Sunday, May 19, 2019

Disney Mug Review: Pocahontas - Disney Wisdom Collection #5

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great quote; great looking mug
Cons: None related to the mug itself
The Bottom Line:
A great wisdom quote
Captured on a stunning mug
Glad I got this one

Good Reminder on a Fun Mug

While I will never love the movie Pocahontas, I definitely appreciate Disney using a quote from it as part of their Disney Wisdom Collection.  This beautiful mug is a great addition to my collection.

The color of the month is a pretty blue green color.  The result is absolutely beautiful.  On one side of the mug, we have Meeko the raccoon, this month’s mascot, and Flit the hummingbird.  They are in various shades of blue, which isn’t their natural color, but I’ve gotten used to these stylized characters, and I like how they look.  They don’t have as much doodle around them, but what they do have looks like leaves and branches.

On the other side is the quote of the month from Grandmother Willow.  “Sometimes the right path is not the easiest one.”  There is a lot of truth in this quote since it seems like the right path is rarely the easiest one.  And the quote looks amazing.  They use pink and orange extensively, which really makes it pop out.  I think they outdid themselves with the presentation here.  Again, the quote is surrounded by leave doodles.

Of course, looks aren’t important if this isn’t a good mug.  Fortunately, that’s not a problem at all.  The mug is wide and short, but it still easily holds 14 oz.  It is designed so that you can stack it with others from the set to take up a little less room in your cupboard, which is nice since I really don’t need any more mugs.  And, like most mugs today, it is dishwasher and microwave safe.

I have very little Pocahontas merchandise, and I don’t see that changing.  I’m happy to make this mug as one of those rare exceptions.

Disney Pin Review: Pocahontas - Disney Wisdom Collection #5

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great quote, set looks good
Cons: Not a fan of the movie the quote comes from
The Bottom Line:
Great quote from poor film
With good reminder on life
Anchors a fun set

Wisdom from a Tree

When I saw that one of the quotes in the Disney Wisdom series was coming from Pocahontas, I was less than happy.  I have major issues with that film, including its historical inaccuracies and its including fantasy elements in a historical story.  Yet, when I actually thought about the quote they included, I loved it, so I was happy to add this pin set to my collection.

Ironically, the quote, which I love, comes from one of the fantasy characters, that of Grandmother Willow.  But the quote!  “Sometimes the right path is not the easiest one.”  That’s actually a very true statement.  In fact, I would argue that the right path is rarely the easiest one.  Yet people are too willing to go along with others and take the easiest path instead of standing up for what is right.  It gets more complicated when you factor in people who think they are on the right path when they really aren’t.  It’s why Jesus said in Matthew 7 “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  (Yes, I did just quote the Bible in the same paragraph with a mystical talking tree.  No, that doesn’t mean we should blindly accept anything that is said, but we should filter everything through the lens of scripture.)

Anyway, on to the pin set.  As usual, there are three pins.  The first is the quote in stylized calligraphy and a rectangle frame.  The two characters pins are of Meeko the raccoon and Flit the hummingbird.  Once again, we don’t have a pin of the person who gave us the quote, but we are three for five for not getting a pin of the person being quoted, so that’s not really a surprise.

The color of the month is blue again, but more of a blue green than the baby blue from the Dumbo set.  It’s a very pretty color.  The quote is mainly pink, white, and orange on the blue background, while the characters are a couple of shades of blue.  I feel like the quote is the boldest color choices yet (which is ironic since the theme for next month’s quote is bold), but it works well.  As to the characters, neither of them is usually blue, but their look here is in keeping with the series and mostly works.  Flit could be a little easier to recognize; you certainly wouldn’t know who he was out of context, and he’s mostly one shade of blue, but that’s a minor complaint.  Since I’m not a fan of the movie, I know I don’t have these characters in my pin collection since I would have skipped over them at the parks.  It’s not a hole I was looking to fill, but I am fine with adding these two characters since their antics are definitely a highlight of the film.

No, this pin set hasn’t changed my mind on the movie.  But I am glad to add this part of the Disney Wisdom Collection to my pin collection.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

May 18th's Weekly TV Thoughts

And the schedules for next year has been announced.  Everything I'm currently watching is coming back with one big exception (which I already knew about), and almost everything is on at the same time.  The only real surprise is that Batwoman is going to premier in the fall on the CW and Legends of Tomorrow won't be back until mid-season.  I figured it would be the other way around.  Of course, we will see if I stick with any of those shows after the big fall cross over and the end of Arrow.

But that's seven months away.  For now, let's look at this week's shows, including that big finale I already mentioned.

Supergirl – While I’m still not super impressed with this season, at least we were telling a story and moving it forward and not preaching this week.  How Supergirl is going to prevail is well beyond me.  I feel like we are completely at war right now, too.  I don’t see how we go back to something resembling normal after all of this.

Legends of Tomorrow – Again, the show feels like it is out of control, and I’m not sure how we go back and fix things.  Maybe that is because we are currently in the present, so we have to save our time to do it.  Gary turned out to be a handful when he gets upset.  And the Fairy Godmother was much more devious than I thought she was.

Arrow – No real surprises as far as I was concerned.  It helped that I knew who was leaving and had read some theories about next year’s crossover.  Based on what they’d been doing this season in the present and the future, it all made sense.  But it still hit me very hard.  Darn it, I want a happy ending for them.  It really does feel like it’s been pointless watching the show all these years.  And I know that was my complaint all season, but this didn’t help at all.  It was nice to see Curtis come back and see the return of Black Siren, not that I thought she was gone for long.

The Flash – Another emotional hour.  Cisco isn’t Vibe anymore?  That’s going to be hard for him and the writers.  And they’ve moved up The Flash’s vanishing act, although I’m not surprised with the big Crisis crossover coming next year.  Reverse Flash is back on the loose, so when will he pop up again?

