Monday, November 30, 2009

Review by Shellie: A Map of Home – A Novel by Randa Jarrar



In this wonderful, humorous, and powerful story - Nidali is a strong teen caught between self discovery, and the constraints of war within a culture where women are subjected to very confining roles. The story opens with her “Baba" hoping for a the birth of a boy, due to his awareness of the difficulties facing women in Kuwait. In doing so he accidently names her Nidal. When realizing she is a girl, he adds an i creating Nidali, the narrator’s name.

Born in America from an Egyptian and Greek mother and a Palestinian father Nidali’s roots are as complex and ethnically diverse as the middle east itself. When the family moves back to Kuwait in the volatile 80’s from American, they will eventually be forced to leave again. Eventually they will immigrate back to America, confusing and complicating the question of where exactly is home?

Here is a quote which sums the title up of A Map of Home. After leaving Kuwait, Nidali has drawn a map of Palestine while sitting at the family table while talking with her father:

“You still remember that?” I nodded and looked at the map nervously, hesitant about whether I’d drawn it right. I pointed at the western border and asked, “Is that right?” “Who knows,” he said, waving his hand dismissively …

“What do you mean, Baba when you say ‘who knows’?”

“Oh habibti. That map is from a certain year. The maps that came earlier looked different. And the ones that come after, ever more different.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean… there’s no telling. There’s no telling where home starts and where it ends.”

Hilarious and thought provoking A Map of Home is a down to earth insight into the complexities of middle eastern cultures. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a mostly lighthearted view on difficult and often misunderstood subjects – war and who are our middle Eastern neighbors. I give this book 4 Stars.

This is book is included in the Women Unbound challenge. I love wonderful strong and complex characters – Nadali is!


This book also has secondary elements which make it available for inclusion in The GLBT 2009 Challenge. These elements are of sexual exploration and the recognition of bisexual tendencies.

glbt2 For more information on A Map of Home, purchasing information, and the author Randa Jarrar please see the preview post of the book linked on the title.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Review by JD: Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell

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(covers US on left – UK and Canada both)

Book Stats from Amazon:

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (January 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061578916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061578915
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

    HarperCollins, 2008 (trade paper edition available December 29, 2009)

    Read and Reviewed by John:

    Agincourt is a name well known to history buffs, anglophiles and fans of William Shakespeare. It is one of a handful of the most famous battles in English history, made yet more famous by Shakespeare’s play Henry V. It happened during the early part of the fifteenth century in the middle of the Hundred Years war between the English and the French. The battle was fought between a bedraggled, diseased and motley English army led by the warrior king Henry V, and a huge and healthy French army that was many times bigger. Despite the overwhelming odds against them, the English won the day.

    There were many reasons for the unexpected outcome, perhaps the most important being that the English armies of the time were built around the use of longbows. What seemed to be a simple device became a fearsome weapon in the hands of well-drilled teams or archers. No matter how well armored were the massed ranks of French soldiers, the archers were able to inflict terrible damage on them.

    This is a work of historical fiction that takes the basic facts of the battle and the events leading up to it, and weaves a story around them. It is written from the point of view of Nicholas Hook, a lowly archer in the English army. Through his eyes you get to experience the excitement, the dread and the horror of a medieval war campaign.

    It’s the first Cornwell book that I’ve read, but apparently this is very much his typical style. He seems to get a lot of plaudits for doing his homework and for bringing a lot of authenticity into his books. Certainly this felt very real, with a mass of believable detail. In this case I do need to warn you that it pulls no punches in describing the utter savagery and butchery of a medieval battle. He also captures really well the squalor and filth of it all.

    I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Perhaps I was an easy catch as I’ve always been fascinated by this period of European history. The constant plots and intrigues really need no fictionalization to make them fascinating; and the whole concept of a war that lasted over a hundred years continues to beggar belief. That being said, this book added a lot to my knowledge and made me re-think a few things. There was a theme running through the book about both the English and the French believing that God was on their side and therefore they both tried to claim the moral high ground. Leaders on both sides used religious beliefs to justify their actions and to motivate their armies. For me that was much scarier than all of the blood and the guts.

    I’d thoroughly recommend this to anyone interested in historical fiction or life in medieval times, or indeed anyone who enjoys a good action story. I’d rate this book 4 Stars.

    (And a big thanks to Charlie/Professor B. Worm, whose review of this book led me to seek it out).

    Author Bio:

    44ec8149e7a0489a4a91f110.L._SY100_Bernard Cornwell was born in London in 1944 – a “warbaby” - whose father was a Canadian airman and mother in Britain's Women's Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted by a family in Essex who belonged to a religious sect called the Peculiar People (and they were), but escaped to London University and, after a stint as a teacher, he joined BBC Television where he worked for the next 10 years. He began as a researcher on the Nationwide programme and ended as Head of Current Affairs Television for the BBC in Northern Ireland. It was while working in Belfast that he met Judy, a visiting American, and fell in love. Judy was unable to move to Britain for family reasons so Bernard went to the States where he was refused a Green Card. He decided to earn a living by writing, a job that did not need a permit from the US government - and for some years he had been wanting to write the adventures of a British soldier in the Napoleonic wars - and so the Sharpe series was born. Bernard and Judy married in 1980, are still married, still live in the States and he is still writing Sharpe.

