Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine: A Year in Review 2012

While I enjoy reading books, there's something to be said about a well-written short story. A short story that leaves you breathless is like a work of art, and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine offers some of the very best. Indeed, 2012 was a fantastic year for short stories. Here's a summary of stories that I enjoyed the most:

January/February: My favorite short story featured in this double issue was "Old Cedar" by D. A. McGuire. This story fascinated me, and I learned about disappointment rooms.

Second Place: "No Uncertain Terms" by C. J. Harper. 

Runners-up: "Pandora's Box" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch,  "Calculus for Blondes" by John H. Dirckx, "The Penthouse View" by Joseph S. Walker, and "Last Call" by Wayne J. Gardiner.

March: I enjoyed Christopher Welch's short story, "The Art of the Pyramid" featuring art gallery owner Toby Bridgman. I also enjoyed reading "Sheltered Assets" by Doug Levin, "Property Lines" by Mario Milosevic, and "A Family Trade" by Brendan DuBois.

April: This month featured one of my favorite short story writers, Stephen Ross. His story, "Pueri Alleynienses," is my favorite for this month; I loved the ending.

Other stories I enjoyed in this issue included: "All Prayers Are Answered" by Eric Rutter and "Caretaker" by Brendan DuBois. It was a great issue.

May: I really enjoyed fashion consultant Shauna Washington's first publication, "Fashioned for Murder." I'd like to read more stories featuring Stacey Deshay.

This month I also enjoyed: "Carry-On" by Wayne J. Gardiner, "Shanks Commences" by Robert Lopresti, "Wind Power" by Eve Fisher, and "Mr. Crockett and the Bear" by Evan Lewis.

June: My two favorite stories for this issue were: "Thea's First Husband" by B. K. Stevens and "Last Supper" by Jane K. Cleland.

July/August: My favorite story in this double issue was "Death on the Range" by Elaine Menge. I also enjoyed "Ghost Negligence" by John Shepphird and the Black Orchid Novella Award winner "Inner Fire" by Jolie McLarren Swann (a.k.a. James Lincoln Warren).

September: This month's top pick was Dee Long's short story "Fool's Gold." I also enjoyed the Mystery Classic "Night at the Inn" by Georgette Heyer; I'll have to check out more of her short story mysteries in the future.

October: I really enjoyed reading "Frank" by Steve Hockensmith; it was a very clever story. I also enjoyed "Mad Dog" by Jas. R. Petrin.

November: My favorite this month was "Strangle Vine" by Shelley Costa. Also, one of my favorite characters was back this month; Cyrus Auburn solved another mystery in "Window of Time" by John H. Dirckx. I enjoyed Steven Gore's short story, "Defender of Justice," too.

December: Every story included in this issue was a hit with me. It's so difficult to choose a favorite, but "Jake Says Hello" by Terrie Farley Moran is one that I'd like to read again.

2012 was a great year for short stories; it's so difficult to pick a favorite. I enjoyed the return of some of my favorite characters like Cyrus Auburn, Spade and Paladin. However, it was also a pleasure to read the first stories of several new writers as well. I'm looking forward to 2013; I hope it is filled with just as many wonderful stories as this year!

P.S. In case you were wondering, of all the great stories that appeared in AHMM this year, my very favorite  was "Frank" by Steve Hockensmith!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Review: 'Becoming Holmes' by Shane Peacock

✰✰✰½ The Boy Sherlock Holmes is growing up, but growing up isn't easy. The year is 1870, and the place is London. Holmes finds the world rapidly changing around him. He has just suffered the loss of his father, and the great author Charles Dickens has died. Irene Doyle now lives in America, and Beatrice Leckie has found another suitor.

At 16, Holmes suffers from bouts of melancholy. He struggles as he searches to find himself and define a role for his future. So he is only too happy when he reconnects with his older brother, Mycroft. However, it is during one of these visits that Holmes spies Grimsby, who is now employed by the government and uses the alias Ronald Loveland. Suddenly Holmes realizes that only Malefactor can be behind this. As people start to turn up dead and another is blackmailed, Holmes resolves to get to the bottom of it.

Meanwhile, Holmes is still living at Sigerson Bell's apothecary. Bell has been his mentor in recent years, but Holmes knows this chapter of his life may soon come to a close as well. Bell is very ill, but despite his limitations, he continues to guide Holmes to adulthood. It is with Bell's help that Holmes begins to using disguises in order get around London unnoticed. Soon Holmes finds himself being catapulted through a series of events that will shape him into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous character. Before this case is solved Holmes will have tied up many loose ends with people from his past and will have found his mission in life.

The Bottom Line: As the last book in the series, Becoming Holmes is both an end and a beginning. Although the first few chapters start slowly, the pace picks up quickly. The Boy Sherlock Holmes has grown up along with his readers. I've enjoyed reading along as the character of Holmes has faced many trials and tribulations that have molded him into the character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This final installment is dark and moody and filled with teenage angst which young adults can relate to. The adventure includes many twists and turns and a surprise ending that I didn't see coming. Both young adult and adult mystery fans will enjoy the last case of the Boy Sherlock Holmes. The Boy Sherlock Holmes series is a great introduction for those interested in reading the classic Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

Details: Becoming Homes: The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His Final Case by Shane Peacock. Hardcover published by Tundra Books in 2012. 264 p. ISBN: 978-1770492325 NOTE: I received a complimentary copy from Tundra Books in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Book Review: 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' by Rebecca Skloot

✰✰✰✰ The cells are known around the world simply as HeLa (pronounced hee-lah). HeLa refers to cells that were taken without consent and grown. While other cell samples died, hers thrived; no one knows why. Over the years billions of these cells have been produced and sold. Companies have turned the production of these cells into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Research in viruses, cloning, and gene mapping depend on HeLa cells. Additionally, HeLa cells have been used to develop the polio vaccine, have lead to important advances in cancer research, and have been sent into space. Today HeLa cells are invaluable to medical research.

