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Archive for April, 2011

Book Winners! We have Book Winners!

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

The Winner of the DL Fowler book, Lincoln’s Diary is: JB J. (sunny-1)

 

 

 

The Winner of the Carol K Carr book, India Black is: Christa (flchris)

 

 

 

The Winner of the Colleen Coble book, The Lightkeeper’s Bride is: Anna S. (SanJoseCa)

 

JB, Christa and Anna, congratulations! Your books are all on the way to you!

 

Even more Winners of books!

 

The Winner of an Autographed Helen Hollick book of your choice is:  Jeanne L. (bkydbirder)

 

The Winner of an Autographed Elizabeth Chadwick book of your choice is:  Cathy M. (misfit)

 

Jeanne and Cathy, we have sent you an email from Blog@PaperBackSwap.com to get your choices and to make arrangements to have your books sent to you. Congratulations!

 

 

Thank you everyone for your reviews and comments. More reviews with book give-aways are coming soon.

Fantasy Friday – Sandman Slim

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Sandman Slim: A Novel by Richard Kadrey

Review byBowden P. (Trey)

Well, that was interesting – three stars, easy.

 

After working on Shadow of the Torturer and Claw of the Conciliator, I needed a break and something easy. Sandman Slim came up as that break.

James “Jimmy” Stark, aka Wild Bill, aka Sandman Slim is a murderous soul (don’t call him Jimmy, he doesn’t like it and you wouldn’t either). But wouldn’t you be after 11 years in Hell as the only living human down there? When we meet him he’s only just escaped and literally jumped right into the fire. All he has is Abaddon’s dagger, the Key to the Room With 13 Doors and a Veritas coin with an attitude. And he’s dead set on avenging himself against those that sent him to Hell and murdered the only person he ever loved.

So, did I like it? Enough to give it three stars and write a review, but not enough to be singing its praises to the rafters. Its not bad, and as urban fantasy noir, its excellent. Jimmy has a good voice, with a quick wit, ready with a quip and a nasty black sense of humor. But I don’t really like him. He doesn’t even begin to move to redeemable until near the end of the book, and at several points he ponders going back to Hell.

Stark is supposed to be cool – and myself from my teens and twenties probably would have thought him intensely cool. At forty, he doesn’t look all that sympathetic. He’s all but invulnerable (personifying the phrase “That which does not kill me makes me stronger”), has the Key, a powerful magician, a fighter, an assassin and can shoot with the best of them. The problem is, he’s not exactly likable. He’s very violent, impulsive, destructive, self centered and on and on. Outside his love of Alice, he’s not all that human. Still, that rapier quick wit offers something… And he does decide there are better things than returning to pit fights in Hell.

Despite Stark’s flaws as a character, Richard Kadrey has a great ear for dialogue and came up with those quips Jimmy drops left, right and center. For the dialogue and using Vidocq as a character I’ll forgive him for Stark’s failings.

Likes: Stark’s big mouth overloading his small behind; Eugene Vidocq; Use of traditional and non-traditional Christian mythos, no Lovecraftian monstrosities here; Dialogue.

Dislikes: I’m supposed to like Stark? In addition to all his flaws I mentioned above, he’s angsty.

Verdict: «««A fun, fast read. Not the deepest thing, but fun.

Suggested for: Urban Fantasy fans, fans of Dashiell Hammett (particularly The Continental Op), Andrew Vachss‘ Burke books

 

Historical Fiction Review – Hand of Isis

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

HAND OF ISIS by Jo Graham

Review by Kelly P. (KellyP)


Like the song says, I’m proud to be an American and I can’t imagine being from anywhere else. But, when I read a book like Hand of Isis by Jo Graham, I wonder what it would be like to be from a country with a documented and chronicled history going back to ancient, ancient times.

The years that Cleopatra ruled (51 BCE – 30 BCE) were practically modern times when compared to the history on which her reign rested. Alexandria, founded by and named after Alexander the Great (three hundred years earlier, let it be noted) was a rich and vibrant place, rich in culture, history and education as well as in grain, gold and other treasure.

Set against the backdrop of Alexandria, this book is about Cleopatra, told from the first-person perspective of Charmian, one of Cleopatra’s two half-sisters who were also her handmaidens and confidantes. We are given glimpses of the childhood the three girls shared, and the responsibilities to Egypt they all three bore as daughters of Pharaoh. The story carries us through Cleopatra’s rule of her country, where she was loved and revered as Isis incarnate, her great love affairs with Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius, her political skill in very unsettled times for her country, and ultimately the death she chose for herself.

