Sunday, April 30, 2023

Reading Challenge: COYER Chapter 2 - Get on Board

It's time for Chapter 2 of this year's COYER challenge.  And this time, it's a game.  I still don't see the game board, but the rules are, we get points for the books we read based on the categories below.

6 spaces: free books (any format, but must be owned by you… no library, subscriptions, etc)

5 spaces: nearly free books. This is less than $1 print/eBook, or $3 audiobooks (still any format, but still must be owned by you… no library, subscriptions, etc)

4 spaces: sale books. This is less than $5 print/eBook, or $7.50 audiobooks (still any format, but still must be owned by you… no library, subscriptions, etc)

3 spaces: library books, ARCs, borrowed books (still any format)

2 spaces: subscription books — KU, Prime, Scribd, Audible+, etc (still any format)

1 space: any book, any format, any LEGAL means of obtaining, any price

I think the biggest problem I'm going to have is remembering how much I paid for some of the books I'll be reading.  Although I do have a lot of ARCs coming up.

But I'll do my best.

I'll add the point value to the side of the books.  And I'll add the game board when I see it.

1. Murder on the Home Front by Jessica Ellicott (3 points)
2. #TagMe for Murder by Sarah E. Burr (3  points)
3. The Black Box by Michael Connelly (3 points)
4. Silence is Golden by Penny Warner (4 points) (I believe I bought this one used, but it's been 20 years)
5. If I Had a Hammer by Teresa Trent (3 points)
6. A Novel Disguise by  Samantha Larsen (3 points)
7. Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson (6 points - gifted to me by a friend)
8. Southern Ghost by Carolyn Hart (3 points)
9. Murder at the Marina by Janet Finsilver (4 points)
10. Tough Luxe by Diane Vallere (5 points)
11. Murder at Sea by Various Authors (3 points)
12. Passport to Spy by Nancy Cole Silverman (3 points)
13. Hot Pot Murder by Jennifer J. Chow (3 points)
14. Murder on Madison Square by Victoria Thompson (1 point)
15. Muddled Matrimonial Murder by Kim Davis (3 points)
16. A Stolen Child by Sarah Stewart Taylor (3 points)
17. Racing the Light by Robert Crais (3 points)
18. Fatal Fudge Swirl by Meri Allen (3 points)
19. Hidden Beneath by Barbara Ross (3 points)
20. Happily Ever After by James Riley (1 point)
21. Hiss Me Deadly by Miranda James (3 points)
22. Charlotte Illes is Not a Detective by Katie Siegel (3 points)
23. The Last Orphan by Gregg Hurwitz (1 point)
24. Gone but Not Forgotten by C. Michele Dorsey (3 points)
25. Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton (3 points)
26. Murder at the Majestic Hotel by Clara McKenna (1 point)
27. Teacher's Threat by Diane Vallere (4 points)
28. Death in a Pale Hue by Susan Van Kirk (1 point)
29. Paint Me a Crime by Holly Yew (1 point)
30. Murder at a London Finishing School by Jessica Ellicott (3 points)
31. A Fatal Groove by Olivia Blacke (3 points)
32. The House Guest by Hank Phillippi Ryan (3 points)
33. A Sense for Murder by Leslie Karst (3 points)
34. The Body in the Cattails by Catherine Dilts (3 points)
35. Murder on Bedford Street by Victoria Thompson (1 point)
36. Death on the Grand Canal by M. A. Monnin (3 points)
37. Claws of Death by Cathy Wiley (3 points)
38. Birder, She Wrote by Donna Andrews (1 point)
39. Halloween Cupcake Murder by Carlene O'Connor, Liz Ireland, Carol J. Perry (3 points)
40. A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver (1 point)
41. Murder in the Wine Country by Janet Finsilver (4 points)
42. Fair Game by Annette Dashofy (1 point)

April 30th's Sunday/Monday Post

Welcome to the start of a new week.  I'll be kicking things off with a Sunday/Monday post, where I will link up to:

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

Some weeks I sit down to write this and not much has happened. Not so this week. 

Sunday, I went back to the LA Times Festival of Books. I met up with a friend this time. It was fun spending time with her since we hadn’t seen each other in a while. Talked to authors as well, although two we’d hoped to talk to didn’t wind up making it after all. 

Wednesday, I went into the office for the first time since March of 2020. It was definitely different, and I had to stop and think a bit about what I had to do. Yes, I’ve been working all this time, but my company isn’t making us come back on a regular basis. Wednesday was a one off for my team to be in person working together. It was nice for a change, but I’m so happy working at home, it was nice to be back to that the rest of the week. 

And I think I’ve finally caught up from the two day off I took to visit my family for Easter. Just in time for month end to start again, especially since I felt that way on Friday at 5.

Friday night, after work, I went to see Newsies. My local theater company put it on. It was closing weekend, so I couldn’t put it off any more. It was great. The two leads, especially were fantastic, but the entire cast was lots of fun.

Saturday morning started out with a paddle at the lake. Then I drove to see a friend who is in the area for the weekend. It was great to catch up with him and his family. 

And I think that about catches you up. 

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Sunday/Monday Post
Monday - April 2023 Reading Summary
Tuesday - Book Review: Murder on the Home Front by Jessica Ellicott
Wednesday - Movie Review: Mission Impossible (1996)
Thursday - Book Review: #TagMe for Murder by Sarah E. Burr
Friday - Book Review: The Black Box by Michael Connelly
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

Just one part to this this week. In fact, I only got one book at the festival on Sunday. I was so busy talking to my friend, I didn’t talk to as many authors, so I didn’t get talked into extra books. The only book I got was Gambling with Murder, which Lida Sideris, the author, gave me. 

Of course, I got other books this week. 

For example, there’s the Halloween novella anthology Halloween Cupcake Murder. I requested this ARC for the Mrs. Claus story by Liz Ireland, but it also has stories by Carlene O’Connor and Carol J. Perry.

