Monday, May 23, 2022

Book Review: Buried in a Good Book by Tamara Berry (By the Book Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun, good characters and plot
Cons: Does get a little convoluted near the end
The Bottom Line:
Finding body parts
Author looking for answers
Wacky, fun debut

Life in the Wilderness Proves to be Deadly

When I was perusing new releases, Buried in a Good Book caught my attention.  It looked like it could be a lot of fun, and I had to give it a try.  I’m so glad I did because I enjoyed it.

Tess Harrow is a bestselling thriller author.  After going through a divorce, she and her teenage daughter need a break from the city, so she takes them to a rustic cabin that she’s just inherited from her grandfather located in the middle of the Washington forest.  She’s expecting that a month without electricity, running water, or Wi-Fi will be the worst thing they have to contend with.

However, they haven’t even unlocked the cabin when they hear a series of booms.  Next thing they know, it’s raining fish parts.  It gets worse when Tess finds a human arm in the middle of the mess.  Then the sheriff arrives, and he’s the spitting image of Tess’s main character.  What has Tess landed in the middle of?

If you’re getting the sense that this book might be a little wacky, you’d be right.  I was laughing from start to finish.  Okay, so it does get serious as we ramp up to the climax, but the majority of the book was just plain fun.  The banter between the characters was great.  I laughed multiple times as I read.

Despite the wacky nature of the plot, the characters are grounded.  I really liked Tess and her daughter.  They are sympathetic and relatable.  They might be a little broad compared to some series I read to make the comedy work, but they are still real enough to draw us into the story.  The same can be said for the rest of the cast, who we slowly get to know as the book progresses.

The plot works.  Oh, it stretches credibility if you stop and think about it, but you’ll be having so much fun you won’t even notice.  Or care.  I’ve mentioned this book is fun, right?  I will say that things got a little overly convoluted as we neared the climax, but everything was logically resolved in the end.

Obviously, with the premise, this one is skirting the edges of cozy.  While we don’t see any violence happening, there are discussions of it as Tess tries to figure out what is going on.  Fortunately, they are minor.

Buried in a Good Book is a good series debut.  If you enjoy laughs with your mystery, you’ll be glad you picked up this debut.  I’m looking forward to visiting Tess again soon.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

May 22nd's Sunday/Monday Post

Happy Weekend, everyone!  Time for another Sunday/Monday post, which I will be linking up to the following:

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

It was another fairly quiet week.  Thursday, I had my church small group.  That was about it outside of work.  As I said, a thrilling week.

Saturday, I fixed that.  I went to Vasquez Canyon park here in Los Angeles County.  Considering how close I live, it's rather embarrassing that I haven't been there before.  You might recognize these rocks since they've been used in movies before, and featured in an episode of The Big Bang Theory were the guys stop to takes picture in front of them in their Star Trek costumes since these rocks were used as a background in Star Trek.  It was nice to wander around up there for a while.  It's desert, but it's beautiful in its own way.

The reason I decided to do that today is because it cooled off here this week.  Oh, not nearly as much as in the parts of the country that got snow.  Remember last weekend when I was talking about it being in the mid-90's?  Yesterday, it didn't quite hit 70 and today is in the mid-70's.  It was a nice day for getting out and enjoying the park, but I'm looking forward to it warming up again in the near future.

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Sunday/Monday Post (that's right, just this post today)
Monday - Book Review: Buried in a Good Book by Tamara Berry
Tuesday - Ornament Review: Stocking Stuffers #1 Repaint
Wednesday - Book Review: Smile Beach Murder by Alicia Bessette
Thursday - Movie Review: Uncharted
Friday - Book Review: A Sprinkle in Time by Dana Mentink
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

I got a lot of books this week.  But in my defense, they are all ARCs, so I didn't spend any money.  We won't talk about the books I've ordered that should be coming in over the next few weeks.  At least this week.  Those books will be popping up in this section in coming weeks.

From Kensington, I got Muddled Through by Barbara Ross and Murder Through the English Post by Jessica Ellicott.  They send me physical ARCs still, so these are paperbacks even though one of the books will be hardcover when it comes out.

I also got three eARCs through Net Galley.  From St. Martin's/Minotaur, I got The Drowning Sea by Sarah Stewart Taylor and Mint Chocolate Murder by Meri Allen.  Then, from Severn House, I got The Fragrance of Death by Leslie Karst.

These books comes out over the course of the summer, and I'll read and review them near their release.  I've enjoyed previous books by all these authors, so I know I've got some great reading ahead of me.

It just dawned on me, I should be including Her Perfect Life in this section since I got it from the library this past week.  I'll talk more about it in what I'm Currently Reading.

What I'm Currently Reading:

I'm currently enjoying Clouds in My Coffee by Julie Mulhern.  It's a humorous mystery set in the 1970's.  I'm currently hoping to finish it up Sunday around the rest of my Sunday plans.

Either way, by Monday, I will be working on Murder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson.  This is the next in the Gaslight series, at least for me.  I'm still a few books behind, but I'm catching up fast, and I can't wait to see what Sarah and Frank get up to in 1899 New York City.

I'm also working on an audiobook.  I checked Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan out of the library via Overdrive.  I've been enjoying it.

All of these books I'm planning to review the week after Memorial Day.  Yes, I read ahead.  I like it that way so if I fall behind, I don't miss any release dates for ARCs and I have a little time to catch up on my reading schedule.

Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, May 21, 2022

May 21st's Weekly TV Thoughts

Holey Moley – The women were killing it this week.  There was lots of very impressive puts on all the holes, too.  Like the sink on the first put on the Distractor.  And, you know, I feel like they are being a little too hard on Rob.  Takes some of the fun about it.

