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Archive for October, 2013

Audio Book Review – Joyland

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Joyland by Stephen King, Narrated by Michael Kelly

Review by Kelsey O.


From the pulp crime novel cover to the creepy tagline, one can tell you are about to step into the mind of Stephen King. King’s narrator is Devin Jones and he takes the reader back in time to when he worked at the amusement park, Joyland. Devin meets a great group of friends that help him past his break up (because in your twenties any break up seems like it is the end of the world). He also discovers the secret of the Horror House ride…it’s haunted.

The story goes that Linda Gray came to the fair with her boyfriend. The boyfriend takes her on the Horror House ride and halfway through, slits her throat and tosses her out. All he leaves behind is a bloodied shirt and a pair of gloves. Now it is believed that Linda Gray haunts the ride waiting for her killer to be found.

This story intrigues Devin and he decides to dig deeper to see if he can discover the identity of the killer. This fascination leads Devin on an interesting adventure that ends up putting him and his new found friends in danger.

King has a way of making two complete different storylines come together flawlessly in the end. At times while you are reading you start to wonder what the importance of a scene is, but as long as you put your trust in King, he won’t let you down. This is definitely not a hard core horror novel as most are used to from King but it isn’t intended to be. This is just a story of love, loss, death and a bit of supernatural. I consider it a nice light mystery to read on a cold rainy day and hopefully will resonate with the younger readers and introduce them to the mastery of Stephen King.

The audio version featured a great narrator, Michael Kelly. His youthful sounding voice was fitting for the age that Devin was.



Mystery Monday – The Moving Toyshop

Monday, October 28th, 2013

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


The Moving Toyshop is a locked room mystery starring the series-hero, English Language and Literature don Gervase Fen. Reminding us of Nero Wolf, he’s less a character than a collection of mannerisms and stock pfui-like ejaculations such as “Oh, my paws!” Fen does show a dark side like the early James Bond, when he waterboards  a close-mouthed witness — actually, holds the guy’s head six times under water till he gets talkative — so same same.

This one is considered a classic, but for me, well, it takes a long time for things to happen in this mystery. Mainly due to Dickensian descriptions like this:

Down the Woodstock Road towards them an elderly, abnormally thin man was pedalling, his thin white hair streaming in the wind and sheer desperation in his eyes. Immediately behind him, running for their lives, came Scylla and Charybdis; behind them, a milling, shouting rout of undergraduates, with Mr Adrian Barnaby (on a bicycle) well in the van; behind them, the junior proctor, the University Marshal, and two bullers, packed into a small Austin car and looking very elect, severe and ineffectual; and last of all, faint but pursuing, lumbered the ungainly form of Mr Hoskins.

Edmund Crispin (Robert Bruce Montgomery) did not write many mysteries but he is still in print and remembered for his locked room mysteries a la John Dickson Carr, elaborate set-ups a la Dorothy Sayers, and a quirky detective hero a la Dame Agatha and Rex Stout. Like Michael Innes, the mystery writer for intellectuals who sheepishly admit to reading mysteries, he naturally uses ink-horn terms such as myrmidons, cachinnation, and saturnine. As Julian Symons says in Bloody Murder (1985), “Crispin’s work is marked by a highly individual sense of light comedy, and by a great flair for verbal deception rather in the Christie manner… At his weakest he is flippant, at his best he is witty, but all his work shows a high-spiritedness rare and welcome in the crime story.”








Author Interview with Leza Lowitz

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

An interview with Author Leza Lowitz

by Greg H. (VOSTROMO)



LEZA LOWITZ has published more than fifteen books as an author, co-author, translator and editor. Her work has received international acclaim and won numerous literary and cultural awards. She has written for The Japan Times, Art in America magazine, and lectured at Tokyo University. She also runs Sun and Moon Yoga in Tokyo, where she has lived since 2003.

