Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Book Review: Candy Slain Murder by Maddie Day (Country Store Mysteries #8)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Robbie, South Lick, Christmas
Cons: Plot could be stronger
The Bottom Line:
Christmas skeleton
Great to see Robbie, South Lick
Plot could be stronger

Skeleton at Christmas

Christmas is a warm time spent with family and friends.  It’s not a time that you usually think of secret skeletons coming to light.  But that’s exactly what happens in Candy Slain Murder, the eighth Country Store Mystery from Maddie Day.

It’s been almost exactly a year since Robbie Jordan’s small town of South Lick, Indiana, was rocked by a murder.  However, this December will again feature surprises and murder.  The first walks into the door of Robbie’s country store and restaurant, Pans ‘N Pancakes, one day looking for Danna, Robbie’s assistant, claiming to be her half-brother.  The fact that Danna has any siblings is news to her.

That night a more tragic secret comes to light when the house of a local doctor catches fire and a skeleton is found in his attic.  Soon Robbie’s restaurant is buzzing with speculations on who the bones belonged to and how they got there.  When a fresh death rocks the community, Robbie is more determined than ever to figure out what happened.  Can she do it?

The last book in this series took Robbie on vacation, and I missed the series regulars.  It was fantastic to see them again here.  Everyone gets a few scenes to shine, and they make the most of them.  Since it’s been so long since we’ve seen most of the regulars, it’s nice to get updates from them.

Unfortunately, the mystery isn’t as strong as it could have been.  Part of that is because not all the suspects are fleshed out characters.  There are enough suspects and red herrings, and I was interested in how Robbie was going to figure things out.  The climax is definitely heart pounding and answers all our questions.

Having this book set at Christmas does make it extra special.  I do love Christmas, after all.  Any time that part of the book took center stage, I had to smile.

Then there’s the restaurant.  As always, the book left me hungry for pancakes or a good burger or any of the other food that is mentioned.  If that’s you as well, you’ll enjoy the six recipes at the end of the book, some for seasonal treats and some that would be welcome any time of the year.

If you are looking for a seasonal cozy this December, you’ll enjoy Candy Slain Murder.  Fans of the series will be glad to be visiting South Lick again.  Plug in the tree and enjoy this visit with Robbie.

Make your reservations now for the rest of the Country Store Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Book Review: Dying in a Winter Wonderland by Vicki Delany (Year-Round Christmas #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Charming characters, great plot, and Christmas
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Some wedding chaos
Makes Christmas complications
In book I enjoyed

After Christmas Murder

Over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed visiting the town of Rudolph, New York, in the pages of the Year-Round Christmas Mysteries.  Inspired by the name of their town, the residents have created a tourist town that always celebrates Christmas.  Merry Wilkinson, the main character, owns Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, a Christmas themed décor and gift shop, for example.  Of course, the books have mainly taken place around the holidays, and that’s the case once again in Dying in a Winter Wonderland.

Because of her history working for a lifestyle magazine in New York City, Merry has gotten talked into doing the decorating for Luanne Ireland’s upcoming wedding.  However, on Christmas Eve, Luanne drops the bomb that the wedding has been moved up from this summer to Valentine’s Day.  Merry isn’t the only one who is upset by the news, but she begins planning how to get everything done in time.

However, the day after Christmas, Luanne’s fiancé is found dead outside the Yuletide Inn.  Merry’s brother, Chris, found the man, and because of Chris’s past relationship with Luanne, the police begin to look at him as a suspect.  Merry knows the police are looking in the wrong direction, but can she find evidence to change their mind?

While the focus may have been on the ill-fated wedding, the book still feels so Christmassy.  It helps that the book is set between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.  And, of course, the town itself makes everything feel like Christmas.  I mean, if I were to visit Merry’s story, I’d have to stop myself from buying half of the items.  They sound so wonderful.

The characters we know and love are all back as well.  Okay, so love may be a bit extreme for a couple of them, but they make Merry’s life interesting, and there are some fun developments with them.  Merry and her family and friends make up a wonderful core cast of characters, and I loved getting to spend time with them again.

Even before the murder takes place, there is plenty of conflict and drama.  I was pulled into the book from the very first chapter, and I didn’t want to put the book down until Merry figured everything out.  I was surprised by the outcome, although everything made perfect sense when I reached the end.

Dying in a Winter Wonderland is another charming entry in this super cozy series.  Anytime you want to be put in the Christmas mood is the perfect time to catch up with Merry.

If you need more Christmas, check out the rest of the Year-Round Christmas Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, September 28, 2020

TV Show Review: Stargirl - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Charming superhero show
Cons: Slow to start; Courtney’s attitude at times
The Bottom Line:
Teen superhero
A bit slower paced story
But it drew me in

Has Courtney Discovered Her Legacy?

Clearly, I need more superhero TV shows in my life.  (Actually, when I think of the superhero shows I’m not watching, it’s kind of scary since they already make up so much of my viewing.)  To be honest, I’m not sure I would have started watching Stargirl if it had premiered in the fall or even the spring as originally planned.  But by the time it premiered this last May, I knew I’d want something fresh to watch over the summer, so I gave it a try.  I’m really glad I did.

This show focuses on Courtney (Brec Bassinger), a typical teenager who has just moved to Nebraska when her mom, Barbara (Amy Smart) marries Pat (Luke Wilson).  In addition to a step-father, she’s also gotten a new step-brother, Mike (Trae Romano).  Everyone is starting a new life in a small town, but Courtney is the least happy about everything.

All that changes when she discovers Pat’s secret.  Many years ago, he was the assistant for a league of superheroes, the Justice Society of America, until the night they were killed by the Injustice Society.  This happened on the very night the Courtney’s father disappeared.  Pat has kept many of the items from the Justice Society that gave them their powers.

And it’s the staff that belonged to Starman that responds to Courtney.  The staff that had no life in it suddenly glows and flies.  Courtney takes it as a sign that she is Starman’s daughter, and begins to try to fulfil her destiny with Pat’s very reluctant help.  It’s just in time since it appears their new town is where the Injustice Society has been in hiding, working on building things to execute their new plan.  Will Courtney be able to stop them?

Of course, Courtney does recruit a few new members to the team, but I will leave it for you to meet them along the way.

The show unfolds at its own pace, and at times it is slower than the superhero shows I’ve been used to watching (which are themselves slower than superhero movies).  I really noticed this near the end of the season when we got some acts that stayed with one character instead of intercutting several character’s scenes.  We also got fewer scenes per act, which really allowed the characters to be developed or the action to unfold.  Sometimes, I felt the show was a little too slow, but overall I found this a nice change, and I enjoyed seeing just how everything played out.  It also allowed for stronger scenes for the characters at times, which I really enjoyed.

