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Staff Recommendations – December 2016

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INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD/VHS | STAR TREK | STAR WARS

December 2016 Recommendations

theselloutThe Sellout
by Paul Beatty

The narrator of the book is an African-American man being charged with slavery in his home and with bringing back segregation. Paul Beatty uses satire with such skill that he’ll make a pop culture reference that almost makes you laugh aloud, followed by the wind-down to the pitch that has you in tears. He can do so within a paragraph, and does many times. It brings its readers out of our comfort zone and leaves us examining ourselves anew with a fresh assessment of stereotypes we carry unknowingly.

While the narrator tries to put his hometown of Dickens, California back on the map, he works with his friend Hominy, who tells everyone about his heyday of being part of the Little Rascals cast. The narrator is also still trying to make his late father proud, after his father used the narrator as his subject in many psychological studies the reader will recognize; unfortunately, the father didn’t have an ethics committee limiting him to what he subjected his young son.

I think that besides an incredible work of satire, this book would be a wonderful book club selection, as it will inspire conversation about race, while also demonstrating in the book what happens when we don’t have those conversations. The Sellout is the winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2016, for best English-language novel published in the U.K., the first time a writer from the United States has been honored with The Booker Prize.

( publisher’s official The Sellout web page ) | ( Wikipedia page for Paul Beatty )

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Recommended by Jodi R.
Gere Branch Library


witchwraithWitch Wraith
by Terry Brooks

This is the third in the Dark Legacy of Shannara series. Much of what has happened comes to a resolution in this final installment, but it still leaves us wondering what’s next for these characters. According to Brook’s website, in 2017 there will be a new Shannara series coming out that will be set after this, but it’s not clear if the same characters appear or if it set much much later. Please see my previous reviews on Wards of Faerie and Bloodfire Quest for a basic overview of the plot of the series. Saying anything about the plot of Witch Wraith will spoil it, which I don’t want to do because the story is so good and full of surprises you should read it for yourself. After finishing this series, and I admit I have not read his other books, it seems like Brooks is not at all afraid of killing off major characters, protagonists or villains. Since there is no vail of safety for anyone it really gives you a sense of nervousness reading that you don’t get sometimes. Also the characters don’t always have very good plans. In their given situations it’s understandable everyone would make missteps and misjudgments, so when they make mistakes and have to deal with the consequences and guilt, it makes them more believable as characters. If you like adventure, fantasy, and really long storylines, you should read this series, starting with book one.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Wards of Faerie (Book 1) and Bloodfire Quest (Book 2) by Terry Brooks.)

( official Witch Wraith page on the official Terry Brooks web site )

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


insuchgoodcompanyIn Such Good Company
by Carol Burnett [791.457 CarYb]

Carol Burnett has had a couple of prior autobiographies released — One More Time (1986) and This Time Together (2010) and Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story (2013) — in which she discussed some elements of her legendary sketch comedy show, The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978), but each of those earlier volumes covered her entire career, not just the time on that series. In Such Good Company is dedicated entirely to sharing remembrances about her TV show, and her relationships with her zany fellow co-stars — Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence (who started on the show as a teenager!), and Lyle Waggoner, not to mention the many recurring guest stars, like Jim Nabors, Dick Van Dyke, Ken Berry, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Nanette Fabray, Bernadette Peters, Roddy McDowell and so many others. In preparing to write this volume, Burnett re-watched all the old episodes, and captured stills from many of the episodes, which are reprinted in the book. In addition to telling the tales of such classic sketches as Went With the Wind (featuring one of the longest studio laughs in TV history, as Carol wears a drapery in a parody of Gone With the Wind), to Tim Conway forcing the rest of the cast to break character in a Mama’s Family skit as he tells a hilarious tale about siamese elephants, you can’t help but smile every few pages. I particularly enjoyed the scattered chapters where Carol remembers answering audience questions at the start of each week’s show — it’s hard to believe she original didn’t want to do the Q&A at the start of each taping, considering how personable she was. Since there is no “complete series box set” release of The Carol Burnett Show — although Time Life has a Lost Shows collection available for a hefty price — reading this book is the closest you can come to reliving the hilarity of watching this comedy classic itself. If you grew up on The Carol Burnett Show, like me, this is a must-read!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try One More Time or This Time Together or Carrie and Me, all also by Carol Burnett; also any of the DVD compilations of clips from The Carol Burnett Show)

( publisher’s official In Such Good Company web page ) | ( Wikipedia page on Carol Burnett )

