Thursday, September 28, 2023

Book Review: The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair (Sparks and Bainbridge Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, humor, good mystery
Cons: Took a while for things to gel and the book really get going
The Bottom Line:
Set up with murder
Can duo clear their client?
Slow start, but gets good

Match Made for Murder

There are a lot of historical mysteries set during World War II, but one thing that attracted me to the Sparks & Bainbridge Mysteries is that they are set in London right after the war.  I thought that different setting, plus the premise of the series, would make for an interesting read.  Overall, I enjoyed The Right Sort of Man, the first in this series.

The book takes us to London in 1946 and introduces us to Miss Iris Sparks and Mrs. Gwen Bainbridge, two women looking for fresh starts in the after math of the war.  Even though they are little more than acquaintances, they join together to form The Right Sort Marriage Bureau to help those who are looking to move forward and find some happiness now that the war is over.  Essentially, they are working as professional match makers.  They’ve only been opened a few months, but they have made several successful matches.

They think they are off to a good start for their latest client until she is found murdered and her potential match is arrested for the crime.  When word gets out, their reputations take a hit, both professionally and personally, something they can’t afford to have happen.  Can they clear their client of the crime and restore their reputations in the bargain?

I will admit, it took me a while to get into the book.  While it is nice that we don’t get a lot of exposition at the beginning, I still didn’t quite feel like I knew who Miss Sparks and Mrs. Bainbridge were until I was a little ways in.  Meanwhile, it seemed to take a bit for the mystery to truly get going.  I also didn’t care for Miss Sparks at first.

However, once I got into the book, I was hooked.  The mystery was great, with some twists that surprised me and a suspenseful yet logical climax.

As we get to know the main characters, we also get some strong sub-plots involving them.  By the time those truly kicked into high gear, I had grown to really care for both of them, so I was fully invested, with these sub-plots keeping me just as invested as I was in the main mystery.

The further we got into the book, the more Miss Sparks and Mrs. Bainbridge became solid characters, helped by those sub-plots.  I could also feel their friendship solidifying and watch them growing.  I’m anxious to see where things will go for them next.

I was expecting to feel like I was back in 1946, and I wasn’t disappointed.  With my American view of the war and it’s after math, I hadn’t really thought about the picture this book painted of that year for those who lived in London.  I appreciated being able to get a glimpse of it.

But what I wasn’t expecting was the humor.  The further into the book I got, the more I was laughing at the character interactions and the situations they were facing.  This makes the more serious moments hit that much harder.

For me, this book was more in the traditional camp based on some mild content.  As long as you keep that in mind going in, you’ll be fine.

I will be back to find out what happens to these characters next.  Anyone looking for a fun mystery set in the after math of World War II will be glad they picked up The Right Sort of Man.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Movie Review: Truth or Dare

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting and entertaining horror movie
Cons: I get the ending, but I didn’t like it
The Bottom Line:
Deadly teenage game
How long can they keep playing?
I did not like end

“How About We Play a Game?”

I was intrigued the first time I heard about Truth or Dare when it came out in 2018.  It helped that I was a fan of the female leads.  I’d heard mixed reviews of the movie, but when I found it on TV, I decided to give it a try.

The story follows Olivia (Lucy Hale) who is coerced by her best friend Markie (Violett Beane) into joining their group of friends on a Spring Break trip to Mexico.  On their last night, Olivia starts talking to a guy at the bar.  When they aren’t ready to go back to their rooms, he suggests a place where they can go hang out.  Then he suggests a game of truth or dare.

It’s when they have returned to their college in Southern California that they realize it wasn’t an ordinary game.  The game has followed them home, and they are now playing a life-or-death version.  If they refuse to play, they die.  If they lie, they die.  If they don’t complete the dare, they die.  Can they stop it before they are all dead?

I knew the basic premise going in, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to be executed.  I was actually impressed with how they did it, with the game taking place mostly back on the college campus.  It allows for some very interesting and suspenseful sequences.  Yes, the film was rated PG-13, so keep that in mind as far as violence you go to watch it.  Having said that, the sexual content was higher than I was expecting, and I watched it on TV.  I can see why they didn’t get an R rating, but it had to be very close.

Honestly, as the story really got going, I couldn’t help compare the film to Final Destination.  I only saw the first in the series, but it had the same feeling with a malevolent force stalking a group of characters in a certain order, and you never quite knew when it was going to strike next.

Unfortunately, I felt the ending was weak.  Or at least weak for what I wanted in the film.  I get what they were doing with the ending.  And, I know, it’s horror, so the ending works.  But it isn’t my kind of ending.

While I’m familiar with Lucy Hale and was glad to see her in something again, I’m actually more familiar with Violett Beane.  I enjoyed seeing her here.  I didn’t recognize anyone else in the cast, but they did a great job.

I’m glad I watched Truth or Dare, and I mostly enjoyed it.  I just wish I liked the ending better.  If the premise interests you and you are willing to watch a horror movie, give it a try.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Book Review: Mrs. Claus and the Trouble with Turkeys by Liz Ireland (Mrs. Claus Mysteries #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun murder and mayhem in Santaland
Cons: Thankfully, there are none
The Bottom Line:
A missing turkey
And then a potluck murder
Delightful again

Will Santaland's First Thanksgiving Be a Turkey?

I say this every year, but I just love the Mrs. Claus Mysteries.  Author Liz Ireland has found the perfect blend of light fantasy mixed with very cozy mystery and sprinkled with a dash of humor that makes these books a pure delight.  Mrs. Claus and the Trouble with Turkeys is the fourth in the series, and it didn't disappoint.

To set the scene, the series features April Claus, who moved to Santaland two years ago after marrying Nick Claus, the current Santa.  They met at the bed and breakfast that April still runs during the summer months in Oregon.  April has had quite an adjustment living not only somewhere that is constantly cold, but also somewhere populated mostly with elves, talking reindeer, and snowmen.  Yes, snowmen are alive, too.

If you read the novella in the Halloween Cupcake Murder collection that was released last month, that story sets up this book with a fun subplot.  However, if you've missed that story, no need to panic.  This book works under the assumption that you haven't read that novella and explains everything you need to know.

As you can guess from the title, Santaland is about to celebrate its first Thanksgiving thanks for April.  While Nick worries about taking a day off so close to Christmas (a legitimate concern when you are Santa), April assures him that it's just one day.  Well, two since the elves can't do anything without going all out.