But make no mistake about it, the show knows it is a superhero show.  We get action, and we get special effects.  Those are both great.  The action scenes are well thought out, and I bought the special effects I was seeing on the screen.

As the season went along, the plot threads that the show put in place began to pick up, and I got more and more drawn into each episode.  They did a great job of building that suspense and paying it off in the final episodes.

My biggest frustration was Courtney herself.  She was reckless much of the season, and even as she begins to recruit others to join her, she just felt like she wasn’t ready to work as a team.  While some of that was good character development, I do hope they have moved beyond that when season 2 premiers.

Without getting too spoilery, I will say I was surprised by what the Injustice Society’s ultimate goal was.  But that’s all I will say about it.

The show had a serious tone overall, but it mixed in some great humor.  They were all moments that wouldn’t work out of context, but in the moment, they were brilliant.

Season one was designed to have thirteen episodes.  It is unusual because the episodes take place over the fall, so we have a Halloween episode and Christmas shows up before the season is over.  Yet I don’t believe the show was ever going to air over the course of the fall (I may be misremembering at this point).  It felt weird seeing these holiday episodes in the middle of the summer.  Of course, now that the show is out on DVD and Blu-Ray, that doesn’t matter as much.  Anyway, these thirteen episodes tell a complete story yet leave us very anxious to find out what is going to happen next.

The other superhero shows I watch are all part of the Arrowverse, the term coined for Arrow and its direct spinoff shows.  While from the same production team and airing on the CW, this show doesn’t directly tie into those shows – yet.  I could see it happening in the future, but for now, this show stands completely on its own.

I’m glad I gave Stargirl’s first season a chance.  The show really grew on me, and I’m anxious to see where things go in the next season, currently slated to air next year.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Disney Pin Review: Splash Mountain - Crests of the Kingdom - 2019 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great crest celebrating a popular attraction
Cons: No cons in my laughing place
The Bottom Line:
Laughter in mountain
Captured with this pin of crest
Attraction I like

This Crest Makes a Splash

Ah, Splash Mountain.  As recently as last year, Disney was still celebrating this attraction as it was originally created.  It even got a pin in the Crests of the Kingdom series.

The crest has the usual pewter front.  It may be monochromatic, but it is raised so it is easy to tell what we are looking at.  We’ve got the outline of the mountain in the background.  Front and center is Br’er Rabbit.  At the top and bottom are the Latin words of the crest.  In this case, it says “Risus Locum Omnis Habet.”  When I put that into my Latin to English translator (aka Google), I come back with “the laughter of the place, everyone has.”  Or, if you don’t take it quite literally, you get “Everybody’s Got a Laughing Place.”

The pin is hinged at the top.  The inside part of the pin is a circle, and it shows a cartooned picture of the final scene in the ride.  In the foreground is a hen singing “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.”  Behind her, you can see the steamboat and some hints at the other characters who are back there singing.  In the background are stripes of orange and yellow.

Even though Splash Mountain took the characters from another favorite ride, America Sings, I’ve always loved it.  I’ll even ride it when I go in the winter because I enjoy the animals, the theming, and the story.  So I love this pin.  It reminds me of all the fun scenes and details in the ride.

Since the limited edition pin was originally released in 2019, you can’t find it at Disneyland or from any official Disney location.  You’ll have to hunt for it from resellers.

Splash Mountain merchandise is going to become real collector’s items as the parks stop selling them.  If you like the ride, now is the time to get this pin for yourself as I’m sure second-hand prices are just going to rise.

If you'd like to see pictures, check out the pictures on my Instagram account.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

September 26th's Weekly TV Thoughts

 As you can see, I didn't get much TV watched.  No, I didn't drop any programs.  In fact, I planned to add another to the mix.  I just had a really lousy week working way too many hours.  And TV was one of the many things that suffered.  I'll catch up next week - hopefully have a super long list.  In the meantime, here is what I did watch.

LA’s Finest – Considering this show was originally made exclusively for my cable company but I’m just now watching it on Fox, that should give you some feel for how much I’m dying to watch this show.  It might help if I had seen any of the Bad Boys movies.  Even then, I’m not sure I’m completely sold on the premise.  It’s a pilot, I get it, but it needs some serious work.  I was struggling the entire time to understand the characters and relationships.  I’ll give it another week or two, however.

Dancing with the Stars – Not too surprising who was in the bottom two.  I’m a little more surprised some of the scores weren’t better.  They looked great from where I was sitting.

Tell Me a Story – And everything is becoming connected.  This is going to be a twisted climax next week.  I’m so sorry the other friend is dead.  That was one twist tonight I was not at all happy about.  And the good cop, too.  I don’t know how they will wrap all this up in one episode.

Press Your Luck – It was a lot of fun seeing the previous contestants return and clips of their wins.  They were obviously enjoying themselves.  Even with the possibility of a Whammy, I didn’t feel much drama in round 2.  He sure had bad luck with the Whammy in the bonus round, however.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Book Review: The Overlook by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #13)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong, fast paced mystery
Cons: Characters a little weaker than normal; Harry’s actions at times
The Bottom Line:
New partner, new case
Fast paced, twists in shorter book
Characters are thin

Fast Paced Fast Read

I was a bit surprised when I picked up The Overlook to see that is was shorter than a typical Michael Connelly novel.  That just meant that the twists of turns were packed into few pages.

This book finds Los Angeles Police Detective Harry Bosch starting a new job in the Homicide Special division of the LAPD.  He’s also been given a new partner, Ignacio “Call my Iggy” Ferras.  Iggy is younger than Bosch, and the expectation is that Bosch will help Iggy grow into a superstar detective.

Their first case together takes them to an overlook near Mulholland Drive.  Someone has shot a doctor in the back of the head.  The execution style shooting seems out of place for the rich neighborhood.  Bosch has hardly started his investigation when the FBI shows up and takes the case in a surprising direction.  If they take over the case, will Bosch be cut out?  Can he solve the murder?

This book started life as a serialized story that was expanded slightly to turn it into a novel.  This explains the smaller page count.  As I said earlier, that doesn’t translate to a dull plot in the slightest.  There are twists and turns all over the place that keep Bosch and us guessing.  I had a piece of it figured out, but it was a small piece.

Where this book suffers is the characters.  While Bosch and a few other recurring characters are their normal selves, I don’t feel like we got to know the new characters as well as we should have.  This doesn’t impact the mystery plot at all, but I wish we had gotten to know the new supporting players better, but I’m sure we will in future books.

