PaperBackSwap Blog

Archive for November, 2015

Mystery Monday – The Boy from Reactor 4

Monday, November 9th, 2015

The Boy from Reactor 4 by Orest Stelmach

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

When I finished The Boy from Reactor 4, I went to Twitter and tweeted: “@oreststelmach Finished ‘The Boy from Reactor 4’ today. Loved it! Action-packed, suspenseful & unique. Can’t wait to read more!”  I think ‘unique’ is the best word I can use to describe it, the book really is unlike any other I’ve read.  And the good news is it is book one in the Nadia Tesla series so I have the opportunity to read more!

There is nothing mundane or cliche about this mystery novel. From New York to Ukraine to Russia and back again, it is full of suspense, manipulative characters, organized crime, corruption, with some familial obligation thrown in for good measure. Nadia Tesla’s father died when Nadia was just thirteen but recent events throw her into a quest for information and answers about her father’s life. Nadia discovers cryptic clues and meets people who send her on a quest she never imagined. Nadia allies herself with Adam, a teenage hockey phenom who has grown up practicing his hockey skills on the frozen ponds at Chernobyl.  Yes, Chernobyl…things just took a crazy twist.

I think this novel was expertly written but contains tons of details and information that could get to complicated if a reader isn’t paying attention. It reminded me of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in that they are both dark, intricate stories that take a lot of focus to not confuse the plot angles and details.

If you’re interested in a mystery that can take you around the world and explore dark secrets of areas little explored (ie: Chernobyl), check out The Boy from Reactor 4.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the author responded to my tweet: ‘@MirahWelday Thank you, Mirah! Happy Sunday.’  Happy reading, PBSers!



Facebook Review Contest Winner!

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

brc pen med



 Congratulations Cat S. (catscritch)!



Still Time by Jean Hegland

Winning Review by Cat S. (catscritch)


John is losing his mind. Or is he gaining insight into his past? This novel picks you up and drops you into a world most of us fear. Yet does it in such a way as to be entertaining, heartwarming, frustrating and wondrous, just as living serves us all. The beauty lies in his ability to fall back on his long love of Shakespeare although, all the studying, reading and teaching those tragedy/comedies have nothing on the final answers his quest to understand will bring. No one knows for sure what goes on in the mind of those who have lost all sense of time and current events, but Hegland makes if feels right. The ups and downs of memory loss are a maddening affair. Full of things unspoken, promises broken and love’s small tokens. I was hooked from the beginning and did not guess the ending. A wonderful tale to behold. I would recommend it to all as it surely expanded my attempts to understand from the inside. The characters are richly detailed and I was never as lost as John. I need to call all my family and tell them I love them. Right Now!
A preview book was supplied free for an honest review.





Poetry Review – One Hundred and One Famous Poems

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

One Hundred and One Famous Poems compiled by Roy Cook

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)


Christmas 1989.  I received the anthology One Hundred and One Famous Poems for Christmas from my brother (even though my wisdom tells me my mom bought it for my brother to give to me, that’s what mom’s do).  I still have this book and it has its permanent position on my bookshelf dedicated to classics.

While this anthology includes works by the big names in poetry (Longfellow, Emerson, Burns, Wordsworth, and Tennyson), I prefer the poetic gems from less recognizable names like Cooke, Masefield, and Bennett.

Upon receiving this anthology, I discovered the poem How Did You Die? by Edmund Vance Cooke. People are quite often taken aback slightly when I tell them the title of my favorite poem; I admit it sounds morbid but it’s not morbid at all, it’s all about living!  This poem speaks to me in a way no other poem ever has and it really is my life mantra, my internal reminder to always move forward. My copy of this book almost opens to the page with this poem on its own, I’ve been to it so many times. To this day, I feel the emotions of the lines in my gut and I usually can’t recite it without getting tears in my eyes.  It’s hard for me not to have a strong response to these wonderful lines by Cooke:

And though you be done to death, what then?
If you battled the best you could;
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he’s slow or spry,
It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,
But only, how did you die?

I simply love this stanza.  For some of us, our legacies are all we have to leave behind and I’m determined to leave a positive one!  With this poem, Cooke put together words that have given me inspiration to live a better life for almost thirty years!

There are so many other wonderful poems in this anthology (including a couple of my favorites from Poe) and most of them are short, so people who don’t consider themselves huge fans of poetry won’t get bogged down in pages and pages of stanzas.  And the best part: there are multiple copies available through PBS, so order your copy today!  You could discover a poem that can impact you the way How Did You Die? impacted my life when I was just thirteen years old.







