Friday, May 31, 2024

May 31st's Friday Post

 Here we are on the last day of May.  Must be time for a Friday Post.  I'll be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

My teasers for the first three this week come from Murder on the Med by Nancy Cole Silverman.

This is the third book in her Kat Lawson Mysteries featuring a reporter who uses that as a cover to investigate art thefts.  As the cover and title suggest, this time she's on a luxury cruise ship that is supposed to be a week of relaxing for her since her only assignment is to write about the ship.  Of course, things aren't that easy for her, as evidenced by the first line:

“Overboard! Are you telling me the woman fell off the ship? And nobody did anything?”

That catches your attention, right?  Definitely made me want to read more.

Meanwhile, at 56% into the book, we find this:

Then Greta stood up. Through the lens of my camera, I noticed a small gift box in her hand. I followed her with my camera’s lens as she approached the head table and, taking the lid off the box, placed it in front of Ida. Ida’s brow furrowed. Her mouth as though she was about to spit. Whatever Greta had placed inside the box angered Ida.

Why would a gift anger Ida?  You'll have to read the book to find out.

I really enjoyed this one.  It officially comes out on Tuesday, but I'll have a review of it on Thursday as part of a blog tour.  I hope you'll come back to see what I thought and even enter the tour wide giveaway.

For today, let's close things out with the Book Blogger Hop.  This week's question is:

June 5th is World Environment Day. Can you suggest a book that has an environmental message or theme?

That's something that rarely comes up in the books I read.  Nothing is coming to mind.  Sorry.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

May 2024's Reading Summary

We are closing out another month.  Hard to believe, right?  But here we are at the end of May, so it's time for a reading summary.  And yes, I've updated The Index again.

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

 

The Bootlegger’s Daughter by Nadine Nettmann – 4

It’s 1927, and Letty Hart is struggling to keep the family vineyard afloat on the outskirts of Los Angeles.  When their contract to provide sacramental wine is canceled abruptly, the discovery of some illegal alcohol her father left behind seems too good to pass up.  Meanwhile, Annabel Forman is trying to prove she deserves the promotion to detective in the LAPD.  She is assigned a joke of a case, but she quickly begins to think she’s stumbled on a connection between several murdered bootleggers.

Obviously, these two women are destined to meet.  The story along the way is enjoyable, and the further I got into the book, the more I wanted to keep reading.  There are some surprises on the way to a suspenseful climax.  I did feel like a few aspects of the plot were rushed, but that’s a minor complaint overall.  We get the story from three different character’s points of view, Letty in first person and the other two in third person.  These changes happen at chapter breaks and are all clearly labeled.  The book is written in present tense, and once my brain got used to it, it didn’t matter.  Many of the supporting characters don’t get much page time to be fully developed, but they feel real in the time they have.  Letty and Annabel, however, are wonderful characters, and I enjoyed watching them deal with what life has given them.  If you are looking for a historic crime story, you’ll be glad you picked this one up.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Malibu Burning by Lee Goldberg (Sharpe and Walker #1) – 4

Former US Marshal Andrew Walker has joined the LA Sheriff arson investigators just as wild fires are breaking out all over the county.  His partner, veteran Walter Sharpe, is picking up on clues that these fires are arson and not accidents.  But Walker thinks there is a larger motive behind them.  If he is right, what other crimes might be happening?

If you need to read a book that takes place in chronological order, this isn’t the book for you since the book jumps back pretty often in the first two thirds to show us how the criminals came together and set up their plan.  These jumps are always easy to follow, although I do think there is a small timeline glitch at one point.  The final third takes place in the same day and it is hot page turning action.  One aspect of the climax didn’t sit well with me, but I think that’s more about me.  Walker and Sharpe can be a bit clichĂ©, but they become more developed as the book proceeds.  As usual for this author, some of his humor doesn’t work for me, and this isn’t one of my cozies, so keep that in mind when you pick it up.  Overall, this is a great new series debut from a reliably enjoyable author.

 

Only the Good Die Young by Julie Mulhern (Country Club Murders #1.5) – 5

This is a short novella that is set back between the first two books.  While Ellison and her daughter are off in Europe, Ellison’s mother, Frances, gets involved in a mystery.  When she goes with one of her friends to check on the friend’s mother-in-law, they find the woman dead in her bedroom.  But it couldn’t be murder.  Frances doesn’t get involved in murder.  The woman hit her head in a fall, right?  Right?

I found Frances’s horror at getting caught up in the case to be funny.  I also liked the fact that we got to know her better, something I definitely needed.  The rest of the characters aren’t super well developed.  Likewise, the mystery is a bit simple, but it kept my interest and reached a great climax.  The thing to keep in mind is that this is a novella, and I read it in about an hour.  As long as they remember the length, fans of the series will be happy with this story.

 


Love Me or Grieve Me by Diane Vallere (Madison Night #10) – 5

It all starts with a mix up in the paper.  Addison Nigh, a once famous jazz singer, has died, but a small paper in town mixes it up with Madison Night, and other papers pick up on the error.  Naturally, this creates problems for Madison since banks freeze her accounts and clients cancel appointments, or don’t show up at all.

But Madison can’t help but be curious about Addison.  As she begins to meet the woman’s friends and family, she stumbles over a dead body.  Can Madison figure out what is really going on?

I always love it when an author comes up with a creative premise for a mystery, and this is one of those.  It leads to so much happening that it is hard to put down.  I couldn’t figure out which thread was important until Madison figured it out at the end.  The premise also allows us to see real growth in Madison and her relationship with her boyfriend, which I enjoyed.  There are some great comic moments as well.  Fans of Doris Day movies will not only recognize the title but also some of the details in Addison’s life, but that’s only a jumping off point.  Anyone who enjoys a great mystery will be glad they picked this one up.

