Saturday, April 30, 2022

April 30th's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Weakest Link – I’ve got to say, it always amazes me when I get to the end and realize how much a team has banked all game because it sure doesn’t seem like they’ve made that much along the way.  Nicely played final round, although Seth really should have been in the finals instead.

Superman and Lois – An interesting episode.  I enjoyed seeing the alternative takes on the characters.  But I had questions.  How do all those other people have super powers?  And Anderson seemed to know some stuff that he wouldn’t have known based on what happened on our Earth.  Unless I’m forgetting something since it’s been a few weeks since we got a new episode.  I’m sure I can mostly forget this one since the action will be back on our Earth going forward.  And, as always, things are getting much, much worse.

Naomi – I’m glad she’s gone home, but I can understand why she was so upset.  But running is never the way to get away from your problems.  I think I’m ready to see some of the danger, however.  They keep threatening that major danger is coming, but it’s just not happening.  We have three hours left (over two weeks).  We’d better see some major action.

Moon Knight – I know I said it last week, but that was...interesting.  Took me a bit to figure out what was going on in reality vs. his mind.  And I guess they answered my biggest question, but I didn’t really expect it to be that way.  I think I’m going to have to think this through to fully understand it.

The Flash – I think one reason I am struggling with this season is the amount of geek babble they have to do.  And since we have smaller arcs, we have to get more of that.  There is so little time left for just fun any more and a random bad guy to defeat.  I have a feeling what comes next is going to be bad.

Survivor – Always interesting to see how the game progresses when they split people up with no warning like that.  However, that second tribal was a bit too much for me.

Domino Masters – Got to admit, I was rooting for Runs in the Family.  Don’t disagree with the judges, and they were the team that should have gone home.  But I’m very sorry to see them go.  All three of the runs were fantastic again with so many fun elements.  And I love that the judges do talk about the good and the bad, and talk about the bad in a respectful way.

United States of Al – As I was expecting, I didn’t appreciate Al’s storyline.  I am still not sure what I think of Riley and Vanessa.  I get that she doesn’t know what she wants, but maybe she should be figuring that out without sleeping with two guys.

How We Roll – I get it is a sitcom, but I don’t see wanting to live with the mother.  She is good for a few laughs, but oh man, she would be annoying after an hour or so.  I suspect they thought it would be easier to work her into stories more organically if she was living with the main characters.  I did get a few laughs from the first episode.  The second episode was so cute.  I kind of hope they continue with that.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Book Review: Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz (Orphan X #7)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Evan, action in the second half
Cons: A bit too violent; slower start
The Bottom Line:
Helping a cartel
Book take some time to set up
Payoff is worth it

Always Bet on Orphan X

With the cliffhanger we were left with at the end of the previous Orphan X novel, I’m a little surprised I didn’t pick up Dark Horse as soon as I got it in February.  It was mostly a matter of scheduling.  It took a little more effort to get into this book than I expected, but in the end, I’m glad I stuck with it.

If you aren’t familiar with this series, it is certainly darker than my normal reading material.  It features Evan Smoak, also known as Orphan X, a former government assassin who took himself out of the game and now freelances, helping those who have nowhere else to turn.

However, his latest client is giving him pause.  Evan prefers to help the innocent who have gotten in over their heads.  The call he’s taken is from Aragon Urrea, the kingpin of a major drug operation in South Texas.  Evan initially hangs up on Aragon, but decides to help him because of his request.  Aragon’s daughter was kidnapped from her eighteenth birthday party by a rival drug cartel, and Aragon needs someone to get her back without starting a drug war.

It isn’t long before Evan realizes just how bad the rival gang is.  But can he find a way to fulfill his mission without compromising who he is trying to become?

The book jumps in to some of the action, setting up the main story of this book before flashing back to reveal what happened with the almost literal cliffhanger we were left with at the end of the previous book.  Don’t worry when you first pick it up, the answers are coming.

Having said that, the book still took longer than normal to draw me in.  Part of that is because, like Evan, I had a hard time with who his client was.  It took a while for me to fully embrace Evan helping Aragon.  The early chapters are a bit slow, but part of that is setting up how complex Aragon is as a character.

We also spend part of the early chapters seeing just how evil the rival cartel is.  Trust me, they are nasty.  While I know these books are more violent than my typical choices, I still could have done without some of the detail we got here.  Naturally, the book does also have more sex and language than I usually would read, but they weren’t as excessive for me.

But as I got into the second half, I got fully invested in this book.  The stakes were raised enough, and I cared enough, to start reading as quickly as possible.  There are some creative action sequences, and the ending is action packed bonkers, which is what you’d expect from this series.

Then there’s Evan.  What makes this series so good is watching Evan struggle with who he was trained to be versus who he wants to be.  That’s on full display here again, and I loved it.  Yes, there is some growth thanks to a couple of sub-plots taking place closer to home.

While this book doesn’t end with quite the same type of cliffhanger the previous book had, there are still a couple of threads things left open as the setup for the next book.  Is it here yet?

Ultimately, I’m glad I stuck with Dark Horse because I was rewarded.

Missing some of Evan’s story?  Check out the rest of the Orphan X books.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Movie Review: Game Time - A Mystery Woman Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Decent mystery, great regular cast of characters
Cons: Strong Hallmark cheese factor
The Bottom Line:
Author killed in home
Can Samantha clear old friend?
Enjoyable film

“How Do I Get Fingerprints Off a Squirrel?”

I’ve been watching the Hallmark mystery movies for about seven years now (hard to believe it’s been that long), but I’ve never gone back to watch some of the old franchises that had stopped new movies before I started watching.  When I spotted a Mystery Woman marathon on at the beginning of February, I decided to record them and catch up on at least a few of them.  They didn’t air all the movies, so the first one I could watch was Game Time, which was the sixth movie in the series.