I met Leza in college, when two of the most striking eyes I’d ever seen turned out to be hers. Indeed, my unrequited collegiate crush on her led to some interesting times which are now part of underclass legend at Princeton – which is odd, since that’s not where we went to school. She is so accomplished, so polished, so able, that I’ve made her the sole beneficiary of my will, with the proviso that she must first voluntarily, and in front of witnesses, break a nail, stub a toe on the coffee table, or drop some kushiyaki on her sweater. Indeed reading her posts on Facebook only pisses me off, daily. It’s worth noting that Leza, for whom Japan is home and where her talents most flourished, first journeyed there in 1989, shortly after we met; could her wild success be in part attributable to a lack of Me? It is likely the answer is ever unknowable, but I, for one, choose to believe.




Q:  Congratulations on the publication of your novel JET BLACK AND THE NINJA WIND. I understand it’s the first in a projected trilogy for YA readers. Can you get me Jennifer Lawrence’s phone number?

LL: I was going to ask you the same question. Actually, I was hoping you could hook us up with Sonny Chiba.

[Editor’s note: a representative for Sonny Chiba declined our request for an interview, noting that Mr. Chiba “has much better things to do with his time.”]


Q:  On your website LezaLowitz.com – itself unfairly well-designed – your bio notes that your husband Shogo Oketani is also a writer, and that as a couple you often collaborate. Is Hanebisho toilet tissue really worth the outrageous price?

LL:  Well, as you noted, we collaborate on writing. So you know, Hanebisho deluxe paper is out of reach. Luckily, though, Japanese toilets do almost everything for you. Really, the Yubari Kings are what set us back.


Q:  You have received many accolades and awards for your work, including the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, The Bay Area Independent Publisher’s Association Award, the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, a California Arts Council Individual Fellowship in Poetry, an Independent Scholar Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Copperfield’s Dickens Fiction Award, the Barbara Deming Memorial Award, the Japanophile Fiction Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award for Editorial Excellence, the Tokyo Journal Fiction Translation Award, and two Pushcart Prize nominations, and with your husband you also received the 2003 Japan/US Friendship Commission Award for the Translation of Japanese Literature from the Donald Keene Center for Japanese Culture at Columbia University. Where can I have my keyboard repaired, since the semi-colon is broken?

LL:  Can’t you fix it? I thought you could do anything, Greg! And when you’re done fixing yours, can I send you mine? My trackpad is broken. Maybe from the hundreds of queries I’ve sent out over the years. Even my trackpad couldn’t keep track.


Q:  We met in college, and I made no secret that I thought your poetry was already at a superior level not just to my own but to everyone else’s, and that if you decided to pursue a career as a writer, you would meet with great success. Indeed, I treasure the folder of typed originals I have – I read them anew every year. I don’t have a question here, I just wanted to let you know I’m keeping those, and there’s no use asking for them again.

LL:  That explains everything: all the poems I’ve sent out from the folder on my desk were yours, then. As for mine, they’ll come in handy with the first snows this winter. Make yourself a good bonfire, will you?

[Editor’s note: it is not clear whether Ms Lowitz’s remarks were intended sarcastically or not due to the poor quality of my eyeglasses. The total number of available pages of her poetry is 28, which would provide an R value of approximately 0.0000000004, equivalent to a 1/8” thick slice of wet tofu.]


Q: You’ve mentioned that what led you to Japan, which became your home and the center of your family life with Shogo and your son Yuto, was in part a childhood interest in martial arts and meditation. Why do you think Japanese vending machines, in particular, are more widely accepted than they are in the States for high-end products?

LL:  High-end meaning porno and panties? Or were you referring to Smart Cars, batteries, lettuce and milk?

[Editor’s note: The interviewer, as well as paperbackswap.com and its representatives, disclaim all knowledge of, or experience with, porn vending machines in Asia. Anyway those DVDs don’t play over here. No, wait —]


Q:  You grew up in San Francisco, which is among America’s most beautiful cities. Why do people still love the Grateful Dead?

LL:  Who wouldn’t love to be on a long, strange perpetual trip? And the tie-dye doesn’t hurt, either.


Q:  Do you find it more satisfying to write shorter forms, like poems and essays, or longer forms like your novel? Is one easier than the other? If you need more space, feel free to use the back of this website.

