Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Book Review: Clouds in My Coffee by Julie Mulhern (Country Club Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, story, and humor
Cons: Mystery a little weak
The Bottom Line:
Target: Ellison
But who wants her dead?  And why?
Fun trip back in time

Who Wants to Kill Ellison?

I have so many series I’ve started, enjoyed, and yet I fall further and further behind as the author keeps writing new books.  One of those is the Country Club Mysteries by Julie Mulhern.  The series has lots of fans, and each time I read one, I am reminded why I want to read more.  Clouds in My Coffee is the third, and it was another fun book.

This series is set in Kansas City in the 1970’s.  It features Ellison Russell, a recent widow who is trying to raise her teenage daughter and keep her mother happy all while she keeps stumbling over dead bodies, which does not make her mother happy.

Her mother has been planning a big gala for months, and the weekend of the event has finally drawn nigh.  Much to Ellison’s surprise, her Aunt Sis and her sister, Margorie, have arrived in town for the event.  With both of them staying with her, the weekend is turning out to be chaotic.

And that’s before the series of potentially deadly accidents start.  First, a statue almost falls on Ellison at a pre-event party.  Then someone firebombs her house.  Ellison can’t figure out who might want to kill her, but can she solve the riddle before they succeed?

Despite some serious themes, these books have a wonderful sense of humor.  The character interactions will make you laugh, mainly because we aren’t in Ellison’s shoes.  Dealing with her relatives in real life would certainly be trying on anyone.  Meanwhile, there are also some pretty funny events that happens around the more serious murder attempts.  The book finds a way to balance those easily.

There is plenty of family drama here, and it kept me going more than the mystery did.  Not that I’m complaining that much since I wanted to know just how everything would play out.  Overall, the mystery was weak.  Enjoyable, but weak.  I feel that’s because the family drama was front and center.  So if you are looking for a book focused on a mystery, this isn’t for you.  But if you are looking for an entertaining read with a mystery as part of the story, pick up this book because you’ll certainly enjoy it.

Also be aware that some of the storyline introduces a bit more mature content than in many of the books I read.  I’d rate this book as PG-13.  Know that going in, and you’ll be fine.

Even though it’s been a while since I read the first two books in the series, I fell right back into Ellison’s world.  That’s because the characters are so strong.  I am glad to be back in their presence and find out a little more about what’s going on in their lives.  I know how a few of those storylines play out in later books, and I enjoy watching the seeds being laid here.

I will say that Ellison annoyed me at times.  Despite everything happening around her, she keeps insisting she doesn’t need protection and gets annoyed with those who insist she does.  I get wanting to be independent, but there’s a fine line between independent and stupid, and I felt like she crossed it a couple of times.  Fortunately, it wasn’t a major issue in the book.

The 1970’s setting comes alive.  While I was born in the 70’s myself, I know enough about the decade (not from my own memories, necessarily) to get the pop culture and historical references and the comments on fashion and decor.  This also adds to the fun of the book.

Hopefully, it won’t be as long before I take another trip back to visit Ellison and find out what is happening in her world.  If you are looking for an amusing time machine, Clouds in My Coffee is the book for you.

Enjoy more trips back to the 70's with the rest of the Country Club Mysteries.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Movie Review: At First Sight - A Mystery Woman Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting mystery and good characters
Cons: Hallmark’s usual cheese
The Bottom Line:
Hunting for her mom
Can Sam clear her of murder?
Fun myst’ry for fans

“I Called So I Wouldn’t Do Anything Stupid, but Since You’re Not There, Here Goes.”

Since I jump in part way through the Mystery Woman movie franchise, I know I’ll be playing catch up on the characters, their backstories, and their relationships.  However, sometimes they have revelations that even surprise the rest of the characters.  That was the case with At First Sight.

Samantha (Kellie Martin) has just started dating her optometrist, Ben (Eyal Podell).  When she filled out her medical history for him, she lied about it since she doesn’t know her family history.  It turns out she was adopted, something she’s never told anyone else.  Heck, even her parents don’t know she knows.  Still, she feels badly about having lied, so she sets out to learn the truth about her family to set the record straight.

