Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Book Review: Murder in an English Glade by Jessica Ellicott (Beryl and Edwina #5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, interesting mystery
Cons: Weak ending; one thing not fully resolved
The Bottom Line:
Artist colony
Beryl Edwina still strong
Fans will enjoy it

Fake Investigation Leads to Real Murder

I look forward each year to returning to the English village of Walmsley Parva to find out what friends and business partners Edwina Davenport and Beryl Helliwell are up to.  We have another fun visit with them in Murder in an English Glade.

If you are new to the series, it is set in the 1920’s.  Edwina is a native of Walmsley Parva and is quiet and reserved.  Beryl is an American who is famous as an adventurer.  She is much more willing to take risks.  Together, the two life long friends have started a private enquiry business, and their different strengths make them wonderful at reaching the truth.

Edwina and Beryl don’t quite know what to make of it when they are asked to conduct a fake investigation.  Their potential client is Constance Maitland, part of the village’s upper crust.  She wants Edwina and Beryl to pretend to investigate her sister-in-law so her cousin will lay off the claim that the sister-in-law is having an affair.

The Maitland estate is currently hosting an artist colony, and this provides the perfect cover for the pair to join the Maitland estate.  They haven’t even been there a full day when someone turns up dead.  Now they are left to wonder if their fake investigation is the cause of the murder.  Can they find the truth?

As is always the case in this series, the characters shine.  The book is narrated third person from both Edwina and Beryl’s points of view, which allows us to really get to know them better and observe the changes in their personality they bring out in each other.  They really do make each other stronger and complement each other, and I enjoy watching that in each book.

Of course, this isn’t to take away from the suspects.  They are just as strong, and I enjoyed getting to know them.  We don’t see quite as much of the other series regulars as we might, but many of them do put in appearances, and I enjoyed catching up with them as well.

The time spent on the characters doesn’t take away from the plot.  It unfolds in a steady manner with plenty of clues, red herrings, and surprises along the way to keep us entertained.  I did feel that the ending was a little rushed, and there was one early plot point that was never completely resolved.  I can guess what was going on, but I would like to know for sure.

Part of the warmth of the series is the, for lack of a better word, culture clash.  Since Beryl is an American, she isn’t used to the British way of doing things.  While she and Edwina get along well, there are moments of differences between them.  Don’t worry, these moments are almost always played for laughs, and I appreciate them.  In fact, there is a very funny scene to open the book.

Murder in an English Glade will keep fans of the series happy.  If you are looking for a fun mystery the combines a bit of history with wonderful characters, you need to pick up this book.

Enjoy the rest of the Beryl and Edwina Mysteries.

Note: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Movie Review: Dune (2021)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: It looks amazing
Cons: Direction makes the pace too slow and keeps us from connecting with the characters
The Bottom Line:
Scifi epic starts
The pacing is very slow
But visuals stun

Looks Amazing.  But the Rest?

I’ll admit, Dune wasn’t on my radar.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of the books in the past, but I wasn’t that interested in watching the latest movie version.  However, a friend of mine wanted to go see it for his birthday, so I decided I’d go see it.  I wish I’d liked it better.

Before we go any further, the movie makes it very clear that this is only part of the story.  When Dune comes up on the screen at the beginning of the film, Part 1 also appears underneath it.  While there is obviously more to the story, I did feel this movie stopped at a good point that gave us some level of resolution.

The story revolves around Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet).  He is the last in the Arteides line, and will inherit his father’s (Oscar Isaac) title and responsibilities one day.  The emperor has just sent the Atreides to the planet of Dune, important for the spice that is harvested there and used for space travel.

Paul doesn’t know it yet, but he has another legacy, one coming from his mother, Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson).  And that legacy might come into play once they have landed on Dune and begin to face dangers.  But how are his visions connected to all of this?

Yes, I am being a little vague here.  It’s a hard story to tease without giving away too much.  This is especially true since I don’t feel like a lot happened in this movie.  I get it – in a science fiction movie, you have to spend time setting up the world where the story is taking place.  This went beyond that.  As someone who hadn’t read the books, I felt like I spent a lot of the film trying to figure out the world of the story while waiting for the story to get started.

And, I also get it, this is only half the story.  As I said at the beginning, I felt we got a decent stopping point here.  There’s no cliffhanger, which is good since the next part isn’t in production yet.  On the one hand, I also appreciate a movie that wasn’t all action, but a bit more action would have been appreciated.

My biggest issue was with the directing.  Good directing shouldn’t be obvious, but here it was very obvious.  We had multiple, multiple slow-motion shots of each character’s reactions to events.  I appreciate a little of that in a movie, but here it was so over the top that it really slowed down the pacing.

Additionally, the tone was overall somber.  I get it, this isn’t a comedy, but a little bit of cheer would help.  We came close a couple of times, but it was quickly shut down as we moved on to the next scene.  We need some lighter moments to connect to the characters and to fully appreciate the relationships between them.

I’m not blaming this on the actors, who did fine.  It was the direction that kept them from fully connecting to each other and to us.

We did see this on the IMAX screen.  Maybe it was our theater, but it was loud, and it was mixed so that the music and other sounds often drowned out the dialog.  I am sure I missed some stuff as time, especially when the actors were speaking softly.

The one place I will give the movie full points is the visuals.  It looks amazing!  The world the characters inhabit comes fully to life.  Any and all special effects work just as well.  I was able to get lost in the visual world of the film.

I saw it with three friends, and they were all commenting on the same things I was.  The friend who wanted to see it had read the book, and he helped fill in some of the gaps we didn’t pick up on from the movie.  I think they enjoyed it more than I did, but none of us were raving about it.

I’ve heard about Dune enough that I would be willing to watch the sequel whenever it might come out.  But I will definitely wait to watch it at home instead of going back to the theater.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Disney Pin Review: Stitch Crashes Snow White - Stitch Crashes Disney #8 - 2021 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good looking pin with an added fun touch
Cons: It’s not fair to list cons
The Bottom Line:
Back to beginning
A pin with an added touch
Honoring Snow White

Is This Stitch Pin the Fairest of Them All?

The second half of the Stitch Crashes Disney series is focusing more on the older animated films, and for the eighth entry, they are going all the way back to the first animated feature.  That’s right, Stitch is crashing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in this pin.