I won a book from The Wickeds blog, and it arrived this week. I read the first in the Mystery of Old San Francisco series years ago, but I never moved on to the second. Thanks to Nancy Herriman, I now have a chance to read No Pity for the Dead.

Finally, there’s my pre-order of Murder on Bedford Street by Victoria Thompson. The book came out on Tuesday, and my copy arrived Friday. I’ll be reading it in August. Kind of hard to believe I’m going to be caught up on this series in just a few months.  I started the series a few years ago, and the idea of ever catching up seemed daunting. 

What I’m Currently Reading:

I went into the weekend reading Silence is Golden, the sixth Connor Westphal mystery from Penny Warner. This series features a deaf reporter in CA’s Gold Country. And we are dealing with a potential mini gold rush here. And murder, of course. 

When I finish that, I’ll start in on If I Had a Hammer by Teresa Trent. This is the second in her series set in 1960’s Texas. This particular book picks up in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination. 

Thank that about does it. Have a great week.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

April 29th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Race to Survive: Alaska – So just one team out from leg 2.  I’ll be interesting to see if they are going to keep that record going, or if they will have an elimination because someone was the last to arrive.  I still can’t fathom the woman who is thinking about her brother’s wedding.  She shouldn’t be out there at all.  Clearly, she doesn’t want to be there.  And family is infinitely more important anyway.

Night Court – Maybe it was a case of the heart growing fonder, but I enjoyed this episode.  Yes, it was silly.  Yes, it was pretty predictable.  But it was light and fun, which is really what I look for in a sitcom.  Not surprised they are looking to write Rand out of the show (at least that’s my prediction now) since a fiancĂ© you rarely see never lasts for long on a TV show.

Superman & Lois – Several predictable moments here, but I’m glad to see them.  They were needed character development, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  And I love what they are doing with Lois and Clark this year.  Once again, realistic yet a strong relationship at their core.  As far as Sophie goes, isn’t this the first time we’ve seen her this season?  Or one of the rare ones.  It’s no wonder she feels forgotten – her own family has forgotten about her.  But that twist at the end?  I didn’t see that coming at all.

Gotham Knights – So, if the man who killed Bruce’s parents has been on death row for 50 years, how old was Bruce?  I was picturing him as in his 40’s.  I’m wondering what that line from the nursery rhyme has to do with anything.  I hope the dad really does pull through.  What a crazy final act.  And that last scene.  They sure are playing around with the Two Face revelation, aren’t they?

The Weakest Link – That win should pay for a nice trip to Europe, although I wonder how much will be left over to give to charity. Can’t believe he pulled it off. It really does come down to luck of a good or bad question, doesn’t it?

Will Trent – I was expecting Will to be attacked right as the episode ended.  Should have seen Angie’s abduction coming.  Wow, there was a lot to that episode.  And yes, I should have connected the flashbacks sooner than I did.  I was half way there, but I just couldn’t get it all pieced together until part way through the episode.  Didn’t figure out the connection to Will until near the end.

The Flash – I really was looking forward to this episode.  I loved Arrow for so many seasons and it got me going on all of these shows.  Once again, I felt let down.  It’s just not the same somehow.  I think the ending of Arrow really bothered me more for all of these shows than I thought it would.  That’s at least part of my issue, and bring Oliver back reminded me of that.  I guess I was just expecting something … more from this episode.

Survivor – Going home with someone else’s idol.  Because they were worried about something that isn’t in play.  That’s really got to hurt.  Yam Yam is getting a little full of himself again, isn’t he?  And that tribe can’t stay neutral for long.  They’ve got to start picking sides.  I’m with Carolyn, time to vote out Nick.

True Lies – I wish I’d gotten a chance to watch the movie (I have it recorded) before watching this episode since Tom Arnold guest starred.  But it was still pretty fun seeing him here, and I caught a nod or two.  But seriously, can we get an episode where the two couples don’t bicker the entire way through?  Please?

Friday, April 28, 2023

Novella Review: Arbor Day Can Be Deadly by Ryan Rivers (Bucket List Mysteries #0.5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good characters, mystery, laughs
Cons: Setting up premise creates an uneven pace
The Bottom Line:
Characters meet here
Fun setting up a series
In shorter story

It All Started on Arbor Day

Normally, I’m a strict read in order person. However, I’ve been reading the Bucket List Mysteries in fairly random order, saving Arbor Day Can Be Deadly, the prequel novella, to read around Arbor Day. 

If you haven’t started the series yet, this is definitely the place to start since it introduces us to our protagonists and sets the premise of the series up. 

Sho Tanaka is on leave from his job as a nurse at a Seattle hospital. With time on his hands, he sets out to visit his sister, who has opened a fusion diner in Bluebonnet Hills, Texas. He’s arrived just in time for the town’s annual Arbor Day festivities. As he’s wandering around, he sees some things that make him question what is really going on in this town. But he’s also in the wrong place and wrong time when a confrontation between the acting mayor and the chief of police turns violent. 

Sho is rescued by a bystander who turns out to be Levi Blue, former teen actor and star of the series Tween of the Crime. Levi is in town to check up on his fan museum that he is having built to house his memorabilia, and he drags Sho into figuring out what is going on with it. What will the two uncover about the town?

Since this is a prequel novella but not the first story I’ve read with these characters, I already knew much of the backstory presented here. Even if I hadn’t, I would have found the story a little slow with set up. Don’t get me wrong it was entertaining, but it was a while before the mystery really got started. Think of this as the pilot episode of a tv show – it’s main focus is on introducing you to the characters and set up. This book does that well. 

Because these characters are fun, and this is a charming setting. I enjoyed seeing Sho meet everyone for the first time. The hints of the stories to come are here. 

And this isn’t to say that the mystery was poor. In fact, I got caught up in it, trying to figure out exactly what Sho and Levi were going to uncover. I do think the plot tries to do a little too much with the space it has to work with, but that’s a minor complaint. Things do reach a logical and satisfying climax. 

This is a humorous story, and I laughed multiple times, usually at Levi and his antics. Yet the characters are dealing with some serious issues. It’s an interesting balancing act, and I appreciate how the author balances things. 