    Amazon purchasing links are US/UK/Canada and The Book Depository in Euros.

  • Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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    Here’s a silly little quiz to take – Which Part of Thanksgiving Are You?

    Here are our results:

    For Shellie - Smashed Potatoes


    You are ordinary, comforting, and more than a little predictable you're the glue that holds everyone together.

    Hmmm sounds like Shellie - especially the smashed part when having partaken too much in the libation category.

    For JD - The Stuffing


    You're complicated and complex, yet all your pieces fit together.
    People miss you if you're gone - but they're not sure why.

    Or maybe the turkey or the dip would be more appropriate?

    Beyond that silliness - here are two useful link for those of us whom have the tendency to over do it in our celebrating:


    I found this quiz at Martha’s Bookshelf – Thanks Martha! 

    Preview: The Piano Teacher – A Novel by Janice Y. K. Lee



    (US cover/UK cover)

    Book Stats from Amazon: 

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (November 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143116533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143116530
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Book Info from Goodreads:

    In 1942, Will Truesdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their love affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese as World War II overwhelms their part of the world. Will is sent to an internment camp, where he and other foreigners struggle daily for survival. Meanwhile, Trudy remains outside, forced to form dangerous alliances with the Japanese—in particular, the malevolent head of the gendarmerie, whose desperate attempts to locate a priceless collection of Chinese art lead to a chain of terrible betrayals.

    Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughter’s piano teacher. A provincial English newlywed, Claire is seduced by the heady social life of the expatriate community. At one of its elegant cocktail parties, she meets Will, to whom she is instantly attracted—but as their affair intensifies, Claire discovers that Will’s enigmatic persona hides a devastating past. As she begins to understand the true nature of the world she has entered, and long-buried secrets start to emerge, Claire learns that sometimes the price of survival is love.

    C3_49_ Author Mini Bio:

    Janice was born and raised in Hong Kong and went to boarding school in the United States before attending Harvard College. A graduate of Hunter College’s MFA program and a freelance writer, Lee is a former features editor at Elle and Mirabella magazines in New York.

    For further information on the author please see her web page.

    Amazon purchasing links are as follows US/UK/CanadaBook Depository link in Euros

    Book received for review from Penguin. Thank you Gabriel!

    Preview: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – A Novel by Helen Simonson



    (US cover/UK cover/Canadian cover)

    Amazon Book Stats:

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068932
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068937
  • Genre: General Fiction
  • Amazon Book Info:

    You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson's wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.

    The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother's death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?

    2995577 Author Bio:

    Helen Simonson was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village in East Sussex. A graduate of the London School of Economics with an MFA from Stony Brook Southampton, she is a former travel advertising executive who has lived in America for the last two decades. A longtime resident of Brooklyn, she now lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, D.C. area. This is her first novel.

    To find out more information contact the author on Goodreads and at the book’s website.

    Amazon purchasing links are as follows US/UK/CanadaBook Depository link in Euros.

    Book received for promotion from Shelf Awareness.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Mega Award Post – Lots of Awards from some Wonderful Bloggers

    “If you aspire to the highest place, it is no disgrace to stop at the second, or even the third, place." Cicero

    Having saved all these 13 wonderful  awards from a bunch of terrific bloggers for ages – they are finally getting the credit they deserve in this “Mega” post.

    Here we go:

    From Laurel on one of her of blogs Creations by Laurel –Rain Snow  we have received The Splash Award. What a cute award. Thanks Laurel! Laurel has several books that she has written one that is being featured here on Layers of Thought – Chasing Stardust

    splashThe Splash Award is given to those blogs you find alluring, bewitching, impressive and inspiring.

    This down to earth award from two bloggers Laurel from Obsessions and Compulsions and Alexia from Alexia’s Books and Such  is  fun. Thanks Laurel and Alexia! Alexia has a great mostly speculative fiction blog and has just had knee surgery. Stop by and say hello!

    Here are ten honest things about me. Hmmmmm….


    1. I am an organized person - mostly.
    2. I am artistic – I can draw, paint, “throw” pottery, do great eyebrows, and am a makeup artist.
    3. I got married at age 41 for the first time.
    4. I am step grandma – to three little cuties with English accents.
    5. I have taken huge breaks from reading in the past – sometimes for years at a time.
    6. I love wine and have been to so many wineries in the Napa Valley area that I can be considered a wine snob.
    7. I had a teacher’s credential in California for K-12.
    8. I am a licensed Aesthetician in CA and AZ – I do facials, waxing, and makeup.
    9. I have have had two businesses one in AZ the other in CA doing skin care.
    10. I went to a Catholic school for nine years of my schooling as a child.

    Melissa from Must Read Faster awarded me the 2009 Friendly Blogger Award  several months ago and gave it to me “just cuz’ ”.  Your a sweetie Melissa. Thank you! She has a general book blog but loves young adult the most. She was one of Layers of Thought’s first followers so will always be special.

    friendly blogger award

    Rachel of The Book Wars sent me the Heartfelt Award. This award is so cute. I love the way the little mouse peeks out of the cup. Thank you Rachel! Rachel is a cutie that has a young adult book blog which is awesome.

    Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when you're relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family and friends? You know the feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea, or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt Award is all about--feeling warm inside.