Her search takes her up to Whiptail in Northern California, where her birth mother is living.  However, when she tracks the woman down, Samantha finds her standing over a dead body.  She insists that she didn’t kill him, but the police think differently, especially since she lied about knowing who the victim is.  Can Samantha help this woman she doesn’t even know?

Worried that we won’t see the other regulars from the franchise?  While Samantha consults with Cassie (Nina Siemaszko) about the case, Philby (Clarence Williams III) has a face from his past show up.

Naturally, the plot hooked me right away.  And, since Samantha didn’t know anyone involved, that made it more difficult for her to figure things out.  Especially since she was trying not to reveal her connection to the case accidentally.  There were some good twists along the way, and I wasn’t sure where it was going until the end.

We spend a lot of time with characters that are new to the franchise.  Honestly, since I’m fairly new to it as well, that worked perfectly for me.  I liked them, which helped draw me into the story.

As a Diagnosis: Murder fan, I got a kick out of seeing Charlie Schlatter show up in a supporting role.

I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of Kellie Martin’s acting.  I felt the rest of the cast did better than she did here.  Having said that, everyone suffered from the Hallmark cheese factor to some extent.

As a fun bit of trivia, not only did Kellie Martin star in this movie, but she directed it as well.

At First Sight’s interesting premise hooked me and kept me engaged.  At some point, I do hope I can see the first few movies in the franchise, but until that happens, I’ll keep enjoying the ones Hallmark is willing to replay.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Disney Pin Review: Roy E. Disney - Windows of Main Street - 2021 Release

: 4 out of 5
Pros: Nice window and pin to honor Roy E. Disney
Cons: Bottom half a little hard to read
The Bottom Line:
Donald and sailing
Honoring Roy’s legacy
Good pin for DisNerds

You’ll Be Glad This Pin Sailed Into Your Collection

I’ve been reviewing the pins in the Windows of Main Street series in random order – which ever one I grab when it is time to write a review.  I’m sure that the pin I’m looking at this month, which honors Roy E. Disney, was released earlier in the pin series order.  I know I’m not surprised that a pin to honor him is included.

Roy was Walt Disney’s nephew, the son of his brother and business partner, also named Roy.  In addition, he was a long time executive and board member of the company his brother and uncle founded, at times causing waves with his vision for the company.  He definitely created his own legacy in the company, not just coasting on his familial connections.

The window in the pin is actually the middle part of a set of three that honor not only Roy but his entire family.  Like many of the ones we’ve looked at, this one has two panes.  The upper pane has a picture of a sailboat and says “Roy E. Disney, specializing in the gentlemanly sport of racing the sea.”  This part is very easy to read.  The bottom pane is harder to read, but says “About the ketch Peregrina.  Patty Disney, first mate, gourmet cook.”  Patty was his first wife and his wife when these windows were created.

Roy was famous for his love of sailing and sailboat racing, so this window fits perfectly.  He even made a documentary about it at one point that I enjoyed.

As always, the bottom part of the window slides up to reveal a Disney character.  Who better to be behind this window than Donald in his sailor outfit?

This window does fair better than some I’ve been reviewing recently.  The top part is always easy to read, and the bottom part can be read when it is slid down, although Donald makes it a little hard.  Still, I mostly like this window.

Roy Disney made many of his own contributions to the Disney Company over the years.  It’s nice that this has been recognized with not only a window on Main Street, but a pin in this series.  Lovers of Disney history will definitely be glad they have this one in their collection.

Memorial Day Weekend Sunday/Monday Post

Welcome to another Sunday/Monday post.  For everyone here in the USA, I hope you are having a good Memorial Day weekend.  I do hope that, in the midst of the fun, it includes a little time to reflect on the people who have sacrificed everything for our freedom.  It is something to truly be grateful for.