As I’ve said, this is a novella. Personally, I find that a little bit of a vague term since they can still vary in length so much. In this case, it was about two-thirds the length of a regular novel, or at least the novels I read. 

If you are remotely interested in this series, the author gives this story away as an ebook to the subscribers of his newsletter. That’s how I got it. So go by his website and sign up today

I’m now up to date on the releases so far, and I’m looking forward to Sho and Levi’s next adventure. If you want to find a new, fun series, check out Arbor Day Can Be Deadly today. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Ornament Review: Count of Cozy - Noble Nutcrackers #4 - 2022 Hallmark Release

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great details, overall fun
Cons: Brown not as appealing as some other colors to me; what exactly makes him cozy?
The Bottom Line:
Counting on cozy
A brown series addition
That’s good if not great

For a Warm Winter’s Night, You Need to Invite the Count of Cozy

I keep saying I’m debating about the Noble Nutcracker ornament series from Hallmark, and I keep buying them.  But seriously, how could I pass up the Count of Cozy?

This ornament is predominantly browns and tans.  His hat looks Russian to me.  It and the cuffs on his sleeves are plush, but the rest of the ornament is plastic.  He’s wearing a coat with some fun designs on it.  In his right hand is a light pole.

Since this is a nutcracker, the lever in the back of the ornament really works, causing a rectangle below his head to open and close.  Since this ornament is plastic, you couldn’t really crack any nuts in it, but that’s true for most nutcrackers these days.  It’s definitely a fun design element.

I’ll admit, brown isn’t one of my favorite colors, so the fact that this is the main pallet for the ornament makes it a little less appealing than some of the others in the series.  However, the details are great with so much to look at.  I’m a little unsure exactly where the cozy comes into play, too.  I do like the ornament overall, however.

The Count is standing on a nice, white circular base with glitter on it, obviously representing snow.  That means you can set the ornament out to be displayed if you don’t want to hang him on your tree.

If you do go to hang him, you’ll find that he tips forward a little bit.  It’s not enough to cause an issue, however, especially when you have tree branches around him.

The series marker, a 4 in a Christmas tree, is on the bottom of the ornament’s stand.

While this isn’t the strongest entry in the series, the Count of Cozy is still a fun addition to my collection.

Enjoy the rest of the Noble Nutcrackers.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Book Review: Murder in Midtown by Liz Freeland (Louise Faulk Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong story and characters
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Office in ashes
With body of boss inside
Strong plot keeps moving

Louise Faces a Hot Second Case

It can get easy for books to slip down my to be read pile.  After enjoying the first Louise Faulk mystery, I bought the second, and left it for two years.  But I recently picked up Murder in Midtown, and I completely enjoyed it.

This is a historical mystery, and it takes us back to 1913 New York City.  Louise is a recent transplant to the city, and she is finding she loves it there.  She’s been working at a publishing company, but after solving a murder earlier in the summer when her roommate’s cousin was killed in their apartment, she has decided to try to join the police.  The department has just opened up to allow a few female cops to join, and Louise is excited to be taking the test.

And that test turns out to be the reason Louise is late to work on the fateful day.  When she arrives, she finds her co-workers standing around outside their burned down building.  Unfortunately, the police find human remain inside the building, that of the younger owner of the company – Guy Van Hooten.

Guy had inherited his part of the business from his father, which meant he wasn’t that interested in it.  It was rare for him to show up before noon.  So what was he doing at work first thing in the morning?  Why didn’t he get out of the fire in time?  With her office burned down, Louise has time on her hands while she awaits the results of her exam to join the police, so she starts to investigate.  Can she find the truth?

Considering the first book in the series had set up Louise working at this publishing company, I was rather surprised when I saw what the premise for book two was going to be.  But it worked and it worked well.  Naturally, most of the suspects had played supporting roles in the first book, which I really enjoyed seeing.  They got more developed since they were no longer background characters, and I had a hard time figuring out what exactly was going on until the end.  There are plenty of other returning characters as well, and I enjoyed spending time with them again.

The mystery is strong, and Louise’s attempts to join the police is equally as strong.  I was surprised by several twists in both storylines, which kept me engaged.  I was always reluctant to set down the book when I had to return to the real world.

There’s yet another fun sub-plot (the book really is packed) involving one of Louise’s friends that brings in a real person.  I got a kick out of that.  It helped bring the world of 1913 to vivid life as I was reading.

I’m sorry that I put off reading Murder in Midtown as long as I did.  There is only one more book in the series, and I hope to get to it sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

TV Show Review: The Mandalorian - Season 3

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some good episodes, visuals
Cons: Some slow episodes, lots of Katee Sackoff
The Bottom Line:
A redemption quest
Kicks off uneven season
Still looks wonderful

“You Had Me at Battle Droids.”

It had been over two years since we had any official episodes of The Mandalorian.  Of course, in that time, I subscribed to Disney+ and watched the first two seasons, so I was finally ready to watch a season live.  Unfortunately, this season was weaker than the seasons we’ve had before.

This season picks up right where…The Book of Boba Fett left off.  You’ll notice how carefully I worded my opening sentence, I hope.  The back half of that show was really more about these characters than Boba Fett, so if you haven’t watched them, you’ll be a little confused when you sit down to start season 3 of this show.  (And why they did things that way is beyond me.)

When this season opens, Din Djarin, aka The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), is a bit lost.  Yes, he and Grogu have been reunited, but he knows that he has broken Mandalorian code and must atone for his transgression of taking off his helmet.  There is only one way to do that – he must bathe in the living waters on the planet Mandalore.  But is the planet even hospitable to life anymore?  What will he find when he arrives?

Honestly, I rather expected this to be the plot of season 3 before I sat down to watch the premier.  As a result, I wasn’t surprised when that is how they started things off.  However, I was pleasantly surprised that the show actually went off in some other directions for much of the season, and in ways that logically flowed of what came before.

We also got to see plenty of old friends along the way, whether that be for cameos or longer, more important guest parts.  It’s always fun to see them.