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


dangergirldeluxehooplaDanger Girl Deluxe
by J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell (Hoopla Digital Resource)

The three Danger Girls gain a new member at the beginning of the story who does her best to prove to them, and herself, that she can get the job done. Their James Bond style work and adventures send them all around the globe to track down ancient artifacts and keep them out of the hands of those who want to use them to dominate the world. There is quite a bit of humor in the action, but also friendship and team work. Danger Girl Deluxe is the beginning of the Danger Girl series, so it’s a good place to start if you are new to the series. My introduction to this comic series was a paper copy I saw at a antique shop and I was not convinced by the cover it was something for me. I was nudged into trying it anyway by a family member, and I ended up really enjoying it, so don’t let the cover and art discourage you. I will say that there is violence and partial nudity, so it’s for teens and adults not kids. This graphic novel is available on Hoopla; you can read it in a web browser or download titles into the Hoopla App. The link to Hoopla is on our website and linked in the catalog if you do a search for the title.

(If you enjoy this, there are others in the Danger Girls series on Hoopla, by various authors. You may also enjoy Frank Cho’s Jungle Girl Season Three on Hoopla, by Doug Murray, A Quantum of Solace: The Complete James Bond Stories, a short story collection by Ian Fleming, or the Witchblade series on Hoopla, by various authors.)

( official Danger Girl Deluxe web site ) | ( official J. Scott Campbell web site )

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


mysteryofthebluetrainMystery of the Blue Train
by Agatha Christie

Retired detective Poirot is aboard the Blue Train in Europe as a murder is committed under his nose. He’s on the case along with a woman who spoke to the victim earlier on the journey. There’s not only murder, but jewel theft, an ending marriage, affairs and double identities. It’s similar in the way the case is presented to A Death in the Clouds, but different in all other respects. Overall it’s a good mystery novel, but it didn’t hold my interest quite as much as others I’ve read in the series so far. It was not boring or predictable, but I didn’t find myself caring for the characters. If you are looking for a light mystery with good writing this is not a bad choice, however for more action and intrigue try The Big Four or The A.B.C. Murders (both of which include Captain Hastings in the cast). If you are looking for others set on a train, try Murder on the Orient Express in the Poirot series and 4:50 from Paddington in the Miss Marple series.

( official Mystery of the Blue Train page on the official Agatha Christie web site )

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


thepromiseThe Promise
by Robert Crais

This is the most recent in a long line of Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels, but also includes LAPD K-9 Officer Scott James and his K-9 patrol dog, Maggie. We first met Scott and Maggie in the stand-alone mystery Suspect. There is no need to have read any of the preceding books, other than perhaps more depth of character for the reader. Crais does a good job of giving enough background on the characters to enable a new reader to follow the story. (But as Suspect is one of my favorite books, I highly recommend going back and reading that one for Scott and Maggie’s story – reviewed April, 2013.)

In this mystery, Elvis and Joe (ex-cop and ex-military) are hired to locate a missing woman who has been mourning the death of her son at the hands of terrorists, and she appears to have embezzled $450,000 from her company. While Elvis is staking out a house owned by a man who might have ties to the missing woman, he’s inadvertently pulled into an attempted felony warrant arrest by the police, including Scott and Maggie, which involves a completely different crime. These two seemingly unrelated cases just might be connected.

Elvis’ humorous comebacks, the dangerous mystery that always accompanies Joe, the likable Scott and Maggie, and the plot twists and turns make this another mystery by Crais that does not disappoint. (But really, go back and read Suspect).

( official The Promise page on the official Robert Crais web site )

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Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatCDbook2ghosttimestwocdGhost Times Two
by Carolyn Hart, narrated by Ann Marie Lee (Compact Disc Hart)

In this seventh entry in Carolyn Hart’s Bailey Ruth Raeburn fantasy/mystery series, the Heavenly “emissary” is again sent back to Earth, specifically her former hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma, to guide the spirit of a recently deceased young man (newspaper reporter Jimmy) to climb the golden staircase to the afterlife. The only problem is that Jimmy is still far too attached to his earthly existence, and his girlfriend, attorney Megan, he had while he was living. When Megan is implicated in the murder of one of the senior attorneys at her firm, Bailey Ruth (with Jimmy’s awkward interference) has to help solve the murder, so that Jimmy will feel free to leave his life behind.