But where did these cells come from? More importantly…who was the "donor" of the HeLa cells? For decades her identity remained a mystery. The researcher who first grew the cells threw journalists seeking her identity off the trail by creating a pseudonym. Thus the code name HeLa was thought to stand for Helen Lane. But that wasn’t her real name. The woman inside whose tormented body these aggressive cancer cells resided was named Henrietta Lacks. This is the story of her life and the contribution her unknowing “donation” has made to medicine and the world. Finally, Henrietta’s painful story is finally told with the sensitivity, dignity, and compassion she deserved in life, but didn’t receive.

The Bottom Line:
 Debut author Rebecca Skloot has masterfully braided together a story that incorporates multiple time periods and narratives. Skloot doesn’t sugarcoat anything; instead she uses the language of each person in their native dialects to construct a book that you will remember long after you have finished reading. 

Written in short chapters, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a surprisingly quick read. The book not only covers the biography of Henrietta Lacks, but informs the reader about medical ethics and cell research. Additionally, I found the author’s quest for information with Henrietta’s daughter Deborah compelling as well. Highly recommended for anyone interested in medical ethics, scientific discovery, and biographies. Also, highly recommended for book clubs.

Book Club Notes:
 My book club recently met to discuss this book. It was a lively discussion. In general we thought the book was both readable and discussible for anyone interested in the story; a science or medical background is not required to appreciate this book. Thus, I highly recommend this title for book clubs.

Additionally, as a discussion facilitator, I appreciated the ample amount of resources available about the book for discussion groups. Visit Rebecca Skloot’s website to download the complete reader’s guide in PDF format which includes information about the book and the author, discussion questions, a timeline, and list of characters. You can also access Skloot’s website for Book Special Features like more photos and videos.

Finally, you can find additional discussion questions at UW-Madison’s Go Big Read Program or check out the information at Random House.

 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Paperback published by Broadway Paperbacks in 2011. 400 p. ISBN: 978-1-4000-5218-9

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine: A Year in Review 2012

So many stories, so little time. Another year has passed, and it's been filled with many great mystery stories from some of my favorite authors including Doug Allyn, Simon Brett, N.J. Cooper, William Link, Tom Piccirilli, and Dave Zeltserman. In order to keep track of the stories I've enjoyed the most, I keep a list throughout the year so that I can make a selection for the EQMM Readers Award.

January: My favorite story for this issue was the very first story of the year: "Sonny Taylor: A Nontraditional Man" by Dan Warthman.

I also enjoyed Lee Goldberg's "Mr. Monk and the Open House" and James Powell's "The Fellowship of the Peach-Stone Ring," which was a fun Christmas story. The Passport to Crime selection, "Marta" by Rubem Fonseca was excellent as well.

February: I had two favorite stories for this month: "Floating Ant" by Brian Muir and "Out There" by Zoe Beck, which was in the Passport to Crime section. Both were excellent stories.

Other stories I enjoyed included: "Phaedra" by Kenneth Mark Hoover, "Sally the Bookworm" by William Link, and "Premeditation" by Victoria Weisfeld.

March/April: This was a double issue! My favorite story was "So Near Any Time Always" by Joyce Carol Oates. "Just Another Saturday Night" by William Link came in as a close second.

Runners-up: "Family Place" by John C. Boland, "Wrecked" by Therese Greenwood, "Rural Legend" by Tom Savage, and "The Parson and the Heiress" by Judith Cutler

May: This month my favorite pick was a tie between "No Flowers" by Martin Edwards and "Marsh Island" by Lina Zeldovich. I also enjoyed reading "The Girl Who Fished With a Worm" by Harry Groome and "A Nice Neighbourhood" by Kate Ellis.

June:  "Mr. Monk and the Talking Car" by Lee Goldberg was a fun read this month. I also enjoyed "One Soul at a Time" by Dana Cameron and "The Ritual of Mr. Tarplee" by Simon Brett.

July: "Cruel Coast" by Scott Mackay was my favorite story in this issue. Other stories that I enjoyed included: "Drowned in a Sea of Dreams" by Donald Olson, "Diagnosis Death" by N.J. Cooper, and Grant O'Neill's first story, "The Malibu Waltz."

August: J.L. Strickland's first story "Amazing Grace, Sorta" was a hit with me. I hope to read more from this author soon. I also enjoyed "Gunpowder Alley" by Bill Pronzini and "The Street Ends at the Cemetery" by Clark Howard.

September/October: The story that stood apart from the rest in this double issue was Jonathan Santlofer's "The Muse." It had just the right blend of mystery and creepiness. Other stories I enjoyed included "The Strange Architecture of Destiny" by  Eliécer Cárdenas in the Passport to Crime section, "Never Enough" by Ralph Ellis. Also, I enjoyed the return of Brynn Bonner's character Session Seabolt in "Final Vinyl."

November: This month's best story was Tom Piccirilli's "The Void It Often Brings With It." Other stories of note include: "The Charles Dickens Mystery" by W. Edward Blain, "Good Intentions" by Michael Z. Lewin, and "The Closet," a first story by Jenny Milchman.

December: "Mariel" by David Dean was my favorite story in this issue. It's definitely one that I'll read again. This month I also enjoyed "Dead Men's Socks" by David Hewson, "Karen Ovenhouse and the Ruin Snooper" by Peter Turnbull, and Stewart Brown's first story, " Dial Country Code 91 + M for Murder."

And so now for my choice of best story of the year..."So Near Any Time Always" by Joyce Carol Oates. This story spoke to me in many ways, and I have thought of it many times throughout the year. Second place goes to "Just Another Saturday Night" by William Link. For third place I had a difficult time deciding between several excellent stories, but in the end my choice is "Mariel" by David Dean. And that wraps it up for another fantastic year. I can't wait to see what's in store for 2013!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review: 'Summer and Bird' by Katherine Catmull

✰✰✰✰ Summer and Bird are two very different sisters. One is fair while the other is dark and bird-like. However, when the girls wake up one morning to discover that their parents are missing, they set off into the forest together to find them. Along the way they encounter a magical patchwork bird, whose song leads them to the world of Down. In this frozen and barren world, the girls choose very different paths. Through different circumstances Summer and Bird learn about the Swan Queen, who is the queen of all birds and has been missing for thirteen years.