The book is well-researched & well-written. It has wonderful depth and well-developed characters – primary and secondary. One of the most fascinating subplots to me is the author’s portrayal of the relationship both the Roman and Egyptian people had with their gods.

One recurring theme throughout the book is reincarnation – that the same soul will come back time and time again. For example, that Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great were one and the same soul. That three hundred years before Charmian was born to be Companion to Cleopatra, she had been Companion to Alexander as one of his bodyguards. While I found this aspect of the book very interesting, it may be off-putting to other people.

The book is loosely structured in the style of flashbacks. Charmian has died and is standing before the court of Isis and Osiris having her life reviewed and judged so that her afterlife is appropriate to the life she led. As she tells her story to these two deities, we get the main story. We don’t have these interludes before the gods very often, just enough to bridge different elements of the story, add depth and understanding to some of the events, give a little more clarity to Charmian’s thinking, etc.

Isis and Osiris are joined at one point by Mikhael, angel to the Jewish god, because one of Charmian’s great friends is Dion, a Jewish scholar and inventor from Alexandria. When Mikhael walks into the ‘court,’ he is made welcome by Isis and Osiris, but his presence is questioned. He answers that where Charmian’s path crossed Dion’s, he (Mikhael) was there and he wanted to speak of what he knew about Charmian’s life. This was a very nice touch – and served to underscore the acceptance of all people in Egypt during this time.

The copy I read was an ARC and there were a few cumbersome paragraphs and passages that I hope got cleaned up in final edit. There is also one rather explicit sex scene; so out of character with the rest of the book that I questioned its purpose. But, in reading the interview with the author, I discovered she had a very definite reason for including the scene.

The book comes complete with a map, a glossary and an interview with the author – wonderful bonus material!

I really enjoyed this book; I give it a resounding 5 out of 5 rating and would recommend it to anyone interested in reading a book about Cleopatra, told from the Egyptian point of view rather than the more customary Roman (or western) POV.

 

Musings, Memories and Miscellany from our MoM’s

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Today our Featured Member of the Month is: Hunter S. (Hunter1)
Hunter was named our MoM for February 2009

It was December 2005 and I was moving and a friend was helping. When I told her I was going to donate most of my fiction books or other books I no longer needed, she wanted them. She told me about PBS and I told her to take the books so she could post them. After I was settled into my new home, I still had too many books. So I called my friend to ask about PBS and she explained how it worked and also told me she was having a great time playing in the swaps. So really, I joined PBS because the games sounded like fun and I wanted to join and play in the same games as my friend.

During the summer of 2006, the Diva Swap was started and I joined. It was great fun and when the hostess left, I took it over in 2007. The Diva members became such an important part of my life. I had made some best friends on PBS and we had never even met! Then in 2007/08 I became a Tour Guide. I wanted to give something back to the organization that had given me so much, so I took the test, passed it and started helping other members. But what I didn’t realize at the time was what an incredible group I had joined. The Tour Guides on PBS are fabulous and I’ve made even more friends. Since then, I’ve become a Tour Guide Leader, assisting other TG’s in helping members.

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to meet some of my fellow Divas and some of my fellow TG’s and I’ve been thrilled. I look forward to meeting many more.

I cannot imagine not having PBS in my life. It has given me so much more than I could ever describe or ever return. But it does prove the old saying, “What goes around, comes around.” The more I give to PBS, the more I receive.

 

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!

Romance Review – Tell Me No Lies

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

 

Tell Me No Lies by Elizabeth Lowell

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc)

 

This is a great romantic suspense read with a heartwarming ending, lots of sizzle between the protagonists and some fascinating information shared about Chinese art, the very Chinese concept of ‘face’, and how international politics game is played by the big boys.  It is a mid-90s release and a book I re-read fairly regularly.

 

The story revolves around a possible theft of literally priceless antiquities from China.  The FBI wants to find them [or better yet, NOT find them] while protecting their information sources from the Chinese who are also investigating.   To this end they bring in Lindsay Danner, an American expert on Chinese bronzes whose reputation is utterly impeccable.

 

The story is set at the time when Capitalism had just started to edge its way into the Chinese culture, shepherded by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.  Several of the ‘committee’ sent to investigate the supposed thefts would love to find evidence of the theft with US fingerprints on it and use it as a slap against Xiaoping and his policies… All would like to find out as much about the US information gathering system and sources as they can – and the ‘theft’ gives them that chance.

