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Archive for October, 2015

Gargoyles and Grotesques – Halloween Musings

Friday, October 30th, 2015

Pat gargoyle 2

Happy Hallowen by Cheryl G. (Poncer)

I have always been fascinated by Gargoyles and Grotesques, those stoic stone monuments guarding buildings and cemeteries day and night, night and day. My fondness has resulted in friends taking photos of the creatures they discover and send me the photos. Like the one above by fellow member Pat L. (PitterPat), took on a photo tour of Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.

It was previously thought that gargoyles came into being in the 13th century, when Gothic Architecture was just beginning. But there is evidence that ancient civilizations, such as the Greeks and Egyptians used Gargoyles on buildings, too.  Originally, Gargoyles were mere water spouts, a way to divert rain water away from buildings and their foundations. So the true definition of a gargoyle is a decorative water spout. Grotesques are purely decoration, with no practical purpose but to scare away evil spirits.

It is believed the Catholic Church used gargoyles and grotesques as a way to spread their theology to the mostly illiterate pagan population. After all, a picture paints a 1000 words.

Whether a gargoyle or a grotesque, sometimes called chimera, this art form is fascinating to me.

And a quick search through books currently posted and available for swapping gave me a plethora of choices. Below are some books relating to Gargoyles.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and suffers horrible burns over much of his body. As he recovers in a burn ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned, he awaits the day when he can leave the hospital and commit carefully planned suicide–for he is now a monster in appearance as well as in soul.

A beautiful and compelling, but clearly unhinged, sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly injured mercenary and she was a nun and scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal who nursed him back to health. As she spins their tale in Scheherazade fashion and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy, and England, he finds himself drawn back to life–and, finally, in love. He is released into Marianne’s care and takes up residence in her huge stone house. But all is not well. For one thing, the pull of his past sins becomes ever more powerful as the morphine he is prescribed becomes ever more addictive. For another, Marianne receives word from God that she has only twenty-seven sculptures left to complete–and her time on earth will be finished.
3.9 stars, based on 78 ratings of PaperBackSwap members



In the Shadow of the Gargoyle
Nancy Kilpatrick (Editor), Thomas S. Roche (Editor)

For centuries, they have watched over us. Leering from the arches and peaks of ancient cathedrals. Spreading their wings across hallowed doorways. Even decorating our homes in stony, silent elegance. Are they angels or demons? Sacred or profane? In the Shadow of the Gargoyle features fifteen original stories and two classic tales of the legendary gargoyle. The contributors range from bestselling masters to the hottest newcomers — award-winners, artists, musicians, and, yes, gargoyle collectors. Each of them experts at drawing blood from a stone… Contributors include:* Harlan Ellison * Neil Gaiman * Katherine Kurtz * Brian Lumley * Jane Yolen * Charles L. Grant * John Mason Skipp * Nancy Holder * Alan Rodgers * Lucy Taylor * Jo Clayton * Don D’Ammassa * Christa Faust * Robert J. Harris * Brian Hodge * Caitlin R. Kiernan * Marc Levinthal * Melanie Tem * Wendy Webb
3.8 stars, based on 3 PBS Member’s ratings  (this one is currently on the way to me!)


Song of the Gargoyle by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
A strange sound awakens thirteen-year-old Tymmon  in the dead of night. In a blink of an eye his  father, the court jester of Austerneve, is  mysteriously kidnapped and the terrified boy must slip away  secretly to avoid capture  himself. — Hiding in the dreaded forest nearby, Tymmon is adopted by a huge, furry, dog-like creature–a  gargoyle–who has the loyalty of a dog and the fearsome  powers of an enchanted  being.
Together, hungry, the two make their way to town, where Tymmon earns a living by playing his flute and learns to be happy. At least as happy as he can be  without his father. Will he ever find a way to  rescue him and be with him again?
3.7 stars, based on 3 ratings


St Patrick’s Gargoyle by Katherine Kurtz
From his perch high above the bustling Dublin streets, a gargoule named Padraig keeps watch over his beloved city. It was once beautifully elegant, brilliantly sacred. But now something has changed. He can feel it… — On a bitterly cold December night, vandals break into St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Paddy melts into the darkness in search of revenge-but nothing could have prepared him for the evil that descends when he finds it…
3.6 stars, based on 27 ratings




Geis of the Gargoyle by Piers Anthony
Since Xanth began, the gargoyles of that magical place have been under a magical compulsion to protect the purity of the Swan Knee River which flows in to Xanth from dreary Mundania. But recently the pollution from the outside world has grown ever greater, and young Gary Gar, latest in a long line of gargoyle guardians, is finding it ever more difficult to fulfill his responsibilities.