Of course, part of that is because of the timeline of the book.  Bosch is working against a ticking clock, which leaves no time for sub-plots.  It also means that any character growth we get is minor since the focus is on the action.

Bosch is famous for ignoring the rules and doing whatever it is going to take to solve the case.  Normally, I enjoy seeing him skirt the rules to figure out what is really going on.  Here, some of his actions bothered me.  I’m not going to say more since it could be a spoiler, but I did feel like his actions were more reckless than usual.

I’m still reading these books via audiobook.  Once again, I listened to the version recorded by Len Cariou.  I usually enjoy his narration, but there was one scene here where his take on a character was super annoying.  This wasn’t the first audio to include some jazz between chapters, but here it felt a bit more intrusive since it wasn’t just at the end of some chapters or at the end of discs.  Mind you, these are minor complaints, but they meant the audio wasn’t quite as strong as normal.

As usual, I go into these books expecting a certain amount of foul language and violence.  They were kept to an absolute minimum here, instead keeping the focus on the action.

The Overlook may not be quite up to Michael Connelly’s usual standards, but it is still a compelling book.  Fans of Harry Bosch will be glad they picked it up.

Here are the rest of the Harry Bosch books.

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

September 25th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

 It's been a very long week.  I've been working non-stop since almost all week.  Today's first day I've log out of my work computer before 10 PM all week.  I suspect tomorrow is going to be another very long day.  And I will probably be working this weekend, too.

But that's this weekend.  For now, let's look at Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

I am featuring another Christmas cozy this week - Dying in a Winter Wonderland by Vicki Delany.


This is fun book in the Year-Round Christmas Mysteries.  But yes, it does take place at Christmas time, opening on Christmas Eve.

The book begins with this:
I had not planned on spending the busiest day of the entire year trying to calm a frantic bride.

Yes, this book does involve a wedding.  An ill-fated wedding given that this is a murder mystery.

Jumping ahead to 56% of the way into the book, we find this:

"As interesting as this is," Chris said, "all you've done is give us reasons people had for not killing Jeff.  No one's better off without him.  Except, as the police seem to think, me."

Chris is the main character's brother.  Of course, she's trying to prove his innocence.  But it doesn't sound like she's having much luck, does it?

The book officially comes out on Tuesday, and I hope you'll stop back by to find out what I thought of the book then.  In the mean time, I hope you have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Book Review: Hollyberry Homicide by Sharon Farrow (Berry Basket Mysteries #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and story, Christmas spirit
Cons: I’m in too merry a mood to list cons
The Bottom Line:
Marlee takes the stage
Adding to a Christmas case
That’s plenty of fun

Will Marlee Make it on Stage as a Ghost?

When I saw that the Berry Basket series was getting a Christmas book, I hadn’t given too much thought to what was going to be happening.  But as soon as I started Hollyberry Homicide, I couldn’t believe I had missed such an obvious backdrop to the plot.

You see, our main character is Marlee Jacobs, named after Jacob Marley since she was born on Christmas Eve.  So of course, we are going to be dealing with a production of A Christmas Carol.

In fact, Jacob Marley is dead, or at least the actor who was set to play him again this year in the community’s annual production.  Since he was ninety-five, no one is that surprised, however, Marlee can’t help but feel something is off about his death.  She tries to convince herself that her suspicions are just because of the murder cases she’s found herself involved in over the past few months, but as she meets the man’s relatives, she can’t help but size them up as suspects.

Not that Marlee has time for a murder investigation.  The town is holding a hollyberry festival in the days leading up to Christmas, and she has been cast as the replacement Jacob Marley, so she has to learn her lines and make it to rehearsals.  However, rumors of a curse on the play abound.  Is something more sinister going on?

As you might have surmised from my teaser, this book unfolds a little differently from a typical cozy, and I loved it for that.  There is so much going on here that it was easy to get caught up in the story each time I picked up the book.  I may have figured out a couple of plot points early, but that hardly mattered given everything else that was going on.  I loved how things came together in the climax, too.

Of course, it helps that I love the characters.  Marlee has always been a strong main character, and as we’ve gotten to know the wide variety of friends in her life, the series has grown richer.  That’s the case here once again.  The suspects fit into this world and do their job of confusing us perfectly.

The book has that wonderful Christmas feeling on every page.  In addition to the play and the snow, we also get plenty of talk about decorations and presents and music.  It made me want to curl up in a blanket and look at my own trees.  If only I had them up while I was reading this book.

Finally, we get three berry inspired recipes at the end of the book.  No, nothing with hollyberries since they are poisonous, but the ones we do get sound delicious.

If you enjoy Christmas cozies, you need to add Hollyberry Homicide to your list this year.  No need to check twice, you’ll enjoy this entry in the always tasty Berry Basket Mysteries.

Enjoy the rest of the Berry Basket Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Ornament Review: A Christmas Cookie - Petite Penguins #5 - 2020 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute miniature ornament
Cons: Only if you don’t enjoy miniature ornaments
The Bottom Line:
Penguin, big cookie
Cute miniature ornament
Good things in small piece

Oversized Cookies in this Mini Ornament

As a kid, who didn’t dream of all the sweets you can eat, including sweets bigger than you are.  Okay, okay, I might still dream of that upon occasion.  For one lucky penguin, that’s the case with A Christmas Cookie.

This ornament is the fifth in the Petite Penguins miniature series of ornaments.  It features a penguin holding on to a sugar cookie.  The cookie is shaped like a Christmas tree and the front is covered with frosting, including designs to represent the decorations on the tree.  However, the size ratio is off, and the cookie is actually a little taller than the penguin is.

Again, this is a miniature ornament.  The entire thing is less than an inch high.  But it is packed with details.  It really does amaze me how they are able to get everything in the tiny ornaments like they do.  As long as you know the size before you get it, you’ll be fine.

Because it is incredibly cute!  The oversized cookie and the penguin holding on to it just make me want to smile.  In some ways, it reminds me of the first ornament in the series, where a penguin was also holding on to an oversized treat.

I’m actually a bit surprised to say that this ornament stands on its own.  It helps that the penguin is sitting down, so there is more of a base.  The cookie is a bit lop sided when you set it out, but that’s okay.  It still looks cute.

Slip an ornament hanger through the loop at the top, and you’ll find that the ornament hangs straight.  It definitely looks better hanging than sitting, but either way, you’re sure to love this ornament.

I mentioned earlier that this ornament is part of a series.  As such, you’ll find the 5 in a Christmas tree on the back of the cookie.

I realize that miniature ornaments aren’t for everyone, but if you do enjoy them, then I definitely recommend A Christmas Cookie.  This ornament packs a ton of cuteness into every bit.

