Tag: review

Website Review: Temu

Everyone is talking about the new Temu website/shopping app, especially after their Super Bowl commercial aired last weekend. I’ve been seeing app ads for awhile, and was wondering if this was a legitimate company, or some kind of “shipped from China, takes months for items to arrive, and the quality is poor” type of thing. I did some research, and the company is US-based and seems legitimate. So, I decided to make a small test purchase to evaluate them for myself.

When I got to their site on February 15, 2023, 3:40pm, I saw this:

I thought, “Wow, what a great opportunity to buy something small and see how it goes. Note that the top banner from the site, as well as the smaller green banner on the page, show “Free shipping on all orders” with a countdown clock showing 11 hours and change left in the promotion.

So I added an item to my cart and went to check out. Imagine my surprise when I was notified that I needed to buy more to meet the $10 minimum free shipping threshold! Assuming it was an error (I mean….see the HUGE BANNER saying “Free Shipping on all orders”….) I pulled up an online chat with customer service. I was told that, in fact, it’s too expensive for them to offer free shipping on small orders, and that there is a $10 minimum. That makes sense, and is actually a fairly LOW minimum amount for free shipping. My issue is that, if they KNOW this, and WON’T offer free shipping for orders under $10, WHY ON EARTH would they plaster their site with promises of free shipping on ALL orders? Why not just advertise free shipping on all orders over $10? That way, they’re still advertising a good deal, but they’re being honest and upfront.

I told the Temu chat agent that I’d be reviewing their site based on my experience as a would-be customer. After stating repeatedly that she was sorry I had a bad experience, but I had to meet the $10 minimum for free shipping, she finally said: “We have removed the amount restriction for placing an order. You can now try clicking on the ‘continue to checkout’ button on the page to complete your order.”

This was, in fact, done, and I was able to take advantage of the “free shipping on all orders” promotion. However, it took a great deal of back-and-forth with customer service to get Temu to honor the offer on their site. So I guess the takeaway is that, if you’re insistent enough, Temu will honor offers on their own website. I’m still very disappointed in the overall experience.

Anyway, here’s the picture from the Temu site of the item I was finally able to order; my order confirmation said it should arrive by February 28. When it does, I’ll share an actual photo for comparison purposes, along with my thoughts about the item quality.

Update: I checked the tracking through the Temu website on February 20, and saw the following:

So…despite the company having a US-based headquarters, it DOES appear that at least some of their items are shipped from overseas. I’ll update again when the item arrives, including any information about customs charges. Another red flag for me…if they’re shipping items from China, this should definitely be disclosed upfront.

Final Update: The item arrived on February 23, several days before the date estimated when I placed the order. However, it was shipped from Ontario, Canada (hence the airport/customs reference earlier). The back of the package was marked “made in China”. So, despite allegedly being a US company, it doesn’t seem that their warehouses/shipping facilities are actually in the US, at least based on this purchase. That said, they disclosed the estimated arrival date upfront, and the order arrived ahead of time.


Item quality: I was pleased with the item. The listing said “around 100”, and I counted exactly 100. While I didn’t compare each charm I received with the ones pictures, I can verify that quite a few are the same as shown. I didn’t notice any obvious duplicates, either. The charms ARE the size stated on the website, and seem to be of good quality. I purchased these for craft purposes. While definitely not fine jewelry, I think they’d also work for a charm bracelet. (Note: If you’re considering purchasing for a charm bracelet, the loops at the top of each charm are closed, so the bracelet links would have to open to attach them.)

100 charms in the bag they arrived in.
100 charms spread out.

Final thoughts: A mixed bag. The cons: Still no clear indication that, aside from a headquarters building, there’s anything US-based about Temu. The company did not want to honor the free shipping offer on their website. Shipping is slow, but disclosed upfront. The pros: The item arrived before the estimated date, and I was pleased with the quality, especially for the price.

