Friday, May 14, 2021

Book Review: "S" is for Silence by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #19)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Excellent mystery and sharp characters
Cons: Needlessly graphic sex scenes
The Bottom Line:
A missing woman
Excellent cold case story
But graphic content

Kinsey Tries to Solve a Very Cold Case

There is something fascinating about cold cases.  We can’t help but wonder what exactly happened all those years ago, and why the answers were never discovered.  When authors tap into that curiosity well, the result is something like “S” is for Silence, which is a great entry in Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series.

On July 4, 1953, Victoria Sullivan vanished without a trace and was never heard from again.  Her abusive husband lived under the shadow of suspicion, and her then seven-year-old daughter, Daisy, has lived with the questions about what happened to her mother and why.  And so, thirty-four years later, she hires PI Kinsey Millhone to try to finally solve this mystery.  Kinsey is reluctant to take on the case.  After all this time, what can she find?  Yet, as she begins to poke around, she suspects that the people she is talking to know more than they’ve ever told the police or are telling her.  Can she figure out what happened?

This book deviates from the normal books in the series because it includes multiple points of view.  While all the of the “modern” 1987 story is still narrated from Kinsey’s first-person point of view, we get chapters from the various players in 1953 written in limited third-person point of view.  It was a nice change for the series and really worked well for this book.

The story itself is strong as always.  Naturally, we know Kinsey is going to figure out what happened (how boring would the book be if Kinsey didn’t solve the cold case?), but each clue Kinsey discovers uncovers another tantalizing secret.  I was caught up in the story.  The climax was extremely creative and suspenseful while wrapping things up satisfactorily for me.  I was completely surprised by who the villain turned out to be, too.  I had someone else pegged.  I do wish we’d learned a bit more about some of the other supporting players and what happened to them after the case was solved, but that’s a minor point.

And that is a testament to how strong the characters are.  As I read these books, I am always in awe at how Sue Grafton is able to create characters in just a few words.  They pop into the book fully formed.  Even though who just have a scene or two are alive and memorable.

This book mostly takes place in Santa Maria.  We have a few scenes in Kinsey’s native Santa Teresa, but the recurring characters pretty much just get cameos.  That’s a disappointment, but again, a minor one.

My issue with this book is the content.  As enlightening as the 1953 flashbacks can be, they also contain some explicit sex.  It is established early on that Victoria is not faithful to her husband.  Unfortunately, we find out more about that in much more detail than I needed as the book progresses.  If that had been left out, I would have easily given this book a solid 5 stars.  Yes, I’ve read other books with sex in them, but trust me, this went further than those books did.  And we could have easily gotten the point with much less.

I’m still listening to the audio books, and once again Judy Kaye was the narrator.  She does a fabulous job of bringing Kinsey and the characters to life without intruding on the story.  And yes, that does mean I’ve fully made the transition to her as the narrator for the series.

It’s a shame that the book contains those needless scenes because the plot is excellent.  I still recommend “S” is for Silence for series fans, but be prepared to skim some of the scenes when you get to them.

Enjoy the rest of the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Book Review: A Trail of Lies by Kylie Logan (Jazz Ramsey #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, excellent mystery
Cons: Listing any cons would be a lie
The Bottom Line:
Helping boyfriend’s mom
Was there body in backyard?
Excellent again

Tracking the Truth

The first two books in Kylie Logan’s Jazz Ramsey series have made my favorite books of the year list, so I was looking forward to A Trail of Lies, the third in the series.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Jazz Ramsey is back on with her boyfriend, Nick, and the last few months have been wonderful.  However, he is away now on a top secret and dangerous assignment for the police.  Which is why Kim, Nick’s mother, calls Jazz in the middle of the night.  Kim has spent her entire life as an alcoholic, and Jazz tries to have as little to do with her as possible.  However, Kim is upset, claiming that she’s killed a man in her backyard.

Naturally, Jazz rushes over, only to find that there is no body.  Jazz brings in a couple of the cadaver dogs she works with and gets mixed results on whether there has ever been a dead body in the backyard.  Then a dead body does appear in a park, and Kim suddenly stops talking.  With Nick in and out, Jazz needs to figure out what is going on with Kim.  Can she cut through the lies and Kim’s drunken haze to figure out what is really going on?

Before I started this series, I knew Kylie Logan for her fun cozies.  This series is more of a traditional series.  While the violence is still kept to a minimum, there are a handful of foul words.  Most importantly, the tone is more serious than her cozies.  On the other hand, since Jazz’s hobby is training dogs, there is still plenty of animal cuteness.  And her job working at a Catholic all girl’s school helps keep the tone from getting too dark.

Kim’s alcoholism is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.  It is treated realistically.  We see it from Jazz’s point of view, who is only dealing with Kim because of her relationship with Nick, but as the book progresses, we get to know Kim better, and we see how it has impacted Nick over the years.  It’s ironic that Nick gets so much character development here since this is probably the least amount of time he’s had in a book in the series to date.  And yet it works wonderfully.  But again, this isn’t a dark, depressing book.  How can it be when Jazz has a new puppy she is training to make us smile regularly.

The characters are wonderful.  Jazz is a realistic main character who I love spending time with.  You can’t help but root for her to figure out what is happening.  She’s surrounded by family and friends who help round out her character and get brief moments to shine themselves.

And the mystery is strong.  Kim’s drunken haze makes us wonder what exactly she saw from the very beginning, and as Jazz investigates, the questions only grow.  Yet things come together for a logical climax.

A Trail of Lies is another excellent novel from Kylie Logan.  The rich characters and compelling mystery will keep you turning pages and leave you anxious to visit Jazz again as soon as possible.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Movie Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong tribute to a kind, caring man
Cons: Beginning is a bit rough
The Bottom Line:
A loving tribute
To Mr. Rogers the man
Will warm many hearts

A Beautiful Story About Everyone’s Favorite Neighbor

Being the Mr. Rogers fan I am, I was intrigued when I heard about A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, until I learned it wasn’t a biography movie of Fred Rogers.  Still, I heard enough good things about it that I had to see it eventually, and I’m really glad I did.

The movie is really the story of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a journalist who is assigned a quick article about Fred Rogers.  It’s just supposed to be 400 words, part of a larger story about American heroes.  Lloyd is generally known for digging up dirt on anyone he profiles, so it is a bit of a surprise when Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) agrees to meet with him.  The interview doesn’t go quite as Lloyd envisioned and Mr. Rogers spends more time asking about Lloyd than Lloyd does asking about Mr. Rogers.

