PaperBackSwap Blog

Archive for March, 2011

Go Green Earth Day Contest

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Go Green Earth Day Contest

What we all know and love about PBS is that it allows us to recycle and reuse our favorite things…books! We’re here to keep well-loved books out of landfills and in the hands of avid readers. Increasing our positive impact on the environment is an important goal of the club, so we look forward to Earth Day each year as a special time to celebrate and to further our commitment to protecting the planet.

This year, we want you to celebrate with us! In the spirit of Earth Day on April 22, 2011, we’d love to hear your great ideas for Going Green.

Share with us a practical, creative, helpful, and fun idea on how to REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE household items.  Remember, when it comes to going green, even a little goes a long way. Submit just one, excellent idea that each of our members can implement into their lives to live a more verdant lifestyle.

Submit your greening idea by April 14th in a comment to this post. We will choose 5 ideas and members can vote on their absolute favorite Going Green Idea starting April 18th.  The winner will be announced in the PBS Blog on April 22nd. The grand prize winner will win 10 credits & $5.00 PBS Money, and the second, third, fourth, and fifth place ideas selected will win 3 credits each.

We look forward to hearing all your ideas and pooling everyone’s suggestions to make PBS members the greenest readers in the country!

Go green and good luck!

“The earth is what we all have in common.” – Wendell Berry

For Your Greading (Green Reading) Pleasure

Click the cover images to view the details page for each book on the site. These books are ready to be reused; they’re available to order from your fellow PBS members!

The Green Book by Elizabeth Rogers, Thomas Kostigen

It's Easy Being Green by Crissy Trask

Wake Up and Smell the Planet by Grist Magazine

Squeaky Green by Eric Ryan, Adam Lowry

Romance Review – In the Company of Vampires

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

In the Company of Vampires by Katie MacAlister

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc)

In the Company of Vampires

Dark Ones #8, Ben & Fran #3

Publication Date: 11/2/2010

Pages: 334

This is the third in the Ben and Fran books. The first two, Got Fangs? And Circus of the Darned, were young adult novels. This one is not. It takes place five years after the previous two and Fran has broken off with Ben, graduated from college and finds herself still miserable.

The action starts off with the kidnapping of Fran’s roommate. During the rescue (by Fran of course) it becomes apparent that Loki is at the root of the kidnapping. (Norse gods have long memories.) When Fran calls her mother, only to find that her mother is missing, she fears the worst. Fran immediately makes plans to head for Europe and the GothFaire, only to be interrupted by the arrival of her Vikings from book 2. It seems that Freya sent them to help her get rid of Loki using the necklace. Unfortunately she left the necklace in Europe so it is not immediately accessible. Her Vikings insist on going along with her. (Fortunately Freya provided them with their own Visa card so the only problem is convincing them they have to leave their weapons behind.)

She arrives at the GothFaire only to discover a wide range of problems. Ben is there and with another woman. (Yes she blew him off but she hadn’t really expected him to move on – after all, she hasn’t.) Imogen is there but the necklace isn’t and her mom is still missing. While checking through her mom’s things for clues she finds a birth certificate indicating she has an older half-sister she never knew about.

Like the other books this one has lots of wacky details; the town where the GothFaire is currently located is competing for a Wagnerian opera company so everyone is wearing Wagnerian costumes (including cross-dressing mermaid cabdrivers) and frequently bursting into song. Her Vikings have gone shopping and are now being Viking ninjas (based on having seen a ninja movie on TV) and have picked up new weaponry.

The plot concerns rescuing mom, saving shape shifters, confronting Loki, and of course resolving Ben and Fran’s relationship problems.

All around a satisfying read.

Ben and Fran

1.  Got Fangs? (2005)

2.  Circus of the Darned (2006)

Confessions of a Vampire’s Girlfriend (omnibus of 1 & 2)

3.  In the Company of Vampires

Dark Ones

1. A Girl’s Guide to Vampires (2003)

2. Sex and the Single Vampire (2004)

3. Sex, Lies and Vampires (2005)

4. Even Vampires Get the Blues (2006)

5. The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires (2007)

5. Bring Out Your Dead (2006) (in Just One Sip)

6. Zen and the Art of Vampires (2008)

7. Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang (2009)

8. In the Company of Vampires (2010)

9. Much Ado About Vampires (2011)

A Word From the Founder – My Nuclear Reaction

Monday, March 21st, 2011

The ubiquitous topic on every news station and on the minds of much of the world is the effect of Japan’s recent 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami on their nuclear power plants. There has been news of power outages causing meltdowns and explosions, which have in turn caused radiation leaks. Residents near the reactors have been advised to stay indoors or evacuate the area, and it seems unclear exactly how far-reaching the threat of poisonous radiation is.

