Monday, May 31, 2021

May 2021's Reading Summary


Happy Memorial Day!  At least for those of us here in the states.  I hope if you have today off, you are enjoying it.  I'm taking today to look at my reading for May.  And yes, the index has been updated.

Links will take you to my full review.

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

 



Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manasala (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries #1) – 4

After a disastrous breakup with her fiancĂ©, Lila Macapagal has moved back to Shady Palms, Illinois, and is trying to help her aunt save her Filipino restaurant.  One issue the restaurant is having is Derek Winter, Lila’s high school sweetheart who has becoming the local food critic and has written several nasty reviews of Tita Rosie’s Kitchen.  When he comes back for yet another meal, he winds up dropping dead in his meal.  Now the police are looking at Lila as a murderer, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen is closed until further notice, and Lila feels like the only hope of a happy ending is figuring out what is going on herself.  Can she keep herself out of jail?

This is a solid debut.  The mystery starts off quickly, and Lila learns plenty of secrets on her way to uncovering what really happened.  The climax is suspenseful and creative.  The characters are all strong.  We even learn a bit more about Derek that makes him a little sympathetic although not completely likable.  The rest of the cast is strong.  A few supporting players blend together, but that is done on purpose, and we see glimpses of their individual personalities.  We do have the beginnings of a love triangle here.  Some of Lila’s friendships are so strong already, they help make those characters more real for us.  I did feel a few of the themes of the book weren’t quite as well developed as I would have liked.  Hopefully they will be explored more in further books.  If the descriptions of food make you as hungry as they made me, you’ll be happy to see the four recipes at the end of the book.  This is a strong debut, and I already can’t wait to find out what happens next to the characters.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

For Batter or Worse by Jenn McKinlay (Cupcake Bakery Mysteries #13) – 5

Mel and Joe’s wedding day is fast approaching.  For their reception, they’ve picked the resort where Oz has landed the job of head pastry chef.  However, things are not going well for Oz there as the head chef is proving to be an egomaniac.  One day, Mel and Angie witness a very public fight between Oz and the head chef.  Then, a couple of days later, Mel and Joe find Oz bending over the dead body of the chef.  Mel doesn’t need anything else on her to do list, but can she figure out who the killer is before she walks down the aisle?

If you were worried that Oz was leaving the series after the events of the previous book, this proves that he will still very much be part of the series.  He gets some interesting character growth, in fact.  The rest of the gang is all present, and I enjoyed laughing at their antics as they worked to solve the case.  The mystery is filled with plenty of suspects and red herrings, and I only began to figure things out right before Mel put it all together.  I loved the final chapter.  If the book makes you hungry, you’ll be happy with the four recipes at the end.  Once again, fans will devour this book and be ready for Mel’s next adventure.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 


While the Clock Ticked by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #11) – 4

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

Anyone familiar with the series can guess how parts of the plot will come together, but there is plenty of action and narrow escapes along to way to keep the reader interested.  Plus the locked room part of the story proves to be interesting.  The characters are thin, but I didn’t notice as a kid, and I still get caught up in the action as an adult.  There are some dated references, which isn’t surprising for a book from the 1960’s, but they are minor and most kids probably won’t notice.  The action will make kids of all ages glad they read it.

 

Death by Equine by Annette Dashofy – 4

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

I always love it when an author manages to come up with an unusual murder weapon, and that’s exactly what author Annette Dashofy has done for this stand alone.  I may have been impatient, but I felt the book was a bit slow at the beginning, but it wasn’t long before I was caught up in the story and all Jessie was learning.  The climax was wonderfully suspenseful.  I did struggle with how little the police believed Jessie, which is funny since it is part of so many other books I read.  The characters are wonderful.  They are fully realized and help draw us into the story, confusing us on what exactly is going on until Jessie figures it out.  Like Annette Dashofy’s other books, this one has a smattering of foul language and a tad more violence than in the cozies I normally read.  These are cozy adjacent or traditional, and I’m sure if you enjoy cozies you’ll enjoy these, too.  If you’ve wanted to try Annette’s books, this is a great place to jump in.  If you are already a fan, you’ll enjoy this one as well.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

A Trail of Lies by Kylie Logan (Jazz Ramsey #3) – 5

With her boyfriend unavailable due to an assignment with the police, Jazz Ramsey has promised to look in on Kim, Nick’s mother, to make sure she is already.  While Kim is an alcoholic, Jazz still wasn’t expecting the frantic middle of the night phone call announcing that Kim killed someone in her backyard.  Jazz hurries over to find no body in the backyard, and the cadaver dogs she brings in give a split decision about whether someone died there.  Then a body does turn up in a park, and Kim clams up.  Can Jazz figure out what is really going on?

I came to author Kylie Logan because of her fun cozies.  This book has a more serious tone.  It deals with Kim’s alcoholism and its effect on Nick pretty realistically, for example.  But those moments are lightened by the dogs that Jazz works with, especially her new puppy.  The result are characters that are very rich.  I love Jazz, and her family and friends do a wonderful job of rounding out her character while also being real themselves.  The mystery is strong with plenty of suspects and events to keep us confused until Jazz finally begins to piece things together at the end.  All of the books in this series are wonderful.  If you’ve missed them, start them today.  If you’re already a fan, you’ll enjoy this one.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

“S” is for Silence by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #19) – 4

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

Cold cases can make excellent novels, and this is a perfect example.  It is obvious early on that Kinsey is gaining new information, but how that is going to play out keeps us guessing until the end.  I was certain I knew who it was, but I was wrong.  Still, the ending did make sense to me.  The characters are strong as always.  Kinsey spends much of the book out of town, so we don’t see much of the regulars, which was disappointing, but a minor issue.  While all the “modern” 1987 scenes are narrated from Kinsey’s first-person point of view, there are sections from other character’s point of view back in 1953.  As good as some of those scenes are, sadly, there are some very graphic scenes in them.  We could have easily done without them and it wouldn’t have impacted the story at all.  I’m taking a star off for that.  If you are a fan, be prepared to skim those scenes and you’ll still enjoy the book overall.

 

Murder in Murray Hill by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #16) – 5

New York City Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy gets a new case when a man walks into police headquarters wanting to report his daughter missing.  Henry Livingston has no clue where Grace might have gone, but Frank quickly figures out that she has been responding to lonely hearts ads in the newspaper trying to find herself a husband.  While she might have eloped with someone, all signs point to something much worse.  Is Grace still alive?  Can Frank and Sarah Brandt find her?

