Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: New Release Challenge 2017

I continued to do well with the New Release Challenge, hosted by Unconventional Bookviews and Books, Movies, Review, Oh My!  I signed up for the Release Pro level, which is 31-60 books, and I read 73.

Here's what I read.

1. Third Time's a Crime by Diana Orgain
2. Pop Goes the Murder by Kristi Abbott
3. Assault and Beret by Jenn McKinlay
4. Secret Origins by James Riley
5. A Palette for Murder by Sybil Johnson
6. War and Peach by Susan Furlong
7. A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst
8. Death in Advertising by Laura Bradford
9. Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James
10. Bitter Harvest by Wendy Tyson
11. Gone with the Twins by Kylie Logan
12. The Silence of the Flans by Laura Bradford
13. When the Grits Hit the Fan by Maddie Day
14. Caramel Crush by Jenn McKinlay
15. Dying on the Vine by Marla Cooper
16. Called to Justice by Edith Maxwell
17. Blown Away by Clover Tate
18. Whale of a Crime by Karen MacInerney
19. In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen
20. Panda-monium by Stuart Gibbs
21. A Good Day to Buy by Sherry Harris
22. Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley
23. The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz
24. Uncorking a Lie by Nadine Nettmann
25. The Final Vow by Amanda Flower
26. 16th Seduction by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
27. Ivy Get Your Gun by Cindy Brown
28. Banana Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke
29. Bearly Departed by Meg Macy
30. Mulch Ado About Murder by Edith Maxwell
31. French Fried by Kylie Logan
32. Murder at the Male Revue by Elizabeth Perona
33. 30 Second Death by Laura Bradford
34. Disney at Last by Ridley Pearson
35. A Puzzle to Be Named Later by Parnell Hall
36. Dangerous to Know by Renee Patrick
37. Chime and Punishment by Julianne Holmes
38. Dressed to Confess by Diane Vallere
39. On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen
40. Cat About Town by Cate Conte
41. Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett
42. Club Deception by Sarah Skilton
43. Sleeping Beauty, Borrowed Time by Maia Chance
44. Gone Gull by Donna Andrews
45. A Christmas Peril by J. A. Hennrikus
46. Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James
47. Deadly Brew by Karen MacInerney
48. Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao
49. Death of a Bachelorette by Laura Levine
50. A Room with a Brew by Joyce Tremel
51. Fixing to Die by Miranda
52. Pick the Plot by James Riley
53. A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron
54. Murder on the Toy Town Express by Barbara Early
55. The Skeleton Paints a Picture by Leigh Perry
56. Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost
57. Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott
58. Blackberry Burial by Sharon Farrow
59. A Deadly Eclair by Daryl Wood Gerber
60. Assault and Buttery by Kristi Abbott
61. City of Lies by Victoria Thompson
62. Seeds of Revenge by Wendy Tyson
63. Spy School Secret Service by Stuart Gibbs
64. A Perfect Manhattan Murder by Tracy Kiely
65. Nightfall by Shannon Messenger
66. Hark the Herald Angels Slay by Vicki Delany
67. Live and Let Fly by Clover Tate
68. And Death Goes To... by Laura Bradford
69. Purring Around the Christmas Tree by Liz Mugavero
70. The Ghost of Christmas Past by Rhys Bowen
71. How the Finch Stole Christmas by Donna Andrews
72. Mistletoe Murder by Karen MacInerney
73. Stowed Away by Barbara Ross

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Mount TBR 2017

It was another good year on Mount TBR as I read 28 books for the challenge.  However, considering the number of books I bought this year that I haven't read, maybe it wasn't as good a year after all.

Here are the books that did count for the challenge this year.

1. Nun Too Soon by Alice Loweecey
2. Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely
3. Hearse and Gardens by Kathleen Bridge
4. Kitty Kitty Bang Bang by Sparkle Abbey
5. Silenced in the Surf by Kate Dyer-Seeley
6. A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle
7. Oliver Twisted by Cindy Brown
8. A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley
9. The Secret of the Skeleton Key by Penny Warner
10. Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan
11. The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn
12. Design for Dying by Renee Patrick
13. Murder on St. Mark's Place by Victoria Thompson
14. Yip/Tuck by Sparkle Abbey
15. The Miser's Dream by John Gaspard
16. Designer Dirty Laundry by Diane Vallere
17. Killer Cocktail by Tracy Kiely
18. First Degree Mudder by Kate Dyer-Seeley
19. Force of Habit by Alice Loweecey
20. A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy
21. Counterfeit Conspiracies by Ritter Ames
22. Death Crashes the Party by Vickie Fee
23. Circle of Influence by Annette Dashofy
24. Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander
25. Scam Chowder by Maya Corrigan
26. Beyond a Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman
27. Murder on Gramercy Park by Victoria Thompson
28. Pillow Stalk by Diane Vallere

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Audiobook Challenge 2017

I just barely made my goal in the Audiobook Challenge for the year, hosted by Hot Listens and Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  I signed up for the Stenographer level, which is 12-15 audio books, and that's what I hit.  And here they are.

