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Posts Tagged ‘Book Recommendations’

Mystery Monday Review – The Case of the Buried Clock

Monday, January 20th, 2020

The Case of the Buried Clock by Erle Stanley Gardner

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

In the 22nd novel starring the lawyer with super-powers and his trusty sidekicks Della Street and Paul Drake, Gardner shows that he’d mastered his way with punchy dialogue. Plenty of clues make the plot elaborate but not bewilderingly complicated: a clock set to sidereal time; the “truth serum” scopolamine in the vic’s body; an uncertain time of death; and finally Gardner’s trusty old “two revolvers” confusion.

The Mason novels that Gardner published during WWII make passing references to war-time culture, such as blackouts, tire rationing, frugality with gasoline, and internment of Japanese-Americans (it was California, after all).

Also, readers who’ve read many of his novels will recall that Gardner tended to look at reality with no illusions. For instance, in this one Gardner tweaks home-front pieties when the returning veteran says that instead of giving a “flag-waving” speech at a luncheon, he bluntly told them that winning the war was going to take a lot of hard work and that the US could be defeated in the conflict. Even more shockingly, Mason bluntly asserts that there are no ethics when dealing with the police.

Perry Mason fans regard this 1942 mystery as one of their favorites. The plot is crystal clear, and for once, he plays fair with the reader, laying out all the clues.

 

 

 

Authors We Lost in 2019.

Monday, December 30th, 2019


Authors We Lost in 2019.

By Vicky T. (VickyJo)

The end of a year is a time of reflection for most people. We think about the past year, the highs and the lows, and we look ahead to a new year full of promise and new beginnings. For me, as a reader, I have a tendency to look back on the authors who left us in the past year. 2019 was a rough year in that we lost some bright stars.

So, in alphabetical order, we must say goodbye to:

Dorothea Benton Frank (Sept. 12, 1951 – Sept. 2, 2019): I’m not sure South Carolina was even on the map before Ms. Frank came along and shared her love of this beautiful area with all of us. Her 20 novels bring to life Charleston and surrounding areas, and the families living there. Her last novel was Queen Bee, but she was also known for Plantation, Sullivan’s Island, and Shem Creek, just to name a few. Just by opening one, I think I can smell the sea and feel the sunshine of her beloved Lowcountry.

Ernest J. Gaines (Jan. 15, 1933 – Nov. 5, 2019) : Mr. Gaines wrote of the struggles of African-Americans in such novels as A Lesson Before Dying and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, focusing on a time before the civil rights movement in this country. He wrote eight novels and many short stories, and was honored with numerous awards, culminating in the National Medal of Arts bestowed on him by President Barack Obama in 2013.

Tony Horwitz (Jun. 9, 1958 – May 27, 2019): A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Mr. Horwitz authored several books, and is probably best known for Confederates in the Attic. He took us all over the world: Australia, Bagdad, the deep South, islands in the Pacific. His books embodied the best of armchair travel combined with history and a peek at various cultures, some foreign, and some perhaps very familiar.

Judith Krantz (Jan. 9, 1928 – Jun 22, 2019): She started out by giving us Scruples in 1978, and she really didn’t let up for almost 20 years. Her first novel was published when she was 50 years old, which should give every aspiring author a great deal of hope. She retired from writing at age 70, after the publication of Spring Collection.

Johanna Lindsey (Mar. 10, 1952 – Oct. 27, 2019): If you are of a certain age, I can almost guarantee you started your career in romance reading by picking up one of Johanna Lindsey’s 50 novels. She started with Captive Bride (1977) and not only gave us wonderful love stories set in various historical time periods, but who didn’t love the Fabio covers?? I remember my grandmother catching me reading one of Ms. Lindsey’s books—and after confiscating it, and reading it herself, asking me if I had any more.

Robert K. Massie (Jan. 5, 1929 – Dec. 2, 2019): My love of Russian history and the tragic story of Nicholas and Alexandra came directly from Mr. Massie’s powerful biography of the two doomed rulers. His biography Peter the Great won him the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1981, and his final book, Catherine the Great, earned him the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, and the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.