This book is darker than some of the others in the series, but it deals with that darker subject sympathetically, and there aren’t any details we don’t need.  The darker subject of the mystery is balanced out by lighter sub-plots involving Sarah and Frank’s future plans.  (And if you aren’t up to date on the series, know that this one spoils some major events from the end of the previous book.)  I love the characters, so it was wonderful to check in again with them and find out what is happening in their lives.  The mystery is twisty; just when I thought I knew where things were going, something would happen to confuse me again.  The world of 1890’s New York City is brought to life expertly without slowing the story down at all.  This is another page turning entry in the series.

 

Swift Run by Laura DiSilverio (Charlie and Gigi Mysteries #3) – 5

With Charlie out recovering from their last case, running Swift Investigations has fallen to her partner, Gigi.  And Gigi is very reluctant to take on their new client when the last person she wants to see walks through the door – Heather-Anne, the woman that Gigi’s ex-husband Les ran away with over a year ago.  Now Heather-Anne is back in town and wants to hire Swift Investigations to track down Les, who she also claims is back in Colorado Springs.  Can Gigi and Charlie find him?

Sadly, this appears to be the final book in this series.  Fortunately, it is another fabulous book.  Once again, we are treated to a great mystery with plenty of twists and turns.  And we get lots of laughs from the situations that Charlie and Gigi find themselves in.  Since this is more Gigi’s story than Charlie’s, she takes over first-person narration duties, but Charlie still gets plenty of time in the spotlight thanks to chapters from her third-person point of view.  We also get some good character growth, especially for Gigi, something she has needed.  While a couple of threads aren’t wrapped up, I was satisfied with how the series ended.  If you are looking for a light mystery, check out these books.

 

Something Wicked by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #3) – 4

Annie Lawrence and her finance, Max Darling, have landed parts in the local theater’s summer production of Arsenic and Old Lace.  Annie loves the play, so she wants to be enjoying it more, but a series of pranks, growing more serious, have dampened her enthusiasm.  Just days before the curtain is supposed to open, one of her fellow actors is killed backstage during the rehearsal.  When Max becomes the only suspect in the eyes of the law, Annie jumps in to try to figure out what happened.  Can she free Max?

As a fan of Arsenic and Old Lace (the play, which is better than the movie), I really got a kick out of the scenes involving the play.  While I did enjoy the book, I’m of two minds about it.  The plot is complex, yet everything makes sense when Annie confronts the villain.  Yet I felt like the pacing was off.  The characters are fun and provide some laughs, but instead of growing over the course of the story, they slip into caricature.  The plans for Annie and Max’s wedding provide a funny sub-plot that makes me wonder just what their wedding winds up looking like.  This book originally came out in 1988, so it and some of the authors name-dropped are dated, but as long as you know that going in, you’ll be fine.  This is another case where the flaws are easy to spot, but I still enjoyed the book overall.

 

Bear Bottom by Stuart Gibbs (FunJungle #7) – 4

Teddy Fitzroy is in Yellowstone with his parents and the McCrackens to evaluate a ranch that J.J. McCracken is thinking about buying.  The ranch is just outside of the national park, and the Fitzroys are also using the time to enjoy the beautiful scenery.  The ranch raises bison, and they’ve had a couple go missing, so Teddy is asked to try to figure out what has happened to them.  Before he can even start on that, the house where everyone is staying is broken into by a Grizzley bear.  In the aftermath, Mrs. McCracken’s expensive necklace disappears.  Can Teddy solve both mysteries?

Part of the fun of the FunJungle series is the setting and the recurring characters.  I’ll admit I missed them.  However, this book does have a core cast of regulars, and I enjoyed spending time with them.  Both mysteries are intriguing and kept the pace steady.  Watching Teddy work is always fascinating, and we got some wonderful action scenes along the way.  While the series always tackles some environmental issues, I felt like this book lectured a bit more than the series usually does.  It doesn’t help that one thing intended to be funny didn’t come across that way to me; instead, if felt like more lectures.  I still did enjoy this book overall.  It’s just not quite up to Stuart Gibbs’s usual high standards.

 

Death on the Boardwalk by Cable Wygal (Myrtle Beach Mysteries #1) – 4

Clark Thomas runs a bookstore near the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk.  His days are usually fairly quiet, and he enjoys helping his customers find just the right beach read for their vacation.  However, this particular morning, he arrives at work to find a carpet rolled up by his shop’s back door.  When he investigates, he discovers that a body is hidden inside the carpet.  Worse yet, he recognizes the victim as Paige, one of his regular customers.  Clark can’t help but wonder why the body was dumped behind his store.  And why would someone want to kill Paige?

I always enjoy getting to visit a tourist destination via a cozy mystery, and this one brought Myrtle Beach to life.  Clark’s bookstore was a bonus, and I enjoyed that aspect of the book as well.  Since the mystery includes how as well as who and why, there was plenty to keep me engaged as I read, and I especially enjoyed one twist near the end of the book before Clark figured it all out.  Once we reached the end, everything made sense.  The characters were good, but could be a little more fleshed out.  Clark is the strongest of them, mainly because of a tragedy in his past that is talked about some here.  The writing was a little rough near the beginning, with some information given to us in a jarring manner.  Fortunately, that got better as the book went along.  I could see this turning into a fun series.  It’s definitely a good beach read whether you can get to the beach this summer or not.

 

Murder on the Beach by Various Authors – 5

Surfs up with this collection of eight mystery short stories set on the beach.  We’ve got everything from a constantly disappearing family heirloom at a beach side wedding reception to a dead body on a girls’ weekend, a death at a frog leg cooking competition, a ring half buried in the sand, and an accident plagued trip to Cabo San Lucas.

