Thursday, September 30, 2021

Movie Review: Jack Reacher

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Action, plot
Cons: Overly serious tone
The Bottom Line:
Sniper in crosshairs
Reacher questions if a frame
Tone too serious

“Weird Meeting You.”  “Likewise.”

Since I read so many mysteries, I have heard of the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child.  They are somewhere on my TBR pile (and yes, I realize they aren’t cozies).  I was curious when I saw that a Jack Reacher movie was being released, and I always intended to watch it.  I finally got the chance, and I enjoyed it, although it did have some flaws.

Pittsburg is rocked when someone with a sniper riffle takes out five random citizens one afternoon.  The police are lucky in that they are able to track down a suspect almost right away – an ex-Army sniper named James Barr (Joseph Sikora).  However, Barr only says one thing – “Get Jack Reacher.”

Reacher (Tom Cruise) is also ex-Army, a former investigator who has his own reasons for wanting to see Barr in trouble with the law.  He’s a loner and a drifter who comes to town on his own.  When he connects with Barr’s defense lawyer, Helen (Rosamund Pike), he comes away from the meeting with questions.  Could it be that Barr is being framed?

The plot of this movie is wonderful and drew me in right away.  I love a good mystery, and this was a great one.  There are good twists and reveals along the way.

This is also an action movie.  It’s not full-blown, over the top action, but it does contain several intense action scenes.  They were also wonderful and kept my glued to the screen.

A lot of fans of the books had issues with Tom Cruise being cast as Reacher.  Apparently, Reacher is supposed to be a physically intimidating person, and Tom Cruise isn’t that.  I can certainly understand their issues with casting choices like that since I have had my own issues with casting of favorite characters over the years.  Having said that, I didn’t have a problem with him or anyone else in the cast.  I was just judging them based on what we saw here, and I thought they all did a great job.

My issue was more with the direction and tone of the movie.  It felt like it was trying to be too earnest.  There were some speeches that felt out of place and slowed things down.  Everyone acted like this was the end of the world, which I think was a directorial choice instead of a performance choice.  Even some of the lighter, funnier moments, lost their impact because everything was so solemn.  I’m not saying this should have been a comedy, but a little lighter tone would have made the film more enjoyable for me.  I’m wondering how much of that was trying to imitate the tone of the books.  If so, I wonder if it comes across better on the written page.

I watched this movie on TV, and I had to laugh at some of the obvious edits to the language.  I’m not sure what cuts might have been made for violence, but even so there was one disturbing scene I wound up fast forwarding through.

I’m glad I finally watched Jack Reacher, and I still plan to watch the sequel, which I’ve already recorded.  I can see why fans might have been disappointed with it, but if you are looking for a decent thriller, you’ll be glad you watched this one.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Book Review: Death at Holly Lodge by Louise R. Innes (Daisy Thorne Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun mystery and characters
Cons: Timeline issues
The Bottom Line:
Santa in chimney
Starts fun Christmas mystery
In English village

Who Stashed Santa in the Chimney?

It’s a good thing I love Christmas.  With so many Christmas themed cozies coming out these days, I have to start reading them earlier to get them all in.  I’m starting my Christmas reading season off this year with Death at Holly Lodge by Louise R. Innes.  This is the third Daisy Torne Mystery, and it is fun to revisit the characters.

Daisy owns a hair salon in a small English village.  It’s a hot spot for gossip, which means it can be the perfect place to pick up clues to a murder.

As this book opens, Daisy is meeting her best friend, Floria, and Floria’s half-sister, Mimi, at Holly Lodge.  The home and property have been abandoned for years, but Mimi and her husband have just bought it, planning to fix it up and use it as a second home.  In fact, while the women are touring the property, workmen are beginning the renovations the property desperately needs.

The workmen have just discovered that someone boarded up the chimney.  When they remove the final board, the get a very unpleasant surprise – the body of a man dressed up like Santa drops out.  The victim had been in the chimney awhile, but Daisy can’t remember hearing of any missing men.  Who was the victim?  And how did he come to be hidden in the chimney?

That set up is perfect for a Christmas mystery, right?  I just loved it.  As the story unfolds, Christmas plays an important part in everything that was happening, both when the man died and in the present.  Even so, it took a little bit before I was feeling the Christmas spirit come through the page, but by the end, it was definitely there.  And maybe if I’d read it at Christmas instead of in the middle of Southern California September heat, I would have felt the Christmas spirit much sooner.

The plot is great.  Yes, there are answers to the questions I raised in my teaser as well as others we get along the way.  The pacing is solid, with plenty of clues, answers, and red herrings to keep us guessing and engaged.

Daisy has completed some training in criminology, so is now able to work with the police as a consultant.  That makes her involvement a bit more logical than in many cozies, although DCI Paul McGuinness continues to be reluctant to include her.  He’s less reluctant here than he has been in the past, and I am enjoying watching their relationship continue to grow.

Over the past couple of books, we’ve gotten to know some friends in Daisy’s life, including the employees at her salon.  They are all back and as charming as ever.  The suspects were strong enough to keep us guessing, although they weren’t quite as strong as the returning characters.

With the first couple of books, I’d noticed that the timeline seemed wonky.  That was the case here again, mostly when referring to the past and how long ago certain events were.  Additionally, we got to repeat a day late in the book.  Those kinds of things do bug me, but they only damped my enjoyment a little bit here.

Overall, Death at Holly Lodge is a fun mystery that will help get you in the Christmas spirit.  Turn on the lights on your Christmas tree, snuggle in, and enjoy.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Book Review: Wreathing Havoc by Julia Henry (Garden Squad Mystery #4)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters, nice mystery
Cons: Mystery has a bit of a slow start, but we are gathering important information
The Bottom Line:
Death in theater
Grows into great mystery
Thanksgiving setting

The Drama of Theater

Just like in real life, Thanksgiving is forgotten in many cozy mysteries.  We get a lot of cozies set at Christmas, and a some set at Halloween, but not as many set around November’s holiday.  Wreathing Havoc is an exception to the rule since it opens in the week leading up to Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving week has opened on a somber note since it starts with the funeral for Leon Tompkin, the owner of the local theater.  Just about everyone in Goosebush, Massachusetts, knew and loved Leon, so Lilly Jayne and the rest of the Garden Squad are hardly alone in attending his funeral.  However, Lilly alone is aware that the chief of police thinks Leon’s death might be from something other than natural causes.

