PaperBackSwap Blog

Mystery Monday – The Case of the Ice-Cold Hands

November 23rd, 2015


The Case of the Ice-Cold Hands by Erle Stanley Gardner

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This 1962 Perry Mason novel is readable enough for a lazy Sunday afternoon in late summer. But the story is so-so. We’ve seen before the victim that nobody will mourn and the attractive client lying such that her pants catch fire.

A point in its favor is that Gardner shows that he did his homework when it came to keeping current in the field in that he uses a law, newly passed in California in the early 1960s, that allowed a DA to grant complete immunity for committing a crime in exchange for testimony that would incriminate the witness.

Some critics and readers – like me – dislike the Perry Mason novels written in the 1960s. Others say that the mysteries written in the 1950s represent a falling off. Still others say the novels written before WWII are better than the ones written after.

Me, I can read them all, as long as there are heat and humidity that make it impossible for me to read harder novels. Any excuse not to do yard work on a summer Sunday will click with me.


PaperBackSwap Review Contest Winner!

November 19th, 2015

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Congratulations N R. (Moonpie)










A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner


N R. (Moonpie)’s  Winning Review:


After watching a documentary on the Dust Bowl, I have become very interested in it. While nothing like what these individuals experienced, I remember growing up in East Texas as a child and the small dust storms there. I can recall the grit in our home and between my teeth. I haven’t forgotten the sting of the sand as it hit my legs. As an adult I experienced a dust storm here in Oklahoma, where the sky was darkened, and the air so thick I felt I would suffocate. These small events in my life have me in awe of what the people of this era dealt with, and not for a few days but for years. This book made me realize how incredibly courageous and resilient dust bowl families were.

Instead of this part of history being told through the eyes of an adult, the author does it through the eyes of 10 year old Pearl Spence. A child’s view is very simple, but it is also glaringly honest. Although Pearl does not understand everything she sees and experiences, her account is authentically candid.
So vivid are the descriptions of life in this Oklahoma town that I could feel the discouragement and desperation of the characters. Her mother’s constant battle to keep her home clean and maintain a normal family life was heartrending. It is clear the large role adult’s attitudes and actions play in how a child handles a crisis. Pearl’s grandmother, mother, and father were an anchor for her in this unsettled time.

I better understood the despair and fear of never knowing when another dust storm would strike or when the nightmare would end. The author was brilliant with the way she took amazing historical details, brought to life powerful characters, and then created a story filled with danger, mystery, and excitement. A fantastic read!


Last Day to Vote in the Review Contest

November 17th, 2015

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Come vote in this week’s Review Contest!

We had a lot of really enjoyable book reviews this week! It was difficult to choose, but here are the finalist reviews.

To vote: click the links below, and choose Thumbs Up on the review. You can “Like” (or Share) the review to double your vote! The winning review will appear in the PaperBackSwap blog, and the winning reviewer will get a FREE book from her/his Wish List!

Links to the reviews are below:


“Anybody out there raising older teenagers? Anybody out there rash enough to try to relocate them at that stage in their life?” asks S. J. T. (cactuspatch) in her Book Review Contest Finalist review of the lowcountry tale “Shem Creek” by Dorothea Benton Frank. Read cactuspatch’s review at the link below and vote on it with a thumbs-up and/or a “Like”:




How about “a gripping tale of a truly good person facing down the evil of our world”? Stephanie T (stephkayeturner) recommends “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” by Luis Alberto Urrea, in her Finalist Book Review. Vote for the review using the thumbs-up and/or the Like on the page below:





Want a “vivid and brilliant” historical fiction read? N. R. (moonpie), one of this week’s Finalist reviewers in our Book Review Contest, recommends “A Cup of Dust” by Susie FInkbeiner, set in the Dust Bowl era. Read moonpie’s review at the link below, and vote for it using the Thumbs Up and/or “Like”:





Good Luck to all of our Finalists!

Mystery Monday – The Case of the Phantom Fortune

November 16th, 2015

The Case of the Phantom Fortune by Erle Stanley Gardner

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


This Perry Mason novel from 1964 should not be confused with Phantom Fortune, a novel by Mrs. Braddon, the author of the still worth reading Lady Audley’s Secret.

Long-time readers of this blog know that I’m mildly unimpressed with Gardner’s output of the 1960s. He asks for leaps of faith and suspensions of belief that are beyond me. But notice that I still read them. While doing so, I look on the bright side.

