Thursday, February 29, 2024

February 2024's Reading Summary

Happy Leap Day!  It's always fun to celebrate the 29th of February, right?  This year, I'm doing it with a look back at what I read in February.

And I got the index updated as well.

All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).

Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell (Gilded Newport Mysteries #1) – 5

Emma Cross is attending the social event of the year at The Breakers.  While she is distantly related to the hosts, the Vanderbilts, she is also covering it as the society reporter.  The night ends in tragedy when a man falls to his death in front of Emma.  With all the evidence pointing to her brother, Brady, who was up to something that night, Emma starts investigating.  Can she find the truth?

This book does a great job balancing the beginning of the plot with the introduction of Emma and her world.  The plot was great, and I appreciated that Emma fell for some red herrings before she reached the logical conclusion.  The characters are also strong; it was hard to tell if some of them were going to be series regulars or were just suspects for this book.  This book is a tad gray and falls closer to traditional than cozy for me, but that’s a minor issue.  I also appreciated how the time and place came to life and were used by the author.  It’s easy to tell why this series is so popular.  I’m looking forward to reading more soon.


Spy School Goes North by Stuart Gibbs (Spy School #11) – 3

Ben and the rest of the gang are in Alaska, training in secret after the events of the previous book.  But they aren’t as secret as they thought they were when someone kidnaps Cyrus.  Naturally, they spring into action to save him, but even if they do, what plot might they uncover?

I’ve been a fan of the series since the beginning, but it is beginning to feel a little too familiar.  It would be nice if we could defeat some recurring characters and move on to some new stories.  Additionally, there are a couple of lectures that threw me out of the book, even when I agreed with the characters.  There’s also a relationship that bothered me on multiple levels.  From a story standpoint, this relationship felt completely forced and the plot relied on it too much.  It just wasn’t earned.  On the other hand, I did enjoy spending time with the characters as always, and the action and laughs kept me turning pages.  Here’s hoping that the next will take things in a fresh direction.


The Secrets We Keep by Liz Milliron (Homefront Mysteries #5) – 5

Betty Ahern has just gotten her PI license, and she has a new case, as well.  Private Christopher Lake was raised as an orphan, but he’s started to wonder what really happened to his parents.  With only a St. Christopher medal as a clue, Betty sets out to see what she can learn.  She’s just making progress when someone connected with the case dies.  Can she figure out what is happening before Christopher ships out again?

I’ve enjoyed this series set in Buffalo during World War II, and this was another great entry.  Even before the murder happened, I was hooked by what Betty was learning.  Things only got more interesting the further I got into the book, until I reached the great climax.  There are some timeline issues, but they are mostly annoying and don’t impact the story itself.  Betty is really growing as an investigator, and it was nice to watch her follow some small clues in this book.  The suspects are sharp, and I enjoyed seeing the returning characters again.  There is a sub-plot that flows from the previous book in the series, and a few references to past stories, but nothing that is truly a spoiler.  If you are interested in this time period, you’ll enjoy these books.  If you are already a fan, you’ll enjoy this latest entry.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


DM Me for Murder by Sarah E. Burr (Trending Topics Mysteries #3) – 5

Murder is the farthest thing from Coco Cline’s mind that Monday morning.  Instead, she is thrilled that mega-influencer LaTage wants to use Coco’s company, Center of Attention Consulting, to launch her rebranding.  Then Coco arrives at their meeting to find LaTage dead.  With the police asking Coco for help understanding the online world that LaTage inhabited, she can’t help but dig just a little deeper.  Will she be able to uncover a clue that will lead to the killer?

I was really looking forward to this book, and it didn’t disappoint.  Coco and her friends are in top form, and I loved watching their relationships develop.  The plot was fantastic with a couple of great twists and many suspects that Coco had to sort through to reach the logical solution.  If you’re looking for a warm beach getaway, the setting with definitely appeal to you as well.  I love seeing cozy mysteries expanding their themes.  However, if you aren’t super into social media, you’ll still understand everything that happens here, and there’s plenty of talking to suspects face to face.  Fans will be delighted with this book.  If you want a fun, modern cozy, you’ll be glad this series trended to the top of your to be read pile.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


Fatal First Edition by Jenn McKinlay (Library Lover’s Mysteries #14) – 4

This book starts out in Chicago, where Lindsey Norris and her husband, Sully, are attending the annual archivist convention.  Lindsey is having a fantastic time, and that includes the train trip back home to Connecticut.  Quite a few of the attendees are also on the train.  However, when Lindsey wakes up the next morning, someone is dead in the compartment next to her and Sully.  Does it have anything to do with the valuable first edition that Lindsey stumbled upon during the keynote address?

One thing I love about cozy mysteries are the familiar locations and characters, so I was happy to see this book found an excuse to spend a lot of time at home while continuing the plot.  The series regulars gave us some great laughs.  Meanwhile, the plot zigs in a different direction part way through, and I was hooked as a result.  Unfortunately, it did make the climax a bit rushed, although it was still logical.  Fans will be pleased with this entry in the series.  If you haven’t started these books yet, you’ll be happy you changed that.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


A Scaly Tail of Murder by Jacqueline Vick (Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic Mysteries #5) – 4

Just as Frankie Chandler is trying to adjust to being engaged to Detective Martin Bowers, her ex, Jeff, comes to town.  Rather surprising since she hasn’t seen him since she moved to Arizona from Wisconsin.  He came to town following Charity, a woman he’s just met.  The problem?  Charity turns Jeff down, but she has his keys.  So Frankie agrees to go to the spa where Charity works to retrieve them.  When she arrives, she finds Charity dead with Charity’s pet iguana the only witness.  Can Frankie figure out what is going on?