Leon’s death has brought some of the people who used to work for the theater company back to town, but it isn’t all warm nostalgia.  When one of the out of towners is murdered, Lilly begins to wonder if Leon’s death really was murder as well.  If so, are the two deaths connected?

Now, I do have a backpedal a little bit.  Since much of the book takes place after Thanksgiving, the beginnings of Christmas creep into the story.  But that makes sense.  After all, I break out the Christmas music myself the day after Thanksgiving (if I haven’t already started it a little by mid-November).  Still, this isn’t a heavy Christmas book, and we definitely get the sense of Thanksgiving and late fall.

Like any good garden, this book takes a little while to start to grow.  We are getting background during this time, like a seed growing underground.  It’s obvious something is happening, but we can’t quite see where it is going.  However, once the out of towner is murdered, the plot does pick up, and we can see how the early parts of the book were the roots for the story.  I loved how things came together at the end.

These books are called the Garden Squad Mysteries for a reason.  While Lilly might be the main character, the rest of the group of friends are prominent characters.  I love spending time with them, and this book was no exception.  I wonder if the squad might be getting a new member, too.  There’s definitely a new character here I wouldn’t mind seeing again.  We meet plenty of other new characters here, naturally, so we have a group of suspects.  I liked them, which made it hard to pick out the killer.

Late fall isn’t the biggest gardening season, but the theme is still worked into the book in a few creative ways, and there are some appropriate gardening tips at the end of the book.

Wreathing Havoc builds into another strong entry for the Garden Squad.  This is an entry fans will be thankful for.

Enjoy the rest of the Garden Squad Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Giveaway: I have a physical copy of this book to giveaway.  Since it is a physical copy, US entries only, please.  To enter, please leave a comment with your email address so I can get in touch with you if you win.  I'll pick a winner on 10/5, so please enter before midnight on 10/5.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Disney Pin Review: Stitch Crashes Sleeping Beauty - Stitch Crashes Disney #7 - 2021 Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Humor, captures famous moment
Cons: Does look a bit weird, but grew on me
The Bottom Line:
Stitch changing colors
Captures great movie moment
Grew on me, now smile

This Pin is a Psychedelic Dream

The pins in the Stitch Crashes Disney series have been a mixed bag.  My first thought when I saw the seventh entry was that it was weird.  But, as I’ve looked at the pictures released early online and now the pin itself, Stitch’s take on Sleeping Beauty has grown on me.

For this pin, Stitch is a weird combination of pink and blue.  He’s got splotches places since this isn’t a straight down the middle split.  On top of his head, he’s got three pink candles glowing.  Of course, this look is inspired by the famous scene where Aurora’s three fairy godmothers are working on her birthday cake and are arguing about what color is should be, pink or blue.  If you look closely at his ears, you’ll see the words pink and blue written as well.

I think what makes this pin for me is Stitch’s expression.  He’s got his hands on his face, and he’s looking at us with a “What in the world has happened to me?” expression on his face.

Aesthetically, it’s a bit weird to look at, which is why the pin had to grow on me.  But I love the humor of it, especially with Stitch’s expression.  And it does capture an iconic moment from the movie wonderfully.

Once again, the card adds some magic to the pin.  Behind Stitch, we can see Aurora’s castle and some of the grounds.  It’s a beautiful picture, which is no surprise since the artwork for the movie is beautiful.

The card has changed from the cards in the first half of the series.  The sides of the card are supposed to represent old fashioned film, and in the first half of the series, they had holes in the sides like the holes in film to thread it through the projector.  This card has white squares over on the side instead of the holes.  Since the edges of the cards were getting bent and broken easily, I’m okay with this change, although it doesn’t look quite as nice.

If I weren’t collecting this series, I might have passed on Stitch’s take on Sleeping Beauty, but I’m glad I got it.  I appreciate the humor of the pin and how it captures that famous scene.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Book Review: McElligot's Pool by Dr. Seuss

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Imagination takes on the world under the sea
Cons: Banned, not one of Dr. Seuss’s best books
The Bottom Line:
Imagining fish
Creativity displayed
Rhymes could be better

You Never Know What You’ll Find in McElligot’s Pool

Growing up, we had a couple Dr. Seuss books that were free as part of a promotion.  They were paperback, but the covers were cheap.  Still, I remember loving those books.  One of them was McElligot’s Pool.

The book opens with Marco, the protagonist from To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, fishing in a pond on the McElligot’s farm.  He’s warned that there’s nothing in the pond but junk that people have thrown away.  Marco, however, takes a more fanciful outlook on the pool.  After all, maybe it’s connected to the sea but a tunnel no one knows about.  And, if that’s the case, you never know exactly what you could catch.

The heart of the book is really Marco’s imagination of what he might catch if he keeps fishing.  It’s quite imaginative, and covers a wide range of fish from the real to the almost real (I don’t think catfish look so much like cats) to the absurd.  But it’s that imagination that Dr. Seuss is best known for, and it is on full display here.  There are things that will make adults grin and entertain kids.  And it might just help spark the imagination of kids.

This is one of Dr. Seuss’s early books.  That means the rhymes aren’t quite as sharp as they would be in his classics.  The drawings are much more detailed than in some of his easy readers.  They are all pen and ink.  Some pages are just black and white while others are full color.

I wouldn’t categorize this as one of his best books.  As I said, the rhymes aren’t as sharp as they could be, and the list of fish Marco might catch seems to be a little repetitive.  Still, it is fun.  I enjoyed it as a kid, and the nostalgia factor makes me smile still as I read it.

This is one of the six books that has been banned this year.  The reason is because of one page where Marco imagines Eskimo fish making their way from the arctic to McElligot’s pool.  Yes, they are dressed in the stereotypical Eskimo way.  But here’s the thing – yes, they are caricatures, but everything in the book is based on caricature.  The picture isn’t meant to be offensive, but is perfectly in the style of the rest of the book.  To single out this page is to not look at the pages in the context of the rest of the book.  And that’s sad.  (I will also only say that if this book truly went out of print because of the lack of sales, it wouldn’t have needed a press release to announce it.)

It’s a shame that today’s kids won’t be able to enjoy the magic of imagination captures in McElligot’s Pool.  It may not be one of the best from Dr. Seuss, but it still has it’s charm.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

TV Show Review: The Equalizer (2021) - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Action and adventure with characters we love
Cons: When the show decides to preach, it’s bad
The Bottom Line:
Helping those in need
Action, danger here in spades
Kept me tuning in

“I’m the One You Call When You Can’t Call 9-1-1.”

