Friday, April 30, 2021

April 30th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

 It's the final Friday of April.  Time for some Book Beginnings 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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Book Review: Something's Knot Kosher by Mary Marks (Quilting Mysteries #4)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Solid mystery and interesting characters
Cons: Pacing in the middle slows a bit
The Bottom Line:
Birdie’s husband dies
But could it have been murder?
Intriguing story

Bank Robbery or Murder?

Typically in the books I read, the murder victim is an awful person.  This allows us to have many realistic suspects to make the murder harder to solve.  I like it when the murder victim becomes a real person to us, however, and isn’t the one note victim.  That’s what happens in Something’s Knot Kosher, the fourth Quilting Mystery from Mary Marks.  What makes it even more remarkable is that the murder victim never appears on page.

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 briefly in other books.  Very briefly.  What little we’ve seen, colored by Martha’s perceptions, hasn’t painted Russell in the best light.  I was actually happy to see a different picture emerge here.  We gain quite a bit of sympathy for Russell before the book is over, and I was very sorry he was dead by the time I finished.

Of course, his death does present a great mystery for Martha to solve.  We get several potential motives before Martha figures out the real reason for his death.  The road trip does slow things down a little in the middle, but I’m still impressed with how the author was able to keep the plot moving forward in two very different locations, Los Angeles and Oregon, without making it feel too disjointed.

I’ve talked a bit about Russell, but the other characters are good.  I did feel a few fell into stereotypes, although some of those characters were pretty funny and didn’t have much page time, so I didn’t mind.  The main trio of Martha, Lucy, and Birdie are strong and continue to grow in each book.

There is just enough info on quilting in the book to make me want to learn more without slowing the plot down at all.  There are some tips at the end for caring for your quilts.

While I’m not crafty myself, I’m glad I’ve started this series.  The characters are great and the mysteries are solid.  If you are behind on this series like I am, you’ll be glad you picked up Something’s Knot Kosher.

Enjoy the rest of the Quilting Mysteries.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Ornament Review: Timothy Q. Mouse - 2020 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great look for Timothy
Cons: His tail might become an issue
The Bottom Line:
Sidekick character
Finally gets ornament
His fans will love it

Dumbo’s Friend Timothy Gets the Spotlight

As I said a couple of weeks ago, I have several ornaments of Dumbo.  What I didn’t have was an ornament of his friend Timothy Q. Mouse.  But I fixed that with the limited edition ornament that Hallmark released in 2020.

This ornament ties in to Dumbo Takes Flight.  Sort of.  In reality, for the climax, Timothy was sitting in Dumbo’s hat.  But that doesn’t make for a great ornament of Timothy, so for this ornament, he’s standing firmly on the ground.  He’s dressed up as a circus ringmaster in a red coat with yellow buttons.  He’s got his hat in one hand, and the other is holding a peanut in a shell.  He’s looking up as if he’s holding the reward for Dumbo after a successful flight.

This ornament also isn’t to scale at all.  Why do I say that?  Because if it were, Timothy would be a miniature ornament.  Instead, he’s a normal sized ornament.  And I’m glad.  As much as I enjoy the mini ornaments, it’s nice to have Timothy being regular sized.

And he looks great.  Anyone familiar with Disney would immediately know who this is.  He may not be recognizable from any particular scene, but that hardly matters.  He looks like himself, and he looks great.

Timothy is firmly planted on a bit of ground under the big top, so the ornament has a nice oval base you can use to set it out to be displayed year round.  After all, there isn’t anything particularly Christmas related about the ornament.  If you want to hang it on your tree, you’ll find that he hangs straight.

The only issue there might be with this ornament is the tail.  It is sticking up and actually reaches over Timothy’s head.  It’s a separate piece of plastic and is a little loose.  Or at least mine is.  It’s hard to get the hook in the loop on Timothy’s head without hitting the tail, too.  The end result is that the tail flops around a little.  Hopefully, it isn’t enough that the tail will come out, but you’ll want to be careful of that.

That issue aside, this is a great ornament of Timothy Q. Mouse.  It’s always nice to get a new Disney character for my collection, and he looks wonderful.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Disney Pin Review: Stitch Crashs Lady and the Tramp - Stitch Crashes Disney #2 - 2021 Release


Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Creative take on Lady and the Tramp’s famous spaghetti scene
Cons: Very abstract
The Bottom Line:
A romantic meal
Stitch goes over the top here
Could be toned down some

Is Stitch Crashing Disney or Getting into a Food Fight?

The Stitch Crashes Disney limited series hasn’t proved as overall popular as some of the previous series from Disney have been.  While the plushes sell out immediately, the rest of the merchandise stays on ShopDisney for quite a while after release.  (And the releases are getting pushed back, too.)  The second release didn’t help the series at all.

For the February release, Stitch crashed the classic Lady and the Tramp.  And, honestly, he doesn’t look like himself at all.  Of course, Stitch has landed in the middle of the famous spaghetti scene.  He’s perfected his chameleon act, and his skin is partially covered in the red and white checkerboard of the table cloth.  The rest of his skin is covered in meatballs and cheese.  On top of his head is a pile of actual spaghetti with a meatball on top, and he has a strand of spaghetti in his mouth.

