucky truly innocent?  Can Steve help him prove it with his old friends after him?

Really, to call this a Captain America film is a misnomer.  While we don’t see Thor or the Hulk, the rest of the Avengers are all present and have plenty of screen time.  Yes, there are a few things here that are carry over storylines from the previous two Captain America films, but this could have been another Avengers sequel without any real difference in the storyline.

In fact, I feel like it would have been better that way.  The Bucky Barnes storyline served a purpose in the divide, but anything else would have worked just as well.  And if it were an Avengers focused film, it might have better served the Civil War part of the plot.  As it is, we get some resolution to that, but it is obviously something they will be carrying over to further films.  While we’ve had threads left hanging in earlier movies, this is the first time I’ve really felt like we had a big, unspoken “To Be Continued” hanging at the end of the film.

Of course, if you are looking at this for action scenes, you’ll be greatly rewarded.  They are plentiful and fun.  There is a big fight that includes the newest superhero in the roster – Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man.  Meanwhile, we also get to meet the newest Spider-Man as Tom Holland steps into the roll ahead of his debut headlining a film later this year.

And my critique certainly is no reflection on the acting.  The cast all does a fantastic job with their various rolls.

I just wish that the story had been ironed out a bit more.  I just feel like we’ve been left with too little resolution for the two plus hour run time of the film.  Yes, the Captain America part is actually resolved, but there was so much more to this film than that, and to have to wait a year or longer for the next part is frustrating.

And yet their plan certainly worked.  I will be back for more Marvel films to find out what happens next to these characters.  It’s not that Captain America: Civil War is a bad film.  It’s just that it leaves too much open to be truly satisfying.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Book Review: Secret Origins by James Riley (Story Thieves #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Revelations in page turning fun
Cons: That cliffhanger!
The Bottom Line:
Tracking a father
Into a comic book world
Delightful again

I’m Letting the Secret Out – This is More Book Hopping Fun

As a kid, I used to dream I could hop into my favorite book.  You can imagine how much I’ve been enjoying the Story Thieves series since it features kids who can do just that.  Of course, my dream was always to just meet my favorite characters and experience the story, but as Bethany and Owen have learned, that’s not always a good idea.  Secret Origins is their third adventure, and things get even more complicated.

It’s been two months since Bethany last jumped into a book – any book.  It was a hard decision she and Owen had made to avoid causing any more issues in the lives of fictional characters.  She’s found it frustrating since it means she can no longer look for her father, a fictional character trapped in some book.  And it’s also made her notice a man parked across the street from her house.

Owen is sure that this mystery man isn’t watching her, but Bethany knows better.  She talks Owen into tracking the man to his home, where they make a startling discovery.  Have they stumbled on Bethany’s father?  Where will they find themselves next?

The first book in the series played around with fantasy stories, and the second took on mysteries.  This time, we spend most of our time in the world of comic books.  While I have never read comic books, I am familiar with the characters and the world they inhabit thanks to movies and TV, and so I enjoyed some of the discussion about how this new world should behave.  In fact, some of the spoofs of comic books were pretty fun.

Those who have been reading the series from the start will be delighted with the revelations we get here.  In fact, we get answers to many of the questions left over from the first couple of books here.  As a result, I really don’t recommend you jump in here.  Trust me, you’ll have such fun along the way, it’s not an issue at all.

These books are always fast moving, and this one is no exception.  I purposely kept my plot teaser very vague since this book unfolds in a delightful and fun way, and I don’t want to risk spoiling any of it.  I found myself reading longer than I should a couple of different times because I had to read just one more chapter.  There are some wicked cliffhangers along the way guaranteed to keep you reading, too.  And let’s not even talk about the cliffhanger at the end of the book.  Is the next one out yet?  Please?

Series fans will notice I’ve mostly talked about Owen and Bethany.  Yes, other characters from the series pop up, although that’s all I’m going to say.  We get some fun new characters as well, filling this book with people you want to spend time reading about.

The answer we get here will please those who have been reading the series all along.  And if you are new to the Story Thieves books, start reading them today.  You’ll be done with Secret Origins before you know it.

You'll want to jump into the rest of the Story Thieves series in order.

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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Ornament Review: Locomotive - Advance to Go #3 - 2002 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good version of the locomotive token
Cons: Lesser known token; could use a tad more detail
The Bottom Line:
Train chugs on your tree
As this mini series ends
Game fans will like it

All Aboard for the Final Advance to Go Ornament

Railroads have always been a huge part of the board game Monopoly, so it makes sense that Hallmark would choose the Locomotive token as part of their Advance to Go series of miniature ornaments.  It’s just sad that this is the final entry in the series.

Now, if you are like me, you are probably wondering where the train token comes from.  With all the versions of the game I have, the deluxe version was never one of them, but the train is one of the tokens in that version of the game.  Even so, it’s easy to picture this as a Monopoly token.  The ornament itself is pewter, and looks like a locomotive.  The details on the sides could be a bit better, but Monopoly pieces aren’t known for their detail, and it is still easy to tell exactly what we have.

As I said earlier, this was the final entry in this particular miniature series, ending it at 3.  Only one of the three was from the classic edition, and I do wonder if it would have helped the series live longer if they were more of the classic game pieces.  Having said that, I certainly don’t think any piece would have been better to end the series.  While this doesn’t grab me as a nostalgia piece since I haven’t played the version of the game it comes from, I love the connection to the four railroads on the game board.

This is an ornament of a game token, and as such, you can easily set it out to be displayed year round.  Or maybe even use it as a game piece if yours is missing.  I haven’t measured, but these strike me as roughly the same size as the game pieces themselves.

But this is an ornament, and as such, it’s supposed to be hung.  You’ll find a loop in the middle of the train, and that means that yes, this ornament hangs straight.  It is slightly heavier than you might be expecting, but because of its size, it still isn’t that heavy.

And since this was a series piece, you’ll find the 3 in a Christmas tree on the train’s bottom.

It’s sad that the series ended with only 3 pieces, but the Locomotive token sends the series off on the right track.

Be sure to get a monopoly on the rest of the Advance to Go ornaments.