I enjoy this series as audiobooks, read with incomparable flair and panache by Ann Marie Lee. She perfectly imbues a sense of life and humor into the character of Bailey Ruth, with her Southern charm and energetic personality. The mystery itself isn’t as important as following Bailey Ruth’s adventures along the way. These are just a fun, simple read/listen.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the rest of the Bailey Ruth Raeburn series, by Carolyn Hart, all narrated by Ann Marie Lee.)

( Bailey Ruth Raeburn information on the official Carolyn Hart web site )

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


abiglittlelifeA Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog
by Dean Koontz (636.7 Koo)

The true story of the Koontz’s dog, Trixie.

She was three years old when she was retired as a service dog and adopted out to author Dean Koontz and his wife, Gerda. The best animal stories are humorous, poignant, relatable, and filled with many, many anecdotes and this one doesn’t disappoint. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll recognize your own pets in these stories, and you’ll love Trixie.

( official A Big Little Life video trailer on YouTube ) | ( official Dean Koontz web site )

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Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


christmascookiesprinklesnitcherThe Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher
by Robert Kraus (jP Kraus)

During the holiday season, cookies are a popular treat to cut out and baKe with children. While waiting for them to bake, why not share a story? In The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher, everyone is preparing for the big baking day ahead only to have all their sprinkles stolen during the night. Only Little Nat has the will to follow the trail of sprinkles to the Snitcher’s house where he convinces him to return them. Told in rhyme, it goes very well with How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.

[Another fun picture book about baking is Baking Day at Grandma’s by Anika Denise. The refrain of “It’s baking day, it’s baking day, it’s baking day at Grandma’s” just begs for everyone to join in]

(Wikipedia page for Robert Kraus )

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Recommended by Sandy W.
Gere Branch Library


catalystStar Wars ReviewsCatalyst: A Rogue One Novel
by James Luceno

Catalyst serves as a tie-in to the latest “Star Wars” novel. It also serves as the new “canon” story of how the Death Star was constructed and who was responsible. Catalyst is an engaging character-driven story that is light on action and more focused on drama and intrigue. The plot centers around the efforts of Galen Erso, an apolitical, pacifistic, extraordinary genius intellect who sees the galaxy around him in ways no one else can (which leaves him often unable to connect to or relate with others) to unlock the mystery of kyber crystals, once solely the province of the Jedi Order, as a means to create an inexpensive and inexhaustible source of energy. Galen’s work places him in the center of several political intrigues; many of which are orchestrated by his friend, Orson Krennic, an ambitious, pragmatically ruthless engineer possessed of uncanny insight into other people and a cunning ability to manipulate others,to provide the power source needed to fuel the most devastating superweapon the galaxy has ever seen: the Death Star. Catalyst is not an absolute must-read, though it will give some added insight into the story and characters of “Rogue One”. It’s also a well-crafted engaging read that most fans of Star Wars will enjoy.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Lords of the Sith, by Paul S. Kemp, and Tarkin, by James Luceno)

( Wikipedia chronology of Star Wars books ) | ( Wikipedia article on James Luceno )

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Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library


bookofharlanThe Book of Harlan
by Berniece McFadden

This is a book that didn’t just show a story, but sent it coursing through your veins as you listened to the music it described and created. It described the hey-day jazz age of Harlem in the 1930s, and shifted from pianist Emma and her husband, Sam, to their guitar-playing son, Harlan. Harlan’s travels with his bands illuminated the Jim Crow racism of the South, and the person demons of alcohol, womanizing, and drugs that were dangers for the main character. Music was seen as both a healing force, and a driving one.

I learned so much history I’d never known before reading this book. I had a chance to see the world through the eyes of African-American family members when they heard H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds on the radio, and felt the panic it created. I found the names of jazz greats I knew, like Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and Jelly Roll Morton, as they were at a party with Harlan’s mother, Emma, and learned of other jazz greats I hadn’t known of. I also learned about Ilse Koch, The B–ch of Buchenwald, after Harlan and his friend Lizard were taken captive by the Nazi party in Paris on May 10, 1940. This teaches history that hasn’t been written of enough.