Vonda McIntyre (Aug. 28, 1948 – Apr. 1, 2019): Ms. McIntyre began her career in the early 70’s, winning her first Nebula Award for Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand. This novelette soon expanded into the novel Dreamsnake (1978) for which she won both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards. She was a trailblazer in the field of science fiction, and is probably best known for writing several Star Trek and Star Wars novels.

Toni Morrison (Feb. 18, 1931 – Aug. 5, 2019): Words fail me here. From The Bluest Eye, her first novel, through her last novel,
God Help the Child, and up to her last book, a work of non-fiction titled The Source of Self-Regard: Essays, Speeches, Meditations, Ms. Morrison enriched our lives. The list of her awards is incredibly long and impressive. She will be missed.

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat (Nov. 12, 1928 – Mar. 12, 2019): Every beginning reader from the early 1970’s on has picked up a Nate the Great book and been thoroughly entertained by the boy detective. Ms. Sharmat is the author of over 130 books, and the Nate books alone have been translated into 24 languages.

Gene Wolfe (May 7, 1931 – Apr. 14, 2019): Not only was Mr. Wolfe an accomplished science fiction author, best known for his multi-volume work The Book of the New Sun, but he had an amazing life. He had polio as a child; he was a Korean War vet; he was an industrial engineer, and we can thank him for the machine that makes Pringles potato chips! His final novel, Interlibrary Loan, is due to be published in 2020. And of all the authors in this list, he has had the most books written about him.

Herman Wouk (May 27, 1915 – May 17, 2019): That’s not a typo. Mr. Wouk almost made it to 104, bless him. He gave us  The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, and the sequel War and Remembrance, and several works of non-fiction. His final work was Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year Old Author (2015). Now that seems like a book worth reading, and it has been added to my TBR pile.

And so we say goodbye, and thank you. Thank you for the sound foundation of reading, for the history, the romance, the imagination and the glimpses into other cultures, other times, and other worlds. We will be forever grateful.

Book Give-Away and Interview with Author D.M. Denert

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Mr. Denert for agreeing to this interview!
I’m glad to do it, thanks for having me.

First, please tell us a little about your book, Derek’s Great Thanksgiving Escape.
To be honest, it all happened quite spontaneously. I’ve been meaning to write some of the bedtime stories I’ve told my kids over the years, but never found the time.
Then one day, a bit out of nowhere, the idea to write a short story about Thanksgiving popped into my head. One thing led to another and I ended up turning the short story into a short book because I just had too much fun writing it.

It is a very amusing tale, told from the perspective of an 8-year-old boy trying to get out of spending Thanksgiving Dinner at the table with his relatives, including, his angry sister, weird cousins and kissing aunties whose kisses are inpossible to wipe off.
How much of this story is drawn from your experiences as a youngster?
I would say a great deal. However, it wasn’t just Thanksgiving as we tend to spend it with a small family group, so it wasn’t that bad. Other holidays and family gatherings were a whole different story, and often-included weird cousins and kissing aunties.
Those, I dreaded and tried to escape more than once, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Do any of your own children have plans to escape from Thanksgiving  dinner this year?
I don’t think so, but then again, they seem to enjoy family gathering more than I did when I was a kid.

There are some very handy tips in this book about how to avoid monsters, particularly attic monsters. Would you please share them here, just in case any of our members need to avoid attic monsters during the upcoming holiday season?
Sure, there are 3 key ones:
• Be super quiet. Monsters seem to avoid you if you’re staying silent
• Pretend you’re asleep. Closing your eyes seems to make them go away
• Have a clear path of escaping when the two above don’t work.
With that said, it’s probably best to avoid attics and basements when you’re alone in general.

Have you always been a writer and storyteller?
As a kid I was often told I have a very active imagination, I guess most kids do, but it seems I didn’t grow out of mine. With that said, I did write some fantasy as a teenager and young adult, but really got going as a storyteller when my first daughter was born.
I had to tell her at least 3 or 4 stories per night before she would let me go.

Do you have plans for publishing your next book?
Yes, I have a few in mind.
Two will be a continuation of Derek’s adventures. One about Christmas and the other summer vacation.
I’ve been also toying with the idea about writing a fantasy novel for children. Naturally, these will include dragons, fairies and monsters.

Did you have a favorite author growing up?