Witnessing all this through the protective screen of my television, I cannot begin to imagine how confusing and frightening this must be for those experiencing it firsthand.

I grew up during the Cold War. The threat of a Russian-made ICBM delivering a nuclear warhead cruising towards the United States at any moment would send chills down my spine. I remember sitting in the halls of my elementary school, hunched in a ball with my head between my knees, and teachers telling us not to worry, and that this was probably just another false alarm. Probably? How did they know for sure? The reality was – none of us really knew.

We heard about the possibility of a nuclear attack almost every night on the news. Some people built bomb shelters. Some stocked up on food and water supplies. Everyone believed that it was only a matter of time before some rogue soldier sitting in a silo thousands of miles away was going to push the button and start WWIII.  It was just a matter of time.

We lived with that threat daily. What could you do? Pray and wait. Hope it never happened. I suspect that this is the same feeling the people who live around the nuclear reactors felt in Japan. Afraid of the possibility of a leak, aware of the risk, but unable to do anything but hope the threat would not become reality.

Now that reality is all too real.

Though Japan’s government and citizens are reportedly handling the situation impeccably, that doesn’t mean they aren’t facing fear and genuine concern for their country’s well-being. My thoughts and prayers go out to them – especially all of those that have been directly impacted by this crisis. I admire the brave workers who are exposing themselves to dangerous amounts of radiation in hopes of saving others; they are true heroes. I appreciate the officials and residents who are generously rationing resources and selflessly working together toward recovery.

In moments of tragedy, we have to look for the positive.  I hope, not just Japan, but the whole world comes out of this ordeal with more preparation and a stronger sense of unity. Because we all know what it is to be afraid, or to worry, and regardless of what burdens we bear or catastrophes we encounter, there is comfort in knowing that we are not alone. 

May God bless each of you and keep you safe.


Mystery Monday – The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Monday, March 21st, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie By Alan Bradley

Review by Cheryl G. (Poncer)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It had a bit of everything, a murder mystery, some social history, interesting tidbits of science and a precocious 11 year-old protagonist.

Flavia de Luce, the protagonist and narrator of the book is a budding chemist, pretty much left to fend for herself in a dysfunctional household in England. The story is set in the 1950’s.

Early one morning, Flavia somehow stumbles upon a dying body in the garden of the mansion she and her family call home and sets out to solve the murder.

She is up against some fun characters, a father who barely communicates with anyone since the death of his wife, 2 older sisters who are more interested in looks and books than in their little sister, some officious police officers and some quirky neighbors.

Despite Flavia’s best efforts to solve the mystery of the dead man, police Inspector Hewitt thwarts her at every turn. He reminds her that “King George is not frivolous”.  Flavia isn’t a frivolous child, though.   She is a bright, and fun to follow through this book.

I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag.

Welcome Springtime!

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

photo by Mary (kilchurn)

Springtime, ah, springtime! Who doesnt love springtime? Authors never seem to run out of  ideas to express the joy of it.

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”  –  Hal Borland (May 14, 1900 — February 22, 1978) was a well-known American author.
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”  – Margaret Eleanor Atwood, CC, O.Ont, FRSC (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian poet, novelist.
 “For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.” –  Anne Morrow Lindbergh (American writer and aviation pioneer, 1906-2001)
Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.”  – Rainer Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926) was a Bohemian—Austrian poet
 “In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,  When birds do sing, hey ding a ding;  Sweet lovers love the spring.” William Shakespeare (English Dramatist, Playwright and Poet, 1564-1616


Do you have a favorite Springtime quote? Add it here to share your feelings of  the joy and renewal of Spring! 

