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Archive for March, 2011

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

The Luck of the Irish
Want to be lucky this St. Patrick’s Day? Follow this advice:

1. Find a four-leaf clover. 2. Wear green (so you don’t get pinched). 3. Kiss the blarney stone. 4. Catch a Leprechaun if you can.

Four-Leaf Clover
Although clovers are most often found in nature with three leaves, rare four-leaf clovers do exist. Finding one is thought to bring someone extreme luck. The folklore for four-leaf clovers differs from that of the Shamrock due to the fact that it has no religious allusions associated with it. It is believed that each leaf of a four-leaf clover represents something different: first is hope, the second is faith, the third is love, and the fourth is happiness.

Just what does a mythical leprechaun look like and why are they so special? A leprechaun looks like a little old man and dresses like a shoemaker with a cocked hat and leather apron. A Leprechaun’s personality is described as aloof and unfriendly. They live alone and pass the time by mending the shoes of Irish fairies.

According to St. Patrick’s Day: Parades, Shamrocks, and Leprechauns by Elaine Landau, the legend is that the fairies pay the leprechauns for their work with golden coins, which the “little people” collect in large pots–the famous “pots of gold” often associated with leprechauns.

If you listen closely for the sound of their hammer you might be able to capture one. If you do you can force him (with the threat of bodily violence) to reveal where he’s hidden his treasure. Be careful! Do not take your eyes off him for if you do he will surely vanish and your hopes of finding his treasure will vanish with him.

So why do we all wear green?

Probably because you’ll be pinched if you don’t! School children started this tradition. Green is also the color of spring, the shamrock, and is connected with hope and nature. Historically, green has been a color used in the flags of several revolutionary groups in Ireland and as a result it appears in the official tri-color country flag, adopted in 1919.

In addition to that, Ireland is often called the “Emerald Isle” due to the lush natural greenery found on the island. Says Prof. Mahony, “One of the things that strikes people all the time is how Ireland is incredibly green–it’s very far north, but it doesn’t get frozen. When people say that ‘Ireland has 40 shades of green,’ they are right!”

Since we could all use a bit of the Luck O’ the Irish, here is a list of books available for swapping right now on PBS with an Irish theme.

The St. Patrick’s Day Murder by Lee Harris

St Patrick’s Gargoyle
by Katherine Kurtz
I am of Irelanund: A Novel of Patrick and Osian
by Juilene Osborne-McKnight
by J.M. Holmes

by Nora Roberts
A Treasury of Irish Stories
chosen by James Riordan

In honor of the festivities we leave you with this Irish blessing: May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow and may trouble avoid you wherever you go!

Pssstt…Want to know a St. Patrick’s Day secret about Richard Pickering, Founder of PBS?  Check out the discussion forum post here.


Romance Review – Tall, Dark and Wolfish

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Tall Dark and Wolfish by Lydia Dare

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc)

Good read but stay away if you ‘doona ken’ dialect…  The plot in the first book [A Certain Wolfish Charm] was driven by the fact the hero [Simon, our hero’s oldest brother] was a werewolf.  In this one, Ben has lost the ability to change and has gone to Scotland looking for a someone who might be able to heal him.  What he finds is the daughter of the healer he sought, and the coven of witches she belongs to.

The book is charming and funny – the characters are people you would like to know.  The plot is not hugely intense but unfolds at a steady pace.  Could you read this as a stand alone?  Yes.  There’s not a whole lot of overlap – most of the story takes place at the same time as book 1.  At the end of book 1, the middle brother heads to Scotland to find out what’s going on with his brother and he arrives about two-thirds of the way through.  As always, I do recommend reading them in order…

A Certain Wolfish Charm

Tall, Dark and Wolfish

The Wolf Next Door

The Taming of the Wolf

Winners Of Autographed Jess Lourey Books!!

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Congratulations to the following members who will each receive one of these Jess Lourey

autographed books!!

All were chosen at random from members who commented on our recent interview with Author Jess Lourey. Thank you to all who commented!

Kathy B. (Boldreader)
R. E. (re)
Andrea G. (beachdre)
Nicole E. (avemedea)
Eileen S. (ebs427)

Your books are on the way to you! Enjoy!

Musings, Memories and Miscellany from our MoM’s

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Today our Featured Member of the Month is:  Mendy
Mendy was named MoM for April 2009

1. How long have you been a PBS member?

Almost 6 years now… my join date was 6/16/2005

2. How did you find PBS? How has PBS impacted your life. What does PBS mean to you?

I found PBS through a good friend. PBS has brought friends into my life. I can’t thank the PBS community enough for everything they’ve done with me…. my Avon Walks for Breast Cancer, the swaps, the crafts, the illnesses.

