PaperBackSwap Blog

History Review – The Witch of Lime Street

September 22nd, 2016


The Witch of Lime Street: Seance Seduction and Houdini in the Spirit World 

by David Jaher

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc)


The negatives:
The author really should have thought long and hard about his target audience. If his intent was to sell this to academics who want every tiny detail [although they prefer it annotated, footnoted, cross referenced and with a bibliography exceeding 3 pages] he did pretty good. If his intent was to sell this to the general public the book should have been half as long with only ‘facts’ shared that supported and advanced the story. The plot suffered; trying to keep track of it was kind of like trying to find vegetables in a wildly overgrown garden – hidden gems surrounded by masses of weeds and useless debris.

The positives:
It is a well told slice of history that I knew relatively little about. I knew spiritualism was big in the Victorian era but didn’t know that it had such a big resurgence in the 20s. I suppose that was due to so many people dying in both the influenza epidemic and WWI.

Both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini were fanatics in the truest sense of the word. Both were only looking for the stuff that supported their own points of view. Negative proof would have to be fairly huge to get their attention.

The author did a good job presenting both sides, allowing the reader to make their own decisions. For the many spiritualism offers hope – and many people are willing to suspend belief to get that hope. The naysayers on the other hand don’t offer anything – just facts and science and logic that many prefer not to hear. Pretty much those who believe will continue to believe [although the specific spiritualist may be debunked they are sure the next one will be better] and those who do not will continue to believe there’s some kind of trickery involved. There will probably never be definitive proof either way – which makes it very fertile ground for the con artists among us.








Musings, Memories and Miscellany from our MoM’s

September 20th, 2016

Cyn F. (Cyn-Sama) is our newest Member of the Month, named MoM in September 2016.

How long have you been a PBS member? 

Since 6/26/06

How did you find PBS?   

I honestly don’t remember. I think I had a friend on a message board tell me about it.

I know it was before the big boom in m/m themed publishing, because I started the first game featuring unconventional couples. At that time, finding books with a homoerotic plot was difficult.

I still have some of the books that I gained through those games, and fondly remember the members who played with me.


How has PBS impacted your life? What does PBS mean to you?

PBS has helped me share the books I love, and introduce others to them. I love knowing that a review I’ve written, or a suggestion I’ve made has helped a member discover a new author or genre.

PBS is always surprising me with just what I can get on my Wish List!  I’ve gotten two embalming textbooks so far. It just goes to show that PBS has something for everyone. Even people like me!


What book impacted you most as a child or young adult?

There were many books that shaped my childhood.

I was a very strange child. I could read at 16 months (which kinda freaked my parents out), and this lead me to tackling books that may have been a bit too old for me.

I’ve written a blog post here on PBS, devoted to my love of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but there was also A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, as well as all the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.


When I was in Jr. High, my favorite books were the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice.  I was also devouring Steven King, my favorite book by him being The Eyes of the Dragon.


When I was 15 a friend at summer camp introduced me to Mercedes Lackey, and that has become a love that has stretched into adulthood.

What is your favorite or most meaningful book read as an adult?

The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford was a book that truly opened my eyes to the world of death culture, something that has been the obsession of my life – Death Culture, cemetery history, and the history of mourning. (Hence me getting excited about my embalming books!)

When I’m not reading books on history (my husband and I are reenactors, so we read a LOT of history books), my favorite authors to curl up with are Mercedes Lackey, J.R. Ward, and Lisa Kleypas.


What are you reading now?

Smut!  While switching between Clarissa Dickson Wright’s History of English Food, and How to be a Tudor by Ruth Goodman, I’m happily reading some wonderfully trashy ebooks like Heart of the Hunter by Chance Carter.




Do you know of another PaperBackSwap member who just seems to go above and beyond? One who makes you smile, or helps you figure out something about a swap, or who simply makes you glad she or he is part of the club? You may just have found yourself a MoM (Member of the Month)!
MoMs are special members, ones who put a little extra effort in for the benefit of others, even when they think no one may ever notice. Maybe they send their packages well-wrapped bearing cheerful stickers on the outside, or they post interesting topics in the Discussion Forums that get people thinking and talking, or they work behind the scenes to correct book listings or upload images to book listings. Maybe they’re Tour Guides and help other members navigate swapping, or maybe they create extra-fun games in the Games forum, the kind after which everyone feels like they’ve made new friends.
If you believe that you have encountered a MoM, submit your nomination to us here. Tell us why you think the member is a MoM — the more details, the better! The Member of the Month gets a newsletter mention and a nifty MoM icon to wear on profile and forum posts with pride.  So go for it! Tell us who’s helped you in the Forums, who’s been a great swapper, who in your opinion is a credit to the club. Who knows–the next MoM might just be YOU!





