Wednesday, January 31, 2024

January 2024's Reading Summary

And we are one month into 2024 already.  How crazy is that?  I feel like I just took my Christmas decorations down a week and a half ago.  Oh wait, I did.

Seriously, I hope that your 2024 is off to a good start.  For now, it is time to take a look back at what I read in January.

Yes, I got the index updated this month.  Finally, right?

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

Partners in Crime by Steve Hockensmith (Holmes on the Range #6.5) – 5

This book collects five stories featuring Old Red and Big Red, the stars of the Holmes on the Range series.  They are set during late fall 1893 and winter 1894, and find the brothers solving a variety of cases.  The first story finds the brothers returning to their home town in Kansas with mixed results.  When the brothers set out to find a Christmas tree for their landlady, they find a dead body instead.  A series of strange events leads them to go to Idaho to try to help the sheep ranchers involved.  A request in Colorado finds them in the middle of newspaper wars.  Finally, they have to clear their own names when their landlady thinks they are responsible for the things that have been disappearing around their boarding house.

Combined, these five stories reach novel length.  Individually, they vary in length.  The first one seems to wander a bit at first, but as a fan of the series, I didn’t mind.  The stories take place around two of the novels, but there aren’t any spoilers.  Instead, we get Big Red and Old Red and some great new characters in each story to keep us engaged.  The crimes don’t always involve murder, which I enjoyed seeing.  If you haven’t tried the series yet, this would be a fun way to sample the characters.  If you’re already a fan, you’ll enjoy seeing what the brothers get up to here.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


Dead and Gondola by Ann Claire (Christie Bookshop Mysteries #1) – 3

Ellie Christie (no relation to the famous author) has returned to help run the family's bookstore in a Colorado resort town.  One day, a stranger comes into the store, hangs out for several hours, then takes off, leaving behind some belongings.  The next time Ellie and her sister see the stranger, he is getting on the gondola that separates the two parts of town.  But when they reach the bottom, he is dead.  What happened to him?  Who was he?

The premise of the setting and the mystery itself both intrigued me, so I was hoping to like this one.  While the mystery started out strongly, it became uneven as the book went along.  There are some good surprises along the way, and I was happy with the solution.  It took a while for me to get to truly know the characters and setting.  By the end, I felt at home, however.  The result was a mixed debut.  I'm not sorry I read the book, but I felt like I had to work at it a little more than I should have.


The Burning Room by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #17) – 4

As this book opens, Harry Bosch is still working in the cold case unit of the LAPD with a year left until his second retirement.  He and his new partner have caught a cold case with a fresh corpse.  The victim, Orlando Merced, was hit with a stray bullet ten years before.  His shooting was never solved, and he has finally died due to complications from his injury.  Bosch is hoping that the bullet, which wasn’t able to be removed before now, will be the break they need to solve the crime.  However, Bosch still finds himself dealing with a lack of clues or evidence.  Will he get lucky and find a new lead?  Meanwhile, there is a second case in this book involving a crime from twenty years before that involved Bosch’s new partner, Detective Lucia Soto.  Will they be able to solve it as well?

With two storylines, there was plenty of keep the story moving forward.  I enjoyed seeing Bosch’s relationship with his new partner, which wasn’t a cliché from previous entries in the series.  Unfortunately, there were still plenty of recycled things I did see coming.  Don’t get me wrong, I still got caught up in the story, and old fans will still want to read it.  But hopefully, we can get some fresh complications moving forward.  Both stories were wrapped up well, and that left me feeling satisfied when the book ended.  Even with some familiar plot points, fans will still enjoy this book.


Mushroom Capped by Cathy Wiley (Fatal Food Festival Mysteries #2) – 5

Former celebrity chef Jackie Norwood has landed in Conway, Maryland, for their second annual mushroom festival.  She’s especially excited about connecting with her friend, Marshall.  However, she quickly discovers that there’s lots of tension in town thanks to a big farming company trying to buy up the mushroom farms in the area.  When Jackie finds the owner of the company dead, Marshall becomes the prime suspect.  Can Jackie clear him?

I loved the first book in the series, and it was great to be spending time with Jackie again.  All of her family and friends from the last book are back as well.  While it would have been nice to see a bit more development for them, I still enjoyed spending time with them and loved the humor they brought to the story.  The story started quickly, and when I reached the end, I appreciated just how the clues and motives were layered into the story.  I was engaged the entire time, and the ending made perfect sense.  If you like mushrooms, you’ll be interested in the five delicious sounding recipes at the end of the book.  This is looking to be a great culinary cozy mystery series, and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens at Jackie’s next festival.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


Knot of This World by Mary Marks (Quilting Mysteries #8) – 4

Martha Rose’s friend Birdie Watson is back in town with news.  She and her new husband are selling everything to join a spiritualist commune in nearby Ojai.  Martha is concerned for her friend’s safety, especially when she learns that several people have gone missing.  When Martha goes with Birdie and some other mutual friends to check it out, they wind up finding the leader dead.  What had Birdie gotten them into?

While spiritualism isn’t new to the series, this is the strongest it’s ever been as an element.  That didn’t make me happy, although Martha is as skeptical as I am, which helped.  It also helped that the plot is driven by Martha’s investigation, and we got several good twists along the way.  While the ending does explain everything for us, I did feel like it was weaker than it could have been.  Also weak are some of the supporting players we’ve met along the way who could really use some development.  Still, I do like them and love Martha and her fiancé.  I enjoyed the Southern California setting as always.  Plus there are some quilting tips at the end.  I have one more book in the series, and I’m looking forward to reading about Martha’s final case soon.


The Chalice of the Gods by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #6) – 5

Percy Jackson is now a senior in high school, but in order to get into college, he has a special requirement – letters of recommendation from three gods.  And to get them, he has to go on quests, of course.  The first comes from Ganymede who is missing the special goblet he uses to serve the gods.  Can Percy find it before the next big feast?