The Flash – No closer to getting Iris back, but I kind of expected that.  Haven’t they completely dropped the storyline they introduced a couple months back with their kids?  I mean, we saw Nora again, but nothing about that storyline?  Or was it intended to be a one off episode?  It’s been so long I can’t remember now.

Survivor – Again, the guy voted out was impressed with being blindsided.  I always like to see that.  Would I be that way?  No.  So it impresses me when others do it.  I guess everyone thinks the one woman who talks so much no one will vote for.  I’m getting annoyed, and I am not spending 24/7 with her, so I’m surprised she has stayed.

United States of Al – So that’s how they leave it.  I wasn’t expecting them to wrap things up, but I was kind of hoping.  At least it wasn’t a major cliffhanger.  But I don’t feel like anything is really resolved.  Much like real life, I guess.  Of course, since the cancellation came after they’d wrapped production, I certainly get it from a production point of view.  I will miss what this show could be, but not what it turned into these last few episodes.

How We Roll – Got to admit I didn’t see that ending coming.  That would have made for some interesting stories in season 2.  Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have been back for them either way.  As much as I tried to like it, the comedy just felt too forced and the characters not that funny.  I won’t miss this one.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Book Review: The Lessons We Learn by Liz Milliron (Homefront Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and story
Cons: I didn’t learn any cons
The Bottom Line:
With friend a suspect
Betty must track down killer
Great historical

Betty Must Clear Her Friend

Most of the time with the series I read, each mystery stands completely alone.  The victim and suspects are all introduced in that story.  Every so often, however, a sub-plot that’s been brewing for a couple of books jumps to the forefront and becomes the main plot of a book.  That’s the case with The Lessons We Learn, the third Homefront Mystery from Liz Milliron.

This series takes place in Buffalo during World War II.  In the past two books, we’ve gotten to know Betty Ahern, who is working at Bell Airplane to do her part for the war effort.  However, she longs to become a private investigator, and she’s found some success with a couple of cases that have come her way, fitting it in around her job.  We’ve also gotten to know her family and friends, including her best friend, Lee Tillotson.  Unfortunately, Lee’s homelife isn’t the best since his father has started drinking after an accident left him in pain.  To make matters worse, Mr. Tillotson is a mean drunk.

It's now March of 1943, and Lee’s dad has been missing for a couple of weeks.  Lee isn’t at all concerned about it, but Betty is afraid something might have happened to him.  Sadly, Betty proves to be correct, and Mr. Tillotson’s body turns up in the Buffalo River.  The police quickly determine that his death wasn’t an accident, and Lee’s statements about being glad his dad was gone make him the prime suspect.  That’s when Lee starts getting very secretive, not even telling Betty the truth.  Can she prove her friend is innocent?

Since we already know the characters, the book is able to just right into the story.  And, as a fan of the first two books in the series, I was hooked right away.  I never wanted to put the book down, and the twists and surprises kept me engaged until the very end.  It helped that Betty had more of a deadline with this case, and the story was compressed into a few days, making the action feel that much more urgent.

One thing that definitely helps is Betty’s first-person narration.  It’s got just enough of a 1940’s flavor to feel authentic without being off putting to us today.  In fact, it’s one of the reasons I got pulled into the book each time I picked it up.  It flows, allowing me to get fully lost in the story.

Since this book focuses on characters we’ve already met, we get a chance for some character development in the secondary characters.  I loved learning more about them and watching some relationships grow.  Speaking of which, I was glad to see some of the growth in Betty and her relationships from the previous books stayed.  Betty also gets a surprising partner in this investigation, and I really enjoyed that dynamic.

I also felt like I was back in 1943.  It’s the little details of everyday life and made me feel that way.

The Lessons We Learn is the strongest book in the series to date.  I enjoyed every page, and now I must wait impatiently for Betty’s next adventure.  If you haven’t started this series yet, you won’t be disappointed.

May 20th's Friday Post

We've made it to Friday!  And I'm going to start the celebration with a round of Friday Posts.  I will be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

My teasers for the first three will be coming from Buried in a Good Book by Tamara Berry.

The book doesn't officially come out until Tuesday, but my preorder shipped early.  Very early.  So I've read it and I'm planning to review it on Monday.  It was a lot of fun, as I hope these snippets will show.

Let's kick things off with the opening sentence for Book Beginnings and First Line Friday:

"There are at least three dead bodies in there."

That really gets your attention, doesn't it?  Meanwhile, moving ahead to page 56 for Friday 56, we find this:

The first thing Tess noticed when they pulled onto Main Street was a Peabody brother standing in front of the grocery store.
He wasn't guarding it, exactly, but there was a disturbed air about him that made Tess take a sharp right and park in front of a row of rental cabins a block away.

If you'd like to learn more, I do hope you'll come back for my review on Monday.

Time to move on to Book Blogger Hop.  This week's question is:

Do you drink tea or coffee while reading?

Nope.  Outside of a glass of juice with breakfast, I pretty much drink water the rest of the day, so that is what I am drinking while reading, too.

I've got a review of the book I featured in last week's Friday post, The Lessons We Learn, going live today, so I hope you'll check that out as well.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

TV Show Review: Signed, Sealed, Delivered - The Complete TV Series

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Charming, quirky characters in heartwarming stories
Cons: A couple of episodes that are a little more bitter than sweet
The Bottom Line:
Heartwarming drama
Filled with quirky characters
Completely charmed me

“I Think You Should Draw the Line at Capes.”

After completely enjoying the movie that served as the pilot for Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I was anxious to jump into the TV series.  It was pretty much what I was expecting – charming with a heavy dose of quirky characters.

