Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year ~ 2011 ~ Have a sane, safe, and hopefully not too sober celebration!



Yes for the Safe and Sane ~ but we can just leave the sober bit out! 

Lets toast to all life’s wonders ~ chocolate, love, a few I will leave out for decorum’s sake, and best of all books!

We are off travelling again. Yes its any excuse for us. This time to the Napa Valley (Shellie’s home). So naturally Layers of Thought will be on hiatus for a short while. We have not seen our California family in over a year. Our bags are packed the house/pet sitter is all ready to arrive and we are almost ready to go.

Please stay tuned since when we return there are a plethora of books, reviews, giveaways/announcements and more which are in the queue to share. Goodness knows what the “blog gods/fairies/fates” will bestow upon us in the up and coming year. Can you believe its almost 2011?  With a very special day tomorrow – 1/1/11. How cool is that?


We leave you with a picture of the Napa Valley as it looks in winter. Perhaps we will be lucky enough to see a few yellow mustard flowers that are planted to add nitrogen to the soil at the base of the vines? They are fabulous!

In the interim in case you do not have enough to read *wink*,  here are a few links based around the new year for interest’s sake:

Cheers to our dear friends, readers, and fellow bloggers. See you next year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Challenges: LGBT ~ Haruki Murakami ~ Eastern European ~ Graphic Novels ~ Book Bucket



Oh No Not Another Challenge? ~ Yep, five. It is that time of year, and these are special challenges. So here we go!

LGBT Book Challenge 2011 ~ Hosted by Book after Book ~ here is a bit from the challenge site:

Why this challenge?  LGBT literature is so rich and varied and worth talking more about. That’s why I am hosting this challenge: to keep learning and sharing reading experiences.  I want to do my own tiny bit for a more accepting world – one book at a time!

The details of the challenge

  • The challenge will run from January, 1st 2011 to December, 31st 2011.
  • You can decide how many books you want to read during the year.
  • What qualifies as LGBT reading? I will accept reviews of books whose author is LBGT, whose topic is LGBT and/or whose characters (even minor ones) are LGBT. Fiction and non-fiction titles are equally accepted.
  • The challenge is open to bloggers and non bloggers alike.
  • There will be monthly prizes for participants.

Goal ~ We read so many different types of books that many will over lap into this category.


Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2011 ~ with a dedicated blog which links via the badge.

Some info taken from the site:

Levels of participation:
Hajime - Read one book
Sheep Man - Read 3 books
Toru - Read 5 books
Nakata - Read 7 books
Sumire - Read 10+ books
Super-frog - Read everything Murakami has written! (that is available in English, or your preferred language)

Goal ~ One book for this challenge which I have been dying to read. This is the perfect excuse.


2011 Eastern-Europe Reading Challenge ~ Hosted by The Black Sheep Dances.

Basic Challenge Details:

Please consider choosing unfamiliar titles, especially those that are translated works, to help support those organizations that are working to unearth the 'buried' treasure of Eastern European and Russian literature.

Regions:  Choose titles about or by an author from any of the following regions:  Croatia, Ukraine, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary, Belarus, Estonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Czech Rep., Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Moldova, and Kosovo.

TitlesCan be any genre:  crime, poetry, literary fiction, history, historical fiction, memoirs, etc.


  • tourist:  4 books over the 12 months
  • ambassador:  8 books over 12 months
  • scholar:  12 books over 12 months

Goal ~ We will be tourists this year – perhaps more!

gn2 button

Graphics Novel Challenge 2011 ~ (Badge links to challenge site).

The rules:

  1. The challenge starts January 1, 2011 and ends December 31, 2011. You can start anytime you want to especially if you want to start early.
  2. The level of participation: Beginner (3 comics or graphic novels), Intermediate (3-10 books), or Expert (10+)
  3. Overlaps with other challenges is definitely okay
  4. Re-reads count
  5. Feel free to post your list at any time

Goal ~  We will be doing the beginner level 3 books each.

This is a great challenge with fun side effects, you can almost pretend you’re a kid.


2011 Book Bucket Reading Challenge ~ Bookworm Lisa is hosting her first challenge!  She says:

“50 of the books that have been sitting on my "to read" shelf for too long” ~  Feel free to join me,  make a list of books that you will read for 2011.  Cross them off as you go.  See if  you can finish your list before I finish mine.  Make a list of 10 or however many you feel is "do"able for you.

So make a list of any number of books that are in your bucket and join in, which books are on your shelf and in your bucket?

This is a challenge which I need… have you seen my Goodread’s TBR list? and you should see my exploding shelves at home. Goodness!