 As the good TV watcher I am, I pay attention to the show that gets the post Superbowl spot each year.  Normally, it’s an episode of an established show that the network is hoping to boost, but this past year, it was the pilot of a new take on The Equalizer.  Having never watched the original show or the movies based on that TV show, I had no expectations, but the premise sounded fun, so I tuned in for the pilot.  I was hooked and enjoyed the first season.

The show follows the exploits of Robyn McCall (Queen Latifah), an ex-CIA agent who has tried to leave that life behind to raise her daughter teenage Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes) with the help of her Aunt Viv (Lorraine Toussaint).

However, Robyn finds she can’t just turn off her CIA training and settle into domestic life.  When she runs across a teen on the run after being framed for murder, she steps in and helps.  And thus begins a secret life working with her friends Mel and Harry (Liza Lapira and Adam Goldberg) to help those who are facing overwhelming odds.  Over the course of the season, she gets involved in kidnappings and murders, trying to help those whose cries to the police are going unheeded for whatever reason.  Occasionally, she turns to her old CIA handler William Bishop (Chris Noth) for help.  Unfortunately, her activities have caught the attention of Detective Marcus Dante (Tory Kittles), who wants to arrest her as a vigilante.  Meanwhile, she’s also trying to keep her past and her new activities a secret from her family.  Can she juggle everything, help those who a relying on her, and stay one step ahead of Dante?

This shows airs on CBS, and to a certain extent, it fits into their procedural formula.  There’s usually a mystery that Robyn needs to solve to truly keep her client of the week safe.  While there are some ongoing story arcs, they are light and generally revolve around her relationships with her aunt and daughter and Detective Dante.

But don’t dismiss the show so fast.  The stakes of each episode are high, and that keeps us engaged the entire time.  Nothing is ever as easy as it first appears, and things rarely appear simple at the start of the episode.  We may feel that things are going to end a certain way, but trying to figure out how keeps us going.

The show includes some action each week.  It’s an action light show – this is a TV show, after all, and can’t go for the big budget action sequences we would see in a movie.  Still, those scenes are always well done and enjoyable.

And we love all of the regulars.  Robyn is fantastic whether she is foiling the plot of the week or trying to raise a daughter she’s mostly left behind while working for the CIA.  We like the rest of the regulars because of how they are reacting to her.  Yes, even Dante is likeable.

The credit for that goes to the actors, naturally, who are doing a great job bringing their characters to life each week.

The down side is that the show gets preachy a couple of times.  Unfortunately, today, I expect it, but it is still a turn off when it happens.  Those episodes don’t even try to hide what they are doing either, but go all in on preaching, with stereotypical characters instead of trying to show nuance.  What’s a real shame is that goes against the usual light nature of the show, so it is especially jarring.

And, despite the fact that we are dealing with some pretty hardened, nasty criminals, this show still finds the balance that makes it fun and enjoyable.  There’s some humor, and the characters and their relationships also help soften the darker elements of the show.

Because this show was a mid-season replacement, season one consists of only ten episodes.  They ended on a cliffhanger, and I can’t wait to see where the writers are going to go with things next season.

The first season of The Equalizer was fun.  I looked forward to seeing what danger Robyn would get into and out of each week.  If you are looking for a fun crime show, be sure to check it out.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Book Review: "T" is for Trespass by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #20)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters, strong plot
Cons: Plot is slow to start; one plot hole
The Bottom Line:
Helping a neighbor
Slow start but book turns thriller
You’ll race to finish

Can Kinsey Save Her Neighbor?

With “T” is for Trespass behind me, I’ve rounded the final corner in the Kinsey Millhone series.  Yes, I still have 5 books to go, but the end is in sight, and I find I’m not anxious to ending the series.  Even though this book wasn’t Kinsey at her best, it grew into a book with several heart pounding scenes.

It starts innocently enough when Kinsey and her landlord, Henry Pitts, discover their elderly neighbor, Gus Vronsky, lying on the floor in his house one morning after falling and injuring himself.  Gus only has one relative left, a great-niece who lives on the other side of the country, so she is intent on hiring someone to help Gus recover.  The great-niece asks Kinsey to do a background check on Solana Rojas, the woman that she has hired, and nothing jumps out at Kinsey.  Still, something seems off about Solana.  Will Kinsey figure out what it is in time?

It’s obvious early on that Solana is bad news, partially because we get a few chapters from her third person point of view.  However, it takes Kinsey longer to really begin to put the pieces together.  I’ll admit to getting a bit impatient at times, but things got very tense as we got closer to the end.  The last quarter has several thrilling scenes that are almost impossible to stop reading in the middle.

It doesn’t help that, early on, Kinsey is working on another couple of cases.  One of which does wind up bumping into the main case, while the other stays a secondary plot.  That story seemed to have a bit of a quick wrap up, and it felt like it was there more to create the opportunity for a public service announcement than to be a good mystery.  Not to say it wasn’t a good sub-plot, but not as strong as it could have been.

Since much of the action takes place around Kinsey’s neighborhood, we get to see plenty of the regulars in Kinsey’s life, especially her landlord.  That is a wonderful thing.  Next to Kinsey, William is my favorite character, so I loved that aspect of this book.  I don’t remember meeting Gus before.  He’s a crank, but we can’t help but root for him.

Which brings us to Solana.  One reason this book works is because of how well this character is drawn.  While I never really sympathized with her, I understood her, which is all you can ask for with someone this evil.  She makes a great villain.  And no, I’m not giving anything away by naming her as the villain.  This is a thriller.  The suspense comes from seeing if Kinsey will catch Solana in time.

I mentioned earlier that we get scenes from Solana’s point of view throughout the book.  That leads to a plot hole at one point as Kinsey does something based on information that we have, but I have no idea how Kinsey could have figured it out.

This is where I issue my usual “this isn’t a cozy” warning for the series.  As long as you know that going in, you’ll be fine.

I listened to this book, as I have been with this series, and I realized that Judy Kaye, the narrator, got a bit breathless in her narration when we got to the tensest scenes.  I could have done without that, but it is a minor complaint in an otherwise fantastic narration.

