PaperBackSwap Blog

Archive for March, 2013

Fiction Review – Into the Free

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Into the Free by Julie Cantrell


Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)


I typically read fellow reader reviews before starting a new book.  Not always to get the synopsis but just to see how people rated the book.  I usually look for the 4-5 star range.  Lately I’ve found myself in a bit of a book slump.  Books others have really enjoyed I found rather lackluster. ..until now.  The general reviews for ‘Into the Free’ by Julie Cantrell were glowing so I decided to give it a chance.  I am so glad I did.  I think this might be one of the best books I’ve read in a while.

Picture it (sorry to get all Sophia from The Golden Girls on you, but it works here): Rural Depression-era Mississippi.  An abusive and absent rodeo father, a troubled mother destined to stay with her abuser, and a young girl being lured into the mystery of traveling gypsies in an effort to escape the tragedy of her life.

There are some wonderful characters in this book.  Young Millie is our heroine and she is a fighter.  She may not always see herself that way, but she is.  River is a traveler who gives Millie hope.  Bump is the rodeo boy with a heart of gold.  And there are some characters who made me want to rip pages out of the book (mainly Millie’s grandparents), but I think sometimes they’re the ones who really make me love the ‘nice’ characters even more.

For me, this book embodied what I loved most about ‘The Help’ and ‘The Secret Life of Bees’.  The coming-of-age tale as old as time, yet told a little bit differently.  Cantrell offers the reader a glimpse into times gone by and a chance to see ‘real’ life with all of its ugliness and beauty.

If you’re like me and looking for a book to restore some hope and faith after a series of blah reads, give ‘Into the Free’ a chance.

Paranormal Romance Review – Edge of Dawn

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Edge of Dawn by Lara Adrian


Review by Kelsey O.


**SPOILER WARNING even though I try to make my reviews as spoiler free as possible, sometimes it is unavoidable**


Lara Adrian transports her Midnight Breed series to 20 years into the future after First Dawn. Tensions are high among the humans and the vampires. The Order’s leader, Lucan, is trying to balance the prickly relationship but soon discovers that there are other forces inside and outside the Order working against them and these forces are trying to make the vampires out to be the bad guys.


Edge of Dawn focuses on the breed warrior Kellan and his breedmate, Mira. Kellan was supposedly killed eight years before and Mira has felt empty ever since. He was her best friend and only lover and it was all taken away from her in a ball of fire. Only revenge keeps her motivated and fighting for the Order. Then one day during a routine “babysitting” mission, Mira discovers a life shattering secret, Kellan is still alive. What is worse, he is the leader for the rebels. Kellan has lived with major regret this entire time but after what he saw in Mira’s eyes that night eight years before, he figured he had no choice.


Adrian takes her readers on an emotional rollercoaster. Kellan thinks that disappearing was the way to protect Mira only to discover that he has been wrong all along. There is no way to avoid your destiny and his involves facing the Order and paying for what he has done. As Kellan and Mira try to figure out who the actual bad guys are; they also discover that they can no longer deny their love for each other.


This series definitely got a new makeover and the storyline is refreshed. I was unable to put the book down once I started. The ending reveals where Adrian is going with the series and I for one want to be first in line for this ride.





Mystery Monday – 8 Faces at 3

Monday, March 18th, 2013

8 Faces At 3 by Craig Rice


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


This story, published in 1939, is the first of eleven mysteries starring lawyer John J. Malone.  A mean old aunt, who wrote a mean old will, is done in with her own letter-opener. The cops suspect her niece Holly. She claims a nightmare woke her up. While wandering the house, she noticed that all the clocks stopped at 3 o’clock. When she stumbled upon her aunt’s corpse, she fainted. Publicity agent Jake Justus and his love interest heiress Helene Brand are convinced of Holly’s innocence and work with copper John J. Malone to find the real killer.

This is a screwball mystery along the lines of movie version of The Thin Man. Meaning that alcohol is both the fuel and exhaust of the humor.  Helene likes speeding on Chicago’s icy streets:

They spun west into Wacker Drive, turned south again, swung suddenly into a parking lot, struck a patch of ice, skidded around once, grazed the corner of filling station, and came to full stop beside a startled attendant. Jake reached for a cigarette, his hands shaking.

“Baby,” he said admiringly, ”baby, that was as skillful drunken driving as I’ve ever seen.”

I know, isn’t this appalling? Levity. Vulgarity. Smoking.  DWI. Plus, we are subjected to cynical Depression-era wisecracks: “If there was such a thing as ethics among human beings, there wouldn’t be any need for lawyers.” The quips are more Groucho Marx than Oscar Wilde:

If your sister has committed this crime….

