Monday, October 31, 2022

October 2022's Reading Summary

 Happy Halloween!  Personally, I'm looking forward to singing some pumpkin carols and waiting for The Great Pumpkin tonight.  How about you?

I've also got my reading summary for the month.  And I finally got the index updated as well.  Been too long since I updated it.

All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).  The links will take you to my full review.


Spy School: Project X by Stuart Gibbs (Spy School #10) – 5

Any student will tell you that finals is a stressful time, but it is even more so at Spy School.  After all, not only do you have to pass your classes, but failing could lead to serious pain.  Ben Ripley has something extra to worry about since he’s been summoned to the principal’s office.  Fortunately, he is running a little late since, while he is on the way, the principal’s office explodes.  Another attack confirms it – assassins have targeted Ben.  Fortunately, Ben’s friend, Erica Hale, knows exactly who is behind it.  Unfortunately, that means a trip to find and confront this villain with danger around every corner.  Will Ben make it?

This was another wonderful book in the series.  The action is almost non-stop, yet it never feels forced into the story but is instead a result of Ben’s need to stop the attempts on his life.  There’s also plenty of humor, often coming from the over the top (in the best way) action sequences but sometimes coming from the characters.  Speaking of characters, there were a couple of slower moments, which allowed for some good growth.  I’m intrigued by the tease at the end of the book, so I’m anxiously awaiting the next entry in the series.  If you are a fan old or new, you’ll enjoy this book.


Staged 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton (Sophie Kimball #3) - 4

The Booked 4 Murder book club is thrilled to find the local theater is putting on a production of The Mousetrap and asking the residents of the local retirement community to participate. Naturally, everyone is excited to be part of the cast and crew. Since Sophie Kimball’s mother lands a part in the play, she expects she will hear all about it in detail. What she doesn’t expect is that someone will find the dead body of Miranda Lee, the star, on the catwalk above the stage one day. Yes, Miranda was being a diva with a capital D, but who would want to kill her?

I was glad I finally found time to return to Sophie’s world. Fans of the play will appreciate references to it and other Agatha Christie works, but knowing the play isn’t a requirement, and nothing is spoiled. There is plenty of action to keep things going. The climax was fun, but there was a bit too much to it. The Booked 4 Murder ladies were mostly balanced between funny and annoying, and I laughed as I read. Sophie is a great main character, and I enjoyed the bit of romance. Hopefully, it won’t be as long before I get to the next book in the series. 


Murder at the Mushroom Festival by Janet Finsilver (Kelly Jackson #4) - 4

The community of Redwood Cove is getting ready for the annual mushroom festival. It includes a mushroom hunting contest that is bring out the worst in some of the residence. Kelly Jackson witnesses several fights, including between the people attending a mushroom class she is hosting at her bed and breakfast. However, she is still surprised when a dead body is found. As she and the Silver Sentinels, a group that works to solve problems in the community, start to investigate, they find motives beyond the mushroom festival. Can they figure out what is happening?

It was nice to get to reconnect with Kelly and her friends. They make a great group of characters, and I love seeing their relationships grow in this book. It was also interesting to watch the suspects evolve as the book progressed. The book managed to surprise me as to who the victim was going to be, something that doesn’t often happen. It kept me guessing on the killer until Kelly figured it out, too. If you are looking for a light cozy, this is the book for you. 


The Plot and the Pendulum by Jenn McKinlay (Library Lover’s Mysteries #13) – 4

It’s October in Briar Creek, and local gossip is stirring thanks to the return to town of William Dorchester whose ex-girlfriend vanished a few weeks after marrying someone else.  But Lindsey Norris, director of the local library, is more interested in the books that he is donating to the library.  The catch is, she needs to pack them up from the Dorchester mansion on the edge of town, a mansion that seems to be trying to creep Lindsey and her friends out even before they make a shocking discovery.  Can Lindsey figure out what is going on?

This book is perfect for its October release day.  It’s got a spooky edge to it, but fans of the series don’t need to worry, we still have plenty of laughs and fun with the characters we know.  I appreciate how the large cast is balanced with some of them given more page time, but everyone making an appearance.  The pacing of the plot was a bit uneven, with a bit too much set up leading to an abrupt climax.  Still, along the way, we get some fun surprises and suspects.  As always, we get some good extras for a book club meeting like Lindsey hosts at the library.  If you are looking for a slightly spooky book filled with fun, be sure to pick this one up.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


Murder on Pleasant Avenue by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #23) – 5

When Gino’s sister-in-law shows up at the detective agency Frank Malloy now owns, she is looking for help.  One of the volunteers at the settlement house where she volunteers in her neighborhood of Italian Harlem has been kidnapped by the Black Hand.  Soon Sarah has joined her husband, Frank, and Gino is trying to figure out what has happened.  But just as they think they’ve gotten a handle on what is happening, a murder happens and Gino is the only suspect.  Can they clear him before the Black Hand decides to take revenge on him?

It was a pleasure to jump back to 1900 once again and visit these characters.  The action unfolds quickly.  While I figured a few things out before the characters, I didn’t have the entire picture put together until they did.  I did feel the final chapter felt forced into the book, but that was a minor complaint.  I love spending time with these characters.  We don’t see all the supporting players, but I was happy with some of the advances we saw for the core characters.  I also enjoyed the seeds planted for some upcoming historical events.  I’m so glad I’ve spent the time reading this series.  Anyone who enjoys a good historical mystery will enjoy it as well.


Live, Local, and Dead by Nikki Knight (Vermont Radio Mysteries #1) - 1

Jaye Jordan is making a go of it at the local Vermont radio station she has bought. However, some of the changes she has made haven’t been hits with all her neighbors. When she finally has enough with two of them protesting outside her station, she takes their gun and fires it into a snowman. Unfortunately, the snowman was hiding the dead body of Edwin Anger, a conservative talk show host whose syndicated show Jaye had just taken off her station. How did he get there?