Original Price: $8.95

January 28th's Weekly TV Thoughts

As soon as my DC Comics shows come back, my TV watching skyrockets.  If it weren't for those shows, I'd have so much more reading time, wouldn't I?  I realized that again as all four of those shows up back.  No, they aren't all I watch, but they sure are a lot of it.

The Librarians – I told you they would figure out a way to save Flynn!  Loved it!  And I figured Eve was running some kind of scam, but I didn’t think that Flynn was in on it, too.  They managed to resolve everything and keep the team together.  Definitely enjoyed it.  And saw news that the show will be back for season 4, which is terrific news indeed.

Supergirl – What is this, Buffy?  Sorry, Alex, but your reaction to Supergirl’s disappearing was definitely over the top.  Maggie’s reaction to your reaction wasn’t much better, but come on.  On the other hand, Winn’s “I am not a red shirt” line was hilarious.  And I am definitely on the Mon El train.  His relationship with Kara is cute, and I like the character overall.

The Flash – I’m glad they told the team, at least most of the team, about Barry’s trip to the future.  And I like them bringing Julian on board.  I’m still so worried about Caitlyn going to the Frost side.  I really like her and don’t want that to be permanent.

Legends of Tomorrow – We found Rip.  We’ve lost Rip.  We are in for a crazy ride the back half of this season, I can tell.  Loved the George Lucas stuff, especially the trash compactor.  I knew what was going to happen as soon as I saw it, but it was still so much fun.

This is Us – So Kevin is divorced from Kate’s best friend.  Yet Kate seems okay with that.  I’m very curious to hear more of that story.  The end after the parties was so wonderful.  And am I reading things right?  Did Jack die on or near their birthdays?  I’m really not looking forward to learning more about that, although I know it is coming.

Arrow – Even before the promos started coming out, I suspected that Laurel was an alternative reality Laurel.  I was so sick of her cry.  Yikes!  I don’t know enough about the comics to know who that was at the end, but I’m sure we’ll learn more next week.

Lethal Weapon – Please, Riggs, don’t cut her family out of your life.  And poor RJ, although with a name like Feather, you knew it wasn’t going to end well.

Suits – Well, that went about as well as I expected.  Not that I’m complaining, but with how much Harvey and Louis fight, it will be a wonder if they can run the firm at all.  I do like the offer they made to Rachel, not that I thought she’d leave.  And I’m still not sure what they will be doing with Mike since he didn’t take the offer.  I’m surprised because I assumed he would.  He probably will before the season is over, but he didn’t for now at least.

Friday, January 27, 2017

January 27th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

It's Friday!  That means it is time for this week's Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

I'm switching things up a bit from my usual cozy mystery and featuring a middle grade fantasy novel - Secret Origins, the third Story Thieves book by James Riley.


This series features characters who can jump into and out of books and seriously messes with the line between fiction and reality, but in a very fun way.

You can see that from how the book begins:
The evil King of All Stories held his enormous eraser to Bethany's head as she tried to escape.
"It's too late, heroes!" the king told Owen, Kiel, and Charm.  "There's nothing you can do!  Now I'll erase the parts of Bethany's life story that make her a good person, thereby turning her into my evil minion.  The, together, we'll invade the nonfictional world and rule everything!"

Yes, that really is the opening paragraphs.  Jumps you right into things, doesn't it?

Speaking of jumping, let's jump ahead to page 56, where we find this:

As they left the room, the lights of the blue-fire portal began to flicker, causing the shadows to dance.
Then the shadows pulled away from the portal to follow Bethany and Owen.

Told you it was something different.

As I mentioned, this is the third in a series, and you really need to start at the beginning to understand all of them, but they are so delightful!

If you are intrigued, I'll be posting my review of the book on Sunday.  I hope to see you then.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book Review: Silenced in the Surf by Kate Dyer-Seeley (Pacific Northwest Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery and strong characters
Cons: Some pacing issues; Meg’s grandma
The Bottom Line:
More outdoor murder
With Meg swept up in the case
Overall, it’s good

You’ll Surf Through This Book

In my mind, I’m a great athlete.  The reality is that some of the sports I would love to try freak me out when the time comes.  I don’t want to go too fast.  I don’t want to be too high.  It’s one reason I can identify with Meg, the main character in Kate Dyer-Seeley’s Pacific Northwest series.

You see, Meg works at Northwest Extreme magazine, based in Portland, Oregon, despite having little outdoor experience herself.  Still, she is trying these new sports as she covers them.  Silenced in the Surf, the third in the series, finds her covering a windsurfing event on the Hood River.

As part of her press pass, she is given the opportunity to get out on the river early one morning and try windsurfing.  Given her background as a swimmer, Meg thinks this is one sport she should be able to do.  However, the strong winds are more than she bargained for, and soon she is being blown down the river.  When she gets things under control, she finds a body floating nearby.

The body is that of surfer Justin Cruise, the star of the windsurfing circuit.  However, he’s also a very nasty person, as Meg has witnessed firsthand in just the day she’s been there.  Her interviews give her an opportunity to talk to those who knew Justin best.  Can she piece together who killed him and why?

Those who have been reading this series know that there is an ongoing story in this series concerning Meg’s father.  We are teased with just a bit more information on that in this book.  I hope we start getting more answers on it soon.

As far as the main mystery goes, it’s very strong.  There are some wonderful suspects, and I didn’t know for sure who had done it until Meg figured it out.  The pacing was off overall, but the clues and twists kept me entertained.

Meg is out of town again for this book, but her friends Jill and Matt are along for the ride.  Heck, even her grandma shows up for the book.  I find that I have a love/hate relationship with her grandma, mainly because of her New Age beliefs.  She’s a fun character when she’s not promoting that.  When she does start spouting that, it can slow things down.  Still, this is a minor thing because it’s easy to skim past those scenes.  The new characters we meet along the way are just as strong as the series regulars, and I found them all compelling suspects.

We get some tips and very brief travel guide at the end, so if you are interested in trying windsurfing or traveling to the Hood River, be sure to check that out.

While there are some flaws, Silenced in the Surf is overall a very fun book.  If you want to add some outdoor adventure to your reading, be sure to check it out.