Survivor – So the guy I was rooting for didn’t win.  But I’m not surprised that Chris won.  He got back in after spending almost the entire game on the edge, and then he made that big move in the fire getting out the guy most people had been trying to get out for a couple of weeks.  I’m okay with that outcome.

The Big Bang Theory – That finale was perfect!  As uneven as this season has been, I couldn't have asked for a better send off for these characters. So many laughs. Even the moments that I was expecting still came in a way that surprised me and made me laugh.  And the little moments.  So many little moments I completely enjoyed.  Thanks for 12 great years filled with laughter and friendship.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Book Review: Murder in Little Italy by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #8)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and mystery
Cons: None worth bringing to the present
The Bottom Line:
Irish mother dies
Ignites some racial tension
Always engrossing

An Irish Death in Little Italy

I have quickly come to learn exactly what to expect when I pick up one of Victoria Thomas’s Gaslight Mysteries – an engrossing trip back in time that completely captures my interest.  That’s exactly what happened again with Murder in Little Italy, the eighth entry in the series.

The series features Frank Malloy, an Irish police Detective Sergeant, and Sarah Brant, a midwife, in 1890’s New York City.  Their paths seem to keep crossing at the site of various murders around the city and Sarah uses her position to find out information that helps Frank solve the case, much to Frank’s dismay.  The two have also developed very strong feelings for each other, feelings that neither of them are willing to admit to.

Sarah is called by the Ruocco family for a birth in their home over their Italian restaurant.  Antonio’s new Irish wife, Nainsi is in labor, but she is two months early.  However, when the baby arrives, Sarah begins to suspect that the baby is actually full term and Nainsi lied about when she got pregnant.  When Sarah returns for her follow up visit the next day, she finds that Nainsi died in the night – although sarah quickly realizes that Nainsi didn’t die from complications from child birth and sends for Frank.  Since Frank is Irish, his presence draws suspicion from the family.  As the racial tensions in the city over this incident begin to rise, Frank must find a way to solve the case.  Can he do it with Sarah’s help?

The previous books in this series have explored many different neighborhoods and elements of the city at the time, but they have only mentioned some of the racial tensions of the city.  This one brings it to the foreground, and it adds a nice element to the mystery.  It also means that Frank gets a partner in the investigation, a newer Italian police officer, something he hasn’t had in the past.  I hope we see this character again since I really liked him.

The books in the series usual do a good job of balancing Sarah and Frank investigating and finding clues.  I can’t point to anything specifically here, but I feel like Frank did more investigating this time around.  This isn’t to say that Sarah isn’t an active part of the book, but she isn’t questioning people or finding reasons to visit them as much in this book.  She still manages to find out some key information that helps solve the case, so maybe it’s just my perception instead of reality.

Either way, the two continue to be strong lead characters.  While we do get a little forward progress on some on-going storylines, it is very minimal and even some of the supporting players don’t put in appearances.  The focus of this book is on the case at hand without much room for sub-plots.

This case is certainly strong enough to support that.  The new characters are wonderful.  They sprang to life from the first time we met them, and I honestly could have seen any of them being the guilty party before the book was over.  We get several good clues and some red herrings and twists before Sarah and Frank both figure out what really happened.  And make no mistake, they do both figure it out.

Murder in Little Italy is another strong trip back in time to solve a fantastic mystery.  These visits are over all too quickly.  Now to reluctantly return to the present until I get a chance to return to Sarah and Frank’s world.

After reading this, you'll definitely want to check out the rest of the Gaslight Mysteries.

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

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Movie Review: A Prescription for Murder - A Hailey Dean Mystery

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Entertaining mystery
Cons: Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
Hospital setting
Another entertaining
Hailey Dean movie

Murder at a Hospital

You can set a mystery just about anywhere, and I can’t think of very many places where one hasn’t been set over the years.  A hospital is nothing new, but it can be quite creepy, which is the case in A Prescription for Murder, the second of this month’s Hailey Dean Mystery Movies.

Erica is the new administrator of the hospital, having gotten the job about a year before.  However, it appears the stress is getting to her because she has developed a heart murmur.  On the advice of the hospital’s cardiologist, she is under observation in the hospital when she takes a turn for the worse and dies.

So how does Hailey (Kelly Martin) get involved?  Her boyfriend Jonas (Matthew MacCaull) is called to do the autopsy, and he can’t figure out what actually killed her.  It doesn’t appear to be natural causes, however.  Then, when the police get involved, Finch’s (Viv Leacock) girlfriend Megan becomes the prime suspect.  So Hailey starts sleuthing to figure out what really happened to Erica.  Can she figure it out?

What makes this movie so creepy?  I think it’s the idea of being helpless in a hospital that makes me feel that way about the setting.  There is certainly nothing creepier than other Hailey Dean movies on the screen.  And maybe it’s been I’ve stayed in the hospital that makes this feel more real to me than some other settings.

Anyway, we have another solid mystery here.  While it is easy to write off one or two suspects early on (and Hailey does as well), we still have plenty of motives and suspects.  The ending was a little obvious, but there is so much going on that I thought I might be wrong.  In fact, the plot involves some good surprises along the way.

Some of those other things going on include a sub-plot involving Hailey meeting Jonas’s father.  I really enjoyed this storyline since it provided some much needed comic relief.

The story of the prisoner up for parole introduced in the previous movie also continues here.  It is obvious that Clayton Morrel (Bradley Stryker) is going to be the through line for these three movies, and also helps explain why they have made a big deal about Lauren Holly guest starring in these three movies as Paulina, the DA.

In other continuity news, they actually reference the calendar that Jonas was part of in the previous movie, which was fun.  However, they seem to have dropped the minor cliffhanger involving Hailey’s professional life from the end of the last movie.  That surprised me a bit.