So at the very least 10 books which are currently sitting on my shelves to read, at the end of December 31, 2011 that I will read in 2011.

Okay Dokey – that’s all folks!  Well at least until next year.

Challenges for Sci Fi: 42 Challenge ~ Mind Voyages



42 Challenge 2011 ~ (January 1, 2011 till  December 3, 2011 (Badge links to challenge site page if you care to join in).

Your mission--if you choose to accept it--is to read, watch, listen, and (possibly) review 42 sci-fi related items.

What counts? ~  Short stories, novellas, novels, radio show episodes, television show episodes, movies, graphic novels, comic books, audio books, essays about science fiction, biographies about sci-fi authors, etc. Adapted or abridged works are okay as well.

Goal ~ John and I love Sci Fi as you all may have guessed. This will be our second year.  Although not quite making the 42 in 2010, even with the two of us we are still in for the challenge, because what's a challenge if its not challenging!

Books will be taken from Shellie’s Goodread shelf for Science Fiction.

mind voyages

Mind Voyages 2011 ~ (melded with 52 Books in 52 Weeks, with challenge options at both sites; badge links to Mind Voyages site).

From January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011 ~ The Voyages Are:

  • Moon Voyage :  Read at least 6 winners on the Hugo Winners List
  • Sling shot back to Earth:  Read at least  3 winners on the Nebula Winner's List
  • Venus Voyage:  Philip K. Dick Quest  - Read at least 2 of his books
  • Mercury  Voyage:   Robert Heinlein Quest - Read at least 2 of his books
  • Mars Voyage:   Read at least 6 winners on the Hugo List and take a side trip through the 21st century and read at least 4 nominees.
    Go into Warp Drive and visit the other planets
  • Jupiter Voyage:   Go side tripping 90's Style
  • Saturn:  Go Side Tripping 80's Style
  • Uranus: Go Side Tripping 70's Style
  • Neptune Voyage:  Go Side Tripping through the 50's and 60's
  • Pluto Voyage:   Mix it up, choose the number of books you want to read from each voyage, include some new books you pick up along the way and enjoy the ride.

Goal ~ We are going to Pluto this year…. brrr…. with a bunch of side trips on the way, since its all about the voyage not the destination.

Books will be taken from Shellie’s Nebula and Hugo Winners/Nominees (which is a bit in a flux at the moment, so enter at your own risk).

Join us in a journey into these other worlds!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review: The Arrival ~ (a graphic novel) by Shaun Tan



A review by Shellie for: The Arrival ~ (a wordless novel) by Shaun Tan

With realistic and lovely pictures, done in shades of sepia and greys, this graphic novel - without words – is a speculative representation of the immigrant experience.

About: This is a graphic novel told only in shaded colorless pictures, with contrasting elements colored in cool for darker aspects of the journey and warm for happier. It is a book for everyone but especially children; it tells of the many difficulties, complications, and of course the joys of the universal experience when immigrating from one country to another. With realistic pictures contrasted with fantastical images it mixes the familiar with the alien, which is a metaphor for the immigrant experience. It is realistic yet speculative in nature.

Thoughts:  This book has gorgeous drawings showing the main characters experiencing a range of emotions when arriving in a place completely different from their known home. It shows the difficulties of trying to communicate without knowledge of the new language, the sorrow felt when separated from family members, and of course the inevitable fear of the unknown. With images which are fantastical it is easy for a young person to relate to the “alien” feel when arriving in a different country.

Apparently, the author spent 5 years researching the book in his attempt to show the “universality of the immigrant experience”. With its pictures it “translates” for the reader in a way that is understood without language; It’s the first book I can remember “reading” that does not have words. With its talented artist/author, I recommend it highly for use in classrooms as well as homes, where an explanation is needed for around experiencing different cultures. This is a lovely and important book which I liked a lot; I’d give it 3.5 stars.

Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada; Ages 9-12; 128 pages; Arthur A. Levine Books (October 1, 2007)

The Arrival was borrowed from our local library. We love ours, support yours!

It will be include in the Graphics Novel Challenge, Speculative Fiction Challenge, The Basics Challenge, and New Author Challenge.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review and International Giveaway: “Virga” series ~ by Karl Schroeder



We have a review by John for the first book in the “Virga” series ~ “Sun of Suns” and an international  giveaway for two copies of  Pirate Sun ~ the third in this series.

Now for John’s Review ~ of the first book “Sun of Suns”: From Virga: Cities of the Air ~ by Karl Schroeder  (this is an omnibus of two books, “Sun of Suns” and “Queen of Candesce”, originally issued in 2006 and 2007)

Highly original – a space-based steampunk thriller set in a weird and wonderful future world.

