Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 2017's Monthly Reading Summary

Here's my monthly reading summary for May.  The Index has been updated as well.

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

Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley (Writer’s Apprentice Mysteries #2) – 5
As winter settles over Blue Lake, Lena London is thrilled to have her new boyfriend Sam West back in town.  He’s still trying to keep their relationship a secret so the press won’t start hounding Lena.  However, that becomes more difficult when Lena finds the body of a woman who had come to town to apologize to Sam.  The press are quick to believe Sam was involved.  Can Lena prove them wrong?

I was thrilled to return to this series.  The new murder often takes a back seat to a storyline introduced in the first book, but I didn’t mind because I found the entire thing entertaining.  Lena may be our viewpoint character, but there is a large stable of characters, some of whom often bring the clues to the group.  I love this group, and they all are interesting.  With how this book ends, I already can’t wait to find out what happens next to these characters.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz (Evan Smoak #2) – 4
Evan Smoak is working to take down a human trafficking ring, but as he finds a last piece he needs to stop, he is captured by forces unknown.  When he wakes up, he has no idea where he is.  Can he escape?

I’m not usually a fan of plotlines where we follow a prisoner, and this book definitely fell into some of those pacing pitfalls.  Still, this was a fun read with good twists to keep things fresh, and I was turning pages quickly most of the time.  The character development for Evan was quite interesting here, and he is surrounded by a mostly strong cast of new characters, although one of them felt over the top.  Overall, a fun, page turning thriller.

Uncorking a Lie by Nadine Nettmann (Sommelier Mysteries #2) – 5
Katie Stillwell is thrilled to be asked to join a dinner party where wine collector Paul Rafferty is planning to share a rare bottle he’s recently purchased with his friends.  However, Katie doesn’t think the bottle looks or tastes like an old bottle of wine should.  Before the evening is over, someone is dead.  When Paul asks Katie to look into what happened, she finds people covering up secrets.  Can she find the truth?

Despite growing up in this book’s setting of Sonoma County, California, I’m not a wine guy.  That wasn’t a factor for me at all in following this plot based very heavily on wines.  Everything I needed to know was expertly explained.  The plot was fast with lots of twists and clues to keep me engaged.  The book also has strong characters, both returning and new.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

The Final Vow by Amanda Flower (Living History Museum #3) – 5
Kelsey Cambridge has been suckered into the wedding of the century – that of her ex-husband to his second wife.  The bride is overly demanding, including wanting lights in the steeple of the church on Barton Farm, the living history museum where Kelsey works.  Kelsey says no because of safety concerns, but that doesn’t stop the wedding coordinator, Vianna, from sneaking up to the steeple.  Unfortunately, Kelsey was correct since Vianna falls and dies.  However, Kelsey and the police both think that Vianna had help.  Everyone starts coming to Kelsey asking her to clear them of the crime.  But if everyone really is innocent, who pushed Vianna?

I truly love the characters in this series, and it was wonderful to be back with them.  We get to see some growth in a few regulars that I really enjoyed.  The plot is strong with several surprising twists.  I did have a couple of small niggles with the climax, but nothing that dampened my overall enjoyment of the book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

16th Seduction by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Women’s Murder Club #16) – 4
Lindsay and Joe are enjoying an anniversary dinner when a bomb goes off at the pier next to them.  When Lindsay identifies a suspect in the crowd, he confesses, only to deny he ever did the next day.  Can Lindsay find evidence to convict him?  Is he even guilty?

This series is very uneven, but this was one of the better books in the series.  Yes, it does deal with the cliffhanger at the end of the previous book while providing a case that kept me guessing until the end.  There are the usual pacing issues, especially with the secondary mystery which takes over for much of the second half of the book, but overall fans of the series will be pleased.

Ivy Get Your Gun by Cindy Brown (Ivy Meadows #4) – 5
Ivy takes on an undercover job at Gold Bug Gulch, where one of the gun fighters has just been shot and killed.  As she gets to know the employees at the tourist trap ghost town, she finds plenty of suspects, but was it an accident or murder?  Meanwhile, she also trying to land a part in Annie Get Your Gun for a theater company that might really boost her career and keep her relationship with her new boyfriend on track.

Since I’ve loved the first three books in this series, I was expecting to love this one, and I wasn’t disappointed at all.  The story moves forward quickly, and the characters are strong.  The author finds that perfect balance of comedy without making anything or anyone not feel real.  In fact, there’s some real depth to these characters by the end.  Throw in the acting, and I completely enjoyed it.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Yip/Tuck by Sparkle Abbey (Pampered Pets Mysteries #4) – 5
When Mel finds the body of Dr. Jack O’Doggle outside her shop one morning, she feels responsible.  He was a good customer, and he was strangled with one of the leashes from her shop.  Ignoring warnings to stay out of it, Mel begins to dig into Jack’s life.  What secret was he hiding?  And did it get him killed?

Once again, we are off on a delightful ride.  These books are slightly on the wacky side yet never so far to be unbelievable.  The mystery provides us with a good number of suspects and clues, and we meet someone I hope will be a recurring character in future books in the series.  The book seems slightly on the short side, yet I didn’t feel like anything was missing when I reached the wonderful climax.  The story is set in the weeks leading up to Christmas, which just added to the fun for me.

Banana Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #21) – 4
The latest murder in Lake Eden doesn’t even wait for Hannah to return from her honeymoon.  In fact, Hannah’s mom discovers the body when she hears screaming and gun shots from her neighbor’s condo.  Tori, the mayor’s sister, was a Broadway actress before she retired to Lake Eden.  She doesn’t have many friends in the area, but she doesn’t have many enemies either.  Hannah can’t seem to find anyone with a motive to kill the woman.  What is she missing?

Fans of the series will be delighted to find that this book is more of the same.  All the characters we love are back.  Food talk slows down the mystery early on, but the plot gains momentum as we go along.  In fact, I thought it was one of the better mysteries of recent books in the series.  Of course, there are lots of recipes.  The ending left me intrigued for the next in the series but also very fearful that what I’ve feared for a couple of books now is about to happen.

The Miser’s Dream by John Gaspard (Eli Marks #3) – 5
When Eli Marks looks into the projection booth of the theater next door late one night, the last thing he expects to see if the projectionist dead on the floor of the locked booth.  Against his will, he finds himself involved in the case and interviewing the eccentric suspects.  But which of them is a killer?  And how did they pull off the crime?

This is a wonderful mystery with the added locked room element.  I had no clue where the book was going, but I couldn’t believe I didn’t figure it out when the clues and killer were presented at the end.  The eccentric cast of suspects are fun, and the series regulars are great as always.  Eli’s job as a magician is a great hook that makes this series stand out from the others.

