Wednesday, November 30, 2022

November 2022's Reading Summary

It's the end of November, so it's time for another reading summary.  Hard to believe we are here already, isn't it?

I was out of town for Thanksgiving last week, but I was still able to get the index updated!

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


A Book Club to Die For by Dorothy St. James (Beloved Bookroom Mysteries #3) – 4

Tru Becket has been invited to speak at the exclusive Arete Society, a book club that has waiting lists to join.  In fact, her friend Flossie is one of those waiting to get in, and she has come with Tru in order to plead her case.  The meeting winds up being canceled, however, when Tru finds the group’s president dead in the kitchen.  The police think that Hazel, this month’s hostess, snapped and killed the victim, but Tru doesn’t think so.  Can she come up with an alternative suspect?

This book is a variation on the locked room mystery, and I have come to realize how much I enjoyed those added twists to the story.  A couple of things were obvious early on, but overall, this was still a compelling mystery with suspects strong enough to keep you engaged.  The series regulars are all here and are fantastic as well.  There are some regulars who can get annoying, but they were kept in the background and added to the fun.  And this book is fun.  I laughed more than I had at the first two.  One sub-plot in particular made me laugh every time it popped up.  If you are looking for a light mystery, this is one you’ll enjoy.

Note: I received an ARC of this book.


Secrets in the Stacks by Lynn Cahoon (Survivors’ Book Club Mysteries #2) – 3

The newest member of the Survivors’ Book Club is Darcy, who has survived breast cancer as a young adult.  While she is finishing up her college degree, she is living with her grandmother and working part time for Rarity Cole at Rarity’s bookstore.  Returning home from work one day, Darcy finds her grandmother murdered in their home, and she turns to the book club for help in figuring out what happened.  Can they do it?

I was a bit surprised that the characters weren’t reintroduced.  Since it had been several months since I read the first in the series, it took me a bit to remember who everyone was.  Once I did, I fell under their spell again.  I really do like the cast.  The story was entertaining, although the ending was weak.  While it did answer the big questions, it raised a few more that aren’t addressed.  There were some timeline glitches and other editing errors that should have been caught.  Hopefully they were addressed between the ARC I read and the finished version.  While the characters draw you in, the story should have been better.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster! by Mo Willems – 4

Pigeon is ready to ride a roller coaster.  He knows he will need a ticket.  He knows he will need to wait in line.  And he knows it will be scary as it twists and turns at high speed.  But he is ready.  Is he really ready for what will happen next?

This is a mostly fun entry for fans of Pigeon.  It’s told in typical style with illustrations and dialogue only.  There isn’t quite as much interaction for us, but Pigeon still carries the book by himself.  The story didn’t go quite the way I thought it would, but once I adjusted my expectations, I had to laugh at the outcome, especially the final page.  And it provides a good lesson for all that sometimes things you are looking forward to turn into disappointments.  I think the biggest issue with the book will be some of the vocabulary choices, which will be a bit beyond the target audience.  Yes, I get the concept of stretching a vocabulary, but I think a couple of the words are a bit too abstract for the age group.  Still, fans of Pigeon will be glad they picked it up.


The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly (Mickey Haller #4) – 5

Mickey has had to start taking on foreclosure cases to keep his firm going, but when his first foreclosure client is accused of murder, Mickey finds himself once again practicing criminal law.  His client is the easy suspect, and the case seems pretty circumstantial.  But will he be able to get her off?

Naturally, the book is filled with twists and turns, and the outcome is never really that certain.  The characters are great as well, especially Mickey who is so complex.  Honestly, it’s so easy to root for him, flaws and all.  I did feel the courtroom finagling slowed things down a little at times, especially when it was rehashing things we already knew, but overall, this is another strong book.  A relisten on audio (originally listened in 2014), and I think I enjoyed it more this time around.


Peril in Paris by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness #16) – 5

Spring of 1936 finds a pregnant Lady Georgiana Rannoch feeling a bit restless.  When her husband, Darcy, suggests they go to Paris to visit Georgie’s friend, Belinda, Georgie is delighted.  Belinda is there interning with Coco Chanel, and it isn’t long before Georgie finds herself roped into helping with an upcoming fashion show.  Darcy, meanwhile, has a small assignment to accomplish, and asks for Georgie’s help.  That request winds up putting Georgie in a very uncomfortable spot when someone winds up dead at the fashion show.  Can she get out of it without sparking an international incident?

The further along this series gets, the finer the line is between the seriousness of Europe during the era and the fun tone of the series.  This book walks that tension perfectly.  It also starts more quickly than some of the books in the series do.  Some foundation for the plot is laid before it truly takes off, and once it did, I was fully invested until we reached the logical climax.  Several of the series regulars are involved, and I enjoyed getting to spend more time with them.  We even see a different side of a supporting player.  Fans of the series will enjoy this latest outing.  If you haven’t met Georgie yet, I definitely recommend you fix that soon.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


Lover Come Hack by Diane Vallere (Madison Night #6) – 4

Madison Night thought she and her new friend, Jane Strong, were going to enter the Very Important Projects (VIP) design contest together until she gets a nasty email from Jane.  Madison’s attempt to talk to Jane about it doesn’t go well, and a few hours later Jane is dead.  The police are looking at Madison as their primary suspect, so she has to balance the contest with figuring out what really happened to Jane.  All of this is made harder by a hacker targeting her and others involved in the contest.  What really happened?

This book starts out strongly and never really lets up.  I held on through the twists and turns and was rewarded with a good climax.  It was a little rushed, but that was minor.  Another minor complaint was the timeline issues that should have been caught with a good edit.  I love Madison and the rest of the supporting cast, so I was happy to visit them again.  I’m curious to see what the results of some of the sub-plots here means for the next book in the series.  I do wish Madison would trust people in her life more, but again, this is minor.  Overall, this was a fun book that kept me entertained from start to finish.


