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Archive for August, 2011

Summer 2011 Blog Contest – Ends 8/31

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

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Submit a picture of yourself with your PaperBackSwap gear (hat, t-shirt, magnet, cup, totebag, etc…) by August 31, 2011 to blog@paperbackswap.com. Be sure to tell us where in the world you are!   The grand prize winner will win 10 credits plus $5.00 PBS money … and the glory, of course!





Gay Romance Review – Between Sinners and Saints

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton

Review by Mary (kilchurn)


the BLURB!

Levi Binder is a Miami bartender who cares about only two things: sex and surfing. Ostracized by his Mormon family for his homosexuality, Levi is determined to live his life his own way, but everything changes when he meets massage therapist Jaime Marshall. — Jaime is used to being alone. Haunted by the horrors of his past, his only friend is his faithful dog, Dolly. He has no idea how to handle somebody as gorgeous and vibrant as Levi.

Complete opposites on the surface, Levi and Jaime both long for something that they can only find together. Through love and the therapeutic power of touch, they’ll find a way to heal each other, and they’ll learn to live as sinners in a family of saints.


Marie Sexton hasn’t let me down yet. This is one of the best contemporary M/M romances that I have read in a long time. If I had a keeper shelf, it would be on it. The author is very good at developing her characters in such a way that allows the reader to get inside their heads. As you read the story, the character’s emotions enveloped me and I found myself laughing and crying with Levi and Jaime. Their struggles, their failures and their perseverance are inspiring. The author is very good at making her characters so real, that they suck you in.

In addition to the great characters, the author did a wonderful job presenting many of the tenets of Mormonism through Levi’s family. She definitely did her research and it was fascinating to me to learn more about it. As an aside, she also seems to know her surfing.

I was very sad to see the end of this book. I fell in love with both Jaime and Levi and a part of me hopes that Ms. Sexton will let us know what is going on with them in a few years.

Overall, this is a GREAT M/M romance. There are two or three editing issues that I noticed, but they weren’t enough to keep me from giving this book 5 stars.

Mystery Monday – A Taste of the Nightlife

Monday, August 29th, 2011


A Taste of the Nightlife by Sarah Zettel

Review by (reacherfan1909)


Paranormal mysteries have become increasingly popular and the line between ‘mystery’ and ‘urban fantasy’ is blurred with many, especially those written by science fiction/fantasy authors like Simon Green, Jim Butcher, or Marc Del FrancoCharlie Huston has straddled the classic noir mystery and paranormal mystery genres better than anyone, writing two different styles so well, I am in a bit of awe.  Sarah Zettel’s resume is solidly in the science fiction/fantasy, but this time, but I’d put A Taste of the Nightlife is in the paranormal cozy genre, though  many Amazon folks beg to differ and class it UF.

New York City is a tough town for restauranteurs.  Businesses rise and fall on a single review and tonight, famed vampire food critic, Anatole Sevarin, arrives at Nightlife with no reservation and sets Chef Charlotte Cain’s already busy Friday night kitchen into overdrive.  Naturally, just to make things complete, they have a loudly complaining customer insisting the Chef herself attend the problem – and fire her best server, a werewolf.  The loud, obnoxious woman makes a major scene, Chef Cain is just walking away, thinking the night couldn’t get worse, when an angry, drunk warlock bursts in and tries shoot a fireball at the complaining woman.  Now fire and vampires decidedly do NOT mix, so Charlotte marches over and demands he stop, but before he listens, the sensitive fire alarm and sprinkler/fire suppressant system are triggered, sending customers running out – and firemen and police running in.

After hours of apologizing to everyone, then more hours cleaning up, an exhausted Charlotte has another stranger at her door, only this time Brendon Maddox, of the famous Maddox family of witches and warlocks, is there to apologize for fire wielding cousin, Dylan.  Seems the loudly complaining blond was another cousin, Pam Maddox, who has become estranged from the family and Dylan was hunting for her.  Brendon is handsome and charming, but the Maddox’s made their fame and money hunting vampires before the nightbloods came out to the public and got legislation passed that gives them citizen rights.  Since Charlotte’s brother, and restaurant partner, Chet, is a vampire, she could only allow the charm to go so far.  Then Anatole Sevarin is there as well.  Terrific.

Now Friday night might have been the worst night of her professional life, until Saturday finds a still exhausted Charlotte opening the restaurant’s front door to find a very dead Dylan Maddox on the floor with two puncture wounds in his neck and no blood in his body.  Now her problems are really starting.

