Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Year of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

As 2010 comes to a close, I've completed my list of best short stories appearing in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (AHMM). As with my subscription to EQMM, this year I managed to read every single short story. There were so many great stories that it was difficult to narrow it down to just a few favorites. However, if you don't have the time to read them all, consider these great short stories for your reading pleasure:

January/February 2010: "The Case of the Vanishing Boy: A Spade/Paladin Conundrum" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Runners-up: "Midnight" by K. J. Egan and "Okiku and the Nine Plates" by Alan Gratz

March: "Burning Twilight" by Kenneth Wishnia
Runners-up: "In It Up To My Neck" by Jas. R. Petrin and "Don't Reveal the Beginning" by John H. Dirckx

April: "Thief in the House" by Brendan DuBois
Runner-up: "As the Screw Turns" by Shelley Costa

May: "True Test" by B. K. Stevens
Runners-up: "Drive-Thru" by David Dietrich and "Somewhere Elsie" by Neil Schofield. I also enjoyed the previously published "Domestic Drama" by Lynn K. Kilpatrick

June: "Madame Selina" by Janice Law
Runners-up: "Ring Toss" by Chris Grabenstein and "Hard as a Rock" by Marianne Wilski Strong.

July/August: "Sundown, 290 West" by David Dietrich gave me the shivers.
Runners-up: "When the Apricots Bloom" by Ellen Larson, "No Trouble at All" by Doug Grant Johnson, and "What People Leave Behind" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The Black Orchid Novella Award winner "Stranglehold" by Steve Liskow was a good read as well.

September: "The Little Nogai Boy" by R. T. Lawton
Runners-up: "Grit" by John H. Dirckx and "Winning Ticket" by Christine Matthews. I enjoyed the Mystery Classic story this month featuring "The Edge" by Dame Agatha Christie, also.

October: "Monsieur Alice is Absent" by Stephen Ross
Runners-up: "Old Dogs" by Naomi Bell and "Winter" by Chris Muessig

November: "Shell Game" by Neil Schofield
Second place: "Ten Thousand Cold Nights" by James Lincoln Warren
Runners-up: "Recommended to Mercy" by Eric Rutter, "A Good Man" by Cathryn Grant, and "The Lamb was Sure to Go" by Gar Anthony Haywood

December: "My Heart's Abhorrence" by Marianne Wilski Strong
Runners-up: "A Photo's Worth" by David Hagerty and "Love and Death" by Michael Z. Lewin.

So there you have it, my list of the best of the best for 2010. Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Review: Vanishing Girl by Shane Peacock

✰✰✰✰½ This is the third installment in a YA series featuring Sherlock Holmes as a teen. "Vanishing Girl" follows Holmes on a quest to solve the case of missing socialite, Victoria Rathbone, before Scotland Yard or his arch enemy Malefactor can find her. The young lad is discouraged when at first it seems that Scotland Yard has bested him, but then he notices and overlooked detail in the ransom note. Perhaps it is a clue? Holmes decides to follow up on it even though it may be a long shot. When Victoria appears to have been kidnapped a second time, Holmes is hot on the trail. Will he win the fame he so covets? The ending may surprise you.

This is an excellent mystery with lots of twists and turns. The relationships between Holmes, Irene Doyle, Malefactor and the young Lestrade deserve mentioning. Their interactions are filled with rivalry and teenage angst which young adults can relate to. Also, this mystery takes place during a dark period in the young man's life, his mother having recently died. We find Holmes living at Sigerson Bell's apothecary. The eccentric Bell is both a mentor and father figure to the young lad which adds to the development of Holmes’ character.

The Bottom Line:
This is a fast paced mystery with lots of adventure and thrills. It is not necessary to have read the books in order. Background information is readily supplied so you can start with any book in the series. This clever book is great fun to read. I'm looking forward to reading the others, and I hope to find them under the tree this Christmas. Highly recommended for mystery fans of all ages, but especially for young adults ages 13 and up

Vanishing Girl by Shane Peacock. Published by Tundra Books in 2010. 335p. ISBN: 978-1-77049-234-9

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Book Review: The Great Reindeer Rebellion by Lisa Trumbauer

✰✰✰✰½ Christmas is coming, and Santa is frantic. The reindeer have just gone on strike! What's Santa to do? How will he deliver his toys to all the good little girls and boys? It's simple. Santa decides to write a help wanted ad. The response is overwhelming as all the animals line up for their chance to pull the famous sleigh. Who will make the cut? The dogs? The cats? The elephants? It's an all-out competition as the animals all try to do their best.

The Bottom Line:
The little ones will adore this whimsical and lyrical holiday poem. The colorful artwork in a raised embossed style is sure to please both kids and adults alike. Highly recommended holiday reading for kids ages 4 - 8.

The Great Reindeer Rebellion by Lisa Trumbauer. Illustrated by Jannie Ho. Hardcover published by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. in 2009. 28 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4027-4462-4

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Year of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

I suppose it all began when I started reading the Hardy Boys mysteries as a kid, but for as long as I can remember, I have loved reading mysteries. So it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone when I decided to subscribe to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. I hate to admit it, but in this busy world, sometimes I just don't have time to read as many books as I'd like to. That's why a subscription to EQMM seemed like the perfect solution for me. The stories are well written, and you can easily fit one in before turning in at night.

For the first time this year I plan to submit a ballot for the 2010 EQMM Readers Award (details are in the December issue). I've read every single story in EQMM this year and picking a favorite is a difficult choice. Luckily, I've kept a running record of my favorites. For each issue I have listed my favorite story followed by a few runners-up. Consider these great short stories for your reading pleasure:

January 2010:
"Io, Saturnalia!" by Margaret Maron

Runners-up for January: "The Digital Date" by Doug Allyn, "The Body in the Dunes" by Caroline Benton, "Ravensara" by Melanie Lawrence, and "Heartbeat" by Katia Lief.

"Skyler Hobbs and the Rabbit Man" by Evan Lewis was featured in The Department of First Stories

Runners-up for February: "Boxcar" by Nancy Means Wright, "A Dark Reunion" by Kate Ellis, "Family Values" by Robert Barnard, and from Passport to Crime: "Heard at One Remove" by Hiroki Nagaoka.