A body in a snowman is an intriguing premise, so I went into this book with high hopes. Sadly, it was obvious fairly early on the book wasn’t going to deliver on them. The problem starts with the characters. While Jaye and the rest of the obvious series regulars are fun characters, the cast is filled with conservative stereotypes that are the worst examples of liberal views of conservatives. Meanwhile the main characters said some things that made me roll my eyes. The plot was a series of events with hardly any investigation at all. More specific complaints would get into spoiler territory. There was quite a bit of (mostly foul) language as well.  While the book does have some genuinely funny moments, they felt at odds with some of the things that were going on in the story. I kept reading, hoping the author had something up her sleeve that would redeem the book, but it never happened. I recommend you avoid this book. 


Tall Tales by James Riley (Once Upon Another Time #2) – 5

It’s been a few weeks since the battle where Lena proved herself as a giant despite her small size.  However, the Golden King is still out to control the entire world via shadow magic, and it soon becomes clear that Lena and genie in training Jin are the only ones who will be able to stop him.  However, to do that, they will have to enter areas controlled by shadow magic.  The fairy queens have told Lena she will have some tasks to accomplish to prove she is worthy of defeating the Golden King.  Will she be successful?  Or will she and Jin fall to the shadow magic before they even reach her first test?

This book has the unenviable job of bridging the gap between the beginning and the end of the trilogy while telling an entertaining story.  And it succeeds wonderfully.  There are plenty of twists and lots of action to make the pages fly by.  This really is Lena and Jin’s story equally, and we get to watch it unfold from both of their points of view.  We don’t see much of the other characters introduced in the first book, but we get some fun new characters to replace them.  Then there’s the humor, including some fun meta moments, which help keep the book from getting too dark.  There are some references to the events of author James Riley’s earlier Half Upon a Time trilogy, so this will leave you wanting to read those books if you haven’t yet.  You’ll also be anxiously waiting for the final book in this trilogy to come out.  I know I am.


A Christmas Candy Killing by Christina Romeril (Killer Chocolate Mysteries #1) – 4

Identical twins Alex and Hanna have made a life for themselves in a small Montana town, where they have opened Murder and Mayhem, a combination mystery bookstore and chocolate shop.  In the time they’ve been here, Alex has become friends with Jane, one of their neighbors.  Jane invites Alex over to view a true crime show because she believes that one of their neighbors is the killer still at large at the end of the episode.  But when Alex arrives, she finds Jane’s dead body.  The police think it was a robbery gone wrong, but Alex wonders if Jane was really onto something.  Can she find the killer?

Between the culinary cozy theme and the Christmas setting, I have to give this debut a chance.  I’m glad I did.  The first couple of chapters had a bit too much background on Alex and Hanna, but once the murder happened, things picked up.  I appreciated how the clues were folded into the story.  Not that I figured out the killer using them.  The characters are good, but they could be a little stronger.  Likewise, the setting is good, but could be a little stronger.  Both of these are minor complaints since I am definitely ready to visit my new friends and this location again soon.  I enjoyed the Christmas timing as well.  This is a delicious debut.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


Broken Heart Attack by James J. Cudney (Braxton Campus Mysteries #2) – 4

When Kellan Ayrwick attends a dress rehearsal of King Lear with Nana D. and her friends, he expects the deaths to stay on stage.  But not too long into the second act, he realizes that Gwendolyn Paddington isn’t asleep on his shoulder, but she’s passed away.  Gwendolyn had been saying someone in her family was trying to kill her.  Is that true?  If so, can Kellan figure out who did it?

When you have a book with characters as dysfunctional as the Paddington family, it always makes me appreciate my own family.  But it also makes for a great mystery plot, and that’s the case again here.  There are plenty of twists along the way to catching the killer at the end.  While some of the characters can be over the top, we care about enough of them, including Kellan, to keep us invested in the book.  I did feel like the humor was hit and miss for me here.  Sometimes, the character’s teasing worked, and other times it felt like they were picking on Kellan more than actually teasing him.  Unfortunately, there were some timeline issues and a red herring that felt like it jumped quite a bit.  Both could have been resolved with a good editor.  There are several sub-plots involving Kellan and his family.  While they veered a little more into soap opera territory than is typical for the books I read, they have me hooked and I can’t wait to make time for the next book to find out what happens.


Deadly Valentine by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #6) – 4

Annie and Max Darling have finally moved into their new house and are meeting their neighbors.  Annie is less than delighted to find out that Sydney Cahill lives next door, mainly because Sydney made a pass at Max in front of Annie.  Still, they can’t get out of attending the Cahill’s Valentine’s Day party.  Then, that night, someone kills Sydney.  Since their new neighborhood is gated, it quickly becomes obvious one of their neighbors is the killer.  Can they figure out who did it?

This book has a few of the staples of the series, including the mass introduction of suspects, but that’s mainly worth noting in passing.  Overall, it is fun.  While the characters could be stronger, we do care, thanks mainly to Annie and Max.  Max’s mother, Laurel, is visiting again, and she provides some great laughs along the way.  The mystery is complex enough with enough twists and suspects to keep me guessing.  It’s easy to see why this series is so beloved.


The Plot Thickets by Julia Henry (Garden Squad Mysteries #5) – 3

Lilly Jayne has received a suggestion that the Garden Squad look at the historic cemetery because some of the areas have been neglected.  When Lilly and Delia head out there one afternoon, they find more problems than they were expecting.  Yes, some areas desperately need to be weeded and tended to in other ways.  But Lilly also finds more graves than she is expecting to see in the middle of historic family plots.  While she isn’t completely sure if she can trust her memory or not, she begins to investigate.  When a fresh body turns up above ground near the Jayne family’s crypt, Lilly starts digging deeper.  Can she find what happened?

