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Archive for April, 2016

To Honor a Woman of Quiet Valor – CarolCeltic

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

PaperBackSwap lost a long-time and very special member. Most of us who participated in the Discussion Forums on the site called her friend. Matter of fact, Carol has over 250 other members on her Friends List. And many of us have a soft spot in our hearts for her.

Carol joined PaperBackSwap in 2006 and in that time swapped thousands of books and sent out many more to her friends and acquaintances on the site. She loved books! She loved to read books and to share books with other book lovers.

She also loved to share her kindness and encouraging words with her friends here. It was a rare instance when Carol didn’t respond with kind words and caring when someone posted a joy or trouble in Club Member Thoughts. It was no surprise when she was named Member of the Month in February of 2008.



Carol had her share of difficulties in her life, but went on with it, with courage and determination. She was an example to us all of us when life slings hardships our way. She got up day after day, making the best of it. She knew what was important. The love of Family and Friends and her sweet companion, Sampson. Sampson was also kind of our dog, since we had the joy in helping to name him. We read her stories of his puppy-hood with laughter and love. We celebrated his achievements and antics with her. We love, through our love of Carol, her love for him.

Carol, we will miss your presence in the forums, in the swaps, in our lives. And we are better people for knowing and loving you.  Thank you for your example of quiet valor, your quirky sense of humor and for sharing the last 10 years of your life with us.



Mystery Monday Review – The Painswick Line

Monday, April 25th, 2016

The Painswick Line by Henry Cecil

Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)


A bookmaker employs Lucy Meeson-Smith as a clerk taking bets in the London of the early Fifties. She not only sets up a false account to place bets, which is obviously against the rules, but she also always backs winners. The winning too often and too much arouses the suspicions of her employers who sue her for fraud.

At her trial her defense brings out that her papa, a vicar in a remote country town, has made a life’s study of breeding and form and has become a brilliant tipster though he eschews betting himself as not becoming for a parson. The judge in the case, Mr Justice Painswick, has a swindler and con-man for son who is deeply in debt. The judge feels forced to pump the vicar for tips that he can win on and get his son out of dutch with his creditors and possibly the authorities.

Cecil doesn’t spend time on the etiology of criminal behavior, though he does weave together the theme of the influence of breeding on behavior. It seems both good and bad, whether “good in the stretch” or “liable to defraud” is apt to skip generations, that is, grandchildren and grandparents sharing more traits than kids and parents.

Touching on the British court system, the track and sporting life, and the milieu of people who spend a third of their adult life in prison, this episodic novel is intelligent, witty, and high-spirited. Cecil provides interesting information on frauds such as check kiting and bogus claims for commissions. He also tweaks lawyerdom with an exchange of acrimonious letters, which is a hoot. Readers of According to the Evidence (1954) will be pleased to find probably the first appearance of recurring comic character, Col. Brain, dimwit and twit.

This was Cecil’s second book, written in 1951. One would never know it was written shortly after his wife’s death, taken up to take his mind off grieving. Cecil was a barrister and judge so this legal fiction bears the stamp of authenticity.




Fiction Review – Winter Street

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

This past holiday season I was looking for a new holiday book and found Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand.  I have read (and listened) to other Hilderbrand books and one thing I like is that she can make her locations seem almost like additional characters to the story.

Enter Winter Street and the Quinn family. Kelley and Mitzi Quinn own and operate the Winter Street Inn, a bed & breakfast in Nantucket. Mitzi drops a bombshell on Kelley just before Christmas and his children rally around him to provide support and encouragement.  But little does Kelley know, his children are dealing with various crises of their own.  And what about Kelley’s ex-wife Margaret, where does she fit in?  Mitzi has never liked her but do her children and Kelley need her now?  And what about Bart, the Kelley’s son with Mitzi and new Marine who recently went to the Middle East? All calls and emails to him are unable to be delivered. Is he safe?

Everyone gathers at the Winter Street Inn for the holiday and to support Kelly but does he really want to keep the bed & breakfast after this holiday heartbreak?  The Inn is a Nantucket staple but Kelley might not have the heart to keep it going himself.