Bearly Departed by Meg Macy (Shamelessly Adoreable Teddy Bear Mystery #1) – 4
Sasha Silverman runs her family’s teddy bear factory in Michigan, a job she mostly enjoys.  The one problem is Will Taylor, the company’s sales rep.  He returns from a sales conference early to announce that he’s met with Sasha’s semi-retired father, and he has agreed to ship production of the bears overseas.  Naturally, all the employees are upset about losing their jobs.  Sasha does her best to calm them down until she can reach her father to find out what is really going on, but that night she finds Will dead on the factory floor.  Who killed him?

The book started a little slowly as we were introduced to Sasha, her employees, and her community.  But once we meet Will, things were off and running.  As Sasha investigates, she learns things about people she thought she knew well, including her own family.  The dynamics there are interesting, and I look forward to seeing them explored in future books.  Of course, this mystery comes together for a logical climax.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Book Review: Bearly Departed by Meg Macy (Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting cast of characters; good mystery
Cons: A tad slow to get going, but strong plot when it does.
The Bottom Line:
Factory murder
Brings us strong new characters
Beary good debut

Missing This Debut Would be Unbearable

Few things bring up the warm fuzzes for most people like teddy bears.  So this isn’t a subject you would automatically think of for murder, but maybe it should be.  I’m already beginning to think of all the great murder weapons in a stuffed bear factory, and this delightful new series has bearly started with Bearly Departed.

The series is set in the small town of Silver Hollow, Michigan, and centers on the small, family owned Silver Bear Shop and Factory.  Sasha Silverman’s parents started the factory based on her grandfather’s design, and she is proud to be carrying on the legacy as the company’s manager.

However, there is Will Taylor, the company’s sale representative.  Will has decided that the company would save money by moving production overseas, a drumbeat he’s been making since he started.  When he returned unexpectedly from a sales convention and calls a meeting, Sasha fears he’s going to bring up the subject again.  Sure enough he does, but he shocks every when he claims that he’s gotten Sasha’s almost retired father to okay the production move.  Naturally, the meeting ends with lots of yelling and threats, but Sasha does not expect to find Will dead inside the factory late that night.  With the police looking at Sasha’s uncle as a suspect, she decides to dig in and try to find the real killer.  But can she do that?

The book takes a little time to get going as we are introduced to the business, characters, and community.  However, it doesn’t take us too long to meet Will, and that’s when things get very interesting.  Over the course of the investigation, Sasha uncovers secrets about people she thought she knew and even reaches some revelations about her own family, which I really liked.  A sub-plot involving her parents also helped keep me engaged.  Everything comes together for a logical and suspenseful climax.

As I mentioned, all the characters have layers to them, and that makes them very interesting.  What I especially enjoyed was seeing how Sasha reacted to what she was learning about these people she thought she knew.  That allowed us to really get to know her.  This book sets up some interesting future storylines for her and other series regulars as well as some interesting family dynamics, so I’m anxious to find out what happens to all of them next.

Despite this book being labeled “Shamelessly Adorable” there is a very serious side to the story told here.  Oh, don’t worry, it’s still a cozy, but it is a cozy with a bit more gravity to it than some others, and I enjoyed that.

If you are like me, you aren’t necessarily looking for a new series to start, but I recommend you make an exception for Bearly Departed.  I’m very interested in learning where the characters go from here, and I am beary confident you will be, too.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

SECOND NOTE: Yes, it is way too easy to make bear puns, and I’m having too much fun making them.

Monday, May 29, 2017

TV Show Review: Suits - Season 6

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: More can’t look away drama
Cons: I object to listing cons
The Bottom Line:
Next compelling part
In saga with characters
We have come to love

Consequences and Changes

While it seems like most shows end their seasons with cliffhangers, some get me more than others.  The end of season 5 of Suits was the shot you knew was coming from the beginning of the series, and I was dying to know where they were going to go when season 6 started.  I’m sure it is not a surprise for fans that it was another rollercoaster of a season.

If you haven’t watched this show before or haven’t watched through the end of season 5, stop now.  I will be spoiling the end of season 5 because there is absolutely no way to discuss this season without doing so.

You see, season 5 ended with Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) heading to prison for two years.  He made a deal to serve the time for lying about being a lawyer while the rest of his friends would go free from prosecution.  I thought that they might do a time jump until Mike was ready to be released, but they didn’t.  In fact, the first episode takes place his first night in prison was he meets his roommate and learns there are people in prison who want to use him to get to Harvey Spector (Gabriel Macht).

Meanwhile, Harvey, Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres), and Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) are trying to deal with the aftermath since everyone else has left their law firm.  Louis leases part of their office out, something he might soon regret.  Donna is Donna, doing her part to keep everything afloat while getting a very interesting storyline in the second half of the season.  Meanwhile Mike’s finacee Rachel Zane (Meaghan Markle) deals with how being engaged to Mike might affect her own future as a lawyer.

But it is Harvey who comes up with a way that might get Mike out of prison.  It will mean using the one person that Mike can trust inside.  Will they be able to pull it off?  Is it even worth it?

Mike’s secret about not really being a lawyer has driven the show since episode one.  I almost expect them to end the series with the truth coming out and Mike facing the consequences of his actions, so I wasn’t sure where the show would go from here.  Not that I was too worried, and with good reason.  The writers on this show have consistently done a great job of upping the stakes and giving our characters overwhelming odds to fight.  This season is just the latest in that grand tradition.  For lawyers, they don’t spend a lot of time in court, but yet the soap opera (let’s be honest, that’s what this is) keeps me glued to the screen the entire time the show is on.  There are plenty of twists and turns along the way.

As usual, this show had a split season, and those two halves provided two distinct storylines.  Both were interesting and always made the episodes fly by too quickly.  And that’s all I will say about the second half.

I’ve praised the writers already, but equal praise goes to the actors.  They are wonderful at bringing their characters to life each week and making us care about them.  There’s a lot in these episodes, and I’m sure it is a lot of work, but the cast always makes it look effortless.

Season 6, as usual, consisted of sixteen episodes, all of which are present in wide screen and full surround sound on the four discs in this set.  Extras include the typical deleted scenes and gag reel as well as two featurettes.

It would be hard to jump in here and truly appreciate the story, so if you are new to the series, I highly recommend you back up to season 1.  But fans of Suits who have followed along from the beginning will be delighted with the progression we get in season 6.

Season 6 Episodes:
1. To Trouble
2. Accounts Payable
3. Back to the Map
4. Turn
5. Trust
6. Spain
7. Shake the Trees
8. Borrowed Time
9. The Hand that Feeds You
10. P.S.L.
11. She’s Gone
12. The Painting
13. Teeth, Nose, Teeth
14. Admission of Guilt
15. Quid Pro Quo
16. Character and Fitness

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ornament Review: Winter Fun with Snoopy #18 - Snowmobiling - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun snowmobiling ornament
Cons: I don’t want to join them
The Bottom Line:
Zooming o’re the snow
Having fun snowmobiling
More cold weather joy

Snoopy and Woodstock are Ready to Hit the Snow with Plenty of Power

Being a bit of a scaredy-cat, there are plenty of things I am reluctant to try, and snowmobiles are one of them.  (Yes, I’d have to be somewhere that it snows first, which is another issue.)  It just doesn’t seem like it would be very safe.  However, Snoopy and Woodstock have no such qualms, as they are demonstrating in the eighteenth Winter Fun with Snoopy Ornament.

