Monday, December 31, 2018

Reading Challenge Wrap-Up: New Release Challenge 2018

This was a great year for new releases.  Just look at all the new releases I read in 2018.  Thanks to (un)Conventional Bookviews for hosting.

Here's what I read in 2018.  My initial goal was 31-60, and I made it.

1. Dial M for Mousse by Laura Bradford
2. The Linking Rings by John Gaspard
3. Class Reunions are Murder by Libby Klein
4. Curses, Boiled Again! by Shari Randall
5. The Phantom of Oz by Cindy Brown
6. Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day
7. Pressing the Issue by Daryl Wood Gerber
8. Hummus and Homicide by Tina Kashian
9. Color Me Murder by Krista Davis
10. I Know What You Bid Last Summer by Sherry Harris
11. Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz
12. Claws for Concern by Miranda James
13. Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst
14. The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley
15. The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen
16. Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke
17. The Uninvited Corpse by Debra Sennefelder
18. Cinco de Murder by Rebecca Adler
19. Wedding Cake Crumble by Jenn McKinlay
20. Worlds Apart by James Riley
21. Turning the Tide by Edith Maxwell
22. True Fiction by Lee Goldberg
23. Chesapeake Crime: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies
24. The Purloined Puzzle by Parnell Hall
25. Murder, She Wrote: A Date with Murder by Jessica Fletcher, et. al.
26. Waste of Space by Stuart Gibbs
27. Pairing a Deception by Nadine Nettmann
28. Hair of the Dog by Carlene O'Neil
29. The 17th Suspect by James Patterson
30. How to be a Perfect Christian by The Babylon Bee
31. Bear Witness to Murder by Meg Macy
32. Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark
33. Claws for Alarm by Karen MacInerney
34. With a Little Bit of Blood by D. E. Ireland
35. Italian Iced by Kylie Logan
36. The Floating Light Bulb by John Gaspard
37. A Souffle of Suspicion by Daryl Wood Gerber
38. Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien
39. Death Over Easy by Maddie Day
40. Midnight Snacks are Murder by Libby Klein
41. Purrder She Wrote by Cate Conte
42. Death on the Menu by Lucy Burdette
43. Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett
44. A Dark and Twisting Path by Julia Buckley
45. Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen
46. Against the Claw by Shari Randall
47. Stabbed in the Baklava by Tina Kashian
48. Wuthering Kites by Clover Tate
49. Rooted in Deceit by Wendy Tyson
50. Toucan Keep a Secret by Donna Andrews
51. Sunny Side Up by Daniel Stallings
52. Murder Flies the Coop by Jessica Ellicott
53. Til Death Do Us Party by Vickie Fee
54. The Spirit in Question by Cynthia Kuhn
55. Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron
56. Designed for Haunting by Sybil Johnson
57. Death of a Russian Doll by Barbara Early
58. Academic Curveball by James J. Cudney
59. I'm Your Venus by Diane Vallere
60. Six Cats a Slayin' by Miranda James
61. Dogged by Sandy Dengler
62. Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross
63. Killed on Blueberry Hill by Sharon Farrow
64. City of Secrets by Victoria Thompson
65. The Skeleton Makes a Friend by Leigh Perry
66. Spy School Goes South by Stuart Gibbs
67. Reason to Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman
68. Killalot by Cindy Brown
67. Wreath Between the Lines by Daryl Wood Gerber
68. Just Plain Murder by Laura Bradford
69. The Coloring Crook by Krista Davis
70. Game of Scones by Mary Lee Ashford
71. Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
72. Death of a Neighborhood Scrooge by Laura Levine
73. Ghosted by Leslie Margolis
74. Murder on Cape Cod by Maddie Day
75. Steamed Open by Barbara Ross
76. Lark! The Herald Angels Sing by Donna Andrews
77. Flashback by Shannon Messenger

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Mount TBR and Beat the Backlist 2018

I am surprised at just how well I did with the  Mount TBR and Beat the Backlist challenges this year.  I was just a backlist reading machine this year.  I easily surpassed by goal of one a month.