About:  Virga is a world three thousand kilometers in diameter that is floating in space; the twist is that Virga is in effect a balloon and that people live on the inside, totally sealed off from whatever lies beyond the surface. Also inside are many artificial suns, air, water, and floating towns and cities that need to be spun to create gravity. The world of Virga contains many mini empires based around the larger cities; they live in a state of uneasy peace that often turns into conflict.

Outside of this self-contained world, the rest of the universe is very different. You get some glimpses into it and the people that created Virga, but we’re not yet sure why Virga was set up and what its purpose is. This is he first in a series of novels so I’m sure all becomes clear later.

For now, the first story in the series centers around Hayden Griffin, a boy whose home nation of Aerie is destroyed by the larger migratory empire of Slipstream. On a lifelong quest to take revenge on the leaders of Slipstream, he eventually finds himself sucked into a wild mission led by the admiral of Slipstream, who is trying to defend his own world against plotting neighbors by undertaking a daring pre-emptive raid. As Griffin becomes ever more embroiled with the leaders of the mission and things build to a dangerous climax, he starts to question some of his loyalties and motivation.

John’s Thoughts:  So why is it steampunk? The towns are made mostly out of wood and rope, the ships of Virga are also made out of wood, and most of the weapons seem like they’re out of the Victorian era. Indeed, while this is set in space, the story often seemed like an episode straight out of Horatio Hornblower.

Schroeder has a fabulous imagination and has created a unique world for these stories. He creates some interesting characters and fills in the story with lots of details that give the book a solid and believable foundation – despite its fantastic setting. The story became a little too action-packed for my taste; nonetheless it was an entertaining read and I’d rate the book 3.5 stars. If you’re in the mood for some “space opera” that’s full of action, then this one is for you.

For more information on the series please see Layers of Thought’s preview for the series. Amazon links for the first of the series which includes the story which John reviewed and the book pictured above ~ US|UK|Canada

Since this is a combo review and giveaway post John will be answering comments, which are specifically centered around the review. All give away entries will not be addressed.

9780765326423International Giveaway:

We have two copies of this book for two winners! Since the books will be sent by the publisher - you do not need to be a “reader” for this giveaway. Anyone can enter, copies of these book are available for mailing internationally (please note that international shipping does take some time).

Amazon links for US|UK|Canada for the book to the right.      

Contest Info:

To enter you must:

  • comment
  • include in the post your email so that I can contact you

You do not have to do these options but ~ for optional extra points you can do any, all or none of the below for 1 entry point each: (Please use separate comments for each entry.)

  1. Be a subscriber of Layers of Thought – google or facebook. (I need to be able to see you! – to get updates in facebook feed and add me as a friend otherwise it does not count.)
  2. Blog it - side bars are great - please provide links
  3. Tweet it – provide links please
  4. Friend on Twitter
  5. Friend on Goodreads
  6. Friend on Book Blogs
  7. Friend on Glue  - new to glue? have questions? let me know.

As stated above, this giveaway is for anywhere.

Contest ends Wednesday January 19th, 2011 at 12 pm US Pacific time. Winner will be posted and notified on Tuesday January 25th, 2011. 

If you have a question or concern (like a typo or bad link) please email me via my profile – Shellie.

Thanks for entering and good luck! 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas! ~ As they say in England


misteli 1misteli 2


God made the Grand Canyon, but he lives in Sedona  ~  local Arizona saying

I do have to say the we entirely agree about the above quote, even though we are not a religious pair. Although we love the amazing and majestic Grand Canyon, we acknowledge that Sedona is a small step above  - it is so so beautiful! 

Needless to say we are off for our Christmas holiday trip to this magical place and it does look as pictured above. We also think that Sedona is a place that every person on the planet should visit at least once in their lifetime!

We will be returning in a few days, for a few more posts before the New Year. In the meantime we want to extend our best wishes to all our readers, new and old, friends and family, for happy and healthy festivities whatever your religious inclinations or belief systems.

Wishing we could help you all celebrate with a wonderful toast of the beverage of your choice!

Happy Christmas Everyone! ~ John & Shellie

And just in case you’re bored and don’t have enough to read while we are away ~ here are a couple of interesting multicultural holiday links (I wish I would have had time to find more):

Review: The Tempest ~ retold by Ann Keay Beneduce, illustrations by Gennady Spirin



Reviewed by Shellie:  ~  The Tempest ~ rewritten by Ann Keay Beneduce with movie tie in information and more!

We are such stuff as dreams are made on…..