Will I shop there again?: Possibly. If I’m bored and have time to browse, I might place a larger test order. If I’m in the market for something specific that I’m not in a hurry to get, I might price-check. If I do, I’ll share it here!


Book Review: Three Treats Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein

“Three Treats Too Many” is the third book in the Sarah Blair series by Debra H. Goldstein, and is a fabulous addition to the series! Goldstein has scored a home run with main character Sarah, who is practical, straight-forward, and genuinely kind. I’ve enjoyed watching Sarah’s growth through the first two books, and was pleased to see it continue in this one. I also appreciate that Sarah herself knows and admits she still has some self-improvement to do, and spends some time thinking about it. I can’t wait to see what comes next for her. Minor characters (including snippy rival Jane, up-and-coming politician Anne, Rah-Rah the Siamese cat, and Fluffy the puppy) are also well-drawn, with distinctive personalities. I’m particularly excited to see what Anne will tackle in upcoming books!

In this installment, Sarah gets involved when a young woman is murdered near her home/business, and one of her friends is the main suspect.

Once again, Ms. Goldstein manages to avoid the typical cozy mystery romance tropes. Three books into the series, and our heroine is still single, and just embarking on a new romantic relationship that definitely takes a back seat to the rest of the story. That is refreshing! Yes, cozy fans, a mystery can be fabulous and filled with important relationships without focusing on romance (or a love triangle).

I honestly didn’t know who to suspect until very near the end, when some new clues come to light. Everything made sense at that point, but I honestly had never thought of the killer as a suspect.

Everything about this book was great…the characters, the pets, the mystery, the descriptions and world-building….give this series a try! You won’t be disappointed!

Five out of five perfect chunks of ultra-sharp cheddar!

Book Review: Murder in the Reading Room by Ellery Adams

If you follow my reviews, you are probably aware that I prefer to start reading a series with Book 1. So you may be wondering why I picked up “Murder in the Reading Room”, which is Book 5 in the Book Retreat Mystery y reviews, you are probably aware that I prefer to start reading a series with Book 1. So you may be wondering why I picked up “Murder in the Reading Room”, which is Book 5 in the Book Retreat Mystery series. The answer is simple: Ellery Adams! Ms. Adams is one of my absolute favorite cozy mystery authors, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read her latest release, even though it isn’t the first in the series.

From the perspective of a reader new to this world, I was able to jump right in and pick up on the characters, places, and situations quite easily. I must say, however, that I didn’t so much “jump right in” as get sucked right in…once I started reading, I could not put this book down! The story opens with some significant action, and I was immediately drawn to the characters and eager to see how the situation played out. Even without the background from the first four books, it was clear who the major players were, what their relationships were to each other, and what was going on.

The mysteries themselves (I use the plural, because there are two murders in addition to the initial kidnapping plot in this book) are well-plotted, with enough clues and information provided to the reader to keep things interesting, but never enough to make the answer obvious. The book opens with Jane visiting the luxurious Biltmore estate, which was fascinating. The more standard location of Jane’s own Storyton Hall is the setting for the rest of the book, and I enjoyed visiting it as well.

The book also shines in the area of characters and their relationships with one another. Jane is an instantly likeable heroine, and her Fins are also a joy to read about. The special relationship Jane has with these men is clearly evident, and plays a significant role in the story. Jane’s friendship with Eloise, romance with Edwin, and closeness to her aunt, uncle, and cleverly-named children add a great deal of depth to the story. Honestly, this is one of those rare cozy landscapes I would happily read about even without a mystery to solve….it would be a delight just to learn more about the day-to-day lives of these characters.

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about “Murder in the Reading Room”. I see this line so often in reviews, but I honestly WILL be going back to book one to catch up on everything I’ve missed so far in this fabulous series. It will give me something to enjoy while I eagerly await Book six!

Overall, five out of five chunks of smooth, sharp, delectable Asiago!