    Missy from Missy’s Book Nook has awarded me with an award called Why Friends are Like Books. Thank You Missy! This is such a perfect award for book bloggers. Missy has a general fiction book blog where she also catalogs her life bringing in the music and movies from the time – mostly the 80’s. A nice diversion down memory lane since I was a late teen then.


    Why friends are like books...

    ~ We never judge a book by it's cover. (Okay, we do, but only because we love us sum eye candy!! =)
    ~ Every book is different to each of us, in it's own special way and every book is special to us in every way.
    ~The variety in our books is the same in our friendship... we are all different, but together, we make up one hella'va a story!!!
    ~ We know that we can always count on a good book to make us feel better!! We call them keepers!
    Those are just a few reasons why friends are like books...
    I am glad that I happened upon you... just like so many of my books...
    You will forever be on my Keeper Shelf!!!

    Thank you for being my friend!!"

    Kerri bo Berri from Books with Swords awarded me this award called the Proximidade Award. This is wonderful award. Thank you Kerri! Kerri has a great blog that is on hiatus at the moment. I can’t wait for her to come back.

    This award is also from Natalie at The Book Inn. Since I really like this award two is even better. Thanks Natalie! Natalie has a sweet general fiction book blog – she likes historical fiction too.

    And another one from Sharon at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews – Thanks Sharon! Three times is the best! Its such a great award that I feel very honored to receive three. Sharon is a professional book reviewer. She did 11 book reviews in one week several weeks ago. Wow!


    This blog invests and believes in the Proximity – nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!

    Being a recipient of this award affirms that this blog invests and believes in the Proximity – nearness in space, time and relationships.


    Kim the Metro Reader at Reading One Mile at a Time. It is the Spread the {heart} Award. Thank you Kim! This is a cute one. Kim has a full time job yet maintains a very nice book blog - a daunting task.


    Kim the Metro Reader at Reading One Mile at a Time and Helen from A Reading Collection have awarded me the Who Hearts You, Baby! Award. Thank you for this cute and sweet award. Its always nice to feel “hearted”. Thank you both! Helen is a book nut and writer with a very nice blog.


    Rhiannon at her blog – Rhiannon Hart - fantasy dystopian paranormal has awarded me the Kreativ Blogger Award. Thanks Rhiannon! I love Rhiannon’s blog since I adore speculative fiction. Her first book has just been accepted for publishing. Yeah Rhiannon!


    Once you receive this award you are to list seven of your favorite things:

    1. My ancient 19 year old kitty – Honey.
    2. Books – that's a no brainer.
    3. Not having to cook – I like eating out or ordering take out.
    4. Hiking.
    5. The Library.
    6. Book Stores –especially used.
    7. My backyard Buddha.

    Kerri at Book Ends has Awarded me the Zombie Chicken Award I have seen this everywhere and thought – I want that award. This is a really fun award. Thanks Kerri!

    Sharon at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews has also awarded me with this award. Thank you Sharon! This is an awesome award.


    The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words.

    Lisa at Book Blab sent me a sweet award the Lets be Friends Award. She is an upbeat general fiction book blogger who I am now lucky to have as a friend. Thank you Lisa!


    Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.

    I have also received another award from Kerri Bo Berri from Books with Swords called the Top Commenter Award. Thanks Kerri!


    And for the last award for this post I received the Dragon’s Loyalty Award from Laurel on one of her blogs and I have lost the link. Opps…Thanks Laurel!

    Dragon's Loyalty Award_JPG

    The Dragon's Loyalty Award is an award for the loyal fan and or commenter, whether the recipient is a fellow blogger or just a someone who follows and comments regularly.

    Thanks so much to all that have taken the time to hand out these fun awards. This is so awesome but instead of passing these awards along I am going to give out a few new awards that I created a couple of months ago in an new post. Please stay tuned!

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Review by Shellie: Stepmonster – A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do by Wednesday Martin, PhD


    Review by Shellie:

    This is not a self help book. That Wednesday Martin has a Ph.D in comparative literature helps the reader understand the methodology used within the writing of Stepmonster. Where she does just that – compares literature from various sources. This provides the reader with a virtually seamless and multidisciplinary book about step mothering.  It is a myth busting mélange of information to  help the reader understand this complex and misunderstood relationship.

    Examining fairy tales from all over the world about step mothers, including Hansel and Gretel and Snow White, Wednesday addresses some of the beliefs we hold in our cultural consciousness from the retelling of these stories – they are not the best. In addition she enlightens the reader through referencing data collected from sociobiology, anthropology, and psychology. All supporting the notion that step parenting is a challenge regardless of country or culture and in the animal kingdom as well. She reveals  that  there is an array of misinformation surrounding the relationship even with psychologists, and those whose job it is to help with the relationship. Where it becomes apparent that  within our culture’s current child centered rearing practices it is often the stepmother whom is the least sympathized with and understood.

    Warning: It is not an easy read. Several times is became esoteric due to scientific data (which also solidify the book’s concepts), as well as the fact that it addresses difficult emotional content. Ultimately, Stepmonster is enlightening. I truly believe it to be an absolute must read for every step mother, any woman considering being seriously involved with a man whom has children, and a recommended read for step children. I give this important book 4 Stars.