The exception to that was Gina Carano’s Cara Dune.  They do mentions where she is as the season starts, so at least we get that much closure.  She was my favorite character in the first two seasons, so I was disappointed knowing she wouldn’t be in this season.  However, given where the plot went, I feel like she would have slowed things down.

And the show, naturally, doesn’t need any help with that.  Honestly, that’s been my complaint all along.  The pacing is just too slow at times.  When the show is on and telling good stories, it is wonderful, but when it isn’t, it plods along.

A perfect example of that is the third episode of the season.  It spends almost the entire episode updating us on a character that, too be honest, I don’t even remember.  We didn’t need that information for the rest of the season to make sense, at least in that much detail.  A few sentences of dialog or a couple of scenes could have covered it.  You could skip the bulk of it and just watch the stuff at the beginning and end and be perfectly informed to move forward.

Then there’s the fact that we spend a lot of time around Mandalorians this season.  Lots and lots of time.  My complaint here is that they almost all wear helmets.  That means there will be entire scenes where we don’t see any one actor’s face.  And their armor isn’t always distinct enough to follow who is who, especially if there are several of them in a shot all talking.  When we just have Din Djarin and one or two others in a scene, it works, but an entire group of them is a bit much.

Finally, there’s the fact that Katee Sackoff’s Bo-Katan Kryze is a major character this season.  I’ve never been a fan of the actress, and her work here does little to change my mind.  I did find it watchable, but that is about all.

The rest of the cast is fantastic, however.

And Grogu continues to steal the show.  He’s getting more powerful, which is fun, but he’s still as mischievous as ever.

The series continues to look amazing.  The special effects are outstanding, and the sets and locations are wonderful.  If you just want to watch the visuals, you will not be disappointed.

I do have to touch on the sixth episode of the season.  It guest stars Christopher Lloyd, Jack Black, and Lizzo, and many fans hated it.  Personally, I thought it was one of the stronger episodes of the season.  It had a standalone plot that was strong and led into scenes that were important for the overall season plot.  But the side quest that our characters had to go on was so much fun.  No, we don’t need the special guest stars, but they didn’t pull me out of the episode.  I just had fun with it from start to finish.

There continues to be enough that I enjoy to draw me to The Mandalorian.  However, I found season 3 to be average overall.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Book Review: “X” by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #24)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun spending time with Kinsey
Cons: Lower stakes, one story has rushed ending
The Bottom Line:
Triple the stories
Keep Kinsey plenty busy
Close to series end

This X Marks an Enjoyable Story

While I wasn’t reading the Kinsey Millhone series before the twenty-fourth book in the series came out, I was aware of it, and I paid attention to each title to see what word author Sue Grafton would pair with that letter of the alphabet.  Naturally, I was wondering what she would do for “X.”  Turned, out, she let it stand alone, with works well for a mystery series, right?

As any fan of the series will tell you, Kinsey Millhone is a PI in Santa Teresa, a very thinly disguised Santa Barbara, California.  While the books were written over roughly 35 years, Kinsey stays firmly in the 1980’s, when the first book in the series came out.  For this book, we are in early 1989.

Before I get to my teaser, I do want to issue a warning: don’t read the official teaser for the book.  Usually, when there is a book in a series I regularly read, I don’t bother with it, and I’m very glad I went into this book blind.  The official teaser has some major spoilers, and I would have found this book much less enjoyable waiting for Kinsey to figure out what we’d been told.

Really, there are three stories in this book intertwined to keep Kinsey busy.  In the first, Kinsey and her landlord, Henry, get a new neighbor, who seems adept at manipulating Henry and, by extension, Kinsey.  Meanwhile, Kinsey makes an interesting discovery while digging through the papers of a late PI for the man’s widow who is facing an IRS audit.  Finally, Kinsey is asked to track down a recent parolee by the man’s birth mother.

I know, when you look at it, this doesn’t look like much, does it?  None of these stories are enough to carry a book on their own, but somehow, combined in this book, they work.  Or at least, they did for me.  I got caught up in the story as in unfolded, and the further we got into the book, the more I wanted to know how things were going to be resolved.  While two of the three stories were resolved well, I felt the resolution to the third was a little weak and rushed.  And, honestly, for some of the foreshadowing the Kinsey did early on, I don’t feel like any of these quite worked their way up to the level of danger that the series has had before.

But that’s a minor complaint overall.  It was a pleasant book with plenty to keep me engaged.

Part of that is Kinsey herself.  I love spending time with her, which is no surprise if I am on book twenty-four in the series.  We got some scenes with the series regulars as well as appearances from some of the recurring players as well.  The new characters were well-drawn enough to make me care about the outcome if the stories.

Naturally, being a PI novel, there is more language and a tad more violence than in the cozies I typically read, although in this book it’s mostly four letter words.  Even those are kept to a minimum.

Again, I listened to the audio book.  I’ve gotten completely used to Judy Kaye’s narration at this point, and enjoy letting her pull me further into the book.

“X” isn’t the strongest book in the series, but it is still enjoyable.  If you sit back and enjoy the ride, you’ll find yourself caught up in the story before too long.

Be sure to investigate the rest of the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Disney Pin Review: The Haunted Mansion - Mickey Mouse the Main Attraction #10 - 2022 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Perfectly spooky entry
Cons: Nothing major
The Bottom Line:
Mickey in Mansion
Combines for a spooky pin
Collectors will love

Mickey Makes a Ghostly Visit to The Haunted Mansion

It’s hardly surprising when an attraction themed pin series from Disney lands in The Haunted Mansion in October.  In fact, it’s more surprising to me when they visit it any month other than October.  It makes sense, the attraction is incredibly popular, and October is peak spooky season.  Mickey landed there in the October entry in the Mickey Mouse the Main Attraction series, and it makes for a great pin.

As expected, the predominate colors are a ghostly green.  Mickey’s wearing a dark green suit with a green and purple tie.  He’s taken on a light green skin tone to better blend in with his surroundings.  And he’s wearing a dark top hat with a purple band on it.