It’s been years since I read any of the Percy Jackson books, so I wasn’t sure how easily I’d slip back into his world.  I needn’t have worried.  The book focuses on a smaller cast of characters, which made it easy, and I enjoyed spending time with them again.  The story is episodic at times, but I was always engaged, dying to know what would happen next even if the stakes were a little smaller than in other books.  I’d forgotten just how funny the books could be, and I was smiling and laughing throughout.  Yet we also got some wonderful character moments that were very emotionally satisfying.  I’m so glad I picked up this book, and other fans of Percy will be glad they picked it up, too.


The Kill of It All by Diane Vallere (Madison Night #9) – 5

Madison Night has recently shot a commercial to drum up customers for her recently reopened business.  But she regrets it when she gets talked into filming a public service commercial for the local police department.  Madison is replacing an actress who wasn’t working out, but she doesn’t expect to find the woman dead behind the building where they are supposed to film.  Suddenly, the crew are looking like suspects.  Can Madison figure out who committed the crime?

I let a little more time than normal go between visits with Madison, but it was wonderful to be back in her presence.  The story starts quickly and doesn’t let up, with several great surprises on the way to the logical climax.  The characters, both returning and new, are as strong as always, and I enjoyed seeing Madison grow a bit more here.  Fans of Doris Day movies will recognize the setup from one of them, but that movie wasn’t a murder mystery.  There are plenty of great surprises along the way (and another couple of fun homages).  Unfortunately, there are still a few things that I wish had been caught in an edit, but they are minor irritants.  If you are looking for a fun mystery, be sure to pick up this series.


The Raven Thief by Gigi Pandian (Secret Staircase Mysteries #2) – 5

Tempest Raj’s family’s specialty construction company has just finished a project for a family friend.  Lavinia Kingsley wanted to redesign a space her ex-husband had used.  She’s planning an open house followed by a séance, overseen by Tempest’s friend Sanjay, to ceremonially get her ex out of her life.  However, when the lights come on in the middle of the séance, the group finds Lavinia’s ex’s very real body on the table in their midst.  With the police looking at her grandfather, Tempest jumps into the case.  But she realizes there are four impossible things that she needs to figure out in order to solve the case.  Can she figure out not only who did it, but how?

I’m not sure why I didn’t get to this book sooner, but I’m glad I finally did.  I was quickly hooked, and the locked room aspect really added to the plot.  The complications and twists just made the book harder to put down, but I was completely satisfied when I turned the last page.  I fell in love with the characters even more here, as well.  We get some advancement to the overarching storyline related to Tempest’s family, which made me glad the next book is coming soon.  There are even three recipes at the end.  If you haven’t read this book yet, fix that today.


Easter Basket Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross – 4

Kensington has called on their go to trio for three new holiday themed mysteries, this time featuring Easter.  Up first, Leslie Meier’s Lucy Stone gets involved with a promotion for the local businesses leads to the theft of a golden Easter egg.  Then Lee Hollis’s Hayley Powell finds the Easter Bunny dead at a community Easter egg hunt.  Finally, Barbara Ross’s Julia Snowden’s Easter on the family island off the coast of Maine is interrupted when she finds a man in coat tails dead in the garden.  Then, a few minutes later, he’s gone.

All three stories have fun with the theme, and present it in some clever ways.  As is often the case, I found the first story the weakest, but the mysteries in the other two stories are strong.  Still, I was engaged no matter which story I was reading.  All three have some great Easter elements that made me feel like it was spring.  And I love the community aspects we get.  I’m only a regular reader of Barbara Ross’s series, and I was interested in the updates we got on the characters there.  If you are looking for some new dishes to serve this year, you’ll be interested in the recipes we get with the second and third story.  Each story is roughly 100 pages, so you can read them in a sitting or two.  Overall, this is a fun anthology you’ll be happy hopped on to your to be read pile.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


The Case of the Canterfell Codicil by P.J. Fitzsimmons (Anty Boisjoly Mysteries #1) – 5

When Anty Boisjoly gets a telegram from his friend Fiddles, he can’t help but be intrigued.  Fiddles’ uncle has recently died under mysterious circumstances, and Fiddles wants Anty to come and help.  It isn’t long after Anty arrives that Fiddles becomes the prime suspect.  Who was with the victim in the locked room?  Can Anty figure it out in time to save his friend?

I was intrigued by this series when I saw it described as Dorothy L. Sayers meets PG Wodehouse.  If you take those two authors’ output and put it in a blender, you have a pretty good approximation of this series.  It did take me the first chapter to adapt to the writing style, which mimics the 1920’s when the book is set.  But once I did, I was hooked.  The mystery was intriguing, with plenty of twists on the way to the logical climax.  Anty makes a fantastic lead character, and picks up on quite a few things I missed.  The rest of the cast are equally fleshed out.  And the humor was wonderful.  It’s very dry British wit, so it might not be for everyone, but I was as hooked for the laugh as I was the twists.  And the book had plenty of both.  I will be reading the next one as soon as I can.


Of Hoaxes and Homicide by Anastasia Hastings (Dear Miss Hermione #2) – 4

It’s been a few months since we last checked in on half-sisters Violet and Sephora Manville, and they are finding themselves a bit bored after the excitement of solving their first murder.  That changes when Violet’s alter ego, advice columnist Miss Hermione, receives a letter from a distraught mother whose daughter has run off and joined a cult.  When Violet starts to investigate, she realizes that she knows someone in the group.  Violet goes undercover in the cult right before a murder happens.  Can she figure out what is going on?

I enjoyed the first, and this was another good entry.  We get the story most from Violet’s first-person point of view, but we occasionally transfer to Sephora’s.  These breaks are always obvious, and they are also used to good effect to advance the story.  The plot could have used a bit more, but there are still some good twists, and I was engaged the entire time.  Part of that is because of the characters, who I enjoyed.  I also liked seeing both Violet and Sephora not only grow, but grow their relationship as well.  If you are looking for a fun historical mystery, you’ll be glad you picked this one up.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

TV Show Review: Only Murders in the Building - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great cast and characters, laughs, mystery
Cons: Opening scene and its payoff
The Bottom Line:
Comedy, murder
Mixed well by fantastic cast
Show has a new fan

“That’ll Make a Great Last Line for an Episode.”