 

Enter Chen Yi, titular head of the Chinese committee and a man with many agendas.  One of which is to protect Lindsay – her parents were Chinese missionaries and her mother once saved Chen Yi and Chen Yi’s son.  To this end he uses Jacob MacArthur Catlin, current expert in Pacific Rim relations and ex-CIA agent, by requiring him to repay a debt he owes to the Chen family.   His only job is to aid Lindsay in finding the bronzes and protect her along the way.  To accomplish this they plan to set up a ‘sting’, lure the sellers to where they can be caught.  To do this they must appear to be lovers…

 

The search is a convoluted and fascinating trip through the high-end art world.  As the book progresses Lindsay is exposed to the seamier side her reputation had protected her from – but as Catlin’s lover and art expert she is assumed to be more ‘flexible’ than previously thought.  Revelations are made that show her own truths in a new and sometimes painful light.

 

Lindsay is a strong and independent woman but one who is relatively innocent of the uglier truths about international politics, black market art dealing, and the pain associated with living a lie.  Catlin knows all those arenas well and he understands betrayal at his deepest core.  But he has never met a woman like Lindsay…

 

The interaction between Catlin and Lindsay is compelling – he promises never to lie to her and he doesn’t, even when the truth is unpalatable.  Even so he is gentle and tender with her, helping her to persevere.  But Lindsay is not a woman who can easily lie to the world and she starts losing track – about what is truth and what is lies…  And is Catlin lying to her, giving her what she needs to maintain – or is the attraction real?

 

It’s a keeper for me.

 

 

 

 

Author Interview – Colleen Coble

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Author Interview with Colleen Coble

Interview by Christa H. (flchris)

Thank you, Collen Coble for your interview, and Thank you Christa!

 

Christa: First, I’d like to say Thank You for agreeing to an interview for the PBS Blog.  How did you start writing?

Colleen: I think only God knows what really makes a writer. He gave me the upbringing I would need and the voracious reading appetite necessary to understand what makes a story. I remember the night I finished a book and told the Lord how tired I was of reading books that assumed He didn’t exist. I told God I’d do my best to write for Him, but He would have to open the doors. I waited and nothing happened.  I was working full time, so it took a year to write [my first book]. Then seven years to sell it.

 

Christa: Most of your books are part of a series.  I love that your main characters from one book continue to be an integral part of the subsequent books in the series, not just making cameo appearances.  How far in advance to you plan the growth of the early characters through the later books?

Colleen: Planning? What’s that? I’m pretty much a seat of the pants writer. I’ve done some plotting in books in the past but I don’t enjoy it. I like being surprised by what the characters do and think. So I know that certain characters will reappear and grow in subsequent books, but I like seeing that play out in front of me.

 

Christa: Often on the PBS Christian Fiction Forums, readers will ask us to recommend favorite books or series.  The Rock Harbor series is frequently mentioned as a favorite.  You’ve released an epilogue to the fifth book, “Cry in the Night”.  Is that the end of the series, or do you have more plans for Bree?

Colleen: I don’t think I’ll ever be done with the Rock Harbor series. My readers really love Bree, and that makes me happy because she is me in a lot of ways. No, I don’t have a search and rescue dog, but her personality is mine. When I settle into another book with her, it’s like coming home for me.

 

Christa: Your books strike a comfortable balance of presenting a Christian world view without being extremely “preachy” (although we all need a good, preachy book sometimes!).  Is it something that you consciously work to achieve, or is it just your natural style?

Colleen: It’s a balancing act for sure. I want my own views about eternity and Christ’s love to come out in the books but I don’t want a sermon wrapped in a story either. I want my characters to be real, to have struggles that we all face, and yet to see how being a Christian makes a difference when we face those struggles.

 

Christa: You’ve written about your attraction to lighthouses, which figure prominently in the Rock Harbor and Mercy Falls series, and the symbolism they portray about Jesus being the light in our world.  What other symbolic elements have you used to bring that Christian world view into your books?

Colleen: Samson as a search dog is another symbol. When I was a kid my grandmother had that poem about the Hound of Heaven searching to save the lost soul. I always loved it and Samson became that symbol.

 

Christa: Your blog, Girls Write Out, with fellow CF writers Kristen Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, Hannah Alexander and Denise Hunter is a lot of fun to read.  It is obvious that you girls have been through a lot together and are a great support for each other.  Have any of your adventures ever made it into one of your books, or one of theirs?  Have you considered collaborating with any of them to write a book together?