I always love getting to spend time with the Garden Squad.  Their friendships are fantastic, and I love the town of Goosebush.  The rest of the characters are strong as well.  Unfortunately, I felt the pacing was off in this book, especially in the first half.  This isn’t anything new for this series, but it felt worse than usual here.  There is a good mystery, it just needed a little pruning, and once the action picked up, I was kept guessing until the end.  As always, there are some garden tips at the end of the novel.  I enjoyed visiting my friends again, and fans will as well, even if the plot could have been stronger.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


No Parm No Foul by Linda Reilly (Grilled Cheese Mysteries #2) – 4

Carly Hale is excited to be able to participate in the Balsam Dell fall food festival for the first time.  However, one of her other contestants is throwing a wet blanket on things.  Ferris Menard owns a sub shop across the village square, and he has turned his temper on Carly.  The festival ends with him creating a public scene.  However, the next day, he is found dead in his shop.  A clue at the scene points of Carly’s boyfriend.  Can she find the truth?

I enjoyed meeting this cast of characters in the first book, and they were just as charming and fun to be with here.  The plot was strong.  I thought I had it figured out early, but I quickly realized I was wrong.  There was one element that wasn’t really resolved, but I still understood the killer and motive just fine.  I enjoyed the fall setting and could feel the crispness in the air.  I also appreciated the cheesy puns, especially in the sandwiches that Carly serves in her restaurant.  Speaking of which, we get recipes for two of them at the end.  I already have the next in the series pre-ordered, and I’m looking forward to reading it.


“Halloween Hoedowns Can be Deadly” by Ryan Rivers (A Bucket List Mysteries Short) – 5

New friends Levi Blue, a former tween actor, and Sho Tanaka, a disgraced nurse, are helping out at a Halloween hoedown in town.  However, things take an unexpected turn when they find the dead body of the town’s librarian in a trunk.  Since it’s doubtful she crawled in by herself, can the dynamic duo figure out what happened to her?

When this author crossed my radar a couple of weeks ago, I decided to read this short story right away since it fit the season.  I’m so glad I did.  While it may be a short story, it is packed with fun.  I laughed multiple times, and at one scene in particular.  I really liked the characters, and they felt strong even though this was a short story.  And the plot was good with a nice twist and a great use of clues.  I read it in under an hour, and now I can’t wait to see Levi and Sho again.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Disney Pin Review: Palm Parlor - Windows of Main Street

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great pin for a Disney Legend
Cons: Glass could be easier to read
The Bottom Line:
A spooky window
With supernatural hints
A good addition

I’m Sensing a Good Pin in Your Future

As I’ve said in the past, I’ve been reviewing the pins in the Windows of Main Street series in pretty much random order.  I purposely saved this pin for October, however, given the theme.  After all, October is the perfect month to review the Palm Parlor entry in the series.

This is the one I knew exactly where was without having to look it up on the internet.  Fargo’s Palm Parlor is located near the Silhouette studio.  I’ve spent enough time around that area of Main Street to have seen the window up there.

What I did have to look up is who it is honoring.  Roland Fargo “Rolly” Crump started out as an inbetweener in the animation department in the 1950’s before Walt Disney moved him to Imagineering.  There, he was involved in many classic attractions for Disneyland, including it’s a small world, The Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Haunted Mansion.  No surprise on that last one, given the theme of the window, right?

Once again, the front of the pin does a perfect job of capturing the window from the park.  On the front, it says “Fargo’s Palm Parlor.  Predictions that will haunt you; Bazaar, whimsical & Weird. Designs to die for. Roland F. Crump assistant to the Palm Reader.”  There’s a palm in the middle of the window, and three cards.  They aren’t traditional tarot cards but instead changed to reference the three attractions I mentioned he worked on.

When you open the pin, you see Madam Leota inside her crystal ball.  The ball glows in the dark.  It needs some light to charge it, but then it will glow for a little while.  It’s a nice touch.  This pin is actually hinged and held together by a rather strong magnet. 

Sadly, this pin does have the issue I’ve talked about with some of the other pins in the series – the window isn’t opaque enough to be legible.  It helps when you have the window open, and at least here you have the option of reading what is on the glass.  I do wish they had fixed this flaw in so many of the pins in the series.

Earlier, I mentioned saving this pin for October.  Disney didn’t do that, instead releasing it in February last year.  I guess they were afraid of supply chain issues possibly making this one come out later if they had saved it for October, but it still surprises me a bit.

Overall, it is a fun addition.  The series has been a great excuse to learn a bit more about the Disney company history, which I’ve also enjoyed.  DisNerds like me will be glad they got it.

October 30th's Sunday/Monday Post

It's late.  I should be in bed.  Instead, I'm here creating a Sunday/Monday post.  Let's see if I can do this quickly.  I'm linking up to:

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

Nothing unusual happened at work this week.  Close started Friday with day -2.  That means this coming week will be crazy.  Which is saying something because this last week was pretty crazy as well.

And Saturday was pretty crazy.  Got in a paddle at the lake early in the morning.  It was supposed to get windy in the afternoon, although it didn't seem that bad when I was out and about.  Then I met a couple of friends to do an escape room that some high schoolers created and were putting on at the local library.  We actually have three branches in my town, and this was the closest one to me.  As in I walked there and back.

Finally, some friends were hosting their annual Halloween party.  Sadly, this is about the only time I see them these days, but it is always wonderful to see them.  It's why I'm getting this post up when I should be in bed Sunday morning.  We were playing The Game of Things and laughing so hard at each other's answers.  Definitely a case of you needed to be there, but I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

So that's my week in a nutshell.