Here are the rest of the Pacific Northwest Mysteries in order.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ornament Review: Kokomo - 2016 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute ornament with fun song clip
Cons: That blue chair is a head scratcher
The Bottom Line:
Tropical snowman
Song clip just adds to the fun
Of warm Christmas piece

A Snowman After My Own Heart

I’m a warm weather person.  There’s a reason I live in Southern California, and you won’t find me complaining about the heat in the summer either.  That’s just one of the reasons I love Kokomo, one of Hallmark’s 2016 releases.

The ornament features a snowman I can completely identify with.  He’s laying out on a lounge chair somewhere tropical.  He’s wearing sunglasses and a red visor and holding a drink in one hand.  His chair is next to a palm tree that is providing a little shade.  Of course, we all know what happens to a snowman when he gets too warm.  And yes, if you look underneath the snowman, you can see that parts of him are beginning to melt onto the chair.  Yet based on the smile on his face, I don’t think he’s complaining

Now there is one weird thing about this ornament – the lounge chair.  It appears to have wood grain in it.  Oh, it’s made of plastic like the rest of the ornament, but they carved some wood grain into it.  Yet the chair is painted blue.  Maybe it’s just my experience, but any chairs I’ve seen made from wood are always either stained a deeper shade of brown or left with their natural wood color.  Plastic chairs might be painted a different color, but even then most of the ones I’ve seen are white.

But that’s a minor issue.  Overall, I like it.

And there’s an added bonus.  If the title of the ornament made you think of the Beach Boys’ song, that’s intentional.  This is one of Hallmark’s magic ornaments, and comes with your first set of two button batteries.  Just press the button hiding under one of the chair’s arm, and you’ll hear a 30 second clip of “Kokomo.”  Combine that with the great looking ornament, and you are sure to have a smile on your face.

Just like a chair rests on any flat surface, this ornament sits on any flat surface.  Given the tropical vibe, you could set this out and enjoy it during the summer, for example, if you wanted to.

I hung mine on my tree this year.  The loop is located in the top of the palm tree.  The ornament does tip forward a bit, but it isn’t enough to be an issue.

We don’t normally think of the tropics when we think of Christmas, but that theme works perfectly here.  If you want to add some warmth to your tree, be sure to check out Kokomo.

Original Price: $17.95

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Review: Kitty Kitty Bang Bang by Sparkle Abbey (Pampered Pets Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun characters provide lots of fun
Cons: Plot could be a little stronger overall
The Bottom Line:
Caro’s neighbor shot
Starts off fun mystery book
That ends all too soon

Painting Cats’ Owner Murdered

Sometimes, when I read a book, I have to sit back and scratch my head, wondering if something in the book is actually a thing.  In the case of Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, I’m wondering that about pets who paint.  I’d certainly never heard of that before, but it sets up the fun third Pampered Pets Mystery.

In fact, the book opens at a gallery showing for several different artistic pets, including the two cats of Caro Lamont’s neighbor Kitty Bardot.  Like me, Caro isn’t so sure she gets these paintings, but she is there to support Kitty, a publicist to the stars who is also a friend.  So when Kitty asks Caro to take her two pets home from the event because of an emergency that has come up, Caro quickly agrees.

On the way home, Caro, her boyfriend Sam, and the cats pass the scene of an accident.  It’s Kitty in the car, and she didn’t make it.  However, the accident isn’t what killed her – it was being shot with a gun.  While Caro isn’t ready to jump into another murder investigation, she finds herself drawn in.  The police have no real suspects or leads.  Can Caro figure out what happened?

This book is tons of fun.  If you haven’t figured it out already, this is a very light mystery filled with characters and events that are slightly absurd.  I’m not going to spoil anything, but we meet a new character here that was an absolute delight.  Don’t worry, everything is real enough to make us care about the outcome.  The characters are strong, too, and I feel like we are getting to know Caro and another couple of people in her regular orbit.

The plot was a tad on the weak side.  The pacing was off, but by the time we reach the end, everything makes perfect sense.  And I was having so much fun that I didn’t mind.  It does get stronger as the book goes along and we begin to find suspects and get some twists.

One thing I really enjoy in this series is the on-going feud that Caro has with her cousin (and main character in the even numbered books in the series) Mel.  It’s all over a broach.  The scenes involving that broach made me laugh out loud.  At some point, I’m sure the authors will resolve this, and I’m going to miss it when that happens.

If you have pets yourself, there are a couple of recipes for treats you can make them at the back of the book.  There are also teasers for the first two books in the series, so if you’ve missed them, they’ll get you hooked.

I read to escape, so when I find a fun series, I get hooked quickly.  I’m definitely hooked on the Pampered Pets Mysteries, and Kitty Kitty Bang Bang will show you exactly why.

Once you are hooked, you’ll want to read the rest of the Pampered Pets Mysteries in order.

Monday, January 23, 2017

TV Show Review: Reba - Season 6

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Lots of great laughs in 13 episodes
Cons: One storyline felt like a retread, final scene a bit rushed.
The Bottom Line:
Final episodes
Give us more wonderful laughs
Mostly nice wrap up

“If You Take Loyalty and Ethics out of a Business, You Know What You Have?”  “A TV Network?”

At the end of season 4 of Reba, the WB, the station airing the show at the time, renewed it for two seasons.  At the end of season 5, the WB merged with UPN, and in the resulting confusion, Reba almost got canceled (despite strong ratings) until the resulting new CW network realized what it would cost them to do so.  As a result, they ordered the minimum 13 episode season 6, which allowed the show to give us a proper wrap up.

Since the writers had some idea the show might not be back for season 6, we start the season off with no cliffhanger resolution.  (I just had to give the writer’s a shout out for being responsible.)

But change is definitely in the air for the Hart family, and Reba Hart (Reba McIntyre) is just trying to weather the storm.  Daughter Cheyenne (JoAnna Garcia) and son-in-law Van (Steve Howey) are expecting their second child and are looking to move out and get a place of their own.  That’s driving Van to be a better realtor, which is causing some friction with his business partner Reba, especially when he gets an offer to move to a different company.  Meanwhile, Barbara Jean (Melissa Peterman) has lost weight and is finally pursuing one of her own dreams, causing conflict in her marriage to Reba’s ex-husband Brock (Christopher Rich).  Of course, Reba is caught right in the middle.  Meanwhile, Jake (Mitch Hollerman) get caught up in a new sport he wants to keep secret from everyone else.

