Saturday, July 31, 2021

July 31st's Weekly TV Thoughts

It doesn't look like I'm watching much since there are only two shows below.  However, I am watching as much of the Olympics as I can.  Honestly, it's nice not having much else on TV since I'm not sure when I would get it watched.

Monsters at Work – The best episode to date for me.  I hope they’ve ironed out that relationship/one note character now.  Pretty funny.  The ending was a bit abrupt, but still fun.  And I loved the “Knock Knock Joke” class at the end.

Match Game – That was a pretty uncomfortable episode.  I mean, they always have some jokes that are on the bounds of good taste, but they surpassed it a couple of times.  And, it’s rather funny to have an episode that premiers in July talking about Christmas.  Obviously, they aired it later than planned, but right around the official date for Christmas in July.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

July 30th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

 It's Friday again, and I'm once again participating in Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring The Chocolate Racoon Rigmarole by JoAnna Carl.




This is book eighteen in the Chocoholic Mysteries.  Now, I'll admit that many of the books I read are light, but this series is ultra light.  Still, they are fun.

Here's how this particular book begins:

I love coffee, but I don't usually drink it at the gas station with the guys.

Yeah, I'll admit that the opening sentence caught my attention.  I'm leaving it there so you can discover the full context on your own.

Meanwhile, over at the 56% point, we find this:

Finally Mike said, "There's a bunch of guys named Bob.  It's a pretty common name."
"I mean the one you threatened a couple of weeks ago," I said.

Why was Mike threatening Bob?  Who is Bob?  Wait, you didn't think I was going to spoil anything, did you?

This book will be out on Tuesday, and I will have my full review up then.  I hope you'll stop by then and see what I thought.

Meanwhile, have a wonderful weekend.

This Week's Winner Is....

 I just picked the winner for The Rocky Road to Ruin.  And that winner is...

...Alicia!

I've just sent you an email, so please get back to me so I can connect you with your prize.

The giveaway for A Time to Swill is still going on, so scroll down and enter that one.

Book Review: Much Ado About Nauticaling by Gabby Allan (Whit and Whiskers Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some of the characters, setting
Cons: Uneven plot, trying too hard to be funny
The Bottom Line:
Big wig is murdered
Liked setting; some characters
Too frenetic for me



I Really Was Hoping to Like This Debut

The instant I heard about Much Ado About Nauticaling, it went on my to be read list.  It was the setting of Catalina Island here in Southern California that appealed to me most.  Ironic since I haven’t actually been out there for years and it’s my own fault.  Anyway, I sat down to read this looking forward to a fantastic book, but sadly it was average.

Whitney “Whit” Dagner has moved out to Catalina to help her brother, Nick, help run the glass bottom boat business they’ve taken over from their grandparents and open a souvenir shop near the harbor.  While they didn’t grow up on the island, they visited every summer growing up, so it feels like coming home for Whit.  She’s left behind a demanding career on the mainland, and she is enjoying being her own boss and the slower pace of island life.

That is until Jules Tisdale turns up dead.  He was a wealthy business man on the island and had just been named Person of the Year.  Whit didn’t care for him since he came across as arrogant and demanding much of the time, but it is Nick who the police center in on as their prime suspect.  Can Whit prove his innocence?

This book is intended to be a humorous mystery.  And there were a few scenes that made me smile and laugh.  Unfortunately, the rest of the time, the book felt frenetic.  It was trying to be funny more than it was funny.  Or maybe it just didn’t hit my funny bone right.

This also explains some of the characters.  They were too broad, intending to be funny.  I can definitely see the potential for the humor in them, but they annoyed me more than amused me.  Again, it might have just been my mood, but it didn’t work.

Which is a shame because there were other characters I really did like.  The love interest especially sticks out to me.  I appreciated that the author did something different there, and I really liked the character.  Whit herself is fun to be around, and I related to her more than I’d like to admit at times.  And Whiskers, Whit’s cat, is totally adorable.

The mystery was okay.  It was a bit slow in the beginning despite Jules dying fairly early.  But the further I went into the book, the stronger it got.  The ending was a surprise yet perfectly logical.  But it was also abrupt.  While we learned the killer and motive, it left a few twists dangling.  Or maybe that will be fodder for the next book.

Again, I haven’t gone to Catalina in years (despite living fairly close by), but I loved the setting.  I’m definitely going to have to go back and visit again soon now that I’ve read this book.

I have a feeling that there will be people who get the humor here and love Much Ado About Nauticaling.  But for me, it didn’t work as well as I hoped it would.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Movie Review: Avatar

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Effects are outstanding (if already showing their age)
Cons: Shallow characters, one-sided lectures
The Bottom Line:
The effects look great
Shallow characters, lectures
Means I won’t rewatch



Effects Shine, but Can’t Hide the Lecture

I wasn’t interested in seeing Avatar when it first came out, but I’ve been curious about it over the years.  When I found it playing on TV, I decided now was the time to watch it.  Sadly, I found it disappointing.

The story is set in the future on a distant planet.  Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic former Marine who has been sent to the planet at the last minute to fill in for his twin brother who recently died.  Jake needs to take his place as an avatar, a specially designed creature that can be used to explore the planet.  The team is being overseen by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver).  However, the real reason they are there is to mine the planet for resources needed on Earth.  Standing in their way are the native species.

When Jake’s avatar accidentally gets separated from the rest of the team one day, he winds up making first contact with the natives in the form of Neytiri (Zoe Saldana).  Everyone thinks this is wonderful, and Jake finds himself learning all he can.  But as he does, he begins to fall in love with Neytiri and her culture.  Where do his loyalties lie?

Any discussion of this movie has to start with the effects because they are the real star.  Yes, they are a little dated now since the movie did come out in 2009 and computers and computer effects are constantly evolving.  However, they still hold out pretty well.  Many of the characters are computer generated as is the world they inhabit.  If you are looking to get lost in a visually stunning movie, this is the movie for you.

