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Archive for December, 2013

Rest in Peace

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

By Vicky T. (VickyJo)


Here we are, at the end of another year.  I have to say that, all in all, it was a sad year in that we lost some wonderful authors in 2013.  I thought it would be appropriate to remark on a few of them here.  I have read works by all the following writers, and I can honestly say that I will miss every one of them.


Tom Clancy (1947-2013) published his first novel, The Hunt for Red October, in 1984 and basically gave birth to the military thriller genre.  Clancy hoped to see 5,000 copies of that first printing; an endorsement from President Ronald Reagan (“That’s my kind of yarn”) made it a huge success.  His best known character is Jack Ryan.


Elizabeth Peters (1927-2013) wrote a wonderful series of mysteries featuring Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson, archaeologists and amateur sleuths.  She also wrote romantic suspense novels using the pen name Barbara Michaels.  Her real name was Barbara Mertz, and she had a PhD in Egyptology from the University of Chicago.



Richard Matheson (1926-2013) wrote about normal guys suddenly thrust into abnormal and/or terrifying situations.  He was superbly talented; Stephen King lists him as one of his major influences.  Matheson is probably best known for his novels I Am Legend and Bid Time Return (which became the movie “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeve).


Vince Flynn (1966-2013) died far too soon, of prostate cancer.  His character Mitch Rapp, the CIA counter-terrorism agent, thrilled readers in novel after novel.  Flynn was dyslexic, and started writing to help cope with the difficulties of that disorder.  He listed Clancy as one of his influences.




E.L. Konigsburg (1930-2013) wrote for children, and was loved because she never wrote down to them.  She submitted two novels for publication in 1966, and they were both published in 1967: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and me, Elizabeth.  She won the Newbery Medal in 1968 for Mixed-up Files, while Jennifer was named a Newbery Honor book, making her the first author to accomplish a double ‘win.’  She won the Medal again 29 years later for The View from Saturday.



Janet Dailey (1944-2013) is known to romance readers far and wide, and is probably best known for her series of books about the Calder family.  She wrote Harlequin romances for years before breaking into mainstream publishing.




Elmore Leonard (1925-2013) was from Detroit, and broke into publishing by writing westerns. He eventually became known for his crime mysteries, such as Rum Punch, Get Shorty and Out of Sight.  Many of his novels, both thrillers and westerns, were made into movies, and he acted as screenwriter because of his sharp sense of dialogue.  Leonard’s advice to writers: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”


Andrew Greeley (1928-2013) was a Catholic priest who wrote both novels and non-fiction, but was probably best known for his fiction: The Cardinal Sins, Thy Brother’s Wife, and his series of mysteries featuring Nuala Anne McGrail.  He may have been outspoken when it came to both religion and politics, but he could definitely tell a good story.










Mystery Monday – Plunder of the Sun

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Plunder of the Sun by David Dodge



Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


In this 1949 crime adventure novel, PI Al Colby accepts a job from a mysterious, wheelchair-bound Chiliean. Colby has to smuggle a small package from Chile to Peru. As an American tourist with coveted Yankee dollars, his luggage won’t be tossed by customs officials like his employer’s would. But often assignments that easy on the face are not easy in the end. A dead body. Two beautiful women lead him down the garden path. Colby is lambasted and sees stars. Greedy gunmen menace him. A crafty villain steals the small package. The rousing climax has Colby and greedy guys on the hunt for a treasure of Incan gold in Peru.

Cripes, with the South American locale, noir atmosphere and non-stop action, it would be crass to ask for more. Dodge’s other job was travel writer so his descriptions feel accurate. Like this: “There was a tremendous snow-capped volcanic cone rearing up behind the town but looking so close in the thin mountain air that it practically kept me company while I ate.”

At times the travel writer and the noir writer get along real well: “The [train] car stank with the smell that exists only on the desert side of Peru, where the population is heavy and water is too valuable to waste on washing. It was a dead, rancid smell that even the breeze from the open windows wouldn’t blow away.”

At other times it’s pure noir: “She was done up like a Christmas tree – over-ripe mouth, beads of mascara thick on her eyelashes, green eye-shadow, a hat with a trailing drape that wound twice around her throat and hung down her back. The only thing missing was a man on a leash.”

David Dodge’s most famous book is To Catch a Thief because it was made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock. Plunder of the Sun was also made into a movie with Glenn Ford, but apparently Hollywood, in its typical ham-handed way, screwed it up so badly that nobody remembers it. The novel, though, is terrific reading courtesy of its crisp and vivid writing, wild pace, and unpredictable plot twists. The series character Al Colby is tough-minded but good-hearted in that he doesn’t exploit the vulnerable and takes the side of the underdog. Besides, my inner 12-year-old is partial to buried treasure stories.



Romance Review – Starry Night

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Starry Night: A Christmas Novel by Debbie Macomber

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc)


First off, I love Debbie Macomber’s Christmas novels and re-read many of them seasonally. This one won’t be one of those that I re-read however.  Don’t get me wrong it was a good ‘read-once’ but lacked the ‘ahhh’ element that brings me back again and again.