Stitch is almost his normal color for this pin, just deeper.  He’s a very dark blue with royal blue sections.  While I don’t necessarily associate those colors with Snow White, the stylized flowers he’s sporting definitely look like they belong in the movie.  It’s funny that I would associate them with the movie since they are more decorations in the various backgrounds of the film, but I do.

And it looks like Stitch has stolen the poisoned apple.  That’s definitely going to shake things up.  He’s rather proud of himself, too, since he’s smiling about it.

And that is one thing that makes this pin extra special.  The green poison part of the apple will glow in the dark.  Oh, it’s not very bright, and it takes a lot of light to charge it up, but it is there, and it’s a fun addition.  As far as I know, this is the first pin in the series to do that.

Once again, the board the pin comes attached to gets into the act.  Behind Stitch, we can see Prince Charming’s castle off in the distance in the midst of the trees immediately behind him.

The result is a pin that immediately connects us to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I like Stitch best when he sticks to blue, so the color works well for me, too.

While this may not be my favorite pin in the series (it’s hard to say when we haven’t seen them all yet), this is definitely a good one.  Fans of Stitch and Snow White will enjoy adding it to their collection.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

October 23rd's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Equalizer – I’m a bit impressed by this episode.  Yes, there was the push about gay rights in the story, but they were honest about the oppression that gays face in countries like Saudi Arabia.  Plus, they were showing how oppressive regimes can be over there.  It still felt a bit like a lecture, but at least it wasn’t aimed at Americans this time.  The new guy tracking her is going to be very interesting as the season progresses.  A bit of a cliché so far.  But I’m still interested to see how that is going to progress.

Legend of the Hidden Temple – I found the Pelle legend interesting just because of having been to Hawaii last week.  Overall, she doesn’t sound like a very nice goddess.  So much murder and resurrection and betrayal.  That final team was so dominant, but they didn’t have much luck at the end.  I don’t remember the kids having quite this much trouble in the original.  They must have made it harder, although doing the run in the dark would definitely make it more challenging.

Killer Camp – The whole love triangle?  I’m not a fan of it in the books, and I really don’t need it in my super cheesy reality TV.  I mean, if I were watching a romance show, I’d get it.  But a mystery show about a killer?  Nope.  The killer clearly doesn’t want the men to stick around.  Is it a woman this time?  Or a man who is threatened?

Dancing with the Stars – I’ve enjoyed the show more than I thought I would.  I’m not a fan of Grease, but mainly because of the story.  The music is fun, as this show reminded me.  So many great dances, and then the bottom two?  It’s hard to believe that some of the others weren’t down there at the bottom.  I think the competition just got real for everyone.

Stargirl – I really did think Cindy had died.  But what a way to bring her back.  Obviously, she is going to be important to taking down Eclipso if Courtney went so far out of her way to rescue her.  I would have gone through and then figured out a way to rescue Cindy, but that’s probably just me.  And I can’t wait to see Beth meet Dr. Midnighter.  That whole storyline this season makes much more sense now.

Supergirl – I was fearing another lecture when I saw the “previously on” and realized that we were revisiting Dreamer’s sister.  It wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be, but it was pretty painful and predictable.  Did not see Kara quitting her job coming, but it is true, she can’t do it all right now.  I’ve been waiting for Lex to come back.  Still, I wasn’t quite expecting that twist at the end.

Survivor – I haven’t seen a tribe have this much of a losing streak in a very long time.  Not sure what they are doing to the tribes next week but they really need it.  Of course, I think I’m rooting for the two members of that tribe left to be ejected from the game soon, but we’ll see.  There may be others I want off sooner once we get to know them better.

Legends of Tomorrow – Once we got past the opening scene (and I was trying to eat dinner during it), this proved to be a fun episode.  With several twists I did not see coming.  I’m very interested to see where they are going from here.  I’m not a fan of how they are treating Hoover like an evil person.  I get that he had his flaws.  Most people do.  But couldn’t they try for a little nuance?

Batwoman – So, basically, we are going to go through a greatest hits of all Batman’s foes?  Okay, got it.  I knew Alice was going to try to escape at some point, but I thought it would be another episode or two.  Still, that tracker she has now is great.  I wasn’t aware she was going to be in prison between episodes, I mean cases, so at least that much she isn’t our team’s responsibility.  And I feel so sorry for so many characters here.  The pair who died, and the guy who was turned into the croc.  Most of all, his dad.

Frogger – I’m not surprised at who won, but I’m disappointed.  Especially since the one woman completed her course on her first life.  I had to laugh about the one contestant forgetting to grab her frog.  That would totally be me.

United States of Al – Do I detect some romance coming for Al?  As fun as that storyline was, I loved the bowling parts so much more.  I would be surprised if Riley actually does grow a man bun.  Not that his hair is all that short to me right now, either.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Ornament Review: Seasons Treatings #13 - Display Case of Treats - 2021 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Many delicious looking sweets in one ornament.
Cons: I’m hungry now
The Bottom Line:
Delicious desserts
Offered in one ornament
I’m ready to eat!

Mouthwatering Display Case

Every year, the ornaments in the Season’s Treatings series make me crave the new treat being spotlighted.  The 2021 entry in the series is especially evil in that regard since it features a delicious variety of treats.

The ornament this year has several different items on a tray under a clear cover.  There are two decorated cookies, one of Santa and one of a Christmas tree.  There’s a slice of a layered cake with chocolate frosting between the layers.  There are two cupcakes, one with red frosting and one with green frosting and a candy cane on top.  Finally, there’s a piece of what looks like cherry pie.

And I think it was a mistake to write this review on an empty stomach.

Seriously, these desserts all look delicious.  I’m not a frosted cookie person, but even they look good enough to eat.  But I’d probably start with the cake.  Or maybe the pie.  Okay, fine, a cupcake.  And I could be talked into enjoying the cookies without too much effort.

The cover over the items is a new touch.  I have heard some people say that they saw ornaments that were cloudy, making it hard to see what was inside.  The ones I’ve seen have all been clear, so that’s not an issue for me.  At least not yet.  Hopefully, the plastic doesn’t cloud over as it ages.

2021 is written on the bottom of the display plate between the cookies and the pie.  Since most of the base of the ornament is clear, it is hard to see the series marker on the bottom of the stand, but the 13 in a Christmas tree is there.

And this does have more of a vertical presence to it than many ornaments in the series do.  As a result, I could see setting it out to be enjoyed.  The base is wide enough that it is pretty stable.