Each story in this collection averaged 40 minutes for me to read, so there is plenty of content in the book.  While some of the authors have written about their series sleuths, all of the stories can be read on their own, which was good because I was only familiar with one set of characters before I started the collection.  All the stories feature strong characters and fun mysteries in addition to the variety of beach settings.  Whether you take this book along to read at the beach or read it at home while dreaming of being at the beach, you’ll enjoy it.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Disney Pin Review: Cuckoo for Disney Pins - Submarine Voyage - 2021 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cleaver mix of attraction and clock
Cons: Submarine Voyage is no more
The Bottom Line:
Themed cuckoo clock pin
Sailing on a submarine
This combo works well




Keeping Time Under the Sea

When I figured heard about Disney’s Cuckoo for Disney Pins series at the beginning of the year, I was a little unsure how I felt about it.  Cuckoo Clock inspired designs for classic attractions?  It could be good or bad.  But then I saw the first couple and knew I had to get them.  The pin inspired by the Submarine Voyage is a great example why.

The pin is two dimensional (well, mostly).  The heart of the pin is the very stylized clock.  Surrounding the face of the clock are two mermaids and some green sea plants.  The face of the clock itself is round, but instead of time, we’ve got the points of the compass, so it is telling us N, E, S, and W instead of 12, 3, 6, and 9.  The hands on the clock are pointing to 10:10, or Northwest: Northeast, I guess.  We have one chain hanging down from the clock.  It’s got a pearl on it (which is the one three dimensional thing on the pin) and then a charm with an “N” in the middle for Nautilus.

It’s the little things I love in pins like this.  For example, numbers being directions on the face of the clock.  I’m not sure I’d want to hang this as a cuckoo clock on my wall, but I love the way this looks for a pin.  And as a themed pin for a Disney Parks attraction, it is perfect.

The one thing that does make me scratch my head a bit is the fact that this pin is themed for an attraction that is no longer in the parks, at least here in the states.  In Florida, they’ve completely filled in the lagoon, while California’s Finding Nemo Submarines isn’t what is invoked by this pin.  But, since I have fond memories of the original Submarine voyage at Disneyland, I’m only noting this in passing.

This series is going to prove to be very fun, and I’m glad I’ve started collecting it.  If you want something a little different for your pin collection, I definitely recommend this Submarine Voyage themed Cuckoo for Disney Pins release.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

May 29th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Legends of Tomorrow – I get where I was supposed to laugh.  I just didn’t find it that funny.  I just hope that we are about to get Sarah back and forget the rest of this nonsense.  And is it just me, or is Behrad much more of a pot head this year?

Ellen’s Game of Games – I thought we might wind up with a bunch of kids after the first round, but they didn’t do that.  It was nice for a change of pace.  Very impressive that the final winner was able to make that run after missing a few early on.  I didn’t think she’d do it, but she proved me wrong.

The Equalizer – The cat is out of the bag.  I’m glad.  At least I hope she’ll come clean with her daughter when they come back for season two.  What an episode.  Emotional on a couple of different levels – Robyn’s life and Dee’s friend dying.  Is the detective going to officially start working with her?  That would be an interesting dynamic is season two.

The Flash – The second arc of the season is now behind us.  I’m glad it was wrapped up because I was struggling with it as well.  I did like how they wrapped things up, however.  Oh, and I completely missed what was going on in the cliffhanger last week.  I thought they were just unconscious – not supposed to be dead.  And I called it that we hadn't seen the last of Frost, although I am still surprised they are going to be paying for effects for the actress to do double duty.  I feel like there was going to be more to the story of her being released than we saw, but it was cut for time.  Could be wrong, however.

Superman and Lois – So I had to look up who this big reveal is.  It will be interesting to see where they go now that his identity is out in the open.  Again, I’m pleasantly surprised with how little time they are spending dragging some of these things out.  Loved the boys saving the day.  And Lois and Clark deciding to reveal all the secrets.  I feel horrible for Lana, however, selecting those people for their doom, even though she hadn’t made her decision yet.  I just hope her husband isn’t one of them.

Press Your Luck – The Whammy was very hard in the opening rounds, especially against poor Adam.  Three Whammies before round 2?  But wow did the winner have great luck in the final round.

United States of Al – This show is really growing on me.  I don’t laugh as much as I should, but as they find the characters, it is getting better.  Certainly less painful than the early episodes.  They are becoming sweet, and I like it.  Not sure what it means for Freddy’s long-term status that he is played by the Zac from The Big Bang Theory, who didn’t get Penny but showed up in most of the seasons.

Wipeout – At first I was surprised that Nicole’s team was eliminated before the final round.  I figured we knew who the final two teams were going to be.  Then I was surprised that John’s team made the finals.  Not surprised they lost at that point.  Especially after the first team had a flawless run.  I mean, seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen that in either version of Wipeout.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Movie Review: The Fast and the Furious - Tokyo Drift

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Action and stunts
Cons: Plot and characters just there for the action and stunts
The Bottom Line:
Teen heads to Japan
And finds new ways to race there
Spectacular stunts



The Fast and the Furious – High School Edition

As I’m slowly working my way through The Fast and the Furious movies, I’ve now made it to Tokyo Drift, the third movie in the franchise.  It’s an interesting stop in the franchise, but just an okay movie overall.

If you are watching these movies in release order (like I am), you’ll find this movie is almost completely a standalone.  (More on that in a minute.)  We are introduced to a completely new cast of characters when we meet Sean Boswell (Lucas Black).  He’s a high schooler who loves cars but has self-control issues.  When he is challenged to a race by his rival, he accepts.  The resulting race ends with his car totaled and him in serious trouble.

In an effort to avoid jail time, he is sent to live with his father in Tokyo.  Despite his father’s orders to avoid anything to do with cars, it isn’t long before Sean finds himself getting involved in street racing, including learning how to drift.  But his new friends are shady.  Will Sean go too far?  Will he get himself into more trouble?

This was the only movie in the Fast and the Furious franchise to not have Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner character before his death.  In fact, the only connection to the rest of the franchise is a cameo at the end of the film.  From what I’ve read, the films I haven’t gotten to yet work in the characters introduced here into the action of those movies.  In fact, it sounds like those films are set before this movie.  Gotta love Hollywood.

Then again, we don’t come to these movies expecting intricate plotting.  Let’s face it, we expect lots of racing and stunts with cars.  And we get that again here.  I’m not sure all of those stunts are physically possible, but they are fun to watch.

Which is a good thing since the plot is only so so.  It might have helped if I liked Sean better, but he seemed determined to always do the wrong thing until the end.  Fortunately, he did mature some by the time we reached the climax.  The plot holds together reasonably well, but it doesn’t really hold any surprises either.