Cry Wolf by Annette Dashofy (Zoe Chambers Mysteries #7) – 5

When Zoe goes with her boyfriend, Pete, to visit Pete’s father in the care facility where he is living, they discover that Pete’s old training officer, John, has moved in.  Pete’s happy since his father keeps insisting that something strange is going on in the place.  When John is murdered a few hours later, it looks like that might be the case.  Can Zoe and Pete figure out what happened?

This book started out quickly and never let up.  With several sub-plots to keep us engaged, I was racing to find out what was going on, and I was left in awe when I reached the end.  Zoe and Pete make a great detecting duo, and we get the story equally from their third person points of view.  I do still feel like Pete is too overbearing, and I hope that softens soon.  Not all of the regulars get much page time, but those who do show up are critical to the story.  And the new characters are strong enough that this is really isn’t an issue.  Since this isn’t one of my cozies, there is more content than in the books I typically read, so know that going in.  Now, I need to make time to visit Zoe again soon.


The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker (Revolutionary War Mysteries #2) – 5

Becca Parcell and Daniel Alloway have been sent by General Washington to Philadelphia.  Someone is flooding the colonies with counterfeit money, and they believe this is where it is originating.  It is critical to shut down the supply in order to keep the economy from crashing, thereby destroying the war effort.  Just as the two of them get a suspect, a murder takes place, and someone surprisingly close to Becca becomes the prime suspect.  Can they figure out what is going on?

I was thrilled with this second trip back to 1780.  Once again, I felt like I was in that era while I was reading, including what life was like during that time.  The mystery was strong with several twists that kept me reading.  There is a strong romance between Becca and Daniel, and it strays a little beyond the cozies I typically read, but not too far.  Both of them are strong lead characters, and the story is told from both of their points of view.  Meanwhile, the rest of the cast, both real and fictional people, are just as strong.  The ending of the book is extremely satisfying, but I’m ready to jump into the next in the series.


Blind Side by Penny Warner (Connor Westphal #5) – 4

It’s time for the annual frog jumping contest in nearby Angel’s Camp, and this year it seems to be a hotbed of controversy.  A group is protesting the mistreatment of animals, and the reigning champ’s top entry turns up dead.  He accuses Miah Mercer of the sabotage, but Connor Westphal is certain that her part time employee is innocent.  However, the stakes are raised when Connor finds a bunch of dead frogs and a dead body in the creek near the contest grounds.  Can she figure out what is going on?

I enjoyed being back in Connor’s presence again.  I felt the plot went a bit away from the initial premise, and I’m not sure I felt it earned it.  Meanwhile, the ending is a bit abrupt while still answering our questions.  These are minor since I was pulled into the story and kept turning pages to see what Connor would uncover next.  As usual for the series, the characters are wonderful.  Unfortunately, the language continues to be a bit extreme for a cozy series as well.  I read the paperback that was originally published in 2001, so keep in mind that some technology references are going to be outdated.  I enjoyed the humor at the beginning of the book – I think we got every frog pun imaginable.  Connor is deaf, and she makes a new friend who is blind in this book.  I appreciate how both characters are portrayed and this look at how they are able to handle the things I take for granted.  All told, I enjoyed this book in the series.


Knot My Sister’s Keeper by Mary Marks (Quilting Mysteries #6) – 5

Quilter Martha Rose never knew her father, and she has never known enough about him to even try to find him.  All that changes when she takes a DNA test and learns she has a half-sister who also lives in the Los Angeles area.  Giselle is very different from Martha, but she actually knew their father, that is until he disappeared when Giselle was twelve.  Together, the two women try to find out what happened to him, but it’s been over thirty years.  Will they be able to piece together any clues?

Naturally, this book needed a bit of time to set up the mystery, but it doesn’t take a word longer than it needs.  Since I already knew Martha, I was quickly invested and enjoyed watching her work to figure out what happened all those years ago.  The ending was satisfying.  While quilting is mostly a back drop, it does come into play at one point in the story, which I appreciated.  The characters are wonderful.  I don’t know that I had appreciated how complex the characters in this series are before, but watching Giselle, who has no filter, made me appreciate how complex they really can be.  Fans will enjoy this book.  If you’ve been thinking about starting the series, I definitely recommend you jump in.


Bake Offed by Maya Corrigan (Five-Ingredient Mysteries #8) – 5

Val Deniston and her granddad are going to the Maryland Mystery Fan Fest to help her friend Bethany with it.  And Granddad, aka the Codger Cook, is participating in the mystery themed baking competition the first night.  One of his fellow contestants is Cynthia Sweet, the woman that Granddad feels stole his shot at turning his Codger Cook recipe column into a book.  But when Val finds Cynthia dead in the middle of the night, the two of them start to discover that other people didn’t like Cynthia either.  Can they figure out who killed her?

Since the fest is out of town, we don’t see much of the other series regulars, but the series usually focuses on Val and Granddad, so it’s not too big of a loss.  This also gives us plenty of time to get to know the new characters, who rise to the occasion.  And there is a return appearance by a character from early in the series that is fun.  The plot is wonderful.  It is intricately plotted, yet it holds together at the end.  As someone who complains about the timelines in books when they don’t work, I have to praise this one for holding together perfectly.  I got a kick out of the mystery fest setting.  The recipes at the end are great fun as well, but I’ll leave that for you to explore on your own.  Fans of the series will be happy with this book.  If you are looking for a fun culinary cozy series, I definitely recommend you check this one out.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Book Review: Bake Offed by Maya Corrigan (Five-Ingredient Mysteries #8)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong plot and characters
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
A fan fest murder
A well plotted mystery
Sure to entertain

Mystery at the Mystery Convention

I have not been to nearly enough mystery conventions in my life.  I’d love to change that, but they generally don’t seem to work with my budget or schedule.  However, I was thrilled to get to attend one fictionally in the pages of Bake Offed, the eighth Five-Ingredient Mystery by Maya Corrigan.