In the Swan Queen's absence an evil woman known as the Puppeteer has taken up residence in the Swan Queen's castle. While the bird-eating Puppeteer longs to be the queen of birds, she knows that she can never reach that goal without the true queen's robe of feathers. As each girl sets out to find the Swan Queen and her true heir, Bird falls under the spell of the evil Puppeteer. Meanwhile, millions of birds long to reach the long lost Green Home, but only the Swan Queen can lead them there. Without the queen, the birds face certain death. Summer and Bird must make their choices carefully in the quest to defeat the evil Puppeteer, find the queen, and save millions of birds, but time is quickly running out.

The Bottom Line: Summer and Bird is an enchanting read about two sisters who must find their own paths in life. Katherine Catmull paints with words to create a magical world filled with fantasy and longing. Throughout the story the girls learn about the importance of family and to trust their instincts. Both girls struggle to learn that there is more than one way of looking at something and that sometimes the truth is hard to hear. Anyone who has ever secretly dreamed of being a princess will enjoy Catmull's debut book. Also, the fairy tale quality and flowery writing style will appeal to girls in middle school. This story vaguely reminded me of several fairy tales, but especially of the Japanese tale, The Crane Wife; thus, I enjoyed the bittersweet ending.

Details: Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull. Advance Reader's Copy published by Dutton Children's Books in 2012. 384 p. ISBN: 978-0-525-95346-3 Note: I received an advance reading copy of this book from Dutton Children's Books in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cookbook Review: 'Betty Crocker Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook'

✰✰✰✰ The season of autumn features all of my favorite holidays including Thanksgiving, a time to celebrate family, friends, and food. With Thanksgiving being just around the corner, now is the time to start planning.

For tried and true recipes, I often turn to Betty Crocker cookbooks. Betty Crocker Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook includes just about everything you ever wanted to know about cooking the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. The book begins with a Q&A section, where the editors at Betty Crocker have answered questions that readers most frequently ask.

Recipes begin with a chapter about turkey, of course. There is also a chapter devoted just to gravies, sauces and stuffing which is helpful for the novice cook. Those with more experience looking to supplement their usual fare will want to take a look at the chapters dedicated to side dishes, breads, soups, salads, and desserts. The editors have also included additional main dishes like Baked Ham with Zesty Cranberry Sauce, Roast Goose with Apple Stuffing, and Roasted-Vegetable Lasagna. Most of the ingredients are easily found at your local grocery store. I also appreciated the helpful tips for substitutions, do-aheads, and special touches. Finally, recipes include nutritional information, and there is an index at the end.

Taste Test Notes: I was looking for something that I could serve on Thanksgiving morning for breakfast. I found this quick and easy recipe for Surprise Pumpkin Muffins and decided to give it a try. I had everything I needed in my pantry, except for one ingredient. Therefore, while the recipe calls for chopped nuts, I substituted mini chocolate chips instead. Here's the result:
Surprise Pumpkin Muffins are quick and easy to bake.
The muffins were a perfect treat to serve with scrambled eggs and sausage for a quick holiday breakfast. Yum! You can even bake these a day or two early and freeze them. Just take them out of the freezer 15 minutes before serving. Nana's Baking Tip: If using paper liners like I did, let the muffins cool 15 - 20 minutes before removing them. Otherwise, the liners will stick.

The Bottom Line: Preparing a Thanksgiving feast doesn't have to be stressful. Whether you are cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time or the thirtieth, you'll find something helpful in this book. The numbered, step-by-step instructions are easy to follow and the tips are helpful. Also, be sure to take a look at the count down menus including the Super-Simple Menu or My First Thanksgiving Dinner. The addition of full-color photographs and the use of black ink rather than maroon would have made this a 5 star book. Highly recommended for both beginning and experienced cooks. Even experienced cooks will find something to add to their holiday table.

Details: Betty Crocker Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook: All You Need to Cook a Foolproof Dinner by the Betty Crocker editors. Paperback published by Betty Crocker (an imprint of Wiley) in 2003. 192 p. ISBN: 0-7645-2574-3

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Review: 'The Templeton Twins Have an Idea: Book One' by Ellis Weiner

✰✰✰½ Fraternal twins John and Abigail Templeton are in for an adventure when their father, Professor Elton Templeton, takes a new position at the Tickeridge-Baltock Institute of Technology, otherwise known as Tick-Tock Tech. Before the Templetons and their ridiculous dog, Cassie, even have a chance to settle in, things get interesting when an incredibly handsome former student, Dean D. Dean, accuses the Professor of stealing an idea.

Now the Professor is known far and wide for his inventions, so no one believes Dean D. Dean's claim. In order to force the Professor to admit that he stole the idea to put the Personal One-Man Helicopter (POMH) in a knapsack, Dean and his twin brother Dan D. Dean kidnap the twins and their ridiculous dog. However, the Dean twins may have underestimated the Templeton twins. You see, each Templeton twin is very clever in their own way. However, John and Abigail must find a way to work together to outwit the evil Dean twins and save their father before he signs over all ownership of the POMH to Dean D. Dean. Unfortunately, with time running out, it doesn't look good for the twins, their father, or their ridiculous dog.

The Bottom Line: After a slow start, The Templeton Twins Have an Idea really took off. This book is a little different from others due to the narrator who injects himself into the story quite often. At times the narrator is a bit too snarky and "talked" to the reader just a tad too much. However, the narrator does play a role in explaining things along the way. The narrator also provides Questions for Review at the end of each chapter; these "questions" were hilarious and fun.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the first book of this new adventure series. The author's emphasis on family, teamwork, and following through with ideas make this a worthwhile read. Additionally, Jeremy Holmes' illustrations were spot-on and fun to look at. This is a nicely packaged product that is humorous and fun to read. Kids in middle school will enjoy the snarky commentary. Recommended for boys and girls looking for a quirky new series to follow.