Castle Kringle has imported a live turkey for the holiday.  However, the weekend before Thanksgiving, Gobbles vanishes.  There's no trace, no note.  Nothing.  Naturally, April jumps in to see if she can figure out what is going on.

However, things take a deadly turn when Nick's cousin, Elspeth, falls face first into her mashed potatoes at the Sunday potluck to kick off Thanksgiving week.  This quickly takes precedence over a missing turkey, and April can't help but try to figure out what really happened, especially since she finds herself a prime suspect.  Can she solve the murder and find Gobbles in time for Thanksgiving?

As I said before, this book was a pure delight, and I never wanted to put it down.  The book did take a little time setting things up, but once we got all the pieces into place, we were off like a sleigh pulled by the nine best reindeer, and we never looked back.

Part of that is because there are quite a few threads in this story.  Some of the subplots intersect the main story, and some don't.  With all of that, it takes a bit to get everything going, but once all those balls are in motion, the pace never lags.  Even then, I was having fun as the story got moving.  Yes, I did figure a few pieces out before I reached the end, but there were still several pieces I missed.

And the characters are fantastic and charming as always.  Everyone is relatable whether human, elf, or some other creature.  I enjoyed seeing growth in some of the relationships here, and I can't wait to see what that means for future books.

Which brings us to the humor.  The world of Santaland is familiar, but just different enough that April is a fish out of water.  This allows us to see the charm and the humor in their world, but it also allows some humor as April doesn't quite get everything.  Meanwhile, we also get some fun situations and a climax that is as funny as it is suspenseful.  And it packs just the right wallop.

There are a lot of cozies set during Christmas, and we are getting more set around Halloween.  We don't have that many set at Thanksgiving.  I appreciated this book using this holiday, especially since this book has an obvious overall Christmas theme.  That does mean you’ll be in the Christmas spirit no matter when you read this book.  That’s a plus for me.

As an added incentive, there’s a recipe at the end for a non-traditional pie that sounds delicious.

I know I've mentioned fantasy a couple of times.  This really is a light fantasy series.  It is very much a cozy mystery series first and foremost.  If you want something a little different but lots of fun, you really need to pick up these books.

And if you are already a fan, you'll be thankful for Mrs. Claus and the Trouble with Turkeys.

Need more of this series?  Here are the rest of the Mrs. Claus Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Book Review: Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas by Vicki Delany (Year-Round Christmas Mysteries #6)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful to be back with these characters, good mystery
Cons: Some pacing issues
The Bottom Line:
Christmas mystery
With murder in a play’s cast
Glad series is back

Deadly Christmas Play

It’s been three years since we last got to visit Merry Wilkinson and the town of Rudolph, New York.  Not that author Vicki Delany has slowed down in her output, but she’s been working on other series.  Fortunately, Crooked Lane decided to pick up the charming Year-Round Christmas Mysteries, and we get to visit again in Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas.

If you’ve missed this series, when the town of Rudolph had to reinvent itself, it decided to capitalize on its name and become a year-round Christmas destination.  They go all out twice a year – December, obviously, but also July when Santa (as played by Merry’s dad) arrives for his summer vacation.  Merry herself runs Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, an upscale gift and decor shop.  While the town celebrates Christmas all year long, we tend to visit during December, not that I’m complaining.

This December, Merry’s mother, opera singer Aline Steiner, has agreed to come out of retirement to join the local theater company’s musical version of A Christmas Carol.  Since this is an amateur production, the talent level is about what you’d expect, but after last year’s play flopped, there is added pressure on this year’s production to succeed.

And that pressure is coming through during rehearsals.  Merry is on hand to witness some of the drama, including actors trying to take on bigger roles.  Then someone associated with the play is killed in Merry’s shop, and the police look at Merry’s assistant, who is in the play, as a potential killer.  Can Merry figure out what really happened?

Since it had been three years since our last visit to Rudolph, I was afraid I wouldn’t remember the characters and their relationships.  I needn’t have worried.  As soon as I started reading, I felt right at home again.  If you are new to the series, this means you could easily jump in here, although you’ll definitely want to go back and solve the other festive murders in this series.

The book does a good job of setting up the situation and the suspect before the murder happens.  We got some fun twists and red herrings along the way.  However, I felt like the pacing was uneven, especially in the second half.  Still, we do get a great climax that explains everything to us.

And the characters are still wonderful.  As I said a minute ago, I was quickly back at home with them and enjoying the town of Rudolph.  There are some interesting developments with a couple of the characters, and I’m curious to see where things go in any future books.

Those looking for Christmas spirit will also love this book.  As you’d expect there is plenty of it here.  It made me want to break out my Christmas music and decorations even though it’s mid-September.

It is so wonderful to have this series back.  Whether you are a longtime fan or new to the series, if you enjoy a Christmas cozy mystery, you need to pick up Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas.

Here are the rest of the Year-Round Christmas Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

September 24th's Sunday/Monday Post

Hope your weekend is going well.  Time for a Sunday/Monday post, where I will be linking up to:

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

It's been quite a week.

As I've been talking about on the blog, I had a computer malfunction last Sunday morning.  After being on for a couple minutes, my computer shut down and wouldn't turn back on.  I started using my last computer, which is slow (which is why I replaced it).  But I hadn't scheduled my reviews for the week yet; they were on my current laptop.

So, for the first time in the 10+ years I've been blogging, I actually had days when I didn't post anything.  I've even posted when I've been on vacation (thanks to scheduling ahead).

A friend took a look at it Monday, and he came back over Thursday to open it up and see if he could figure out what was going on.  Meanwhile, we'd bought a cable so we could at least get stuff off my hard drive.  As soon as he opened the back of my computer, it started to work again.  I guess it just needed a couple of days off?  I'm very paranoid with it, but it is working still, knock on wood.

Friday, I only worked half a day.  We had a finance department picnic for work.  I wound up winning several of the games, which was cool.  And it was nice to get to meet some of my co-workers in person.  That includes someone I've been working closely with for a year now.  Some of them I'd met before, including when we all worked in the office.

Joke of the Week:

The penny-making machine at the mint suddenly stopped working for no reason.  It just doesn’t make any cents!