Naturally, this comes with the standard Hallmark cheese factor, and again, it seems a little stronger here than in some of the other franchises.  Nancy Grace, creator of the character, has her usual cameo, although this one wasn’t quite as fun as some of them are.

While this isn’t my favorite Hallmark Mystery franchise, A Prescription for Murder still a fun way to spend a couple of hours, especially if you do like the characters.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Dying for Devil's Food Winner

I realize I'm a day late, but I have finally pulled the winner for Dying for Devil's Food.  And that winner is...


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

Ornament Review: Tea Time! #3 - Nutcracker - 2018 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Creative tea set with a nutcracker theme
Cons: Nutcrackers aren’t short and squat like the tea pot is
The Bottom Line:
Nutcracker tea set
Becomes cute ornament set
Creative and fun

Why Do I Like This Ornament Set?  It’s Not a Tough Nut to Crack

While I don’t have that many, I do love nutcrackers.  This is something that came done from my grandma to my mother and on to me.  So when I saw that a nutcracker was the inspiration for the third Tea Time! ornament, I was excited.

This two ornament set features a festive tea pot and matching cut.  The tea pot itself is a classic looking nutcracker.  He’s done up in red and green with black, gold, and white accents.  While I do typically picture nutcrackers tall and thin, this one is short and squat, the better to look like a tea pot.  Also to help with the tea pot illusion, one arm is bent to form the handle while the other is at an angle to form the spout.

Okay, so the short and stout thing does bother me, I’ll admit it.  I just don’t picture nutcrackers looking quite like this one does.  But I just keep reminding myself that this is “really” a tea pot, and then I’m okay.

And it helps to look at the “mug” that comes with the set.  This second ornament is a nut.  How perfect is that?  I should say it is half a nut since the top of the shell has been cracked off so we can use it to drink the hot beverage, which appears to be either hot chocolate or tea.  Yes, I know the series is entitled Tea Time!, but some other have pretty obviously been hot chocolate.

Together, the two ornaments make a great set.  Once again, I could see a tea set that actually looks like this selling well, which is why I enjoy this series so much.

Since these ornaments are supposed to represent a tea pot and a tea cup, it’s no surprise that they have flat bottoms.  You can easily set this series out to be displayed if you so desire.  They are also perfectly balanced, so they hang straight when you go to hang them on your tree.  Looking for the series marker?  You’ll find the 3 in a Christmas tree on the bottom of both ornaments in this set.

The creativity in Tea Time! continues to appeal to me.  If you enjoy creative tea sets, you’ll want to add this ornament set to your collection.

Here are the rest of the Tea Time! ornament sets.

Original Price: $19.99

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Book Review: Double Whammy by Gretchen Archer (Davis Way Crime Capers #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters; glamor, fun
Cons: Too many logical flaws, especially in the final third
The Bottom Line:
Casino caper
I think I over thought it
Wanted to like more

I Wanted to Like this Book More Than I Actually Did

Obviously, I have a very hard time getting to all the books I intend to read.  That’s why Gretchen Archer’s Davis Way series has been on my radar for years but I finally just picked up the first book in the series, Double Whammy.  I really wanted to enjoy it, but it had too many issues for me to fully do so.

When we meet Davis Way, she has finally landed a job.  Working for the Bellissimo Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, might not be her dream job, but after a year of unemployment, she’ll take anything she can find.  As a former police officer in her small home town of Pine Apple, Alabama, she is perfect for taking on under cover security for the casino and hotel, finding guests and employees who are trying to make their own luck.

Her first assignment is to figure out how people are winning the big jackpot on the Double Whammy video poker machines.  Unfortunately, the man who is cashing in each time the jackpot gets high is her ex-ex-husband Eddie.  Can she figure out how he is cheating the system?  Even more importantly, can she do it without getting into more trouble over this man she thought was out of her life?

While I don’t like to gamble myself (I hate to lose money on it), I find the glitch and glamor of casinos to be fascinating, which is why I’ve been drawn to these books.  And we do get a healthy dose of that glamor here.  Okay, so some of Davis’s jobs along the way are less than glamorous, but the entire book had a sheen to it that kept me from seeing some of the flaws until I had finished the book.

First up is the plot.  There is a good plot here, however, it is slowed down by some side trips that don’t do much to add to the overall story.  Davis has a complicated backstory as well, and we are treated to that in small doses as the book progresses.  Considering I hate having backstory dumped on me, I did appreciate how that was doled out.  The main storyline of the book does have some interesting twists and surprises to it, but I wish it had been more the focus of the entire book.

Which brings us to the characters.  Davis is an interesting main character, and I can see plenty of potential in the supporting characters to grow into even more complex characters as the series progress.  I liked the cast, which again I think helped me overlook some of the issues.

My issues come to Davis herself.  She makes some incredibly stupid choices over the course of the book, especially in the final third.  Honestly, she is extremely lucky that she even made it out of the mess she was in.  I wouldn’t have done what some of the other characters had done to help her.  Of course, there are some other flaws with this part of the book, but I’m being vague to avoid spoilers.  I just had a hard time swallowing the final third of the book, which is ironic because that was also the part that kept me turning pages the fastest.  Again, it was only when I was done with the book that I began to question what had happened.

This book bills itself as a comedic caper, and I think that may be part of the issue.  I find that they either work well or completely miss the mark as far as I’m concerned.  The series has quite a few fans, so I’m obviously in the minority when it comes to this book, which leaves me wondering what exactly I am missing when it comes to this debut.  Is it me?  Or are others having too much fun to think things through as much as I am?

I bought this book a couple of years ago (told you it’s been on my radar for a while), and after I bought it, the authors released a “Special Edition” that was edited to make it flow better.  She was nice enough to give me a copy of that new edition, and that is what I read.