LL:  Shogo was the one who really wrote Jet Black, so you’ll have to ask him. If I ever finish a novel on my own, I’ll let you know. I’m in the midst of writing one now about Berkeley in the 1970s. I’m hoping some of Jet’s ninja powers will rub off on me and lead me to the finish line.


Q:  In addition to your successful career as a writer, you teach yoga and meditation at your studio, Sun and Moon Yoga. How can one approach someone who plans to go out in spandex, or yoga pants, and tell them it’s not a good look for their body type, without seeming like a total a**hole and maybe losing her as a friend, which would suck because she has cable?

LL:  Well, we all know you have an exceptional sense of style. Whenever I get dressed in the morning, I ask, what would Havas do? And then I do the opposite. Except when it comes to footwear. You had me at Converse High Tops. Oh, sorry. What was the question?

[Editor’s note: it is not clear whether Ms Lowitz’s remarks were intended sarcastically or not due to the poor quality of my willingness to admit she may be on to something. Her inability to maintain the thread of questioning, however, is something for which I take full credit and wish to be remembered.]


Q:  In the short space we have remaining, tell our readers something about me that they might find surprising.

LL:  You’re very, very funny. Really. And I think I remember that you can cook, too.

[Editor’s note: it is not clear whether Ms Lowitz’s remarks were intended sarcastically or not due to the poor quality of my nonstick cookware. At this point in the interview I was asked to deposit another twenty-five cents, but demurred because New Girl was coming on. The connection was dropped.]



Thank you Ms. Lowitz for agreeing to put up with be interviewed by Greg! Best of luck with your new book!
Below are just a few of Ms. Lowitz’s books:



To read more about Leza Lowitz you can visit her website  www.lezalowitz.com






Mystery Monday – The Murder of My Aunt

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


Set in Wales, this 1934 mystery takes place in the country town of Llwll. Our comically obnoxious and self-absorbed narrator Edward Powell cluelessly lets his anti-Welsh stereotypes show. He takes pains to point out how unspeakable Llwll seems, in terms of both its pronunciation and its dullness. The maritime weather is cloudy, windy, and as wet as the bottom of the ocean. The men are all built like rugby-players and their speech has an “ugly Welsh lilt.” Worse, they are browbeaten by Welsh women who tend to be small but make up for it by always taking charge. Edward’s Aunt Mildred recruits the local farmers and merchants in efforts to man Edward up into a real Welshman.

Indeed, Edward has serious need of manning up. Like many narrow-minded idlers, he is a selfish narcissist. As lazy as a toad, he only grudgingly helps in the garden. He’s happily jobless, content to live on an allowance doled out from his dead parents’ fortune. He nags his aunt to improve the stodgy interior decoration of the house. He keeps a Peke named So-So, spoils it rotten, and lets it kill his aunt’s pigeons. With no girlfriend in sight, he reads French smut. Even more alarming than his admiration for British fascist Sir Oswald Mosley is his fancy for wearing sweaters the color of crushed strawberries.

Aunt Mildred continually harangues him for his acne, foppishness and incompetence at bridge. With so much bad blood between them, their sick sad relationship, we feel, can only get worse. Edward is caught out by his aunt in a series of pointless lies, vandalism, and farm animal endangerment. Aunt makes him pay, literally, and so he decides to murder her and inherit his parents’ fortune. His attempt to kill her fails. And fails. And fails again. The plot twists are funny in a mordant, ironic way. Edward’s sulky egotistical explanations for his repeated failures are a hoot.

Judging by the fact that Hull’s first novel has been released in more editions than his fourteen other novels, The Murder of My Aunt remains his best-known and best-regarded work. Hull worked as a full-time accountant. Writing was in his moonlighting job, so his hyper-articulate prose is a wee bit stiff and feels labored by the end. This is balanced by his ingenious plotting and black sense of humor. The first-person narrative is amusingly unreliable.