That said, this is a good read with interesting characters and a relationship-driven plot.  The heroine is Carrie Slayton, a reporter desperate to escape the doldrums of the society pages of her Chicago newspaper.  To this end she approaches her editor who agrees to move her to ‘real’ reporting if she successfully gets an interview with the reclusive author of the hot best-seller ‘Alone’. The hero is said author, Finn Dalton, who wrote the book to inspire others to step out their doors and really see nature, not just pass through it.  He never expected it to be an overwhelming success and he especially never expected to be hounded by reporters, newscasters, and talk show gurus.


Carrie manages to locate Finn’s mother and she actually talks to her rather than slamming the door in her face.  Although they are estranged – and have been since Finn was a child – she does share some clues with her and gives Carrie Finn’s father’s wedding ring to return to Finn. Using the clues Carrie travels to Alaska and using the ring she manages to talk one of Finn’s friends into flying her to his cabin. They arrive in the teeth of a storm so he drops her off and points in the direction of the cabin.


By now she realizes that winter in Chicago had not prepared her for winter in the high north but her options are limited so she trudges off towards the cabin. There’s ice and snow and wind and suddenly a wolf… and Finn who collects her from where she had fallen like she was a dropped blanket and carries her off to his cabin. The wolf turns out to be Finn’s dog and neither of them is very happy to see her.


Finn is a man with issues.  Big ones.  Issues like abandonment and betrayal and trust – especially related to women. The last thing Finn wants is some reporter tracking him down to write an article about him. During the storm-enforced captivity they begin to talk and slowly become if not friends than at least not enemies.  When the storm finally clears he takes her outside and they watch the aurora-streaked brilliance of the starry night and she finally begins to understand the man and why he would want to be in this place and in this time. And why she will leave at least a little part of her heart behind when she leaves.


Carrie has her article but will she print it?  Finn has asked her not to but it’s the chance for the break she’s been looking for. What to do…


Finn is finding being alone synonymous with lonely.  He and Carrie begin a long distance relationship via phones, and emails and posts.  Things are poignant but then he comes for a visit… Pick an emotion and she’s there: deliriously happy, frightened, angry when a friend figures out who he is and suggests he’s just doing it to manipulate her into not publishing the article and calling her a fool for refusing to do so. Complications abound – Finn goes back to Alaska.  She goes home for the holidays. Both of them are miserable. Since this is a Debbie Macomber novel you know it’s going to work out in the end but it takes a painfully long time.





Books for Schools 2013!

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

It is with great pleasure we announce the kick-off of the

2013 Books for Schools Donation Campaign

Each year PaperBackSwap, through our generous members, donate brand-new new books to selected deserving elementary schools across the country.  The goal of the program is to provide children with books that they can read for pleasure. As you know, most of us learned the love of reading at an early age, and this is a great opportunity to share that joy. In the past three years PaperBackSwap and our members have donated over 70,000 new books to elementary schools. This year our goal is to provide at least 20,000 more books.

To make a donation of credits or PaperBackSwap money (which will be used to defray some of the shipping costs) click on the picture above or HERE to go to the donations page.

Let’s put books in the hands of children. Together PaperBackSwap and our wonderful members can make a difference!




Mystery Monday – The Case of the Runaway Corpse

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

The Case of the Runaway Corpse by Erle Stanley Gardner

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


The hard-charging Sara Ansell hustles her kind-of-a -relative Myrna Davenport into lawyer Perry Mason’s office. Myrna explains that her husband Ed suffers poor health and may drop dead at any time. Ed has warned others that his wife probably knocked off two of her relatives with poison and that he too is in danger of being done to death with arsenic. Myrna has heard from Ed’s lips that he has written a letter labeled “to be opened in the event of my death and delivered to the authorities.” Sara cajoles and coerces Myrna into hiring Mason to manage the estate in the event of Ed’s demise. The first order of business, then, is for Mason to visit Ed’s office (Myrna gives him the key), find the letter, and determine its contents.

Events unfold rapidly after the first chapter. Like: a doctor declares Ed dead, but Ed’s corpse does a bunk and is later found in a shallow grave. Like: in two excellent chapters, Mason does the fandango dodging questions from local law enforcement and exasperates a credulous young woman. Like: the trial sequence between Mason and a Fresno DA throws off sparks.

Although not as delightfully convoluted as a typical Mason novel, this one has a little more depth than usual. One gets the feeling that Mason loves questioning people, doing hocus-pocus with evidence and using the law to protect his clients from  cops and DA’s that have drawn the wrong conclusions from fragmentary evidence or the inaccurate memories of witnesses. Mason also waxes philosophical, which happens once in a blue moon:

… it’s an unfortunate trait of human nature. You accept all kinds of phony tips from touts and never win, then one day a quiet, sedate individual comes along with a straight tip on a dark horse in the fifth race and you pass it up because you’re too smart to fall for any more of that stuff. After the fifth race you kick yourself all over the lot.

One also feels that Gardner respected intelligent people, not only Mason’s quick-witted logic but also a DA’s clever strategies at trials and even a crook’s fiendish ingenuity in cooking up scams. Stupidity is the same stale stuff time after time, despite poor outcomes. It’s intelligence that makes life lively and fascinating and joyful.