1. Indigo Slam by Robert Crais
2. "F" is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton
3. Trunk Music by Michael Connelly
4. "G" is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton
5. Blood Work by Michael Connelly
6. Demolition Angel by Robert Crais
7. Star Island by Carl Hiaasen
8. "H" is for Homicide by Sue Grafton
9. Angels Flight by Michael Connelly
10. The Last Detective by Robert Crais
11. "I" is for Innocent by Sue Grafton
12. Void Moon by Michael Connelly

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Foodie Reads 2017

At one point this year, I wondered if I'd meet my goal for the Foodie Reads challenge.  You can all stop laughing now.  Yes, I met my goal of 19 or more by hitting 25.  That's short of 2016, but I was catching up on several series that year, so there was a reason for it.

Here's are the books I read.

1. Pop Goes the Murder by Kristi Abbott
2. War and Peach by Susan Furlong
3. A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst
4. Bitter Harvest by Wendy Tyson
5. The Silence of the Flans by Laura Bradford
6. When the Grits Hit the Fan by Maddie Day
7. Caramel Crush by Jenn McKinlay
8. Whale of a Crime by Karen MacInerney
9. Uncorking a Lie by Nadine Nettmann
10. Banana Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke
11. Mulch Ado About Murder by Edith Maxwell
12. French Fried by Kylie Logan
13. A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy
14. Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander
15. Scam Chowder by Maya Corrigan
16. Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James
17. Deadly Brew by Karen MacInerney
18. A Room with a Brew by Joyce Tremel
19. A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron
20. Blackberry Burial by Sharon Farrow
21. A Deadly Eclair by Daryl Wood Gerber
22. Assault and Buttery by Kristi Abbott
23. Seeds of Revenge by Wendy Tyson
24. Mistletoe Murder by Karen MacInerney
25. Stowed Away by Barbara Ross

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Cloak and Dagger Challenge 2017

While the majority of what I read this year were cozies, I read almost 20 non-cozies.  That's why I signed up for the Cloak and Dagger challenge and kept a separate list for it.  The challenge was hosted by Books, Movies, Reviews, Oh My! and Booker T's Farm.

Here's what I read for the challenge:

1. Third Time's a Crime by Diana Orgain
2. Pop Goes the Murder by Kristi Abbott
3. Assault and Beret by Jenn McKinlay
4. Nun Too Soon by Alice Loweecey
5. Indigo Slam by Robert Crais
6. Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely
7. Hearse and Gardens by Kathleen Bridge
8. "F" is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton
9. Kitty Kitty Bang Bang by Sparkle Abbey
10. Silenced in the Surf by Kate Dyer-Seeley
11. A Palette for Murder by Sybil Johnson
12. Cat Killer by Sandy Dengler
13. War and Peach by Susan Furlong
14. A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst
15. A Death in Advertising by Laura Bradford
16. A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle
17. Trunk Music by Michael Connelly
18. Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James
19. Oliver Twisted by Cindy Brown
20. A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley
21. Bitter Harvest by Wendy Tyson
22. Gone with the Twins by Kylie Logan
23. The Silence of the Flans by Laura Bradford
24. Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan
25. The Semester of Our Discontent by Cythnia Kuhn
26. Design for Dying by Renee Patrick
27. L. A. Requiem by Robert Crais
28. When the Grits Hit the Fan by Maddie Day
29. Mouse Trapped by Sandy Dengler
30. Caramel Crush by Jenn McKinlay
31. Dying on the Vine by Marla Cooper
32. Called to Justice by Edith Maxwell
33. Blown Away by Clover Tate
34. "G" is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton
35. Whale of a Crime by Karen MacInerney
36. In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen
37. Panda-monium by Start Gibbs
38. A Good Day to Buy by Sherry Harris
39. Murder on St. Mark's Place by Victoria Thompson
40. Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley
41. The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz
42. Uncorking a Lie by Nadine Nettmann
43. The Final Vow by Amanda Flower
44. 16th Seduction by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
45. Ivy Get Your Gun by Cindy Brown
46. Yip/Tuck by Sparkle Abbey
47. Banana Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke
48. The Miser's Dream by John Gaspard
49. Bearly Departed by Meg Macy
50. Mulch Ado About Murder by Edith Maxwell
51. French Fried by Kylie Logan
52. The Last Dinosaur by Sandy Dengler
53. Designer Dirty Laundry by Diane Vallere
54. Killer Cocktail by Tracy Kiely
55. Blood Work by Michael Connelly
56. First Degree Mudder by Kate Dyer-Seeley
57. Force of Habit by Alice Loweecey
58. A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy
59. Counterfeit Conspiracy by Ritter Ames
60. Death Crashes the Party by Vickie Fee
61. Murder at the Male Revue by Elizabeth Perona
62. 30 Second Death by Laura Bradford
63. Demolition Angel by Robert Crais
64. Circle of Influence by Annette Dashofy
65. A Puzzle to be Named Later by Parnell Hall
66. Dangerous to Know by Renee Patrick
67. Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander
68. Chime and Punishment by Julianne Holmes
69. Dressed to Confess by Diane Vallere
70. On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen
71. Cat About Town by Cate Conte
72. Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett
73. Star Island by Carl Hiaasen
74. Sleeping Beauty, Borrowed Time by Maia Chance
75. Gila Monster by Sandy Dengler
76. Gone Gull by Donna Andrews
77. Scam Chowder by Maya Corrigan
78. Beyond a Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman
79. A Christmas Peril by J. A. Hennrikus
80. Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James
81. Deadly Brew by Karen MacInerney
82. "H" is for Homicide by Sue Grafton
83. Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao
84. Murder on Gramercy Park by Victoria Thompson
85. Death of a Bachelorette by Laura Levine
86. Angels Flight by Michael Connelly
87. A Room with a Brew by Joyce Tremel
88. Fixing to Die by Miranda James
89. A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron
90. Murder on the Toy Town Express by Barbara Early
91. The Skeleton Paints a Picture by Leigh Perry
92. Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost
93. Pillow Stalk by Diane Vallere
94. Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott
95. Blackberry Burial by Sharon Farrow
96. A Deadly Eclair by Daryl Wood Gerber
97. Assault and Buttery by Kristi Abbott
98. City of Lies by Victoria Thompson
99. Seeds of Revenge by Wendy Tyson
100. The Last Detective by Robert Crais
101. Spy School Secret Service by Stuart Gibbs
102. A Perfect Manhattan Murder by Tracy Kiely
103. "I" is for Innocent by Sue Grafton
104. Hark the Herald Angels Slay by Vicki Delany
105. Void Moon by Michael Connelly
106. Live and Let Fly by Clover Tate
107. And Death Goes To... by Laura Bradford
108. Purring Around the Christmas Tree by Liz Mugavero
109. The Ghost of Christmas Past by Rhys Bowen
110. How the Finch Stole Christmas! by Donna Andrews
111. Mistletoe Murder by Karen MacInerney
112. Stowed Away by Barbara Ross

