PaperBackSwap Blog

Mystery Monday – The Sailcloth Shroud

January 19th, 2015

The Sailcloth Shroud by Charles Williams


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


Charles Williams (1909 – 1975) is known for writing taut suspense stories, a few such as Dead Calm and Aground with a nautical theme. On the water is out of my comfort zone. Though I grew up in a Great Lakes state, I’m no sailor. So, I read passages like, “There’s a formula for calculating the absolute maximum speed of a displacement hull, regardless of the type or amount of power applied. It’s a function of the trochoidal wave system set up by the boat and is 1.34 times the square root of the waterline length.” And I think, “Okay, I’ll trust you on that.”

But like Patrick O’Brian in the Aubrey-Maturin stories, Williams makes the techno-babble go down easy with his concise, readable style and imaginative story-telling. Despite his Texas origins, he can make his tall tales stay on the plausible side of incredible. In this one, a sailboat captain hires two strangers in Panama to help him pilot a 40-foot ketch back to the US where he can sell it. One of the men dies of a heart attack and must be buried at sea. And just a few days after they land in Texas, the other hire is beaten to death.

Suddenly the captain is subject to unwelcome attention by the cops and FBI and to brutal questioning by hardened criminals. Three flashbacks provide narrative interest. Williams fires off jokes just when the gettin’ can’t get much worse for our hero. He has an excellent touch with down-home metaphors and similes. Like this when our hero manages to run away after “enhanced interrogation techniques”: “My torso felt as if had been emptied and then stuffed with broken glass or eggshells. Every breath was agony, and I ran awkwardly, with a feeling that I had been cut in two and the upper half of my body was merely riding, none too well balanced, on the lower.”

Fine as cream gravy, now that’s talkin’ Texan. I can’t say this one reaches the outstanding standard set by the hard as nails A Touch of Death, because it lacks a femme fatale like the devilish Madelon. Also, the vision of the Spanish moss settings of the Deep South are suggestive but not quite as evocative in this outing. But anybody who likes a rockin’ crime novel or stories of average guys suddenly thrust into hellish circumstances will enjoy this one.


Fiction Review – Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart

January 15th, 2015

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo


Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)


I decided to take a different approach with this review.  A lot of books now have readers’ group guides included but most of the time I’m not reading with a book group.  So for this blog post I decided to answer some questions in the readers’ guide.  If you’ve read Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart and have a different opinion on how to answer these, please share your thoughts! I’d love to have a dialogue with you about this novel or Jane Austen’s original novels.

1-      Claire Prescott realizes that she has put her sister first in everything because she has been afraid to live her own life.  At what point does sacrifice for the people we love become more hurtful than helpful? How do we know when we have crossed that line? How can we restore those relationships to a healthier balance?

This is a tough one for me.  Sometimes in my life I think because I love someone it might not really be a sacrifice to give up something for him/her.  But I suppose once someone becomes aware he/she is not living a happy, true, fulfilling life and it is because of sacrificing for someone else, then things have crossed a line.  The glitch is how someone could actually realize and accept that this has happened.  People often don’t want to listen when things are difficult to hear.  It can take a big event happening to be willing to listen to another person’s opinion.  It’s hard to say ‘no’ but sometimes that is what it really takes to regain control and restore a healthy balance to a relationship.

2-      The plot of the novel revolves around the keeping of secrets. How do you know when to keep a secret and when to share it? What are the risks of keeping secrets?  What are the benefits?

I think it’s ok to keep secrets if no one is going to be hurt because of the secret.  It can be a lot of pressure on a relationship to keep some secrets but in being able to do so a relationship can be strengthened.

3-      When she arrives in Oxford, Claire decides to recreate herself. To do so, she must deceive the people she meets.  Do you think it’s understandable that she would fall prey to this temptation? What price does she pay for her duplicity?

Yes, it’s understandable that Claire wants a chance to be someone new.  She has come to the realization she is not living her life the way she truly wants.  She sees an opportunity to not hurt others in her deception because she doesn’t plan on developing any long-term relationships with the people she encounters in Oxford.  However, this plan backfires when new relationships are forged.