Anatole and Brendon both show a lot of personal interest in Charlotte, though separating personal and professional is hard to to do when each of them seem to have a stake (no pun intended) in what’s happening.  Swirling around this is the possibility that her brother Chet is using her restaurant as front for an illegal blood-running business.  She has only 4 days till the restaurant she’s worked so hard for collapses financially.  She’s determined to figure out what’s really going on – and to protect Chet.

Paranormal elements aside, the basic plot, 4 lead characters (Charlotte, Chet, Brendon, and Anatole), and story arc are true to the cozy genre.  Ms Zettle captures the tenuous nature of the restaurant business in NYC, the constant financial tightrope they walk, the complex nature of a working kitchen, and even a clever riff on vampire dining.  She also does a really good job with the guilt complicated relationship between Charlotte and Chet.  The mystery actually ended up being a bit more complex than the average cozy and for a first book in a series, a good start.

Ms Zettel’s experience as a writer kept the pacing and dialogue moving well and with wit.  Her weak spot was depth of world building and creating the kind of integrated social web with both ‘daybloods’ and nightbloods’ that would have given the story the kind of complex depth I look for in a good mystery, especially one that incorporates so many paranormal aspects.  Within the confines of the ‘fluff’ nature of cozy limits, it was OK, but as a major paranormal/UF fan myself, I felt I was left a bit flat.   Regardless of the frequent UF classification by Amazon readers, A Taste of the Nightlife lacks the noir edginess that hallmarks true UF to me, so this remains a cozy mystery and I’m judging it within those expectations.

A Taste of the Nightlife earns a 3.5* B- rating from me.  It’s worth a read and I will try book two, but other than capturing the sense of the whole restaurant business, there was nothing sufficiently unique about this book to make it truly remarkable.  The framework is there for something better, and I’m hoping the Vampire Chef series holds up over the next few books.



Author Interview with Tessa Dare

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Interview with Tessa Dare by Jerelyn (I-F-Letty)


Jerelyn: There are a great many romance novelist out there, and finding an outstanding one is very much like that old saying.  “You have to kiss many frogs to find a prince.”  Well Tessa Dare is a fine writer, and has many of the things that make a good romance a great romance.   You will find likable characters with a sense of humor, fun sexy stories.   I had heard of Tessa Dare and it wasn’t until I saw the trailer for her Stud Club series that I knew had to read these books.  See for yourself http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4DzoNkomQ0

I would like to thank Tessa for agreeing to do this interview.  Her publishers Avon Books and Tessa are using this launch to also raise funds and awareness about ovarian cancer.

Tessa:  What’s “KISS and Teal,” you ask?

I am thrilled that A Night to Surrender is part of the K.I.S.S. and Tealcampaign, a partnership between Avon Books and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

The “K.I.S.S.” stands for “Know the Important Signs and Symptoms,” and teal is the designated color for ovarian cancer awareness. There’s a money component to this partnership—Avon has donated $25,000 to the OCNA and will donate up to $25,000 more, based on sales of the labeled books—but the other important part of the campaign is raising awareness.

There’s no routine test for detecting ovarian cancer, such as the mammogram and Pap smear for breast and cervical cancers, and the symptoms of ovarian cancer are easy to miss until the cancer is in an advanced stage. That’s why is so important for all women to know the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer (K.I.S.S.) and discuss them with their friends and family (“teal”/tell).

You can see the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance website for more information.


Jerelyn: I talked about your book trailer for The Stud Club, are you surprised how much buzz it created?

Tessa: I was thrilled by the response.  I figured it might be a good idea to make a video, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it.  I can’t remember where I got the idea to just use my kids’ toys, but once the idea came to me, I thought I could make it into something clever and fun to watch.  In the end, so many people wrote to tell me they enjoyed the video.  Some weeks, I think the video got more fan mail than the books!  And recently, I had the chance to make another video for Maya Banks, as part of a charity auction.  I think that one was even more fun.


Jerelyn: Will you tell us a little about yourself?

Tessa: Well, as is obvious from the videos, I’m a mom.  I also work part-part-time as a librarian in my local public library.  Between those two jobs and the writing, it feels like there’s not much time left over!  But when I can find the time, I enjoy walking, visiting museums and parks, seeing movies, watching reality TV, and—of course—reading.


Jerelyn: Was it always your intent to become a writer?

Tessa: I always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t start seriously writing for publication until after the birth of my second child.  However, my original full-time career was librarianship, and all my other previous jobs had been book-related in one way or another.  So I never strayed far from the written word.  Books have always been so important to me.


Jerelyn: Who are your influences?

Tessa: I always say that my two main reading influences in high school were Jane Austen and Julie Garwood—and I think both of them still influence my writing today.


