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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.




Banned Books

Wednesday, October 4th, 2023



What Banned Books have you read? What book or books is surprising that it still on this list?

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  2. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  4. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  5. George by Alex Gino
  6. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  7. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  8. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
  9. Internet Girls (series) by Lauren Myracle
  10. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  11. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  12. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  13. I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel
  14. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  15. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  16. Bone (series) by Jeff Smith
  17. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  18. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
  19. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss
  20. Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg
  21. Alice McKinley (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  22. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris
  23. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
  24. Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
  25. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  26. A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  27. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
  28. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  29. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  30. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  31. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
  32. It’s a Book by Lane Smith
  33. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  34. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  35. What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
  36. A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer
  37. Bad Kitty (series) by Nick Bruel
  38. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
  39. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
  40. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  41. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby by Dav Pilkey
  42. This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman
  43. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
  44. A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
  45. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  46. Goosebumps (series) by R.L. Stine
  47. In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco
  48. Lush by Natasha Friend
  49. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  50. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  51. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  52. The Holy Bible
  53. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
  54. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  55. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
  56. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily von Ziegesar
  57. House of Night (series) by P.C. Cast
  58. My Mom’s Having A Baby by Dori Hillestad Butler
  59. Neonomicon by Alan Moore
  60. The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake
  61. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  62. Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  63. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  64. Draw Me a Star by Eric Carle
  65. Dreaming In Cuban by Cristina Garcia
  66. Fade by Lisa McMann
  67. The Family Book by Todd Parr
  68. Feed by M.T. Anderson
  69. Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach
  70. Habibi by Craig Thompson
  71. House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  72. Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah Hoffman
  73. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  74. Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  75. Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter
  76. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan
  77. Stuck in the Middle by Ariel Schrag
  78. The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
  79. 1984 by George Orwell
  80. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  81. Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
  82. Awakening by Kate Chopin
  83. Burned by Ellen Hopkins
  84. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  85. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  86. Glass by Ellen Hopkins
  87. Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesle´a Newman
  88. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  89. Madeline and the Gypsies by Ludwig Bemelmans
  90. My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
  91. Prince and Knight by Daniel Haack
  92. Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology by Amy Sonnie
  93. Skippyjon Jones (series) by Judith Schachner
  94. So Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins
  95. The Color of Earth (series) by Tong-hwa Kim
  96. The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
  97. The Walking Dead (series) by Robert Kirkman
  98. Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
  99. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S Brannen
  100. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks




Fantasy Review – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Friday, May 26th, 2023

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? by Jodi Taylor

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

This is the sixth in The Chronicles of St Mary’s series.  St Mary’s “investigates major historical events in contemporary time”, aka time travel, but they must never call it that. It’s best for a new reader to start with the first book, JUST ONE DAMNED THING AFTER ANOTHER, which I reviewed previously (link).  There are going to be minor spoilers in this review for previous books – you have been warned.

Our heroine Max is now the temporary Chief Training Officer, with six new potential historians to train.  This entry in the series will take us to the Paleolithic period,  Joan of Arc, the Greek historian Herodotus, and a few other adventures. The Time Police make another appearance. As usual, not every character is going to live through the book.

Finally someone has asked the question of how villains are finding the teams when they travel into the past.  The answer is forthcoming, although I think Taylor made that much too easy, and I didn’t think explained everything. But no matter, this is not a series where you should be applying a lot of logic to the plot.  We are not done with villains though as a slightly different nefarious plot surfaces towards the end, and while it seems to be foiled for the moment, we don’t know who instigated it.

I  would have liked a bit more of Leon. We barely see him, and after the ending of the last book plus a throwaway comment from Max in the beginning of this one, I really expected more interaction.  But with 14 books (so far) in the series, there seems to be plenty of time for Taylor to take it up.

While it’s still a nice quick read, I found the pacing a lot slower.  After the momentous events of the last couple books, it’s like the series is taking a little breather, which I think is a good thing. This is not to say that there isn’t action going on.  I can’t decide if there is a even balance between the amusing scenes (the baby mammoth) and the horribly gruesome (Joan of Arc), but I think it spends more time on the amusing. Although the gruesome certainly sticks out – that was worthy of a horror novel.

Bottom line, I’m still enjoying it all although I’m not as anxious to grab the next book as I was when I started the series. But I do plan on reading #7 before too much time goes by.