When I first heard about Only Murders in the Building in 2021, I suspected it would be something I would love.  However, I don’t have many streaming services (and don’t watch the ones I have enough to justify having them), so I was reluctant to subscribe to Hulu just to watch it.  When ABC decided to air season 1 in January (thank you to the strikes), I jumped at the chance to see what I was missing.  As expected, I loved it.

The show centers on the residents of an apartment building in New York City, specifically former actor Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin), former producer Oliver Putnam (Martin Short), and millennial Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez).  The three barely know the others exist, and their couple of interactions haven’t gone well.

That is until one night when they have to evacuate the building.  The three wind up having to share a table and discover they are all listening to the newest episode of their favorite true crime podcast.  They start to bond over their theories about the current season’s case.

When they return to their building, they learn that one of the residents has died.  The police rule it a suicide, but Mabel isn’t so sure.  Oliver sees the possibility of creating their own podcast as they investigate with Charles as the narrator.  Soon, they are uncovering evidence and suspects.  But will they crack the case?

I will admit the casting had me scratching my head a bit when I first heard about the show.  Steve Martin and Martin Short I get since they’ve done other projects together and are brilliant when they share a screen.  I wasn’t sure how Selena Gomez would gel with them.  She is perfect.  She doesn’t just hold her own with the two legends.  She shines.  All three of them are phenomenal, and I can’t imagine anyone else in these roles.  It was obvious by the end of the first episode the magic the cast has together.

And, keep in mind, that the characters aren’t really friends at that point.  Even so, they are playing off each other so well.

The rest of the cast is fantastic as well.  Watch for lots of cameos as the season goes along.

I am a mystery fan, and I approached the show as such.  A time or two, it was obvious that the show was focusing us on a red herring, but that’s a very minor complaint.  The mystery itself was solid.  I couldn’t believe it when they revealed the killer.  Yet, by the end of the season, it all made sense.

If you’ve read enough of my reviews, you’ll notice I have strong feelings about shows and books that open with an especially exiting scene, and then flashback to where the story really starts.  This show took that to an entirely new low.  I despised it with a passion.  Yes, the star I am knocking off the season is purely for that.

Since this was a Hulu original, the show had to bleep out some swearing when it aired on ABC.  It was in every episode, but it was still fairly minimal.  And there were some other adult elements.  As long as you know this, you’ll be fine.

I want to go back to the main trio for a minute.  I wasn’t surprised by the direction their relationships with each other went over the course of the season.  But I loved it.  The bond they have is wonderful.  Again, the chemistry of the casting is perfect.  You can feel their friendship come through the screen, and I loved it when we got to see the three of them on screen together.  Yet, they also go solo scenes to more fully develop their characters.

Obviously, with this cast, this is a comedic show.  And the comedy worked for me.  We’ve got broad physical comedy; we’ve got witty dialogue; we’ve got more subtle jokes; we’ve got meta jokes.  This is a show where you don’t want to get distracted for a second because you might miss a clue or a laugh.  Yet there is a sadness underlying everything that gives it a melancholy tone overall.  It’s a tough balance to manage, and I’m impressed with how everyone does it.

If Hulu doesn’t get fully incorporated into Disney+ soon, I might have to break down and subscribe to watch the next season of the show.  Yes, I enjoyed it that much.  If you haven’t seen Only Murders in the Building yet, you’ll be glad you gave it a chance.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Book Review: Of Hoaxes and Homicide by Anastasia Hastings (Dear Miss Hermione #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Violet and Sephora, engaging mystery
Cons: Plot could have been a little stronger
The Bottom Line:
Letter points to cult
But is killer in the group?
Fun second story

Dear Miss Hermion, Will You Join a Cult?

I thought the Miss Hermione series was a fun idea for a series.  The first book was good, and I was looking forward to seeing what author Anastasia Hastings would do with the second book, Or Hoaxes and Homicide.

This series takes us to 1885 London where Violet Manville has taken over the Dear Miss Hermione column from her aunt.  The column is an advice column for those who are looking for proper social etiquette or relationship help.  She is keeping her new job a secret from almost everyone, including her half-sister, Sephora, even if the two of them got involved in the first case that Miss Hermione had to solve.

It's been a few months since that case wound up, and both sisters are becoming bored with their return to regular life.  Not that they are willing to admit that to each other.  So Violet immediately takes note when Miss Hermione receives a letter from “A Heartbroken Mother” asking what to do about her daughter, who has become involved in a cult and gone to live with them.

As Violet does a little investigating, she quickly realizes that the letter writer is someone she knows.  In an effort to learn more, she goes to visit the cult on their property outside a village a train ride away from London.  She hasn’t been there long before someone is murdered.  Can Violet figure out what is going on?

The first thing to know about this book is that the story is told in first person point of view from both half-sisters.  While these changes don’t necessarily happen at chapter breaks, they do happen at scene breaks and are clearly identified, so I never had an issue knowing who was narrating.  It also helps that Violet and Sephora rarely share scenes in this book.

The author uses this device to great effect since Violet can’t be everywhere she needs to be to solve the case.  But by using both sisters, the characters can learn all they need to know.  The story was engaging and kept me reading, although it could have used a bit more.  I had several things figured out early, although I didn’t have it all pieced together until the very end.

The characters were part of the reason I got lost in this story.  Violet is a fun main character, and I enjoyed many of the characters she was getting to know as well.  Sephora is mostly interested in society and fashion.  She walks that line between annoying and funny, although she is mostly on the funny side.  I liked seeing the growth in both Violet and Sephora and their relationship here.