Yes, this is one of the rare paranormal series I read since Frankie has discovered she really can communicate with animals.  Since the last couple of books have found Frankie out of town, I enjoyed seeing all the regular haunts this time around.  The characters are also fun, although I did have some issues with how Frankie treated Jeff in this book.  Likewise, a couple of times, Frankie seemed to know something we hadn’t seen her learn.  But both are minor overall.  The plot had plenty of viable suspects and some nice surprises before we reached the logical end.  Meanwhile, the characters provided plenty of smiles and laughs.  If you are looking for a light paranormal cozy, you’ll be glad you picked this book up.


Yankee Doodle Dead by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #10) – 4

Annie Darling is getting ready for the festival that Broward’s Rock is hosting for the fourth of July.  Not only is her bookstore selling at a booth, but she’s on the library board, which is putting everything on, and is the benefit of the proceeds.  Unfortunately, a newcomer to the island is also on the board, and making waves there and all over the island.  So when someone shoots him during the fireworks, the only real question is who didn’t have a motive.  Can Annie and her husband, Max, figure out what happened?

I struggled a bit with the first half of the book.  It was obvious early on who the victim would be.  While we were setting up suspects and motives, his antics were such an over the top cliché, it wasn’t always fun.  Fortunately, things get better once Annie and Max start investigating.  We get a somber yet logical climax, but we still have fun with all the series regulars along the way.  I hope the victims get a little less predictable in future books, but series fans will still enjoy this one.


Mission Manhattan by James Ponti (City Spies #5) – 5

As this book opens, the team is in Venice.  MI6 has intercepted a threat against a climate change rally that is featuring Beatriz Santos, a teen who has gained quite a following with her outspokenness on the topic.  Since she is from Brazil, Rio has been tasked with getting close to her.  It’s a good thing they are there, since things don’t go according to plan.

But Venice was just the beginning.  As the team looks into what happened there, they realize that the danger isn’t over yet.  Can they figure out what is happening in time to stop it?

I was anxious to dive into this book after the cliffhanger from the last book, and it did not disappoint.  It did take a while to get back to cliffhanger, and the answers only lead to more questions.  While I could have done without the climate change theme, I was happy to see those mini-lectures never lasted too long.  Instead, we get plenty of surprises and fun as the City Spies try to figure out exactly what is going on so they can stop it.  Meanwhile, I still love these characters and their relationship.  Fans of all ages will love their latest adventure and be left wanting to find out what happens next.


Once Upon a Murder by Samantha Larsen (Lady Librarian Mysteries #2) – 4

It’s 1784, and spinster Tiffany Woodall is hoping to put the chaos and intrigue of the last few months behind her.  However, when she finds a dead body on her way to work at the castle one morning, she knows that isn’t going to happen.  When the local bookseller, the man Tiffany loves, is accused of the crime, she can’t help but get involved.  Can she figure out what happened?

The first book in this series was one of my favorites of last year.  This book wasn’t as good, but it was still enjoyable.  As with the first book, the mystery takes a backseat at times.  However, here the other storylines weren’t as compelling.  This is especially true of the romance.  I was glad it wasn’t dragged out too much and I bought it in a way I wouldn’t in other series, but I wasn’t as invested in it.  When the murder really kicks in during the second half, I was more fully on board, and I love how that was resolved.  Likewise, I still loved all the characters and did enjoy seeing what happened to them.  Fans of the first will want to pick this up.  If you missed the first, you’ll definitely want to start there.

 NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust by Mindy Quigley (Deep Dish Mysteries #2) – 3

Summer is winding down soon, which means that the crowds will be disappearing from Geneva Bay, Wisconsin.  Unfortunately for Delilah O’Leary, she hasn’t earned quite as much as she needs during her deep dish pizza restaurant’s first season opened to survive the coming winter season comfortably.  Which means she needs to win the upcoming “Taste of Wisconsin” contest held during the annual Labor Day festival.  She’s been trying to prefect her recipe for weeks.  However, she is less than thrilled when she learns who the judge is going to be.

All that takes a back seat when someone drops dead in the new juice bar in town.  Delilah happens to be on hand, and she can’t help but get involved in the investigation.  But can she figure out what happened?

I enjoyed the first book in the series, and was looking forward to returning to the great characters and setting.  Unfortunately, the plot tries to do too much.  Early on, I was enjoying trying to figure out what was part of the mystery and what was part of any subplots, but when we reached the climax, things were just too rushed because of everything else going on.  In fact, it felt like the mystery was undercooked overall, and I was left with a major question about why a character did what they did.  Which is a shame because the characters and setting were great once again.  I love Delilah and the rest of the crew, and I’d love to visit the town.  There are some fun laughs, including in the recipes.  Seriously, they are written by some of the characters, and they are great.  I already have book three, so hopefully, the plot is stronger in that one.


Murder Out of Character by Olivia Matthews (Peach Coast Library Mysteries #2) – 3

The summer fun raising campaign for the library is kicking off with a cocktail reception, and Marvey Harris is in the thick of things thanks to her job.  The event goes well, but as the staff is cleaning up, Marvey finds a list of names left behind by someone.  She’s intrigued since her good friend Spence is on it as is a man who has just died.

Two days later, another person on the list has died.  Marvey can’t help but think she’s found a list that someone is targeting, but she is having a hard time getting anyone to take her seriously.  Especially since no one seems to be able to figure out a solid connection between the four people on the list.  Can Marvey discover what is going on before a killer strikes again?