If you are new to the series, it features Val Deniston and her granddad.  Val runs a cafĂ© in a local health club and caters, while Granddad writes a weekly recipe column as the Codger Cook.  His hook?  All of his columns feature recipes with five ingredients.

Val’s best friend, Bethany, is helping organize the Maryland Mystery Fan Fest this year, and she has asked Val to help out as a volunteer.  Meanwhile, Granddad is participating in the baking contest that kicks off the weekend.  Each of the contestants is pretending to be the cook for a famous fictional detective.

Unfortunately, one of the other contestants is Cynthia Sweet.  Granddad dislikes Cynthia since she copied his Codger Cook idea and got a cookbook deal with it.  However, it becomes clear he wasn’t the only one who had issues with Cynthia.  Then Val finds Cynthia’s dead body in the middle of the night.  Is one of the attendees at the convention a killer?

Since Val, Granddad, and Bethany are a couple of hours away from home for the fan fest, we don’t see as much of the other series regulars.  We get a couple of updates on them, and one has more of an extended cameo than the others.  There’s also a return of a character we met earlier in the series, which was fun.  Of course, Val and Granddad are usually the stars of this series, and that doesn’t change here.  They really are fantastic characters, and I love their relationship.

This also gives the new characters plenty of time to come to life on the page.  We get to know them, and they do a great job of entertaining and confusing us as the plot unfolds.

And that plot?  It was fantastic.  The further we go along, the more intricate it really becomes.  Yet, when everything comes together at the end, it all makes sense.  Furthermore, the timeline stands up perfectly to everything that comes at it.  And you know how much bad timelines frustrate me.  I always appreciate how the clues are presented in this series, and this book is no  expection.

I also really enjoyed the setting.  Anyone who has attended a mystery convention will recognize some of what Val experiences, minus the murder and investigation of course.  They really are quite fun, and it made me want to attend one again soon.

As usual, we get a collection of The Codger Cook’s recipes at the end.  This time they are appropriately themed, and that’s all I will say.  I’ll let you see what I mean yourself.

Bake Offed is a fun addition to this series.  Fans will be happy to attend this convention with Val and Granddad.  If you are looking for a fun culinary cozy, I definitely recommend you pick this one up.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Five-Ingredient Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Ornament Review: Constance R. Goodwyn - Snowtop Lodge #18 - 2022 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute snowwoman with a puppy
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Some puppy cuteness
This entry will make you smile
Series is still strong

Puppy Cuteness is Invading Snowtop Lodge This Year

At this point, I’m a little surprised when something new pops up in the Snowtop Lodge series.  We are on number eighteen in the series, after all.  And yet, this year’s entry, Constance R.Goodwyn, features puppies as the theme.  And it’s so cute.

Our snowwoman is holding a golden puppy in her arms.  She’s got a big smile on her face, and the puppy’s tongue is out.  Clearly, it’s trying to lick Constance’s face.  The puppy’s wearing a red bow.  Constance is wearing a cloth Santa hat and has sparkly purple buttons down her front.

As always, the bottom third of the snowwoman is a picture that goes with the theme.  In this case, we’ve got more snow people out enjoying time with their dogs.  We see some trees in the background, and purple in the sky, making it look like sunset.  The dogs are out running and having a good time.  The figures are a bit small, so sometimes it is more impressionistic than realistic, but you get the idea what is happening.

Because of my allergies, I’ve never been super comfortable around dogs until I get to know them.  However, I can still admire how cute they are.  And that’s definitely the case here.  You can’t help but smile as you look at the ornament.

Like the others in this series, this ornament is porcelain.  You’ll want to be a little extra careful with it in that case, so you don’t break it.

Being a snowwoman, this ornament has a nice, solid base.  You could set it out to be displayed with no worries about it tipping over on its own.  You’ll find the 18 in a Christmas tree series marker painted on the bottom.

Like most of the ornaments in the series, you’ll find that Constance tips forward ever so slightly when you go to hang her on your tree.  But if you aren’t looking for it, you’ll never notice.

It’s always nice to see a series creatively finding new ways to make me smile.  If you’ve been enjoying this series or you enjoy dogs, you’ll definitely be happy to have Constance R. Goodwyn in your collection.

Enjoy the rest of the Snowtop Lodge series.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Disney Pin Review: Meteor Cycle Co. - Windows of Main Street - 2021 Release

: 4 out of 5
Pros: Another good window pin
Cons: With writing too hard to read
The Bottom Line:
Vehicle maker
With Goofy inside window
Another good pin

Vehicles Now on a Window

Most of the people honored with entries in the Windows of Main Street pin series have been involved in the Disney parks in some way.  It makes sense that a series released in the parks would go out of their way to honor those who contributed to the parks, right?  We’ve got another one of those with the pin to honor Bob Gurr.

If you’ve been to a Disney park and ridden any of their vehicles, you’ve probably been in something that Bob worked on.  He was first brought in as a consultant to help design the original Autopia cars.  That went so well, he was hired full time and helped work on such things as the Main Street vehicles, the Matterhorn bobsleds, and the Monorail.  In addition to this, he helped design the original audio animatronic – Abraham Lincoln.

It’s fitting then, that his pin is all about vehicles.  The window itself is located in Disneyland above the Clothier store.  The inscription reads “Leading the Race to the Future – Meteor Cycle Co. – Our vehicles pass the test of time – Fast, Faultless and Fadless.”  Why cycles?  In addition to all the vehicles he worked on, Bob loved to mountain bike in his spare time.  Perfect, right?

While the pin looks very close to the original window in the park, once again, it is hard to make out the words written on the window.  Ironically, the bottom part, which is the part that slides up, seems easier to read to me than the top part, which is too translucent.

Yes, the bottom part slides up to expose a scene of Goofy standing next to the monorail.  Since that’s one of the iconic vehicles people associate with the park, and something that Bob worked on, that’s perfect, right?  No, I don’t know of any connection specifically to Goofy, but I don’t know of any connection that Bob has with any specific Disney character.  I love Goofy, and this is his only entry in the series, so I’m not complaining.

