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Archive for November, 2023

Author Interview with Rhoda Orme-Johnson and Book Give-Away

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2023










Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview, Rhoda Orme-Johnson!


Rhoda Orme-Johnson is an author, was a computer programmer for the Apollo Project, a teacher of TM, and a professor among other interesting things.


Q: According to the blurb on the back of your book, Anna: An Immigrant Story you are a writer, always a writer€. If you had to describe yourself in one word, would writer be the word?


A: “Seeker” is the word. My whole life has been a search for spiritual progress, development of consciousness, and deep knowledge about how mind and body work for optimum growth, hence my interest in the Transcendental Meditation technique. Writing itself is a process of self-discovery, so very much in this life-learning program. Writing comes from the deepest level of consciousness and leads the writer back there to mine one’s deepest feelings and thoughts. It’s also very blissful.


Q: You have traveled a great deal. Where in the world do you feel most at home?


A: I love traveling the world and enjoying various cultures, cuisines, and beauties, spiritual and material. I felt very at home in India, but with the feeling that my past lives there may not have been very pleasant. Paris is the place where I am most alive, happy, and full of the zest of life!


Q: Where did you get the idea to write your grandmother’€™s story? Many immigrants to America would rather put the past before they came to this country behind them. It is good that you wrote of her history so we can know the history of people that struggled to get here.


A: I was meditating one day and I felt my grandmother’s presence and felt her desire that I tell her story. That impulse got me started on a big research project to find out what really happened. She and my parents’ generation had all died, but many of my cousins had diaries, letters, memories, and photos that allowed me to reconstruct her life. Some of it was painful, like imagining living under the Russian occupation of Ukraine, where she and my mother and all her brothers were born.


Q: Do you share any qualities with your grandmother? It seems she was very determined, along with her husband, to create a better life for her family. Can you share with us an example of her determination?


A: My grandfather left Ukraine for America in 1913, just after my mother’s birth, leaving my grandmother with five children to care for. He promised to send for her within the year, but World War I intervened, as did the revolutions in Russia, a cholera epidemic, and much more, while he sold vegetables from a cart, saved money, and bought the family a house to live in when they could finally get out of Ukraine. The Russians took away her second house (and source of income) and left her with her garden, canning, and other methods to feed the family as the years went by. Finally, in 1923 the money and opportunity allowed her to take four of the children first to Kiev, then to Moscow (to get papers and tickets), and on to Latvia to get a ship to America. Reunited with my grandfather, she adapted to a strange country, raised her extended family, and lived through the 20th century in her home, via radio and news, until her death in 1956 (when I was 16 years old). I find that I too, prioritized my family, learned to live by my own wits and work, and fully entered into the life and times in which I found my self. I recreated her life through a memoir, in which she lives her old age, remembers her past, and evaluates her life and times. People tell me it is a good read!


Q: You have been a member of PaperBackSwap for 6 years, how did you first learn of the site?


A: I don’t remember who first told me about the site, but it has been great fun to wish list the books I would love to read and to share those I have already read with people who want to enjoy them.


Q: Do you read for pleasure or to learn?


Both. Although I mostly read fiction, I always learn vicariously from the characters and what they go through. I learn about myself, of course, and I must say, I prefer fiction that shows the evolution and growth of its characters, not their misery and downfall, because I believe life has a positive trajectory, not always obvious up close, but evident in the long term.


Q: Who is your favorite author?


A: Well, of romance writers, Mary Balogh. Of literature greats, I have always loved Willa Cather. Recently I have really enjoyed Ann Patchett’s latest Tom LakeI read David Copperfield before tackling my book club’s choice of Demon Copperhead, and found I infinitely preferred the former.


Q: What was your favorite book growing up?


A: As a child, I loved books about horses and dogs and the Dr. Dolittle books, then girls (remember Betsy, Tacy and Tib?). I remember really loving A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Then I moved on to the “great books” shelf in my local library, found Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Flaubert, and off I went. Now, I must say, I prefer books written by women, not by men. Let’s have the inside story! (Although I did love A Gentleman in Moscow.)


Q: Who is your hero, living or dead?


A: Most recently, Elizabeth Zott in Lessons in Chemistry. What a great read!


And now for some fun stuff:


Q: Coke or Pepsi?


A: Neither. These are poisons. Water is best. I do love good Chinese or Indian tea (Pu-er) to start the day.


Q: Cats or Dogs?


A: I am a cat person, although I have had and do love dogs, especially if they belong to someone else and I can just enjoy them and then send them home.


Q: Breakfast or lunch?


A: I could eat breakfast all day long.


Q: Winter or summer?


A: Both have their joys, but eating out on the porch in the warm weather and strolling down to the beach are best.


Q: Do you have another book planned?


A: Things run through my head, but I am now 83, and travel has taken precedence, and reading, always reading. I am thinking of revisiting the great women writers of the 19th century: George Eliot, for example.



Q: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?


I am feeling closer to Mother/Father God these days (New avenues of learning opening up), although organized religion continues to give me the hives; I will have nothing to do with it. No one should have spiritual power over anyone else and take advantage of it.




Rhoda Orme-Johnson has generously offered a copy of her book, Anna. An Immigrant Story, to one of our members who comments here on this PaperBackSwap Blog interview. A winner will be chosen at random.




