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Archive for November, 2013

Thanksgiving Guest Blog with Author Jess Lourey

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Picky Readers, Flying without a Net, and “Thanksgivingishness”

by Jess Lourey

Yay! I’m back at Paperback Swap, or as I like to call it, “The Humane Society for Books.” Thank you for reading, for being a part of this community, and for giving me five minutes of your time (ten, if you’re a slow reader, and if it’s wonderful if you are. It means that reading might not be quick for you, but it’s important, and important always trumps quick.)

When the amazing Cheryl tapped me to write this Thanksgiving post (and to add “thanksgivingishness” to it—her word), I was spending a lot of time thinking about what constitutes a good book. I got my start in the mystery world, and you won’t find better people or more compelling stories anywhere. That said, mysteries (and romances, fantasy, westerns, and some sci fi) all get a bad rap. They are categorized as genre fiction. In other words formulaic, write-by-numbers fluff. I’m not sure who exactly started that rumor, or who perpetuates it, but it’s settled into our collective subconscious. Many genre fiction writers are defensive about this. I may be one of them.

I’d like to think this need to prove something had nothing to do with me tackling a middle grade fantasy a year ago, or a magical realism novel this past fall, but I know better. Sure, the stories were driving me, but on some level, I wanted to legitimize myself. But you know what? As I embark on the eighth round of revisions on my magical realism manuscript, I realize that a good book is a good book, no matter the genre. The story is the key. The genre is merely the vehicle that takes it where it’s going.

This awareness made me realize that I don’t have to cater to picky readers (or writers, editors, agents, or publishers), those who only read romance, or only read literary fiction or nonfiction, or who only read any single type of book because they’ve mistaken the vehicle for the key. I can’t tell you how freeing this was for me, which brought me to a major career shift: I am now flying without a net. Specifically, I’ve decided to redefine myself as a writer. I’m no longer a mystery writer who does middle grade, or magical realism. I’m simply a story teller. In service of this new vision, I’ve also fired my agent, who couldn’t support my career shift in the way I needed her to.

That means I am now dangling over the edge, no net in sight: no genre to call home, no agent. Can I tell you how uncomfortable this is? Probably not, because you don’t know how Type A I am. I make lists. I know what I’m going to wear tomorrow. I plan time to plan. Letting go of my safety nets terrifies me. I’ve lost sleep about it. But also, on a deep, deep level, I’m grateful for where I’m at. This uncomfortable space is where the growth comes from, and the big, glorious changes. And for this opportunity to leave the comfort of the familiar for the excitement and promise of the unknown, I feel nothing but a deep and abiding thanksgivingishness.

Please keep reading, and support the stories, no matter what kinda car they drive up in. Happy holidays!




Jess Lourey

Jess Lourey is the author of the Lefty-nominated Murder-by-Month mysteries set in Battle Lake, Minnesota, and featuring amateur sleuth, Mira James. In multiple starred reviews, Booklist says of the series, “”It’s not easy to make people laugh while they’re on the edge of their seats, but Lourey pulls it off! Get started on this Lefty-nominated mystery series if you haven’t already!” Jess has been teaching writing and sociology at the college level since 1998.

When not raising her wonderful kids, teaching, or writing, you can find her gardening, traveling, and navigating the niceties and meanities of small-town life. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and The Loft, and serves on the national board of Mystery Writers of America.

Her latest, January Thaw, hits shelves January 8, 2014:

When Mira James moved to a small town in Minnesota, she thought she left muggings behind her . . . until she’s jumped by two men in an alley. A third man saves her, but for all his trouble he’s found frozen under an ice-covered lake.

Meanwhile, Mira’s job as a private eye in training has her tracking down the family that built the Prospect House, home of the town’s new museum. Discovering a letter that dates back to 1865, Mira finds herself embroiled in a cold case of treachery and a hot case of drug trafficking that puts the whole town in danger.

