Saturday, September 24, 2022

TV Show Review: Superman & Lois - Season 2

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters in a mostly good story
Cons: Some turns were a little out there, at least for me
The Bottom Line:
Good second season
Not quite as strong as the first
But still worth watching




“It’s Not Like I Have a Red Superman Phone.  Although That’s Not a Bad Idea.”

With as much as I enjoyed the first season of Superman & Lois, I couldn’t wait to dive into season two.  While I enjoyed this season, it didn’t work for me quite as well as season one did.

As this season opens, summer is over and everyone is looking forward to settling into their fall routines.  For Jonathan Kent (Jordan Elsass), that means football, although the players on the team have a big secret they are keeping from the rest of the school.  For Jordan Kent (Alex Garfin), that means learning a bit more about the powers he’s developing and spending time with his girlfriend, Sarah Cushing (Inde Navarrette), who has returned from a summer away with a secret.  Meanwhile, Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) is trying to make things work with her new business partner, Chrissy (Sofia Hasmik) at the Smallville Gazette.  But Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin) is developing problems with his vision that could spell larger trouble, and General Lane’s (Dylan Walsh) retirement means dealing with someone who isn’t as trusting of Superman as the General was (which is really saying something).

But even more trouble is coming as a superman with some bizarre behavior shows up.  And when Lois attempts to reconnect with her sister, Lucy (Jenna Dewan), it doesn’t go well thanks to Lucy’s association with Ally Allston (Rya Kihlstedt), who Lois has written an expose about in the past.  Meanwhile, Lana and Kyle Cushing’s (Emmanuelle Chriqui and Erik Valdez) problems might derail Lana’s run for mayor.

I will admit, my first issue with this season is absolutely silly.  It got too crazy science fiction for me.  I know, I know, Superman is an alien.  I just can’t quite put my finger on why the main storyline of the season didn’t work as well for me.

It certainly wasn’t the storytelling, which was once again top notch.  They raised the stakes every episode, even when I thought the stakes couldn’t be any higher.  Seriously, the last couple of episodes left me wondering not only where they were going to go from here but also how Superman could save the day.

Some of the characters took some interesting turns this season.  I wasn’t happy with all of them.  I can see what the writers thought they needed to do, but to me, it wasn’t what I wanted based on what was established in season one.  Other storylines were fantastic, of course, and I was definitely invested in them from the very beginning.

None of this is a reflection on the actors.  They were all outstanding once again, making me believe in their performances each week and drawing me in to the story.  Likewise, the special effects were great.

And, overall, I still enjoyed this season.  While it was out there at times, I was hooked, wanting to know how the characters would survive the madness happening around them.  I’ll definitely be back for season three.

If you enjoyed the first season, you’ll want to see where the characters go in season two of Superman & Lois.  It may not be quite as good as season one was, but it is still entertaining TV.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Book Review: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good characters
Cons: Rambles, some issue with the plot overall
The Bottom Line:
Come meet orphan Anne
Well loved classic that has charm
But flaws annoyed me



It’s Hard to Imagine a More Romantic Story, but It Didn’t Quite Work for Me

I’ve heard about Anne of Green Gables all my life, and I know at some point I watched the movies with Megan Follows as the main character.  But that’s been years ago, and I really don’t remember much of anything about them.  But, since I have a trip coming up where I will be visiting Prince Edward Island, the setting for the story, I decided I should give the first book a try.

The story takes place around the turn of the twentieth century since the novel came out in 1908.  It tells the story of Anne Shirley, an orphan girl who is sent from the orphanage to live with the Cuthbert siblings, Matthew and Marilla.  The problem?  They were looking for a young boy to help Matthew around their farm, Green Gables.  However, against their better judgement, they find themselves liking Anne, and then beginning to love her.  So she stays.

This book follows her for five years of her life as she grows into a young woman of sixteen.  She is talkative and imaginative and sensitive about her red hair.  Will she make friends with the kids in her new village of Avonlea?  What will happen to her as she continues to grow?

The book is definitely dated.  There are some words here that aren’t used the way they are here anymore.  No, there is nothing offensive about the language.  It’s just dated.  I’m sure today’s kids will still enjoy the story, and it is a window into another place and time.

However, the story didn’t quite work for me.  I think part of it is because I’m the wrong age and gender for the book.  Of the people I know who are fans, almost all of them are women, and most of them first read it when they were pre-teens or teens, Anne’s age in this book.  I can see the appeal for them.  But, coming to it as an adult, I just didn’t find it as appealing.

Part of it is how much time passes.  I find books that cover that much time harder to get into.  It does allow us to see some maturing in Anne, but it also makes things very episodic, which isn’t my preferred style of novel.

While a rags to riches story is always appealing, and I love rooting for the underdog, this book got a little ridiculous by the end.

Having said that, I will say again I can see the appeal.  I definitely grew to like the characters, and a part of me is curious to see what happens to them next.  There are some charming and funny stories in the book that made me laugh.

Fans will immediately recognize what I am riffing on with my review title.  Anne is always imagining this or that, and she is constantly captivated by the romance of this or that happening.

I listened to the audio version narrated by Shelly Frasier.  She does a great job of bringing the story and characters to life.

I’m glad I read Anne of Green Gables since I’ve always heard so much about it.  We will see if I wind up continuing on with the books or not.  Despite the flaws, I enjoyed it just enough to want to know what happens next to Anne and the rest of the characters.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Ornament Review: Scrabble - Family Game Night #9 - 2022 Hallmark Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good representation of the classic game Scrabble
Cons: Usual series tip; for me, not as much nostalgia
The Bottom Line:
Use tiles to make words
Classic game ready for tree
With festive touches



Let Me Spell Out My Thoughts on This Ornament

I’ve always struggled with spelling.  As a result, word games weren’t always my strong suit.  Couple that with the fact that my parents were not fans of Scrabble, and I didn’t play it growing up.  Still, it’s such a classic I’m not surprised it got an entry in the Family Game Night ornament series from Hallmark.