The series centers around Samantha Kinsey (Kellie Martin), who owns a mystery bookstore.  In this particular film, she’s trying to get bestselling author Donald Fiske (William Katt) to come and do a signing, but he keeps backing out.  Meanwhile, she is reunited with a former classmate, Randy (Jamie Elman), who is trying to get Samantha to sell his new mystery computer game in her store.  The worlds collide when Donald does finally come in for a signing, but leaves abruptly after learning about Randy’s game.  The next day, Samantha finds Donald dead in his house with Randy standing over the body.  Even though it doesn’t look good for Randy, Samantha thinks he is innocent.  But can she prove it?

I would have preferred not jumping into the franchise in the middle, but I took what I could get as far as which movies were airing.  I quickly figured out most of the existing character’s relationships, although I am very intrigued by the enigma that is Philby (Clarence Williams III), who is much more than the bookstore employee he appears to be.  I liked the cast and their relationships with each other, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with them when I get a chance to watch the rest of the movies I’ve recorded.

The mystery was solid.  While the story keeps coming back to the computer game (no surprise given the title of the movie, right?), there were enough other motives and suspects to keep me entertained along the way.  I appreciated how the resolution played out with a very specific clue pointing Samantha to the solution.

I’d been wondering if the Hallmark cheese factor was getting better or I was getting used to it.  Maybe the movies are getting a little better because this one was high on cheese.  And, it came across in both the acting and writing here.  (Honestly, some of those lines.)

This movie was originally released in 2005.  I’ve got to admit, I laughed a little at the computer game.  It is obviously dated, but what would you expect for something technology related that is 17 years old?

As I said, I’m definitely looking forward to watching the rest of the movies I’ve recorded now that I’ve watched Game Time.  And I hope I get to see the earlier movies in the franchise at some point.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Book Review: Panty Raid by Diane Vallere (Samantha Kidd #8)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, mystery, laughs
Cons: A couple of details left for us to deduce
The Bottom Line:
Trip to Las Vegas
Samantha still finds body
Funny and twisty

Combining Work with Pleasure.  And Murder.

It’s always a risk when an author takes their amateur sleuth out of town.  Readers love the familiar characters and settings that are left behind.  However, when the story and characters who are part of the trip are strong enough, it doesn’t really matter.  That was definitely the case for Panty Raid, the eighth mystery for Samantha Kidd.

Samantha has been sent to Las Vegas to cover a lingerie show for her employer.  She’s arriving a couple of days early and her fiancĂ©, Nick Taylor, is coming with her.  The two are hoping to spend the extra time relaxing.

However, when they go to check in to their hotel, Nick sees his college friend, Marc Rico.  Nick’s surprised, and at first appears quite happy to see Marc, but then he turns cold.  Samantha finally learns a little bit about Marc and Nick’s complicated past.  Then one of the lingerie models turns up across the street from their hotel.  Will Samantha figure out what is going on?

The book started out quickly, and I was hooked right away.  My interested never waned, and I enjoyed the clues and the clever red herrings that were put in Samantha’s path.  There were some creative complications along the way.  As is often the case with this series, the ending was a bit fast, so one or two things were left for us to deduce ourselves, but they were minor here.

Since Samantha isn’t at home, she and Nick are the only regular characters we get to spend much time with.  Not that I am complaining.  I’ve enjoyed getting to watch their relationship grow over the last few books, and that continued here again.  One other character we know does pop up in this book, and I enjoyed watching that relationship mature as well.

Mature really is the right word for Samantha.  She continues to grow, and I love the direction her character is taking as the series progresses.  It really is fun to watch.  Not that she is completely changing.  She has a new comfort food obsession here, and I’ve got to say, I was extremely jealous.

The rest of the cast is filled in with new characters.  We don’t have time to get to know all of them well, but we get to know them well enough to care about the outcome of the story.

This book had some of the funniest moments in the series yet.  Between Samantha and Nick and some of the situations Samantha found herself in, I laughed multiple times.  It can be tricky to balance the comedy with the more serious elements, but author Diane Vallere balances it all perfectly.

So if you are looking for a fun, mysterious trip to Las Vegas, be sure to pick up Panty Raid.  This is another fabulous mystery for Samantha Kidd.

Check out the rest of the Samantha Kidd Mysteries.

April 27th's Can't Wait Wednesday

It's Wednesday, and I'm back with another Can't Wait Wednesday.

This week, I'm featuring A Sprinkle in Time, the second Shake Shop Mystery from Dana Mentink.

I love ice cream, so what's not to love about a mystery series set in a shake shop?  Plus, it's set in Oregon, and I love finding cozies set on the west coast since so many focus on the east coast.

Here's the official description:

The second book in the Shake Shop Mysteries—a new murder in town has Trinidad Jones thrown for a scoop!

It's Alpenfest in Upper Sprocket! Yodelers are congregating in the square, tourists flocking to the town, and Trinidad Jones is scooping up some fall flavors at her Shimmy and Shake Shop.

The cherry on the sundae is her upcoming feature in The Scoop magazine. She's determined to serve up the perfect interview, but it won't be easy, thanks in part to her meddling Cuban grandfather Papa Luis who has decided to make Sprocket his home for the foreseeable future. Papa Luis has set himself up as a taxi driver in his classic 1951 Buick.

But things take a turn when Papa Luis tells her he's found a corpse in his trunk. Upon closer investigation, they realize the body has disappeared. With the assistance of Juliette and Bonnie (her sisterhood of exes) and the way too handsome nut farmer Quinn Logan, Trinidad must solve the mystery of the disappearing corpse, before her father is up to his neck in a murderous mess.

I enjoyed the first in the series when I read it last year.  Hopefully, this one will be good, too.  It comes out May 24th, so I don't have long to wait.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Ornament Review: Merry Lil' Pluto - 2021 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good miniature ornament of Pluto
Cons: Does tip forward slightly
The Bottom Line:
This mini Pluto
Cute holiday ornament
That fans will enjoy

Miniature Pluto Ornament Actually Works Out Pretty Well

So far, I’ve talked about two of the miniature ornaments Hallmark released in 2021 featuring classic Disney characters.  Sadly, I didn’t feel Mickey and Minnie worked as well as they were supposed to.  However, I was happy with Merry Lil’ Pluto.