Non-Fiction Review – Homicide is my Business

Thursday, May 25th, 2023

Homicide Is My Business: Luigi the Zip: A Hitman’s Quest for Honor by Jerry Schmetterer and Michael Vecchione

Review by jjares

This is the fascinating and highly readable story of Luigi Ronsisvalle, a professional New York Bonano family hitman. We hear Luigi’s story because he never reached his goal of becoming a Mafia “made man.” Disappointed, Luigi did everything his bosses asked of him (including killing thirteen men), yet they never deemed him good enough to be a made man.* Short, balding, and with broken English, Luigi was not someone you would expect to be a Mafioso. He killed thirteen men (6 in Sicily and 8 in America).

There was another reason for Luigi’s defection (besides not rising to ‘made man’). The Mafia had given a contract to kill Luigi to the most dangerous hitman around. So Luigi came to the police and turned himself in to protect his wife and three daughters. As part of his plea agreement, he had to answer all questions honestly.

The coauthor, Michael Vecchione, spent months interviewing Luigi to understand the Sicilian and American Mafias. They met in Vecchione’s DA office, while Luigi ate veal parmesan sandwiches with beer. It was amazing how many important actions Luigi was part of during his time in the Mafia.

Luigi knew a lot about the French Connection of importing heroin into the US (a movie was made of this with Gene Hackman) and the Pizza Connection (trafficking drugs in the dough for pizzas). Luigi knew important details about the murder of mob boss Carmine Galante. He was also in the know about the schemes of an Italian banker suspected of stealing from the Vatican.

What is interesting about this story is that Luigi tells his life story through the lens of his Mafia associations, from Sicily to America. He had an interesting code of honor: He never killed anyone who didn’t deserve it. He had a code of paying his debts, treating his workers with respect, leaving the working man alone, and only going after those that deserved it. He was very disappointed in the American Mafia because they didn’t believe in those old-time Sicilian values. They were in it for the money. Period.

Luigi tells his story of being a hitman by meticulously watching and planning the hit. He was a respected assassin in Sicily because of this and was imported to America because of his skill in killing — and not getting caught. He was eventually convicted in 1976, but just spent five years in jail before disappearing in the federal witness protection program. In 1985, Luigi was the star witness in the President’s Commission on Organized Crime under President Ronald Reagan. He fascinated everyone. Later, the coauthor reports that he heard that Luigi committed suicide while in witness protection, but he is not sure if that is accurate. Overall score = 4.5 stars.

* A made man is a fully-initiated Mafia member. A made man demands respect and cannot be killed without a don’s permission.

An aside: What does “Luigi the Zip” refer to? Zip was a derogatory slur in early 20th century times by Italian American and Sicilian American mobsters in reference to younger immigrant Sicilian and Italian mobsters. Second-generation mobsters were directly imported from Sicily because they were already indoctrinated into the Maria mindset. However, Mafia members already in America thought they were yokels.



Sci-Fi Review – Fleet of Knives

Sunday, April 9th, 2023

Fleet of Knives by Gareth L. Powell

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


FLEET OF KNIVES is the second in the SF trilogy by Gareth Powell. It starts almost directly after EMBERS OF WAR, which I reviewed earlier and needs to be read first. EMBERS OF WAR introduced us to most of the main characters: Trouble Dog, the sapient spaceship; Sal Konstanz, captain of Trouble Dog; Nod, the Druff engineer; and Ona Sudak, the war criminal who exterminated an entire planet. This book also introduces “Lucky” Johnny Schulz, the captain of the ship Lucy’s Ghost.

At the end of the first book, Trouble Dog had managed to escape the murderous intentions of her sister ships, found the Marble Armada – a fleet of one million ships hidden in a pocket universe, just waiting for someone to lead them – and brought out Ona Sudak to face justice.  But now it’s all going to come unraveled.

Trouble Dog and Sal are answering a distress call from Lucy’s Ghost, who has been mysteriously attacked in hyperspace and then crashed on a moon-sized generation ship left by the alien Nymtoq. The Nymtoq are going to be very unhappy that someone is messing around on their monument, but Johnny and the rest of the crew from Lucy’s Ghost have bigger problems just trying to stay alive. It turns out they are not alone in this place.