Details: The Templeton Have an Idea: Book One written by Ellis Weiner and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes. Hardcover published by Chronicle Books in 2012. 232 p. ISBN: 978-0-8118-6679-8 Note: I received a complimentary copy from Chronicle Books in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book Review: 'Halloween: New Poems' by Al Sarrantonio

✰✰✰½ Celebrate Halloween with this collection of 41 poems from horror writers including Tom Piccirilli, Steve Rasnic Tem, Brian Freeman, T.M. Wright, and more. In addition, the first poems ever published by Joe R. Lansdale are included. Many different styles of poetry are represented in this slim book allowing the reader the opportunity to experience the many emotions of Halloween from terror to silliness. The poems are organized around seasonal themes including: "Trick or Treat," "Pumpkins," "Samhain," "Dead Leaves," "Ghoulies," and more, making it easy to find a poem that suits your mood.

As with many collections, some of these poems were outstanding while others were not; thus, it all evens out. The standouts include: "Beggars' Night" by Gary A. Braunbeck and Lucy A. Snyder, "On Hallows Eve" by Peter Crowther, "Cap'n Hook" (A Tale of the Prairie) by Bradley Denton, and my personal favorite "The Lady DeWitt" by Joe R. Lansdale.

The Bottom Line: The festivities of the Halloween season are well suited to be expressed through poetry. However, as mentioned above, some of these poems were hits, while others were misses. Nonetheless, there's a little bit of something for everyone. Most of the authors included in this collection are not known for their poetry, so it was interesting to read their work. Also, the collection includes different styles of poetry including many poems written in blank verse. Additionally, I enjoyed the fantastic interior illustrations by Keith Minnion. Halloween: New Poems is fun, seasonal reading for adults. However, due to the inclusion of violence and some profanity, these poems are not recommended for the little ones. 

Details: Halloween: New Poems edited by Al Sarrantonio. Hardcover published by Cemetery Dance Publications in 2010. 112 p. ISBN: 978-1-58767-205-7

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book Review: 'How to Carve Freakishly Cool Pumpkins' by Sarah L. Schuette

✰✰✰ If you haven't already done so, now is the time to purchase your pumpkins. For those looking to create something a little different than your ordinary Jack-o'-lantern, check out the ideas featured in How to Carve Freakishly Cool Pumpkins.

As expected, the book begins with "Carving Basics" for beginners and a list of required tools. From there it gets more interesting. There are directions for 11 creepy pumpkins. My favorites are Spider Bite, Hoot Hoot, and the Puking Pumpkin. Each project includes a list of materials, step-by-step instructions, tips, and a full color photograph of the finished pumpkin. The text uses simple sentences appropriate for kids in grade school, and the projects use readily available materials. The book also includes a glossary and index as well as book suggestions for further reading.

The Bottom Line: If you are interested in transforming your pumpkins into something different this year, check out the ideas in this book. You can make creepy pumpkin critters, owls, mummies, skeletons, cauldrons, and more using pumpkins, gourds, paint, and a few simple tools. This book offers creative fun for kids and adults alike. It's a good place to start if you are looking for new ideas. However, if you are looking for templates, you will have to look elsewhere. There are none inside this book. Projects require adult supervision and some previous experience carving pumpkins would be helpful.

Details: How to Carve Freakishly Cool Pumpkins by Sarah L. Schuette. Hardcover published by Edge Books an imprint of Capstone Press in 2011. p. 32 ISBN: 978-1-4296-5420-3

Capstone Press offers a series of Halloween books for those looking for beginning instructions on carving pumpkins, decorating, sewing costumes, and more. Other titles in the Halloween Extreme set include:

  • How to Make Frightening Halloween Decorations by Catherine Ipcizade ISBN: 978-1-4296-5423-4
  • How to Build Hair-Raising Haunted Houses by Megan Cooley Peterson ISBN: 978-1-4296-5421-0
  • How to Create Spectacular Halloween Costumes by Louann Mattes Brown ISBN: 978-1-4296-5422-7

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review: 'Deadfall Hotel' by Steve Rasnic Tem

✰✰✰ Ever since Abby Carter perished in a house fire, Richard  and his daughter Serena have been searching for a place to call home. When Richard responds to an ad seeking a proprietor for the Deadfall Hotel, he is surprised to be offered the job. Together Richard and Serena pack up their meager belongings and move, but nothing could have prepared them for what awaits at the Deadfall Hotel.

You see, the hotel is no ordinary inn. Through the guidance of Jacob Ascher, the previous proprietor, Richard slowly begins to learn the ins and outs of the hotel. While guests do come and go as expected, some guests never leave. Stranger yet, some guests have peculiar and even dangerous habits that must be catered to. Richard learns that being the proprietor of the Deadfall Hotel includes so much more than manning the front desk and overseeing the staff; he’s also the recreation director and the gardener to name a few of the many hats he must learn to wear.

Eventually, as the seasons change, so do Richard and Serena. They become accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of the hotel, which serves as a kind of safe harbor for lost souls. By living in an environment surrounded by death, Richard and Serena learn how let go of their own “ghosts” and live again.

The Bottom Line: Deadfall Hotel is a peculiar, different kind of book; each chapter tells its own story and all the chapters are woven together to form the book. While I enjoyed the eerie atmosphere of this book, I found myself longing for more information about the hotel, its guests, and Jacob, the previous proprietor. Recommended for fans of horror and for those wanting to read something new and different. This one is intriguing and a bit odd. Finally, sensitive readers concerned about the treatment of animals will want to steer clear of this one; it does contain scenes of animal abuse.
Details: Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem. Paperback published by Solaris in 2012. 304 p. ISBN: 978-1-907992-83-4

Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Review: 'Blockade Billy' by Stephen King

✰✰✰✰ The orange signs said it all: ROAD CLOSED BY ORDER OF BLOCKADE BILLY. However, no one remembers William "Blockade Billy" Blakely today, and his team, the New Jersey Titans, have long since been forgotten. But when Mr. King interviews the elderly George "Granny" Grantham, the team's former third base coach, strange things come to light.