1. The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais
2. Too Big to Die by Sue Ann Jaffarian
3. As You Wish by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden
4. The Corpse with the Silver Tongue by Cathy Ace
5. The Haunted Library by Penny Warner
6. The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson
7. Cry Fowl by Sandy Dengler
8. Cardiac Arrest by Lisa Q. Mathews
9. Murder on Washington Square by Victoria Thompson
10. It's Your Party, Die If You Want To by Vickie Fee
11. The Silver Gun by L. A. Chandlar
12. "J" is for Judgment by Sue Grafton
13. The Art of Vanishing by Cynthia Kuhn
14. A Darkness More Than Night by Michael Connelly
15. Fatal Fishes by Sandy Dengler
16. Without a Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman
17. Murder on Moon Trek 1 by Diane Vallere
18. I Scream, You Scream by Wendy Lyn Watson
19. Fifty Shades of Greyhound by Sparkle Abbey
20. The Watchman by Robert Crais
21. In Cave Danger by Kate Dyer-Seeley
22. Murder on Mulberry Bend by Victoria Thompson
23. Back in the Habit by Alice Loweecey
24. "K" is for Killer by Sue Grafton
25. Marked Masters by Ritter Ames
26. One Fete in the Grave by Vickie Fee
27. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
28. The Death of an Ambitious Woman by Barbara Ross
29. That Touch of Ink by Diane Vallere
30. Pirate Vishnu by Gigi Pandian
31. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
32. Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais
33. Room for Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman
34. Lost Luggage by Wendall Thomas
35. "L" is for Lawless by Sue Grafton
36. The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo by Sparkle Abbey
37. Murder on Marble Row by Victoria Thompson
38. City of Bones by Michael Connelly
39. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
40. Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly
41. Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay
42. The First Rule by Robert Crais
43. Veiled Threat by Alice Loweecey

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Audiobook Challenge 2018

I did well with the audiobook challenge hosted by hosted by Hot Listens and Caffeinated Reviewer for 2018 as well.  I easily beat my 5-10 book challenge thanks to lots and lots of driving over the summer.

Here's what I listened to this year.

1. The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais
2. The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley
3. "J" is for Judgment by Sue Grafton
4. A Darkness More Than Night by Michael Connelly
5. The Watchman by Robert Crais
6. "K" is for Killer by Sue Grafton
7. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
8. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
9. Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais
10. "L" is for Lawless by Sue Grafton
11. City of Bones by Michael Connelly
12. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
13. Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly
14. The First Rule by Robert Crais

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Foodie Reads 2018

It's no surprise that I did well with the Foodie Reads challenge in 2018.  Since our host, Based on a True Story, did set any goals this year, I didn't have one, but I read over 30 culinary cozies.

1. Dial M for Mousse by Laura Bradford
2. Class Reunions are Murder by Libby Klein
3. Curses, Boiled Again! by Shari Randall
4. Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day
5. Pressing the Issue by Daryl Wood Gerber
6. Hummus and Homicide by Tina Kashian
7. Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst
8. Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke
9. The Uninvited Corpse by Debra Semmefelder
10. Cinco de Murder by Rebecca Adler
11. Wedding Cake Crumble by Jenn McKinlay
12. Pairing a Deception by Nadine Nettmann
13. Hair of the Dog by Carlene O'Neil
14. I Scream, You Scream by Wendy Lyn Watson
15. Claws for Alarm by Karen MacInerney
16. Italian Iced by Kylie Logan
17. A Souffle of Suspicion by Daryl Wood Gerber
18. Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien
19. Death Over Easy by Maddie Day
20. Midnight Snacks are Murder by Libby Klein
21. Purrder She Wrote by Cate Conte
22. Death on the Menu by Lucy Burdette
23. Against the Claw by Shari Randall
24. Stabbed in the Baklava by Tina Kashian
25. Rooted in Deceit by Wendy Tyson
26. Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron
27. Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross
28. Killed on Blueberry Hill by Sharon Farrow
29. Wreath Between the Lines by Daryl Wood Gerber
30. Game of Scones by Mary Lee Ashford
31. Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
32. Steamed Open by Barbara Ross

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge 2018

Need proof that mysteries are my favorite genre?  Take a look at all the mysteries I read this year for the Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge hosted by Books, Movies, and Reviews, Oh My!

I set my goal at the Inspector level which was 26-35.  I surpassed it by quite a bit.

