Friday, March 24, 2023

Felines and Fill-ins 28

Happy Felines and Fill-ins Friday! 

I am participating in three blog hops today. You can click on the host links below to read the blogs of others who are participating, and if you're a blogger, feel free to join through the links below!

QuestionAre books a must-have in your home?

My response: Some books with sentimental value are must-haves, such as signed copies, books that were gifts, books that I have a personal connection to, or books that are written so well that I can see myself rereading them.

FRIENDLY FILL-INS, hosted by Four-Legged Furballs and 15 and Meowing. 
1. My favorite character from a film, t.v., or book is Paislee. I can think of others, too, but I chose to share the protagonist I'm reading about now. She's from Murder in a Scottish Shire (Scottish Shire Mystery 1), by Traci Hall. I will review this book in a week or two, so that's all I'll say for now.

2. The one word I would use to describe myself is an overplanner. Again, I can think of other words, but this was the first one that came to mind. I tend to think I can do more in a day than I realistically can, which sometimes leads to a feeling of frustration. 

3. If I had to give you my best piece of advice, I would tell you to follow your intuition,

4.  Bell and Fiona will never compare with any other cat I've had. I love them all in unique ways.

Plot twist! I recently wrote about how Bell is very protective of her Mousey. (Read that post here.) What I didn't mention is that Bell hisses and growls when she has possession of it. It is hers and only hers! 

Well, in an unexpected turn of events this week, Fiona had possession of Mousey (under Bell's supervision, of course) and Fiona started hissing at Bell! I laughed so hard because this was such a change. It was like she was giving Bell a taste of her own medicine. Bell just gave her a look as if to say, "How dare you talk to me that way!" I told Bell she is the one who taught Fiona how to "speak" to her like that. It's true. From the time they were tiny kittens, Bell has always been the one who did things first - climbing, jumping, etc. Fiona studied her carefully and eventually followed in her pawsteps. So in this case, she had been studying Bell all along and finally decided to try it out on her! By the way, these hissing and growling exchanges are never filled with true animosity. They are more like warning signals than never really turn into anything major. They are both the biggest love bugs.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The Cases of Mystery Lane (2023)


Hallmark Movies and Mysteries has really been catering to their mysteries fanbase this year, at least more so than last year so far. I have yet to review, but thoroughly enjoyed, Family History Mysteries: Buried Past and Curious Caterer: Grilling Season. The Cases of Mystery Lane, which stars Hallmark veteran Paul Campbell and a new-to-me actress, Aimee Garcia, first aired this past Sunday.  Let's dive into this latest one.

The premise of all three of these movies are different, which I appreciate. The Cases of Mystery Lane features a quirky married couple, Alden and Birdie Case, who happen to live on Mystery Lane. They are both keeping secrets from each other and are drifting apart. Alden is secretly studying to be a private investigator and Birdie is an attorney at her mother's law firm. What's her big secret? She plays poker online. Nothing too earth-shattering, but these secrets that the married couple are holding from each other are enough to let viewers know they don't have a perfectly happy marriage. In fact, Birdie is planning to file for divorce. 

One of the things that really bugs me about Hallmark movies is when they involve lies. It seems to happen quite often in their romcoms. (I'm looking at you A Paris Proposal and The Love Club: Nicole's Pen Pal.) In The Cases of Mystery Lane, I'm pleased to say, the lies were not a huge part of the movie. They were found out pretty quickly, so the story could move along after that.

As part of an assignment, Alden decides to spy on man whom he believes is interested in his wife. This leads to Alden discovering a dead body in Birdie's office building, which the authorities believe was suicide. This is actually the second death, as the movie's opening scene showed someone getting killed. But is this second death really suicide? And who killed the person shown at the beginning of the movie? Can Alden and Birdie find common ground as sleuths and solve these mysteries?

I really enjoyed this movie, which I believe could turn into a series. In fact, I think it would make a great weekly t.v. show. But even as a series of movies, I can see this moving forward. The end left the door wide open for possibilities.