The series features the four-person team of the Denver Dead Letter Office.  They are headed by Oliver O’Toole (Eric Mabius), a very by the book postal employee.  The newest member is Shane McInerney (Kristin Booth), an expert at searching for information on the computer.  She’s also the most likely to bend the rules a little.  Rounding out the team are Norman (Geoff Gustafson), an expert is all the reference books in the office, and Rita (Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe), whose photographic memory comes in handy.

Over the course of these ten episodes, the team race to deliver a love letter in time to break up a wedding.  They find a demo CD from a musician who has vanished.   And Shane and Oliver get trapped in a bank vault while following up on a mysterious package.

Even before we get to the disclaimer at the end of each episode, pointing out that the characters go far beyond what is allowed by the post office, it is obvious the show stretches credibility.  But you know what?  I don’t care.  I don’t care that no postal worker would get that involved in anyone’s lives.  The results are absolutely fabulous.  The show is from Martha Williamson, the woman behind Touched by an Angel.  I never watched that show, but this is easily what I imagine that show would be.  I think every episode made me tear up if not outright cry.  Most of the time, the ending was happy, although there are a couple of episodes in the middle that are bittersweet.  One even a little more bitter than sweet.  But most of them?  So wonderful.

Of course, we also get to know the four characters better.  Lovers of slow burn romance will be enticed with not one but two potential pairings.  One thing I appreciated about the show is that, while all of the characters can give us comedic moments, they are also all respected.  No one is the butt of jokes just to mock them.  Considering how quirky they can be, that’s impressive.

And make no mistake, these characters are quirky.  They threw me a little during the pilot movie, but as I watched the episodes here, the characters quickly grew on me, and now I love them all.

For a Hallmark show, there are an impressive roster of guest stars.  The episode of the week rarely features anyone I recognize, but some of the other storylines centered around the post office feature such actresses as Della Reese, Valeria Harper, Valerie Bertinelli, and Marliu Henner.  Okay, so it’s more for those of us who are fans of classic TV, but still, I enjoyed seeing them all again.

The main cast does a great job of finding the balance between quirky and annoying for their characters.  And the guest stars are perfect at making us sympathize with their characters.

As I said, there are only ten episodes of this series, and we get all of them in a DVD release, which is how I watched them.  The set also includes the movie that introduced the characters.  There aren’t any other extras.

While these are the only episodes of the TV series, we are fortunate that Hallmark has made twelve follow up movies with these characters.  I can’t wait to dive in and see what happens to them next.  You’ll fall in love with the characters and be just as anxious to follow their lives.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered isn’t for everyone.  But if you enjoy touching, heart-warming dramas, you’ll be glad you watched this series.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Book Review: Blood Red by Sherri Leigh James (Cissy Huntington #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters
Cons: Language, plot needs polish
The Bottom Line:
Corpse in library
Plot needed some more focus
But good characters

Promise in the Book, but Needed Another Edit

One of my purchases last month at the LA Times Festival of Books was Blood Red by Sherri Leigh James.  I’d never heard of her before, but the premise of the book – an interior designer to LA’s rich and famous solving murders – sounded like fun.  I sat down excited to see how this book was going to unfold.  Unfortunately, it felt like it needed one more edit.

Cissy Huntington’s life took an unexpected turn when her husband disappeared just before all their assets were frozen.  Fortunately, Cissy still has a place to live, but she has to return to interior decorating to pay her bills.  Since it’s a job she loves, she considers herself lucky.

She currently only has one client, Dr. Martin, who has an extremely successful plastic surgery practice in Hollywood.  When she goes to meet him at his mansion one afternoon, she finds him dead in the library.  Since he wasn’t as rich as he appeared to be, Cissy has a vested interest in seeing the estate settled and the investigation resolved as quickly as possible so she can get paid for the work she’d done.  Can she figure out what happened?

Despite the fact that I thought this was a cozy when I picked it up, there was a lot of language in it.  I paid attention, and, as is often the case, the language tapered off as the book progressed, which always feels like lazy writing to me.  If anything, I’d expect characters to swear as the tension mounts.  No, it didn’t go away completely since one character has a potty mouth, but I was grateful when it lessened.

I stuck with the book, trying to give it a fair chance.  Unfortunately, the plot seemed to wander quite a bit.  There were some things that I suspected were part of the story, and eventually, I was rewarded, but they seemed random for a while.  Furthering that feeling, every so often, Cissy would suddenly confront someone on their behavior.  She might have made an off-handed comment about their suspicious behavior as it happened, but quite often, I had no clue that she was even suspicious of their behavior.  Yes, everything she picked up on was in the book, but it felt abrupt and not like well-hidden clues.

As I said, yes, everything does come together in the end, and the solution is logical.

And I did like the characters.  Cissy and her young adult daughter are charming.  I enjoyed their relationship.  While a few real celebrities make cameos, most of the cast are fictional, even the celebrities Cissy is working with.  I bought them as celebrities, and I enjoyed the ones we got to know quite a bit.

It’s why I say this book needed another edit.  Clean up some of the language (I would prefer all, but at least clean up some of it) and tighten and focus the story, and this book would be a winner.

As it is now, I can only recommend Blood Red if the premise interests you.  As much as I liked Cissy and want to see how a few threads play out in her life, I don’t think I will be back for the sequel.

May 18th's Can't Wait Wednesday

 Welcome to the middle of the week and another edition of Can't Wait Wednesday.  How can I be the middle of the week?  I have way too much work still to do!

Anyway, before I spiral into panic mode, let's take a deep breath and look at an upcoming book I can't wait to read - The Navigator's Daughter by Nancy Cole Silverman.

