Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cookbook Review: Beyond Delicious: The Ghost Whisperer's Cookbook by Mary Ann Winkowski

✰✰✰½ How often have you ever yearned for Grandma Sue's lost recipe for meatloaf or Aunt Julie's misplaced recipe for sugar cookies? Perhaps your dearly departed loved one bequeathed her recipes to your sister, but the copies she gave you were "changed" and just didn't turn out right. For those of us who have ever searched in vain for a lost recipe, this book is for you.

Just in time for Halloween, Mary Ann Winkowski, the ghost whisperer herself, brings us Beyond Delicious, a book that is a collection of both recipes and ghost stories. Mary Ann is frequently called in to deal with troublesome earthbound spirits, and interestingly enough these ghosts sometimes share recipes before crossing over. This is a collection of just such recipes and the ghost stories related to each.

The Bottom Line: Beyond Delicious is an interesting collection of ghost stories and recipes. It is both informative and fun to read. Not only did I find several fun recipes to try, but I learned about earthbound spirits as well. The recipes themselves are unique including several ethnic dishes and older recipes. Many of the recipes require some previous cooking or baking knowledge as directions received from spirits can be a bit vague. Also, there were several typos here and there. Overall, this is a unique book that will entice both cooks and readers interested in stories from the beyond.

Details: Beyond Delicious: The Ghost Whisperer's Cookbook: More than 100 recipes from the Dearly Departed by Mary Ann Winkowski and David Powers. Paperback published by Clerisy Press in 2011. 300 p. ISBN: 978-1-57860-499-9 Note: I received a complimentary copy from Clerisy Press in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review: Torn by Lee Thomas

✰✰✰✰½ Luther's Bend is a quiet, tiny town where very little happens. Despite a rocky marriage and personal trouble, Sheriff Bill Cranston has the responsibility to ensure the safety of the town's citizens. Unfortunately, his world begins to fall apart when little Maggie Louise Mayflower disappears one evening.

As the town organizes a search for the little girl, Cranston realizes too late that Maggie was only being used as bait when a member of the search is taken. Soon a naked stranger named Douglas Sykes is taken into custody, and Cranston begins to uncover a truth that is stranger than fiction. Sykes claims to be a creature of sorts that is being hunted by a pack of his kind. The pack will stop at nothing, destroying everything in its path, until their prey is killed. Unless Cranston and his men can stop the pack, the townspeople, including Cranston's own family, are doomed.

The Bottom Line: You'll want to sleep with the lights on after reading this one. This tightly written novella features a nice balance of story and plot that will keep you in suspense until the end. As Book 23 in the Cemetery Dance Novella Series, it also features fantastically realistic and gruesome black and white illustrations by Vincent Chong. Torn contains graphic descriptions of violence and is highly recommended for mature fans of horror who enjoy stories with a little twist of sadness.

Details: Torn by Lee Thomas. Advance Uncorrected Proof published by Cemetery Dance Publications in 2011. 130 p. ISBN: 978-1-58767-265-1

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review: Amazonas by Alan Peter Ryan

✰✰✰½ Henrietta fears the search will never end. Her husband, Edwin, has become obsessed with finding what is known as The Slave Tree. Few people ever return from this journey. But while the pursuit for The Slave Tree strikes fear in Henrietta's heart, she must face something even more frightening. Deep in the forests of the Amazonas, all Henrietta can do is watch as her husband succumbs to his obsession and grows closer to insanity every day. As the only woman on the journey, she fears what will happen to her if she loses Edwin so far away from humanity. At the end of their journey, Henrietta must face the dark secrets of The Slave Tree as she discovers what can drive a person mad.

The Bottom Line: While Amazonas gets off to a slow start, the tension builds with a smoldering intensity like the heat of the jungle; I simply couldn't put it down. Dark and disturbing, this one will stay with you for a while. Due to violence, this short tale is recommended for mature audiences who enjoy horror.

Details: Amazonas by Alan Peter Ryan. Advance Uncorrected Proof published by Cemetery Dance in 2011. 124 p. ISBN: 978-1-58767-233-0

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book Review: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

✰✰✰✰✰ Kendra and her younger brother Seth are just two regular kids being shipped off to spend time with their grandparents during the summer. Sounds boring, but what they don't realize is that Fablehaven is a fantastical place filled with both magic and danger. Fablehaven is a refuge of sorts, a kind of sanctuary if you will, but not for normal creatures. The creatures protected by Fablehaven are magical, and Kendra and Seth's grandpa is the last caretaker.

Needless to say, there are lots of rules at Fablehaven. It's not too long before the kids venture outside of the bounds set by their Grandpa and get into loads of trouble. After all, basking by the pool all day eventually gets boring, and kids will be kids. Seth especially seems to have a knack for getting into trouble. Unfortunately, when rules get broken, there is a price to pay. The evil that is released wreaks havoc upon Fablehaven and threatens to spill over into the world.