1. Dial M for Mousse by Laura Bradford
2. The Forgotten Man by Robert Crais
3. The Linking Rings by John Gaspard
4. Class Reunions are Murder by Libby Klein
5. Curses, Boiled Again! by Shari Randall
6. The Phantom of Oz by Cindy Brown
7. Too Big to Die by Sue Ann Jaffarian
8. Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day
9. The Corpse with the Silver Tongue by Cathy Ace
10. Pressing the Issue by Daryl Wood Gerber
11. Hummus and Homicide by Tina Kashian
12. Color Me Murder by Krista Davis
13. I Know What You Bid Last Summer by Sherry Harris
14. Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz
15. Claws for Concern by Miranda James
16. Cry Fowl by Sandy Dengler
17. Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst
18. The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley
19. The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen
20. Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke
21. Cardiac Arrest by Lisa Q. Mathews
22. The Uninvited Corpse by Debra Sennefelder
23. Murder on Washington Square by Victoria Thompson
24. Cinco de Murder by Rebecca Adler
25. Wedding Cake Crumble by Jenn McKinlay
26. Turning the Tide by Edith Maxwell
27. It's Your Party, Die If You Want To by Vickie Fee
28. The Silver Gun by L. A. Chandlar
29. True Fiction by Lee Goldberg
30. "J" is for Judgment by Sue Grafton
31. Chesapeake Crime: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies
32. The Purloined Puzzle by Parnell Hall
33. Murder, She Wrote: A Date with Murder by Jessica Fletcher, et. al.
34. The Art of Vanishing by Cynthia Kuhn
35. A Darkness More Than Night by Michael Connelly
36. Waste of Space by Stuart Gibbs
37. Pairing a Deception by Nadine Nettmann
38. Hair of the Dog by Carlene O'Neil
39. Fatal Fishes by Sandy Dengler
40. The 17th Suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
41. Without a Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman
42. Murder on Moon Trek 1 by Diane Vallere
43. I Scream, You Scream by Wendy Lyn Watson
44. Bear Witness to Murder by Meg Macy
45. Fifty Shades of Greyhound by Sparkle Abbey
46. The Watchman by Robert Crais
47. Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark
48. In Cave Danger by Kate Dyer-Seeley
49. Claws for Alarm by Karen MacInerney
50. Murder on Mulberry Bend by Victoria Thompson
51. With a Little Bit of Blood by D. E. Ireland
52. Back in the Habit by Alice Loweecey
53. "K" is for Killer by Sue Grafton
54. Italian Iced by Kylie Logan
55. Marked Masters by Ritter Ames
56. The Floating Light Bulb by John Gaspard
57. One Fete in the Grave by Vickie Fee
58. A Souffle of Suspicion by Daryl Wood Gerber
59. The Death of an Ambitious Woman by Barbara Ross
60. Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien
61. That Touch of Ink by Diane Vallere
62. Pirate Vishnu by Gigi Pandian
63. Death Over Easy by Maddie Day
64. Midnight Snacks are Murder by Libby Klein
65. Purrder She Wrote by Cate Conte
66. Death on the Menu by Lucy Burdette
67. Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett
68. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
69. A Dark and Twisting Path by Julia Buckley
70. Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen
71. Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais
72. Room for Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman
73. Against the Claw by Shari Randall
74. Lost Luggage by Wendall Thomas
75. Stabbed in the Baklava by Tina Kashian
76. Lost Legacy by Annette Dashofy
77. Wuthering Kites by Clover Tate
78. Rooted in Deceit by Wendy Tyson
79. "L" is for Lawless by Sue Grafton
80. Toucan Keep a Secret by Donna Andrews
81. The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo by Sparkle Abbey
82. Sunny Side Up by Daniel Stallings
83. Murder on Marble Row by Victoria Thompson
84. Murder Flies the Coop by Jessica Ellicott
85. Til Death Do Us Party by Vickie Fee
86. The Spirit in Question by Cynthia Kuhn
87. Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron
88. Designed for Haunting by Sybil Johnson
89. Death of a Russian Doll by Barbara Early
90. Academic Curveball by James J. Cudney
91. I'm Your Venus by Diane Vallere
92. City of Bones by Michael Connelly
93. Six Cats a Slayin' by Miranda James
94. Dogged by Sandy Dengler
95. Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross
96. Killed on Blueberry Hill by Sharon Farrow
97. City of Secrets by Victoria Thompson
98. The Skeleton Makes a Friend by Leigh Perry
99. Spy School Goes South by Stuart Gibbs
100. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
101. Reason to Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman
102. Killalot by Cindy Brown
103. Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly
104. Wreath Between the Lines by Daryl Wood Gerber
105. Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay
106. Just Plain Murder by Laura Bradford
107. The Coloring Crook by Krista Davis
108. Game of Scones by Mary Lee Ashford
109. Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
110. Death of a Neighborhood Scrooge by Laura Levine
111. The First Rule by Robert Crais
112. Veiled Threat by Alice Loweecey
113. Murder on Cape Cod by Maddie Day
114. Steamed Open by Barbara Ross
115. Lark! The Herald Angels Sing by Donna Andrews