This is one of the few ornaments in the series that hangs straight.  Usually, they hang at a fun angle on purpose, but this one doesn’t.  Makes sense with the design of the ornament.

The ornaments are always cute and delicious looking, and the newest is no exception.  Be prepared to drool with you pick up this ornament.

Enjoy the rest of the Seasons Treatings ornaments.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Book Review: Cozy Up to Blood by Colin Conway (Cozy Up #3)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Twilight spoof; our lead characters
Cons: Weak mystery; struggle to believe the premise
The Bottom Line:
Stranded on island
With thief, vampire lovers
Humor saves the day

Hiding Out on an Island with…Vampires?

When I am perfectly honest, I can see the problems in the Cozy Up series by Colin Conway.  And they were more obvious than ever in Cozy Up to Blood.  And yet there is something compelling about them that keeps bringing me back for more.

This book centers on Murray Lee, who has found himself trapped on the island of Belfry off the coast of Oregon due to floods washing out the bridge.  He’s just in time for the annual festival dedicated to the movies in the Evenfall series, a popular vampire themed series of books and movies which were filmed on the island.  This means there are plenty of outsiders posing as vampires around town.  Someone is taking advantage of the crowds by attacking some of the locals, stealing from them, and biting their necks.  The local police think that Murray is a good suspect since he is new to town but obviously not part of the Evenfall crowd.

But Murray doesn’t want the police looking into him or his past.  He has a secret.  And it might have something to do with the motorcycle gang sitting on the other side of the bridge waiting for the water to recede.  Can he clear his name without revealing his past?  Will he even get off the island alive?

Let’s start with the problems with the premise.  Those who have read the earlier two novels in the series know that Murray Lee isn’t our name character’s real name but his latest identity in the Witness Protection Program.  Now, I get that his former gang finding him is part of the series.  But I have a problem with Murray being left alone like he was in this book.  Oh, the author tried to explain it away, but I kept yelling at the book “This makes no sense.”

Then there’s the mystery of the neck biting thief.  It’s a sub-plot here.  As such, the resolution winds up feeling extremely rushed.

And yet, I enjoyed reading this book.  Part of that is because I like Murray, no matter what name he is trying to hide out under here.  I want him to succeed in staying safe, and I want to know what happens next to him.  We do spend a lot of time on this, so I am not complaining.

I also got a kick out of the Evenfall craziness.  Even though I’ve never seen them or read the books, this fictional series is clearly spoofing the Twilight series, and the various characters’ reactions to the series and characters was hilarious.  I enjoyed those scenes, and they take up quite a bit of the book.

The book is a bit of a faster read than the novels I usually read, which also helped.

The series has flaws, and Cozy Up to Blood definitely shows them off.  And yet, I’m hoping that we get another story with our hero.  We were certainly left with a set up for the next book.  If you are intrigued by these books, wait until you can get them on sale before buying them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

TV Show Review: Superman and Lois - Season 1

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Story, characters, acting all work together perfectly
Cons: This show has no Kryptonite
The Bottom Line:
New Superman take
Fantastic relationships
With gripping stories

“It’s a Little Weird to See Superman in Real Life.  I’m Used to Seeing Him on TV.”

I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t the most excited when I they announced Superman and Lois originally.  I’m not quite sure why since I was ready for Tyler Hoechlin to get his own spinoff the instant he guest starred on Supergirl.   Being the good Arrowverse fan that I am, I tuned in to watch the series premier.  I was quickly hooked on the rest of season one.

This series presents Clark Kent/Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) as you’ve never seen them before – the happily married parents of teenaged twins Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alex Garfin).  The pilot finds them deciding to move back to Clark’s childhood home on the farm in Smallville that he’s recently inherited.  That means reconnecting with Clark’s childhood, including his friend Lana Lang Cushing (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and her husband Kyle (Erik Valdez).

While Jordan is happy with the change, Jonathan had been the star of their old high school’s football team, and starting over is hard on him.  And, some of Jordan’s happiness may be because of his crush on Sarah Cushing (Inde Navarrette).

As part of trying to bring the family closer together, Clark and Lois decide it is time to tell the boys who Clark really is.  The timing is perfect when one of the twins begins to show possible signs of inheriting his father’s powers.  But Lois is suspicious of Morgan Edge (Adam Rayner), who has come to Smallville with all kind of promises about helping turn the town around.  Can he be trusted?

What made this show work?  Really, everything clicked for me.  The writers found the perfect balance between character and plot.  Not a second is wasted in any episode.

The plot caught my interest from the beginning.  It’s obvious Morgan Edge is up to something, but what exactly that is kept me tuning in.  And each week, the stakes got higher for all our heroes.  By mid-season, I couldn’t believe that we weren’t already at the end of the season, but they kept building a wonderful story.

Meanwhile, the characters and their dynamics were fantastic.  Lois and Clark have a wonderful relationship.  You can tell they love each other.  Do they have bumps in their relationship?  Yes.  Are these bumps realistic for a happily married couple?  Well, if one of them is Superman, sure.  They are a team, and I appreciate that.  Meanwhile, I also enjoyed seeing the adult relationship between Lois and Clark and Lana and Kyle.  They are friends, and those relationships were great.  If they ever mess up any of these dynamics, I will be furious.

While these parts of the episodes feel like they are aimed at adults, we do get more of a teen vibe when Jonathan and Jordan are on the screen.  I’ve got to admit, I got serious Smallville vibes at times, especially in some of the early episodes.  That’s not a bad thing, necessarily.  Having said this, I did appreciate the relationship between Clark, Lois, and their sons.

Of course, for this all to work, the acting has to be top notch.  And it is.  The actors bring their A game each week, bringing the scripts to perfect life.

As you’d expect, the effects are top notch as well.

Since Supergirl has used most of Superman’s most famous villains already, I will be very curious to see who pops up as villains here.  I probably won’t recognize them, which was the case in the first season.  Not that I’m complaining.

Season one consisted of fifteen episodes, and it was the perfect number to bring this show to life.  We had a few breaks in the season, and it was always agony to wait until the show came back to find out what would happen to the characters next.

With how much I loved season one, I’m worried that the writers won’t be able to keep this level of excellence going in the seasons to come.  But I will keep watching and hope they prove me wrong.