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Cruisin' Through the Cozies and Craving for Cozies 2017

I read a lot of cozies this year, which made the Cruisin' Through the Cozies and Craving for Cozies easy "challenges" for me this year.  I made it to 94.  I would have been cool to make it to 100, but I'm proud of how close I came.  I easily beat my minimum levels in both.  In Cruisin', I was aiming for two in each category and twenty of my own choosing for a total of forty.  In Craving, I went for the Ravenous level, which was 61-80.

Below, you'll see everything I read, including the ones for the categories.

Culinary
2. Pop Goes the Murder by Kristi Abbott
12. A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst

Animal Related
7. Kitty Kitty Bang Bang by Sparkle Abbey
15. Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James

Craft Related
9. A Palette for Murder by Sybil Johnson
81. Blackberry Burial by Sharon Farrow (Yes, it really does fit here)

Paranormal
70. Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao
77. The Skeleton Paints a Picture by Leigh Perry

British Cozy
31. In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen
80. Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott

Career Based
6. Hearse and Gardens by Kathleen Bridge
13. Death in Advertising by Laura Bradford

Holiday Based
67. A Christmas Peril by J. A. Hennrikus
69. Deadly Brew by Karen MacInerney

Travel
3. Assault and Beret by Jenn McKinlay
16. Oliver Twisted by Cindy Brown

Historical
23. Design for Dying by Renee Patrick
28. Called to Justice by Edith Maxwell