I’d intended to get back and finish this series, and I was happy to see the main characters again.  While the supporting players could have been a bit better developed, I love Marvey and her friends.  They are just wonderful.  I was intrigued by the plot, but it didn’t quite work for me.  The pacing was off, with some repetitive scenes.  While the killer and motive did make sense, there was still a major part of the plot that was never explained.  If you are a plot first person, I’d recommend you skip this book.  But if you enjoy reading about strong bonds between characters, you will want to check this one out.


Take the Honey and Run by Jennie Marts (Bee Keeping Mysteries #1) – 4

Bailey Biggs has returned to her small town in Colorado to help her grandmother, who has recently broken her foot.  But when she arrives, she finds Granny Bee yelling at the town’s founder.  The next morning, she finds the man dead from his honey allergy, a jar of Granny Bee’s signature Hot Spiced Honey on his table.  With the sheriff questioning Granny Bee, Bailey jumps in to figure out what really happened.  Can she find a sweet killer?

I’d heard lots of good things when this book came out, and I’m glad I finally got a chance to read it.  The book jumps right in, and we met a group of characters at once.  It took me a while to separate them all, but I was able to.  The main characters are strong, and the suspects are good.  The plot also started quickly, and it kept me buzzing from one suspect to the next until we reached the logical solution that wrapped everything well.  The book was funny, although I do feel it got a little too zany at times.  If this book finds you craving honey, you’ll be delighted in the six recipes at the end.  If you enjoy cozies on the comedic side, you’ll be glad you picked up this book.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Book Review: Take the Honey and Run by Jennie Marts (Bee Keeping Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Main characters and a strong mystery
Cons: A bit too zany at times for me
The Bottom Line:
Honey allergy
But who would kill so sweetly?
A tasty debut

Is Granny Bee a Killer Bee?

I know they say don’t judge a book by the cover, but I’ve got to admit, a wonderfully punny title will catch my attention.  I love a good pun; I can’t help it.  So, it was only an already full reading schedule that kept me from reading Take the Honey and Run when it first came out last summer.  I heard so much positive buzz about the book that I had to pick it up, and I’m glad I did.

Mystery author Bailey Biggs returns home to Humble Hills, Colorado, to help her grandmother since she broke her foot.  Her grandmother is affectionately known as Granny Bee since she is a bee keeper, and her honey is sold all over the town.

When Bailey arrives, she witnesses Granny Bee threatening the town founder and mayor.  Unfortunately, the next day, Bailey finds the man dead in his house.  The victim was very vocal about his honey allergy, and it appears he died from an allergic reaction.  In fact, there’s a jar of Granny Bee’s signature Hot Spiced Honey on his table.  Naturally, the sheriff wants to question Granny Bee, but Bailey doesn’t think her grandmother is a killer.  Can she figure out who the sweet killer is?

The book doesn’t waste any time.  It quickly introduces us to the characters, and then gets right to the murder.  In fact, I wish the book had spent just a tad more time introducing us to the characters.  We meet a group of supporting characters at once, and it took me a while to sort out who all of them were.  But I was able to do that as the book progressed.  It helps that the main cast are strong, and the suspects were good.

The plot didn’t lag at all.  We had several viable suspects, and the clues and red herrings kept me buzzing until we reached the end of the book.  When we did reach the end, all the clues and red herrings were explained.

One thing I’d heard about the book was how funny it was.  There were some great scenes, but some of the madcap adventures went a little too far for me.  A couple of times, I thought that Bailey and her side kick and best friend, Evie, went a little far, even for a cozy, in their investigation.  But those scenes also provided some great laughs.

There’s plenty of talk about food, especially honey, in this book.  So you’ll be happy to find six recipes at the end.  I’m not a fan of spicy food, so I’ll let someone else enjoy the Hot Spiced Honey recipe, but the Honey Banana Bread does sound good.

I’m glad I finally took time to read Take the Honey and Run.  I will definitely be back to visit the characters again in book two.  Fans of cozies on the comedic side will be glad they picked up this book.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Movie Review: CrimeTime - Freefall

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Plenty of fun moments with good characters
Cons: Mystery could have been stronger; too many over the top characters
The Bottom Line:
Actress detective
Mystery could be stronger
But plenty of fun

“Seeing as How it Seems I Volunteered to Play Detective, I’m Going to the Last Place Sam was Seen Alive.  I Am Not Doing It in Heels.”

Hallmark is busy pumping out new mystery movies again.  Who knows which will turn into franchises for them.  (I’ve given up on getting new installments on a couple of the ones they introduced in recent years.)  CrimeTime is the newest potential franchise, and it got off to a fun start with Freefall.

Actress Hadley Warner (Lyndie Greenwood) has spent the last ten years playing a detective on the TV show CrimeTime.  But audience tastes have changed, and her show has been canceled.  With no immediate job prospects, she packs up her two teenage kids and moves to a small town in Colorado to be close to her mom.

They haven’t even moved in yet when Hadley learns about a local missing man.  However, she doesn’t expect to find his body in her new backyard one morning.  His body is in a tree, attached to a parachute.  But he’s been shot.  When the man’s distraught mother asks Hadley to find out what happened, she can’t say no.  While her investigation annoys Detective Shawn Caden (Luke Macfarlane), she begins to pick up clues.  Can she figure out what really happened?

Even with all the mysteries I read and watch, I am still often fooled.  I’m actually better at spotting the victim early on than I am the killer.  (Let’s not discuss what that says about me.)  In this case, I spotting the killer fairly early on.  Don’t get me wrong, all the suspects were good, and I definitely didn’t have motive until the end.  But I would have liked a little stronger mystery.

The characters were fun, but they were also a bit much.  While some of them were grounded, most noticeably the police, several of them were over the top.  Individually, that can be fun.  But if they were in the same scene together, it was too much.  Hadley is one of the over the top characters, and I enjoyed her when she was off on her own.