“…wry…delightfully eccentric. Readers of small-town mysteries will be charmed.”

Publisher’s Weekly





Author Interview with Carol Piner

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Interview with Carol Piner, author of Evidence of Insanity

By Mirah W. (mwelday)


I recently read Evidence of Insanity by Carol Piner and she generously offered to be interviewed for our blog. Piner’s book is a compilation of tales that work together to showcase the life of the main character Callie, a character based on the author herself.  As a proud member of the GRITS (Girls Raised In The South), I found some of the stories hilarious and true to the craziness that is southern living.  While some of Piner’s stories are outrageous, some are touching.  In this interview, Piner tells us more about her inspiration, writing process, life in the south, and what makes her tick.


Mwelday for PBS Blog (MW): You consider yourself a storyteller.  What made you decide to take the leap into writing a book?

Carol Piner (CP): I have always been a storyteller and the stories in the book are ones I have been telling all my life. I not only always wanted to write a book about them, but I always intended to. It was a matter of timing. Once I lost my office, and I had nothing to do, it was time to finish it.

With a bow to my humor, I always said I was waiting for the important characters to die off so they wouldn’t sue me. That was not completely a lie. I never wanted to write it while Mama was alive because I knew it would hurt her. I couldn’t do that.  I set it in Carteret County because I wanted the people who talked about us to read how cruel they were. It escaped hurting me for the most part, but it hurt the other children and Mama. After things happened, I tended to find them funny, so it was a clean slate for me.


MW: I imagine there could have been some colorful language provided by your characters.  Why do you think you chose the short story method as opposed to a novel with dialogue?

CP: Again, I wrote the stories as I told them. Some were repeats from stories I was told. I didn’t even touch the surface of stories about my family. Dialogue was not even an issue and I think it would have slowed it down. I wanted it fast, but hopefully gripping.  I have always been far more interested in what people did and why. I am interested in people’s interactions with each other and what generates them.

I am currently writing a book called “Bitcherooni and Buddy” and it is along the dialogue theme, but still very funny and somewhat psychological.  I am also writing a more literary novel called “The Laugh”. It is set in the late 1800s. I think it is going to be quite interesting because I love that time period and how people treated each other. I have always been drawn to that gentility and good manners, even as a teenager.

MW: You begin your book with a lot of violence and chaos.  Why did you choose this approach?

CP: I began with the chaos because that kitchen and the “plays” created in there were what I remembered most when I thought back. Although all the children were relatively young, our personalities had already been formed and they never changed. Mama and Daddy were catalysts that set us off. Personally, I loved it.  I never saw it as violence. I have heard it called domestic violence before. It was simply all we knew. We thought all families were like that. The kitchen and what went on there was more like a staging in a play and we all knew our parts.

MW: Do you believe in the nature vs. nurture theory?  If yes, which do you tend to support the most and why?

CP: Nature or nurture. I must say, strictly based on my life, that it was all nurture. I believe if we had two different parents, things would have been different for all the children. Daddy was a womanizer. So was Jimmy and Teeny (their real names).   Mama smoked, was an alcoholic, and was drug addicted by the time she died. Not one of the girls have ever been hard drinkers or ever smoked at all. Marybeth did fall to the prescription medicine lure. So, I don’t believe it’s all inherited.  Me…my whole goal in life was to not end up like any of them, and I succeeded. I grew up determined to do just that: work and succeed.


MW: Your character’s story begins with her growing up in Carteret County, NC and she identifies several things she doesn’t like about the south (fire ants, not being able to keep secrets, the heat).  I grew up in SC and can relate; I dislike those things as well!  But there are also some things I love about the south.  I know your book isn’t a direct autobiography but you did grow up in the south.  What did you love/hate about it?