( publisher’s official Book of Harlan web page ) | ( official Berniece McFadden web site )

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Recommended by Jodi R.
Gere Branch Library


stonedStoned: Jewelry, Obsession and How Desire Shapes the World
by Aja Raden [739.27 Rad]

Ms. Raden has crafted a very detailed, very reasoned, very interesting book about famous gems and minerals and their role in human history. Did you know that the first wristwatch was encased in gold and diamonds, made for a Hungarian countess in 1876, and that it wasn’t until World War I that these personal timepieces were regarded as practical and “manly” tools? That’s just one of the tidbits of knowledge included in this examination of how the desire, ownership, and manipulation of jewellery has changed the lives of individuals and, in many cases, the course of history. The section on the Faberge eggs alone is both sobering and illuminating. Raden, who has degrees in history and physics and is also a former Tacori designer, takes a slice-of-life approach and includes a healthy amount of sarcasm in describing and analyzing the lure of precious stones and adornments over time while also illustrating that what we think we know about value and rarity and lore may be bass-ackwards. Let’s just say you may not think so poorly of Marie Antoinette after you read this book!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Bejeweled: Great Designers, Celebrity Style, by Penny Proddow, Diamonds, Gold, and War: the British, the Boers, and the making of South Africa, by Martin Meredith, Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry, by Elizabeth Taylor, Faberge Eggs: a Retrospective Encyclopedia, by Will Lowesor The Sancy Blood Diamond: Power, Greed, and the Cursed History of one of the World’s most Coveted Gems, by Susan Ronald.)

( publisher’s official Stoned web site ) | ( official Aja Raden Facebook page )

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Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


fantasticbeastsscreenplayFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – The Original Screenplay
by J.K. Rowling [j Rowling]

The inspiration for the 2016 Harry Potter “prequel” film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is currently in theatres, was a small chapbook that J.K. Rowling wrote under the pseudonym Newt Scamander. It was a cute, but little, encyclopedia of the mystical magical creatures of Rowling’s Harry Potter wizarding world, written by Rowling to benefit the charity Comic Relief in 2001 (see previous review). When the movie studios insisted on additional movies in the Potterverse, Rowling came up with the adventures of Newt Scamander as he researched his creature encyclopedia. This book is the story of the new film, told in screenplay form. I’ll have to admit, while I enjoyed the film, the fast pace, heavy accents and loud sound effects made hearing all of the dialog clearly nearly impossible, so I very much enjoyed reading this book to catch the parts of the story I missed. The drawbacks of reading a screenplay are that you really don’t get the level of description and character development, or internal dialog and introspection, that you do with a novel. However this was still a fun read, and handily supplements the plot of the film. Potter fanatics won’t want to miss this, and anyone who saw the movie but wants to get a better understanding of it will appreciate this as well!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the original chapbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling)] [ official J.K. Rowling web site (U.S.) ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


hooplalegenderryLegenderry
by Bill Willingham (Hoopla Digital Resource)]

In this story we have a multitude of characters from the Dynamite universe brought together to bring down a foe determined to cause war and feast on the souls of the dead. However, none of the characters are in quite their usual outfits and personas because this is set in a steampunk world. The central character we follow through the story is Red Sonja whose memory had been messed with to make her forget who she was and believe that she is Magna Spadarossa in search of a sister who is in fact herself. Before she returns to normal, she’s in quite a bit of distress because so many people are chasing her and she can’t figure out why. After she becomes herself again she to some extent does her usual, gather information on the enemy and attack. To a certain degree I was reminded of the Swords of Sorrow mini-series in which Dynamite ladies team up to fight Prince Charming with special swords. Personally I liked Swords of Sorrow a lot better. It could be because I’m not a steampunk fan, but I also liked the story better. I also had a problem with the ending to this one, because it felt really abrupt and unfinished as if it was the end to part one and there would be a part two. I read it mainly because Red Sonja is my favorite comic book character and was curious how she’d be portrayed in a very different world than her own; while it was interesting I don’t think I’ll reread it or get a copy for myself. Still it’s by no means a bad mini-series and if you like steampunk, you might like it better than I do. It was fun to be introduced to characters I’d heard of but not read before, so you might like that aspect as well. The crew includes: Red Sonja, Kato, Vampirella, Zorro, Green Hornet, Captain Victory, $6,000 Man, Phantom, Devil (the dog), Flash Gordon, and Silver Star. If you want to give it a go you can check Legenderry out on Hoopla and either download it via the app or just read it in a web browser. It is accessible at www.hoopladigital.com or you can search the title in the catalog and get a link to Hoopla through there.

(Swords of Sorrow is really good, but unfortunately it’s not available on Hoopla or in print at Lincoln City Libraries. It appears on Amazon that they have collected all the issues into a graphic novel that’s due to come out February 2017. It also is a cross over event but the characters stay in character, unlike Legenderry where they’ve changed a bit to be steampunk. The four main characters, although there are many more, are Red Sonja, Vampirella, Dejah Thoris and Jungle Girl.)