So Gary does what any sensible Xanth resident with a dire dilemma would do. He goes to see the Good Magician Humfrey, who sends him on a peculiar quest–to transform himself into human shape, tutor a precocious child with more than her share of wild magical talents, and find a philter which can restore the river to its previous pristine state.
4.1 stars, based on 110 ratings


And then there is this adorable children’s series by Philippa Dowding, but alas, none are currently posted. The Wish Lists aren’t very long though.



So here’s wishing everyone a safe and happy Halloween, and remember to look up. You never know when a gargoyle or grotesque may be looking down at you.


Book Review Contest Finalists – Voting is open!

Thursday, October 29th, 2015


Here’s the latest batch of finalists in our Book Review Contest! To vote: click the links below, and choose Thumbs Up on the review. You can “Like” (or Share) the review to double your vote! The winning review will appear here on the PaperBackSwap Blog, and the winning reviewer will get a FREE book from her/his Wish List!

Good Luck to all of our Finalists!


What better book for a creepy all-Hallow’s-Eve than the classic work of horror, “Dracula” by Bram Stoker? Frank H. (perryfran)’s review is a finalist in this week’s Book Review Contest. Give his review a thumbs-up to vote for it – and “Like” it to double your vote!





If you want an engaging historical fiction classic that works for children and grown-ups, look no further than “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Karissa E (Ophelia99)’s review is a finalist in this week’s Book Review Contest. Give her review a thumbs-up to vote for it – and “Like” it to double your vote!





Spooky mayhem abounds in “Ghosts of Bayou Potomac” by Louis Tridico, according to Jack (jack1)! His review is a finalist in this week’s Book Review Contest. Give his review a thumbs-up to vote for it – and “Like” it to double your vote!




Looking for a compelling contemporary novel? Cat S recommends “Still Time” by Jean Hagland. Her review is a finalist in this week’s Book Review Contest! Give her review a thumbs-up – you can also “Like” it to double your vote!


WINNER! Book Review Contest

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

    Congratulations Marianna!


The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey


Winning Review by Marianna S. (Angeloudi)


The world of prima ballerinas is a mysterious one that few of us can ever hope to understand. This fascinating look into their rarefied world of discipline, ritual, superstition, practice,and rivalry is an eye-opener, as we follow the careers of Kate and Gwen Crane, two exceptional ballerinas as they perform for a major New York ballet company. Gwen, the younger, technically gifted sister, suffers some sort of nervous breakdown, and goes home to Michigan to recuperate. Kate is left to pick up the pieces, and go on in a career which had been eclipsed somewhat by her amazing, but unstable, younger sister. The bonds of sisterhood, rivalry, and mental illness are threads throughout this fascinating story. There are some dark moments about mental illness, but the ending is satisfying and hard to put down.





Audiobook Review – Come Sunday

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Come Sunday
by Isla Morley


Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

I was drawn to Come Sunday because it is partially set in one of my favorite places, Hawaii.  Come Sunday is about the trials of deep emotional loss and the toll it takes on people.

Abbe grew up in a tumultuous home in apartheid South Africa.  As soon as she was able, she escaped to the United States where she eventually meets Greg.  Greg becomes a minister and takes a position in Honolulu.  Abbe and Greg settle into Honolulu and have a daughter, Cleo.  Cleo is a strong-willed child who routinely frustrates her parents.  Slowly a happy life is replaced with religious doubts and resentment over a perceived imbalance of responsibilities in the family.

When tragedy strikes and Greg and Abbe lose Cleo they are forced to face the fractures in their marriage.  They each face their grief in a different way and the fracture between them grows deeper.   In her attempts to move forward, Abbe goes back to South Africa and comes face to face with her family history and tries to make sense of all she’s thought was true and how all of that affects her experiences and life choices.

I was torn at times while listening to this audiobook.  I had a hard time empathizing with Abbe; she came across as judgmental and hardhearted even before experiencing Cleo’s death and those characteristics were intensified after that tragedy.  Hawaii wasn’t featured as prominently has I would have hoped;   however, the narration was very good and the various characters’ personalities came through with the different voices used by the reader.


Fiction Review – Night Swimming

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Night Swimming by Robin Schwarz

Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)


What if, heaven forbid, you were told you only had one year left to live?  After the shock subsided, what would you do?  How would you spend the rest of the time left to you?  This is the premise of an interesting novel by Robin Schwarz called “Night Swimming”.

Our heroine is 34-year-old Charlotte Clapp.  After a routine physical, she is called back to her doctor’s office and given the devastating news:  she has cancer, the same type of cancer that took her own mother a few years back, and by the doctor’s reckoning, she has just about one year left to live.