However, that one interview leads to more encounters and Mr. Rogers keeps reaching out to him.  And the timing couldn’t be better as Lloyd’s estranged father (Chris Cooper) is trying to come back into his life, causing issues with Lloyd’s relationship with his sister (Tammy Blanchard) and wife (Susan Kelechi Watson).  How will his relationships be changed by everything?

This is one of those movies inspired by true events.  I do know the writer who was the inspiration for the movie had a different name, and some of the events early in the movie didn’t happen.  So who knows how much of this is real vs. fictional.  As a result, I’m taking the “true events” part with several grains of salt.

Having said that, the story presented here is very good.  Emotionally, it satisfies without feeling manipulative or maudlin, which it easily could have been.  The beginning was a little rough, and I wasn’t sure about it, but as the movie went along, I got more into the story.

The one thing the movie gets perfect for me is Mr. Rogers.  As much as it sounds like they dramatized parts of the story, I can easily picture him behaving the way he did in this movie.  He is kind and compassionate and wanting to help.  That sounds like Mr. Rogers, right?  I love that picture of him.

Plus it was fun to see quasi-behind the scenes of the show.  I really enjoyed those scenes, including some scenes in the Neighborhood of Make Believe.  Let’s admit it, we always watched the show for those segments, right?  There are other nods to the show that made me smile.

The acting was uniformly good.  I’ll admit I had a hard time looking past Tom Hanks to see Mr. Rogers, but that’s probably more me than his acting as there was nothing wrong with his performance.  Everyone else helped keep the tone of the movie perfect and pull us into the film.

In the end, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a loving tribute to a man those of us who grew up with him still look up to.  And that makes me very glad I watched it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Book Review: Death by Equine by Annette Dashofy

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and characters in a fun setting
Cons: Uneven start; police not believing Jessie
The Bottom Line:
Dead vet at the track
A compelling mystery
For fans old and new

Tragic Accident or Murder?

With all the murder mysteries I read, I always enjoy it when an author comes up with a new murder method.  That’s definitely the case in Annette Dashofy’s stand-alone Death by Equine.  Yes, as the title suggests, the murder weapon this time around is a horse.

Veterinarian Jessie Cameron has agreed to fill in for her mentor, Doc Lewis, at Riverview Racetrack so Doc can take a much-deserved two-week vacation.  However, the night before Doc is supposed to leave, he is killed by one of the horses at the track.  Jessie’s work at the track makes her begin to question the supposed accident that killed Doc.  Could there be more to it than the police are seeing?  The more Jessie investigates, the more she begins to see her mentor in a different light.  Did she really know the man?  What secret she is uncovering led to his death?

If you’ve read any of Annette’s Zoe Chambers mysteries, it’s obvious how much she loves horses, so this setting for the mystery isn’t a big surprise at all.  I am not a horse or a horse racing enthusiast, but I enjoyed learning more about that world as the mystery unfolded.

I did feel that the book took a little while to get going, or maybe it’s just the impatience of knowing that Doc was murdered (or we wouldn’t have a book) before Jessie got there.  I’m probably just being overly picky here, especially since Jessie uncovers plenty of secrets and motives before the story ends and I was hooked for most of the book.  The climax is wonderfully suspenseful and kept me turning pages.

While cops not believing the main character is a trope of the amateur detective novel, I did roll my eyes a few times at the police here.  The evidence that Jessie was uncovering and the events that were happening seemed very obviously connected to a murder.  Then again, it gave Jessie motive to continue investigating Doc’s death.

The characters were wonderful, which is no surprise to anyone familiar with Annette Dashofy’s other books.  She always creates strong characters.  Not only does this help us love Jessie, but it means that the suspects keep us from figuring out what exactly is going on.

If you are already a fan of Annette’s books, you pretty much know what to expect here content wise.  There is a smattering of foul language and the opening chapter is a tad more violent than a cozy would be.  However, that is in keeping with her other books.  I’ve described her other books as cozy adjacent and traditional, and that’s the case again here.

Death by Equine is a fun novel.  Fans of Annette Dashofy will enjoy it, and if you have been meaning to read one of her books, this is a great place to jump in.  You’ll find herself a new fan of this author by the time you are done.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Ornament Review: Boat Builders - Mickey's Movie Mousterpieces #9 - 2020 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Captures a moment from a fun short
Cons: Not super steady on his feet
The Bottom Line:
Mickey’s built a boat
Now he’s ready to set sail
Fun piece for fun short

A Salute to This Ornament

One thing I’ve enjoyed about the Mickey’s Movie Mousterpieces series is the excuse to go back and revisit the Mickey shorts highlighted.  After all, I need to watch them to fully appreciate the ornament, right?  While “Boat Builders” might not be one that immediately springs to mind as a Mickey Mouse classic, it really is a lot of fun, and this ornament is fantastic.

The short premiered in 1938, and it features Mickey, Donald, and Goofy deciding to make a boat from a kit.  As you can imagine, the usual hilarity ensues, but the trio manage to get it put together only to have disaster strike as they try to launch it for the first time.

This ornament comes from the end of the short as Mickey gets all dressed up for the big launch.  Instead of his normal outfit, she’s wearing a blue admiral’s coat and a fancy red hat with white feathers.  He’s raised one hand in salute.  It’s a great pose and one that will be easy to identify even if you haven’t watched the short recently.

Mickey has his back arched as he gives the salute.  Despite that, he is still perfectly balanced and will hang straight on your tree.  While he will stand on his feet, he isn’t super steady.  I suspect it is because of the pose.  If you are going to set this ornament out, be sure it isn’t a surface that will be bumped regularly, and you should be fine.

You’ll find the 9 in a Christmas tree series marker on the bottom of one of his feet.

Since Mickey’s shorts are historic for so many reasons, I’ve enjoyed the Mickey’s Movie Mousterpieces series.  Boat Builders is another excellent addition to the series.

Be sure to view the rest of Mickey’s Movie Mousterpieces.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Book Review: While the Clock Ticked by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #11)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fast paced and fun
Cons: Weak characters
The Bottom Line:
A locked room puzzle
Hardys face lots of danger
A fun diversion

Can Frank and Joe Solve the Case Before Time Runs Out?

When I first looked over the list of Hardy Boys titles as a kid, While the Clock Ticked was one of them that stood out to me.  I knew I had to read it.  I enjoyed it as a kid, and I’m glad to say it is still fun as an adult.