Knowledgeable fans and critics regard The Murder of My Aunt as a classic of the inverted mystery. It appears on “The Reader’s List of Detective Story Cornerstones.” Critic-historian Howard Haycraft called this mystery “a classic of its kind; an intellectual shocker par excellence.”








Free Book Friday Winner!!

Sunday, October 20th, 2013



The winner of An Amish Holiday by Cynthia Keller is:


Sarah C. (swapmybookplease)


Congratulations, Sarah! Your book is on the way to you!!

Thank you to everyone who commented on the Blog!









Its Free Book Friday!

Friday, October 18th, 2013


Today’s Free Book is:

An Amish Holiday by Cynthia Keller


Raised in a Pennsylvania Amish community, young mother Rachel Yoder has led a simple life within her close-knit family. Widowed three years ago, she has moved back in with her parents, attempting to raise her daughter, Katie, without further emotional upheaval. Meanwhile, four hours and a whole world away in New York City, Ellie Lawrence is laser-focused on a high-powered public relations career, with too little time for her family, her friends, or even her boyfriend.

Then one fateful day, these two very different women receive shocking news of a mistake made three decades earlier and long kept hidden: Shortly after their births, the two were accidentally switched in the hospital. Shaken to the core by this momentous news, Rachel and Ellie are plunged into an exploration of who they are and where they really belong. While Ellie is eager to learn more about her Amish family and their life in the countryside, Rachel cannot help but feel jealous as she watches the only mother she has ever known bonding so easily with her natural daughter. But Rachel also knows that her own biological family is out there, and with Katie at her side she heads for Manhattan, where she establishes a connection with the raucous, spirited Lawrences.

As Ellie and Rachel make their way through unfamiliar landscapes, they face life-altering challenges and grapple with a crucial question: Will their old conventions and desires give way to new customs and yearnings? With the Christmas holidays fast approaching, it takes the love of two families for Rachel and Ellie to discover their own paths to fulfillment and happiness.

ISBN 9780345528766, Trade Size Paperback



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




You have until Sunday, October 20, 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!


Literature and Fiction Review – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)


No doubt thinking about aging and potentially living out our final days alone can be daunting.  Some people hope there will be friends and family to help care for them and that doesn’t always come to fruition.  Some hope their life savings or pensions will be enough to live on comfortably and that doesn’t always come to fruition, either.  In Moggach’s novel a few British senior citizens have decisions to make about where to spend their twilight years.

In the novel, the characters are looking for a retirement home for various reasons: Evelyn is a widow who does not have as much money as she thought she would have to live on; Norman has been evicted from numerous retirement homes; Muriel makes news headlines and calls into question the effectiveness of the healthcare system when she’s left unattended in a hospital for more than a day.  These are just three of the characters searching for where they belong in this novel.

Norman’s son-in-law, Ravi, is at his wit’s end when he confides in his cousin Sonny about the situation in his home with Norman.  After Norman’s most recent retirement home eviction he moved in with his daughter and son-in-law.  Ravi is constantly annoyed by Norman and can’t stand the arrangement another day.  Ravi and Sonny create a plan to open a retirement home in India where costs would be cheaper and the culture welcomes the British.  The result is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is probably not the best or most exotic place to be in Bangalore, India.  But in spite of its shabbiness, the residents who choose to retire there (including Evelyn, Norman and Muriel whom I mentioned above) learn to appreciate the quaintness of the hotel and camaraderie they build with one another.

Moggach is a talented storyteller and I really enjoyed this book.  I read it after I saw the movie and at first I was disappointed at the disparity between the two stories.  But after getting several chapters into the book, I couldn’t put it down.  The characters are a collection of quirky, realistic, annoying, frustrating, honest, relatable, and humbling personalities and I needed to know what would happen for each of them.  And, I have to admit, I think a part of me is a little whimsical about the idea of spending my own twilight years in another country, living out my days exploring new places, eating the food, smelling the flowers.  I’ve joked with my husband several times that we should retire to Thailand but maybe India wouldn’t be too bad, either…provided there’s an Evelyn I can be friends with living there, too.