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Archive for February, 2011

Voting is Now Open for “Your Love Story” Contest

Monday, February 28th, 2011

The time has finally come: It’s time to choose your favorite of the hundreds of touching tearjerkers, comedic connections, and real romances submitted to the “Your Love Story” contest throughout the month of February.   The top five submissions have been carefully chosen, and are listed below for your consideration.

After you’ve read each of the top five, select the one that tugs hardest at your heartstrings.  Your vote must be sent in a Personal Message to Gamester by Thursday, March 3rd by 11pm. Please note: Guesses sent in by any other means–email, feedback, PM to any account but Gamester–will not count and will be discarded.  Each member may submit only one vote.  The Personal Message should include only the number of the story and the title (for example, #1.  Mr. & Mrs. Librarian).  Please do not include any other information.

The winning story will be announced Friday on the blog and in the Message of the Day on the www.PaperBackSwap.com homepage.  The lucky winner will receive 10 credits!

NOTE:  Comments to this post will not be considered a vote.  Please send a PM as instructed above.

#1. Mr. & Mrs. Librarian

Once upon a time there was a rather lonely school librarian who lived in a small Pennsylvania town where too many trucks sported a gun rack for her taste. Figuring she’d never find a husband in “redneck-town”, she kept herself occupied taking a variety of graduate classes each summer break. But after a decade on the job, she’d earned the right to take a one year sabbatical leave. Where to go? What to do? Why not earn a real master’s degree in library science so she could work in any kind of library she wanted? The summer of 1990 saw her moving away to “college town” and settling into a little apartment with her sweet cat, Buddy. Although she still focused on her studies, she couldn’t help checking out her male classmates. And it turned out, there was one male classmate checking her out, too. Thank God they were both single and ready to start a life together at the ripe old age of 32. Well, that seemed like a late start at the time. Eighteen years later, these married librarians enjoy their comfy Florida home full of books, 2 Kindles, and a small menagerie of rescued dogs and cats. They smile across the table as they sit at their local bookstore on the weekends sipping a coffee milkshake. Mr. and Mrs. Librarian, a perfectly matched set, are sharing a love that will last a lifetime.

#2. 911 Porsche

So what is love? It might be a Koan..what is more like self than other. One’s aim may be to the West, but the arrow can easily fly East.

I started working with my (now) wife 30 years ago at one of those darlings of Wall Street, XEROX. In most of the ‘70s it was the company to work for…especially sales.

M’ was my support person at HQ. Bright and funny, we had a good pull-and-push relationship; I was the salesman (never to be trusted) and she approved contracts (dang administrator).

Things started to heat up at my birthday party. I invited her on a whim, and was surprised she accepted.. .we connected so much while I was cooking and bartending that we finally sat down on the floor of the kitchen while the Nachos and piña coladas brewed and began a marathon conversation; unfortunately we excluded all the other guests but they helped themselves and let us schmooze in peace.

We dated, lived together and then came the ultimate sacrifice…her car gave up the ghost one Monday am and she now had a commute problem to get to work from Marin. I had a 911 Porsche Targa and a VW Camper. She called me from the Bay Bridge one day saying, the wind is so bad I can’t drive the camper!!!

So, she started to drive my 911 to work while I worked in Marin with the camper.

I thought: I have just given my 911 Porsche to a girl friend. Would I do this for any woman in the world? Probably not. I must be in love. So I asked and she said yes. Sometimes the message comes when you are willing to give up that which, ya think at the time, is most precious to you only to discover that the recipient is more precious. Yeah, that’s love.

#3. Love via PBS

I found happiness here!

I came to PBS because of my mom being a member here. I met a member named Tony. He and I became friends off this site, and he told me about his single brother-in-law. He offered to introduce us. We began speaking online, then over the phone throughout the month of November of 2008. He drove 16 hours to meet me in person at Christmastime 2008. It was love at first sight for both of us. We moved in a week later, with me leaving everything I’ve ever known to be with him. We were engaged a month later and married a month after that. It has been almost two years since we married and we now have a gorgeous three month old little girl.

I am living my dream of being a wife and mother thanks to a member of PBS!