Pluto has just gotten his gift for the year, a big bone.  The bone still has a ribbon on it, but Pluto has it in his mouth.  He’s down on all fours, with his front paws on the bone while his back paws are scrunched a little like he’s ready to start running.

Since this is a miniature ornament, that’s pretty much it.  There isn’t space for any more.  It’s a little hard to see Pluto’s face, especially since he’s biting the bone, so he’s looking down, but almost everyone will easily figure out who he is.

My issue with the Mickey and Minnie ornaments was their size.  Even for a miniature ornament, they felt small.  That issue has gone away with Pluto.  Yes, he’s still a miniature ornament, but he’s just a little bit bigger, and it makes all the difference.

Because of the way Pluto is crouched, you can set this ornament out to be displayed if you so desire.  I’d recommend you make sure it is in a place where it won’t be knocked off and lost.  Also, his legs seem like they might be a bit fragile, but hopefully, that’s just me being cautious.

When you go to hang the ornament, you’ll note that it tips forward slightly, but that’s mostly a result of where the ring is on Pluto’s back.  It’s not super noticeable, and once you have it among tree branches, you’ll forget all about it.

Merry Lil’ Pluto is a fun miniature ornament.  I’m glad I got him, and other Disney fans will be happy to track him down.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Book Review: Cheddar Off Dead by Korina Moss (Cheese Shop Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong plot, characters I enjoyed meeting
Cons: Some room for characters to grow
The Bottom Line:
A food critic dies
Willa finds herself involved
Fun cozy debut

This New Series is Off to a Cheddar Start

I love cheese (who doesn’t, right?), so I immediately took notice when I saw that Korina Moss had a new Cheese Shop Mystery series coming out.  Cheddar Off Dead gets things off to a promising start.

Willa Bauer has landed in the town of Yarrow Glen in the Sonoma Valley, Calfornia, and is thrilled to finally be opening her new cheese shop, Curds & Whey.  This has been a dream long in the making with several bumps along the way.  She’s both thrilled and nervous that a local food critic, Guy Lippinger, is coming by with the intent to review her shop.  She only gets more nervous when she learns what a harsh critic he can be.

To say things don’t go well when Guy does show up in an understatement.  But things get even worse when Willa finds Guy’s dead body in the alley next to her shop a few hours later.  Since he was obviously stabbed with one of the shop’s knives, Willa lands on the police’s radar as a suspect.  Unfortunately, the murder weapon means that the other suspects were at Willa’s shop that night, and they are people that Willa was beginning to consider friends.  Can she clear her name?  Will her investigation ruin the relationships she’s beginning to build in town?

The cheese theme drew me to the book, but the location was a draw as well.  As I’ve mentioned with a few other books, I grew up in Sonoma County, so I love getting to take these virtual trips home.  True, Yarrow Glen is a fictional town, but it was still fun to be able to picture the area where the action was taking place.

The book does a great job at balancing the story and giving us the background we need on Willa.  We get a sense early on that there is more to Willa’s past, and that is filled in as the book progresses.  Meanwhile, it isn’t long before we meet Guy and the suspects before Willa finds Guy’s body.  I always appreciate it when the author is able to balance those two competing needs of the story.

And we’ve got a solid mystery here.  The pace is steady as Willa goes about uncovering clues.  I did have to laugh at part of the set up since it fell into the “I know a secret” trope, but somehow, it didn’t bother me here – probably because Guy taunting people with it instead of wanting to resolve a situation.  We only meet him briefly, but that’s enough to make it obvious there will be plenty of solid motives.  When we reach the end, it is perfectly logical.

Since Willa is new to town, we get to meet the characters along with her.  There’s a nice variety, and I really like them.  I did wish the supporting characters were around a little more, but I’m just being greedy.  I’m sure as the series goes along, we will get to know them all better.  For a first book, they are strong enough to pull us in to the story.

What struck me early on was that Willa, and therefore us as the reader, liked most of the suspects.  That gave the investigation some additional stakes, which I appreciated.  Of course, our views of the suspects do change as the book goes along.

Reading this book made me crave cheese.  And not the cheese I normally eat, either.  I am going to have to find a place to get some gourmet cheeses before I read any more in the series.  And there are a couple of recipes at the end to help your experimentation once you find those cheeses.

I will definitely be visiting Willa again.  I am looking forward to seeing how the characters and their relationships grow as the series continues.  If you enjoy cozy mysteries and haven’t picked up Cheddar Off Dead yet, do so today.

Save room for the rest of the Cheese Shop Mysteries.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Disney Pin Review: The Musical Quill - Windows of Main Street - 2021 Release

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Honors the writer of two classic attraction songs
Cons: Hard to read the writing on the window
The Bottom Line:
A park composer
Honored with this window pin
That’s too hard to read

Musical Window Tribute

As I’m looking at the pins in the Windows of Main Street series, I enjoy learning a bit more about the people being honored with the windows in Disney Parks and now these pins.  That’s the case again with the pin to honor Xavier Atencio.  Unfortunately, it’s again weaker than I wish it were.

I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of Xavier before I went to review this pin, but I certainly knew his work.  He started out as an animator at the studio in the 1930’s and came back after serving in the military during World War II.  He eventually transitioned to the Imagineering, where he is best known for his work on two popular attractions – Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.  He wrote both “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” and “Grim Grinning Ghosts” along with the script for the entire Haunted Mansion attraction.  His voice also shows up in both attractions.  Xavier has actually been honored with the same window at both Disneyland (above the Opera House) and Walt Disney World (above the Confectionary).

