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Archive for April, 2013

Thriller Thursday – Dark Star

Thursday, April 18th, 2013


Dark Star by Alan Furst

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


Readers that like espionage novels by Eric Ambler and John Le Carre will enjoy Alan Furst’s Dark Star.

The setting and time are troubled European places in the 1930s. Spain’s bitter civil war is raging between right and left and France is divided by far rightists and far leftists. Stalin’s Soviet Union is in the midst of the most intense purge run by the head of the secret police, Nikolai Yezhov (at an even five-foot-tall, called The Infernal Dwarf). Kristallnacht, known as the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogrom that told the world exactly what Hitler and his thugs and dopes had in mind for Jewish people in Europe.

The main character is Andre Szara, a true survivor. Born Jewish in Poland, he survived pogroms in his childhood. He then survived the Russian Civil War and the Polish-Soviet War of 1920 (think Isaac Babel’s brutal Red Cavalry collection of stories). As we would expect he is unhappy parroting the party line in his job as an international correspondent. Then he is dragooned into working for the NKVD to steal military secrets from a German source.

Furst combines history and drama into a fascinating historical novel about espionage. Readers who like Steven’s spying in the Aubrey-Maturin books will definitely enjoy the large canvas Furst creates. Readers into Europe in the Dirty Thirties will also get into the convincing feeling, “Yes, that what Europe must have felt like then.” Historian Alan Bullock, who lived in Europe at the time and wrote the first biography of Hitler, calls Dark Star “a classic…. Furst brings to life better than most historians the world of fear in which so many human beings felt trapped.”







Paranormal Romance Review – The Dark Heroine: Dinner with a Vampire

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

The Dark Heroine: Dinner with a Vampire by Abigail Gibbs


Review by Kelsey O.


Violet is in the wrong place at the wrong time when she ends up in Trafalgar Square in the wee hours of the morning. There she witnesses a mass murder and is swept away by the murderers. This plunges her into a world that she knows nothing about but finds out her father is very well aware of. Kasper, the prince and heir to his father’s throne and the bad boy, doesn’t know why he whisks Violet away but now he must live with the decision because if they kill her there will be a war between the humans and vampires. Violet’s father is none other than the Secretary of State of Defense and is looking for any chance to wage war against Kasper’s kind.

Violet’s character is feisty but yet vulnerable. Her inner dialogue was interesting and a bit confusing at first but there is a reason for it (I won’t give away why). The vampires in Gibb’s story are really dark and at times a bit disturbed. In the beginning Violet connects with a vampire named Fabian who comes off as caring and understanding to Violet’s plight. What may you ask is her plight? Well, Violet must decide to either become a vampire or die. She can’t be allowed back into the world with what she knows about them now (think the reverse of Twilight). In a twist it is discovered that Violet is actually something more and that her and Kasper’s future are really not so different.

I was not disappointed in Dinner with a Vampire and I will read the next installment. This story doesn’t contain any sparkly vampires. Be prepared to enter a very dark and troubled world.









Author Interview with Robin Murphy

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Interview with Author Robin Murphy by Diane G. (icesk8tr)


Diane: We would like to welcome Robin Murphy back to talk about her second book “Secret of the Big Easy”.

Robin: Hello Diane I thank you and Paperback Swap for having me back.


Diane: Did you publish this book in the same manner as Sullivan’s Secret?

Robin:  No, I self-published Secret of the Big Easy. I read countless blog posts and discussion groups on the subject and after a lot of soul searching I decided to test the waters and join the community of self-publishers.


Diane: Is it easier to promote a book the second time around?

Robin:  It was easier because I had laid the ground work for my author platform with the first book. The website was there, my social networking was set, and I had a year’s worth of blog posts.  But it still takes the same amount of “time” to promote both books. You approach previous blog tours you were a part of, and interviews, and then I reached out to a few new sites to share my stories. It is a time consuming effort but I created a timeline so I wouldn’t lose sight of what I really love to do, which is writing.


Diane: Your second book “Secret of the Big Easy” brings us to New Orleans. Any reason you picked New Orleans as the setting?