I get why they picked Lady and the Tramp for the second movie.  February means romance, and the spaghetti scene is a classic romantic scene.  But the pin itself is odd.  First of all, Stitch isn’t his normal color at all.  If it weren’t for the shape, I’m not completely sure I would recognize him.  The pattern he has is just too busy as well.  I liked the first one because Stitch still looked like Stitch while being rethemed.  I think here, a few meatballs in a pattern on his skin and the pile on his head would have looked better.

In fact, my first thought was I wasn’t going to get it, but when I looked at it more, and it did grow on me.  There is something about it that made me decide to get it, so it isn’t completely ugly.  Still, I think something more like I described might have kept those on the fence interested in this series.  He’s just a little too abstract here.

Once again, the card this pin comes on gets into the act.  It’s designed to look like a film strip with holes in the sides.  The picture in the middle is of the restaurant where Lady and Tramp had their memorable meal.

This is a jumbo pin, so it is a couple of inches big.  That is factored into the price as well.  This isn’t something you’ll wear in the parks, but it is something Stitch fans will enjoy owning.

I can’t give this pin my full recommendation, but I think I’m in for the entire run of Stitch Crashes Disney, whenever the rest of those pins actually wind up shipping.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

April 24th's Weekly TV Thoughts

 Didn't have time to watch my Thursday and Friday stuff.  I'll have to catch up on that next week.  But here's the little I did get watched this week.

Batwoman – Well, Sophie did figure out the secret, but it was because of something Luke did that got left behind.  Still, I think that is going to make things very interesting going forward.  Definitely missed Mary in this episode.  Since they were using her car, it felt awkward her not being there, too.  Angelique managed to talk herself out of being the tester for the drug, but how much longer is she going to be able to dodge the danger?

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist – No wonder they left us hanging with Emily’s problem – they took most of this episode to finally get it out of her.  What a powerful episode.  Good, fun and times, but heavy at others when it needed to be.  In other words, it’s what this show does best.  They really do mix up the fun and the drama in one episode without making any of it feel out of place.

Supergirl – Can we please get Kara back from the Phantom Zone already?  Please and thank you.  And did we just kill off her dad?  I mean, I didn’t expect him to be around all the time, but that’s still just so wrong to find him again and then have him die so soon.  At least we got rid of the phantoms.  And I loved the scene at the end between Alex and Lena.  So much truth in that not just for their team, but in real life.  It’s the differences that make us stronger.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984

: 3 out of 5
Pros: Acting, action, effects
Cons: Pacing, predictable theme
The Bottom Line:
Wonder Woman’s back
But film could have been better
The results are mixed

Be Careful What You Wish For

Like many, I had been looking forward to Wonder Woman 1984 last year.  While I wasn’t willing to subscribe to HBO Max to see it when it finally came out this winter, I watched for its physical disc release so I could rent it.  And, like many, I found it entertaining but disappointing.

We rejoin Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), in 1984.  She’s now working for the Smithsonian Museum as an archeologist.  But she finds many subtle ways to help those in need as her secret identity.

It’s her new co-worker, Barbara (Kristen Wiig), who makes the remarkable discovery that sets off the story.  It’s a stone that legend says has power to grant wishes.  It sounds crazy – at least at first.  But as Barbara begins to grow more confident, Diana discovers her long dead love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) has come back – sort of.  Meanwhile, would be oil barren Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) has his own designs on the stone.  Will the wishes get out of hand?

I wanted to like the film, and I did enjoy parts of it.  The action scenes were spectacular, as you’d expect.  The special effects were great, as well.  The acting was all fantastic.  And yet, the film just didn’t quite work.

It started from the very beginning as we had an extended prologue set back on Paradise Island.  Again, the action was fun, but in a move that is two and a half hours long, it felt self-indulgent.  We didn’t need it to get the message of the movie.

The moral of the movie is obvious – painfully obvious – early on.  They didn’t even try to do anything different with it, either.  A twist on the moral about the danger of wishes/envy of others would have been nice.  I’m not disagreeing with the message, but it made the movie predictable.

Then there’s Diana herself.  It is clear as the movie opens that she has been mourning for Steve for 70 years.  I get it – I feel like they shouldn’t have killed him off as well.  He’s too important a character to Wonder Woman to not be around.  But that’s a rather depressing place for the character to start out.  And I feel like it cast a pallor over the film.

But maybe it’s the length.  I feel like the film could have told its story better with a shorter running time.  I wasn’t enthralled the entire two and a half hours, and for me to enjoy a movie that long, it needs to have a faster pace or more action.  Or both.

Again, that’s not to say it is a bad movie.  This is an average movie.  Nothing great, but nothing horrible.  It’s just easy to spot what could have been better.

There is an extra scene early in the credits, and I absolutely loved it!  Be sure to watch for it.