Since he is known for those two songs, this window is for a music store.  There are two panes for the window.  The top one says “The Musical Quill,” while the bottom one says “Lyrics and Librettos by X. Atencio.”  There’s also a quill and inkwell on the window.  Above the window is a yellow and blue striped awning.

Or, at least, that’s what the pictures of the windows in the parks look like.  Unfortunately, the clear plastic on the pin is just a little too clear to truly read this.  So far, the two pins I’ve reviewed that were released at Walt Disney World have had this issue.  I’m sure it is a coincidence, but it is a funny coincidence.  Actually, the bottom half looks a little better when it slides up. 

Speaking of sliding up, when you do that, you’ll see a scene of pirates.  I hesitate to say it is from the ride, but it is close.  You’ve got a pirate captain (and not just his bones) at a ship’s wheel.  In the foreground, we’ve got lots of treasure and a skull.  Overall, this picture is cartoony, but it is a great way to honor Xavier’s contribution to Pirates of the Caribbean.

Overall, however, I am disappointed with the pin.  It’s too hard to read all of the writing, and I want that part as much as I want the characters.

The end result is only for die hard Disney fans who want to complete their collection of this pin series.  It’s a shame they didn’t figure out a way to get all of the parts of this pin to be easy to see.

April 24th's Sunday/Monday Post

Welcome to Sunday and this week's Sunday/Monday post.  As usual, this week, I'll be linking up with:

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

I'm not going to be home most of the day today, but not for the usual reasons (church and ultimate Frisbee).  Instead, I'll be at the LA Times Festival of books!  I've been going every year for years, and I've missed it the last couple of years.  Really looking forward to going back.  I'm not planning to attend any panels, but I'll be wandering around the booths.  You can probably find me around the mystery booths most often.  I'll be wearing a shirt that says "Yes, I Really Do Need All These Books," so if you spot me, stop and say hi.

I'll post a little more about it next week (although, since I'm wandering the booths, I'm not sure I'll have much to report on).  I'm going with a friend, and we always have fun.

This past week was fairly quiet at work.  I think I'll be paying for some of that this coming week since there is a lot we need to do to get ready for month end close.

I did get out and go to an author event at my local library this week.  It was actually rescheduled from March of 2020.  Author J. R. Sanders was there talking about his two historical mysteries, one of which is set in our neck of the woods.  I really enjoyed that, and I'm looking forward to reading the books.  Not sure when that will be, but I'm looking forward to it.

And yes, I took advantage of the pre-order sale at Barnes and Noble to order a few books.  I'd placed a large order back when they did this in January, so I didn't have as many books this time but I still pre-ordered three.  Just barely.  I kept forgetting to actually place the order until just before it ended Friday night.  I was hoping that one smaller publisher would get some titles I want up for pre-order, but it didn't happen in time.  Oh well.

Enough ramblings for now.  Let's move on to some categories.

This Past Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Disney Pin Review: Pirates of the Caribbean - Cuckoo for Disney Pins
Monday - Ornament Review: Confectionery King
Tuesday - Book Review: Cozy Up to Trouble by Colin Conway
Wednesday - Can't Wait Wednesday featuring Buried in a Good Book
Wednesday - Movie Review: Halloween Kills
Thursday - Book Review: Uneasy Prey by Annette Dashofy
Friday - Friday Posts Featuring Cheddar Off Dead
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Disney Pin Review: The Musical Quill - Windows of Main Street
Monday - Book Review: Cheddar Off Dead by Korina Moss
Tuesday - Ornament Review: Merry Lil' Pluto
Wednesday - Book Review: Panty Raid by Diane Vallere
Thursday - Movie Review: Mystery Woman - Game Time
Friday - Book Review: Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

And I'll probably post Can't Wait Wednesday and a round of Friday Post as well.

Book Haul for the Week:

I got four books this week - two ebooks and two physical books.

One of the ebooks was a deal on Kindle.  I heard about it in one of my Goodreads groups, and I decided to snag it.  That's Condos and Corpses and Angela K. Ryan.  I also got an eARC from Netgalley for A Dish to Die For, this summer's addition to Lucy Burdette's Key West Food Critic Mysteries.

The physical books?  Should be an easy guess.  Stardust Trail and Dead-Bang Fall, the two books by J. R. Sanders from the signing I went to on Thursday.

What I'm Currently Reading:

I've just barely started Strawberried Alive, the newest Cupcake Bakery Mystery from Jenn McKinlay.  Probably won't make much progress on Sunday since I'll be at the book festival.  But I love this series, so I will be quite happy when I get to really dig into it early next week.  I'm working on an eARC since the book releases on May 3rd.  My review will be up on May 5th.

That's a wrap for me this week.  Hope you have a great week.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

April 23rd's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Weakest Link – I’ll admit, I wasn’t watching super closely, but I feel like the team banked as soon as they got a correct answer.  I did seem them try to build a chain once, but they lost the money after two correct answers, so it was the right strategy.  Still, they did manage to get a decent bank.  I hate it when they vote off the strongest player at the end, although I get why they do that.  And this episode proved I was wrong and someone who starts strong and end strong, too.

Moon Knight – What the what?  I don’t get what was going on that last 10 minutes or so.  I’m assuming it was all happening in his mind.  He’s dying or something, and this is his body trying to figure things out.  But it was so out of left field, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  Having said that, the last scene?  Definitely made me laugh out loud.

Survivor – I’m not sure I have that much to say.  It looks like we’ve got a couple of easy votes ahead of us, but we’ll see if the group stays strong or if it cracks early.  Interesting to see an all men’s alliance.  I feel like we rarely see that.  Not that all women’s alliances last more than a few episodes either.

Domino Masters – All three teams had issues with their topple tonight.  It is always hard to see that.  I agree with the judge’s decision, but I would have been okay if it had gone the other way, too.  It was definitely a hard decision with the teams being very close.

United States of Al – Still not completely happy with the Riley/Vanessa storyline.  At least Riley’s feeling guilty about it.  And what does it say about Vanessa that she doesn’t?  Al’s storyline was pretty funny.  I definitely like how it was resolved.