This was an excellent issue, but for my favorite I have to go with "Duel" by William Link. He helped create some to TV's best crime series: Columbo, Mannix, and Murder, She Wrote. "It All Adds Up" by Thomas Kaufman was a lot of fun to read too.

Second place is a tie: "Satan Rides the 5:15" by Vincent Lardo and "Death By Misadventure" by John Buchanan. Other runners-up: "The Girl in the Golden Gown" by Robert S. Levinson, "When, He Wondered" by Lynne Barret, "A Tour of the Tower" by Christine Poulson, and "The Disappearance of Wicked" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
Loved "Monopoly" by Judith Merchant, which was featured the Passport to Crime section. And keep an eye out for Steven Steinbock, who wrote "Cleaning Up" for the Department of First Stories section.

"Little Old Ladies" by Simon Brett.

Runners-up: "A Small Technical Problem" by Caroline Benton, "Snake Song" by Bill Pippin, "The White Door" by Stephen Ross, and "Truck Cemetery" by Ruth Francisco.

"The Gift" by Phil Lovesey

Runners-up: "Whole Life" by Liza Cody, "The City of Radiant Brides" by Janice Law, and "Last Dance in Shanghai" by Clark Howard.

"The Body Snatchers" by Bill Pronzini

Runners-up: "Without a Body" by Lawrence Block, "Fete Worse Than Death" by Judith Cutler, "Tradition" by Ed Gorman. Also, enjoyed the French short story by Maud Tabachnik, "An Ordinary Woman".

This month there was a tie for my favorite story between "Ants and Flowers" by Jean Femling and "Lovely Requiem, Mr. Mozart" by Robert Barnard.

Runners-up: "Escape From Wolfkill" by Clark Howard and "The Green Cross" by Elizabeth Zelvin

"Archie's Been Framed" by Dave Zeltserman

Runners-up: "So Much In Common" by Mary Jane Maffini, "Mr. Alibi" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, "Open and Shut Case" by Marilyn Todd, and "The Scent of Lilacs" by Doug Allyn

"The Changelings: A Very Grim Fairytale (but for our times)" by Carol Biederman

Runners-up: "Inevitable" by Jennifer Itell, "Bedside Manners" by Martin Edwards, and "Death on the Mountain" by Nessa Altura

"The Man with One Eye" by Stephen Ross

Runners-up: "Winter's End" by Clark Howard and "What am I?" by Todd A. Whaley

So there you have it, my list of favorite stories for the year. You're probably wondering which one I liked best. Well, it was a tie. My two favorites for 2010 are "Io, Saturnalia!" by Margaret Maron and "Skyler Hobbs and the Rabbit Man" by Evan Lewis. May the best story win!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Review: Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce

✰✰✰✰½ Middle school can be full of surprises and challenges for anyone. In this installment of the Big Nate series, Nate Wright is entering dangerous territory. His class is being assigned a special project and the kids get to work in pairs. As luck would have it, Nate is randomly paired up with his archenemy, Gina Hemphill-Toms. Gina isn't too happy either. As an A+ student, she's worried that Nate will bring down her grade point average.

On the flip side of the coin, Nate covets winning the SPOFFY (Sports Played Only For Fun) trophy. He feels he is destined to win it during fleeceball season until he finds out that Gina is on his team. Nooo! It can't be, but it is. Since Gina doesn't even like sports, Nate worries that she will ruin everything.

Will both Nate and Gina ruin everything for the other? Or can they come up with a plan to get what they both want? This is a great story about teamwork and friendship. Kids who enjoy reading the
Diary of a Wimpy Kid series are sure to enjoy the adventures of Nate Wright in the Big Nate series as well.

The Bottom Line:
Author Lincoln Peirce captures the essence of middle school perfectly. This quick read takes me right back to my middle school days. It is highly entertaining. Nate Wright is so much fun that even reluctant readers will enjoy his latest adventure. While this book is a follow-up to Big Nate: In a Class by Himself, it is not necessary to have read that book first. Anyone can easily pick up this second book and get right into the action. It is filled with age appropriate humor and fun illustrations. I, for one, can't wait to read the next book. Highly recommended for kids in grades 4 and up.

For more fun, check out the
Big Nate website.

Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce. Advance Reader's Edition published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2010. 224 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-194436-9 Note: I received a complimentary Advance Reader's Edition from HarperCollins Publishers in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Review: An Amish Christmas by Cynthia Keller

✰✰✰ On the surface, suburban homemaker Meg Hobart has it all: a successful husband, three kids, and a beautiful house. Although Meg doesn't realize it at the time, there are cracks showing through the family's idyllic life. Thus, Meg is completely taken by surprise during the midst of Thanksgiving holiday preparations, when her husband suddenly confesses that he's led the family to financial ruin.

Finding themselves homeless, the Hobarts pack up a few belongings and leave everything else behind. On their way to Meg's family home in upstate New York, Meg tries to cheer the family up with little side trips. However, fate takes over and the Hobarts find themselves stranded in a Pennsylvania Amish town after a car accident.

In true Amish tradition, the Lutz family takes in the Hobarts for as long as needed. The family must make the transition from a life of modern conveniences to a life without electricity, computers, cell phones, and fashion. Meg is stunned to observe how incredibly selfish and rude her two teens are behaving when faced with this challenge. Though discouraged she somehow motivates her uncooperative family into participating in the Lutz family activities. Meanwhile, the realization that she's been living a lie has a devastating effect on Meg. Will she ever learn to trust her husband again or would they be better off if she leaves him behind? Only time will tell.

The Bottom Line: This easy read is a tale for the times. The self-absorbed Hobart family learns the true meaning of Christmas through the examples set by the Amish people. The lessons of forgiveness and love shine through in this uplifting holiday story. Recommended for everyone who enjoys holiday stories that celebrate the family.