Free Choice

1. Third Time's a Crime by Diana Orgain
4. Nun Too Soon by Alice Loweecey
5. Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely
8. Silenced in the Surf by Kate Dyer-Seeley
10. Cat Killer by Sandy Dengler
11. War and Peach by Susan Furlong
14. A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle
17. A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley
18. Bitter Harvest by Wendy Tyson
19. Gone with the Twins by Kylie Logan
20. The Silence of the Flans by Laura Bradford
21. Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan
22. The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn
24. When the Grits Hit the Fan by Maddie Day
25. Mouse Trapped by Sandy Dengler
26. Caramel Crush by Jenn McKinlay
27. Dying on the Vine by Marla Cooper
29. Blown Away by Clover Tate
30. Whale of a Crime by Karen MacInerney
32. A Good Day to Buy by Sherry Harris
33. Murder on St. Mark's Place by Victoria Thompson
34. Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley
35. Uncorking a Lie by Nadine Nettmann
36. The Final Vow by Amanda Flower
37. Ivy Get Your Gun by Cindy Brown
38. Yip/Tuck by Sparkle Abbey
39. Banana Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke
40. The Miser's Dream by John Gaspard
41. Bearly Departed by Meg Macy
42. Mulch Ado About Murder by Edith Maxwell
43. French Fried by Kylie Logan
44. The Last Dinosaur by Sandy Dengler
45. Designer Dirty Laundry by Diane Vallere
46. Killer Cocktail by Tracy Kiely
47. First Degree Mudder by Kate Dyer-Seeley
48. A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy
49. Counterfeit Conspiracies by Ritter Ames
50. Death Crashes the Party by Vickie Fee
51. Murder at the Male Revue by Elizabeth Perona
52. 30 Second Death by Laura Bradord
53. Circle of Influence by Annette Dashofy
54. A Puzzle to be Named Later by Parnell Hall
55. Dangerous to Know by Renee Patrick
56. Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander
57. Chime and Punishment by Julianne Holmes
58. Dressed to Confess by Diane Vallere
59. On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen
60. Cat About Town by Cate Conte
61. Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett
62. Sleeping Beauty, Borrowed Time by Maia Chance
63. Gila Monster by Sandy Dengler
64. Gone Gull by Donna Andrews
65. Scam Chowder by Maya Corrigan
66. Beyond a Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman
68. Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James
71. Murder on Gramercy Park by Victoria Thompson
72. Death of a Bachelorette by Laura Levine
73. A Room with a Brew by Joyce Tremel
74. Fixing to Die by Miranda James
75. A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron
76. Murder on the Toy Town Express by Barbara Early
78. Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost
79. Pillow Stalk by Diane Vallere
82. A Deadly Eclair by Daryl Wood Gerber
83. Assault and Buttery by Kristi Abbott
84. City of Lies by Victoria Thompson
85. Seeds of Revenge by Wendy Tyson
86. A Perfect Manhattan Murder by Tracy Kiely
87. Hark the Herald Angels Slay by Vicki Delany
88. Live and Let Fly by Clover Tate
89. And Death Goes To... by Laura Bradford
90. Purring Around the Christmas Tree by Liz Mugavero
91. The Ghost of Christmas Past by Rhys Bowen
92. How the Finch Stole Christmas! by Donna Andrews
93. Mistletoe Murder by Karen MacInerney
94. Stowed Away by Barbara Ross

Saturday, December 30, 2017

December 30th's Weekly TV Thoughts

It's the week between Christmas and New Year's.  You can tell by how long my Weekly TV Thoughts list is.

The Librarians – Two more fun episodes, although I felt they both centered around Flynn quite a bit.  In fact, I’ve been wondering why he was still listed as a guest star, but I think they answered that in the second episode.  Looks like we won’t see him for a while.  I wonder what will happen with the tethering ceremony now.  It also goes a bit against the team work thing they’ve really been pushing this season, which I’ve been enjoying, but I bet that’s what brings him back.

Friday, December 29, 2017

December 29th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Welcome to the final Friday of 2017.  Can you believe the year is over already?  Let's get in one last 2017 Book Beginning and Friday 56.

I'm going to highlight Dial M for Mousse by Laura Bradford, which comes out on Tuesday.




Here's how the book begins:

Winnie Johnson knew it wasn't polite to stare.

Jumping ahead to page 56, we find:

Winnie felt her mouth go slack as her thoughts traveled back to the car ride and the conversation that had brought them to that very cabin...

And yes, the ellipsis is in the book.

Short and sweet this week, but I hope you'll come back next year on Tuesday to see what I thought of the book and enter the giveaway.

Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

December 2017's Monthly Reading Summary

Yes, I know there are still several days left in the year, but I'm doing to go ahead and post my monthly reading summary now.  You can click on the links for the full review.  And despite the Christmas holiday, I did get to the index.

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

Void Moon by Michael Connelly – 3
Six years ago, Cassie Black’s life went wrong when a casino hotel robbery went very wrong.  She’s served time in prison and is now ten months into serving parole when she finds herself needing cash, so she takes on one last job, which takes her back to the casino where the job went wrong six years before.  Is this job the windfall it appears to be or will it go wrong as well?

I’m being rather vague in my teaser because, like most Michael Connelly books, this is one you need to experience for yourself.  I did find the beginning a little slow and technical, but when it took off, it grabbed me and I was along for the ride.  This was despite the fact that I didn’t love any of the major characters.  I can’t find myself rooting for a criminal, so it wasn’t until we met some characters even worse than Cassie that I found myself rooting for her.

Kermit the Hermit by Bill Peet – 5
Kermit is a hermit crab who spends his day trying to defend the treasures he has collected.  But when a boy saves his life one day, he suddenly finds himself wanting to do something to help the boy.  Where will this new focus take him?

This is a delightful tale, told in verse, something Bill Peet didn’t always do.  The moral of the story is very obvious; in fact, at times this seems a bit more of a parable.  But that’s not an issue because the story is very entertaining the entire way through.  The pictures are fantastic as always and will help keep kid’s interest as well.

Live and Let Fly by Clover Tate (Kite Shop Mysteries #2) – 4
There’s a kite contest coming to town, and Emmy Adler has pinned her hopes on winning.  She thinks that the fame will drive people to her website and help her shop survive the upcoming winter.  The judge is, Jasmine Normand, a local who gained fame on a reality show, and Emmy has a run in with her in the weeks leading up to the contest.  When Jasmine turns up dead, a tabloid starts insinuating that Emmy had something to do with the death.  Can she learn the truth and save her reputation?