This Past Week on the Blog:

Sunday: Sunday/Monday Post
Monday: We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties.... (about the computer crash)
Friday: Friday Post featuring Mrs. Claus and the Trouble with Turkeys
Saturday: Weekly TV Thoughts

This Coming Week on the Blog:

For the record, these reviews are all already scheduled, so they will happen for sure this week.

Sunday: Sunday/Monday Post
Monday: Book Review: Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas by Vicki Delaney
Tuesday: Book Review: Mrs. Claus and the Trouble with Turkeys by Liz Ireland
Wednesday: Movie Review: Truth or Dare
Thursday: Book Review: The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair
Friday: Book Review: Hanging by a Thread by Dorothy Howell
Saturday: Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

Yep, I still have quite a few books to tell you about.  So let's get started catching up.

First up is Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano.  I've been hearing about this series for a while, and I've been curious about it.  When it went on sale for Kindle this past week, I snagged it.  I'm mention it now because it looks like it is still on sale, at least as of Saturday night when I'm typing this.  So if you are curious, go snag it now.

Let's flash back to the end of August now.  The next two books were on sale back then, so I snagged Kindle copies.

Up for is Death on Cozumel Island by Cindy Quayle.  Scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico and a murder?  What's not to like.  This one definitely sounds like something I will enjoy.

Code Name Edelweiss by Stephanie Landsem has been on my wish list for a while.  It was on sale all of August and I finally snagged it right before it went back up to regular price.  A historical spy story, it sounds like it could be great.

Next up are a couple of ARCs I've gotten recently.  Both for October releases.  I've mentioned how full the month is, right?  Look at the upper left hand corner of my blog if you don't think I'm serious.

The first of these is Brush Up on Murder by Sybil Johnson.  It's been several years since we got a release in her Aurora Anderson series, so I'm looking forward to visiting her again.  Of all the books on this list, this is the one I'll be reading first since I'm due to review it as part of a blog tour on release day of October 10th.

Coming out at the end of October is A Parfait Crime, the ninth Five-Ingredient Mystery from Maya Corrigan.  This book will involve an Agatha Christie play and a death in a fire.  Should be fun.

Finally (for this week), my pre-order of Malibu Burning by Lee Goldberg showed up.  The first in a new series from him.  Honestly, I don't know much more than that.  He's pretty much an auto buy for me.  Not sure when I will get to it, but should be good.

What I'm Currently Reading:

I have not gotten as much reading done as I would have liked, so I'm still about 100 pages from the end of Nine Lives and Alibis by Cate Conte.  This is a Halloween entry in her Cat Cafe series.  I'm enjoying it, and I'm still hoping to at least make a dent in what I have left to read if I don't finish it completely by the end of Saturday.  This is my only non-ARC book for October.  I would have preferred to read it closer to Halloween, but if I wanted to review it before Halloween, this is when I had to read it.

Up next, I'll be switching to Christmas with Sugar Plum Poisoned by Jenn McKinlay.  This is book fifteen in her Cupcake Bakery series.  I always enjoy them, so I'm looking forward to seeing what Mel and the gang are up to this time.  And maybe a Christmas cupcake recipe or two.

Have a great week!

Saturday, September 23, 2023

September 23rd's Weekly TV Thoughts

American Ninja Warrior - I feel like this was originally planned for last February.  A couple of these couples were missing at least one half during the season we just finished.  And I'm surprised they didn't have any of the Berkstrans.  I was expecting Chris and Jessie to run away with it, but I'm happy for the couple that won.  I hope they do this kind of thing again in the future.

Ahsoka - The title character really just had a cameo this time around.  But I get it.  This week's episode was what was going on while last week's episode was unfolding.  I am glad we found the guy they were hoping to find.  But I really don't like waiting a week knowing that danger is coming for them.  I have a feeling they are going to be ambushed.  And did anyone else get Frozen vibes from the scene with those creates that led us to him?  The only Star Wars books I read involved Thrawn, so I find it interesting that he is showing up now.  Granted, it's been about 25 years since I read them, so I don't remember anything about them.

Buddy Games – I think a team having to lose one member is the worst part of the whole thing.  I’d rather the entire team go than just one.  And it seems like the sabotage is pretty brutal.  I’m hoping that some team overcomes it at some point.  Not surprised that OK was targeted.  I would have done the same had I been there.

The Challenge USA – About time that vets had to play again.  Kind of glad to see Wes go.  He was so arrogant.  And, as I say, I liked the fact that vets were at risk again.  Cassidy, on the other hand, was a bit over the top.  But the fall out next week could be interesting.

Friday, September 22, 2023

September 22nd's Friday Post

As I posted Monday, I had a computer crash Sunday morning, taking my reviews for the week with it.  A friend was helping me with it, and he came over Thursday to open up the back - and that made it work again.  I've saved copies of reviews so at least next week is covered.  Hopefully, this means things are back to normal, but I haven't posted anything all week.  Next week will be all books as I catch up.

But the joy of a Friday post is that didn't need any files, so this post could still happen as planned no matter what.

As usual, I will be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56 (on hiatus)
Book Blogger Hop

This week, I'll be pulling quotes from Mrs. Claus and the Trouble with Turkeys by Liz Ireland.

This is the fourth book in the Mrs. Claus Mystery series.  It was pure delight as it always is.  If you are new to the series, yes, the main character is Mrs. Claus, and the series is set at the North Pole.  Our Mrs. Claus has only been married to Santa for a couple of years after they met in Oregon, so she has been introducing some new traditions to the North Pole, like Thanksgiving in this book.

Here's how the book begins:

Gobbles had vanished.
When I looked inside the fancy turkey cage Salty the groundskeeper had built outside Castle Kringle, the wrong bird stared back at me.

And yes, Gobbles is the turkey that was supposed to be their Thanksgiving dinner.  Nothing like jumping right into part of the mystery, right?

Meanwhile, on page 56, the Clauses are heading to a pre-Thanksgiving potluck.  April has prepared some festive deviled eggs.  Pamela is her mother-in-law, who doesn't seem to always get what April is doing:

With ingredients available in the kitchen, I was able to do a fair approximation of the recipe I'd found to fashion deviled eggs that looked like little turkeys.
Now, like a proud artist giving a preview of a painting, I pulled the foil covering back to reveal one of the eggs on the platter. Pamela's eyes widened in surprise. "Oh my goodness."
I frowned. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing - I just wasn't expecting an egg to stare back at me."

The book's official release date is Tuesday, and the plan is to have a release day review.