However, the story is slow.  Yes, we need some time to understand the world the movie is taking place in, both for the humans and the aliens, but I felt like there were sequences just meant to show off special effects that could have been cut to trim the movie’s length.

Worse yet, I didn’t feel like I connected with any of the characters.  It didn’t help that the aliens weren’t distinctive enough for me to easily tell them apart until late in the film.  This also meant I had a hard time keeping the humans in alien avatar’s straight at times.  There were moments where I knew I was supposed to feel something, but I just couldn’t do it.

Then there’s the villain.  Ironically, in a world where most of the characters are computer animated, he was just too cartoony.  There was no attempt to give him any depth or even any real motive.  He was just evil.

Which brings me to my biggest issue with the movie – it is a high tech, beautiful lecture.  I’m sure you can figure out the clich├ęs present – white man bad being the biggest.  But environmental issues and native’s rights issues are also present.  Now, I’m not saying that these aren’t issues worth exploring.  They do need to be discussed.  However, what we get here is a one-sided lecture without any attempts to show nuance or complexity.  I don’t watch movies to be lectured, so I didn’t enjoy the film.

Ultimately, Avatar was what I was expecting it to be.  I’m glad I watched it because I was curious about it, but I have no desire to see it again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Book Review: A Time to Swill by Sherry Harris (Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Plot, characters, setting – everything works
Cons: No cons to swill around
The Bottom Line:
A ship on the beach
Fast paced, mysterious book
Ultimate beach read



Chloe Gets Swept into a New Mystery

Last year, we got to meet Chloe Jackson, the second protagonist from Sherry Harris.  There was so much to love about the first in the series that I was looking forward to A Time to Swill, Chloe’s second outing.  I’m glad to say that it is up to Sherry’s usual high standards.

If you haven’t yet met Chloe, she is a former children’s librarian who has moved from her native Chicago to the panhandle of Florida thanks to a request from her best friend.  After Boone is killed in Afghanistan, she goes to help Boone’s grandmother, Vivi, run the Sea Glass Saloon, a beach side bar in Emerald Cove.

As this book opens, Chloe has just returned from packing up her life in Chicago and saying her goodbyes.  Her first morning back, she is running on the beach near her new home when she sees a ship that has beached itself.  Hearing a cry on board, she climbs on board only to get swept out to sea.  Before she is rescued, she’s found a skeleton that reopens a disappearance from twelve years ago.  With some of her new friends under investigation, she is determined to find out what happened all those years ago and why it is coming to light now.  What will she uncover?

Believe me, this teaser is just the start of another wonderful mystery.  There are several other questions that quickly come to light, not to mention a strong sub-plot.  Just how into this book did I get?  I started it on a Friday, and when my Saturday turned out to be fairly quiet, I kept reading until I finished the book, even making myself a little late to go hang out with some friends.  I was rewarded with a climax that left me satisfied.

One reason this plot works is that Chloe is just getting to know these characters.  While she considers them friends, she admits she doesn’t know them well, so as questions arise, she can’t help but question if what she thinks about them is true or not.  And it means that it is a wonderful way for us to get to know the characters better.  I loved the character development we got here.

Not being a drinker, I might not have picked up this series is I weren’t already a fan of Sherry Harris’s Sarah Winston mysteries.  If you are like me, don’t let the hook scare you away.  Yes, we get some trivia on drinks, which I enjoyed, but the mystery is one that will appeal to mystery readers whether they drink or not.

And the setting is wonderful.  Even though it isn’t set during peak tourist season, it is still wonderful to think about spending all day just steps away from the beach.  If you love the beach like I do, you’ll definitely love this cozy setting.

A Time to Swill may just be the ultimate beach read whether you are on the beach or not.  Grab a cool drink of your choice and be prepared to enjoy a virtual trip to the beach.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Giveaway!

I'm giving away a copy of this book.  The winner will have a choice of a physical copy (US addresses only) or a digital copy (open to everyone).

If you were on the beach, what drink would you order?  Me?  I'd be boring and order water.  But tell me your drink of choice to be entered in the giveaway.  And please be sure to give me your email address so I can contact you if you win.

I'll pull the winner next Tuesday, August 3rd, so please enter before then.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Ornament Review: Happy Halloween #9 - Sasquatch - 2021 Hallmark Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Cute Sasquatch
Cons: Could use a few more fun details, slight tip
The Bottom Line:
Sasquatch goes for walk
Cute Halloween ornament
That will delight all



I Spotted Sasquatch!  Yeti’s Only in This Ornament

I keep being pleasantly surprised by the monsters Anita Marra Rogers comes up with for her Happy Halloween! ornament series.  This year, we get a close encounter with a Sasquatch.

As always, a pumpkin forms the base of this ornament.  It’s got two eyes and a wide-open mouth so we can see what is in side.  And what is inside is a Sasquatch walking through the forest.  In keeping with the series, he is looking at us and smiling.  We may have monsters, but they are always cute and friendly.  The forest is painted on to the back of the pumpkin, and we can see a full moon silhouetting some of the trees.

The best ornaments in this series have some great fun little details, including some creativity to the pumpkin that fits in with the featured monsters.  This ornament doesn’t have that.  The pumpkin is a pumpkin with a wide opened mouth.  The inside is pretty plain.  Now, hear my out.  I’m not saying this is a bad ornament.  Sasquatch is cute, and it fits in well with the rest of the series.  It is just missing those details that make the best ornaments of the series stand out.

As always, the ornament has a nice flat base, so you can set this ornament out to be displayed.  I may have to do that with part of my series since I don’t know that I have any room left in my Halloween display.  Anyway, you’ll find the series marker on the bottom of the ornament as well.

I was a little surprised to find that the ornament tips a little to the left and back when you hang it.  Usually, these ornaments hang straight, and I can’t quite figure out what is making this one hang crooked.  Fortunately, it isn’t too bad.

Sasquatch may not be my favorite entry in the Happy Halloween! series, but it is still a fun addition.  If you are looking for a cute Halloween ornament, be sure to pick this one up.