It would have been nice if “T” is for Trespass were a bit tighter, but patience at the beginning is rewarding with a page turning end.  Fans new and old will be glad they picked it up.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Ornament Review: A Snuggly Stocking - Petite Penguins #6 - 2021 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute, warm ornament
Cons: Snowflake design doesn’t wrap around stocking
The Bottom Line:
Penguin in stocking
For cute mini ornament
Small but filled with joy

Someone’s Found a Warm Place to Spend Christmas Eve

Hallmark’s Petite Penguins series has perfectly captured cuteness on a miniature scale.  I’m very happy to say that 2021’s A Snuggly Stocking is no exception.

This year’s penguin is hiding out in a stocking.  Okay, so maybe hiding is the wrong word since his head and flippers are peaking out over the stocking.  He’s got a lavender scarf around his neck.  The stocking itself is red with green trim and white snowflakes on it.

At least on the front.  The back of the stocking is plain.  Maybe that’s because that’s where the copyright information and series marker are.  It is already hard to see them, but it would be even harder if the design were paint back there.  But it does look a bit odd when you turn it around.

But from the front, this is another cute addition to the miniature penguin series.  The idea of a penguin snuggled down in a stocking is just so warm.  I almost feel like I’m snuggled up in something just looking at it.

This is one of Hallmark’s miniature ornament series, so the entire ornament is just over an inch tall.  But that makes the detail included that much more impressive.  The expression on his face, for example, is wonderful.

Being a stocking, the ornament isn’t designed to be set out.  However, when you go to hang it, you’ll find that it hangs at the perfect angle.  The stocking looks like it is hanging on a mantel, but the penguin is still completely upright.

A Snuggly Stocking really is a cute ornament.  If you are looking for something small to add to your tree, be sure to check it out.

You’ll also want to see the rest of the Petite Penguins series.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Book Review: A Perfect Bind by Dorothy St. James (Beloved Bookroom Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Delightful characters, engaging plot, unique premise
Cons: A couple characters that annoyed me
The Bottom Line:
Secret library
Complicates an inquire
Creative and fun

The Body Behind the Library

The Beloved Bookroom Mystery series has such a unique premise – a librarian has a secret room filled with the books that her library was planning to discard as they changed to a completely digital and electronic space.  Of course, the key word there is secret, so as murder happens near the library, Tru Beckett has to jump into the investigation to keep her hidden library a secret.  A Perfect Bind is the second book in the series, and it’s another winner.

It’s been a few weeks since Tru had to open the secret bookroom in the basement of the library, and just when she thought things were going well, someone has started breaking into the basement after hours and knocking the books off the shelves, destroying some in the process.  One patron is certain that there is a poltergeist in the library, something Tru doesn’t want to believe.  But how else can she explain what is happening?

However, the situation goes from bad to worse when the town drunk, Owen Maynard, is found dead behind the library.  He could often be found sleeping one off back there, but someone took his bottle and killed him with it.  Tru can’t help but wonder if the break ins to her secret library are related to Owen’s murder.  But to tell the police that means revealing her secret.  Can she figure out what happened to Owen to keep her secret safe?

I always love it when a series offers a unique twist on a familiar cozy set up, and that’s what the secret bookroom offers this series.  Likewise, this story has a few unique twists on other cozy mystery staples.  I’m not going to say any more than that, but I was pleasantly surprised a few times as the events of the book unfolded.  There are plenty of clues and red herrings to keep the reader engaged.  I had the killer figured out before we were told, but I figured it out about the same time Tru did, so I was very proud of myself.

The characters are mostly enjoyable.  I say mostly because Tru’s mother still annoys me, and I found one more of an annoying caricature than a true character, but those are both minor complaints.  Over the course of the book, we get to see a bit more to the majority of the cast of characters which adds depth to them.  I really love how Tru and her relationships are growing from the first book to this book.

I remembered enjoying the first book in the series, but I somehow didn’t remember the humor of the first book in the series, so it was a pleasant surprise to find myself grinning and laughing as I read this.  The romantic sub-plots in this book were the source of much of it, but some of the character interactions were just as funny.  That also speaks to the characters I mentioned I found annoying.  I’m sure they were supposed to be funny as well, but they fell flat for me.  Other will probably love them.

A Perfect Bind is perfectly delightful.  Pick this book up for a unique and fun mystery.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

TV Show Review: Batwoman - Season 2

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Alice, Characters and stories mostly entertain
Cons: Lectures, still a bit dark for my taste
The Bottom Line:
Changing characters
Transition does go smoothly
Still could be better

“There’s No Shark Repellant on the Utility Belt.”  “Why Not?!”  “Because it’s Stupid.”

While I was debating whether I wanted to come back for the second season of Batwoman, they announced that original star Ruby Rose was leaving the show.  Ironically, that was enough to get me to tune in for season 2, curious to see how they would write out Kate Kane and fold the new character into a show where all the characters were centered around Kate.

This season opens to find all of the characters in turmoil.  Kate Kane was in an airplane that had an accident mid-flight.  While most people would assume that Kate had died on board, her family and friends aren’t willing to believe she might be gone.  Her dad, Jacob (Dougray Scott), and step-sister Mary (Nicole Kang) are leading the charge, but right behind them are her friend Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) and her ex-girlfriend Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy).  However, it is Kate’s twin sister Alice (Rachel Skarsten) who is the most upset about Kate’s disappearance – in her own sick, twisty way, of course.

In the fallout from the accident, Kate’s Batwoman suit lands next to Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie).  Ryan is a young woman in trouble, a parolee who can’t find a job and has taken to living in her van.  She views the suit as a chance to get her revenge on the people who killed her foster mother and possibly even clear her name of the bogus charges that sent her to prison.  However, her activities catch the attention of Kate’s family and friends.  How will they take to Ryan?  Will she step into the role full time?  Is Kate alive?

The first season of the show was cut short due to the pandemic, so that made the transition even more awkward.  They had to try to wrap up the storylines they had left hanging while also introducing Ryan.  They did a decent job of juggling everything they had to juggle.  I was fairly impressed.

I wasn’t as impressed to see the lecturing continue.  Not that I was surprised.  Once again, we have a lesbian as Batwoman, but we also now have several minorities in prominent roles, so that gives them lots of options to lecture us.  A few times it overtook the show, even making one episode’s cliffhanger obvious early, but it isn’t as bad as it is over on Supergirl.  Still, I wish they’d tone it down.