    Below are two informative articles by the author which will provide further insight into some of the issues around step mothering. The first helps one to dispel some the misinformation while the second provides some tips to women considering being involved with a man whom has children.

    Misinformation From the Step Mothering Industry
    by Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., 

    Books for stepmothers tend to perpetuate certain myths. The myth of the blended family and the myth of the maternal stepmother are the most glaring examples. These books' relentlessly upbeat tone can make stepmothers feel as though our own occasional negativity and impatience regarding his kids are freakish. Other books on step mothering are so lighthearted, so insistent that we see the humor in our situation and in our responses to it, that reading them feels suspiciously like being told that our concerns don't matter and that we just need to lighten up. But the real problem with many books for stepmothers is not what they imply, but what they actually say:

    • Remember that his kids will always come first.
    • Leave the disciplining to him.
    • You will regret it forever if you lose your temper or say something nasty to your stepchildren, so whatever you do, don't.
    • With patience and love, they will come around.

    The fact that these directives have become a virtual mantra, the unassailable golden rules of step mothering does not mean that they are right. For example, a number of stepfamily experts concur that in a remarriage with children, giving the couple relationship priority is crucial (see chapter 6). It may jar us to learn that our concept that "the kids are the most important thing" is misguided, even destructive to our partnerships. The ideas that you should be second and should accept it, that his kids came first chronologically and so are first in his heart, and that his believing and acting on these ideas makes him a good person are powerful, deeply ingrained beliefs. But all of them can be fatal for the remarriage with children. They are even bad for the children, giving them an uncomfortable amount of power and focusing an undue amount of attention and pressure on them.

    Andrew Gotzis, M.D., a New York City psychiatrist and therapist who works with couples, echoed the advice of a number of marriage counselors when he told me, "In a remarriage with children, the hierarchy of the family needs to be established quickly and clearly. The kids need to know that the husband and wife come first and that they are a unified team." Otherwise, Dr. Gotzis cautioned, the kids can split the couple apart and create tension in the marriage indefinitely. To remarried couples with children, the scenario of kids turning to Dad when Stepmom has said no, or vice versa, in an attempt to split the team is all too familiar. A woman with stepchildren may exhaust herself with her attempts to resolve such situations. For this reason, sociologist Linda Nielsen notes that a woman with stepchildren will have more success when she adopts the attitude "My main goal and my main focus is to build an intimate, fulfilling relationship with my husband and to take better care of my own needs, not to bond with or win the approval of my stepchildren." Nielsen notes that a shift like this cannot happen in a vacuum; the woman's partner needs to be on the same page with her. If the marriage is to work, Nielsen insists, "her husband has to be committed to creating a [partnership] around which his children revolve rather than a marriage that revolves around his children. Especially when his children dislike their stepmother, the father has to make it clear that the kids will not be handed the power or given the precedence over his marriage."

    "Things didn't improve until I let my daughter know that, even though I loved her, my ultimate loyalty was to my wife," one man who had survived a rocky early remarriage with children observed. We can only imagine the resultant fireworks in that household. But the outcome was a stronger marriage. This in turn gave his daughter proof that marriages can last. It also replaced what could have become profound confusion about her unchecked power in the family with a sense of secure belonging.

    As for the advice "Leave the disciplining to him," whoever said it never went to a home while the step kids were visiting and their father was out. Certainly, no one is saying to step right in and start issuing orders to your step kids in your first days and weeks together -- and few of us are likely to do that, fearing that we will be perceived as wicked. But what works in theory -- you should hold back more or less indefinitely so that you don't seem like the villain, backing up your husband rather than doing things yourself -- doesn't always work in practice. What happens when a stepchild does something that crosses the line but hubby isn't around? Are you to sit on your hands and bite your tongue rather than issue a firm "That's not okay, and you know it"? Moreover, firsthand experience has often demonstrated that the longer a woman with stepchildren waits, the harder it is for her ever to draw the line or be taken seriously as an adult with authority. I can attest to this fact. Because I was more or less a fraidy cat in the first year of my marriage, I had to be a tiger for the subsequent two or three years, as my stepdaughters still occasionally tried to walk all over me, just to see if they could. This was hardly their fault; I waited ages to take a stand about things such as snide remarks, dumping suitcases in the middle of the floor, and ignoring me.

    Sometimes it is easier and smarter to ignore a stepchild's annoying habit, to decline to get involved in an emotion-charged discussion over her sweet sixteen party, or to be the voice of reason when planning her wedding. A number of women with stepchildren have found that "disengaging" is, in some situations, far and away the best strategy for them (see chapter 4). Other times, ignoring bad behavior just feels like being stepped on and creates a breeding ground for more resentment. And then what?

    The culture at large is eager to gloss over women's anger in general, and advice for stepmothers in particular is full of warnings that if we express it, the consequences will be dire and irreversible. This strikes me as absurd. It would be the rare stepchild who never went through a phase of wanting to provoke his or her stepmom. Of course we lose our tempers, inevitably. And although it can feel catastrophic -- What if they hate me? What if they think I'm wicked? -- expressing our anger is, in my opinion, something we should do sooner rather than later. Otherwise, we risk setting the bar too impossibly high for everyone and creating a situation in which kids, teens, or even adult stepchildren go on pushing our buttons forever in an attempt to see where our limit is. Most of all, we need to learn as soon as possible -- to experience firsthand -- that being disliked is an occupational hazard for stepmothers, not a referendum on our worth. "Dad's girlfriend Laura yelled at us once in the car," my stepdaughter told me solemnly in our early days together. I didn't know exactly why she was telling me this, but I knew how Laura must have felt, and I admired her for letting the girls know when she thought they'd gone too far.