Since I’m not familiar with the game in general, I’m not familiar with the era of the box design.  The box is a bright red, which is perfect for a Christmas ornament.  In addition to having Scrabble written on it, the box also has three words spelled out in tiles on it: Win, Way, Plays.

Part of the game board is coming out of the game box.  We can see the squares of the playing field as well as the bonus squares.  Someone has written three words for us on the playing field: Family, Festive, Fun.  On the sides of the board, we have two trays with words on them: Naughty and Nice.

Now, while I’ve rarely (if ever) played Scrabble, I have been playing Words with Friends for years now.  (I’m carstairs38 if you want to take me on.)  As a result, I know that the way the board is set up and the tiles in the trays are definitely set up for a photo op.  But you know what?  I really don’t care.  It’s a great set up for the ornament and captures the spirit of the game and the season at the same time.  In fact, I love the words in the tray; they are perfect for a Christmas ornament version of the game.

Since the base is a game board, it’s not surprise that it has a nice, flat bottom.  You can easily set the ornament out to be displayed year round.  The 9 in a Christmas tree series marker is on the bottom as well.

Unfortunately, the ornament does tip forward when you go to hang it.  That’s an issue many ornaments in this series have given the ornament’s basic design.

While I may not have any nostalgia associated with this game, I still definitely enjoy the Scrabble entry in Hallmark’s Family Game Night series.  I can imagine fans of the game will be very happy to add it to their collection.

Enjoy more game memories with the rest of the Family Game Night ornaments.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Book Review: Deadly Director’s Cut by Vicki Delany (Catskill Summer Resort Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, plot, setting
Cons: A niggle with the set up for the climax
The Bottom Line:
A movie filming
Brings murder to the resort
Well done mystery



The Director Is Cut Out of the Picture

I’ve often commented how popular the Hollywood comes to town storyline is, especially in cozy mysteries.  It appeals to those of us who are fascinated with the entertainment industry (and I certainly count myself among them), and it automatically creates a bunch of suspects and a victim for the author to play around with.  Author Vicki Delany uses it to great effect in Deadly Director’s Cut, the second in her Catskill Summer Resort Mystery series.

If you’ve missed this series, it features Elizabeth Grady.  She is helping her mother run Haggerman’s Catskills Resort, which her mother, a famous dancer, inherited from a fan.  And it’s set in the 1950’s.

As this story opens, Hollywood has come to the area as director Elias Theropodous has decided to use the area as a backdrop for some of the scenes in his new movie, Catskill Dreams.  Much of the cast is staying at a neighboring resort, but they are actually filming at Haggerman’s.  While Elizabeth is happy with the money they are earning, she is less than thrilled with the demands that Elias is making and the disruption to the smooth running of the resort.

One night, the cast and crew have a private dinner at the resort followed by mixing with the rest of the guests for some dancing.  As Elias is leaving that night, he starts to feel sick only to die later at the hospital.  The doctor is quick to suggest that it was poison.  With her resort’s reputation on the line, can Elizabeth figure out what really happened?  Or will the movie be shut down, scattering the best suspects before the case can be resolved?

As I hinted in the opening, authors love returning to the Hollywood comes to town storyline because it works.  This is another great example of that.  The story is strong with plenty of twists and action to keep us engaged.  In fact, a time or two I kept reading just a little further because some twist caught me by surprise.  When we reached the end, the result was perfectly logical, and the climax was a lot of fun.  Having said that, there is a continuity error in the climax with what came before.  It’s minor, doesn’t impact the solution, and I didn’t think about it until a couple of days later myself.

Sometimes, when you have such a strong influx of new characters like this, the series characters can take a backseat.  That isn’t the case here.  Several series regulars get strong sub-plots that feel like natural outgrowth of what we saw in the first book in the series.  That isn’t to say the Hollywood characters aren’t strong.  Everyone mixes well in this book.

I always enjoy books in resort or vacation settings, and this is no exception.  While Elizabeth, as our guide, is more focused on the running of the resort than I’d be as a guest, it is still easy to picture what a vacation here would be like.  And, I’ve got to say, I’m ready to book some time there.  As I was reading, I could feel the summer heat.  Okay, so it might have helped that I was reading it during a Southern California heat wave, but it still felt very real.

The 1950’s setting is just that, a setting.  There aren’t any major historical events involved in the story.  Yet it infuses every chapter of the book.  I felt like I was back in time as I was reading.

And Catskill Dreams?  I know this is a completely fictional movie, but I really would like to watch it and see just how things turned out for the characters in the film.

I got lost in the pages of Deadly Director’s Cut.  If you are looking for a fun historical cozy, look no further than this book.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Movie Review: Tremors

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some laughs and a few jumps
Cons: Cheese, several hard to like characters
The Bottom Line:
Underground monsters
Mix of horror, comedy
For mixed bag movie



Something Underground is Stalking You

I’ve always had an interest in horror movies, so Tremors has been on my radar for a long time.  However, it wasn’t high enough to make me actually sit down to watch it until a friend wanted to rewatch it.  While he said it was as good as he remembered, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much.

The story takes place in the very, very small town of Perfection, Nevada.  It’s isolated with only one way in or out.  Two of the residents have had enough and are finally going to leave town.  However, as Val and Earl (Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward) try to leave, they keep getting stopped by strange things they see.  Eventually, they realize that large, underground worms are in the area eating anything they can find.  Will anyone in the community survive?

This movie is at once a monster movie and a comedy.  It tries to find the line between comedy and light scares.  It is rated PG-13, after all, so this isn’t a graphic horror movie.  There are a couple of jump scares, but most of the time, you know the monsters are coming before they show up.