#4. His Name is Harry

I met the love of my life when I was six. I remember it clearly – I was sitting on the living room floor, playing with my Beanie Babies, when my mum walked through the door and handed me a book. I was hesitant, but I gave it a chance. I opened the cover …

… And read the entire thing through, right then and there.

Harry followed me through the years. He was a steady spot in the confusion that occurred when I moved across the state at age eight. He helped me through the angst and turmoil that accompanies middle school; he was there for me through my mum’s depression.

I’ll always love Harry. But the truth is, he may be more real than reality inside the confines of my own mind, but his veins are filled with ink and his adorable, messy black hair exists only in the imagination of one J.K. Rowling and all the adoring fans.

Books are wonderful. But there comes a point at which one needs to set them down and begin living life for real. I haven’t met anyone yet, and I don’t really want to. I’m too young to love someone forever. But sometime in the future, a point will come when I’ll walk out into the world, ready to find my other half, head held high … and Harry in my purse. Just in case.

#5. The Crooked Christmas Tree

It wasn’t a Valentine that brought us together, but an office Christmas tree.

No one in the office would ever admit it, but I know it had to be some kind of hazing stunt to make the new kid set up the Christmas tree. I spent hours untangling lights from branches (it had apparently hung itself the previous holiday season) and trying to get that sad excuse for festivity to stand up straight.

I embraced my inner McGyver under that tree, attempting to make a better tree stand out of duct tape, wire, and my now shredded and discarded pantyhose. At least it wasn’t going to tip over. Probably. Shimmying out from under the tree, I stood back to get a better look at my work.

“It’s still leaning,” said the dry voice from behind me.

I had seen him before, but I was the new kid. I had seen lots of people before. I couldn’t remember his name and at the moment didn’t care. Unfortunately, he was also right. It was leaning.

Back under the tree. Tighten, pull, unladylike grunting, and let’s try again.

“It’s still leaning.”

Who was this guy and could I kill him with left over tinsel?

Under the tree. Tug. Pull. Twist. Crawl. Evaluate.

“I think it’s leaning the other way now,” he said.

That was it. I walked behind him, grabbed him by the shoulders and tipped him in the same direction as the offending tree, “How’s that?! Now it’s straight!”

I stomped back to my cube and slammed some drawers around.

Surprisingly enough, the next morning, the nameless guy walked back to my cube and asked me out to lunch.   We’ve been bickering and tormenting each other every day since for the past fifteen years. We couldn’t be happier.

Mystery Monday

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Top of the Heap by A.A. Fair

Written by Matt B.  (BuffaloSavage)

Published in 1952, this is the thirteenth of 29 novels starring the PI partnership of Bertha Cool and Donald Lam that were written by Erle Stanley Gardner under the pen name of A.A. Fair. After reading about half-dozen of this series (a misnomer since they needn’t be read in any order), I think that Fair’s Cool and Lam novels are smarter, sexier, wittier and just more entertaining than Gardner’s Perry Mason novels.

Top of the Heap is worth reading because it is both characteristic and uncharacteristic of Gardner’s approach to mystery writing. As usual, the murder is a relatively small part of an intricate scheme, plot, or scam. As the running joke, Bertha Cool plays the comic miser like Uncle Scrooge and Mr. Krabs. Her hard-charging ways comically contrast with ex-lawyer Donald Lam’s subtle questioning of persons of interest and cunningly holding off the cops that want to put him in the hoosegow. Another constant is that because gentlemanly Lam is such a considerate listener, all the female characters fall like dominoes for him in spite of his short stature and poverty due to Bertha paying him so little.

Unusual, however, are the social science observations, especially involving female characters. Gardner puts on his sociologist’s hat to have a young working woman describe Sex in the City / Sex and the Single Girl in LA circa the early 1950s: “You’re not independent. You’re a cog in the economic and social machine. You can get just so high and no higher. If you want to play you can get acquainted with a lot of playboys. If you want anything you’re stymied.” Through an ex-strip tease artist, we get the anthropological view from a participant-observer. The self-possessed stripper describes her sense of her power over the audience and her teasing of it as the core spectacle of old-time burlesque shows: “I had the most supreme contempt for the individuals in the audience, but the group of the contemptible individuals became an entity, an audience. I loved to hear the roars of applause….”