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Disney Pin Review: Palm Parlor - Windows of Main Street
Monday - October Reading Summary
Tuesday - Book Review: A Book Club to Die For by Dorothy St. James
Wednesday - Movie Review: Lover Come Back
Thursday - Book Review: Secrets in the Stacks by Lynn Cahoon
Friday - 3 novella reviews
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

I was doing so good.  I just had two pre-orders come in.  Up first was A Doomful of Sugar by Catherine Bruns.  I really want to read more of her books, and the first in a new series with a maple syrup theme sounds promising.  Then there was Murder at the Majestic Hotel by Clara McKenna.  This is the fourth in a great historical series, and I can't wait to find out what happens next.  Both of these were physical books.

Then I got the heads up about a couple of deals on Kindle books that I couldn't pass up.  Friday, Lakeside and Larceny by S. C. Merritt was free.  I already have the first but haven't read it yet.  Still, how can I stop from getting the second for free.  Then today, Bad Housekeeping by Maia Chance was on sale cheap.  I've read other books by this author, and always meant to try this series.  At that price, I had to pick it up.

What I'm Currently Reading:

I'm working on Peril in Paris by Rhys Bowen.  This is the newest in her series set in the 1930's and
featuring Georgie, a minor royal.  So far, I'm not that far into the book, we've just barely arrived in Paris.  I was hoping to make it further today, but I didn't have much reading time.  (Go back and look at what I did today.  I was hoping to finish this on Monday, but we'll see how much I get read on Sunday.

Have a fun Halloween tomorrow and a great week.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

October 29th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Magpie Murders – With only two storylines at this point, the novel and the contemporary investigation, I found it easier to follow this episode.  Definitely curious to see how this is all coming to come together and if Susan finds the last chapter or has to write it herself.

Dancing with the Stars – How Vinnie is escaping the bottom two is beyond me.  Obviously, it’s the fan base.  I mean, I like the guy, but his dancing is a little weak for this late in the game.  I think the judges were a little easy on Wayne.  Not that I’m truly criticizing him for what he did with so little practice.  Glad Trevor stayed another week, but I feel like his days are numbered.

Quantum Leap – The 1989 San Francisco Earthquake part of this episode was initially intended to be the pilot.  I’m wondering how that would have worked since so much of this story, including Ben’s character development with the memories of his mother’s death, seem tied to where we are now.  Obviously, the stuff with the earthquake itself worked the way it was, but I feel like they would have had to reshoot about half of what they already had.  And I’m very curious to find out where they are going with the Leaper X storyline.

Stargirl – As hooked as I was by last week’s episode, I was less than enthused with this one.  I feel like they could have done so much more to resolve things.  It felt so anti-climactic.  I am curious to see what Pat is going to do as a result.  It may have been the Shadowlands, but what he heard was very true.

Survivor – Paranoia seems to really be getting people.  I feel like Elie partially dug her own grave by what she did in this episode.  Having said that, if you are going to go through someone’s bag, be 1000000% sure you don’t get caught, including no one tattling on you.  That was her biggest downfall, and it happened a while ago.

The Real Love Boat – Very few of the singles are really impressing me at this point.  I feel like the two couple who are the strongest are the only ones really trying.  The rest are just playing games.  The entire format of this thing is just beyond weird to me.  Probably why I don’t typically watch reality dating shows.  Looks like we are going to cut down some couples next week, which we have to do at some point if there is going to be a winner.  But what was the point of being in Rome if they are having the main challenge on the ship?

LegoMasters – My allergies would have kept me from enjoying that the dog builds in person, but they were so cute.  The bottom two were fairly obvious, and I’m glad the mother/son team turned in their golden brick because they would have been bottom two as well.  But so much cuteness!

The Amazing Race – Do they did wind up with a non-elimination leg.  Sort of.  I mean, one team did leave.  Very interesting to watch them race knowing what would happen depending on where they came in.  I’m worried that the couple that came in last won’t last too much longer.  They are always near the back of the pack.

So Help Me Todd – I really wish they’d calm the characters down some.  The stories are interesting, but the character interactions are just so frenetic.  And I know I say this every week, and yet I keep watching every week.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Short Story Review: “Halloween Hoedowns Can be Deadly” by Ryan Rivers (A Bucket List Mysteries Short)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters, plot, and fun
Cons: None as long as you pick it up expecting a short story
The Bottom Line:
Death at a hoedown
Plenty of fun in story
For a good, quick read

That Corpse Isn’t a Decoration

When Ryan Rivers crossed my radar a couple of weeks ago, I decided I had to meet his characters via the short story “Halloween Hoedowns Can be Deadly.”  It was perfect for this time of year, right?

This story includes characters from his Bucket List Mysteries.  It’s obvious from reading the book that this isn’t the first time the characters have met, but I had no problem jumping in here.  The action takes place in the town of Bluebonnet Hills, Texas, and introduces us to former tween actor Levi Blue and disgraced nurse Sho Tanaka.  The two have become friends, and it seems that trouble is constantly following them.

Levi and Sho are helping with a Halloween hoedown that is taking place in town.  However, things take an unexpected turn when they find the dead body of the town’s librarian in a trunk.  Since it’s doubtful she crawled in by herself, can the dynamic duo figure out what happened to her?

This story was just long enough to give me a taste for the tone of the series and the characters, and I absolutely loved both.  Obviously, we don’t get to know any of the characters with any depth, but Levi and Sho are fantastic main characters.  We actually get the story from Sho’s first person narration, and his observations are great.  We do meet Sho’s sister as well, and I like her.

Meanwhile, this story presents us with a good mystery with a couple of twists I didn’t see coming.  We also got good clues and a solution that made sense.

The tone I mentioned?  This book was so funny.  It has one of the best interrogation scenes I’ve read in a while; I just had to laugh as I was reading it.  There were other jokes and laughs as well.