4-      In the end, do you think Claire gave Harriet the right advice about what to do with the manuscript? Why or why not? If you had been in Harriet’s place, what decision would you have made?

I don’t think I would have made the same decision as Claire.  But I don’t want to say what my decision would have been because I don’t want to give away the ending for those who haven’t read the book yet!

5-      In recent years, Mr. Darcy has truly become an iconic romantic hero. Do you think he is a true hero? Why or why not? If you had been Claire, would you have chosen James or Neil? In your estimation, what makes a man a hero?

In my opinion, Mr. Darcy is a hero.  He can admit his own mistakes and wants to be a protector.  I think true heroes have flaws and find ways to get past them.  And in Pride and Prejudice he did sweep Elizabeth off her feet in the end and that’s the quintessential romantic hero move.  I hope I would not have chosen either James or Neil and recognized I needed time to grow in my own way.

These are my thoughts on the book. Now that you know where I stand, I hope you’ll share your opinions.  I enjoyed the book, even though some aspects seemed a little underdeveloped or delivered too quickly. I would recommend it to my fellow Jane-ites out there. If you have read a book related to Jane Austen’s memorable characters and novels that you would recommend, please share in the comments below!



Mystery Monday – The Case of the Nervous Accomplice

January 5th, 2015

The Case of the Nervous Accomplice by Erle Stanley Gardner


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

Mrs. Sybil Harlan asks Perry Mason to help her spoil a real estate deal and thus win back her wandering husband Enright a.k.a Enny. Her vision has Perry buying stock in a real-estate investment company and making a nuisance of himself at a director’s meeting.

This disruption of a big deal will bring out the worst in her hubby’s GF, the tempting redhead Roxy Claffin. Once Enny sees Roxy in her acquisitive glory, he will fly back to the loving arms of his wife to celebrate their upcoming fifth anniversary. On the adulterous liaison, her advice, I think would make a daring date question: “Agree or disagree ‘A woman should never forgive a man for infidelities. She should remain in complete ignorance.’”

Unfortunately a bad guy gets wind of her hiring Mason. A murder takes place. The killing of crabby millionaire George C. “Daddy” Lutts in a deserted house on company land overshadows the domestic drama and lands Sybil in the dock accused of murder.

The time to read a whodunit is whenever a reader wants to escape drudgery but still wants the comfort of familiar elements. Perry’s client lies to him in order to motivate him to work harder. Perry makes a witness look silly on the stand. Perry courts disbarment proceedings. Perry’s antagonist DA Burger gets a come-uppance. Della personifies devotion, Paul a Doubting Thomas.

Different yet the same: fine, if that’s what’s we need on a rainy Saturday afternoon….




Hello, 2015!

January 1st, 2015

Hello, 2015!

By Mirah W. (mwelday)

Every year it seems more and more things get in my way as I try to get through my ‘to be read’ shelves.  At present count I have 6 shelves (about 80 books) on my living room bookcases of books I want to read.  I can’t stop myself from getting more books, even though I already have plenty.  And based on some of the fellow PBSers I know, I don’t think I’m alone in this affliction.  I have several books that have moved to the top of my ‘to read’ list.  Here are my top 5 I hope to get to this year:

1)   All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – This novel is a National Book Award finalist and I enjoy books about World War II so this book quickly made the list.  A young French girl and a German boy become connected while trying to survive the atrocities of the war.  I’ve heard from others that the novel is beautifully written and reviews indicate it is well-researched.



2)   Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult – Picoult has written another best seller and in her typical style, she has the readers guessing and doubting what they would do when faced with questions of conscious.  A mother disappears and a daughter lives her life constantly wondering about her mother and questioning if she was abandoned by choice.



3)   The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion – The sequel to the funny and insightful The Rosie Project. The first book was a great reminder that love can be a reality for everyone. I really enjoyed getting to know the characters and can’t wait to see what happens to them in the next stage of their relationship.



4)   Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin – I am totally behind the times.  It seems everyone has read the books or watched the TV show except me!  Several friends and my husband have all recommended the series and I’ve yet to read book one.  Time to catch up, I think.