 

Kaleidoscope by Dorothy Gilman (Madame Karitska #2) – 3

As with the first book featuring Madame Karitska, we get several stories that weave in and out of each other.  Sometimes, they touch.  Sometimes they only take up a chapter.  Madame Karitska winds up in the possession of some diamonds when she runs into an old friend on a train.  She helps a wife whose husband is interested in a nearby commune.  A man who is deathly ill comes to her for help.  She even helps a government official who is afraid some home grown terrorists might be at work.

Fans of the first book will be happy to hear that the format of the plot didn’t change much.  Sadly, for me, that means it didn’t work as well as I would have liked.  The way the stories wander around and in and out of each other without any clear beginning or climax frustrates me.  One of them ends very anticlimactically.  On the other hand, I do enjoy the charming characters and I liked spending time with them again.  As with the author’s Mrs. Pollifax series, the characters haven’t really aged even thought it was roundly 25 years between books and both take place in their present.  As a fan of the author, I’m not sorry I read this book, but I won’t be reading this series again any time soon.

 

The Paris Mistress by Mally Becker (Revolutionary War Mysteries #3) – 5

It’s been 10 months since Daniel Alloway went to Paris for his new employer, and Rebecca Parcell is thrilled to finally be joining him, with plans to wed while they are there.  Daniel has been staying with Benjamin Franklin, and, not too long after Rebecca arrives, Dr. Franklin receives a note bribing him to end the Revolutionary War in England’s favor.  When Daniel and Rebecca start to investigate, a dead body soon turns up.  Can they figure out what is going on?

While I love the time period, I usually prefer to focus on what was happening in the colonies at the time.  I am glad this book was set in France, however, since it allowed me to see how our war as impacting them.  I really appreciated that insight.  The plot is good.  I was beginning to suspect where things were going, but there were so many secrets that I really wasn’t sure.  Daniel and Rebecca are still a great team, and I enjoyed seeing them in action again.  The characters, whether real or fictional, were just as good.  If you enjoy this period of history, you need to read these books.

 

A Midnight Puzzle by Gigi Pandian (Secret Staircase Novels #3) – 4

Secret Staircase Construction is being sued by their latest customer.  He maintains that his wife’s accidental fall down the stairs was the result of their shoddy construction.  Tempest Raj doesn’t believe a word of it and thinks he may have tried to kill his wife and blame them.  Before they can figure out what to do the man dies at the theater where Tempest is preparing for her farewell tour – a theater with a connection to the Raj family’s tragic past.  While the police are initially looking elsewhere, Tempest knows it is just a matter of time before they look at her family.  Can she figure out what really happened?

This book wraps up an arc that Tempest has been on, which means fans of the series will be satisfied.  If you are new to the series, there is some background, but you might not fully understand some of what happens here.  The pacing in this book is off, with things a little slow in the second act.  Unfortunately, it means that the third act, while it does logically wrap things up, also feels very rushed.  We needed a little more time to fully absorb the twists.  Still, I love the premise of this series, and Tempest and her friends and family are always a joy to spend time around.  As usual, there are a couple of recipes at the end.  Fans will be looking forward to the next entry when they finish this one.

 

The Last Thing Claire Wanted by Karin Fitz Sanford (Wine Country Cold Case #1) – 4

After a divorce and leaving the FBI, Anne McCormack is trying to build her new estate sale business.  One of her few clients is Claire Murray, who has just found out she has only a few months to live.  Before she dies, Claire wants to find out what happened to her five-year-old son when he was killed twenty-nine years ago.  The case was never solved, but Anne teams up with her uncle, a retired cop, to reopen the case.  What will they find?

I picked this book up because I grew up in the town where the story is set.  I enjoyed that even if many of the places in the story are fictional.  The book is definitely darker than I would normally read, and it includes the content you’d expect from that.  At the heart of the book is a good mystery, and I was caught up in trying to figure out who did it and how Anne would prove it.  The Murray family drama did take over a few times, but most of the time, I enjoyed that story as well.  The writing is good and gives us an appropriate melancholy vibe.  It does take some of the characters time to develop, but by the end, we’ve gotten to know all of them.  If you are looking for a more serious mystery, this is a debut to pick up.

 

White Elephant Dead by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #11) – 4

Broward’s Rock is getting ready for the Women’s Club’s annual white elephant sale.  When Kathryn Girard disappears with the club van while out collecting donations, Annie’s friend and best customer, Henny Brawley, heads out after her.  But then no one hears from Henny.  Annie and her husband, Max, start searching for her.  They find the van with Kathryn’s body in the back and Henny’s car nearby.  The new police chief thinks that means Henny much have killed Kathryn.  But Annie knows better.  The real question is, why would anyone want to kill Kathryn?  And what happened to Henny?

It isn’t long before Annie and Max realize blackmail is involved, and it adds an interesting layer to this mystery.  As usual, I found the suspects a bit flat, and I had a hard time remember who was who.  Likewise, one aspect of the plot is just dropped, and I wish it had been fully developed.  Still, things came together for a logical climax.  I’m catching more of the references to other mystery books, but I still find there are too many of them, so they can get annoying.  The series regulars are in fine form, and they gave me plenty of laughs.  Most of my issues with the book are regular problems for me in the series, but I still enjoy the books.  If you are a fan who hasn’t read this book yet, you’ll enjoy it, too.

 

Tragedy in Tahoe by Rachele Baker (Rylie Sunderland Mysteries #1) – 2

After Rylie Sunderland loses her job as a veterinarian, she takes a part time job at a bed and breakfast run by some family friends.  She’s looking forward to a summer in Lake Tahoe, but she’s hardly arrived when Colin Matthews, the man who runs the local bakery, is murdered.  Rylie is worried the police will think she had something to do with the crime, so she starts to poke around.  Can she figure out what happened?