All this in a story that took me just under an hour to read.  Yes, this really is a short story, but as long as you know that when you sit down to read it, you’ll be as hooked as I was.

This story made me anxious to move on to the prequel novella, which I’ve also already downloaded.  If you want a quick, fun Halloween set story to read this weekend, you won’t go wrong with “Halloween Hoedowns Can be Deadly.”

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Book Review: No Parm No Foul by Linda Reilly (Grilled Cheese Mysteries #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery, wonderful characters, and cheesy puns
Cons: A key element never wrapped up
The Bottom Line:
Competitor dead
Carly must solve this fall plot
Clues and cheesy fun

The Only Harm Would Be Skipping This Book

I had thought about reading No Parm No Foul closer to release date, but when I realized it was set at Halloween, I decided to save it to read this month.  While it wasn’t spooky, it was a lot of fun.

An annual event in the town of Balsam Dell, Vermont, is a food competition for local restaurants, and Carly Hale is excited to get to enter it this year.  It’s being held a couple of days before Halloween, and Carly has come up with the perfect sandwich to tempt attendees to vote for her.

However, Ferris Menard is throwing a wet blanket on things.  He owns the sub shop across the square from Carly’s Grilled Cheese Eatery, and he has a temper.  Carly seems to be the newest target for his ire, and the day of the contest ends with him creating another public scene.  The next day, Ferris is found dead in his shop, and a clue at the scene points to Carly’s boyfriend, Ari.  Can Carly scare up some other suspects to get Ari off the hook?

I really enjoyed meeting the characters in the first book in this series, and I was looking forward to seeing them again here.  I found them just as charming.  The relationships are continuing to grow, and some of the sub-plots build on what was established in the first book, which I always appreciate.

The mystery is strong.  We knew who Ferris was from the first book, and we see just enough of him before he dies to understand the story that follows.  We have several viable suspects, who are developed enough for us to care about the outcome.  I thought I had it solved early only to figure out I was wrong a few chapters later.  I really appreciated how the clues were worked into the book.  Unfortunately, a key element of the book was never wrapped up.  Mind you, we catch the killer, and I understand what happened and why.  But that element should have been referenced again.

While this book takes place around Halloween, the real setting is autumn.  I could feel the crispness seeping into the air as I read.  It was fun getting to read it in fall in real life.

And I love all the cheese puns.  Who knew you could come up with so many?  The names of the sandwiches that Carly serves are fantastic.  There are some other puns along the way as well.

You will be craving grilled cheese the entire time you are reading this book.  I know I was.  Fortunately, the book ends with two of the recipes that Carly serves at her diner, so you can try them out for yourself.

No Parm No Foul delivered on the promise of the first in the series.  I’ve already got the next in the series pre-ordered, and I’m looking forward to seeing what trouble Carly gets into next.

Enjoy more of the Grilled Cheese Mysteries.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Ornament Review: Genie - 2022 Hallmark Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Wonderfully captures a fun Disney character
Cons: Tilt, while designed, takes a little getting used to
The Bottom Line:
Poof!  Here comes Genie
The tilt does look weird at first
Still good ornament

Your Wish for a Genie Ornament has been Granted

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Disney’s original animated Aladdin.  To celebrate, Hallmark released a wonderfully fun limited-edition ornament.

The ornament is just the Genie.  No other characters, no lamp.  He’s obviously just poofed in from his lamp, however, since there are still a couple patches of smoke.  With one arm extended, you can almost hear him saying “I’m here!”  He’s got a smile on his face, and it’s sure to make anyone who loves the character and movie smile.

Since I love the movie and character, I had to have him.  I feel like I might have him in another ornament (yes, I have too many ornaments), but this look was so good I had to get him either way.

Since Genie doesn’t have legs in his normal form, this ornament doesn’t have any way to display it without hanging the ornament.

However, that is a bit of a problem.  The hook is on Genie’s right shoulder, which means he tips quite a bit.  If you look at any pictures Hallmark has created for this ornament (like the one I have here), that’s by design.  And that’s the amount he tips.  It’s part of the coming out of the lamp vibe.  It works a little better in the picture than it does in real life.  Obviously, since the ornament came out this month, I haven’t tried him on my tree yet.  Hopefully, it will look good when surrounded by lights and tree branches.

The more I look at Genie, the more the way he hangs looks natural to me.  I hadn’t really thought about how the picture would translate into the real world, so I think that’s why my perception was off initially.  As long as you know this when you buy the ornament, you’ll be fine.

As I said, this is a limited-edition ornament.  My store sold out of the ornament right away, so if you want the ornament, you’ll want to snag one as soon as you can.

If you are a fan of Aladdin or Genie, you’ll be glad you added this ornament to your collection.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Book Review: The Plot Thickets by Julia Henry (Garden Squad Mysteries #5)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Lilly and the rest of the regular characters
Cons: The plot needed some pruning
The Bottom Line:
Cemetery plot
Kick starts this mystery book
Great seeing the gang

Fresh Body in the Cemetery

I love summer, so this time of year is hard for me as we face waning sunlight and temperatures that are dropping.  So it was nice to visit Lilly Jayne and the rest of the Garden Squad in The Plot Thickets since, for them, it’s spring and they are looking forward to great weather ahead of them.

If you haven’t met the Garden Squad yet, they are a group of mostly senior citizens in Goosebush, Massachusetts.  Lilly Jayne and her family have been leaders in the small town for generations, and now Lilly leads this group of her friends in helping to make the town more beautiful with official and unofficial landscaping projects around town.

Lilly has received a suggestion that the Garden Squad look at the historic cemetery because some of the areas have been neglected.  When Lilly and Delia head out there one afternoon, they find more problems than they were expecting.  Yes, some areas desperately need to be weeded and tended to in other ways.  But Lilly also finds more graves than she is expecting to see in the middle of historic family plots.  While she isn’t completely sure if she can trust her memory or not, she begins to investigate.  When a fresh body turns up above ground near the Jayne family’s crypt, Lilly starts digging deeper.  Can she find what happened?