I wish they had figured out the windows before they started this series, but it is fun to have such an iconic part of the parks represented in my pin collection.  For that reason alone, I’m happy to have Bob Gurr’s Meteor Cycle Co. window in my pin collection.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

November 26th's Weekly TV Thoughts

A very light week for this post.  Okay, so my shows were on Wednesday like normal, but I don't have a chance to watch them until next week, so you'll see my thoughts in a week.  In the meantime, here are the two shows I watched this week.

Magpie Murders – I am in awe.  Once they were going over the clues and the explanations, everything fell into place, even with my confusion and the six weeks in between when it started and now.  Now, I’ve got to read more of his books.  I think I’ve found a new author I’ll love.

Dancing with the Stars – I called it from week one.  Frankly, there was very little drama in this season, I knew Charlie would win.  Not that she didn’t deserve it.  She has been amazing all season long.  Obviously, her dance background helped her out significantly.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Novella Review: Logged On by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mysteries #6.5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery and characters
Cons: No cons to log
The Bottom Line:
Trying to bake cake
Is Julia in danger?
Fun, festive story

Does Julia Have a Suspicious Neighbor?

I love spending time with Julia Snowden from the Maine Clambake Mysteries for whatever length of time I can.  So when she has novellas popping up in various collections, I jump at a chance to read them.  That’s how I originally read Logged On.

This Christmas, Julia has become obsessed with creating a perfect Yule Log cake to impress her boyfriend's family when they come for Christmas, but her efforts aren't turning out well.  She is so desperate that she goes to a neighbor, Mrs. St. Onge, since her cakes were legendary.  Mrs. St. Onge is an older lady, but as Julia begins to spend more time with her, Julia begins to wonder about the many people from Mrs. St. Onge’s past and present who seem to disappear from her life around the holidays.  Is Julia in any danger herself?

The mystery on this one really drew me in.  It is on the shorter size for a novella, but it had me turning pages quickly to find out if my suspicion on what was happening was true or not.  As always, the characters are wonderful.  We only see quick glimpses of some of the regulars, but they are still charming.  And the new characters are great.

It’s no surprise to series fans that a recipe for Yule Log cake is included.  It sounds good, but a lot of work.

This novella was originally part of the Yule Log Murder novella collection.  If you have that book, there’s no need to read this one.  If you’ve missed that one, then now’s the time for a Christmas escape.  At just under 100 pages, you’ll have it read in no time.

Whether you are new to the Maine Clambake series or a fan, you’ll enjoy the Logged On Christmas novella.

Check out the rest of the Maine Clambake Mysteries.

Novella Review: Death by Yule Log by Lee Hollis (Hayley Powell #10.5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and fun characters
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Visiting boyfriend
Finds himself involved in death
Fun holiday tale

New Boyfriend and a Christmas Murder

I haven’t yet made time to read any of Lee Hollis’s books, but I have enjoyed the stories in the Christmas novella collections that Kensington has put out.  That’s why I originally read Death by Yule Log, which I enjoyed.

This Christmas, Hayley Powell's daughter is coming up to Maine for Christmas and she's bringing her new boyfriend.  Hayley does her best to greet Connor with an open mind, but something about him just rubs Hayley the wrong way.  However, when a young man is found murdered after getting into a fight with Connor, it begins to look like Connor is the prime suspect.  Hayley may not like him, but she doesn't want to see Connor accused of a crime he didn't commit.  Can she figure out what is going on?

This story made me want to pick up the full length novels, not that I have yet.  While I obviously didn't understand all the character history, I certainly got enough to fully enjoy what was happening here.  The mystery was strong and kept me engaged until the end.

As a bonus, there’s a recipe for Yule Log cake among other recipes spread throughout.

This is a novella, about 100 pages long.  That makes it a quick read.  It was originally part of the Yule Log Murder anthology, so if you have that one, there’s no reason to pick this ebook up.

But if you’ve missed it, and you are looking for a fun holiday mystery, check out Death by Yule Log.  This is especially true if you are a fan of the series.

Novella Review: Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier (Lucy Stone Mysteries #25.5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun seasonal mystery
Cons: The subplots with Lucy’s family annoy
The Bottom Line:
Christmas novella
Good mystery, bad sub-plots
Worth it for her fans

Christmas Murder on a Film Set

I don’t read the Lucy Stone novels, but I do check in with her when she has a story in the holiday anthologies.  That means sometimes I struggle a bit with her stories.  That was certainly the case with Yule Log Murder.

This story opens to news that a major Hollywood movie is going to be filmed just outside of town, and many of the townspeople are going to be used as extras.  Lucy manages to snag one of those spots, but her joy turns to sorrow when a young woman dies on the set.  The police seem quick to settle on a killer, but Lucy suspects that something else is going on.  Can she figure things out?

As I said, I don’t have the history with Lucy’s family, so I found the sub-plot involving them extremely annoying.  The mystery itself was very strong, however, with a solution I didn't see coming.  I enjoyed that aspect of the story, but I found myself wanting to skip over the sub-plots involving her selfish, annoying family.

At only 100 pages, this is a short read, so you can easily find time to read it during December.  And you’ll find a recipe for a Yule Log cake at the end.

This story was originally the opening story in the Yule Log Murder anthology released several years ago.  If you have that, there’s no need to get this novella.  But if you haven’t read it yet, now’s the time to pick it up.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

As usual, I don't have a new review today since it is a holiday here in America.  I'm spending the day with my family.  I hope you have a great holiday as well if you are celebrating Thanksgiving today.