Enjoy more monster cuteness with the rest of the Happy Halloween! ornaments.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Disney Pin Review: Stitch Crashes Pinocchio - Stitch Crashes Disney #5 - 2021 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Simple pin as Stitch transforms into Pinocchio
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Becoming puppet
Makes alien a classic
A pin that works well




Someday, He Hopes to Become a Real Alien

Of the first four pins in the Stitch Crashes Disney series, I’ve most liked the ones where Stitch was closest to his original color.  That trend chances with the fifth in the series as Stitch offers his take on Pinocchio.

As with the Ariel pin, Stitch is taking on the role of the main character.  That means Stitch has turned brown.  He is a dark wood brown with tan inside his ears and on his stomach.  The dark brown portions actually have some wood grain in them, which I love.  He’s wearing Pinocchio’s hat.  And on his arms and ears, he’s got little flourishes that look like detail in the background of the movie.

Speaking of backgrounds, the card that Stich comes on features a background from the movie.  We are in Geppetto’s workroom.  We can see part of a candle and a cup.  It’s the watercolorish background that they used in the movie.  Since Stitch is sitting down, it feels like that moment that Pinocchio first woke up at a puppet at the beginning of the movie.

And that’s one reason I like it.  Stitch looks very different, but he doesn’t look strange.  It’s easy to tell that he is supposed to be Pinocchio even without the pin backing, but if you have that backing, it is very obvious.

I think the reason this pin works for me is that they didn’t go crazy trying to capture elements of the movie.  In this case, simple is best.  Plus, some of the others have looked a little creepy, which this one most definitely doesn’t.

I’m glad I started collecting this series.  While the misses have been rather massive, when the pins work right, they are a lot of fun.  That’s the case as Stitch becomes Pinocchio.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

July 24th's Weekly TV Thoughts

There was a lot of TV this week, including a season finale.  It's like everyone was trying to get in episodes before the Olympics.  They are definitely going to slow me down the next couple of weeks.  Fortunately, there won't be much TV competing with them.

Legends of Tomorrow – So now we are going to get an addiction storyline via Constantine.  Please tell me it will provide something new to that genre.  Still not a fan of the Mick is pregnant nonsense, and I’ve got no idea what is going on with that one alien.  Yes, this show is pretty much a mess this season.  That’s so disappointing.

American Ninja Warrior – Only three finishers all night.  Having said that, I like the split decision not being a real choice – balance or upper body.  Not surprised that Daniel Gill was one of the finishers and the fastest, but a bit surprised that he got hung up on the power tower.  That’s not like him.  But, as they said, that’s why you run the race.

Lego Masters – Not too surprised with the team that went home.  They’ve been a step below the rest of the teams.  Not saying that they were bad, just not as good.  Certainly, better than I’d do.  Loved so many of the demolition vehicles, and I had to laugh at the one team driving right off the cliff.  I also appreciate how close the teams are.  That everyone is tearing up at the elimination is so special in a competition show.  Nice to know I’m not the only one.

The Flash – That was quite the finale.  They threw just about everyone at Godspeed, which I knew they would.  Didn’t see that particular ending coming.  However, the biggest surprise to me was that Kristen saved Joe like she did.  I hope she is back next season.  I’d love to see how her powers can be used.  Loved the vow renewal.  It still wasn’t the big wedding fans deserve, but it does feel a little better than the original wedding that Oliver and Felicity crashed.  And I guess I was wrong about Bart.  The actor is going back to Broadway, so I guess he was just around for these episodes and not going to be full time next season.

Superman and Lois – Another week, another rave.  This show gets better and better.  The characters and their conflicts are flowing perfectly out of the story, and I am loving both.  I’m confused as to why Jordan and Sarah were arrested.  Trespassing?  Truancy?  Very curious what is going on with Edge now.  It will be a long wait until after the Olympics, but it will be a better wait than our last three week break was.

Monsters at Work – That was the best episode yet.  Yes, it was completely predictable.  But it was fun getting there.  I’m hoping the series will get better as it goes along.  And yes, I also think I’m older than the target audience, which is little kids, not the adult fans.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does mean I need to adjust my expectations a little.

Press Your Luck – That was quite the battle in the opening round.  Back and forth and all those extra spins.  And only three Whammys, only one of which was had by the two people battling it out at the end.  I really expected a Whammy to decide it.  Whammy made up for it in the bonus round.  Always sorry to see people leave with no bonus money.

Match Game – Sometimes, the prompts are so easy.  They had two lopsided games this time as if to prove my point.  Heck, even I came up with the winner responses when they matched.  And the others?  So hard.  I always enjoy it more when there isn’t an obvious answer all will get.

Holey Moley – Wow!  There were some pretty amazing shots.  From the put off that went in at the last second to the hole in one and neither competitor falling off their horse in the finals.  That was one very skilled group of players.

Friday, July 23, 2021

July 23rd's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

It's Friday!  That means it is time for Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring A Time to Swill by Sherry Harris.

 


This is the second book in her Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mystery series.  It's official publication date is this coming Tuesday, but I've already finished my ARC.  In fact, I finished it a week ago, and I can't wait to share how much I loved it.

But that's next week.  For today, let's look at how the book begins:

My shoes slapped the wet sand as I tried to make out what was up ahead of me through the swirling fog.

Is that a great opening or what?  Sets the scene and introduces a hint of mystery.  I love it!

Let's take a look at page 56:

I jerked awake and looked around, unable to figure out where I was.  Boone's.  The memories of my day washed over my like a rogue wave.

Another good quote, right?  We've all been there, waking up and trying to remember what is going on.

I'll have my full review up when the book comes out on Tuesday.  I'll be offering a giveaway of this book as well, so I hope you'll come back.

Speaking of giveaways, I'm hosting a giveaway of the book I featured last week.  It just started on Thursday, so there's plenty of time to enter still.

Hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Book Review: The Rocky Road to Ruin by Meri Allen (Ice Cream Shop Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, interesting mystery, ice cream
Cons: Pacing in the middle, doesn’t come with free ice cream
The Bottom Line:
Ice cream and murder
Make a delicious combo
In this fun debut



Murder Served Ice Cold

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this is National Ice Cream Month.  What better time for the debut in the Ice Cream Shop Mysteries to come out?  The Rocky Road to Ruin introduces us to a brand new set of characters and ice cream so delicious it will make you drool.

Riley Rhodes has returned home to Penniman, Connecticut, for the funeral of her best friend’s mother.  After the service, she sees that Caroline and her brother, Mike, are fighting over what to do with the property that the two of them were left, including Udderly Delicious, the ice cream shop where Riley worked as a teen.  The next morning, Riley finds Mike dead.  Knowing that Caroline will be a prime suspect, Riley tries to figure out what happened.  Can she do it?

What I’ve left off so far is Riley’s background.  She’s a CIA librarian who has gone on a few covert missions.  How cool and unusual is that?  I enjoyed that, and seeing how her mind worked as a result.

Don’t worry, this is still definitely a cozy.  Despite the sad beginning, I felt right at home as soon as I started the book.  The setting, tone, and characters keep things from being too somber, and the bittersweet feeling makes for a richer book.

The murder takes place pretty quickly, and the book sets up some interesting suspects and complications for Riley to unravel.  Unfortunately, I did feel the pacing was uneven in the middle, but things picked up again as we got near the climax, and I had a hard time putting the book down at that point until Riley solved it all.  The climax definitely impacted me.

And that’s because these characters are wonderful.  This may be the first book in the series, but they come to life.  I can’t wait to learn more about them as the series progresses.

Then there’s the ice cream.  Have I mentioned I love ice cream?  There is so much talk of ice cream that my mouth watered as I was reading.  Fortunately, we have a couple of recipes at the back of the book for some of the unusual flavors featured in the book.

Summer is the perfect time to read this fun debut.  Grab a bowl of ice cream and curl up with The Rocky Road to Ruin.  Personally, I’ll have a second scoop while I wait for the sequel.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Giveaway!

I'm giving away a copy of this book.  The winner will have a choice of a physical copy (US addresses only) or a digital copy (open to everyone).

Since I asked about your favorite ice cream flavor a couple weeks ago, this time tell me about a favorite toping or sundae.  And please be sure to give me your email address so I can contact you if you win.

I'll pull the winner next Thursday, July 29th, so please enter before then.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

TV Show Review: Loki - Season 1

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Acting, look
Cons: Story that ends with no real resolution until we get more movies
The Bottom Line:
Loki on the run
Help tracking a variant?
Leaves too much open




“I’m Going to Burn This Place Down!”  “I’ll Show You Where My Desk Is.  You Can Start There.”

When Loki premiered, Marvel series on Disney+ were 1 out of 2 as far as I was concerned.  I had enjoyed WandaVision and been disappointed by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  I was hoping to enjoy Loki, but sadly, it disappointed me as well.

This show branches off from Avengers: Endgame.  In fact, it truly begins seconds after we last see Loki (Tom Hiddleston).  And seconds is all it takes for Loki to be captured by the Time Variance Authority for the crime of not following the sacred timeline.  You see, he has escape from where and when he is supposed to be.  As a variant, he has to face the wrath of the TVA.

That is until Mobius (Owen Wilson) steps in.  You see, he wants Loki’s help is bringing down an especially nasty variant (Sophia Di Martino) who is ambushing and killing the soldiers the TVA is sending out.  Will Loki help Mobius?  Or will he use Mobius?

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when the show first started, so I was willing to go along for the ride as each episode premiered.  Sadly, I had to wait for that ride.  The first episode was interesting set up, and I expect that from any pilot.  But then the next couple of episodes dragged.  Yes, they had to explain stuff to us, but they just felt like too much exposition, not enough story or action.  Episodes four and five were certainly better, and I was looking forward to seeing what would happen in episode six.

And this is where the show let me down the most.  It resolved nothing.  Instead, we have to wait for movies to find out what happens next.  Now, I’m used to Marvel movies setting us up for the next movie, but they at least have some kind of climax or resolution to part of the story.  Here, we got none.  It was all set up for what is to come next.  Episode six would have been brilliant if it were leading into a season finale.  That’s what it feels like.  Unfortunately, it is leading into nothing – or at least nothing immediate.  Yes, eventually, we will find out what happens next, and we’ve been promised a second season of Loki, again eventually.  But I spent six episodes leading to nothing.

It’s that let down that hurts the most, but I do think that Marvel studios needs to work on the pacing of their TV shows.  Suddenly, they have more time and freedom, but they aren’t using it to advance story or characters efficiently.

Visually, the show is magnificent.  The sets and special effects work well.  Considering some of the places we go over the course of these six episodes, that’s saying something.  Likewise, the acting is great from the entire cast, and some of their performances are very fun.

I’ve enjoyed the Marvel movies for the most part, so I am hoping they can figure out how to make their shows work.  In the meantime, I suggest holding off on Loki until closer to when we will get answers to the questions raised here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Book Review: Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table by Janet Finsilver (Kelly Jackson #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Charming characters, good plot
Cons: Not sure timeline works
The Bottom Line:
A request for help
Turns into a murder case
Enjoyable book




Mystery From the Past; Murder in the Present

I complain frequently about having more books to read than I possibly have time for.  Keep in mind this isn’t a new problem but something I’ve struggled with since I was a kid.  But it does mean that it’s been a year and a half since I last checked in with Kelly Jackson and Redwood Cove, California.  With as much as I enjoyed Murder at the Fortunate Teller’s Table, I wish I could have returned sooner.

When Summer approaches Kelly and the Senior Sentinels asking them for a favor, they are only too willing to agree.  Her request seems rather daunting, find two people she hasn’t seen in fifty years.  Yet the group of crime solving enthusiasts are able to do so rather quickly.  However, before Summer can follow up with the people who wanted found with her real request, she turns up dead.  The police view it as a tragic accident, but Kelly thinks something else is going on.   Can she figure out what is really happening?