I wish I had liked Wonder Woman 1984 better.  (Great, there I go making wishes now.)  Hopefully, this isn’t the last we will see of the character in the movies, and the next outing will be a movie worthy of the character.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Book Review: Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #27)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Characters; good mystery
Cons: Talk about food overwhelms the plot (as usual)
The Bottom Line:
Mayor as victim
Gives us excuse to talk food
Mystery sub-plot

Murder in the Mayor’s Office

Just like with friends, there are some friends you reconnect with instantly and if feels like no time has passed no matter how long you’ve been apart.  And then there are the friends where time and distance has definitely cooled the friendship.  You still enjoy catching up, but the relationship is not what it once was.  That’s how I feel when I read the Hannah Swensen books.  I still want to find out what is happening with everyone, but they don’t hold up like they used to.  Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder is a perfect example.

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 these books since they first came out, so I’m always happy to see these characters again.  We’ve been through a lot together, both in the books and in my own life.  This is book 27 in the series, after all.  Yes, it was nice to find out what is happening to the characters.  The over-the-top soap opera we had going for a few books has calmed down, which I appreciate.  Yes, the love triangle is still intact, and it is beyond ridiculous at this point.  On the other hand, I appreciated some growth we got to see in one of the characters.

And the mystery is decent.  There are enough suspects to keep us guessing as we read, and I appreciated the clues that Hannah followed to the solution.

The problem is, these things are overshadowed by food.  Yes, I get that this is a culinary cozy, so there is going to be talk of food.  However, the talk of food was overwhelming, frequently slowing down the plot in favor of discussing the latest recipe, how Hannah created it, and how much everyone loves it.  Then there’s the repetitive dialogue.  It’s a perfect example of why you write realistic dialogue and not real dialogue.  I get through the book by skimming over these parts, and I don’t miss a thing when it comes to the actual mystery.

By my count, there are 24 new recipes in this book (and I’m not counting frosting to go with the various Easter themed cupcakes).  As always, they do sound mouthwatering.  I really do need to start making some of them again.

Because I like the characters, I will continue to buy and read these books.  I do wish they would focus more on the mystery and less on the food.  If you are like me, you’ll be glad you picked up Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder.  If you are new to Hannah’s culinary cases, definitely back up and start at the beginning so you can see why the series has so many fans like me.  But if you’ve given up on the series, there’s no reason to continue here.

Easy more tasty mystery with the rest of the Hannah Swensen Mysteries.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Movie Review: The Art of the Kill - A Matchmaker Mystery


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: More of Nick in a great mystery movie
Cons: Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
Death at museum
With complicated motives
Enjoyable film

“Here We Go Again, Angie’s One True Love – a Murder Mystery”

I must admit that I lose track of how many movies we’ve gotten in certain of Hallmark’s Mystery Movie franchises.  For example, I was surprised to find that The Art of the Kill was only our third visit with the Matchmaker Mysteries gang.  It was fantastic to revisit them again.

This time the mystery starts with Nick (Bruce Boxleitner).  A friend has called in a favor and asked that the retired detective investigate a series of petty thefts happening at the Oswald Museum.  Angie (Danica McKellar) is meeting her dad there for lunch and maybe an interview or two before she has to get back to taping her matchmaking show.  Their first stop is Dr. Jennings, who was the first person to report an item stolen.  However, they find him dead on the floor of his office.

With Kyle (Victor Webster) on the case, Angie can’t help but poke around.  The duo quickly learn that Jennings was estranged from his sister and was heavily involved in a new exhibit opening in just a couple of days.  Could any of these things lead to his murder?  Or had he learned something about the theft?

I’ve been a fan of Bruce Boxleitner for a number of years, so I was thrilled to see him get a larger role in this movie.  Yes, Angie and Kyle are still the main characters, but Nick has more scenes and is much more involved in what is going on as a result.

The mystery is strong as always.  There are multiple motives and multiple suspects, which really helped keep me guessing until we reached the end.  Yet when we get there, everything is logical.

This movie seems to have a bit more of the Hallmark cheese factor, coming from the writing at times and the acting at others.  Still, as long as you know that going into the movie, you’ll be fine.

The Art of the Kill proves to be a light, entertaining mystery movie.  If that is what you are looking for, you’ll definitely enjoy watching it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Book Review: The Bounty by Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton (Fox and O'Hare #7)

: 3 out of 5
Pros: Over-the-top action and thrills
Cons: Weaker characters.  I did mention over-the-top, right?
The Bottom Line:
Race across Europe
Trying to track down some gold
Ridiculous, fun

Hunting for Nazi Gold

I’ll admit that I was hesitant to pick up The Bounty after how disappointing the previous book in the Fox and O’Hare series was.  But seeing a new co-author and the fact that I could get it from the library convinced me to give it a chance.  It was a delightful over-the-top spectacular.

If you’ve missed this series, it features Nick Fox, a conman, and Kate O’Hare, the FBI agent who finally arrested him.  However, once Nick is captured, he makes a deal with the FBI.  While he has officially escaped, unofficially, he works with Kate and the FBI to bring down other master criminals, sometimes with unconventional means.  And there may or may not be a romance building between the leads.

Kate and Nick have been loaned to Interpol since there is chatter that someone is planning to rob the Vatican.  Sure enough, a thief comes in and manages to slip through all the guards.  However, Nick IDs the thief – it’s his father Quentin.