Jerelyn: Why do you think that the Regency period is so popular?

Tessa: For me, the Regency is that perfect tipping point between historical and modern.  The balls, carriages, lords, and so forth give the era a romantic fairy-tale quality, but the characters themselves don’t think and act too differently from how we do today.


Jerelyn: Which characters are the most fun to write?

Tessa:  The ones who never shut up.  🙂  I love to write dialogue.  Charming, talkative rakes are always great fun.  And I’m never happier than when I can get eight characters chatting and arguing around a dinner table.


Jerelyn: Who are the hardest to write?

Tessa: The taciturn ones!  But those strong, silent types can be the most rewarding in the end.


Jerelyn: Do you have a favorite couple that you’ve created?

Tessa: Oh, that’s impossible to answer.  I love them all for different reasons, and they each gave me different problems.


Jerelyn: When you have the time what do you read?

Tessa:  I read a variety.  Romance, of course, but also mystery, nonfiction, and young adult.


Jerelyn: Do you have an author who is an auto buy?

Tessa: Several!  I can’t possibly list them all, but Courtney Milan, Victoria Dahl, and Julie Anne Long are some of my favorites.


Jerelyn: A Night to Surrender is the first book in your new series.  Will you tell us about it?

Tessa: I’d be glad to!  A NIGHT TO SURRENDER is a funny, steamy battle of the sexes, and it’s first in my new Spindle Cove series.  Spindle Cove is a tiny seaside village that has become a haven for unconventional young women. As the only daughter of the only local gentleman, Miss Susanna Finch is the village’s leader.  That is, until wounded officer Victor (“Bram”) Bramwell, the new Earl of Rycliff, arrives on the scene with orders to gather a local militia.  His duty is to rally and train the men, and hers is to protect the delicate women. As they battle for supremacy in the village, the only thing Bram and Susanna can agree on is their mutual attraction.  Sparks fly, weapons are drawn, sheep are bombed.  And love is fallen into.  🙂


Jerelyn: There are two more books in this series.  Will you tell us about them and when they will be released?

Tessa: A WEEK TO BE WICKED is book two, and it was a hoot to write.  It’s a crazy/sexy road trip romance featuring a devil-may-care viscount and a fossil-obsessed bluestocking.  It’ll be out March 27, 2012.

The third Spindle Cove book still doesn’t have an official title or release date, but it should come out in Fall of 2012.  I’m working on it now.


Jerelyn: Are you comfortable with social media as it pertains to the marketing of your books?

Tessa: In particular, I love Twitter.  I find it easy to use and lots of fun.  I have a Facebook page too, but I’m not on it quite as much—mostly because the format confuses me, and just when I have it figured out, they change it!  But I love the fact that I can connect with readers in all these different ways.  I’m always thrilled when someone writes/tweets/tags me.


Jerelyn: I found out about you because of a recommendation on the Love and Romance forum at PaperBackSwap .  What are your views on sites like PaperBackSwap?

Tessa: I’ve never used PBS myself, but I’m a librarian, so I’m a fan of sharing books.  If your life is anything like mine, the most valuable investment you put into a book is the time you spend reading it – and that’s the case whether you buy, borrow, or swap.  Whenever someone takes time to read my books, I’m grateful.  And borrowing or swapping is a great way to take a chance on new authors.  I’m so glad that you found mine!


Jerelyn: Do you have e-reader, if so do you like it?

Tessa: I have a Kindle, which was a gift from a very generous friend.  I love it, but I still buy print books, too.


Jerelyn: You’re a mother. What do you read to your children?

Tessa: We read lots of picture books, because my kids are still little.  My daughter is just starting to read chapter books.  She loves mysteries and adventures.  We may start on the Harry Potter books soon.


Jerelyn: What were your favorite books as a child and as a teen?

Tessa: Off the top of my head, here are just a few of my favorites:  Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsberg, The Blue Sword and Beauty–both by Robin McKinley.  I’m sure I read each of those books at least a dozen times.



Jerelyn: Thank-you Tessa and best of luck with A Night to Surrender.


Tessa: Thank you so much for inviting me!


Tessa Dare’s Books

The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy

The Stud Club Trilogy

Spindle Cove Series


A Week to be Wicked (early spring 2012)


If you would like to learn more about Tessa you can visit her web site TessaDare.com


Tessa Dare has graciously offered a copy of her debut novel A Night to Surrender to be given away in a random drawing from the members who comment on this interview.


Thank you Ms. Dare and Jerelyn for a great interview!!