Emmy’s town is a wonderful Oregon beach side town, and the atmosphere makes me want to settle in for a vacation.  The mystery starts out strong, but loses some steam in the middle before coming back to life for a great climax.  Emmy is learning some patience, and it shows in this book.  I enjoyed seeing her and the rest of the returning characters again.  The new cast of characters are just as strong.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

And Death Goes To… by Laura Bradford (Tobi Tobias #3) – 4
Tobi Tobias is thrilled to be up for the Golden Storyboard award at the annual St. Louis Advertising Awards.  However, a night of celebration turns to tragedy when a platform collapses, killing one of the winners.  Despite saying she will stay out of it, Tobi can’t help but be pulled in when she thinks about one thing – it might have been her.  But what really happened that night?

I love the Tobi and her friends, so I was thrilled to visit them again.  Combined with the suspects, and we’ve got a fantastic set of characters.  I did feel that one storyline got in the way of the mystery at times.  It didn’t help that I felt Tobi was rather stupid when it came to that situation.  However, the mystery itself was very well done, with several good twists and a surprising climax.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Purring Around the Christmas Tree by Liz Mugavero (Pawsitively Organic Mysteries #6) – 4
The town of Frog’s Ledge, Connecticut, is celebrating the start of the holiday season with their big tree lighting, and Stan is doubly excited since her new pet patisserie is opening the next day.  However, things take an unexpected turn when Santa dies on his way to light the tree.  Meanwhile, two other men are missing.  Is there a connection?

I was hooked from the start with this book.  Even though I figured out one thread early on, I still wanted to know how it was all going to play out.  I did feel the climax was rushed, but that is my only complaint about this book.  I love these characters and the relationships that have grown over the course of the series, and getting to spend time with them helped add to the Christmas spirit in this book for me.

The Ghost of Christmas Past by Rhys Bowen (Molly Murphy #17) – 5
December of 1906 finds Molly Murphy Sullivan hoping that the new year will bring some changes and good news.  When she, her husband Daniel, and their son Liam get invited to a house party for Christmas on the Hudson, Molly thinks this might help take her mind off everything going on in her life.  However, she finds the household has a weird tension to it, with relationships she can’t quite read.  Then she learns that a child disappeared from this house 10 years before right before Christmas.  Molly is determined to figure out what happened, but has it been too long?

As is often the case, we start out with some updates on the series regulars before Molly fully plunges into the mystery, but once she does, I was hooked.  In fact, as soon as I got off work, I sat down to finish.  While I don’t feel like Daniel has grown, I love the rest of the cast, and the new characters are very strong.  There is a more serious tone than you might expect from a Christmas mystery, but the contrast works well in this case.

How the Finch Stole Christmas! by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #22)
This Christmas, Meg’s husband Michael has turned his one-man production of A Christmas Carol into a full play.  In an effort to bring in more people to watch, Malcolm Haver has been cast as Scrooge.  Malcolm is best known for a part in a cult TV show from 30 years ago, but he does have a loyal fan base.  Unfortunately, he also has a habit of showing up late and drunk.  In an effort to find out where Malcolm is getting his alcohol, Meg follows him from the theater one day.  Where will Malcolm lead her?

While my teaser doesn’t reveal much of it, there is a mystery, even a murder, in this book.  It’s just best to watch it all unfold for yourself.  I did feel the ending was a tad weak, and the pacing was a little uneven early on, but these are minor complaints.  I love these characters, and they are in fine form here.  We get some laughs as grins along the way as always.  Really, it’s hard to not have fun while reading this book.

Mistletoe Murder by Karen MacInerney (Dewberry Farm Mysteries #4) – 5
It’s the week leading up to Christmas, and the town of Buttercup, Texas, is buzzing about the skeleton recently uncovered in the city hall renovations.  However, that changes when a dead body turns up in the parking lot of the local Mexican restaurant.  The victim is Randy Stone, and the sheriff thinks it’s a case of a jealous wife stabbing her husband.  But Lucy Resnick isn’t so sure, so she begins her own investigation, hoping to find the truth.  Can she do it before an innocent woman spends the holiday in jail?

It was wonderful to pop in on these characters for a second Christmas mystery.  The plot is strong with several good surprises before we reach the local climax.  Lucy and her boyfriend are fantastic.  While Lucy’s friends are all here, the spotlight is on a different one this time, and I loved her sub-plot.  I did find a couple of continuity errors early on, but they were minor and didn’t affect anything as far as the mystery itself goes.  Throw in seven delicious sounding recipes, and you’ve got a Christmas winner.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Stowed Away by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mysteries #6 – 4
It’s a week away from opening day for the Snowden Family Clambake, and Julia and the rest of her family are hard at work making sure everything is ready.  But they are also discussing what to do with the ruins of Windsholme, the family mansion on the island where they host the clambake.  One expert they are bring in turns out to be Julia’s prep school roommate, Wyatt Jayne.  Wyatt is in town to oversee a yacht renovation, but when the owner of the yacht is found murdered, she finds herself the prime suspect.  Julia has her own reason for investigating the murder, a very personal one.  Can she figure out what truly happened?