Outside of Sean, the rest of the characters don’t get a whole lot of development.  Really, the characters and plot are just an excuse to get to the stunt driving, which is wonderful.

I don’t think I would ever pay money to see these movies in the theater, but they can be entertaining if you catch them on TV.  The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift will likely be forgotten by the day after you’ve watched it, but it isn’t a truly bad film.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Book Review: Murder on the Beach by Various Authors

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Creative mysteries all featuring the beach
Cons: I’m not currently at the beach right now.
The Bottom Line:
A trip to the beach
Eight mysterious stories
Sure to entertain



Beach Reads to Enjoy Anywhere

Living in Southern California, I think of the beach as a fun, relaxing place to go.  And, while that may be true the majority of the time, the beach can be dangerous if not outright deadly.  Want proof?  It’s all right here in Murder on the Beach.

This book is a collection of eight short stories by some fantastic authors.  They are a mix of stand-alone stories, like “A Tale of Two Sisters” by Barb Goffman, which featuring a constantly disappearing family heirloom at a beach side wedding reception, and stories with series characters, like “Frugal Lissa Takes a Break,” which finds Ritter Ames’s heroine searching for a killer after her dog discovers a body buried in the sand.  In between, we get a deadly frog legs cooking contest, a ring half buried in the sand, and a trip to Mexico plagued by accidents.

I was fairly confident I would enjoy this collection since I was already familiar with six of the eight authors included here before I picked it up.  I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.  Each story features great characters and a story that kept me engaged the entire way through.  All these stories can be read as stand-alones whether they are part of a series or not.  That’s a good thing since I was only familiar with the characters in one of the stories before I picked up this book.  And the two authors I hadn’t read before?  I definitely need to check them out in the future.

The one thing these stories all have in common is the beach.  But even then, the beaches vary.  While we stay in North America, we don’t visit the same beach twice.  That was part of the fun – seeing where we would be visiting next.

Short stories can vary in length, but these were fairly consistent.  Each story took me roughly 40 minutes to read, with some being shorter or longer.  That means you get a lot of story bang for your money.

This collection officially releases tomorrow, May 28th,  Just in time for Memorial Day reading.  And it is still specially priced if you act now.  It’s only 99 cents today, but will go up to its regular price of $3.99 on release day.

This is the first in a series of Destination Mysteries short story collections.  Based on this book, I’m already packing my bags for the next vacation.

If you are looking for the ultimate beach read for the beach this summer, Murder on the Beach will be perfect for you.  Even if you stay home, you’ll enjoy these eight great mini-vacations.

Included stories:

“Frugal Lissa Takes a Break” by Ritter Ames
“Beach Party Body” by Lucy Carol
“Coast Busters” by Karen Cantwell
“A Tale of Two Sisters” by Barb Goffman
“Cabo San Loco” by Eleanor Cawood Jones
“Footprints in the Sand” by Shari Randall
“Bay of Reckoning” by Shawn Reilly Simmons
“Frog Days of Summer” by Cathy Wiley

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Movie Review: Murder Ever After - Morning Show Mysteries

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: New and old characters; great mystery
Cons: Usual light Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
Basement skeleton
Introduce franchise changes
Film kept me guessing




“Maybe You Are a Secret Weapon.”  “I Think You Mean, ‘Thank You, Billie’”

It’s been a couple of years since we last got an entry in Hallmark’s Morning Show Mysteries franchise, and it’s obvious some changes have been made behind the scenes in that time.  However, I enjoyed our return visit, Murder Ever After.

In the time between the previous movies, Billie Blessing’s world has changed.  She and her aunt Cassandra (Karen Robinson) have shut down their restaurant so that Billie (Holly Robinson Peete) can focus on her morning show.  Her old boyfriend has moved down to Los Angeles to be near his daughter, leaving room for a new head of homicide, Tyrell Price (Colin Lawrence).  There’s even a new reporter on Billie’s morning show, Carlos (Jayce Barreiro).

However, it’s her friend Maggie (Francesca Bianchi) who gets Billie involved in a new mystery.  Maggie has come back for a visit because her father called her upset about something.  Only when she gets home, she finds him collapsed on the floor.  Billie is quick to go help her, and that’s how the women discover the skeleton in the basement.  Suspicions quickly mount that the body is Maggie’s step-mother who disappeared seven years ago.  But if that is who is in the basement, what happened to her?

I knew from the previews that Rick Fox, who played the previous male lead, wasn’t going to be back for this movie.  I was actually happy with how they wrote him out.  I think if I had watched the earlier movies recently, I would have missed him more as well as the others written out of the franchise.  However, I haven’t watched any of these movies since the last one aired, so I was able to focus on this movie.

And this movie gives us a great mystery.  There were some twists I definitely wasn’t expecting, and I didn’t have the killer pegged either.  They managed to give us a unique twist on the traditional suspenseful ending as well, which I appreciated.

I’m hoping the new supporting characters stick around for a while.  I really liked them and the new dynamic they brought to the film.  Yes, there are sparks between Billie and Tyrell, which isn’t a surprise.  And yes, I’m already rooting for them.  Usually, I’m a bit more loyal to old love interests than that.

All of the changes in the characters’ lives are explained in the film without slowing things down or it feeling like exposition.  The writers did a great job here.

Having said there, there was still a slight dose of Hallmark cheese.  However, it was lighter than normal, and I was quickly caught up in the mystery, trying to guess what was happening before Billie pieced it together.

If you are a fan of the franchise, be ready for changes before you start watching Murder Ever After.  But if you sit down with an open mind, you’ll find yourself caught up in a great mystery and enjoying the new characters.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Book Review: Death on the Boardwalk by Caleb Wygal (Myrtle Beach Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Clark, solid mystery
Cons: Writing a little rough early on, characters could be stronger
The Bottom Line:
Death in resort town
Who left body behind store?
It’s a good beach read



Body at the Back Door

I’ve discovered that one way to take more vacations than you have time or money for is to read books set at touristy locations.  So when Death on the Boardwalk by Caleb Wygal crossed my path, I knew I had to read it.

Clark Thomas runs a bookstore near the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk.  His days are usually fairly quiet, and he enjoys helping his customers find just the right beach read for their vacation.  However, this particular morning, he arrives at work to find a carpet rolled up by his shop’s back door.  When he investigates, he discovers that a body is hidden inside the carpet.  Worse yet, he recognizes the victim as Paige, one of his regular customers.  Clark can’t help but wonder why the body was dumped behind his store.  And why would someone want to kill Paige?