Ultimately, I think I am just the wrong audience for Double Whammy.  Based on the number of people who love it, there is definitely a fan base out there for Davis and her antics; I’m just not part of it.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Movie Review: The Rookie

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Moving, powerful, and enjoyable story
Cons: Plot predictable, but you won’t care
The Bottom Line:
A baseball movie
Hits familiar notes but is
So enjoyable

Root for the Double Underdog

I firmly believe there is only one true sport (ultimate Frisbee), but that doesn’t stop me from watching sports movies upon occasion.  I always intended to watch The Rookie at some point, but I finally got around to watching it recently, and I wish I’d seen it sooner.

The movie is inspired by the true story of Jimmy Morris (Dennis Quaid).  As a kid, he lived for baseball, playing every chance he got.  His father (Brian Cox) was in the military, so they moved around quite a bit.  Furthermore, his father never understood Jimmy’s obsession with the game.

But the story really picks up with Jimmy as an adult in the small Texas town where the Morris family had settled.  He’s married with kids of his own, and he teaches chemistry and coaches baseball at the local high school.  This being Texas, baseball doesn’t get much respect, and his team doesn’t seem to care much.  While trying to give a motivation speech about taking risks and trying your hardest, the team turns it back on Jimmy.  Finally a deal is struck.  If the last place team wins enough games to go to division, Jimmy will follow his lifelong dream and try out for the majors.  What will happen next?

Actually, no one tries to hide what happens next.  I knew the basic outline of the story when the movie hit theaters over a decade ago.  And if you don’t, well, it’s a PG sports movie from Disney.  I’m sure you can figure out what happens.

Yet knowing what happens going into this movie isn’t a disadvantage at all.  It is a wonderful story from start to finish.  I was pulled into the film much more than I expected to be, tearing up more than once as the events unfolded.  Even the expected character development from some of the cast moved me.  But I really liked the relationship between Jimmy and his wife Lorri, played by Rachel Griffiths.  They felt like a real couple to me, with real struggles.  But what I loved is, even when they disagreed, they worked through things as a couple.

Naturally, this means I found the acting great.  Even the kids in the cast were enjoyable.  There’s nothing here that won’t pull you into this film and keep you watching until the end.

This film is a perfect example of a film where the journey to the end is worth taking even if you know where it is going.  If you’ve missed The Rookie, you should fix that today.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Book Review: Spy School British Invasion by Stuart Gibbs (Spy School #7)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good characters, fast paced plot, fun
Cons: None on either side of the pond
The Bottom Line:
Trail leads to England
Gives us another wild ride
Filled with heart and fun

Can Ben Track SPYDER Without Causing an International Incident?

The previous book in the Spy School series was the first time that we actually left the United States in our quest to vanquish the evil organization SPYDER.  Of course, since Ben Ripley, our main character, is only thirteen, it makes sense, right?  However, in the last book, Ben was in Mexico, and now he’s leaving our continent for Europe in Spy School British Invasion.

Before we go any further, I do want to issue a minor spoiler warning, not for my review but the book in general.  Because this book picks up moments after the end of Spy School Goes South, it naturally discusses the events of that book, especially the climax.  So, if you want to read that book and be completely surprised, you’ll need to pick it up first.  Honestly, that’s no issue at all.  In fact, I highly recommend this entire series and reading it in order.  They are all so much fun.

Anyway, on to this book.

Ben Ripley and his team of fellow spies think they have been handed the key to finally taking down the evil organization SPYDER.  As it so happens, the key is a literal key.  Ben’s friends piece together that it most likely belongs to a storage space under the British Museum.  Since no one knows who in the CIA is really a SPYDER double agent, only Ben and his friends from Spy School can be trusted to go and retrieve whatever the item might be.  And so Ben, Mike, Zoe, Erica, and Erica’s parents make their way to London.  What will they find when they land?

Those who have been reading all along will recognize SPYDER since they’ve been a thorn in Ben’s side from the very first book – originally trying to recruit him as a double agent and then trying to kill him when those plans failed.  It’s no surprise that we are battling them again, although what we learn about them along the way here does include a surprise or two.

Like early books in the series, the plot is a wild ride.  There are multiple action sequences and close calls as Ben and the rest of the characters run from one dangerous situation to another all in their quest to defeat SPYDER.  If it all feels a bit over the top at times, I’m sure that’s on purpose.  I’m equally certain that kids won’t mind at all; I know I don’t.

Underlying all the life and death action is the humor.  This book will make you laugh.  Heck, I chuckled at something on the very first page.  I might not have been laughing out loud quite as much as I was with the previous book, but I was definitely still laughing and enjoying the antics of all the characters, both good and bad.

But here’s the thing – those characters are still very real.  They might come across as larger than life at first, but everyone has a moment or two that shows they are human.  I loved seeing some of these characters in a very different light before the book was over.

Once again, author Stuart Gibbs has woven together a spy thriller that is perfectly entertaining for the target audience of middle grade readers as well as older readers.  Grab your passport in book form and enjoy Spy School British Invasion.

Missing one of Ben’s adventures?  Here are the Spy School books in order.

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

Saturday, May 11, 2019

May 11th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Next week, we have more season finales as well as a big series finale.  Plus upfronts, so we'll know next year's schedule.  But for now, here are my thoughts on this week's crop of shows.

Supergirl – I called that one weeks ago.  President Baker is pure evil.  I’m betting that we get Lynda Carter’s alien back as President before the season finale airs.  Lockwood’s son is completely correct.  Not that the alien doesn’t deserve to be brought to justice, but she was driven to what she did because of Lockwood.  I actually thought that Alex was going to get a baby.  And can they be any more obvious about setting up a romance between Alex and Kelly?