CP: I loved the South. I hoped my commentaries about the freedom, the beach, and the water expressed that. Although poor, Carteret County has beauty everywhere. Even the docks are beautiful when you see how happy the tourists are visiting here. The things I mentioned in the book were simply because they were irritants in Paradise.  I have lived in Pine Knoll Shores, N.C., Charleston, S.C. and Lancaster, PA. All are gorgeous. I have been blessed.

MW: Your character, Callie, addresses her love of reading more than once.  What are your favorite authors or books?  Why?

CP:  I am always at a loss when asked about favorite authors because I have so many. They include authors such as Elizabeth George. I love her. And any writer that wrote about the 1800s, such as Jane Austen. I love Charles Dickens. Anyone who writes about the law such as John Lescroart, Greg Illes, Scott Turow, and on and on. I love any book whose writing is intelligent and well researched. You learn from your reading regardless of what it is.

MW: Your title, Evidence of Insanity, is repeated several times throughout the book.  Do you think most people at some point in their lives think their families exhibit evidence of insanity?  What can we do to break out of this cycle or do things unlike our families?

CP: I have sold over 2500 books and that does not include Amazon, Lulu or AuthorHouse. I have made tremendous friends and they all tell me stories of chaos in their homes: the out-of-control brother or aunt or their own personal rebellions. Do I think it’s everywhere, no. Do I think it’s widespread, yes.

As for what we can do about it, that gives me pause. I see and hear about the atrocities committed by young and old and I worry for the future. Somehow we have to reach back and begin to treat each other with respect. It does not appear that in the texting age that is being done. I heard of a study today that said parents are on their phones more than their children, leaving children without parental directions.

MW: I agree. Some members of society seem to relish in treating people badly and without respect. Along those lines, Callie experiences a variety of complicated relationships.  What do you think makes for a healthy, uncomplicated relationship? Is there any such thing as uncomplicated relationship, in your opinion?

CP:  Callie was me and my relationships were definitely unhealthy, but I learned something from each one. Eventually I came to understand I was an enabler and had to stop it. So, until I can do that, I will do without a relationship.  I have always been very happy alone. I can trust me. It’s as simple as that.  I am not speaking of wandering eyes. I mean I can take care of myself and intend to.

As for an uncomplicated relationship, the marriage between my sister, Crystal, and her husband, Dave, is one I consider very healthy. They were together 40 years before he died. Although they lived in Wisconsin, they came to see me every year and how they treated each other showed their love and affection. She came a long way from Aunt Ella’s and I am very proud of her.


MW: What feelings or thoughts do you hope your work evokes in your readers?

CP: I was very surprised when I asked Rod Cockshutt to review my book for me. He was a reviewer for the Raleigh News and Observer. His review makes me shiver to this day. I never expected words like, “amazing accomplishment for a first time writer”, “poignant” and he finished it by telling me not to, under any circumstances, change the last 10-15 pages. And he read the very, very unedited version.

I want people to realize you can laugh regardless of the circumstances. Things will look better tomorrow. Turn your back to the painful. Keep going. Be patient. Show restraint. Use your mind. Believe in yourself. I have had those who asked was the book cathartic. Absolutely not. I still live right where it all happened and people are still talking about us. What could possibly be cathartic about it?


MW: You painted the cover art for your book.  If you had to choose one medium…visual art or writing….which would you choose and why?

CP: Visual art or writing. I see them as compatriots of a kind. Each painting is a thought brought to light, just as writing is. My paintings are very happy and colorful. That is who I am. Writing makes me put my mind to use. I am 65 years old, but I am energetic, happy and my mind has never stopped churning. Currently, I am reviewing for Kindle Book Review and I get lots of good books to read and review. I contribute captions to pictures on Cheezburger.com under the screen name NCcharmer. I have been curious about doing reviews on PBS. I am still new and don’t know how yet.  I will not be doing either until I become bored with what I am currently doing. Then, I will be ready to do something else. First, I will probably finish my books because I can see the ending and how to get there.