Robin:  Interesting story, well maybe not to everyone…my husband and I always wanted to visit New Orleans and I thought wouldn’t it be a perfect fit for a psychic and a ghost investigating team to travel to New Orleans. Talk about paranormal.  Then I received, at my day job, an opportunity to go to a great conference at…you guessed it, New Orleans. So, I was able to immerse myself into the heart of the French Quarter, and viola, Secret of the Big Easy was born.


Diane: How much time do you spend on researching the information like the rituals, paranormal events, etc. for your story?

Robin:  I spend a great deal of time researching for my stories. I feel even though I’m writing fiction, I need to have factual information and details because it still needs to be believable.  Readers are intelligent and you’ll lose them if you have certain information that’s not correct. You never know when you’ll come across a reader who knows something particular about a certain situation or scenario in your story. The minute they see the error, they’ve lost interest.


Diane: You bring the characters on a paranormal investigation with their local organization. Have you ever been on an investigation like this? This is something I would love to do!

Robin:  Yes, I finally got the chance to go on an investigation last October with a local paranormal group.  It was fascinating, exciting, and everything I had hoped it would be. In fact, I wrote a blog post here: http://robinmurphyauthor.com/robinmurphyauthor/?s=ghost+investigation describing the experience. This was the best decision I could have ever made because it gave me such an understanding of what really takes place for a ghost investigation. If you get the chance, go for it!


Diane: From having various experiences myself, I enjoyed reading about Marie struggling with her new abilities. Is some of this coming from your personal experiences?

Robin:  No, I haven’t had any personal psychic experiences. I think I have a sixth sense, something a lot of people have. I’ve read many books written by psychics and learned about their experiences which gave me the sense of how it can take over your life or scare you out of your wits. It may be a gift, but some feel it’s a curse.


Diane: Are you going to continue this series and have the SIPS team continue to travel to other cities?

Robin:  Yes I am.  My third book in the series, Federal City’s Secret being released this summer, has Marie and the SIPS team traveling to Washington, DC. It involves politics, the mafia, secret societies, and of course, murder.


Diane: Where is your book available?

Robin:  In all the usual venues, Amazon paperback and Kindle; Barnes & Noble paperback and Nook.


Diane: Thanks again, it is always a pleasure talking to you as we share similar experiences!

Robin:  Thank you, I so enjoy our chats.




Robin Murphy has generously offered a free copy of her new book,  Secret of the Big Easy, to a PBS member who leaves a comment here on the blog.

A winner will be chosen at Random.


Thank you, Ms. Murphy and Diane!

Mystery Monday – Home is the Sailor

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Home is the Sailor by Day Keene

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


After almost 20 years, Sven “Swede” Nelson finds his life, his love, his lady – the sea – a harsh mistress. He deserts her to chase his dream of setting down with a nice girl on a farm in his home region near Hibbing, Minnesota.  But a 33-year-old can’t just walk away from the smoking, swearing, drinking, brawling, fornicating life he’s known since he was sixteen.  When he meets hot young widow Corilss Mason, he finds her irresistible. So much so that he helps her to cover up what we readers know as manslaughter but the DA will see as Murder One.

Keene’s bag of tricks usually featured a guy in transition torn between the opposing dreams of a modest life with a nice woman versus a rackety life with a low-down woman. Another theme is vast quantities of alcohol, which impair the protagonist’s judgment so severely that we understand how he ends up in impossible predicaments. As it happens in noir, the hero makes the wrong decisions and ends up an ant being stomped by elephants in the form of crooks and cops.

Other attractions include psychology, surprise, and pace. Keene captures the empty feeling of the main character as he realizes the wanting is often better than the having. And Swede feels a dismayed annoyance of being played for a chump. Keene fires off surprises concerning incident and characterization (such as a sympathetic police chief). Mystery writer and critic Bill Pronzini wasn’t kidding when he said Keene “…knew how to tell a story that gripped the reader immediately and held him to the end.”

So congratulations to Stark House Press and Hard Case Crime for getting these Fifties crime novels back into print. Noir fans should board a Day Keene roller coaster and see how fast and corkscrewy it goes.