I love these characters.  The Garden Squad is a diverse group, and they each bring something to the story and help get to the truth using their own skill set.  I love that.  Yes, Lilly is our main character, and we see the story through her third person point of view.  But the groups bond makes this series feel so cozy.  That does extend to the rest of the regular supporting cast even though they play smaller roles in the story.  Likewise, the suspects are strong and kept me guessing until the end.

Unfortunately, the plot could have used some pruning.  This has been a constant theme for me in the series, but it is worse here than normal.  While there are things happening early on we know will lead somewhere, there are some repeated scenes that could have been cut out to speed things up a little.  Yes, there is a good and enjoyable mystery here, and I didn’t figure it out until the end.

As always, the book has some gardening tips at the end.  I don’t have a green thumb at all and I live in a condo, so the tips don’t do much for me.  But if you are trying to get a garden going, you’ll want to take a look at them.

It was great to spend time with Lilly and the rest of the regulars again.  I really do love Goosebush and the friends I’ve made there.  I just wish the plot in The Plot Thickets had been a little thicker.

Enjoy the rest of the Garden Squad Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Music Review: Still by Stephen Curtis Chapman

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Many good songs about life with God
Cons: Several songs don’t work for me
The Bottom Line:
Steven shares new songs
Plenty for fans to enjoy
Not all work for me

Steven Curtis Chapman is Still Creating Good Music

It’s been a few years since we got a release of new music from Steven Curtis Chapman.  Since I’ve been a fan for decades, I was excited to see he was releasing Still.  While this isn’t his best, fans will definitely appreciate it.

And fans will know what to expect here.  We’ve got guitar driven pop and ballads here.  He’s even snuck in an anthem or two.  I hesitate to say that this is fully soft rock, although he does have some upbeat tracks here.  But it’s definitely slower and quieter overall than his stuff from the 90’s and early 2000’s.  That’s been a trend I’ve noticed from him recently, and it continues here.

And he is still producing some great lyrics.  The disc opens with “Welcome Back to Wonder,” a short song about experiencing the majesty of the world God has created.  It leads right into “Still.”  And I mean that literally.  There is a second between them, but the transition is so flawless musically that you might think they are the same song if you aren’t paying close attention.  The song is about still following God despite the trials of life and how God is still working on us.  I really like the truths of the song, and it’s a great anthem.

For me, other highlights include “Don’t Lose Heart,” a song of encouragement from one friend to another going through hard times.  “I’m Alive,” is another upbeat song that embraces the pains and joys of life.  “Running After You” is about God’s amazing love for us, and “Unfixables” is about trusting God even with the things in life that hurt.

These are mostly the more upbeat songs on the disc.  I find the slower songs to be hit or miss.  Honestly, I often find that Steven’s slower songs don’t always work for me.  Yes, he’s written some great ones, but this is an overall impression.  I really did like “Where Else Could I Go,” which he wrote with his sons.  “Love Now” is a good reminder to love because you don’t know how much time you really have.  And his wife was a co-writer on that one.  However, “Kindness” and “A Desperate Benediction (Peace on Earth)” don’t really work for me.  The second one is definitely too slow.  I get that they are supposed to be aspirations, but they come across a bit more like lectures.  Then again, maybe that’s a sign of where my heart is right now.  “Trying to Get Back Home” is nice, but it doesn’t quite work for me either.

The slowest song is “Living Color,” a song about Steven’s Jr. High best friend Carlton.  It wades into some interesting waters.  It took a bit of time to grow on me, but I have come to like it.  I definitely appreciate what he was going for with it.

It’s nice to get some new music from Steven Curtis Chapman.  I suspect some of my issues with the disc will be personal taste and where I am in my life right now.  But the songs I like are very good.  As I said earlier, fans will definitely be thrilled to get their hands on Still.

CD Length: 43:10
1. Welcome Back to Wonder
2. Still
3. Don’t Lose Heart
4. I’m Alive
5. Kindness
6. Running After You
7. Unfixables
8. Love Now
9. Where Else Could I Go
10. A Desperate Benediction (Pease on Earth)
11. Living Color
12. Trying to Get Back Home

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Disney Pin Review: it's a small world - Cuckoo for Disney Pins - 2021 Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Instantly recognizable as related to it’s a small world
Cons: Could have done more with the clock theme
The Bottom Line:
small world becomes clock
Could have used some more details
But this fan still likes

I Have Some Small Complaints About This Pin

It seems like people fall into one of two camps when it comes to it’s a small world.  Either you love it or you hate it.  I definitely fall into the love it category.  However, I thought the entry to represent the ride in the Cuckoo for Disney Pins series wasn’t as good as it could have been.

In some ways, the designers for this pin had it easy since there is a big clock on the front of the attraction, at least how it looks at Disneyland.  And they expertly captured the look of the building’s front in this pin.  Yes, it is taller rather than wider, but anyone should easily recognize it.  They’ve got the numbers over on the right hand side, and the giant smiling face is front and center.  The doors are open, so the dolls are about to come out of the front and do their circle at the base of the clock.  On the left hand side up in the upper corner you can see the clock face.  It’s very small and very easy to miss.  Dangling from the clock, we have three weights.  On the outside, we have two flowers, and in the middle, we have the sun.

On the one hand, I do like this pin.  The front of that building is iconic, and it always makes me smile to see it or see it represented somehow.  On the other hand, I feel like they could have and should have done more with the pin.  It would have been nice to have a few more details that make it look like a cuckoo clock.  Honestly, if you didn’t know about it being part of a cuckoo clock themed pin series, it might not be super obvious why there are things dangling down from it.