Book Review: The Tiger’s Tale by Kelle Z. Riley

“The Tiger’s Tale” by Kelle Z. Riley is an excellent addition to the series! I loved the first two books, and this one adds a tiger cub and college football to an already winning combination…what more could a reader ask for?

The primary reason this book is so enjoyable is intelligence, both on the part of the author and the main character, Dr. Bree Watson-Mayfield. Both author and character are PhD scientists, as well as smart, witty, women. Bree is able to hold down a serious, demanding job that is actually a front for some undercover spy work, and apply her common sense and research capabilities to solving the murder that takes place while she is working a temporary staffing assignment.

The story itself is interesting and well-paced, with plenty of action interspersed with scenes of Bree actually trying to solve the crime in question using her brain, both alone and with her support team. Unlike many cozy heroines (who often simply go about their lives, ask a few questions here and there, and sometimes stumble over actual clues) Bree tackles her investigation head-on, with a great deal of thought, planning, and organization. She also pro-actively works with the police, comparing notes and discussing theories, which is a welcome change of pace from the typical cozy.

Bree’s spy boss/potential love interest is out of town for most of this book, which causes her to spend more time with (and consider more seriously) her second love interest, Detective James O’Neill. Bree’s dynamic with both men is interesting, and she is attracted to each for different, but valid, reasons. I find this one of the more interesting cozy triangles I’ve come across, as I honestly cannot pick a favorite!

All in all, I really enjoyed the book. I liked all the standard cozy tropes, but appreciated the more intense and serious nature of this mystery. Bree is an entertaining and likable character, and I look forward to her next adventure.

5 out of 5 chunks of the most delectable gouda!

Book Review: The Secret, Book, & Scone Society by Ellery Adams


“The Secret, Book, and Scone Society” by Ellery Adams is an absolutely wonderful start to a new cozy mystery series! The story is centered upon Nora, a woman with scars both physical and emotional. Nora runs a bookshop and often helps customers heal from emotional trauma by suggesting just the right mix of books. One such potential reader is found dead before he can enjoy his books, and Nora sets out to determine what really happened.

The mystery is well-plotted, with enough clues and information provided to the reader to keep things interesting, but never enough to make the answer obvious. Nora thinks things through and takes logical steps to solve the mystery, instead of bumbling around and occasionally coming across a clue (like so many cozy heroines are prone to do). Of course, this doesn’t mean that she never does anything dangerous or stupid! Nora’s flaws are actually what make the reader love her; perfect heroines get annoying quickly.

The book also shines in the area of characters and their relationships with one another. Despite running a successful business, Nora has kept herself fairly closed off from others. As the mystery unfolds, she finds herself drawing together a group of like-minded women with problems of their own. As the story progresses, each woman begins to share her secrets and find personal healing. I love the way that these personal journeys are woven into the mystery plotline, and look forward to watching the friendships deepen as the group goes on to solve future crimes (which will undoubtedly occur in their cozy town).

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about “The Secret, Book, and Scone Society”. It has everything a typical cozy should (including a crew of very oddly-behaving cats), but brings so much more to the table. Nora’s character in particular has the potential for extensive growth and development in future installments of this series. The other regular characters (plus one mysterious newcomer) also have plenty of room to grow and provide the bases for more stories.

Overall, five chunks of the tastiest, sharpest cheddar available!Chewie.doodle

Book Review: Edited Out by E.J. Copperman


Edited Out” by E.J. Copperman provides a unique twist on the cozy mystery genre. The protagonist, Rachel Goldman, is a mystery author. The over-arching premise of the series is that a man claiming to be Duffy Madison, her main character, appears in her life. In addition to solving the current mystery in which she finds herself involved, Rachel must try to figure out who the man claiming to be a fictional character actually is, all while trying to finish writing her current book.

What makes this book so enjoyable is first person narrator Rachel. She tells the story, but also speaks directly to the reader, and she is hilarious! For example: “Women were not put on this planet to be buffers between men. It’s a side service we sometimes offer while we plot our takeover of the world. Go ahead. Assume I’m kidding.”