Quentin escapes with a map that is supposed to be part of a clue to gold that Nazi’s hid during World War II.  Interpol believes he’s been hired by white supremacists to recover the gold so they can finance another revolution.  Nick hasn’t spoken to his father in years, but he isn’t buying it.  He and Kate have been tasked with bringing in Quentin and recovering the map, but Nick is doing his best to find his father to figure out what is really happening.  What is Quentin up to?  Is there gold?  If so, who will get to it first?

These books have always required you to ignore logic and go along with the flow.  These are action movies – just on the page instead of the screen.  Honestly, I find I am much more willing to go along with over-the-top action in a movie than on the page.  I was rolling my eyes at some of the things that happened including some of the things that the characters survived.  These were things that wouldn’t have bothered me on screen.  Then I was quickly turning the page to find out exactly what would happen next.

The plot is a typical treasure hunt plot that takes Nick and Kate across Europe as they try to stay one step ahead of the other characters after the treasure.  Each stop is an over-the-top set piece with its own creative trap for them to outwit.  The plot feels a little repetitive as a result, but the stops along the way aren’t repetitive at all.

While the characters aren’t as strong as they were in the first few books in the series, they are much better than they were in the previous book.  Nick, Kate, and Kate’s dad are the only returning characters who get any page time.  I miss some of the old crew, and I hope we see them pop up again.  Overall, the characters are strong enough that we care about the outcome, but they are more types than true characters.

Nick and Kate’s relationship seems to have regressed some.  It is head and shoulders better than it was in the last book, but it isn’t at the same place it ended with book five.

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m going to say one more time – this book is over-the-top.  Full stop.  If you are looking for a realistic story with well-developed characters, don’t even think about picking up this book.  But if you want to escape into a mindless action movie for a few hours, this is the book for you.

Fans of Nick and Kate will enjoy The Bounty.  If you are in the right mood, pick up this book, and get swept up in the action.

Get more action with the rest of the Fox and O’Hare series.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Disney Pin Review: Pinocchio Billiards - All Star Trading Cards #4

: 4 out of 5
Pros: Pinocchio represents another unusual sport
Cons: Is billiards a sport?
The Bottom Line:
Another sports card
As Pinocchio takes shot
It’s good overall

Honestly, I Do Have Questions About This Pin

I’ve been praising the All Stars Trading Cards pins for highlighting some different sports.  That’s not to say that I don’t see issues with some of the sports chosen.  For example, the April pin shows Pinocchio playing billiards.

The pin itself fits in well with the rest of the series.  It’s a rectangle since this is supposed to be a sports card.  We see Pinocchio kneeling on a billiards table, cue stick in his hand, as he gets ready for another shot.  We see a couple of balls on the table as well.  Billiards is written in a stripe of blue glitter on the bottom of the pin, and Pinocchio has signed the top of the card.  Pinocchio is a raised pin on pin.

As I said, this pin fits in well with the rest of the series.  As usual, I love how it ties to something Pinocchio does in his movie.  I feel like, more than any other pin in the series, this is a shot taken directly from the movie, in fact.  Then again, it’s been years since I watched Pinocchio (it’s not a favorite), so I could be wrong on that.

My issue is if billiards is really a sport.  Yes, I’ve caught it being broadcast on sports channels.  That doesn’t factor in to my definition.  After all, they air lots of poker, and I consider that a game, but not a sport.   Same, for me, with billiards.  Yes, it does require skill, so I’m not knocking it.  And I enjoy it, so I’ll let it slide.

Those collecting this sports themed series will certainly enjoy this pin.  It’s nice to see Pinocchio captured doing something a bit out of the ordinary for him.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Book Review: Golden Gate by James Ponti (City Spies #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Rich characters in a fast moving, entertaining story
Cons: All cons are classified
The Bottom Line:
Kidnapping at sea
Kicks off second adventure
As good as the first

The City Spies Cross the Pond

Last year, I completely fell under the spell of the City Spies, so I was anxious to see what James Ponti would have in store for them in the second book in the series, Golden Gate.  Once again, I loved it.

If you haven’t met these spies, they are MI-6’s most unusual assets, 5 teens and pre-teens who have been trained to be the best spies on the planet.  As a result, they take on jobs where adult spies would stand out.  For example, as the book opens, Brooklyn and Sydney 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?

This book starts with a bang and never really lets up.  Given the title, it’s no surprise that our heroes wind up traveling from their home base in Scotland to San Francisco at some point, but I was never bored watching the story unfold until we got there since there were plenty of complications along the way.  I was turning pages as quickly as I could several times, and I devoured the book in just a couple of days.

While all the characters get their moment to shine, this is more Sydney’s book than any of the others.  She is the one with the most character growth.  While I expected where she wound up, I still enjoyed the ride.

One reason I enjoyed the ride is the characters as a whole.  They are a diverse lot, and the book shows how diversity gives us strength without ever preaching.  It really does take all the characters to figure things out.  And, while the characters do have their internal conflicts, we can tell how much they truly do care for each other, which is something else I love.  In fact, I might have teared up a few times while reading.

Of course, you do have to go along with the ride – that these kids are this good at what they do.  But that’s the entire premise of the series, right?  Believe me, it is well worth it.

I grew up in the north San Francisco Bay Area, so I especially enjoyed the scenes set there.  It was fun getting to see the city again through fresh eyes.