It seems that back in the day, Blakely was a great ball player; in fact, he was on his way to breaking every Rookie record in Major League Baseball history. It didn't matter that there was something just a little bit off about him. Neither did it matter that Blakely had a habit of repeating everything other people said or that he referred to himself in the third person. As the Titans' last minute replacement catcher, no one cared about his peculiar habits as long as he kept hitting home runs and could save the season. Unfortunately, Billy had a very dark secret to hide. Once uncovered, the scandal was so great that his scores were wiped off the record books forever.

The Bottom Line: This story is written entirely as a monologue, which is one of the reasons I liked it so well. While Blockade Billy is not a particularly scary story, it is an enjoyable, quick read. I read it in one sitting and especially enjoyed the twist at the end. There is nothing supernatural about this well written baseball yarn, and you don't need to be a baseball fan to appreciate this novella. Since this book includes profanity, it is recommended for adult fans of Stephen King, baseball, horror, and short stories.

Details: Blockade Billy by Stephen King. Hardcover published by Cemetery Dance Publications in 2012. 112 p. ISBN: 978-1-58767-228-6

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Review: 'The 13 Nights of Halloween' by Guy Vasilovich

✰✰✰✰½ Most of us are familiar with the twelve days leading up to Christmas, but how many of us know about the thirteen nights leading up to Halloween? Author Guy Vasilovich has created a lyrical treat to help us count them. On each night, a little girl’s mummy gives her a present. The first present is a bright shiny skeleton key. On each following night, the little girl receives a gift a little more creepy, icky, slimy, or spooky than the previous ones. The usual Halloween characters like bats, ghosts, and witches all make their appearances making this a fun way to enjoy Halloween.

The Bottom Line: The 13 Nights of Halloween is filled with creepy cute illustrations in vivid colors that children will love. Sung to the tune of Twelve Days of Christmas, there is a lot of repetition in this book. The text is easy to read and will be a hit with beginning readers. Enthusiastically recommended for kids in grades K – 2, and for those who love spooktacular illustrations. This book features silly Halloween fun, and I really enjoyed it.

Details: The 13 Nights of Halloween by Guy Vasilovich. Hardcover picture book published in 2011 by Harper. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-180445-8

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cookbook Review: 'Wormy Apple Croissants and Other Halloween Recipes' by Brekka Hervey Larrew

✰✰✰✰ What better way to get ready for Halloween festivities than with a tasty semi-homemade treat? Wormy Apple Croissants and Other Halloween Recipes offers kids and their parents a selection of ten sweet and savory snacks to make and eat. Recipes are rated easy (✰), medium (✰✰), and advanced (✰✰✰); thus, making it helpful in choosing a project for your child's cooking  level. However, it would have been even better if the recipes also appeared in the book according to cooking level from the easiest to the most difficult.

The recipes clearly list both the ingredients and the tools required so that you can have everything ready before you begin. The author includes glossaries for both words and tools. Plus, there is information on kitchen safety, a metric conversion guide, and an index.

Taste Test Notes: I decided to try my hand at baking the Wormy Apple Croissants. It's one of the more difficult recipes in the book, and I wanted to see how long it would take to prepare. Here is the result:

Wormy Apple Croissants: Makes 8. Serving size is 1 per person.
I waited to drizzle the caramel topping onto the croissants until just before serving. These treats are indeed ooey, gooey, and tasty. Kids will absolutely love them. It took me approximately 1 hour to finish making these including 30 minutes of prep time, 11 minutes of baking time, 10 minutes of cooling time, and 10 minutes to insert the gummy worms. It will definitely take a little longer if you are working with kids. Also, you might want to purchase 2 packages of crescent rolls instead of just 1 as I was left with enough extra filling to make a second batch. Nana's Baking Tip: Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil before starting. This is a messy project and the foil will make the cleanup easier.

The Bottom Line: This Halloween themed cookbook is full of fun recipes for beginning cooks. Choose from Spooky Ghost Pops, Blood and Guts Nachos, Witchy Wands, Green swamp Punch and more for to delight little monsters who may happen by. Author Brekka Hervey Larrew uses easy-to-read, step-by-step instructions for her recipes, and each recipe includes a full color photograph of the finished product and tasty tips. The recipes would have been even better if the author had included information on preparation time. Also, sometimes the author uses the phrase "serving size" to indicate how many items the recipe makes rather than how many to eat per person which can be confusing. All in all these scary (and tasty) holiday snacks are sure to be a hit with kids in grade school and middle school. Also, recommended for party settings. Note: Adult supervision is required to make these treats.

Details: Wormy Apple Croissants and Other Halloween Recipes by Brekka Hervey Larrew. Hardcover published by Snap Books in 2008. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1-4296-1338-5 This was just one title in the Fun Food for Cool Cooks series; you can check out the others here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Review: 'And Then Comes Halloween' by Tom Brenner

✰✰✰½ Debut author Tom Brenner has written a charming story about Halloween and the days leading up to it. And Then Comes Halloween follows several children as they prepare for Halloween night. As the days grow shorter and the morning air turns chilly, there are paper witches to be cut out, pumpkins to be carved, and costumes to be made. When Halloween arrives, it’s time run out into the night with friends and knock on doors. Finally, when it’s time to go home, the children learn the fun is not over yet; now it’s time to trade and share.

The Bottom Line: And Then Comes Halloween is a gentle tale about the joys of autumn and the preparation for the Halloween celebration. Youngsters will identify with the activities of the children featured in the story. Holly Meade’s watercolor and collage illustrations subtly set the tone for the holiday. This book is not frightening or spooky; thus, it’s a great introduction to the holiday for children who may be a bit fearful of going out for trick-or-treating. It also features themes of friendship and sharing. And Then Comes Halloween is appropriate for little ones in Grades Pre-K – 1.

Details: And Then Comes Halloween written by Tom Brenner and illustrated by Holly Mead. Hardcover picture book published in 2009 by Candlewick Press. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-7636-3659-3

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review: 'The Haunted Hamburger and Other Ghostly Stories by David LaRochelle

✰✰✰✰½ What’s a parent ghost to do when his ghost children won’t go to sleep? Tell bedtime stories, of course. So when Franny and Frankie demand a scary story before bed, Father Ghost gives in. But one story is never enough. So Father Ghost shares three short stories, each one scarier than the last. The stories include The Scary Baby, The Haunted Hamburger, and The Big Bad Granny. Each ghost story concludes with a funny and clever twist ending that will leave you laughing all the way to bed.