The mystery in this movie was good, but not great. Almost immediately after the culprit was introduced in the movie, I had a strong feeling that person was the killer. I did briefly waver a few times, but I always went back to that same person. I was hoping it was someone else because I like to be surprised. I also felt like the solution wasn't a direct result of sleuthing, but that it just fell into their laps. I would like to have seen more sleuthing leading up to figuring out who it was. Our sleuthing team is just starting out, though, so perhaps this will improve in future movies should there be more.

I liked that the romance was very different than what we're used to seeing in Hallmark movies. We get to see a different kind of conflict. I am invested in their relationship because I want to see them work through their problems and have a successful marriage. 

There are funny moments in this movie, but not all of them worked for me. Some were just cheesy, and at times Paul Campbell's character was a bit too over the top goofy for me. Perhaps he just needs to mature and we'll see his growth in future movies. I wasn't crazy about the character of Birdie in the beginning either. I thought she was too high strung and I didn't understand her. At one point she blamed Alden for roping her into sleuthing when, in fact, she made the decision herself to do this. She wasn't forced into it. However, her character warmed up to me and I grew to really like both of them, imperfections and all.

I've seen Hallmark advertise this as their "inaugural case", so I'm hoping that means their intention is to make it a series. There's a lot of good material to work with with strong leads. I enjoyed the supporting cast as well. I think there is a future with The Cases of Mystery Lane and I look forward to seeing its growth.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday - Cozy Mysteries with International Themes

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! This blog hop is brought to us by That Artsy Reader Girl. On her blog you will see links to the blogs of others who are participating in Top Ten Tuesday. If you are a blogger, feel free to join the party through the linky on her blog post.

This week's theme is a TTT Rewind. We are to choose a topic we've already covered and update it or choose a previous one we did not cover. I saw one on the list that caught my attention - Books with Geographical Terms in the Title. This is one I have not covered. 

I am going to tweak this and share with you Cozy Mysteries with International Themes. Some of these books take place in other countries, while others take place in the U.S., but feature international themes through the cuisine, setting, and characters. The only two on this list I have read are Flowers and Foul Play (Magic Garden Mystery 1), by Amanda Flower and Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot Mystery 18), by Agatha Christie. I think I would enjoy reading the rest of these as well.
Doesn't this cover look yummy? Death by Dumpling (Noodle Shop Mystery 1), by Vivien Chien, features Chinese cuisine at a family-owned restaurant in the Cleveland area. 
Flowers and Foul Play (Magic Garden Mystery 1), by Amanda Flower not only takes place in Scotland, but it also features a magical garden. I love magical elements in cozies. I enjoyed the Scotland setting and I plan to continue reading the series.
Hummus and Homicide (Kebab Kitchen Mystery 1), by Tina Kashian, takes place in Philidelphia and centers around the family-owned Mediterranean restaurant. I am not necessarily drawn to culinary cozies, but this one appeals to me.
Maple syrup is one of my two favorite foods (the other being popcorn). A Doomful of Sugar (Maple Syrup Mystery 1), by Catherine Bruns, is on my physical bookshelf and patiently waiting to be read in the fall. It takes place in Vermont and features a Lebanese protagonist. 
The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax 1), by Dorothy Gilman, takes place in Mexico City. This is a well-known series that I have yet to read.
Much like in the t.v. series, our amateur sleuth travels around the world in the Murder, She Wrote book series. In this first one, Gin and Daggers, by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain, she travels to London.
Death on Tap (Sloan Krause 1), by Ellie Alexander is not one that I would normally choose to read as I don't drink alcohol and I know nothing about beer. However, the setting in a Bavarian-themed town really appeals to me.
Murder in an Irish Village (Irish Village Mystery 1), by Carlene O'Connor, obviously takes place in an Irish village. I found this one when I was looking for an Irish-themed cozy for St. Patrick's Day, but I didn't have time to read it then. It's on my TBR list, though.
I've seen this book in the grocery and I've been tempted to buy it. It Takes Two to Mango (Trouble in Paradise! 1), by Carrie Doyle, takes place on a Caribbean Island.

I read Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot 18), by Agatha Christie, for the first time last year and I enjoyed it. Minus the murder, it was fun to travel on the ship along the Nile.

Wow, sharing all of these books makes me want to take an armchair trip around the world! Maybe I will do some armchair traveling next year. 