Sadly, I’ve never been to Myrtle Beach, or South Carolina, but this book made me want to visit all the more.  The beach and the touristy aspects of the setting called to me.  Maybe I need to go visit my local beach again soon.  And what reader doesn’t love books?  That’s an added bonus for sure.

The mystery was good.  The added elements of how along with who and why gave Clark plenty to investigate, and I was engaged the entire time.  I especially appreciated a twist near the end, and things made perfect sense when we reached the end.

The characters could have been a little better developed.  Clark was the only one who was close to fully developed.  The others are good, but they just felt like there was more to them we weren’t seeing.  This applies to series regulars and suspects alike.  But then again, this is the first in the series, so it gives the characters room to grow, right?  And don’t get me wrong, the characters were developed enough for us to care about them and the outcome.

Clark lost his wife suddenly a couple of years ago, and that past tragedy is part of what does make him stand out among the cast of characters.  It also helps that the book is told first person, so we get more of an insight into who he is as the book progresses.

Overall, I did feel that the writing could be a bit…smoother, for lack of a better word.  Especially, early in the book, we were given some information in rather awkward ways.  Fortunately, as the story got going, that began to go away.

I did enjoy this book overall, and I’m hopeful that this series will get stronger as it goes.

If you need more vacation than you are likely to get this year, consider vacationing with Clark in Death on the Boardwalk.  It’s a beach read you can enjoy anywhere.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Ornament Review: A World Within #6 - Reindeer in the Woods - 2020 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great looking scene in a mini ornament
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Scene inside a bell
Details help make it so cute
Wonderful mini



This is a Very Deer Ornament

I am constantly amazed at the detail that Hallmark artists are able to get into the miniature ornaments.  One of the best examples is the A World Within series, and 2020’s entry surprised me yet again.

Each ornament in this series features a scene inside a classic Christmas item.  In this case, the outside shape is a bell.  Yes, you might think it is a round ornament, but if you look at the bottom, you’ll find the classic cross cut design to let you hear the bell ring.  The outside is a light blue.  It’s not a classic Christmas color, but it is pretty, and it looks like winter.

Inside the bell, things get a bit more Christmassy.  The main feature inside this scene is a reindeer.  He’s standing right in the front and looking out at us grinning.  Over his back in a red and green blanket to help him keep warm.  It’s obviously cold since he’s standing in the snow; in fact, a little bit of snow is coming out of the edge of the scene.  Next to the deer is a small Christmas tree with gold ball ornaments on it.  Behind them, you can see a glimpse of another decorated tree.

All of this is in an ornament that is barely over an inch tall.  That kind of detail impresses me.  Yes, the reindeer looks a bit like a cartoon character (he’s smiling at us after all), but he still looks good.  I wouldn’t be able to do something like that at a larger size, much less small like this.  It’s why I am not an artist, obviously.

Since this has the base of a bell, you can’t set the ornament out to display since it would just roll around.  Fortunately, there’s no issue with hanging the ornament since it hangs perfectly straight.

This ornament is part of a series, so you’ll find the 6 in a Christmas tree series marker on the back of the ornament.

The ornaments in this series always surprise with their detail.  If you are looking for some wonderfully designed miniature ornaments, look no further than A World Within.

Be sure to check out the rest of the World Within series.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Book Review: Bear Bottom by Stuart Gibbs (FunJungle #7)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters, laughs, plot
Cons: Not in FunJungle, info on real world issues seems more like lectures than in some books in the series
The Bottom Line:
A Yellowstone trip
Features two fun mysteries
And core characters


Missing Necklace and Bison

Originally, we weren’t supposed to get Bear Bottom this year.  However, thanks to the lock down last year, author Stuart Gibbs wasn’t able to do as many school visits, so he had more time to write.  That’s definitely a silver lining to the year that was 2020.

This book finds Teddy Fitzroy outside of the normal FunJungle setting, visiting Yellowstone.  He’s there with the McCrackens and his parents because J.J. McCracken is thinking of buying a ranch to open up a safari type park in America and he wants the Fitzroys’ opinion before he does.  Also along for the trip are Pete, the director of marketing for FunJungle, and his husband Ray.

Well, there is an additional reason that Teddy is there besides accompanying his parents.  The current owners of the ranch that J.J. wants to buy are raising bison, and a couple of them have gone missing.  At least they think a couple are missing.  Teddy is asked to figure out what might have happened to them.

Teddy hasn’t even had a chance to start on that mystery before a large Grizzley bear gets into the house where everyone is staying.  In the aftermath, Mrs. McCracken discovers that an expensive necklace she brought with her has vanished.  Is the bear to blame?  Or is a human responsible for the missing necklace?

Before we go any further, let’s discuss the elephant that isn’t in the room.  Since we aren’t in FunJungle for this book, we are missing some of the regular characters in addition to the usual setting.  I get it, the author feels the need to expand outside the park so the series doesn’t grow stale.  However, for me, part of the charm of the series is that setting.  I have loved visiting that zoo/amusement park, and all the danger that Teddy manages to find there.

On the other hand, we still get Teddy, his parents, Summer (his girlfriend who also happens to be J.J.’s daughter), J.J., and Pete.  They are key characters in the series, and I got a kick out of some of their interactions.  I’ll admit that it took me a little while to keep all the new characters straight, but only because there were so many of them.  As the book progressed, they got firmer in my mind.

With two mysteries, the pace was fairly steady.  We get several page turning action sequences and some laughs as Teddy goes about figuring out what is really happening.  How he does it is once again fantastic and the ending is perfectly logical.

Unfortunately, I did feel the book moralized a bit more than normal for the series.  Yes, we always learn about the challenges that the species highlighted in the book are facing in real life, but in this case, it felt like that wasn’t worked as organically into the story as normal.  Then there are the stupid tourist scenes in Yellowstone that are supposed to be funny but didn’t quite work for me, instead feeling more like lectures.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed reading Bear Bottom.  But I hold Stuart up to a very high standard he usually surpasses.  This one just didn’t quite work as well as normal.

If you are a fan of the series, know that the setting is different before you pick up the book.  But once you do, you’ll get lost in another fun adventure with Teddy. 