And get more cuteness with the rest of the Petite Penguins ornaments.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Book Review: Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings by Liz Ireland (Mrs. Claus #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Christmas cheer, solid mystery, fun
Cons: Nothing deserving of the naughty list
The Bottom Line:
Murder at Christmas
Victim? Elf at the North Pole
In this nice debut

Murder at the North Pole

The instant that Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings cross my radar, I knew I had to read it.  With as much as I love Christmas, a cozy mystery set at the north pole with Mrs. Claus as the main character?  I knew it would be my cup of hot cocoa.

April’s life changed completely when she learned Nick, the man she had fallen in love with, was Santa Claus.  Now, she’s spending her first Christmas at the North Pole as Mrs. Claus.  However, the stress of the holiday is nothing compared to the death of an elf.

Giblet Hollyberry was not an especially popular elf, but his death comes the day after he had a very public fight with Santa.  While the rest of the Claus clan doesn’t seem that concerned, April worries that the evidence is pointing toward her new husband.  The North Pole isn’t normally a hotbed of crime, but it seems someone is doing their best to put Santa on the naughty list this year.  Can April keep that from happening?

At its heart, this book is a cozy mystery.  All the familiar elements are there – a wonderful setting, characters we love, and a puzzle that focuses on who done it.  The story is fast moving, with several good suspects and a steady pace of clues, red herrings, and revelations that kept me hooked until we reached the logical climax.

But it’s the setting that makes this one stand apart.  We’re talking Santa, the North Pole, and elves.  (Not to mention reindeer and snowmen.)  Obviously, there is a fantasy element to the book.  That element is handled perfectly.  We are introduced to things as we need to know about them, and since April is still getting used to her new life, there is much she is learning right along with us.

Of course, it helps that the characters are all wonderful.  We could relate to just about everyone, which helped pull us into the story and made the fact that they weren’t all human irrelevant.

And this book heaped on the Christmas cheer.  I had to dig out my Christmas music while I was reading this book because it put me that much in the Christmas spirit.  There are wonderful nods to all things Christmas and puns through the book, and I smiled multiple times at them as I was reading.

I do have to say that I had to work to overcome my picture of the North Pole from countless Christmas specials and movies over the years.  That’s not quite the world that April is living in.  But as that world comes to life for us, it became easier and easier.

Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings belongs at the top of your nice list.  Whether you devour it now or savor it in December, you will enjoy every page and join me in looking forward to Mrs. Claus’s next case.

Enjoy more holiday magic and murder with the rest of the Mrs. Claus Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, September 21, 2020

TV Show Review: Legends of Tomorrow - Season 5

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some fun episodes and storylines
Cons: Overall, darker with less comedy.  Two characters I love left
The Bottom Line:
Villains are reborn
Overall darker season
Not as good as rest

“You Know the Rule: No McGuffin Talk Until I Finish My Coffee.”

Over the last couple of years, Legends of Tomorrow has become my favorite of the Arrowverse shows.  It took itself seriously enough to make us care about the outcome, but it leaned into the ridiculous, so it was ridiculously fun along the way.  Sadly, the fifth season changed some things up, and not for the better.

Since the season didn’t premier until January, the show had an advantage over its sister shows.  While it was part of the epic Crisis on Infinite Earth’s crossover event, all the episodes of the season happened afterwards.  As a result, it didn’t have to try to break the season into two parts like the rest of the shows did.

When we rejoin the Legends, they are basking in some newly acquired fame.  Only Sara (Caity Lotz) seems to see the downside of it as they try to go about their missions.  And those missions quickly become complicated when they realize that some of history’s biggest villains are coming back to life.  It’s going to take extra work to defeat them, extra work that Constantine (Matt Ryan) thinks might be related to him.

Meanwhile, the Legends are living in an alternative world they aren’t even aware of – one in which Behrad (Shayan Sobhian) has always been part of the team and Zari (Tala Ashe) is a social media influencer who has no idea what her brother is up to.  But when she is suddenly included as part of the team, will that shake things up?

One of my problems with last season was the new characters that were introduced.  I had a hard time coming to care for a couple of them.  Fortunately, the writers seemed to agree with me since they were written out for much of this season.  Unfortunately, the writers decided they were done with another couple characters I love, and they were written off part way through this season.  I’m still in mourning that this happened.

I did enjoy some of the storylines this season.  Behrad and Zari’s stories were interesting, especially as they interacted with Nate (Nick Zano).  Mick (Dominic Purcell) also got some interesting storylines involving a huge surprise from his past.  And the episodes that found the cast trapped in various TV shows or taking on an 80’s style slasher were absolutely wonderful.

My main issue with the season involved Constantine.  When his character joined the show, I was worried that the show was going to go too dark and demonic.  He is a demon hunter, after all.  So far, while they had included some of those elements, the darkness hadn’t been too bad.  That wasn’t the case this season.  They really leaned into it, and it made for a much darker season as we tried to help him and Charlie (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) destroy the loom of fate once and for all.  I wanted the light and funny, and that just wasn’t it.

On the plus side, the actors all continue to shine.  When they get funny material, they excel at it, but the more serious or emotional moments are just as strong.  Likewise, the special effects are always good.

This was one show that wasn’t impacted by the pandemic.  Since they only planned on fifteen episodes, they’d finished filming by the time production on most shows shut down.  That means we got a complete story in this set.  Well, there is a cliffhanger involving….  (You didn’t think I was going to spoil that fun surprise for you, did you?)

I’m hoping that the show will return to the lighter comedy action I loved in season 6 since I didn’t enjoy the change in tone for season 5 of Legends of Tomorrow.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Disney Pin Review: Peter Pan's Flight - Minnie Mouse the Main Attraction #6 - 2020 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Captures the spirit of Peter Pan’s Flight
Cons: Cons are codfish
The Bottom Line:
Fly to Neverland
As Minnie visits the ride
Starry three pin set

These Pins Have an Extra Touch of Pixie Dust

Of the “dark” rides in Fantasyland (the rides that take you into one of the movies), Peter Pan’s Flight is always the most popular.  Minnie Mouse loves it, too, since she made it a stop on her yearlong tour of the parks, and this pin set is fun.

Minnie just took a quick break from Fantasyland to visit The Enchanted Tiki Room over in Adventureland, but she’s back for a three-month visit, starting with this fun attraction.  I’m one of the many who love soaring over London and Neverland, so I was anxious to get my hands on the set.