Winter Street is a holiday novel about the function within a dysfunctional family and the power of moving on and accepting things you cannot change. It was a quick read that is lighthearted and great for a cold (snowy) winter’s day. I’m looking forward to joining the Quinns again in Winter Stroll.




Mystery Monday Review – Silent Thunder

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Silent Thunder by Loren D. Estleman

Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)


This is the ninth mystery to star the series hero Amos Walker, published in 1989. In the hard-boiled manner of Raymond Chandler’s Phil Marlowe, Walker drinks like a fish, smokes like a chimney, shoots straight as an arrow, and cracks as wise as … an owl?

Walker is hired as a freelancer by a large security firm. The behemoth assigns him to investigate Doyle Thayer Junior. His widow Constance has admitted to killing Junior but claims his history of abusing her drove her to plug him fatally in self-defense. Building an argument for self-defense, her lawyer wants Walker to dig up dirt on the dead husband so that the jury will be grateful to the widow for removing such a menace to society. Inarguably, Thayer Junior was a threat to himself and others because he collected enough weapons to stock an arsenal and he partied like it was 1989. Guns, alcohol, testosterone, and negligent gun safety practices were as volatile a mix then as it is nowadays.

Walker’s investigation takes him to the market in illegal guns. His nearly paid-for Chevy is raked by M-16 fire by a hooded quartet. After getting bonked on the head by a knuckle-walker, Walker is comforted by the widow. Not just with iodine.

The language is rough, various scenes feature gun violence. The grim attitudes reflect the noir fallacy that the world is more dangerous and grisly than it really is. The reveal centers around a villain whose plot is as grandiose as any Bond-movie megalomaniac.

But Estleman’s hard-boiled mystery never fails to entertain. Walker, like Lew Archer, has soul and quick wit, though realistic and tough. The references to SE Michigan and uses of local lingo such as “up north” will appeal to Downriver born and bred readers like me.


Mystery Monday Review – The Case of the Cautious Coquette

Monday, April 11th, 2016

The Case of the Cautious Coquette by Erle Stanley Gardner


Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)


Mystery expert Mike Grost says that the creator of Perry Mason had “seemingly inexhaustible ability to generate complex plots.” Evidence for this assertion abounds in this one, the 34th Perry Mason novel.

Amazingly, our favorite criminal lawyer opens the story performing as a personal injury attorney. Before we reach for the cuspidor, however, we must recall that this makes total sense since Mason takes on cases in which the little guy is pitted against remorseless forces like insurance companies.

Mason is seeking witnesses to the hit-and-run accident that left his client (a poor college kid) with a broken hip and his mother (a widow) all shook up. Complexity rears its head after a newspaper ad yields two drivers of two suspected vehicles and eventually two settlements for one accident. Mason is further astonished when found shot to death in a garage is a chauffeur that turns out to be the driver of one of the guys who settled. In typical Dickensian-Gardnerian fashion, the vic was named Hartwell L. Pitken.

Attractive and cunning Lucille Barton wants Mason to represent her in an alimony action, which he declines since he doesn’t do divorce cases. But Mason is with Lucille when Pitkin’s body is found in the garage of her apartment building. Mason directs her to report the body to the police and then leaves. Just like his usual conniving client, Lucille doesn’t make the call and a neighbor provides a positive ID of the hottie, but is less sure of Mason. To avoid having to answer awkward questions from the police, Perry decides to cite attorney-client privilege. This lands him with a client he doesn’t want, so he has to prove her innocence when she is arrested for murder of the driver.

In a rare linking of talents and resources, Homicide Detective Tragg and Mason join forces. Tragg’s rival on the force, Sgt. Holcomb, throws Tragg under the bus, so Tragg gratefully takes a tip from Mason. He cheers – silently, of course – when Mason tricks Holcomb and a witness into a false identification and makes Holcomb look like a big dummy in court. Mason and Tragg are even involved in a car chase, a rarity in the Mason novels.