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Cruisin' Through the Cozies and Craving for Cozies 2018

Yes, I read lost of mysteries, but most of them were cozy mysteries.  Need proof, check out what all I read for the Cruisin' Through the Cozies and Craving for Cozies challenges this year.  I had said I would read 30 cozies this year, and I over tripled that.

1. Dial M for Mousse by Laura Bradford
2. The Linking Rings by John Gaspard
3. Class Reunions are Murder by Libby Klein
4. Curses, Boiled Again! by Shari Randall
5. The Phantom of Oz by Cindy Brown
6. Too Big to Die by Sue Ann Jaffarian
7. Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day
8. The Corpse with the Silver Tongue by Cathy Ace
9. Pressing the Issue by Daryl Wood Gerber
10. Hummus and Homicide by Tina Kashian
11. Color Me Murder by Krista Davis
12. I Know What You Bid Last Summer by Sherry Harris
13. Claws for Concern by Miranda James
14. Cry Fowl by Sandy Dengler
15. Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst
16. The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley
17. The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen
18. Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke
19. Cardiac Arrest by Lisa Q. Mathews
20. The Uninvited Corpse by Debra Sennefelder
21. Murder on Washington Square by Victoria Thompson
22. Cinco de Murder by Rebecca Adler
23. Wedding Cake Crumble by Jenn McKinlay
24. Turning the Tide by Edith Maxwell
25. It's Your Party, Die If You Want To by Vickie Fee
26. The Silver Gun by L. A. Chandlar
27. Chesapeake Crime: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies
28. The Purloined Puzzle by Parnell Hall
29. Murder, She Wrote: A Date with Murder by Jessica Fletcher, et. al.
30. The Art of Vanishing by Cynthia Kuhn
31. Pairing a Deception by Nadine Nettmann
32. Hair of the Dog by Carlene O'Neil
33. Fatal Fishes by Sandy Dengler
34. Without a Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman
35. Murder on Moon Trek 1 by Diane Vallere
36. I Scream, You Scream by Wendy Lyn Watson
37. Bear Witness to Murder by Meg Macy
38. Fifty Shades of Greyhound by Sparkle Abbey
39. Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark
40. In Cave Danger by Kate Dyer-Seeley
41. Claws for Alarm by Karen MacInerney
42. Murder on Mulberry Bend by Victoria Thompson
43. With a Little Bit of Blood by D. E. Ireland
44. Italian Iced by Kylie Logan
45. Marked Masters by Ritter Ames
46. The Floating Light Bulb by John Gaspard
47. One Fete in the Grave by Vickie Fee
48. A Souffle of Suspicion by Daryl Wood Gerber
49. The Death of an Ambitious Woman by Barbara Ross
50. Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien
51. That Touch of Ink by Diane Vallere
52. Pirate Vishnu by Gigi Pandian
53. Death Over Easy by Maddie Day
54. Midnight Snacks are Murder by Libby Klein
55. Purrder She Wrote by Cate Conte
56. Death on the Menu by Lucy Burdette
57. Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett
58. A Dark and Twisting Path by Julia Buckley
59. Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen
60. Against the Claw by Shari Randall
61. Stabbed in the Baklava by Tina Kashian
62. Lost Legacy by Annette Dashofy
63. Wuthering Kites by Clover Tate
64. Rooted in Deceit by Wendy Tyson
65. Toucan Keep a Secret by Donna Andrews
66. The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo by Sparkle Abbey
67. Murder on Marble Row by Victoria Thompson
68. Murder Flies the Coop by Jessica Ellicott
69. Til Death Do Us Party by Vickie Fee
70. The Spirit in Question by Cynthia Kuhn
71. Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron
72. Designed for Haunting by Sybil Johnson
73. Death of a Russian Doll by Barbara Early
74. Academic Curveball by Jame J. Cudney
75. I'm Your Venus by Diane Vallere
76. Six Cats a Slayin' by Miranda James
77. Dogged by Sandy Dengler
78. Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross
79. Killed on Blueberry Hill by Sharon Farrow
80. City of Secrets by Victoria Thompson
81. The Skeleton Makes a Friend by Sharon Farrow
82. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
83. Reason to Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman
84. Killalot by Cindy Brown
85. Wreath Between the Lines by Daryl Wood Gerber
86. Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay
87. Just Plain Murder by Laura Bradford
88. The Coloring Crook by Krista Davis
89. Game of Scones by Mary Lee Ashford
90. Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
91. Death of a Neighborhood Scrooge by Laura Levine
92. Veiled Threat by Alice Loweecey
93. Murder on Cape Cod by Maddie Day
94. Steamed Open by Barbara Ross
95. Lark! The Herald Angels Sing by Donna Andrews