A publisher called Hard Case Crime got this novel back into print in 2004, its first publication in 30 years. It was an excellent choice.

Fantasy Friday

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Each Friday, we will post a review of a Fantasy book. 

Chalice by Robin McKinley

Review written by Althea M. (althea)

Robin McKinley’s well-known for both her original fantasies and her re-tellings of folk and fairy tales, fans have given the most acclaim to The Blue Sword (which was my introduction to her writing, and has become one of my favorite books) and its prequel The Hero and The Crown.

More recently, two novels saw her branching out into slightly different genres: Sunshine is an urban-fantasy vampire novel, and Dragonhaven also features a modern setting, but is aimed at a younger audience. While both were good, I didn’t feel that either was among her best.

So I see Chalice as a bit of a return to form. The story blends the two types of writing where McKinley is strongest: it’s an original fantasy with the feeling of an ancient legend or folk tale. In this, it may appeal even more to readers of Patricia McKillip, who excels at this sort of mythopoeic creation, than to readers of some of McKinley’s other books.

Here, we have a land of small kingdoms, or demesnes, each cared for by a Master and a Circle of advisors, who are called to this service by earth magic. Taking literally feudalism’s idea of people being bound to the land, the book explores not only the authority inherent in such power but the duty and obligations it would entail.

The demesne of Willowlands is in trouble. The former Master and Chalice (the second-highest position in the realm) were careless, abused their power and died tragically. Now Mirasol, a humble woods- and beekeeper, has been called to the position of Chalice. In the absence of any other heir to take on the mantle, the former Master’s brother has been summoned back from the enigmatic order of Fire Priests. Such initiates are never expected to return to their former realms. Loved by the people in his boyhood, now it is doubtful whether the new Master is any longer even human; it is sure that he is dangerous and terrifying. (This may immediately bring to mind certain questions for readers familiar with McKinley’s affinity for Beauty and the Beast.)

This is not a coming-of-age tale. Although Mirasol is not old, she is a mature and independent woman who is self-sufficient and competent in her vocations before new expectations are thrust upon her. Her struggle is an adult struggle involving both self-discovery and losing a certain naïveté regarding duplicity and games of power. Ultimately the book is about the difficulty of shouldering responsibility and the importance of standing up for what is right. Along the way, there’s also a powerful message of respect and care for nature and the earth, a deep and abiding love of animals, and gentle romance.

Focusing solely on the story at hand, McKinley leaves intriguing questions about the background and details of the world she’s created unanswered. The effect is somewhat that of looking at a story which floats on its own, light and airy as a soap bubble. It’s a shimmering thing, but some may prefer a more grounded feeling. The land of Chalice is not without its problems, but it is possessed of a purity of beauty and a certainty of morality. This may not please readers who are looking for a sophisticated political or social critique. Some may see it as an idealized portrayal of the virtues of a ‘simple life’ that has never existed. But one can also view stories like this, in their seeming simplicity, as burning to the core of the concerns of life, creating guideposts of flame that one can hold to in the face of banality.

Romance Review – Ruthless Game

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

We are posting new book reviews each week.  Mondays will be Mystery books.  Wednesdays will be Romance and Fridays will be Fantasy. 

Ruthless Game by Christine Feehan

Ghostwalker series – Book 9

Review written by Cindy F. (frazerc)

Another great entry in Feehan’s action paranormal series about the Ghostwalkers. This one centers on Kane, a member of Ghostwalker Team 3 [urban combat specialists based in San Francisco] whose story started in the last book, Street Game.

I really like the concept behind Team 3 – they are a self-made family who found each other as kids on the streets who had some psychic powers. Whitney [the brilliant but evil mastermind behind the GhostWalkers] enhanced them even further but they are still family.

Rose has never known a family. She was bought from an orphanage by Whitney, enhanced, raised as a soldier at the same time he was destroying her self esteem, and thrown into a ‘breeding program’ against her will – which is where she met Kane, the soldier selected to ‘breed’ her. [This occurs in book 5, Deadly Game.] Kane ‘outs’ the breeding program and helps her [and others] escape.