This mini ornament features Snoopy and Woodstock on an aquamarine snowmobile.  Snoopy is decked out in a Santa hat, scarf, and goggles and holding on to the snowmobile’s bars while Woodstock is sitting to Snoopy’s side and holding on tight.  They both have big grins on their faces, and why not?  They are obviously racing across the snow as evidenced by the way Snoopy’s hat is flying out behind them.

While I don’t think I would enjoy the ride nearly as much as they obviously are, I still have to smile at how much they are obviously enjoying themselves.  This is one of Hallmark’s miniature ornaments, so it is less than in inch in any direction, but they still manage to pack some great details in to the ornament.

Because of that size, I’d be hesitant to set it out to be displayed, but if you are so inclined, that is an option thanks to the runners of the snowmobile, which provide a flat base.  And if you squint, you can find the 18 in a Christmas tree series marker on the bottom of the piece.

The ring for hanging the ornament is on the top of Snoopy’s head, which is the perfect place for it.  You’ll find that it tips forward slightly when you slip a hook through it, but you’ll only notice if you are looking for it.

While I wouldn’t be joining them for a snowmobile ride, those who enjoy the sport will certainly find this ornament great.  Even though the idea doesn’t appeal to me, I still like this entry in the Winter Fun with Snoopy series.

You'll also enjoy the rest of the Winter Fun with Snoopy series.

Original Price: $7.95

Saturday, May 27, 2017

May 27th's Weekly TV Thoughts

I forgot to set this post up before I left for the weekend.  And I was out Thursday so thoughts on those shows will be coming next week.  Next week will be small anyway since the regular TV season is over.

Supergirl – There is a lot of hate out there for Mon-El.  Personally, I don’t get it.  I really liked his character, especially what he’d become in the season half of the season.  So I found the sacrifice he and Kara made very hard.  Wow, that hurt.  And I guess this means we won’t get a scene between Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain.  As much fun as it would have been, I’m not sure it ever would have really fit into the storyline this season.  Poor James.  A season finale and he gets one scene and no lines.  I hope they come up with something for his character to do next season that actually fits into the rest of the show.

Dancing with the Stars (Monday) – The first round dances were good, but the freestyles were amazing!  So incredible and very different from each other.  I wasn’t surprised by the judges scores because there wasn’t really anything wrong with any of them.

Angie Tribecca – I was expecting a funny episode, and it mostly was.  The beginning with the spoof on the PI genre was especially great.  It lost its way in there a bit with the environmental stuff, but it was a still a very solid episode.

The Flash – Wow!  Just wow!  So HR covered for Iris.  Didn’t suspect that at all.  Caitlin wants time to figure out who she is.  And Barry had to go into the Speed Force (I had wondered about there being no prisoner.)  So many emotions in such a small amount of time.  Can’t see how the writers write themselves out of this one when next season starts.

Dancing with the Stars (Tuesday) – Really?  Two and a half hours for 30 minutes of true content.  (I always say that, although I think it’s usually two hours for the finale.)  Still, give me a break.  Having said that, I’m thrilled that Rashad and Emma won.  I’m shocked that Dave came in second.  Obviously, that shows the power of the fans.  I truly had him pegged several weeks ago.  And yes, I would have been okay with Normanni winning as well.

Arrow – I have just one word.  WHAT?????????????????  (Note: I didn’t say anything about the number of question marks.)  Okay, a few more words.  Obviously, they are going to pull a 60’s Batman and show us next season how they really weren’t on the island as it was blowing up.  Heck, since we didn’t actually see Malcolm die, they could bring him back next season, too, if they wanted.  Love how they wrapped so many things from previous seasons back into the episode.  But can’t wait until next season comes back.

Survivor – Going into the final tribal, I was sure Brad would win, but after listening to the comments, I wasn’t surprised that Sara won.  I thought the Q&A was a very interesting way for the final tribal to go.  Heck, I usually find the tribal boring, but I thought this was interesting.  However, I’m not going to go as far as Ozzy and make a political statement out of it.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Movie Review: A Bundle of Trouble - An Aurora Teagarden Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Delightful characters; compelling mystery
Cons: It is a Hallmark movie
The Bottom Line:
Murder, kidnapping
Compel mystery forward
Delightful viewing

“Did You Come with an Instruction Book?  Because I am Very Good with Books.”

When it comes to mysteries, A Bundle of Trouble means only one thing – a newborn is going to factor into the plot in some way.  At least that was my guess with the latest Aurora Teagarden mystery, and I was correct.

This movie opens with great news for Aurora’s (Candice Cameron Bure) boyfriend Martin (Yannick Bisson).  His niece Regina has shown up.  The two haven’t spoken since Regina’s mother died.  Not only does she want to reconnect with her uncle, but she wants him to meet her two week old son.

Aurora and Martin have plans for the evening, but Regina agrees to stay at Aurora’s house.  In fact, she wants to stay for a few days.  Only when Aurora and Martin return, Regina is missing, there’s a dead body on the porch, and the baby is hidden in the bathtub.  What wasn’t Regina telling them?

And just like that we are off on another delightful mystery.  Not having read the books, I had no idea where things were going to go, and I had so much fun getting there.  Things did come together for a logical and suspenseful climax.

Along the way, we got to see more of the characters we’ve come to love in the previous movies.  Those who don’t get directly involved in helping solve the mystery have a very fun sub-plot that help provide a bit of comic relief.  I’ve really grown to love them all.

And I enjoy seeing the cast again.  They are doing a great job bringing these characters to life.  Yes, my usual Hallmark cheese warning still applies, but if you know what you are getting into when you sit down to watch the movie, you’ll be fine.

As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t read any of the books in this series.  However, I do know one change they made from this book, and I’m happy about it.  That’s all I’m saying.

So if you are a fan of fun, light mysteries, be sure to check out A Bundle of Trouble or any other movie in this delightful series.  You’ll be caught up in the story before you know it.

Looking for this movie on DVD?  It's part of the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries set.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Book Review: The Miser's Dream by John Gaspard (Eli Marks #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun characters; great locked room mystery
Cons: Abracadabra, all cons are gone
The Bottom Line:
A locked room puzzle
Proves to be plenty of fun
In magical book

Eli Marks Must Solve a Locked Room Mystery

One of the staples of the mystery genre is the locked room mystery because they add such a great twist to the mystery.  I know I always find them intriguing.  And that’s exactly what we get with The Miser’s Dream, the third Eli Marks Mystery from John Gaspard.

Eli Marks lives in a third floor apartment above the magic shop he runs with his uncle in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  From his window, he can see into the projection booth of the theater next door, and he has long enjoyed trying to guess the movie based on the reflections he can see.  This night, however, he seems something completely different when he looks into the projection booth – the dead body of Tyler James, the projectionist.