I've got to say, Level Best Books comes up with some great covers, don't they?  Here's the official plot teaser:

Getting caught in the middle of an international art theft ring wasn't supposed to be part of the deal Kat Lawson made with her dying father. But when her father receives a mysterious letter informing the former WW2 navigator/bombardier that his downed B-24 has been found and asking him to come to Hungary, Kat suspects this is all part of some senior rip-off scam. Her father insists she go, not only to photograph the final resting place of his plane but also to find the mother and son who risked their lives to rescue him and hid him in a cave beneath an old Roman fortress. Kat's trip uncovers not only the secrets of the cave where her father hid and of those who rescued him, but a secret that will forever change the direction of her life—that is—if she can get home safely.

This is the first in a new series, but I've read Nancy Cole Silverman's earlier books and enjoyed them, so I'm sure I'll enjoy this one as well.

The book comes out June 7th, but I've got an ARC already.  I'm planning to review it June 9th.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Ornament Review: Duke of Winter - Noble Nutcracker #3 - 2021 Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Classy and cool looking ornament
Cons: Snow globe head a little weird, slight tip
The Bottom Line:
A cool looking piece
Celebrate winter in style
Head a little weird

You Might Feel a Chill Looking at This Ornament

I’m finding the timing of this review a little ironic.  As I write this, I have the windows open enjoying 80-degree weather.  This weekend, it’s supposed to be close to 95.  But it will cool off to the mid-80s before this review goes live on my blog.  And here I am reviewing Duke of Winter, the third Noble Nutcrackers ornament.  And yes, he will give you a wintry vibe no matter the season.

The duke is decked out in blue.  The top of his outfit is darker blue, and it fades down to a light blue by the bottom.  His arms have a similar color scheme.  Decorating his outfit are raised white snowflakes and fleur de lis.  On top of his head is a snow globe with a giant snowflake in it.  His scepter?  Another snowflake with a string of beads tied to it.  Rounding out the snow motif is the clear snowflake he’s standing on.  He does have a working nutcracker opening, although I doubt his plastic is strong enough to actually crack any nuts in it.  The handle in the back is decorated like the rest of the duke’s outfit.

The ornaments in this series are a little larger and more detailed than some Hallmark ornaments, and that’s a good thing.  True the ornament isn’t subtle with the snow theme, but it does work.  You can’t help but feel just a little chill as you look at him.  I really do like him, and he gives off a very elegant vibe.

I will say that his snow globe hat is a little weird, but that’s the only thing that really throws me off.  I think the issue is that the snow globe is see through, so it is more obvious his head is flat than with the hats the earlier ornaments in this series wear.

Since the duke is standing on a snowflake, you can easily set him out to enjoy if you so desire.  Since it is clear, it is a little hard to see the 3 in a Christmas tree series marker on the bottom of the snowflake, but it is there.

This series actually does come with a ribbon for hanging.  In this case, it’s a silver ribbon.  The duke does tip a little to the side and forward, but by the time you get a few branches around it, you’ll never notice.

I’m glad I’ve given this series a second chance.  Duke of Winter is a classy ornament I will enjoy having in my collection.

And be sure to check out the rest of the Noble Nutcrackers.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Book Review: Killer on the Court by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran (Murder, She Wrote #55)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Time spent with beloved characters
Cons: Uneven mystery
The Bottom Line:
A beach vacation
Complicated by murder
Characters fans love

Hunting a Killer on Vacation

We are fast approaching summer, which means family vacation time.  Of course, for Jessica Fletcher, vacations often mean she finds herself caught up in a murder.  That’s the case once again with Killer on the Court, the newest tie-in novel to the classic TV series Murder, She Wrote.

Jessica has just sent her latest novel to her publisher, and she is ready for a little rest and relaxation.  Fortunately, her nephew, Grady, and his wife, Donna, are spending a month in a cottage by the beach thanks for Donna’s employer.  They’ve invited Jessica to come and visit, and she can’t wait to spend time with them and their son, Frank.

Unfortunately, Jessica’s first morning there, Donna stumbles on the body of her boss in a private tennis court.  While Jessica doesn’t intend to get involved, she can’t help but wonder about some of the details of the case.  Will she solve the crime?

Outside of the characters in Cabot Cove, Grady and Donna were always my favorite supporting characters on the show.  Probably because we saw Grady the most of all Jessica’s nephews and nieces.  Fans of the characters will be delighted by their appearance here.  Author Terrie Farley Moran has expertly captured the two of them.  I could hear and see them just like they would have been on the show.  I loved getting to spend the time with them.  I enjoyed their son, Frank, for the most part, although at times I felt like he wasn’t really acting his age.  Still, I got some laughs from him, as I was supposed to.

Unfortunately, the plot of the novels wanders a bit.  We spend as much time on vacation as we do solving the mystery, or so it seemed to me.  Ultimately, the solution made sense, but I needed a few more twists and red herrings along the way to keep me fully engaged.  That includes a slow start to the novel as well as some detours along the way.  We do get some interesting twists, don’t get me wrong, but I could have used one or two more of them.

It might also help if we got to know the suspects better.  I could definitely distinguish between them, and keep their family relationships straight, which is always a good thing.  But I didn’t feel like we got to know too many other details about them.

Now, all this isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the book.  I really did enjoy spending so much time with Grady and Donna again.  The solution to the mystery was logical.  The time on the beach was good even if it did slow the story down some.  It’s just that the book could have been stronger.