    You're not my mother! Most of us fear that it is yelling or disciplining or losing our tempers or not being nice enough or patient enough or selfless enough that will keep our husbands' children from accepting us or drive them away. If only we had so much control. Instead, unrealistic expectations about blending and being maternal, difficult developmental stages, competition that is largely inevitable and unavoidable, misinformation about step mothering, and a host of other factors play a bigger role in the way a reconfigured family group coheres -- or doesn't. We are not, in fact, their mothers. Happily ever after and happiness all around are ideals -- unlikely ones at that, even in traditional nuclear families. Eventually, we may find that we have arrived at a place of comfort, familiarity, and real pleasure with our husbands' kids. But if our happiness is contingent on his kids being happy for us, being happy with us, and loving us, then we have given away our greatest power and put everything at risk.

    Copyright © 2009 Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., author of Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do

    He Has Kids! Now What?
    By Wednesday Martin, Ph.D.,

    Experts estimate that half of all women in the U.S. will wind up living with or married to a man with kids -- and some put the number even higher. That means the chances that you or your best friend will wind up a stepmother or stepmother figure are . . . pretty good.

    Here's your cheat sheet on being with a man with kids, whether you're seeing one seriously now, just dating, or interested "just in case." These strategies can make being involved with a divorced dad easier than you thought . . .

    1. Don't rule out dating or getting involved with one on principle, or you might narrow the field -- and really miss out on a great guy. There are more divorced dads out there than ever before.

    2. Be honest. When in the first stages of getting to know a man with kids, be yourself. Don't act more interested in his kids than you really are, for example, or paint yourself as a "kid person" if you're not. It's hard to buck the social pressure women feel to be loving and maternal every second, but it's never good to start out under false pretenses. You're not auditioning -- you're getting to know him.

    3. Have a look at his parenting style -- it's part of who he is as a person and a potential partner. One woman I spoke to while researching my book Stepmonster told me that, the first time she went to her boyfriend's home, she got a good sense of his parenting style. "It was loving but firm," she told me. And since she was on board with that, she could relax into the relationship that much more easily.

    4. Read the clues. Debbie, another woman I interviewed, told me that the first time she visited her boyfriend's place, she immediately noticed that the family computer was in his bedroom. It gave her pause -- for good reason. It was a clue about how ready he was for privacy and romance -- two key ingredients for a relationship to flourish. Not very! But Martin, dad of an 11-year-old boy, had lived in the living room for years. He built himself a wall when things got serious with Martine -- letting her know he was ready to build a space for her in his life.

    5. Don't worry if he doesn't introduce you to his kids at first. Many divorced dads are very slow to introduce their kids to a girlfriend for a lot of reasons. And some have nothing to do with you. For example, if his relationship with his ex is very high conflict, he may fear the kids letting her know you've arrived on the scene, for all the fireworks it could ignite.

    6. Don't feel like you have to make it all about them. Many women report feeling very pressured to pay constant attention to a boyfriend's kids and "win them over." It's fine to be a couple and go out on a date. If he can't do that, or wants every date to revolve around his kids, he's giving you a big clue about where partnership is on his radar, and what the rest of your lives together might be like.

    7. No need to fudge the truth about babies. If you're a person who wants to have kids of your own eventually, and the topic comes up, don't craft an answer you think he wants to hear. Give him the real one. If it scares him off, isn't it better to know that sooner than later?

    8. Beware the phrase, "You just don't understand kids." If he says this, you can expect more of it -- and very likely some hesitancy to give you much authority in the household -- down the line.

    9. Know that he might be time and cash strapped. Divorced dads are sometimes supporting two households, and trying to put in a full-time type effort with kids while holding down a full-time job. He could well be under financial pressure, and sad about not seeing his kids as often as he did when they lived with him full time. Can you handle that? Being honest with yourself -- and him -- early on can save you resentment down the line.

    10. Know that it can be fun. Women I interviewed told me they had some wonderful times dating the man with kids they ended up marrying or seriously partnering with. Sometimes, the kids sealed the deal. Dawn told me she fell in love with her three-year-old stepdaughter-to-be before she fell in love with the kid's father! "She was and still is such a sweet little girl. She made it even easier for me to imagine us all together." Patty loved seeing that her beau (and now husband) James was an awesome dad. "I saw his gifts as a dad -- so sensitive, so committed," Patty told. "And that made him sexy in a whole different way. The other guys couldn't hold a candle to that."

    ©2009 Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., author of Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do

    This book is included in the reading challenge  Women Unbound. Its relationship to it is that it provides logical information while helping women to be informed around their life choices.

    unboundrosie For purchasing, author, publisher’s information, and another article by Wednesday Martin please see the Preview of Stepmonster.