As always, I will be linking up to:

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

As you can see, I've already been out having some fun this weekend.  This is me with my new paddle board.  I've gone out a few times with a friend over the last year, and I enjoyed it so much that I bought one of my own.  It arrived, Wednesday, and we took it out for the first time today (Saturday).  I like it.  Still have a few more things I need to get to be fully able to go out without borrowing anything from my friend, but I'm mostly all set.  And no, I'm not standing on it in the second picture.  My sense of balance is out of whack, so I usually sit.  That was especially true today when it was cool out, at least by Southern California standards.  I'll try standing more this summer I'm sure, when it is warmer out so I won't mind falling in.  But today was a sit down so you stay dry kind of day.  At least for me.  My friend stood quite a bit of the time we are out, but she has done it a lot more than I have.

That's about all the excitement here this week.

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Disney Pin Review: Roy E. Disney Windows of Main Street
Monday - Movie Review: At First Sight
Tuesday - Book Review: Clouds in My Coffee by Julie Mulhern
Wednesday - May Reading Summary
Thursday - Book Review: Murder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson
Friday - Book Review: Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

As you can see, I wound up with four new books this week.  Two of them are ARCs.  Mrs. Claus and the Evil Elves is the third is a fun part fantasy, part cozy mystery series by Liz Ireland set at the North Pole.  Seams Like Murder is the first in a new series from Dorothy Howell, an author I've been meaning to try for years.  Both are coming in September from Kensington, so I won't get to them for a few months yet.  The Drinking Gourd by Katherine Fast and Record Store Reckoning by J. C. Kenney are both books I've heard about so I ordered them.  I'm hoping to get to them soon, but you know how that goes with books you've bought, right?

And yes, all four of the books were physical books this week.

What I'm Currently Reading:

Saturday, I finished up Bayou Book Thief, the first in a new series from Ellen Byron.  As always, I enjoyed it.  If you enjoy cozy mysteries and you haven't read Ellen yet, you need to fix that.  This book comes out June 7th, and my review will go live that day.

Also coming out June 7th is The Navigator's Daughter by Nancy Cole Silverman, the first in a new series from her.  I've enjoyed her earlier books, so I'm looking forward to this one.  It's my next book, so it's what I'll be reading Sunday and Monday.  Hopefully, I'll finish it up on Tuesday, but we'll see how the rest of the weekend goes.  I've got no big plans the next two days, but you never know.  My plan now is to review this one on June 9th.

Think that's about it for me.  Have a great week!

Saturday, May 28, 2022

May 28th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Not much on this week.  It's going to get even slower over the next few weeks.  I don't think I'm going to have much in the way of summer series this year.

Holey Moley – Kathy was an amazing putter.  She did about like I’d do on the obstacles, but she made up for it in putting.  She’s going to be hard to beat in the season finale.

The Flash – Interesting episode.  A bit depressing, really.  Yes, the game scene at the end was fun, but other than that?  Plus the scene with Caitlin at the end was hard, too.  Or maybe it was the mood I was in on Wednesday.

Survivor – I wasn’t at all surprised that Mike and Jonathan went against each other in the fire making challenge after Romeo won.  Also wasn’t too surprised that Maryanne won the whole thing.  I found her irritating because of all her highs and lows.  But she played a great game.  Can’t argue with her winning.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – The first episode was a little slow, but I am definitely hooked now.  I love a story about someone facing overwhelming odds, and the revelation he just got will be very interesting for him going forward.  However, can we talk about that awkward, comedic chase scene?  And Leia herself?  She is a brat!  I liked her when she stood up to her cousin, but now she’s just awful.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Book Review: A Sprinkle in Time by Dana Mentink (Shake Shop Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and characters
Cons: Nothing shook my enjoyment
The Bottom Line:
Body in the trunk
Opens a compelling read
The pages flew by

The Corpse in the Trunk.  Maybe.

Having enjoyed the first in the Shake Shop series last summer, I was looking forward to the sequel, A Sprinkle in Time.  Thanks to an early preorder delivery, I was able to sneak it into May.  I’m thrilled because it was a very fun book.

Fall is beginning to settle on Upper Sprocket, Oregon, but before winter sets in, the town is helping host an Alpenfest.  Trinidad Jones is hoping that the tourist will flood Shimmy and Shake Shop and help her build some savings for the coming winter months.