Have you read any of these cozies? Are there any other internationally-themed cozy mysteries you would recommend?

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Sunday Post 22

Hi, everyone!

I had a busy week last week with three appointments, but this week should be much more subdued. I don't have taxes hanging over my head, nor do I have any appointments scheduled this week. I may have to deal with some condo business, but even that seems to be settling down a bit.

Is spring (or fall, depending on which part of the world you're in) in the air where you are? It's very windy and chilly here in Central Maryland today with temps in the upper 30's, but nature is starting to wake up from its winter nap. The maple trees are budding, the pear and plum trees are blooming, the daffodils are bursting with yellow, and the tulips are beginning to say hello. I've heard in some areas the cherry blossoms are emerging, but that hasn't happened in my neighborhood yet. This week the temperatures should start to rise. (To be clear, I'm a huge fan of winter. I love snow, and cold weather doesn't bother me. But I also love so much about spring, too, so I'm ready.)

I am once again linking with Reading Reality, who hosts Stacking the Shelves, and The Book Date, who hosts It's Monday! What Are You Reading?  The latter is posted on Mondays, so be sure to check the link then.)  On all of these blogs you will be able to see links to the posts from others who are participating in these blog hops, and if you're a blogger you can join too! 

To see how I'm doing with my bookish challenges, click on 2023 Bookish Challenges on the right sidebar.

I didn't have time to read Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl 1), by Eoin Colfer last week. I've decided to put it off for another week or two so I can focus on other books I want to finish first. 

How We Roll, by Natasha Friend is a book I borrowed from a "Blind Date with a Book" event my local library had around Valentine's Day. There was a table of books that were wrapped and each one had a brief description of what was inside. Being  Valentine week, each one was a romance, but they had different themes. The tag on this one said that it was about disability representation. This was the last book on the table, which made me sad. It's like being the last person picked to join a team. I also thought it was interesting how I was the one who ended up with this book since I have Spina Bifida and as a result, walk with crutches most of the time. (At home I just hold on to furniture and for long distances I use a wheelchair.) I was a little discouraged by some of the reviews I read about this book, but I was pleasantly surprised it really wasn't that bad. Some reviews said that one of the characters was ableist. I didn't see it that way. I just felt like she had issues of her own to deal with on top of being a young teenager who had a lot of growing up to do. However, I didn't really connect with a lot of the characters for other reasons. I have read a few YA novels and the teens in those books are much more mature than some of the teens in this one. I don't think I would get along with them if I knew them in real life. I also wish the book included more about how the wheelchair user got around, emphasizing accessibility. The story was generally good, though. There was more depth to it than I excepted. It isn't a favorite book of mine, but I liked it enough to give it 3/5 stars.

Apart from the cursing, I enjoyed the audiobook for A Potion to Die For (Magic Potion Mystery 1), by Heather Blake. I liked the audio for this book more than I've liked some other audiobooks I've listened to. The females doing male voices wasn't as exaggerated in this one and I liked that about it. Because I liked the premise and the setting, I might eventually read the second book in the series. I do hope there is more of an emphasis on the witchy aspect of it in future books, though. I gave it 3/5 stars.

I started reading the e-book version of Murder in a Scottish Shire (Scottish Shire Mystery 1), by Traci Hall. I would have preferred to read the print version, but my local library does not have it. This is the March pick for The Cozy Mystery Book Club and we meet next Tuesday, so reading this book will be my focus this week.
I picked up from the library today Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling and I'll read it next. I'm looking forward to going back to Hogwarts in this second book in the series.

I am also participating in another blog hop today - Sunday Post, hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer. With this blog hop, I'll recap what I've recently posted. If you missed a post you want to read, just click on the link below. 
Have I told you how much I love the Hallmark series, The Way Home??? I can't remember the last time I was this excited about a t.v. show. It is so different than anything I've seen. What I like most about it is that it causes the viewer to ask questions and really wonder how it will turn out. Each weekly episode leaves me highly anticipating the next one. I was beginning to wonder how they could carry this into a second season, but now I am seeing the possibilities. There are a lot of questions that need answering and there's no way they can do it justice by answering all of them in the next two episodes. In preparation for the season finale, I am starting to re-watch the entire season so I can pick up on clues I may have missed before. It's so interesting watching it again from a different perspective. It has my head spinning in a good way. I am planning to post a review of the series when season 1 done.