And this isn’t a reflection on the actors.  They were all great at bringing the characters to life.  It was the choices with the direction and writing.

All of this said, I did like the team Hadley built to help with the investigation.  There were some great lines, and the two leads have great chemistry.  And I loved the comparisons between real life and TV cop life.

There’s certainly potential in the CrimeTime franchise.  I enjoyed Freefall enough that I will be back if they make another one.  If you enjoy Hallmark mystery movies, I think you’ll enjoy this one, too.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Book Review: Murder Out of Character by Olivia Matthews (Peach Coast Library Mysteries #2)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: The main characters are great
Cons: The plot should have been stronger
The Bottom Line:
A list of victims
The main characters shine here
But plot needed work

Has Marvey Found a Hit List?

I’d always intended to come back and read the second Peach Coast Library Mystery from Olivia Matthews.  When I won a copy of Murder Out of Character, I decided now was the perfect time to do just that.

As this book opens, it’s just been a few weeks since we first met Marvey Harris, who has moved to Peach Coast, Georgia, to become the community outreach librarian.  Part of her job is planning the fundraising for the year, and the summer campaign is kicking off with a cocktail reception.  The event goes well, but as the staff is cleaning up, Marvey finds a list of names left behind by someone.  She’s intrigued since her good friend Spence is on it as is a man who has just died.

Two days later, another person on the list has died.  Marvey can’t help but think she’s found a list that someone is targeting, but she is having a hard time getting anyone to take her seriously.  Especially since no one seems to be able to figure out a solid connection between the four people on the list.  Can Marvey discover what is going on before a killer strikes again?

I appreciated the skepticism that so many of the other characters gave Marvey about the list.  I would have been right there with them questioning the list.  However, I felt like some of those conversations got to be repetitive.  In fact, that was a big frustration with the book, I felt like we were going in circles at times, having similar conversations over and over again.  As a result, the pacing was uneven.  We definitely got some development, but it wasn’t as steady as I normally like.  When Marvey does piece things together at the end, the identity of the killer and the motive make sense, but there is still a major plot point that isn’t explained.

There is a core cast of characters, and quite a few supporting players.  The supporting cast doesn’t get that much development, but they are still fun.  The core characters?  I love them, and I loved spending time around them.  They are wonderful and very supportive of each other.  They were easily the highlight of the book.  And that includes Marvey’s cat.

While not a culinary cozy, there is a recipe for pralines at the end.

This series was published by Hallmark when they were venturing into publishing.  Sadly, they decided it wasn’t for them, so this series is ending with just two books.

If you enjoy spending time with great characters, you’ll be glad you picked up Murder Out of Character.  If you are looking more for a strong plot, you’ll want to skip this book.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

February 25th's Sunday/Monday Post

Hi, and welcome to this week's Sunday/Monday Post.  I will be linking up to:

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

I had Monday off work.  This is the only job I've had where I get a holiday between New Year's Day and Memorial Day.  And how did I spend this day?  I did my taxes.  So exciting, right?  Normally, I try to do them early since I get refunds, or at least a net refund.  Not this year.  I wound up with a net payment owed.  Oh well, such is life.

We had rain on Monday and Tuesday, but it's warmed up since then.  It was in the 70's Saturday, in fact.  But it will be cooling off and giving us rain again soon.

Other than that, just worked and read this week.  Exciting, right?

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Sunday/Monday Post
Monday - Book Review: Murder Out of Character by Olivia Matthews
Tuesday - Movie Review: CrimeTime - Freefall
Wednesday - Book Review: Take the Honey and Run by Jennie Marts
Thursday - February Reading Summary
Friday - Friday Post
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

Do I have shocking news for you - I only have two books to talk about in this week's book haul.  I know, I'm surprised, too.

The first is a novella - The Corpse Wore Cashmere by MJ O'Neil.  It's only available to her newsletter subscribers.  Not quite sure how I wound up on that list, but it looks like it could be a fun series, so I decided to snag it.  I mean, it is a cozy mystery, and we know how I feel about those.

The other book was free to me.  Diane Vallere is doing giveaways on Facebook leading up to her 40th book, which comes out Tuesday.  And I won one day!  I got to pick my prize, and I picked Please Don't Push Up the Daisies, which was the only one of her backlist I didn't already own.  I've still got one more book in that series to read before I get there, but maybe I'll get caught up by the end of the year?  It would be nice.

What I'm Currently Reading:

As I type this, I still have a little more to go in Black List, White Death by Steve Hockensmith.  This is a collection of two novellas in his Holmes on the Range series, which features two cowboys investigating mysteries after reading about Sherlock Holmes.  It's a fun series, and this book is fun as well.

Up next is the ninth and final Quilting Mystery from Mary Marks - Knot Ready for Murder.  There is a part of me that will be sad to see the series end, but another part of me is looking forward to ending a series I've been behind on.  That mixed bag that readers have, right?

That's it for me.  Have a great week.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

February 24th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Tracker – Somehow, I feel like the pilot actually had more twists than this episode did.  I guess there are only so many ways you can go with a cult.  Still, it was fun overall, and I’m certainly curious where they are going with his backstory.

Night Court – Fun to see Ryan Hansen in something again.  Been a while.  Again, I found this amusing, but it was missing the humor I was really hoping for.  Just let things breath for a bit.  I felt like it was on high speed to get everything in during the time allotted.

Extended Family – Rather bland episode.  You knew exactly where the A story was going to wind up.  The B story was kind of cute, but overall, a very forgettable episode.