And yes, the show continues to be dark.  I’m not only talking about lighting since so much of the show takes place at night, but thematically.  I get it, this is Batwoman – it’s supposed to be dark.  Still, it wasn’t quite as disturbing as the first season was.

There was plenty I enjoyed this season, or I wouldn’t have kept watching after the first two or three episodes.  Several of the storylines continued to intrigue me, and I had to keep tuning in to find out what was going to happen next.  The action is always entertaining and well done.  The cast is all great at bringing their characters to life, which is important for making me care about what is happening on screen.

I have to once again give a shout out to Rachel Skarsten.  Her Alice makes the show.  Alice is crazy, and Rachel’s portrayal hits that sweet spot of being fun and entertaining without being over the top and annoying.  When she is on screen, I don’t want to look away because every look and gesture is wonderful.  If they write her off the show, I will be more tempted to drop it.

Season two was shortened a little thanks to pandemic production issues, but the eighteen episode order was known early, so the writers were able to give us a satisfying conclusion to the stories told here while teasing us with what is to come in season three.  In other words, it feels like a normal season of a modern TV show.

Batwoman’s second season was entertaining enough that I’ll keep watching this fall.  It’s not must watch TV, thanks in part to the lectures, but I’m still enjoying seeing what happens to the characters – both old and new.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Book Review: Mrs. Claus and the Halloween Homicide by Liz Ireland (Mrs. Claus #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters, setting, mystery
Cons: None, although the timeline is unclear in one scene
The Bottom Line:
Holidays collide
Causing chaos at North Pole
Charming, delightful

Introducing Halloween Has Consequences

One of my favorite books last year was the first Mrs. Claus mystery from Liz Ireland.  The combination of fantasy and mystery was purely delightful, especially for a Christmas fiend like me.  Naturally, I was looking forward to the follow up, Mrs. Claus and the Halloween Homicide, and I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s been ten months since we last checked in with April Claus, but she is still trying to settle into her new role as the wife of Nick, the current Santa Claus.  In the North Pole, that comes with a certain level of responsibility, after all.  In an effort to liven things up in the fall, she’s introducing Halloween, another holiday she’s always loved.  Santaland has always been a one holiday community, but many of the residents are taking to the new holiday with gusto.

However, not everyone is open to new ideas.  Someone has smashed the pumpkins that one of the elves was growing behind the Claus Castle.  An elf has left threatening comments about the upstart holiday on the community page for the library.  But then a murder takes place, and April begins to question if introducing Halloween was worth the trouble it is causing.  Or was there another motive for the crime?

While the murder might come a little late in the book for some, that wasn’t an issue for me.  There is plenty of action to keep us engaged.  Things only heat up when the body is discovered, and everything comes together for a fantastic climax.  I loved how things came together in the end.

Meanwhile, the world building is also wonderful.  Clearly, we aren’t dealing with a world we are used to reading about, but author Liz Ireland does a fantastic job of tweaking things we know and building a world that seems plausible.  Heck, the elf’s names alone are a delight.  As much as I hate the cold, I would gladly enter this world if it were real.  That’s how carefully it has been constructed and how delightful it is.

Being the timeline fanatic that I am, I do have to mention a potential timeline issue.  I actually read through the scene a couple of times before finally deciding I was misreading things.  Still, it could have been a little clearer.

While not all the characters are human, they all seem like real people.  And that’s the key that pulls us into the book.  We care about April and her friends and want them to figure out what is going on so they can enjoy this special place they call home.  We get to see some growth in April and her relationships with those around her, which I really enjoyed.  In fact, there is a hint at something that I really can’t wait to read about – hopefully in the next book.

And yes, Halloween at the North Pole is as delightfully wacky as you might expect.  If you are a fan of either holiday, you’ll find something you’ll enjoy here.  Mixed in with all the mayhem is some delightful humor, too.

If you are looking for a cozy mystery series with a different premise, you need to check out this series.  Whether you read Mrs. Claus and the Halloween Homicide now for Halloween or save it for Christmas in December, you will be swept away to a wonderfully delightful world.

Enjoy more holiday magic and murder with the rest of the Mrs. Claus Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Disney Pin Review: Talk Like a Pirate Day - Celebrate Today #9 - 2020 Release

Stars: 5 out o' 5
Pros: Fun holiday combines wit' a scene from a fav'rit film
Cons: Ye’ll be walking the plank fer even suggestin' cons
The Bottom Line:
Peter Pan 'n Hook
‘Minder natter like pirate
Pin be such great fun

Ahoy, Matey!  'Tis the Pin Ye Needs t' Celebrate Today

O' the fun holidays that Disney has highlighted in the Celebrate Today pin series, the only one I’d heard o' afore was Natter Like a Pirate Day.  Nah only am I thrilled they included it, but the characters they chose are perfect.

'Tis one holiday I feel fairly confident most scallywags 'ave heard o'.  It’s fun.  It’s jus' a time t' add a few colorful expressions t' yer vocabulary.  Jus' how colorful be up t' ye, o' course.  Personally, I am a swab pirate, 'n I typically only remember it fer about 5 minutes durin' the day anyway.

'Ave ye guessed the characters in the pin?  O' course, it’s Cap'n Hook 'n Peter Pan.  They’ve used the scene in the movie set inside Skull Rock when Peter Pan be imitatin' Hook’s voice.  In the pin, we see Peter restin' in some rocks 'n usin' his hat t' help disguise his voice.  Howe'er, behind 'im, Hook be sneakin' up on 'im wit' his hook raised.  “Arrrrrrr!” be written across the scene.  Nigh the bottom, we get “Natter Like a Pirate” be an ole lookin' font.  As always, in the lower right-hand corner we get the wee square wit' September 19 in it.

I didn’t start collectin' this series right away in 2020, 'n 'twas this pin more than any other that made me buy it.  Which means that I love it.  O' course, I love Peter Pan, so that helps.  'N I also love the day, so the combination o' the two was perfect.  The fact that 'tis based on a scene from the movie wit' Peter Pan natterin' like a pirate makes it even better.

If only I’d remember t' natter like a pirate more when this day furl around each year.

Maybe this pin will help me remember t' natter like a pirate.  Even if it doesn’t, I’m thrilled t' 'ave it in me collection.

Many thanks t' fer helpin' me translate this review from English t' pirate.  Needs t' read it in English.  The original version be below the jump.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

September 18th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Yes, I'm missing Supergirl in this list.  It was preempted to cover the election results here in CA on Tuesday night and will be airing tonight, so I'll have to include it in my next round up.

