Review: “I Love Gardening” by Mike Jupp, Gibsons – 9.5/10

Gibsons is a high-quality puzzle brand from the UK with beautiful blue boxes, very thick pieces, and a waxy matte finish. Their Mike Jupp series of "I Love..." puzzles is enormously popular in the UK and for good reason. These busy cartoon puzzles are filled with fine detail, bright colors, and humorous sight gags. It's fun to discover all the characters and animals as you piece this puzzle together. The grid cut, seamless finish, and excellent image reproduction all mark this as a AAA brand with an excellent tactile feel. Due to the standard piece cut, some pieces may appear to go where they don't belong, which makes this brand more challenging to work than some. If you like cartoon puzzles, you'll definitely want to check out the Mike Jupp puzzles in this series. "I Love Gardening" is ideal for those who have a green thumb or just like a moderately difficult and detailed puzzle.

Review: “Summer House” by Steve Crisp, Sunsout – 9/10

Sunsout presents "Summer House" by Steve Crisp as a house-shaped puzzle. I love the irregular border on shaped puzzles and this one is quite fun with the pine tree, roof of the house, and flower beds providing the border. The quality of the puzzle is excellent with thick pieces and a crazy fun random cut. The cut includes whimsies--pieces shaped like dogs, birds, trees, and other objects. The image reproduction is wonderful with bright colors and sharp details. The beautiful illustration by Steve Crisp makes a great puzzle. The various colored rooms in the house are separate vignettes you can piece together. The rooms are easy, but the half-timbered exterior walls and thatched roof provide a little more challenge. This is an unusual puzzle that goes above and beyond the standard rectangular, grid-cut puzzle. Highly recommended.

Review & Giveaway: “Winter Village” by Steve Crisp, White Mountain – 9.5/10

White Mountain's "Winter Village" is one of my favorite puzzles so far in 2016. The snowy image by Steve Crisp is gorgeous and really hit the spot when I worked it during the hot summer months. Though this is a nighttime scene, the colors are bright and appealing. There's a nice mix of detail and simpler areas where you can put the pieces together without referencing the box (like the sky and the bridge). I loved the large White Mountain piece size and the larger size of the final puzzle. The random cut is fun to piece together and the finish is very flat and smooth. This is an easy-to-moderate puzzle that is never frustrating. Highly recommended!

Review: “Great Dreams” by Ionut and Opitz, Trefl – 8/10

This is a striking fantasy image with a positive message–dream big! The Trefl brand from Poland is a grid-cut puzzle with fairly standard piece shapes and sizes. The pieces are not as thick as some Euro brands like Ravensburger or Jumbo, but thick enough to resist bending and damage. This puzzle is easy to assemble. The girl is a brightly-colored element that goes together quickly. The cityscape is not as interesting as the girl to assemble, but slight variations in color in the fog, and the recognizable buildings, keep it from being difficult. Recommended to fans of fantasy images. 8/10

“Fishing Fun” by Aimee Stewart, Ravensburger – 8.5/10

This fishing collage puzzle is from two of the best names in the business--Aimee Stewart and Ravensburger. It boasts excellent manufacturing quality and a lovely vintage-style illustration that is full of detail and interest. This puzzle would make an excellent gift for the fisherman in your life or anyone who appreciates masculine-themed puzzles. Recommended!

Review: “Santa on the Roof” by Sergio Botero, Lafayette Puzzle Factory – 8/10

This is a pretty and easy to assemble Christmas puzzle at a bargain price and better-than-bargain quality. The cut away house design gives the puzzle a collage-like effect, with separate areas of color and pattern to assemble. The Lafayette Puzzle Factory quality is decent with pieces that were clean cut and not easily bent. The image is bright and well-bonded to the backing. There was no image lift or damage to the pieces. The cut is a standard grid cut with a good variety of shapes. There was never any confusion about where a piece fit. The illustration style is lovely with nice color and detail throughout the image. This is a recommended addition to your collection of Christmas puzzles.

Review: “Christmas Cuckoo Clock” by Randy Wollenmann, Vermont Christmas Company – 9.25/10

This is a delightful Christmas puzzle with easy-to-medium difficulty. The Vermont Christmas Company quality is good with hard, solid pieces. The image is bright, crisp, and well adhered to the backing. The cut is an semi-random cut with a wide variety of piece shapes. I particularly enjoyed the illustration style with lots of detail throughout the image. Assembly is a nice mix of easy elements, such as the elves and inner clock face, and areas that require a little more thought, such as the gold features of the clock, the snow, and the gradated blue background. It's a very doable puzzle, though, and never frustrating. Highly recommended.

Review: “The Yarn Shop” by Susan Brabeau, Sunsout – 8.25/10

This 1000 piece Susan Brabeau puzzle from Sunsout is a medium difficulty puzzle good for those who like a little more challenge. I enjoyed the random-cut piece, the art style, and the humor in this image, particularly the characters in the scene. There's a lot of white-to-light-purple, and similar colors appear distributed throughout the scene, so it's a bit trickier to assemble than some jigsaws. Recommended for fans of Americana, Susan Brabeau, or the knitter in your life! Score: 8.25/10

Review: “And The Winner Is…” by Susan Brabeau, Sunsout – 9/10

I adored this 1000 piece Susan Brabeau puzzle from Sunsout. It's a fun image that has large characters, a variety of easily-recognized colors and patterns, and a sweet little visual story. The Sunsout quality is very good with random-cut pieces and faithful reproduction of the details and colors of the original painting. Assembly is quick and relaxing thanks to the various dresses on the ladies, the ornate hats, and the unique colors and textures on the four cakes. Once you start it, you'll be tempted to keep going until the last piece is placed. Highly recommended! Score: 9/10

Review: “Made in the USA” by Tom Wood, Sunsout — 8.75/10

Celebrate summer with this lovely 4th of July themed puzzle by Tom Wood. This Sunsout puzzle features thick & sturdy pieces, a random-cut pattern with a good variety of piece shapes, and a tight interlock. With so many unique textures such as the red barn siding, the split-rail fence, the tent awnings, the signs, the ferris wheel, and the firework bursts in the sky, assembly goes quickly and easily. This is a puzzle that keeps your interest to the end. Recommended for anyone who likes Americana or holiday-themed puzzles.

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