The Bottom Line: David LaRochelle’s collection of three short ghost stories is a hit for Halloween. These “spooky” stories are humorous and fun to read. I loved the surprise twist endings, especially the one at the very end, and kids will too. Additionally, Paul Meisel’s illustrations perfectly match the hilarious tone of the book. This spooktacularly funny book will be read again and again by kids in Grades 2 - 5. These ghost stories are very highly recommended for everyone.

Details: The Haunted Hamburger and Other Ghostly Stories written by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Paul Meisel. Hardcover picture book published in 2011 by Dutton Children’s Books. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-525-42272-3

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Review: 'Little Goblins Ten' by Pamela Jane

✰✰✰✰ Counting to ten just got a lot more fun with this Halloween themed counting book by author Pamela Jane. The fun starts with a big mommy monster and her little monster one, who she sends scampering into the forest. From there the fun continues with a variety of seasonal characters like ghosties two, zombies three, and more…all the way up to little goblins ten. Kids will appreciate the singsong verse and delight in guessing which creature is featured next.

The Bottom Line: With a fun, haunted twist, this picture book will seem familiar to those acquainted with the nursery rhyme, “Over in the Meadow.” Little Goblins Ten is an adorable book the little ones will enjoy. Illustrated in soft watercolor tones, the pictures are engaging and fun with just a hint of spookiness. This Halloween themed book features just the right amount of ghosties, goblins, werewolves, and more without being too creepy. Kids ages 4 – 6 will enjoy reading along with their favorite adult.

Details: Little Goblins Ten written by Pamela Jane and illustrated by Jane Manning. Hardcover picture book published in 2011 by Harper. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-176798-2

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Book Review: 'Island Funeral' by Keith Minnion

✰✰✰✰½ On their honeymoon, newlywed Sarah makes her new husband, Tim Moser, promise that if she should die, he will see that she is buried in the family plot on the mainland. It's so important to her that he agrees. But promises are made to be broken, and just four years later, Tim replays that conversation in his head as he follows the hearse carrying his wife's body back to her hometown. Tim does his best to follow through with her request, but when an accident puts Tim in a coma, Sarah's family proceeds with the funeral without him. As Tim slowly makes his physical recovery, he has an uneasy feeling that the townspeople are hiding something from him. As soon as his broken body will allow, Tim begins to search for answers. When he finally learns the horrifying truth about the difference between a mainland funeral and an island funeral, he knows that nothing will ever be the same.

The Bottom Line: Keith Minnion's chapbook is the perfect read for a stormy autumn night. It's an eerie delight and quick to read, but it stays with you for a long time. I finished it in about an hour, but I've reread it several times. Island Funeral is reminiscent of Stephen King's Pet Sematary and will appeal to fans of horror and those who enjoy well-written stories. Very highly recommended.

Details: Island Funeral by Keith Minnion. Paperback published by Cemetery Dance Publications in 2011. 40 p. ISBN: 978-1587672682

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Horrorfest of Books 2012

October is by far my most favorite month of the year. "Why?" you might ask. Well, because of Halloween, of course. Halloween (and the days leading up to it) is absolutely the best holiday. I know many people will disagree saying that the December holiday season is the best, but I know better. It's not everyday that you can dress up as anything you want and act completely out of character...all in good fun, of course. 

Let's not forget about the beauty of autumn. The leaves are turning colors of fiery reds, golden yellows, and brilliant oranges. There are also evenings around the bonfire with S'mores. Plus, there are football games and tailgate parties to attend.

But what I love best about October is the anticipation leading up to Halloween. There's the search for the perfect costume and the search for the perfect pumpkin (well, make that three perfect pumpkins because I always have to have three). The pumpkins must be gutted and transformed into Jack-o'-lanterns; then the seeds must be cleaned and roasted. And let's not forget bobbing for apples and drinking apple cider.

Yes, the days leading up to Halloween are fun indeed, but what I also love about October is the focus on Halloween and horror books. I have always felt that horror fiction is terribly underrated. That's why Mini Book Bytes is happy to dedicate the month of October to books featuring ghosts, goblins, hauntings, horror stories, and Halloween poems for all ages. So enjoy the Halloween season and check out a few books. You'll be in for a spooktacular good time. Oh...and leave the light on...just in case!

Happy Reading &

Note: The free clip art is from Squidoo!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Review: The Bad Apple (Merits of Mischief) by T. R. Burns

✰✰✰½ Seamus Hinkle is just an average kid in an average middle school. Unfortunately, things go terribly wrong for Seamus when an eager new substitute teacher, Miss Parsippany, foils his plans on Fish Stick Tuesday and ends up dead in the lunchroom cafeteria. It was a simple accident, but Seamus' well meaning parents enroll him at the  Kilter Academy for Troubled Youth in the hopes of reforming his errant ways.

Expecting severe punishment, Seamus is surprised to discover that things are a little bit off at Kilter Academy where troublemakers are nurtured. Rather than being rewarded with gold stars, students aim to earn demerits instead. In order to advance to the next year, students must complete certain tasks, like pranking teachers, which other kids would get grounded for. Despite Seamus' insistence that Miss Parsippany's death was just an accident and that he doesn't possess any real troublemaking skills, he soon finds himself swimming in demerits. As the end of the first semester draws near, all Seamus wants to do is go home, but before he can, he and his classmates must pass the final exam. In their mission to complete the Ultimate Troublemaking Task and make the director cry, Seamus and his friends learn about teamwork, friendship, and loyalty.

The Bottom Line: Merits of Mischief is a new series for kids in grades 4 - 6. It's a fun read featuring kids who excel in troublemaking. Along the way the characters learn the importance of friendship and teamwork despite all the trouble that they are encouraged to create. There are a few loose ends left at the end of the first book, but I'll definitely pick up the next installment to see what Seamus and his friends are up to. Recommended for kids looking for something a little bit different and quirky to read.