Of Hoaxes and Homicide kept me happily turning pages until I reached the end.  If you are looking for a fun historical mystery, you’ll be glad you picked this one up.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

January 28th's Sunday/Monday Post

Time for this week's Sunday/Monday Post.  As usual, I'll be linking up to:

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

It's been a week.  Work was one of those weeks where every day brought too much I wasn't expecting, keeping me from getting done what I needed to do.  It was frustrating.  I thought at one point I was going to need to work this weekend, but I managed to get enough done on Friday that I should be okay with not working until Monday.  Hope I'm right.

In better news, I did get my Christmas decorations down last Sunday.  It's amazing what the proper motivation can do.  I told myself there were a couple of fun things I wanted to do that I couldn't do until the decorations were down.  I do miss them, but it is nice to have that chore done.  It sure is less fun that decorating, isn't it?

One of those things was going to be getting my new laptop filled with my files so I could start using it.  But after a couple of days using it, I think I've decided I don't like it.  So now I'm in the process of it setting so I can return it Sunday after church.

Saturday, I did get out of the condo.  I went down to Santa Monica.  I was going to read for a while down there, but I wound up walking instead.  Walked down to the pier from where I had parked and wandered around the pier.  It had been years since I was out on it.  No, I don't feel like I was missing much, but it was fun to be a tourist for a while.  I needed to get out of the condo, but it's hard to pass up a day in the mid-70's in January.  (And that's all I will say about the weather for those dealing with the cold.)

Pun of the Week:

“But why?” the man exclaimed to the vet when she insisted she had to put his dog down.  “Because he’s heavy,” the vet explained.

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Sunday/Monday Post
Monday - Book Review: Of Hoaxes and Homicide by Anastasia Hastings
Tuesday - TV Show Review: Only Murders in the Building - Season 1
Wednesday - Monthly Reading Summary
Thursday - Book Review: Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell
Friday - Friday Post
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

It was four book week here.  At some point, I need to stop adding books faster than I can read them.

Although I might not wind up reading much of this first one.  We'll see.  On impulse, I bought The Lucy Book by Geoffrey Mark Fidelman.  I'm a huge I Love Lucy fan, so I thought a book about her life in TV would be interesting.  Once I got it and thumbed through it, it looked like it was more episode summaries for all her series than just behind the scenes stories.  I would have enjoyed behind the scenes stories about all her shows, but this looks drier than I was hoping for.  At least I bought a cheap used copy since it is out of print, so I'm not out much money.  And maybe it will surprise me.  We will see when I take a little more time to look at it.

The other books I'm more excited about.  I snagged a couple of last minute ARCs.  Both are from the same small press that doesn't usually offer much lead time.  One of the authors had approached me months ago, so I was holding a place for her book.  The other is a book I'm very much looking forward to, the third in a series.  The books? The Secrets We Keep by Liz Milliron and DM Me for Murder by Sarah E. Burr.

I also decided it was time for another audio book, so I got Yankee Doodle Dead by Carolyn Hart from the library.

What I'm Currently Reading:

This is going to be a little redundant.  I'm actually reading two of the books from that book haul right now.  That's pretty rare for me.  Okay, I'll start audiobooks pretty close to when I get it, but it's rare I turn around and read a book right after I get it.

Yes, I've started Yankee Doodle Dead already.  I'm not too far into it.  It's obvious who the victim will be, but he hasn't been killed off yet.  This is the tenth in the Death on Demand series.  The main character owns a mystery bookstore in a fictional resort community in South Carolina.

I've also just barely started The Secrets We Keep.  This is the fifth in the Homefront Mysteries, set in Buffalo during World War II.  Betty, the main character, as gone from working in an airplane factor to becoming a PI.  Her case in this book is helping a private about to go back to the front find out who is mother is.  Again, I haven't gotten much further than that, but I know at some point there will be a murder.  At this point, I'm not sure who, but I have my suspicions.

What's interesting about both of these books are they are set around the 4th of July.  Different years, different things going on, but I still found that a fun coincidence.  I didn't plan it that way.

Have a great week!

Saturday, January 27, 2024

January 27th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Wilds Cards (Episode 1) – I’m not completely sold yet, but I did enjoy this episode.  It’s been done before, as they referenced.  Max is too much, I like her when she’s toned down a little.  I’ll keep watching for now.  After all, a pilot is often weaker because it has so much exposition to do.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians – I get that they were in the Underworld, but what was up with it being so dark for a while there.  I could hard see anything at all.  Overall, it was a weird episode, but we were in the Underworld, after all.  I definitely don’t remember much of what is going on at this point, but I’m trying to figure out how they are going to fit in everything that is left into one episode.

Night Court – Either they are finally finding their groove, or I’m finally getting what the show is trying to put out.  I enjoyed that episode.  It was still childishly silly, but for some reason it worked for me.  Could I be coming around to this show?

Extended Family – This series, on the other hand….  I was cringing more than laughing at this episode.  And the poor kids have almost nothing to do.  I think we’re about half way through the series, so I’ll probably keep watching through season 1, but it needs to turn around quickly if I’m going to continue past that.

Only Murder in the Building – Even though we knew who the killer was at this point, that was still quite the climax.  Lots of suspense and some great physical comedy.  Okay, so I wasn’t laughing at it because I was so caught up in the suspense, but I do appreciate it even so.  My only complaint was that they teased the cliffhanger at the very beginning of the season.  I hate teasers we have to wait episodes to get back to as a general rule, but I hate that it was just teasing the cliffhanger even more.

Wild Cards (Episode 2) – That was fun.  I’ll definitely keep hanging out watching this show.  Lots to keep track of, but I definitely didn’t see that ending coming.

The Challenge – Not surprised we are saying goodbye to two people an episode now that we are apparently building up to the end.  But wow, there is a powerful alliance in the house, and they really are running everything.  Excellent point was made that anyone could have changed their votes, it shouldn’t be blamed on the two women everyone wants to say.  I already figure a man is going to win since there is only one winner, but I’m wondering if any men will be eliminated in this stage.  It will be interesting to see.