Naturally, Eli calls the police, but they have to break into the projection booth since the door locks from the inside and there is no key for the outside.  When they do, they not only find the body, but also a gun and a large stack of cash.

Eli is perfectly content to sit this one out until an outside force begins to pull him in.  Accidents only make him more determined to solve the crime.  But can he figure out how Tyler died and why?

I really enjoy these books because of the bits of magic that show up in them.  Eli being a magician is a creative hook for the series.  In fact, there is an entire sub-plot involving Eli’s jealousy of a fellow magician that winds up playing into the main mystery.

And the main mystery is great.  Naturally, there is the question of how the murder took place as well as who the killer is.  I’ve got to say that both were so expertly explained at the end, I couldn’t believe I didn’t piece it together myself.

And the characters are wonderful.  We actually meet a fun assortment of people here.  They are a bit eccentric, but it fits the book.  The series regulars are as great as ever, and I enjoyed seeing the growth we got here in Eli.

The Miser’s Dream is the best book yet in the series.  Eli’s fans will be happy with it, and those new to his adventures will find themselves looking for more.

It's no magic trick.  Here are the rest of the Eli Marks Mysteries.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ornament Review: Frosting Friends - Making Memories #9 - 2016 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute scene of warm memories
Cons: All cons buried under frosting
The Bottom Line:
Gingerbread house built
What to do with leftovers?
Scene will bring out smiles

Memories Made of Frosting

We didn’t make gingerbread houses every year when I was growing up, but there were a few years in there when we did.  I had a lot of fun with it, even though mine didn’t turn out that well.  (I swear, I don’t have the creative gene.)  Still, I can’t help but think about that when I look at Frosting Friends, the ninth Making Memories ornament from Hallmark.

Yes, this year our snowman adult and child are making a gingerbread house.  It looks like they’ve put a lot of work into it already since the house is almost fully decorated.  There are peppermints for windows, a door, red and green shingles, and they’ve even almost got the peak of the roof decorated with red and green hard candies.  It looks like we’ve caught them in a discussion about what to do with the last hard candy.  The child is asking if they can put it in their mouth and the adult has one hand in their mouth as if they are laughing.  In their other hand is the icing container, and a drop of white icing is leaking out of it.  These snowpeople are wearing aprons and chef’s hats, and the child is sitting next to the house while the adult is standing.  I think they are on the floor since there is a dark blue pattern to the snowflake that forms the base of the ornament that looks like linoleum to me.  This is the first year in the series we haven’t seen either the dog or the cat that this snowfamily owns.  I guess they locked them up so they wouldn’t get into the treats.

As I said, this wasn’t an annual tradition in my family, but I enjoyed it the years we did it.  Looking at this ornament brings those memories back full force, and I can’t help but smile as I look at it.  It’s that cute.

The snowflake base I mentioned earlier gives the ornament the flat surface you need to be able to set it out to display.  You’ll also find the 9 in a Christmas tree series marker on the bottom of the snowflake.

Of course, an ornament is designed to be hung, and on this ornament you’ll find the ringing sticking out of the top of the adult snowperson’s hat.  The ornament tips forward ever so slightly, but it really isn’t an issue at all by the time you get a few tree branches around it.

This series never fails to make me smile as I think about some memory of Christmas tradition from my past, and Frosting Friends is no exception.  It is a cute addition to any Christmas ornament collection.

And enjoy more memories with the Making Memories series.

Original Price: $15.95

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Book Review: Banana Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #21)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting mystery
Cons: Pacing, characters could be stronger
The Bottom Line:
Hannah’s latest case
More of the same – fans will like
Interesting end

Honeymoon’s Over – Time for a Murder

The last book in the Hannah Swensen series ended with the event longtime fans thought we’d never see – Hannah got married.  Banana Cream Pie Murder picks up not too long after this momentous event as Hannah and her new husband are returning from their honeymoon.

Unfortunately, while they are gone, Hannah’s mom Delores finds a dead body.  When she hears screaming and what sounds like a gunshot from her downstairs neighbor, Tori Bascomb, she goes to investigate and is horrified to find Tori’s body in her acting studio.  Tori was a retired Broadway actress who had settled in Lake Eden to be near her brother, the town’s mayor.

Of course, when Hannah returns, Delores wants her to find the killer and figure out what is happening.  Tori didn’t seem to have too many friends, but she doesn’t seem to have many enemies either.  The lack of suspects begin to frustrate Hannah.  Will she find anything that points to the killer?

Because not too much time has passed since the last time we saw Hannah and the gang, we don’t need too much catch up before diving into the murder.  All the talk of food and the various desserts that Hannah is making do still slow down the mystery a bit in the early stages of the book, but the further we go into the story, the more the mystery takes over.  I appreciated how the clues were sandwiched in with the red herrings.  Yes, I did figure things out before Hannah, but only a few pages.  And we get a strong climax.

Those who have been enjoying this series for a long time know there are a lot of characters, and I always enjoy spending time with them.  In fact, they are a draw of the series.  I’m not sure how it would feel jumping in here and not knowing them.  The development could be stronger, but that’s a minor issue.

And we can’t leave out the recipes.  By my count, we get 23 new recipes in this book, including the title recipe as well as orange fudge cookies, salted caramel bar cookies, and peanut butter cheesecake with chocolate peanut butter sauce.  Honestly, with all the talk of food in this series, it’s hard to believe all of the characters aren’t very overweight.  I know I gain weight just reading about all the delicious sounding food.

Hannah’s life takes an interesting turn in this book.  I have a feeling this is setting us up for something I’ve been dreading for a few books now, but I hope not.  While I am dreading the outcome, I do find the twist presented here intriguing, and I’m curious to see where things go in the next book.

At this point in the series, it would be hard for anyone to jump in and fully enjoy what is happening here.  However, diehard fans of the series who are interested in the next chapter of Hannah’s life will find checking in with their friends fun when they read Banana Cream Pie Murder.

Looking for more delicious reads?  Here are the rest of the Hannah Swensen Mysteries in order.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Music Review: Lifer by MercyMe

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Plenty of upbeat, fun songs with thoughtful lyrics
Cons: “Ghost;” could use more style variety.
The Bottom Line:
MercyMe rocks here
Giving fun songs, good lyrics
Needs variety

This Disc Just Might Turn Out to be a Lifer After All

My first run through of MercyMe’s new release, Lifer, didn’t really impress me.  But, to be fair, I wanted to listen to it several more times, and I even spread those out over a few weeks.  The more I did, the more it has grown on me.

My problem with this disc is that many of the songs sound the same.  On a first listen, especially, the songs are all upbeat rockers.  To be fair, this isn’t a new problem for MercyMe.  Their discs have often lacked variety even as their overall sound has traveled from adult contemporary and pop to the rock sound they have today.  There’s nothing wrong with their modern rock sound, although at times they play with the vocals a bit too much for my taste.  I just find variety helps.