The upside of this one is that Perry Mason re-assumes his hard-boiled manner of the novels from the late 1930s and early 1940s. He tells a blackmailer of the three ways to deal with a blackmailer: pay up, go to the cops, or kill the blackmailer. He lets the blackmailer conclude that Perry will indeed snuff him if he persists in his demands.

Another upside is that the blackmailer ruthlessly exploits the guileless youth. He also has a George Sanders-type charm that is smooth and reptilian. He’s a scary creation, more memorable than Gardner’s usual greedy businessman or desperate lover.

The main appeal of this one is its twists and turns. So I don’t want to give away incidents in a review.  I think any Mason fan will like this one.





Thriller Thursday Review – Charlie M

November 12th, 2015

Charlie M by Brian Freemantle


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


Published in 1977, this is a classic cold war thriller. A top Russian spymaster signals that he is willing to defect. The directors of the British and American secret services ruthlessly jockey for the best positions to take the prize. And while the elephants fight, it is the ant Charlie Muffin, seasoned operative, that finds himself at the highest risk of being stomped. Born in the working class north of England, Charlie offers his betters as much upward contempt as he can deliver by dressing badly – Hush Puppies, for pete’s sake – and banging a daughter of the land-owning elite.

In the 1970s, spy writers often used a derisive tone when describing people in power. In this novel, the head of the British spies, an ex-Army man, plans the operation with different colored push pins decorated with little flags. During his off hours, the Russian general that planning to defect replays the Battle of Kursk with toy tanks on his living room floor. The head of the CIA is a power-hungry psycho. Since he gives leaders such a resounding Bronx Cheer, Freemantle is clearly an ex-journalist.

This novel was the first of 16 Charlie M novels. The tradecraft seems plausible and, in contrast to many thriller novels, people suffer adverse effects from drinking too much alcohol. Those into a lite John LeCarre would probably enjoy them as would readers who like Ross Thomas. Charlie M is the US title, Charlie Muffin the UK title.








Book Review Contest – Vote by 11/11

November 10th, 2015

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These are the finalists in this week’s Book Review Contest!

To vote: click the links below, and choose Thumbs Up on the review. You can “Like” (or Share) the review to double your vote! The winning review will appear in the PaperBackSwap blog, and the winning reviewer will get a FREE book from her/his Wish List!
Links to the reviews are below:




Did you like Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake”? You won’t want to miss “Free Food for Millionaires” by Min Jin Lee, then – Book Review Contest Finalist “Bookfanatic” says it really “captured the second generation immigrant experience” in the same way. Read her review and click thumbs up to vote for it (and “like” it to double your vote)!




A book that likens a spiritual journey to a rummage sale? Believe it or not, it works, says Lizzie G (lizzieg88) reviewing “Out of Sorts” by Sarah Bessey. Vote for her review in our Book Review Contest – click thumbs up to vote, and double your vote with a “like”!







Kelly S (getinmybellykelly) says “This wonderful book should be required reading for everyone.” Read her Book Review Contest Finalist review of “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, and click thumbs-up to vote for it (and “like” it to double your vote)!




Good Luck to all of our Finalists!



Mystery Monday – The Boy from Reactor 4

November 9th, 2015

The Boy from Reactor 4 by Orest Stelmach

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

When I finished The Boy from Reactor 4, I went to Twitter and tweeted: “@oreststelmach Finished ‘The Boy from Reactor 4′ today. Loved it! Action-packed, suspenseful & unique. Can’t wait to read more!”  I think ‘unique’ is the best word I can use to describe it, the book really is unlike any other I’ve read.  And the good news is it is book one in the Nadia Tesla series so I have the opportunity to read more!

There is nothing mundane or cliche about this mystery novel. From New York to Ukraine to Russia and back again, it is full of suspense, manipulative characters, organized crime, corruption, with some familial obligation thrown in for good measure. Nadia Tesla’s father died when Nadia was just thirteen but recent events throw her into a quest for information and answers about her father’s life. Nadia discovers cryptic clues and meets people who send her on a quest she never imagined. Nadia allies herself with Adam, a teenage hockey phenom who has grown up practicing his hockey skills on the frozen ponds at Chernobyl.  Yes, Chernobyl…things just took a crazy twist.

I think this novel was expertly written but contains tons of details and information that could get to complicated if a reader isn’t paying attention. It reminded me of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in that they are both dark, intricate stories that take a lot of focus to not confuse the plot angles and details.

If you’re interested in a mystery that can take you around the world and explore dark secrets of areas little explored (ie: Chernobyl), check out The Boy from Reactor 4.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the author responded to my tweet: ‘@MirahWelday Thank you, Mirah! Happy Sunday.’  Happy reading, PBSers!