About:  This is a child’s picture book and is a retelling of Shakespeare’s play. It is about Prospero, the Duke of Milan, and his small daughter who are set adrift on the sea by the king of Naples and Prospero's evil brother. They are conspiring to acquire his land and holdings, but do not murder Prospero and Miranda since the evil doers do not want to be blamed for their deaths.

However, Prospero is a magician of great talent and he and Miranda survive the incident. They are washed up on an enchanted island inhabited by a variety of magical beings – both good and bad. Taking refuge in a cave, they try to live a peaceful and happy life. As Miranda comes of age Prospero knows she will need the companionship of others, so he conjures up a storm which blows his brother’s traveling ship onto the rocks around the island. He and the remaining crew are brought on shore, but because this includes the conspiring king as well as the king’s son, the story has just begun.

Thoughts:  Ah Shakespeare, the incredible and articulate bard from days of yore. What I would not give to understand his wonderful and archaic language. Difficult as the verbiage it is for adults, it is much more so for children. With consideration to the many wonderful tie-ins around this fantastical story, it’s a shame not to have a simpler basis on which to build an understanding. That’s where a book like this can come in, as a way for adults to help children understand and to introduce them into the language of old England, and the wonders of ~ The Tempest.

With lacey and old fashioned illustrations from Gennaday Spririn, the co-author has included current language which is understandable for children (and for adults like me). Yet for authenticity she has included some brief and easy to understand quotes from Shakespeare’s actual work – like the one prefacing this review. (I have always wondered where that familiar line had originated). Helped by the illustrations, it is a way for children and adults to further understand the basis for Shakespeare’s complex story lines and language. I liked this book a lot and give it 3.5 stars.

I am actually surprised there are not more picture books as well as a graphic novel for the tale published. If  there are I could not find one (hint to artists and publishers).

Purchasing links for this out of print book - US|UK|Canada; Ages 9-12; Hardcover: 32 pages; Philomel; 1st Ed. edition (March 19, 1996)

A new movie version has just been released (PG-13), with an incredible cast including Helen Mirren (as Prospera – I like the gender switch) and Russell Brand (as Trinculo – who is not mentioned in the above book). We are very excited as we love these English actors. I have included the movie trailer; the movie was out on December 10th (in the USA). It’s the perfect family holiday film!


Here are two books which I hope to read soon, which are based upon The Tempest from Tor. We see Miranda here on these amazing covers. I think Tor has the best covers for fantasy. Don’t you?


  • Prospero in Hell ~ by L. Jagi Lamplighter; Amazon US/UK/Canada
  • Prospero Lost ~ by L. Jagi Lamplighter; Amazon US/UK/Canada

For publisher’s blurbs see Layers of Thoughts preview for the L. Jagi Lamplighter series on Prospero.

For more Shakespearean spin-offs and a very fun post link to io9 ~ for the Coolest Shakespeare Riffs in Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Have a great day ~ its almost Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Review: In the Wake of the Boatman ~ by Jonathon Scott Fuqua



A review by Shellie for: In the Wake of the Boatman ~ by Jonathon Scott Fuqua

Set around the Vietnam war, this is a dark and heart wrenching story of identity with an atypical hero as the main character.

About: This is a story about a boy who awkwardly grows into a damaged man, in part due to his experiences of emotional abuse at the hands of his father. Putnam, the main character, endures extreme swings in his father’s attentions; in his attempts to please his difficult father, “Put” does a number of things which cause a descent into self doubt and confusion, furthering his personal misunderstandings about himself.

As he becomes a young man and in an attempt to bury his feelings, he takes steps into a lifestyle where he believes his proclivities will be repressed or changed. Choosing the military and officer training, he throws  himself into his studies and intense physical training. Yet that does not stop the temptations he is trying to mask. He takes this attempt at repression one step further, and in his depressive state volunteers for a tour to Vietnam – a mission of apparent suicide. The story has been set and this is the beginning of a number of heroic actions.

Thoughts:  In this heartbreaking yet redemptive literary novel, there is an underlying question as to whether a person who is “confused” or who has a sexual identity which is not entirely accepted  socially is less capable of defending his or her country. As a reader I could feel deeply for what was going on internally and externally for Putnam, as he tries to reconcile who he is and what social expectations are for him as a soldier and a man. Even more, the book asks - what is it that actually defines a person as a hero?  This novel is GLBTQ, and serves to show that even individuals who do not fit into our “ideal” of what a hero is, can be committed to their country and can be just as heroic as those who do. I give this powerful and emotional novel 4 stars.

Purchasing links for Amazon are US/UK/Canada, The Book Depository Euro/AUD.

For further information on this book please see Layers of Thoughts preview for the book.