When I picked up this book, I was really hoping to enjoy it.  Sadly, the writing was extremely weak, with clunky dialogue, repetitive phrases and scenes, and other issues.  It’s a shame because the rest of the book held promise.  Not all of the characters were super developed by the end, but I liked the ones that we did get to know.  The ending of the mystery was a little abrupt, but it had plenty of clues and red herrings to keep me guessing along the way.  As much as I wanted to enjoy this book, I won’t be following Rylie’s further adventures.

 

Kill or Bee Killed by Jennie Marts (Bee Keeping Mysteries #2) – 4

It’s time for the annual Bee Festival in Humble Hills, Colorado.  Since Bailey’s Granny Bee is in charge, that means that Bailey will be busy with the week-long festival helping make sure that it runs smoothly.  One of the events is a local-restaurant cooking contest, and morning show host Rex Rafferty is coming to town, with a film crew, to host the event.  However, Rex is a horrible man, and it isn’t long before Bailey and her best friend, Evie, who is a contestant, are doing all they can to avoid him.  Before the contest is over, he’s been murdered.  The crew he brought with him seem like obvious suspects, but the evidence seems to point to the event’s contestants.  Can Bailey free her friend?

The book starts out a bit slowly, but with a very funny scene.  It isn’t long before the plot kicks in and we are meeting the victim and prime suspects.  I enjoyed following Bailey as she looked for the killer.  The ending was a bit abrupt, but it did answer all of my questions and kept me turning pages.  Over the course of the book, we get laughs from characters and other slapstick situations.  A few of the characters still don’t get enough page time to develop, but I enjoyed seeing the series regulars again and watching their relationships grow.  The suspects are good, but a couple could have used a little more page time.  Overall, this is a fun second entry in what is quickly becoming a sweet series.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

I Sleep Around by Sue Ann Jaffarian – 5

In this memoir, authors Sue Ann Jaffarian talks about her decision to buy a camper van when she retired and hit the road full time.  She discusses what lead to her decision and the steps she took to get ready for her new adventure before detailing what life was like that first year on the road.  She talks about the joys (visiting beautiful places, making new friends) and the pitfalls (dangerously bad weather, problems with her van).  She also talks about how her new life changed in 2020 as we were all trying to shelter in place.

As a fan turned friend, I have followed her journey from the time she first made the decision, and I was thrilled to read this book and get a good look at how she is adapting to his new life.  The book is filled with practical advice and a realistic look at what life can be like.  As I said, she covers the good and the bad, and I appreciated the balanced approach.  Still, overall, she loves her new life, and that comes through.  If anything, I wish we’d heard more about places she’s visited along the way, although the discussions we do get make me want to hit the road and see them for myself.  If you want an honest look at the life of a full-time nomad, you’ll love this book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Book Review: I Sleep Around by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun yet realistic look at living life on the road in a van
Cons: I’m only reading about it, not trying it first hand
The Bottom Line:
Living on the road
Read about the ups and downs
Makes me want to go




Honest Look at Van Life

I’ve read many of Sue Ann Jaffarian’s mysteries over the years, and I blame her friendship for my love of mud runs and my increased listening to audiobooks over the last couple of years.  I was anxious to see more about her life since she took to the road in her Winnebago Travato Class B RV after she retired from her job as a paralegal here in Southern California.  That’s the subject of her memoir, I Sleep Around.  I’m not at all surprised to say I enjoyed it.

The book really does break itself down into three parts.  It starts with Sue Ann’s decision to hit the road full time after she retired and her planning for her new life on the road.  Included in this section are many practical tips for those who might be considering such a lifestyle themselves.  This is far from an exhaustive list of what to consider, but it is a great place to start.

From there, the book goes into her first year on the road, from the rough start to the joys and new friends she made along the way.  Sue Ann is honest about her struggles and her triumphs as she sees just what her new life entails.  She shares some of the wisdom she’s gained along the way, too.

When Sue Ann originally envisioned this book, she planned to stop at the end of the first year.  That changed, however.  You see, she retired at the very end of 2018, so her first year on the road was 2019.  Yes, in the final section of the book, she does talk about her experiences living on the road during the pandemic.  This is a short section of the book, and I would include her wrap up thoughts in this section.

I’ll admit, when Sue Ann first announced her post retirement plans, I was one of the friends she talks about in the book who was a little skeptical.  Mainly because this life seemed very out of character for her.  But a large part of me was very jealous because it sounds fun to me.  And my skepticism quickly melted away as she began to work toward her goals.  As a result, it thrilled my heart to read this book and see just how much she is loving her life on the road.

At times, I wish she had spent a little more time talking about some of the places she visited along the way.  Even so, this book will give you wanderlust, and I loved what we got about some of her stops along the way – places I now want to visit.  If I can’t be out there in person, I can at least enjoy the virtual visits, right?

As I said before, Sue Ann is very honest about the struggles of life on the road as well.  While most of the people she meets are wonderful, she has met a few not so nice people along the way.  Fortunately, nothing dangerous.  But she has encountered some dangerous weather and some frustrating mechanical failures.  This book doesn’t sugar coat what her new life is like.  But it also doesn’t dwell on those problems.  Her joy in her new adventure comes through.  She just wants to be honest for anyone considering the life like she is now living.

If you want a realistic look at life on the road, you’ll be glad you picked up I Sleep Around.  I only wish I could head out and try this life for myself right now.  Sadly, I have to keep working – at least for now.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Book Review: Kill or Bee Killed by Jennie Marts (Bee Keeping Mysteries #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Overall, a fun mystery with main characters we love
Cons: Several, but mostly minor
The Bottom Line:
Celebrating Bees
Leads to murder of guest host
Laughs and fun in book




Bailey Must Bee Careful After Getting Mixed up in Another Murder

I enjoyed meeting Bailey Briggs and her family and friends in the first Bee Keeping Mystery, so I was looking forward to joining them again in Kill or Bee Killed, the second.  This book gives us more hijinks and a good mystery.