Growing up some of the earliest reading I did for fun, instead being forced to, were the Harry Potter books. The whole idea that there was another world paralleled to our one has really captivated my early years. Especially, how I was 11, the same age Harry is at the start, when the books were published in United States.

I think JK Rowling did a great job making it believable and I spend more than a few nights reading the series. Which also kick-started my passion for reading and later writing.

And now, do you have a favorite author?

One of my favorites, if not the favorite, author as an adult is Fyodor Dostoevsky. Others are Stephen King, Joe Abercrombie and of course Tolkien and CS Lewis, as both I discovered and enjoyed as an adult.

Now for some fun questions:

Stuffing or dressing?
Definitely stuffing, with bacon and mushrooms

Fresh cranberries or canned?
I think I never had fresh, so canned?

Apple or pumpkin pie?
Apple, while I enjoy pumpkin pie apple pie has always been my favorite.

Weird cousins or kissing aunties?
Weird cousins, nothing is worse than kissing aunties! I’m just kidding, but weird cousins seem to be a lot more fun. __________

Mr. Denert has generously offered to give away 3 copies of his book to PaperBackSwap Members who comment. Tell us who you would like to read his book to for a chance to win. We will choose 3 lucky winners at random from the comments we receive here on the Blog. Good luck to Everyone!

If you would like to learn more about Mr. Denert you can view is website at:  dmdenert.com

or follow him on Facebook here.

 

 

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

 

By Cyn F. (Cyn-Sama)

 

While my soul loves everything ooky and spooky about Halloween, I also have a fascination with death culture – how we mourn, and how we care for our dead. My introduction to this was through Jessica Mitford, and the American Way of Death, a scathing expose into the heart of the funeral industry. While it’s an older book, most of the practices still are being used.

 

Then I discovered Caitlin Doughty, and Dr. Paul Koudounaris. Caitlin, is also known for her YouTube series, Ask a Mortician, started off with writing Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: and Other Lessons from the Crematory, about her experiences working in a crematorium. She also spreads light on the growing green burial movement, which her funeral home specializes in.
Her next book, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, shows different cultures views on death, and how they memorialize their loved ones. I’m slightly partial to the chapter on Mexico, and the Day of the Dead celebrations.

 

 
Her most current book Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death, is a series of death related questions, from children. And, no. Your cat will most likely not eat your eyeballs. They’ll go for things like your nose and lips first.
 

Dr. Paul Koudounaris is a well known photographer and art historian. I was introduced to him through Caitlin Doughty, and was drawn to his knowledge, and by how beautiful his photography is. His most recent work is Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us is about the memorials and traditions from around the world.
His previous works are: Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs, a look into the curious practice of churches taking the bodies of supposed Christian martyrs, and covering them
with jewels and fine clothing.

 

Then there is The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses. Do you know what an ossuary is? It’s the name for a space that is designed to serve as the final resting place for skeletal remains. You may have heard some of the “bone churches” in Eastern Europe. This book covers all of that.
I hope you will find something on this list interesting. I personally find it fascinating, and I want to share how awesome it all is with everyone I know.

 

Have a happy Halloween, and remember to stay spooky.
 

Children’s Book Review – A is for Musk Ox

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

A Is for Musk Ox

A is for Musk OxWritten by Erin Cabatingan, Illustrated by Matthew Myers

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

I believe I am entering a new frontier with this post. I don’t recall ever writing a review for a children’s illustrated book before now. It seems odd for someone with no children to write a children’s book review but here we are; I am being forced into this by a book that is entertaining and clever.  Hopefully I have your attention now.

I was recently chatting with a friend who told me about her little granddaughter’s reading habits. There was a book that had her granddaughter just giggling as she read every page.  My friend said she then read the book and laughed, too, and thought she’d send me a copy because, in her words, ‘a good book is a good book’.  (Side note here: I love my friends. Who wouldn’t love a friend with that kind of wisdom?)

A few days later a shiny copy of A is for Musk Ox was in my hands. Um, what?  A is for musk ox? Yes, and it makes so much sense once you start reading.  The musk ox is tired of the apple getting all the attention and thinks it’s boring to start all alphabet books and games with the same fruit. The musk ox is here to save the day…or alphabet.  What comes next is how the musk ox is related to every letter. The reader gets taken on a fun alphabet adventure with the musk ox and learns about his origins, fur, habitats and favorite foods.