One thing that does surprise me about this pin is that no part of it glows in the dark.  I’ve kind of gotten used to that with Haunted Mansion pins, but that isn’t the case here.  Not that it needs it, but it is a fun touch when it is included.

As always, my first criteria is how easy is the attraction to identify from the pin, and in this case, any fan of Disney would know what attraction Mickey’s visiting here.  The color scheme is a dead giveaway, and the costume is just as obvious.  He honestly looks like he is ready to welcome you to The Haunted Mansion.

As a result, I like this pin.  I will continue to wish that we had gotten some different poses in the series, but obviously, that was not to be.  Still, it’s a fun pin for collectors.

Anything related to The Haunted Mansion always sells out quickly, and this pin was no exception.  If you missed it, you’ll have to hunt it down.  But if you are a fan of the attraction or collecting this pin series, you’ll be glad you did.

April 23rd's Sunday/Monday Post

Happy weekend.  Time to gear up for another 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?

As I type this on Saturday night, I'm trying to recover from day 1 of the LA Times Festival of Books.  It was a warm day since the event is mostly outside and it was in the 80's.  It's supposed to be about 10 degrees cooler tomorrow, which I think will be nicer.

Yes, I'm going back tomorrow.  The friend I usually go with could only go on Sunday, but I decided there were some authors only going to be there today I wanted to see, so I'd go both days.

Honestly, I mainly hung out the Mystery related booths.  I know, I know not a shock at all.  I did wander around the rest of the festival, but I didn't see too much that caught my eye.  I'll explore them more tomorrow while there with my friend since she always enjoys looking in them.

The main exception to that was the outdoor interview I went to with Jennifer Garner and Laura Dave.  They were promoting the new Apple TV + series The Last Thing He Told Me, based on Laura's novel of the same name and starring Jennifer.  If I had Apple TV +, I'd be watching since it does sound intriguing, and I've been a Jennifer Garner fan since her days on Alias.  It was very much a mutual admiration society interview.  I get that this was publicity.  I get that they wouldn't have done it if they wouldn't have been a good promotional team.  But still, it was heart warming and made me want to read the book if not watch the show.  No, I didn't buy the book because I'm sure the line would have been super super long to get it signed and I didn't feel like standing around to do that.  But, as a Jennifer Garner fan, it was wonderful to hear her be so positive and warm.

I was wearing the shirt I got for my birthday a couple of years ago that says "Yes, I do Need All These Books."  Naturally, I got lots of positive comments on it all day.

This Past Week on the Blog:

Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Disney Pin Review: The Haunted Mansion - Mickey Mouse the Main Attraction
Monday - Book Review: "X" by Sue Grafton
Tuesday - TV Show Review: The Mandalorian - Season 3
Wednesday - Book Review: Murder in Midtown by Liz Freeland
Thursday - Ornament Review: Count of Cozy
Friday - Novella Review: Arbor Day Can Be Deadly by Ryan Rivers
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul Part 1:

Yes, I'm doing my book haul in two parts this week.  I'm going to talk about the normal books I got (there were too many of them), then I'll talk about the books I got today at the Festival of Books (there were too many of them as well).  Seriously, how am I ever going to catch up on my to be read mountain range if I keep buying this many books?

This part starts out with an audio book from my library.  The Black Box is from Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series.  I'm still slowly trying to catch up.  This one came out 10 years ago, so I might eventually catch up on his books.

Devil's Trill by Gerald Elias has been on my wishlist for a while.  It went on sale for $1.99 on Kindle, and I debated for a while before finally caved and bought it.  A mystery in the world of classical music sounds interesting.  It's still on sale if it intrigues you.

On the blog Chicks on the Case this week, they had a guest post from Damyanti Biswas, author of a thriller set in Mumbai.  It sounded interesting, and only $2.49 on Kindle, so I snagged The Blue Bar.

Finally, I discovered that Kim Davis has a new Cupcake Catering Mystery coming in June.  Because I needed another blog tour/ARC to read in June (I will now only be reading one non-ARC in June), I signed up for the blog tour for Muddled Matrimonial Murder.

(Ironically enough, I don't have a couple of the books I plan to review in June yet because that publisher doesn't send out their promotional emails until the month before, so I will be getting those in a couple of weeks.)

Book Haul Part 2:

So, let's move on to today, shall we?

I was planning to get Entertainment to Die For, the new short story anthology from Sisters in Crime's LA chapter.  I always get these.  I can't remember the last time I read one, but I always get them.

The rest all came from talking to authors.  And not the authors I was planning to talk to today, either.

I started out buying A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames.  I've heard of the book before.  It is set in Texas and featuring a sheriff.

Slivers of Glass by Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger is the first in a historical PI series set in the 1950's in California.  The authors are married, which is fun.  This particular book takes the sleuth up to Santa Rosa, which is where I grew up.  When I realized that, I couldn't resist.

Mike Befeler has been someone I've seen signing for years, but I bought one of his books this time.  Old Detectives Home sounds wacky as old fictional detectives (think Sherlock Homes and Poirot) are in a home with staff of class mystery writers (Dorothy Sayers, etc.).  A murder takes place, and everyone is investigating everyone else.  Seriously, how can I resist something like that?

I almost left but decided to go back and get Yesterday's Echo, the first in Matt Coyle's Rick Cahill series.  It's a very popular and award winning series, but I have thought it might be too dark for me.  Still, he was friendly, and I gave in and decided to give it a chance.

What I'm Currently Reading:

I'm sure it won't surprise you to find out I'm listening to The Black Box.  I got the audio to listen to this weekend.  Oh, I won't get through the entire thing, but I will make a good dent in it.  It's a 45 minute drive one way to the festival for me (an hour coming home tonight), so that gives me so good listening time.  I started it Thursday night, and I'm about 33% into the book right now.

I'm also working on Murder on the Home Front by Jessica Ellicott, my first May book.  It's set in Hull in England in 1940.  I'm about 2/3rd's of the way through it and really enjoying it.  Depending on how Sunday goes, I might even finish it.  I'm hoping so.