In addition to Duffy and Rachel, the minor characters are also well-drawn and full of potential. I look forward to the next installment in this series; I’m eager to see what mystery our main characters are confronted with next, to gather more clues to Duffy’s true identity, and to hopefully learn more about the backstories and personalities of Ben (police investigator) and Rachel’s father.

The story itself is well-paced and cleverly plotted. It is a bit reminiscent of old-school detective stories, as Duffy and Rachel interview witnesses, gradually gathering more and more information (and misinformation) about the case. I enjoyed this aspect of the book; in many cozies, the heroine spends most of the book going about her life, occasionally coming across some clues. In “Edited Out”, Rachel is actively (if reluctantly) trying to solve the mystery.

Another aspect of “Edited Out” that I found interesting was the information that Rachel shares about being a writer. During the course of the book, she talks about deadlines, editors, agents, writer’s block, and her writing process. This is never overwhelming, and the reader doesn’t feel like the book has suddenly transitioned from a mystery to “How To Be a Writer”. However, what Rachel shares about her career comes across as insightful and relevant.

Side note: Other reviewers have said that this book can be read as a stand-alone. I can’t honestly address this, as I had already read book 1, “Written Off“. That being said, I think that a reader could pick up “Edited Out” and figure out what was going on fairly quickly. However, I’d recommend starting with the first book, both for continuity of storyline and for the more detailed character development provided.

I highly recommend this book to fans of cozy mysteries. I also think that fans of traditional mysteries would enjoy this story, as it provides a significant amount of focus on trying to solve the crime. Anyone looking for something unique would also find “Edited Out” a worthwhile choice.

Up the Creek, 8 Simmons Road, Hilton Head, SC

During my travels around town yesterday (July 19, 2016), a local I was chatting with recommended Up the Creek as a great place to eat and watch the fireworks (the town puts on a show every Tuesday at 9:30pm). I followed his advice and have to say that this place is one of the area’s lesser-known gems.

First, the restaurant offers both interior and patio seating, both of which were quite pleasant during the dinner hour. The indoor decor was a delightful mix of directly-on-the-wall painting, hanging art, and unique kitsch. My favorites included the dollar bills upon which patrons had written various messages, and the display of hanging hats (most likely a unique lost and found display?).  Perfect island flair!

The service was prompt and friendly. Everyone working there was constantly on the move, working, chatting with customers, and generally looking happy to be there. The staff seemed willing and eager to pitch in as needed to serve the patrons as efficiently as possible.

The food was also good. As usual, I sampled the meals ordered by my dinner companions, both of whom ordered the burger/fries meal. The burgers were wonderful, juicy, and cooked exactly to order. The fries were particularly good, with just the right amount of seasoning. I ordered an entree salad, and was pleased with it, although (in general) I interpret “mixed greens” to mean more of a variety than just iceberg and romaine. The salad was topped with a generous amount of tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, and croutons (onions also available, but I opted out). Plenty of tasty dressing was served on the side, to be added to taste.

My one complaint about the whole experience (and the thing that kept me from being able to give a 5-slice rating) was that, for some unknown reason, my personal side order of hushpuppies was served to the table (well before the meal) as an appetizer. As it seemed rude to point out to the rest of the party that the dish was part of my meal, I only had a few bites of my side dish. The hushpuppies were wonderful, but, as a rule, any dish not ordered as an appetizer, or “for the table/for the group” should be served as part of the meal, and only to the person who actually ordered it.

The single, unisex bathroom was well-stocked and remarkably clean, given the amount (virtually constant steam) of use it got while I was in the restaurant. It also sported nice decor in keeping with the overall theme of the establishment.

I highly recommend trying this restaurant, especially on a Tuesday night around 7 or 7:30pm (to allow plenty of time to catch the fireworks from the nearby dock afterwards).

4.5 out of 5 provolone slices!