Legends of Tomorrow – So we are going to get a glimpse of hell now, huh?  And please, please, please tell me we are done with the nipple thing.  That’s just disgusting.  Already don’t care for Gary, and this isn’t helping.  The Apples to Apples take off game looks like a lot of fun to me.  I want to play!

Arrow – Cliffhangers in the future and the present.  I’m very curious how they will get out of the trouble they are in.  Yet I’m still struggling to care overall this season.  Too much doom, gloom, and darkness.  Was the show this dark in season 1?  Speaking of which, I forget just how much I missed Tommy until he pops up again.  I suspected it all mostly in Oliver’s head when he got out of being trapped on his own.  I know he’s the Green Arrow, but still, there’s no way that could happen.

The Flash – So Thawne did have a master plan and was using Nora.  Can’t wait to see what it is, how Ralph figured it out, and how they will stop him.  I figured that something must be coming because it was looking like we were pretty much going to defeat the big bad and we still had an episode to go.  Although it looks like she is back next week as well.

Survivor – It’s not reverse psychology to say you are going to do something and then not do it.  But it is a trick and very good game play.  I’m rooting for Devins at this point.  And I’m rooting for Joe to get back in the game.  We are in for an interesting finale.

The Amazing Race – I wish they’d get creative with their editing.  As soon as they cut away to the final commercial with Rachel and her sister struggling, I knew they wouldn’t get eliminated.  Of course, I don’t quite see how they survived.  I guess the other team got lost?  Rachel is being Rachel, which means she is annoying.  I’m ready for her to leave my TV.

The Big Bang Theory – I was waiting for the other shoe to drop with Leonard’s mother as well.  But his reaction was perfect, and that final scene.  Wow!  I wonder where they are going with Raj.  Loved Stuart’s sub-plot.  It’s nice to see him getting some happiness.  And man, that roommate was creepy.

Abby’s – This episode started out fun, but it somehow lost its way in the middle.  The whole mystical object part just fell flat for me.  I was most intrigued by the opener being filmed before it was dark.  Were they filming these back in March, and the time change made it light enough when they started filming?

Friday, May 10, 2019

May 10th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Friday has rolled around, so it is time for this week's Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring Spy School British Invasion, the latest middle grade mystery from the always excellent Stuart Gibbs.

Seriously, if you aren't reading Stuart's books and getting them for the kids in your life, you are really missing out.

Since this book picks up exactly where the last book in the series ended, we just right in with this:

The key to defeating SPYDER, the most dangerous consortium of evil doers on earth, sat in the middle of the dining room table of the penthouse suite.

Meanwhile, from page 56, we get:

"I've got it!" Mike yelled from across the room.
All the other curators immediately shushed him.
The rest of us hurried over.

Want to hear more?  I'll be reviewing the book on Sunday, so I hope you'll come back then.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Book Review: A Deadly Feast by Lucy Burdette (Key West Food Critic Mysteries #9)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters and setting charm as always
Cons: Mystery is on the weak side
The Bottom Line:
It’s Hayley’s wedding
There’s plenty happening here
Mystery suffers

Thanksgiving Wedding Bells

While most of the series I read are cozy mysteries, they do include a bit of romance, and if the series runs long enough, eventually a wedding happens.  A Deadly Feast brings us to that pivotal moment in the life of main character Hayley Snow.

She and her fiancĂ©, Key West police detective Nathan Bransford, have decided on a wedding the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend since that is usually a slower period for tourists and therefore crime on the island.  With the wedding just over a week away, Hayley has a busy schedule trying to get last minute things done and oversee the remodel of the houseboat they intend to live in after they are married – that is if their contractor ever shows up.  Plus, her father and his family are coming into town and will be celebrating Thanksgiving with Hayley’s mom and her new husband, which could lead to fireworks.

So the last thing she needs is a mystery, but that’s just what happens.  Hayley’s last article for Key Zest magazine before her wedding is on a seafood tasting tour, and at the last stops, one of the participants drops dead.  Since the tour was being run by Hayley’s friend Analise, she can’t say no when Analise asks her to try to find out what happened to the poor woman before it harms Analise’s business.  There doesn’t seem to be much to go on.  Can Hayley find anything to clear her friend and her business?

As you can see, there is a lot going on in this book, and Hayley is busy trying to balance everything.  Not only that, but her fiancĂ© is finding the week leading up to their wedding to not be the crime free week he envisioned, so she is worrying about him.  All this gives author Lucy Burdette lots of balls to juggle as she weaves this tale for us.

Unfortunately, I felt the mystery was underserved as a result.  It got buried under all the other happenings, and in the end, things were rushed to give us a resolution.

Now, this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the book.  I love Hayley and the rest of the gang, so it is always fantastic to spend time with them.  And, because I love them so much, I care about them and the drama they are going through.  While the holiday means we don’t see one of the series regulars, we get to see a different side of another, and I enjoyed that.  It’s been a few books since we’ve seen Hayley’s father and his current family, so I enjoyed seeing them again as well.  And if Miss Gloria, Hayley’s octogenarian roommate, doesn’t make you smile, then I don’t know what will.

And we get to spend time in Key West.  Seriously, is it possible to fall in love with a place you’ve never been?  If so, I have completely fallen in love with Key West through these books.  Since my vacation prospects are pretty much zero this year due to changing day jobs, being able to escape through the pages of this book was fantastic.

Of course, there are recipes.  In fact, there are nine and they give us quite a variety, including key lime pie in a cup, lobster macaroni and cheese, and, inspired by Thanksgiving, a pumpkin pie recipe I definitely have to try.

While the mystery was weak, I am glad I got to spend more time with Hayley in A Deadly Feast.  While new comers to the series might not enjoy it as much, fans will find the pages fly by all too quickly as they always do.