5)   Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell – Every year I try to read at least one classic and I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while.  I am a huge fan of the BBC mini-series and love the characters created by Gaskell.  The plot is full of misunderstood characters, unrequited love, and a questioning of the standard roles of men and women.




Hopefully I’ll be able to get to all of these (and many more) this year.  Fingers crossed!  I’d love to know what books you have on your ‘to read’ list for the coming year; please share your top picks in the comments, I may want to add some of your choices to my list!  Happy reading in 2015!







Winner! The Winner of The Love Book by Nina Solomon is

December 22nd, 2014


The winner of Nina Solomon‘s brand new book, The Love Book, is:

Susan C. (couponchampion)


Congratulations Susan, your book will be out to you shortly!

Thank you Vostromo for introducing us to another great author and thank you to Ms. Solomon for agreeing to be interviewed by Vostromo and thank you for the copy of your new book to give away to one of our members!

To read the interview click here.


Author Interview and Book Give-Away – Nina Solomon

December 16th, 2014


An Interview with Author Nina Solomon by Greg (VOSTROMO)


NINA SOLOMON is a die-hard New Yorker, Columbia graduate, BFF to our previous Vostrinterview subject Elizabeth Crane, could stand to snack on some Entenmann’s from time to time (just saying), and I don’t trust her mother. She is the subject of one of my more potentially embarrassing male moments, which affords me a great story when people ply me with frozen margaritas, and what makes it even better is I’m not completely sure she knows what I’m referring to. Her debut novel SINGLE WIFE was a Literary Guild, Book-of-the-Month Club and QPB selection, and was praised by Elle as having “both flair and heart” — which pretty much describes her too. Only skinnier. Her new novel THE LOVE BOOK will be published in January by Kaylie Jones / Akashic Books. More at


VOSTROMO: Welcome, Nina, and thanks for spending some time with us. Reading through the press materials for your new novel The Love Book I was struck by an incident you relate where an admirer “began showering me with pastries.” I’m wondering: where did this take place, and do you think he’s still there? What kind of pastries were these? cheese danish? coffee cake? muffins? were they muffins? were the muffins iced? buttercreme, or the cheap stuff? Did you eat them all? If you did, did you gain any weight?

NINA SOLOMON: Did I eat them all? Did I eat them all? I thought you knew me better than that. I have never been known to leave a dessert unfinished, unless it’s laced with rum, which makes me nauseous. The pastry-plying admirer was the guard at my son’s school, but on the side he studied at the Culinary Institute of America (the other CIA) and besides fancy pastries like mille-feuille, Napoleons, almond croissants, he used to bring me entire cakes. Did I gain weight? No, not an ounce.

V: Also in the kit are references to finding a kitten in a grocery store and a man’s mock marriage proposal in a supermarket; your acknowledgments mention a friend’s saffron risotto; and in the novel itself one character is moved to ask “Are there any pizza bagels left?” while another stops at a deli for cookies on her way home. Indeed, of the thirty-four chapters comprising The Love Book, thirty-four of them have some type of eating and drinking. Given this focus on the notion of love as food for the soul, a question: how do you stay so thin?

NS: I only gain weight during football season when Edy’s makes Touchdown Sundae ice cream.


V: Your first book Single Wife is shaped by the structural outlines of the mystery novel, while The Love Book begins as a classic winding road trip. Given this appreciation of genre contours, tell us a bit about your own exercise regimen and how you maintain that youthful, girlish figure.

NS: Thank you, V, no other reviewer has ever asked me that. My mother, whom you do not trust, once saw me reaching for a second piece of fudge and said, “Don’t ruin your boyish figure.” You can’t both be right. I guess I respond to shaming. The “friend” who makes the amazing saffron risotto is also an exercise fiend and gets me to climb one hundred flights of stairs every day by telling me that if I don’t, I’ll start responding to “Lard-ass.” I think he’s also a bit of a sadist. He calls me a sugar smack head, then brings home three half-gallons of Edy’s Touchdown Sundae and a two-by-four mega Toblerone bar. A few days later he’ll innocently ask me where the ice cream went. You have to be fast around here.