Honestly, it’s hard to take the movie seriously as a horror movie thanks to some of the special effects.  The monsters themselves are fine.  They look a little dated, but the film was made in 1989, so that’s to be expected.  However, the blood effects just look so fake.  And some of the underground shots are pretty strange as well.

I guess cheesy is the best way to describe the film.  As I’ve been saying, the effects for certain are cheesy.  Some of the dialogue is as well.  The characters fall into cliches, which makes it easy to laugh and hard to take them, and their fates, seriously.  I also found some of them hard to like, thanks to how they treated each other.

I’m not blaming the cast for this.  They are all fine.  In addition to the two I already mentioned, we get Michael Gross (who has continued with the franchise) as well as Reba McIntyre and Ariana Richards, best known for Jurassic Park.  My issue is with their characters, not the performances themselves.

Now, this isn’t to say I hated the film.  I did jump a time or two, like I was supposed to.  There were enough twists to keep things interesting along the way.  The internal logic of the movie is sound and holds up.

And there are some genuine laughs along the way.  I especially appreciated the scenes with Michael Gross and Reba McIntyre, who played husband and wife.  Their characters and their reactions to things were some of the best moments in the film.  And the scene in their basement is a classic.

Overall, however, Tremors was just a little too cheesy for my tastes.  I think viewing this with nostalgia glasses will help you enjoy it more.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Book Review: Under Lock and Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian (Secret Staircase Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery, great characters, fun
Cons: A bit too much backstory to really absorb early on
The Bottom Line:
Hidden room; body
Create puzzle for Tempest
Fun series debut



The Body in the Sealed Off Room

I keep wanting to read more of Gigi Pandian’s books.  I’m woefully behind in her two other series, but when I saw she was starting a new series, I decided that I would keep up with the Secret Staircase Mysteries.  It still took me six months to get to Under Lock and Skeleton Key, the first in the series, but I enjoyed it.

Tempest Raj has returned home after an almost deadly accident ended her career as a magician in Las Vegas.  She’s finding comfort in being around her family, with her grandfather’s excellent cooking and the fun of her father’s business, Secret Staircase Construction, which builds custom secret rooms, staircases, etc. for their customers.

Her father’s current project involves a renovation for a single father.  Tempest is there as the crew is starting their destruction of the part of the house they will be working on.  They discover a secret room that appears to have been sealed up for decades.  Only, when they open the wall, a body falls out – the body of a woman that Tempest knew.  How did the victim get into the room?  Who killed her?

Gigi Pandian has always enjoyed writing a locked room mystery, and that is going to be a feature of this series.  As such, the book focuses as much on the how of the mystery as the who done it.  I found myself caught up in both aspects of the puzzle and enjoyed seeing Tempest try to unlock the answer.

I did struggle with the book initially, however.  Tempest has a lot of backstory, and it slows the book down at the beginning.  No, we don’t get a data dump, but we get multiple teases about things, and I found that almost as frustrating.  However, the further I got into the book, the more I was trapped by the story, and the backstory was all important to the story we are told here and understanding Tempest.  There is certainly more to come with Tempest’s backstory, and I’m curious to see where it goes.  This about this book like the pilot of a TV show, and you’ll be fine.

One thing that kept me reading the entire way through was the characters.  I liked Tempest from the start, and her family and friends grew on me almost as quickly.  In a fun touch, a supporting character from the author’s Jaya Jones series also appears here.  I’ve only read a few books in that series, but I didn’t feel like there was anything you needed to know from those books to understand the character here.

This book also made good use of the many hooks.  We’ve got magic.  We’ve got secret rooms.  We’ve got a locked room mystery.  As a result, some aspects reminded me of the middle grade mysteries I read as a kid.  I mean that as a compliment since it made me smile as I was reading.

While I wouldn't call this a culinary cozy, there is a lot of talk about the recipes that Tempest's grandfather makes.  If you want to try them for yourself, you'll be happy to find four recipes at the end of the book.

Under Lock and Skeleton Key is a promising start to a new series.  I’m anxious to see where Tempest’s story goes next.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Disney Pin Review: Mad Tea Party - Cuckoo for Disney Pins - 2021 Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun take on a classic attraction
Cons: A little more would have been nice.
The Bottom Line:
It’s tea party time
Fun cuckoo clock themed design
That fans will enjoy


I Believe it is Tea Time

Since the Mad Tea Party is an attraction that so many people associate with the Disney Parks, it’s no surprise that it pops up regularly in various pins series.  It got an entry in the Cuckoo for Disney Pins series, and it is a fun one.

The main part of the pin is a cottage.  It immediately looks like one that we saw in the Alice in Wonderland animated movie as well as the house that holds the operating booth for the attraction at Disneyland.  Now, I’ll admit, the cottage I’m picturing in the movie when I look at this pin isn’t from the tea party scene, but it’s been a while since I watched this movie, so maybe that’s on me.

Anyway, the clock itself is a pin on pin.  While we don’t see any numbers, it is pointing to 11:40.  Or is it 7:55.  It’s a little hard to tell which hand is the minute hand and which one is the hour hand.  Dangling from the clock we have the weights that make the cuckoo clock part work.  In the middle, we have a tea pot.  On the sides, we have stacks of tea cups.

This pin is immediately recognizable as Mad Tea Party related.  It would have been nice if they’d included a couple more nods to the attraction, although I’m not sure what.  The clock face is too small to really have much else on it, for example, and if it had been bigger, it would have hidden the rest of the cottage.  Additionally, it would have been fun to have the clock pointing to traditional tea time.  On the other hand, the tea party in the movie was non-stop.

Okay, so I’m being a bit nitpicky.  Overall, I do like this pin.  It’s a fun take on the attraction.

So, if you are a fan of the Mad Tea Party, you’ll be happy to add this cuckoo clock themed pin to your collection.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

September 17th's Weekly TV Thoughts

You can tell we are in transition with how little TV there is on this week.  Fall shows start premiering next week, however, so this never lasts that long.