Fans of Murder, She Wrote will definitely enjoy revisiting favorite characters in Killer on the Court.  While not the strongest mystery, they will still find it worth their time.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Disney Pin Review: Peter Pan's Flight - Cuckoo for Disney Pins - 2021 Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: A few nice touches in a pin that evokes Peter Pan’s Flight
Cons: Could have used another couple touches; a bit obvious
The Bottom Line:
Fly with Peter Pan
Obvious choices for pin
But I do still like

Will This Pin Fly into Your Collection?

Peter Pan’s Flight is a favorite attraction for many, which is why it has the longest line by far of all the rides in Fantasy land.  So, it’s no surprise that it pops up regularly in Disney’s various pin series, like the Cuckoo for Disney Pins series.

Once again, the creative people behind this series are imagining what a cuckoo clock inspired by a classic Disney attraction would look like.  I feel like they went for the obvious with this one since the clock looks like Big Ben.  We’ve got clouds and the moon behind it.  One touch I love is that the clock reads 8:15, just like it does in the movie when Peter and the Darling children land on it.  Speaking of which, we can see their silhouettes on the clock’s hand.  There’s only one weight hanging down, and that is a pirate ship.

I’m of two minds about this pin.  As I said, I feel like they went with the obvious clock for the attraction.  And the fact that they only have the one item dangling down is a little disappointing.  On the other hand, it does immediately make me think of the ride.  And the reason the ride is so popular is because of the flying over London scene (which is still incredible).  I also love the touch of the kids being on the clock’s face.

Fans of the ride, like me, will be happy to have this pin in their collection even if it isn’t quite the best pin in the series.

May 15th's Sunday/Monday Post

Welcome to the half way point of May.  Okay, so it's probably really noon on Monday, right?  But since this is a post for Sunday and Monday, that should count for something.  Anyway, hard to believe it's the middle of the month already, isn't it?

As always, I will be linking up this week to the following:

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

The fun this week (because work is never fun) was that I got to do Rugged Maniac yesterday.  It's an obstacle/mud run.  Unlike many I do, it was even here in my neck of the woods.  A friend signed up to do it with me at the last minute, which made it even more fun.  We were in an early wave, trying to avoid the heat.  We weren't completely successful, but we missed the worst of it.

Because it is hot here in Southern California.  We started off the week with temps in the 60's, but then on Thursday, they started to climb.  Today, it's in the 90's.  Mind you, I am not complaining.  I'm a hot weather fan.  I love where I live as a result.  Yes, I do have to plan around it for things like mud runs, but I get cold easily, so I'd rather be hot than cold.  And having air conditioning helps tremendously.  I don't think I'd enjoy living here without my AC.

This Past Week on the Blog:

Remember last week when I was debating about what I'd put up on Friday - a Friday post or a movie review.  Surprise!  I did both!

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Disney Pin Review: Peter Pan's Flight - Cuckoo for Disney Pins
Monday - Book Review: Murder, She Wrote - Killer on the Court by Jessica Fletcher and Terri Farley Moran
Tuesday - Ornament Review: Duke of Winter
Wednesday - Book Review: Blood Red by Sherri Leigh James
Thursday - TV Show Review: Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Friday - Book Review: The Lessons We Learn by Liz Milliron
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

Got three books this week.  Two were a surprise.  I had placed pre-orders for Buried in a Good Book by Tamara Berry and A Sprinkle in Time by Dana Mentink.  Both are supposed to be published on the 24th, but my pre-orders shipped early.  I'm definitely not complaining.  I also decided at the last minute to snag an eARC of Smile Beach Murder by Alicia Bessette.  That one came out this past Tuesday, so I'm actually reading an ARC after release date.  That's rare for me.

What I'm Currently Reading:

But not that far behind release date.  That's right, I'm currently reading Smile Beach Murder.  Assuming I make good progress with it on Sunday, I'm aiming to finish it up on Monday.  Then I'll be picking up A Sprinkle in Time.

Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, May 14, 2022

May 14th's Weekly TV Thoughts

 As I'm writing this on Thursday night, there were lots of cancellations today.  (We'll see if any come in after I schedule this.)  Honestly, I'm not sorry about Naomi, United States of Al, and How We Roll being cancelled.  As you'll see below, I was very underwhelmed by Naomi's finale on Tuesday, and I wasn't planning to be back next season.  And the sitcoms?  Very few laughs coming from them.  We'll see if there is much I'm super excited about watching next season, but so far, not too many shows have caught my attention.

But that's still a few months away.  Here's what I watched this week:

American Ninja Warrior – Yes, that was me you heard cheering when Jessie won.  I’m thrilled she and Megan were the final two again.  I really do like Megan.  But I want Jessie to get her pool.  Or a nice wedding.  (I thought she and Chris already got married, guess I was wrong.)  So many great competitors and performances overall.  Can’t wait for the new season next month.

Holey Moley – Oh, so the Muppet thing is a season long thread.  Or at least a few episodes.  Got it.  Stephen is certainly a good sport with what they are having him do, although as a executive producer, I’m sure he could have vetoed it.  Some impressive playing with quite a few amazing shots and a put off at the end.  Plus, how about neither golfer getting knocked in the mud at Hole Number 2?

Naomi – Not sure what I think of that twist at the end.  It felt forced and out of left field to me.  And not sure if I will continue even with that cliffhanger if it comes back.  We’ll have to see what else is on opposite it if that happens.  Elsewhere, when did Naomi decide to go back and get her friends to help?  Mind you, I did like the moment, but it also came out of left field.  I get it, they had to surprise us, but still, I expected something.  And the final confrontation seemed anticlimactic, mainly because they ran away.  Probably won’t be back, the more that I think about it.  (No, I didn’t edit this after the news of the cancellation came out.)