When a man comes to the Hardy home, Frank and Joe are only too happy to offer their detective services in place of their vacationing father.  The man just bought a home, and he is receiving threatening notes inside a secret room.  Not only does he worry about who is threatening him and why, he is also puzzled by how the notes are getting into the secret room, which only opens on a timer.  Meanwhile, the Bayport harbor is being plagued by thieves.  Can the Hardy Boys figure out what is happening?

If you are at all familiar with these books, you can probably guess at least part of what is going on.  But that’s not an issue.  There is plenty of action to keep the reader engaged along the way.  After all, the Hardys have to face the usual assortment of close calls and near-death experiences before they can solve the case.  We’d be disappointed if they didn’t.  The locked room element of the case makes for a great puzzle that is hard to solve without the Hardys’ help.

As an adult, I can see how the characters are pretty thin.  But as a kid, they seemed real to me.  And I still get caught up in that childhood nostalgia when I pick up the book.  They are real enough to make me worry about them even as I know they will be fine.  There are plenty more books after this one after all.

There are some dated references, which isn’t surprising for a book revised in the 1960’s.  I only caught one or two here, and I bet most kids won’t be bothered by them at all.

While the Clock Ticked is still a fun book that will keep kids of all ages engaged.  It’s not a great read, but it is a pleasant diversion.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

May 8th's Weekly TV Thoughts

 The Equalizer – Great episode to come back to.  Dante’s reaction at the end seemed a bit strange to me.  I mean, thank you for saving my life wouldn’t be out of line.  But it sets up a great conflict for the next few episodes for sure.  Not sure how they will get out of that with the DA.  I am going with saving the girl was the most important thing, too.  But I wonder what happened to the mother.  Did she run off?  Or was she killed?  I guess we’ll never know.

Legends of Tomorrow – Gary is an alien?  Seriously?  I mean, I don’t like the character as it is, but this is just lazy writing.  You can’t tell me they had this in mind before this week.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  Meanwhile, we’ve got Sara lost in space with the rest of the Legends on earth.  Shades of Supergirl so far this season?  At least we are hunting aliens through time.  That should be better than the demons we’ve been after last season.

Ellen’s Game of Games – Fun games and contestants.  However, how can you not know that Disneyland is older than Disney World?  Then again, he got several I wouldn’t have know.

Batwoman – So does this mean Angelique is really gone this time?  Because I thought she’d been written out a time or two before this.  The highlight, as always, was Alice.  I was laughing so hard at her interactions with Batwoman.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist – I was laughing so hard at the scene before the race started.  I think I identified a bit too much with the excited racers.  Very interesting watching the relationships devolving on the show.  I hope they are going to revive some of them before the season is over, but it makes for great drama now.

The Flash – I knew they couldn’t have Killer Frost and Caitlin as two characters for too long.  Special effects can only go so far.  I never expected her to go to prison, especially for life.  I expected some kind of out – something different than that one, anyway.  Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of her.  Could have done it without the very thinly disguised political lecture, however.  But again, I have to admire Frost for wanting to do the right thing even if it cost her dearly.  That wasn’t the only gut punch either.  We’ve got Nora turning dark as well.  What is her deal?

Supergirl – Knowing that we weren’t getting Kara this episode might have helped some, but I didn’t hate this as much as I did the last episode.  I enjoyed the ending.  It still felt long and drawn out to get there, however.  And aliens were out of place still.  I hope they have this resolved before they take their mid-season break for several weeks.

United States of Al – I know I get on shows for preaching, but I actually did enjoy this episode.  And it felt like a natural extension of the show and what it is about.  Of course, they had to ruin the serious with that song at the end.

Wipeout – They had some of the best commentating early on in that episode during the first segment.  I was laughing more than I had at any of the other episodes so far.  Then they had two teams drop out later on.  I wonder why?  I mean, I know it does happen, but two in one episode is more than I would expect.  Was there something in particular happening when they filmed that?  Or was it just really bad luck?

Friday, May 7, 2021

Disney Pin Review: National Space Day - Celebrate Today #5 - 2020 Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Perfectly matched character to Space day
Cons: Stitch hiding part of Space
The Bottom Line:
Celebrating Space
Perfect Disney character
Marvel at expanse

This Pin is in the Final Frontier

Since there are so many fun national holidays, I have to wonder how Disney decided which ones to highlight for 2020’s Celebrate Today pin series.  However, I don’t have to wonder about how they matched the character to the pin for May.  I mean, who better to help us celebrate National Space Day than Stitch?

National Space Day is the first Friday of May.  The day is designed to celebrate the wonder of the universe around us.  Personally, I’d love to go out and look at stars that night.  I miss looking at stars.  It’s really hard to find a place that gets you away from light pollution these days, especially in Southern California.

As I said, this pin features Stitch, the space alien from Lilo and Stitch.  A perfect match, right?  The pin finds him in space in his full alien look.  He’s in his spaceship, which means we see him in a little bubble over a red round base.  Yes, it’s a cartoony space ship, not a more realistic looking one.  Behind him, we can see some stars in the blackness of space.  National Space Day is written behind him, although he is blocking part of Space.

What’s cool is that Stitch is a pin on pin – and he moves.  He slides up and down, to simulate weightlessness in space.  This is the only pin in the series to feature anything like that, and I appreciate the added thought that went into this pin.

In the lower right corner is the day for National Space Day in 2020 – May 1st.  Remember, it is the first Friday of May, so last year, it was celebrated on the 1st, but this year, it is being celebrated on May 7th.

I’m not the biggest Stitch fan, so this pin doesn’t appeal to me for that reason.  However, I really appreciate that they used him for this pin.  As I’ve been saying, it’s a perfect match.

So do something special today to celebrate the incredible universe around us.  And get this pin to remind you to celebrate it every year.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

May 7th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

We've made it to Friday!  That must mean it is time for Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring A Trail of Lies by Kylie Logan.

This is the third book in the Jazz Ramsey mystery series.  If you haven't been reading these book, you are missing out.

When I read the beginning of this book, I knew I had to feature it this week.

There is one truth that hold across countries, across cultures, across time: getting a phone call at two in the morning is sure to make blood race, breaths catch, heartbeats speed up.
Jazz Ramsey's sure did.

Isn't that a fantastic beginning?  

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

He sucked in a breath.  "The way I remember it, their breakup was ugly.  I can't believe she gave him the time of day.  She actually let him in?"