Stargirl – I find it so funny that Courtney is the one talking about balance now.  I’m not completely sure that all the pieces are going to work this season, but this was definitely better than last season, and it was fun.  I love how this show will go for extended fight scenes.  I hope they do make Sylvester’s arc a good one this season.  I see potential there, now.  Something tells me that Barbara’s work life is going to get harder despite Artemis’s best efforts.

The Challenge USA – If you had told me that only two people would finish, I would have been shocked.  And I would have expected Tyson to be one of them.  I feel sorriest for the woman who was eliminated because Enzo panicked and quit.  I was glad Angela was eliminated after opting to sleep instead of complete her solo challenge.  Definitely felt sorry for Ben being taken out medically.  The rest of them?  I completely understand why they quit.  I would have, too.  But then again, I don’t handle cold well at all.  They worked hard, and they just couldn’t do it.  I empathize.  Both of the winners definitely deserved to be there after surviving like they did.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law – I see where the humor was supposed to come in, but I just didn’t find the episode that funny.  These Marvel shows seem to be either super fun and addictive or blah.  This is definitely a blah show.

Friday, September 16, 2022

September 16th's Friday Post

Welcome to Friday!  We made it!!!  It's time for another Friday post, where I will be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

This week, for the first three, I will be featuring Under Lock and Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian.

This is the first in a new series from here, and it really is a lot of fun.  Here's how the book begins:

Tempest Raj tested the smooth, hardwood floor once more.  Following the floorboards from the beaten-up steamer trunk with three false bottoms to the window letting in moonlight, she didn't hear a squeak anywhere.  Good.

Jumping head to page 56 we find this:

This isn't the family curse, Tempest told herself as she backed away from [the] body.

Yes, the book actually identifies the corpse, but I'm going to keep that redacted.  You'll have to read the book to find out who the victim is.  Overall, I enjoyed this one.  I'll be reviewing it Monday, so I hope you'll come back and see what I thought.

Let's turn to this week's Book Blogger Hop.  Our question is:

What are your favorite characteristics of a main character?

That's a good question.  I definitely prefer someone who is smart.  While we all make mistakes, that's different from just being stupid.  I also love spending time with characters who are friendly and have great relationships with their family and/or friends.  Obviously, there are exceptions to every one of these.  Basically, someone I'd want as a friend is someone I want to read about.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Book Review: Buttercream Betrayal by Kim Davis (Cupcake Caterer Mysteries #5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong, and charming, characters I enjoy spending time with
Cons: Mystery could be a little stronger
The Bottom Line:
Dog training murder
Great to see Emory here
Fans will eat it up



Murder Goes to the Dogs

It’s always fun to catch up with Emory Martinez and see what is going on with her life, so as soon as I heard about Buttercream Betrayal, the fifth Cupcake Caterer Mystery, I jumped to read it.  I was not disappointed.

In an attempt to train her woefully misbehaving dogs, Emory has signed them up for a dog obedience class run by Shawn Parker.  The class has gotten rave reviews online, but Emory finds that it has done little for her two dogs, as evidenced by their misbehavior at the graduation potluck.  It’s also at this potluck that Emory begins to hear gripes and grumblings not only about Shawn but his mother, Eloise, who is President of the condo association where most of Emory’s fellow students live.  A few hours later, Emory stumbles over the dead body of Eloise in the condo’s community center.  With the rumors that Emory has heard, can she sort out who killed Eloise?

One thing I enjoy about this series is that it is set in Southern California.  It’s always fun to me that Emory is running around locations not too far from where I live.  Unfortunately, I don’t get to spend too much time in the actual locations where Emory is solving crime, but that’s a minor complaint.

The draw also continues to be the wonderful cast of characters.  Everyone we know and love is back, and there’s a relatively new character we are getting to know better as well.  Just being in their presence makes me smile.  Then there are the suspects.  We don’t get to know them as well as the series regulars, but they provide some good distraction from what is really going on.

The pacing could be a little stronger, but there was enough action in the story to keep my interest.  I’ve got to admit, I didn’t see the ending coming, but it made perfect sense.

There is some discussion about what has gone on with the main characters in the last few books, some of it will, by necessity, spoil the events of the previous books.  If you want to watch these events unfold without knowing what is going to happen, you’ll want to read the series in order.  As a fan of the series, I would recommend all the books anyway, so why not start at the beginning?

The story is set in September, but instead of a typical fall pumpkin theme, this book embraces apples for most of the cupcakes and other treats that Emory is making here.  Many of them sound delicious, too, which makes me happy to have the recipes at the end of the book.

This is a charming series, and its fans will be happy to catch up with Emory in Buttercream Betrayal.

Enjoy the rest of the Cupcake Caterer Mysteries.

I am reviewing this book as part of a blog tour.  Check out the rest of the participants here.

And please enter the tour wide giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Ornament Review: Spotlight on Snoopy 25th Anniversary - 2022 Hallmark Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun Snoopy anniversary ornament
Cons: Balance issues
The Bottom Line:
Marking twenty-five
In Snoopy and Woodstock style
Fans will be happy



Raise a Root Beer Stein with Snoopy to Celebrate an Anniversary

This year marks a milestone for Hallmark’s Spotlight on Snoopy ornament series.  It has reached 25 years.  Naturally, that calls for a celebration, so Hallmark has released an extra ornament for fans to buy.

Like all the ornaments in this series, it features Snoopy and Woodstock.  They are decked out in their best – tuxes with red bow ties and top hats.  The bow ties and the silver bands on their hats have glitter on them.  And they both have steins of root beer in their hands.  Woodstock happens to be sitting on the rim of Snoopy’s stein.  Snoopy’s stein has 25 Years on the front.

And I love it.  Okay, I’m not the biggest fan of glitter just because it tends to get everywhere, but other than that, I really do like this ornament.  Which is a good thing since it is pricier than the entries in this series usually are.  It’s Snoopy celebrating as he would – with root beer.  And these two friends all dressed up in a hoot.