Once again, we get a three-pin set.  The first is an icon associated with the ride.  In this case, they’ve gone with the ride vehicle.  We’ve got a pirate ship taking off for flight.  It’s gold since it’s been sprinkled with pixie dust.  The sails are dark blue and light blue stripes, which fit in with the other pins.  The second pin is Minnie, who is decked out in a dark blue with small white polka dot like stars.  Her right ear has two larger stars on it.  The final pin is a set of Minnie ears.  The left ear is a night sky with a glitter like sheen to it.  The right ear again has the two stars in the night background.  Finally, in the bow, is Big Ben with a bit of a cloud in front of it.

Other items released as part of the series feature silhouettes of Peter Pan and the rest flying through the sky.  It would be fun if one of the pins included that, but I get it.  The pins are mostly dark and the characters would be very small.  However, we get the next best thing.  They are flying across the top of the cardboard the pins came on.  I haven’t talked about the cardboard for the pins before, but they are always decorated in a fun way to go along with the pins, but this is the first time I’ve felt they added something major to the set.

Not that I’d be complaining about the pins either way.  As I said earlier, I love this ride, and I love how the pins capture the spirit of the attraction.  I’m not alone since once again these pins have been hot sellers and are hard to find.  But I feel they are worth the hunt.

If you need a touch of pixie dust in your life, you’ll want to hunt down these pins.

Want to see them?  Check out my pictures on Instagram.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

September 19th's Weekly TV Thoughts

 The biggest TV shows for me this week was that United We Fall was cancelled.  I'm not super surprised, and I have mixed feelings on it.  When the show was on, it could be very funny.  But it was very uneven.  I was hoping it would grow into a lasting funny show, but obviously that was not to be.

It's slim pickings right now, even with Dancing with the Stars coming back.

Dancing with the Stars – Yes, I caved and am watching again.  It certainly feels different without the audience.  I don’t mind the fake clapping and cheering, but the fake booing is a big much, especially when Tyra acts like that is a live audience doing that.  I thought the judges were being a bit harsh at first, but there were some better scores as the night went on.  Definitely a couple early front runners and a couple of early eliminations unless they can turn it around next week.  Stranger things have happened on this show.

American Ninja Warrior – Only one or two surprises tonight.  All the people you’d expect to finish made it.  The biggest shock was the finalist from last year who got eliminated early.  I like the twist on the Power Tower this year – getting to take your entire team with you to the semi-finals.  Since we didn’t hear about it last week, I’m assuming Drew must have being on it.  I really feel sorry for his team since they didn’t make the show as a result.  Love that Chris and Jessie both made it to the buzzer.  And we have one person hit the mega warped wall, too.

Tell Me a Story – Dark.  Definitely dark.  I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t surprised at many of the twists of the episode.  Too much time watching TV.  In fact, I think it would have been a surprise if the brother had gotten away, the cop wasn’t the robber, or the psycho hadn’t killed the mom.  Still, I have no idea how they are going to wrap any of this up.  And yes, I did see the connection with the brother/sister story – their money is supposed to buy the stolen diamonds.

Friday, September 18, 2020

September 18th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

 We made it to Friday again!  I'm celebrating with a fun Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

The book I'm highlighting this week is Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings by Liz Ireland.


That's right, I'm featuring a Christmas cozy already.  It's actually the first of four Christmas books I'll be reviewing in the next couple of weeks.  All of them come out on 9/29, but I can't do them all justice if I review them all the same day, right?  I'll be reviewing this book this coming Tuesday.

But for today, a couple of teasers.  Here's how the book begins:

The strange occurrences that threatened to upend my marriage, my adopted city, and the potential happiness of tens of millions of children started on a December morning just nine days before Christmas with a frantic pounding on our bedchamber door.

Meanwhile, at 56% into the book, we find this:

He drew back in offense.  "Boots Bayleaf knows how to keep his lip buttoned."
Given that he'd just spilled the story to me in exchange for a joyride, I took those words with a whole block of salt.

In case you haven't guessed, yes, this book is a cozy set at the North Pole, and it is delightful.  I hope you'll come back Tuesday for my full review.

Meanwhile, have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Book Review: Fatal Forgeries by Ritter Ames (Bodies of Art Mysteries #4)

Stars: 4 out of 5

Pros: Strong characters; fun travel; good story
Cons: A bit slower; familiar conflict between characters
The Bottom Line:
The next heist chapter
Advances Laurel’s story
Series fans will like

Laurel Beacham Recovers a Painting, But at What Cost?

With the way that Ritter Ames’s Bodies of Art Mysteries build on each other, I made a point of working Fatal Forgeries into my reading schedule as quickly as I could.  I wanted to return to Laurel’s world while various plot threads were fresh in my mind.

If you haven’t read this series, I do NOT recommend you start with this book.  You’ll be lost.  Author Ritter Ames does the best she can to fill you in on what has happened before, but this is part four of a five part story.  Yes, the book does have a beginning, middle, and end all its own, but it is also part of a larger story, and to fully understand character relationships, you need to read the books in order.  Not only that, but there are major spoilers in this book for events and twists revealed in earlier books.  You’ll enjoy them more if you read them in order.

For a little background, Laurel Beacham works for the London office of the Beacham Foundation, an organization her family founded to restore and return artwork.  However, she has gotten wind of a giant art heist that is being planned.  As she works to stop it and the forgeries that are part of it, she has teamed up with Jack Hawkes, a mysterious man she is also falling for.

As this book opens, Laurel has taken on one of her side projects, stealing a stolen piece of artwork so it can be returned to the rightful owner.  However, when she returns to London, she discovers that two forgeries of this particular painting had been confiscated in England recently.  Did she just stop a new lead they could have used to trace forgers back to the art heist itself?

I always have trouble writing teasers for this series because the plots quickly spin out in surprising ways, and I don’t want to spoil anything for you.  However, if you enjoy heist stories, this is a book you will enjoy.  With all the characters in place, there are more action and twists as Laurel and Jack work toward figuring out what is really going on so they can stop it.  I didn’t feel like the plot of this book was quite as fast paced as the earlier books in the series, but that’s a minor complaint overall.  Along the way, we get some answers to bigger mysteries while still leaving plenty to be resolved in the final book in the series.

Meanwhile, the characters continue to grow and evolve.  They have always had many layers, and I enjoy getting to know them better in each book.  I will admit to growing tired of Laurel’s basic conflict with Jack.  There seems to be some softening on both sides with that, so hopefully we are moving past it at this point.

And we get to travel as well.  More of this book takes place in London than in some of the others, but we do still head over to the continent at some point.  In a year where we can’t travel, it is a joy to journey via this book, and every location comes to vivid life for us.