Quantum Leap – What a ride!  I really was on the edge of my seat for both of the episodes.  I figured out some of the twists a few minutes early, but it was still great to see them play out.  And see how they really did build this season.  It is clear that everything was carefully planned out in advance.  While I was worried for Hannah, I wasn’t worried for Jenn.  I knew what Ben was going to do in the second episode long before he started to do it.  I think the ending is about all I wasn’t expecting, although I should have been.  I hope we get a season 3 so we can see where things go from here.

Wild Cards – I’ve mostly missed the Vampire crazes, but I can still guess what show they were sort of using as their inspiration there.  It was rather fun since Vampire Diaries was a CW show for so long.  But the solution?  It was I Know What You Did Last Summer.  I thought that was so cool.

The Challenge – Nurys came so close.  I would have really liked to see her win after everything they put her through.  Still, that was a pretty solid second place finish.  Corey shouldn’t have helped her at the second check point, obviously.  Not sure if I will bother to watch the reunion next week.  That’s how little I care, especially since I’m sure the previews didn’t exaggerate how much yelling there will be at each other.  We’ll see if I watch another season on MTV or just stick with it if it comes back to CBS.

Friday, February 23, 2024

February 23rd's Friday Post

Welcome to Friday, and this week's Friday Post.  As usual, I will be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

This week, I'll be pulling my teasers for the first three from Take the Honey and Run by Jennie Marts.

This is the first book in the Bee Keeping Mysteries.  And isn't that such a great punny title?

The book gets off to a great start:

The speedometer ticked up another notch, matching Bailey Briggs’s pulse as she and her daughter drove down the two-lane highway heading toward her hometown of Humble Hills, Colorado.

I was immediately interested to learn why she was in such a hurry to get there.

Meanwhile, 56% into the ebook finds Bailey in a bit of a situation.  She's trying to get out of a house she's broken into looking for clues before she's caught.

Her stupid wet shoe foiled her again, the sole slipping on the slick rim, and her foot landed back in the toilet with a splash.
She pressed her lips together to hold back the squeal as the cold water seeped through her already damp sock.
Then she heard a noise behind her as the bathroom door swung open and Sawyer’s stern voice commanded, “Hold it right there.”


This is a fun book.  I hope you'll come back for my full review on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, here is this week's Book Blogger Hop:

How do you organize your bookshelves?


When I figure moved into my condo, 20 years ago, I was very deliberate in how I set things up.  I put certain authors on certain shelves.  There wasn't a certain pattern to it, but I knew where stuff was.

That's all out the window.  Most of those authors have burst well beyond their bookshelves and are all over the place.  To even have a hope of organizing my shelves, I'd need more of them.  And I have no idea where I would put them if I bought them.

Besides, I'd much rather be reading.

On that note, I hope your weekend plans include some reading time.  Mine do.  Have a great one.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Book Review: Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust by Mindy Quigley (Deep Dish Mysteries #2)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters, setting, humor
Cons: Plot too unfocused, so the climax disappoints
The Bottom Line:
Juice bar turns deadly
Plenty going on in book
Result unfocused

Mystery Didn’t Quite Work for Me

I enjoyed the first book in the Deep Dish Mysteries when I finally read it last December.  The resort town setting in Wisconsin is great, the characters are engaging, and who doesn’t want to read about pizza?  So I was anxious to read the second, Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust.  Sadly, this one didn’t work as well for me.

Summer is winding down soon, which means that the crowds will be disappearing from Geneva Bay, Wisconsin.  Unfortunately for Delilah O’Leary, she hasn’t earned quite as much as she needs during her deep dish pizza restaurant’s first season opened to survive the coming winter season comfortably.  Which means she needs to win the upcoming “Taste of Wisconsin” contest held during the annual Labor Day festival.  She’s been trying to prefect her recipe for weeks.  However, she is less than thrilled when she learns who the judge is going to be.

All that takes a back seat when someone drops dead in the new juice bar in town.  Delilah happens to be on hand, and she can’t help but get involved in the investigation.  But can she figure out what happened?

Honestly, this barely covers what is happening in this book.  As I was reading it, I couldn’t figure out what was related to the mystery and what was a subplot.  And I was okay with that.  There was so much going on that I never wanted to put the book down, and that’s always a good thing.

But when it came time to wrap things up, the book fell apart.  I get what the author was trying to do, and I applaud her efforts.  However, she didn’t pull it off.  Even the part I initially appreciated has now left me with a pretty major question.  Don’t get me wrong, we fully understand motives and things like that at the end.  I just wasn’t quite satisfied with how things unfolded.  And yes, I think a character’s actions don’t make sense even if motives do.  (I hope this makes sense.  I’m trying not to include spoilers.)

I think part of the problem is that there is so much going on that the mystery really is under developed.  If that had been given more time to develop, my issues might have been resolved.

Fortunately, the things I enjoyed about the first book were still here.  I loved the tourist town setting right on a lake.  This is definitely a town I would love to visit.

The characters are just as charming as they were in the first book.  Delilah has built a great team at the restaurant, and I enjoyed spending time with them.  The slow burn romance is fun, and she has a very entertaining cat.  I even laughed a few times as I read.

Speaking of laughing, be sure you read the recipes at the end.  We get a variety of them at the end (including one pizza, of course), and they are written by various characters, which is a hoot.

I’ve already bought book three in this series and preordered book four.  I’m hoping they will be a bit more focused than Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust turned out to be.

Grab another slice with the rest of the Deep Dish Mysteries.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Movie Review: Deadpool

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Some of the humor, the action
Cons: Much of the humor, hard to root for any of the characters
The Bottom Line:
Anti-hero born
Action and off-color jokes
Result not for me

I Was Warned Away from This Movie.  They Were Right

Over the last few years, I’ve heard lots of praise for Deadpool.  But a few friends have all ended their praise by saying, “But this isn’t a movie you’d enjoy, Mark.”  I believed them, but a small part of me was curious about it, so I decided to watch it with a friend recently.  Those warnings?  They were completely right.