Memoir Review – On Writing by Stephen King

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)

I have always harbored a desire to write, and of course, be published. Depending on the different stages in my life, I have thought about writing novels, children’s books, and works of non-fiction. Lately I’ve been contemplating writing a fictional account of some of my ancestors’ adventures in early America. I’m part Irish and part Cherokee…which, if you think about it, are two cultures that lend quite easily to real adventures, let alone fictional ones. But, to be honest, I’m still pretty much at the daydreaming stage, although I did do quite a bit of research into retelling Celtic folktales for children about 10 years ago. It’s my guess that there are quite a few other folks out there who not only dream about writing, but could even be farther along than I am…and actually writing! If so, I have a great book to recommend: “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King.

I suppose I should pause here and say that even if you don’t enjoy King’s work, or if you’ve never read any Stephen King, you’ve got to admit that he must be doing something right. He’s one of the most successful writers in the world today, and he offers some very good, concise, down-to-earth advice on writing in this book. I should also point out that, even if you have no desire to write so much as a grocery list, this is still a fascinating book because King tells us about his early life and how writing came to be in his blood. And remember, he’s a good storyteller.

The first third of the book covers King’s early years, beginning with his earliest memory:

“I was imagining that I was, in fact, the Ringling Brothers Circus Strongboy. This was at my Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Oren’s house in Durham, Maine. My aunt remembers this quite clearly, and says I was two and a half or maybe three years old.

I had found a cement cinderblock in a corner of the garage and had managed to pick it up. I carried it slowly across the garage’s smooth cement floor, except in my mind’s eye I was dressed in an animal skin singlet (probably a leopard skin) and carrying the cinderblock across the center ring. The vast crowd was silent. A brilliant blue-white spotlight marked my remarkable progress. Their wondering faces told the story: never had they seen such an incredibly strong kid. “And he’s only two!” someone muttered in disbelief.

Unknown to me, wasps had constructed a small nest in the lower half of the block and one of them flew out and stung me on the ear. The pain was brilliant, like a poisonous inspiration. It was the worst pain I had ever suffered in my short life, but it only held the top spot for a few seconds. When I dropped the cinderblock on one bare foot, mashing all five toes, I forgot all about the wasp.”


King goes on to recount other adventures of his youth, his marriage to his wife Tabitha, also a writer, the birth of their children, the sale of his first novel. With every life experience he shares, he somehow brings it back to his craft, and how it influenced his writing.

The second third of the book, King gives aspiring writers a “toolbox” as he puts it; tips and tricks of the trade. I consider this a tough love, crash course in creative writing. He gives an example of an opening to a short story he wrote…and then he gives us the edited version, a wonderful example of how to sharpen a story. He also believes that good writers are voracious readers, and to that end, provides a reading list.

The book ends with a recounting of the nearly fatal car accident in the summer of 1999. King was walking along the road and was hit by a drunk driver in a van. He tells of this life-altering experience as if it was a scene in one of his novels, but chillingly enough, it’s all real.

At one point I mentioned here that I enjoyed reading memoirs written by authors, and happily I found another one. The bonus is that I also received some great tips on writing. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually put pen to paper next!




Mystery Monday – Nightmare Town

Monday, November 2nd, 2015


Nightmare Town : Stories by Dashiell Hammett

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


This is a collection of 20 short crime stories that Hammett published in magazines like Black Mask and Saucy Stories from the early 1920s to the early 1930s. I usually expect uneven quality in collections. But not so here.

Readers of noir detective tales will enjoy the prose. This is from the title story, which features a kungfu-type hero who wields an ebony cane:

Behind his stick that had become a living part of him, Steve Threefall knew happiness – that rare happiness which only the expert ever finds – the joy in doing a thing that he can do supremely well. Blows he took – blows that shook him, staggered him – but he scarcely noticed them. His whole consciousness was in his right arm and the stick it spun. A revolver, tossed from a smashed hand, exploded ten feet over his head, a knife tinkled like a bell on the brick sidewalk, a man screamed as a stricken horse screams.

As if the role of blind chance and accident didn’t loom large enough in the course of life, it’s a corrupt world too in these stories. Cops and judges are on the take. Gangsters run whole towns. National crime syndicates design and operate elaborate scams. And ordinary people are ground down, going along to get along.

Low-lives are cunning and effective at the felonies they commit and scams they pull off. Experience makes them good at their jobs, but their criminality is also a manifestation of personality kinks. This reminds me of John Bingham’s heartless malefactors – neither the basic rules of decency nor the damage they do to the lives of other people means anything to them. This doesn’t mean they are not empathetic – their ability to see things from others’ point of view is keen enough to enable them to manipulate other people like tools. In these stories when they fess up to crimes, they do so with relish over their accomplishments.

Readers of Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald will enjoy these stories