However, as I have listened, I’ve found there is more subtle variety with a few mid-tempo tracks thrown in.  I still wish it didn’t sound quite so similar, and this is certainly a case where the songs work better individually than together, but it isn’t as bad as I first thought.

And the songs themselves?  There are some fun ones here.  The disc starts out with the title track, which talks about how our relationship with Jesus isn’t something we can turn on and off.  We are lifers.

Grace is a strong message on the disc, and one I always love.  I don’t care for the rap bridge on “Grace Got You,” but the rest of the song is fun.  I really enjoy “Best News Ever” which looks at a few false clich├ęs about God and contrasts them with the truth of the Bible.

And for pure fun, it’s hard to pass up “We Win,” which will have you shouting the refrain along with the band.  Then there’s “Happy Dance.”  While a bit silly, I find it fun, maybe because I am picturing the guys of MercyMe doing some rather silly dance moves as I listen to it.

Things are certainly more serious in “Even If.”  This is more of a mid tempo track as the band sings about their faith that God can remove any pain from our lives and yet they promise to keep following Him even if He doesn’t.  It’s a pretty powerful song.

Ironically given my opening comments, I find the slowest track on the disc to be my least favorite.  “Ghost” stands out from the rest the most musically since it is a slow ballad.  On this track they try to celebrate the influence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and contrast it to the ghosts of ghost stories.  For me, it doesn’t work, and it almost feels irreverent, which I am sure wasn’t their intent at all.

On the other hand, there’s “Hello Beautiful.”  This song celebrates our freedom over regrets and mistakes of the past.  The lyrics and melody and fun.  This was my favorite from the very first time through the disc, and that hasn’t changed at all.

More stylistic variety would certainly have helped out this disc, but on the whole I find I am enjoying Lifer.  Fans of MercyMe will be happy with their latest release, although it probably won’t win them any new fans.

CD Length: 34:58
1. Lifer
2. You Found Me
3. Grace Got You
4. Best News Ever
5. Even If
6. Hello Beautiful
7. We Win
8. Happy Dance
9. Heaven’s Here
10. Ghost

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ornament Review: Hans K. Woodsworth - Snowtop Lodge #11 - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Creative idea
Cons: A bit plainer than rest of series; tips
The Bottom Line:
Wood crafts are featured
But ornament little plain
Still good overall

Wood You Like This Ornament?

For the second ornament in a row, Snowtop Lodge is taking us indoors with a snowman that prefers to spend time crafting rather than outside in the cold weather.  (I can certainly understand.)  Hans K. Woodsworth is ready to help make a child’s Christmas merry.

You see, Hans is a wood carver (as I’m sure you guessed from his name).  In fact, he’s holding his newest creation, a wooden horse with wheels, that some child will be delighted to find under their tree Christmas morning.  He’s wearing his wood working apron around his waist, and it has two tools sticking up from pockets.  On his head, he’s wearing an elf hat instead of a Santa hat, and it is green with some red trim.  That elf theme is carried over to the scene painted on his bottom snowball since we get a picture of a wood shop with other elves working away on more toys.

Unfortunately, this isn’t one of the stronger ornaments in the series.  Part of it I know is me.  I didn’t have many wooden toys as a kid, so this doesn’t inspire the nostalgia in me I’m sure it is supposed to.  I could still appreciate it, however, but overall the ornament just feels a little plain.  For example, Hans doesn’t have any buttons.  Some of the others in the series have buttons that tie into their theme, but Hans doesn’t have any at all.  He’s good, but he’s missing the special touches that would make him great.

Like his brothers and sisters in the series, he has a nice flat base, so you can set him out to enjoy anywhere.  Since he is made from porcelain, you’ll want to be careful and place him on a surface where he won’t be bumped.

Of you can hang him on a sturdy branch on your tree.  You’ll find the ring almost hidden by his elf hat.  Since it is off to one side, it’s not surprising that he tips slightly to the left and forward.

Since Hans in part of a series, you’ll find an 11 in a Christmas tree on his bottom as well.

While Hans K, Woodsworth isn’t the best in the series, he’s still got a charm to him.  He might not have as great appeal outside the series, but those who collect the series will be glad to have him in their collection.

Enjoy the rest of the Snowtop Lodge series.

Original Price: $19.95

Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 20th's Weekly TV Thoughts

It was upfronts week this week, when the networks announced their fall line up.  Not surprising, all of my main shows are back, so I'm not looking at the new shows.  I don't have room for anything new.  No, really, this year I mean it.  Okay, so there were a couple of shows I was looking at, but existing shows moved into that time slot, so that's out.

Speaking of which, I think this season has some of the most surprising moves for my schedule.  After six seasons, Once is moving to Fridays.  After 5 seasons, Arrow is moving to Thursdays at 9.  This is going to take some serious adjustment on my part since I really do have a feeling for the day of the week based on what shows I'm looking forward to that night.  I know, I know, only a TV addict like me, right?

But enough about next season, here's what I thought about my shows this week.

Once Upon a Time – I know they were trying to parallel season 1 with this finale since they were treating it as a season finale of sorts, but there was too much of Emma now knowing who she was.  I enjoyed it, but it felt repetitive.  However, they finally gave Gold a backbone and they undid the Gideon as an adult thing, but of which I loved.  The final act with us seeing everyone’s happy endings?  That was fantastic!  I was smiling at the end.  And the final scene?  Adult Henry needs to come back to help his family?  I’ve very intrigued by what is going on.  I was planning to watch season 7 reluctantly, but now I’m on board and ready to go.  Is it next season yet?

Supergirl – So let me see if I have this right.  Those who have been opposing the aliens are evil because they are thinly disguised Trump supporters.  Now the aliens are evil with their promise to “Make Earth Great Again?”  Please.  You can’t have it both ways.  I was excited for Cat to come back, but she was so political it was hard to enjoy.  Still, I was laughing so hard when she recognized James right off the bat.  I just wish they could give us this alien invasion without preaching to us.

Dancing with the Stars – I had figured Dave would be going home this week, so I think I was as shocked as they were.  And Simone leaving on a week when she finally has her breakthrough and gets two perfect scores?  She was very gracious, and she seemed almost happy to be going, or maybe that was just me.  Either way, it makes next week much more interesting.

Angie Tribecca – Yes, I called several of their jokes, but that didn’t make them any less funny.  It was nice to take the act on the road.  The serial killer story is a bit predictable, but it is still fun.  So what was up with the gravestone at the end?  Was it a message from the killer?  A sign that her father is still alive?  Both?  Just something random?  Knowing this show, probably the last one, but we’ll find out in the weeks to come, I guess.

The Flash – Whoa.  I’m just whoa.  They actually went there.  I was expecting a last minute save.  Of course, I was also expecting the final confrontation to be last week, not this week, so I’m very curious where they are going to go next week.  One theory I’ve had is that they will undo the entire Flashpoint thing somehow, but I hope they are careful in how they do it so it isn’t a Dallas “It was all a dream” cheat.  I just can’t imagine that they are getting rid of Iris.