Yes, you can set this ornament out since Snoopy is standing on his own feet.  However, it’s not quite as sturdy as I expected it to be.  It will easily tip backwards, so keep that in mind when you decide where to put it.

On the other hand, when you go to hang it, you’ll find that it tips forward.  While that’s disappointing, I don’t see an option for where to put the loop where it won’t tip.  I suspect that with careful placement on your tree, you won’t notice.

Hallmark considers this a Special Edition ornament.  It’s not an official part of the series, and you won’t find a series marker on it.  However, it’s also not a Limited Edition ornament.  Stores were free to order however many they thought they’d sell.  If you want it, you don’t need to rush out and get it today, but I suspect it won’t be quite as plentiful as this year’s official series piece.

I can see this ornament appealing to casual Peanuts fans, however, those who have been collecting the Spotlight on Snoopy series will be especially glad that they picked up this 25th Anniversary ornament.

Here are the rest of the Spotlight on Snoopy ornaments.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Book Review: Murder at Keyhaven Castle by Clara McKenna (Stella and Lyndy Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters in a fun story
Cons: A little predictable, but a minor complaint
The Bottom Line:
A wedding coming
Unless a murder stops it
Pleasing book for fans



You Are Invited to a … Murder

Fans of the Stella and Lyndy Mysteries know that we’ve been on quite a ride with their relationship.  I’ve gotten hooked on it and couldn’t wait to get to Murder at Keyhaven Castle, the third book in the series.  I needed to see just what would happen surrounding their wedding.

If you are new to the series, it takes us to 1905 England as American heiress Stella Kendrick prepares to marry Viscount “Lyndy” Lyndhurst.  Their marriage was an arranged marriage that was a complete shock to Stella when she first arrived in England, but over the few months the couple has spent getting to know each other, they have fallen in love.  Now, their wedding is only days away, and neither of them can wait.

However, murder rears its ugly head once again.  First, it’s the death of a stranger in a nearby town.  Normally, that wouldn’t be concerning, but in this case, he was heard ranting about killing someone, and he had a newspaper clipping about Stella and Lyndy’s wedding in his pocket.  Is someone at the Lyndhurst estate in danger?

Then, an outing to the nearby ruins of Keyhaven Castle ends in a tragedy that threatens the wedding.  Are the two deaths connected?  Will Stella and Lyndy ever get to marry?

If you are new to the series, you could jump in here.  The background you need is explained, which is always nice.  However, I’m not sure the events of this book will be as understandable to you as they would if you’ve read the first two books.  I’m not going to say more to avoid spoilers.

This book walks a fine line.  It has to balance the real reactions of characters to the events as they unfold with the lighter tone we normally expect for this series.  I found the book did that perfectly.  That’s definitely a compliment to the author.

The pacing is fantastic, with plenty to keep us engaged as we read.  I guessed a few things early and wasn’t completely surprised at the outcome, although the motive did surprise me.  Still, that’s not a major issue since I truly was enjoying every minute I spent with Stella and Lyndy.

This series has always had a strong romantic sub-plot, stronger than many of the cozies I read.  That’s part of what drew me into the story here.  I think I was rooting for the two of them to get married as much as they were.

Obviously, both of them are great characters.  The rest of the cast is just as strong, and it is a pleasure to see some growth in some of those relationships.  Honestly, if these characters were real, I’d love to hang out with them.

The world of 1905 comes to life as well, mostly for me in the social norms of the day.  While they aren’t as big a part of things as they were in earlier books, they still are part of the story, and I enjoy that look at a different time.

The next book in the series is due out in a few weeks, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to Stella and Lyndy next.  If you’re a fan, you’ll be happy to visit them again in Murder at Keyhaven Castle.  If you have yet to meet them, I definitely recommend you do soon.

Enjoy the rest of the Stella and Lyndy Mysteries.

Monday, September 12, 2022

TV Show Review: Quantum Leap - Season 2

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun leaps into the past to fix history
Cons: Al’s womanizing, a couple of lectures
The Bottom Line:
Leaps back in the past
Trying to fix history
Different and fun



“You Know How It Is.  You Leap Around a lot.”

I’m planning to watch at least the first few episodes of the Quantum Leap reboot this fall, and I decided I should see how much of the original series I could get watched before the new season premiered.  I’ve had the entire show in DVD for years, and I even watched and reviewed season one years back.  So, I started with the short season one again, and now I’ve made it through season two.  Overall, I’m enjoying it.

If you’ve missed the show, it follows Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) as he leaps through time.  You see, he was leading an experiment in time travel, and when he stepped into his invention, he vanished into the past.  He is only leaping in his own lifetime, so he is leaping in the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s, and once into the 1980’s.  Each time, he leaps into a person, and he has to figure out what went wrong in that person’s life or the life of someone that person knows and then fix it.  Fortunately, he has some help.  His friend and member of the team, Al (Dean Stockwell) appears to him as a hologram that only he can see and hear to guide him with the research they have uncovered with the computers from Sam’s time.

So, what exactly does Sam find himself involved in as he tries to fix what once went wrong in history?  This season, he tries to keep a man from being killed on his honeymoon.  He leaps into a blind concert pianist and must save his girlfriend from a killer.  As a radio DJ, he has to bring rock and roll to Peoria.  While a frat brother at a university, he has to prevent a building on campus from being bombed.  And when he leaps into an expert pool player, he has to win a game so his host’s granddaughter can keep her bar.

This season first aired in the fall of 1989 and the spring of 1990, and the “future” where Sam and Al live in the mid-1990’s.  We get a very rare glimpse or two into the future in the season, and those are always fun.

However, most of the time is spent in the past as Sam tries to change history.  They do a good job of giving Sam a variety of different tasks to accomplish and keep it from being too easy for him to do it.  I always enjoy seeing how he will get out of the predicaments he has landed in.