MW: I love newcomers to PBS, it is one of my favorite websites.  So, welcome to PBS!  We’re glad you found us and want to be a part of the site. The site has many wonderful sections, including discussion forums, donation opportunities, games, a showcase for member writings, and much more.  But, at the heart of it all, we are a community of readers willing to share our love of books with one another. What would you consider the best book someone has shared with you?

CP: The best books shared with me were sent to me by my friend, Linda Cloe. She is a member of PBS and sent me a book by Deanna Raybourne. It is about Lady Jane Grey and I become totally involved in it. I have read four and am waiting for the release of another. In the meantime, I will take whatever I can get my hands on. I seldom read a book I don’t like.


I know I’m not the only PBS user who will agree with that sentiment; we love books and read all kinds! Thank you for sharing your book with me for this interview, it felt like I was given a real opportunity to get to know you as a person through your character Callie.  Your unique writing style felt more like sitting in a room with a friend listening to her stories than actually reading. Thank you for contributing your time for this interview and we hope to see more of you on PBS!


If you’d like to win a copy of Carol Piner’s Evidence of Insanity, comment on this post.  And you don’t have to be from the south to win, a winner will be chosen at random from all comments by PBS members.   Good luck!












Mystery Monday – Love’s Lovely Counterfeit

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Love’s Lovely Counterfeit by James M. Cain

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


James M. Cain started his novel-writing career with three bangs: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934), Serenade (1937) and Mildred Pierce (1941). A falling off was Love’s Lovely Counterfeit (1942) mainly because some characters have all the life of cardboard cutouts and the ending is pure melodrama. Even the background of chiseling weasels doing corruption as business as usual in city politics seems half-baked. Still, as a hard-guy mystery, it might be worth reading for its surprises and lurid moments, if you’re trapped on a trans-Pacific flight and have run out of other goodies to read.

But back to lurid. After not getting it on with Big Sister, the anti-hero gets close to Man-Crazy Little Sister by getting her to realize that they are both bad to the bone. They fall for each other, boy do they:

Obviously, they had got to a point where the word love, if either of them had uttered it, would have been somewhat inadequate. Insanity would have been better, and there was some suggestion of it as she raised her face to his.

The period touches and slang are cool.  Cain must have liked describing people because he’s damn skillful at it. This about some bank robbers: “four wild kids, anywhere from eighteen to twenty, scared so bad the slobber is running out of their mouths, couple of them coked to the ears, their suspenders stretched double from the gats they got in their pants.”

After LLC, in 1943, the uneven Cain wrote the immortal Double Indemnity. In 1956 Hollywood based Slightly Scarlet on LLC, with Arlene Dahl and Rhonda Fleming playing the sisters.

Readers that like David Goodis and Jim Thompson would probably like Cain. But novices should start with the three big bangs mentioned at the start of this review.





Paranormal Romance Review – Vampires Need Not…Apply?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013


Vampires Need Not…Apply? by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc)


I’m not sure how the author manages to produce consistently funny stories while dealing with serious issues like mass murder, torture, the end of the world and correct spelling of Mayan names but she does. I love the multiple viewpoints and frequently snarky dialogue!

This is book 4 of the series and I really can’t suggest starting here. Well, you could – the author does a fairly good job of giving you the basics of the backstory – but I can’t recommend it. There is WAY too much backstory to absorb; including the ins and outs of the various characters and how the plot has developed to the opening of this book. So back up to Accidentally in Love with…a God? and hop on the rollercoaster…

This series deals with the Mayan pantheon which is both a plus and a minus. The plus is it’s not peopled with the same Greco-Roman gods/goddesses/myths you learned about in seventh grade; the minus is the names are mentally tongue-twisting and the ‘specialties’ of the various gods are probably not familiar to the reader and frequently seem weird. For example: a major player in the story is Ixtab who we find out is the goddess of suicide. My contemporary, western sensibilities immediately kicked in with ‘Say what? Suicide needs its own goddess?’ And then there’s the whole who is related to whom issue in a ‘family’ group that puts the ‘dys’ in dysfunctional.