In the meanwhile, someone has broken Ona Sudak out of prison only moments before her scheduled execution. The Marble Armada has decided it needs a real leader, a biological entity, and Ona Sudak is the one. “What should we do?” it asks, and Ona Sudak says “End war. By whatever means possible” and thus begins more thousands of deaths as the Armada systematically destroys anything that can be a weapon – including Trouble Dog.

As befits the middle of a trilogy, it ends with our heroes beset on every side and managing to barely escape. None of the POV characters will die but just a warning, everyone else is fair game.

This is a fast-paced action-filled space opera. As before, the POV shifts every few pages between characters. Sal and Johnny are the captains desperately trying to keep their crews alive, Trouble Dog more dispassionate but also needing her crew. Nod has few scenes but still gets some character development. Ona Sudak seems rational on the surface but is just despicable – you will be irresistibly reminded of “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

There’s a surprise appearance at a crucial moment of someone from the last book. That was a little deus ex machina for my taste – Powell had better use him in the next book. Nod and its children were a delight and I know it has to play a bigger role next time.  I would have loved to see chapters from the POV of Lucy. I liked Trouble Dog’s emotional development. There’s good dialogue with some humorous moments, very good imagery, and lots of mystery to make you impatient to read the end of the trilogy.





Non-Fiction Review – Travel Back in the Day to 1972

Wednesday, January 25th, 2023

Travel Back in the Day to 1972 by David and Lauren Benson

Review by jjares

The information, especially the photos, takes the reader back down memory lane to 1972. There’s a little for everyone, from world events to fashion trends, music, and beyond. A loaf of bread cost 27 cents, while a gallon of gas was 36 cents. The average home cost was $27,600, and the average price of a car was $3,879. The minimum wage was $1.60/hour, while the average income was $11,116/year.

Of the 1.7 million couples in the US who tied the knot in this year, many couples shared their first dance to Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” or “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers.  Also, three million three hundred thousand babies were born in 1972. Favorite male names were Michael and Christopher. Jennifer and Michelle were the hot female names for babies.

The information on vacations blew me away. Disney World opened in October 1971, and 400,000 visitors enjoyed the Magic Kingdom by the following year. Tickets were $3.75, and rides were extra. However, a family of four could ride and eat for $10 per person. Today, that cost is $100 per person. Another way to travel that became popular at this time was the RV (recreational vehicle). Winnebago and Airstream were popular brands.

Integration was a new phenomenon in education, along with English as a Second Language and classes for the disabled. In 1972, the high school graduation rate was 75% (today, it is around 86%). In 1973, 1.5 million students were in college. Today, the enrollment is about 19 million.

Many pages (and photos) are about the college protests against the Vietnam War, the hippie movement, and the emerging interest in drugs. Then, of course, Nixon and the Watergate Scandal are mentioned. On a more positive note, the moon landings were highlighted. The Olympics occurred in 1972. Finally, the tragedy of the Black September group killing Israeli Olympic team members is mentioned, along with comparing gold, silver, and bronze medal winners in the most successful countries.

I remember the Hewlett-Packard pocket scientific calculator. We bought one of the first available in 1972, I remember it cost an astronomical price of $135.You can find one that does more (than the 1972 scientific model) for about $20. The same year, Polaroid released the SX-70 model. It developed a photo in less than 10 minutes.

The 1970s brought color and new fabrics to the fashion world. Polyester was developed by NASA and hit the clothing market hard. The phrase “groovy psychedelic” describes the clothes of this era, complete with bell-bottom trousers, high-waisted pants, going braless, and oversized glasses.

The top television shows for 1972 were “All in the Family” and “Sanford and Sons.” The biggest movie was “The Godfather.” Roberta Flack had the biggest tune of the year, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Roberta and her music were introduced to moviegoers in “Play Misty for Me.” The photo of David Bowie in the Ziggy Stardust Tour is mind-bending.

This book is pure nostalgia. Readers can spend a couple of hours reminiscing about their old toys (now worth a mint), clothes, and pastimes. There is something for everyone. Enjoy. Overall score = G+.



Free Book Friday Winner!

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021



The Winner of the Brand-New Copy of

Dune by Frank Herbert


Lorraine S.


Congratulations! Your Book will be on the way to you soon!

Thank you to everyone who entered!