More than anything else, this show is why I am hanging on to the entire Arrowverse right now.  If you haven’t watched Superman and Lois’s first season yet, stop what you are doing and go watch it now.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Book Review: Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder by Tina Kashian (Kebab Kitchen Mysteries #5)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters, good mystery
Cons: Pacing, the biggest sub-plot leaves me with questions
The Bottom Line:
Cold water, cold death
Can Lucy defend her friend?
A Christmas setting

Polar Bear Plunge of Death

I realized a couple of months back that I had saved more Christmas books for December than I could read that month, so I’m sneaking a few of them in earlier than I originally planned.  One of those is Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder, which gets me up to date on the Kebab Kitchen Mysteries.

Every December, Ocean Crest, New Jersey, hosts a polar bear plunge as a fund raiser, and this year it is raising money for a much-needed renovation for the senior center.  Most of the businesses in the town are participating, and Lucy Berberian is representing her family’s Kebab Kitchen restaurant.  As expected, the water is chilly, but all that is soon forgotten when the dead body of one of the participants washes ashore.  At first everyone assumes that the shock of the cold water killed Deacon Spooner, but the medical examiners determines that it was murder.  Lucy had recently met Deacon, and he wasn’t a nice man.  When the police look at Lucy’s friend as their prime suspect, she can’t help but nose around.  She uncovers plenty of motives and opportunity, but who actually killed the man?

The plot started out well, and we have several strong suspects.  However, as we entered the final stretch, the story seemed to fizzle a little, and some of the sub-plots take over.  Mind you, I was enjoying the subplot since they involved character growth for the series regulars, which was nice, but I was frustrated because the main mystery faded into the background.  Still, we got a logical and suspenseful climax, which I appreciated.

I do have to rant about the main sub-plot for a minute, however.  At the end of the last book, Lucy and Azad, the chef at her family’s restaurant, got engaged.  When this book opens, they haven’t set a date yet, and Lucy’s matron of honor is driving most of the wedding planning, such as it is.  Heck, the engagement hasn’t even been officially announced.  I would understand this if the two books were set close together, but the engagement happened at Easter.  It is now December.  That’s a long time to go, and Lucy doesn’t understand the comments she is getting about planning the wedding.  Honestly, she really did act like it had only been a few weeks since they got engaged, and if that were the case, her behavior would make a lot more sense.  But this way?  I was actually on the side of those who were wondering if there was something behind Lucy’s reluctance to plan anything.

On the other hand, this sub-plot did give us a chance to get to see some real growth in Lucy and get to see her relationships with some of the other characters change, and I did appreciate that.

The book isn’t heavy handed with the Christmas theme, which made it perfect to read right now.  I enjoyed the references to the holiday, and Christmas did get stronger the closer we got to the end.

Since this book is set in a restaurant, it’s no surprise that we get four delicious sounding recipes at the end – including the lemon meringue pie that has been mentioned in several earlier books.

Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder could have been stronger.  Still, as a fan of the series, I’m glad I got to spend a little time at Christmas with Lucy and her family and friends.

Make reservations for the rest of the Kebab Kitchen Mysteries.

Monday, October 18, 2021

TV Special Review: Muppets Haunted Mansion

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Laughs and fun with the Muppets and friends
Cons: Final one third’s shift in tone
The Bottom Line:
Muppets in Mansion
Combo makes for laughs and puns
Fun at Halloween

“We’re Ghosts. Booing Comes with the Territory!”

I didn’t need to know any more about it than the title - Muppets Haunted Mansion - and I was in.  While I may not be the world’s biggest fan of The Haunted Mansion, I figured that the Muppets would make a fun special inspired by the classic Disney attraction.  And so, last Friday, I turned to Disney+ to see just how much fun it would be.

Instead of going to the annual Muppet Halloween Party, this year, Gonzo has received an invitation to spend Halloween night in the mansion where his idol, The Great MacGuffin, disappeared 100 years ago.  Along for the night is Pepe the King Prawn, who is expecting a celebrity filled party.  Gonzo, on the other hand, is hoping to figure out what happened to MacGuffin and prove that he is still The Great Gonzo.

Ignoring several ominous warnings, Gonzo and Pepe meet their host (Will Arnett) and enter the mansion.  Will they survive the night?  Or will they become the latest people to disappear?  And which celebrity will cameo next?

For much of the 52-minute special, this was everything I hoped it would be.  We’ve got puns.  We’ve got laughs.  We’ve got celebrity cameos.  We’ve got jokes based on the ride.  We’ve got nods to the classic Muppets show.  We’ve got three new songs.  Seriously, so much of the show works well.

Unfortunately, the final third does fall a little flat.  Pepe meets up with the Black Widow Bride (Taraji P. Henson), and I just felt like that wasn’t the best plot point.  Maybe it’s because I’m not a fan of The Bride in the Haunted Mansion, and I’m not exactly sure why she is suddenly such a huge part of the attraction’s mythology since I can remember the attraction without her in it.  Meanwhile, Gonzo is going through his own revelation, which felt a little forced into the special so we could have some character growth.

These complaints aside, this really is a fun special.  It’s about as scary as the attraction itself, so it would be appropriate for all but the most easily frightened.  Its tone is playful and fun.

While most of the Muppets are supposed to be at a party, they also manage to appear in the Mansion, so we don’t miss out on time with them here.  Fans of the show will appreciate how one of the old recurring sketches managed to be worked into this special.

There are plenty of cameos in the special, and I’m not going to try to name them all.  But I do want to give a special shout out to Ed Asner, who appears as one of the ghosts in the graveyard.  I’ve been a fan of his for years, and given his recent passing, there was something very bitter sweet about seeing his cameo here, especially as a ghost.

Oh, and be sure to watch all of the credits.

If the tone of the first two thirds had carried over to the end, Muppets Haunted Mansion would have been perfect.  As it is, the special is still fun.  I will definitely be revisiting it.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Book Review: Footprints Under the Window by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #12)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Action, story
Cons: Thin characters, overly complex, dated plot
The Bottom Line:
Action and story
Keep the pages turning and
Hide the weaknesses

Spies and a Quick Trip to South America

Even as a kid, I had to admit that the Hardy Boys books weren’t exactly realistic.  And, as much as I loved Footprints Under the Window, the twelfth in the series, even as a kid I knew it is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

When Frank and Joe Hardy go to meet their Aunt Gertrude on her return from a trip to South America, they arrive a little early, so they decide to head out in their motor boat.  That’s when they see a man jump over the side of a ship.  They pick him up, but all they get out of him is a strange warning about footprints before he runs off again.