While this is book six in the series, it’s only been a year to Julia and the rest of these characters, which allows us time to really see their relationships grow and change.  I like watching this growth as the series progresses.  There are several sub-plots that facilitate this, but I felt they slowed things down early in the book.  Once the mystery kicks into high gear, it completely captured me again, with several wonderful twists and a climax that tied everything together perfectly.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Ornament Review: Radiant Tree Mini Topper



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Perfectly sized mini star tree topper
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Top your mini tree
With this small radiant star
A perfect combo




This Star is Perfect for the Top of Your Mini Tree

I have several tree toppers, but I don’t use them as such since my trees aren’t strong enough to support them.  For that reason, I hesitated to get the Radiant Tree Mini Topper that Hallmark released this year, but I’m so glad I did.

As you would guess, this topper is a star.  It is the tradition, after all.  It’s made out of a light metal, so it actually reflects the light back.  There are two diamonds that make up the star, one of them is fairly smooth, but the one that is outside has all kinds of ridges to it to help catch the light.  At the base of the star is a spring that slowly gets larger, which allows it to attach to your tree.

I mentioned earlier that I have had trouble with toppers being too heavy for my trees.  That’s not the case here.  This topper is very light weight.  And it is perfectly sized for the mini tree that Hallmark released last year.  I’m not surprised by this, but really, it does look perfect up there.  And the weight is perfect for not bending that top branch over.

Obviously, since this is a mini tree topper designed for a mini tree, it’s not going to look good on a regular sized tree.  But that goes without saying, right?

Given Hallmark’s attention to detail, I’m not surprised that this Radiant Mini Tree Topper is the perfect piece to complement their mini tree.  I’m just glad I went ahead and got it.

Original Price: $9.95

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Book Review: Stowed Away by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mysteries #6)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters; twisty mystery
Cons: Pacing a little off near the beginning
The Bottom Line:
Billionaire in town
Sets up mystery filled with
Characters I love




Start of Tourist Season Derailed by Murder

Each series author is different in their timeline.  Some authors let us pop into the lives of their characters so far apart that the characters age in roughly real time.  And some authors set their books close to each other time wise.  That’s what Barbara Ross does with her Maine Clambake series.  Stowed Away is the sixth book in the series, but it’s been a very murderous year for main character Julia Snowden since it opens just about a year after the first in the series.

It’s June once again, and Julia and her family are getting ready to reopen the Snowden Family Clambake for the season.  They are also discussing what to do with the ruins of Windsholme, the mansion that is on the island where they take their customers for the clambake.  Julia’s mother wants to rebuild it, but Julia thinks they’d be better off tearing it down.

Julia is surprised to discover that the woman coming in to consult on the project is Wyatt Jayne.  Wyatt was Julia’s first roommate at her high school prep school, but their shared past makes Julia wary of the woman.

Wyatt is in town thanks to billionaire Geoffrey Bower, a man who lives on a yacht.  Geoffrey is having his yacht completely updated, and Wyatt is overseeing that project as well.  However, when a dead body shows up on the ship, Julia finds herself being drawn into the case for a very personal reason.  What happened on board the yacht?

This book features several sub-plots that weave in and out of the main mystery.  Unfortunately, I felt like they took too much of the focus early on in the book, delaying the murder.  Now, don’t misunderstand, I found these stories just as interesting since they concerned Julia and the other series regulars, plus we were meeting the suspects during this time.

Once the dead body is found, things do kick into high gear.  I was very intrigued by the twists that happened along the way, including a couple that really surprised me.  The ending was satisfying, which is an amazing feat considering some of the twists along the way, and how Julia arrived there showed some great deduction.

There is a reason that I mentioned the series timeline at the start of this book.  It is very interesting to watch the series regulars’ relationships develop as the series goes along.  In this case, I’m definitely glad that each book is only a month or two apart because it allows us a chance to really see these relationships grow.  We get a few surprises in the supporting characters in this book as a result of the subplots, which is something I truly loved.  And have I mentioned yet how much I love this cast of characters?  They are so real and so much fun to visit.  We get plenty of time with the suspects, of course.  They all get their moment to shine and therefore confuse us until the very end.

The book features three recipes at the end, two that will have seafood lovers’ mouths water, and one for those of us who don’t enjoy seafood.

Watching these characters grow and change is always a delight, and fans of the series will be happy to visit them once again in Stowed Away.  And if you haven’t yet found this delightful series, you really do need to fix that today.

Book another visit with Julia in the rest of the Maine Clambake Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas!

I'm taking today and tomorrow off to enjoy time with my family.  I hope you have a very Merry Christmas with yours.  I'll be back on Tuesday with a new book review.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

December 23rd's Weekly TV Thoughts

'Twas the week before Christmas, and TV mostly went to reruns.  Need proof?  Look at how little I watched.  (Although why it has to all be on Wednesday night is beyond me.)