I do want to issue a thank you for coming and reading my blog on a regular basis.  It means a lot knowing that people are reading and enjoying my reviews.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Book Review: Knot My Sister’s Keeper by Mary Marks (Quilting Mysteries #6)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and characters
Cons: All cons left in the scrap heap
The Bottom Line:
Learning about dad
Sleuthing with new half-sister
A strong mystery

Finding Family and a Killer

It’s always fun to see plot threads that were introduced early in a series come back into a later book.  That’s what happens with Knot My Sister’s Keeper, the sixth entry in Mary Marks’s popular Quilting Mysteries.

It was established early on that Martha Rose never knew her father.  As a kid, she thought he had died before she was born, but early in the series, she learns that he actually left her and her mother behind.  While Martha has tried, she has never been successful at learning more about the man since she had so little information to work with.  That is until she takes a DNA test and discovers she has a half-sister living not too far away geographically.

While Giselle Cole might be physically close to where Martha lives in Los Angeles, she comes from a completely different world.  Giselle is rich and has no filter.  Yet she did know their father until the man completely vanished when Giselle was twelve – an event that has always haunted her.  Together, the two sisters attempt to figure out what happened to him.  But, after thirty years, the trail has grown cold.  Will they learn the truth?

Obviously, this book has to spend a little time setting up the story, but it really doesn’t take any more time than necessary, and soon we are on the trail of the cold case.  Since we’ve gotten to know Martha over the course of the earlier books, I really cared about the outcome of the case, and I was pulled into the story quickly.  Add in a fun sub-plot, and I had a hard time putting the book down.  The ending is strong and does a great job of wrapping things up for us.

Yes, this is a quilting mystery.  Yes, that is because Martha and some of the other series regulars are quilters.  But quilting actually does help provide a clue along the way as well.  I really appreciated how that was worked into the story.  If, like me, you aren’t a quilter, there’s nothing to worry about.  Quilting is part of the character of the series, but anything you need to know is explained along the way.

I don’t know if I had appreciated just how well developed the characters in this series are until I read this book.  Watching Martha deal with this part of her past really made her that much stronger for me.  But what really amazed me was watching how a couple of the new characters were brought to life.  Giselle is the best example.  As I said before, she has no filter and says quite a few things that are rude if not offensive.  And yet, it is made clear to us that she isn’t a hateful person.  It isn’t long before Martha is starting to care for her, and I did as well.  Honestly, I hope she pops up again in future books, although I wouldn’t mind if she matured some.

As always, I enjoyed reading about Los Angeles, a location I know well, although Martha and Giselle followed some clues to other parts of the country.  The advantages of having a rich sister.

Knot My Sister’s Keeper really is a rich mystery.  Fans of the series will be well rewarded.  If you’ve been considering starting this series, jump in today.

Piece together the rest of the Quilting Mysteries.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Movie Review: Disenchanted

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Some performances elevate a poor script
Cons: The songs; poor story overall
The Bottom Line:
Missing first’s magic
This sequel disappoints me
Watch it if you must

“Oh Giselle, What Have You Done?”

The first time I saw Enchanted, I fell under its spell.  I have at various times been both excited and worried about the development of Disenchanted, the sequel.  Okay, fine, mostly excited.  Unfortunately, it turned out that there were some good ideas in there in search of a movie.

It’s been a few years (but not as many as it has been in real life), since we last saw Giselle (Amy Adams), Robert (Patrick Dempsey), and Morgan (now played by Gabriella Baldacchino).  In that time, Giselle is finding that even finding true love doesn’t mean you have a happily ever after.  Thanks to a new baby, they’ve outgrown their New York apartment, so Giselle has spearheaded a move to the suburbs, specifically Monroeville.

The move is rough, especially since their fixer upper isn’t quite fixed up yet.  Morgan doesn’t want to try to make new friends in a new school, and Robert is realizing what a grind the commute back to the city will be.  Meanwhile, Giselle is finding that Malvina (Maya Rudolph), who runs their new town, isn’t as friendly as she first appears.

All this leads Giselle to wish that their lives were a fairytale.  The next morning, she is thrilled to discover that her wish has come true.  That is, until she begins to discover the side effects of her wish.  Can it be reversed?  What are the consequences if it becomes permanent?

What made the first movie so much fun is that Disney was essentially spoofing itself.  There were lots of in jokes and winks to the cliches of the fairytales they are most famous for.  Giselle as a fish out of water in the real world expecting it to be the way she was used to was a riot, as was the reactions of the other characters when they witnessed her doing what she thought was normal.  The songs were fantastic, too, briming with humor.

Much of that is missing here.

As I said at the start, there are some good ideas here.  I’m not going to spoil them for you, but I was delighted when I realized where they were going with things.  Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t capitalize on them as well as it could.  Yes, there were parts that were amusing, but nothing that was truly funny.

I’ve also got to say, the movie had a slow start.  You know where it is going, and I get that it had to set some things up, but I kept waiting for us to get to act 2 and the real start of the story.

As I said, the first worked so well because it was spoofing Disney so perfectly.  That was all missing here.  There are a few wink and nod moments I enjoyed, but it lacked the same level of smart spoofing.

Then there are the songs.  Only one is memorable and fun.  The rest are actually pedestrian.  I appreciate that they let the entire cast have songs this time around, but the songs just weren’t that good and didn’t add much to the movie.

Yes, there were a few things I liked.  Amy Adams is fantastic once again.  There are some great scenes that really allow her to show off her acting, and she is perfect at it.  Maya Rudolph is likewise fantastic.  And Gabriella Baldacchino is good at giving us hints of the Morgan we already know while making her a teenager.  I’ll admit, I found some of the cast a little annoying, but I have a feeling that was how they were told to play the characters.  No, Patrick Dempsey wasn’t one of them – he just wasn’t given that much to do.

The other thing that I really liked was that, while Morgan is a teenager and not the wide-eyed girl we met in the first movie, they don’t make her a complete stereotype.  Yes, there is some of that in there, but they worked hard to make us understand her and why she was feeling the way she was.  And, while she doesn’t always get along with Giselle, she still clearly loves her stepmom.  It was a refreshing change from so many teens we see in pop culture.