Middle daughter Kyra missed almost all of season 5 since Scarlett Pomers, the actress who played her, was in treatment for an eating disorder.  (And I still applaud everyone for how it was handled.)  Her absence was actually never really explained the show, and they mock themselves brilliantly in the first episode this season when Kyra reappears.  She is back in full force with her wonderful sarcasm.  She’s now a senior is high school and decides to move back in with Reba for her final year before she goes off to college.  The resulting fights are predictable, but they are still entertaining.

And that’s the thing with this show this season.  We’ve seen some of these jokes before, but we still laugh at them because the writers find ways to make them funny still.  It helps that, while the jokes may be familiar, we are seeing the characters growing and changing so many of the situations are fresh.

Notice I said many.  Brock and Barbara Jean’s marital problems had been an on-going story at this point, and I still feel like this season didn’t add much new, but it’s a minor issue.

My only other complaint with the season is the ending.  Don’t get me wrong, the ending is the right ending.  In fact, if you listen to the commentaries on earlier seasons, you’ll see the actors felt this was how the show should have ended back then.  However, that final scene still feels forced.  I like it, but at the same time I don’t because it feels very abrupt.  Maybe if the writers had more than 13 episodes this season, they could have eased into it easier.  After all, if you really think about what all happened in these 13 episodes, at lot is packed in.

The acting this season is fine as always.  The cast knows these characters, and they mine the scripts for every laugh.  I have no complaints in that department.

In fact, my complaints above are more niggles than true complaints.  They keep the season from being perfect, but I’d forgotten just how funny these episodes are until I went to rewatch them.

The thirteen episodes from this season are preserved here in their native full frame and stereo sound.  (This was 2006 after all.)  We get one double sided disc with the episodes and no bonus features.  Honestly, I was happy to get that with how the show was treated for this final season.

If you’ve been a fan of Reba, you’ll definitely want to have the final season in your collection.  And if you’ve missed this gem, by all means go back and start at the beginning.  It’s a truly funny show.

Season 6 Episodes:
1. Let’s Get Physical
2. Just Business
3. Trading Spaces
4. Roll with It
5. The Break-Up
6. Sweet Child O’ Mine
7. Locked and Loaded
8. As We Forgive Those
9. Bullets over Brock
10. Cheyenne’s Rival
11. She’s with the Band
12. The Housewarming
13. The Kids are Alright

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Book Review: The Indian Burial Ground Mystery by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #38)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Always fun to visit these characters
Cons: Characters and plot weaker than they could be
The Bottom Line:
Later Trixie book
Still has elements of fun
But not series best

Archeological Dig Comes to Sleepyside

Trixie Belden number 38 has a special place in my heart.  While it is the next to last book in the series, it was the last book I had to track down and read when I was a teen, having previous gotten the rest.  And it took me a couple of years, too, since this was in the days before eBay.  Of course, that special place doesn’t make me overlook the flaws in The Indian Burial Ground Mystery, and it has some series flaws.

Summer is starting, and fourteen-year-old Trixie Belden is excited about the archeological dig that is going to happen on her neighbor Honey’s property.  Professor Conroy has determined that there is an Indian burial ground there, and he has agreed to let the Bob-Whites, Trixie and her friends, help out.  To Trixie, it looks like a mystery with each artifact they find being a new clue to the lives of the Indians who lived in the region centuries ago.

The one flaw in her summer plans is Charles, the student leader of the dig.  While warming up to Trixie’s older brother Brian, he is rude to Trixie.  Trixie knows he is up to something, but Brian won’t listen.  Can Trixie figure it all out?

If you have missed this series, it is a mystery series for kids along the lines of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys.  Early in the series, the characters are real and complex.  By the time we’ve reached these last few books, they are more caricatures of themselves than real characters.  That’s very obvious here were Trixie and Brian’s interactions feel more like plot points than the brother/sister relationship we see early on.  Heck, they completely write out Honey’s adopted brother, Jim, for the book, although the rest of the Bob-Whites at least get a few appearances.

Then there’s the plot.  It’s fairly obvious who the villain is early on.  There are a few complications that keep it from being completely obvious what exactly is happening, and those complications make it fun, but the end isn’t really a surprise.  Oh, and there is no way the adults would go along with the ending either, at least the adults in the earlier books in the series.

And yet I have a very hard time hating a Trixie Belden book.  Oh, there are a couple I really can’t stand, but it is always fun spending time with these characters even when they aren’t at their best.  I’ve spent so much time with them over the years, too.  It does help that I first read this book not too long after reading the rest of the series.  Friends I know who read this book first as an adult years after completing the rest of the series hate it because it is so different than the earlier, better books.  But to me, it is only an average entry.

So I do recommend The Indian Burial Ground Mystery for fans of the series.  It’s not the best in the series, but it is fun.  Just take your time tracking it down and wait until you find a reasonably priced copy.

Looking for more of Trixie's Adventures?  Here are the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ornament Review: Winter Fun with Snoopy #10 - Christmas Card - 2007 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute scene as miniature ornament
Cons: Very slight tip but not a huge issue
The Bottom Line:
Snoopy, you’ve got mail!
Letter from a friend is fun
With great mini piece

A Surprise in the Mail is Fun

As much as I love Christmas, one thing I don’t do is send out Christmas cards.  Yes, I still feel guilty about it, too, since I love getting them so much.  But that tradition is the subject of the tenth Winter Fun with Snoopy ornament.

This ornament finds Snoopy checking his mail.  It’s a good day, too, because he’s found a letter with his name on it inside his red mailbox.  It’s extra special because his mail is being personally delivered by a friend – Woodstock, of course.  He’s holding the letter and sticking his head out from inside.  There’s snow on top of the mailbox and on the ground that Snoopy is standing on.  Snoopy is wearing a green and blue scarf and hat.

And the entire scene is cute enough to make me smile.  This one seems a little bigger than some of the others in the series, probably because Snoopy isn’t the only large thing in the ornament.  He’s slightly smaller than the mailbox, in fact.  Still, this is definitely a smaller size than the normal ornaments from Hallmark and only marginally larger than the others in the series.