Once Upon a Time (12/15) – So Regina cast the curse again.  And Henry’s life is the reason she did and the reason she can’t break it.  How are they going to get around that?  I must say this coven of witches is making the show take a much darker turn than I felt it has before, and I’m not enthusiastic about that at all.

Ellen’s Game of Games – This looked like fun, and it was.  I think they need to show us a bit more of the actual games instead of reaction shots of Ellen laughing, especially in slow motion, but on the whole, I really enjoyed it.  Very wacky games, and I can’t wait to see what else they come up with.

Survivor – Well, I called it last week.  Ben did deserve to win after making it to the finals.  But I sure don’t like him.  He was such a poor winner for so much of the season.  The fire making twist at the end was interesting for sure.  Sounds like they will use it again when they return in the spring.  And, please, can we stop with the final tribal going so far into the “reunion” show that we have no time to talk to the majority of the cast?  It was beyond ridiculous.

The Librarians – Both of those episodes were fun, but I certainly enjoyed the second one more, mainly because jumping into a story is always fun.  And you could tell how they split up the cast since the first episode heavily featured the trio and the second one heavily featured Eve and Flynn.  Nothing wrong with that, just interesting to note.

Friday, December 22, 2017

December 22nd's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Welcome to another Friday, which means it is time for Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week's book is Stowed Away by Barbara Ross.




Let's jump right in.  I'm just sharing the very first sentence with you.

"Dead weight is the worst."

Now, isn't that a great way to start a mystery?

Here's a longer sentence from page 56:

Page had heard the tale dozens, maybe hundreds, of times, but if Vanessa had nightmares, Mom would be the one who'd have to deal with it.

That's it for this week.  I hope you have a Merry Christmas if you celebrate.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Book Review: Mistletoe Murder by Karen MacInerney (Dewberry Farm Mystery #4)



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and mystery; delicious sounding recipes
Cons: A couple of minor continuity errors
The Bottom Line:
Return at Christmas
For another mystery
Fun at any time




Stabbed in the Back at Christmas

One of the advantages of self-publishing is that if inspiration strikes, you can follow it.  That’s what Karen MacInerney did with Mistletoe Murder.  Even though we just got to visit farmer Lucy Resnick and her town of Buttercup, Texas, a couple of months ago, we are back just in time for Christmas.

It’s just been a couple of months for the residence of Buttercup as well when we pop in the week before Christmas.  The annual Christmas market is in full swing, with Lucy doing a brisk business selling her soaps and candles in addition to lots of mistletoe.  The talk of the town is the recently discovered bones in city hall, which is undergoing renovations.

Unfortunately, talk soon turns to a murder much more recent when Randy Stone is found stabbed in the back in the parking lot of the Mexican restaurant his in-laws own.  Rooster Kocurek, the local sheriff, quickly arrests Randy’s wife for the crime.  While Lucy buys the potential motive, she doesn’t think the case is that simple.  Never the best detective on a good day, Rooster is distracted by some person problems, so Lucy begins to investigate and quickly finds plenty of people with motive to kill Randy.  But can she find the real killer before an innocent woman spends the holiday in jail?

This is actually our second visit to Buttercup during Christmas, and it felt nice to spend another holiday season there.  While Lucy never has trouble finding suspects to interview, the Christmas market makes a great place to meet and interrogate people.  As a result, the pace never lags as Lucy begins to piece together the puzzle.  Several twists took me by surprise, but the ultimate ending made sense and was satisfying.

While we’ve gotten to know several of Lucy’s friends in the previous books, they were supporting players this time around.  Instead, a different friend took the spotlight, and I really enjoyed her sub-plot.  Not to worry, Lucy’s boyfriend Tobias is still an active part of the book; I love watching their relationship progress.  And the suspects are as strong as ever.

Unfortunately, I did catch a couple of continuity errors in the book, but nothing that interfered with the plot at all.  They annoy, but they aren’t critical to understanding anything that transpires in the book.

The book has some serious underpinnings, which are counter to the Christmas setting.  The contrast worked well in this case.

With all the talk of food, this book is sure to get your mouth watering, so you’ll be delighted to learn that there are seven recipes at the end for things are varied as snickerdoodles, tamales, and candy cane fudge.

This is a fast read that is sure to entertain.  Mistletoe Murder is perfect for this time of year but will be just as fun no matter when you pick it up.

Enjoy more visits with Lucy in the Dewberry Farms Mysteries.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Movie Review: psych - the movie



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Reuniting with the gang feels so good
Cons: Humor doesn’t always hit the mark
The Bottom Line:
psych gang reunites
For mystery and laughter
Fun reunion film




“That’s Not At All How It Goes.  And No, You Haven’t Heard It Both Ways.”