It’s time for the annual Bee Festival in Humble Hills, Colorado.  Since Bailey’s Granny Bee is in charge, that means that Bailey will be busy with the week-long festival helping make sure that it runs smoothly.  One of the events is a local-restaurant cooking contest, and morning show host Rex Rafferty is coming to town, with a film crew, to host the event.  However, Rex is a horrible man, and it isn’t long before Bailey and her best friend, Evie, who is a contestant, are doing all they can to avoid him.  Before the contest is over, he’s been murdered.  The crew he brought with him seem like obvious suspects, but the evidence seems to point to the event’s contestants.  Can Bailey free her friend?

The book got off to a bit of a slow start.  I’m not necessarily complaining because the scene was so much fun, but it didn’t add much to the overall story.  Still, it was hilarious.

At this point, we do start to learn about the bee festival and some of what is going to happen during the time.  It is fairly obvious early on that Rex is going to be the murder victim.  He’s just nasty.  But that gives us plenty of suspects to keep us guessing once his body is found.  I was kept guessing as Bailey followed a logical path to the solution.  The ending was a bit abrupt, but all my questions were answered and the suspense kept me turning pages.

The laughs weren’t just in the opening couple of chapters.  There were several other funny scenes as the book went along.  The humor tends to be slapstick, which is hard to pull off on the page, so I really admire author Jennie Marts for pulling that off.  But there are some character based laughs, too.

Speaking of the characters, there are a lot of them.  As a result, some of the supporting players don’t get enough page time to really be developed.  However, the main characters are good, and I really enjoyed getting to know them better.  I truly care about seeing how their relationships turn out.  The suspects were good, although some of them could have used a little more page time to be better developed.

Anyone who reads culinary cozies will not be surprised to find out that some of the dishes created during the context appear at the end of the book.  I’ve got to admit, a couple of them made my mouth water.

If you are looking for a light cozy that will leave you smiling, you’ll want to pick up Kill or Bee Killed.  This is quickly turning into a sweet, must-read series.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Movie Review: Venom

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Action and fun
Cons: Predictable; special effects seemed off
The Bottom Line:
New superhero
Familiar origin plot
But still, there’s some fun




“How Did You Do That?”  “Apparently, I Have a Parasite.”

Venom wasn’t on my radar to watch when it first came out.  Even when a sequel came out, I figured it was a comic book movie that wasn’t for me.  However, a friend suggested we watch it, and I went along.  While I’ve seen movies I’ve enjoyed more, this one was better than I expected.

The movie centers on Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), an investigative reporter who will go to any length to get a story.  At times, that includes crossing lines he shouldn’t cross, like taking advantage of his fiancee’s (Michelle Williams) work emails to get a jump on a story.  When he tries to use that information to confront Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) about his inhuman medical research, it goes wrong and Eddie loses his job and his fiancĂ©e.

However, Eddie was right, as he learns first hand one night in Carlton’s labor.  That’s when Eddie accidently gets infected with an alien symbiote that begins to control him.  And this might be Earth’s only chance against others who want to take it over.  Will Eddie learn to work with the symbiote in time to save the planet?

I’ll admit, part of my problem with this is that it is a typical superhero origin movie.  We know where things are going, and it goes there.  I felt myself waiting for the typical plot points to happen so we could get to something new.

That’s not to say there weren’t a few surprises along the way.  A plot twist or two I hadn’t expected threw me off, and there were plenty of fun scenes along the way.

I was surprised to find that the special effects didn’t really work for me.  Since Venom, the creature that Eddie turns into, is all CGI, that was an important element to the film.  It just looks fake.  I know, I know, how is a space creature supposed to look?  Still, it just didn’t look quite right to me.

But I did have fun along the way.  There are some great action scenes and there is plenty of humor.  Some of it was a bit grosser than I like, but I still laughed multiple times over the course of the movie.

I’m glad I watched Venom.  While I’m not anxious to watch it again, I’m curious enough to watch the sequel at some point.  This isn’t a rush out and watch movie, but if you are curious about the film, you’ll be glad you watched it.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Memorial Weekend's Sunday/Monday Post

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

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

Hope everyone here in the states is having a good Memorial Day weekend.  Yes, it is nice to have the extra day off, and I'm planning to do some serious vegging.  But it is important to remember those who sacrificed for our country as well.  I don't have too much in the way of plans going forward this weekend, so I'll do a little of both.

Friday night, I had some friends over.  This is the couple that hosts my regular game days.  They are huge fans of the TV show psych, which I also enjoyed back in the day.  They hadn't seen the second and third movies, and I hadn't seen the third, so we did a double feature before my year of having Peacock ends in a little over a week.

Saturday morning was walking book club again.  Last one I'll make for a while since I've got a busy few weekends ahead of me.  In fact, I may be hit or miss on these posts the new few weeks as well.  Next weekend, I'll be doing the Camp Pendleton Mud Run and then visiting friends on the way home.  Not sure I will be back in time or feel like putting one of these together.

Joke of the Week:

What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?

This Past Week on the Blog:


This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Sunday/Monday Post
Monday - Movie Review: Venom
Tuesday - Book Review: Kill or Bee Killed by Jennie Marts
Wednesday - Book Review: I Sleep Around by Sue Ann Jaffarian
Thursday - May Reading Summary
Friday - Friday Post
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:

I managed to keep my book haul to two books again.  I know, I can't believe it either.  Even more surprising, both of these books will be reviewed in June.  They aren't books that I'm grabbing to read at some point in the future.

Up first is Dance Hall of the Dead, the second Leaphorn and Chee Mystery from Tony Hillerman.  I grabbed the audio version of this book to listen to next weekend while I'm driving too and from Camp Pendleton.  Based on the length, I should finish it easily during that trip, so I haven't started it yet.