Fantasy Friday – Blindsight

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Blindsight by Peter Watts

Review written by Bowden P. (Trey)

Y’know, I had no idea what this would be like when I started it, and its compelling stuff. Yeah, the protagonist isn’t very likeable, but he does get the job done. Its a great, if rather chilling read. The cover blurb does a decent job of summarzing what sets the ball in motion and what the ball is – the spaceship Theseus and crew of trans- to post-humans.

It also skips over some of the most important things in the book: The nature of consciousness and whether its an advantage or not in evolutionary terms. This is the big idea of the book and the one guaranteed to unsettle a reader.

Our viewpoint character is Siri Keeton, the “synthesistan informational topologist with half his mind gone” of the blurb. Siri, is unique. He is not nice, hell, at the start of the book he might only be human by DNA, not how he acts. This leads to some interesting flashbacks and a moment of genuine sympathy for him. I will admit it might be better to say “half his brain” though – he’s had hemispherectomy to treat epileptic seizures.

Siri’s world isn’t a nice one. People routinely opt to live in virtual fantasies. There’s an ongoing insurgency over it where the insurgents use bio-weapons. War crimes from the other side are common as well. Drugs and hormones to alter mental states to something more useful are widespread. Corporations do things that lead to the creation of the vampires that are ethically challenged at best. Genetic manipulation is common – so common that one of Siri’s child hood friends is unusual for his lack of it.

But that’s just Earth. The Theseus is a lovely thing – fueled by antimatter teleported to it and assembled there, with synthesizers that can handle building almost anything so long as it has mass and is able to reconfigure itself at need. This is just the vehicle that gets them to the real action that takes place well beyond the Solar System. There an alien spacecraft has been found and is busy ‘terraforming’ a brown dwarf. Think about that for a moment and what it involves. Our intrepid band of posthumans goes out to explore and discovers an environment more hostile than can be imagined. It routinely destroys their probes and has effects on the crew even in their most heavily shielded suits. It makes communication difficult at best and meddles with their brains like transcranial magnetic stimulation but creating temporary ‘brain damage.’

Once it actually gets to first contact, its scary.

Folks, I love this book. Its five stars easy. Watts does things that many hard science fiction writers routinely fail to do – he writes well. His characters are characters, not caricatures. What he writes is darkly humorous, clever, moving and powerful. And the ideas he works with are huge, world shaking and dangerous. Good stuff to play with and he does it with human characters.

Likes: Neat neurobiology bits; Good characters; Big ideas; Some humor where needed; Big questions; Good writing; Neat toys.

Dislikes: I want more, darn it.
Suggested for fans of A User’s Guide to the Brain by John J. Ratey, Oliver Sachs, Kluge by Gary Marcus, A Mind of Its Own by Cordelia Fine, Scott Bakker’s Neuropath, and good (if dark) science fiction.

And if you can’t find it in print, head to www.rifters.com where Creative Commons Licensed version of Blindsight lives.

A Post from the Founder – A St. Patrick’s Day secret

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

One of our programmers, Len, shared a St. Patrick’s Day secret about me this morning in the Club Members’ Thoughts discussion forum:  

Richard P., the PBS Founder, can look at a patch of clover and immediately spot the four-leafed ones. I’ve known one other person who could do that, and it wasn’t Chuck Norris.

I’m thinking of spilling a box of toothpicks next time RP’s around to see if he counts them instantly. If so, we’ll know he buys his underpants at K-Mart 🙂

Have you ever known someone with this kind of 4-leaf  clover radar? How do you think they do it?

Since I’ve been “outed”, I thought I would share a little about my talent!  Ever since I was a little kid, I have had this fairly unique ability to look down at a patch of clovers and almost immediately pick out a four leaf clover.  Many times I can find several at one time in the same patch.  My brother John has the same ability – so it must run in the family! 

Often times I will simply be walking along a path and glance down – and reach for a four leaf clover.  When friends are nearby, they are always amazed.  

This group of 4 leaf clovers was from last year.   I was out with my girlfriend’s kids and they challenged me to find one as we walked along a path.  Within seconds I had found not one – but over 20!  One thing that you rarely ever see in life is a 5 leaf clover.  I have only found about a dozen in my life.  In the top left of this group, there is a 5 leaf clover.  I decided to make this one into a collage of sorts and gave it to my girlfriend – thus the “Mom” in the middle. 

So on this St. Patrick’s Day, I want to wish you the very best of luck and that you find your own 4 leaf clover – Or I can find one for you!