Switch to book 9, eight months later. Team 3 has been sent in to perform a hostage rescue based on information provided by an unknown informant. Kane is ordered to check out the informant – who turns out to be Rose. He has been desperately seeking Rose since they parted, sure she was pregnant with his baby. He wants the baby and even more, he wants her. He wants the chance to court her, to have her CHOOSE him, for them to be together, for them to be part of his family…

There’s a lot of sizzle in the book but not much sex – Rose is either VERY pregnant, delivering, or recovering from the birth of the baby [followed by him recovering from very serious wounds] through much of the book. But they spend a lot of time thinking and talking about it…

There’s a lot of action. First in the hostage rescue where they are cut off and have to escape on their own, and then as the two of them are escaping two sets of bad guys [Whitney’s troops and drug cartel members] – new born baby in tow. Plus an attempted snatch and an attempted hit in San Francisco which help Rose understand what it means to be part of a team, even more, what it means to be part of a family…

It has a great ‘happily ever after’ and some great ‘tease’ information for future books: Hot chemistry between Javier and Rhiannon, super babies…

Could it be read as a stand-alone? Yes. Do I recommend it? No, you’ll miss a lot of the ‘family’ nuances and characters. The books directly involved in this storyline are 5, 8 and 9… But I recommend reading them all in order. Yes, really.


1. Shadow Game

2. Mind Game

3. Night Game

4. Conspiracy Game

5. Deadly Game

6. Predatory Game

7. Murder Game

8. Street Game

9. Ruthless Game

Oscar Continues to Smile on Literary Adaptations

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

The book is always better than the movie. It’s a mantra avid readers have been living by for decades. So, what if the movie is Oscar nominated? Does that mean the book is that much better? You tell us. The books below spawned four of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture.

The King's Speech

The King’s Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi

127 Hours

127 Hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston

True Grit

True Grit by Charles Portis

Winter's Bone

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

While the movies are being measured against the best in cinema, you can share your opinion on how well the books behind them held up. If you’ve read the book, click the image to visit the listing on our site. Click “More Options”, then select “Write Review” to post your take on the book and let the movie-goers in on what they’re missing! Writing a review lets you get a little taste of the spotlight: After you submit your review, it will appear on the PBS Home page, in “The Latest Book Reviews” section. You can also check out these past Academy Award winners, available for swapping now, for more Oscar-themed reading as you await the big night on February 27th.

The Blind Side
The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis
Million Dollar Baby: Stories From The Corner by F. X. Toole
The Hours
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Sideways by Rex Pickett
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Godfather
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
Terms of Endearment
Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
The Return of the King (Lord of the Rings, Bk 3) by J. R. R. Tolkien
Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup
Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake
Forrest Gump by Winston Groom
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Kramer vs. Kramer by Avery Corman
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff, James Norman Hall
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Obviously, there seems to be a pattern here: Adapt a best-selling novel for the silver screen, win an Oscar (or eleven). While many stories translate well to the screen, some are better left in text. Are there any books you would like to see on the big screen? How about books you wish Hollywood had left untouched? We look forward to your comments!

Mystery Monday is here!

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Each Monday, we will post a new review of a Mystery book.  If you love to read a good “whodunit”, don’t forget to check back here each Monday. 

The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett

The Dain Curse

Written by Matt B.  (BuffaloSavage)

The Dain Curse stars The Nameless Detective who investigates for the Continental Op PI agency.  Set in San Francisco in the late 1920s, The Dain Curse starts in a standard way but gets wacky fast. The Nameless Detective investigates a diamond theft from the house of scientist Edgar Leggett. Ho-hum. But out of the blue Legget ends up dead. Revealed are family secrets, which make the miserable California families of Ross Macdonald seem like “Leave it to Beaver.”

 Hammett presents the rest of the novel in three distinct episodes. Reading the installments reminds us that they first appeared in the pulp magazine Black Mask over four issues prior to the publication of the novel. The serial origin works against the story hanging together in one piece. The action seems disjointed and occurs in too many different places. New characters keep popping up. The dialogue is more talky than curt and clipped as noir should be.