( publisher’s official Legenderry web site ) | ( official Bill Willingham web site )

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Recommended by Kristen A.
Gere Branch Library


Screening Room

formatdvdjohnnygothisgundvdJohnny Got His Gun

based on the novel by Dalton Trumbo [DVD Johnny]

I heard about this movie nearly thirty years ago, when I first saw a music video that had snippets of this movie in it. The video was for the song “One” by the band Metallica — they wrote the song based solely on the plot of this movie. I was so intrigued that I always felt I should watch the movie. However, I was also intimidated by it. The story, briefly, goes as follows: a soldier is severely wounded during battle in World War I. He’s a quadruple amputee who also is now blind, deaf and mute. The song describes his struggles, where he’s essentially trapped inside himself, unable to communicate, unable to tell the difference between waking and sleeping. His only distractions are memories and nightmares. I knew that the movie would be somewhat heavy, to say the least. However, I have never been able to get it out of my mind. So I finally borrowed it and watched it. It’s VERY well made, crossing between black and white (the present) and color (the past/memories/nightmares), and has some incredible cast members. It’s considered an anti-war film, but it didn’t seem that way to me. I would definitely recommend this film!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Born on the Fourth of July, M*A*S*H* or Full Metal Jacket)

(Also available in traditional print format.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film )

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Recommended by Tracy T.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdmanwhoknewinfinitydvdThe Man Who Knew Infinity

based on the book by Robert Kanigel [DVD Man]

Marvelous biographical study of the brilliant young Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, and his relationship with his British mentor, professor G.H. Hardy. When the sheer natural mathematical brilliance of Ramanujan is recognized by some of his teachers and co-workers in India, who realize that he won’t be able to make proper use of his gifts in his homeland, he corresponds with a British professor (Hardy) at Trinity College in Cambridge, and eventually goes to England to join Hardy in study, in hopes of getting some of his groundbreaking work published. Ramanujan finds both support and ethnic bigotry in England, exacerbated by the breakout of World War I. When grave illness threatens Ramanujan’s life, Hardy’s support of his colleague leads to Ramanujan’s theorems achieving acclaim, but at a cost. It is fascinating to study the contrast between the devoutly religious Ramanujan, who believed that his mathematical discoveries came to him as direct gifts from God and required no “proofs”, vs the atheist Hardy, who, although he respected and admired Ramanujan, still insisted that the Indian’s mathematical solutions had to undergo a formalized and rigorous “proving” process to verify their authenticity.

Dev Patel as Ramanujan and Jeremy Irons as Hardy are brilliant in this film, which also features a marvelous supporting cast. The production design and sets are top notch. Highly recommended!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Russell Crowe film, A Beautiful Mind, a different type of story, about a different famed mathematician, but if the math elements of this film intrigue you, you’ll enjoy that one as well!)]

(Also available in traditional print format)]

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official UK The Man Who Knew Infinity web site )

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdmurdershebakeddvdMurder She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery

based on the book by Joanne Fluke [DVD Murder]

Alison Sweeney stars as Hannah Swensen, owner and operator of a small-town Minnesota bakery, in this first of several TV-Movie adaptations of the series of popular mystery novels by Joanne Fluke. In this “pilot movie” based on the first book in the series, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Hannah feels compelled to investigate when a personal friend — also one of her suppliers of baking materials — is killed in his delivery truck right in back of her restaurant. Fearing the official “big city” investigator is looking in the wrong direction and doesn’t know the people of her small town, like she does, Hannah snoops around, eventually endangering herself. This is a typical “amateur detective” story, without too complicated a story, but Sweeney as Hannah and Cameron Mathison as investigator Mike Kingston have great screen chemistry. The rest of the supporting cast is excellent, and the plot, while not ground-breaking in any way, is still intriguing enough to keep you interested. I enjoyed this one a lot, even though I’d read the novel it was based on as a selection for the libraries’ Just Desserts mystery discussion group back in 2013. I look forward to seeing more of these! A total of four Murder She Baked TV-movies have been shown on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries cable TV network, although this is the only one released on DVD thus far!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Aurora Teagarden Mystery Movies, The Gourmet Detective Mystery Movies or The Garage Sale Mystery Movies or The Flower Shpo Mystery Movies)

(Also available in traditional print format.)

([ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Murder She Baked web site )

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated December 2016
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