V: You’ve been quite open about the inspiration behind The Love Book, namely your own experience looking for new romance after the end of your marriage. You describe finding a real-life “love book” and following its methods to a happily fruitful outcome. Given that dining out is a universal aspect of dating, and that your current boyfriend is French — we know ze French love ze gastronomie — can you offer our readers any advice from your own journey on staying slender while on the market?

NS: Staying slender while I was on the market was easy. There was no one to cook for me.

V: A major theme underlying much of Western literature is the quest for personal value — identity, place, purpose — outside of that set and defined by social expectation. In both Single Wife and The Love Book a woman revises and expands her sense of self beyond being wife, mother, object of male attention. Would you say that one’s inner journey burns as many calories as jogging, or spin class? Is carrying emotional baggage as effective as free weights?

NS: From personal experience, I would say that emotional baggage is at least as effective at burning calories as sleep.


V: We’ve mentioned that you are very close friends with Betsy Crane, herself a successful author. How’s Betsy’s weight these days?

NS: Betsy is successful and svelte. She recently suggested I begin calculating points. I’ve found it a useful tool to help moderate my intake of food. As Oprah says, nothing tastes as good as thin feels! Did you know that one cup of premium Edy’s Touchdown Sundae ice cream is only 20 points? That leaves me 6 points to splurge on rainbow sprinkles (and it’s not even noon)!


V: You’re on the faculty of Wilkes University — on their website is a “Healthy Dorm Cookbook” which I have to tell you is awesome. Which do you prefer, the Apple Sandwiches or the Curried Tuna Salad, and which would you say is more effective at losing the “freshman fifteen?”

NS: Apple Sandwiches? Really? There’s a recipe for that? The good news is that a 16 Handles has recently opened in beautiful Wilkes-Barre. They have a totally awesome non-fat, sugar-free frozen yogurt. If you only add twelve ounces of caramel and sprinkles, you’ll be beach body ready before long.


V: Finally, I too am slender — why haven’t I been published?

NS: I just calculated your BMI — it’s a gift — and determined that you are indeed at your ideal weight! It shouldn’t be long before you too have a book deal and then I’ll be interviewing you. Only better.



Nina Solomon has generously offered a brand new trade-size paperback copy of her new book The Love Book, to a member who comments on the blog. Winner will be chosen at random, Friday, December 19, 2014 at 12 noon EST.

Thanks to Vostromo for another valiant attempt to grapple with the definition of “interview” and to Nina Solomon for playing along.







Books for Schools 2014

December 6th, 2014

Dear Members,BFS 2014 click apple

So many of you have asked when our school donation program will launch again – we’re happy to announce that Books for Schools 2014 is now live!

Each year PaperBackSwap, through our generous members, donates brand-new books to selected deserving elementary schools across the country.

The goal of the program is to provide children with books that they can read for pleasure. Most of us in the club learned the love of reading at an early age, and this is a great opportunity to share that joy. In the past three years PaperBackSwap and our members have donated over 70,000 new books!

Last year, we reached our goal of 25,000 books sent to 24 deserving elementary schools. Check the details of last year’s recipient schools to see wonderful photos of the children receiving the books (here is an example from last year), and see their thank-you cards. If you know of an elementary school in need, suggest it here and we will consider it for our next Books for School donation drive.

Your donation of credits and/or PaperBackSwap Money (which is used to defray some of the shipping costs) or both help us to put books in the hands of children. Together PaperBackSwap and our wonderful members do make a difference!

Most of the participating schools this year are large, with enrollments of between 400 and 700. The school roster includes a special-ed school in AL, and a school in WV that does not actually have its own library – the local library they visit weekly has stepped up to collect and distribute books to the students (bravo to them for helping with this)!

And those of you who read the blog post about our visit to the Belize Children’s Home might want to look in on the Adopt-a-School drive for the abused and abandoned children who are being lovingly cared for there.

Thanks in advance for your help – the kids really appreciate the books!

Richard and
The PaperBackSwap Team