If you’ve been reading this series, you’ll definitely enjoy your time reading Fatal Forgeries.  If you are new to the Bodies of Art mysteries, I will once again warn you to start at the beginning.  But once you’ve done that, you’ll be reading this book before you know it.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Bodies of Art Mysteries.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Movie Review: Princess Protection Program

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun movie
Cons: Predictable
The Bottom Line:
Princess in danger
Hides in Louisiana
Predictable fun

“A Normal Dad Would Go to a Foreign Country on a Secret Mission and Bring His Daughter a T-Shirt Not a Person.”

I remember being surprised at how popular Princess Protection Program was when it premiered on The Disney Channel back in 2009.  This made for TV movie starred a couple of the Disney Channel stars of the day, which certainly helped.  I was always curious about it but never got around to watching it until they reaired it a couple years ago.  Only how late to the party?  While it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, I certainly enjoyed it.

As the movie opens, we meet Carter (Selena Gomez), a typical teenager living in Louisiana.  Her father has a not-so-typical job, however.  Joe Mason (Tom Verica) is part of the Princess Protection Program, a top secret organization that helps princesses in need.

That’s how he winds up in a small unknown country in time for a takeover.  He sneaks Princess Rosalinda (Demi Lovato) out of her country, and he winds up bringing her home, where she will pose as Rosie, Carter’s cousin, until the danger passes.

To say the two are opposites is an understatement, and they don’t seem capable of getting along.  Will Rosalinda find a way to fit in at school?  What will the two learn from each other?  And what will happen in Rosalinda’s home country?

Let’s be honest, knowing this is a Disney Channel movie, you can probably predict most of the plot points in this movie right now.  There are a few surprises as to details, but the big pieces are all obvious right away.  But there’s nothing wrong with that because the formula works.  It could be more fun, but it was entertaining enough to keep my attention.  Likewise, the characters aren’t original, but they work for the story and the actors do a good job of bring them to life.

I can see this movie appealing most of pre-teen girls who are still in love with all things princess.  That’s the biggest fantasy about all of this.  The idea that a princess could land in your life and become your friend is fun even if you know it would never really happen.

Of course, part of the popularity originally came from the two lead actresses, who were hot Disney Channel stars at the time.  The movie won’t be quite as popular today just because the actresses aren’t as big as they were then, but those in the target audience looking for a fun movie will still enjoy it.

And that’s what Princess Protection Program is – fun.  For adults it’s mostly forgettable, but for girls this will be a movie they will enjoy watching.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Book Review: Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay (Library Lover's Mysteries #8)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters, laughs, cameos
Cons: Pacing of the mystery
The Bottom Line:
Fundraising murder
Book that features cameos
Delightful for fans

Cameos and Murder

One of my local libraries has had author events that included dinner in the library after hours for the guests.  I got a thrill out of that the two times I was able to go.  I couldn’t help but think of those events while reading Death in the Stacks.

As the book opens, Lindsey Norris and the rest of the staff at the Briar Creek Public Library are preparing for the annual Dinner in the Stacks.  Unlike the events I just mentioned, this one is a fundraiser for the library and includes dancing and an auction.  However, the event this year is running into snags in the form of Olive Boyle, the new president of the library board.

Olive is used to throwing her weight around and having her demands met.  She also collects secrets and uses them to get her way with people.  Not only is she trying to make over the Dinner in the Stacks event, but she is also trying to get one of the librarians fired, taking Lindsey out as well.

As the event is winding down, Olive’s body is discovered in the middle of the fiction section.  With Lindsey and the rest of the staff on the suspect list, Lindsey finds her resolve to stop investigating crime wavering.  But with everyone Olive ever met as a suspect, can Lindsey find the truth?

The book takes a bit of time setting up the crime, and in that time, we learn to loath Olive as much as the characters do.  Even once she dies, I felt like the pacing was a bit off.  However, there is an excellent mystery here with some fantastic twists and a surprising climax.

But the characters are really the stars of this book.  Since this is book eight, that’s not necessarily a problem for the series’ fans.  After all, we wouldn’t still be reading the series if we didn’t love the characters.  Still, some of their antics took over at times.  On the other hand, we got some fantastic character development here.  Expected character development at times, but still stuff that series fans will love.

And I can’t leave out the biggest Easter egg for fans of all three of Jenn McKinlay’s series.  The characters from both her Cupcake Bakery and Hat Shop series show up in this book.  They don’t take over, but they do each have a few scenes, and those scenes are enough to make those who are fans of the series smile.  If you haven’t read those series yet, you won’t get a few jokes, but you won’t be too lost since Lindsey doesn’t know the characters either.  Also, if you want to know why we got the time jump in the newest Hat Shop book, this book will explain why it had to happen.

I’ve mentioned antics and jokes a couple of times now.  Like the others in the series, this book will make you laugh.  And the more you know the characters, the more of the humor you will get.

In the way of extras at the end, this book has discussion questions for one of the books the Crafternoon book club is discussing in the novel as well as directions for a craft project and three recipes.

While the pacing could have been better, the laughs and the cameos from Jenn’s other series make Death in the Stacks another winner for me.  This one was written for fans, and they will love every page.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Library Lover’s Mysteries.

Monday, September 14, 2020

TV Show Review: The Love Boat - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Light, fun romantic comedies
Cons: 70’s cheese and production issues; shallow view of love
The Bottom Line:
Come aboard and cruise
You might even find your love
70’s light fun  

Love on the High Seas

Over the years, I know I’ve seen the random rerun episode of The Love Boat.  Recently, I decided that I needed to at least watch the first season of the show.  It’s definitely a 70’s TV show, but if you are in the mood for that, you’ll find that you enjoy it.

The show takes place on the Pacific Princess cruise ship owned by Princess Cruises.  It follows five crew members as they interact with the guests on various cruises.  Those crew members?  You’ve got Captain Stubing (Gavin MacLeod), Doctor Adam Bricker (Bernie Kopell), Bartender Isaac Washington (Ted Lange), Purser “Gopher” Smith (Fred Grandy), and Cruise Director Julie McCoy (Lauren Tewes).

The typical episode includes three storylines that weave in and out of each other, rarely interacting for more than a scene or two if that.  And what kind of storylines do we have?  A centerfold on board the ship is trying to hide old nude photos that have recently been published in a magazine.  A man disguises himself as a woman to take the only available cabin so he can woo the girl of his dreams.  An advice columnist is spending her working vacation doing nothing but work, ignoring her husband.  The musical entertainment on one cruise is a divorced couple who can’t stand each other.  A gang of thieves come on board after a rare and expensive diamond.  An inspector for the cruise line is on board, and none of the crew and figure out who it is.  And a woman is certain her husband plans to murder her while on the cruise.