With their dad out of town on a case, they are left to try to figure out what is going on by themselves.  Might it have to do with the robbery they foiled at a nearby photographic plant?  And who left the footprints outside the Hardy’s house?

So where does the unrealistic part come into play?  The trail of this mystery seems to lead to South America, so the Hardys and their friend Chet take off for a few days.  What eighteen and seventeen year old would receive permission to do that?  Much less have the ability?  Of course, considering they get involved in and solve all these puzzling mysteries is really even more unbelievable than their trip south of the border, so I’ll leave it alone.  You’ve got to be willing to go with the flow a bit to enjoy these books.

We are presented with another puzzling, compelling case here.  I know I read this as a child since I could tell you what the climax was before I picked it up, but I didn’t remember many of the details.  The case makes sense in the end, but I think they tried to cram a bit too much into it.  I was struggling to keep up at the end of the book.  One less plot thread would have made it easier to follow everything and given them a bit more time to explain things.

On the other hand, there is plenty of action and suspense, and I found myself turning pages quickly several times to get the Hardys out of danger.

As always, the characters are cardboard thin.  Plot is king in these books.  But as a kid, I didn’t mind, and even now I got caught up in the action.

The plot of this book, what the Hardys wind up trying to protect, definitely seems dated today.  It’s a product of being written in the 1960’s.  I didn’t really notice when I read it originally in the 1980’s, but I’m sure today’s kids will notice.  But as long as they realize when this particular edition was written, they’ll be okay.

All told, this book is probably closer to a three than the four I am giving it.  Yes, nostalgia comes into play here since I loved this book as a kid.  But that’s often the case when I’m looking at books in this series.

If today’s kids are willing to overlook the dated storyline, they’ll definitely get caught up in the action of Footprints Under the Window.  Even as an adult, I know I did.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

October 16th's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Equalizer – Good episode back.  We’ve introduced a plotline for the season (and how did I forget he’d faked his death and that’s why he was living underground?).  We had a good case with plenty of twists and turns.  We Delilah is moving back in.  Okay, that was the most predictable subplot in the history of TV subplots, but it was still good enough for getting the characters to where we knew they’d have to be.  If they had belabored it with more scenes, it would have been way worse.

Legends of the Hidden Temple – I feel like the show worked better when it was kids and not adults competing, but it is the silly fun I’m looking for on a Sunday night.  I’ll be back for sure.

Killer Camp – I’m confused.  I thought the first season I saw was a British production, but what the CW was going to show now was an American version.  Yet it’s got the same host, sets, and killer.  Oh well, I’m in either way.  The reacting is still funny.  No clue who the killer might be yet, so we’ll see how things develop.  Can’t believe all the romances already.  I mean, you might be falling for a killer!

Dancing with the Stars – Two dances so early in the competition.  I feel for the celebs.  The Mickey Challenged turned out pretty well.  But it was so distracting hearing the songs cut.  I usually don’t know the songs everyone are dancing to, but I do here, so it always bothers me when they cut these for time.  I get why it happens, but I hear it immediately.  The second night had a few non-Disney songs which makes sense.  Not every villain gets a song after all, but I was pleased to see they mostly had Disney songs.  The first 10 of the season!  And from Len, too, which amazes me.  I’m sorry to see Brian go.  I doubt he would have lasted much longer, but still, he was one I was rooting for.  Not as much connection to Matt.  It’s going to get harder from here on out.

Stargirl – Well, that’s a cliffhanger ending.  I should have known that trusting the Shade was dangerous.  And what is going on with the brother?  I do hope that is really Starman who is trying to find them.  Although how he could be alive, I have no idea.  Things are definitely getting interesting.

Supergirl – Killing the hope pendant?  Something tells me they will regret it.  Not that I think it is dead.  I think someone saved it at the last second.  The question becomes – who did that?

Survivor – “You aren’t fooling me again.”  Famous last words.  Oh, and I have news for you, an assassin is a villain.  They even managed to blindside us this time.  Usually, we have a clue where it is going, but I wasn’t truly expecting JD.  I do not get, in a numbers game, why you would ever throw a challenge.  You need your entire team when it comes to the merge.  Of course, I also don’t get why you’d get rid of the strong players early on and keep the weak, so what do I know.

Legends of Tomorrow – Now there is the show I know and love.  That was so much fun!  I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about them being stuck in the 1920’s, but with the twist of having killed Hoover, I have a feeling this is going to be fun.  And the circus performers bit?  Classic comedy for the show.  I just wonder how long it will be before they reunite all the characters since they are currently in three different places.

Batwoman – Several disturbing scenes – the guy killing his friend and poor Mary at her graduation.  I knew Alice wouldn’t stay locked up long, but her working with Ryan is going to be interesting.  And I’m glad Alice isn’t still in prison.  Have I mentioned this season how much I love that character?  Didn’t think so.

Frogger – Wow!  That was an amazing performance by the circus performer.  Frankly, both of them did well on the first stage, but then on the bonus level, he was amazing.  My money is on him in the finals.  The other guys had done well, too, on their levels, so it’s really saying something about his performance, although he swept them away in the final round.

United States of Al – The laughs are back.  Okay, so maybe it was grins more than laughs, but still, that was a fun episode.  I could tell where it was going early on, but I still enjoyed it.  I do feel like this was the funniest episode we’ve had in a while.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Travel Review: Dolphin Discoveries

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Two excellent swims with this company
Cons: I’m not enjoying a third right now
The Bottom Line:
Swimming with sea life
Provides excellent service
Memories for life

Discovering the Wonders Under the Sea with Dolphin Discoveries

On my recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, my friends and I did plenty of snorkeling.  However, we also went out on a couple of group boats to see specific things.  We did a dolphin swim and a manta ray night swim.  For both of these, we went with Dolphin Discoveries, and we are glad we did.

The Dolphin Discovery Adventure was a morning swim.  We explored quite a bit of ocean before we found some, but it was worth it.  Watching them swim past us was incredible.  We found a good sized pod as well.  The picture is a still from a video one of my friends took that morning.

The Manta Ray Swim was at night, and it was also incredible.  We floated holding on to a light board, and the manta rays came right up to the board to feed on the plankton attracted to the light.  This one was a little cold despite the wet suit tops they provided for us, but that was my only complaint.  We were very lucky because the manta rays were there the entire time.  One of the guides mentioned some nights they only show up for five minutes, but we had a good group almost the entire time we were in the water.