Red Roof Inn, 1902 Cedar Creek Road, Fayetteville, NC

My family and I spent the night of 7/15/16 at the Red Roof Inn at 1902 Cedar Creek Road, Fayetteville, NC. My first overwhelming impression upon entering the room was the incredible HEAT. Now, I understand that it tends to be warm in NC during July, and that the hotel management would not want to run the AC at full blast in an empty room. However, the AC should not be turned off completely so that the room heats up like a sauna. Knowing guests would be arriving, surely someone could have turned the unit on to a balmy setting of 80 or 85 degrees?

In any case, it was entirely too hot to remain in the room, so we cranked up the AC and went out to dinner. By the time we returned, it was slightly cooler, but still uncomfortably hot in the room. I could only stand to remain inside at all by sitting right beside the AC unit, with the air blowing in my face. By around 4am, the room had cooled enough to be tolerable (although still too hot) for those sleeping in the bed furthest from the air conditioner. Even with the door left open, the bathroom never cooled off enough to be pleasant. The AC did seem to be working fine, as cold air was coming out of the unit. However, it was obviously inadequate to cool the entire room on short notice. Also, it was incredibly loud. As cutting it off was NOT an option, nobody slept well that night. Depending on the time, we were either too hot to sleep (and kept awake by the loud AC unit) or moderately comfortable and able to doze off (while being regularly awakened by the loud AC unit).

On the positive side, housekeeping had done a very impressive job. I didn’t notice any part of the room that wasn’t thoroughly cleaned, the room smelled fresh, and the beds were made with the tightest hospital edges and corners I’ve ever seen in a hotel. The shower was also quite good…the water pressure was strong enough, and once the water temperature was set to where I wanted it, it stayed there for the duration of of the shower. As mentioned previously, however, it was entirely too hot in the bathroom to even dress in there after getting out of the shower.

On another negative note,  the toilet clogged up. When we called the front desk, we were told that our only option was to walk down to the desk, get a plunger, come back to the hot bathroom in the hot hotel room, unclog the toilet ourselves, then trek back to the front desk to return the plunger. Very poor customer service!

Also, the mini-fridge in the room did not have any sort of temperature control. We put some just-purchased fresh fruit in the fridge (to protect it from the heat) and woke up to find it frozen. We had to throw it away.

Honestly,  I wish I could give this Red Roof Inn a better review, as I imagine not all rooms were as bad as ours. The two smaller incidents (toilet and fridge) would not have been nearly so bothersome if not for the heat problem. Unfortunately, because of the unbearably hot room combined with the loud yet inadequate AC unit, I am forced to rate my experience as:

2 out of 5 provolone wedges (and the management should give the Housekeeping Team a HUGE thank you, as without their efforts, the hotel would be looking at 1 wedge (or maybe less….)






Ruby Tuesday, 1936 Cedar Creek Road, Fayetteville, NC

I had dinner at the Fayetteville, NC Ruby Tuesday on 7/15/16. Overall, my experience was excellent. Our server, Christian, was exceptional. He was polite and friendly, greeting us shortly after we sat down, and taking care of everything we needed with speed and a smile. He was talkative enough to be personable, without being over-the-top (a rare quality in a server). I honestly can’t say enough good things about him. Excellent service!

The food was good also. I personally had a chicken entree, which was very tasty despite a bit of gristle along one edge. My first side was fresh green beans, made even better by their proximity to the delicious sauce from the chicken. I opted for the salad bar as my second side, and was very pleased. There were four types/mixes of fresh greens to choose from, as well as plenty of toppings, two cheeses, wonderful fresh croutons, and lots of salad dressing choices. My one suggestion would be more lite/low-calorie dressing options, but all-in-all, a most excellent salad bar experience.

Other members of my party ordered a different chicken entree (with lots of cheese, which looked wonderful) and a burger/fries combo (which I sampled, and look forward to ordering in the future).

The temperature in the restaurant was perfect, every staff member I saw was friendly, and I highly recommend this location.

Five out of five cheddar slices!