Take more fictional trips to Key West with the rest of the Key West Food Critic Mysteries.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

I'm reviewing this book as part of a blog tour.  Be sure to check out the other stops.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Movie Review: Death on Duty - A Hailey Dean Mystery

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery, fun sub-plot
Cons: Higher than usual serving of Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
Finch’s friend is shot
Military complicates
Good twists but high cheese

“I Have to Figure Out What Happened to Him.  He’d Do the Same for Me.”

It’s May, and that means it is time for a different franchise to be featured at Hallmark Mysteries and Movies.  This last Sunday brought us Death on Duty, the first of three new Hailey Dean Mysteries we are going to get this month.

Hailey (Kellie Martin) actually gets involved in this case thanks to her friend Finch (Viv Leacock), an investigator for the DA’s office.  When Finch runs into his friend Kurt, he is thrilled to see him again.  The two had been in the Marines together.  Kurt is now stationed at a base a few hours away, but he spends some of his time in Atlanta doing inspections for the Marines.  He and Finch are quick to get together to reconnect, but Kurt is distracted almost the entire time, constantly looking at his phone.  Finch notices and offers to help Kurt any way he can.

When Kurt calls Finch to take him up on his offer, Finch has to put him off a couple of days.  However, just a few hours later, Kurt is missing.  Naturally, Hailey jumps in to help her friend, and that leads them to find Kurt’s body.  With the military taking over the case, Hallie and Finch will have to work carefully to figure out what happened without getting into trouble.  Can they do it?

Since Hailey has had a direct tie to every case in the franchise so far, it is nice to see one of the supporting characters get a chance to shine.  Yes, Finch is always Hailey’s partner in investigation, but this still gave us a chance to see a different side of him.  We also get a fun sub-plot with Hailey’s boyfriend, Jonas (Matthew MacCaull), posing for a fundraising calendar.  I loved watching that play out.  I did miss Danny Morgan.  I hope he’s back in the other movies this month and they haven’t decided we don’t need his character any more.

The mystery itself was solid.  There were enough elements that I wasn’t sure where things were going until Hailey started piecing them together at the end, yet things made sense once she did.

Unfortunately, I’ve long felt that this franchise suffers more than usual from Hallmark cheese, both in the writing and acting.  This new movie did nothing to change my mind on that.  However, if you enjoy the franchise, you’ll be fine since it’s no worse than normal.  Yes, Nancy Grace, creator of the character, puts in a cameo.  I always enjoy seeing where she pops up in each film.

I’m hoping that Death on Duty is setting a new trend for the Hailey Dead Mysteries franchise of focusing a bit on some of the supporting characters.  We’ll find out when Hailey comes back this coming Sunday.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Book Review: Dying for Devil's Food by Jenn McKinlay (Cupcake Bakery Mysteries #11)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, addicting mystery
Cons: Doesn’t come with actual cupcakes (just recipes)
The Bottom Line:
High school reunion
Ends with the class bully dead
Fast, fun like always

Somebody’s Dying for this Reunion

When I was a teen, I thought the idea of high school reunions was fun.  I certainly was looking forward to my own and I was going to attend all of them.  Last year was my 25th high school reunion, and I have yet to attend any of them.  Then again, if they are like the one in Dying for Devil’s Food, maybe I am better off not going.

This book is the eleventh in the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries from Jenn McKinlay and it finds our main characters, Mel Cooper, Angie DeLaura (now Harper), and Tate Harper, facing their 15th high school reunion.  Mel has no plans to attend since her high school days were miserable, years she only survived because of her close friendships with Angie and Tate.  But Angie is thrilled; she’s even gotten them the catering job of providing cupcakes for the event and talks Mel into going.

The reunion starts off as poorly as Mel expected, but as the evening goes on, she begins to get a sense of closure as she realizes her old high school classmates’ opinions of her don’t matter to her any more.  All that good will vanishes, however, when Mel finds the body of Cassidy in the bathroom.  Cassidy had been the worst bully in high school, and based on the run ins she and Mel had at the reunion, she hadn’t changed in 15 years.  Now, her entire graduating class thinks that Mel killed her.  So Mel must set down her cupcake pans and start sleuthing again to figure out what happened to Cassidy all while dealing with people she would rather put out of her life completely.

While we’ve heard about Mel’s life in high school, this is the first time we get an up-close look at it.  If my years in high school had been this bad, I would certainly understand Mel’s reluctance to go to her high school reunion.  Of course, this past drama spills over to the present and gives us lots of fodder for further conflict.  Cassidy wasn’t well liked back then, and she hasn’t changed much, giving us plenty of suspects and motives.  Watching Mel sort through all of this was as addicting as always, and I sailed through this book is just two days because I had to know just what was happening and why.  I was certainly satisfied when I reached the end.

What I think surprised me the most about this book was the character development.  We may be eleven books into the series, but we got to see another side of the characters, especially Mel.  We saw some real growth for her over the course of this book.  Even more surprising was just how deep the characters we met here turned out to be.

Of course, all this is still wrapped in a package of fun.  I grinned and laughed multiple times as the pages flew by.  These books are popular because they are so fun, and this entry is no different.

Those looking for cupcake suggestions will be pleased to learn we get three new recipes at the end of this book.  Personally, I’m most intrigued by the pineapple upside down cupcakes.

This series is still just as addicting as a batch of fresh baked cupcakes.  I may have just finished this entry, but I’m already craving another one.  Fans new and old will be delighted to devour Dying for Devil’s Food.

Need more delicious mysteries?  Here are the rest of the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.