I can’t leave out the humor.  I was laughing at some of the character’s interactions or the situations they got into as the book progressed.

I am already anxious to spend more time with these City Spies.  If you have middle graders in your life, they will love Golden Gate.  And I certainly wouldn’t blame you for reading them just to make sure they are good enough for the kids.

Travel to more cities with the rest of the City Spies series.

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

Saturday, April 17, 2021

April 17th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Batwoman – Got to admit, there were several developments I wasn’t expecting tonight.  Kane becoming addicted to Snackbite, for example.  Once he was injected, I knew you’d be going back for seconds.  Didn’t think Angelique would spill the beans, either.  Thought she might truly be in protective custody until we got the final scene.  That’s not going to be good.  I wonder what excuse they are going to use for not killing her right away.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist – Lots of songs.  I think just about everyone sang.  And I love the singing, so I’m not complaining about that.  But I want to know what Emily was sad about.  But I really want to see the work crew singing “Anything you can do.”

The Flash – I suspected Mark had to be the villain of the week.  Such a shame they had to ruin such a perfectly good name.  But I figured they find a way to clear Killer Frost and then she would be free of her past.  I’m actually liking that she stood up for what she’d done and is pleading guilty.  Nice twist.

Supergirl – I’m ready for Kara to come out of the Phantom Zone now.  Glad they stopped the phantoms in our world.  And I hope that Lena finds what she needs by cutting Lex out of her life.  It definitely seems like the right decision to me, but I’m sure it won’t appear that way for a while.

United States of Al – We finally got to see the daughter!  Okay, so she only had one scene, but it was nice to finally meet the character.  Not sure how I feel about the episode overall.  It felt awkward.  And I find it hard to believe he truly wouldn’t have been able to concentrate.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Wipeout – I was rooting for the Frisbee team.  Hey, this is me.  Not too surprised with the fit team winning.  And wow, were they impressive in the final course.  They definitely deserved it.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – A mixed episode for sure.  Definitely could have done without the preaching scenes.  Now that they are finally gearing up for the climax, things are starting to come together and be more interesting.  All the pieces are in place for an explosive climax.  We will see if we get it.  With the slower pacing the series has had all along, I expect it will be mixed as well.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Book Review: The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly (Jack McEvoy #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great thriller with strong characters
Cons: A bit more detail than needed in one scene; the obvious climax set up scene
The Bottom Line:
One last news story
Sends Jack on a thrilling ride
Page turning suspense

Will Jack End His Career in a Blaze of Glory?

While Michael Connelly has spent most of his career writing about LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, he has a few other characters he will revisit occasionally.  One of those is reporter Jack McEvoy.  The Scarecrow marks Jack’s second lead roll out of only three books, and it is a page turner.

For the last decade, Jack has been working at The Los Angeles Times, working the crime beat.  His time at the paper is coming to an end, however.  His just been given notice that his name is number ninety-nine out of one hundred the paper has to let go to cut costs.  He’s been offered the chance to stay an extra two weeks in order to train his replacement, an offer that he decides to take.

But Jack has his own motive for staying.  He decides he is going to write one last blockbuster story that will be an exclamation point on his career.  And it looks like that story might be the case of Alonzo Winslow, a sixteen-year-old drug dealer in prison for a brutal murder – a murder he might not have committed.  As Jack begins to investigate, his path once again crosses with FBI agent Rachel Walling.  Will the two of them track down the real killer?

When this book came out in 2009, it had been thirteen years since Jack’s first starring role, but he had made some cameos in other books that Michal Connelly had written.  Rachel Walling had had more prominent parts in a couple of the Bosch novels.  It’s one thing I’m enjoying going through all of Michael Connelly’s books in order is watching the characters pop in and out of each book.

This was the perfect story to team Jack and Rachel back up.  It naturally flows from Jack’s newspaper story.  While we can guess that the story is going to be bigger than Jack originally suspects early on, it is still fun watching it unfold and Jack follows each clue to the next.  I was quickly caught up in the twists and turns along the way to the suspenseful climax.

This book does fall into one of the traps I’ve noticed in other Michael Connelly books.  There are some scenes that are obviously nothing but setting up the climatic set piece.  In fact, it is painfully obvious data dump.  I’m not quite sure how to get us that information in a less obvious way, but this is a minor complaint overall.

I hadn’t realized how much I liked Jack and Rachel until we got another book focused on them.  They are wonderful characters, and they work well together.  Which worries me since Michael Connelly doesn’t have a habit of letting his characters have happy romantic lives.  The rest of the cast is just as strong.

We are dealing with some brutal murders in this book, which isn’t a surprise for another who has read Michael Connelly’s books before.  They are of a sexual nature.  I could have done with less detail, but there are only a couple scenes that crosses the line for me.  The foul language is kept to a minimum, which I appreciated.

I’m still listening to these books on audio, and Peter Giles was the narrator of the version I listened to.  I’ve enjoyed his narration in the past, and he did a great job again here.  The really oddity to me was when it came to reading an email.  We got the email addresses, time the email was sent, etc.  Detail that I don’t even pay attention to when I’m checking my email in real life much less reading a novel.  I get why it was included in an unabridged production, but it was still odd.