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

Has reading helped you become a better person?

I'd like to think so.  Although, since I read so many mysteries, it's not the same as if I were reading non-fiction.  If nothing else, I have some added trivia in my mind from all the books I've read.

Monday, September 18, 2023

We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties....

 My review for this week are written.  And edited.  (Yes, I do edit my reviews, and errors still slip in.)

However, when I booted up my laptop Sunday morning, it crashed within a couple of minutes and I can't get it to start up again.  And my last back up was last Sunday, before I wrote those reviews (and at least three others).

At the moment, I have a friend who is going to come take a look Monday night.  I have another friend who may be able to help.  But who knows when I will have access to that stuff again.  And I might be buying a new laptop, too.  (I got my last one up and running again thinking it would be better than nothing, but it's so slow it's just barely better than nothing.)

All this to say that my review schedule for the week is going to be...flexible.  (If only I had scheduled them Saturday night.)  The reviews will show up eventually.  Please be patient.


Sunday, September 17, 2023

September 17th's Sunday/Monday Post

Welcome to this week's 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?

Not too much of excitement happens around here this week.  The weather is definitely cooling off, unfortunately.  We are in the low 80's or upper 70's for the highs.  I'm not ready to say goodbye to summer!  Although it was nice to open up my condo several days this week.

I've met my deadlines at work for quarter end close, which is fantastic and a weight off my mind.  I'm just vegging this weekend.

Blog Spam Comment of the Week:

Time for another fun/funny blog spam comment.  This one was on an old book review from about 4 years ago.  Maybe by leaving the comment on one that old they thought it would slip by and show up?  As always, all spelling and punctuation is theirs, although I did edit the is between the < >'s.

keep up the great work, just shared this with my friend <unrelated product link removed> . Good luck with your future endeavours.Nice post mate

I think I liked this one since it randomly put the product link right in the middle, which isn't usually what happens.

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Sunday/Monday Post
Monday - Ornament Review: Oliver and Dodger
Tuesday - Book Review: Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas by Vicki Delany
Wednesday - Movie Review: Truth or Dare
Thursday - Book Review: The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair
Friday - Friday Post featuring Mrs. Claus and the Trouble with Turkeys
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

I bought quite a few books that were on sale for Kindle during the last week of August I haven't talked about yet.  Add to that the other random books I've gotten and I have quite a few books I haven't confessed to getting yet.  I think I'm going to cover half of my list this week and then talk about more next week.  For some reason, I worry that I won't have books to talk about some week in this section.  I know, I know, I'm a comedian.

The first book I want to talk about is The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly.  Really, I should have included it last week when I was talking about Bouchercon - not because I bought it there but because I got the audio version to listen to on my way down and back.  This was actually a relisten, the last I'll have to do with Michael Connelly's books since I started at the beginning and decided to listen to all of them in order, and I'm anxious to move forward and find out what happens next for these characters.  It had been long enough since the first time I'd read this book that I'd forgotten most of the plot points, so it was fantastic to see what happened all over again.

Meanwhile, Saturday morning, I snagged my ARC of Sugar Plum Poisoned, the fifteenth Cupcake Bakery Mystery from Jenn McKinlay.  It's a good thing I got it since I am planning to start it about a week from now.  This is obviously a Christmas entry in the series.  I love the series, so I'm anxious to see what happens next to the characters.

So let's get to some of these sale books.  Sadly, the sales are over at this point.  Sorry.

The first is the Silicon Valley Mysteries Boxed Set.  This is the first three books by Marc Jedel.  I actually have a Kindle version of the first book already, and I haven't read it yet.  But this was such a good deal I couldn't pass it up.  Now, hopefully I like it when I get to it.  I just need to figure out when that might be.

At the start of the year, I was going to make a point of reading a book I have by Ann Claire under one of her earlier pen names.  All of her series have sounded good, but I haven't had a chance to read them yet.  Then Dead and Gondola, the first in her newest series, went on sale.  Another author I hope I enjoy, but I need to figure out when I will get a chance to read.  This series features an enchanting sounding bookstore.

Let's make it three in a row.  I know I have the first in author Colleen Cambridge's series featuring Agatha Christie's maid as a main character.  But I was also interested in Mastering the Art of French Murder, the first in a series that stars a friend of Julia Child.  And then it went on sale, so I snagged it.  I've got to admit, I'll probably prioritize this one over the author's other series since it's the only book in the series so far.  It's nice not to be behind.

Finally, for this week, we have another October ARC.  Hunters of the Dead features the return of Steven Hockensmith's Holmes on the Range series.  I've been a fan of this series since it was originally in print, and it's gone through several different publishers over the years.  The series stars two brothers who are cowboys in the American west in the late 1800's.  They've also found some of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and the older brother has taken to Holmes' "detectifying" methods, which has helped them solve some fun and interesting cases.  I don't know what this book is about yet, and I don't care.  I'm just looking forward to spending more time with the characters.

What I'm Currently Reading:

As I'm typing this on Saturday, I've just started Mrs. Claus and the Trouble with Turkeys, the fourth Mrs. Claus Mystery by Liz Ireland.  I love this series, so I'm looking forward to getting more than 25 pages into the book.  (Told you I'd just started it.)  As you probably guessed, this one involves the first time that Santaland decides to celebrate Thanksgiving.  So far, we have a missing turkey.  And I know murder is coming.  How they tie together, I have yet to figure out.

This is my final September book.  Kind of crazy that I am thinking of finishing up September books already.  But I have lots of October ARCs lined up, so I won't complain about getting a jump on my October reading.

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

Saturday, September 16, 2023

September 16th's Weekly TV Thoughts

American Ninja Warrior – Obviously, I root for Joe.  But right behind him is Daniel Gil.  I was thrilled when he made it to the top of the rope, but then he lost to Vance Walker.  If he had to lose to anyone, I’m glad it was Vance.  I really do like him, and his story is so inspiring.  Congrats to him!

Ahsoka – I think I would have enjoyed this one better if I had the background on these characters.  The flashbacks weren’t that interesting to me.  I am interested to see where they go next week, however.

Buddy Games – I love the games.  I think I like the concept, as long as the teams don’t start annoying me.  How would you pick one member of your team to go home?  My hat is off to the guy who stepped down.  I’d have such a hard time doing that since I would want to play all the games.