The movie introduces us to Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) in action as he is in the process of getting the information he needs to get revenge on someone who did something horrible to him.  And it’s in the middle of flashbacks that we learn just what happened to him.  He used to be a man named Wade who happened to fall in love with a woman named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).  Just as their relationship was fully blooming, Wade got horrible news.  In an attempt to fix things, he agrees to some questionable experiments.  What might the consequences be?

Because the movie starts out about two thirds of the way into the story, we jump right in with the action, and then we get the context to this origin story.  Considering how similar origin story movies can be, I did like this approach despite my usual dislike of this story telling framework.

There is plenty of action.  There’s a great opening and closing scene, and a few other fun action scenes along the way.  I bought the action, stunts, and effects, although this wasn’t as heavy on the special effects as some superhero movies can be.

The people I know who praised the movie love it for the humor.  Unfortunately, much of that is double entendre humor.  While I will admit to finding some of that funny, here it was just too crude for my tastes.  And there was a lot of it.  In many ways this movie is as much comedy as action/superhero.

Some of the humor did come from Wade breaking the fourth wall, sometimes with other characters and sometimes just to us.  These jokes I did appreciate.  Well, most of the time.  At times, I felt like it was trying a bit too hard.  It came across as “Look at me, aren’t I clever.”

Deadpool is very much an anti-hero.  I don’t usually go for revenge movies, and that’s essentially what this movie was.  Yes, I was rooting for him, but I wasn’t rooting for him completely because of that.  Not to mention that Wade really was rather shallow early in the movie.

Speaking of early in the movie, there is an extended sex scene early on in the movie.  Keep that in mind before you watch it.  This is an R rated movie.

The results of all of this was a movie I wanted to like, but I didn’t wind up enjoying.  I know plenty of people who did enjoy Deadpool, but it just isn’t for me.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Book Review: Once Upon a Murder by Samantha Larsen (Lady Librarian Mysteries #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters and good mystery
Cons: Romance overpowers mystery
The Bottom Line:
Next historical
Emphasizes the romance
Still enjoyable

Not as Strong as the First Book

The first Lady Librarian Mystery was one of my favorite books from last year, so I was looking forward to diving into Once Upon a Murder, the second in the series.  While I did enjoy it overall, it wasn’t as strong as the first one.

This book takes us back to a small English village in 1784.  Tiffany Woodall is a spinster who has done something unheard of – she’s landed a job to support herself.  She’s the librarian for the Duchess of Beaufort.  She’s hoping that her life can return to normal now that the murder and other issues from a few months ago are behind her.

However, when she is running late to work one morning, she finds the body of Bernard Coram.  He was the footman at the Duchess’s castle until Tiffany had a hand in getting him fired a few months before.  The evidence points to the local bookseller, a man that Tiffany has developed feelings for even if he’s started to become distant.  Can she figure out what happened?

Author Samantha Larsen has written many romances before she started this mystery series.  I could easily see that background in the first book, and at times, the mystery took a backseat to the other things going on.  However, those other things were just as interesting and kept me engaged the entire way through.  That doesn’t quite work here.

For starters, the romantic storyline is much less compelling.  I was happy that it wasn’t dragged out forever and I actually did find it believable (something I can’t always say when this is sprung on us).  I just didn’t care all that much, figuring the characters would work things out in the end.  However, this story and its complications take up much of the first half of the book.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Tiffany finds the body in the first chapter.  And there are developments taking place all along the way.  It’s just not until the second half that the mystery really takes center stage.  Once it did, I was much more invested in the book.  I liked how the mystery played out and found the ultimate solution very satisfying.

Then there’s the storyline I thought was going somewhere but didn’t.  We really could have done without it.

The things that kept me reading the entire time was the characters.  I found them just as engaging and charming as I did the first time around.  I wanted them to figure out the mystery and their lives.

If you enjoyed the first book, you’ll be glad you picked up Once Upon a Murder.  I am.  If you haven’t, I highly recommend you start there before reading this book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, February 19, 2024

TV Show Review: Survivor - Season 45

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great players in a game I love to watch
Cons: Too many advantages cut down on strategy in middle of season
The Bottom Line:
Eighteen more players
As new era continues
Still good overall

Another Fun Season Overall

I’ve been a Survivor addict since season 1 episode 1.  I look forward to every season of the show, and I enjoy seeing how the various relationships and tribal politics play out each season while knowing I’d never do well at it myself.  I take things too personally.  Season 45 aired in the fall of 2023, and it was another good one.

This season followed the standard set up we’ve had in the new era (aka after Covid).  18 people are stranded in Fiji on three tribes.  Each episode, they compete against other tribes for rewards and immunity, with the loser of the immunity challenge going to tribal council to vote someone out.  This season, there was a tribe swap before the merge half way through.  At the end of the 26 days, those voted out in the second half of the show voted on who the winner of the season was.

As far as the contestants, I was thrilled that they brought Bruce Perreault back this season.  He was injured in the opening moments of season 44, so it was nice to see them give him another chance to compete.

It happens quite often that the people I start out liking turn out to be people I want voted off by the end of the season and vice versa.  This season featured some real personal growth in one of the contestants, and I really was impressed by the personal journey that person went on.

There were other interesting stories and relationships this season.  I did really like some of the contestants, and I felt sorry for how the game round up stacked against others.  You know, it was a typical Survivor season.