With all the storylines on board the first season, only one stands out in my mind as particularly serious.  Most of the time, the stories would easily fit into a romantic comedy movie.  They aren’t anything too deep, and the ending is obvious early on even if the particular plots points along the way aren’t.  Still, it is fun watching to see just how the characters will end each episode.

I mentioned that this was a 1970’s show.  If the storylines don’t help give it away, the laugh track will.  Yes, this may be an hour-long show, but it has a canned laugh track.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy studio audience laughter when it is recorded during the filming of a sitcom, but I find canned laughter to be a bit annoying.  I would have been fine without it, but it’s a minor issue for me.

Another staple of the 70’s production is the lack of any attempts at continuity.  Most episodes feature at least one of the crew falling for a passenger on board the ship for that cruise.  Other times, their love is joining them for a cruise.  Yet then a couple episodes later (if not the next episode), they are falling madly in love with someone else.  Watching these episodes over the course of about six weeks, that stood out more than it would have watching the episodes spread out over many months.

Additionally, the guest stars sometimes show up in more than one episode playing a completely different character.  This is definitely the era where the slate is wiped clean at the end of every episode.

But speaking of guest stars, I was impressed with just how many of them I recognized over the course of the season.  Each episode included at least one person I knew from somewhere else, and many of them were involved in their own hit shows already while this show was being filmed.  I would expect a show to draw names like this once it had proved to be popular, but this was happening from the very beginning.  Okay, so most of the names would only be familiar to you if you liked other 1970’s shows, but if you do, you’ll be impressed.  If you don’t, then you should probably skip this show to begin with.  The acting from everyone, guest stars and main cast alike, has a certain level of 1970’s cheese to it, but if you know that going in, you’ll be fine.

While I’ve mainly pointed out the drawbacks to the show, I have to say it is light and fun.  There’s a reason I referenced a romantic comedy earlier.  If you are looking for something to relax and destress you while leaving a smile of you face, this show will do just that.

Of course, like many romantic comedies, the show presents a rather superficial view of love.  People seem to fall completely in love with complete strangers after just a few days.  I was also surprised to find that people are obviously sleeping together even though they aren’t married.  I guess I didn’t realize standards had changed that much on TV in the late 1970’s.  Oh, we never see any more than a kiss, but it is obvious what has happened off screen.

Season 1 consisted of 25 episodes.  They were released on DVD in two different sets.  There was also a made for TV movie that introduces these characters, and it is included…on the first disc of set two.  Yeah, doesn’t make any sense to me either.  The movie must have aired over 90 minutes with commercials because it is only about twenty minutes longer than a typical episode.  The only other extra is the original promotion for each episode.

If you are looking for light entertainment, you will enjoy The Love Boat’s first season.  Just keep in mind the time period and you’ll fall in love with the show and the characters.  How much did I enjoy it?  I’m considering trying to find more episodes to watch.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Disney Pin Review: Hercules - Windows of Magic - 2019 Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good pin for a rarely done character
Cons: Something off about his face
The Bottom Line:
Hercules window
Rarer character appears
But looks slightly off

This Pin is Almost Heroic

Disney’s Windows of Magic pin series allowed them to highlight some characters they don’t normally honor with pins.  One of those is Hercules.  Despite the fact that the movie was fairly popular when it came out, I don’t have very many pins featuring the characters, so I was glad to add this pin to my collection.

Each pin in the series features a faux stained-glass window featuring a different Disney hero or heroine.  As is usually the case, Hercules takes up most of the window.  He’s got some lightning bolts in the sky behind him.  The bottom third of the pin features Pegasus, his flying horse.  The frame has his emblem at the very top, and them some designs from the movie leading into Greek columns.

I’m always a bit surprised at just what elements of the movie make it into one of these windows.  In this case, I’m surprised that Phil, his satyr trainer, isn’t here.  Since many of the princes didn’t make it into the princess windows of magic, I’m not as surprised that Meg isn’t here.

What I find disappointing is how the characters we do get look.  Pegasus is more suggestion at the bottom than really represented, which is okay since some of the other supporting characters in these pins have been impressionistic.  But Hercules doesn’t look quite right.  There’s something off about his face.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is especially noticeable when you first book at the pin.

Even so, this is a good pin or a rarely seen characters.  If you are a fan of Hercules, you’ll be happy to add this pin to your collection.

If you'd like to see the pin, check out the pictures on my Instagram account.

Disney Pin Review: Hades - Windows of Evil - 2018 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Captures Hades and some mythological characters
Cons: Pain and Panic would have been a fun addition to the pin
The Bottom Line:
Come and meet Hades
Dark window represents him
Good series entry

This Hades Pin is Actually Quite Pleasant

Greek Mythology came to life when Disney took on Hercules in the 1990’s.  The film may not have been quite as enduring as some of the early ones from the decade, but it did give us a memorable villain in Hades, the subject of this Windows of Evil.

As with the rest of the series, each pin depicts a different villain as captured by a faux stained-glass window.  Hades’ face is front and center, with his eyes glowing yellow.  Coming out of his head are the blue flames he has for hair.  Around him are some of his various creatures.  To the left is an outline that suggests his hell hound.  Then there’s the hydra on the right-hand side.  Finally, down at the bottom, is the boatman who ferries souls across the river.  We can even see the green river.

I mentioned the green river because that is one of the few parts of color in this pin.  Most of it is dark, blues and purples and blacks.  That fits the character and where he lives, so I get why they did that.

The window’s frame features a stylized skull at the very top and some flames around the sides.  Again, it is in keeping perfectly with Hades.

I think my biggest surprise with this pin is that they don’t include the main henchmen from the movie – Pain and Panic.  I realize that they were created for the Disney movie, but that would have been a bigger reason to include them in this pin over the creatures from mythology that didn’t play big parts in this movie.

That’s a minor complaint, however.  Overall, this is a great pin for what is a rather fun villain.  Yes, Hades is pure evil, but he is so fun in the movie, I find I rather enjoy him – at least how he was portrayed there.

So if you also like Hades, you’ll want to track down this Windows of Evil pin.  It will make a great addition to your collection.

If you'd like to see the pin, check out the pictures on my Instagram account.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

September 12th's Weekly TV Thoughts

I might have been binge watching (or as close am I come) to a show (watch for the review in October), so the fact that this was a light week for TV was nice.  Here's what I watched that premiered this week.