Details: An Amish Christmas: A Novel by Cynthia Keller. Published by Ballantine Books in 2010. 256 p. ISBN: 978-0-345-52378-5 Note: I received a complimentary Advance Reader's Edition from Ballantine Books in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Book Review: It's a Book by Lane Smith

✰✰✰✰✰ You can't text, blog, or tweet with it. Nor can you scroll down or use Wi-Fi with it. So just what exactly does a book do? The monkey does his best to explain to the jackass exactly what it is that a book does. But will the tech savvy little jackass with a laptop attached at the hip ever get it? Read the book and find out.

The Bottom Line: It's a Book is sassy and fun. Lane Smith brilliantly contrasts modern technology with timeless media. Smith doesn't need a lot of words to make a point. The adorable illustrations feature a minimalist approach in muted colors. This is a great example of where less is more and sometimes a simple approach is best. Highly recommended for the young and the young at heart as well as all bibliophiles with a sense of humor. Well done!

Details: It's a Book by Lane Smith. Hardcover published by Roaring Book Press in 2010. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1-59643-606-0

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book Review: Occasional Demons by Rick Hautala

✰✰✰✰½ This wicked tome from the author of Bedbugs contains almost 500 pages of terror. The stories are arranged for optimal reading pleasure; however, the reader can choose to read the stories out of order as well.

The book is divided into 3 sections with the stories flowing very well from one to another. The first section contains a creepy assortment of 18 stories that will give you chills even in the dead of summer. There's a story for every horror fan including the blood absorbing book that just keeps coming back for more, a music studio famous for its last recording of various musicians, the voice from the sea, a visitor from the future, an unforgettable lake, a knife that kills, soulless babies, a compost heap with a mind of its own, and many more.

The second section contains stories that are an offshoot of Mr. Hautala's fourth novel,
Little Brothers. It also contains fabricated "Indian myths." I especially enjoyed 3 stories from this section including: Chrysalis, Deal With the Devils, and Oilman. I couldn't sleep for a week after reading those three gems.

The last section includes stories written in collaboration with others including his sons. My favorite story from this section is
And the Sea Shall Claim Them. Most of the short stories in Occasional Demons have appeared in other publications, but there are a couple that appear here for the first time.

The Bottom Line:
Many more hits than misses make this short story collection a winner. I for one enjoyed almost every single short story included in this collection. As always Glenn Chadbourne's illustrations are fantastically creepy. Horror fans will absolutely love this collection; this is a must-have item if you collect horror. However, sensitive readers should proceed with caution.

Occasional Demons by Rick Hautala. Illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne. Advance Uncorrected Proof published by Cemetery Dance in 2010. 496 p. ISBN: 1-58767-095-X

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Review: Blackwork by Monica Ferris

✰✰✰ Amateur sleuth Betsy Devonshire returns for the 13th installment of the Needlecraft Mystery series, which is appropriately a Halloween tale. The town of Excelsior is making preparations for the Halloween parade when one of the town's more unsavory characters, Ryan McMurphy, ends up dead without a mark on his body. People immediately point to Leona Cunningham, owner of a microbrewery and a practicing Wiccan, as the murderer.

When Leona steadfastly proclaims her innocence and asks Betsy for help, Betsy just has to get involved. The problem is that the victim wasn't exactly well liked. Betsy must carefully sift through the long list of suspects before solving the murder.

The Bottom Line:
Blackwork is a quick, easy, and fun weekend read. You can pick this one up and get right into it without having read the previous books. Ferris' portrayal of the gay character Godwin is a bit too cute and stereotyped; hopefully, this will change in the future. Nonetheless, Blackwork is an enjoyable read. This book is recommended for mystery buffs and crafters who enjoy reading cozies.

Blackwork by Monica Ferris. Published by Berkley Prime Crime in 2009. 256 p. ISBN: 978-0-425-22990-3

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review: Zombie Felties by Nicola Tedman

✰✰✰✰ A little bit creepy and way too cute, these zombies are just begging to be raised from the dead. This craft book includes an introduction to the craft, a section for projects, and an index. The "Starting Out" section explains everything you need to complete these projects from the tools to the stitches to beading techniques. There are even ideas for adding fun embellishments. Each project includes a supply list, full-size template, and step-by-step directions with corresponding illustrations. All templates are the correct size and do not need to be scaled up or down. Also, included is a coffin template to make a home for your new zombie pal.

The book includes great full-color photographs and illustrations throughout. My favorite zombies include Pirate Zombie, Zombie Fairy, Zombie Bride, Pumpkin Head, Zombie Undertaker, and Vampire Zombie. However, don't underestimate these itty bitty critters. They look deceptively simple to make, but as with any new craft it takes some practice. Luckily, each has a difficulty rating from one to four skulls, and I highly agree with the authors' recommendation to start with an easy project.

The Bottom Line:
Crafters can choose from 16 creepy, but adorable zombies and learn the ins-and-outs of a new craft trend. No machine sewing is required and novices and experienced crafters alike will enjoy learning something new. The projects are clever and tiny; however, the small size might add to the difficulty of assembling these cuties. Recommended for everyone who is looking for a cute way to get into the Halloween spirit. Also, this book makes a nice addition to libraries as it fills a unique niche.

Zombie Felties: How to raise 16 gruesome felt creatures from the undead by Nicola Tedman & Sarah Skeate. Paperback published by Ivy Press in 2010. 80 p. ISBN: 978-0-7407-9764-4

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Review: Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier

✰✰✰½ Lucy Stone is back for another spooktacular Halloween mystery. The fun begins when Lucy and her friends visit Solstice, the charming new shop in town. They each receive a psychic reading by the mysterious and sultry Wiccan owner Diana Ravenscroft. It's all in good fun or so it seems until parts of Lucy's reading start to come true.

First, there's the charred dead body in the clearing. Then Lucy's new neighbor, Ike Stoughton, begins a campaign against Diana and witchcraft. When the murder victim turns out to be none other than a friend of Diana's, Lucy finds herself caught in the middle and must reluctantly help this Wiccan in distress. Can she solve the mystery and set things straight before the angry citizens of Tinker's Cove have their way? Or will Lucy herself succumb to the evil lurking in the quaint town?