Things get complicated when her grandfather inadvertently picks up a dead body in the trunk of his beloved classic car.  They quickly call the police, but by the time the police arrive, the body is gone.  Trinidad isn’t sure what to think until a body turns up in a nearby lake.  While the police don’t think she or her grandfather had anything to do with it, Trinidad still can’t help gather clues.  Can she figure out what happened?

That premise certainly caught my attention, and as I was reading the book, it was fairly easy to see who would be the murder victim.  Fortunately, it wasn’t long before we had a confirmed corpse, and from there, we were off and running.  The case brings up some interesting complications for the characters we got to know in the first book, and I never wanted to put the book down since I had to know what was going to happen next.  I had a part of the solution figured out, but it turned out I only had a small part of things figured out.  I’m actually impressed with how everything came together in the end.

I had really enjoyed the variety of characters we met in the first book, and they are all back for this case.  I loved getting to spend more time with them here.  I still question if some of the relationships in this book would work in real life or not, but I am still willing to buy into them as I read.

Overall, the tone of the book is fun, and I laughed a few times as I was reading.  However, because of the characters, there are some more serious moments, and I found myself tearing up a couple of times as well.

Yes, this book will make you crave ice cream specifically and sweets in general.  You’ll be glad to find a couple of recipes at the end of the book.

A Sprinkle in Time is a strong second book is a great series.  I’m already looking forward to seeing the gang again soon.

May 27th's Friday Post

We made it!  Welcome to Friday!  And it's a holiday weekend here in the states, too.  But first, I have to get through a very busy work day today.  Hopefully, it goes smoothly.  But let's start the day with a Friday post, here I will be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

This week, my teasers for the first three will be coming from Clouds in My Coffee by Julie Mulhern.

This is the third in the Country Club Mysteries.  These are always fun books.

Here's how this particular book in the series starts off for Book Beginnings and First Line Friday:

Max, his short grey tail wagging impossibly fast, met me at the door with a did-you-ask-the-butcher-for-a-bone expression.  Of course, I had.

Moving ahead to 56% into the book for Friday 56, we find this exchange.  Ellison, the main character, is having a conversation with her sister:

This time, my question remained locked behind clenched teeth.
"You look like Mom."  My sisters voice was stronger now.
I put my hands on my face and smoothed away whatever expression I wore that reminded Marjorie of Mother.

Get a sense of the fun?  I'll be reviewing it on Tuesday, so come back after the weekend for my full review.

Meanwhile, let's take a look at this week's Book Blogger Hop question:

Do you use the Kindle app on your phone or iPad for reading e-books?

I actually don't have a Kindle or any other dedicated ebook reader.  So, when I read ebooks, like the book I featured this week or the eARC I'm reading now, I use the Kindle app on my phone.  Got to admit, it is nice since my book is always with me and in my pocket, making it easy to read wherever I am.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Movie Review: Uncharted

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun action movie
Cons: Usual action movie weaknesses
The Bottom Line:
Globe-trotting action
Some humor along the way
Mindless fun movie

“You Mean You Were Looting, Right?”  “If I Didn’t Take Them, Somebody Else Would Have.”

It’s been a while since I watched a good caper movie.  It’s a genre we don’t get too much of these days, or at least I don’t hear enough about them.  So when I saw the trailers for Uncharted, I was immediately interested.  It turned out to be fun overall.

The movie tells the story of Nate Drake (Tom Holland), who is living as a bar tender in New York City.  He has a habit of being a pick pocket, but no one has caught on yet until one night when Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) comes into the bar.

Even more intriguing, Sully wants to recruit Nate on his quest to find Magellan’s ships, rumored to be filled with gold.  But what really catches Nate’s attention is that Sully has worked with Nate’s brother to try to find the ships until Nate’s brother vanished.  Can Nate trust Sully in the adventure ahead?