Did she let him him?  You'll have to read the book to find out.  It's official release day in Tuesday, and I will have a review up on Thursday of next week.

Book Review: For Batter or Worse by Jenn McKinlay (Cupcake Bakery Mysteries #13)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters, plot, fun
Cons: Too sweet to find any cons
The Bottom Line:
Joe and Mel’s wedding
Will it be sidelined by death?
Delicious and fun

A Baker’s Dozen of Delight

The ending of book twelve in the Cupcake Bakery series sent one of the series regulars off to a new adventure.  I had a feeling we hadn’t seen the last of the character, and For Batter or Worse proved me right since they were front and center for the action.

Yes, so far, I’ve been vague on purpose.  However, this is your final warning that I will be spoiling the events of the previous book as I move forward with this review.  If you aren’t up to date, stop now and know that fans of the series will be delighted with book thirteen.  If you are up to date or don’t care about series spoilers for previous books, keep reading for more details.

Mel Cooper is finally marrying Joe DeLaura.  Their wedding is just a couple of weeks away, and they are having their reception at the resort where their friend Oz is now working as a head pastry chef.  And Oz is baking the cake for their reception – more accurately, cupcakes, of course.

Mel and Angie, Mel’s best friend and soon to be sister-in-law, head out to the resort one day to go over wedding details, and pop in on Oz only to find Oz having a very public fight with the head chef.  When Mel is back out there with Joe a couple of days later, they find Oz kneeling over the dead body of the head chef.  Mel has too many things to do before the wedding, but with the finger of suspicion point to Oz as the killer, she adds one more thing to the list.  Besides, being at the resort to plan the wedding gives her a great in to gather information.  Can she find the truth before she walks down the aisle?

Not only does Oz drive the plot, but he gets plenty of time in the spotlight as well.  There’s some good character development for him.  Naturally, the rest of the crew is all present and accounted for.  They don’t all get tons of page time, but they are present enough to make fans of the series smile.

This isn’t the first wedding we’ve had in the series, and in the earlier wedding book, I’ll admit I did feel the wedding planning was taking over at times.  Not that I minded as a fan of the series.  That wasn’t the case here at all.  The mystery was always front and center.  The suspects were strong enough to confuse me, and I only began to suspect what was happening right before Mel figured it all out.

That’s not to say that the wedding gets short changed.  The final chapter is one that fans will absolutely love.

And fans will continue to enjoy all the hallmarks of the series.  I laughed quite a few times, and there are some fun movie quotes sprinkled throughout the book.  Plus, there are four cupcake recipes at the end.  Someday, I need to try some of them.

There is a reason this is book number thirteen in the series.  For Batter or Worse has all the hallmarks that make fans devour these books.  If you enjoy light, fun mysteries and have yet to pick up this series, do so today.

Craving more?  Here are the rest of the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

TV Show Review: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Action, effects, acting
Cons: Pacing, lectures
The Bottom Line:
Supporters team up
But story overly long
With bonus lectures

Disappointing Second Marvel Series

When Marvel first started announcing TV series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was the one that really caught my attention.  I really like both of those characters, so a series focused on the two of them would be great, right?  Sadly, I was very disappointed with the end result.

The show takes place in the post-Endgame world.  Both Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes (Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan) are trying to get back to some semblance of normal.  For Sam, that involves helping his sister with their family’s business when he isn’t out on missions as The Falcon.  For Bucky, that includes trying to make amends to the families of people he killed as The Winter Soldier.

The two are drawn back together when the government appoints John Walker (Wyatt Russell) as the new Captain America.  While neither one of them wanted to take on the mantle of their friend, they feel something is off about John.  Meanwhile, the Flag Smashers are gaining traction around the world.  This group desires to return things to the way they were during the five-year blip when all the countries of the Earth work together with no borders.  However, their methods are violent.  Can Sam and Bucky find a way to stop this radical group?  Will John Walker be a help or a hindrance?

There were a couple of issues with this miniseries.  The first is that it was a miniseries.  I think this would have made a great two-hour movie.  Instead, we got over five hours.  That means things were really drawn out.  I got bored as I was watching each episode because there was too much else, including too many sub-plots we truly didn’t care about, that distracted from the heart of the story.

Now, that isn’t to say that we didn’t have action in each episode.  The budget must have been pretty high because there were some pretty epic action scenes.  And the special effects were top notch as well.  The visuals were definitely appropriate for a big screen movie.

My other issue was the preaching.  In each episode, they took the opportunity to lecture us on race relations.  Maybe it is because of everything happening in the US right now, but it felt especially shoehorned in to this story.  In fairness, there were some times it was introduced that did feel organic and powerful.  But I was still rolling my eyes because the other instances made those moments feel cheaper than they should have.  And I do have to wonder how much of Sam’s big speech in the finale is true in our country today versus how we are made to feel about our country today thanks to media, like this show.

And this isn’t a knock on the acting.  The entire cast was fantastic.  I found them believable whether in a fight scene, interacting with special effects, playing the lighter moments, or the more dramatic moments.

As you’d expect, this show is setting up future movies.  In fact, it is very obvious when things end that we are going to have to remember what happened here at a later date.  I just don’t know how long we are going to have to wait to see what happens next to some of these characters.

Die hard Marvel fans were watching this show as it premiered.  I’ve heard mixed reactions to it, so I’m not the only one who felt this way.  If you haven’t seen it yet and are a big comics movie fan, you’ll be well served to check it out.  But if you are a casual fan, you can skip The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Book Review: Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala (Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mysteries #1)

: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, solid mystery
Cons: A few niggles, but nothing major
The Bottom Line:
Death of Lila’s ex
Book filled with delicious food
Be sure to get it

Murder of an Ex

Since I don’t have time to read every book that has ever been published (and do I wish I could), I pay attention to buzz from others on books that I might want to read.  I’d been hearing great things about Arsenic and Adobo, and I’m glad I picked it up.

Lila Macapagal is feeling like her life has turned into a romcom.  After a disastrous breakup with her fiancĂ©, she’s moved back to Shady Palms, Illinois, and is trying to help her aunt save her Filipino restaurant.  Heck, she even reconnected with her high school sweetheart, Derek Winter, briefly.