How We Roll – I’ve been expecting the wife to go out on her own at some point, and I’m sure that’s where that storyline is going.  It’s been obvious her job was a nightmare.  But I wasn’t expecting the mother-in-law to get her fired.  Loved that.  Honestly, that storyline was the one I enjoyed most.  The tournament?  Fairly predictable.

Friday, April 22, 2022

April 22nd's Friday Post

 Welcome to Friday!  Time for some bookish posts.  This week for the posts, I will be featuring Cheddar Off Dead by Korina Moss.

This is the first in a new Cheese Shop Mysteries series.  Yes, I've read it and enjoyed it.

Up first, let's look at the first line for First Line Friday and Book Beginnings:

"Taleggio."  I presented the younger couple with a sample of the dense, pale yellow sheese with its orange edible rind.

Is it too late to warn you that reading this book will make you crave cheese?  Especially if you already love cheese.

The teaser for Friday 56 is more plot related.  On page 56, we find this:

Baz must've sensed my hesitancy.  "You want me to come with you?"
"No, don't be silly.  I'm fine."

Is she fine?  You'll have to read the book to find out.  As I said earlier, I've already read the book.  My full review will be up on Monday, so I hope you'll come back for it.

Now, let's close things out with the Book Blogger Hop.  This week's question is:

Do you finish reading every book that you have slotted for a review?

The simple answer to the question is yes.  It is very rare that I set a book down and don't finish it.  I'm drawing a blank at the last time that happened, actually.  If I've agreed to an arc, I definitely finish it and post a review, good or bad.  But, as I said, I can't remember the last time I didn't finish a book, and I review everything I read.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Book Review: Uneasy Prey by Annette Dashofy (Zoe Chambers Mysteries #6)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and a twisty plot
Cons: Pete’s behavior a couple of times
The Bottom Line:
Target: Elderly
A race to find the buglers
Story pulls you in

Who Are the Monsters Targeting the Elderly?

Unfortunately, I can’t read all the books I want to read.  (Stupid day job.)  That’s why I seem to only get to one of Annette Dashofy’s books a year, but each time I pick up one of the books in the Zoe Cambers series, I’m reminded why I enjoy them so much.  Uneasy Prey was another such reminder.

Zoe has been on medical leave for a couple of months, but her first night back as a paramedic proves to eventful.  Her first call of the night involves an elderly woman who fell down the stairs to her basement.  In the rush to get her to the hospital, the woman wakes up briefly to insist that she was pushed and didn’t fall.

Sadly, the woman dies at the hospital, but Zoe and her boyfriend, Police Chief Pete Adams, immediately start trying to figure out what happened that night.  The investigation points to the local thieves who have been targeting the elderly, gaining entry by pretending to be utility workers.  Can Pete and Zoe track them down before they strike again?

While this may be labeled the Zoe Cambers Mysteries, Zoe and Pete really share main character duties.  The book is roughly split, with us spending time in both of their third person points-of-view.  Don’t worry, we aren’t head hopping, and the switches are always obvious.  I appreciate it and how it helps us get to know both characters well.

Speaking of which, they also get their own sub-plots here, which further help define the characters.  Trust me when I saw that there is little downtime in this book.  I was hooked early, and the twists kept coming until we reached the very end of the book.

But this never takes away from the characters.  We get to see several characters we’ve met in earlier books again, and it’s always nice to see what they are up to.  The new characters are strong and really make us care about the outcome.

And there’s Zoe and Pete.  They are inching forward in their relationship, and it’s always nice to see them growing closer.  I will admit I got frustrated with Pete a few times here.  Even if he had a point (and he did), his behavior was just going to drive Zoe to do what he didn’t want.  It surprised me mainly because I didn’t remember him being so obnoxious in previous books.  But this was a minor complaint.

With our main characters being an ambulance driver and police chief, it’s no surprise that this series isn’t a cozy series.  The plot is a little darker, and there is a little bit more violence and language than in the majority of the cozies I read.  However, as long as you know that going in, you’ll be fine.  Nothing is ever excessive or over the top – it fits the plot and tone of the book.

I’m really hoping I can get to the next book in the series later this year since I do want to catch up on Zoe’s adventures.  If you are behind as well, you’ll be happy to find Uneasy Prey is another strong book.

Check out the rest of the Zoe Chambers Mysteries.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Movie Review: Halloween Kills

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: The 1978 scenes were well done
Cons: The rest of the movie is a poorly written mess
The Bottom Line:
Evil rampages
Movie is poorly written
End result a mess

More From the Night Michael Came Home – Again

I seemed to be one of the few who didn’t really enjoy the Halloween requel we got in 2018.  But, since I’ve seen the rest of the franchise at this point (no, I haven’t reviewed them all, nor do I plan to), I planned to watch Halloween Kills.  After seeing the previews, I wasn’t anxious enough to go see it in the theater, but I rented it when it hit Redbox.  It was about what I expected, which isn’t a good thing.

This movie picks up moments after the events in the 2018 Halloween ended.  That means that Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being rushed to the hospital with knife wounds with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) by her side.  Unfortunately, firefighters are rushing to Laurie’s home to put out the fire.  They quickly realize what a mistake that was when Michael Myers emerges from the fire and attacks them all.

It isn’t long before the other survivors of Michael’s attack in 1978 learn that he has returned.  Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall), Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), Lonnie Elam (Robert Longstreet), and Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) help rally the residence of Haddonfield in an effort to defeat Michael Myers once and for all.  Will they succeed?

Considering we are now in an alternative universe where the events of Halloween II never took place, I do find it ironic how much this movie feels like a clone.  Some of the action takes place at the hospital, and Laurie spends the movie injured from the attack she survived earlier that night.