Press Your Luck – I thought Whammy wasn’t going to be that active after the first couple of spinners.  But then he hit and hit hard.  And he didn’t let up in the bonus round.  She couldn’t really get any traction.  I get why she kept going, of course.  Nothing to lose.

Friday, January 26, 2024

January 26th's Friday Post

 I should have made doing a Friday Post every week in January my New Year's Resolution.  I would have kept it.  Yes, I am back for the fourth week in a row.  As usual, I am linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

This week's book is Of Hoaxes and Homicide by Anastasia Hastings.

This is the second in the Dear Miss Hermione Mysteries, which are set in England in 1885.  Here's how this one begins:

It is a sad day, indeed, when even an orgy does not interest me.

That catches your attention, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, at 56% into the eARC I read, we get this quote:

“A man who is capable of such depravity might surely be willing to kill again if it meant the stain of murder might drive the Children from the abbey.”

The book comes out Tuesday, but I'll be back Monday with my review.  I hope you'll come back to see what I thought.

Let's close things out with this week's Book Blogger Hop.  This week's question is:

How long have you gone without reading?

As I like to say, I only read on days that end in "Y."  And I really do mean that.  It might only be one chapter, but I read at least a chapter every day.

And that's pretty much been the case since I graduated from college.  However, in college, I only read textbooks or any assignments for English during the semester.  So the answer is a few months of reading purely for pleasure, but that's been too many years ago to admit to.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Book Review: The Case of the Canterfell Codicil by P.J. Fitzsimmons (Anty Boisjoly Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Laughs, puzzling mystery, and great characters
Cons: This case has no cons
The Bottom Line:
Locked room mystery
That gives us lots of laughter
Can’t wait to read more


“One Doesn’t Just Ignore an Old School Chum with a Locked Room Mystery.”

When I ran across the Anty Boisjoly Mysteries, I was immediately intrigued by the description that said they were a cross between Dorothy L. Sayers and P.G. Wodehouse.  While I am not as familiar with either author as I probably should be, I knew enough to know that a combination of the two is something that would be right up my alley.  I’m pleased to report that the first, The Case of the Canterfell Codicil was as delightful as I imagined it would be.

It all starts when Anty Boisjoly gets the telegram from his friend Fiddles.  It seems that Fiddles’ uncle has died under mysterious circumstances.  Several people heard him shouting at someone before he plunged to his death from his study in the estate’s tower.  The locked tower that Fiddles had to help break into.

Naturally, Anty is intrigued and immediately sets out to help figure out what happened.  Not long after he arrives, Fiddles becomes the inspector’s prime suspect.  Can Anty figure out what is going on in time to clear his friend?

I’ll admit that it took me a chapter to really get into the book.  The book is set in the summer of 1928, and it is written in a style more in keeping with that time than ours today.  It took me a bit to get used to it, but after that first chapter, things clicks and I was fully on board and caught up in the story.

Anty is a man about town, but he’s also smart enough to be the lead character.  He picks up on lots of things I missed, and he does a great job of wrapping up the case.  In fact, I was very impressed with not only how the murder took place but the clues Anty used to ultimately solve everything.  They were all there, but I hadn’t picked up on them.

We get a fun collection of characters in this book.  I suspect the series will be light on recurring characters, but that doesn’t mean any of the characters in this book were weak.  They were all fleshed out and kept me guessing exactly what they were all up to.

Which brings us to the humor.  It isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoy very dry British wit, you’ll love this one.  I’m more familiar with Oscar Wilde than Wodehouse, and some of these lines would have been right at home in a Wilde play.  I was looking forward to the next joke as much as I was the next twist.  And there were plenty of both.

Quite obviously, this book was a hit for me.  I will be looking forward to visiting Anty again in the near future.  If you enjoy laughing as you try to piece together a puzzling mystery, you need to pick up The Case of the Canterfell Codicil today.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Anty Boisjoly Mysteries.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Ornament Review: Winter Fun with Snoopy #26 - Drinking Hot Chocolate - 2023 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun moment in this miniature ornament
Cons: Only if not expecting a miniature ornament
The Bottom Line:
Enjoy a hot drink
While walking in winter snow
Pals make it look fun

Enjoying a Warm Drink on a Wintry Day

While the topics are endless for Hallmark’s Spotlight on Snoopy ornament series, it must be harder to keep coming up with ideas for the Winter Fun with Snoopy series.  After all, there are only so many wintry things people enjoy, right?  But we have another winner for the twenty-sixth ornament in the series.

This year, Snoopy and Woodstock are enjoying a cup of hot chocolate.  How do I know it is hot chocolate?  Because they have marshmallows floating in their red mugs.  Snoopy is in a teal and blue hat and scarf while Woodstock is wearing a scarf, but that and the hot drink are their only defenses against the cold.  Since they are standing on a platform of white, they are out in the snow, too.

Not being a fan of cold weather, I can’t imagine being outside with so little, but I also recognize that too much more would hide who the characters are.  But I do love hot chocolate, especially with marshmallows in it, so that part of the ornament warms me through and through.  It’s another one that brings a smile to my face.

This is one of Hallmark’s miniature series.  That means, all told, Snoopy is about an inch tall, and Woodstock is proportionally smaller.  And looking at Woodstock showcases just how well they do the details on these miniature ornaments.  You can see the snowflake on his mug and two marshmallows floating in his hot chocolate.  His scarf is a little hard to see, but it is there if you look for it.  That is extremely impressive.

Since Woodstock and Snoopy are standing on a circular platform representing snow, you can set this ornament out to be displayed, which isn’t always the case for this series.  Granted, you’ll want to be careful that you don’t put it in a place where it can be easily lost.

If you turn the ornament over, you’ll find the series marker on the bottom.

When you go to hang this ornament, you’ll find that it hangs straight.

Drinking hot chocolate is definitely a fun part of winter.  That makes this ornament of Snoopy and Woodstock doing that a great addition to the Winter Fun with Snoopy series.