Team Ninja Warrior – I really like Joe, so I’m always rooting for him and his team.  Naturally, that means the results here had me very happy.  They had me worried for a while there because there were plenty of twists and turns, but the end result is me happy.

Arrow – Not nearly as surprised by the events of this episode as I was The Flash.  You knew Chase wasn’t going to stay in prison for two episodes.  Something had to happen.  It was pretty much just set up for next week, but it was enjoyable set up, and I’m anxious to see where it is going to lead, especially with the people Oliver is recruiting for his team.

Survivor – It’s been a while since they had two tribal in one hour long episode, so when I realized they were opening with an immunity challenge, I was surprised.  This season continues to surprise with the alliances that form and reform.  I can hardly keep track of who is playing with whom from one week to the next.  Makes it a lot more fun, too.

Designated Survivor – They wrapped up quite a bit, which I appreciate, while still leaving us with a monster of a cliffhanger.  This is going to set things up for a fun season 2.  Having said that, I feel like there was too much wrap up.  Some of those things happened too fast.  They really should have spread them out to a few more episodes instead of all in one.  And yes, this is coming from the 24 fan.

The Amazing Race – I really have to hand it to Becca.  She was obviously frustrated at the Road Block (and understandably so), but she let it out before Floyd got back.  And she had the right reaction when he collapsed – she was concerned about his health over the race.  I found them annoying at times, but I didn’t want to see them go out this way.  Brooke?  Why couldn’t you be the one to leave tonight?  So frustrating!  Scott’s asides to the camera are pretty funny, but even so, they aren’t enough to make up for her.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Review: Yip/Tuck by Sparkle Abbey (Pampered Pets Mysteries #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and a fun mystery
Cons: None worth dwelling on
The Bottom Line:
Surgeon is strangled
Leading Mel on merry chase
A pleasure to read

Plastic Surgeon Strangled

I must admit, I’ve fallen in love with the pop culture based puns of the Pampered Pets Mysteries, but I also love how the title pun truly does tie into the mystery of the book.  I hadn’t really thought about what the title of the fourth book might be hinting at, but when I realized that the murder victim in Yip/Tuck was a plastic surgeon, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t figured that out sooner.

The plastic surgeon in question is Dr. Jack O’Doggle.  He’s one of the most sought after plastic surgeons in the Laguna Beach, California, area.  He also happens to be dating Tova, one of Melinda Langston’s enemies, but since Jack and Tova are constantly buying items in Mel’s shop, Bow Wow Boutique, she’s not complaining.

However, one morning, Mel and her friend, Darcy, find Dr. Jack sitting on a bench outside of Bow Wow Boutique.  Unfortunately, he’s not waiting for her to open her shop.  Instead, he’s been strangled by a leash that Mel sells in her store.  Despite warnings to stay out of it, Mel can’t help but take the murder personally and start looking into things.  What secrets might Jack have been hiding that got him killed?

And once again, we are off on a wild ride through the world of Laguna Beach as brought to life by the team of Sparkle Abbey.  These books definitely feature the rich and slightly absurd, and that is one of their delights.  Yet the comedy blends well with the mystery, where we get many good suspects and clues before Mel figures it all out.

The characters walk that fine line between caricature and character, but it works for this series.  A sub-plot here involves Mel looking for some help in her shop, and the two people she interviews prove to be two of the funniest characters.  Yet they don’t seem completely wacky, which is a testament to that balance I mentioned earlier.

Those who have been following the series know that the odd numbered books focus on Mel’s cousin Caro.  The two are feuding over a broach, and that once again provides some amusement, although the development from the previous book doesn’t get as much play here as I was hoping for.

The book seems a little on the thin side.  This is certainly the shortest in the series so far.  However, I think anything else added would have felt just like what it would have been – padding, which makes this worth noting only in passing.  This is a satisfying mystery just as it is.

This book was set during the early part of December, so the references to Christmas were an added bonus as far as I was concerned.  I do love that holiday, after all.

This is a fun tale that kept me turning pages until I reached the end.  Yip/Tuck is the kind of book that will make you forget everything else going on in your world.  And isn’t that what reading is really all about?

Check out more of the Pampered Pets Mysteries.

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

May 19th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

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

This week, I'm highlighting my current read, which is The Miser's Dream by John Gaspard.

Yes, this is a mystery, with a magician as the main character, and the title refers to a trick that comes up multiple times over the course of the book.  I'm still reading it, so I'm not sure how it all plays out yet, but I'm enjoying it.

Here is how the book opens:
"I'm a hack."
Holy crap, did I just say that out loud?  My intention had been to whisper those three words silently to myself, but apparently my brain hadn't properly communicated that goal to my mouth.

Moving on to page 56, we find this:

At the sound of this name, Harry lowered the book.  "Clifford Thomas?  You're going to talk to Clifford Thomas?  The Clifford Thomas?"

And there you have it for this week.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Movie Review: Rush Hour 2

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Comedy and action as driven by the stars
Cons: Stars and their strengths overshadow other elements of film
The Bottom Line:
Comedy, action
Combine again in sequel
Mindless yet still fun

Action and Comedy Go Global

While I know I saw the original Rush Hour in theaters back in the day, I know I have never seen the sequels.  Thanks to TV, I’ve been able to fix that by watching Rush Hour 2.  While not the original, it is a fun movie.

This film picks up not too long after the original as Los Angeles detective Carter (Chris Rock) is in Hong Kong visiting his new friend Hong Kong detective Lee (Jackie Chan).  Carter is on vacation, but Lee is back to work, or at least trying to work.  Carter’s insistence on being a tourist is making it hard to focus on anything.

Then two American translators are killed when a bomb is delivered to the American embassy.  That sets Lee off on a trail that leads him to an old foe.  Meanwhile, he is dragging Carter around on the investigation without Carter knowing they are working a case.  Will the two solve this case?  Where will it lead them?

Honestly, we’re watching these movies to see Jackie Chan’s impressive martial arts skills and hear Chris Rock’s funny lines, and that’s a good thing since the plot is little more than an excuse for the two to shine.  Yes, the plot gets better as it goes along, but if you are looking for action and laughs, you’ll get plenty.  At times both overwhelm the story, but in the end the story does make sense and pulls you in.

Since the movie is really a star vehicle, the success of the movie really rests on Chris Rock and Jackie Chan.  Fortunately, they do a good job with the material.  I did find that Chris Rock started to annoy me a time or two, but then something would happen to propel the story forward and I’d be enjoying the movie again.  And Jackie Chan’s fights are so impressive and fun.  I would watch the movie for that alone.  The rest of the cast is good, but they are basically there to make the stars look good, and they do that well.