The scene provides a nice flat base, so you could set it out to enjoy on any level surface if you wanted.  You’ll also find the 10 in a Christmas tree series marker on the bottom.

The loop for hanging the ornament is on the top of the mailbox.  It slightly tips toward Snoopy, but not enough to be an issue.

Honestly, anytime of the year, it is fun to get mail from a friend, and the tenth Winter Fun with Snoopy is the perfect reminder of that.

Have more fun with the rest of the Winter Fun with Snoopy series.

Original Price: $6.50

January 21st's Weekly TV Thoughts

This is my last light week for TV for a little while.  My superhero shows start up again on Monday.  But for now, here's what I watched this week.

The Librarians – So I do wonder exactly how much time had passed between episodes.  I mean, Jake’s gotten how much training?  Having said that, it was a fun episode with a very touching end.  And Jenkins wasn’t in it much, but we got a huge insight into his character.  So much set up for next week, I’m wondering if everyone is going to make it through.  I don’t think so, but I hope I’m wrong.

The Odd Couple – Sports predicting penguin.  That’s pretty funny.  That was definitely the best part of the episode, although I do wonder if they were setting it up somehow like Oscar thought.

This Is Us – When I found out they were doing a show just set in 1980, I was less than enthused.  I like getting the updates on the characters in the present.  Turned out I absolutely loved it!  The acting was outstanding, especially from Mandy Moore.  Her monologue was fantastic, and it’s something you don’t see much these days.  The rest of it was good, too, and it’s nice to see how ultimately that day impacted so many lives besides the main family.

Lethal Weapon – Best episode of 2017.  Plenty of laughs.  Some good action.  Twists to the case.  And lots of heartfelt moments.  I love the relationships between the characters, and this one played on all of them perfectly.  Yes, this show still has it.  Okay, I could have done without the Ford commercial, although that scene was pretty funny.

The Big Bang Theory – This episode was so out of character for Leonard.  They’ve always pointed out how loving and attentive he is, so to see him acting like he was just didn’t jive.  Some of the jokes were good, but overall it felt off.  On the other hand, the squeaky floor sub-plot was hysterical.

The Great Outdoors – I enjoy last week’s episode, so I guess this week’s had to be off.  It just felt forced to me.  Seriously, who couldn’t see where it was going all along, and I feel like they are doing the same stories and same jokes over and over again.  That’s a bad sign half way through the first season, right?

Girl Meets World – That went exactly as I expected it to go.  However, I was crying there near the end, even once they decided to stay.  I loved all the cameos by the Boy Meets World crew.  I was especially laughing at Morgan’s appearance, or should I saw appearances.  Great in joke there.  And the scene between Shawn and Mr. Turner was so incredible as well.  It definitely played like a series finale, and it is a wonderful finale.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Book Review: "F" is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #6)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and mystery
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Kinsey is back in
Another strong letter full
Of twists, surprises

Proving the Innocence of a Killer on the Run

When I started listening to Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series a couple of years ago, it actually wasn’t my first introduction to the series.  I had listened to “F” is for Fugitive over 15 years ago, and my guess is it was an abridgement, although I don’t remember for sure.  I was curious to see what I would think of this book now and what I would think of it in context, not that I truly remember any of the story.  Turns out I loved it.

Seventeen years ago, teen Jean Timberlake was murdered on the beach in the town of Floral Beach.  Her boyfriend, Bailey Fowler, was convicted of the crime, but he escaped after serving a year of his sentence.  Now, he’s been recaptured, and Bailey’s father has hired Kinsey to find out the truth of what happened back then.

And so Kinsey drives the hour and a half north to Floral Beach and begins interviewing the people who were involved with Jean back then.  She finds that Floral Beach is a very small community, and everyone knows everyone else.  Even today, Jean’s reputation with the boys is legendary, and it seems like the suspect list is long.  But with no one willing to tell Kinsey the truth, can she solve this cold crime?

This book takes place almost exclusively outside of Kinsey’s usual stomping grounds of Santa Teresa.  What’s funny to me is that I actually remembered just a tad of how this book opens thanks to the ending of the previous book in the series.  Other than that, I was coming to this book with a completely fresh slate.

Which means I was in for all the fun twists and turns as the story progressed.  It seems that everyone Kinsey meets has a motive for the killing, and as Bailey’s return and Kinsey’s questions put everyone on edge, the ride truly gets crazy.  Yet Kinsey is once again able to put everything together to reach a logical conclusion in time for the wonderful climax.

This book also features an almost completely new cast of characters, but they are completely real to us as soon as we meet them.  This isn’t a surprise to me since I’ve always found Sue Grafton’s characters to be strong.  We do see a little growth in Kinsey in this book as well, and I really liked that.

Of course, this is a departure from my usual cozies.  Just know that going in and you’ll be fine.

When I get to the first book not narrated by Mary Peiffer, it’s going to be quite an adjustment for me.  I love her work here.  She brings Kinsey to wonderful life, which is important in a first person narrated story, and injects just enough into her voice to help us get Kinsey’s amusement at some of the people and events of the story.  She also helps bring the other characters in the book to life.

While I didn’t remember much about this book from my first time listening to it, I’m glad to have re-listened to it now.  “F” is for Fugitive is a wonderful book that will leave you guessing until the end.

Need to learn the alphabet?  Here are the rest of the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries in order.

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

January 20th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

We made it to another Friday, which of course means it is time for this week's Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week, I'm spotlighting Kitty Kitty Bang Bang by Sparkle Abbey.


This is the third Pampered Pets Mystery, and it is a lot of fun.  Here's how the book begins:
"We've got to stop meeting like this," the teasing voice whispered in my ear.

Normally, I share something long for the 56, but I'm going with a short and sweet sentence this time.  You want context of why this line is fun?  You'll have to read the book.

The look on He-Man's face was priceless.