American Ninja Warrior – I get the shorter season, especially since they aren’t starting until September.  But I’m not sure how I feel about so few people moving on each week.  I like the normal levels, and it seems like a lot of good Ninjas will not be moving on.  However, I do like to see some rookies complete the course and another person hit the buzzer for the first time.  And that’s why I always love watching this show.

Tell Me a Story – This show has definitely become a thriller.  My heart was pounding during the final act.  So many characters in so much trouble.  And that twist at the very end?  Where are they going to go with that?  I’m also still wondering how they are going to bring all these stories together in the end.  Show is still very dark.  Debating if I will go back for season 2, but I have to finish out this season to find out what happens.

Holey Moley – With how they built up that final hole, I’ve got to admit, I was a bit underwhelmed at first.  However, when I realized you had to make a hole in one, I got more interested again.  I don’t know that I would have ever gotten close given 50 tries, so my hat is off to all of them.  Oh, and the clown hole?  Why did they wait until tonight to premier that one?  I’m surprised they had two new holes tonight, but that one would have been fun to watch all season.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Book Review: Death on Demand by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Annie, Max, setting, mystery
Cons: Suspects could have been stronger overall, foul language
The Bottom Line:
Mystery bookstore
Is setting for mystery
Popular series

Crime Writer Murdered

Over the years, I’ve read some of Carolyn Hart’s books, but I have never read any of her most popular series, which also happens to be a popular cozy series in general.  I decided it was time I fixed that by going back to the beginning with Death on Demand.

This book introduces us to Broward’s Rock, an island off the coast of South Carolina.  Annie Lawrence has just inherited Death on Demand, a mystery bookshop on the island, from her uncle.  A group of mystery writers have been meeting there every Sunday night, and Annie gladly continues to welcome them to the store.

However, this particular Sunday things don’t go well.  Last week, Elliot Morgan, one of the authors, teased that he was going to spill secrets about everyone else in the group.  This week, someone kills him during the meeting before he can do that, and Annie lands in the position of chief suspect.  Maybe it’s a good thing that her not-quite-ex, Max Darling, has arrived on the island.  Can they solve the crime together?

This series is best known for the many, many references to other authors and detectives that are worked into each book.  This book sold me right away when the first literary reference was to Mrs. Pollifax.  As a huge fan of that series, I couldn’t help but smile.  Yes, a few times the references did seem to get out of hand, but for the most part I enjoyed them.

The mystery itself is quite a puzzle.  Not only does Annie need to figure out who done it, but she needs to figure out how done it.  Both of those puzzles kept me engaged and the solution was satisfying.

The suspects could have been a bit stronger.  Honestly, I had a bit of a hard time keeping them straight early on.  While that did get better as the book progressed, they were never fully fleshed out.

On the other hand, I loved Annie and Max.  They are great characters individually, and together they are fantastic.  With them as the lead characters, it’s easy to see why this series has been so popular.

The setting helps, too.  After all, what mystery lover isn’t going to want to read a book with so much talk about other mysteries.  It’s great.  And, while I tend to picture Broward’s Rock as, well, a rock, the actual island sounds like a fantastic vacation location.  I’d visit in real life if I could, so I look forward to escaping into more books in the series.

This book originally came out in 1987.  As you’d expect, elements of it are a little dated now since technology has advanced so much.  Adjust your expectations accordingly, and you’ll be fine.

There are more swear words of just about every variety than in a typical cozy.  I do wish that element had been left out.

I listened to the audio version narrated by Kate Reading.  She did a great job at making the story and characters come to life for us.

Now that I’ve finally entered Death on Demand, you can bet I will revisit this store.  I can't wait to see where Annie and Max go from this strong debut.

Plot your return visit with the rest of the Death on Demand series.

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

September 11th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

 Welcome to Friday once again and this week's Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring Fatal Forgeries by Ritter Ames.

This is the fourth book in a series, and it is a lot of fun.  You definitely need to read the series in order, but you won't be disappointed.

Here's how the book begins:

The mid-January air was cold enough that I saw my breath, but I was too focused on my task to feel chilled.

Meanwhile, over on page 56, we find:

"Oh, my nerves are shot."  She slid up to sit on the table.  "We are walking such a fine line here telling Max as little as we have."

I finished this one up earlier in the week, and I enjoyed it.  I hope you'll come back for my review next Thursday.

In the mean time, enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Book Review: Murder Most Sweet by Laura Jensen Walker (Bookish Baker Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Great setting and characters
Cons: Mystery was weak
The Bottom Line:
Author as suspect
With fantastic characters
Plot could be stronger

Sweet and Light, but Could be Stronger

When I stumbled upon Murder Most Sweet, I was hopeful I’d found the first in a delightful new series.  After all, I do love culinary themed cozies, and I also enjoy the literary themed cozies I’ve read, so a combination of the two seemed like it would be right up my ally.  Sadly, it wasn’t as strong as I had hoped.

After surviving breast cancer five years ago, Teddie St. John made a choice to pursue her passions.  One of those has led her to writing a culinary cozy mystery series, combining her loves of mysteries and baking.  It has a modest following, and Teddie is quite happy writing about her character’s latest adventures.

One of Teddie’s best friends owns the bookstore in the small town of Lake Potawatomi, Wisconsin, and she has scored an appearance by bestselling author Tavish Bentley.  Teddie is looking forward to the event and isn’t surprised to find that it brings in not only locals but also a crowd from all over Wisconsin.  However, the event ends with tragedy when Teddie finds Tavish’s fiancée strangled in the ally next to the store.  Worse yet, the murder weapon is one of Teddie’s scarfs.  Teddie doesn’t like finding herself cast in the role of suspect, so she sets about trying to figure out what really happened.  Can she do it?

The book starts out well, introducing us to a few characters before Teddie finds the dead body.  I was quite intrigued about who might have committed the murder.  However, the plot didn’t keep up that level of intrigue the entire way through, which lead to a weak climax.

The characters will certainly entertain you as you read the book.  I love Teddie, and her two best friends are also great.  Her love interest is also a fun character, and I couldn’t help but root for them.  Her mother annoyed me at times, but I am hopeful their relationship will grow as the series progresses.  The suspects are also memorable and stand out from each other.

As a guy, I found some of the discussions about the aftermath of Teddie’s breast cancer a bit much.  But that’s a personal thing that I’m sure others won’t have an issue with at all.

If you love sweets, you are in for a treat here.  Since the book is set in Wisconsin, it features some Norwegian and Danish goodies, and there are a total of six recipes at the end to enjoy after you’ve finished reading the book.  They all sound mouth wateringly good.

Those who love a small-town setting and great character relationships will enjoy Murder Most Sweet.  I enjoyed those things, but I do wish the mystery were stronger.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.