Some episodes are fairly light and fun.  Most of the time, they play up the drama rather than the comedy of his situation.  And, occasionally, they pick a story that leads to some more serious issues, like prejudice and sexism.  Most of the time, they are able to address this through characters and story without lecturing us.  However, there are a couple of exceptions that I didn’t care for, but they are definitely the exception.

The other recurring issue I have with the season is Al.  He’s a womanizer, and it was supposed to be played for laughs.  While I know I watched some of these episodes in the past, I don’t remember him being quite this bad.  Keep that in mind when you watch.

But for the most part, these episodes really are fun.  Yes, some references or effects are a bit dated, as any show from 1990 would be now, but that is part of the show’s charm.

Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell are the only two characters in every episode.  They both do a great job, and I love their interactions.  You buy that these characters are friends.  I’ll admit, I don’t recognize many of the guest stars, but they were all great as well.  A few of the guest stars that I did recognize included Patricia Richardson, Raphael Sbarge, Marcia Cross, and Robert Duncan McNeill.  There’s also a fun cameo from Chubby Checker as himself in one episode.  Okay, so he was supposed to be much younger than he was in real life when the episode aired, but just go with it.

That is another fun thing.  Every so often, there’s a blink and you miss it moment where Sam introduces something we all know into history.  It only happens a handful of times, but it’s always fun when it does.

Overall, Quantum Leap season two is a fun trip back in time with a science fiction edge.  I’m looking forward to leaping into season three now.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Disney Pin Review: Mad Tea Party - Mickey Mouse the Main Attraction #3 - 2022 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Colors and design evoke a classic ride
Cons: Same pose (as usual)
The Bottom Line:
Mickey’s tea party
Extremely colorful pin
Fits attraction well


Join Mickey for a Little Mad Tea Party

If I’m being honest, there are many iconic rides at Disneyland, but one I most associate with the park in the Mad Tea Party.  It seems to be one that guests either love or hate, and it’s one that everyone has to do at least once in their lifetime.  So it makes sense that it is often included in the attraction based pin series.  And it’s the third stop Mickey makes in the Mickey Mouse, the Main Attraction series.

As always, Mickey is standing with one leg out and looking off in the distance.  However, he’s dressed very differently.  He’s wearing lots of pastels.  His pants are striped, and his jacket has the pattern that is on the cups of the Mad Tea Party attraction.  Speaking of cups, Mickey is wearing three as a hat.  They are stacked on top of each other at a weird angle, which is part of the fun.  Honestly, the bottom one almost looks like a crazy hat, not a tea cup.  These three cups are raised just slightly, giving the pin a bit more dimension.

I’ll admit, if I didn’t know for sure which ride this was designed to represent, it might take me a minute if I looked at Mickey himself.  The cups are a dead giveaway, obviously, but my eye is drawn more to Mickey.  I’m not sure why this is because I’m not sure what other attraction it could be.  And, once you know, it’s very obvious, which is great.  I’m not sure the colors would work together normally, but for the Mad Tea Party, they aren’t perfect and I can’t imagine anything else would work.

As is the case for this series, we get one giant pin instead of several smaller ones.  It is priced accordingly.

This series is proving to be fun.  Any fan of Disney will be glad they joined Mickey on his visit to the Mad Tea Party.

September 11th's Sunday/Monday Post

Welcome to the Sunday/Monday post for this weekend.  I will be linking up to:

Sunday Post
Sunday Salon
Stacking the Shelves
Mailbox Monday
It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

21 years.  I had been thinking about September 11th off and on, but it hit me again as I typed the title of this post.  In some ways, it is hard to believe it has been 21 years, but in other ways, it's hard to believe it has only been 21 years.  I don't intend to go into any more than that about the day, but I did feel the need to acknowledge it.

I did not work today!  After 19 days without a day off (yes, I worked all day Labor Day), I finally got a day off.  And I'm not planning to work tomorrow, either.

Which is a good thing since I've got a lot of stuff to do around the condo.  But instead of doing any of that, I've been off having fun.  Last night, I went to play some mini-field ultimate Frisbee.  Today, I went paddle boarding and played games with friends.  Tomorrow, after I do the PowerPoint at church in the morning, I need to come home and tackle my to do list around the condo.  Things like cleaning up my spare room and cleaning the condo in general.  Plus reading, or course.

We've been having some weird weather, at least for Southern California.  In the middle of our heat wave, we've gotten some rain.  It absolutely poured last Sunday - for about half a hour.  And we got a little thunder and lightening, too.  But in that half hour of rain, we got 0.6 inches of rain.  For So Cal in summer, that's a lot.

The heat has finally broken, but it's humid, which is rare for us.  It was actually raining lightly (hear we got another quarter inch) when I went to play ultimate Frisbee last night.  I'm glad I didn't let that scare me away from playing because I had fun.  My bigger concern was that there would be enough people there to play, but that wasn't an issue.  And it was fun to play in the warm rain.  We so rarely get warm rain here.

I almost let threat of rain and thunder storms keep me from paddle boarding this morning.  But the forecast had changed when I got up this morning, so I left at the very last minute.  It was so much fun!  There was hardly any wind, which is rare.  The surface of the water was glassy at points.  Still humid, but so much cooler than it has been.


It was a low attendance game day at my friend's today, but I still had fun.  And yes, we played three more new to me games.  They have a lot of games.  At some point, we will wind up repeating, I'm sure.

This Past Week on the Blog:


This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Disney Pin Review: Mad Tea Party - Mickey Mouse the Main Attraction
Monday - TV Show Review: Quantum Leap - Season 2
Tuesday - Book Review: Murder at Keyhaven Castle by Clara McKennna
Wednesday - Ornament Review: Spotlight on Snoopy 25th Anniversary
Thursday - Book Review: Buttercream Betrayal by Kim Davis
Friday - Friday Post
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

Remember how happy I was with myself for only getting two books last week?  Good times.  This week, I wound up with four books.