Details: The Bad Apple (Merits of Mischief) by T. R. Burns. Hardcover published by Aladdin in 2012. 352 p. ISBN: 978-1-4424-4029-6

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book Review: In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

✰✰✰✰½ When the whaleship Essex set sail from Nantucket in 1819, the crew expected a routine voyage to hunt whales. However, first time Captain George Pollard Jr. made a life changing decision when he sailed the ship to a new whaling ground far off the coast of South America. Soon after arriving in the Offshore Ground, the crew was in pursuit of a shoal of whales. What happened next turned a routine whale hunt into the stuff of legends.

For the first time in the history of Nantucket whale fishery, a whale had attacked a ship. The Essex was rammed and sunk by a large sperm whale measuring approximately 85 feet. The crew suddenly found themselves castaway in a desolate ocean with only themselves to rely on. The 20-man crew had to act fast to salvage the limited resources available to them, modify their whaleboats, and make another life changing decision. Instead of sailing to the nearest islands just west of their location, the crew set sail for South America, which was almost 3,000 miles away. Along the way as they were forced to face their greatest fears...starvation, dehydration, death, and cannibalism. By the time the ordeal was over, only eight men would survive, and none of them would ever be the same.

The Bottom Line: In the Heart of the Sea is a compelling and quick read. At first I was hesitant to choose this for my book club, but I am glad that I did. There is so much to discuss in this book from the history of Nantucket island to the tale of survival, from cetacean behavior to leadership styles. This book is fascinating, and I found myself wondering what I would have done differently from the crew in each situation. The writing style is engaging and kept me hooked. Readers should be aware that there is an extensive "Notes" section at the end of the book that should not be dismissed. I recommend reading each chapter's notes along with the story rather than reading all the notes at the end. Also, in addition to two maps, there is a glossy black and white section featuring photographs and illustrations.

It's interesting to note that Herman Melville's classic, Moby-Dick, was based in part on the sinking of the Essex. However, where Moby-Dick ends, the real story of survival just begins in Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea.

Ultimately, I was spellbound by the story of the Essex. This book is highly recommended for fans of maritime history and those who enjoy tales of survival. On the other hand, those who are a bit squeamish may want to skip this one due to the details of whale hunting, cannibalism, and the effects of starvation and dehydration on the body.

For more information about the author and the book (including book discussion questions), visit Nathaniel Philbrick's websiteAlso, I recently read that a movie is in development with Chris Hemsworth signed on to play the first mate, Owen Chase. I hope the movie is as thrilling as the book.

Details: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. Paperback published by Penguin Books in 2001. 302 p. ISBN: 978-0-14-100182-1 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Review: Minifred Goes to School by Mordicai Gerstein

✰✰✰✰ Mr. and Mrs. Portly have been wanting a baby. Instead they get a precious little kitten. They name her Minifred and raise her just like a little girl. She wears clothes, reads, and sings. Only Minifred doesn't like to follow the rules. When her best friend, Olivia, goes off to school, Minifred decides to go too. Unfortunately, school has lots of rules, and Minifred breaks all of them. According to the principal's copy of The Big Rule Book, 'ALL students must obey all the rules.' Will Minifred have to leave school? Are kittens even allowed in school? Check out this cute picture book to find out.

The Bottom Line: Minifred Goes to School is a charming, fantastical tale about a talking kitten who was raised like a little girl, but behaves like the cat she really is. It's a fun picture book for kids going to school for the first time or getting ready to go back to school. Children will enjoy Gerstein's colorful illustrations too. Recommended for kids in grades Pre-K - 2. It's also a humorous pick for story hour.

Details: Minifred Goes to School written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. Hardcover published by HarperCollins Children's Books in 2009. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-075889-9

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Review: Back-to-School Crafts by Sue Locke

✰✰✰½ It's August, and it's that time of year when our thoughts turn to getting ready for school. If you are looking for fun and easy projects to fill the last days of summer vacation while getting ready for the new school year, check out Back-to-School Crafts. Twelve projects are included; each features step-by-step instructions and photographs. Projects range from pencil toppers, a school days chart, and pencil pots. Patterns, a glossary, and an index are included.

The Bottom Line: Back-to-School Crafts is a fun way to get ready for school. As part of the Creative Crafts for Kids series, the 12 crafts featured were designed for children. However, adults will need to supervise and assist when necessary. Recommended for beginning crafters and families with kids in grades K - 3. Also, recommended for grade school teachers and librarians looking for fun crafts to feature in August as the kids prepare for school. If you need more crafts ideas throughout the year, check out the other titles in the series including: Birthday Crafts, Friendship Crafts, and World Crafts.

Details: Back-to-School Crafts by Sue Locke. Hardcover published by Gareth Stevens Publishing in 2010. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1-4339-3542-8

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Review: The Care and Handling of Roses With Thorns by Margaret Dilloway

✰✰✰✰ Galilee "Gal" Garner lives for her roses. As an amateur rose breeder, Gal's world revolves around her precious hulthemias. The challenge of breeding the perfect rose consumes her every waking hour when she is not teaching or undergoing dialysis for a chronic kidney disorder. Gal's world is quite predictable, which she finds comforting. Then one day Gal is called out of class to discover that her 15 year old niece Riley has arrived unexpectedly. With nowhere else to go, it's soon settled that Riley will temporarily stay with Gal.

Although Gal teaches high school, she is completely unprepared for the challenges of raising a teenager she hardly knows. Gal is unaccustomed to the demands of parenting and soon finds herself in over her head as she juggles her teaching career, her health issues, and her new role as a guardian to a teen all while aiming to create a rose that will be the envy of the rose society. While Gal is as thorny as her roses and difficult to get to know, her journey changes her from an inflexible spinster into a nurturing caregiver. Along the way, Gal is given the opportunity to start actually living her life instead of living through her roses.