The result is a movie filled with action and comedy.  And action comedy.  After all, Jackie Chan’s movies are filled with action sequences that make you laugh with their creativity and unexpected bits.  Think of it as mostly martial arts with a dash of slapstick.  Honestly, it’s why his movies are so popular – he’s just plain fun.

Rush Hour 2 isn’t great cinema, but it is entertaining.  Since that’s all it set out to do, it succeeds.  Turn it on when you want to watch a mindless action film, and you’ll enjoy.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ornament Review: Season's Treatings #8 - Cinnamon Roll Reindeer - 2016 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Creative idea
Cons: Execution just slightly off
The Bottom Line:
These cinnamon rolls
Make Christmas morning taste great
Needed tweak or two

Festive Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas Morning

Some ideas work a bit better on paper than in execution.  That’s the case with the eighth entry in the Season’s Treatings series from Hallmark.  The idea of a display of cinnamon rolls shaped to look like a reindeer is smart, but it just doesn’t quite work out.

The background for this ornament is a silver baking tray.  Someone is hard at work on it, too, since there are a lot of cinnamon rolls here.  There are six that make up the main part of the reindeer face.  Two cinnamon ovals form his ears, and some cinnamon sticks form the antlers.  There are three smaller rolls, one to form the nose and two more for the eyes.  I think these might be Danishes or just mini cinnamon rolls.  These three pieces have frosting on them, and the two eyes have red centers.  Around this creation is a measuring cup full of frosting, a rolling pin with 2016 on it (the year of the ornament’s release), and a clean looking knife for spreading the frosting.

This is one ornament that definitely looks better in person than in the picture.  The picture doesn’t capture the way the nose and eyes pop off the rest of the face.  That added dimension really does help sell the face.  Of course, there is the fact that they are giving the reindeer red eyes, just like the snowman cake from a few years back.  I think it works here, but many people found that an issue in both ornaments in the series.

As I said earlier, this is a great idea that doesn’t quite work.  I think making the eyes and nose more distinct would have really helped sell the illusion.  Don’t get me wrong, I really do like this ornament.  It’s just not quite as good as it could have been.

Because these rolls are on a sheet, you can easily set it out on any surface.  The downside?  It easily blends with other things since it is mostly a flat piece.  It just cries out to be hung.

You’ll find the loop for doing that in one of the corners of the pan.  It hangs at a fun angle, however, I’m a bit surprised that the year on the rolling pin isn’t straight when you hang the ornament.  That’s a detail they’ve gotten right in years past, but here, it’s upside down.

Since this ornament is part of a series, you’ll find an 8 in a Christmas tree on the back of the baking tray.

While not the best entry in the Season’s Treating series, I still find the eighth entry to be fun.  A few small tweaks would have made it absolutely perfect.

Enjoy more delicious ornaments with the rest of the Season's Treatings series.

Original Price: $12.95

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Book Review: Ivy Get Your Gun by Cindy Brown (Ivy Meadows #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Funny mystery and characters with true heart
Cons: All cons shot away
The Bottom Line:
Ivy and Old West
Are perfect combination
In delightful book

Ivy Finds Herself Acting as PI in a Ghost Town

For a theater junky like me, the Ivy Meadows series has really been a thrill.  Ivy is a part time PI working under her uncle and a part time actress still trying to find a way to make a living on the stage.  The antics she finds herself in are always fun, and Ivy Get Your Gun is no exception.

This book finds Ivy going under cover once again, this time at Gold Bug Gulch.  She’s been hired by her friends Marge and Arnie to find out just what is happening there.  A son Arnie didn’t know he had has shown up and gotten the couple to invest in this ghost town turned tourist attraction.  However, one of the two actors who participates in the gun fights for the tourists was really shot.  So Ivy goes in to attempt to figure out if it was an accident or if someone wanted to kill the man.

Not that Ivy’s life is simple outside of this case.  She’s auditioning for a roll in Annie Get Your Gun with a regional theater company, something that would be a huge step forward in her career.  Of course, she’s also learned the truth about the real Annie Oakley, which means her feelings about the musical are mixed at best.  Her boyfriend, Matt, is anxious to take their relationship public, putting extra pressure on Ivy.  Can she deal with these problems in her life and still find out what is going on in Gold Bug Gulch?

Ivy is quite obviously facing quite a bit in this book, but the focus is on the mystery.  The sub-plots pop in and out and help develop her character, but they are never the focus of the book.  The mystery provides us with many good clues and suspects before the ultimate showdown.  Ivy is still a little slow piecing things together at times, but that is a minor issue, especially since she recognizes this flaw in herself.

Those who have been reading this series since the beginning will be pleased to know that the main cast is back and as wonderful as ever.  We get quite an eclectic group of suspects out at Gold Bug Gulch, and as we get to know them, we begin to see the human side of them as well.

Which is quite an accomplishment since this is a comedic mystery.  The comedy comes from the situations Ivy finds herself in as well as the characters she meets.  Not only is author Cindy Brown balancing the laughs with murder and the very real danger Ivy is facing, but she is also walking a fine line with comedic characters who are funny yet come across as real.  She pulls it off perfectly.

This is obvious at the end of the book as we see some real growth in many of the characters.  Some of these scenes will mean more if you’ve been reading the series from the beginning, but that’s no burden at all.  All four of these books are a worth reading.

So if you haven’t started this series yet, do so today.  Time spent in Ivy’s presence is always a delight, as Ivy Get Your Gun proves once again.

Looking for an encore?  Here are the rest of the Ivy Meadows Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

I'm reviewing this book as part of a blog tour.  Check out the rest of the stops.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Music Review: Unbreakable by Selah

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: All the tracks offer great lyrics and fun music
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Disc encourages
As Selah reminds us of
Timeless promises

Selah Continues to Uplift Our Spirits

Of the new releases I got in March, the one I was looking forward to most was Unbreakable, the newest release from Selah.  I enjoy their new takes on hymns and the other inspiring songs they sing.  Their CDs are such refreshment for my soul, and this newest release did not disappoint.

This disc starts out with the chorus of “Got Any Rivers” before the trio transitions to “Carry You.”  You can feel the beat increase when that transition takes place.  The song itself is a great reminder that God will carry us through any struggles we might face in life.

Up next comes the title track, which is about the love of God.  It’s a fun upbeat pop piece that reminds us that God’s love is “Unbreakable” and He will never give up on us.  I dare you not to have a smile on your face when you are done listening to this track.

Other highlights in the non-hymn tracks include “Set Free,” which has a delightfully fun rhythm to it.  I fell in love with “Broken Ladders,” which is a slower ballad reminding us that God wants us as we are, not after working hard to build things for him.  They also cover Point of Grace’s “Jesus Will Still Be There.”  The keyboard and strings on this one are fantastic.

The theme for the hymns seems to be resurrection.  I was delighted to get “He Lives,” a hymn I grew up singing.  They’ve paired it with “Because He Lives,” and that medley couple with the guitar backdrop really works well.  They focus on Heaven with “In the Sweet By and By” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot/I’ll Fly Away.”  The one hymn that doesn’t fit the theme is “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” not that I’m complaining since I love it.  As always the arrangements on these songs are perfect; they breathe a bit of new life into the familiar songs yet still make it possible to sing along on the very first listen.