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Preview: Chasing Stardust ~ by Laurel-Rain Snow



    About the Book:  Laurel-Rain Snow, author of An Accidental Life, Miles To Go, Web of Tyranny, and Embrace the Whirlwind, now tells her most triumphant story yet in Chasing Stardust. Compassionate and wise, this novel examines life, love, and parenting in the modern world. Once again, the author creates wonderfully flawed characters that readers will find impossible not to love for their dogged misdirected affections. In this tale, a single mother will learn to love herself after years of defeat, humiliation, and self-loathing and figure out what makes her happy as a parent, as a professional, and as a woman. With her hands full at home and at the office, love comes late in more ways than one. It's not exactly the love she was looking for, but finally, for once, love comes to stay and she's no longer chasing stardust, she's dancing in it.

    1185466Author Bio:  Laurel-Rain Snow is the pen name for Lorraine Frost Sandone, who was born in California's Central Valley, attending community college in Modesto, CA, after which she transferred to San Francisco State University in the sixties. She transferred again and graduated from California State University in Sacramento, with a BA in psychology.

    Ms. Snow moved to Fresno, CA, in the early seventies, where she then worked in the social work profession for over thirty years, specializing primarily in child welfare cases. She earned her MA in counseling from California State University of Fresno in the seventies.

    Ms. Snow, now retired from social work, lives in Fresno, CA, and is the mother of four grown children and proud grandmother of seven. After retiring from the social work profession, Ms.Snow turned to an old dream – writing, and has published five novels, available on

    The author weaves three decades of experience into her novels, which sets them apart and lends authenticity to the characterizations.

    For more information about Laurel you can connect with her on her Goodreads page, Twitter, and her Web Page, and one of her blogs (she has so many I have lost count!).

    Amazon purchasing links US/UK/Canada and at the Book Depository in Euros.

     Amazon Book Stats:

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (October 10, 2007)
  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction
  • Chasing Stardust was sent to Layers of Thought by the author for review. Thank you Laurel!

    We Have a Winner! The ARC copy of The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley – Apocalyptic Novel


    The winner is:

    Eleni from La Femme Readers

    Congrats Eleni! An email to you is on its way.

    yeahpicHaving started  reading The Things That Keep Us Here I am pleased to say that it really looks promising. It is science based, but I imagine will be bringing in a woman’s perspective. I have a feeling that this is going to be an intellectual woman’s science fiction book – a rare thing.

    For more information on the book, author, and for pre-purchasing links click on the Preview for The Things That Keep Us Here.

    Thanks to all that have entered. Stay tuned for more book giveaways!

    Also take a look at the site where Layers of Thought received this ARC it currently has a free one month membership - Book Browse. They have monthly giveaways of ARCs and new books. Highly recommended!

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Review by JD: The Shimmer by David Morrell


    • The Shimmer
    • by David Morrell
    • ISBN: 978-1-59315-537-7
    • Pages 331: hardbound
    • Vanguard Press, 2009
    • Genre: Thriller – Science Fiction “ish”

    Review by JD (posted by Shellie):

    Dan Page is a police office who, in the time-honored fashion of movies and novels, is having an increasingly difficult time with his marriage. He gets back from work one day to find that his wife is not at home and has left a simple message saying she has gone to her mom’s. Page calls his mother-in-law and it becomes obvious that something is not right; they are both worried. It is taking Victoria (his wife) too long to get there and neither knows where she is.

    Eventually he finds out that Victoria is in the tiny and remote Texas town of Rostov. Apparently she is unharmed but something clearly isn’t right. He drops everything and rushes to get to Rostov as quickly as he can. When he arrives the local police chief seems to be acting a little odd, but he leads Page out of town to a small observation platform that looks out over a featureless field. Victoria is there but seems to be in a world of her own, staring out across the field. Oddly, more people start arriving in an assortment of vehicles, and it becomes apparent that they’ve all come to try and see something. Some are peaceful and hopeful; just as many are grumbling about why they’ve been dragged into the middle of nowhere to look at nothing.

    Then some of them start to excitedly point out across the fields at the beautiful lights which they say are shimmering, changing color and almost dancing. They are transfixed, but just as many people are puzzled, frustrated or angry – they can see nothing. It transpires that this phenomenon of the Rostov lights is nothing new; it has been going on not just for years but for many decades. Some of those who experience the lights feel compelled to come back time and time again, almost addicted to the experience. But it also transpires that the lights can sometimes feel threatening and scare people. There is a history of odd experiences surrounding the lights too.

    And unknown to all of the watchers, the military have had an interest in the lights too. Their interest goes back to the days of the First World War and in the intervening years a secret military base had been set up nearby.

    On the night that Page finds his wife watching the lights, one of the watchers is convinced that the lights are evil and seems to lose his mind. He pulls out a gun and starts shooting indiscriminately at the watchers, killing many of them. In no time at all, the town is swamped in media and crowds of new people, eager to experience the lights for themselves. But the increased attention seems to be having an effect on the lights, and things start to rapidly spiral out of control. Even while he is trying to patch things up with his wife, the policeman in Page inevitably takes over. Somehow, their future depends on getting to the bottom of the mystery.

    I like the set-up for the story. There is a sort of “Close Encounters” theme running through it as people are drawn to inexplicable events which then change their lives. I think Morrell does a good job of intertwining several strands of the plot and bringing them all together at the end. The book certainly drew me in and it has a good pace. I finished it off in pretty short order.