The Flash – Good character development, but an overall quiet episode.  I get it, a way to honor Frost.  The stories Iris got for her podcast were great.  I knew Caitlin was up to something, but doesn’t she know that these kinds of crazy schemes to bring someone back always go bad?  And I was wondering if they were going to ignore what was going on with Iris, but obviously not.

Survivor – Just like last season, the Do or Die challenge ultimate kept two people safe.  I feel like these twists to the game aren’t working out as the producers envisioned they would.  They’ve certainly been the same in both seasons.  Same with the steal the idol advantage.  Drea going out tonight was epic because of the twists and turns.  And I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much because of the person who was leaving than I did tonight.  She certainly took it well.

Domino Masters – My heart breaks for Mechanical Mavericks.  Honestly, I could see myself losing it like those team members did, blaming myself.  Especially after 24 hours with how tired they all were.  It was hard to watch, but I get it.  And, as always, my hat is off to the host and judges who found great things to say and were there to pick them up (if not their dominos) and encourage them.  That’s one of the things I have loved about this show.  I called it right last week – Dominerds won.  They were impressing me week after week, so I’m happy about it.  But I would have been happy with any of those teams.  They were all great and all deserved it.  Truly, a great show.  I hope it comes back.

United States of Al – When the show became about nothing but the character’s sex lives, it really went downhill.  Not that impressed with this episode as a result.  I hope they resolve things next week since that’s going to be the series finale, not just the season finale.

How We Roll – Maybe it was finding out this show was cancelled, so I was being more critical, but I found both of these episode more cringe inducing than laugh inducing.  Mind you, I never laugh much at the episodes, but these were both pretty bad.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Movie Review: Fast & Furious

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Action and stunts
Cons: Weak story and characters
The Bottom Line:
Gang back together
Trying to take down drug lord
Mindless but great stunts

“I Bet You’re Gonna Enjoy This.”  “A Little.  Yeah.”

Most of the time, when Hollywood makes a sequel, they try to bring back the entire cast, or as much as they can.  It’s one thing that makes The Fast and the Furious franchise stand out.  The second one only featured one member from the original movie, and the third was a completely new cast.  But Fast & Furious, the fourth movie, is more of a traditional sequel.

Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) is back in the FBI’s good graces and back in Los Angeles.  He’s part of a task force that has been working for a long time to try to bring down Braga, a notorious heroin dealer.  Unfortunately, no one even knows what he looks like.

Meanwhile, Braga has also made Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) angry – angry enough to return to LA in an attempt to get revenge.  Naturally, Dominic and Brian cross paths, and, given their past history, they aren’t inclined to trust each other.  However, trusting each other might be the only way to take down Braga and get out alive.

Writing the teaser, this sounds like a coherent, well thought out movie.  And yet, watching it, I felt like it was still lacking something.  Probably because the plot is still just an excuse for over-the-top stunts and a deep dive into street racing culture.  I keep looking at the events on the screen and wonderful why the characters are doing what they are, and that’s all I can come up with.  And some of the dialog?  Wow!  The actors try, but some of it is very cheesy.

But let’s be honest, we watch these movies for the over-the-top stunts.  And this movie delivers.  From the opening set piece, to the climax, there are several other can’t look away for a second sequences.

And the actors are trying.  I give them credit for that.  I just feel like this movie knows it is an excuse for stunts, and so no one tried that hard when it came time to think about things like characters or story.

And yet, I care enough that a felt a couple of the twists that happen late in the film.  Maybe, if I were watching the movies closer together instead of one every year or so, I’d be more invested in the characters.

A fun bit of trivia about this film – it is Gal Gadot’s first movie credit.  She’d reprise her role here in the next couple of movies in the franchise.

I think I’m beginning to care about the characters enough that I will get through the rest of the franchise.  But I don’t see myself ever spending more effort than watching them on TV to see them.  If you want a fairly mindless way to spend a couple of hours, you’ll enjoy Fast & Furious.

May 13th's Friday Post

Hi everyone, and welcome to Friday the 13th.  Okay, so it isn't payday, but it is still Friday, and that's always good in my book.

Time for a Friday post, which will contribute to this week's:

First Line Friday
Book Beginnings
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

This week, I will be pulling teasers for the first three from The Lessons We Learn by Liz Milliron.

This is the third book in the Homefront Mysteries, set in Buffalo in World War II.  I really enjoyed this book, definitely the strongest in the series to date.

Shall we get to it with this week's First Line Friday and Book Beginnings?  I've got the entire first paragraph here, but I really like how it all comes together to introduce the story.

When I was little and I did something wrong, Pop would punish me.  Later, he'd ask if I learned my lesson and 'course I said yes.  I knew that if I didn't, he'd punish me again.  Back then, I thought those were the hardest lessons I'd ever learn, way worse than anything school could come up with.  What I didn't know was that the lessons you learn as an adult are much tougher than anything you face as a kid.  maybe 'cause they're a lot more life-changing.

Page 56 is the start of a chapter.  As such, it doesn't make for the most dramatic Friday 56, but I did find this:

I'd decided the visit was a bust and we'd have to come back later when the front door opened.

I actually finished this book earlier in the week, but I won't be reviewing it until next Friday, so I hope you'll come back then to read my full review.

Shall we move on to the Book Blogger Hop?  This week's question is:

Do you post negative reviews? Do you promote those reviews if you post?

The answer to the first question is yes.  I review every book I read, and if I don't like it, I'm going to say so.  I don't tend to post a lot of negative reviews since, usually, if I don't like a book, I don't read more by that author.  Or, occasionally, it is a one off by a favorite author and the next book is as strong as normal.