Be sure to check out the rest of the FunJungle series.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

May 22nd's Weekly TV Thoughts

Legends of Tomorrow – Now that’s the fun that I love this show for.  I mean, a singing competition with the fate of the world on the line?  What else would this show do?  Although I am worried about Sarah and that poison (or whatever it is) going through her body.

Ellen’s Game of Games – I’m curious why Ellen and Twitch were playing all the games.  It was a bit of a bust in the first couple, but I enjoyed it in the last two rounds.  I really want to know what the guy in the food game actually eats.  I’m wondering if he was just too nervous to really recognize anything.

The Equalizer – Hard to ignore the politics.  Alt-Right?  Creating bombs?  Sorry, but it was very obviously political.  Having said that, I really did enjoy the plot itself and the way it played out.  I just couldn’t quite keep myself from rolling my eyes.

Batwoman – Please.  Could they be any more obvious in their attempts to lecture us?  And the Zombie plot like was pretty pathetic as well.  A bad episode to air before a three week break.  Makes it easy to forget about the show.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist – So she’s back with Max.  I’m glad since I have been on team Max pretty much from the beginning.  I just hope it stays that way.  I didn’t not see that ending coming, however.  Talk about a cliffhanger.  I hope they come back because I need to know what is going to happen next.  And if this gives Zoey more of a chance to sing, I’m all for it because she’s got a great voice, too.

The Flash – I knew this was a two parter, so I was trying to come up with a cliffhanger.  I never would have imagined that cliffhanger coming, however.  Wow!  Everyone knocked out?  That can’t be good.  And Joe quitting his job?  I really thought we’d seen the last of that over-zealous woman.  I’m wondering exactly where they are going to go with that.  And if it means we will get Killer Frost back at some point this season.

Superman and Lois – I am so happy this show is back!  Yes, it feels like Smallville still, but they advanced so many stories.  And the drama.  Man can they bring it.  We feel for all the characters even when they are making poor decisions.  Naturally, I am dying to know what is going on with Jordan.

United States of Al – I’m actually very impressed.  They took on a hard subject and didn’t lecture us.  Since we are sympathetic to Al, we naturally side with him a bit more, but they acknowledged hard choices and didn’t say that one was all good and the other all bad.  If only more shows did that these days.

Wipeout – Wow!  Talk about a photo finish.  While I did pick the winning team of the final two, I never would have guessed that it would be so close.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Book Review: Something Wicked by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery; fun characters
Cons: Pacing uneven; characters could be stronger at times
The Bottom Line:
Death in theater
Complex solution to case
Few flaws, but still fun



Not all the Dead Bodies on Set are Fake

Summer theater.  It’s a staple of so many communities.  And it forms a wonderful backdrop for Something Wicked, the third Death on Demand Mystery from Carolyn Hart.

The local theater company in Broward’s Rock, South Carolina, is getting ready for their first summer production of the season, Arsenic and Old Lace.  Book store owner Annie Lawrence has a small part of the production, but her fiancĂ©, Max Darling, has scored the lead.  Annie loves the play, so she should be having a great time in rehearsals, but things aren’t going well.  A series of accidents has plagued the production, and they are escalating in intensity as the cast gets closer to opening night.

Among the cast is former Hollywood actor Shane Petree, best known for starring in several beach movie musicals in the 1960’s.  Shane has been the most difficult actor in the production.  He hasn’t even bothered to memorize his lines, for example.  Then, with just a few days to go, Shane is murdered backstage in the middle of a rehearsal.  The local prosecutor is determined to pin the crime on Max, and the evidence seems to point that way.  Can Annie prove his innocence?

If you aren’t familiar with Arsenic and Old Lace, you will miss out on part of the fun of this book.  Fortunately, I’ve seen the play a couple of times (it’s much better than the movie), so I was able to enjoy the scenes that take place during rehearsals.  Don’t worry, if you haven’t seen the play, you won’t miss anything crucial to the mystery being told in this book.  Just think of it as a bonus.

I’m of two minds about this book.  On the one hand, the plot is very creative.  I never would have figured out the ending, but it all makes sense when Annie confronts the killer.  On the other hand, the pacing is uneven, with lots of activity to try to hide that fact from us.

Likewise, the characters are entertaining, at least at first.  However, as the book went on, I felt like any character development just wasn’t coming, and they almost slipped in caricature.  Some of that was on purpose as we were supposed to find the antics funny.  I’ll confess I did laugh at some of what was happening.  But at other times, it felt like the author was trying too hard to make us laugh at the expense of making her characters real.

Speaking of humor, I have to mention the sub-plot involving Max’s mother trying to take over planning their wedding.  Considering some of the crazy things she throws out there, I can’t wait to see what their actual wedding is like in the next book in the series.

On the whole, I did enjoy the book.  This is one of those cases where it is easy to spot the flaws, but you are still drawn into the story and can’t wait to find out what happens next.

I’m continuing to listen to the audio books narrated by Kate Reading.  She does a fantastic job with her narration.  She brings the characters and story to life without getting in the way of the story itself.

This book originally came out in 1988.  While that means that some things are dated, that doesn’t impact the story overall.  Just know that going into the book and you’ll be fine.

One feature of this series is the name dropping of mystery writers and their sleuths.  I will be interested to see if I recognize more as I reach the later entries in the series, which were written in the last few years.  As it was, I only recognized a small percentage of those mentioned.

I’ve long had the Death on Demand mysteries on my to be read list, so I’m glad I’m finally seeing why so many people love them so much.  Something Wicked is a fun entry in the series.

Check out the rest of the Death on Demand Mysteries.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Book Review: Swift Run by Laura DiSilverio (Charlie and Gigi #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Laughs and a complex mystery with great characters
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Tracking down the ex
Gives us fun last adventure
Amusing final



Running Down Gigi’s Ex

It’s a bit bittersweet reading Swift Run.  On one hand, it’s nice to have a series that’s been sitting on my to be read pile for years completed.  On the other hand, three books wasn’t enough time to spend with Charlie and Gigi.