This movie is based on a video game that I might have heard of (honestly, can’t remember for sure), but I know I’ve never played.  For me, the draw was that it looked like fun.  And it was.  It’s got a globe trotting plot, a tons of crazy action sequences, and some humor.  If you are looking for a couple hours of mindless fun, this will fit the bill.

You’ll notice I said mindless.  This is not a terribly original plot, and I was usually a plot point ahead of the action as I watched.  The double crosses got a little ridiculous as well.  Oh, and they started with one of my least favorite story telling devices – starting with a moment of action and the flashing back to show us how the characters got there.

That isn’t to say I wasn’t having fun.  The action and stunts were truly spectacular.  A few of the special effects to create that action were obvious, but that was another minor complaint.

There’s also some great banter.  I did almost feel like the writers occasionally remembered they were supposed to have banter and they put it in.  It was definitely centered on a few specific scenes instead of being throughout the movie.

The characters are decent.  They could have been stronger, but they worked to draw me into the story.  The actors were all good, doing the best they had with what they were given.  There just isn’t a ton of meat for them to work with.

There are a couple of scenes at the end that certainly tease an interesting sequel.  If that does indeed happen, I would gladly come back and watch it.

As I said, this is supposed to be a mindless action movie.  If that’s what you are looking for, you’ll enjoy Uncharted.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Book Review: Smile Beach Murder by Alicia Bessette (Outer Banks Bookshop Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and setting
Cons: Pacing a little slow
The Bottom Line:
Second lighthouse death
Callie thinks this one’s murder
A vacation read

Murder at the Lighthouse

About this time every year, people start talking about beach reads – those light, fun books they plan to take on vacation.  But I maintain there is nothing better for a beach read than a book set at the beach.  Which means the timing for the release of Smile Beach Murder, the first in a new series from Alicia Bessette, is perfect.

Callie Padget has reluctantly moved back home to her native Cattail Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  She insists it is just temporary until she can find another job as a reporter, but in the meantime, she’s landed a job in the island’s bookstore.  Callie hasn’t lived on the island since she left for college, and being home is stirring up mixed emotions for her, especially with the upcoming anniversary of her mother’s death.  Almost twenty-six years ago, her mother fell from the island’s lighthouse.

Then tragedy repeats itself.  Eva Meeks falls from the lighthouse.  While Callie was better friends with Eva’s sister, Callie and Eva were friends, and Callie doesn’t buy the official explanation of suicide, especially since Eva called Callie the night of her death excited about a clue in a treasure hunt.  Can Callie figure out what happened to Eva?  Will solving the treasure hunt provide a clue?

I know I talked about beach reads to open this review.  Typically, I picture comedic, light books when I think of beach reads.  This book does have a more somber note to it.  Between the impact the current murder has on some of the characters and the feelings it stirs in Callie, this isn’t a comedy.  That’s not to say that this book is dark and depressing, either.  It finds that balance in the gray between the two.

The island setting certainly helps.  Cattail Island is a vacation destination, and this book is set in June, so it’s the beginning of the tourist season.  I could easily see myself enjoying a week on the island.  Strictly between murders, of course.

Part of the appeal is the characters.  Callie leads a cast that is completely charming.  I enjoyed meeting the characters here, and I can only imagine how much more I will love them as I spend more time with them.

The plot did take on a bit of the relaxed pace of a resort as well.  Even with the treasure hunt, I felt like the plot could have been a little tighter.  However, things do come to a logical climax.

I know I’ve already talked about the setting, but I have to come back to it again.  It truly does come alive, with descriptions that make you feel like you are right there.  If you can’t get to the beach this summer, this book will be the next best thing.

If you are going on a summer vacation, Smile Beach Murder would be a great book to take along.  If you are just wishing you were going on vacation this summer, this book will make you feel like you’ve taken one.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

May 25th's Can't Wait Wednesday

 It's Wednesday, so that must mean it is time for another Can't Wait Wednesday.

This week, I'm spotlighting The Drowning Sea by Sarah Stewart Taylor.

Isn't that another lovely cover?

This is the third book in the Maggie D'Arcy Mysteries.  Here's the official teaser.