Selah often has songs that remind us of the persecuted church.  That is the inspiration behind “People of the Cross” and “Lord, I Trust You.”

When I looked at the track life, I predicted “This Little Light of Mine (He Will Shine)” would be the track that included some Kituba, the tribal language that member Todd Smith learned as a kid growing up on the mission field in Africa.  I was right, and I wasn’t disappointed in the track.  Adding a bit of an African feel to the song makes it so much fun.

Really, it’s hard to come up with a bad track on this disc.  They are all encouraging and delightful to listen to.

So if you are a fan of Selah, don’t hesitate to pick up this disc.  And if you are looking for some encouragement in your life, Unbreakable is just the disc to give that to you.

CD Length: 50:08
1. Got Any Rivers/Carry You
2. Unbreakable
3. I Got Saved
4. Set Free
5. He Lives/Because He Lives
6. Jesus Will Still Be There
7. This Little Light of Mine (He Will Shine)
8. People of the Cross
9. Lord, I Trust You
10. Broken Ladders
11. In the Sweet By and By
12. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot/I’ll Fly Away
13. Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Ornament Review: Winter Fun with Snoopy #17 - Building an Igloo - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Snoopy and Woodstock are having a great time
Cons: How many people can relate to this ornament?
The Bottom Line:
Building an igloo
More limited winter fun
Will still make you smile

Snoopy and Woodstock Celebrate some Rarer Winter Fun

I’m constantly amazed at the creativity Hallmark artists show in the various series.  I couldn’t come up with the variety they do on a theme, but I love having it for my tree.  Every so often, they do hit an idea that makes me wonder, however, and that’s the case with the 2014 entry in the Winter Fun with Snoopy series.

This winter, Snoopy and Woodstock are building an igloo.  They’ve almost finished it, since Snoopy has only one more block of ice to place in the dome of the main structure.  I’m not sure if Woodstock is helping or hindering, however, since he is sticking his head out of the opening where that block goes.

This makes me wonder just how many people have built an igloo for the fun of it.  Everything else that the series has highlighted has made sense to me, but this one has me scratching my head a little.  Maybe it’s just because I don’t live where it snows, but I don’t see this as a usual winter activity.

Not that I don’t like the ornament.  Woodstock popping out of the igloo brings a smile to my face.  It’s fun, and fans of the series will definitely like it.  And since this is the first time in seventeen entries I’ve reacted this way, that’s saying something as well.

Yes, this also means you’ll find a 17 in a Christmas tree on the base of the ornament.  You’ll have to look hard for it because this is a miniature ornament, and there isn’t much room on the base for the marker, but it is there.  That base also means there’s a flat surface, so you can set it out to enjoy.

Of course, it was designed to hang on your tree.  You’ll find that loop on the top of Snoopy’s green hat.  The ornament tips back slightly, but that’s a minor issue because only the most observant would notice.

Woodstock and Snoopy are obviously having fun, so maybe my questions about this ornament just make me a grump.  Frankly, it really is hard not to like the seventeenth Winter Fun with Snoopy ornament.

Check out the rest of the Winter Fun with Snoopy ornaments.

Original Price: $7.95

Saturday, May 13, 2017

May 13th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Next week is a big week.  Many of my shows have their season finales and the networks will announce their line up for next season.  I'm trying to think if there are any shows I'm still waiting to hear about.  I think everything I plan to watch has been renewed already, in fact.  (Powerless was canceled, but I was done with it, and The Great Indoors is still up in the air, but I'm done with it as well.)  Which means I hope none of the new shows sound any good because I'm not in the market for anything new.

I'm not sure how I feel about Once Upon a Time's renewal.  Without Emma or most of the characters we already know, it will be a very different show.  I think it will tank in the ratings next year.  But I will tune in and watch it to see what they do.  Hopefully, it will be something worth watching.

But that's next week and next year.  Here's what I watched this week.

Arrow (5/3) – Very interesting episode.  I don’t feel like Oliver and Felicity really dealt with all their issues, but it was still good to see them actually talking through their relationship.  And you knew William was going to come into play since they’ve now brought him up twice.  That can’t be good at all.

Once Upon a Time – I must admit I was a little disappointed.  It was fun, but I felt like it could be better.  I love how the one song included winks and nods to songs from Snow White and Pinocchio.  Nice wedding.   Too bad the latest curse had to interrupt it.

Supergirl – So that was the plan.  Something tells me things are going to go from bad to worse.  But I wonder if Marcus’s race can help us at all.  We are going to have big final couple of episodes this season.  Just the scope of what they are going to have to do is blowing my mind and we haven’t seen any of it yet.

Dancing with the Stars – I think the scores told the story – it was time for Bonner to go.  Like the guy, but he was definitely the weakest one left.  Considering his injuries (that they reminded us of every week), he really was amazing.

The Great Indoors – Typical season finale in a lot of ways.  Teased us with things we want yet ultimately walked them back.  It was almost enough to make me curious where they would go if they came back for a second season.  Almost.  I really am done with this one.

Angie Tribecca – A rare episode that fell flat for me (pun only partially intended).  Yes, there were some good lines and good gags, but we also had the lecture that was the 1960’s NASA.  I guess this one was just more uneven than the usual episode for me.

The Flash – I had hopes this would be a good episode, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Barry’s memory wipe had some far reaching consequences I did not see coming.  And I like how they really played with his character.  I do miss the lighter Barry we had in season one.  While still not as dark as Arrow, this show has definitely gotten darker over the years.

Team Ninja Warrior – Another epic episode with plenty of surprises.  It really is fun watching them compete head to head.  And it almost really is anyone’s game when that happens.

Arrow – Why do I have a feeling that Chase intended to be caught?  And what is up with Wild Dog missing the custody hearing?  Not happy about that at all.  That video for Thea?  Wow!  Very powerful moment for sure.

Survivor – I’ve lost who the alliances are, so I don’t even know if this was people staying on the same side for an episode or not.  I agree with Jeff, we are in for a wild ride for the last couple of episodes.  And the loved one visits?  They got me more than they usually do this time.

Designated Survivor – Wow!  If that’s where they leave us for the next to last episode of the season, where will they leave us for the season finale?  So interesting watching the conspiracy playing havoc with the politics.  Kirkman is right, but I certainly understand where the others are coming from.  And I loved his phone call with his wife.  Their relationship is such a strength to the series.

The Big Bang Theory – I was not expecting that ending at all!  I figured that we’d get Sheldon torn between two women for the cliffhanger, not the proposal he was thinking about doing a couple of seasons ago.  Love it!!

The Amazing Race – Goodbye Michael and Liz.  So glad to have you off my TV.  Your constant bickering at everything and carrying a grudge was so annoying.