Non-Fiction Review – History of the Johnstown Flood

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

History of the Johnstown Flood by Willis Fletcher Johnson

Review by Jade K. (Jade4142)



The title page actually says, “History of The Johnstown Flood.  Including all the fearful record; the breaking of the South Fork Dam; the sweeping out of the Conemaugh Valley; the massing of the wreck at the railroad bridge; escapes, rescues, searches for survivors and the dead; relief organizations, stupendous charities, etc. etc. With full accounts also of the destruction of the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers, and the Bald Eagle Creek.”

It is Friday, May 31, 1889, and it is raining in the Conemaugh Valley in Pennsylvania.  It’s raining hard.  In fact, floods are washing away houses.  The telegraph operator was in the middle of a Morse Code transmission when the receivers heard a most awful sound.  Her house had just washed away.

The doomsayers predicted that this time, the South Fork Dam was not going to hold.  The others laughed.  Those idiots said the same thing every time it rained!  Silly, silly people.  That dam was built to last, and last it would!

But it didn’t.  The South Fork Dam gave way mid-day and wiped out most of Conemaugh Valley.  Johnstown was right in the path of Conemaugh Lake when it burst through the seriously compromised dam and washed through Johnstown in huge destructive waves that flattened the town and killed 2,209, 1 in 10 of the residents of the Valley.

Willis Fletcher Johnson picked his way through the wreckage in the following weeks.  He interviewed survivors and watched the clean-up efforts, which were slow to start because when the South Fork Dam broke, all communication with the rest of the world ended.  It wasn’t until days later that men rode out on the horses they could find, until they found a telegraph operator somewhere who could send word that the Conemaugh Valley got wiped off the map.

It didn’t take long for the donations to start pouring in then, and President Harrison himself made the call to the United States to give from their hearts for those poor people.  And they did.  Some of what they gave puzzled the survivors, like one boot and a mitten, but the gold poured in, too.  Sometimes just pennies from schoolchildren, but it all helped to rebuild Johnstown and the surrounding villages.

How could this have happened?  That dam was built to last!  That lake could never go over the top of it!  It could never get that high!

And it didn’t.  Conemaugh Lake didn’t go over the South Fork Dam.  It went through the South Fork Dam.

But that dam was built to last!  How could that lake, even with all the rain that day, have broken through that dam?

Enter the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club, a group of wealthy gentlemen, mostly from Philadelphia, who kept their land private.  No one was welcome there who had not paid his membership fee, which was a million dollars, rumor had it.  You had to be powerful rich to belong to that club.

The South Fork Dam was on the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club’s land.  Was it their responsibility to maintain it? Well, that’s the great unanswered question.  Who is responsible for maintaining a dam that protects the entire valley below it?  Is the landowner?  Is it the state?  The county?  Prevailing opinion at the time held that the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club was responsible.  Well, that they had responsibility for the dam.  No one pretended they’d behaved responsibly.  They ignored inspectors’ recommendations for shoring up the dam, and in fact, they pulled many of the restraining metal bars off the dam and sold them.  That dam wasn’t important.  There was a placid lake behind it.

As the years went on, the dam lost more and more integrity.  Inspectors sent stronger and stronger letters to the landowners, telling them that the South Fork Dam would not hold that reservoir back much longer.  The South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club ignored those letters.  They were not willing to invest their money in repairing a dam that was doing nothing but holding back a placid lake!  They did, however, enjoy fishing on that placid lake.

Were they then prosecuted and did the survivors win?  No.  These were powerful men in 1889.  They had lawyers, and their lawyers were good.  The citizens of the Conemaugh Valley rebuilt without the assistance of the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club, those wealthy men who let a great dam die of neglect and intentional harm, and claimed no responsibility for what their actions and inactions caused.

This book was published in 1889 and I have that copy.  It is from the Golden Lending Library and it is, believe me, a treasured friend. But it was reprinted in 2009, and again in 2010.  It is not currently posted on the site, but that’s what wish lists are for, right?

I have read the vignettes of the survivors with horror and sympathy.  I have read about the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club with anger and a realization that graft isn’t new; it was alive and well in 1889 in Pennsylvania.

The book was written by a man who spoke a different form of English in 1889 than we speak now, but the rhythm is easy to pick up, and the flowery prose is sometimes amusing.  It is a book that never gets dull.  It is slow to start with the explanation of the steel industry, but that explanation later factors into the controversy with the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club; most of those wealthy men were steel men and they ran their businesses much the way they accepted responsibility for the deaths in Johnstown.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to get to know and understand the human beings who survived that horror, and who is willing to decide for herself or himself who was really responsible for maintaining the dam that protected the entire Conemaugh Valley, until May 31, 1889.