When I watched the first movie, I was smiling and laughing the entire time.  It ended, and I left the movie theater wishing I could watch it again.  This one?  I’d rather just watch the first again instead.

I know lots of fans who will rush out to watch Disenchanted like I did.  It’s just a shame that the movie doesn’t live up to the fun of the first movie.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Book Review: Blind Side by Penny Warner (Connor Westphal #5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Mostly good mystery, great characters
Cons: Plot could smooth out a bit, language could be cut back some
The Bottom Line:
Frog jumping contest
Is it hotbed for murder?
Jump in and enjoy

Did a Frog Contest Jump Start a Murder?

As a lifelong California resident, I knew that the area where Penny Warner set her Connor Westphal Mysteries was the area of the Sierra Nevadas made famous by Mark Twain’s story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”  So I wasn’t surprised to see that the annual frog jumping event provided part of the backdrop for Blind Side, the fifth in the series.

If you haven’t started the series yet, Connor is a reporter in the fiction town of Flat Skunk.  She runs the weekly Eureka! paper that she inherited from her grandparents.  Oh, and she happens to be deaf.  This is the only book in the series not to some kind of pun related to that in the title, but that’s because she meets a character who is deaf in this book.

As I said, this book opens just hours before the annual frog jumping festival is about to start.  It’s hitting some snags this year in the form of a group of animal rights protestors who are doing their best to shut things down.  However, the big problem comes when Buford the Bullfrog is found dead.  Buford was the best frog that reigning champion Dakota Webster had for this year’s competition.  He is quick to point his finger at Miah Mercer, Connor’s part time assistant at the paper.  The two used to be friends, but their friendship cooled years ago, and Miah was hoping to finally defeat Dakota at this year’s contest.

The stakes are raised when Connor finds a bunch more dead frogs and a dead body in the creek near the contest’s grounds.  Is frog jumping really a hot bed for murder?  Or is something else going on?

This book went off in a couple of different directions rather early, and I’m not completely sure it earned those changes in focus.  Likewise, the ending was a bit abrupt.  While all our questions were answered, it could have been stronger.  But these are mostly mild complaints.  I was completely pulled into the book and engaged, wanting to know what was going to happen next as Connor tried to figure out what was really going on.

Between books four and five, the series changed publishers.  I certainly wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t already know.  The characters and locations felt familiar to me, and I was quickly back into Connor’s world.  I really do love her and the regulars we’ve gotten to know, and the new characters are just as interesting.

I read the paperback that was originally published in 2001.  It’s quite obvious that several things are dated even though the book is only 20 years old thanks to how quickly technology has changed.  As long as you know that going in, you’ll be fine.

This series has always contained more foul language than is in a typical cozy, and that continues here, sadly.  And Connor’s relationship with her boyfriend is just a little bit beyond the usual discrete mentions we get in cozies.  Again, this is mostly a know before you start reading issue.

One thing I love about the series is how it really brings being deaf to life.  I feel like I am deaf while I am reading, and Connor’s ability to handle life is truly remarkable.  Again, I’m sure there are things that have changed since then for the better.  The new character who happens to be blind is just as enlightening.  They share a scene near the end that is a favorite for how well thought out it is and plays to both of their strengths.

As a lover of puns, I appreciate the jokes and puns we got early in the story concerning the frogs and the contest.  Once the plot picks up, that humor drops out, but I think all the jokes that could have been used we’d already seen anyway.

I’m glad I’m finally making the time to read about Connor’s adventures.  They continue to be fun and educational, and Blind Side is no exception.

Enjoy the rest of Connor Westphal’s mysteries.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Music Review: Always Only Jesus by MercyMe

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: 10 great tracks focusing us on Jesus
Cons: It’s only 10 tracks
The Bottom Line:
Focus on Jesus
Marvels at grace, offers praise
Not a weak track here

MercyMe Point Us to Jesus

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that MercyMe was releasing a new CD this fall.  They just released a new CD last year, after all, and I’ve gotten used to the every two year cycle most artists seem to be on these days.  Naturally, I got Always Only Jesus as soon as I could.

If you are a fan of this Christian band, you will be very happy with this new release.  It took them a few releases to perfect their sound, but they’ve carved out a wonderful space in the soft rock corner of Christian music, and they’ve hit that sweet spot perfectly here.  Whether we’ve got the upbeat “Hands Up” or the slower “Then Christ Came,” these songs are singable and fun while hitting us with some great truths.

We start out with “Hands Up,” an upbeat song of praise, struggling with how to capture our response to all that God has done for us.  This idea of praise comes up again in the title track, which is a wonderful song for “Always Only Jesus.” 

“Better Days Coming” reminds us that, when things look bad, this isn’t the end of the story because God has promised us Heaven.  But they do acknowledge the struggles of life with songs like “To Not Worship You,” which deals with praising God in the midst of trials.  They also talk about finding the faith to trust God through the trials in “Heart Beats for Your Good.”  This last song has my favorite line in the entire CD when they say, “Remind me that this hurricane is nothing but a breeze to You.”  That’s such a great picture of how powerful our God is, isn’t it?

I really love “Forgivable.”  This is another upbeat song that will get stuck in your head.  Which means you’ll have a reminder that “No matter how much you messed up, you are still forgivable.”  That’s a fantastic reminder.  This theme comes up again in “Grace Amazing.”

“Lost in You” is part song of surrender and part marveling at how God leads us when we finally do surrender to Him.

I kind of spoiled this earlier, but MercyMe does present a new version of “Then Christ Came” here.  On their last release, they had a 50 second demo version.  When I heard it, I was wishing they had waited to turn it into a fully song.  Well, they did, and what we got before is the chorus.  The full song is a tad more upbeat and the melody is slightly different, but it is a great song about the life of a Christian before and after Christ came.

The disc closes with “Nothing but the Blood.”  Yes, this is a new version of the classic hymn.  While the lyrics are all the same, they’ve given it a new melody that is fantastic.  Definitely another highlight for me.