I do this because, while I hope my reviews help readers find authors I enjoy and buy more of their books, I also feel like I should warn people about books I didn't like.  Of course, everyone's tastes are different.  I get that.  But I am going to share why I didn't enjoy a particular book I read on my blog.

I do minimal promotion of my negative reviews, however.  I still share links on some social media, but I don't tag the author.  And I don't promote it in the groups I am part of on Facebook.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Book Review: Murder at Blackwater Bend by Clara McKenna (Stella and Lyndy Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful mystery, mostly charming characters
Cons: Stella’s dad is too much at times
The Bottom Line:
Body in river
Mostly charming second book
Had fun reading it

Fishing for Bodies

Last year, I discovered the Stella and Lyndy Mysteries.  This series, set in the New Forest region of England in 1905, features an American heiress who has found herself engaged to a member of the English nobility thanks to an arranged marriage.  After enjoying the first, I was looking forward to the second, Murder at Blackwater Bend.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Over the last few months, Stella Kendrick and Viscount “Lyndy” Lyndhurst have been getting to know each other as they plan their wedding.  Stella has found that, no matter what she does, she can not please her further mother-in-law, but she is growing to love Lyndy.

An early morning fishing trip embroils the two in another murder, however.  Stella’s line snags on something, and when she goes to free it, she finds it to be the dead body of Lord Fairbrother, a neighbor.  Lord Fairbrother was not a nice man, but the main suspect seems to be the local snake catcher, someone that Stella has befriended.  Will Stella and Lyndy figure out what really happened?

Like the first book, this story is told from multiple third person points-of-view.  The changes are always easy to follow, and they help us get a complete picture of what exactly is going on.

The mystery is wonderful.  I loved how things developed as I was reading.  We get some nice sub-plots and red herrings along the way.  Yet, everything comes together for a logical climax.  As I reached the ending, I was actually in awe with how everything tied together at the end.  It really is a masterfully put together plot.

The characters are mostly wonderful.  Stella and Lyndy certainly are great.  I love spending time with them together and separately.  Watching them build their relationship is a true highlight of the book.  Lyndy’s mother is a pain in the neck, but in an enjoyable way.  Okay, I probably wouldn’t like her if I had to deal with her, but since I’m just reading about her, I can enjoy her.  I wish I could say the same for Stella’s father.  He crosses some lines for me that take him from enjoyable to horrible a few times.  Fortunately, the rest of the book makes it easy to overlook how boorish he can be.  And the rest of the cast is charming when they aren’t leading our sleuths astray.

Murder at Blackwater Bend proves this is a historical series to pay attention to.  I plan to read the third soon.  If you haven’t started the series yet, I definitely recommend it.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Stella and Lyndy Mysteries.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

TV Show Review: Moon Knight - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Weird, trippy, but ultimately rewarding
Cons: Violence a couple of times, a major question about the final scene
The Bottom Line:
Weird superhero
Keep watching to understand
Makes sense in the end

“I Don’t Have a Card for That.”

Since I’ve never really followed superheroes, I only know the most famous (and mostly the DC) heroes.  As a result, I came into Moon Knight completely blind about what it was going to be about.  The result was…strange.  It took a bit to adjust to it, but in the end, I was glad I watched it.

In the very first episode, we meet Stephen Grant (Oscar Isaac).  He works at the gift shop of the British museum.  He lives alone with only a fish for company.  You’d call his life boring except that he finds himself waking up in some strange places after blacking out.  And he doesn’t drink so that’s not the problem.

Things get even worse when he starts waking up finding himself in danger.  He’s got people calling him Marc.  Then there’s the weird run in he has with Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), who wants to bring about peace and harmony, but seems shady, too.  Will he figure out what is going on?

I’m leaving my teaser there without introducing any of the other characters since you really need to experience this show as it unfolds for yourself.  I really don’t want to risk spoiling any of the fun surprises along the way.  It’s trippy and confusing at times.  It takes a lot of effort and attention to follow it.  But it is worth it.  The payoffs will reward you in the final few episodes.

Having said that, I am going to say the story does get heavily into Egyptian mythology.  Personally, I didn’t mind since many superhero stories involve references to other cultures’ gods, etc.  Thor and Wonder Woman are two prime examples.  Know that going in, and you’ll be fine.

Along with the twists, this show features plenty of action.  Some of it is straight action, and some of it is rather comical.  The stunts and special effects that go along with it are well done.  A couple of times, a special effect seemed a little off, but the majority of them work perfectly.

I have to praise the acting.  There isn’t a weak link in the cast, but Oscar Isaac is outstanding.  This show required a lot from him, and he really delivered.  There is so much nuance to his performance, and so much screen time for him.  The show would be worth watching for him alone.

Having said all this, I do have a few niggles with the show.  Like the fact that the final scene of the finale doesn’t make logical sense.  I’m not talking about the mid-credits scene, which does make sense.  To say more than that would involve spoilers, but it’s a major sticking point for me.  I get what they are doing from a storytelling point of view, but from a logic point of view, it doesn’t work.  A few scenes are more violent than I feel like we really needed.

Most of my concerns from the early episode are addressed/resolved before the show is over, so keep watching and you will be rewarded.  And since it is only six episodes, you don’t have to invest too much time and effort before you are rewarded.

I’m glad I was patient with Moon Knight.  It’s a wild, crazy, trippy ride that is ultimately rewarding.

May 11th's Can't Wait Wednesday

 We are midway through the week, so it must be time for Can't Wait Wednesday.  And we definitely have a book that I can't wait to read this week.

I'm featuring Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron.