Dolphin Discoveries provides everything you need, including snorkels, mask, and fins.  Or you can bring your own.  Or you can do a combination of both (which is what I did).  Double check on their website for what is and is not included so you are ready when you arrive.

The crew was very friendly and helpful, sharing some Hawaiian history as we went along as well as a bit more about the animals we were seeing.  It helped put the behaviors we saw in perspective.

Dolphin Discoveries is located on the Kailua-Kona side of the island.  In addition to the tours we did, they offer snorkeling and whale watching tours, so be sure to check them out to see if they will meet your needs.

If you are looking for a once in a lifetime adventure in the ocean, I highly recommend Dolphin Discoveries.  They are a fantastic company that knows how to deliver the experiences you are looking for.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Book Review: Murder Gets a Makeover by Laura Levine (Jaine Austen #18)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun filled story
Cons: A few things could have been a little stronger
The Bottom Line:
Deadly makeover
Mystery that’s filled with laughs
Light, very funny

Who Gave Bebe a Makeover as a Corpse?

It’s always a pleasure to see a new Jaine Austen Mystery come out.  Laura Levine’s books are reliably fun, and Murder Gets a Makeover is no exception.

If you haven’t met Jaine yet, she is a freelance writer living in Southern California.  No, you probably haven’t read anything she’s written since most of her clients are local businesses that hire her to write advertising.  Her world is slightly wacky, but that makes it all the more fun.

This book finds Jaine agreeing to get a fashion makeover after her neighbor, Lance, pushes her into it.  She’s going to Bebe Braddock, fashion designer to the stars who also happens to be one of Lance’s clients at Neiman Marcus, where he works in the shoe department.  Bebe is intending to use Jaine’s before and after pictures in a publicity campaign, so the cost to Jaine is going to be zero.

And even then, it turns out to be overpriced.  Bebe is a nasty woman, who treats everyone in her orbit horribly.  When Jaine heads over for a fitting one evening, she finds Bebe strangled in her studio.  While the list of suspects is long, the police think that Jaine might be the killer since Jaine’s fingerprints are on the murder weapon.  Can Jaine figure out who really killed Bebe?

Of course, like isn’t that simple for Jaine.  (Yes, I’m calling being a suspect in a murder case simple.)  Her cat, Prozac, gets her fifteen minutes of fame when a film of Prozac saving a two-year-old’s life goes viral.  And the fame goes to Prozac’s head.  Meanwhile, via emails, we learn that Jaine’s father is certain that his enemy at her parent’s retirement community in Florida is having an affair, and he sets out to prove it.  Oh, and Jaine’s love life might be heating up.

Given the strong sub-plots and the book’s shorter length, you can bet that the pace is quick.  There is always something happening in Jaine’s life, and author Laura Levine does a great job of juggling all the balls she has in the air.

And there are the laughs.  The sub-plots are especially full of funny moments, but even the main mystery has some humor.  While Prozac doesn’t talk, Jaine is able to interpret her cat’s thoughts based on body language, and they are always a riot.  I don’t know how Jaine’s mom puts up with Jaine’s dad, but I’m glad she does because those emails are always a highlight as well.

With all this going on, we still have a solid mystery filled with several suspects and plenty of secrets for Jaine to uncover on her way to the solution.

I usually call these books to a cross between a sitcom and a murder mystery, and that holds true again here.  That’s most obvious in the characters.  They are more broad caricatures than true characters, but they fit perfectly in Jaine’s world and help give us the laughs.  You don’t pick up these books for the serious character growth; you pick them up to have fun.

I’ve been reading Jaine’s adventures since the first book came out, and I love the series.  I didn’t feel this one was quite up to the usual standards for the series, but it’s mostly a few nitpicks.  Or maybe it was the mood I was in when I read it.  Either way, this is still a fun read that will appeal to the series’ fans.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Jaine.  Murder Gets a Makeover is another fun adventure for our heroine that will leave you smiling.

Laugh along with the rest of the Jaine Austen Mysteries.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

TV Show Review: What If...? - Season 1

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some episodes were fun fresh takes
Cons: Some episodes fell flat
The Bottom Line:
Alternative takes
Mixing up the Avengers
Animated show

“That’s Was Brilliant!  Let’s Do It Again.”

Clearly, Marvel is gearing up for the next Dr. Strange movie with all of their Disney+ shows.  Each one has touched on the idea of a multiverse to some extent, but the most obvious of these has been season 1 of What If…?  While I originally was excited about the idea behind the show, I wound up being mostly disappointed.

This show was set up as an anthology series as each episode featured a different “What If” question.  What if Peggy Carter got the injection and became Captain Carter?  What if a zombie plague got unleashed on the Earth, infection some of the Avengers?  What if T’Challa because a Star Lord?  What if Thor were a party animal?

Each episode explores how the world might be different from what we’ve seen if that one thing were different.  Some stay fairly close to the movies we’ve seen while others are very different.

This is an animated show.  It’s the stylized animation most popular for TV type shows these days.  I’m not a fan, so I had to adjust to that as I watch, but eventually, I got used to it.

This also allows the producers to use whoever is available.  Sometimes, they do use the original cast to voice their iconic characters.  Sometimes, they use a sound alike.  I’m not sure how or why those choices were made, but I’m going to go with actor availability.  Either way, I had no trouble recognizing the characters by their voices alone.

Each episode is about half an hour, which is about right for exploring these alternative universes.  Most of the time, I felt like we got as much story as we needed.  In fact, a couple episodes felt a little long.

This format allows for some great crossovers.  You never really know which characters might pop up in any given episode and impact each other’s stories.

On the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel like we were watching fan fiction each week.  Mind you’ve I’ve enjoyed reading fan fiction over the years, so I’m not opposed to that, but the ideas could be pretty out there at times.  And, like fan fiction, some weeks worked much better than others.

And, again, I feel like I might have enjoyed this more if I were more of a Marvel fanboy.  My exposure is the Marvel movies, which I’ve seen once each.  I probably missed Easter eggs and cool moments that would have meant a lot more to me if I were more familiar with the characters.

The result was another mixed show for me.  Some episodes of What If…? worked well while others fell flat.  There are plans for a second season, and I will go back to see how they mix up the characters and their stories in the future.  But this is a show best enjoyed if you are a bigger fan of the characters.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Book Review: Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #18)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery; enjoyed time with secondary characters
Cons: A bit too much recap at times; timeline issues at end
The Bottom Line:
Helping a widow
Secondary characters
Still, page turning read

While the Detectives are Away

For the eighteenth Gaslight Mystery, author Victoria Thompson does something different.  For me, the risk paid off as I enjoyed Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue.