Fantasy Review – The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches

Friday, November 17th, 2023

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)


A simply sweet story about family, being who you are, and trusting others. It starts out a bit slow but gradually builds and before long, you are fully immersed into the story and into the lives of the characters. Almost to the point you don’t want it to end.
Mika is a witch and a lonely one at that. She lives in a world where you have to hide who you are or take the chance of being persecuted. Even being with other witches is an impossibility as that much magic together can cause disaster. On top of that, all witches are orphans. So besides the “once in a blue moon” meeting the witches get together to have, Mika keeps a solitary life moving around and running her own website. When she is contacted about a teaching job for 3 young witches, she is hesitant but also curious. When she arrives at the home, she finds the caretakers consisting of Ian, Ken, Lucie and Jamie. Even though she has her doubts, she decides to give it a chance and finds more than a job within this warm, loving home.
The part that stands out in this book for me is the characters. They were the type that I just wanted to hang out with. Along with the story line, it was a very fun read. Would love to read another book in this series just to see the girls as they grow older.

Fantasy Review – Strange Country

Saturday, November 11th, 2023

Strange Country by Deborah Coates

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


STRANGE COUNTRY is the third of the Hallie Michaels trilogy. I reviewed WIDE OPEN and DEEP DOWN previously. Picking up only a short while after DEEP DOWN, Hallie is fretting about the request she received from Death, but it disappeared before she could give an answer.  She plans to say no as soon as she can figure out how.  The black dog Maker, who is a harbinger of death except when he’s watching Hallie,  is still hanging around. And Beth, the sister of Boyd’s late wife, shows up again with a demand Hallie really doesn’t want to listen to. With all that pending, there’s another problem.

Boyd was on patrol when he received a report of a prowler from Prue Stalking Horse. As he’s checking out the place, a sniper shoots Prue dead on her front porch.  As the police start their investigation, two state agents show up and one of them has some interesting questions.  Hallie is also determined to find out what’s happening, and she’s asking questions of Laddie Kennedy, who’s saying that the dead are now talking to him all the time instead of just occasionally.

There’s a connection between Prue, Laddie, and a couple other local people, and of course it has to do with magic. Magic that harks back to the first book.

Excellent world-building, good pacing, and really good characters. I love Hallie’s grit, stubborness, and “get the job done” mentality. Boyd is still a bit of an enigma to me, but I can believe in him, and I liked that Coates included his POV this time. Minor character Laddie gets some growth. I wasn’t sure why Agent Gerson was in the plot,  however –  she didn’t have much to do. I especially liked how Coates loosely tied together all the various happenings in the area, but left some mystery behind.  This is a nice trilogy, with a strong mystery whodunit element along with the supernatural.




Women’s Fiction Review – Suburban Hell

Saturday, November 4th, 2023

Suburban Hell by Maureen Kilmer

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)

The cover of this book immediately caught my eye. It was put on my wish list before it even came out. Yet, when it did, the reviews were less than stellar. The urge for the book fell flat and it wasn’t until much later that the book popped up in one of my searches. In that, I saw the reviews had gotten better so I decided to order it. It ended up being worth it.

The story surrounds best friends, Amy, Melissa, Jess and Liz. While they are very different in their own way, they have a strong bond. They get together once a month to drink and chat. This time around they are meeting a Liz’s. After hanging out for awhile they decide to go to the backyard where Liz is going to have their own She Shed built. They christen the ground and immediately weird things happen. As days go by, they notice Liz acting strange. As it gets worse they determine that she is possessed. When no one else will listen, they decide to take matters into their own hands to fight the evil lurking inside their friend.

Now, if you looking for a scary story, this one is not. It does have some creepy moments to it but that is as far as it goes. What it does have is the bonds of sisterhood and a great sense of humor. The only thing that took away from the book was it lagged in some parts but most of the time it was quite a fun fest. Ready to read this author’s next book, Hex Education.




Horror Review – Black Mouth

Wednesday, November 1st, 2023

Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)

A good, creepy tale about a set of childhood friends who drifted apart as they got older only to get pulled back to each other by a malevolent force. Struggling between doing the right thing and fleeing from a terror they do not wish to face again, they lean on each other for support as they relive the horror from their past.

Jamie Warren is an alcoholic who is holding onto sobriety by a string. When he gets a call that his mother has committed suicide and that his disabled brother, Dennis, is now alone, he struggles with the demons of his past. Going back to Black Mouth might be the one thing to snap that string in an instant. Yet the guilt of leaving his brother there to fend for himself overwhelms him and so he sets off to a place he never thought he’d go back to. His friends are making their way back as well. Clay is set on doing the right thing and determined to face the evil lurking at Black Mouth. Mia feels the same way as she looks to get face to face with the past. Together the are on the hunt for a man they know only as “The Magician”. A man they looked at with adoration until that one moment when a veil was lifted and they saw the evil lurking there instead. By then, it was too late. What is done is done but maybe they can make it right this time around.

I read a lot of reviews comparing this story to Stephen King‘s IT. It does have some similarities but I feel like it stands on its own. The story has its own twist and turns that are quite different from IT. I also felt there was a bit of King’s Dreamcatcher familiarity in there too, but just a bit. I quite enjoyed this tale and found The Magician and very frightening character. This is my 2nd Malfi book and like the other, it does not disappoint.