The Bottom Line: This is a beautiful tale told in the first person; it celebrates love, forgiveness, and the bonds of family. Although it is a bit predictable, it was a joy watching Gal's character blossom. This is a fast read, making it perfect for the weekend. Once you pick this one up, you won't be able to put it down. Enthusiastically recommended for those who enjoy contemporary fiction about family dynamics. This will also appeal to those interested in roses and gardening. Additionally, The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns would also be a great pick for a book club.

Details: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway. Hardcover published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in 2012. 368 p. ISBN: 978-0-399015775-2 Note: I received a complimentary uncorrected proof from Putnam Books in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Book Review: Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck

✰✰✰✰½ A man named Rob recalls a childhood Christmas many, many years past when his family was poor and his parents worked tirelessly to provide for them. Growing up on a farm, there were always early morning chores to be done even on Christmas. But one year when Rob was fifteen, he realized just how much his parents loved him even though they rarely expressed it. That was when Rob became determined to give his father a very special Christmas gift; one that couldn't be bought. It was a gift that both father and son cherished for years to come. It was Rob's very first gift of true love.

The Bottom Line: This heartwarming tale is a classic story of Christmas giving that both children and adults will remember for many holidays to come. Told in Buck's magical style, this is the perfect story to read on Christmas Eve. Buehner's subtle illustrations are perfectly suited to this holiday picture book. Highly recommended for children ages 7 and up.

Details: Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck. Illustrated by Mark Buehner. Hardcover picture book published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2002. 40 p. ISBN: 0-688-16268-1

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve

✰✰✰ Growing up on a South Dakota reservation wasn't easy, but twice a year the children eagerly awaited the arrival of the Theast boxes. Theast boxes were packages of donations from "The East;" the boxes contained much needed clothing for the community. Virginia, the daughter of an Episcopalian priest, desperately hopes that one of the boxes will contain a coat just her size as the one she received last year has become too short and tight.

When the boxes arrive, Virginia spots a coat that would be just perfect; however, all the other families get to choose first. By the time everyone else has chosen clothing, the coat is gone. The congregation moves forward with preparations for Christmas, but Virginia's heart just isn't in it. Then just before heading off to Christmas Eve services, Virginia's mother pulls out two more boxes - one for Virginia and one for her brother. To their surprise, both contain unexpected Christmas joy.

The Bottom Line: This picture book biography is based on an event in the author's childhood. It's a touching story of learning to put the needs of others before one's own; however, it might have been more compelling if told in the first person rather than the third person. Beier's watercolor and gouache illustrations are realistic and nicely done. The story is a bit long for the little ones; thus it's recommended for older kids in Grades 3 - 5.

Details: The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood written by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve and illustrated by Ellen Beier. Hardcover picture book published by Holiday House in 2011. Unpaged. ISBN: 978-0-8234-2134-3

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Book Review: Have Yourself A Very Vintage Christmas by Susan Waggoner

✰✰✰✰ If you yearn for the days of Christmases past, then pick up this colorful title and take a trip back in time. The craft ideas in this book are cleverly organized by decades from the 1920s - 1960s. Each decade contains appropriate craft and decorating ideas popular in that era. Easy to copy color templates are included for many projects. This book also includes plenty of full color photographs to illustrate what the finished craft will look like.  Finally, this book contains a chapter featuring yummy candy recipes including: Mackinac Island Fudge, Caramels, Buttercrunch, and more.

The Bottom Line: What's not to like? This craft book contains festive ideas for crafty types of all levels. While some projects require a bit more experience than others, there is something for everyone. Additionally, most of the materials can be readily found at your local craft store. For those crafts requiring specific supplies, the author has included a source list. The only thing that would have made this book even better is an index. Recommended for everyone looking for fun, vintage Christmas crafts and holiday ideas. It's also great just for browsing!

The Bottom Line: Have Yourself A Very Vintage Christmas: Crafts, Decorating Tips, and Recipes, 1920s - 1960s by Susan Waggoner. Hardcover published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang in 2011. 144 p. ISBN: 978-1-58479-923-8

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book Review: A Christmas Tree for Pyn by Olivier Dunrea

✰✰✰½ Pyn is just a little girl who dreams of decorating her very first Christmas tree. However, her papa, Oother, doesn't agree. Oother is a big bear of a man who says very little. He loves his daughter, but he has work to do. When Christmas Eve morning arrives, Pyn decides to surprise Oother with the perfect tree. She bravely goes out into the snow to find one all by herself. But finding a tree is hard work. Luckily for Pyn, Oother comes along at just the right time and plucks her out of the snow. Together they set off to find just the right one.

The Bottom Line: A Christmas Tree for Pyn is a magical story about a father's love for his daughter. The themes of family and love shine through this charming holiday tale. Illustrated in soft hues of colored pencil and gouache, children will adore having this picture book read to them around the holidays. Recommended for children ages 5 and up.

Details: A Christmas Tree for Pyn by Olivier Dunrea. Hardcover picture book published by Philomel Books in 2011. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-399-24506-0

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review: FamilyFun Homemade Holidays

✰✰✰✰ Part of the fun of the holidays is the joy of making holiday crafts, gifts, and recipes. What better way to get started with the festivities than with a book from the experts at FamilyFun magazine? This book is chock full of 150 holiday treats, decorations and gifts suited for giving to individuals or planning parties. Included are ideas for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings Day. Choose from crafts like the Faux Fireplace, Angel Votive, Holiday Garlands, or Popsicle-stick Snowflakes. Recipes include Old-fashioned Gingerbread,   Jolly Jelly Thumbprints, Chocolate Church Mice, and many more.

The Bottom Line: The crafts and recipes in this book are easy to make and kid friendly. Most of the ideas can be made with easy to find supplies and ingredients. There are plenty of full color photographs throughout. Kids will enjoy making these recipes, gifts, and decorations with adult supervision. Enthusiastically recommended for parents, teachers, and librarians looking for festive holiday ideas to use at home, in the classroom, or as a supplement to story time.

Details: FamilyFun Homemade Holidays: 150 Festive Crafts, Recipes, Gifts & Parties edited by Deanna F. Cook and the experts at FamilyFun magazine. Paperback published by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. in 2009. 96 p. ISBN: 978-1-4027-6358-8