Overall, I do still like this pin.  It’s not my favorite in the series, but fans of the ride will be glad they have it in their collection.

October 23rd's Sunday/Monday Post

Time to start another week, so that means it's time to check in with a Sunday/Monday post.  I'll be linking up to:

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

I actually had something different happen this week.  I went in for jury duty.  Now, this wasn't going in to my local courthouse.  This was Federal jury duty, which meant I had to go to downtown LA, which was about an hour and a half drive for me at commute time.  I was out of bed and on the road Tuesday morning before I'm used to getting out of bed these days.  (Have I mentioned how much I love working from home recently?)  I was called as one of the first twelve they put in the jury box, too.  After several hours there, during the interviewing the jury portion of the day, I was dismissed.  I was so happy because I had so much to do at work.  And I got dismissed in time to miss the worst of the traffic coming home, too.

Since that was just one day, I obviously worked the rest of the week.  Finally tackling some of the new stuff I was handed in August from start to finish.  It took me quite a while to do it.  Not fun, but I got it done.  Now to finish up the other stuff I need to do this coming week because another month end is starting on Friday.  Can you believe it is time for that already?

And I went out paddle boarding this morning.  Had to do it early because it is getting windy this afternoon and evening.  Cooler than it has been and cloudy, but the sun and the clouds were beautiful.

It's been a while, but I've been getting some new music again, which means I will have some music reviews coming soon (including this week).  I've gotten Still from Steven Curtis Chapman and Always Only Jesus by MercyMe recently, and I've been enjoying both of them.  I've got the new releases from Selah coming this next week, and I can't wait to start listening to them as well.

That was my week, so shall we get to it?

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Disney Pin Review: it's a small world - Cuckoo for Disney Pins
Monday - Music Review: Still by Steven Curtis Chapman
Tuesday - Book Review: The Plot Thickets by Julia Henry
Wednesday - Ornament Review: Genie
Thursday - Book Review: No Parm No Foul by Linda Reilly
Friday - Short Story Review: Halloween Hoedowns Can Be Deadly by Ryan Rivers
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

I've got another large book haul to tell you about.

We'll start off with the physical book I got - The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker.  I read the first in this historical mystery series earlier this year, and I can't wait to dive in and see what happens next to the characters.  It is set during the American Revolution.

I also had an ebook I pre-ordered be released this week.  The Case of the Amorous Assailant is the first in a new series from Terry Ambrose, and it sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

My request on NetGalley for Secrets in the Stacks by Lynn Cahoon was approved this week, so I downloaded that as well.

Author Kim Hunt Harris came across my radar this week.  Her Trailer Park Princess series sound fun, and since the first, The Middle Finger of Fate, was free on Kindle, I just couldn't resist.

As you've probably noticed, I'm working on catching up on the books of Diane Vallere right now, so when she put The Kill of It All, the ninth in the Madison Night series, on sale for 99 cents, I snagged it immediately.  I won't get to it until a year from now at the pace I'm going, but at that price, it can hang out on my Kindle for a while.

And, Monday night, before I started jury duty, I downloaded the audio version of The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly from my local library.

What I'm Currently Reading:

There was one problem with getting an audio book.  It is a long one (14 hours) and I only had to drive down the one day.  That left me with 11 hours left in the book to finish it up.  I'd say it's a good thing that The Fifth Witness is a relisten for me, except it's been long enough I don't remember a thing about it.  I got to 60% while listening today driving to and from the lake, but I don't know when I will be able to finish it.  I listen in fits and starts since I work from home, but I will get there.

I'm also about to start A Book Club to Die For, the third Beloved Bookroom Mystery from Dorothy St. James.  I really enjoyed the first two books in this series, so I'm looking forward to diving in.

I believe that's it for me.  Hope you have a great week.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

October 22nd's Weekly TV Thoughts

Magpie Murders – I’ve yet to actually read any of Anthony Horowitz’s books, but I have heard a lot of about them, so I decided to give this adaptation a try.  It took a bit to get into with switch between all the characters and the book vs. real life, but I’m definitely intrigued.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this evolves.

Dancing with the Stars (10/17) – It’s always hard to see someone leave due to health reasons.  I’ve enjoyed watching Selma dance, but I’m glad she is doing what she needs to do for her long-term health.  Memorable year is always a good night, and this night didn’t disappoint.

Quantum Leap – I’m loving this different take on romantic tension.  It’s a great change from the typical will they/won’t they.  This is the first time I’ve felt like they were referencing racial or sexist attitudes, and I loved how they subtlety handled it.  It was obvious what they were talking about, but it wasn’t preachy and it made us care more about the outcome.  And what a great way to resolve things.  I knew they’d come up with something like that, but I couldn’t figure out how.

Dancing with the Stars (10/18) – How evil!  They really required them to have four new dances this week.  Monday night, Tuesday night, and the two for the dance off.  I mean, ouch!  That makes the first perfect scores of the season even more impressive.  I’m enjoying watching the teams grow that are growing, but it is fairly obvious who the winner is going to be – Charlie and Mark.  I don’t know why Derek and Mark always get the young, athletic women, but they do seem to have a distinct advantage when it comes to this show.

Stargirl – We actually got some nice movement forward.  Several things came to light.  Quite a few suspenseful scenes, including that cliffhanger.  And some pretty funny moments, too, especially with Courtney and her family.  But I want to know who is watching the cameras.  And, of course, I want to know how Pat is going to get back and what happened to the brother and minor details like that.

Survivor – Never throw a challenge.  It always comes back to bite you in the end.  You’d think people would have learned that by now.  No, he wasn’t the one voted out, but the other person who was actually in his alliance was the person voted out, and because of his advantage.  Speaking of which, that explains why they had the immunity challenge so early.  It always throws me off when they break the formula like that.