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

Just leave me a comment with your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you win.  I will pick the winner Tuesday May 14th, so please leave your comment before midnight Pacific Time on 5/14.  You will have until midnight on 5/19 to get back to me, or I will choose a new winner on 5/20.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Ornament Review: The Flash - 2018 Hallmark Miniature Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Classic Flash captured in miniature
Cons: Expect a miniature ornament, and you’ll be fine
The Bottom Line:
Miniature Flash
Will quickly be favorite
On a mini tree

He’ll be on Your Tree is a Flash

As I’ve been saying this month, when I realized that Hallmark was releasing an unofficial series of Justice League miniature ornaments, I had to get them all.  But one of the two 2018 releases grabbed me more than the other.  Because I love the TV show so much, I was most excited to get The Flash.

These ornaments are themed around the classic Justice League portrayal more than any TV show or movie, so fans of the character will love them.  This is Barry Allen in his costumed glory.  He’s mostly red with yellow boots and various yellow lightening accents.  While I know the character best from the TV show, I still immediately recognized him and his costume, which isn’t quite what they are doing on the show.  Then again, they seem to change it up a little every year.

As I said at the beginning of the review, this is a miniature ornament, and he stands at only 1.3 inches tall.  Yes, this is a small ornament.  However, if you look closely, you’ll find that there is still lots of detail on him.  I’m in awe of how they can do all that.  However, you’ll want to factor this in when you go to display it since he can easily get lost in a larger display or lost in general.  Fortunately, his bright red costume helps him stand out.

No real surprise, but we catch the Flash in action.  Despite his speed, we somehow caught him mid-run on the way to save the day.  This means we can’t set him out to be displayed and have to hang him.  Fortunately, he hangs at the perfect angle so that he looks like he is in motion on your tree.

If you can keep the size in mind, you’ll find that this miniature ornament of The Flash really is a lot of fun.

Original Price: $7.99

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Disney Mug Review: Piglet - Disney Wisdom Collection #4

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good quality mug
Cons: Color and quote don’t appeal to me
The Bottom Line:
Weak quote and pink mug
Make this my least favorite
Sure others will love

Questionable Quote on a Pink Mug

With as popular as the Winnie the Pooh characters are, I wasn’t at all surprised to see them pop up in the Disney Wisdom Collection.  In fact, I would have been surprised if they hadn’t.  Unfortunately, I do feel like the April mug is the weakest in the series, but I know it is probably most about personal taste.

You see, the color of the month is pink – baby girl pink.  That’s never been one of my favorite colors, and so this mug doesn’t appeal to me as much.  Of course, I still got it.  I’m a collector, after all, and must get all of this series.  (Seriously, businesses love people like me.)  However, people who love pink will not have the issue with this mug I do.

Since the main character this month is Piglet, the color makes perfect sense.  In fact, this may make the most sense of any of the sets in the series.  You can see this on the side of the mud that features Piglet.  He is joined by Tigger.  They have a three-tone pink theme going, and it makes them look great.  Okay, Tigger is usually orange, but pink works on him.  These characters look the best of any of the characters to date.

On the other side of the mug is my other issue with it – the quote.  It comes from the movie The Search for Christopher Robin and quotes Christopher Robin as saying, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  It sounds good, but I also think there is wisdom in knowing limitations and when to ask others for help if at all possible.  Maybe if I saw this quote in context in the movie, I’d feel better about it.  The quote itself looks good in dark pink and green with doodles, some of them leaves, surrounding it.

As with the others in this set, the mug is 14 oz and completely dishwasher and microwave safe.

Between the color and the quote, this mug is my least favorite in the series so far, and probably for the entire set.  I have a feeling it will be the one I reach for last on my shelf.

Disney Pin Review: Piglet - Disney Wisdom Collection #4

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters look great
Cons: Quote sounds good but isn’t as wise as others
The Bottom Line:
Disappointing quote
Offset by great characters
Still mostly good set

My Least Favorite Quote in the Disney Wisdom Collection

When I first read through the quote choices for the Disney Wisdom Collection back in January, I was nodding my head as I read most of them.  One, however, stopped me cold – the one for April.  Not only didn’t I recognize the quote right away, but I really questioned the wisdom in it.  I’m still feeling that way despite now having the pin set.

The quote this month comes from The Search for Christopher Robin, which is why I didn’t recognize it – I have yet to see this straight to home video movie.  Christopher Robin himself is speaking in the quote.  “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  It sounds good, but it just doesn’t sit right with me.  It’s too touchy feely for me, I guess.  It can be inspiring if you are feeling down on yourself, but there is actually wisdom in knowing your limits and seeking out help when you need it, and this quote seems to fly in the face of recognizing weaknesses and learning how best to deal with them.  Of course, the opposite can be true, and people are able to do amazing things when pushed to their limits in extraordinary circumstances.  Maybe if I saw this quote in the context of the movie, I’d appreciate it more.

Anyway, the pin set itself is nice.  The color this month is pink.  The quote uses green as an accent color, and, despite being a bit long, manages to fit well on the banner pin.  The other two pins feature Piglet and Tigger.  Piglet is a natural for pink, and Tigger actually looks good in this color as well.  While everyone has been stylized, these two look the most like themselves.  And, while I’m not the biggest fan of pink as a color, it doesn’t bother me that much in this set since the characters look so great and it fits in with the other sets in the series so well.  Really, these are going to look so great together once they’ve all been released.

Since I’m a collector, as you may have noticed, I got this pin set despite my feelings on the quote, and I fully intend to use it on my display pennant.  However, the quote offsets the fact that these characters look the best of any so far.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

May 4th's Weekly TV Thoughts

May the forth be with you!

Supergirl – Could they be any more blatant with their lecture?  I mean, that interview was nothing but a lecture.  I’m glad Lena “came clean,” although working to find a cure for your brother is completely understandable and not something to be upset about.  I’m curious to see where exactly James will wind up power wise.  Right now, he seems to be becoming a Superman/Supergirl clone.  And I’m upset about the wife’s murder.  She wasn’t really a bad character, and it’s just going to make him more evil.