If she has, it’s all the more reason for getting a good lawyer.

Again, just disgraceful. But it’s funny as heck too.  Jake Justus and Helene Brand make a Nick and Nora-like couple. Neither one can be described as a thinker. Practical Jake is so impulsive and active that he punches out the DA. To test a theory, Helene jumps down a laundry chute. These are just two examples of the bizarre antics in this nutty plot. One critic at Southern Illinois University said, Justus and Helene “apply their own snoop and blunder technique of investigation to the affair.”

So like I hinted, our more evolved generation, which sees wine more as medicine than “bottled poetry,” may reject with scorn and horror the reckless and unhealthy choices made in this vintage mystery. However, readers who like Damon Runyon or Ellery Queen or antique wiseacre Americana  will enjoy.



1. Fun Fact #63: In 1946, Craig Rice was the first mystery writer to appear on the cover of Time Magazine.

2. The phrase “bottled poetry” is by Robert Lewis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island.



The Wishing Trees Winner!

Friday, March 15th, 2013


The Winner of the book, The Wishing Trees by John Shors is:

Dee W. (dwolters)


Congratulations Dee, your book will be to you shortly.

Thank you Mirah for a great review and for providing this book prize!  






The Wishing Trees Review and Book Give-Away

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013



The Wishing Trees by John Shors:  Review and Free (Author Signed!) Book Contest


By: Mirah W. (mwelday)


The Wishing Trees is about trying to find hope and direction after the death of a loved one.  Kate, a wife and mother, realizes she is dying and understands her husband and daughter will have difficulties accepting her death.  Before she passes away she devises a plan to move her family closer to acceptance and help them find a way to live again.  Kate wants her husband Ian to take their daughter Mattie on the trip through Asia the family had planned to take in honor of Kate and Ian’s fifteenth wedding anniversary.

Ian is uncertain about the journey but he grants Kate’s last wish and takes Mattie on the trip, visiting places Kate and Ian once explored together.  But they also go on adventures of their own, creating new memories for the two of them.  Throughout their journey, they leave wishes about their futures in ‘wishing trees’ and they experience miracles that bring them closer to healing.  Ian and Mattie meet people and experience moments that change how they look at the world.  But will they find a way to open their hearts to love and happiness once again?

I found this story of love and grief to be very heartwarming.  I think most little girls would want a father like Ian.  He was caring but not smothering. He doesn’t talk to her like she’s a child, he realizes the death of her mother has forced her to grow up in ways other children might not.  The journey they take together allows both of them to have moments of happiness, sadness, disappointment, hope and fear.  All of these emotions and the characters’ reactions to situations give the novel a feeling of reality; like they are two real people you could know who are trying to cope with a tragedy.

In this novel John Shors does what I think he does best: he captures the authenticity of a culture in a way I’ve seen few other writers do with such success. In his novels, he breathes life into places and they become characters in the story, not just settings.  I have been to several of the countries in this book (Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong) and John captures the local people, sites and language beautifully.  I have said before John’s novels allow me to travel the world without leaving the comfort of my reading chair and I think you’d agree.  If you haven’t read anything by John, this would be a great place to start!  And, lucky for you, PBS is giving away a copy with this review!

Want a chance to win the signed copy of The Wishing Trees?  Here’s how:  Leave a comment to this blog about where you’d like to visit and why.  Throughout The Wishing Trees Ian and Mattie are on a trip of discovery, visiting places with memories Ian can share with Mattie and visiting new places to create new memories.  They learn more about themselves and one another through their trip together.  Where would your trip of discovery take you?  What would you hope to learn?  A winner will be chosen at random from all entries.

To learn more about John’s novels and philanthropic efforts, visit his site at www.johnshors.com or follow him at facebook.com/johnshors or twitter.com/johnshors.







Mystery Monday Review – And Four to Go

Monday, March 11th, 2013

And Four To Go by Rex Stout


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


Some readers are fans of the Nero Wolfe novels, while others prefer the novellas. Me, I prefer the novellas since the novels (especially the early ones) suffer from padding. Plus, plots can be wafer-thin in Wolfe novels —  but skinny plots are enough for a novella.

First published in magazines such as Look, Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post, the novellas were then bundled in paperbacks with titles that included a number (like this one) or harkened to a number (Homicide Trinity).