I have often complained that the middle part of a trilogy knows it is the middle part of a trilogy.  That’s the case here.  With no need for an opening, we jump right into the action.  However, it never feels like it is going anywhere.  The movie knows it can’t truly resolve anything because there’s one more to go.  That is obvious in the ending, when the movie just stops.  Yes, since I rented it, I got to see the extended ending.  It doesn’t have “To be continued” stamped on it, but it might as well.

When they announced they were bringing some of the characters (and actors in a few cases) from the original back, I was actually pretty excited.  I couldn’t wait to see what they were going to do with them.  However, because this movie is so focused on action and kills, they were under used.  We got only a small sense of who they are now and how their lives have progressed after their encounters with Michael.

Speaking of which, we also get an extended trip back to 1978 to find out what happened in this timeline with Michael Myers after he left Laurie that original night.  I enjoyed this part of the film, and the tricks they used to make us feel like it was really filmed back then was pretty good.

I felt like the 2018 movie was brutal, and I feared this one was going to be the same if not worse.  Sadly, I was right.  Yes, I know, this is a slasher movie.  We are supposed to watch people be killed in creative ways.  But there’s a difference between creative and gruesome, and we got gruesome more than anything else here.  The original worked because we didn’t know where or when Michael was going to strike.  In this one, we knew, so it cut out the suspense.  It wasn’t artistic, atmospheric, or spooky.  It was just violent.

Ultimately, this comes down to the writing.  I’ve seen some things that clued me in to what the writers were going for, and they succeeded.  However, to do that, they sacrificed character development and good storytelling.

Speaking of character development, one character from the previous film was brought back, which was a good thing since his fate was a major dangling plot thread in the previous movie.  However, what they did with him here makes no sense given how his character behaved in the previous film.

Yes, my biggest problem with the film was the writing.  Some of the dialogue the characters were given was just inane.  And they repeated one particularly bad line over and over again.  I do get what the writers were going for, but again, it doesn’t work like they want it to.

Which brings us to the mob scenes.  Yes, the lecture about the dangers of mobs is a good theme, but what we got here was a lecture that felt forced into the film.

Yes, I’ll stop picking the movie apart.  Based on this movie, I’m not looking forward to the final chapter, but I’ll watch it to see how they resolve things.  Based on their track record with Halloween Kills, I’m not holding out much hope that I’ll actually enjoy it.

April 20th's Can't Wait Wednesday

Welcome to the middle of the week.  That must mean it is time for Can't Wait Wednesday.

This week, I'm highlighting Buried in a Good Book by Tamara Berry.

This is the first in a series from a new to me author.  Here's the official teaser:

Don't miss the first book in a brand-new gripping and hilarious bookish cozy mystery series by author Tamara Berry! Put your sleuthing hat on—Buried in a Good Book features: A thriller writer who knows way more than anyone should about death and dismemberment

Her young daughter who's more intrigued by dead bodies than she probably should be

An isolated cabin in the woods that's probably—definitely—hiding something

The tiny mountain town that seems less than troubled by a sudden abundance of murders

Bestselling thriller writer Tess Harrow is almost at the end of her rope when she arrives with her teenage daughter at her grandfather's rustic cabin in the woods. She hopes this will be a time for them to heal and bond after Tess's recent divorce, but they've barely made it through the door when an explosion shakes the cabin. Suddenly it's raining fish guts that a human arm?

Tess was hardly convincing Gertie that a summer without Wi-Fi and running water would be an adventure. Now she's thrust into a murder investigation, neighbors are saying they've spotted Bigfoot in the woods near her cabin, and the local sheriff is the spitting image of her character Detective Gabriel Gonzales—something he's less than thrilled about. With so much more than her daughter's summer plans at stake, it's up to Tess to solve this case before anyone else gets hurt.

Doesn't that sound like fun?  Between the Oregon setting and all the craziness that it appears this book will have, I can't wait.

Release date is May 24th, and I already have my pre-order in.  Looking forward to seeing what happens to Tess.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Book Review: Cozy Up to Trouble by Colin Conway (Cozy Up #4)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Entertaining, well plotted mystery; humor
Cons: Paper thin characters
The Bottom Line:
Senior apartments
Locked in with a murderer
Light but amusing

Trouble in a High Rise

As much as I do enjoy my cozies, I like pushing the boundaries every so often.  One of those series that pushes the boundaries a little is the Cozy Up series.  I enjoy the books for what they are, and Cozy Up to Trouble, the fourth, was no exception.

The main way the series pushes boundaries is the main character.  We follow Beau Smith, a former enforcer for a motorcycle gang.  However, he’s reformed (okay, semi-reformed) and in the witness protection program.  The problem is, he can’t seem to stay under the radar no matter how much he tries, and his past always seems to be right behind him.  This book finds him in his fourth location with his fourth identity.

This time, he’s landed in a senior apartment building on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago.  While he isn’t old enough to be a resident, under his new cover identity, Skeeter Dursky, he has gotten a job as the assistant maintenance man in the building.  With seventeen floors of residents, there is plenty of work to do.

However, on Skeeter’s third day on the job, someone from his past walks into the building just before the building’s best-known resident, a best-selling author, is killed in his apartment.  The police quickly come and lock down the building.  The press are camped outside.  And Skeeter once again finds himself playing detective to solve the crime.  Can he figure out what happened?

If you are new to the series, this is a good book to jump in.  We don’t get lots of backstory on Beau/Skeeter; instead, the book focuses mainly on the story taking place here.  Even better, since Skeeter’s presence in Witness Protection isn’t played up like it has been, my nagging suspicions that this isn’t the way the program really works isn’t much of a factor.

Since Skeeter is the only returning character, the book does take a little time to introduce us to the new cast before the body turns up.  This time was also used to set up some suspects and possible motives.  There is a lot going on in this book, and that helps keep us distracted as we go along.  The climax, when we get there, is completely logical given the clues we’ve picked up along the way.

The characters are pretty thin.  Obviously, that is the case for the background characters, but even the suspects felt like they could have been developed a little better.  Heck, Skeeter feels a little flat, as well.