In my defense, two of them were free to me.  I went to Netgalley and snagged a copy of A Streetcar Named Murder by T. G. Herren.  It sounds like fun, and the New Orleans setting appeals to me.

Today, I noticed that Inheriting Murder by Jamie Rutland Gillespie was free on Kindle.  It had recently crossed my radar, and I can't turn down a Kindle freebee of something I'm interested in.  Plus, with it being a Kindle book, it's not taking up any room in my condo.

The next book was also a Kindle book, and it was on sale.  I read the first in Catherine Bruns's Italian Chef mystery a couple years back and always meant to go back and read more.  So when I spotted the second, It Cannoli be Murder, on sale, I snagged it.

Yes, the final book is a physical book.  My pre-order of Spy School Project X by Stuart Gibbs arrived.  Yes, it's a middle grade book, and if you haven't read this series, you are really missing out.  Fast paced with laugh out loud funny parts.

What I'm Currently Reading:

As I'm typing this on Saturday night, I have 10 pages into Seams Like Murder by Dorothy Howell.  If you are wondering why I am only 10 pages in, go back and take another look at what I've gone in the last 27 or so hours.  Hoping I can make some progress in it in the next 24 hours since I had hoped to finish it up on Monday, but we will see what happens.  It's certainly not because I'm not enjoying the book.  It's off to a fast and fun start.

That's it for me this week.  Hope you have a good one.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

September 10th's Weekly TV Thoughts

American Ninja Warrior – The family edition was fun.  I do have to wonder how a couple of those families made it (I guess they didn’t have any one else to compete.)  But it was good overall.  The teams I was rooting for made the Power Tower rounds but didn’t win, but I would have been okay with any of those teams winning.

Stargirl – I’m interested to see where they are going with Cindy and Starman.  Actually, more interested in that than the murder mystery.  It might help if I could remember who the victim is.  It’s just been so long since season one – or at least my mind hasn’t retained who he was.

The Challenge USA – I was really rooting for Tyson to wind up in the arena.  Yes, the egos on the show are really getting to me.  It will be interesting to see who winds up winning it all next week.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law – This show just isn’t doing it for me.  There are some lines I enjoy, but it just isn’t that entertaining.  The guest star characters are annoying, too.

Friday, September 9, 2022

September 9th's Friday Post

It's Friday!  That means it is time for a Friday Post, where I will be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

For the first three, I will be featuring teasers from Buttercream Betrayal by Kim Davis.


This is the fifth in her Cupcake Caterer Mysteries.  As always, I enjoyed it.  Here's how the book begins:

"Piper, Missy, stop!  Stay, come, stop, sit!"  My voice cracked as I yelled to get my dogs' attention.

I don't have any pets because I'm allergic to them.  But if I did, that would so be me.

Meanwhile, at 56% into my ARC, here's what we find:

"What's it to you?"  She curled her lip.  "You seem awfully nosy...."
Tillie and I exchanged a glance, and then I turned my attention back to Karla.  I let out a slow breath.  "I found [him], and I feel like I need to know why it happened."
Karla's eyes widened, and she pushed her chai drink away from her.... "You found [the first victim], too, didn't you?"
"I promise I didn't have anything to do with either of their deaths."

Okay, so I did a little editing and redacting.  The first was to cut down the passage I wanted to share, and the second was to avoid spoilers (not that you can't guess who the victim will be early on).

As I said, I enjoyed the book.  I'm reviewing it as part of a blog tour on Thursday, so I hope you'll come back then.

Now, it's time for the Book Blogger Hop.  This week's question is:

Have you taken a look at the website and app Litsy? 

I don't believe I've ever heard of it.  So that would be a no.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Book Review: Death in the Aegean by M. A. Monnin (Intrepid Traveler Mystery #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong main characters and lots of actions
Cons: A few niggles, but nothing major
The Bottom Line:
Vacation in Greece
Filled with danger and mayhem
Which is fun for us



Travel to Greece for this Fun Caper

My last book was set in Rome, and I decided to stay in Europe (fictionally) instead of coming back to the United States.  I mean, as long as I was there, right?  So I picked up Death in the Aegean, the first Intrepid Traveler Mystery from M. A. Monnin.

Stefanie Adams is finally returning to Greece on vacation.  Her trip is timed with the debut of the gold statue of the Akrotiri Snake Goddess, a new archeological find.  She is on hand for its first viewing, but that event might turn out to be its last viewing since someone steals it that night.  The next day, Stefanie finds the dead body of a woman she’d met the day before.  With her reputation, not to mention her freedom, on the line as the police think she is tied into both of these events, Stefanie begins investigating to find out what is really happening.  The only person she might be able to trust is, Thomas, a German traveler she met along the way, but a man with secrets of his own.  Will she clear her name of not one but two crimes?

This book is more of a caper than a traditional mystery.  Yes, it has the who done it aspect, but the art theft adds another fun layer.  I will say there is something about capers that seem a little chaotic.  It’s not just this book, but it’s others I’ve read as well.  Clearly, that is a me issue, and I do still enjoy these books, so this is more an observation than a criticism.

Because this book is definitely fun.  I was hooked within the first few pages, and I wished I’d had more time to read than I did because I needed to know what was going to happen to Stephanie next.  I may have said “I knew it!” a couple of times while nearing the end, but I was also caught off guard by several of the twists in the book.  Still, when we reached the end, everything was wrapped up nicely, and there was plenty of action along the way.

The characters are great as well.  I really liked Stefanie and Thomas.  The romantic tension between them was strong, which added another layer to the book.  It was easy to root for them to figure things out and get out of danger safely.  The other characters aren’t quite as well developed as the two of them are, but they are still entertaining and serve their purpose in the story perfectly.

