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

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Book Review: Catching Hell by Greg F. Gifune

✰✰✰½ Four friends, a country road, a freak rainstorm, and a seemingly deserted backwoods town can only add up to trouble. When Billy, Stefan, Alex, and Tory pull in to Boxer Hills in their old Ford Fairlaine, all they're looking for is a bite to eat. What they find instead is a town stuck in 1947 that harbors a horrible secret and ancient rituals. They have until the sun rises the following morning to reach freedom or surrender to the evil force that rules the town. Can they escape in time or will they be captured in an endless cycle of ancient evil?

The Bottom Line:
Gifune's new novella, Catching Hell, is like a trip to The Twilight Zone, only scarier. Although the story has a slow start, it really packs a punch in the end. This story will leave you wary of the hinterlands and those little country roads that lead to them. Also, artist Jill Bauman's fantastic black and white illustrations enhance the book's dark tone. Due to the use of mature language, this book is recommended for adults who love horror.

Catching Hell by Greg F. Gifune. Advance Uncorrected Proof published by Cemetery Dance in 2010. 128 p. ISBN: 978-1-58767-191-3