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Book Review: Flashback by Shannon Messenger (Keeper of the Lost Cities #7)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, laughs, advances story
Cons: Pacing off, especially early on
The Bottom Line:
Sophie's next chapter
Pacing off but still has twists
Laughs, great characters




Will a Flashback advance the Neverseen's Plans?

When you buy an 850-page book, you need to plan when to fit it into your reading schedule.  The week before Christmas was looking very open to me, so that's when I decided to work Flashback into my reading schedule.  I'm surprised I was able to wait that long since the Keeper of the Lost Cities books always call to me as soon as they are released.

If you haven't discovered this series yet, it is a middle grade fantasy series.  The main character is Sophie Foster, an elf who was raised by humans until she found out the truth about herself and went to live with the elves.  However, she has quickly learned that there are forces out to destroy her new world and enslave her old world, and she has a place in saving both of them.

And yes, I'm being extremely vague in my series description.  If you haven't read this series yet, DON'T START HERE.  Seriously.  There are so many plot threads and characters that if you jump in here, you will be lost.  Yes, author Shannon Messenger does a good job of reminding us what has come before, but it won't be enough if you are new to the world.  Fortunately, these books are great, and you'll enjoy every twist along the way.  This also means I will be mentioning spoilers for previous books in the series with my plot teaser for this book.  It can't be helped.  So if you want to read the series spoiler free, go see my review of the first book to find out why you should read the series and then start reading it.

As this book opens, Alvar's sentencing for his betrayal is about to happen.  The entire Vacker family has assembled in Tribunal Hall, and Sophie and Keefe have been invited to be there as well.  It becomes clear why when the sentence is read, and Alvar is sent to live with his parents and siblings, Sophie's friends Fitz and Biana.  Both of Sophie's friends, but Fitz especially, don't trust their older brother and suspect a trick of some sort.

But before Alvar's dwelling is even ready for him, Fitz and Sophie are attacked by the Neverseen, barely escaping with their lives.  As they spend time in recovering, they begin to wonder what their attack means in the group's long term plans.  Can they figure it out?

If you think this book is going to spend a lot of time in the past, you will be disappointed.  Yes, memories do play a part in some of the action here, but a very small part.  Flashback does have a specific meaning in this book, and I will leave it for you to figure out.

I've been impressed with the pacing of the last couple of books in the series.  Despite the length, I've felt like the pages weren't wasted.  Here, I did feel the pacing was off early in the book.  It definitely got better as the book went along, and the climax was gripping and page turning as always.

And this isn't to say we don't get quite a few developments over the course of the book.  Fans will be very happy about several things that happen here, we learn a bit more about some things I suspect will come into play in future books, and we get a couple of nasty cliffhangers.  Yes, I'm ready to read the next book already, although it won't be out for a while yet.