If that happens, I will be starting on #TagMe for Murder by Sarah E. Burr, the second in her Trending Topics Mysteries.  I enjoyed the first, so I'm looking forward to seeing what she has in store for the characters in this series next.

Have a great week.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

April 22nd's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Company You Keep – Dad is a lose cannon and is going to cause more trouble.  I like the breakthrough they gave Emma this week, but they upped the stakes again with the villains we are trying to take down.  I don’t see how they are going to wrap everything up in two episodes.  They are going to pack a lot into those episodes.

Race to Survive: Alaska – Seriously, you can show us a team is sick with all the throwing up and the noises before he does.  That’s just disgusting.  At this point, I’m wondering if any of the back teams are going to make it to the check point in time.  (Or do they have another day I’ve missed, I thought they were on the final day.)  But with that injury, I think that team is out.  And the others are sounding ready to quit as well.

Will Trent – I know I’ve been saying that I wouldn’t continue on if the show was picked up for season 2, but I’m beginning to question that.  Maybe it just took a while for the show to find it’s footing.  I was definitely intrigued by the storylines tonight.  I didn’t see how Will was going to save the day, so I was hooked there.  And the storyline with Angie took a turn I wasn’t expecting at all.  I’m not sure I am on board with what she did, but I can at least respect it, which I didn’t think I was going to be able to do when the episode started.

The Weakest Link – I was almost shouting at them during the first round to “bank.”  Then they banked after every question, and I was shouting at them to try to build a chain at least a little.  I was a bit surprised that Jane didn’t give them credit for banking about half of the max in the first round.  Usually, she does.

The Mandalorian – A good climax to this chapter.  But man do they need to have fewer characters who wear masks all the time next season.  It really did become hard to tell everyone apart.  I’ve read that season 4 is written, so I am curious where they are going to go with the show.

Survivor – A very nice blindside.  I guess Yam Yam kept his mouth shut after all.  I’d hate to be in that position to make a decision like that.  And, you see, Race to Survive, if you have to include someone being sick, this is how you do it.  It’s over almost as soon as it starts.  Although I still could have done without hearing it.  Just hearing about it would have been fine.

True Lies – It was feeling like it was a little slow, but obviously, they were saving their budget for the third act with all that action on several fronts.  And it was money well spent, too, since it was fun.  But I’m still wishing they’d be more original with the relationship stuff.  I feel like it is the same thing over and over each week.  Let’s see everyone work as a team from the start.

Friday, April 21, 2023

April 21st's Friday Post

Time for a Friday post, where I will be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

My teasers for the first three will come from Murder in Midtown by Liz Freeland.

This is the second Louise Faulk Mystery.  As you might guess from the cover, it's a historical mystery.  Specifically, it is set in New York City in 1913.  And here's how the book begins:

My forehead broke out in a dewy film of panic.

Nothing like starting a book with panic, right?

At 56% into the ebook, Louise has joined a lawyer to talk to someone that the police have in custody for the crime that Louise is trying to help solve.  That makes it a little hard to find a good teaser without including a spoiler, but I think this will work:

[The lawyer]’s lips flattened into a grim line. “Well, I have plenty to say, and the first and most important thing is that you should talk as little as possible to the police.”
“What am I to do if they ask me questions? I have nothing to hide.” He hung his head. “Not anymore.”
“From what I’ve heard, you’ve already given them enough information to send you to the electric chair.”

So, is this character guilty?  How can Louise keep them from the death penalty?

I enjoyed this book.  Now to get my review written since I am planning to review it next Wednesday.  I am having such a hard time getting reviews written right now, but that's a discussion for another time.

Meanwhile, let's jump on the Book Blogger Hop.  This week's question is:

Have you ever read with a book light?

I have, but it's been a lot of years.  I had one as a kid that I used.  But I live alone, so if I want to read, I just turn on the light and read.  I do have a newer, small one in case I need it while traveling or something like that.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Book Review: Curds of Prey by Korina Moss (Cheese Shop Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and mystery
Cons: Listing cons would be cheesy
The Bottom Line:
Murder at shower
Willa searches for killer
Cozy and fun book

Who Stabbed the Groom?

I had saved the second Cheese Shop Mystery for a trip home to Sonoma County, the setting for the series.  Ironically enough, I almost read Curds of Prey, the third in the series, while I was up there, too.  But I didn’t wind up cracking it open until I got home.  Not that I needed to be in Sonoma County to enjoy Curds of Prey.

For those new to the series, it lets us spend time with Willa Bauer, the owner of Curds & Whey, a cheese shop in the fictional community of Yarrow Glen.  In the year since she opened the shop, she’s made some good friends and found a community she loves.  Unfortunately, Willa keeps stumbling upon dead bodies, and she feels compelled to solve the crimes.

The wedding of Summer Harrington, daughter of the richest family in Yarrow Glen, and Nelson Trumbull, the nephew of the town’s mayor, is fast approaching.  Willa is thrilled that several local businesses are involved in the shower, including Curds & Whey.  Willa is busy setting up the cheese bar she will be offering, but it gives her a front row seat to a fight between the supposedly happy couple that leads Summer to call off the shower.  However, things take a turn when Willa finds Nelson stabbed to death in the stable a little while later.  Unfortunately, Willa’s almost boyfriend, Roman, looks to be the prime suspects.  Can Willa prove Roman is innocent?

The book does a great job of setting up suspects and motives quickly, leaving Nelson dead before too many pages have turned.  There are some interesting dynamics to this mystery that make it fun to see just how Willa will go about figuring out what happened.  I appreciated the way she did manage to get some important clues and how she pieced everything together at the end.

Being the third in the series, we’ve gotten to spend some time getting to know the supporting characters and some other residents of the town.  I loved getting to spend time with them all again.  There’s a sub-plot that allows several of them to shine, and I appreciate how some events from the previous book played into the sub-plot here.  It really makes it feel like we are checking in with real people, doesn’t it?