Back when the USA Network was doing all their “Blue Skies” shows, I was a very faithful addict and never missed an episode of any of their shows.  So, when they announced psych: the movie, I was, welled, psyched.  It was a lot of fun to reconnect with these characters.

The movie picks up three years after the events of the series finale, which just happens to have aired three years ago.  Shawn Spencer (James Roday) has set up a new physic detective office in his new town of San Francisco where he has followed his love, police detective Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson).  Gus (Dule Hill) has found a new job as a pharmaceutical rep and makes enough to support the new detective agency since Shawn is obsessed with finding the ring that was stolen when he tried to propose to Jules three years ago.

But everyone has a new focus when Jules’ police partner is shot.  The clues make it look like someone is after Jules.  With help from Karen Vick (Kristen Nelson) and Shawn’s dad Henry (Corbin Bernsen), it’s a race to figure out who is behind it all.  Will they succeed in time?

Fans of the series will immediately notice the one name I have yet to mention, Timothy Omundson, who played Detective Carlton Lassiter.  Sadly, Timothy had a stroke just before they went into production on this movie, forcing a major re-write.  He does get a cameo scene, and even then, you can tell he is still recovering.  I’m not complaining because that scene was a nice touch.  I wish he were healthy and could have fully participated since I loved his character, but since that was not the case, I appreciate everyone doing what they could to include him.

This show was always part comedy and part mystery, and it was wonderful to be back in this mix.  It may have been three years since the show ended, but the cast had no problem slipping back into their roles.  The same chemistry was there, which made the jokes feel effortless.

And this movie was lots of fun.  I laughed multiple times over the course of these 90 minutes, just like I’d do when watching the show.  Unfortunately, Shawn can be annoying at times, and I found that to be the case at times in the first half, but that’s nothing new and my only real complaint.

The mystery itself was very good.  Oh, the mysteries on this show were never the most twisty; they were always an excuse to visit the characters and laugh.  So, when I say where things went didn’t surprise me, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  I was having fun along the way, and that’s what really matters.  I did feel one scene in the climax went a bit too far and wasn’t as funny as they were going for, but again, that is minor.

And there were lots of call backs.  Some surprising characters popped up over the course of the film.  We got to see the elements we loved with characters we loved.  Honestly, what was there not to like?

So, for fans of psych, psych: the movie is a must watch.  I don’t recommend non-fans jump in here because you won’t truly get it.  But watch the series and find out what you’d been missing.  Then, you’ll be ready for this fun reunion.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Book Review: How the Finch Stole Christmas! by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #22)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun and smiles in this Christmas mystery
Cons: A few niggles with the plot, but nothing major
The Bottom Line:
Problematic Scrooge
Gets Meg involved with puzzle
In fun Christmas book




A Grinch Leaves a Body

Any fan of the Meg Langslow series will tell you that there are certain things you can count on when you pick up one of the mysteries in the series.  There are slightly wacky characters, hilarious antics, and a good mystery.  Throw in Christmas, and you’ve got a sure winner.  That’s definitely the case with How the Finch Stole Christmas!

This isn’t our first holiday visit with Meg and her family, and one thing we’ve learn about in past visits is that Meg’s husband Michael puts on a one-man version of A Christmas Carol every year.  That’s actually changing this year since Michael has decided to direct a production of it.  Meg is on board as the assistant director, which is really just a fancy title for organizer.  Even their twin sons Josh and Jamie are getting into the act with supporting parts in the play.

Since proceeds from the show are going to the community, they’ve gone all out and hired a star for the lead.  Okay, so maybe calling Malcolm Haver a star is a stretch, but he has a loyal following thanks to time spent on a cult TV show 30 years ago.

However, Haver is difficult to work with, mainly because he constantly shows up to rehearsal drunk when he shows up at all.  Every effort is being made to keep him from finding something to drink, but he keeps finding it somehow.  So, when Meg catches him sneaking out one afternoon, she follows him.  Where will he lead her?

Yes, I’m being a little vague with my plot teaser, but any more than that will spoil the way this story unfolds.  Yes, there is a mystery, and Meg finds a dead body.  But you really need to see how everything comes about for yourself.  I will say that I thought the pacing was a little off early on, but it picked up as the book went along.  The ending was a little on the weak side, although it did answer all our questions.

Niggles aside, this book is a delight from start to finish.  I can’t tell you how much I love the cast of characters, so spending more time with them is always wonderful.  While some of the characters border on the eccentric, they are all realistic.  And as we’ve gotten to know more of the regulars over the years, they’ve become more real as well.  That’s true again here.

I can’t leave out the laughs.  This series is known for it’s humor.  Somethings, that’s at a character, and sometimes that’s at a situation.  We get both of those things here, and I found myself laughing several times and grinning most of the way through the book.

And yes, there are finches in this book.  How they come into play is something else I am going to leave for you to discover on your own.

Because you really do need to pick up How the Finch Stole Christmas!  This is a book that will leave you smiling as you get ready to celebrate Christmas with your own family.

Looking for more light mysteries?  Here are the rest of the Meg Langslow Mysteries in order.