Free Book Friday Winner!

Sunday, April 14th, 2013






The Winner of this week’s Free Book The End of Sparta by Victor Davis Hanson is: 


Julie R. (jrupert6218)



Congratulations, Julie, your book is on the way to you!


Thank you everyone who posted a comment!





Free Book Friday!

Friday, April 12th, 2013


Today’s Free Book is The End of Sparta by Victor Davis Hanson



In this sweeping and deeply imagined historical novel, acclaimed classicist Victor Davis Hanson recreates the times and wars of one of the greatest generals of ancient Greece. — Though we hear little of him today, the Greeks and Romans acclaimed Epaminondas of Thebes as the greatest man their worlds produced. In the pivotal battle of Leuktra (371 BC), Epaminondas led an army of Boiotian Greeks that shattered a larger-and far more feared-force from Sparta, the mighty city-state that had dominated Greece and enslaved the people of Messenia for some two hundred years. The next year, the firebrand general led a coalition of Greeks that overran Sparta, brought the warrior state to its knees, and freed the serfs of Messenia. We follow these epic historical events through the eyes of Melon, a farmer who has left his fields to serve with Epaminondas-a reluctant hero who fights to uphold the honor of Thebes even as he yearns to return to his pastoral hillside.

With a novelist’s gift of imagination and a scholar’s intimate knowledge, Hanson recreates the distant ancient world down to its intimate details-from the weight of a spear in a soldier’s hand to the drinking songs of Theban soldiers, to the peculiar cameraderie of a slave and master who go into battle side by side. The End of Sparta is a stirring drama and a rich, absorbing reading experience.

Hardcover, ISBN 9781608191642




We will choose a winner at random from comments we receive here on the Blog from PBS members.


You have until Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 12 noon EDT, to leave a comment.

Good Luck to everyone!



Note: All the books given away on Free Book Friday are available in the PBS Market. We have thousands of new and new overstock titles available right now, with more added hourly. Some of the prices are amazing – and you can use a PBS credit to make the deal even better!

Remember, every new book purchase supports the club and helps keep membership free!






Historical Fiction Review – 11/22/63

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Review by Kelsey O.


Schoolteacher Jake Epping is about to learn to most stunning secret ever. After being summoned to Al’s dinner he is told of a portal aka the rabbit hole that will take him back to 1958. Al’s lifetime obsession is to prevent that assassination of John F. Kennedy and he has compiled a book full of Lee Harvey Oswald’s movements but he is missing the key…did he act alone or not. Now cancer has taken the opportunity for Al to find out and he must confide in one man who is young enough, smart enough and doesn’t have many ties to go back thru the portal and hang around until 1963 to find out and possibly stop Oswald from committing the assassination. Al’s time is short and he needs Jake to believe him so he sends him thru to test the waters. Jake does have one thing he would like to change about what happened to one of his adult students, coincidentally, in 1958, and decides to test the rabbit hole. Even after somewhat successfully achieving his goal and coming back, Jake is hesitant but Al does something to force his hand and Jake has no choice but to head back under his fake identity that Al created for him, George.


Having to wait around until 1963, Jake/George starts to become bored and wants to teach again and begins to form attachments to some very interesting characters all of which he was warned not to do. Each new character ends up playing an intricate part in what he came to do. 11/22/63 wouldn’t be the novel it is without all the trials that Jake/George endures during his time in the past. The reader becomes deeply invested and wish for a happy outcome even though fate has another idea on what is to become of those that meddle with the future. History does not like change and even though Al warned Jake/George about this, it still takes all of us by surprise.


I loved every page of this 842 page novel. King had me quickly flipping pages to find out what happens next and then he left me raw and broken at the end. The time travel aspect is real basic. The portal takes to the same day every time and each time you enter it will reset all that was changed that last time someone went thru. Though you may be gone for months or years, in your future time you are only gone 2 minutes. The blending of fact and fiction is one of King’s strengths and it is showcased brilliantly in this remarkable read. If you enjoyed Under to Dome you will love what King has in store for you in 11/22/63.