The Real Love Boat – Same pairings at the end of the episode as at the beginning.  I definitely feel sorry for the guy who joined this week.  I have a feeling it is going to be harder and harder for the new comers to make connections from here on out.  Or, at least, I hope it will be if these couples are as serious as they claim to be.  Then again, it’s hard to know for sure in such a short time what someone is like and how you really feel.

Lego Masters – Still not sure how I feel about a new team being added for no reason mid-season.  Okay, it was early season, but still.  They were impressive in their initial build.  Honestly, most everyone was.  I can see why the teams in the bottom were there, but I still liked their tree houses.  Such creativity from everyone.

The Amazing Race – The daughter wasn’t nearly as annoying this week.  She didn’t redeem herself, and I’m not sorry to see her go, but at least she wasn’t annoying me.  Jordan looked amazing.  I would love to go visit someday.  And I feel sorry for the twin who got hurt.  Hopefully, she is better next week.

So Help Me Todd – The show was picked up for a full season this week, but I’m debating if I want to continue or not.  The mysteries are good, but I feel like they are trying too hard with the comedy.  It is more painful than it is funny.  But I really enjoy seeing justice done with these stories.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Book Review: Deadly Valentine by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #6)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery, lots of fun
Cons: Most of the characters could be better
The Bottom Line:
Valentine Murder
New neighbors are the suspects
Make a fun entry

Murder Among the New Neighbors

I always appreciate it when an author takes something that’s gotten a few mentions in a couple of books and turns it into the major plot of a novel.  That’s the case with Deadly Valentine, the sixth book in Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand series.

The series focuses on Annie Laurance Darling, the owner of Death on Demand, a mystery focused bookstore on the island of Broward’s Rock, South Carolina.  Early on, she and Max Darling became engaged and then got married.  Over the last couple of books, there has been talk about the home that is being built for them to move into.  Now, that house is finished and they’ve moved in a week before Valentine’s Day.  Unfortunately, one of their new neighbors is a killer.

Annie and Max are less than thrilled to be attending the Valentine’s Day party that their neighbor Sydney Cahill is throwing, especially since she stopped by and makes a pass at Max that morning at breakfast.  They think they’ve come up with an out when Max’s mother, Laurel, arrives for an unannounced visit.  However, it isn’t long before Laurel has been added to the guest list.

That night, after the party, someone kills Sydney.  The police think that her husband is the killer, and Laurel gets caught up in their crosshairs as well.  Because the Darlings new house is on a lagoon that has a private entrance, it appears one of their neighbors killed Sydney.  Can Annie and Max figure out who it was?

This is the sixth entry in the series, and I knew pretty much exactly what to expect here.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun along the way, of course, but there are certain milestones in this series.  There’s the introduction of the suspects in a series of paragraphs before we see them on the page.  Max digs up backgrounds, which Annie then reads.  And, of course, we have the big reveal at the end with all the suspects present.  Along the way, Laurel and Henny, the best customer at Death on Demand, will annoy Annie and provide a few clues.

As I said, this is fun.  I wouldn’t be continuing on with the series if I didn’t enjoy them.  But I do wish things would change a little, especially with how the suspects are introduced.  It makes it a little hard to remember who they all are until later in the story.

It might also help if they were more fully fleshed out.  They come across a bit more as types instead of full characters.  Fortunately, Annie and Max are more fully fleshed out, which makes it easy to care.  Even some of the other series regulars can be less than full characters, depending on their role in the story.

I am happy to see Laurel and Annie’s relationship growing.  Don’t get me wrong, Laurel is still out there and can be exasperating.  However, Annie has clearly come to care for her mother-in-law, which I appreciate.

Laurel also provides some of the best laughs in the story.  I’m sure I’d be annoyed if I had to deal with her in real life, but she makes a great source of comedy on the page.

The mystery itself is solid, with enough suspects to keep us guessing and enough surprises to keep us engaged.

I also appreciate that the references to other mystery novels and authors is scattered throughout the book and not dropped on us in list form like a couple of the early books had.  I’m still waiting to recognize more than one or two, although I did pretty well with the paintings in this book.

While this book is a cozy, it is definitely on the darker side and contains quite a bit of foul language for the subgenre.

I’m continuing on with the audio books.  Kate Reading is a wonderful reading, bring the characters to life and capturing the fun without overshadowing the book itself.

Deadly Valentine is another fun Death on Demand mystery.  It’s easy to see why the series has been so beloved for so many years.

Check out the rest of the Death on Demand Mysteries.

October 21st's Friday Post

It's Friday!  Let's kick things off with a Friday post.  As usual, I'll be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

My teaser for the first three will be coming from No Parm No Foul by Linda Reilly.

This is the second in her Grilled Cheese Mysteries.  I figured it was appropriate to feature it this week since it is set around Halloween.  Does this make up for me featuring a Christmas book last week?

Here's how the book begins:

Grant Robinson swept through the front door of Carly's Grilled Cheese Eatery and scooted behind the counter.  "It's over, Carly.  I finally did it."

What did Grant do?  I'm going to leave that for you to discover.  Meanwhile, let's jump over to page 56.

"Did he tell you they suspected he was murdered?"
"Not at that point.  Don, I'm not going to reveal any of the details I discussed with the detectives.  I'm sure you know that they withhold certain facts from the public.  If I blab them, it might compromise their case."
"I already know about the vampire figurine."

That's a Halloween appropriate clue, isn't it?  I'm in the middle of reading this book now, and I'm enjoying it.  If all goes as planned, I will finish it up later today and review it next week on Thursday.

Let's finish things off with the Book Blogger Hop for the week.  The question is:

Are any of your bookcases buckling under the weight of too many books?

No, which is a bit of a surprise.  I can't get any more books on them, so they must be pretty sturdy.

Have a wonderful weekend!