3. Did you read as a child? What was your favorite book growing up? What book impacted you most as a child or young adult?

I devoured books as a child. Growing up I loved all books! The books that impacted me the most were those written by Judy Blume. She seemed to know so much about what I was going through as a tween/young adult.

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

I’ve read so many of them that have moved me or meant something to me. The most recent meaningful book is the best I can do right now. LOL The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I was happy, sad, and angry through this entire book. I love it when a book makes me feel things and this one made me feel so many things. It’s one book that I don’t regret reading.

5. What are you reading now?

I’m back into a cozy mystery phase. I’m on chapter 3 of Buzz Off (Queen Bee bk 1) by Hannah Reed. I love that it’s set in my home state of Wisconsin – I even know a few beekeepers so it’s a fun read.

If you have any nominations for Member of the Month, submit them to us here.  Your nomination will not “expire”–anyone you nominate will have a chance at getting Member of the Month if enough nominations accumulate over time. Each month the person who has the most votes accumulated when the Newsletter goes to press gets to be Member of the Month and 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 PBS.  We are keeping a list of all the nominated members.  Who knows–one of them might be YOU

Mystery Monday – The Case of the Fiery Fingers

Monday, March 14th, 2011

The Case of the Fiery Fingers by Erle Stanley Gardner

Book Review by Matt B.  (BuffaloSavage)

Erle Stanley Gardner turned out 80-some novels starring lawyer Perry Mason. There’s bound to be a few clunkers. So, chary readers new to Gardner may wonder which is a good ‘un. I’d highly recommend The Case of the Fiery Fingers (1951).

A practical nurse tells Perry that she suspects that a husband is going to do in his invalid wife. She asks Perry’s advice on how to prevent the murder. The sneaky husband, however, gets the drop on the LPN by having her arrested for theft. In an outstanding courtroom scene in Chapter Five, Perry defends his client by hilariously twisting a witness in knots. Chapter Five is one of the longest and best chapters Gardner ever wrote.

The invalid wife is indeed ushered out of this vale of tears before her time. Perry defends the victim’s sister, who is looking at the gas chamber like a rabbit looks at headlights.  As Perry gets ready for the trial, the despondent client is no help at all. Other client and police shenanigans must be endured by Perry, his secretary Della Street, and the PI Paul Drake.

Gardner’s strong point is his ability to tell a story briskly and concisely with a minimum of character development, stripped down exposition, and tons of dialogue. While his novels have flashes of humor, Gardner is not a funny guy. But in The Case of the Fiery Fingers he’s uncharacteristically droll. He describes Paul’s typical posture:  “Drake jackknifed himself into the overstuffed chair, swung his knees up over the arm, clasped his hand behind his head, and eyed Mason with a bored indifference that was completely deceptive.”

Perry speeds and turns recklessly so Paul drives. But in one scene Della drives as maniacally as Perry. “You’re hitting fifty and not giving a damn about anything” Paul yelps. Della coolly replies “Well, I get you there in less time, so you don’t suffer so long, Paul.”

Besides respecting women who drive as expertly as Danica Patrick, Gardner liked a healthy woman with a healthy appetite. Della orders “a nice thick steak done medium rare, a stuffed, baked Idaho potato with lots of butter, some toasted French bread, a bottle of Tipo Chianti . . .” Ah, 1951 – when only health food enthusiasts worried about carbs.

Also, along “good old days” lines, this novel has keen retro expressions like “the little minx,”  “as tough as taxes,” and  “set one’s cap on somebody.” The characters sport evocative names like Nathan, Imogene, Harvey, Virginia, Georgiana and Marta.

Readers toying with the idea of reading a Perry Mason novel won’t go wrong with The Case of the Fiery Fingers.

Fantasy Friday – Masques

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Masques by Patricia Briggs

Review written by Janice Y. (jai)

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series is one of my favorite urban fantasy series out today. When I started getting into them I naturally looked into her back-list, which is in the fantasy genre. I’ve read both Hob’s Bargain and the Hurog duology, and the Raven duology is in my TBR pile, but the one book I could not get my hands on was Masques, Briggs’ first book. In 2007, I noted that the book goes for at least $60 on eBay, $120 to over $600 elsewhere. I didn’t think it was worth paying so much for a book which the author herself admitted was her first effort and thus had a lot of weaknesses! Thankfully, Masques was re-released after a rewrite by Briggs. Even better: its sequel, Wolfsbane, is now available.