American Ninja Warrior – I was sad to see some of my favorites go out in stage two, especially Joe.  But I’ve become fans of all four of the guys who made it to stage 3.  And they had great runs there.  But a teen shall lead them.  I would have guessed that 20’s was peak time for the sport, but clearly not.  These teens have devoted a lot of time to this, and it shows.  Too bad we didn’t get a winner.  So close.  But a fantastic season overall.

Lego Masters – The right team won!  Mark and Steven have impressed me so much over the course of the season, and their final build was amazing.  Personally, I thought the twins should have been second, but all three are great builders.

Stargirl – I did not expect that.  I figured Cindy was around for a long time and would be a constant pain in the character’s sides.  Eclipso is creepy looking.  I like how Courtney’s mom sent her out, and Courtney was going to get the team first.  Showing some character growth in both of them, which I was just asking for last week.  Frankly, there were several great moments of that showed some of the needed growth tonight.

Family Game Fight! (Tuesday) – That was a pretty lopsided game.  Trying to figure out why because the teams seemed to be good.  The one team just couldn’t quite pull it through and get the points.  Dax flirting with Kristen during Airheads was absolutely hilarious.

Ultimate Surfer – Hey Malia, have you considered that maybe the reason you are on the outs with the other ladies is because of the way you behave?  Honestly, I haven’t seen anything from them against you, just you complaining and bad mouthing them.  Really not sorry to see you and your chip walk out the door.  I was wondering why they were giving out so many extra waves, but it became obvious when we heard what the challenge was.  And so many great tricks we got to see, too.

What If…? – I feel like they tried to throw too much into that one episode.  It felt like a cool idea, but that twist part way through just felt weird.  Then, as it is really getting good (from my mystery lover perspective), it just stops.  Overall, this series is feeling like another Marvel miss to me.

Press Your Luck – When Lee only got one spin in the first round, I figured he was out.  Not only was he ahead at the end of the first round, but he won the entire thing.  Just shows how much luck really does play in the game.  Well, and how many Whammies the two ladies got the entire night.  Heck, he only spun twice and won?  That’s incredible!  I was so glad when he walked away.  I didn’t think he was going to do that, but so many wonderful prizes and all that cash.  It was definitely the smart thing for him to do.

Family Game Fight! (Wednesday) – That wound up being a close game, and a win in the final game right at the buzzer.  I can’t believe how few foods Dax and Kristen got in the middle game.  Then again, Sunflower Seeds was an incredibly hard one.  But I love how they mocked themselves for it.  Honestly, one thing I love is the good spirit they have the entire time.

American Ninja Warrior Junior – Amazing some of the kids who went down on the finals.  Kids I thought would win for sure.  As they say, shows that any obstacle can take out anyone.  Never lose your focus.

Frogger – The contestant who won is very good.  First to complete the one course and first to get all five baby frogs.  He’ll definitely be one to watch during the final tournament at the end.

Friday, September 17, 2021

September 17th's Book Beginnings and Friday 56

It's another Friday, so that much mean it is time for Book Beginnings and Friday 56.

This week, I'm featuring Mrs. Clause and the Halloween Homicide by Liz Ireland.

This is the second in her Mrs. Claus series.  And yes, it is indeed set at the North Pole and features Mrs. Claus as the sleuth.  It's as delightful as it sounds.  Not that it isn't without the mystery and mayhem you'd expect from a mystery, as you can tell from both of these short quotes.

It jumps right in with this opening;

"It was a slaughter," Salty the elf said.

Meanwhile, page 56 was a little hard to pick something that wasn't too spoilery, but I did find this nice teaser.

"It's all over," Chip soothed.  "The nightmare is over."

I'd find the idea that it is over comforting is that weren't page 56.  Something tells me the nightmare is only going to get worse.

I'm pretty early with this book since it will be released on September 28th.  And I'll be back with my review of the book this coming Monday, so I hope you'll stop back by and see why I loved it.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Book Review: Murder Outside the Lines by Krista Davis (Pen & Ink Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters, setting
Cons: Plot could be more focused
The Bottom Line:
Psychic signing books
Did she really see body?
Good Halloween plot

Florrie is Haunted by Murder this Halloween

It’s been several years since the second book in the Pen & Ink Mysteries came out, but I was excited to see Florrie Fox and her friends return in Murder Outside the Lines.  Anyone who has been looking forward to more in this series will be delighted.

If you need a refresher about this series, Florrie Fox is the manager for the bookstore Color Me Read in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC.  Despite the fact that the series is set in a large city, the fact that we focus on the neighborhood still definitely makes it feel cozy.  In addition to managing the bookstore, Florrie creates adult coloring books, and as she is thinking about the events happening around her, she will sketch the suspects or crime scenes.

As this book opens, fall is in the air with Halloween fast approaching.  Florrie has a special author appearance planned, author and psychic Hilda Rattenhorst.  However, when Hilda shows up, she claims to have seen a carpet wrapped up with a foot sticking out of it in a nearby doorway.  Florrie and her boyfriend, Eric, who is also a police officer, head out to check it out only to find nothing when they arrive.  Then, during her talk before signing books, Hilda claims to feel a killer’s presence in the audience.  As Florrie is trying to figure out if it is a publicity stunt, one incident after another begins to happen.  What is going on?

I’ll admit that this book had more potentially supernatural elements than I was expecting, even for a book set at Halloween.  I was uncomfortable with how many of them turned up early on in the book, although eventually, the story settles down and focuses on the crimes that are going on.

And there is a lot happening here.  In fact, I felt like there might be a bit too much going on.  I feel like taking out one or two elements would have helped the story a bit more since it would have allowed Florrie, and us, to focus.  On the other hand, I also felt like the story stalled a bit in the middle.  I know, I know, I’m never satisfied.  Despite these two complaints, the book does come together for a satisfying and logical conclusion.

And don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book.  The plot was engaging, and the setting is wonderful.  Between the bookstore and the wonderful neighborhood, I loved tagging along with Florrie as she worked to figure out what was going on.

Plus, I like Florrie.  It had been long enough since the previous book that I didn’t remember much about the characters except that I really liked them, but it was only a couple of chapters before I was feeling right at home again and remembering just how charming and eclectic the cast is.  I liked some of the growth we got in the characters, and am looking forward to seeing how these events play out in future books.  The suspects prove to be just as entertaining and endearing – at least at first before Florrie begins to uncover their more sinister sides.