Speaking of previous books, there are references to previous books, but nothing that will spoil key plot points if you haven’t read them yet.

Anyway, the characters are once again great to spend time with.  I am intrigued by how a few things developed here, and I’m very curious to see where author Korina Moss is going to go with these storylines moving forward.  The suspects were also strong, and I had a hard time figuring out just which one of them would turn out to be the killer.

This book will make you crave cheese.  And, if you want to try out a few of the recipes Willa makes over the course of the book, you’ll be happy with the three cheese based recipes at the end.

Each book in this series has proven to be fun.  If you haven’t started it yet, now is the time to jump in.  Curds of Prey left me hungry for more.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Cheese Shop Mysteries.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Acting, effects
Cons: Slow with a plot that leaves too many things open
The Bottom Line:
Blade Runner returns
Story leaves too much dangling
Pacing is slow, too

Potential to be an Interesting Story Wasted

I’ve never seen the original Blade Runner.  Seeing the sequel wasn’t really on my radar, but the friends I’m watching movies with these days wanted to watch it, so I went along with them.  (I owe them plenty of turns to pick what we watch.)  It was okay, but it could have been better.

Set in the year 2049, the story follows K (Ryan Gosling), a LAPD Blade Runner who hunts down Replicants (aka sentient robots).  He is on what he thinks is a routine mission.  However, after he completes his assignment, he makes a shocking discovery.  Since the implications could impact life as he knows it, he is asked to help destroy any evidence of it.  Instead, he goes searching for answers.  Those answers send him searching for Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who has been missing for 30 years.  What will K learn?

Yes, I was a little lost going into this movie, not having seen the original.  It does assume you know the basics of this particular universe.  Fortunately, my friends were familiar enough with the original to help me get up to speed quickly, although none of us had seen the original recently.  Still, it wasn’t too long before I had everything figured out and was ready to get lost in the story.

Unfortunately, that never quite happened.  The plot sets up an interesting mystery, but it never goes anywhere.  Well, part of it goes somewhere, but there are plenty of plot points that are introduced only to be dropped later.  As we watched, we came up with several theories on what was going on.  Those theories we had actually made more sense than what we got and answered the questions the movie left us with.  Obviously, they should have consulted us since the ending was so poor.

To top it off, the pacing was slow.  They could have easily cut out a good thirty minutes without us missing anything.  Or maybe added a few action scenes.  The ones we got were good, but they were few and far between.

The performances were good.  Everyone worked hard to bring their characters to life.  Likewise, the special effects were strong and made it easy to get lost in the world.

I wasn’t the only one to feel this way.  This was pretty much the consensus as the three of us talked about the film when we were finished.

After seeing Blade Runner 2049, I’m not interested in going back and watching the original.  For me, this was a movie that needed help from the script up to be a movie worth watching.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Book Review: Cheddar Late Than Dead by Linda Reilly (Grilled Cheese Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery, fun characters
Cons: A couple of niggles with the ending
The Bottom Line:
Wedding shower death
Did Carly serve a killer?
Enjoyable book

There Falls the Groom Down the Stairs

Weddings are supposed to be times of joy, yet they pop up regularly in cozy mysteries as backdrops for murder.  That’s the case in Cheddar Late Than Dead, the third Grilled Cheese Mystery by Linda Reilly.

If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll be delighted to return to Balsam Dell, Vermont, to spend more time with Carly Hale and her friends.  She runs a grilled cheese diner in the town, but she keeps getting involved in murders.

This latest one starts when two friends from school walk into her restaurant.  Carly was never close with Dawn and Klarissa, so she’s lost track of them since they all graduated.  Klarissa is getting married in just a few short weeks, and Dawn is doing double duty as maid of honor and wedding planner.  And, when plans for Klarissa’s wedding shower fall apart, Carly gets roped in to providing the refreshments for the revamped party.

While Carly spends most of the shower in the kitchen, she is out and about enough to see the tensions between several people in Klarissa’s life.  But things step up a notch when Klarissa’s fiancĂ© crashes the party.  A little while later, he has crashed down the stairs dead.  While Klarissa is heartbroken, Carly suspects that someone is happy the man is dead.  Who did he make angry enough to kill him?

The book really doesn’t waste any time.  Yes, it takes a few chapters for the murder to happen, but all the time is spent introducing us to the suspects and providing motives and conflict that Carly has to sift through to figure out what is really going on.  There are a couple of great twists that really made things more interesting as well.  Yet the climax ties all of this together well.  I am torn on a couple of things about the ending, however, but they are minor overall.

Back at Carly’s restaurant, we are introduced to a new member of the staff in this book, and I really liked this new cast member.  Yes, the other regulars also get page time as well, and I am enjoying watching them become better developed in each book.  As I already hinted, the suspects are all strong, and I really came to like several of them.  I also appreciate that because it makes it feel like the stakes are raised as we work to find the killer.

This book introduced me to something brand new – the grilled cheese donut.  Not being a fan of donuts (I know, I’m weird), it just doesn’t appeal to me.  But if you are intrigued, you’ll be happy to find that it is one of the recipes at the end of the book, along with the tomato soup served at the diner.

With wedding season approaching, now is the time to pick up Cheddar Late Than Dead.  This is a fun mystery that will make any wedding drama you experience feel tame by comparison.

Enjoy more of the Grilled Cheese Mysteries.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Disney Pin Review: Steamboat Willie - Decades Collection - 2023 Release

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Great design celebrating a Disney milestone
Cons: Size seems small for the price
The Bottom Line:
Celebrate the start
With first decade milestone
That is a little small

Celebrating the Start of the Disney Company With, What Else, Steamboat Willie

In case you haven’t heard (and if you are a Disney fan, you’ve definitely already heard), Disney is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a company this year.  Naturally, they are doing lots to celebrate including special merchandise.  That includes pins.  They even have a special limited edition series that will celebrate Disney in the various decades.  The pin for the first decade celebrates the debut of Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie.