As always, the characters are great.  There is a large cast, and some play larger parts than others, but they all get a few moments to shine.  I think this might be the funniest book in a while; I was certainly laughing quite a bit as I read it.  Much of the humor comes from the characters and their interactions, and I just loved it.

While I do think the book could have been shorter, fans of the series will still be delighted to read Flashback.  It is well worth blocking off the time it will take to read the entire thing.

Missing some of Sophie's adventures?  Here are the rest of the Keeper of the Lost Cities books.

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

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Ornament Review: Cool Yule - Frosty Friends #1 - 1980 Hallmark Ornament


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Cute beginning to a popular series
Cons: A bit simple overall; tips forward
The Bottom Line:
Cool, cute ornament
Popular series starts here
Humble beginning




Frosty Friends is Off to a Cool Yule Start

It would be easy to argue that Frosty Friends is the most popular series Hallmark has ever produced.  This series will celebrate it's 40th anniversary, and this little Eskimo and his animal friends are still finding great ways to have fun together.  The other items that Hallmark produces with the characters sell well each year, too.  Yet it all got a very quiet start with the charming Cool Yule.

This ornament features Frosty (the Eskimo) sitting next to a polar bear on a block of ice.  They are holding songbooks with red and green covers.  They are obviously having a blast singing together since they both have such smiles on their faces.  If you turn the ornament around, you'll find that there are musical notes and scribbles on the book.

And this ornament really is that simple.  It's almost hard to believe such a popular series spawned from it.  Yet you can see the charm, here.  Frosty is cute sitting next to his friend.  While this isn't my favorite in the series, I can see the appeal.

Speaking of series, this is the only one in the series to have a name other than Frosty Friends.  In fact, Frosty Friends doesn't appear anywhere on the box, and there is no series marker on the ornament anywhere.  Obviously, they decided to turn this into a series after they realized how popular it would be, which turned out to be a great decision.  You can find 1980, the year the ornament came out on the front of the block of ice under the words Merry Christmas.

They’ve also changed up Frosty’s look.  The parka is a lighter shade, and the bands are wider and in a different order than what Frosty is wearing now.  It’s interesting to see how the series started out verses the well defined characteristics the series has now.

Since Frosty and friend are sitting on a block of ice, it should come as no surprise that this ornament has a flat base.  You can easily set this one out to be displayed.  The loop for hanging the ornament is attached to Frosty, and you'll find this ornament does tip forward noticeably.

Because this series has proved to be popular, this ornament has become one of the most sought-after ornaments for many collectors.  As a result, the price continues to be high.  But if you are patient, you might be able to track one down without breaking the bank too much.  You'll probably still pay quite a bit for this one, however.

Even though I find others in the series to be better, I still find Cool Yule to be fun.  It's amazing to think about all that has followed from this relatively simple ornament.

Want to know what else came from this ornament?  Check out the rest of the Frosty Friends series.

Original Price: $6.50

Friday, December 28, 2018

December 28th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Welcome to the final Book Beginning and Friday 56 of 2018.

This week, I'm featuring Flashback by Shannon Messenger.




No, your eyes aren't deceiving you.  This really is a middle grade fantasy, not my normal cozy mysteries.

Here's now chapter 1 starts:

"So is it strange coming here and not being the one on trial?" Keefe asked, checking his expertly styled blond hair in a shiny facet on one of the jeweled walls before he followed Sophie into Tribunal Hall.

Jumping ahead to page 56 doesn't get us that far since this is an 850 page book.  But here is a quote from page 56:

"Actually, throwing things sounds pretty good right now," Sophie told him, taking the star Grizel offered.

I'll be reviewing the book on Sunday, so I hope you'll come back and see what I thought.  In the meantime, have a good weekend and  a happy 2019.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Ornament Review: Lite-Brite - 2018 Hallmark Ornament


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Captures the Lite-Brite toy
Cons: Wish it lit up better
The Bottom Line:
80's nostalgia
Recreated for your tree
Bit dim but still fun




Let this Nostalgic Ornament Lite Up Your Tree

As you may have figured out, I don't have a theme for my Christmas tree.  Instead, I buy whatever appeals to me, which is deadly for the budget (and leads to way more ornaments than I have space for).  One thing that does appeal to me are the nostalgia ornaments, so when I saw that Hallmark was releasing a Lite-Brite ornament this year, I had to get it.