Of course, saying that last song was a highlight is a bit misleading.  I really like all the songs on this disc.  They are fun with eternal truths.

I will be listening to this disc for years to come.  And with a disc that lives up to its Always Only Jesus title, that is a great thing.

CD Length: 39:20
1. Hands Up
2. Better Days Coming
3. Forgivable
4. To Not Worship You
5. Always Only Jesus
6. Heart Beats for Your Good
7. Grace Amazing
8. Lost in You
9. Then Christ Came
10. Nothing but the Blood

November 20th's Sunday/Monday Post

Welcome to my weekly Sunday/Monday post.  As usual, I will be linking up to:

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

It was a fairly quiet week.  I got a lot done at work.  Not quite everything I had hoped, but enough that I'm not planning to work this weekend.

I didn't go paddle boarding today.  Shocking, right?  The reason is, it was way too windy.  We are finally getting the fall Santa Ana winds.  That makes it way too windy to enjoy paddle boarding.  Honestly, it was kind of nice to not set an alarm and enjoy a bit of a lazy morning around the condo.

Not completely lazy however, since I planned to get out and about.  I tried to run a couple of errands in the morning with mixed results.  I couldn't find what I wanted at Target, but did get what I needed at Lowes.  Then I drove down to a book signing.  Ellen Byron (aka Maria DiRico), Jennifer J. Chow, and Jesse Q. Sutanto were doing an event together.  It was lots of fun, and I'm glad I went.

I did get some progress in my Christmas decorating done this week.  My trees are up, my lights are on them.  Ornaments from 2022 are on as well.  I hope to get more ornaments on the trees before I leave for Thanksgiving, but we will see if that happens or not.  Meanwhile, I have the stuff I put out in my bedroom out.  One of my to do items for tomorrow is to put my outside lights up.  I decided to wait until after the winds blew through, not that it would really make any difference.

And yes, I do start "early."  I'm out of town for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  If I am going to have time to enjoy my decorations, I need to start now.  Especially with how crazy work can be and everything else I have to do for Christmas, like present buying and wrapping.

I do mean trees plural.  As I talked about last week, thanks to my Hallmark ornament collection, I have more than enough ornaments for multiple trees, more than I put up.  I only put up two since that's all the room I have in my condo, and both are in corners, so I don't even get full 360 degrees on them.  They are on both sides of my sliding glass door.  It's a bit or work, but I love the result.

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Music Review: Always Only Jesus by MercyMe
Monday - Book Review: Blind Side by Penny Warner
Tuesday - Movie Review: Disenchanted
Wednesday - Book Review: Knot My Sister's Keeper by Mary Marks
Thursday - Happy Thanksgiving!
Friday - Novella Review: Yule Log Murder by Leslie Meier
Friday - Novella Review: Death by Yule Log by Lee Hollis
Friday - Novella Review: Logged On by Barbara Ross
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

Strap yourself in.  I've got another long list of books to talk about.

I've gotten three ARCs from Kensington.  They come out in three different months, so it's funny I have all three ARCs to talk about this week.  Up first is Rum and Choke, the fourth Chloe Jackson mystery from Sherry Harris.  Then comes Irish Coffee Murder, the newest anthology with stories by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross.  If you look back at what I'm planning to publish this week, you'll see the individual versions of their stories from a previous anthology.  Honestly, I read these because of Barbara Ross.  Finally comes Four Parties and a Funeral by Maria DiRico (aka Ellen Bryon).  Sherry, Barbara, and Maria/Ellen are three of my favorite writers, so I can't wait to dig into their new stories.

Since I have a long drive up to visit my family for Thanksgiving, it was time for another audio book.  Thanks to my library, I downloaded "W" is for Wasted by Sue Grafton.  It's kind of hard to believe I'm almost finished with this series.  When I started, it seemed so daunting.  Granted, it's been several years, but I'm going to miss Kinsey when I finish.

I downloaded another ARC this week.  Where the Guilty Hide is the first in a new series from Annette Dashofy.  I always like getting in at the ground floor of a series, mainly because that means I don't have to catch up.  I seem to either start a series when it is new or when I am several books behind.

Finally comes the only book I bought.  Christmas Past by Brian Earl was the subject of a podcast I listen to a couple of weeks back.  A book about Christmas traditions?  Sign me up.  I'm looking forward to diving into it next month.

No, I didn't buy any books at the event I went to today.  I already have books by the authors, so I was there to support them and chat afterwards.

What I'm Reading:

I've always already started "W" is for Wasted.  It's a seventeen hour audiobook!  That's way more than I would get listened to just driving too and from my family.  Sadly, I won't be far enough into it to finish it up while driving Wednesday, which is what I usually try to do.  I like to listen to Christmas music on the drive home at Thanksgiving.  Oh well, I hopefully will finish up part way home after Thanksgiving.

On the reading front, I'm working on A Streetcar Named Murder by T. G. Herren.  I'm not too far into it (hopefully, I'll get some reading time in after I post this), and I'm enjoying it, although I feel like we are getting a bit too much backstory.  I'm ready for the next step in the story, but I think I'm to the point where that is going to happen.

I think that about does it for me.  For those in the USA, I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving!  For everyone else, have a wonderful week!

Saturday, November 19, 2022

November 19th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Magpie Murders – I know it’s me, but I’m having trouble keeping the two cases straight.  The crossover characters (really, characters based on people the author knew) is a little too confusing.  It would help if I sat and really concentrated.  Still, I’m curious how this is all going to come together in the end.  Especially since I don’t have any clue.  I found it interesting that the book’s scenes were all connected and the stuff in the present was all wrapped around.