Hope you have a great weekend!  Me?  Hopefully, I'll finally take down my Christmas trees.  (Yes, they are fake.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ornament Review: O Holy Night - 2016 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Nice looking church, good sound clip
Cons: Windows don’t light up (again)
The Bottom Line:
Church celebrating
A holy Christmas night with
Instrumental song

Get Ready for a Holy Christmas Eve

With all the Hallmark ornaments I collect, it is rare for me to buy their religious ornaments.  The one exception are the churches they release each year which complement their old Candlelight Services series.  O Holy Night was 2016’s release, and it was another good church.

This church is formed from wood, or at least it’s sculpted to look like it.  It’s got large wooden beams making the walls.  There are stone corners and foundation.  Between the painted red wood and the stone, this is a very nice looking church.  It is very squarish rectangle and has a steeple rising out of the front of the church.  Naturally, there is snow on the ground and the roof.  This is Christmas after all.

Now, the old ornaments in the official series had windows that would light up when you stuck a Christmas tree light in the back of the church.  I loved that.  I wish these newer ornaments did that.  I will always complain about that even though that obviously isn’t what they are doing any more.  However, we do still get a fun extra – sound.  Put the two button batteries in the base of the ornament and press the button to hear about a 20 second clip of “O Holy Night.”  This year that sound clip is instrumental, just a piano playing part of the first verse of the carol.  You can easily imagine it as the opening of a Christmas Eve service.

I usually set my collection of churches out each year, after all buildings have nice flat bases, and this one is no exception.  If you want to hang this ornament, however, you’ll find that it hangs straight.

I do wish they still made the churches with windows that could glow with the help of a light string.  They could still have the music clip since they did both one year.  But I do enjoy these churches as they are.

So I am glad to have O Holy Night in my collection.  It’s another nice church with a fun sound clip.

Looking for more churches?  Here are the Candlelight Services and unofficial churches.

Original Price: $19.95

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: Hearse and Gardens by Kathleen Bridge (Hamptons Home and Garden Mysteries #2)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good character, interesting mystery
Cons: Too much extraneous stuff slows down the plot
The Bottom Line:
Too much background here
Slows down story most of book
Overwhelms the good

Too Many Distractions.  Again.

I had a mixed reaction to the first book in the Hamptons Home and Garden series, but I enjoyed the ending and I really wanted to like the series, so I gave Hearse and Gardens a try.  Sadly, it didn’t improve any on the flaws of the first book.

Meg Barrett and her friend Elle Warner are excited to be given access to one of the cottages on Elle’s great-uncle’s estate.  The cottage is about to be moved, but first, the pair can go in and remove anything they think they can use for their antique and decorating businesses.  While they are exploring the cottage, they find a door to a long forgotten recording studio.  Inside the studio is a skeleton.

Everyone is quick to assume that the skeleton belongs to Great Uncle Harry’s son who disappeared well over a decade ago.  But if those are his remains, who locked him in the studio?  Everyone assumed he ran off with the neighbor’s wife.  Where is she?  Is she dead as well, or is she the killer?  And what about the rare Warhol painting the duo supposedly stole?

The book starts off very quickly as we find the skeleton in the first few pages.  However, the pace lags after that.  Meg goes about her life, including a feud with another decorator and a legal fight over the cottage he’d bought for herself.  Actually, I found those sub-plots more compelling than the main mystery at times.  Plus we get long passages describing places and things that Meg has found or giving us the history of the Hamptons.  The mystery does have some good twists, but most of them come in the final third of the book, and once the pace picked up, I again got very interested in it.

The characters are certainly interesting.  Meg is a strong character, and I appreciate her partial hearing loss since it is something different for a protagonist in a cozy series.  There are a few returning characters, and I enjoyed seeing them again.  The new characters are outstanding as well, and I never had a hard time keeping them all straight.

The book has some decorating tips at the end as well as two recipes from Meg’s dad, a gourmet chef.

I wish the pacing of this book were better because there is much to like in Hearse and Gardens.  As it stands, this will be my last visit with Meg to the Hamptons.

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Assault and Beret Winner

One last winner for this first month of 2017.  And the winner of Assault and Beret is...


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

Movie Review: Framed for Murder - A Fixer Upper Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery, fun characters
Cons: It’s a Hallmark movie
The Bottom Line:
Neighbor is murdered
Makes Shannon a detective
Builds a fun story

Hallmark’s Newest Mystery Movie Series Has a Solid Foundation

There are authors on my shelf that I fully intend to read, yet for some reason I haven’t.  One of those is Kate Carlisle.  I read her debut years ago and enjoyed it, yet I’ve never read any more in either of her series.  Why am I bringing this up now?  Because Hallmark Movies and Mysteries has debuted their latest movie franchise based on Kate Carlisle’s Fixer Upper series.  Framed for Murder gets this new movie franchise off to a great start.

The movie is set in the small town of Lighthouse Cove on the coast.  Shannon Hughes (Jewel) is the go to person in town for renovations, and she specializes in the Victorians that populate the town.  In fact, she’s just finished work on her friend Jennifer’s (Erin Karpluk) new bed and breakfast.

However, things take a dark turn when Shannon discovers the body of her neighbor, Jennifer’s uncle Jesse (Ken Tremblett), one morning.  The police think he accidentally tripped and fell, hitting his head, but Shannon isn’t so sure.  Little clues make her think that Jesse was actually murdered.  Can she find any evidence to back up her claim?

Any fan of a book knows that you need to let go of any preconceived ideas when a movie version is made.  While I’ve never read any of these books, I do know that they changed Shannon’s last name for the movies from Hammer to Hughes.  I don’t know of any other changes, but I’m sure there were some.

But I can really only judge on what I saw here.  And what I saw was a very good mystery.  I had no clue where things were going until Shannon figured it out at the end, yet the ending tied up everything nicely, including an opening that didn’t seem to tie in to anything else for quite a while.  Your patience there will be well rewarded.

And I like these characters.  Heck, I was very sorry when Jesse turned out to be the victim, and I sympathized with the characters as they mourned.  Shannon is a great character, and I also really enjoyed Mac Sullivan, a true crime reporter and the potential love interest played by Colin Ferguson, who helps Shannon along the way.