If you don't remember the Lite-Brite, it was essentially box with a lightbulb inside it and a grid on the front.  You'd cover the grid with a piece of black paper and then punch colored pegs into the paper, creating a scene.  When the light was turned on, the pegs would light up.  I know I had one as a kid, although I don't think I played with it as much as I think I did.  Anyway, I loved it when I did, so getting this ornament was a no brainer.

The ornament perfectly captures the original Lite-Brite toy, only shrunk to the appropriate size to fit on your tree.  The front is painted black although it does have indentations to recreate the feel of the grid.  It does have miniature pegs sticking out, and those pegs are in a snowman design.  He's got a hat and he's holding a shovel with an evergreen tree in the background.

Of course, this wouldn't be a Lite-Brite ornament if it didn't light up.  There is a hole in the back so you can attach it to your light string.  Unfortunately, the results aren't quite as bright as I had hoped.  The lightbulb has to be really firmly inside the ornament to get the full glow.  If it does that, it looks impressive, otherwise the result is lackluster.  Meanwhile, the pegs aren’t quite a colorful as they should be, making the ornament look more black and white than colorful like the Lite-Brite was.

Like the original toy, the bottom is flat, so you can set it out to be displayed if you want to.  However, the hole for the light string is on the bottom, so you can’t have it attached to lights unless you hang it.  When you go to hang the ornament on your tree, you'll find that it hangs straight, although the light cord could easily make it tip some.

I do wish the ornament lit up better, but I am still enjoying having a Lite-Brite again in ornament form.

Original Price: $17.99

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Short Story Review: What Child is This? by Rhys Bowen


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Ultimately heartwarming Christmas short story
Cons: Maggie was annoying at times
The Bottom Line:
Historic story
Tragedy but heart warming
A short, simple read




Simple, Heart Warming Short Story

I don't tend to read short stories.  Part of it is that I have so many novels calling my name I don't have the time.  Ironic for something that is short and therefore easier to read, right?  But when I saw that Rhys Bowen had released a short story this year, I had to give "What Child is This?" a chance.

The story opens on Christmas Eve in London in 1940.  It's the middle of the blitz, and rationing is in full effect, so it is looking like a very dismal Christmas for Maggie and Jack Harris.  But then what little they do have is taken from them suddenly, and they find themselves on the streets.  Jack goes looking for shelter and finds what looks like an abandoned house.  Is it abandoned?  What will Christmas day bring?

This really is a short story – it took me about an hour to read – but it contains a heartwarming story.  Jack and Maggie go through a wide range of emotions in the course of roughly 24 hours in their life.

Rhys Bowen is best known for her historical mysteries, but this is more a slice of life story about hope born from tragedy.  Those looking for twists or shocks will be disappointed.  And that is something I had to remind myself of while reading the story.

And, in some ways, it is a character study of two characters put under very extreme circumstances.  I did find Maggie a little annoying at times.  I'm not saying her reaction to things wasn't realistic, but I found it annoying.  However, I really did care for both Maggie and Jack.

The historical detail is fantastic.  I really did feel like I was in London with Jack and Maggie as they dealt with this particular Christmas in their lives.

If you aren't quite ready to let Christmas go yet, I definitely recommend you check out "What Child is This?"  It will warm your heart as you savor the Christmas that has just passed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!

No new review today since I'm celebrating Christmas with my family today.  If you celebrate, I hope you have a merry Christmas as well.  If not, I hope you enjoy your day.  I'll be back tomorrow with a Christmas themed short story review, and then Thursday is another ornament review, so plenty of Christmas spirit still to be found here to round out the week.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Book Review: Lark! The Herald Angels Sing by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #24)


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great plot, lots of laughs
Cons: Some editing issues (some of which might have been me)
The Bottom Line:
Mysterious child
Leads to another wild tale
Filled with laughs, twists, fun




It All Started with a Baby in a Manger

While I always enjoy Donna Andrews' books, it has been a few years since one made me truly laugh out loud multiple times while I was reading it.  So, I was very happy to discover the Lark! The Herald Angels Sing did just that.