I know I’ve got one more visit with Jack ahead of me, but I’ve got quite a few books to get through first.  I’m looking forward to it.  If you haven’t yet read The Scarecrow, you are in for a great thriller.

April 16th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

It's Friday!  Starting off the day with Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring Golden Gate by James Ponti.

This is the second in the City Spies middle grade series.  I loved the first one last year, and this one was just as good.

Here's how it begins:

It was just after dawn, so the black-clad hijackers were barely visible as they moved with military precision across the deck of the marine research vessel Sylvia Earle.

And here's from page 56:

It wasn't that Sydney wanted to be unhelpful.  It was just that, according to the United Kingdom Official Secrets Act, she was forbidden from disclosing her MI6 status to anyone.  So the lies continued.

I'll be reviewing this book on Sunday so I hope you come back then for my full review.  In the meantime, have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Book Review: Bones to Pick by Linda Lovely (Brie Hooker Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, fun, hard to put down
Cons: Emphasis on events over investigations
The Bottom Line:
Bones found on aunt’s farm
Brie works to uncover truth
Book fun overall

I’m Glad I Picked This Debut

I’d had Bones to Pick, the debut in Linda Lovely’s Brie Hooker Mysteries, on my radar for a while.  I finally got it for my birthday this year, so I moved it to the top of my TBR pile.  I’m glad since I enjoyed it.

Brie Hooker has gone from a career as a vegan chef to helping her aunt Eva run her goat farm and dairy in South Carolina.  It may not be her first choice for what to be doing with her life right now, but she loves her aunt, and Eva needs the help.  This is especially true after the farm’s pot-bellied pig unearths bones – human bones.  The remains are quickly identified as that of Brie’s husband, who disappeared forty years ago.

There was no love lost between Eva and her husband, and he was part of the most prominent family in the area, so it isn’t a surprise that suspicion in his murder falls on Eva.  With so much time passing, it’s hard to even tell for sure when he died, so it is hard for Eva to provide an alibi.  Brie starts to investigate, hoping to clear her aunt.  When another dead body turns up, however, Brie finds herself getting more scrutiny as well.  Are these two murders, decades apart, related?  If so, can Brie figure out what is really going on?

It was the characters that really drew me into this book.  Brie may be a vegan, but no one else around her is.  She takes some ribbing about that (pun always intended), but she takes it in good humor and dishes it back as well.  Brie’s parents, Eva, a childhood friend, and two potential love interests complete the main cast, and I really liked all of them.  Yes, this book sets up a love triangle.  I hope it gets resolved sooner rather than later (I am getting tired of them), but I like both of these guys, so that’s a plus.

The mystery starts strongly, with the bones turning up within the first few pages.  And there is lots going on.  Every few pages, something happens that complicates Brie’s life, which made it hard to put the book down.  However, this is a book that confuses events for investigations.  I got a bit tired of not feeling like we were getting anywhere in the investigation despite all the events happening.  Still, the climax resolves everything without feeling rushed.  In fact, the suspense of the climax was wonderfully handled.

I hinted at this earlier, but the book does have some great humor in it.  The characters love each other, and that comes out as they tease each other.  Brie has taken to using some pretty funny meat and cheese curses, as well.  Those were definitely a highlight.

This book does boarder the PG/PG-13 divide, especially with some of the teasing that Brie gets about her love life.  Keep that in mind if you think it might bother you before you pick up the book.

I’m definitely curious what Brie uncovers next.  I’m looking forward to revisiting her, her family, and her friends.  If you enjoy humor in your mysteries, you’ll be glad you picked Bones to Pick.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Movie Review: Riddle Me Dead - A Crossword Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun mystery, characters
Cons: Usual light dose of cheese
The Bottom Line:
A quiz show murder
Sets up this light mystery
A charming movie

“He’s So…”  “Phony.”  “I Was Going to Say Full of Himself, But That Works, Too.”

I’ve been watching more game shows than usual this past year.  They’ve been one of the few things that have been produced during the pandemic.  That made the setting for Riddle Me Dead, the latest Crossword Puzzle Mystery from Hallmark, even more fun for me.

Tess Harper (Lacey Chabert) has been asked to provide the video clues for a category on the popular game show Riddle Me This for an upcoming episode.  She is thrilled to do it, especially since her aunt Candace (Barbara Niven) is a huge fan of the show, and they’ll both get to go to a taping.  It’s all be arranged by Tess’s ex, Hunter (Jon Cor), a writer on the show.

Things take a deadly turn, however, when the extremely popular host of the show, Aiden (Lane Edwards), is found dead on stage after the taping.  Detective Logan O’Connor (Brennan Elliott) on the case, and Tess can’t help but poke around.  With Hunter back in her life, what will that mean for Tess’s love life?  Or will Logan arrest him for murder?

Aiden proves to be the perfect murder victim since there are plenty of people with motive.  The investigation hits a few dead ends before Tess and Logan figure it out.  I had a suspicion where the case was going to wind up, but the how kept me guessing.  And that didn’t mean I knew who was ultimately responsible for the crimes either until Tess and Logan figured it out.