Dancing with the Stars – I’m not surprised about the results tonight.  I’m okay with the results tonight.  The four best dancers from the season are in the finale.  I mean, both of the ladies were amazing and deserved their perfect scores.  I think it is a battle between the two of them for next week’s champion.  As the judges were saying, the competition is so fierce this season, and the others would have made the finals in previous years.  Of course, I feel like I’ve been saying that every year for the last several years.  Sorry to hear that Len is retiring, but not at all surprised.  He will be missed on the show.

The Santa Clauses – As a huge fan of the original film (watch it most years) and the franchise overall, I was really looking forward to this.  I’m sorry to say that as a TV series, this is going to make a great movie.  There are fun moments in both episodes to be sure, and I will definitely keep watching.  But it felt drawn out in a way they wouldn’t have to do in a movie.

Stargirl – As much as I complain about the uneven nature of this show, when it is good, it can be so good.  So many emotional and powerful moments in this episode without tons of dialogue.  The shots and the actors and the music carried it for us.  They are setting up some interesting twists for the next couple of episodes.

Survivor – It’s always interesting when they split up the merge tribe and send random halves to tribal.  Glad James is gone.  I was kind of rooting for him to go for a few weeks, mainly because he was coming across as too egotistical.  Not quite sure what the steal a vote was all about.  Seems to me like it could have been used at a better point in the game.

The Amazing Race – Between the fact that I don’t like fish (not even the smell) and I love paddle boarding, which I’ve really gotten into the last few months, I definitely would have done that paddle boarding side of the detour.  Didn’t look easy, but I don’t think either side was especially easy.  And it would definitely have been more fun.  I’m really worried the twins will wind up going home.  I get it, with the injury they are doing the best they can.  I’m not blaming anyone.  But it is definitely slowing them down.  It’s a problem because I really like them.  Not that there are any teams that especially annoy me at this point.

LegoMasters – Still not sure how I feel about Ethan and Dom coming in after the first couple of weeks, but I am sorry to see them go.  They were singing my tune tonight about the golden brick, but it is hard to say they lost when they got all those Legos.  And what a fun challenge.  I want to play those holes.  Yes, all of them.

Lopez Vs. Lopez – And I’m out.  I gave it three episodes, but I’m just not finding the humor in the show.  Well, I did find the tag pretty hysterical, but other than that, the episode was a miss.

Friday, November 18, 2022

November 18th's Friday Post

We made it to Friday!  That means it is time for another Friday post where I will be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

For the first three this week, I will be featuring teasers from Blind Side by Penny Warner.

This is the fifth book in the Connor Westphal series.  Connor is a deaf reporter in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.  Naturally, she keeps finding herself involves in mysteries.

Here's how this particular book begins:

"As darkness raged torrentially outside the frog-jumping pavilion, news of Rosie the Ribbeter's untimely suicide spread through the festival like a case of viral warts...."
I stopped reading the contest entry that had just arrived on my desk at the Eureka! newspaper office.

Just to be clear, the part I have in quotes is from what Connor is reading.  And it really sets the light tone of the first few chapters of this book.  

Jumping ahead to page 56, we find this:

"I think he -" Dan stopped abruptly and raised a hand, alert to something downstream.  I froze.
Was someone hiding nearby?

That makes you keep reading, doesn't it?

I enjoyed this one.  My review will be coming on Monday, so I hope you'll come back and see what I thought.

Now, it's time for the Book Blogger Hop.  Here's this week's question:

Do you like writing short or long reviews?

I feel like I write medium reviews.  I don't think too hard about length.  I just write until I've finished what I wanted to say.  I like that I don't have to worry about it too much and just write what I want to write.

Do you think I write long or short reviews?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Book Review: The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker (Revolutionary War Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, setting, and mystery
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Strong trip back in time
Track counterfeiters, killer
Can’t wait for the next

Nothing About My Enjoyment of This Book was Counterfeit

Earlier this year, I completely enjoyed the first in Mally Becker’s Revolutionary War Mysteries, so I was looking forward to The Counterfeit Wife, the second in the series.  I enjoyed it just as much as the first.

This book finds us in June of 1780, and reintroduces us to widow Becca Parcell and former printer Daniel Alloway.  They met six months before when they went undercover on an assignment for General Washington.  Now, they are heading out again, this time to Philadelphia.  They are pretending to be married, which, considering the sparks between them, isn’t that hard for them.  But their official mission is to find the source of the counterfeiting that is threatening to end the war by destroying the economy.

Since Daniel was an apprentice printer in Philadelphia when he first immigrated to the colonies, he is able to talk to them and begin to gather some clues about what is happening.  But just as Daniel and Becca begin to get an idea who might be behind it, someone they’ve met is murdered.  Unfortunately, the prime suspect has a surprising connection to Becca.  Can the two of them figure out what is going on?

I have always loved this period of American history, so that drew me to these books immediately.  Once I started reading, I was back in life in 1780.  Not only does this book have a great mystery, but it also does a good job of capturing the conflicts that were going on in everyday life at the time.  I appreciated that look at that time period.

But, as always, I’m here for the mystery.  And what a great mystery.  While the book does reintroduce Becca and Daniel to us, it doesn’t have quite the set up that the first book needed to start the story.  As a result, we jump right in meeting potential counterfeiters, and the pace only increases once the murder victim is found.  Several twists caught me off guard and made me want to keep reading.  The ending was especially satisfying as it wrapped things up well.

I mentioned earlier the sparks between Becca and Daniel.  They are so strong we can feel them across a couple hundred years.  Yes, the book does go a little beyond the cozies that I typically read, but it’s still handled fairly discreetly, and it’s worth noting only in passing.

One reason I cared as much for the romantic subplot as I did is because of how strong the characters are.  Since we get scenes from both Becca and Daniel’s points of view, we truly get to know them.  Not that the rest of the cast aren’t well developed.  We get some real people alongside the fictional cast, and I enjoyed getting to meet them as well.

While I was satisfied as I turned the final page on The Counterfeit Wife, I immediately wanted to know what would happen next to Daniel and Becca.  If you are looking for a strong historical mystery, you need to check this series out.