The author and illustrator of A is for Musk Ox have created a fun book readers of all ages can enjoy together.  Who wouldn’t get a chuckle out of grass-flavored lollipops?  The book goes beyond the routine alphabet books that, let’s face it, sometimes use boring or predictable words for each letter.  The pages are full of bright colors and fun illustrations to keep the interest of little readers.  It is whimsical while still being educational.  5 stars! Or maybe I should rate it 5 musk oxen.

 

 

 

Fiction Review – The Sometimes Sisters

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

The Sometimes Sisters

The Sometimes Sisters by Carolyn Brown

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

I read The Sometimes Sisters on a whim. I’ve never read anything else by Carolyn Brown even though she is a rather prolific writer with 90 novels. I was a bit unsure since it was labeled as contemporary romance fiction and I don’t read much romance, but I decided to give it a chance since the story sounded complex.

The ‘Sometimes Sisters’ are Tawny, Harper, and Dana.  Dana shares a father with Tawny and Harper, but their lives have been very different and their relationships with one another are strained.  Raised separately, the three sisters find they have little in common and each sister bears resentment for the others. Their only opportunity to spend time together was during the summers when they were younger and they would spend with their grandmother Annie.  It has been years since they have all seen one another and none of them have visited their grandmother Annie regularly in recent years, for fear of disappointing her with what has happened in their lives.

Now their grandmother has passed away and the sisters are back at Annie’s Place to help run the small lake resort, café and store.  Guiding them through their grief and teaching them about the business is Uncle Zed, the best friend and business partner of their grandmother.  Through their grief, each sister confides in Uncle Zed about why they stayed away and why they have a hard time opening up to the other sisters.  There are tears, arguments, misunderstandings, and heartaches along the way but will the sisters find a way to live together to keep their grandmother’s business?

I liked the overall story of The Sometimes Sisters and the romance (thankfully) was secondary to the plot.  I liked the characters but did find it a bit disappointing how their stories were revealed in a rather formulaic way. Some plot points were rather predictable and I think there were missed opportunities that could have offered more depth. The dialogue was a bit stilted and just didn’t seem to have a natural flow.  Not being squarely in the romance column made this book more enjoyable for me but I think there were missed chances to take this novel to the next level of complexity with the characters. I’m settling on 3 out of 5 stars for ‘I liked it’ since The Sometimes Sisters was enjoyable even with its faults. This is not a book I would read multiple times but I am willing to read another book by Brown.

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – Moonraker

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Moonraker by Ian Fleming

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

This is the third 007 novel, published in 1955, after Casino Royale and Live and Let Die. Though it has a brisk pace, it doesn’t hurtle and careen and rock and roll like those two do.

In fact, the novel eschews the exotic scenarios and takes place entirely in England. Bond – who apparently goes on an overseas mission only in exceptional cases – works the normal work of an espiocrat. But it happens that his boss M. asks him a favor: it is suspected that a member of his club, Hugo Drax – war hero and self-made millionaire about to give England a very sophisticated missile system – though famous, admired and esteemed, will cheat while playing bridge. Would you, Bond, mind so very much checking if this caddish behavior is so and make sure that it does not tumble out in a scandal? During an unforgettable card game, 007 reaches the conclusion that Drax indeed cheats at cards and inflicts on him, by cheating on him in turn, a memorable stinging lesson.

The incident would seem closed, but a doubt remains: why does such a well-respected man give into the wayward impulse to rob his fellow club members by risking his reputation with cheating at bridge? So Bond infiltrates the missile project.

A compelling story follows, which holds several surprises. Granted, the ethical and political horizon of the English writer is sharp and stark. But his characters are in fact complex and full of motivations. Starting with Bond, he is anything but a cynical adventurer and always ready to risk his neck for his country. He is a tough man, sure, aware of the ruthlessness of the game in which he is immersed, but he suffers no illusions. He knows that he is unlikely to reach the age of forty-five. In the meantime, try to live as best you can, at least as a consumer of vodka martinis, tasty viands, bespoke duds and, of course, Ursula Andress look-a-likes.

Worth reading if one likes Bond novels and one doesn’t mind Fleming’s run-on, break neck sentences.