The Bottom Line:
Whether you've been following the series from the beginning or this is your first one, you'll enjoy this quick read. Recommended for fans of cozy mysteries; the Lucy Stone mysteries are always good fun.

Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier. Hardcover published by Kensington Books in 2010. 304 p. ISBN: 978-0-7582-2929-8

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Book Review: Neverland by Douglas Clegg

✰✰✰✰½ Terror smolders beneath the surface of this Southern Gothic horror tale. It's late summertime, and the Jackson clan is heading out on vacation like thousands of other families. Ten year old Beau Jackson narrates the tale of the family's last annual trip to his grandmother's ancestral home, known as The Retreat, on Gull Island, Georgia. Upon their arrival, Beau discovers that his cousin Sumter has already staked a claim on the abandoned and "off-limits" shack out back. Sumter transforms the shack into a clubhouse and claims that a god named Lucy lives there and must be worshipped.

As the days pass, Sumter conjures up his own world called Neverland where he gradually and craftily leads the other children astray. As Sumter's dark sanctuary grows, Beau and his twin sisters are sucked into the evil abyss with acts of stealing, animal sacrifices, and other gruesome rituals. Beau and his sisters go along with Sumter's demands for a time. However, the innocent Beau faces a turning point when he must learn to differentiate between what is real and what is imagined in the supernatural world of Neverland.

Before the end, a sinister family secret will be revealed. As the horror escalates, readers won't be able to put this one down. The last 100 pages send you speeding toward a collision course with a stunning and horrifying conclusion.

The Bottom Line:
Originally published in 1991, Neverland is a fantastic coming-of-age story that's hard to put down. This twisted tale of horror is guaranteed to send chills up your spine. It's Southern Gothic horror at it's best and sure to be a classic. The characters are authentic and the imagery will evoke childhood memories of past vacation nightmares. The dark and eerie illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne along with the ragged edged pages of the book heighten the gothic spookiness of the tale. This book is highly recommended for adult fans of horror. Some readers, however, might be troubled by the depictions of animal sacrifices.

Neverland by Douglas Clegg. Illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. Paperback published by Vanguard Press in 2010. 304 p. ISBN: 978-1-593155414

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Book Review: The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman

✰✰✰✰½ The line between where imagination ends and reality begins can become blurred especially when someone suffers a tragedy so early in life. Such is the case with Henry the artist who paints against the darkness. He's been painting against the darkness for so long that he can no longer remember how it all began. However, when he finds himself all alone in an isolated farmhouse, he must finally face the demons that he has tried so hard to suppress through his painting. With his inner fears surfacing and manifesting in a physical form, Henry must rediscover his father's words of wisdom in order to survive.

The Bottom Line:
Horror fans looking for a quick fix of terror will enjoy this little novella. The chapters alternate between the past and the present; it's a style that has a powerful effect and works well for this story. Additionally, Jill Bauman's artwork enhances the eeriness of the book. It's a real page-turner with a twist ending that's both terrifying and a little sad. While The Painted Darkness is a bit reminiscent of Stephen King's The Shining; it is suspenseful and thrilling in its own right. Highly recommended for anyone who loves horror. I am definitely looking forward to reading more from author Brian James Freeman.

The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman. Illustrations by Jill Bauman. Advance Uncorrected Proof published by Cemetery Dance in 2010. 175 p. ISBN: 978-1-58767-208-8 Note: I received a complimentary Advance Uncorrected Proof from Cemetery Dance Publications in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review: The Tilting House by Tom Llewellyn

✰✰✰✰ After living in a cramped apartment for years, the five member Peshik family decides to buy a house. However, the only one that Mr. & Mrs. Peshik can afford comes with a few eccentricities like floors that are tilted 3 degrees and a dimmer switch that makes the house invisible. The entire town knows that strange things happen at the house known as Tilton House.

Follow along with Josh and Aaron Peshik as they explore Tilton House and all of its fantastical mysteries. There's the talking rat, magical grow powder, a locked box with a miniature key, an old journal, and a mysterious black sack. The fact that every single wall in the house is covered with strange scribbles and equations made by the previous owner adds to the puzzle that is the house itself.

Additionally there's no shortage of peculiar neighbors like the Talker, the old man who lives across the street and talks to no one in particular all day long. Then there's the Purple Door Man, who's suspected of pilfering everything in the neighborhood from bicycles to soccer balls. And we can't forget Lola, the neighbor girl who helps rescue Aaron from an appointment with death. As each mystery is revealed, the secret of Tilton House and its eccentric creator is unraveled. And with a little help from Grandpa, the boys uncover a surprise twist ending. Everyone who reads this book is sure to find something intriguing.

The Bottom Line: The Tilting House is a fast-paced and entertaining adventure story. Throw in a few quirky neighbors and mysterious events and you have a winner. Each chapter is like a self-contained short story that can stand alone; however, the chapters are then seamlessly woven together to form a whole. Cool black and white illustrations by Sarah Watts add to the intrigue of this book. Appropriate for kids in middle school; however, sensitive readers may be troubled by the death of a rat in the beginning.

Details: The Tilting House by Tom Llewellyn. Illustrations by Sarah Watts. Published by Tricycle Press in 2010. 160 p. ISBN: 978-1-58246-350-6

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Banned Books Week 2010

Let me say it loud and clear, "I read banned books." You should too, and here's why. Imagine a world where you are not allowed to read the book you want simply because someone else has decided that you shouldn't. Every year hundreds of books are challenged worldwide; a few end up being banned under the guise of protecting readers.

There are various reasons why people seek to ban a book. These reasons include: violence, profanity, slang, descriptions of sexually explicit acts, nudity, and being unsuited for an age group. Surprisingly timeless classics are just as likely to be challenged as controversial contemporary titles. It seems that no book is safe from being challenged.

Launched in 1982, Banned Books Week (BBW) occurs annually during the last week of September. For 2010, the dates are September 25 - October 2. In order to focus on the benefits of free and open access to information and the potential problems of censorship, libraries and booksellers across America host events and create displays featuring challenged books. The books featured during BBW were all targets of possible banning at one time or another. Luckily, in most cases books are not actually banned.