Join Kendra and Seth on the adventure of a lifetime as they encounter witches, trolls, imps, fairies, satyrs, and other creatures in order to save their family and the sanctuary of Fablehaven.

The Bottom Line: Fablehaven is an enchanting fantasy that you won't be able to put down. This first book in the series is fantastic, and I can't wait to read more. I don't know how I missed this series when it first came out a few years ago. Kids will love the characters and the mythical creatures. It's simply magic. Also, the theme of love overcoming all obstacles and the importance of family make this one a winner. Highly recommended for kids and tweens in grades 5 - 8. This would make a great movie.

Details: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. Paperback published by
Aladdin Paperbacks in 2006. 368 p. ISBN: 978-1-4169-4720-2

P.S. A special thank you goes out to
Draak, my SantaThing secret Santa at LibraryThing, for picking this out for me last Christmas. I loved it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Review: The Very Best Pumpkin by Mark Kimball Moulton

✰✰✰✰✰ Have you ever searched high and low for a pumpkin, but just couldn't find the right one? There are big ones and small ones, short ones and tall ones. In fact, there are all kinds of pumpkins, but there's only one best pumpkin of all.

Peter lives on Pumpkin Hollow Farm and tends vegetables with his grandparents. All through the summer he watches over different crops. However, it's the pumpkins that are the most wonderful. When Peter discovers one lonely little pumpkin growing all by itself, he decides to make it his special project. He spends so much time caring for his special pumpkin that he doesn't notice his new neighbor Meg. When harvest time comes around, Peter must decide what to do with his special pumpkin. Will he keep it for himself or find someone else to give it a home? Check out this picture book to find out for yourself.

The Bottom Line: Every child dreams of finding the very best pumpkin. However, sometimes finding it is a challenge and you need a little help. When Peter helps Meg find her special pumpkin, a friendship is born. The Very Best Pumpkin is the perfect Fall treat for story time featuring the theme of friendship and beautiful watercolor illustrations. Very highly recommended for kids in grades Pre-K - 2. Also, it includes Peter's guide to growing your own very best pumpkin.

Details: The Very Best Pumpkin written by Mark Kimball Moulton & illustrated by Karen Hillard Good. Hardcover published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2010. 32 p. ISBN: 9781416982883

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Book Review: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

✰✰✰ ½ Mackie Doyle just wants to fit in. Unfortunately, no matter how hard he tries, he never will. You see, Mackie is different from the others...he's a replacement. It happened when he was just a baby. According to his sister, Emma, her baby brother, Malcolm Doyle, was taken from his crib and something else was left in his place. Usually the replacements die soon afterwards, but not Mackie. He grew up.

While the sleepy town of Gentry seems like any other, it hides a dark secret. Every seven years a baby is taken and replaced with something not human, just like Mackie. This year Tate Stewart's baby sister Natalie was taken in the night. Tate confronts Mackie in the hopes of finding answers, but instead Mackie finds himself facing the unwanted truth about himself.

For sixteen years the town has done its best to ignore Mackie's differences. However, it's time for a change. In his quest to find answers, Mackie is drawn into a strange underground world filled with frightful creatures. Mackie must decide which world he belongs in as he struggles to help Tate.

The Bottom Line: Mackie Doyle is a peculiar, lonely and likeable hero just struggling to fit in. A strong theme of friendship in times of adversity shines through this eerie and gothic tale. This quick read is recommended for teens who enjoy stories about the supernatural with a twist of romance. Note to parents: This book does contain some strong language and scenes of teenage drinking.

Details: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. Hardcover published by
Razorbill in 2010. 352 p. ISBN: 978-1-59514-337-2

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Book Review: Four Legs in the Morning by Norman Prentiss

✰✰✰✰½ This slim little book features three delightfully wicked stories by horror author Norman Prentiss. All 3 stories (or curiosities as they are named) are woven around Dr. Sibley, who is the eccentric and evil Chair of the English and Classical Literature Department at Graysonville University. While Dr. Sibley may seem meek and outdated, those who disappoint or dismiss him quickly learn that he is more than he appears.

Those who risk suffering the consequences of Dr. Sibley include a new professor who dares to uncover an ancient riddle, a student who thinks that plagiarism is the key to success, and a young college administrator who discovers the mysterious reasons for his predecessor's hasty departure. Will they learn their lessons before it is too late or will they succumb to the wrath of Dr. Sibley?

The Bottom Line: This compact book is part of the Cemetery Dance Signature Series which features collectible books by some of today's best horror authors. Four Legs in the Morning is a quick read that will leave you begging for more. The dark illustrations add to the overall eerie feeling of the book. Highly recommended reading for fans of horror fiction. And just in case you were wondering, my favorite curiosity was "Flannel Board;" it brought back lots of memories.

Details: Four Legs in the Morning by Norman Prentiss. Illustrated by Steven C. Gilberts. Advance uncorrected proof published by Cemetery Dance Publications in 2011. 108 p. ISBN: 978-1-58767-258-3