The Challenge USA – I get being upset when you are sent into the arena.  But don’t flail all around.  Seriously, that’s the worst thing you could do.  Also, why are the vets suddenly safe again?  They were smart targeting them early on.  Why did they stop doing that?  I mean, when everyone is doing an individual vote, they could target them.  I know that, unless no vets win, targeting them at that part is a non-starter.  But everyone else could aim for them later.

Friday, September 15, 2023

September 15th's Friday Post

We made it through another week!  That calls for celebration with this week's Friday post, where I will be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

NOTE: Friday 56 is currently on hiatus.  Hopefully, it's a short one.  I'm going to keep doing it (and linking to the host, Freda's Voice), at least for the time being.

Having said that, my teasers for the first three are coming from Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas by Vicki Delany.

This is the sixth in the Year-Round Christmas Mysteries, and it is the first in several years and the first with a new publisher.  As a fan, I was happy to have it back.

Here's how this new book begins:

There are two types of people in the world: those who love picnics and those who hate them. The picnic-loving camp can then be divided once again into two further types: those who love winter picnics and those who do not.

You can count me among the picnic lovers who hate winter picnics.  Granted, I don't like to do much outside when it is cold, period.  And I realize that what I consider cold in Southern California is warm compared to much of the world.

Moving along to 56% of the eARC I read, we find this:

His eyes narrowed and he turned to look at her. I wasn’t sure if he was getting suspicious at the direction her chatter was taking, or if he was simply not interested in standing in the cold engaging in said chatter.

I know the book is currently out on a blog tour, but it's official release date is this coming Tuesday.  That's when I will have my review.

Now it's time to turn to this week's Book Blogger Hop.  The question is:

How long does it usually take you to finish a book?

Naturally, this does depend on how long the book is.  The books I read typically average 300 pages.  I plan to read 100 pages a day on week days, so that's three days.  Sometimes, I'll get into a book or it will be shorter, and I'll finish it off in two days.  A longer book will take me longer to finish, obviously.  Depending on what else is going on over a weekend, I don't always read as much.  Backwards, I know since I don't have to work.  I try to get at least 100 pages in between the two days, so I can keep on pace with two books a week.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Book Review: Murder Off the Books by Tamara Berry (By the Book Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters, story, laughs
Cons: Some laughs didn’t quite work; needless political comments
The Bottom Line:
Serial killer
Who in the village killed him?
More laughs and fun here

Grand Opening, Book Launch, and Murder

I’ve enjoyed the absurd mysteries in the By the Book Mysteries from Tamara Berry.  The things that her character finds in this small Eastern Washington town are crazy in a fun way.  So I was happy when I had the chance to pick up Murder Off the Books, the third in the series.

This series features bestselling author Tess Harrow who relocated from Seattle after she inherited a cabin and hardware store from her grandfather.  She’s turned the hardware store into a bookstore, and it is ready to open just in time for the launch of her newest thriller, based on what happened while they were renovating the store.  Tess is planning to celebrate the two events at the same time, and her teen daughter, Gertrude, is helping with the catering.

The last thing Tess expected was her mother to show up in town.  Close on Bee’s heels is her new, much younger boyfriend, Levi, who just happens to be an accused serial killer preying on older women who has been let out on a technicality.  Tess goes into panic mode, naturally, but the next morning Levi is the one who is dead.  With the podcaster who made her name on Levi’s case in town and pointing fingers at Tess and Bee, she has no choice but to jump in and solve things.  Can she figure out what is really happening?

I know what you’re thinking.  I promised something wacky, and this doesn’t sound that wacky.  I’ll admit, this wasn’t quite as out there as the first two books, but this does have a few unusual twists that make for a fun and different story.  But, in the context of the book, everything works and makes perfectly logical sense.  That includes the climax, which wraps everything up nicely but teases what could be a wild next adventure for the gang.

Speaking of the characters, we have quite an assortment of them, and they add to the fun.  Tess’s mother makes a great addition to the cast here, and all the regulars are up to their usual antics.  Likewise, the suspects kept me guessing.

I do have to point out the inclusion a few times of some needless political comments in the narration.  If they had been left out, we would have had the exact same book.  I feel like they were put in so the author could show she was attuned to the current movements.  I’m talking about only a handful of lines, but they threw me out of the story and made me roll my eyes.

As with previous books in the series, the book had plenty of humor, and I found myself laughing at the characters, their interactions, and the situations they found themselves in.  Maybe I’m getting used to their antics or it was my mood, but I didn’t find the book quite as funny as the first two.  Part of that was because I found some of the character interactions that are supposed to be funny a little annoying at times.  Again, this could just be me, and it is minor.

The first couple of books have had some pretty dramatic implications for the characters.  The author does a great job of mentioning where the characters are now without outright spoiling the plots of the earlier books.  Still, by necessity, some spoilers are teased here.  Keep that in mind if you decide to jump in here.

Overall, I enjoyed visiting Tess and the rest in Murder Off the Books.  If you are looking for a light, fun series, you’ll be glad you picked up these books.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Movie Review: Rampage (2018)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Effects, laughs, nods to the video game
Cons: Thin characters and plot
The Bottom Line:
Giant animals
Causing lots of destruction
Forgettable film

“You Do Know There Are Other Ways of Dealing with People, Right?”  “That’s No Fun.”

I probably would have skipped Rampage except for two things.  First, it starred Dwanye Johnson, and I'm finding that I really enjoy his movies.  Second, I really enjoyed the video game the movie is based on (and I use the term loosely).  Okay, so I never played it much, and I was never that good at it, but it was still fun.  Granted, that still wasn't enough to get me to see the movie in the theater, so I checked it out on Blu-Ray.

The movie focuses on Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), an expert on primates, who is currently working with the primates in San Diego.  He has a special bond with George, an albino gorilla, who he saved from poachers.

However, one day, he comes into work to find that something strange his happening to George.  He's escaped from his enclosure and attacked other animals.  And he's growing.  Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) might have the answer.  But even if she is right, is there a cure?  And what about the rumors of a wolf also growing?

Now, I will give the movie this, it had an extremely thin premise to build a full-length movie from.  (Then again, maybe that is a sign that it wouldn't work as a movie.)  While it ignored some things from the game, like the monsters being mutated humans, it kept many things, like the monsters’ names.  It even provided a plausible reason for the monsters to be in Chicago wreaking havoc.