In The Drowning Sea, Sarah Stewart Taylor returns to the critically acclaimed world of Maggie D’arcy with another atmospheric mystery so vivid readers will smell the salt in the air and hear the wind on the cliffs.

For the first time in her adult life, former Long Island homicide detective Maggie D’arcy is unemployed. No cases to focus on, no leads to investigate, just a whole summer on a remote West Cork peninsula with her teenage daughter Lilly and her boyfriend, Conor and his son. The plan is to prepare Lilly for a move to Ireland. But their calm vacation takes a dangerous turn when human remains wash up below the steep cliffs of Ross Head.

When construction worker Lukas Adamik disappeared months ago, everyone assumed he had gone home to Poland. Now that his body has been found, the guards, including Maggie's friends Roly Byrne and Katya Grzeskiewicz, seem to think he threw himself from the cliffs. But as Maggie gets to know the residents of the nearby village and learns about the history of the peninsula and its abandoned Anglo Irish manor house, once home to a famous Irish painter who died under mysterious circumstances, she starts to think there's something else going on. Something deadly. And when Lilly starts dating one of the dead man's friends, Maggie grows worried about her daughter being so close to another investigation and about what the investigation will uncover.

Old secrets, hidden relationships, crime, and village politics are woven throughout this small seaside community, and as the summer progresses, Maggie is pulled deeper into the web of lies, further from those she loves, and closer to the truth.

The first two books in the series were both good, so I'm expecting this to be another good book.  I also enjoyed the author's earlier series, so she's been a favorite for a while.

The book comes out on June 21st.  I have my ARC thanks to Netgalley, so I'll get starting this one soon to have my review ready to go on release day.

Ornament Review: Stocking Stuffers #1 Repaint - Pets - 2021 Hallmark Release

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Still has cute animals
Cons: The new colors on the stocking don’t quite work
The Bottom Line:
Familiar stocking
Fresh paint job doesn’t quite work
Still cute animals

A Pink Stocking Makes This Repaint Stand Out

Last month, when I reviewed the first Stocking Stuffers ornament, I mentioned I had gotten that ornament through a mix up.  I actually thought that I was going to get the repaint that Hallmark was offering for free in October instead.  While still saying I’m on the fence about starting this series, I immediately went out and tracked down the repaint.  It’s a very different take on the original ornament, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

For those not up to date on all their Hallmark jargon, a repaint is when Hallmark takes an ornament and gives it different colors from the original.  Sometimes, it’s a few subtle changes that work well.  Other times, it’s a very big change and it doesn’t quite work out as well as Hallmark had hoped.  That’s the case here.

Like the original, this ornament features animals sticking out of the top of a stocking.  In the original, we had a green stocking with red stripes and white accents.  This time, we have a pink stocking with red stripes and accents.  Yes, I said pink.  I think if you liked pink, you’d really like this ornament.  For me?  It’s just okay.  It will certainly stand out on a tree more than the original ornament, but I’m not sure that is a good thing here.

The animals inside the stocking are all the same.  We’ve got a hamster, cat, dog, rabbit, and bird.  They are a bit cartoony, but they still look cute.  They’ve got different colorings here, but these changes work.  There are some I like better than others, but none of them look bad.  The holly leaves are still green, which makes sense, but the bow has changed from red to green.  Unfortunately, that means it just blends in with the leaves behind it.

With the original, your eye goes to everything, and you can enjoy all the details.  With this repaint, the stocking jumps out more than the animals.  It doesn’t work nearly as well for me.

Like the original, the ornament won’t stand on its own.  It’s a stocking.  It’s supposed to be hung.  The ornament does hang straight.  And, since this ornament used the same mold as the original, you’ll find the series marker on the back of the ornament.

While the coloring isn’t truly bad, it also isn’t nearly as good as the original.  I’m definitely glad this isn’t the only version of the first Stocking Stuffers I have in my collection.

Stuff you collection with the rest of the Stocking Stuffers ornaments.

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.

Keep fighting with the rest of the Homefront Mysteries.

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 it 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.