While Tess, Candace, and Logan are the main trio in this franchise, there are some other supporting characters that I enjoyed catching up with again here.  All the main characters are fun, and I enjoyed watching their various relationships growing.  Meanwhile, the suspects do their job of acting suspiciously perfectly.

You know what comes next – the Hallmark cheese factor.  Yes, it is a fairly light dose (or I’m keeping more immune to it all the time), but it is here.

Riddle Me Dead provides another light mystery.  If you are looking to be entertained for an hour and a half, you’ll enjoy this film.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Book Review: Cozy Up to Murder by Colin Conway (Cozy Up #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Owen, good plot, fun
Cons: Stretched credibility quite a bit
The Bottom Line:
Character on run
Once again caught in murder
Entertaining; flawed

Murder is Not Music to Owen’s Ears

Last year, I read the first book in the Cozy Up series.  While I found parts of it hard to swallow, I was intrigued enough that I knew I wanted to find out what happened next to the main character, so I picked up Cozy Up to Murder.  I had much the same response I did to the first book.

Our hero is a man in hiding.  It started out that the Feds were just hiding him from his old motorcycle gang after he testified against them in exchange for a reduced sentence.  But now he needs to hide out from the east coast mob as well.  So he’s been given a new name, Owen Hunter, and set up as the owner of a used music store in the coastal California town of Costa Buena.

Owen is determined to make good on his second second chance, but he quickly begins running afoul of the locals.  After run ins with several of his new neighbors, the owner of the rival music store turns up dead.  The local detective thinks that Owen makes a wonderful suspect, but Owen can’t let that happen for fear that his true identity will get out.  Can he solve the murder and keep his identity secret?

This is a cozy with an edge.  It’s not quite as edgy as the first book in the series, but this is still not a typical cozy.

Part of that is the lack of recurring characters.  While Owen (under a different name) was in the previous book, the majority of the cast here weren’t.  A couple of agents also reappear, but they are minor supporting players.  I miss some of the characters we got to know in that first book.  Owen does, too, which makes me feel a little better.

Owen himself is a draw to this series.  He’s a well-developed character who is trying to change his ways despite the circumstances he constantly finds himself in.  I really like him.

The citizens of Costa Buena are quite colorful.  One minute they are amusing, the next they are causing us to wonder just what they might be hiding.  In other words, they make wonderful suspects in the mystery.

And there is much in the mystery to keep us guessing.  I wasn’t sure how everything would be resolved until I reached the end.  The climax was a bit rushed, but it worked and wrapped up the story nicely while also setting up the next installment in the series.

Like with the first, I found parts of the book to be unrealistic.  Owen’s involvement in the witness protection program, for starters, feels more fictional than reality.  While the citizens were colorful, at times they felt a bit like cliches.  Maybe I’m more sensitive to that because I live in California, and I saw some stereotypical characteristics in them.  It’s a book where I have to turn off some of my logic to enjoy.

And yet I do.  It really helps that I like Owen and want him to find a way to succeed in his new life despite the obstacles he finds himself facing.

This was a very fast read.  I read it easily in two days when most books take me three days to read.

Despite the flaws, I did enjoy Cozy Up to Murder.  I know this book isn’t for everyone, but I’m glad I picked it up.

Check out the rest of the Cozy Up series.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Ornament Review: Dumbo Takes Flight - 2021

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute pose of a great moment
Cons: Does tip slightly to the left
The Bottom Line:
Time for Dumbo’s flight
Captures the moment before
In cute ornament

Dumbo is Ready to Plunge Down Your Tree

I love Dumbo, so it is no surprise that I have several ornaments of him.  I was going to skip 2020’s Hallmark release, Dumbo Takes Flight, but somehow he landed in my basket.  I’m glad he did.

This is Dumbo as he is at the climax.  His face and trunk are all clowned up.  He’s wearing his orange hat and has a yellow bow tie on.  He’s standing on the platform the clowns put him on to jump out of the fiery building, although we don’t see the building.  How do I know it is the climax?  Dumbo has his lucky feather in his trunk.

It’s a cute ornament.  How can it miss, since Dumbo himself is so cute.  He looks so happy and sure of himself, too.  The only comment I have on the looks is that Dumbo is leaning down like he’s about to jump.  As a result, if you put him low on your tree, you won’t really see his face.  But, since he’s about to jump from a tall building, higher on your tree is better anyway, right?

Speaking of your tree, when you go to hang the ornament, you’ll find that Dumbo tips slightly to the left.  I’m a bit surprised by that since I would have guessed that the ornament was balances, but you can easily disguise it with some branches on your tree.  I don’t remember noticing this in December when the ornament was on my tree.

Dumbo’s platform means the ornament has a nice flat base, so you can set this ornament out to enjoy year-round if you want.

As I said, there are lots of Dumbo ornaments, so I’m not the only one who loves this character.  I don’t remember seeing this moment from the movie as an ornament before, so that makes me glad I added Dumbo Takes Flight to my ornament collection.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Podcast Review: Murder Book Season 2 - The Women Who Stopped Sam Little

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good look at the work that went into stopping a brutal serial killer.
Cons: Details are horrific (when shared), some recordings hard to hear
The Bottom Line:
Stopping a killer
Makes sometimes brutal podcast
Still worth listening

Bringing a Serial Killer to Justice

When true crime podcast Murder Book started releasing season two this last fall, I kept saving the episodes for some time when I’d be driving.  Not sure why, since I was listening to a couple other podcasts around the condo.  Anyway, I just now decided it was time to listen to the season in its entirety.  While it was good, I think it might have been a little too intense to listen to all at once.