The problem is that Derek has become a jerk in the years since high school.  He’s also the local food critic, and he is notorious for nasty reviews, including several he has lobbied at Tita Rosie’s Kitchen.  Yet he comes back for me, which is why he is there eating yet again.  Then he drops over dead in his meal.  Now the police are looking at Lila as a murderer, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen is closed until further notice, and Lila feels like the only hope of a happy ending is figuring out what is going on herself.  With her life suddenly switching genres, can she keep up and keep herself out of jail?

This is a debut mystery, but it is very well done.  Lila finds a strong set of suspects and uncovered some interesting secrets and motives as she investigates.  While Derek dies very quickly, I like how he was fleshed out as the book unfolded.  I wouldn’t say we came to truly care for him, but he definitely wasn’t a one note victim.

Speaking of characters, Lila leads a strong cast.  She and her immediate family are wonderful, and I like the friends we meet as well.  The suspects stand out from each other, and I am hoping we see one or two of them again in the next book.  I will mention that a few of the supporting players were more of a pack than separate characters.  There are hints to their different personalities, but that’s all.  Then again, they are usually mentioned as a group, so it’s on purpose, and it really didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the mystery.

I especially appreciated Lila’s relationships with some of her friends.  Over the course of the book, she reconnects with several of them, and they felt real.

We’ve also got the beginnings of a love triangle here.  It added some laughs to a couple of scenes, although I hope it doesn’t drag on too long.

There are multiple themes weaving through the book, and I didn’t feel that all of them were full resolved.  Or maybe I just didn’t like how they were resolved.  I hope these are threads that are picked up on in future books.

I will say the climax was wonderful.  It was creative and suspenseful.

No surprise since this book centers around a restaurant, we get four recipes for Filipino food at the end of the book.  Considering how my mouth was watering as I read, that’s a good thing.

Arsenic and Adobo is the start of a delicious new culinary cozy series.  These characters already feel like old friends, and I can hardly wait to find out what happens to them next.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Ornament Review: Perfection - 2020 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great representation of this game
Cons: Nothing to mess with Perfection
The Bottom Line:
A time racing game
Captured for your Christmas tree
One word?  Perfection!

For Fans of the Game, This Ornament is Perfection

In addition to the official Family Game Night ornaments, Hallmark has been releasing unofficial companion pieces most years.  They additional ornaments often have a bit more to them that makes them extra special for fans of those games.  That’s the case again with Perfection.

If you aren’t familiar with this particular game, it featured 25 yellow plastic pieces you were trying to put into a grid.  Sounds like something easy for really young kids, right?  That’s because I have yet to mention that you have a one-minute timer, and when your time is up, the board pops up, scattering the pieces you’ve already put in (and making you jump).  At least you are supposed to have a minute.  The one I had growing up goes off at the 55 second mark just to make things extra challenging.

This ornament is a perfect replica of the game, or at least the game I had in the 80’s.  That means, there is a red box with a light blue game field.  As I already mentioned, the piece are yellow, and of the twenty-five pieces, seventeen of them are in place.

And here’s what makes the ornament so much fun.  The game board goes down when you press on it, and it will lock into place.  When you move the start/stop switch up at the top, the board will pop back out.  Don’t worry, the pieces stay in place, although three of them are designed to move a bit to simulate the pieces jumping out.

Like the original game, this one has a bit of a ridge to it, meaning it does rock a bit of you try to stand it up.  On the other hand, it will lay down nicely.  And, when you go to hang it on your tree, you’ll find that it hangs perfectly straight.

As a kid, I did practice and get very good at this game.  But I’ve lost the skill, as I learned recently.  Still, this was a game I had fun with as a kid.  You could find new ways to challenge yourself with it, and you were always only competing against yourself.  I remember it fondly, so I am so happy with how well the ornament has turned out.  I especially love the motion it has.  It’s those kind of added touches that are outstanding.

This doesn’t seem to be a common game in stores right now (or I just don’t think to look for it), so the audience for this ornament might be limited.  But those who remember it with fondness will find this ornament is Perfection.

Enjoy games?  Check out more of the Family Games Night ornaments.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

April 2021's Reading Summary

Welcome to May.  As I said yesterday, hard to believe we are here already.  But that's what the calendar says.

Anyway, time for this month's reading summary.  And yes, the index got updated this month.

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


The Chosen One by James Riley (The Revenge of Magic #5) – 4

The final fight is coming.  Fort Fitzgerald and his friends have one week until Damian has promised to return and unleash the Old Ones on the Earth.  Damian thinks he can defeat the Old Ones, but Fort believes that Damian will fail, unleashing the Old Ones on the Earth.  Fort thinks his only hope is to find a way to destroy magic once and for all.  But can he figure out how to do that in time?

This is the final book in the series, so if you haven’t read the earlier books, I definitely recommend you go back and start there.  If you don’t, you’ll have some pretty cool twists spoiled for you.  Fans will be happy with the story we get here.  I do feel the author took a bit too long in the first half, time that could have been cut without impacting the story overall.  But the second half is great, with the complications we’ve grown to expect from the series and a page turning climax.  All the characters we love show up again here, and I enjoyed the growth some of them got.  Fans of the series will be happy with how things are wrapped up.


Grand Theft Retro by Diane Vallere (Samantha Kidd #5) – 5

Samantha Kidd has finally landed a steady job working at an on-line fashion magazine.  But when her boss announces plans to release a print edition focused on fashion from the 1970’s, things turn mysterious quickly.  The collection of clothing that they planned to use for the magazine is stolen, and Samantha receives threats aimed at her and her friends.  Trying to keep everyone safe, she sets out alone to figure out what is going on.  Can she do it?

This book kept me off balance but in a good way.  There were so many twists and surprises that I never could quite figure out what was going on until I reached the end, when everything made perfect sense.  It also meant that I never wanted to put the book down.  Samantha is capable of carrying much of this book on her own, but the appearances from the regulars we do get are wonderful.  And we see some interesting growth in several of these relationships.  Some of her antics had me laughing along the way.  My lack of interest in fashion was once again no issue since that is the hook to get us into the story.  This is a delightful mystery filled with twists and turns that will keep you entertained.


The Tell-Tale Tarte by Maya Corrigan (Five-Ingredient Mysteries #4) – 4

A new year has started, and Val Deniston’s grandfather appears to be making some changes in his life.  He’s updated his look, including a new haircut and new outfit.  He claims it is for a new job he’s landed for his investigations business.  Then Val is on the scene when a man dies at a nearby shopping center – a man who looks just like Grandfather does now thanks to his new look.  The case soon points to Rick Usher, a local author who has made a career writing tales inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.  Is Grandfather the next target of the killer?  How does Rick play into the mystery?