Most of the action takes place on Crete.  I have never been, but this book made me want to visit even more than I already did.  It does an excellent job of taking us to a few sights without slowing down the story.

I’m already booking a trip to join Stefanie for her next adventure.  If you are looking for a caper that will keep the pages turning, you definitely need to pick up Death in the Aegean.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Ornament Review: Pixar Lamp and Ball

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great representation of Pixar’s icon
Cons: Just remember it’s a mini ornament
The Bottom Line:
Bouncing lamp and ball
Shrunk to a miniature size
Great for Pixar fans



A Little Luxo Jr. for Your Little Tree

Any fan of Pixar is familiar with their Luxo Jr. logo since it is shown at the beginning and ending of all their movies.  Several years ago, Hallmark released it as an ornament for their regular ornament line.  Now, they have shrunk it down to a mini ornament and released it as Pixar Lamp and Ball.

Yes, before we get anywhere else, we are going to talk about that name.  Why?  Clearly, Hallmark has a license with Disney and Pixar, so why can’t they call it what it really is?  I think it has to do with the trademark of the lamp itself and not Disney/Pixar, But that is the first thing that popped into my head.  I’ll let it go now.

The ornament is pretty much what you’d expect.  We’ve got the white lamp sitting on top of the colorful ball.  The lamp is looking straight ahead at the moment and not out at us like he does at the end of the logo clips.  It’s nothing unexpected, but it’s exactly what I picture when I think of an ornament with the Pixar logo.

Do keep in mind this is a miniature ornament.  All told, the ornament is roughly an inch tall.  That’s not much at all, is it?  As long as you know that before you get it, you’ll be fine.

The base of the ornament is the ball.  As a result, it won’t stand up on its own.  Not that I would really want to put something this small out to be displayed since it would be easy to lose it.

The good news is, when you go to hang this ornament, it hangs perfectly straight.

I’m enjoying adding miniature ornaments to my collection.  Being the Pixar fan that I am, getting Pixar Lamp and Ball this year was an obvious choice.  If you love the studio, you’ll be glad you got it as well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Book Review: Murder in the Piazza by Jen Collins Moore (Maggie White Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good characters; setting brought to life
Cons: Pacing could be better
The Bottom Line:
New boss is murdered
Wonderful Roman setting
Overall fun book



Murder in Rome

I keep saying I want to read some travel themed mysteries, but I rarely pick them up.  I changed that with Murder in the Piazza by Jen Collins Moore, and I’m glad I did.

Maggie White’s husband has been sent to Rome for two years for his job, and she’s gone along with him.  After a few months of living the life of leisure, she has found a job working for Masterpiece Tours, a specialty tour company that offers painting lessons and tours of some of the museums and famous locations in the city.  She’s barely started and she’s already fantasizing about ways to kill her boss, Lord Phillip, an English expat.  However, she is shocked to find him shot in his office one evening.  The police don’t seem that interested in figuring out what happened, so Maggie starts investigating.  Can she figure out what is going on?

This book does a great job of bringing Rome to life.  Since Maggie’s been there a few months, she’s acclimated to the city, but still seeing it through a tourist’s eyes.  I haven’t been able to visit Rome yet, but I certainly felt like I was there.  Most of the characters speak English.  While we get the occasional foreign word, we don’t have any trouble following the dialogue, which is great.

The pacing could have been a little better, especially near the beginning.  While Maggie found Lord Phillip’s body fairly early, it seemed to take a while for the story to really get going.  However, once it did, I found it entertaining, and I loved how everything came together at the end.

The characters were also good as well.  We meet many of them in a group setting, which always worries me, but as the book progressed, we really got to know them better.  I never had to try to remember who they all were.

After reading this book, I’m ready to hop on a plane and tour Rome myself.  If you are looking for a virtual vacation with a little murder on the side, Murder in the Piazza is the book for you.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Movie Review: Wild West Mystery - A Mystery Woman Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun mystery
Cons: Strong dose of Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
Festival murder
Who was intended target?
Good for Hallmark fans


“If You Ever Want to Go to Spy School, I’ll Give You an Excellent Reference.”  “And Give Up the Excitement of Life as a Bookseller?”

When I recorded the Mystery Woman movies off TV a while back, I hadn’t paid any attention to who was in them, so I was excited to see that Bruce Boxleitner was a guest star in Wild West Mystery.

It’s time for the annual Wild West Days in town.  Samantha (Kellie Martin) is in charge this year, and she has pulled off a huge win.  Clint Lawson (Bruce Boxleitner) and the rest of his co-stars from the TV show Red River Days have agreed to come to town for the event.  An accident during the first show puts everyone on edge, but then someone is shot at the second one.  While everyone thought at first it was Clint, it turned out to be Dogie (Joe Stevens), his double.  The question quickly becomes, who was the intended target?

 I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t sure how the Wild West was going to play into this one, but thanks to the TV show, it fits in perfectly.  We get a few scenes in the bookstore, but most of the time we are out at the fairgrounds or an old saloon where the actors are hanging out.

The cast of a TV show being suspects in a murder feels familiar.  After all, it makes for an easy group of suspects.  But I quickly forgave the familiar set up as I got caught up in the story.  It doesn’t seem to matter who the intended target was because just about everyone had motives and secrets to hide.  The climax was a bit theatrical, but I enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, the movie does come with a high dose of Hallmark cheese.  I think this shows that I haven’t gotten used to Hallmark movies but their production values have gotten better.  The cheese is present in both the acting and the dialogue the writers give the actors to say.

I already talked about Bruce Boxleitner being in the film.  I’ve been a fan of his for years, so getting to see him here was a treat.  I also enjoyed getting to watch Barbara Niven.  She’s been in a couple of different Hallmark movie franchises, so it was fun to see her in this earlier Hallmark role.

Once again, this is a movie that Hallmark mystery movies fans will enjoy.  If that’s you, you’ll find yourself caught up in the twists of Wild West Mystery.