I am only familiar with Jewel’s singing career, not that I’ve even followed that for a decade or so.  I wasn’t sure how she’d do as an actress, but I was pleasantly surprised.  She brought Shannon to wonderful life.  When you’ve got an actress like Jewel, it’s not surprise that they found a chance to get Shannon singing, which was wonderful.  The rest of the cast is just as strong.

And yes, my normal Hallmark movie warning comes into play here.  There is a certain level of cheese to the movie, both in the writing and the acting.  Just know that going in, and you’ll soon be lost in the story.

Truly, Framed for Murder is a fun movie.  I’m going to have to dust off the books and make time to read them so I’ll be ready for more movies in this promising new franchise.

Looking for this movie on DVD?  It's part of the Fixer Upper Mysteries 3 Film Set.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Book Review: Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely (Nic & Nigel Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun, good characters, fun, good mystery, fun
Cons: What part of fun three times did you not understand?
The Bottom Line:
This Thin Man tribute
Is highly entertaining
Lots of fun for all

Loving Homage and Delightful Mystery

As soon as I heard about Murder with a Twist, I knew I had to read it.  Author Tracy Kiely described it as an homage to The Thin Man stories, and since I loved those, I wanted to see how this modern take would be.  I’m pleased to say it lived up to my expectations.

Nicole “Nic” and her husband Nigel Martini are in New York for Christmas, spending it with Nigel’s extremely rich family.  While the couple live in Los Angeles, Nic is a former homicide cop with the NYPD.  And the family wants to use her background to help them find Nigel’s cousin Audrey’s husband.  It seems that Leo is a cade only interested in Audrey’s trust fund and not a very good husband, but Audrey is insisting that her husband be there for her 25th birthday party set for the week after Christmas.

The trail quickly leads Nic and Nigel to one of Nic’s old contacts on the shady side of the law, Frank Little, a money lender with less than scrupulous practices and ties to even worse men.  But when a dead body appears, Nic has to wonder what she has gotten into.  Will she find Leo?  Or is Audrey really better off if Leo never comes home?

Those who are fans of The Thin Man will immediately start noticing similarities.  Our main character is former homicide cop Nic instead of former PI Nick.  Like the first story, this one is set at Christmas.  And the couple even has a dog, although in this case the dog is extremely large.  The similarities don’t end there, and I guarantee you that any fan will be smiling as they read the book.

But here’s the thing – even if you’ve never read Hammett’s book or seen the movies, you will still absolutely enjoy this book.  You might not appreciate all the nods to the original, but this book stands up on its own.

Take the mystery.  It starts off quickly and pulls us through the entire book.  We get plenty of twists and surprises before we reach the logical ending.  And that ending?  Nic confronting all of the suspects at dinner, of course.  Yet another Thin Man reference that has gone out of style but I enjoyed seeing here since it isn’t used much anymore.

Likewise, the characters are fantastic.  Some of them are larger than life, but they fit their part in the story and the universe that is being created here.  Nic and Nigel are very well drawn and believable.  You can’t help but love them.

Plus there’s the money element.  Who wouldn’t love to have as much money as the Martini’s obviously do?  It’s nice to dream a bit as you read, isn’t it?

The story is filled with humor.  Sometimes, it’s the antics of the Martini’s new dog, Skippy.  Others, it’s the quips and wit of the characters, usually Nic and Nigel.  I found myself laughing out loud multiple times as the book progressed, although I did find the book got more serious as the stakes in the mystery got higher.  Still, we’d get those lines that break up the tension even late in the book.

This book has been on my radar for two years and in my condo for about a year.  I am so sorry I waited that long to read it.  Don’t make my mistake and pick up Murder with a Twist today.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Movie Review: Rogue One

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Acting, special effects, humor early on
Cons: Essentially a war film that tells us a story we already know
The Bottom Line:
Side Star Wars story
Does little for the franchise
Die hard fans only

Star Wars Goes Full on War

When Disney acquired LucasFilm and promised new Star Wars movies, I was among those who were very excited.  I’m more excited about the official episodes, but the other movies they planned in the world sounded fun, too.  Thanks to the craziness of the holidays, I just now got to see Rogue One, and I was very disappointed by it.

The movie tells us the story of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones).  As a young girl, she watches as the Empire tracks down her father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), and kidnaps him, killing her mother in the process.  Her father is a great engineer, and the Empire want to use him on a top secret project.

As a young woman, Jyn lives under an alias, trying to hide from the empire.  But it’s the rebellion who figures out who she is, freeing her from a prison.  They’ve gotten word from a pilot that Galen has a message for them, a message that might be key to defeating the Empire’s new weapon.  Jyn is teamed up with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and the robot K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) to track down her father.  Only Cassian has orders of his own.  Will they be able to work together to get the plans to the rebels?

I heard almost nothing but praise for this movie since it came out, so I feel like I’m in the minority, but I didn’t like it.  There are two problems with this film, the first is that it is a war film.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, the action takes place across a bunch of great planets, but it is a war film.  I don’t like war films, and this movie reinforced why.

The other problem is that we already know what is going to happen, and it happens.  We do learn why there is the famous fatal flaw in the original Death Star, and the cameos by some characters we know are fun, but they don’t support a two hour plus movie.

Not this isn’t the fault of the production itself.  This looks like a Star Wars film, filled with fun creatures and strange new alien worlds.  The special effects were wonderful.  And the acting was great.  There was even some fun humor early on before it got dark.

No, my problem with this story is with the script.  In fact, it’s the same problem I have with the prequels.  We know where the story is going, and it does nothing along the way to surprise us.

Rogue One hasn’t diminished my enthusiasm for Episode VIII later this year, but I will be more cautious about the next extra project that they release.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ornament Review: Stanley T. Starr - Snowtop Lodge Companion Piece - 2008 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Different, glowing compliment to the series
Cons: Starrs outshine any cons
The Bottom Line:
This snowman lights up
Fun compliment to series
Worth it if you’ve missed

Let Stanley T. Starr Shine on Your Tree

When you become a Hallmark collector, you quickly learn that not only do they have the official series pieces, but there are also unofficial series compliments.  Some of those pieces can be as good if not better than the official series pieces.  I think that’s the case with Stanley T. Starr, an unofficial series compliment to the Snowtop Lodge series.