The cover of the book is mostly black and white, giving you a canvas you can color to make it your own.  And, while not a full culinary cozy, we get some delicious sounding recipes at the end of the book.

Fans will be happy to return to Florrie’s world in Murder Outside the Lines.  Overall, this is a charming mystery that is perfect for the fall.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Movie Review: Redemption in Cherry Springs

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters and setting are fantastic
Cons: Mystery a little easy
The Bottom Line:
When friend disappears
Melanie investigates
Light but fun movie

“I Find You Mentally Exhausting.  Does That Count as a Workout?”

For the second time in recent months, Hallmark has released a mystery movie with new characters they haven’t advertised as the first in a new franchise.  I went into Redemption in Cherry Springs with a complete blank slate, and I quickly found myself caught up with these new characters.

Melanie Abrams (Rochelle Aytes) has returned to Cherry Springs to sell her late mother’s home.  Not that she is in any hurry since it is giving her a chance to reconnect with her uncle Joe (Frankie Faison) and her childhood friends Rachel (Hanna Lee Sakakibara) and Diana (Hannah Barefoot).  What none of them know is that she is trying to hide from the fallout of a recent article she wrote for the Boston Chronicle.

Unfortunately, while Melanie is home, Rachel’s husband, Tony (Rajiv Sharma) vanishes.  He’d been acting strangely lately, but Rachel was expecting him to just vanish.  Will Melanie’s investigative report skills help her figure out what is going on?

As I said at the beginning, I knew nothing about these characters before sitting down to watch the movie, but I was quickly pulled into the story.  While there is a hint of underlying danger, we get a sense for these characters and their friendship quickly.  I was right at home and enjoying the cozy vibes I was getting.

Once the plot kicked into high gear, I was fully engaged in the mystery.  I fingered the perp early on, but I didn’t have the motive figured out until Melanie pieced it together at the end.  And the twists and turns were still enough to keep me entertained.

This was one of the better Hallmark mystery movies.  The acting and writing were both decent.  And that’s saying something considering how much exposition we got in the first few scenes.  We needed it to understand the characters and their relationships.  I appreciate how the writers tried to give us that information without making it an obvious data dump.

I am hoping we get at least one more movie with these characters since one plot thread was left purposely dangling at the end of the movie.  Well, that, and we need to see Melanie’s romance with Jake Collins (Keith D. Robinson), the new cop in town.

Even if Redemption in Cherry Springs doesn’t turn into a new franchise this movie is worth watching.  The characters and their relationships will make you feel right at home in no time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Book Review: Deadly Summer Nights by Vicki Delany (Catskills Summer Resort Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters and setting are charming
Cons: Mystery was often overshadowed
The Bottom Line:
Summer resort death
Mystery could be stronger
The rest is charming

Relaxing Summer Murder

The instant we hit September, I started seeing all kinds of posts on social media talking about how wonderful it was to finally be hitting autumn.  Meanwhile, all I was thinking was “I want to hang on to summer as long as I possibly can.”  Fortunately, I picked up Deadly Summer Nights and was able to do just that.

This book is the first in a new series from Vicki Delany.  In it, she takes us to Haggerman’s Catskills Resort in the 1950’s.  Elizabeth Grady is the main character, and she is running the resort for her mother, who just inherited it the year before.  The book opens in late June, so it is filled with people who are there to enjoy their summer vacation away from New York City.

Elizabeth thinks her biggest problems are getting the food supplier to deliver the food her temperamental chef has ordered and keeping up with all the paperwork and accounting that goes with the resort, but all that changes when she finds the body of one of the guests floating in the lake late one night.  The local police think that the man was a communist, and with rumors flying at the resort, Elizabeth steps in to figure out what is going on.  Can she fine the truth before the resort’s reputation is completely ruined?

I’ve read some of Vicki Delany’s books in the past, so I was looking forward to slipping into the past and a resort.  Sadly, the mystery wasn’t as good as it could have been since the pacing was very slow.  The book gets bogged down in life at the resort, so the plot doesn’t get enough page time.  Having said that, we get a wonderful climax.

And this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the book.  The Haggerman’s Catskills Resort is brought to full life with plenty of period detail.  When I was reading, I did feel like I was slipping back in time to another place.  I also felt like I was at a summer resort.  I could have happily popped into the location and enjoyed a few relaxing days of sun and fun.  There’s plenty of fun to be had at the resort, too.

Likewise, the characters are charming.  Elizabeth has a couple of family members at the resort and several friends on staff and in the nearby town.  I loved all of them.  Even the suspects were charming, which made it hard for me to want any of them to be the killer.

I will definitely be back for a return visit to Haggerman’s Catskills Resort.  The characters and setting have convinced me not to make Deadly Summer Nights my only visit.

NOTE: I received an ARC of the book

Monday, September 13, 2021

Ornament Review: Twister - Family Game Night #8 - 2021 Hallmark Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Captures the first look of this classic game
Cons: Tips forward, a bit simple (but understandable)
The Bottom Line:
Nostalgic first look
Simple piece for classic game
Worthy addition

Don’t Let This Ornament Twist You Up in Knots

When you collect an ornament series, you know that not every ornament is going to be perfect for you.  Some people choose to skip those ornaments.  I envy them.  Being the collector I am, I buy them anyway.  It’s why I bought this year’s addition to the Family Game Night series – Twister.  Not that I’m really complaining.

You see, I never had Twister growing up.  And I think I only played it once or twice as a kid.  As a result, it wouldn’t have been one of the first games I would have chosen to have included, but I’m still enjoying it.

The ornament is a bit simpler than some of the others in the series, but it is a simple game.  As usual, we’ve got the “game board,” in this case the matt you play on, coming out of a classic box for the game.  And I do mean classic.  Many of the game boards in this series have featured the 1980’s boxes, which has been perfect for my nostalgia since that’s when I was growing up.  This one is going back to the original 1966 cover.  The only other thing in the ornament is the spinner, which is leaving up against the box.

Most of the other ornaments in the series have featured some game pieces or other things from the game, but there isn’t anything else to feature.  Again, I will say that the ornament is simple, but again, I will point out this is a simple game.  While I love the other things that have been added in other ornaments, I still like this ornament for what it does have.