This review is for the rewritten Masques.

The Premise: Aralorn is a mercenary who “doesn’t take orders” and “will occasionally listen to suggestions” which makes her ideal as a spy for the city of Sianim. Her latest assignment is to check out rumors of an assassination attempt on the ae’Magi, the much beloved Archmage of the land. It isn’t until she is at his castle does she realize that the ae’Magi is not the good, kind man the world thinks he is. He’s pure evil, but his influence over people’s hearts makes any opposition near impossible. The only people who realize the true nature of the ae’Magi are persecuted by him. These include Wolf, a grey beast with yellow eyes who can speak, the young King Myr of Reth, and a small but growing group of rebels hiding in the Northern Woods.

My Thoughts: This book begins with an introduction by the author which explains that Masques was a book she started in college when she knew nothing about writing. This means that in looking at it again as a more experienced writer, there was a lot of “squirming uncomfortably” and the first attempt at a rewrite was so extensive that it changed the story completely. So this edition of Masques is a compromise: it keeps the original story but makes things fit better, leaving the “clichés and oddities” intact.

I kept Briggs’ introduction in the back of my mind while reading the book, and I can see what she alludes to as the “clichés and oddities” in her story. Yes, there are a lot of things in Masques that feel very familiar. Aralorn’s background alone made me wonder if I’d read Masques before: the plain-looking lord’s daughter, more interested in swordplay than etiquette, runs away from home with her warhorse and joins a mercenary guild. Her shapeshifter bloodline and quick wits keep her alive, and along the way she gains a wolf companion. Add to this the evil sorcerer in his castle, a scarred hero, an army of mindless minions, a spymaster, a dragon, and magic items, and you have a rather common set of tropes. Yet I never felt that these things were trite. Instead I felt like I was reading a story where the plot had a charming enthusiasm, while the writing itself was polished by experience.

I didn’t think the polish covered all flaws, but there were qualities in this story that reminded me of what lured me into the fantasy genre during the nineties, and that was worlds I wanted to visit. I really enjoyed the settings, particularly the fantastic rooms described in the story. I loved imagining the secret places these characters went and the grand palace that the ae’Magi lived in. I also liked the idea of the green versus human magics, and how shapeshifters and magical creatures fit into this. The explanation of how the magic works could have been better, but there was still a sense of wonder while reading about magical creatures and old stories that I enjoyed.

There’s a lot thrown into the 294 pages that was this book, but story is essentially a good versus evil tale. After Aralorn discovers the true nature of the ae’Magi, King Myr of Reth has to flee his palace, leaving his throne open for the ae’Magi to usurp. Aralorn and Wolf join him in the Northlands. Here, the power of human magics like the ae’Magi’s are not as affective, but green magic, the magic of Aralorn’s shapeshifter people, have no problems. A ragtag band of people impervious to the ae’Magi’s magical influence trickle into the hidden camp, called my some unknown power. Together they begin to work out how to overthrow the ae’Magi.

There are a few secondary characters within this rebel camp, but besides King Myr and the ae’Magi (who were very good and very evil respectively), no one really made much of an impact on me. The focus is primarily on the two heroes (Wolf and Aralorn) and they stood out while others faded into the background. I found myself uninterested in the camp’s day-to-day life and more drawn in by Aralorn and her relationship with the enigmatic Wolf.

Although I feel like Aralorn is the main character, Wolf steals the show. Aralorn rescued him from a pit trap, and over the years he’s slowly revealed more about himself, including the fact that he’s not just a wolf. He’s your basic scarred hero, but he and Aralorn have developed a bond which has become something more for them both. I loved reading about his past and their conversations while they researched spells in Wolf’s private library (I wish this library was real). Aralorn is a good match for his prickliness because she can cheerfully ignore it, and she uses her humor to chip away at his shell. As you can imagine, this is the set up for a romance. I was expecting something slow moving from the way the book began, but the complications I thought I’d see were superficial ones. It was sweet but not intense. I am looking forward to reading the second book to see how their romance continues and I hope to see better developed secondary characters that play a larger role in the plot.

Overall: Masques is a little bit dated because it’s a book originally written in the nineties, but it has a lot of charm. It reminds me of books about female heroines having adventures written by Robin McKinley and Mercedes Lackey that I read in my teens and still hold a fondness for today. It has its flaws but it also has charisma, and it kept me pleasantly entertained for the few hours it took me to read it. I think would do well with YA readers interested in fantasy, particularly girls.