The other books is one of the ones I talked about waiting for last week.  Murder in the Air is the latest Destinations Murders short story anthology featuring different cozy mystery authors.  The book actually came out this week, so what I got was a very late ARC, with the editors telling me to get to it when I could since they got it to me so late.  Truly, I appreciate that, especially since June is rather full of books I've grabbed ARCs for already.

What I'm Currently Reading:

However, since I'm still waiting for some of the ARCs I had planned to read in June (and who knows when I will get them at this point), I went ahead and read Murder in the Air.  I finished it Saturday morning after the walking book club.  There are eight stories, and they are fun.  Full review will be coming June 4th.

I'm going to keep that travel theme going with Murder on the Med by Nancy Cole Silverman.  This is the third in her Kat Lawson series about a former reporter who gets hired to help find stolen art.  This time, we're on a cruise ship, and I'm really looking forward to a not quite relaxing vacation for Kat.  Yes, I plan to read some over the weekend, but since I'm ahead of my reading schedule, I'm going to give myself a bit more time to just chill over the next couple of days.

Here's to a great week!

Saturday, May 25, 2024

May 25th's Weekly TV Thoughts

This week's biggest spoiler goes to Survivor, so be warned.

Tracker – I felt like that was a darker episode than we usually get, and I’m not sure why.  Maybe because the friend died?  Maybe because the sheriff was corrupt?  Maybe both?  I still don’t get how Colter is connected to the rest of the cast.  And I don’t get how the lawyer is always where he needs her.  Magic of TV, I guess.  Still, a strong first season, and I’m looking forward to seeing where we go next season.

The Weakest Link – I’m never a fan when they get rid of the strong early on, but they all seemed to be aiming at each other when that happened.  Honestly, there wasn’t really a super strong person.  There was a weak link at the end, and she showed it during the final round.  I was afraid they’d have a very low total early on, but they began to figure it out in later rounds.

Race to Survive – I know I wasn’t planning to watch after the first season, but here I am again.  And I’m glad.  Parts of this leg looked like fun.  You’ll notice I said parts.  Definitely wouldn’t want to climb the mountain.  But I’ll do both parts of the paddling.  And the scenery is great.  Looks like we’ve got several strong teams, at least in this leg.  It will be interesting to see if that holds all season or not.

Survivor – I think of the final three, I would have voted for Charlie.  I definitely feel like Kinsey was more of a coattail rider.  On the other hand, she survived from the tribe that was constantly losing at the beginning of the season.  Right there, that is impressive.  Overall, a good season.  I feel like Jeff liked it more than I did, but it was fun.

Friday, May 24, 2024

May 24th's Friday Post

It's Friday!  And it's the start of a long weekend here in the States.  But before we officially get there, it's time for a Friday post, where I will be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

This week, I'm my teasers for the first three come from Kill or Bee Killed by Jennie Marts.


This is the second in the Bee Keeping Mysteries.  And here's how it begins:

Bailey Briggs wrinkled her nose at the scent of stale beer and cheap perfume, barely masked by the lavender air freshener in the bar’s restroom. “I told you this was a bad idea,” she whisper-yelled as she hoisted her best friend up toward the small window that sat two-thirds of the way up the wall.

Now if that doesn't catch you attention, I don't know what will.  Meanwhile, at 56% into the ARC, we find this:

“Oh poo,” Evie said. “We were racing over here to catch the end of the pageant. How did the aunts do?”

The book won't be out until June 4th, but you don't have to wait that long for my review.  It will be up on Tuesday.  I hope you'll come back to see what I thought.

Meanwhile, let's switch gears to this week's Book Blogger Hop.  The question is:

What's your favorite outdoor reading spot, and do you have any advice for creating the perfect outdoor reading experience?

I don't tend to read outside.  I have a condo, so the only real outside I have is a small patio that isn't really that inviting for anything like reading.

Have a great weekend!

Book Review: Tragedy in Tahoe by Rachele Baker (Rylie Sunderland Mysteries #1)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Decent mystery, main characters by the end
Cons: Writing
The Bottom Line:
Baker is murdered
Some promise in this debut
But writing is weak




Decent Story in Need of a Good Edit

When I first heard about Tragedy in Tahoe, the first in a new series from Rachele Baker, I thought it sounded fun.  And I love to read books set in California, although I haven’t been to Lake Tahoe in decades.  Sadly, the book wasn’t nearly as good as I’d hoped it would be.

Rylie Sunderland has been working as a veterinarian, a job she loves, in the east bay of San Francisco.  Everything changes when her clinic burns down in a fire.  Not sure what to do next, she agrees to take a part time job for the summer at a B & B some family friends own in Lake Tahoe.

She’s only been there a couple of days when Colin Matthews, who owns the bakery that provides the pastries for the bed and breakfast, is murdered.  Since Rylie’s phone number was in the victim’s pocket, she fears the police consider her a suspect.  Can she figured out what really happened?

My issue with this book was the writing.  It was very poor.  In an attempt to capture how people really talk, we’d get dialogue like this:

“Hi Sam, how are you?”
“I’m fine, Mary, how are you?”

Is that how people talk?  Yes.  Does it make for good dialogue in a novel?  In this case, no.  There are also cases of repetitive phrases or descriptions that needed to be cut.  And, even though the book was written in third person, the author seemed reluctant to type Rylie’s name, using she all the time.  This created some confusing scenes.  And yes, I realize my writing falls into some of these traps at times.  I try to edit them out of my reviews before I post them, but I don’t catch them all.

It’s a shame since there was much to like here.  While only a few of the characters felt like they’d gotten decent development by the end of the book, I really did like them.  This was especially true of Rylie’s dog, who stole my heart.

The mystery itself was good as well.  There were enough clues and red herrings to keep me guessing.  The ending was a bit abrupt, but it did wrap things up nicely and answered all my questions.