When Maeve answers the door, the last thing she expects is a woman desperately looking for Frank Malloy.  Mrs. O’Neil is a former neighbor of the Malloys, and she is anxious to find Frank because her daughter, Una, has just been arrested for the murder of her husband.

The problem is that Frank and his new wife, Sarah Brandt, are in Europe on their honeymoon.  So Maeve jumps into the investigation, aided by Gino and Sarah’s parents.  Will the four of them uncover what really happened?

If you are new to the series, the changes here might not mean much, but fans will immediately figure out what has changed.  Normally, Frank and Sarah are the main characters, although the characters I’ve named before have all helped out with the cases the pair have faced in the series.  I’m not sure how I would have felt about that going into this book blind, but I knew what was going to be happening before I picked it up, so I didn’t mind at all.

It helps that I love these characters.  It was great to see them get chances to shine without Frank and Sarah around.  Maeve and Gino’s flirting was fun, and I always laugh when Sarah’s parents are on the page.  Their reactions to things and each other is just priceless.

The mystery itself is puzzling.  I wasn’t sure where things were going until the end.  Despite some of the fun we had elsewhere in the book, the mystery itself is pretty serious, and the book juggles the tones appropriately.  I did feel that the “compare notes and theorize” scenes between the detectives could have been better summarized at times to speed things along, but that’s a minor complaint since I had trouble setting the book down, which is always an issue with this series.

Unfortunately, there were some timeline issues with the ending.  While the climax makes perfect sense, the characters forgot a day in there.  If they would have remembered that day, the climax would make even more sense.  It’s a pet peeve of mine, so I do have to mention it, but it is a minor issue overall.

This book is considered a Christmas entry in the series.  There are a couple of references to the holiday, and the final scene takes place a couple of days before Christmas, but it isn’t a heavy aspect of the books.  Fans won’t be surprised since the emphasis has always been on the mystery and the characters’ relationships to each other.  Since the series is set in the late 1890’s in New York City, I got a kick out of seeing the beginnings of some of the traditions we know and love now.

Fans of the series will enjoy the uniqueness that is Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue.  If you are new to the series, you might not get quite as much from it, but the mystery and characters will still draw you in.

Enjoy the rest of the Gaslight Mysteries.

Monday, October 11, 2021

TV Show Review: The Flash - Season 7

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Acting, some episodes
Cons: Too many new characters, needed a few more standalone episodes
The Bottom Line:
Three arcs in season
Harder to get into it
Characters shuffle

“Please Tell Me There’s Another Apocalypse.”

The Arrowverse shows are beginning to show their age – at least to me.  While I keep watching them, I only really care about one any more.  It’s not that I dislike the shows, but I didn’t find much to care about in season 7 of The Flash.

Season six of The Flash was shortened due to the pandemic, so we kicked off season 7 exactly where we left off.  That meant that Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Grant Gustin), was without his powers while his wife Iris (Candice Patton) was trapped inside a mirror with a doppelganger running around in Barry’s world.  This arc plays out over the first few episodes of season 7.  Fortunately, they didn’t try to stretch it over the entire season since we were already nearing the climax.  Instead, that gives us time for two more arcs, one involving others with specialty powers and a connection to Barry and Iris, and one involving Godspeed coming intent on taking Barry’s speed.

Meanwhile, Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) returns from her trip with a surprise, she and Killer Frost (also Danielle) are now permanently separated.  Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) faces some tough changes in his life.  And we say goodbye to two original cast members this season.

There were several issues I had with the season.  First, these shorter arcs didn’t allow much time for standalone episodes.  Instead, I felt like every episode was building to some crisis I couldn’t see how they could get out of.  Mind you, I enjoy that to a certain extent.  But a season of that got exhausting.  I need some standalones.

Second, the cast changes are hard to deal with.  Both of the cast members who left were the cast member’s choices, and I understand the desire to do other things eventually.  It’s a job, after all, and we all change jobs.  However, I am just not connecting with the new characters.  Hopefully, they will be given more meaty episodes and arcs in the new season so I’ll have that connection.

In what I’m assuming was due to COVID protocols, not every character was in every episode.  Sometimes, those absences were very awkward, other times they felt natural.

Now, this isn’t to say I wasn’t enjoying the show.  Some episodes really worked for me, and I enjoyed them.  All of the storylines reach satisfactory conclusions.  The effects are strong.

And the actors continue to be at the top of their game.  My inability to connect with the characters isn’t on them at all, but on too many new characters too quickly.  It’s why I’m hoping I can connect with them more as they get more screen time.

Season seven was slightly shortened, so we got eighteen episodes.  However, this was known very early on, so we got the ending the writers intended for the season.

Yes, I’ll be back for season 8 of The Flash.  But, if season 7 is any indication, it is getting time for the show to wind down.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Disney Pin Review: Goofy Fishing - All Star Trading Cards #10 - 2020 Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Goofy with a nod to a classic short
Cons: Is fishing really a sport?
The Bottom Line:
Goofy goes fishing
A nod to a classic short
Collectible pin

I Have This Pin, but You Ought to See the One That Got Away

When I first saw the October release for the All Star Trading Cards pin series, I wondered just how they came up with Goofy Fishing.  Then, I suddenly remembered all of his “How To” videos they released over the years, and I did a quick search.  After once again enjoying “How to Fish,” I appreciate this pin so much more.

No surprise, this pin features Goofy out fishing.  He’s standing in a stream with one leg raised, and he’s about to cast his line to try to catch a fish.  But don’t worry.  I have a feeling that Goofy is going to be in more trouble than any fish.  I mean, this is Goofy, right?

Goofy’s outfit is similar to his look in that classic short from 1942, but I don’t recognize this particular pose.  That’s being nitpicky.  As a fan of those old shorts, it’s nice to see them reference one with this pin.  (And a little embarrassing to acknowledge how long it took me to recognize that was the basis of this pin.)

As always, we get “Fishing” written in a sparkly blue banner across the bottom of the pin, and Goofy’s signed our card in the upper right corner.  Goofy himself is raised slightly from the background of the pin.

As with some of the others, I do have to question whether fishing is really a sport or not.  Oh, I know it is called one, but it doesn’t feel like one to me.