Have any of you been watching The Way Home? If not, I highly recommend it! I don't know how often Hallmark airs reruns of the episodes, but I think it's streaming on Peacock and other services. 

Also let me know if you've read any of the books I mentioned and tell me what you've been reading and watching!

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Puzzle 27

A day late, but I thought this was cute. It took me 2:01 with 30 non-rotating pieces.

Happy Belated St. Patrick's Day!  

Friday, March 17, 2023

Felines and Fill-ins 27

Happy Felines and Fill-ins Friday! 

I am participating in three blog hops today. You can click on the host links below to read the blogs of others who are participating, and if you're a blogger, feel free to join through the links below!

QuestionDo you post every day on your blog and/or social media?

My response: I post on my blog five days a week. I used to post on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. I recently started posting on Wednesdays instead of Mondays. I post on Instagram every time I publish a new blog post. It also serves as my personal Instagram account, so sometimes I also post other pictures that are unrelated to my blog. In addition to this, I also share my daily Wordle results on Instagram. So, yes, I do post on Instagram every day, but it isn't always related to blogging.

FRIENDLY FILL-INS, hosted by Four-Legged Furballs and 15 and Meowing. 
1. If one doesn't, know how to care for a pet then one doesn't deserve to have a pet. (Though I do believe it's possible to learn.)

2. What happens at Hogwarts stays at Hogwarts. (I don't even know if this makes sense, as I've only read and seen the first one so far, but it's the first thing that came to mind.)

3. One day I will consider writing a cozy mystery, but for now I'll continue to read and watch them.

4. If you ask me to eat oatmeal , will respectfully decline and say there's more for you.

This picture makes me laugh.😂 I didn't realize the expressions on their faces until after I took the picture. I promise you, they really do love each other. LOL. Also, gotta love that signature ear tips and head fluff on Fiona.😃 

By the way, on the wall behind them, there used to be a hanging quilt. That was taken down indefinitely the day Fiona climbed it. She was just a few months old and very tiny at the time, but I still don't trust having it up.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Mystery 101: Pilot (2019)


I only started watching Hallmark mysteries, and Hallmark movies in general, a couple of years ago, so I have a lot of catching up to do. The mysteries aren't all I watch on Hallmark, so it's taking time to get through all of them. I record them when they're on t.v., but Hallmark doesn't air them all in order, so it's like trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle.

Mystery 101 is one of Hallmark's most beloved mystery series. There's been a lot of talk about it lately, so I thought it was time for me to jump into it and find out why fans love this series so much and why everyone is wanting more. Thankfully, I've been able to record all seven movies.

Mystery 101 stars Jill Wagner as college professor turned amateur sleuth, Amy Winslow, and Kristoffer Polaha as Detective Travis Burke. Amy teaches a class on mystery and crime books, so, unlike many cozy mysteries where the amateur sleuth is a baker or something else unrelated to untangling mysteries, she has the expertise that could help solve real-life crimes.

The pilot (and I assume the entire series) isn't as perky as Murder, She Baked and yet it isn't as serious as Francesca Quinn PI. It's somewhere in between, more along the lines of The Crossword Mysteries. 

The mystery in this pilot was very twisty and mostly unpredictable. I wasn't expecting it to unfold the way it did, which was great, but unfortunately, I did guess who the culprit was almost immediately after that person was introduced. I like to have a hunch about someone, but be surprised in the end. I didn't know the motive, however, so it was still fun to watch it all come together.

This being Hallmark, there is of course, the beginnings of a romance. It felt forced to me. I think the romance in this series is something that fans love about it, so I hope to feel their connection more as the series progresses. 

Overall, this is a good start to the series and it does leave me wanting more. At this point, it isn't the budding romance that intrigues me, although I do think Amy and Travis have a good rapport working together. In that way, they make a great team. I enjoyed the entire cast, including the supporting characters. I look forward to watching more Mystery 101 in the coming weeks.