I must confess, I know little about Poe (I feel like I should know more considering how much I love mysteries), but that wasn’t a hamper to enjoying this book.  Poe lore is certainly a big part of the inspiration of the story, and bits and pieces of his life weave their way into the book.  Even without that, we get a strong mystery with plenty of intrigue.  I did feel the ending was a little weak, but it did wrap everything up.  The characters are fun and continue to grow here.  I’m especially interested to see where some of those relationships go in the future.  We get six more five-ingredient recipes at the end.  Whether you are a fan of Poe or not, this book will keep you guessing until the end.


Cozy Up to Murder by Colin Conway (Cozy Up #2) – 4

Owen Hunter is new to Costa Buena, having just bought one of the local used music stores in town.  He’s hoping to blend in and settle into the coastal California community, however on his first day, he has several run ins with local citizens.  When one of them, the owner of the rival music store, turns up dead, Owen becomes the prime suspect.  He has to clean his name before his past comes out since he is in witness protection.  Can he find the truth without his real identity being revealed?

Since I enjoyed the first in the series, I wanted to see what happened to our hero next.  Owen is an intriguing main character, trying to put his past behind him and become a better citizen.  The rest of the cast is all new (except for a couple of supporting government agents).  They are a colorful lot, although they do fall into stereotypes at times.  The plot is intriguing, and I didn’t figure it out.  The book, especially the premise, stretches credibility quite a bit, but I find that Owen and the plot make up for that for me.  It helps that this is a quick read – I breezed through it in two days instead of my normal three.  Despite the flaws, I’m glad I picked this book up.


Bones to Pick by Linda Lovely (Brie Hooker Mysteries #1) – 4

Vegan chef Brie Hooker hadn’t planned to start working on her aunt Eva’s goat farm and dairy, but when Eva needs help, Brie is happy to step in.  That’s before a pot-bellied pig turns up bones – human bones.  The skeleton turns out to be Eva’s husband, who disappeared four decades ago.  There was no love lost between Eva and her husband, but Eva didn’t kill him.  However, he has too many relatives in the area who are willing to blame Eva, so Brie starts investigating, hoping to clear her aunt.  When another dead body turns up, Brie finds herself in trouble with the law as well.  Are the two dead bodies related?  Can she figure out what happened?

The characters drew me into this book right away; they are fully developed and fun.  Their teasing and Brie’s creative meat and cheese curses added a level of humor that I enjoyed.  The book was hard to put down with plenty of events to keep me engaged.  Unfortunately, I did feel that the events took the place of the investigation moving forward, which frustrated me.  However, the climax resolved things and upped the stakes in a major way.  This book is a bit edgy for my normal reads, on the border between PG and PG-13, thanks in part of the teasing Brie gets about her love life.  Yes, this book does introduce a love triangle.  While I am getting tired of them, I do like both of the guys here, so I hope it doesn’t get dragged out for very long.  Overall, I enjoyed this book.  If you enjoy humor in your mysteries, you’ll be glad you picked up this book.


The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly (Jack McEvoy #2) – 5

After a decade covering crime for The Los Angeles Times, Jack McEvoy has just gotten let go due to budget cuts.  He has two weeks left to train his replacement, but he also intends to use that time to write one last major story.  He thinks he’s found that story when he hears about Alonzo Winslow, a sixteen-year-old drug dealer in prison for a brutal murder he denies committing.  As Jack investigates, he once again crosses paths with FBI agent Rachel Walling.  Can the two of them figure out what is really going on?

I enjoyed Jack and Rachel’s first book, so I was glad to finally get to their second novel.  They make a great team, and their characters are as strong as ever.  The rest of the cast is just as great.  The mystery is full of twists and thrills, and I always had a hard time putting the book down.  The book did get a bit too far into the details a couple of times for my taste, but fortunately, those scenes didn’t last long.  I do wish that author Michael Connelly would figure out a way to set up his climatic set pieces without stopping the story to give us data dumps.  It’s always obvious when that happens, too.  It’s a minor issue, but still something that makes me rolls my eyes.  Overall, this is a strong thriller that kept me engaged until I reached the end.


Golden Gate by James Ponti (City Spies #2) – 5

As this book opens, Brooklyn and Sydney, two of the team of City Spies, are on board a ship for a week of marine biology targeted at young women.  While they certainly do appreciate the science they are getting, they are really there to covertly guard two of the other teens on the ship.  And it’s a good thing, too, when Umbra agents show up trying to kidnap the girls.  Meanwhile, there is a new lead on a mole inside MI-6 and a lead in a secret project for Mother, the spy in charge of all the City Spies.  Might it tie into the kidnapping?

Last year, I fell in love with these characters with the first book in the series, and I’m delighted to say that this book was just as good as the first one.  The story kept me engaged the entire way, and there were times I was turning pages as quickly as I could to find out what would happen next.  While all of the characters get their moments to shine, this is really Sydney’s book since she sees the most growth.  One thing I love is how much the characters care for each other, so we see them working through conflicts they have.  I might have even teared up a time or two as I read.  We also get plenty of laughs along the way.  I especially enjoyed the scenes in San Francisco since I recognized so many of the places they went.  Kids will love this book.  I know I’m already anxious to find out what happens next.


The Bounty by Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton (Fox and O’Hare #7) – 3

FBI Agent Kate O’Hare and semi-reformed thief and conman Nick Fox are on loan to Interpol to stop a theft at The Vatican.  Nick is shocked when he recognizes the thief – his father Quentin.  Quentin made it out of The Vatican with one part of a map that is supposed to show where stolen gold was hidden during World War II.  Who is he working for?  Is there gold?  Can Nick and Kate figure out what is going on?

This is an over-the-top book that would have made a perfect action movie.  You have to let go of logic and just enjoy the ride, and if you do, you’ll find that the book is fun.  The story can be a bit repetitive, but the set pieces (and there are several of them) are filled with creative, over-the-top action.  The characters are a little thin, and we really only have three returning characters, but they are developed enough to keep us engaged.  Nick and Kate’s relationship seems to have recovered a little from the previous book, but it isn’t where we left them at the end of book five.  If you are looking for something serious or realistic, don’t even think about picking up this book.  But if you are in the mood for mindless over-the-top action (sensing a theme?), you’ll enjoy this book.


Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #27) – 2

Easter is coming, and The Cookie Jar is awash in orders, keeping Hannah Swensen, her business partner Lisa, and the rest of their staff busy.  But that doesn’t mean that Hannah doesn’t have time to help her sister Andrea when she calls in a panic.  She’s just found Mayor Bascomb’s dead body in his office hours after having a very loud fight with him.  The police wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t consider Andrea a suspect, so Hannah springs into action to figure out what really happened.  Can she prove her sister is innocent?

I’ve been reading this long running series since the beginning, and I keep reading because I do enjoy catching up with the characters.  If that is your reason for picking up the book, you’ll find they are as charming as always.  I was pleased to see the soap opera of the previous few books has died down, and we see growth in a surprising direction in one character.  Sadly, the love triangle is no closer to being resolved.  The mystery is decent with enough suspects to keep us engaged.  However, the focus is on the food.  There is plenty of talk about food and how much the characters love what they are eating.  With 24 new recipes for us to try, there is certainly plenty of new food to talk about.  The dialogue is repetitious, an example of why realistic dialogue is better than real dialogue in a novel.  While I still want to catch up with the characters, I find myself skimming the book instead of reading it closely.  If you are like me and want to keep up with the characters, you’ll be glad you picked up this book.  But if you haven’t started the series yet, you’ll want to go back to the beginning to find out why there are readers like me who still enjoy visiting the characters.  And if you’ve given up on the series, you can safely skip this one.


Something’s Knot Kosher by Mary Marks (Quilting Mysteries #4) – 4

Martha Rose is shocked when she learns that her good friend Birdie Watson’s husband, Russell, was killed in a robbery at the bank he managed.  Even more surprising are the questions the FBI and local police are asking Birdie.  They are making it sound like Russell was a target.  Martha and her friend Lucy are concerned that, if Russell was a target, someone might go after Birdie next, so when Birdie announces that she intends to take Russell’s body to his home in Oregon to be buried, they are happy to think she will be out of town.  Being the supportive friends they are, they plan to go along.  Martha can’t help but start nosing around, and what she learns about Birdie and Russell surprises her.  But are the authorities right?  Was Russell a target and not an innocent bystander?

Since Birdie is one of the main characters in the series, we’ve met Russell before, but he’s never spent much time on the page.  Here, he’s dead on page one.  Still, over the course of the book, we learn quite a bit about him, and he becomes much more fleshed out than he has been before.  The main characters are also strong.  Some of the supporting players are stereotypes, but some of those characters also provided some comic relief, so it’s hard to complain too much.  The mystery itself is solid.  The pacing lags a bit when the characters are on the road, but I still appreciated how the author was able to pull off a mystery with two different main settings without the book feeling too disjointed.  There’s just enough talk of quilting to whet my appetite, and we get some tips for caring for a quilt at the end of the book.  I continue to be glad I gave this series a chance, and I look forward to my next visit with the characters.


Right to Remain Silent by Penny Warner (Connor Westphal #3) – 5

Sparkle Bodie was declared dead, but then came back to life at the funeral home.  She’s rushed to the hospital where she dies for real – smothered by a pillow.  The sheriff thinks that Sparkle’s son, Caleb, is responsible for her murder – the son that is deaf and has had very little interaction with anyone else.  Connor is asked by Sparkle’s other son to try to communicate with his brother and find out what really happened.  That is proving to be a challenge even before someone lets Caleb out of jail.  Can she prove he is innocent?

This is a strong third book in the series.  Connor being deaf herself makes her a unique main character, but I love how she navigates life.  The other characters, series regulars or suspects, are strong and help make the book compelling.  The mystery contains enough red herrings to keep me guessing.  I did feel the climax was a bit convoluted at first, but the more Connor explained things, the more it made sense.  The paperback originally came out in the late 1990’s, so there are some dated elements in the book, and since that’s what I read, I don’t know if the ebook was updated.  As long as you know that going in, you should be okay.  There’s a smattering of foul language, but this is worth noting in passing.  I’m glad I’m finally reading about Connor and am hoping I can continue the series soon.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

May 1st's Weekly TV Thoughts

Welcome to May!  Can you believe it?

As promised, I've caught up from last week.  I was really lucky there was nothing on this past Sunday.  But many, my Sundays are going to be jam packed for the next few weeks.  Half of what I watch will be on Sunday nights.  Why don't they consult me?

United States of Al (4/22) – I kind of liked the messages of this episode.  Al was right and wrong about respect in the episode, at least in American culture.  He was over the top at times, but also spot on at others.  Glad they are moving on to the working for the father storyline.  I feel like that should have been established by episode 2.

Wipeout (4/22) – The right team won!  I really liked that team from Hawaii, so I was really rooting for them to win.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (4/23) – I feel like the show was nothing but a big lecture.  It was worst of all this week.  Lots of action, but also lots of lectures.  And nothing but a cliffhanger to get us to watch some movie in the future, which we will have forgotten the details of by the time it comes out.

Supergirl – Seriously?  Seriously???  We are spending not one but TWO episodes in the past?  Please, can get back to everyone being on the same planet in the same year and start bringing this series to a conclusion?  Oh, and how did no one catch the reference to Brandon and Brenda from Beverly Hills 90210.  I get the age of these kids, but still, seems like that obvious a reference is pop culture enough they would at least know them.  If there were a big crossover happening, I’d think that was why we were doing this since so many of the regulars aren’t in these episodes, but that’s not even happening this year.

United States of Al – A sweet episode.  I smile at this show, but I don’t really laugh.  Still, I liked how it ended.  And I did chuckle at the final scene.

Wipeout – I wasn’t surprised that those two teams make the final round.  I figured the soccer players had it with that great time, but the circus people proved me wrong with that amazing time.  Although it makes sense once I thought about it.  That pretty much was right up their ally, more so than some of the other stuff.

Friday, April 30, 2021

April 30th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

 It's the final Friday of April.  Time for some Book Beginning and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala.

This is the first in a new series debuting on Tuesday.

Here's how it begins:

My name is Lila Macapagal and my life has become a rom-com cliche.
Not many romantic comedies feature an Asian-American lead (or dead bodies, but more on that later), but all the trademarks are there.

And, at 56% into the book, we find this exchange.  I will be removing a character's name just to avoid any appearance of spoilers.

"I can't believe you didn't tell me that [spoiler] was attacked!  Why am I just now finding out about this?" Adeena said.
"It's not like I did it on purpose!  You were so busy and I got distracted, and there just wasn't a good time to talk about it.  Not like I could tell you I found [spoiler] lying in a pool of blood in front of all your customers, you know."
"Fair enough."