Series authors have to walk a fine line, introducing and reintroducing characters without slowing down the story.  Here, I’ll admit, I could have used a bit more of a reminder about who the characters are and how they all fit together.  Still, as I read the book, it started to come back to me.

We have quite a mix of characters here.  The Senior Sentinels are a fun group of retired members of the community who work together to solve problems.  They often meet at the bed and breakfast that Kelly manages, which is how she gets involved in their work.  I appreciate how the members of the group are able to get information Kelly needs to solve the crime, but she is still the main focus.  We are never given a large data dump when these characters meet, but those scenes do provide us with pieces we need to solve the puzzle.  The rest of the regulars are just as charming.

The mystery here is very strong.  I didn’t see where it was going until we reached the end, yet we got some great clues along the way.  Not to mention some very creative scenes that put Kelly in jeopardy.  The suspects really stand out, which helped pull me into the mystery.

As I was sitting down to write this review, I realized that the characters seem younger than they would have to be for the timeline of the story to work.  It didn’t bother me as I was reading, so obviously, this is a minor issue.

Given the title, I wasn’t surprised to find that questions about fortune telling came into play.  It is a very, very minor part of the book.  Since I don’t believe in fortune telling, this did bother me, but, again, it was minor and easy to ignore.

While Redwood Cove is a fictional town, the location isn’t that far from where I grew up in Northern California.  I always enjoy visiting the area fictionally.  And it really makes me want to go visit the redwoods again.

Since Kelly runs a bed and breakfast, there is ton of talk about food.  Sadly, we don’t get any of the recipes at the end, but my mouth was definitely watering as I read.

Murder at the Fortune Teller’s Table reminded me why I have the Kelly Jackson books on my to be read pile to begin with.  Since I already own the next in the series, I need to make time to revisit Kelly again soon.

Enjoy the rest of the Kelly Jackson Mysteries.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Ornament Review: Eleven Pipers Piping - 12 Days of Christmas #11 - 2021 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great looking piper
Cons: Greens might blend in with trees
The Bottom Line:
Piping piper pipes
Red and green eleventh piece
Series is still strong




That Sound You Hear?  It’s Another Great 12 Days of Christmas Ornament

I’m finding it hard to believe we are down to the final couple of ornaments in Hallmark’s current 12 Days of Christmas ornament series.  I’ve loved this series, and the Eleven Pipers Piping is no exception.

I’ve seen a variety of pipes in various pictures for the Eleven Pipers Piping over the years, but for this ornament, we have a bagpipe.   Now, I normally picture bagpipes being plaid, but this is a solid green.  In fact, there is no plaid anywhere on the ornament, but the ornament is predominantly red and green, from the green bagpipe to the red kilt the piper is wearing.  There’s even a green hat with a red fabric knot.  The result looks very Christmassy.

I do have to wonder how much the green will blend into a tree, but on the whole, I love how this ornament looks.  The series made a switch when we made it to the humans, and the ornaments are less creative now.  I find I miss some of how creativity that went into the birds, but I still find these ornaments to be so wonderful to look at.  They series still ties together thematically with the giant 11 on the bagpipe and the lines of the song on the kilt.

This ornament represents a first for the series.  For the first time, you could actually set the ornament out and have it balance on its own.  However, I don’t recommend you do that.  Why?  The piper’s feet are small, and it barely balances.  Any little bump or jiggle will make it fall over.

Just how small are the feet?  They are so small that the series marker wouldn’t fit on them.  However, it still isn’t too hard to find.  It was in the second place I looked for it.

Looking at the design of the ornament, it is no surprise that the ornament hangs straight.

One word about my review title.  No, this ornament doesn’t make any noise.  Like the rest of the series, it is completely silent.  But I loved it as a title when talking about this ornament.

This series has been so fun.  I love getting them out each year.  I’m thrilled I get to add Eleven Pipers Piping to the set this year.

Missing some?  Here are the rest of the 12 Days of Christmas.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Book Review: The Clue of the Broken Locket by Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew #11)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Lots of action and mystery
Cons: A bit too much coincidence; thin characters
The Bottom Line:
Haunting at a lake
Searching for hidden treasure
Nancy on the case



Hunting for an Inheritance on a Haunted Lake

It’s been so long since I read most of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books that, even when I know I read a title in the past, I don’t remember much about it.  The Clue of the Broken Locket is a perfect example.  I know I read it when I was a kid, but I couldn’t have told you a thing about it before I picked it up.  Yet, as I read, parts of this Nancy Drew adventure came back to me.

This case starts when Carson Drew, Nancy’s father, asks her to go to Misty Lake, in Maryland, to open a cabin that a client is renting out.  Nancy is only too happy to help out, especially when her dad mentions that something scared the cabin’s normal caretaker and that the person renting the cabin has an interesting story.

When Nancy and her friend Bess and George arrive, they learn that people have started seeing a tour boat that sank years earlier on the lake, and this ghost ship is scaring visitors and residence alike.  Meanwhile, when they meet the young woman who has rented the cabin, they discover that she is looking for a family treasure hidden decades earlier.  Can Nancy solve these cases?

Actually, there is even more going on here, with several other mysterious things going on.  The amount of coincidence involved in the story gets a bit overwhelming at times if you stop and think about it, but I didn’t on this reread.  I just sat down and enjoyed the adventure.  Figuring out how it was all going to come together kept me turning pages.  All the action helped as well.  Something is always happening to Nancy and her friends.  It’s no wonder I thought being knocked unconscious wasn’t a big deal as a kid.

As always, the characters are thin.  I actually felt like Nancy, Bess, and George were a bit better defined as characters early on in this book, and I was enjoying it, but as the action ramped up and the number of characters increased in the second half of the book, the emphasis was on the story again.  Still, this didn’t bother me much as a kid, so I’m sure kids won’t mind now.

I will say I found this one a bit more dated than some of the others.  After all, part of the plot revolves around counterfeited records, and the characters eat luncheon.  It makes sense because this updated edition came out in the 1960’s.  It’s a time capsule that kids won’t mind as much as long as they know to expect it.