As much as I wanted to like Tragedy in Tahoe, the writing was weak enough that I just couldn’t enjoy it.  I don’t think I’ll be back to find out what happens to Rylie next.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Movie Review: The Fall Guy

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun action; leads have great chemistry
Cons: Trying to do a little too much slows down the pacing at times
The Bottom Line:
Missing lead actor
His stunt man is on the case
In this fun movie




Fun Action Romantic Comedy Mystery

When I’d heard they were officially making The Fall Guy into a movie, I got excited.  Then I saw the trailers, and I lost interest until I started hearing from people I trust that the movie was a lot of fun.  The result?  I decided to go out and watch it in the theater.  While I feel like others enjoyed it more than I did, I still liked it.

The movie follows Colt Seaver (Ryan Gosling), a stunt man who is making a good living since he doubles for action super star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).  However, an accident on set sends Colt into self-imposed isolation he recovers from his injuries.

That is until a frantic call from Tom’s producer, Gail (Hannah Waddingham), brings Colt out of retirement.  But he only agrees to double Tom again because this movie is the big break for Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), his long-time crush, and it is in danger of falling apart.

Turns out Jody isn’t happy to see Colt again.  And Gail has a secret reason for getting Colt to the set.  It seems that Tom has vanished, and, unless Colt can find him, the film will be shut down and Jody’s big break, like her career, will be shelved.  Can Colt save the day?

In case you don’t know, this movie is inspired by a 1980’s TV show.  I’ve seen some episodes over the years, which is why I was happy to see the show getting a big screen version.  (And maybe we can get more than the first season on DVD?  Pretty please?)  Those who know the show will see why I said inspired by.  Yes, there are some nods to the original show here, but the script spins them in entirely new directions.  However, it is obviously done by people who love the original, as evidenced by the nods and winks to it, which I loved.  I caught a few other fun nods to other 80’s pop culture, and I’m sure there are more I missed.  Fans of the original will want to be sure they catch the mid-credits scene.  And they’ll enjoy the reworked version of the theme song as recorded by Blake Shelton.

Okay, so let’s stop comparing to the past and look at this movie on its own merits, shall we?

It tries to do a bit too much.  It’s an action movie.  It’s a romantic comedy.  It’s a mystery.  It just almost worked for me, but not quite.  I think that’s because, at times, the romantic comedy seems to overshadow everything else.  And it was the everything else I was there to see.  Not to say I didn’t enjoy that aspect of it the movie, it just wasn’t the main thing I was there for.

And that’s not to say the movie isn’t enjoyable.  After all, Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt had great chemistry, so it was easy to root for them to work things out.  The mystery was solid with some good twists.  More importantly, it provided a good framework for the stunts.

I mean, a movie about a stuntman.  You know there had to be stunts, right?  Like with the show, some are related to the movie and some are in real life as Colt tries to figure out what is going on and survive the bad guys who are coming after him.  Either way, they are fantastic.  We believe them, and it’s fun to watch in the credits to get an idea of how they did some of them.

While I talked about the leads earlier, the entire cast is good in their parts.  I didn’t spot too many opportunities for fx here, which means that any we had was pretty good.  I think they went with the practical effects and stunts as much as they could.

I also appreciated the humor.  The movie has some great lines and clever meta moments without being true meta moments.  Okay, some of them are obvious, too, but some were more subtle.  Either way, I got a kick out of them.

Obviously, this movie is a tribute to stunt people.  It’s got to be a hard job, and one I’d be horrible at.  As someone who does enjoy the results of their work, I appreciate the honor the script gives them.

Overall, The Fall Guy is a fun movie that will have something for everyone.  Be sure you do see it today.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Book Review: White Elephant Dead by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #11)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Laughs with characters we love and a good mystery
Cons: One dropped aspect of the plot and a few series long issues
The Bottom Line:
Volunteer is killed
Which victim is the killer?
Book has lots of laughs




Rummaging for Blackmail Secrets

I’m really finding myself looking forward to my visits to Broward’s Rock.  The antics of the characters are fun, and that was the case again with White Elephant Dead.

This is book eleven in Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand series.  Our main character is Annie Darling, who runs a mystery bookstore on the resort island off the coast of South Carolina.  Even though it is a vacation destination, it seems to have more than its share of murder and mayhem.

This book finds the community getting ready for the Women’s Club’s annual white elephant sale.  When Kathryn Girard disappears with the club van while out collecting donations, Annie’s friend and best customer, Henny Brawley, heads out after her.  But then no one hears from Henny.  Annie and her husband, Max, start searching for her.  They find the van with Kathryn’s body in the back and Henny’s car nearby.  The new police chief thinks that means Henny much have killed Kathryn.  But Annie knows better.  The real question is, why would anyone want to kill Kathryn?  And what happened to Henny?

The plot hooked me right away.  I suspected I knew how the first act would turn out, but I still wanted to keep reading to find out for sure.  It isn’t too long before we realize that Kathryn was blackmailing some people on the island – people who appear to be upstanding citizens with no secrets.  Annie and Max then have to figure out what they might have been hiding that Kathryn knew about.  It’s not an original plot for a mystery, but I found myself enjoying it here.  How it is presented gives the story an extra layer, or so it felt when I was reading it.

However, because we don’t start uncovering these secrets until well into the second half, I found it hard to keep the suspects straight in my mind.  This is often an issue in the series since the supporting characters seem to be a bit thin.  Additionally, there was an aspect of the mystery that got dropped.  I would have loved to see some kind of resolution to that even if it didn’t turn out to have something to do with why Kathryn died.  Still, the climax made sense.

The series regulars were in top form, however.  They can be a bit over the top at times, but in the best way possible.  I got plenty of laughs from them as I was reading the book.