Despite some antique slang such as “swell” and adjectives that have lost their power (what is the shape, size, and appearance of a “well-upholstered woman” anyway?), both fans of the series and novices will enjoy one of most intricately plotted of Mason’s cases.






Historical Fiction Review – Sacajawea

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

During a recent trip to South Dakota I discovered the novel Sacajawea in the Mt Rushmore gift shop.  I was intrigued and decided to give this massive paperback tome a try.  I love South Dakota and I am very interested in our country’s westward expansion and native cultures.

By all accounts, Sacajawea’s life started out pretty idyllic but it didn’t take things long to quickly unravel.  She experienced separation from her family, was traded as a commodity, treated badly and without respect by several key people in her life, and experienced many personal losses and disappointments.  When Sacajawea had the opportunity to join the harrowing Lewis & Clark expedition she was able to reconnect and honor many parts of her cultural heritage, while at the same time she came to appreciate some of the customs of the white explorers.  Much of Sacajawea’s life was tumultuous and uncertain but, based on all that is known of her, she was strong and resilient.

One thing cannot be denied about Waldo’s novel: extensive research was conducted to craft this novel.  The notes were lengthy but added a lot of depth to the novel.  I appreciate this level of research and attention to detail.  Even with this extensive research, there is much that is not known about Sacajawea’s life after the expedition.  There are various accounts of the direction her life took after the expedition and where and how she died.  Waldo presents one widely accepted version of Sacajawea’s later life and this, I think, is where the novel loses some of its traction; I think the first three quarters of the novel are stronger and more clearly presented.

From a historical perspective, Sacajawea is a wonderful novel that gives a voice to one of the most iconic women of American culture.  I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of the American west.




Mystery Monday Review – No Name by Wilkie Collins

Monday, April 4th, 2016

No Name by Wilkie Collins

Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)


Critics and mystery fans consider this one Collins’ third best novel, after The Woman in White (which he himself thought his best) and The Moonstone (still credited as the first detective novel). I found the plot of No Name absorbing, far-fetched but never ridiculous as in Armadale (from which I had to bail about 100 pages in) or The Dead Secret. In fact, I think Collins wanted to showcase his own marvelous ingenuity in creating a plot and spinning out narrative with various techniques.

This novel opens on a domestic Trollopian note. Two grown sisters enjoy life, loved by their rich parents and secure in domestic comfort. But a series of disasters occurs. The sisters find themselves without their parents and because of cruel antique laws, they are revealed as illegitimate and stripped of their parents’ estate. It lands in the avaricious hands of a cousin who refuses to give the girls a hand even though he knows it was the intention of their father to provide for them.

The middle of the novel calls to mind the atmosphere of intrigue in The Woman in White. That is, the passionate sister vows to take back the legacy by any means necessary. She is helped by a Count Fosco-type villain – ruthless, charming, and a delight whenever he’s in the scene. The book is worth reading just for Capt. Wragge. His gift of gab would have been perfect for W.C. Fields. The middle section features a game of wits and skullduggery between two shrewd gamesters.

The last quarter or so does not let up either, so right to the end I was engrossed. He uses exchanges of letters to speed the plot along. He cuffs around middle-class smug respectability and keeping up appearances too. He does not make a big show of cutting down hypocrisy, but he makes sure we know he stands on the side of the individual against mindless conformity and a society too submissive to antique laws, endless red tape, and “the clap-trap morality of the present day,”as he said called it in the preface to Armadale.

Some readers may grumble that Collins isn’t as funny as Dickens and has fewer wise asides than Trollope. Still, I rather like these digressions

Examples may be found every day of a fool who is no coward; examples may be found occasionally of a fool who is not cunning; but it may reasonably be doubted whether there is a producible instance anywhere of a fool who is not cruel.


Resist it as firmly, despise it as proudly as we may, all studied unkindness—no matter how contemptible it may be—has a stinging power in it which reaches to the quick.


Collins doesn’t do scenery or weather either. It’s hard to know the season sometimes. I think he knew his audience – young, urban, on the way up – enough to know lots of readers just skim that stuff anyway.

In conclusion, I think readers that liked The Woman in White would probably like this one.