It was fun to revisit Nancy in The Clue of the Broken Locket.  The plot should keep kids of all ages engaged as they watch Nancy work to solve this mystery.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

July 17th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Legends of Tomorrow – I have really gotten frustrated with Behrad this season.  He feels like a one note one joke character.  I was actually enjoying him when he first started transforming.  I hope we see a little more of that.  I’m curious where they are going to go with the two Zaris, but I’m happy for Nate.  What is up with that twist at the end with Rory.  Sorry, not sure I’m going to enjoy that one at all.  Overall, this season just feels bizarre.  This isn’t the show I normally love at all.

American Ninja Warrior – It’s really heart warming to see the ninjas training with and becoming so close with the next generation of ninjas.  I doubt any are really ready to pass the torch, but those friendships are so heartwarming.  Not as heartwarming?  Some of the early exits.  Once again, the teens are amazing, and the father/son finishers were awesome.

The Flash – Now there are some of the stakes I’ve been missing recently.  Wow!  So much that could go wrong – is looking like it will go wrong.  I have no clue how they are going to get out of this.  And I’m loving New Nora (glad they clarified that for us) and Bart.  Too bad Nora won’t be sticking around.  I’m curious to see how Bart is going to wind up staying despite all those rules.  But I have to ask – with how old Jay already is, just how old was he when Godspeed killed him in front of Bart?

Superman & Lois – Wow!  I really didn’t expect an ending to anything so soon.  Oh, I know there’s more to come, but I am pleasantly surprised with what we’ve already gotten.  So many powerful moments with all the characters.  And the are amazing at bringing every second to full life for us.  I also really am loving what they are doing with the Cushing family right now.  And that water fight scene?  We needed it for their development and for a break for us.  Excellent episode as always.

Loki – That’s it?  Okay, so I get that a season often ends with a cliffhanger.  But I feel like we should have gotten some kind of resolution to something at the end of season one.  That was a good episode, but it didn’t resolve anything.  Just opened us up to more questions.  I’m going to have to think on this for a while to figure out what I think about it.

Monsters at Work – Easily the best episode to date.  Okay, so it helped that Mike and Sully’s subplot was pretty familiar.  I hope they tone Val down.  She is the most annoying part of the show and the thing that is keeping me from enjoying it the most.

Holey Moley – I liked the zoo keeper.  Sorry he lost there at the end.  That was quite a distractor they brought out.  Definitely was distracting to me, and I was just watching it on TV.  I can’t imagine trying to put with them there.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Disney Pin Review: Emoji Day - Celebrate Today #7 - 2020 Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun with emojis
Cons: Is it supposed to mean something?
The Bottom Line:
Using emojis
To celebrate emojis
Insert smilie here




I’ll Use My Words to Tell You What I Think of This Pin

When I first thought about writing a review for July’s pin in the Celebrate Today pin series, I was very tempted to do it all in emoji.  Why?  Because we are celebrating National Emoji Day.

National Emoji Day is celebrated every July 17th.  Why that day?  Because it is the date the emoji of a calendar shows.  And no, I wouldn’t have known that on my own, but I learned it when I was looking up this day.  Naturally, it is celebrated all over social media.

As much fun as it would be to try to write a review of this pin with emojis, I couldn’t do it.  For one thing, I don’t think Blogger has that capacity.  For another, I wouldn’t be able to find emojsi to highlight what I want to say.  I have a few basic ones I use, but I don’t use the great wealth of them out there.

You want proof that I don’t speak fluent emoji?  I suspect this pin has some message, but I can’t interpret it.  It has a blue background, and three lines of text coming from two different speakers.  We’ve got Mickey, Donald, and Goofy as emojis in addition to a globe, the date, and some other emojis.  Down at the bottom, World Emoji Day is written, and we’ve got the small silver square with July 17 in it.

While I tend to use words more than emojis when I type, I do appreciate this pin.  It’s not the best in the series, but it is fun.

I do have to point out that July 17th also happens to be the day Disneyland opened back in 1955.  I’m a bit surprised that Disney never made that into one of these National holidays, but since they didn’t, I do like the fact that the something to celebrate on that day anyway.

So send an emoji or two, and if you enjoy Mickey and friends, consider getting your hands on this pin to celebrate today.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

July 16th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

Wow!  It's been a month since I last participated in Book Beginnings and Friday 56.  I think it's time I changed that.

This week, I'm featuring The Rocky Road to Ruin by Meri Allen.


This is the first in the new Ice Cream Shop Mystery series.

Here's how it begins:

If you looked up "New England" you'd probably find a picture of my hometown, Penniman, Connecticut.  Miles of gray stone walls bordering narrow country lanes?  Check.  A covered bridge?  A town green with a war memorial in the center of the emerald swath of grass?  Check and check.

Okay, so it's not the most exciting opening, but it does make me want to settle in.  Meanwhile, we find this at the 56% point in the book.

A tiny spark of light flickered up the lane.  It was across Farm Lane to the west, close to the old Fairweather family cemetery, instead of behind the barn to the east like the other night.  Still, the fire burned close to a field of parched sunflowers.  Too close.  "Not again!  Caroline!  Fire!  Call nine-one-one!" I shouted.

That will add a little excitement to your mystery.

The book officially comes out in a week and a half, on July 27th.  I just finished the ARC and I enjoyed it.  I'll be reviewing it on Thursday, so I hope you'll come back then to get my full thoughts on the book.

In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend.

Reading Challenge Update: Audiobook Challenge 2021

 I almost missed the mid-year check in for the Audiobook Challenge.

As a reminder, I signed up for the Stenographer level, which is 10-15 books.  I try to listen to one a month, so that falls right into the middle of this level.  I might wind up a little short of 12, but I should still hit the goal for the year.  At six months into the year, I have listened to six.