As always, we’ve got a nice flat base, so you can set this ornament out to display if you wish.  When you go to hang it, you’ll find it does tip forward a little bit, but you should be able to disguise that with some tree branches.  You’ll find the series marker, an 8 in a Christmas tree, on the bottom of the ornament.

Those who have fond memories of Twister will enjoy this ornament.  Even someone like me who enjoys nostalgic games for their own sake will appreciate this addition to the series.

Looking for more fun?  Here are the rest of the Family Game Night Ornaments.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Book Review: Spy School at Sea by Stuart Gibbs (Spy School #9)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters, story, laughs
Cons: All cons washed overboard
The Bottom Line:
Mission on cruise ship
Anything but smooth sailing
Delightful for all

Cruising for Danger

I have wanted to go on a Panama Canal cruise for years.  I finally got my chance via the page thanks for Spy School at Sea.  While I’m glad I wasn’t on this particular cruise in real life, I loved reading about it.

It you aren’t familiar with this middle grade series, it features Ben Ripley, a young teen who is a student at the CIA’s school to train new agents.  While he wouldn’t normally be going out in the field on dangerous missions, he constantly finds himself out in the field and facing plenty of danger.  While these books might be aimed at kids, they are delightful for all ages.

This book finds Ben being sent on a mission aboard Emperor of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever constructed.  The CIA believes that Ben’s nemesis Murray Hill is going to join the ship’s passage through the Panama Canal to conduct some villainous scheme.  Naturally, they don’t know what name he’s working under or what he is plotting now, but since Ben knows Murray best, they figure he can work out what Murray is up to in time to stop them.  So he’s off on the mission with Erica Hale, her parents, and his friend Mike, all of them posing as a family on vacation.

The team quickly realizes that finding Murray on board the floating city is going to be difficult at best.  Will they find him?  Can they figure out his plan in time?  And will Ben and Mike be able to keep the secret they are hiding from the Hales?

If you don’t know what secret I’m referring to there, you’ll want to read the previous book in the series.  Having said that, this book really does stand alone pretty well.  Since Murray has been in the rest of the series, there are references to some of the things that have happened in the past, but nothing that will spoil the previous books, and you can easily follow this book without knowing the specifics.  However, these books are delightfully fun, so you will want to read them all at some point.

Since this is book nine in the series, fans of the series already know what to expect, and they won’t be disappointed in the least.  Looking for action, adventure, and a plot that will keep you turning pages?  You’ve got it.  I was actually talking about the book with some friends as I was reading it, and I realized just how crazy the plots in this series can get, but they all make perfect sense with the world that has been created in these novels.  Ben faces several deadly complications that kept me turning pages quickly.

Then there are the characters.  At first, they might appear to be types, but there is some depth to them, and we get some great character development again as this book goes along.  I continue to love how that character development is worked into the almost non-stop action and adventure.

I can’t leave out the humor.  I laughed pretty hard at some of the things Ben faced in this book.  Okay, so some of my reaction might have been a result of the stressful week I was having, but this was just the fun release I needed.

As I said earlier, the series is aimed at middle grade students.  I’m a decade or three older than the target audience, and I can’t wait for each new book in the series.  My suggestion?  Get them for the student in your life, and then sneak them to your room to read as well.  You’ll thank me later.

Spy School at Sea is a delight from start to finish.  No matter how many of Ben’s adventures you’ve been on, you’ll enjoy this crazy, delightful, fun cruise.

Enroll in the rest of the Spy School series.

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

Saturday, September 11, 2021

September 11th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Legends of Tomorrow – Well, they did get it all in.  Kind of saw the ultimate resolution coming as soon as the wedding was interrupted part way through.  Not that it was bad, but it certainly was predictable.  Hopefully, they get a season that makes a bit more sense next year.  Definitely curious where they are going with the destroyed Waverider.  Had to laugh at the fake ending before that happened, too.

American Ninja Warrior – So happy Joe made it on his second try.  And thrilled for Jessie as well.  Some great teen finishes as well.  I’m shocked we didn’t get a split decision on stage 2, first time all season.  This seems like an easier stage two, too.  Fewer obstacles, possibly?  Don’t get me wrong, it still looks incredibly difficult, just not like in years past.  Of course, I wrote that as soon as we saw it, and the Ninjas proved it wasn’t as easy as it looked with only one of them making it to the end, and then only after using his safety pass.  Still, there were several close finishes.  Anxious to see how everyone does next week.

The Ultimate Surfer – I thought we were going to be done to the final two episodes next week, so I was shocked when I found out they were letting two people back in during Monday’s episode.  Not being a Bachelor/Bachelorette fan, I kind of skipped past the lessons.  Hard to believe who was sent home from the men.  That’s a strong competitor out.  I’m so tired of the petty bickering among the women.

Lego Masters – Not too surprised at who made it to the finals.  I would like to see what if the teams would have been the same had they not had the further from the wall part of the challenge.  Definitely loved the castle that won with the sagging bridge.  That was indeed epic.

Stargirl – I feel sorry for the art teacher.  At least he isn’t dead.  Does this mean they get a day off from summer school?  There’s a lot going on right now.  I hope it is all leading somewhere, but it feels like various pieces of unrelated puzzles at the moment.

Supergirl – And that right there is why I will not miss the show.  Yes, we need affordable housing.  I get that.  But that was a one-sided lecture.  Sorry, but not why I tune in to Supergirl.

What If…? – Considering I don’t care for zombie stories, I actually find this episode a little fun.  Depressing as could be with everyone dying, but Peter and Scott’s jokes made it better for me.

Family Game Fight – Laughed so much in the beginning.  Smiled through the second half.  Not much else to say about it, but it continues to be a fun show.

Holey Moley – The one guy who wanted to stay dry managed to do it on the second hole.  That was quite a distraction for the finale.  Not sure I could concentrate with all of that going on.

American Ninja Warrior Junior – Got to pay attention to this show with how well the teens are doing on the main show.  Clearly, the stars of tomorrow are running here.  I love how they have some unique obstacles here, at least for the youngest ages.  And kid designed, too.  Naturally, I was thrilled the Christmas ninja did as well as she did.  Surprised that Beckstrand didn’t do better considering his older brother, but if it is his thing, I’m sure it will come.  Or he’ll decide to find his own interest.

Frogger – Obstacle course based on a video I liked from the 80’s?  Of course I’m going to watch!  And what fun and creative courses they have.  Not sure we needed three episodes to be released right away, but I’ll definitely be back for more.