Either way, I do still enjoy having this pin.  I just can’t wait to hear Goofy’s story after this fishing trip.  I have a feeling it will be a whopper.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

October 9th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Dancing with the Stars – I get it.  I get why Cody and Cheryl’s scores weren’t better.  But given everything else, I thought their dance was amazing.  Glad they are sticking around.  Sorry to see Christine go, but not too surprised.  At this stage especially, it is easy to be saved one week and go the next.

Stargirl – Now we’re getting somewhere.  There is a way to stop the villain.  But the cost.  I can understand why this wasn’t shared weeks ago, but Courtney’s anger is certainly understandable.  And, as much as I’m complained about her go into battle without knowing the danger attitude in the past, I kind of liked it at the beginning of this episode.  And she was right.

Supergirl – Yes, there was a lecture to the episode, but the importance of being nice is a rather…nice…moral to be reminded of.  Curioius how William’s articles are going to turn out.  You know at some point, he’s going to figure out Kara’s identity and then struggle with what to do about it.

What If…? – This was another of the better episodes.  I like how it tied in the alternative characters we’d met earlier, although I would have liked to see more of this before now.  I feel like it was too little too late to really tie things together.

Survivor – I thought Brad would go further.  I find it funny the one person who got a steal a vote tonight is voted out.  Although, I wonder what he could have done with it if he can’t vote.  Does that make up for him not having a vote?  I feel like the advantages are a bit excessive this season, but it’s still early.  We’ll see how it all plays out.

United States of Al – I’ve been thinking about this show a lot over the last couple of months and how they would handle the very real events that had inspired the sitcom.  I’m not surprised by what the show did, going full drama and focusing on a member of Al’s family.  Even a few of the twists along the way were expected.  But it was still so touch to watch.  I just about broke down crying at the end myself.  This show has given a very human face to the events over there, and that’s a very good thing.

Frogger – Some pretty impressive performances there tonight.  I mean, both women in the space competition making it to the final jump on their first turn.  And I’m impressed with anyone who can get by those water cannon in the jungle stage.  The bonus level was surprising in how quickly the players lost.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Travel Review: Hawaii Zipline Tours

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great scenery, fun and professional staff
Cons: I want to go again, but I'm home so I can't
The Bottom Line:
Hawaii Zipping
Perfect for a first timer
Beautiful and fun

Zip Over to Hawaii Zipline Tours for a Great Zipline Experience

I recently spent a week on the Big Island of Hawaii with a couple of friends, and one of the things I brought up to do was ziplining.  Now, if you know me, that might be very surprising since I hate heights.  With a passion.  But I’ve always wanted to try it, and some of the tours I was seeing looked great.  We wound up going with Hawaii Zipline Tours, and all three of us had a blast.

The company is located in Honomu, on the Hilo side of the Big Island.  Their zipline tour involves seven ziplines, each with increasing height, distance and speed.  That was perfect for me, since it meant I was able to build up to the biggest and scariest.  The first one is extremely short and not too far off the ground.  By the time we got to the final one, half a mile long over a huge gorge, I was ready for it.  Yes, I was still nervous, but it was such a rush that I enjoyed it.

The tour takes place out in farmland.  That means as you are waiting for your turn, you get to enjoy some beautiful flowers and some Hawaiian plants.

But you’ll notice I mentioned a gorge at the end.  Over the course of the seven zips, you actually zipline by two waterfalls and over gorges a total of three times.  And they are all beautiful!  My hands were firmly on the ropes the entire time I was going down the zipline, but I would have loved to take a few pictures as I was flying over the breathtaking scenery if I wasn’t worried I’d drop something.

The staff was friendly and talked a little about the plants we were walking past.  They double checked everything carefully at every zip, and I was quickly comfortable with their professionalism.

The picture is one I took from the top of the final zipline.  What you can't see from this picture is the waterfall you pass as you go down.  It was breathtaking.

I’m ready to go ziplining again now.  And if I am ever fortunate enough to make it back to the Island of Hawaii, I will definitely consider taking another tour with Hawaii Zipline Tours.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Book Review: God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness Mysteries #15)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters, history playing in and out of the mystery
Cons: pacing very off in the beginning
The Bottom Line:
Christmas house party
Royals target of killer?
History is strong

Royal Intrigue at Christmas

While all of the books in the Royal Spyness series involve the history of the 1930’s to some extent, some books seem to incorporate it more than others. God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen is one of those books. 

Christmas 1935 is fast approaching, and Lady Georgiana is trying to decide how she and Darcy should spend their first Christmas together as husband and wife. She’s thinking a small house party might be fun, but then they get an invitation from Darcy’s aunt. Georgie hasn’t met this aunt yet, but they feel like they need to accept, especially since it is implied that the queen is behind the invitation. 

When Georgie, Darcy, and their guests arrive, Georgie learns she was indeed summoned by the queen. The queen suspects that something evil is going to happen over Christmas, and she hopes Georgie can figure out what it is and stop it. Stories about unfortunate deaths during a Boxing Day hunt the year before only heighten Georgie’s unease. Can she figure out what is going on before it is too late?

Once again, the book takes a bit of time to get going. We need some time to set up the story, and we also need some updates on the friends and family in Georgie’s life who won’t be part of the major action. Fans of the series will enjoy those updates and have come to expect the pacing of the beginning. 

Christmas also slows down the pacing a little here. Christmas fan that I am, I’m a little torn on this one. I did enjoy hearing about the Christmas traditions they were observing and those scenes made me smile. 

Once we do get to the mystery, it is very clever. I hadn’t figured out who or how until Georgie pieces things together. I always enjoy it when she and Darcy are working together, and we get plenty of that here. 

The characters are wonderful as always. I won’t spoil who from Georgie’s life plays a bigger part in this book, but their presence proved to be a lot of fun. The new characters we meet make for wonderful suspects and definitely kept me guessing until the end. 

Which brings us back to the history I talked about earlier. The end of 1935 was a major time in English history and impact some of the real-life events we’ve been following in this series since the very first book. The royal family plays a major part of what is happening here. It is easy to separate out fact from fiction, of course, but contemplating how the real-world events might play into the fictional motives for murder is quite fun.  The historical note at the end helps put the book into the proper historical contest.

Fans of the series will enjoy spending this Christmas with Georgie. God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen provides us with a puzzling mystery and plenty of history to keep us entertained. 

You'll want to be sure to check out the rest of the Royal Spyness Mysteries.

Note: I received an ARC of this book.