Like the other books in the series the immediate storyline is nicely tied up but the last page contains the requisite ‘oh my god’ teaser…

Needless to say I will be continuing this series.

Mystery Monday – The Woman In White

Monday, November 18th, 2013

The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

Victorian era novelist Wilkie Collins is known for two long novels that were originally published in installments in a weekly magazine.  The Woman in White, say some critics, was one of the first mysteries, published in 1859, and The Moonstone, published in 1868, is considered – by no less than the likes of T.S. Eliot – the first detective novel or police procedural.

In The Woman in White, a young drawing master is unfortunate enough to fall in love with a young woman who has been promised by her father to a milord. After the marriage, the milord turns out to be neither rich nor a gentleman in any sense. Mystery revolves around the milord’s secret, known to a furtive lady dressed in white, who roams, forlornly but conveniently for the plot, nearby our main characters. I cannot give away in a review an inexplicable death, which adds to the whydunnit aspect of the story.

True, there are some slow spots, since we are, after all, in the world of the Victorian novel whose audiences liked drawn-out scenes and situations. Also true, in a couple of places Collins over-uses indirect speech, in which one character merely reports to another character what was said in a conversation with a third character. Overall, however, the narrative technique holds interest. The story unfolds from different points of view, thus forming a chain of evidence that is at once plausible and engrossing. A contemporary critic said Collins’ special merit is “that he treats a labyrinthine story in an apparently simple manner, and that the language in which he writes is plain English.”

And what characters! Sir Percival Glyde is an exasperated and desperate villain. His henchman Count Fosco is oily, cold, cautious, and ruthless. Hollywood well cast Sydney Greenstreet – the heavy in The Maltese Falcon – in the worthless 1948 movie version of the novel. The drawing master writes of the startling and ingenious Fosco, “Sincerely as I loathed the man, the prodigious strength of his character, even in most trivial aspects, impressed me in spite of myself”  Lady Fosco remains a malign presence.  Laura, the love interest of the artist, is ineffectual, inept, weepy, and subject to the vapors. But her weaknesses are balanced by the brave and reliable Marian Halcombe. As it was published as a serial, Collins reports that single male readers wrote to him, asking who was the living model on which Marian’s character was based, so that the writers could propose to ask her for her hand.

For its riveting plot, memorable characters, enthralling narrative technique, and ominous and weird atmosphere, this novel has never been out of print since its first publication 150 years ago. Collins wrote about 30 novels, but he considered this novel to be his best. So much so that he had inscribed on his tombstone the epitaph “Wilkie Collins, author of The Woman in White and other works of fiction.”





New Book Specials for the Week of November 11th, 2013

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Welcome to The Spotlight, your inside scoop on extraordinary new-book deals!

These new books have been chosen by the PaperBackSwap Team because they are some of the best bargains in our Market, and they’re less expensive than Amazon.  Quantities are limited!

This Week’s Featured Thriller (in Large Print)

Two Graves (Large Print) by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child 
After his wife, Helen, is brazenly abducted before his eyes, Special Agent Pendergast furiously pursues the kidnappers read more
Retail Price:
New in the PBS Market (Hardcover): $3.69+1 credit (save 87%) or $7.59 (save 73%)

This Week’s Featured Mystery Novel

Valley of Ashes by Cornelia Read
Madeline Dare trades New York’s gritty streets for the tree-lined avenues of Boulder, Colorado. But her new home isn’t nearly as tranquil as it seems…read more
Retail Price: $26.99
New in the PBS Market (Hardcover): $5.19+1 credit (save 80%) or $9.09 (save 66%)