Check out the rest of the Winter Fun with Snoopy series.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Book Review: Easter Basket Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Three mysteries that are fun to read at Easter (or any time)
Cons: The first story could be stronger
The Bottom Line:
Easter novellas
Present some fun mysteries
That all can enjoy

Here’s to a Deadly Easter

Kensington is really beginning to branch out with their holiday anthologies.  This year, they are including Easter with Easter Basket Murder, featuring their go-to combination of Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross.

Up first in the title story from Leslie Meier.  The merchants in Tinker’s Cove are hoping that an Easter basket promotion will help boost sales in town.  You get entries by making purchases in local stores, and the grand prize includes chocolate, gift certificates, and a golden Easter egg carved by a reclusive local artist.  However, someone steals the egg.  Can reporter Lucy Stone figure out what is going on?

Once again, I found the mystery to this one to be weak.  Lucy does interview some suspects as she is working on articles, but most of the big revelations were given to Lucy instead of her figuring things out from her investigation.  Plus the pacing was off.  On the other hand, Lucy was very involved in a subplot that was the focus early on.  I do like Lucy and the other characters, and the town is cute.

Next comes Death by Easter Egg by Lee Hollis.  Hayley Powell is thrilled that her son and his young family are coming to spend Easter with her in Bar Harbor, Maine.  Their plans include the annual Easter Egg Hunt that takes place the weekend before Easter at the local middle school.  However, the fun time ends when Hayley finds the man playing the Easter Bunny dead in a classroom.  Who would want to kill him?

Since I only check in on these characters via the novellas (at least so far), the updates in their personal lives, like Hayley becoming a grandma, always surprise me.  I’ve got to admit, her grandson is the biggest reason I struggled with this story.  He’s a two-year-old terror.  Yes, I get that they can misbehave, but I really didn’t like how any of the young kids in the story were portrayed.  I have a feeling it was supposed to be funny, but it didn’t work for me.  What did work was the mystery itself, which was fun and kept me engaged the entire time.  We also get some fun Easter stories and recipes via Hayley’s column for the local paper.

Finally comes Hopped Along from Barbara Ross.  Julia Snowden and her family are hosting Easter dinner out on Morrow Island now that they’ve finished with the restoration of Windsholme.  While her nephew is out hunting Easter eggs, he says he saw the Easter Bunny lying in the garden.  Julia goes to investigate, but discovers a dead man wearing a full morning suit.  When Julia returns a few minutes later, he’s gone.  How did he get to the island?  Who is he?  And what happened to him?

The first two stories in the anthology feature an Easter that happens on a vague date in April.  This story is the only one to be set in 2024, when Easter will be in March.  This story played into that, which was fun, and I enjoyed the mystery.  I did figure out what was going on a little early, but I didn’t have all the particulars right.  I love these characters, and I enjoyed getting to see them again.  Those who have been faithfully following the series will be interested in the updates we get on the family, especially since it’s been about nine months since the last book was set.  There’s also a delicious sounding recipe for grilled lamb at the end.

All three stories find a fun yet creative way to incorporate the theme of the anthology, and they all have a great Easter vibe.  Since all three are set in Maine, it is a colder Easter than this California native is used to, but I still felt like it was spring even though I was reading it in January.  They also really incorporate that sense of community we love.

Each story is roughly 100 pages, so these are short enough to read in a sitting or two.  Yet, all three combine for a full length book.

With Easter coming earlier than normal this year, now’s the time to be thinking about what to read for the holiday.  If you enjoy cozy mysteries, you’ll be glad Easter Basket Murder hopped onto your to be read pile.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Maine Clambake Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, January 22, 2024

TV Show Review: Will Trent - Season 1

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Great acting, intriguing mysteries
Cons: Too dark for my taste
The Bottom Line:
A darker cop show
The stories did capture me
I found it too dark

“Should I Go Get My Tin Foil Hat?”

I wasn’t sure what to think of Will Trent when it premiered on ABC last January, but I decided to give it a chance.  I stuck with it through all thirteen episodes of season 1, and I still don’t quite know what to think about it.

Based on a book series by Karen Slaughter, this series introduces us to Will Trent (Ramon Rodriguez), who works for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.  He’s got one of the highest clearance rates in the entire state.  But he also has a hard time keeping a partner.  His latest assigned partner is Faith Martin (Iantha Richardson).  The two butt heads a lot since Will is most likely to go wild and do something crazy to solve a case.

Meanwhile, his on again off again relationship with Angie Polaski (Erika Christensen) is back on again.  Angie is a cop, and she and Will have known each other since they were in an abusive foster home together.  Their relationship isn’t the healthiest, which they both know, but they keep returning to each other.  She and her partner usually have their own case, which makes up a B storyline in each episode.

What kind of cases does Will face this season?  Things start off with a missing teen girl.  A murder takes place when a football player is being robbed.  A double murder takes place at a software company.  Will takes temporary custody of a young boy left alone by a massacre at a trailer park.  And Will goes undercover to catch a drug lord.

As you might have figured out, the storylines on the show are dark.  I was expecting that from a show that aired Tuesday at 10 PM for the first season.  But I wasn’t expecting just how dark the show would go.  It seemed like a few times they were trying to push the envelope, in fact.  That didn’t sit well with me.  On the other hand, the mysteries themselves and how Will came up with the solution were often fascinating.  I’d get pulled in despite myself.

The characters were also very flawed, bordering on self-destructive at times.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked them.  But that made watching them make bad choices that much harder.  I understood why they were making those choices (most of the time), but it wasn’t easy to watch them do that.

This does mean the cast is doing their job.  They really are putting in the work making the characters come to life in a way that made me care and made me tune in each week.

Ultimately, this does come down to a personal preference issue.  I know other mystery lovers who did enjoy the show.  But it was too dark for my tastes.

As a result, I finished out the thirteen episodes of season 1, but I won’t be back for season 2 when it premiers next month.  Interestingly enough, the show is going to be moving at an 8 PM time slot.  At least last I had heard.  That seems like a bad time for a show that is this dark and gritty.  But we’ll see if it works out or not.