Three of the four stories collected here are related to holidays. The last story, the best one, is the least fantastically unrealistic story. George Orwell said we readers are taken with the London created as a world of its own by Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens.  So it is with Rex Stout’s imagined New York City. Wolfe’s brownstone and office at 618 West 35th Street. Holiday parades and shopping and museums. Lively street scenes and restaurants. Even the long-gone telephone exchanges  – Algonquin, Gramercy, Swinburne – evoke feelings of nostalgia and the reassuring appreciation that the Wolfe stories are never going to change.

Christmas Party – Unconvinced that Archie is in fact engaged, Wolfe implements a bizarre strategy to leave the brownstone and spy on him. A monkey wrench is tossed into the gears of his tactic when a party guest is poisoned by cyanide. The one is hilariously satisfying for reasons I can’t possible reveal in a review.

Easter Parade – In a fit of orchid envy, Wolfe sends Archie to the Easter Parade to snatch a sample of a new variety from the corsage of the wife of Wolfe’s orchid enthusiast-rival. The problem is that the wife collapses dead, which attracts the attention of the authorities. The story is attractive mainly due to the absurdity of the premise.

Fourth of July Picnic (aka The Labor Union Murder) – Wolfe shows his colors by, shockingly, leaving the brownstone and giving a speech at a picnic of a union of restaurant workers. But one of the attendees gets knifed. To stave off being arrested, Wolfe has to trick the killer into betraying himself. A good puzzle, with fine scene setting.

Murder is No Joke (aka Frame-up for Murder) – This is an ordinary whodunit story that showcases Wolfe’s ability to associate unconnected facts and arrive at a parsimonious solution. Also, the story harks back to yesteryear when it was okay not to suffer churls or poor English. The elitist Wolfe gets in his digs at the grammar-challenged homicide detective. Cramer: And when I come and ask what you sent Goodwin there for, ask you plainly and politely, you say that you will — What are you laughing at?’ …. Wolfe:  ‘It escaped me, Mr. Cramer. Your choice of adverbs. Your conception of politeness.’


When it comes to Nero Wolfe, my order of preference is early novels good, later novels better, and novellas best. Thankfully, all are well represented at PBS, so order away.




Musings, Memories and Miscellany from our MoM’s

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

NICOLE H. (tinyavenger) was named our Member of the Month in December 2012.


I joined PBS on January 24, 2008. A couple co-workers and I were discussing my love for books as I was always reading during lunch. One of the ladies mentioned hearing about PaperBackSwap.com.

I joined after researching and figured I would give it a try for a few months. I had never heard of a site like this one and just knew there had to be a catch. After being with this wonderful site for 5 years my own library has increased. And there is the catch!! You meet lovely people here and get so many great book recommendations that your collection grows.

I began reading new series and books I would never thought to have given a shot to much less probably discovered on my own. When I finally started venturing onto the Discussion Forums I found a whole fun new side to PBS. I love the daily discussions and participating in the games/swaps that I have been a part of so far. So now five years later the one extremely full bookcase I had when I first became a member is still in the living room along with three more upstairs! Thanks to PBS I seem to always have a steady stream of books going in and out. Our postman even once asked my husband what these packages were that I was always getting and sending. When he told him they were books he asked him if I actually read that much!


It is so hard for me to pick favorite books because I can not remember a time when I didn’t love reading. When I was a kid I would have to say that some of my favorites were Where the Wild Things Are, Green Eggs and Ham (who didn’t love Dr. Seuss when they were 5!!), Charlotte’s Web, The Indian in the Cupboard, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, Eating Ice Cream with a Werewolf and any Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on.








When I was a freshman in high school we read The Hiding Place, the story of Corrie Ten Boom and her family helping Jewish people escape Nazis during WWII, for a class.
By the time the class was on chapter three I had already finished the book. It is one of the first books that I can remember being brought to tears by.






As an adult I have read a lot of great books (many thanks to this site) that it is so hard to choose. I think some of my favorites just in the last year have been Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Stephen King’s Under the Dome, Ghost Story (Dresden Files #12), Warm Bodies by Isaac Martin, The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.




I am one of those people that usually have a couple books going at once and am currently reading J.D. Robb’s Calculated In Death (In Death Series #36) and Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon.





My reads currently on deck are Guilty Wives by James Patterson, Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck and Paper Towns by John Green.


I am so glad I was pointed to this site as I have come across some great people and been introduced to so many more books and authors! PBS is one of the first sites I check daily and am always excited for the daily Wish List e-mail to see what other books members are putting on their lists. Helps me keep my Wish List maxed out! Many thanks to the people who make this place amazing!

(Oh and for any of those that may still be wondering, the thing I did on 11/5/12 that people would think I was crazy for….I put up my Christmas tree and decorated it!!)