This Week’s Featured Biography

Don’t Put Me In, Coach! My Incredible Journey from the end of Ohio State’s Bench to the End of Ohio State’s Bench  by Mark Titus
An irreverent, hilarious insider’s look at big-time NCAA basketball, through the eyes of the nation’s most famous benchwarmer… read more
Retail Price: $24.95
New in the PBS Market  (Hardcover): $3.59+1 credit (save 85%) or $7.49 (save 69%)

This Week’s Featured Audio Book (Christian Fiction)

Predator by Terri Blackstock. Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
The murder of Krista Carmichael’s fourteen-year-old sister by an online predator has shaken her faith. Desperate to find the killer, she creates an online persona as bait… read more
Retail Price: $32.99
New in the PBS Market (Audio CD: 8 discs, 9 hrs): $4.99+1 credit (save 84%) or $8.89 (save 73%)

This Week’s Featured Crafting Book

The Hand-Knitters Yarn Guide  by Nikki Gabriel
This essential at-a-glance reference book is for every knitter at any level. It includes yarn swatches and a comprehensive encyclopedia… read more
Retail Price: $24.99
New in the PBS Market (Paperback): $2.89+1 credit (save 88%) or $6.79 (save 72%)

This Week’s Featured Literary Novel (Pulitzer Prize-Winner)

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
An epic novel, a thrilling literary discovery and winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Orphan Master’s Son follows a young man’s journey… read more
Retail Price:
New in the PBS Market (Hardcover): $3.59+1 credit (save 86%) or $7.49 (save 71%)

This Week’s Featured Romance

Ruthless Heart  by Emma Lang
Sheltered all her life, Eliza Hunter never imagined herself alone in the vast Utah plains with a mysterious, rugged man… read more
Retail Price: $14.00
New in the PBS Market (Paperback): $2.29+1 credit (save 83%) or $6.19 (save 55%)


Three ways to save even more on new books at PaperBackSwap.com!
1. Get FREE books for one PBS Book Credit + shipping
2. Get new books directly from the Publisher
3. Get New Overstock books at great discounted prices

Paranormal Romance Review – Accidentally In Love With…A God?

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Accidentally In Love With…A God? by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc)


This a fun read – sort of what MaryJanice Davidson might do with the whole Mayan pantheon at her disposal.

Emma has had an invisible friend most of her life.  Well, invisible as in he talks to her in her head, and she wavers between wanting him to be real and fearing she’s just delusional. When she grows up she wants him gone. Really. I mean, how normal can a woman be who has somebody talking in her head? And when she tries to date? Disaster! And he never answers her questions, not even about his name.

Her voice informs her that his body is being held captive in Mexico and gives her very specific directions on where to go and what to do – and totally refuses to take NO for an answer. So our intrepid heroine treks reluctantly off to Mexico with severely mixed feelings and hopes that – if he’s really there and isn’t some kind of alien warthog – that she might finally get some answers.

Of course complications abound, there are the Maaskab, ugly witch doctor types with even uglier habits, Emma’s missing grandmother who was apparently handed over to the Maaskab, good gods, bad gods, unknown allies, battle, torture and immortality. And then there’s the pesky little fact that sex with the gods tends to be fatal for the human…

However the rocky the road to romance does lead to a happily ever after. But be warned, the last page contains an ‘oh my god’ teaser… Avoid unless you’re prepared to rush out and buy the next book!

I really enjoyed this one, the snarky dialogue made me laugh and Emma was a great character, if ADHD about her feelings and loyalties. You definitely agreed with Emma when she wanted to smack her ‘voice’ and then his incarnation for being high-handed and never explaining things – all for her own good, of course. Guy/Votan stumbled through falling in love but hey, even 70,000 year old gods aren’t too old to learn new tricks!


Accidentally Yours series:

Accidentally in Love with…A God? #1

Accidentally Married to…A Vampire? #2

Sun God Seeks…Surrogate? #3

Accidentally…Evil? #3.5

Vampires Need Not…Apply? #4



Accidentally…Cimil? #4.5

Accidentally…Over? #5