I do feel like Survivor needs to limit the advantages that are in the game.  I get why they do them.  In the early seasons, it got rather boring when we knew a tribe had the numbers and was just going to vote out the other tribe for several weeks.  This keeps things unpredictable for us and the players.  But there was a point in the middle of the season where it was just too much.  The advantages need to be used sparingly to keep everyone on their toes without making it so any strategy goes out the window.

On the other hand, they brought back an old school staple with a modern era twist, and I loved it see it again and how it played out.

Ultimately, any fan of Survivor will be happy with this season.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Book Review: Mission Manhattan by James Ponti (City Spies #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful characters, fast paced story
Cons: Climate change discussions, although mostly kept in the background
The Bottom Line:
Protect activist
Story pulls you in but lets
The characters shine

Another Fast Pasted Adventure

After the ending of the previous City Spies book, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the new one, so as soon as I got Mission Manhattan, I dropped everything to read it.  Fortunately, it was another fun adventure for everyone’s favorite teenage MI6 agents.

If you have yet to meet the City Spies, you are in for a treat.  As I said above, they are a group of young teens from all over the world who have been recruited for a top secret MI6 program.  While they train to be full fledged spies, they also go on missions where adults would stand out.

For example, as this book opens, the team is in Venice.  MI6 has intercepted a threat against a climate change rally that is featuring Beatriz Santos, a teen who has gained quite a following with her outspokenness on the topic.  Since she is from Brazil, Rio has been tasked with getting close to her.  It’s a good thing they are there, since things don’t go according to plan.

But Venice was just the beginning.  As the team looks into what happened there, they realize that the danger isn’t over yet.  Can they figure out what is happening in time to stop it?

Yes, I’m once again being vague in my teaser.  That’s because so much of the fun of the series is watching the story unfold.  And I don’t want to deprive you of that fun.

This is book five in the series.  There is a rather strong overarching plot line, and we get some developments on that here.  Yes, that does mean eventually we find out a bit more about the cliffhanger from the previous book, but it’s not right away.  As I expected, we don’t get complete resolution yet.  In fact, we get another ending that will make you want to pick up the next book.  If only we didn’t have to wait as long for it to come out.

Anyway, my initial point in bringing this up is that you’ll best understand everything going on if you start with book one.  Trust me, you’ll be quite happy you did.  These books are great.

If you read my reviews, you’ll already know what I’m going to say next.  Yes, I was disappointed with the focus on a climate change activist in this book.  Fortunately, the scenes where we really got into climate change were brief.  That just means we got brief lectures on the topic.  Sadly, they also present some strawmen on the other side of the issue during those passages.  Most of the book is focused on the plot.

And what a great plot it is.  The story has several great action scenes and plenty of suspense to keep us turning pages.  It straddles the lines between adventure and mystery perfectly, and I enjoyed the twists along the way to the climax.

However, what I really love in the series are the characters and their relationships to each other.  That is a standout once again.  These characters are a family and a team in every way, and it is wonderful to watch them in action.

Mission Manhattan will keep readers of all ages turning pages as quickly as they came.  Now comes the long wait for the next book in the series.

Enjoy more missions with the rest of the City Spies books.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

February 18th's Sunday/Monday Post

Welcome to this week's Sunday/Monday Post.  I will be linking up to:

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

Who else watched the Super Bowl last weekend?  I went over to a friend's house for the game.  I said I was okay with which ever team won.  I grew up in Northern California in 49ers territory, but Patrick Mahommes has been my quarterback in fantasy for several years.  So I could root for either one, right?  Given how disappointed I was when the Chiefs won, I think I was rooting for the 49ers to pull it off.  They played well.  It's hard to complain about a game that goes to overtime, right?  And I'm not really upset that the Chiefs won.  It just would have been nice for the 9ers to win one.

Not much else has been going on this week.  I went to the dentist on Friday.  Exciting, right?  And Saturday morning was my walking book club.  We meet every two weeks.

Pun of the Week:

A three-legged dog walks into a frontier saloon, sidles up to the bar, and announces, “I’m looking for the man who shot my paw.”

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Book Review: Mission Manhattan by James Ponti
Monday - TV Show Review: Survivor - Season 45
Tuesday - Book Review: Once Upon a Murder by Samantha Larsen
Wednesday - Movie Review: Deadpool
Thursday - Book Review: Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust by Mindy Quigley
Friday - Friday Post
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

It was another three book week.  Hopefully, I can continue to keep things moderately under control.

Up first is Lone Wolf by Gregg Hurwitz.  While his Orphan X series isn't quite as good as it was at the beginning, I still enjoy it and want to keep up with it.  This is the most recent, which was released this week, and my preorder arrived.

I won a copy of Death Dive from Kait Carson.  She was giving away an ebook copy when she was a guest over at The Wickeds.  I have the first book around here somewhere.  I need to dust it off and get it read. A scuba diver in Florida is the main character of this series, and that certain appeals to me.

Finally, I have Saguaro by Sandy Dengler.  This is the newest in her Jack Prester series set in various National Parks.  I'm hoping to catch up on them this year.  I have three to go, but I can't read them if I don't own them, right?  I used some Kindle points to help with this one.

What I'm Currently Reading:

As I type this Saturday night, I'm about two thirds of the way through Murder Out of Character by Olivia Matthews.  This is the second (and final) book in the Peach Coast Library Mysteries.  I'm enjoying it and hope to finish it on Sunday.

That means Monday, I'll be working on Take the Honey and Run by Jennie Marts.  I've heard lots of great things about this book, so I'm looking forward to reading it.