Earlier, I mentioned that you could jump in here since little of the backstory comes into play here.  However, I feel like you’d need the background of the earlier books to care about Beau/Skeeter.  Those earlier books really let us get to know him a little better.  This one felt shorter than the others (not sure if it really was or not), but the result is the book doesn’t allow us much time to get to watch him develop as a character.

I do enjoy the humor of the series.  It mocks cozies in a gentle way, and as a fan, I’m certainly in on the joke.  Some of the characters are wacky in their own right, as well.

The Cozy Up series isn’t the strongest, but it is amusing for a quickly read.  If you are interested, watch for the series to be on sale before you plunk down any money.  If you’ve enjoyed the earlier books, you’ll find yourself enjoying Cozy Up to Trouble.

Want background?  Here are the rest of the Copy Up mysteries.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Ornament Review: Confectionery King - Noble Nutcrackers #2 - 2020 Hallmark Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun treats themed nutcracker
Cons: Take a little adjusting of expectations to appreciate
The Bottom Line:
Candy nutcracker
Did not grab me at first look
But back collected

Meet His Royal Sweetness

I bought the first Noble Nutcrackers ornament when it came out in 2019.  Then, I passed on the second, concluding I wasn’t going to be continuing the series.  And yet, here I am taking a look at that second ornament, Confectionery King.

As the name implies, this ornament is inspired by sweets.  Instead of a crown, this king has a cupcake on his head.  His shoulders are gumdrops.  He’s got peppermint stripes on his legs, and his scepter is a gumball bubble (the gumballs inside don’t move).  Don’t worry, his face is human, not a conglomerate of candy, and it looks very nice.  This is not an over-the-top sweets ornament like some of the ones I collect, but it is still obvious just from looking at it that this is a sweets theme.

As with the first in the series, the nutcracker element is below the face.  It’s painted a couple of different shades of green, which sets it apart from the mostly red and white ornament.  The handle in the back moves this opening very easily, although it isn’t strong enough to actually crack any nuts.

So why did I wind up getting this ornament?  I bought the third on a whim after Christmas on sale, so I went back to get this one.  It still doesn’t quite have the appeal of the first in the series for me, but it has certainly grown on me from my first impression in 2020.

And I do appreciate the creative touches.  This isn’t a traditional nutcracker, but it still looks like a great nutcracker.  I’m glad I’m getting back into this series.

The nutcracker is standing on a yellow-green circle, which gives him a nice platform, so you can easily set him out to enjoy year-round.  The 2 in a Christmas tree is on the bottom as well.

The ornaments in this series are one of the rare ones that come with a string to hang them by.  In this case, that string is red and white striped, fitting in with the theme for the ornament.  If you are paying attention, you’ll notice that he tips slightly to the left, but you have to be really watching for it to notice it.

I’m glad I went back and got Confectionery King.  As I mentioned, I have the third in the series already.  I have a feeling I’ll still decide on a case-by-case basis going forward, although sales will certainly help.

Here are the rest of the Noble Nutcrackers.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Disney Pin Review: Pirates of the Caribbean - Cuckoo for Disney Pins - 2021 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great Pirate touches
Cons: All cons walked the plank
The Bottom Line:
Pirate themed cuckoo
Has great nautical touches
Ride’s fans will enjoy

A Pin You’ll Enjoy, Matey

Disney has created some iconic attractions over the years, and we see them regularly show up in the attraction themed pin collections.  As a result, I’m not surprised that Pirates of the Caribbean showed up in the Cuckoo for Disney Pins series.

Each pin features a cuckoo clock inspired by the attraction of the month.  Overall, the pin looks like a pirate ship sailing toward you.  We’ve got the black sails, a couple of skulls and crossbones, and octopuses in the water in front of the ship.  The three chains are an anchor, a gold piece, and a ruby.

The clock is located in the front of the ship.  Instead of numbers, it has directions – N E S W, starting at the top and going around clockwise.  That just leaves me with one question – is it 9:05 or is it West NorthEast?

As always, I wonder what this clock might sound like if it were real.  Maybe we’d get a parrot squawk.

Even without the sound, this is a fun pin.  I love the pirate touches they’ve included.  It’s theming is perfect.

So, if you enjoy Pirates of the Caribbean, you’ll find this pin is a treasure.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Easter Sunday's Sunday/Monday Posts

Happy Easter, everyone!  As I type this, it is still Saturday night, but I'm looking forward to my church's Easter Sunday service in a few hours.  And, hopefully, I'll get a good night's sleep before then, too.  I did not sleep well last night.  Not completely sure why, but I have actually been surprised at how well I've stayed awake today.  (But if you find anything randomly weird in this post, like the comma I just deleted in the previous sentence, please use that as my excuse.)

Anyway, I will be linking this post up to the usual suspects:

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

I had some meeting fun at work this week - meeting being rescheduled.  But nothing that was too horrible, and nothing I wasn't ready for.  Other than that, it was a fine week at work.

Friday night, I ran the PowerPoint for my church's Good Friday service.  We just upgraded the program we use for that, so we have a few bugs to work out of the system, but overall, I felt it went well.

Today, I joined a couple of friends to try out for a grandmaster ultimate Frisbee team.  Essentially, it's a team for old people - you have to be over 38 to join the team.  It was a lot of driving, but since someone else drove, I didn't mind that part at all.  I had a lot of fun.  It reminded me why I fell in love with the sport in the first place.  I wish I had performed better.  I seemed to be responsible for more than my share of turnovers.  But that's nothing new.  I seem to do best at our pickup games here in town.  None of this is a surprise to me.  I figure my chances of making the team are extremely slim.  And the tournaments the team is planning to play with are weekends I'm not sure I'm available.  But I don't regret going at all.  Why?  Because I had fun.

I think that's my week.  Shall we get to bookish things?