I really do feel that my reaction to season 1 of Will Trent is personal preference.  If you like darker shows, give this one a try.  But if you are looking for lighter entertainment, you’ll probably want to pass on it.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

January 21st's Sunday/Monday Post

That time of the week again.  As usual, for my 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?

If you'll remember, I talked about having jury duty this week.  I made it through the week without ever having to report.  It was so great hearing the voice say "This completes your service" when I called in Thursday night.

Saturday, I had lunch with a couple of friends from college.  It was great catching up with them.  We talked for about 3 hours.

Which means I got a very late start on my other major task for Saturday - taking down Christmas decorations.  I know I was being overly aggressive with my agenda for the day, including my goal of having everything down if not furniture rearranged by the end of the day.  I didn't really start until 7:30, but I have almost all the ornaments off the trees at this point.  I should be able to finish up on Sunday.  I hope.

They've been predicting rain for us, which we need.  It was supposed to start Saturday.  While the roads were wet when I got up, I have yet to actually see any rain fall.  I hope we get some.

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Sunday/Monday Post
Monday - TV Show Review: Will Trent - Season 1
Tuesday - Book Review: Easter Basket Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross
Wednesday - Ornament Review: Winter Fun with Snoopy #26
Thursday - Book Review: The Case of the Canterfell Codicil by P.J. Fitzsimmons
Friday - Friday Post
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

It was a five book week around here.  And all of them physical books.

Two of them were ARCs for books coming out in April.  The first of those is Molten Death by Leslie Karst, which releases at the beginning of the month.  This is the first in her new series set on the Big Island of Hawaii.  I have enjoyed her Sally Solari Mysteries, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she does with this new series, especially since I was just on the Big Island a couple of years ago.

The other ARC I got this week is Under the Paper Moon by Shaina Steinberg.  It's about two former spies in Hollywood after World War II.  Honestly, I don't know much more than that, and I don't need to know much more than that.  It sounds like something I will enjoy.  This one comes out at the end of April.

The other three books I got were books I bought.

Up first is Dream Town, the new Eve Ronin Mystery from Lee Goldberg.  I'm actually one book behind in his releases, so I need to read that book before I dive into this one.  But I'm looking forward to it since I've enjoyed the others in this series, and his books in general.

I also bought Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust and Public Anchovy #1, both by Mindy Quigley.  These are books 2 and 3 in her Deep Dish Mysteries.  I enjoyed the first one when I read it in December.  I saw that book four, coming later this year, is a Christmas themed entry.  So I decided to try to get these two read that I can enjoy that book in December.  We'll see if my reading schedule allows that or not.

What I'm Currently Reading:

Before I went to lunch Saturday, I finished the book I was reading.  That book was Of Hoaxes and Homicide by Anastasia Hastings.  This is the second Dear Miss Hermione Mystery set in England in 1885.  We get a cult and a murder in this one.  It was fun.  I'll have a fun review on release day, which is the 30th.

I'm sticking with historical fiction and even that century, but moving to America with Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell.  Her books have been on my radar for a while, and I bought this book back in August of 2021.  It is set in 1895 Newport, Rhode Island.  Hallmark is actually turning this book into their next mystery movie, and that's what convinced me to dust it off and read it.  As of my writing this, I haven't started reading it yet, but I'm looking forward to getting into it.

Have a good week.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

January 20th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Percy Jackson and the Olympians – I remembered the Casino, although not what caused the memory loss.  I mainly remembered that time sped up while they were there.  I can’t remember what comes next, however, and it’s driving me crazy.  I’m temped to dig out and book and read some of it, but I will resist and watch it unfold over the next couple of weeks.

Night Court – Overall, that was pretty good.  They are still trying too hard and putting in more jokes than they truly need, but there were some laughs and overall it was pretty wacky.  Just tone it down and it will be better.

Extended Family – Really?  We had how many bathroom humor jokes?  The rest of the episode was pretty good.  I actually enjoyed the jokes about the son’s career as a televangelist.  The daughter was pretty smart, too.  But let’s stay away from the bathroom, please.

Only Murders in the Building – What a ride!  I know they hadn’t solved the murder at the end of season 8, but I do like that they wrapped up that potential storyline with a crime.  So often red herrings turn out to be completely nothing, so that was a nice twist. I really hope there is another twist next week.  I don’t want the person they were pointing to at the end to be the killer.

The Challenge – Another person eliminated finally.  It’s been a few weeks.  And nice to see the power alliance get hit for a change.  It still gets me how personally everyone takes things.  Then again, that would probably be me.  But it’s such a change from Survivor, where people seem to get that it is part of the game.  Looking forward to seeing what happens in the new phase.  I feel like this one went on a bit too long.  Ready to start wrapping up the season.

Press Your Luck – There were LOTS of Whammys in this episode.  Two of the contestants whammied out, in fact.  And the winner might have lost that way in the bonus round if he hadn’t quit when he did.  That was definitely the smarter way to go for him.  Glad he left.

Friday, January 19, 2024

January 19th's Friday Post

 Let's go for three in a row!  I'm back for this week's Friday Post, and I'll be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

This week's book is The Case of the Canterfell Codicil by PJ Fitzsimmons.

Yes, that's a mouthful of a title, but it is a great book.  I finished it earlier this week.  It's a locked room mystery set in on an estate in England in 1928 packed with plenty of humor.

I will say, however, that the beginning was a little rough.  I'll share the telegram that opens the book as well as the first couple of lines:


“Rummy missive,” I said to Carnaby, steward of the Juniper Gentleman’s Club. He’d just read the telegram aloud for my benefit, my hands being otherwise occupied with a whisky and soda syphon. “What do you make of it?”

Reading it now, it makes sense.  Maybe it was just that it took me the first chapter to really get into it.

Either way, I was very into the book by the time I hit the 56% mark.  It was hard to pick a quote since it was a scene with a lot of spoilers for the plot, but I was able to snag this one:

“Are you calling me a liar, Mister Boisjoly?” said Laetitia, her arms crossed for battle.
“My dear Mrs Canterfell, of course not. I’m merely calling you a bad guesser.”