    I also like that there is some factual foundation for parts of the book. There is indeed a small town in Texas where strange lights are often seen by people, although it is called Marfa and not Rostov.

    If I have one quibble with the book, it’s that I’m not crazy about the climax to the story. It is of course a fantastic story so I’m not sure why a fantastic climax should have jarred with me, but it did a little. Nonetheless I enjoyed the read. I’d rate it 3.5 stars.

    For more information on the book, purchasing links, and the author David Morrell please see Layers of Thought’s preview for The Shimmer.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Preview: POST -HUMAN by David Simpson


    Amazon Book Stats:

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: IUniverse (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1440136874
  • ISBN-13: 978-1440136870
  • Genre: Science Fiction

    Book Description:

    The future should have been perfect. Microscopic robots known as nans could repair any damage to your body, keep you young by resetting your cellular clocks, and allow you to download upgrades like intelligence, muscle strength, and eyesight. You were supposed to be able to have anything you wanted with a simple thought, to be able to fly without the aid of a machine, to be able to live forever. But when a small group of five terraformers working on Venus return to Earth, they discover that every other human in the solar system has been gruesomely murdered. Now, James Keats and his four companions must discover what happened to the rest of humanity and fight back if they wish to avoid the same, horrifying fate. Welcome to the post-human era.


  • Author Bio:

    David Simpson has a Master's degree in English Literature from the University of British Columbia and he lives in Vancouver, Canada. He was born in Northern Ireland and is the son of a Northern Irish Catholic father and a Scottish Protestant mother. He comes from a long line of writers including his distant relative, the immortal Robert Burns.

    Post-Human was born out of David's Master's thesis in which he focused on dystopian, speculative fiction. His creative writing training, specifically in screenplay writing, helped him to create the fast-paced, movie-like feel of the novel.

    He's currently working on the sequel to Post-Human while teaching English Literature and developing numerous writing projects. If he has any spare time, he watches the Vancouver Canucks not winning the Stanley Cup and breaking his heart or goes to a movie... IF he has any spare time.

    Connect with David on Twitter, Goodreads, Post Human’s web site.

    Watch the very cool extended version book trailer for Post Human

    Post Human is only available through Amazon - links US/UK/Canada 

    This book was given to Layers of Thought for review by the author. Thanks David!

    Review coming soon!

    Preview: The Magic Warble by Victoria Simcox


    (for book website click on the cover picture above)

    Book Stats from Amazon:

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Two Harbors Press (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935097172
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935097174
  • Genre: Children’s Fantasy 

    Editorial Review:

    Dwarfs, gnomes, fairies, talking animals, and an evil queen all these and more can be found in The Magic Warble, an enchanting tale of adventure and friendship.

    Twelve-year-old Kristina Kingsly feels like the most unpopular girl in her school. The kids all tease her, and she never seems to fit in. But when Kristina receives an unusual Christmas gift, she suddenly finds herself magically transported to the land of Bernovem, home of dwarfs, gnomes, fairies, talking animals and the evil Queen Sentiz.

    In Bernovem, Kristina not only fits in, she's honored as ''the chosen one'', the only one who can release the land from Queen Sentiz's control. But it s not as simple as it seems. To save Bernovem, she must place the gift she was given, the famous ''Magic Warble,'' in its final resting place. And she must travel through the deep forest, climb a treacherous mountain, and risk capture by the queen s ''zelbocks'' before she reaches her destination. Guided by her new fairy friends, Clover and Looper and by Prince Werrien, a teenage boy, as well as an assortment of other characters, Kristina sets off on a perilous journey that not only tests her strength but her heart.

    Author Info:


  • Victoria, known as Vicki, was born in 1966, in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, to an Austrian immigrant mother, and a Dutch immigrant father. She has one older sister, Jeannette. When Vicki was 7, she moved with her family to British Columbia. In her early twenties Vicki moved to Western Washington and now resides in Marysville WA. She has been married to her husband Russ, for nineteen years and they have three children; Toby, who is fifteen, Kristina, thirteen, and William, eight. She has home schooled her children for the past nine years, and she also teaches elementary school art. Vicki’s other family members are, a Chihuahua, named Pipsy, two cats, Frodo, and Fritz, and two parakeets, Charlie, and Paulie. She did have a pet rat named Raymond when she started writing The Magic Warble, but sad to say, he has since passed away of old age. Vicki enjoys writing, painting watercolors, watching movies, hanging out with her family, and chauffeuring her kids around to their many activities. Her favorite author is C.S. Lewis, and one of her fondest memories is when she was twelve. She would sit at the kitchen table and read The Chronicles of Narnia to her mother while she cooked dinner. These magical stories were very dear to Vicki and she remembers wishing, If only I could go to Narnia like Lucy and Susan. Vicki hopes that maybe, she can touch someone with her story in a similar way.

    Access the book’s website here, the author’s blog, her Goodreads account, and an author interview here.

    The books for review and give away where sent by the author to Layers of Thought through Pump up your Book Tours. Thank you Victoria and Dorothy!


    Amazon purchasing links are as follows US/UK/Canada and for The Book Depository in Euros.

    Stay tuned review and giveaway coming December 10!