Legends of Tomorrow – Pure fun as always, but so many storylines!  Nate and Zarrie are my new favorite couple.  Love them together, and I wasn’t sure when they first started playing around with them.  Ray was both scary and funny fighting the demon inside him.  I know I should know what the bookclub book was, but I can’t place it.  And Rory coming out as the author was a hoot.

Arrow – Dinah being so against Team Arrow was driving me crazy until we found out it was all a plot to hide the truth.  Roy has been resurrected now.  Why?  What is the point of that?  I don’t think I’m going to miss this show at all when it is gone.

The Flash – So Nora wasn’t bad all along; she was making poor choices in an effort to still help.  I feel a little better about that now.  Still not completely thrilled with that plot twist.  Seriously, what it is with the writers on these shows that they take the great characters and make them act stupidly?

Survivor – I wonder if Devons read the entire thing and saw that advantage wasn’t good any more, or if he found out when Jeff told him.  Either way, the way he played that was fantastic.  And I’m glad to see Ron go.  He was all over the place and needed a comeuppance.

The Amazing Race – I would hope that Becca and Floyd would come in first on this leg.  The challenges were tailor made for them.  But it was fun watching them.  Sometimes, they are a bit much, but tonight they were fun.  But why couldn’t they have had the non-elimination leg last week for Rupert and Laura?  Why???!!!!!  (No, I won’t be letting that go any time soon.)  Doubt it will make much difference long term.  I don’t give the team that came in last more than two legs before they are out.

The Big Bang Theory – I was wondering where they were going with this competing team.  Obviously, they are no longer going to be an issue.  Does this mean that the series is going to end with Sheldon and Amy getting a Nobel?  After all this build up, I’m kind of thinking it will, but we shall see.

Abby’s – I think I’m going to be glad I stuck this out.  Again, I found this episode amusing.  No, I’m not completely sold on the show yet, and if it does get pulled (which I kind of expect), I won’t be too upset, but I will certainly enjoy it while it lasts.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Movie Review: Death by Design - Morning Show Mysteries

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery with a bit of added depth
Cons: Light dose of Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
Friend’s twin is murdered
Adds depth to mostly light film
Fun with good puzzle

Murder of a Twin

One thing I’ve noticed on TV mystery shows (and I’m including Hallmark’s mystery movies in this) is the sudden appearance of a best friend we’ve never heard of before.  Not that I truly mind; I just find it funny.  That’s what we encounter in Death by Design, the final entry in April’s Morning Show Mysteries movie event.

Billie Blessings (Holly Robinson Peete) is thrilled to have Marian (Keegan Connor Tracy) back in town to do the redesign of the Wake Up West Coast studio for two reasons.  Marian is one of the best designers in the country, but she also happens to be Billie’s best friend.  Marian also has a twin sister, Jasmine (also Keegan Connor Tracy), who has stayed in the Seattle area, but is a bit on the difficult side.  In fact, we meet her at her birthday party.  Never mind the fact that Marian is also in town and the two obviously share a birthday, this is Jasmine’s party.

However, when Jasmine is leaving her party, someone tries to run her down with a car.  That fails, but a couple of days later, Jasmine has been strangled.  Detective Ian Jackson (Rick Fox) is on the case, but with all the secrets Jasmine had in her life, the list of suspects is long.  Marian begs Billie to look into what happened to her twin, but can Billie figure anything out?

Once again, the writers have crafted a fantastic mystery.  While I eliminated one or two people, I still had plenty of suspects it could have been and I was left guessing until the end.  There were some good twists along the way to the logical solution.  One thing I enjoyed about this movie was that we saw more of Ian and his investigation.  Don’t get me wrong, we also still see plenty of Billie and she is the one who figures things out in the end, but it was nice to see more of his character.

Speaking of which, his romance with Billie is still on track, although they hit a bit of a bump here.  I’ll leave it for you to see more about that.  Honestly, I continue to enjoy my time with all these characters.

As a fan of Once Upon a Time, it was fun to see Keegan Connor Tracy, who recurred as the Blue Fairy, show up here and have such a large part.  She fit right in with the rest of the cast.  Also fun to note is that Al Roker, whose books were the (loose) inspiration for these movies, has a cameo here.

Yes, there is the usual element of Hallmark cheese, but you didn’t really need me to tell you that, right? 

Since some of the characters were so close to the murder victim, there is a more somber tone at times as the characters deal with the death.  Yes, Jasmine was a pain in the neck, but Marian and others still loved her.  I appreciated seeing this played out, and I applaud the writers and cast for finding this balance.  This adds depth to the characters and the story but does it without making the movie too dark.  This is a Hallmark mystery movie after all.

Morning Show Mysteries continue to give us entertaining mysteries.  Death by Design will please fans of the franchise or anyone looking for a pleasant distraction for a couple of hours.

May 3rd's Book Beginning and Friday 56

We've made it to Friday!  That means it is time for this week's Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring Dying for Devil's Food, the newest Cupcake Bakery Mystery from Jenn McKinlay.

This book in the series finds main characters Mel, Angie, and Tate attending their 15th high school reunion.  Of course, murder shows up as well.  Here's how the book begins:

At the screechy noise, Melanie Cooper squeezed her pastry bag too tight and frosting shot out of the tip into a big glob on top of the cupcake she was decorating for a wedding the next day.

And jumping ahead to page 56, we find:

"I thought you gals always went to the restroom in pairs."
"We didn't this time."
"Well, I hope you've learned your lesson.  There's a reason you're supposed to go in pairs."

This book really is so much fun.  I'll have a full review (with giveaway) up on Tuesday, which is the book's release day.