Although Hammett himself thought the melodramatic action was too much and thought the novel weak, for my money, the main attraction is its sheer over the top-ness. Even after the depraved family secrets of the first chapter, the action gets wilder and crazier. Hammett’s peculiar San Francisco brings to mind bizarre high jinks in Chester Himes’ Harlem.

Two more redeeming points. In a passage we don’t expect in mystery, Hammett briefly uses the stream of consciousness technique.  He uses the noir theme of the tension between perception and reality (pretty is as wicked does) and the difficulty of getting a bead on reality due to limitations of our knowledge, feeling, and intuition. He explored those themes more effectively in his next novel, The Maltese Falcon.

A Word From The Founder – The View From Here

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

I knew that this fateful day was coming.  I’ve been “almost 50” for several years now.  Truthfully, I have been somewhat dreading it.  I kept looking up at the top of the hill, knowing that one day I would be over it, plodding on into unfamiliar territory.  And now that day is here.

So now I’m supposed to be over this hill?  If I had to sum up my life in a word, “climbing” is as good a description as any for what I’ve been doing for the past half-century.  While I stressed over this milestone for several years, it doesn’t seem so daunting now that I’m here.  In fact, I see now that there’s plenty of climbing left to do and that there are many other peaks ahead of me.  I’m tempted to ask, “So, what’s the big deal here?”  This 50 thing is not as bad as I had always contemplated.  I feel the same as I did yesterday.  I am as active as I was yesterday, and I still have the same responsibilities.  The world hasn’t stopped just because I added another candle to the cake.

Then I pause, spin around, and look back to admire the view.

I’m surprised to see how much ground I’ve covered.  The view up here is actually quite nice.  I can see river rapids, forded years ago, that seemed insurmountable at the time.  Of course this journey had some obstacles, but now I chuckle over the amount of time that I spent worrying about them beforehand. If only things were as clear looking forward as they are looking back.

Over the road I’ve taken, I can see a lot of foolish mistakes, satisfying triumphs, and seemingly insignificant decisions that completely altered my course. Though stretches were certainly bumpy and some not so happy, it hasn’t all been an uphill battle. Along this path I helped bring two wonderful children into this world, and hopefully gave them the right tools to make their journeys easier than mine. I have shared a lot of special moments with people that I love. I’ve made friends that have become like family, and I’m thankful to have met so many who have had a positive impact on my life.

My time has largely been spent learning, every misstep an opportunity for growth. I’ve achieved a number of goals while missing out on others.  In either case, I have learned to be more patient, and I’ve become a little gentler and kinder in my approach to life’s challenges.

It seems like it was only a few steps back that I started a website based on the assumption that I wasn’t the only avid reader with shelves full of books and a love of reading to spare.  I had no idea that so many thousands would share this passion and desire to make a difference in others’ lives by passing along a book, CD, or DVD that was no longer needed. It’s indescribably rewarding to share in the joy of embracing a great book, favorite song, or inspiring film that truly touches your heart.  Needless to say, while difficult at times, it has certainly been worth the effort.

The Richard who began this trek would probably hardly recognize this Richard at 50. He’s a little rougher for wear, sounds a lot like his father, and smiles with a few more wrinkles furrowed beneath a lot less hair.  All in all though, I’m the same starry-eyed kid who embarked on this path long ago.  And I find myself still hiking uphill, only now with a little more experience and wisdom in tow.  My head may still be in the clouds, but my feet are on an incline, and I’m not heading downhill anytime soon.

Published After 50

For some, life is just beginning after their 50th birthday. Each of these books was published after the author had turned the big five-oh, and they’re all available for swapping on the site!

Robinson Crusoe
Author: Daniel Defoe
Published at age 59

Watership Down
Author: Richard Adams
Published at age 52

The Camomile Lawn
Author: Mary Wesley
Published at age 71

Little House in the Big Woods
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Published at age 65

Black Beauty
Author: Anna Sewell
Published at age 57

The Trumpet of the Swan
Author: E. B. White
Published at age 70

Fountain of Age
Author: Betty Friedan
Published at age 72