We live in a country where books are available regardless of being controversial or unpopular. We enjoy open access to all kinds of information. To keep it that way, speak up for your favorite challenged title. Celebrate the freedom to read by picking up a challenged book today!

For more information about challenged books and Banned Books Week, visit the following sites:

For fun, check out the Huffington Post's List of 11 Most Surprising Banned Books, and don't forget to visit the BBW FaceBook page!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September is Library Card Sign-up Month...Don't Miss Out!

Did you know that your library card is your passport to savings? When times are tough, the library is there for you. All you have to do is show your card for free access to books, databases, DVDs, CDs, movies, computer classes, and more.

For more ideas on how to make the most of your very own library card, check out the American Library Association's
52 Ways to Use Your Library Card. Also, check out our previous article, Save Money @ Your Library, to see just how much one visit to the library can benefit you.

And don't forget...September is a great time to sign up for a new library card. Visit your library's homepage or give them a call for more information on how to register for a card. Get one today; it's free!

To find your local library, visit the
Library Locator.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Book Review: The Parisian Prodigal by Alan Gordon

✰✰✰½ Follow the Chief Fool of Toulouse through the twists and turns of this engaging medieval mystery. In the 8th installment of the Fools' Guild Mysteries, the fool Theophilos or Theo (a.k.a. Tan Pierre) and his family are still living in Toulouse. Count Raimon VI is the current ruler of Toulouse and favored by the guild.

When a stranger from Paris, called Baudoin, shows up proclaiming to be the Count's long lost brother, things start to get interesting. As Baudoin's claims are being looked into, Baudoin is found sleeping next to a dead prostitute in a bordello. Baudoin steadfastly insists that he is innocent and beseeches Theo to clear his name.

Only the fools Theo and his clever wife, Claudia, are crafty enough to get to the bottom of things. With the help of their apprentice, Helga, the fools must hurry to uncover the truth before a condemned man is hanged.

The Bottom Line:
This highly entertaining mystery gives readers a peek into the live of jesters who did more than just entertain. It is told from the first person point of view of not one, but two, characters: Theo and Claudia. Author Alan Gordon includes fascinating historical details that make the characters and era come alive. Although this is the 8th book in the series, I was able to delve into it without feeling lost. It would be helpful, however, if a glossary were included. In sum, Theo and his family make for fun weekend reading for mystery buffs who want to try something new.

The Parisian Prodigal by Alan Gordon. Hardcover published by Minotaur Books in 2010. 336 p. ISBN: 978-0-312-38414-2

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cookbook Review: Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell

✰✰✰✰ Watch out cupcakes, here come the whoopie pies. If you've never had one before, you're in for a real taste treat. Whoopie pies are soft, cake-like cookies sandwiched together with filling. These treats are set to be the next delectable craze in dessert fashion; no utensils required.

The Introduction gets you started with all the basic information for making and storing whoopie pies. It also includes fun facts and a handy list of which flavored cakes and fillings to mix and match. There are even a few vegan and gluten free options so everyone can join in the fun. However, one drawback to the Introduction is the use of white print on chocolate brown paper which can be difficult for some to read.

The main part of the book is divided into two recipe sections: one for cakes and one for fillings. Recipes are written in paragraph format and are easy to follow. The book also includes the following: Ingredients & Sources, an Index, and a Table of Equivalents. Most of the ingredients are easy to find at your local grocer; however, a few may require a bit more searching. The photos by Antonis Achilleos are colorful and charming; I only wish more had been included.

The Bottom Line:
This cookbook features both sweet and savory recipes to create the whoopie pies of your dreams. Just mix and match your favorite cakes and fillings, and the treats will be gobbled up in no time. Enthusiastically recommended for everyone looking for a new taste treat in baking. Bakers of any skill level can try these recipes although those with more experience will have better results. I've got my eye on The Happy Pilgrim and Root Beer Float whoopie pies. Additionally, the Classic Chocolate whoopie pie with matcha (green tea) butter cream filling sounds dreamy. Also, recommended for all public libraries as it fills a niche in the baking section.

Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix'em, Match 'em, Eat 'em Up Recipes by Sarah Billinglsey and Amy Treadwell. Hardcover published by Chronicle Books in 2010. 120 p. ISBN: 978-0-8118-7454-0

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Book Review: The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice From an Unrepentant Novelist by John McNally

✰✰✰✰ If you are searching for a book with a subjective look at what one needs to survive the writing life, this is the book for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a how-to book on writing plot, characterization, or grammar, this is not for you. Author John McNally brings his personal experiences as a writer in his self-described "quasi-self-help" book for those of us who are interested in the writing life. McNally's advice is loaded with anecdotes. He is brutally honest and blunt as he shares his experiences of navigating the publishing industry and the stories of success and failure that come with that pursuit. Written with wit, humor, and sarcasm, this book is both educational and great fun.

This practical book is divided into six parts: The Decision to Become a Writer; Education and the Writer; Getting Published; Publicity; Employment for Writers; and The Writer's Life. While McNally covers the different paths one can take to become a writer, a considerable amount of time is dedicated to the different types of programs available and the MFA controversy. For those interested in further reading, McNally also includes a list of titles in the Recommended Reading section. Note: The Index was not seen in the uncorrected proof.

The Bottom Line:
Whether you're considering becoming a writer or you've already written a novel and are looking for an agent, John McNally provides a wealth of information in his new book. The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice From an Unrepentant Novelist is an eye-opening look into the world of a writer and what it takes to become one. It's like a Writers' Workshop in a book. It's a quick read from start to finish, but the great thing is that the reader can choose to read only the parts that apply to her situation. I plan to keep this book in my personal library so I can refer to it as needed. Highly recommended for anyone who has ever considered pursuing a life of writing. Also, highly recommended for public libraries. Look for it this September!