Interview With Author Jess Lourey

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Jess Lourey is the author of the Lefty-nominated Murder-by-Month series set in Battle Lake, Minnesota.

Thank you for letting me interview you, Jess Lourey.

PBS: Your Murder-by-the-Month Mystery series is set in a small town, Battle Lake Minnesota. What lead you to setting this series there? Do you hail from a small town yourself?

JL: I grew up in Paynesville, Minnesota, a small town not unlike Battle Lake. Battle Lake is also a real town, and I was living there when I wrote May Day, the first in the series. They say write what you know, and I’ve always been fascinated by the small town sociology.

PBS: Your main character, Mira James is a bit bawdy, but at the same time has her own moral code that she will not break. Can you tell us about her and how she came to be the heroine of your series?

JL: I loosely based her appearance and hometown on mine so that I wouldn’t have to remember those details, and she grew out of that, this brave, wounded, neurotic, curious, self-deprecating amateur sleuth.

PBS: My favorite Mira James line in May Day is, “Plus there’s not much to do with a four-year degree in English, short of opening a English store.” What are your favorite Mira lines?

JL: Ha! That’s actually one of my favorite lines, too. I have another line, in August Moon, that I really like. Mira is falling for a nerdy woodtick museum curator, and they “bat their eyes at each other like two geeks comparing pocket protectors.”

Here’s my new favorite paragraph, from the upcoming November Hunt (March 2012):

The thermostat on my car was out, or so I figured as I used the tender meat of my hand to scrape a peephole on the inside of my windshield. Thirty years in Minnesota teaches you these handy bits: mosquitoes are attracted to white clothing and pretty much anything else you’d like to wear, a three-party government with a former professional wrestler at the helm isn’t the laugh riot you’d think it’d be, and if your car runs great except for the heater, it’s probably your thermostat.

PBS: Do you already have a plot for your books before you begin writing a new book, or does the plot develop as you write?

JL: When it comes to writing mysteries, I’m a plotter, not a pantser (as in “seat of your pants”). I like to have a rough outline with all the major plot points and the ending sketched out. The story evolves as I write, which is a lot of fun, but I need that road map or I feel like a cornered animal.

PBS: Can you tell us a bit about your newest book, October Fest? And was it fun to write?

JL: I always think they were fun to write when I’m all done with them. 😉 October Fest was inspired by our current political climate in the U.S., where it seems like being mean and vague are more valued than being kind and clear. In the book, two politicians come to Battle Lake, both of them running for a House seat. Here’s the official description:

What do you get when you cross beer, a conservative politician who keeps planting her foot in her mouth, and polka music? Octoberfest in Battle Lake, Minnesota, that’s what. Sarah Glokkmann, hot on the campaign trail, faces off with Arnold Swydecker in a debate held at the cusp of Battle Lake’s premier fall festival. When a too-curious reporter covering the event winds up on the no-breathing list, all fingers point at Glokkmann. But is she being framed? Mira James couldn’t care less. That is, until her best friend ends up in intensive care and Mira must solve the murder to save her friend.

Kirkus Reviews call the book “…funny, ribald, and brimming with small-town eccentrics.” If I manage to make people laugh when they read and guess up until the end, I’ll have done my job.

PBS: What can your readers expect from you in the future? Do you have any plans for books outside of this series?

JL: Thank you for asking! I’ve written a historical novel that is fully-drafted but not yet complete. The novel takes place on an Indian boarding school in 1893 South Dakota. I also have begun work on a young adult series with an edge, and have about 60 pages fleshed out on a magical realism novel that looks at three generations of gifted women.

The Murder-by-Month series are my first babies, though. Last week, I sent November Hunt, the seventh in the series, off to my publisher. I’m thrilled with how that one turned out. It’s my favorite in the series so far. I’m under contract for Death Loves December and plan to have that hammered out before next March. By the way, the title is temporary, so if any of your readers have December title suggestions, send them my way! (www.jesslourey.com)

Comment on the Interview! Five lucky winners will get a signed copy of one of Jess Lourey’s books! The winners will be chosen at random from the comments and we will announce the winners on Tuesday, March 15, 2011.

Thank you everyone, for your comments! We will announce the winners of the signed copies of Jess Lourey’s books right here in  tomorrow’s Blog!

Thank you Jess for your interview, comments and for sending us 5 books for our members to enjoy! You Rock!