But plausible doesn't translate to compelling for a movie.  Let's face it, this is just an excuse to provide some thrills from a monster movie and over the top action.  It's meant to be a mindless movie, and it pretty much succeeds at being mindless.  The problem is it is a little too mindless for me.  Yes, the action was fun, but I expect something compelling between the action to keep me invested.

The real flaw of the movie is the lack of character development.  They are all paper thin, just there to give us some dialogue so we can understand the monsters going on a rampage.  Having said that, I did love the twist they gave us with Harvey Russell, Jeffrey Dean Morgan's character.  Of course, that twist served the plot best.  And I'm not blaming the actors for any of this.  The monsters are the star; they are doing the best they can.

Since the monsters are the star, it is imperative that the effects be top notch, and they are.  That's not surprising these days, of course.

Everything I've said so far makes it sound like I hated it.  That's not completely true.  There are some fun moments, like the many winks to the video game.  As a fan, I enjoyed those.  Some of the lines will make you laugh, as well.  It's just that this film is instantly forgettable.  It's not good; it's not bad.  It just is.

I don't regret seeing the movie, but I also don't regret skipping it in the theater.  If you can catch it cheaply sometime, you might enjoy it, but there's no need to Rampage out to see it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Book Review: Fahrenheit 501 by Diane Vallere (Samantha Kidd #12)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun plot, strong characters, great laughs
Cons: One aspect of the plot is needlessly confusing early on
The Bottom Line:
Samantha and jeans
A fashion society
A fun mystery

Are Jeans a Motive for Murder?

Despite the fact that I’ve never been into fashion (I’m a guy, what can I say?), I’ve enjoyed the Samantha Kidd Mysteries.  The heroine of Diane Vallere’s series has made a career out of fashion.  Since I at least know a little about jeans, I was looking forward to seeing how they fit into Samantha’s world in Fahrenheit 501.  The result, as always, was fun.

Samantha Kidd is both thrilled, anxious, and surprised when she is invited to join a secret fashion society in her town of Ribbon, Pennsylvania.  She wants to make a good impression, but that is a little hard to do when she knows absolutely nothing about them.  She hadn’t even heard of them before.

Samantha’s interview ends when she finds an elderly member of the group lying dead under a pile of jeans.  Unfortunately, the police think it was murder.  Despite not being a full member yet, Samantha’s pending membership means she can snoop around the group, but will she turn up a killer?  And what do the jeans on the victim mean?

I’ll admit, the purpose of the group, to preserve fashion by memorizing it and passing it down to the next generation, stretched plausibility a little, at least for me.  Oh yes, I get the connection with the title, but still.  Then again, I do some things others consider wacky, so I just rolled with it.  Besides, it’s not that much worse than other things that Samantha has found herself involved in.

Plus it did set up a fantastic plot.  I was very interested in what Samantha was going to uncover, and the twists kept me confused until she stitched all the pieces together at the end.  One aspect of the plot seemed to keep changing details, which is a common complaint of mine with this author.  But it was kept to that one part of the plot, and the further into the book we got, the more consistent it got.

Since this is book twelve in the series, we know Samantha and the other series regulars well.  We got to see the core characters again, and I loved their interactions.  I was also happy to see a couple of characters we haven’t seen for several books pop back up.  The new characters do their job of keeping us guessing, meanwhile, we see more growth for Samantha.

As always, there are plenty of laughs.  I love Samantha’s sense of humor, which comes through in her first-person narration and the dialogue with the other characters.

And jeans?  Well, I’m not going to spoil anything, but we did get a bit of history on the garment.  Not surprisingly, I learned a lot about it.  But at least I recognized some of the company names mentioned here for a change.

Overall, Fahrenheit 501 is another fun case for Samantha Kidd to solve.  No matter your relationship with fashion, you’ll find yourself turning pages quickly to find out just how things turn out.

Here are the rest of the Samantha Kidd Mysteries in order.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Ornament Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - 2023 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great recreation of the sixth book cover
Cons: Their faces look a little off.
The Bottom Line:
The sixth book cover
More Harry Potter magic
Now as ornament

The Sixth Harry Potter Book Cover is Certainly Memorable

We are now up to the sixth ornament in the Harry Potter books ornament series.  That means, the ornament is based on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  And it means, fans will be green with envy if they don’t get it.

Yeah, I’m only partially sorry about that pun.  For those not familiar with the books, this cover was mostly green with a little purple thrown in as well.  That’s because it reflects the light coming from the pensieve that Harry and Professor Dumbledore are standing in front of.  And that is that you ask?  It’s a devise for holding memories so you can view them and look for patterns.  You can also use it to share those memories with others, which is what Dumbledore does in the story multiple times, giving Harry the backstory he needs to understand how to completely destroy Voldemort once and for all.

And that is the picture on the cover of the book, therefore it’s what we have on the ornament.  We can see Dumbledore and Harry looking into the pensieve.  Harry is holding a wand.  Dumbledore has his hand over the pensieve.

What makes these ornaments fun is that they covers are partially 3D.  In this case, both of the characters and the pensieve are partially coming out of the cover of the ornament.  Dumbledore’s hand is really sticking out.  While I would have liked these ornaments even if they were just the covers, I found I liked this aspect even more.

Unfortunately, both of the characters look a little odd in this ornament.  Harry looks only slightly odd, but Dumbledore really looks off.  I think it is trying to capture how the characters should look with the light shining on them.  Overall, this is a minor complaint, but I wish they looked better.

These aren’t faithful recreations of the Harry Potter book covers.  Most noticeably, J. K. Rowling’s name is missing.  But since that part of the cover is now 3D, it would make it hard to include it.  It’s a nice tribute to the cover in another medium, however.  In a fun touch, the back of the book’s cover is on the back of the ornament.

The key thing for me is that this ornament makes me smile thinking of the books.  And wishing I had time to read them again.  If only.

Being a recreation of a book, the ornament does stand on its own.  I wouldn’t want it out where it would be hit or bumped easily, however.

The ornament does tip forward ever so slightly, but it is only noticeable if you are looking for it, and by the time you get tree branches around it, you won’t really notice.

Speaking of trees, this ornament might blend in a little with a green tree.  (I haven’t put this one on my tree yet since it just came out two months ago.)  However, this isn’t the ornament’s fault.  They had to stick with the colors of the book jacket.