That wraps things up here.  Hope you have a great rest of your weekend (and enjoy an extra day off if you have a long one) and have a great week.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

February 17th's Weekly TV Thoughts

Tracker – So far, I like this one.  No too surprised with the set up – on going mystery, loner who is good at his job.  Of course, the fact that he drives across the country means it is going to take him a while to get to his assignments each time.  And time is important in cases like this, right?  Okay, I’ll let that go.  I do love the idea of him working out of his trailer like that.

Night Court – And now they’re back to trying too hard.  That wasn’t nearly as much fun as the last couple of weeks have been.  I think part of the problem is the laugh track.  It’s obviously fake (and yes, you can tell if you are actually listening), and they turn it up way too much.  Plus, we need straight lines in there.  Not every line needs to be a punch line.

Extended Family – I think the only part of the episode I enjoyed was the part with the kids.  The rest?  Honestly, it was more painful than funny.

Quantum Leap – I called it, Magic was going to resign.  And I’m not complaining, that was a great thing he did for the team.  And I really like Tom.  I’m glad they kept him a good guy with no agenda.  I was sure early on that he’d turn out to be a villain.  Now, to see if Magic is really gone for good or not.

Wild Cards – I figured eventually she’d be up to something, but I’m clueless as to what it might be.  Probably trying to get her dad out of jail.  Not completely happy about that turn of events, but we will see where it leads.  I did like the dynamic of the episode, however.  The three of them were great together.

The Challenge – What is up with them having to eat or drink nasty stuff?  At least I got to fast forward through that section.  I couldn’t believe they were dragging this out for two weeks, but I didn’t feel like they were needlessly making this take longer than it needed to, like most of the season has been, actually.  And Jay went home!  I was so happy to see that.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Book Review: Yankee Doodle Dead by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #10)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Annie, Max, good mystery
Cons: Victim too cliché
The Bottom Line:
Fireworks and death
Victim a much hated man
Still good overall

Retired General Shot on the 4th

It’s always fun when a mystery is centered around a holiday.  We get lots of Christmas mysteries each year, but Yankee Doodle Dead takes us to a different holiday – the 4th of July.

This is the tenth book in Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand series.  The series features Annie Darling, the owner of a mystery bookstore on a South Carolina resort island.  And it’s a good thing she has all this knowledge of mysteries because she keeps finding herself in real life mysteries.  Her husband, Max, is always quick to jump in and help her figure out what happened.

This year, for the fourth, Broward’s Rock is putting on a festival.  It’s a fundraising event for the local library, but local merchants are setting up booths as well.  Not only will Annie have a booth for her bookstore, but she is also involved as part of the library board.

Unfortunately, a new comer to the island, retired Brigadier General Charlton “Bud” Hatch has joined the board, and he expects things to be done his way.  He’s making enemies, not just on the library board, but all over the island.  So, when someone shoots him in the middle of the fireworks, there are plenty of suspects.  The evidence points to a teen, but Annie and Max believe he is innocent.  Can they prove it?

I struggled a bit with the first half of the book.  That’s roughly how long it took for Bud to die.  Now, this isn’t a case where nothing was happening during that time.  We were seeing him interact with and irritate multiple people, so once he died, we had plenty of suspects already set up.  Still, it was so obvious he was going to be the victim, I was ready for it to happen already.

The other issue is that Bud was a cliché.  He was sexist, racist, and homophobic.  He had no good qualities at all.  Now, I like it when the victim is evil because it sets up so many possible suspects.  But this kind of character takes no real effort or thought to create, and it’s just lazy.

Once we get into the second half of the book, things really do pick up.  We’ve got a plethora of suspects, and they keep Annie and Max hopping as they try to figure out what really happened.  The ultimate solution was logical, although the book does end on a bit of a somber note for the series.

It worked, but it was a bit of a switch since the book is filled with the usual fun and funny characters.  I laughed at the usual antics from the series regulars, and the suspects were real enough to keep me engaged.  I still feel like the characters in the series overall could be stronger, but I enjoy them.

As always with this series, I listened to the audio.  Kate Reading is always a delight as she brings these characters and stories to life.  I’m sure if I read one, I would picture them sounding like she reads them.

Despite my earlier complaints, this wasn’t a bad book.  I did enjoy Yankee Doodle Dead.  I just hope that we start to see less predictable villains with other motives for murder as the series goes along.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Death on Demand series.

February 16th's Friday Post

Welcome to this week's Friday Post.  As usual, I will be linking up to:

Book Beginning
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

This week, I'm pulling quotes from Mission Manhattan by James Ponti.

That's right, I took a mini break from my mysteries for a middle grade book.  Of course, since the main characters are spies, it's a mystery in many ways.  Just a slightly different one.

And the book is lots of fun, as you can tell from how the book opens:

Spy missions were nothing like spy movies. All Cairo had to do was look in a mirror to see that. He was about to go undercover for the first time, and rather than a tuxedo or finely tailored suit, he was wearing a bumblebee costume.

And that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the book.  Yes, there is spying and danger, but there's also plenty of humor.

Meanwhile, on page 56, we find this exchange:

"Why are you using that computer?"
"I'm trying to get to BBC dot com," Mother said.
This answer confused the captain and momentarily stalled him.
"Something's gone terribly wrong, but my Italian is not good enough to understand your discussion," Mother said. "I need an English-language news feed so I can figure out what's happening."
I know I'm giving you quotes without the context I normally do.  I hope you enjoy anyway.

This book was great.  My full review will be up on Sunday (assuming I get it edited and scheduled).

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

Do you keep an active list of favorite authors—that you would spend your milk money on—to have it when they publish a book?

Yes and no.  I don't have one written down anywhere, but I have a mental list.  You could probably argue that my reviews form that list since I look through them every so often to see if some of the authors I haven't heard from in a while have anything new.

Have a great weekend!