I enjoyed this book.  I'll be reviewing it on Tuesday, so I hope you'll stop back by for my full review.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Book Review: Right to Remain Silent by Penny Warner (Connor Westphal #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, confusing mystery
Cons: Climax takes some thought but does make sense eventually
The Bottom Line:
Helping a deaf man
What does he know about case?
Book kept me engaged

I Won’t Remain Silent About This Book

When I find some time in my reading schedule not taken up by new releases, I try to move forward in older series I need to catch up on.  I’ve been able to do quite a bit of that in April, and I’m closing out the month with Right to Remain Silent, the third Connor Westphal Mystery from Penny Warner.

If you are new to this series, Connor is the owner and reporter of a weekly newspaper in Flat Skunk, a gold rush town in the Sierra Nevada foothills in California.  What sets her apart from many amateur sleuths is that she is deaf.  Fortunately, she is very proficient at lip reading, so she is still able to go out and interrogate suspects.

Sparkle Bodie was declared dead, but then came back to life at the funeral home.  She’s rushed to the hospital where she dies for real – smothered by a pillow.  The sheriff thinks that Sparkle’s son, Caleb, is responsible for her murder – the son that is deaf and has had very little interaction with anyone else.  Connor is asked by Sparkle’s other son to try to communicate with his brother and find out what really happened.  That is proving to be a challenge even before someone lets Caleb out of jail.  Can she prove he is innocent?

I already mentioned what makes Connor unique.  She still fits perfectly in the world of amateur sleuths.  She’s inquisitive and strong.  She keeps going until she gets the answers she needs.  I love getting to know her better with each book.  There are some other regulars in the book, and I enjoy them, although I did feel the sub-plot involving her boyfriend was a bit cliched.  That’s a minor complaint, however.  The suspects are also strong, and we spend plenty of time getting to know them and their secrets.

The plot is confusing with conflicting motives and many suspects.  I was guessing until the end, although Connor figured things out before I did.  I do feel the ending was a bit convoluted, and my first reaction was that it didn’t make sense.  But the more I read, as Connor went through what lead her to that conclusion, the more it did make sense to me.  So give it time to unfold, and you should be fine.

This book was originally published in the late 90’s, and it does show in several places.  For one thing, I keep thinking about how Connor’s life would change now that everyone is texting on cell phones.  Anyway, the author has the rights to the books back now and has released them as ebooks.  I read the original release, so I’m not sure if anything in the text was updated, but just remember the original publication date and you should be fine.

The book includes a bit of foul language, but it’s just a smattering.  It’s not something I usually see in cozies, so I’m mentioning it in passing.

I’m glad I’m finally reading Connor’s adventures.  Right to Remain Silent is an enjoyable mystery.  If you are looking for an older series, this is one for you.

Check out the rest of Connor Westphal’s mysteries.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

TV Show Review: Tell Me a Story - Season 2

: 5 out of 5
Pros: Creative and addicting take on three familiar tales
Cons: Dark and twisted, so know that going in
The Bottom Line:
Three more fairy tales
Fresh take.  Twisted together
Dark.  Enjoyable

“Been Nice Fighting with You.”

I really did debate about watching season 2 of Tell Me a Story.  Considering how dark and twisted season 1 had been, I wasn’t sure I was ready for season 2.  Curiosity won out, and I’m glad it did since I really enjoyed season 2.

This season, the theme is princesses as the show puts a modern-day twist on fairy tale stories.  You will definitely recognize elements of the stories, but they take on dark and sinister tones here, even considering how dark fairy tales were when first created.  The show was designed as an anthology series, so only two of the actors from season 1 are back, and they are both playing different characters.  (Ironically enough, they are scene partners for quite a bit of the season.)

Unlike the first season, the connection between all of these stories is obvious right away, and not superficial.  The stories revolve around the Pruitt siblings.

The first story is their take on Beauty and the Beast.  Ashley Rose Pruitt (Natalie Alyn Lind) is about to launch a career as a country singer.  However, leaving a release day concert for her first CD, her car explodes.  While the bomb doesn’t kill her, she does suffer massive burns.  Months later, she is still recuperating.  The bomber is still out there, so her mother (Carrie-Anne Moss) hires private security for her, including suspended cop Beau Morris (Eka Darville).  As feelings between Ashley Rose and Beau develop, Ashley has to decide how to move forward with her career, or even if she should with the bomber still at large.

Sleeping Beauty is the inspiration for the second tale.  This one follows Maddie Pruitt (Odetta Annable), who is thrilled to be engaged to Tucker Reed (Paul Wesley).  Tucker is an author who is under tremendous pressure to finish his second book by the deadline.  So he does what any author would do under those circumstances – he retreats to his family’s cabin.  That’s just cover for something much darker, however – he’s kidnapped Olivia Moon (Danielle Campbell).  He believes she can help him finish his book on time.

The third story focuses on Simone Garland (Ashley Madekwe), who has returned to town briefly for the death of her father.  Unfortunately, that means dealing with her step-mother and two step-brothers.  If you are sensing Cinderella, you’d be right.  However, rumors that her father didn’t die of natural causes and a will that surprises her cause her to stick around town.  What will that mean for her fledgling romance with Jackson Pruitt (Matt Lauria).

At times, the relationship to the underlying fairy tale is obvious and at others it is easy to forget the show involves fairy tales in any way, shape, or form.  But that’s okay because all three of these stories are compelling.  And suspenseful.  We can’t leave out suspenseful.  There are lots of twists and plenty of danger for all of the characters.

These scripts put the actors through their paces, and all of them rise to the occasion each week.  They helped draw me into the show, and I didn’t want each episode to end.  And it was because they made their characters so real that I cared so much about them.

One reason that I got so engrossed in this season is that I found the characters so much more likeable.  Oh, there were the villains, but even they were complex enough that we could feel for them at times.  But it was easy to tell who the heroes were, and we could root for them.  That’s not to say they didn’t do something bad occasionally, but their actions were understandable given their circumstances.

This is a dark and twisted show.  This isn’t a Disney fairy tale, and it isn’t my normal light, cozy fare.  Since I watched this on The CW, I’m sure some things were edited out, but even so, this is a dark show.  Keep that in mind when you go to watch it.

But if you get a chance, I do recommend that you watch season 2 of Tell Me a Story.  You can jump in here and enjoy this dark twist on three familiar stories.