If you’ve missed this series, Charlie Swift is the owner of Swift Investigations.  She’s a one woman shop and quite happy that way until the day that Georgia Goldman, Gigi for short, walks in and announces that she is Charlie’s new partner.  Gigi’s husband, Les had been a silent investor in Swift Investigations, but now Les has run off with another woman, embezzled money, and all he’s left Gigi is their house, their two kids, and his share of Swift Investigations.  Naturally Charlie isn’t happy about that, but she has no choice but to take Gigi on as a junior investigator.

And yes, all this background is necessary.  See, as this book opens, Charlie is out recovering from an injury (see book two for more details about that), and Gigi is in the office by herself when Heather-Anne walks in wanting to hire Swift Investigations.  Gigi wants to say no since Heather-Anne is the woman Les ran off with.  She’s even less interested when she finds out that Heather-Anne wants them to find Les, but they need the fees.  What is he doing back in Colorado Springs?  Will Gigi be able to track her ex down?

The earlier books in the series were written from Charlie’s first-person perspective and Gigi’s third-person perspective.  This book flips the script, which makes sense.  Considering we are looking for Les, this is really Gigi’s story more than Charlie’s.  Don’t worry, we still get plenty of scenes from Charlie’s third-person point of view.  These changes only happen at chapter breaks, so it is always easy to know who we are following in each scene.

Likewise, Gigi and some of the characters in her life get the most character development here.  Since Gigi can come across a bit flat at times, this was welcome development.  But Charlie gets her own growth.  By the time the book is over, all the characters in the book have turned into fully developed characters.

And the mystery is fantastic.  I’m specifically not talking about any more than I have because I love how it unfolds and the directions it goes.  I didn’t see the ending coming, but it made perfect sense.

One thing I enjoy about the series is the humor.  The characters, especially Gigi, wind up in some fun situations.  You can’t help but laugh at what happens.  Yet, when the times comes, the suspense is also perfect.

As I hinted at earlier, I am not ready to say goodbye to these characters, but since this book came out in 2012, I suspect we won’t be seeing any more of their adventures.  A thread or two from the series is left dangling, but there are no major cliffhangers here.  I like the ending, and I can easily picture the characters moving forward in their lives in the direction I think they should go.

Swift Run ends a fun series.  If you are looking for a lighter mystery, be sure to read these books.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Movie Review: Poisoned in Paradise - A Martha's Vineyard Mystery

 

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Intriguing mystery; chemistry between the leads
Cons: Usual light Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
A poisoned waitress
Leads to more island intrigue
As characters shine




Poison Finds Its Way to Martha’s Vineyard

While I enjoy all of Hallmark’s Mystery Movies (why else would I watch them), there are some franchises I enjoy more than others.  One I really enjoy is the Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries, so I was thrilled we got Poisoned in Paradise this week.

Retired detective Jeff Jackson (Jesse Metcalfe) has developed a reputation thanks to helping out the Martha’s Vineyard police on some of their cases.  That’s why Katie (Britt McKillip) comes to him when she finds herself in over her head.  Before she can tell Jeff any of the particulars, he sends Katie to Chief Madieras (Eric Keenleyside) since Jeff really doesn’t have the authority to help her out.

Katie doesn’t go to the police.  Worse yet, Jeff and Zee (Sarah Lind) find Katie dead on the side of the road after a date.  As the new medical examiner on the island, Zee jumps into the autopsy, and she quickly discovers that Katie was poisoned.  Jeff feels obligated to find out what happened to her.  But what in her life led to her death?

The reason I love this series so much is the main characters.  Jeff, Zee, and her dad, the chief, are all fantastic, and their relationships are wonderful.  No matter which of the three characters are in a scene, they always shine, and when they are together, it is even better.  Yes, we’ve got the slow burn romance between Jeff and Zee, but I do like how the characters are working through that.

Part of Jeff’s backstory is the shooting that injured him and forced his early retirement.  Much of it has remained unsolved, but we got another piece of that puzzle in this movie.  A very intriguing piece.  I’m anxious to see where they go with it.

And this mystery?  It’s great as well.  The suspects were varied enough that I didn’t pick up on what was really going on until the end.  Yes, I’d been certain that just about everyone had done it at one time or another, so I wasn’t surprised at the ending, but I didn’t figure it out too early.

Being a Hallmark movie, there’s the usual light dose of cheese, but it is a light dose.  The actors drew me into the story, and I enjoyed the movie.

Poisoned in Paradise is another fun visit to Martha’s Vineyard.  If you enjoy this franchise or Hallmark’s mystery movies in general, you’ll enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Book Review: Murder in Murray Hill by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #16)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Twisty plot and characters we love
Cons: Dark subject matter (but handled delicately)
The Bottom Line:
Missing young woman
As Frank and Sarah’s lives change
Always engrossing



Investigating a Murder as Life Changes

I’ve finally gotten to the point in the Gaslight Mysteries where everything changes for our heroes, midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy.  Those changes started at the end of the last book, so I was interested to see just how that would play out with Murder in Murray Hill.

That also means that the rest of this review will have spoilers for the events of the previous book in the series.  If you are further behind than I am and don’t want to have the twists their personal lives are taking spoiled for you, stop now.  Know that I found this book darker than normal for the series but still compelling.

All good?  Then let’s get to it.

This book opens just days after the previous book ended.  Frank is still trying to wrap his head around the changes his sudden inheritance is going to mean for his life.  The one he is looking forward to is his upcoming marriage to Sarah.  He also figures this will mean the end of his career with the police, but before that happens, he gets one last case.

Henry Livingston has come to New York City’s police headquarters to report his daughter Grace is missing.  He has no clue where Grace might have gone, but Frank quickly figures out that she has been responding to lonely hearts ads in the newspaper trying to find herself a husband.  While she might have eloped with someone, all signs point to something much worse.  Is Grace still alive?  Can Frank and Sarah find her?

This series has included more serious subjects in the past.  These subjects are always handled as delicately as possible, with details we need, but no extra details.  That’s the case again here.  This is the darkest book in the series I’ve read to date, but it still could have delved into more details.  I’m glad it didn’t.  Be prepared for that going into the book and you’ll be fine.

Balancing out the darkness are the plans that Frank and Sarah are beginning to make for their new lives together.  That includes figuring out where to live and who will make up their new household.  These scenes and sub-plots definitely lighten to the tone of the book (I may have laughed at one or two of them, in fact), and fans will be thrilled to see what is in store for these characters we love.