Mystery Monday Review – Still Life

September 12th, 2016

Still Life by Louise Penny

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

Prior to a recent trip to Canada, I wanted to find a book set in Canada or written by a Canadian author to read during my journey. My local bookseller had a column in a recent newsletter about an upcoming author event featuring Louise Penny…and I found a new-to-me Canadian author!

Penny has created a mystery series with her character Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.  I found Still Life, the first in the series, to be a refreshing mystery read. ‘Refreshing’ hardly seems a typical word to describe a mystery but it’s how I felt.  Gamache is a morally upstanding member of the police force who sees things in a different way than other inspectors.  A man not given to loud or violent outbursts and dedicated to his wife of many years, Gamache is respected by his peers and many wish to imitate him. Young officers want to work with him to learn and hone their detective skills.  His fresh take on crime scene and witness observation is unlike other mysteries I’ve read.

In Still Life, Gamache and his team are sent to a sleepy rural village south of Montreal, where they are based.  Jane Neal was killed with an arrow but was her death a tragic hunting accident or something more?  Penny lets us get to know the quirky, stubborn, heartbroken residents of Three Pines and, while I thought I had the culprit in my sights, she changes things at the last minute and I was caught a bit unawares.

I am so glad I saw that newsletter from my local bookseller.  After reading Still Life I decided to purchase tickets to Ms. Penny’s book event coming up in September where she will discuss her newest Gamache novel!  If you’re looking for a new type of mystery hero, I encourage you to give Gamache a try.









Fantasy Review – The Paper Magician

September 6th, 2016

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

Ceony Twill is the lucky daughter in her family.  She was selected to attend Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined.  She was a success at school, graduating at the top of her class, but even the most successful students have to select one medium to master, you cannot work with them all.  Ceony has always wanted to work with metal but due to a shortage of magicians who work with paper, the choice is made for her. Ceony is disappointed and frustrated and doesn’t know what to expect when she arrives at the ramshackle dwelling of paper Magician Emery Thane to begin her apprenticeship.

Two unlikely allies, Twill and Thane, being Twill’s apprenticeship with a distance between them that eventually gets crossed and takes them both down a path with dangerous and forbidden magic.

When I started reading The Paper Magician I had no idea what to expect.  I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover but the cover is what drew me to the book in the first place.  The plot and story line of the various characters was unlike any other fantasy book I’d read before; I liked the use of one type of medium that the magician can use and manipulate.  I thought there was some drag during the middle of book one while Ceony is on her ‘quest’ but that’s really the only negative thing I can say about this debut novel by Holmberg.

I was intrigued so much by book one that I quickly went on to The Glass Magician and The Master Magician, the final two books in the series, and I wasn’t disappointed.  There was successful character development and all of the story lines had appropriate conclusions.  While I don’t have kids, I think this would be a good book (and series) for parents to read along with their young adult readers so they can discuss the characters, themes, and situations together.  I would give the entire series 4 out of 5 stars for ingenuity, interesting characters, and an ability to keep my interest.








Romance Review – Illusion Town by Jayne Castle

August 30th, 2016

Illusion Town by Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz)

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc)

Whenever a new book by Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick comes out, it immediately pops to the top of my ‘MUST READ IMMEDIATELY’ pile because I know I’m going to be entertained. Illusion Town IS entertaining but there are better books in the series. This feels like what I call a ‘bridging’ book – its primary purpose is to lay down threads for books to come. Still, it’s an entertaining read – just not an outstanding one. I am still be looking forward to more sequels!

This is a Harmony world novel, the first in the sub-arc set in Illusion Town. If you’re thinking Las Vegas transported to the Harmony world of ghost hunters and dust bunnies you’d be mostly right. At the heart of Illusion Town are some very unusual alien ruins, ruins that are marked by signs of an ancient cataclysmic event, ruins that leak oddly twisted alien psi and create markedly different sections of the town.

The hero is Elias Coppersmith, yeah, he’s a Coppersmith of Coppersmith Mining – we met them a few books back in The Lost Night and Siren’s Call, not to mention the contemporary Krentz stories of Copper Beach and Dream Eyes. [No you don’t have to have read the others before this one, JAK is very good at dropping any background information you need along the way.] The heroine is Hannah West, an unusual dreamlight talent known as Finder in certain circles as she is VERY good at finding what has gone missing. And of course there is a dust bunny, this one is named Virgil and has a thing for all things edible.