Fantasy Friday – Terminal World

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds

Review by Bowden P (Trey



I admit it: I’m a fan of Alastair Reynolds. However, I’m not a fan of Terminal World. Two Stars.

I’ve read this once in the past and traded it off as a bad job. But since I hadn’t written a review, I figured I’d re-read it and do it up right. After all, when I’ve done this in the past I’ve usually been pleasantly surprised. This was not one of those times. I gave up three quarters of the way through on my re-read and started skimming.

And as much as I hate writing bad reviews, here goes.

Many people complain that Reynolds writes characters that are unpleasant, villainous, etc. Well, to his credit, he writes Quillon as a good man. And by all lights, he ought to be kind of interesting – a pathologist thrown in off the deep end and on the run. Instead, I find him a bit annoying. He may be a good doctor, but previously he was a double murderer using his profession as a cover to get close to the victims. From what I know of people, that ought to have marked him unless he’s a sociopath. And he doesn’t come across as one – he helps Meroka, shelters a little girl and generally tries to save lives. Perhaps he’s using being a good doctor as a way to atone for the murders, but Reynolds never makes it clear. Perhaps that what makes him annoying. Or perhaps it springs from the fact that Quillon is in the middle of turning into something other than human… a post-human angel. Anyway, he starts as interesting with the potential to care about the character, but by the end he personifies the phrase “I don’t care about these characters.”

There are other character problems, but two big ones are the character names and Meroka’s faith. Let’s start with Meroka. From her introduction and on, she’s supposed to be a foul mouthed but faithful person. The problem is, we never see what her faith is. Oh, we see the book, but never the tenets of the faith from her explaining it, living it or struggling with it.

Then there are the character names. You see, they’re named after swords (Spatha, Curtana, Tulwar), sword parts (Quillon, Ricasso), guns (Meroka), armor (Gambeson), or part of armor (Agraffe) , or fighting (Fray). This strikes me as an attempt to be clever. However, its not very. Or at least doesn’t strike me as very clever. If you’re going to do something like this, it needs to be sneakier, or better hidden. This is pretty blatant and strikes me as something an author with less experience than Reynolds would try.

The world building isn’t that good either. The world is defined by the zones, where certain levels of technology work, and others don’t, eventually reaching a point where life doesn’t function either. Reynolds goes into great detail about what happens moving from zone-to-zone, but not how or why. Well, maybe a bit of why near the end, but its open to interpretation.  I also don’t buy the Swarm. Oh, yes they give a great reason to travel by airship and have adventures there, but I don’t see them hanging together for hundreds or thousands of years either without schism.

Their millennial grudge against Spearpoint doesn’t hang together either, especially in the light of their sort of tolerance of the Skullboys. If they hate Spearpoint after that long time, why aren’t they continually firebombing and strafing the Skullboys?

Then there are the carnivorgs. Neat idea, but they belong in another setting – Revelation Space, or something. I don’t think they’d work under the rules Reynolds sets up for Terminal World and its zones.

Then there is the confusion of genre. Is it part of the Dying Earth sub-genre of fantasy? Is it steam punk – its got the goggles, the airships and steampower, but it also has computers, etc. I doubt this part would stick in my craw as much as it does if I’d liked it more.

Finally, the end feels unresolved. I’m not sure if that’s an attempt to get a sequel or always leave ’em wanting more.

Verdict: Avoid. 2 stars.

Likes: Vorg concept; Swarm concept – it’s a neat place to have airship adventures.

Dislikes: See above.

Suggested for: Diehard Reynolds, steampunk and Dying Earth sub-genre fans.

Non-Fiction Review – The Prophet

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Review by McGuffyAnn M. (nightprose)


I first read this book as a teenager. It has remained on my bookshelf, being read many, many times. I have given it as a gift to several people, over the years. It is one of my favourite books.

The Prophet is a classic, and is considered to be Kahlil Gibran’s masterpiece. Gibran himself considered it his “greatest achievement”. Originally published in 1923, it has been translated into 28 languages, and is still a popular piece of literature today.

The book is a beautiful blend of poetry and philosophy. Each chapter takes on a particular topic, or aspect of life. “The Prophet” speaks on love, work, law, freedom, pain, time, and many other important issues we all deal with as we journey through life. Each beautifully written chapter is also illustrated by Gibran.

The importance and beauty of this book is immeasurable and timeless. This book should be on every bookshelf of those who truly enjoy the beauty of poetry and classic literature, to be enjoyed and appreciated by every generation. The life lessons offered by Kahlil Gibran are timeless in essence and belief.


On Friendship
Kahlil Gibran

Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.