Meg has taken on directing the children's Christmas pageant at Trinity Episcopal this year, and she is finding maintaining some sort of control over the various cast members is a challenge.  However, things get very interesting when one of the actors announces that there is a baby in the manger.  Since this is rehearsal, there isn't supposed to be a baby there yet.

Things get even more intriguing when Meg finds the note attached to the baby strongly implying that the Meg's brother Rob is the father.  This couldn't have come at a worse time since Rob is about to propose to his girlfriend of two years.  Who is the mother?  Why did she leave the baby in the church?  And can Meg figure out who the father really is?

I'm not going to spoiler more of the plot than this, which is really just the first couple of chapters.  I'll leave it for you to see just how the plot spins out from here.  I will say that this isn't a mystery in the traditional murder and five suspects model, but then again, Meg's adventures often deviate from that formula.  There is definitely crime, including a murder, and more than enough plot to keep us engaged for the entire book.

And yes, the usual cast of characters all get their moments to shine.  We see more of some than others, but that's not a surprise since this series has a large cast of characters.  For example, Rob has pretty much just had a cameo in the last couple of books, so I was surprised to learn he'd been in such a serious relationship for so long.  Or maybe there was a brief reference to his love life I'd forgotten about.  I do tend to forget details in between books in a series.

Speaking of details, I did find the book lacked some attention to detail.  I felt like a couple of plot points about a third of the way into the book came out of nowhere even though Meg acted like she knew what was going on.  I didn't go back to see if I had missed anything, but it is quite possible I was distracted and missed a relevant line or two.  Meanwhile, a couple of random chapters in the book needed another go by an editor of some kind since several times in these chapters I found typos.  Considering I'm the last person to notice them, that means they had to be pretty obvious.

But I'm not holding it against this book in the slightest.  Why not?  Because I had so much fun reading the story.  As I said in the opening, I laughed many times as the book was progressing.  Things come together for a fantastic climax that wraps up the story and had me laughing out loud the hardest.  Seriously, I was glad I was reading that part of the book in my living room and not in public since I don't think I could have stopped myself from laughing at the antics of Meg and her family and friends.

One thing I've come to realize I love about this series is the larger community that Meg is part of.  That was in full force again here.

If you are already a fan of Meg's adventures, Lark! The Herald Angels Sing will completely delight you.  Even if you've never met Meg, this book will be a perfect introduction.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Meg Langslow mysteries.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Exercise Equipment Review: TriggerPoint Carbon Deep Tissue Foam Roller


Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Very firm is you need a roller to dig into one part of the body
Cons: Not helpful if you just generally want to roll your body
The Bottom Line:
A hard foam roller
Digs into selected parts
Not what I wanted




I Tried It and I Found It Too Hard

I've had a foam roller for years, and I still use it quite regularly.  I'm bad about stretching, but I find that rolling every morning really does help.  When I saw an offer of this roller in my Amazon Vine account, I decided to give it a try.  I'd been curious about these rollers for a while, and this was a good opportunity to try one.

This roller is 13 inches long, just large enough to use on one leg or your back.  It is round and very hard plastic with a hollow core.  Sticking out of the roller are nobs.  The idea of these nobs is that they are supposed to dig into your muscles, kind of like getting a trigger point massage.

My concern about these rollers is the same with my concern about a pressure point massage – I have a low tolerance for pain.  Something that comes into play very quickly when using it.  Those nobs may be small, but they dig into your body as you use the roller.  The idea, of course, is that they will get into the sore areas and help relieve the built up tension.

I've found that all it does for me is make my body generally sore.  And yes, I used it faithfully every day for a week, and my body seems to only adjust to it a little bit.  I know with my traditional hard foam roller, it took my body a few days to get used to it, so I was willing to be patient, but my body didn’t seem to adjust to this one at all.

Furthermore, I don't see the other benefits I do with my traditional roller.  Because this has the nobs, those are really all that is digging into my body.  I can see where they might be helpful if I had one particularly sore spot.  But with my regular roller, I can knead the entire area.  This misses parts of the body, so it's not as effective.

I will definitely try this roller again if I find a particular knot I want to try to get out.  But as an everyday roller, I will be skipping it.

NOTE: I received this item for free from Amazon's Vine program in exchange for my honest review.