Credit for that partially goes to Kate Reading, who once again narrated the audio book I was listening to.  Her performance is wonderful at capturing the characters and their antics without getting in the way of the story.  Some of the laughs I had were definitely because of her.

This series is famous for its numerous references to other mysteries, both classics and contemporary.  Since this one came out in 1999, I am beginning to recognize more and more of the contemporary references, which is fun.  However, I do wish they’d been toned down a little.  While we didn’t get the lists of names that annoyed me in earlier books, I did find the comparisons to other mystery characters and plot lines get out of hand at times.

Most of my issues with White Elephant Dead are things that are true across the series so far.  So, they are minor for me at this point.  If you are already a fan of these characters and haven’t read this book yet, you are in for a treat.  And if you’ve missed this series, you’ll want to make time for it soon.

Be sure to read the rest of the Death on Demand Mysteries.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Movie Review: Coming Home - A Family Practice Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun main characters; entertaining story
Cons: Dose of low budget cheese; mystery a little obvious
The Bottom Line:
A healthy patient
Can Rachel find why he died?
Starting new franchise




“In This Town, You’re Not Going to Find that Many Cases of Intentional Death.”

Hallmark has said recently that they are committing to mysteries.  One sign of that is the rebranding of one of their channels to Hallmark Mystery instead of Hallmark Mystery and Movies.  And, while they aren’t giving us too many second movies in franchises, they are starting plenty of new franchises.  The latest is the Family Practice Mysteries, which kicked off with Coming Home.

Rachel Hunt (Amanda Schull) has left the army and, along with her teenage twins, moved back in with her father in her home town where she is working as a doctor.  One of her new clients is Ross Alexander (Greg Kean), a man who is incredibly healthy.  So that’s why Rachel is surprised when she finds his dead body.  The coroner is certain that it was a death from natural causes, but Rachel thinks something else was going on.  Detective Jack Quinn (Brendan Penny) is willing to listen, but he needs evidence.  Will Rachel figure out what happened?

Being the first movie in the franchise, there is a lot of ground to cover.  It does a fairly good job of introducing us to the characters a little at a time so as not to slow down the mystery.  It’s easy to guess at some of the backstory, but I appreciate that they gave it to us without dragging things out too much and without doing a massive exposition dump.

Having said that, I did have to wonder about Rachel’s medical practice.  Did she have a partner?  Did she take over from someone?  Not that it really mattered.  After all, she was out solving the mystery more than she was in the office.

The mystery is enjoyable. I spotted the guilty party before Rachel figured it out, but I didn’t have all the pieces to be sure I was right.  I enjoyed the twists as she worked to uncover the truth.  She did cross the line a few times and made some pretty stupid mistakes near the end, however.

With a couple of sub-plots, there was enough to keep us engaged.  No, the sub-plots weren’t terribly original, but I did care about the outcomes of them.

What I really enjoyed are the characters that I’m sure would be regulars if we got another one of these movies.  Rachel and her family are great.  I really enjoyed their relationship.  And the obvious romance between Rachel and Jack was cute.  A couple of their lines made me laugh out loud as I was watching.

Unfortunately, this movies does have a dose of low budget cheese associated with it.  But if you are watching a Hallmark movie, you’d know to expect that.  I’ve certainly watched and enjoyed worse on the channel over the years.

If you enjoy Hallmark’s mysteries, you’ll enjoy Coming Home.  I hope we get to visit the characters in the Family Practice Mysteries again soon.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Book Review: The Last Thing Claire Wanted by Karin Fitz Sanford (Wine Country Cold Case #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good if darker mystery
Cons: Drama does overtake mystery at times
The Bottom Line:
Reopen cold case
In book with a darker tone
Set in my home town




What Happened to Little Danny?

There is exactly one reason that The Last Thing Claire Wanted caught my attention – it is set in Santa Rosa, California, the town where I grew up.  I always enjoy reading a book set in an area I’m familiar with, so I added it to my to be read pile, and I’m glad I did.

Anne McCormack is trying to put her life back together after a divorce from her horrible ex and leaving her job at the FBI.  She’s trying to start an estate sale business in her hometown of Santa Rosa, but she is struggling to find clients.

One of her first clients is Claire Murray, an older woman who has just been given a few months to live.  Anne remembers the Murray family well from the story twenty-nine years ago about them.  Claire’s five-year-old son, Danny, was killed, and the case was never solved.  Before she dies, Claire wants to find out what happened to Danny.

Anne’s uncle was one of the police officers who worked on the case all those years ago, and he comes out of retirement to head a taskforce to reopen the case, with Anne helping him.  She uses her relationships with the family to gather more information.  But can they solve the case all these years later?

I haven’t lived in Santa Rosa for almost twenty-nine years (which is hard to believe), but my family still lives there so I visit frequently.  Having said that, I quickly realized this was a fictionalized version of the city, as the author admits in a note at the end.  Many of the places the characters go are fictional.  Honestly, as soon as I realized how prevalent it was going to be, it didn’t bother me in the slightest.  But there are some references to real places and streets that made me smile.

This is not one of my cozies, and I knew that going in.  The story is definitely darker than I often read, and there is more foul content as a result.  As long as you know this before you pick up the book, you’ll be fine.

So how is the book itself?  The writing is strong, especially for a debut novel, and the book has a melancholy tone that comes through from page one.  The mystery is good.  Since this is more a police procedural, we are as interested in seeing if Anne can prove the case as well as figuring out who done it.  I was intrigued the entire way through.

Having said that, this book is also about Claire and what her upcoming death is going to do to her family.  I might not normally go for that kind of drama, but here it mostly worked for me.  A few times, I felt that took over the story to the detriment of the mystery, but that was minor overall.

It took a while for all the characters to come fully to life, but by the end, I’d come to care for all of them.  This is an interesting study of what a tragedy will do to a family.