I mentioned at the start that this is part of a series.  Actually, it’s an unofficial series, which means that Hallmark doesn’t include their series marker on it.  But at this point, I will be very shocked if we don’t get the final book next year.

Fans of Harry Potter have been enjoying these book ornaments.  I know I have.  As such, I expect that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will be another popular ornament this year.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

September 10th's Sunday/Monday Post

It's the weekend, so that must mean it is time for another 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 took last week off from this post, and I have a good reason.  A good bookish reason, in fact.  Last weekend was Bouchercon, an international mystery convention.  And it happened to be in San Diego, which is within driving distance for me.  Unfortunately, I couldn't go down for the entire thing.  It was killing me that I couldn't.  But it was the start of quarter end close, and I couldn't miss work.  Yes, I did ask, and my boss and I did talk about ways it might have worked.  But I just had too much to do.

I did take off early afternoon on Friday, however.  I'm assuming I missed the worst of the traffic doing that, although it still took me longer than it should have.  I was there all day Saturday.  I went to a few panels and got to meet some new to me authors.  I got to meet some authors for the first time, which was fantastic.  And I got to catch up with other authors I I haven't seen for a years.  Would I have liked to be down there for the full time?  Absolutely.  Was this better than nothing?  Absolutely!

Plus, I got to stop at the Pit Stop Diner on my way home for lunch.  If you are ever in Oceanside, go find it.  It's fun.

I did have last Monday off, and I slept in.  Actually woke up in time to play some ultimate Frisbee in the morning, which meant I got to see a friend who was in town and hang out with another friend I don't spend that much time with any more.  Both of those were great things.

Other than that, it's been work.  I even worked a couple of hours Saturday to get something off my plate that I wasn't sure I'd be able to get done.  I think I can handled the rest of my deadlines now, so I am feeling more relaxed about the next week and a half.  But I do resent having to work today.

Of course, the reason I was able to do that is because game day was cancelled.  The hosts couldn't be in town, so we are skipping this month.

I did go down to see Peter Pan Goes Wrong in downtown Los Angeles Friday night.  While it's been playing here in LA, they've brought in some big name actors to be the narrator, and this weekend is the last with Daniel Dae Kim guest narrating.  I was a fan of Lost (until it ended), but I also knew him from the short lived Babylon 5 spin off Crusade.  There were some things I could have done without, but overall, it was funny.  I'm glad I went.

Pun of the Week:

The best golfers always wear two pairs of pants just in case they get a hole in one.

This Past Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Movie Review: Napa Ever After
Monday - Book Review: Pink Lemonade Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
Tuesday - Ornament Review: Ariel Miniature Ornament
Wednesday - Book Review: Bring the Light by J. R. Sanders
Thursday - TV Show Review: The Flash - Season 9
Friday - Friday Post Featuring Murder Off the Books
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Sunday/Monday Post
Monday - Ornament Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Tuesday - Book Review: Fahrenheit 501 by Diane Vallere
Wednesday - Movie Review: Rampage
Thursday - Book Review: Murder Off the Books by Tamara Berry
Friday - Friday Post
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul - Bouchercon Edition

I went on a book buying spree before Bouchercon.  Lots of digital deals that are now old.  So I'll talk about them in coming weeks.  This week, I'm just going to talk abut the four books I got at Bouchercon.

That's right, I only got four.  But considering only one of them was on my radar to buy that weekend before I arrived, that's three spontaneous purchases.  If I'd been there the entire time?  I'm sure it would have been much worse.

The one book I definitely planned to buy?  Killin' Time in San Diego, the short story anthology released at the convention.  I missed the signing event for it, but I was still happy to get it.  Do I ever read these anthologies?  No.  Did I want to get it?  Absolutely.

Two of the books I got despite not seeing the authors or getting them autographed.  They were there somewhere in the 1700 attendees.  And I missed their panels since I wasn't there the entire time.  But both were on my radar before the convention, just not to buy that weekend.

And Chaos at Carnegie Hall by Kelly Oliver was on sale.  You know how I can't pass up a sale on a book I'm interested in.  This is a historical that takes us to 1917 New York City, and I've been eyeing it for a while.

Tragedy in Tahoe by Rachele Baker just came out a few weeks ago.  A cozy set around Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border?  I'm definitely interested.

The last book I bought as a result of a panel.  Lawrence Allan was on a humorous mysteries panel, and I enjoyed listening to him.  Actually, it was a fun panel all the way around (which isn't always the case with a humorous panel, I've found).  The main character is a former child star turned PI in Los Angeles.  I'll admit, the title gives me pause, Big Fat F@!K-Up.  But I bought it anyway.  We'll see if I can get past the language when I read it, right?

What I'm Currently Reading:

I had hoped to finish up Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas by Vicki Delany by Saturday night.  I'm enjoying it, but I thought I had read enough I'd be able to finish it.  Instead, I've been fairly lazy and haven't gotten to it yet.  There's still time to finish it tonight, right?

Whether I finish that book Saturday or not, the next book up will be The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair.  I've been intrigued by these books since I first heard of them, so I'm anxious to finally be able to read one.  They feature two women who set up a match making agency in post World War II London.  Of course, they are mysteries, but I want to see what the author does with the premise.

Have a good week.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

September 9th's Weekly TV Thoughts

American Ninja Warrior – Joe’s out?  No!  Okay, so I know that not everyone makes it past level 2, and this new format makes it so more can.  But I feel like he was racing and that made him fall.  I knew I’d react this way if a favorite got out.  Another couple of shocking exits, too.  At least Daniel has made it on to stage 4.

Ahsoka – Tell me there’s a plan.  And this was really all part of it.  Because I feel like we are currently without hope.  Which is right where we should be at the mid-point of the show.  A little uneven, but overall, this is a good show pacing wise, as well.  I’m looking forward to seeing where things go next.

The Challenge USA – The alliances are pretty much breaking down the way I thought they would.  Got to hand it to Tyler standing up like he did and going into the final challenge.  And what a challenge!  I was tired just watching it.  In the first challenge, I thought everyone was going to have their own puzzle to work on.  I’m amazed at just how many people shared answers.  People on these shows sure do seem to forget that things are individual when the times comes.

Friday, September 8, 2023

September 8th's Friday Post

It's Friday, so it's time for a Friday Post.  I'll be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

This week, the teaser for the first three will be coming from Murder Off the Books by Tamara Berry. 