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Gotta Love Give Aways – November 16, 2009

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    The miracle is this - the more we share, the more we have. -- Leonard Nimoy

    Here are the mostly sci fi, horror, and fantasy giveaways from around the blogosphere that I have found and chosen to enter, as well as a few other places where you can win books and more. Please feel free to link your giveaway(s) in the comment section and to look there if you want to enter contests that are not linked in this post. Have fun, let me know if you win due to this post, and good luck!

    I Heart Monsters is giving away a copy of Vampire Taxonomy by Meredith Woerner. There is no location or end date posted.

    the magic district’s co-author N. K. Jemisin is offering an ARC copy of her soon to be released The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms for a promise to post a review and contest entry. No end date or area specified.

    Sci Fi Guy is offering a choice of three books – The Gathering Storm by Sanderson and Jordan; The Dame by R. A. Salvatore; or Sasha by Joel Shepard. It ends November 16 and is international.

    Neth Space is giving away Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erickson. It ends November 17 and is international.

    Grasping for the Wind is offering 7th Son: Descent by J.C. Hutchins . It ends November 19th and is for US and Canada. *while you are there check out the banners at the top of the blog – I made them, refresh to see them both*

    Book Chick City is offering Hell’s Belles by Paul Magrs – this book is not available in the US and it is signed. It ends November 19 and is for the US and UK.

    Revenge of the Book Nerds is offering a copy of Pendragon’s Banner by Helen Hollick. It ends November 20 and is in US and Canada.

    all about {n} is giving away 3 Kate DiCamillo’s books to one winner. The Magician’s Elephant; The Tale of Despereaux; and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It ends November 20 and is international.

    Fantasy Dreamer is offering a book called Prime Evil by Heather Long. It ends November 23 and is international.

    The Queen of Happy Endings is giving away Fire by Kristen Cashore or Garden Spells by Sara Addison Allen. It ends November 25 and is international.

    R.K. Charron is giving away Under the Dome by Stephen King. It ends November 26 and is international.

    Book Bound is giving away a choice of three books with a cover puzzle contest. The choices are A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris; Deep Kiss of Winter by Cole and Showalter; or Lover Avenged by J.R. Ward. It ends November 28 and is International.

    Peace Love & Pat is giving away 4 books – Queen of The Damned by Anne Rice; Cocktails for Three by Madeliene Wickham; Lost Souls by Lisa Jackson; and Poison Ink by Christopher Golden. It ends November 29 and is available in the US only.

    J. Kaye's Book Blog is giving away a copy of My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent. It ends November 27 with in US and Canada.

    J. Kaye’s Book Blog is giving away 4 copies of Pollen by Francis T. Perry Williams. It ends November 27 and is available in US and Canada. *J. Kaye has specific rules for her giveaways please take note.

    A Book Lover’s Diary is giving away of 24 young adult books for 4 lucky winners. It ends November 30. It is international.

    Fantasy/Sci Fi Lovin is giving away and ARC copy of Mirrorscape by Mike Wilks. It ends November 20 and is international.

    The Shady Glady is offering a copy of Yesterday’s Magic by Pamela Service. It ends November 25 and is available in the US and Canada.

    Mindful Musings is giving away her ARC copy of Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. It ends November 30 and is available only in the US.

    Writer’s Space is giving away your choice of a Kindle or a Sony eBook reader. It ends November 30. No area specified.

    Book Rat is giving away a copy of Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder. It ends December 1 and is available only in the US.

    Bibliofreak is giving away 15 of Kindle eBook readers to a lucky few of her subscribers. This contest ends December 18 and is international.

    The Noobie Kindle Give Away. It ends December 10. Available in the US only.

    Dark Faerytales is giving away a copy of The Dark Divine by Bree Dispain. It ends December 14. It is international.

    Park Avenue Princess is giving away your choice of eBook reader and several copies of Liquid Soul by Mathew Carter with a few other things as well. The contest ends December 24 and is international.

    Link ups, posts, blogs, and more for giveaway lists

    Fantasy Dreamer always has a list of ongoing giveaways in a weekly post and to the right on her blog page.

    Give Away Round up has an almost daily list of give aways.

    Goodread’s Book Giveaways Group

    Goodreads has its own give away section too!

    Out of the Blue has a weekly Wednesday post of give aways.

    Writer’s Space has a list of ongoing book giveaways – chic lit, romance, and paranormal. Sign up for a news letter to get updates.

    For a taste of horror and more on Friday’s there’s an ebook giveaway every week at Nicole’s blogAll Things Smart and Scary.

    *Please note if a link is not working properly let me know. This is quite a “fiddly” job – so errors abound even more than usual.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    An Exciting Thing has Happened – Yippee!

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    I bet you will never ever guess………

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    Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan (in spirit)  will be coming to our local library to talk about their new book - The Gathering Storm.  How cool is that!

    This coming Monday evening JD and I will have dinner out and then go and listen to an author’s talk and get a couple of signed books. Fun! Fun! Fun!

    What is even more fun is that I will be purchasing at least one signed copy of their book for giveaway here on Layers of Thought. Soon I will have a  post with hopefully some pictures of Sanderson and maybe a wisp of Jordan with myself/John for you all to see. 

    This will be of particular interest to a few of our readers here. Krista, Logan and David come to mind.

    So dear readers stay tuned, our good fortune and fun is yours as well.

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