1. The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan
2. Every Day Above Ground by Glen Erik Hamilton
3. The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
4. "S" is for Silence by Sue Grafton
5. Something Wicked by Carolyn Hart
6. Mercy River by Glen Erik Hamilton

I'm just about to start my next audio book, so I should stay on track.  It's still a little hard this year since I'm not driving as much as usual.  But I am still enjoying audiobooks.

Book Review: The Magic Square by John Gaspard (Eli Marks #7)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great story and characters
Cons: Would be nice to see all the regulars
The Bottom Line:
Magic convention
Murder frames family friend
Fun murder myst’ry



Who Made the Body Appear at the Magic Convention?

There are some series I read that I always forget just how much I enjoy them between books.  The Eli Marks series is one of those.  I just finished The Magic Square, book seven in the series, and I’m left wondering why I didn’t pick it up sooner.

If you are new to the series, Eli is a magician, which is a different hook for a cozy series.  Since, like so many others, I always enjoy magic, I find this hook fascinating.  In addition to performing magic, Eli works in his uncle Harry’s magic shop in Minneapolis, although this book takes both of the characters to an out-of-town magic convention.

The timing of this convention couldn’t be better since Harry has just released a two-volume book detailing his career in magic and some of his most famous illusions.  Since Harry is a well-respected magician, the chance to meet him and get his autograph in the books means the line for their booth in the Dealer’s Room is always full.

Also along this weekend is family friend Abe Ackerman.  Since Abe has specialized in mentalism, he rarely attends magic conventions, but he is making an exception this weekend.  However, he starts regretting that during the first night’s main session when his arch rival, Gerhardt, makes a surprise appearance on the stage.  When Abe returns to his room late that night, he finds Gerhardt’s dead body.  Naturally, the police think Abe looks good as the killer, but Eli doesn’t think Abe could have done it.  Eli can’t help but poke around a bit as the convention continues.  Will he be able to clear Abe?

The story moves forward at a steady pace.  The scenes involving magic always work in a clue, tidbit, or twist to drive the story forward.  A couple of sub-plots help keep things moving as well.  I had zeroed in on the culprit early on, but I wasn’t completely sure (I can talk myself out of everything when reading a mystery), so I was quite happy reading on to see if I was right.

Since Eli, Harry, and Abe are out of town, we don’t see as much of the rest of the regulars.  That’s disappointing in some ways since the previous book in the series was a series prequel.  However, the little bit we did see of them was fun and helped me get over that.  Here’s hoping the next book is in the present and at home.  The fact that we had fewer series regulars might be a blessing since we meet a wide variety of characters at the convention, and this gives us time to get to know them better.

If you are worried about this book spoiling the fun of magic for you, don’t be.  While there is lots of talk of magic, none of it gets into specifics about how various tricks are done.  However, if you aren’t careful, you might find yourself wanting to learn some magic yourself.

Now that I’ve reacquainted myself with Eli and his magical world, I’m hoping we get to visit him again sooner rather than later.  If you are already a fan, you’ll welcome The Magic Square.  If you haven’t started this fun series yet, you’ll be hooked faster than you can say “Abracadabra.”

Missing a trick?  Here are the rest of the Eli Marks Mysteries in order.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

And the Winner Is

 It's time to pick a winner for the copy of Pint of No Return.  And that winner is...

... Robin!

I've just sent you an email.  Please get back to me so I can get your copy of the book in the mail.

I'm planning a couple more giveaways later this month, so keep an eye open for them.

Movie Review: Batman Forever

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong story, characters, and sense of fun
Cons: Some of the acting doesn’t quite work; still a little dated
The Bottom Line:
Batman, two villains
Remembers a sense of fun
And we meet Robin



Batman Adds Some Fun and a Sidekick

While I hadn’t seen the first two films of the Tim Burton Batman run, I saw the second two when they were in the theaters originally.  That’s been a long time, so I didn’t remember much about them.  Essentially, I went into Batman Forever with a clean slate.  I’ve got to say I enjoyed it.

As the movie opens, Batman (Val Kilmer) is called to the scene of a bank robbery.  Harvey Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) is robbing Gotham’s Second National Bank on the second anniversary of the first time Batman defeated him.  However, it’s an elaborate trap meant to kill Batman.  Naturally, Batman escapes, but Two-Face is determined to end the caped crusader once and for all.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne (of course, also Val Kilmer) meets one of his employees, Edward Nygma (Jim Carrey).  Edward is working on a device that would send TV signals right into a person’s brain.  Bruce is less than enthusiastic, and Edward decides to conduct human experiments himself.  That’s when he discovers one unexpected side effect, a discovery that turns him into Riddler.

Meanwhile, the circus is in town for a fundraiser, and Bruce goes with new love interest Dr. Chase Meridan (Nicole Kidman).  When a horrible accident leaves acrobat Dick Grayson (Chris O’Donnell) without any living family, Bruce takes the young man in, only for Dick to make a surprising discovery.  Where will that lead?

Obviously, there is a lot going on in this film, and that keeps the pace moving.  Honestly, there is no down time.  We open with a great action sequence and close with another, but the plot keeps moving forward with a few fight sequences in between.  It helps that we don’t see Two-Face’s back story here; we are just told it in a brief bit of dialog.  Considering we have Riddler’s and Robin’s origin stories, we’ve got enough origin stories for one movie.  Even better, Robin’s origin story is part of the action of the film, so the main story is moving forward at all times.

Of the three films so far, this one definitely takes a large step toward feeling modern.  Yes, this was 1995, so the effects are still a bit dated, but I didn’t notice them as much.  The stunts and quick cuts in the action help with this more modern feeling.  Yes, some elements are dated, but it isn’t as obvious as the first two.

I remember at the time all the talk about Val Kilmer’s recasting.  Honestly, I found him fine in the part.  I didn’t realize that they had also recast Harvey Dent, who was played by Billy Dee Williams in the original Batman film but the character was absent from Batman Returns.  I just remember hearing about Tommy Lee Jones playing the part here.

Speaking of which, I’ve got to say that I found his makeup amazing.  I can’t imagine how many hours it took to get him to look that way.