This is the third book in the By the Book Mysteries.  They are delightfully wacky, and this was no exception.  You can get a sense of the humor from the snippets I'm going to share.

Okay, so I'm sharing more than a snippet from the opening.  But, really, with this beginning, I can't just share any less.

Gertrude's corpse lay at an unnatural angle on the floor of the Paper Trail bookstore.  Her pale skin glowed eerily under the lights, her deathly pallor made starker by the winged liner that circled her eyelids like a burlesque raccoon.  No one in the store could discern the cause of her death, but it was obvious to any trained eye that-
"Ouch.  I think there's a rock under my hip.  Wait a sec."

Yes, that is Gertrude talking there.  If you want to find out more, you'll have to get the book.

But I'm not done teasing yet.  There's also this from page 56:

Tess wasn't the only person to feel slighted by the sheriff's inclusion of Neptune Jones in what was likely to prove the most thrilling murder this town had seen since, well, the last murder.

I finished the book earlier this week, and I enjoyed it.  Look for my review next Thursday.

This week, the Book Blogger Hop is wading into some controversial waters with the question:

 Do you agree that libraries should ban books?

And I realize my answer is not going to be very popular, but here goes.

First of all, if a library doesn't have a book on its shelves, the book is not banned.  As long as you can buy it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble or any other book seller, the book is not banned.  Period.  Let's stop using this term to mean something it doesn't mean.

Second, libraries make choices every single day about what books they are going to include in their collections.  They have to because, like us, they have budgets to consider and space limitations.  Obviously, they are looking at what they think people will check out.

Right now, the controversial books are pornography.  If you think I'm exaggerating, look at the books in question.  I have.  And then think about the age of the kids served by school libraries where the controversaries are swirling.  Yes, libraries should take into consideration the appropriateness of the content for the ages of their customers.  And we should be able to discuss what ages a book is appropriate for without any name calling.

So yes, I do think libraries should take the content of books into consideration when they consider purchasing books for their collections.  It should be one of many factors that they consider.

But it is not banning books.  As long as you can purchase the book for yourself, it is not banned.  Period.

Keep in mind that if you look at the stories of "banned books," you'll see books on the lists were the parents objected to their child and their child only reading a book in class.  In those cases, the parents said nothing about any other kids reading the book.  Yes, I know this is far afield from the question of the week, but it is important to include that context when looking at the topic of banned books.

The choice of using the term banned books when this conversation comes up is on purpose.  (And I'm talking about the general conversation, not this week's question.)  Instinctively, who is in favor of banning books.  Knee jerk reaction, we all say "No, I'm not in favor of banning books."  And they lead with the most ludicrous examples they can find to make it seem laughable.  But when you really look into it, you'll see that there are some serious issues that need to be discussed in a calm, rational manner.  And we need to search for compromise.  Much of this is designed to be a smoke screen for some real issues that should be addressed.  And that's why this subject clearly riles me up.

Okay, deep breath.

I hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

TV Show Review: The Flash - Season 9

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: A couple of episodes and some other moments
Cons: The rest is a mess
The Bottom Line:
Flash – final missions
Disappointing for this fan
Has subpar writing

“Is It Always This Crazy?”  “Well, It’s a Wednesday.”

Honestly, I would have been fine with The Flash ending at the end of season eight.  I hadn’t been enjoying the show for several years, which is a shame because it was so much fun when it started out.  And season eight wrapped things up well.  But we got a short season 9 that did nothing to help the legacy of the show.

This season finds Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Grant Gustin), and Iris West-Allen (Candice Patton) preparing for the next stage of their lives.  Oh, Iris might not be pregnant yet, but they know it is coming soon from the time traveling that has happened over the course of the show.  Barry is ready to embrace it, but Iris is a bit upset that they are just playing into their futures.  Meanwhile, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) has made a decision that impacts his relationship with Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) and Chester and Allegra (Brandon McKnight and Kayla Compton) work toward their own relationship.

And yes, there are villains.  Honestly, we once again get a couple of smaller arcs.  They are okay, but nothing spectacular.

Now, this is going to be a negative review (as if you hadn’t figured that out already), but I am going to say there were a couple of episodes I really did enjoy.  The season opener was fun even if it is a familiar plot device, especially in the Arrowverse.  We also revisited the pivotal season one storyline of what happened to Barry’s mom for an episode, and I really liked it.  Yes, even though we’ve been there multiple times.

I will also give them this, they do a good job of bringing back many actors from this show.  They also work in Olive Queen and Diggle, although I’ll admit to being disappointed by that episode overall.

Part of the problem with this season involves the actors.  Oh, I’m not saying that they were bad at acting this season.  They are all still doing their best with the material they are given – it’s just that the material is subpar.

No, what I’m talking about is the actor’s desire to do something different.  In the case of Jesse L. Martin, he wanted to do another show, so he only does a handful of episodes this season.  That’s his choice (this is a job, after all, and we all change jobs), but the way the writers handled it was poor.  I’m more bothered by the writers’ choices than his choice.

Likewise, original cast member Danielle Panabaker wanted to play someone new.  On this show, that’s a possibility, but the way the writers handled it was absolutely horrible.  Seriously, they weren’t even trying.

Then there’s the characters brought in from other shows.  Batwoman (Javicia Leslie) plays a part in the opening arc.  I felt like we had a good send off for her character on her show even if it was cancelled without much warning.  Dreamer from Supergirl (Nicole Maines) also shows up so we can get an update on her even though Supergirl got a final season to wrap up the characters.  While both of these shows were part of the Arrowverse, they weren’t a direct spin off of The Flash like Legends of Tomorrow was, at least when it first began.  And you know what we didn’t get?  Any resolution to the cliffhanger on that show.  Since Legends of Tomorrow was my favorite Arrowverse show when it ended, this really hurt, as you can see.

Then there’s the final fight.  All I have to say is, given what we’ve seen over the last nine years, it was way too easy.

All told, season nine consisted of 13 episodes.  There were moments I enjoyed, and a couple of fun episodes, but for the most part, these episodes were immediately forgettable.

If you’ve managed to stick with the show, you’ll want to see how it ends with season 9.  If you’ve enjoyed the last few seasons of The Flash, you’ll probably enjoy this one, too.  But me, I’ll be over here wishing that the wonderful writing of the first few seasons had continued throughout the entire show.