This piece was originally released to the Keepsake Ornament Club, so he is a little rarer.  At first glance, he might not seem so special.  After all, this is a snowman, like all the entries in the series.  Stanley has a blue-gray scarf and light green stocking in one hand.  Like the others he has a scene on him.  This time, it is of a snowy village under a clear night sky.  Stanley is the least colorful of the series to date; all the colors are very muted and the scene on him is mostly just raised with very little gray shading.  Of course, he does have another part of the scene on his hat.  If you look up there, you’ll see Santa and his reindeer taking off.

Honestly, I like the muted look of this piece.  I’m not saying I would want every ornament in the series to look like this, but there is something elegant about the minimalist look.

However, what really makes the ornament stand out from the official series is the fact that it lights up.  You can stick it on any light bulb on your Christmas tree, and you’ll see light shining through the stars.  In fact, the bottom of the ornament glows, too, which really makes the snowy village scene stand out.  This just makes him all the more fun.  I stuck him on a white light this year because I have so little imagination for something like that, but you really can put him on any colored light you want.  I tried this as I was undecorating the tree, and I found that I liked blue as well.  Try it on various colors and see what you think.

Like the others in the series, you’ll find that Stanley does have a nice, flat bottom, so you can set him out as part of the rest of the series.  Of course, you won’t be able to get him to light up if you do that.  Since he is not an official part of the series, you won’t find a series marker on him anywhere.

I hung my copy of this ornament on my tree this year.  He hangs straight, although light bulbs and tree branches can interfere with that.

It’s easy to miss these series compliments if you aren’t paying close attention.  If that happened to you, go track down a copy of Stanley T. Starr today.  You’ll be very thankful you did.

Don't miss out on the rest of the Snowtop Lodge series.

Original Price: $20.00

January 14th's Weekly TV Thoughts

This was a crazy busy week at work with a huge deadline on Friday.  I'm glad I didn't have my full compliment of shows because I would have been behind come Friday night.

The Librarians – They finally dealt with Cassandra’s tumor, although I’m a little curious how her gift works now.  Is she smarter?  Or is she able to transfer her knowledge to others?  Or both?  And I loved how they tied in the vampires to one of the movies.  I’d forgotten that particular movie.

The Odd Couple – I like what they are doing with Oscar; they are really growing him.  However, Felix’s story was just painful in this episode.

This is Us – Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, how can you be so stupid?  That was so obviously going to backfire.  I was afraid that Jack was going to wind up imitating his father instead of going to him for a loan.  Showed how truly desperate he was to provide for his family.  Yet I love how the characters ultimately face what is coming their way together head on.  And it looks like we are still on track for Randall’s father to die at the end of the season.

Lethal Weapon – Since I’m in a bowling league at work again right now, I loved the bowling connection there.  Those scenes were fun.  I wish the captain hadn’t been part of corruption, although I sure get the desire to put someone away like that.  And yes, I laughed a couple of times.  I hope they are getting some of the humor back because that seems to have ben missing recently.

The Great Indoors – Wow, the club was so unfriendly.  However, the insults throughout the episode were a lot of fun.  Very funny and spot on.  The show still needs to develop the characters more as characters instead of the caricatures they are right now, but I am enjoying it more each week.

Girl Meets World – I was fighting tears in that last scene, and I’m just dreading next week.  Series finale and the threat of leaving the country?  I have a feeling they won’t go.  They did this kind of thing on Boy Meets World, and when they filmed the episodes, they didn’t know if the show would be back or not.  But still, it’s going to be hard, especially knowing it is the series finale.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Book Review: Indigo Slam by Robert Crais (Cole and Pike #7)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong plot filled with good complications
Cons: Main characters still feel more caricature
The Bottom Line:
Finding a father
Opens Cole up to danger
Fast moving story

Tracking a Wayward Father

It never fails for the poor, unsuspecting PI.  They think they are taking on an easy case when in reality what appears simple holds danger and twists.  Of course, if it didn’t, we’d just have a short story instead of a novel.  But it’s the case once again for Elvis Cole in Indigo Slam.

This book finds Elvis working for a trio of kids.  They walk into his office one afternoon and hire him to find their father.  The man has been missing for almost two weeks.  While he’s left them behind before while pursuing a new job, this is the longest he’s ever been gone, and the trio have gotten worried.  Elvis isn’t sure about working for them, especially since the oldest is fifteen and still too young to be caring for her siblings, but Elvis’s girlfriend Lucy talks him into it.

The trail quickly leads him from Los Angeles to Seattle, where Elvis realizes that the family was in witness protection three years ago.  Does their past have anything to do with the father’s disappearance?  Could Elvis stir up old danger by his investigation?

Of course, the answer to all of those questions is yes, but I will leave it to you to figure out exactly what is happening now and why.  There are some good twists and lots of complications along the way to an exciting climax.  The pace never lags along the way, either.

There are very few returning characters in this book, but the new cast of characters are interesting enough to keep your attention.  I do still feel that Elvis and especially his partner Joe Pike are more caricatures instead of full and real characters, but that feeling is lessening as the series progresses.

The previous book left us with a couple of very mild cliffhangers.  Lucy had just gotten a potential job offer that would move her to LA, and this book picks up on that, giving us a fun sub-plot as Elvis deals with the case.  I’m very curious where this will go in future books.  On the other hand, the ending of the previous book left Elvis very disillusioned and thinking of getting out of the PI business.  There is no mention of any of that here, which I found very disappointing, especially since it could have fueled some nice character growth.

I have often complained in my reviews of Robert Crais’s books about his excessive foul language.  I’m happy to say that wasn’t as issue for me here.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, there was still foul language, but it fit the characters and the situations instead of feeling like he added it to pad his word count.  This isn’t one of my normal cozies, but I wasn’t expecting it to be when I picked it up.

This is the second time I’ve listened to David Stuart narrate one of these books, and I found that he did an excellent job.  In fact, I’d gotten used to his narration at this point, so his take on Elvis and Joe didn’t feel off like it had when I first started the last book.

I’m seeing some good growth in the writing as this series progresses, and I’m beginning to see why it is such a favorite series.  I’m hoping that upward trend continues from Indigo Slam.

Check out the Rest of the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Mysteries in order.

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