Colleen: Funny you should ask that! We are writing a book together. It’s called Smitten and it’s about a town in Vermont by the same name. The four girls are friends and they decide to save the town by using the name to turn it into the love capitol of the country. J The four girls have our own personalities so it was fun and easy to write. It will be out in December.

 

Christa: Anathema appears to be the only book in an Amish setting that you have written.  It was the first of your books that I read and I could not put it down!  Was there a particular inspiration in writing that book?  Do you have plans to write other books in an Amish setting?

Colleen: I loved writing that book. I came up with the idea after the Amish school shooting. I do have another Amish setting idea but I’m not sure when I’ll get the time to write it. But it’s fermenting. 🙂

 

Christa: The Mercy Falls series was a switch for you, going historical after writing so many contemporaries.  What are the specific challenges about writing a historical, other than obviously getting the historical details right?  Did you enjoy this departure?  Does it bring anything fresh to your contemporary writing?

Colleen: Most of the difference is in language. The flavor of a historical is very different. Less contractions, terms that we use today can’t be used then, that kind of thing. Delving into a historical period refreshed the importance of research for me. I’m back to writing a contemporary series now. It’s the Hope Beach series, set in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It’s going to be fun to write!

 

Christa: I noticed that all of the Mercy Falls books deal with some kind of struggle to do with wealth and portray the disparity between the rich and the poor.  Did you have something particular in mind there?

Colleen: When I began that series, I was intrigued with how similar the turn of the last century was to the turn of this century. We get so caught up in this world that we often forget it’s not our home and that things shouldn’t be our goal. We need to be building eternal wealth.

 

Christa: Is The Lightkeeper’s Ball the end of the Mercy Falls series?

Colleen: It’s the end at the moment but you never know if another book will pop out down the road. 🙂

 

Christa: I thought this quote from your website was interesting. “She writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail and love begin with a happy ending.”  Many times in real life, justice does not prevail and love has an unhappy ending.  How do those realities intersect with your writing?

Colleen: I see injustice so much in this world. Killers are let loose all the time. Children are harmed and their offenders go unpunished. Those kinds of events grate on me. At least in my story world I can make sure things come out all right. Readers often read to have their values reinforced. In the end, we know that God’s justice will prevail, and I like to have that play out in my stories.

 

Christa: Thank you so much for your time.  And for providing a copy of The Lightkeeper’s Bride for a lucky winner on our blog!


If you’d like learn more about Colleen Coble’s books, visit her on her website www.colleencoble.com or her blog, Girls Write Out, or follow her on twitter @colleencoble.

One lucky member who comments on the blog will recieve a copy of The Lightkeeper’s Bride. A winner will be chosen at random. Good Luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – The Hanover Square Affair

Monday, April 25th, 2011

The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner

Review by Jerelyn (I-F-Letty)

 

The Hanover Square Affair is the debut mystery novel from Ashley Gardner.  A damaged army Captain returns to England after the Peninsular War.  Lacey is struggling to come to grips with his past and how to get on in life.  He is no hero, nor is he rich.  He is an honorable man who takes it upon himself to find the missing daughter of a man shot down in cold blood.  Danger comes when his inquires come too close to the powerful.  The dark side of London society is exposed; sexual previsions and complicity stand in stark contrast to Lacey’s code of honor.  The conflict between Lacey and his ex-best friend and ex-commanding officer is reignited; old wounds are opened when Colonel Brandon wife Louisa tries to broker peace between the two men.

 

You realize just how hard it was for the men that fought Napoleon only to come home to nothing.  He is wounded both physically and mentally.  He struggles to live as a gentleman retired on half pay.  He has an estate but no money to run it.  He loves a woman who is not his.  His wife has run off with his child leaving him just as the war began,  The reason he must find this abducted girl is that his child would be just about the age of the girl he seeks.

 

In his inquires Lacey deals with prostitutes, criminals and the underworld boss of London who see the threat that men like Lacey pose to his enterprise.  You also meet the toast of London society Grenville, rich, powerful and intrigued by Lacey.  Lacey doesn’t want anything from Grenville but friendship which is a novelty for Grenville everybody always wants something from him.

 

Great characters and a fine writing style.  I read it in one sitting.   The glitter and glamor of the Regency period are here but at the edge of Lacey’s world.  It is an engaging mystery there are five others in the series with a seventh due out in e-book format in September.