Details: The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice From an Unrepentant Novelist by John McNally. Advance Reading Copy published by University of Iowa Press in 2010. 261 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58729-920-9 Note: I received a complimentary Uncorrected Proof from The University of Iowa Press in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book Review: Victoria 500 Christmas Ideas: Celebrate the Season in Splendor by Kimberly Meisner

✰✰✰ Every page of this festive book includes a gorgeous full-color photo of the ideas being highlighted. You'll find suggestions for sparkly ornaments as well as decorations inspired by nature. There are ideas for decorating the inside the home as well as the outside. Additionally, there are tips for decorating with trees, candles, and flowers as well as table top suggestions and party favors for hosting the perfect dinner party.

Besides the introduction and the detailed index, this book is divided into five sections: Home for Christmas; All the Trimmings: Festive Gatherings; Traditions and Crafts; and The Christmas Pantry. While there are no extensive projects included, there are a few "mini" projects that are simple enough for anyone to do. On the other hand, the book includes an assortment of holiday recipes for both sweet and savory treats; these recipes do require some previous baking experience.

The Bottom Line:
With over 500 colorful photographs that correspond to the tips, this guide to Christmas decorating ideas is sure to elevate your holiday spirit and bring sparkle to your home. There are plenty of traditional ideas, and it's so much fun leaf through the pages. Just pick your favorite examples and replicate in your own home. Recommended for anyone interested in examples of holiday decorating. It's a useful book that will look great on your coffee table.

Victoria 500 Christmas Ideas: Celebrate the Season in Splendor by Kimberly Meisner. Hardcover edition published by hearst Books in 2009. 480 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58816-766-8

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review: Stick Man by Julia Donaldson

✰✰✰½ He's not just a stick; he's Stick Man, who just wants to be "with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three." Then one fine Spring day while out for a jog, a dog wants to play with him. Despite Stick Man's protests that he is more than just a stick, a sword, a bat, or a pen, no one will listen to him. And so it goes that the Stick Man finds himself on an unwanted adventure that takes him far away from home.

Months go by and Stick Man is tossed into the fireplace. Will he ever see his kids and his Stick Lady Love again? Just when he fears that all is lost there's a noise from above. What could it be? Why, it's a Stuck Man in the chimney who delivers a surprise holiday ending.

The Bottom Line:
Stick Man is full of silly whimsy. Kids will love the bouncy rhyming, and there's plenty of repetition for early readers. Axel Sheffler's full-color illustrations are whimsical, festive, and sure to please the little ones. Plus, parents will appreciate the family theme. It's the perfect read-aloud for a holiday story hour; kids will love to chime in. Recommended for kids ages 3 - 7.

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Hardcover edition published by Arthur A Levine Books in 2009. 32 pages. ISBN: 978-0-545-15761-2

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book Review: A Rumpole Christmas: Stories by John Mortimer

✰✰✰½ Crime never takes a holiday and neither does Rumpole. Every year Rumpole and She Who Must Be Obeyed exchange the obligatory Christmas presents: a tie for him and a bottle of lavender water for her. Sounds simple enough; yet, it isn't. Rumpole manages to find himself involved in five holiday mysteries.

'Tis the season for mischief as Rumpole encounters a suspicious Father Christmas, endures a heath spa, visits a church, entertains children, and defends a suspected terrorist, all in typical Rumpole fashion. Enjoy this treat to the fullest as this collection is likely to be the last publication featuring "new" Rumpole stories. Sadly, John Mortimer passed away in January, 2009. All of the stories in
A Rumpole Christmas have previously appeared in magazines, but this is the first time they appear in book format.

The Bottom Line:
Rumpole is probably John Mortimer's most beloved and memorable character. Whether you have time to read just one story or all, there's a story in this collection that's just right for you. Delightful reading as always. Recommended for mystery buffs who enjoy short stories. Rumpole is sure to liven up your holiday spirit.

A Rumpole Christmas: Stories by John Mortimer. Hardcover published by Viking in 2009. 176 pages. ISBN: 978-0-670-02135-2

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Review: The Little Red Elf by Barbara Barbieri McGrath

✰✰✰½ This adorable holiday adaptation of The Little Red Hen is sure to please. A reindeer, a penguin, a hare, and a little red elf all live and work in a workshop at the North Pole. However, it seems that the little red elf is used to doing all the workshop work by herself.

When she finds a pinecone one day, she asks the others for help. When her friends turn her down, the little red elf must once again do all the work alone. She must plant it and water it, bring it indoors and decorate it. But when presents suddenly arrive will the little red elf share with her lazy friends? Or will she open all the presents herself? Wait and see...everyone is in for a big surprise.

The Bottom Line: The Little Red Elf is super cute. Author Barbara McGrath's holiday take on a childhood classic teaches kids the gift of sharing. Meanwhile the softly colored acrylic paintings of Rosalinde Bonnet enhance the story and bring it to life. It's the perfect bedtime story for kids ages 3 - 7. Girls especially will love it.

The Little Red Elf by Barbara Barbieri McGrath. Illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet. Published by Charlesbridge in 2009. Hardcover edition, 32 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58089-236-0

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cookbook Review: Christmas Gifts from the Kitchen by Georgeanne Brennan

✰✰✰✰½ July is a great time to plan ahead for your Christmas gift giving. If you are thinking of trying something new this year, Georgeanne Brennan's book, Christmas Gifts from the Kitchen, is just what you need to get things started. How about whipping up a recipe of Plum-Vanilla Preserves? Or a batches of Chocolate Shortbread and Chewy Ginger-Molasses Cookies? There's also Savory Palmiers, Kugelhopf, and Sugar and Spice Pecans. All would make excellent gifts to give to your special someone.

This book is chock full of easy-to-follow recipes that are sure to delight even the grumpiest Scrooge on your holiday gift giving list. The book is divided into the following chapters: Introduction; Cookies; Cakes, Bars & Breads; Candies & Confections; Savory Treats; Preserved Delights; and an Index. Many of the recipes have full color photos. Plus, the book includes tips for how to present and package your homemade goodies.

The Bottom Line: While this cookbook assumes some previous baking experience, there are recipes for bakers of all levels. Recommended with enthusiasm for everyone.