Season two focuses on the case of Sam Little, a man the FBI has named the most prolific serial killer in America’s history.  He has confessed to just under 100 kills in a decades long crime spree that spanned the country.  I hadn’t heard about him until this season of the podcast was released, but apparently, he is becoming the focus of many documentaries and specials.

However, this podcast comes at things from a different perspective.  The host, best-selling author Michael Connelly, labeled this season “The Women who Stopped Sam Little.”  It focuses on LAPD Mitzi Roberts, who started the investigation in 2012 with a DNA match on two cold cases from the 1980’s.  She then tracked Sam across the country, attempting to build a case that DA Beth Silverman could use to convict him.  Late in the season, we meet writer Jillian Lauren who becomes part of the investigation thanks to interviews with Sam Little as she attempts to match his confessions to actual unsolved cases in LA and across the country.

Because of the brutal way Sam killed his victims, mostly prostitutes and drug addicts, this season is often hard to listen to.  I binged it in about a week, and that definitely made it hard.  At times, I had to get away.

One reason why this season is so frustrating is that it does talk about how Sam slipped through the justice system many times over the years.  Although, honestly, I’m not sure how things could have gone differently.  Much is made of how juries and the system viewed the victims, but there were other things going on that made the prosecution’s cases very hard to win.  Still, knowing how close he came to justice in the past and how that might have saved lives is frustrating.

Like with the first season, the show tries to use recordings of interviews as much as possible.  And, like the first season, those are of mixed quality, especially if the person being interviewed was mumbling.  Fortunately, Michael Connelly does help us at times with what we were supposed to hear.

One thing I did appreciate was that the podcast took an even look at law enforcement.  Without making excuses, it does explain some of the reasons, good and bad, that Sam Little was able to evade law enforcement for so long.  And it does an excellent job of giving praise where it is due to the women (and men) who finally brought the killer to justice.

There are a total of twelve episodes to this season, including a two-part Q&A with the women I mentioned above.  Each episode is somewhere in the 40-minute range, some going a little longer and some a little shorter.

While not always easy to listen to, “The Women Who Stopped Sam Little” does a good job of focusing on the victims and the work that went into finally stopping this serial killer.  It doesn’t glorify him or what he did in the slightest.  Be in the right frame of mind when you sit down to listen, and you’ll enjoy.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

April 10th's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Equalizer – Didn’t especially care for that one.  I am surprised it was a progressive candidate who was employing the predator.  I would have expected it to be a conservative candidate.  But other than that, it felt like a cliché.  I think I actually enjoyed the sub-plot with the daughter more in this one.

Ellen’s Game of Games – So close.  The winner was just one question away.  But once she missed the final question, I knew she wouldn’t make it back up to the top.  Just not enough time.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist – I’m discovering I don’t have much patience for love triangles these days.  That’s making me frustrated with this show.  It looks like we resolved it early in this season only to completely flip flop now.  Seriously?  I knew where the song the band did at the party was going to go as soon as they started singing.  Awkward!  I hope her brother finds something good now that the band has fallen through.

The Flash – Oh THAT Nora.  For some reason, I was thinking the speed force was supposed to be Barry and Iris’s daughter, not Barry’s mother.  I’d forgotten that was her name, too.  Now it makes more sense.  Normally, I’m not a fan of the talking the villain into giving up their plans resolution, but in this case, it worked.  I loved seeing Chester connect with his dad, even if it was predictable.  But seriously, what was up with those outfits?  They were early 90’s, not late 90’s fashion.

Supergirl – I get it – this is a TV show.  But I was laughing so hard at that trial.  It took place in a day?  And it was so unconventionally handled?  I’m not talking about the jury (which is obviously a nod to pandemic times/needing to keep the extras away from each other), but the entire way it was handled.  I would have been surprised if they got Kara back from the Phantom Zone in one episode.  Intrigued by finding her father there.  Didn’t remember what was supposed to have happened to him.  Oh, and the phantoms?  Definitely creepy.

United States of Al – I really do want to like this show.  And it has the potential to be so much fun.  But I’m just not there yet.  Part of it is because Al makes me cringe.  You just know he is going to keep sticking his foot in it.  That flashback scene at the end was great.  I would love to see the alternative show where the two couples were living across the street.  That would be a fun sitcom.  Which, I know, is so many classic sitcoms back in the day.

Wipeout – Talk about a close finish at the end!  I was glad to see the legacies win.  I liked them, and they had a story worth rooting for, so I was rooting for them all along.  My hat is off to the woman who was out there doing it afraid of heights.  She made it much further than I would have, that’s for sure.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – I feel like I’m the only one, but I still find this too long and drawn out.  Or maybe it’s because I just don’t care enough about the characters.  Are they trying to do too much?  I don’t know.  I’ll finish it out, but it’s not connect with me.