After completing a commission from Elias, Hannah allows herself to be talked into a blind date [blind because all previous communication between them has been via email]. It’s a night both of them would really like to remember since they wake up in bed together with a marriage of convenience license and the remains of a psi-burn buzz… Trying to track the missing evening they start retracing their steps which lead first to a tacky wedding chapel called ‘Enchanted Night’ and then to the ‘minister’ who operates under the name of Elvis. This leads to more steps and more information and more danger and more secrets – you get the drift.

There are several subplots running through this besides the ‘What happened and why did we think getting married was the solution?’ – there’s her priceless legacy, the Midnight Carnival, that everyone wants, there’s her dreamlight skills that someone thinks will be useful in getting in and out of Elias’ Ghost City jobsite, the slimy para-researcher and the genealogist with agendas of their own… There might have been too many plots actually as it seemed a little murky. I’m sure future books will be clearer.


Harmony World

H00.5 Bridal Jitters

H01 After Dark

H02 After Glow

H03 Ghost Hunter

H04 Silver Master

H05 Dark Light

H06 Obsidian Prey

H07 Midnight Crystal

Harmony World, set on Rainshadow Island

H08 R00.5 Canyons of Night

H09 R01 The Lost Night

H10 R02 Deception Cove

H12 R04 Siren’s Call

Harmony World, set in Illusion Town

H13 IT01 Illusion Town








Mystery Monday – Murder to Go

August 29th, 2016

Murder to Go by Emma Lathen

Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)

The Sloan Guaranty Trust has invested 12 million dollars in Chicken To Go, a home delivery chicken franchiser, when hundreds of their customers are taken ill – with one codger’s death in Elmira, NY – due to product tampering. That is, the Chicken Mexicali was dosed with zinc salt. Our series hero, John Putnam Thatcher of the Sloan bank, unwittingly finds himself with the responsibility of protecting Sloan’s huge investment with a little investigating of the case. He uses the investigation to sidestep another responsibility, however: getting involved in the cut-throat office politics of planning an anniversary reception for a colleague.

Published in the late Sixties, this is the 10th of the 24 Thatcher business mysteries. Lathan gently satirizes company cultures, corporate fads such as mega-mergers, and franchisers, who range from the rich and well-off to people who sunk their life savings and lives into the business. She also deftly describes the range of troublemakers, from those just born to raise to hell to those who fight out of fear of the future and everything else.

Lathen’s portrait of the founder of Chicken To Go is a portrait of a stoic business executive who exercises self-control so his emotions won’t cloud his business acumen and practices negative visualization (identifying the worst thing that can happen and taking measures to stave it off). Thatcher concludes: “Thatcher was beginning to appreciate why Frank Hedstrom had shot to the top in the business world. Understanding money is a rare talent. Understanding people is even rarer. Understanding both is damn near nonexistent.”

Thatcher has the knack for ingratiating himself with all kind of people. So he’s able to put disparate pieces of the puzzle together to arrive at the reveal. Still, he’s rather a funny detective in that he doesn’t do much except talk to people. He doesn’t stir the pot like a Perry Mason does.

The reveal is a little twist on the “gather all the suspects in a room” gambit. Like other Lathen mysteries, the small pool of suspects makes this a little bit easy to figure out, but the prose is so agreeable that I don’t have any qualms recommending this to readers who like old mysteries.





Mystery Monday – Murder Charge

August 22nd, 2016

Murder Charge by Wade Miller

Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)

In this noir thriller from 1950, the Syndicate sends its rep Harry Blue to sunny San Diego to organize the local vice barons. Taking exception to outsiders bringing competition and Eastern ways, the barons greet Harry with shotgun blasts. With the shot-up gangster in hospital, the city cops persuade PI Max Thursday to impersonate the gangster and collect information on the merchants of vice in order to break up their rings of iniquity.

In his travels, Max deals with a diplomatic spiritualist faker, a one-armed WWII veteran gone bad, a Basque thug, and two female troublemakers. Max undergoes both distress and violence.

I know, like time travel stories, impersonation stories cross the border Into Lame Land in terms of plausibility. Plus, the prose in this novel, though always lucid, often feels grey and flat. Making up for these downsides, the action and incidents provide surprise and interest. The rapid pace and jumpy tone will appeal to fans of the noir genre.

Wade Miller was the brand name for the writing team Robert Wade and Bill Miller. They teamed up to write about 30 hard-boiled and adventures stories. They are best known for A Touch of Evil (a great noir movie by Orson Welles) and the wonderfully titled Kitten with a Whip (later made into a movie with Ann Margaret and John Forsythe).