In my mind, the biggest weakness of this film is the acting.  Jim Carrey is over the top – that’s a given since that is his shtick.  It would have been better if he had toned it down a bit but he mostly works.  However, Tommy Lee Jones tried to match him too often.  I think Two-Face would have been better and more menacing if he had been less maniac.  I get what they were going for, but two villains with the acting style didn’t quite work.  There are some scenes where it feels like they are trying to one up each other.  The other weakness in the acting is Nicole Kidman in her early scenes.  Actually, I think this is more the dialog she was given as her character tries to flirt with Batman.  Fortunately, I felt her dialog and acting got better as the movie went along.

Speaking of character, I really appreciated the fact that Bruce Wayne, and therefore Batman, got some character development here.  It certainly helps that with a love interest and his new ward at home, we had to see more of his character.  No, it’s not anything surprising, but I still enjoyed watching it.

All told, this is a lighter film.  There are some genuine laughs (Robin has my favorite line of the film).  Yes, the villains are evil and some of their scenes are still dark in tone, but overall this film remembers that comic book movies are supposed to be fun.

All told, Batman Forever is a fun movie.  And that’s what a superhero movie is supposed to be, right?

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Book Review: The Plot is Murder by V. M. Burns (Mystery Bookshop Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Enjoyable characters, creative premise
Cons: Two stories is too much story for this one book
The Bottom Line:
Following her dreams
Two stories; lots going on
I did not connect



Interesting Idea, but Doesn’t Quite Work

I’ve been hearing praise for the Mystery Bookshop Mysteries since the first one came out.  I’ve even had that book, The Plot is Murder, for a while now.  I just hadn’t found the time to read it until now.  Sadly, I didn’t love it as much as I expected to.

Samantha Washington is turning her life upside down to open a mystery bookstore in North Harbor, Lake Michigan.  It was a dream she shared with her late husband, and he made her promise before he died that she would take his life insurance money and open the store.  However, just weeks before she plans to open the store, she finds the dead body of Clayton Parker behind the building.  Clayton was the realtor who sold Samantha the building, and he caused plenty of problems during escrow.  Samantha had no use for him, but the police think she might have killed him.

Meanwhile, Samantha is pursuing another dream, writing a cozy mystery herself.  She’s set it in the 1938 English countryside, and, when life stresses her out, she escapes to the world she is creating to find out how Penelope and the others will solve the murder of American Charles Parker.  Will writing about Penelope help Samantha solve a real-life mystery?  Or will the mystery in real life impact the book she is writing?

This is the first series I remember reading where there is a mystery inside a mystery to be solved, and I applaud author V. M. Burns for creating such a challenge for herself.  She has to juggle two sets of characters and research two stories for each book.

My biggest concern going into the book was that the dueling plots would leave this book undeveloped overall.  Sadly, that was the case.  The historical mystery was better since we would generally drop in for a scene with some importance, so a quick summary of anything we missed would work.  Even so, the ending was a bit abrupt and there was some character growth that came out of left field.

It was the real-life mystery that Samantha is dealing with that got short changed the most.  We got lots of summaries, and it resulted in her telling us about things that had happened.  Instead of allowing me to get lost in her world, I felt like I was on the outside.

Which is a shame because I wanted to really get lost in both of these stories.  All of the characters are charming.  I especially enjoyed Samantha’s grandmother and her friends who are a hoot.  (And I also loved the shout out to Mrs. Pollifax.)  I am definitely curious to see what happens next to these characters.

And the mystery Samantha has to solve is well done.  The ending is a bit abrupt, but it is logical and it worked for me.

I was afraid with all the characters in the book that I might get some of them mixed up, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.  Well, it did trip me up that the victims in both parts of the story had similar first names and the same last name, but that was the only issue I had and once I realized that, it wasn’t an issue for me any more.

I also had no trouble jumping between the two parts of the book.  Samantha narrates in first person, but the story she is writing is told third person.  Those sections were also slightly in bold and clearly marked, at least in the physical book I read.

There are many fans of this series, and after reading The Plot is Murder, I can understand why.  But the two storylines took too much away from each other for me, and the result was decidedly mixed.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Ornament Review: All Decked Out - Spotlight on Snoopy #24 - 2021 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Creative, fun, Christmassy
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Snoopy as a tree
Fun Christmas series entry
A creative piece




Snoopy’s Substituting for Your Christmas Tree This Year

Since Hallmark’s Spotlight on Snoopy series is focused on Snoopy and not necessarily Christmas, we’ve had many entries that aren’t specific to the holiday.  As a fan of Peanuts and Snoopy, I haven’t minded in the slightest.  However, with All Decked Out, the entry for 2021, we are definitely getting a Christmas themed ornament.

You see, this year, Snoopy has decided to decorate himself for Christmas.  He’s wrapped a string of green and red lights around himself.  He’s holding a red ornament.  Even Woodstock has gotten into the act since he’s standing on Snoopy’s head and holding a star.

This is such a cute ornament.  No, it’s not incredibly detailed or complex, but it doesn’t have to be.  It makes me smile when I look at it, which is one thing I look for when I look at Hallmark ornaments.

It helps that the lights are clear.  While they don’t actually light up, they will let light through, so if you have this ornament in the right light, we can see patches of red and green on Snoopy.

As is usually the case, Snoopy is standing on his own two feet, which means you can set the ornament out to display.  It’s not as steady as I expected, so if the area where you are putting the ornament is going to be bumped regularly, Snoopy will fall over.

Of course, that’s not an issue if you plan to hang the ornament on your tree.  Snoopy tips forward ever so slightly when you go to hang him.  It’s only really noticeable if you are looking for it, and by the time you get some tree branches around the ornament, you won’t notice at all.

Since this is the twenty-fourth ornament in the series (can’t believe the number’s that high), you’ll find the series marker on the bottom of Snoopy’s feet.

I’m really pleased with All Decked Out.  This is a fun addition to the Spotlight on Snoopy series that I’ll enjoy for a long time to come.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Spotlight on Snoopy ornaments.