Charlotte is in shock.  The unfairness of it all overwhelms her.  She has lived in the same small town in New Hampshire all her life.  She is single, having lost her boyfriend to her former best friend while nursing her dying mother.  She works in the bank in town, sees all the same people every day, knows every one of them, and basically feels that life is passing her by, all 253 pounds of her.  And now this.  One year left.

Charlotte remembers the last conversation she had with her mother, who confessed to Charlotte that, while she had loved her husband and was thrilled to have Charlotte as a daughter, she had some regrets.  She had always wanted to travel…to see Paris, Italy, the pyramids.  Her suitcases were purchased but never used, except as storage cases in the basement.  She pleaded with her daughter to live her life, and not have any regrets at the end.  Little did Charlotte know how soon that end was going to arrive.

And so, as Charlotte leaves her doctor’s office, a plan is brewing in the back of her mind.  She doesn’t have all the details worked out, but she does have something in mind.  She swings by the bank where she has worked for 15 years..and quits.  Then she goes home and between sobs, eats every bit of junk food in the house, drinks a bottle of wine or two, and passes out on the couch. When she awakens, she has another plan.

She spends her last day at work clearing out her work area of all the accumulated junk that piles up after 15 years.  A hastily-planned going-away luncheon is held for her, where she tells people she will head for Florida and Disney World, and then perhaps to New Orleans.  She offers to lock up the bank—one last time—and after everyone leaves, loads up two million dollars in small bills.  She hurries home, packs the money in her mother’s dusty, unused suitcases, dumps her car in the river, picks up a used Jaguar and heads off for Hollywood.  The thing is, she left in such a hurry (probably due to having robbed the bank of two million dollars) that she has missed the phone call from her doctor’s office, explaining that there was a mix-up between her chart, and the chart of a Charlotte Clapp from Durham.

The author has created a likeable character in Charlotte, someone quite a few readers will be able to recognize and relate to.  And of course, the premise of “What would you do?” is a fascinating one.  Schwarz gives Charlotte an earnest, yet amusing voice.  She finds herself in comic yet believable situations, and what could have been just a “chick lit” book is something much more satisfying.  This is Robin Schwarz’s first novel, and I look forward to reading more of her work!





Mystery Monday – The Dead Secret

Monday, October 26th, 2015

The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

Friend and rival to Charles Dickens, Collins wrote this mystery between the readable Hide & Seek and his best novel The Woman in White. The Dead Secret is well-written enough but padding with irrelevant scenes hinders the pace of the story. Another problem is the plot. It’s absurd.

Just when the reader is wondering whether to bail, however, Collins will introduce a bit player or set piece that is too appealing to turn one’s back on. Mr. Phippin, wonderful comic relief, plays the martyr to dyspepsia. The housekeeper Mrs. Pentreath and steward Mr. Munder of the creepy mansion are very well drawn indeed. Their interview with Uncle Joseph gives Collins a chance to skewer pomposity and respectability (too bad Uncle Joe fails to be consistently fun). Finally, Andrew Treverton and his rotten companion Shrowl call to mind sleazy characters in Oliver Twist. In Hide & Seek, Collins puts a woman who is deaf at center-stage, but the use of a blind character in this one is not nearly as inventive or convincing.

So, loyal readers, read it for the characters, if plot is not so important to you. Another reason to read it is to sharpen the critical sense. Just where does Collins’ handling of the secret go awry? We’re able to guess the secret fairly early on so the element of surprise rather fades away.





Book Review Contest Finalists – Come Vote!

Friday, October 23rd, 2015


brc pen med

Here’s the latest batch of finalists in our Book Review Contest! To vote: click the links below, and choose Thumbs Up on the review. You can “Like” (or Share) the review to double your vote! The winning review will appear in the PaperBackSwap Blog, and the winning reviewer will get a FREE book from her/his Wish List!


The secret world of ballerinas, revealed… Marianna S (Angeloudi)’s gave four stars to The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey! Her review is a finalist in our Book Review Contest this week. You can vote for it by giving it a thumbs up on the page linked below – and Like or Share to double your vote!






Looking for a good paranormal read? Katherine N (kimberlyrav) recommends “The Waiting: A Supernatural Thriller” by Joe Hart. Her review is a finalist in our Book Review Contest this week – you can vote for the review with a thumbs-up, and double your vote with a “Like” or a “Share”!






Historical Mystery lovers will want to read R.E.K. (bigstone)’s review of The Thief Taker by Janet Gleeson. It’s a finalist in our Book Review Contest this week! You can vote for the review with a thumbs-up, and double your vote with a “Like” or a “Share”!







You have until Wednesday, October 29, 2015 to vote. Winner will be announced on Thursday, October 30,2015. Good luck to everyone!