This Past Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Disney Pin Review: Stitch Crashes Pocahontas
Monday - Ornament Review: Stocking Stuffers #1
Tuesday - Book Review: Idle Gossip by Renee Patrick
Wednesday - Can't Wait Wednesday Featuring The Shadow of Memory
Wednesday - Movie Review: Curious Caterer - Dying for Chocolate
Thursday - Book Review: #FollowMe for Murder by Sarah E. Burr
Friday - Friday Posts Featuring Uneasy Prey
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Disney Pin Review: Pirates of the Caribbean - Cuckoo for Disney Pins
Monday - Ornament Review: Confectionery King
Tuesday - Book Review: Cozy Up to Trouble by Colin Conway
Wednesday - Movie Review: Halloween Kills
Thursday - Book Review: Uneasy Prey by Annette Dashofy
Friday - Friday Posts Featuring Cheddar Off Dead
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul for the Week:

After last week, I was good.  I only got two books, a physical book and an ARC from NetGalley.  I picked up Up to No Gouda, the first in the Grilled Cheese Mysteries by Linda Reilly.  Yes, I've been talking about a Cheese Shop series the last couple of weeks, and not I've got this one, too.

Meanwhile, I also got the eARC for The Tuesday Night Survivors' Club by Lynn Cahoon.  She's a popular and prolific cozy mystery writer, but I haven't read any of her books yet.  I'm looking forward to seeing what I think of it.

What I'm Currently Reading:

Yes, I tend to read cozies, but I occasionally step away from that.  Like now.  I'm actually reading Dark Horse, a thriller from Gregg Hurwitz.  It's the seventh and latest in his Orphan X series, which I usually enjoy.  I'm afraid this one is going to take a pretty dark turn, however.  We'll see what I think as I get further into it.  I started it Friday, but I got barely anything read on Saturday thanks to being gone almost all day.  And I had fun; I regret absolutely nothing.  We'll see how much I read on Sunday.  I'm hoping to finish it up by Tuesday, but we'll see if that turns out to be realistic or not.  It's also a longer book than I typically read, so I need to allow longer to enjoy it.  I'm fine since I'm ahead of schedule.  I plan to review this book on April 29th, so I've got plenty of time before then to finish it and write the review.

I think I'm rambling at this point, so that must mean it is time to sign off.  Have a wonderful week!

April 16th's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Weakest Link – It is amazing how the people who are the strongest link early on seem to crash and burn midgame.  I’m assuming it is the luck of the questions combined with the pressure of being the strongest link getting to them.  I felt like the contestants were struggling more than they must have been since they did get $30K in the end.

Moon Knight – I find this is a show I really have to pay attention to.  Not as easy to follow if I am doing other things.  It was nice to see more of Marc, but I’m still trying to figure out who is the real person.  I’m sure that’s not the point of the series, but it’s the point I’m hung up on.

The Flash – So Iris is gone.  And Ronnie wasn’t really Ronnie (I suspected that was the case, but I wasn’t sure).  And they are leaving us this way for two weeks?  I’ve got to say, this arc with the fire thing is just strange.  Much of this season has been strange, even for the Arrowverse.  I really did enjoy the flashbacks.  Such a great love story; too bad it ended in tragedy multiple times.

Survivor – They tried to play up the time reversal twist again, but seriously, you have a chance to make yourself safe – you’re going to take it.  And to be mad at someone for taking that advantage?  Seriously?  I get being mad at the producers, like the guy was last season, but being mad at the guy taking advantage of that twist was out there.

Domino Masters – So that was a different proposal, proposing to someone who isn’t there.  A bit awkward, or maybe I’m just a grump.  On the other hand, there were four wonderful topples.  I didn’t want any of those teams to go, and it wasn’t quite as obvious to me.  Well, the judges did tip their hand when they commented on the lack of height, but the other team did have a wall not fall down, so it could have been them, too.

United States of Al – I kind of thought Riley and Vanessa were end game, so I wonder if this is how they are going to get us there.  If so, I’m not sure quite how I feel about it.  On one hand, I want them to get back together, but on the other, by cheating with each other?  Meanwhile, I know which lady I’m rooting for with Al.  I’m a rule follower, so I’m sure you can guess which one.

How We Roll – It was a sweet episode overall.  I liked the reveals at the end, and I certainly understand about selling your baseball card collection.  I’d hate to do something like that as well.  The laughs they got out of that were pretty good.

Friday, April 15, 2022

April 15th's Friday Posts

Wow!  It's been about a month since I joined in on the Friday book post fun.  And I had just joined a new one, finally, too.  Well, time to remedy that.

For the posts this week, I will be featuring teasers from Uneasy Prey, the sixth Zoe Chambers Mystery by Annette Dashofy.

The series is a little more serious than the cozies I typically read, but only a few shades.  This book finds paramedic Zoe and her boyfriend, Police Chief Pete Adams trying to track down the people robbing the elderly in their community.

Up first, let's look at how the book opens for First Line Friday and Book Beginnings:

Tony DeLuca snapped a note in her direction.  "Welcome back.  You're up.  Ninety-two-year-old female.  Unresponsive."

Yep, we jump right into the action.  The book is like that, and doesn't really let up until the final page.

Now it's time for Friday 56, so looking at page 56 of this book, we find:

"Police," he called.
There was a thump from upstairs.  Then slow footsteps above Pete's head.

This was a great book.  I've already finished it (I'm running very ahead of schedule at the moment), and written the review, which will be up next Thursday.  I hope you come back then to read it.

Finally, I'm going to close things out with the Book Blogger Hop.  This week's question is:

Do you prefer to leave book jackets on or off while reading?

I'm definitely a book jackets off reader.  The only time I leave them on is when I got the book from the library, since they are taped on.  Otherwise, they sit on the living room end table where my finished books for the month go until I finish the book.  Then the jacket goes back on the book.  I'm too afraid of wrinkling or tearing the jacket.

Have a wonderful Easter weekend!