If you are looking for a lighter mystery, don’t pick up The Last Thing Claire Wanted.  But if you want something more serious, you’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

May 19th'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
It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Another fairly quiet week for me.  I had my church small group Thursday night, but now we're taking off for the summer and will start meeting again in the fall.

Our weather has been cool.  I don't know if we've hit 70 every day this week despite the predictions.  It was cool and overcast when I went out for a run at lunch time yesterday - barely above 60.  I'm ready for warmer weather!

Speaking of running, I've been gearing up for the Camp Pendleton Mud Run in two weeks.  I ran 4.5 miles three days this week.  My legs were not happy with me each time.  It's been years since I ran much over 3.5 miles, and they are reminding me of that fact.  And yes, my runs include walk breaks.  It's also been years since I ran without stopping.  But at least I'm covering the distance.

This Past Week on the Blog:


This Coming Week on the Blog:


Sunday - Sunday/Monday Post
Monday - Book Review: The Last Thing Claire Wanted by Karin Fitz Sanford
Tuesday - Movie Review: Coming Home
Wednesday - Book Review: White Elephant Dead by Carolyn Hart
Thursday - Movie Review: The Fall Guy
Friday - Book Review: Tragedy in Tahoe by Rachel Baker
Saturday - Weekly TV Thoughts

Book Haul:


I had another two book week this week.  Granted, there are some ARCs I haven't gotten yet, so I expect that to change in the next couple of weeks.  Or at least I hope it does since some of these books are already out or coming out very soon.

The first book was my preorder of Playing it Safe by Ashley Weaver.  This book just came out in paperback, and so that's what I had preordered.  It's book three in a series about a safe cracker helping the Allies in World War II.  I loved the first book when I read it last year, and just got the second a couple of months back.  So now I need to actually read book two so I am ready for this one.  I'm really looking forward to them, I just need to find the time.

Then, on Saturday, I got an ARC of Murder at an English Seance, the eighth Beryl and Edwina Mystery from Jessica Ellicott.  This series is set in England in the 1920's.  I really enjoy the friendship between the leads and always look forward to seeing where their latest adventure will take them.

What I'm Currently Reading:

I'm starting on June releases already.  However, I am planning to review these first two the last week of May.  That's how full my June is, I need to start on the books and reviews now to have a chance of fitting them all in.

Friday, I finished Kill or Bee Killed by Jennie Marts.  This is the second Bee Keeping Mystery.  Overall, I enjoyed it.  Still need to write my review, but I've got a bit of time yet.  Considering I just wrote some of the reviews I plan to post this week on Saturday, I am glad I have that buffer between finishing the book and needing to post the review.

I've just barely started my next book - I Sleep Around by Sue Ann Jaffarian.  This is my first non-fiction book in I can't remember how long.  It's about her life now as a traveling writer who has retired from her day job.  I was a fan of Sue Ann's mysteries (and hope she's get back to them), so I'm looking forward to seeing what her life is like now.

That's it for me.  Have a great week!

Saturday, May 18, 2024

May 18th's Weekly TV Thoughts

As always, watch for spoilers below.  On multiple shows this time.

Tracker - Of course the brother is going to deny that he had anything to do with their dad's death.  However, I do tend to believe him.  It does track with what else we know and it seems to make the most sense.  I'm assuming it will be season two before we really get more about this.  Maybe a cliffhanger next week for the season finale.

American Ninja Warrior - As much as I love the show, this special shows the issue I'm going to have with it going forward.  By letting younger kids in, they are making ti harder for the old favorites to realistically compete and win.  I know that eventually my favorites would have to retire anyway, but this is just hastening making them irrelevant.  Not to take anything away from the winner.  She did a great job and was clearly the best one on that final stage.

Deal or No Deal Island - Called it last week.  Rob was eliminated right out of the maze, and Howie was the banker.  I'm happy for the winner and the start of her family.  

Survivor – Another week, another player voted out with an idol in their pocket.  I wonder how many of the players realize what is going on?  How many hidden idols are at camp?  I’m not at all sorry to see Q gone.  I get why he stayed around like he did, but I’m so glad he is out of there.  I’m with those who wanted him out a lot sooner than he was.

The Amazing Race – For an episode that ended the way I expected, there were some surprises along the way.  Ricky and Cesar getting third in the first leg was a surprise – their lowest finish.  The pilots coming back from their very wrong turn to come in second was a surprise.  I figured they’d be third.  I’ve got to say, I loved their attitude.  They had to be frustrated, but they were laughing it off.  Just so sad to see the nurses get engaged.  I just don’t see their relationship working out.

Friday, May 17, 2024

May 17th's Friday Post

Welcome to Friday!  It's time for another Friday Post, where I will be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

For the first three, I'm pulling quotes from The Last Thing Claire Wanted by Karin Fitz Sanford.

 


This is a mystery, but a darker mystery than I would normally read.  Darker, but good.  It starts with a prologue, so I'm sharing the beginning of that and chapter one as well for the book beginning:

Prologue:

Just a few hundred yards from St. Paul's Parish School, the old adobe home stood in ruins in an overgrown and neglected orchard. It was fenced off and condemned by the city, but that only added to its allure for adolescent boys and the occasional vagrant.


Chapter One:

Anne McCormack rolled off the futon, got to her feet, and checked her watch. Seriously, not even ten o'clock?

Meanwhile, on page 56, we find this:

The ringing of the phone broke her reverie. It was Anne.
"Claire, hello. My uncle just called with the news: Danny's case is being reopened, effective today. He'll be contacting you soon."

I'll be sharing my review on Monday, so I hope you'll come back then.

Meanwhile, let's close things off with the Book Blogger Hop.  This week's question is:

Do you consider yourself a book collector or a book hoarder?

I consider myself a collector.  But given how I have piles of books all over the condo, I think hoarder is probably the more accurate description.  I really need to weed through my collection and get rid of books I will never read or never read again.