What to know what that is all about?  You'll have to read the book.

I'll be back with my review next Thursday.

In the meantime, let's turn to this week's Book Blogger Hop.  The question is:

Have you ever loved a book that everyone else hated or hated a book that everyone else loved?

Plenty of times.  I feel like I'm often opposite others.

A big example for me is Robert Crais.  He has a few books that I really enjoyed, but most of them are okay at best.  But many people rave about his books.  I find I'm one of the few saying they aren't as good as everyone else thinks they are.

That's it for me.  Hope you have a good weekend.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Book Review: The Raven Thief by Gigi Pandian (Secret Staircase Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and a puzzling mystery
Cons: The raven stole all the cons
The Bottom Line:
Impossible death
But Tempest must solve the case
Can’t put this one down

Who Made the Impossible Possible?

I’m not quite sure why I didn’t read The Raven Thief last year.  I enjoyed the first (and the follow up short story) in this series, and the set up for this book definitely intrigued me.  Too many books calling my name, I guess.  But I’m glad I finally read it since I loved it.

This series features Tempest Raj, a former stage magician who has returned home and is now helping her father with his construction company in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Secret Staircase Construction isn’t your normal construction company, however.  They specialize in projects that include a little extra – a secret room, a sliding bookcase, fun things like that.

As this book opens, the company has recently finished a project for family friend Lavinia Kingsley.  It’s a redesign of a space her cheating ex-husband, gothic writer Corbin Colt, used to use before the divorce.  She’s throwing an opened house followed by a séance to rid her life of all that remains of Corbin.  Yes, it’s only ceremonial and it is completely playful.  But Tempest’s friend Sanjay is leading the séance against his wishes and he’s taking is seriously.

The séance only involves a small group of eight.  They are all in a circle holding hands in the dark when a flash of light reveals the impossible – a dead body on the table they are circling.  Yes, the dead body is Corbin’s.  As Tempest takes in the scene, she realizes that there are four impossible things that had to happen for Corbin to be lying dead in front of them.  With the police looking at her grandfather as their prime suspect, she has to figure out not only who did it but how they pulled it off.  Can she do it?

This series is designed to present locked room mysteries, and that was an extra draw for me.  I was especially intrigued by the premise of this one, and couldn’t wait to see how Tempest would unravel it.  Before she does, we get some extremely interesting complications and twists and made me wish I could read it even faster.  The resolution to the how and the who was extremely satisfying, and I was smiling when I turned the last page.

Tempest is the perfect person to lead this series.  As a former stage magician that comes from a line of magicians, she’s familiar with some of the techniques that are needed to create these puzzles.  She has several friends who help with the investigation, one of whom loves the classic locked room mysteries.  Between the two, it makes sense that she could figure out what is going on.

And the cast of characters is wonderful.  I fell more in love with the characters in this book, and considering I already liked them, that’s saying something.  There isn’t too much advancement in their personal lives here, but that’s a minor complaint.

Those who have read the first in the series know that Tempest has quite the backstory, which includes an ongoing mystery she is trying to solve.  We do get some advancement on that in this book, and I’m more intrigued than ever by what exactly is going on.  If you haven’t read the first book, you get enough background here to understand what is happening, so you could jump in here.  And don’t worry, the main focus is on the main case.  I felt the mix in this book was perfect between the current mystery and the ongoing storyline.

Tempest’s grandfather loves to cook.  While I don’t consider this a full on culinary cozy, we get plenty of talk about food in this book.  There are also three tempting recipes at the end.

The third book in this series comes out in just a couple of months.  I’m definitely looking forward to what happens next to Tempest.  If you haven’t yet read The Raven Thief, you’ll be glad you took the time to catch up before the next one comes out.

I'll let you in on a secret - here are the rest of the Secret Staircase Novels.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Ornament Review: Stocking Stuffers #3 - The Nutcrackers - 2023 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great Nutcracker themed stocking ornament
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Nutcracker stocking
Makes Christmassy ornament
That is lots of fun

I’ll Let You Take a (Nut) Crack at the Theme for the Third Stocking Stuffers Ornament

So far, I’ve bought all three ornaments in the Stocking Stuffers series from Hallmark.  That’s despite the fact that I said I would only buy ones that interest me.  They suckered me in again with the 2023 release in the series, which is themed around The Nutcracker.

This year’s stocking is blue with a silver pattern on the front.  It’s not quite a snowflake, but it very much looks like one.  And the stocking is fat!  It has to be to fit everything in.

We’ve got a lot stuffed in the stocking this year.  In the front, we’ve got some characters from The Nutcracker.  On the far left, we’ve got a ballerina.  The middle is a nutcracker soldier.  He’s even holding a sword.  On the right in the Mouse King.

Behind them is the main reason the stocking is so fat this year – we’ve got a Christmas tree!  There are a few red ball ornaments on the tree.  Next to it is a candy cane.

I have to be honest, I have not yet watched The Nutcracker.  I know a little about it, but I’ve probably proved how little I know about it by butchering who these characters are supposed to be.  Even though I’m not remotely familiar with the ballet, I still recognized exactly the theme for the ornament this year.  And I liked it.  This is a very Christmassy stocking.  Probably the one that fits holiday the most so far.  (You could argue about last year’s baking theme since so many people bake during December.)

Height wise, this ornament is about the same size as the previous two ornaments in the series.  And it is light.  This ornament is plastic, and, despite the size, it must be hollow inside since it looks like it should be heavier than it is.

You’ll be glad to hear that the ornament hangs straight.  Since it is a stocking, you can’t set it out to be displayed.  It’s supposed to hang, after all.

And you’ll find the series marker on the back of the ornament.

Fans of The Nutcracker will be especially interested in tracking down the third Stocking Stuffers ornament.  But any fan of Christmas will enjoy having this in their collection.

Make room for the rest of the Stocking Stuffers ornaments.