Because, let’s be honest, we wouldn’t be reading book sixteen in a series if we didn’t love the characters.  I’m actually finding that I am missing them between books, and it takes all my self-control (and the fact that I’ve agreed to review other books) to keep from binging the rest of the series so I can get caught up.  These characters can make me laugh and tear up, and I am so glad I finally started the series after considering it for so many years.

And yes, the plot once again is wonderful.  I thought I had an idea where the story was going a time or two, but it would almost immediately twist off in a way I didn’t expect.  It’s hard to say I was enjoying a story with this subject matter, but I was certainly engrossed.  The characters we met as part of this investigation were just as real as the series regular characters are.

If you aren’t familiar with the series, it takes place in the 1890’s in New York City.  As always, that location and time are brought to vivid life, and it is amazing how that is accomplished without once slowing down the story.

Fans of the series will once again turn pages as quickly as possible until they’ve reached the end.  If you haven’t started the Gaslight Mysteries today, I highly recommend you do so.  Start at the beginning so you’ll more fully enjoy the events of Murder in Murray Hill.

Here are the rest of the Gaslight Mysteries in order.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Music Review: Order Disorder Reorder by Jason Gray

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great music to remind me of Biblical truths
Cons: All cons have been reordered to pros
The Bottom Line:
The cycles of life
Reflected on in these songs
Great truths, great music




The Full Cycle of Life in One Place

Over the course of 15 or so months, Jason Gray released three EPs that looked at the cycle God uses to grow us.  Each of the EPs focused on one part of that cycle.  Once the final part came out, Jason released the full cycle on one CD.  Being the die-hard fan of Jason’s music that I am, I bought each part of the cycle as it came out.  And then I bought the Order Disorder Reorder CD as well.

Since I have reviewed each EP as it was released, this is going to be more of an overview of each section, but I will link up to my full review of each EP.

Order

We start with life in Order.  This is when things are going well.  We have jobs, we have health, our relationships are strong.  And the five songs in this section reflect the praise it is easy to give God as enjoy these times.  “Maker of Mornings (I Am Loved),” for example, is a song of pure praise.  The only hint at what is to come is “Order Disorder Reorder,” the final song of this part of the disc which talks about the full cycle and how God uses the hard times in life to grow us.

While I can easily point to my favorite songs in the other two sections, I struggle a bit with this one.  I think it’s because I find the lyrics to “I’m Gonna Let It Go” and “Order Disorder Reorder” more aspirational than how I truly am.  I wish I could say that I trust God, but the reality is I try to control things.  Maybe that’s why I do still resonate with these songs – they remind me what I need to do.

Disorder

We’ve all been there – that moment when life goes sideways.  A broken relationship.  An unexpected layoff.  A bad diagnosis.  The list can go on and on.  Suddenly, we find ourselves going through trials.  And the next six songs focus on our reactions during those times.  There are the desperate prayers to God to help us “Through” and to “Remind Me You’re Here.”  And we do get the reminders we need that the Lord will “Fight for You.”  At times, the lyrics in this section are raw.  While they do remind us of God’s presence, they express hurt and grief.  They are very reminiscent of some of the Psalms where David pours out his pain to God. 

My favorite song here is “Honesty.”  And someday, I hope to get through it without crying.  It speaks to where I am too much of the time when going through trials.  It’s raw.  It showcases pain.  And it is expressed so well.  My favorite line is “I told you leave but please don’t go.”  Fortunately, God never leaves us, but that captures so many of the contradictory lines in the song as we wrestle with our feelings through pain.  And, that’s ultimately what the song is about – the wrestling with God through the pain and the truth that God wants all of us, even our honesty.

Reorder

The disc ends with the seven songs that represent the final part of the cycle.  And God doesn’t leave us in trials.  We do emerge on the other side, and we can look back and see what God taught us.  Or maybe it’s just me who only sees what God was trying to teach me on the other side.  I can be rather hard headed that way.  We get songs like “What the Hard Times Taught Me,” “Right on Time,” and “Every Moment Belongs.”  This is not to minimize the pain we’ve been through, but a reflection on where we were and where we are now.

My favorite song here is “Tethered.”  It’s a reminder that we are connected to God and His love for us no matter what we have done and no matter what we are going through.  It clicked with me the first time I heard it, and I can listen to it over and over and over again.

Order Disorder Reorder

The idea behind releasing the eighteen songs here as separate groups was to allow time for reflection on each part of the cycle.  I enjoyed that.  However, I was also excited to see the songs being released in one place.  I think there is benefit to meditating on each part of the cycle and in seeing it as a whole.

If you’ve bought each section individually, there are no added tracks or bonuses if you buy the complete disc electronically.  HOWEVER, if you are like me and love having the lyrics to songs, you’ll be thrilled to know that they are included with the physical CD.  I don’t think you need to buy the EP’s and the completed project, but I definitely recommend you buy these songs one way or the other.

Musically, this fits perfectly with Jason Gray’s soft rock style.  We’ve got mostly upbeat songs, yes, even in the Disorder section.  In fact, the slowest song here is “Right On Time” from Reorder.

And there is not a bad song in the bunch.  Seriously, while I have my favorites, there is something that resonates with each song on the disc.  Granted, I am a big fan of Jason’s song writing normally, but he seems to have outdone himself here.

About the only weird thing here is the transition from Disorder to Reorder.  Disorder ends with “Hard Time Prelude” while Reorder begins with “What the Hard Times Taught Me.”  Basically, we get an acoustic chorus of what becomes a full and fully produced song in the very next track.  They are different enough that I don’t mind, but it is a bit funny listening to them back to back.

The timing couldn’t have been better for these reminders since they came out from late 2019 to late 2020.  Worldwide, we needed this.  But life will always have these cycles, so I will be enjoying Order Disorder Reorder and the truths it reminds us of for many years to come.

CD Length: 1:04:24
Tracks:
1. Becoming
2. Maker of Mornings (I Am Loved)
3. The Wonder
4. I’m Gonna Let It Go
5. Order Disorder Reorder
6. Through
7. Remind Me You’re Here
8. Honesty
9. Fight for You
10. New Song (featuring Blanca)
11. Hard Times Prelude
12. What the Hard Times Taught Me
13. Glory Days
14. Bring It All
15. Tethered
16. Again and Again
17. Right on Time
18. Every Moment Belongs