The pin is the typical size for a Disney pin.  It’s all in black and white, and it features Mickey as he looked back then with his hands in the air.  He’s behind the wheel of the steamship.  In front of the wheel is a banner that says “Steamboat Willie” on it.

The pin is actually 3D, with several different layers.  Mickey is in the background, then comes the wheel as the second layer.  The banner is the third layer.

And get this, the wheel actually spins.  That’s a nice touch.

However, it’s small.  As I said, this fits in well with the rest of the Disney pins I have in my collection size wise, but I was expecting something more since it was the same price I was paying for the jumbo pins the last couple of years.  When I got it and saw the size, it was quite a surprise, and not in a good way.

I get that the 3D nature of the pin makes it more expensive to produce, and that costs have gone up due to inflation.  But that really doesn’t help my disappointment.

On the other hand, I do like the design of the pin, and the fact that the pin spins is a fun choice.  If it had been cheaper, I wouldn’t have this issue with it at all.

I’m trying to remember if I have another pin for Steamboat Willie in my collection.  I know I have a couple of ornaments, but I’m not sure about pins.  Anyway, it is a great choice for the first decade of the Disney company.  Yes, the company had been around for five years before Steamboat Willie premiered, but that cartoon is what really put the studio on the map in that first decade.

Ultimately, the first pin in the Decades collection gets the series off to a mixed start.  As long as you know what you are getting when you buy Steamboat Willie, you’ll probably like it better than I do.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

April 16th's Sunday/Monday Post

 It's time to kick off another week with a 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?

Happy belated Easter.  Yes, I missed last week since I went up to visit my family for the holiday weekend.  It was a great visit.  I make it up just barely in time for the Good Friday service at the church my brother pastors.  Saturday, I got to hang out with family.  Sunday was church and then my parents hosted Easter dinner with more family and friends.  Yes, that included some Easter egg hunting with my niece and nephew.  I'm glad to say I did better than I did last year hunting for eggs.

I'm so glad I took the trip.  It was great to see everyone.

I might be paying for it the rest of the month, however.  I feel like I don't quite know how I am going to get everything done I'm supposed to this month at work.  I only took two days off, too.  Somehow, it will all get done, right?  Right?

Since I had so much out of my car, I got a car wash on my lunch hour Friday.  First one since I started paddle boarding last year, so it looks so much better.  I almost don't want to take it out of the garage now.  Almost.

I also picked up this year's Dreambook for Hallmark ornaments.  For those who don't know, this is the catalogue of what ornaments they will be releasing this year.  The first releases won't be out until July, with more coming the rest of the year.  This year, I am going to cut back.  No, really, I mean it.  You can stop laughing at me now.

Saturday, I was out at the lake paddling with my friend and another friend of hers.  I missed an 80 degree weekend for paddling while I was home for Easter, but this was upper 60's with hardly any wind, so it was wonderful.

I think just about catches you up on the happenings around here.

But before I move on, let's talk about...

Theme Week:

This coming week is a theme week I've been planning for a while.  I actually saved the third Grilled Cheese mystery (which came out at the end of January) to read and review the same week I read and reviewed the third Cheese Shop Mystery (which came out at the end of March).  I was actually going to do that with book two in both series, but it never quite worked out.  But this time, I made sure it worked.

Cheese, great theme for a week, right?

Turned out, there were more connections than that.  Both are set in late January and early February.  Both books find the main character catering a wedding shower where the groom winds up murdered.  Yes, that is where the similarities end, but I found those extra similarities pretty funny.  For more thoughts on them, you'll have to wait until my reviews, which are coming up Tuesday and Thursday.

This Past Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Music Review: Heaven & Earth by Aaron Shust
Monday - Ornament Review: Gaston
Tuesday - Book Review: The Truth We Hide by Liz Milliron
Wednesday - Movie Review: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Thursday - Book Review: Knot on Her Life by Mary Marks
Friday - Friday Post featuring Curds of Prey
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Sunday/Monday Post
Monday - Disney Pin Review: Steamboat Willie
Tuesday - Book Review: Cheddar Off Dead by Linda Reilly
Wednesday - Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049
Thursday - Book Review: Curds of Prey by Korina Moss
Friday - Friday Post
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

Settle in.  I've got quite a few books to tell you about.  After all, it's been two weeks.  (Actually, most of them came from the first of the two weeks.)

Let's start with the book I won.  Yes, I won again from Bookish Time.  This time, the book was Beauty and the Alchemist by Elle Hartford.  This is the first in a series that adds fantasy elements to cozy mysteries.  Obviously, it also has a fairy tale base. 
I think it sounds like a lot of fun.

The rest are books I bought, for something different.  I feel like I've been getting a lot of ARCs recently.

The hosts of the podcast Pod Meets World (yes, it is a Boy Meets World rewatch podcast) mentioned Murder in One Take by April Kelly and Marsha Lyons a few weeks back.  A mystery set in Hollywood?  Sign me up.

I am determined to get at least one of Annette Dashofy's Zoe Chambers mysteries read this year (I'm hoping for two, but the way the year is filling up, it isn't looking good).  But to do that, I needed the next in the series, so I bought Fair Game, which is book eight.

Death in a Pale Hue by Susan Van Kirk caught my eye when it came out last year.  In June.  I'm just now buying it, spurred on by the fact that the sequel is up for pre-order.  It sounds fun, and that cover is gorgeous.  (Yes, I do judge books by their cover sometimes.)

Finally, comes The Last Thing Clair Wanted by Karin Fitz Sanford.  Yes, the first in another series because I don't have enough series going.  Actually, the main thing that caught my eye here was that it is set in Santa Rosa, California.  Since I grew up there, I couldn't resist.

What I'm Currently Reading:

I'm going back in time to 1913 right now with Murder in Midtown by Liz Freeland.  This is the second in the Louise Faulk Mysteries about a rookie police woman in New York City.  I read the first a couple of years ago and enjoyed it.  I bought this one right away, but I haven't gotten to it yet.  I figured it was time to dust it off and revisit Louise.

That does it here.  Have a great week.