Details: Christmas Gifts from the Kitchen by Georgeanne Brennan. Published by Oxmoor House in 2009. Hardcover edition; 111 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8487-3295-0

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book Review: Country Living Merry & Bright

✰✰✰✰✰ Looking for fresh ideas and tips to help you create that perfect holiday atmosphere can be daunting unless you have the right book. Country Living Merry & Bright: 301 Festive Ideas for Celebrating Christmas is packed with full-color photos that correspond to craft project ideas, seasonal decorating tips, and festive recipes. The ideas included in this paperback will add holiday sparkle to your home, but won't break the bank.

You can get an early start to your holiday planning by perusing topics for decorating, entertaining, tabletop decorating, crafting, and baking. The directions for the craft ideas are easy to follow with supplies readily obtained from your local hobby and craft store. Even the craft challenged will be pleased with the selection. Similarly, the book's recipes use simple ingredients found in even modest pantries. With the step-by-step directions, even beginning bakers will turn out professional tasting holiday treats.

The Bottom Line:
With over 300 ideas, there's something for everyone. Even if you don't have time to decorate or bake, this book is great fun to leaf through the pages and enjoy the festive photos. This book will appeal to all levels of bakers and craft enthusiasts. Highly recommended for everyone looking for new and classic holiday ideas.

Country Living Merry & Bright: 301 Festive Ideas for Celebrating Christmas by The Editors of Country Living. Paperback published by Hearst Books in 2009. 223 p. ISBN: 978-1-58816-782-8

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Book Review: Grumpy Badger's Christmas by Paul Bright

✰✰✰✰✰ "Christmas is for sleeping..." declares the Grumpy Badger. There's excitement all around as the Grumpy Badger checks his pantry for supplies and settles in for a long winter's nap. However, the forest animals keep bothering him with their plans and preparations for a Christmas party.

All the Grumpy Badger really wants is some peace and quiet so he can get some sleep. But when the mole gets stuck at the top of a Christmas tree, will the Grumpy Badger sleep through the crisis? It seems that the Grumpy Badger knows just what to do. But can he make up for his grumpiness? Read this charming Christmas tale and find out.

The Bottom Line: Both the young and the young at heart will love Grumpy Badger's Christmas, a charming picture book that highlights the gifts of friendship and sharing. Children will love the adorable animals beautifully illustrated in acrylics by Jane Chapman. Highly recommended for all.

Grumpy Badger's Christmas by Paul Bright. Illustrated by Jane Chapman. Published by Good Books in 2009. Hardcover edition, 24 pages. ISBN: 978-1-56148-673-1

"Christmas in July" Book Reviews

Summertime in Chicago is hot, hot, hot! What better way to cool off than to think of snowflakes and winter fun? This month Mini Books Bytes is featuring book reviews with winter and holiday themes. I'm thinking along the lines of holiday crafts, baking, and picture books for the little ones.

Believe it or not, this is a great time of year to plan ahead. The holiday season will be upon us before you know it. My philosophy is that it's never too early to start planning. With that in mind, upcoming book reviews for this month include:

  1. Grumpy Badger's Christmas by Paul Bright
  2. Country Living Merry & Bright by The Editors of Country Living
  3. Christmas Gifts from the Kitchen by Georgeanne Brennan
  4. A Rumpole Christmas by John Mortimer
  5. Stick Man by Julia Donaldson
Happy Reading & Stay Cool!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Book Review: The Cage by Brian Keene

✰✰✰✰ As the remaining employees of Big Bill's Home Electronics store are being herded into The Cage, the gunman states that he only needs six. Confusion sets in quickly.What does he need these six people for? As the hostages try to find some logic in an illogical situation, they must confront their darkest fears and try to figure out a way to escape. One-by-one, each employee is lead away from The Cage never to be seen again. Will anyone survive the night? Or will they all surrender to the evil that has invaded their lives?

The Bottom Line: The realization that what happens to the employees at Big Bill's Home Electronics store could happen to anyone who's ever worked an evening shift gave me shivers. Brian Keene's new novella, The Cage, is sure to give you nightmares. I know because that's what I got, which is the fun part of horror, isn't it? Fans of Keene and horror in general will appreciate this quick read. The black and white illustrations by Keith Minnion enhance the dark tone of the book perfectly. Due to the violence and strong language, this book is recommended for adults who love horror.

The Cage by Brian Keene. Advance Uncorrected Proof published by Cemetery Dance in 2010. 104 p. ISBN: 978-1-58767-187-6

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Review: A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel by Mel Starr

✰✰✰✰ Medieval surgeon, Hugh de Singleton, is back in the second book of the series. Just like many of us these days, Hugh manages to hold down two jobs. In addition to being the only surgeon in the area, he also serves as bailiff on Lord Gilbert's manor at Bampton. As is often the case, sometimes the two jobs overlap.

In this installment, it appears that Alan the Beadle may have been mauled to death by a wolf. It seems simple enough. However, Hugh finds himself doubting the cause of death when he observes that the beadle's shoes are missing. Surely a wolf would not have carried away the missing footwear. It is Alan's death that sets a series of events in motion. Thus, Hugh has little time to waste as he sets off to solve the mystery of who killed the beadle and other crimes.

As Hugh puzzles out the troubling details of the mystery, he writes down every thought, detail, and observation. Everything is chronicled including the midnight stakeouts, everyday tasks that are attended to on the manor, and village drama. Hugh holds nothing back and shares both his triumphs and defeats. You'll feel as if you are right there on the manor with Hugh de Singleton back in 1365.

The Bottom Line:
One of the charming aspects of A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel: The second chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon is that it reads like a diary. Cleverly written in first person, the reader is invited to share the adventure. The book includes a map of the area. It also includes a glossary which is helpful in decoding medieval words and religious celebrations. The second installment builds further momentum for the series, and I, for one, am looking forward to the third book, A Trail of Ink, which is due out in February, 2011.

Enthusiastically recommended for fans of medieval mysteries and historical fiction. There's something for everyone, even a little romance. Note: 1.) This series includes descriptions of medical procedures and surgeries. 2.) You do not need to read the books in order; however, the second book does at time allude to incidents in the first to fill in the backstory.