Ellen is an award-winning author, and if you are familiar with her books, you know the awards are well deserved.  This is the first in a new series set in New Orleans.  Here's the official teaser:

Twenty-eight-year-old widow Ricki James leaves Los Angeles to start a new life in New Orleans after her showboating actor husband perishes doing a stupid internet stunt. The Big Easy is where she was born and adopted by the NICU nurse who cared for her after Ricki’s teen mother disappeared from the hospital.

Ricki’s dream comes true when she joins the quirky staff of Bon Vee Culinary House Museum, the spectacular former Garden District home of late bon vivant Genevieve “Vee” Charbonnet, the city’s legendary restauranteur. Ricki is excited about turning her avocation – collecting vintage cookbooks – into a vocation by launching the museum’s gift shop, Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware. Then she discovers that a box of donated vintage cookbooks contains the body of a cantankerous Bon Vee employee who was fired after being exposed as a book thief.

The skills Ricki has developed ferreting out hidden vintage treasures come in handy for investigations. But both her business and Bon Vee could wind up as deadstock when Ricki’s past as curator of a billionaire’s first edition collection comes back to haunt her.

Will Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware be a success … or a recipe for disaster?

The book comes out June 7th, but I've got an eARC already and I will be reading it in the next couple of weeks.  I'm looking forward to meeting this new cast of characters and finding out what they get up to here.

Have a great rest of your week.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Book Review: The Shadow of Memory by Connie Berry (Kate Hamilton Mysteries #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong main characters; puzzling, well-plotted mystery
Cons: My memory doesn’t recall any cons
The Bottom Line:
Case with ties to past
Lots of threads to unravel
Engrossing story

Is a Cold Case Leading to Modern Murders?

I’ve been looking forward to The Shadow of Memory by Connie Berry for a while.  I’ve enjoyed the first three books in her Kate Hamilton Mysteries, so I figured this one would be great as well.  I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s late summer, and Kate Hamilton should be planning her upcoming wedding to Detective Inspector Tom Mallory.  However, the two of them are having a hard time making decisions about where they will live after they get married.

Fortunately, Kate’s work with fellow antiques dealer Ivor Tweedy has landed her a distracting assignment.  They’ve been asked to handle the auction for some antiques that the former Netherfield Sanatorium is looking to sell to help finance the conversion of the property into luxury townhomes.  The highlight is a painting that should fetch millions.  However, Kate thinks something might be off about it.

Then there’s the murder that has taken place back in Long Barston, where Kate is living.  The victim is a retired criminal inspector.  He was also the first boyfriend of Kate’s friend Vivian Bunn.  Vivian hadn’t seen Will in decades.  Learning of his death reminds Vivian of the week they’d spent together poking around an old house where two deaths had taken place – a house with connections to the Netherfield Sanatorium.  The more Kate learns, the more she can’t help but wonder if everything is connected.  Can she figure out what is happening?

If this sounds like there is a lot going on here, that’s because there is.  But don’t worry, the story expertly weaves all these various plot threads together into a satisfying whole.  Even with a story that spans decades between what happened in the past and what is going on today, I was never lost about what was happening and who the players were.  It helps that we don’t have flashbacks but instead the story of what happened in the past as Vivian and others remember it now.

While there is a who done it element to the plot, there is so much more to the story.  And yet, even with all the pieces we are getting to various puzzles, nothing is dropped along the way.  Everything is accounted for when we turn the last page.

The book takes place in the Suffolk region of England, and the countryside is brought to life perfectly.  I felt like I was right there with Kate as she worked to figure out what was going on.

Kate and the other returning characters are strong.  We continue to see growth in them and their relationships.  The new characters are as strong as they need to be to make the plot work.  We don’t see as much of some of them as others, but everyone feels real and feels like they could be a key to the story.

Yes, this is a cozy, but this is a more serious cozy than some of the books I read.  The more serious story and the cozy elements are blended together perfectly.

Life got in the way of my reading time when I was working on this book, and that was a frustration for me.  I wanted to keep reading and find out what was going to happen next.

The Shadow of Memory is another strong enjoy in a great series.  Kate Hamilton fans will be glad they picked up this book.  If you have missed this series, do yourself a favor and pick up a book in the series today.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Ornament Review: Book Lover Belle - 2021 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun pose with a great message
Cons: None worth dwelling on
The Bottom Line:
As Belle strikes a pose
She reminds us not to judge
Book lovers will love

This Book Lover Had to Get Book Lover Belle

I’ve long said that Belle is my favorite Disney princess, and I have the ornaments to back that up.  Seriously, I have significantly more of her than any other princess.  So I wasn’t going to buy 2021’s Book Lover Belle.  However, when I found it on sale after Christmas, I just couldn’t pass it up.

This ornament features Belle in her yellow dress.  She has a book in one hand, and both hands are on her waist.  Across the front of her dress is written “Never judge a book by its cover.”  With the tilt of her head and the expression on her face, it almost looks like she is in the process of reminding someone that they shouldn’t be judging.

It’s that look that makes me really love it.  I can almost hear her saying, “Really?  You should know better than to judge on appearance.”  And that’s a great saying for Belle in general since it is the entire theme of the movie summed up in a book cliché.

Belle has one foot sticking down below her dress enough to be seen.  It helps convey the attitude I was talking about earlier.  It also helps her balance.  The ornament isn’t completely stable, but it is stable enough that I wouldn’t worry about setting it out most places.

The ornament is slightly crooked when you set it down.  It’s not super noticeable.  In fact, I hadn’t really noticed it until I put the hook in the loop on Belle’s head and watched the ornament straighten up.  It definitely hangs straight, which is the most important thing for an ornament, right?

Yes, I’m glad I wound up with Book Lover Belle.  With a great message and a fun pose, what book lover could resist?