A Corpse at St. Andrew's Chapel: The second chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon by Mel Starr. Paperback edition published by Monarch Books in 2009. 304 p. ISBN: 978-1-85424-954-8

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Book Review: Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn

✰✰✰✰✰ They're not the Hardy Boys, but Logan and Arthur make an excellent crime fighting duo. Logan Forbes is the new kid in town determined to shed his geeky image and make cool friends. So he's none too pleased when the know-it-all next door, Arthur Jenkins, becomes his self-appointed new best friend.

Arthur wastes no time in informing Logan of the tale of murder that happened right in the very house his family has moved into. Myrtle Donaldson, a former employee of the Magic Forest theme park died amidst rumors that she embezzled money from her employer. In fact, there are some in the town who believe the money is still hidden inside Logan's home.

When the boys find an intriguing letter written by Mrs. Donaldson, they soon find themselves caught up in a quest to discover her murderer and uncover the identity of the real embezzler. With bulldozers waiting in the wings to raze the Magic Forest, the boys must race against time to solve the mystery.

The Bottom Line:
Closed for the Season had been on my "To Be Read" list for a while, and I'm glad that I finally had the chance to read this 2010 Edgar winner in the juvenile category. I just loved it. Closed for the Season is a quick-paced, charming mystery with an underlying lesson in friendship. Kids, especially boys, will relate to the main characters of Logan and Arthur.Enthusiastically recommended for kids in middle school.

Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn. Hardcover edition published by Clarion Books in 2009. 192 p. ISBN: 978-0-547-08451-0

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Celebrate Father's Day with the Perfect Book

Father's Day is right around the corner; in fact, it's Sunday, June 20, 2010! If you haven't already purchased a card and a gift for dear ol' dad, there's still plenty of time. Why not consider the gift of a book or two. You can make the selection yourself or make plans with your dad to visit his favorite bookstore and let him choose.

And remember, Father's Day is not only a day for celebrating dads and fatherhood, it's also a day for celebrating all the special men in your life like a husband, step dad, brother, grandfather, godfather, uncle, cousin, or father-in-law. Celebrate each one with the gift of a book.

Here are my top 20 book selections for that special man in your life:


  • 61 Hours (Jack Reacher Series 314) by Lee Child ISBN: 978-0385340588
  • Blood Oath: The President's Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth ISBN: 978-0399156359
  • Blue-Eyed Devil by Robert B. Parker ISBN: 978-0399156489
  • Deliver Us from Evil by David Baldacci ISBN: 978-0446564083
  • Fever Dream (Special Agent Pendergast Series #10) by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child ISBN: 978-0446554961
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium Trilogy Series #3) by Steig Larsson ISBN: 978-0307269997
  • Miracle on the 17th Green: A Novel by James Patterson & Peter de Jonge ISBN: 978-0316092104
  • A. Lincoln: A Biography by Ronald C. White ISBN: 978-0812975703
  • Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball by Bill Madden ISBN: 978-0061690310
  • The Big Book of BBQ: Recipes and Revelations from the Barbecue Belt by The Editors of Southern Living Magazine ISBN: 978-0848733322
  • The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis ISBN: 878-0393072235
  • Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share by Ken Denmead ISBN: 978-1592405527
  • The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team by Mike Krzyzewski ISBN: 978-0446544061
  • Golf: The Best Little Instruction Book Ever by The Editors of Golf Magazine ISBN: 978-1603208543
  • Handy Dad by Todd Davis ISBN: 978-0811869584
  • Have a Little Faith: A True Story by Mitch Albom ISBN: 978-0786868728
  • The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick ISBN: 978-0670021727
  • Mike and Mike's Rules for Sports and Life by Mike Greenberg & Mike Golic ISBN: 978-0345516220
  • Popular Mechanics Shed Nation: Design, Build & Customize the Perfect Shed for Your Yard by Dan Eckstein ISBN: 978-1588167125
  • Woodwork: A Step-by-Step Photographic Guide to Successful Woodworking by Strother Purdy ISBN: 978-0756643065

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cookbook Review: Pillsbury Easy as Pie

✰✰✰✰½ Hurray for pie any time of the year! Whether you are looking for a sweet treat or a savory pie that serves as a main dish, this book is for you. The rewards will be plentiful when you follow the Pillsbury pie formula which is so easy to remember: "140 simple recipes + 1 readymade pie crust = sweet success".

Pies come in lots of different sizes and the Pillsbury editors were clever to include recipes for 8" or 9" pies, 4" or 10" tarts, and mini-tarts. The recipes are divided by type: Chapter 1 - Fruit and Berry Harvest, Chapter 2 - Creamy and Chilled Favorites, Chapter 3 - Holiday Pies and Tarts, and Chapter 4 - Savory Pies and Quiches.

There is also a short introduction which covers basics like how to handle pie crusts and freezing pies. Additionally, "Pie Tips" are plentiful and provide handy "trivia" information such as freezing rhubarb, substituting walnuts for pecans, and peeling peaches. Finally, this book comes in an easy to use spiral-bound hardcover which lies flat and includes a handy Metric Conversion Guide and an Index.

Recipes that caught my eye include Amaretto Peach Tart, Black-Bottom Banana Cream Pie, Pear-Cranberry Pie with Eggnog Sauce, and Chicken Enchilada Quiche. Some of the best Bake-off recipes are included as well.

The Bottom Line:
Each recipe in this cookbook has clearly written directions and ingredient lists; the lists are divided in sections for the crust, filling, toppings, layers, and sauces. Most of the recipes include beautiful, full-color photos; however, it would have been great if a photo were included for each recipe. Highly recommended for beginning bakers just learning and accomplished bakers looking to save a little time. Bakers looking for more great recipes should check out the Pillsbury website.

Pillsbury Easy as Pie by the Pillsbury Editors. Published by Wiley Publishing, Inc. in 2010. Hardcover edition, spiral-bound. 208 p. ISBN: 978-0-470-48553-8