This book will be included in a variety of challenges – GLBT 2010, Feel My Sorrow, War Through the Generations – Vietnam, New Authors Challenge.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review: Buddha’s Orphans ~ by Samrat Upadhyay



A review by Shellie for: Buddha’s Orphans: a novel ~  by Samrat Upadhyay

A sweet contemporary tale of family love and social changes in Nepal, with a great cover.

About:   Set in Nepal during the 1960’s and up until the near present, it’s a love story about two people – Raja and Nilu. Yet it feels like a family saga, with the two main characters telling their life’s tales with all their inevitable ups and downs

With a variety of nationalities living in Nepal, the two main characters are Nepalese and of middle class standing. Having known each other since childhood they fall in love and are linked by their religious belief in past life attachments. It is set during a period when the small country is attempting to move towards a more democratic government, rather than the monarchy which has been in place for centuries, so the backdrop is one of change, ensuing difficulties, complexities, and political and social uprisings.

Thoughts:  I enjoyed this sweet novel and liked that it gave me a picture of this special area located at the bottom of the Himalayan mountains. It speaks of the poverty and the racial tensions between the Nepalese and India’s natives – with  the lingering and archaic caste system and repression of women; which are still very prevalent. It also covers the complicated political changes which have occurred over the past 60 years.

The two lovers are progressive and have a modern view of life, with Raja actually taking part in some of the political demonstrations. This is not the case with all the characters; many have a very stagnant perspective. We read about the poverty, the lack of amenities which most of us take for granted, and we see that their lives share some similarities with our own in the Western world, although obviously they are very different in so many ways.

I liked that the author has an accessible writing style and enjoyed this literary novel. I would recommend it for anyone interested in a contemporary historical fiction story about the area. I give this novel 3 stars. It was a very readable book, and the cover is so simple, yet elegant, and gives insight into the culture which is not readily apparent.

Amazon links for US/UK/Canada; Hardcover: 448 pages; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition (July 14, 2010) For more information on this book please see Layers of Thought’s preview for the Buddha’s Orphans.

This book will be included in The Basics and the New Author Challenge.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review by JD: The Naperville White House ~ by Jerome Bartels


Bartels Cover by Parke 100110 at 2230

The Naperville White House ~ by Jerome Bartels

When a tired and staid old political system can’t find solutions to world crises, democracy takes a startling new course. A complex, intriguing and clever book set in a near future where gaming enthusiasts set up fantasy governments which come to rival the real thing.

About: The book appears to be by Jerome Bartels – a “crusading vagabond journalist” who is hired by the ex-President to write a book about the Stockdale Hostage Crisis which happened in the fall of 2018. During 2019 Bartels drove thousands of miles, conducted many interviews with key figures, watched weeks of video, read volumes of transcripts and tapped his own anonymous sources. At the end of it all, via this book, he attempted to recreate the events of the fateful three weeks of the Crisis, and ultimately drew his own conclusions about the events and some of the mysterious people involved in them.

The President in question is Jay Weise.

Through Nationizer gaming software, people have set up fantasy governments and compete with each other by tracking and responding to real-life events and by making decisions which are logged into the gaming system. With no ties to big business and unburdened by the dead weight of a failing political system, the fantasy governments take a fresh approach and generate creative new ideas. Jay Weise is the President of one of the most well developed of the fantasy governments, which is based in Naperville, Illinois. He has turned his house into a mini replica of the White House, complete with its own Oval Office, Situation Room and replica furniture and paintings. His government has a full cabinet, including a Chief of Staff, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Director of National Intelligence and Press Secretary. Most have mundane jobs in the real world, but still dedicate huge amounts of time and energy into their fantasy government roles.

At the time of the story, the United States has been fighting three separate terrorism wars for nearly a decade, abductions and bombings occur regularly around the world, the economy is ailing, and America’s relationships with traditional allies around the world are crumbling. Regular politicians continue to promise solutions, but nothing ever seems to be solved. Then the US is rocked when an Al Qaeda backed terror group kidnaps five partners of senior politicians and holds them hostage; through a series of events (I’ll not spoil the story by describing them) Jay Weise and his government are drawn deeply into the crisis. His prime objective is to help free the hostages; the objectives of the real US government are much less clear and its motives and actions are shrouded in secrecy. Meanwhile someone else seems to be working behind the scenes to push things to a head.

John’s Thoughts:  This book was like a breath of fresh air – a clever idea, very novel, thought provoking and an entertaining read. It’s one of those storylines which is, at one and the same time, both outrageous and almost plausible; for me that’s a winning combination. Certainly it’s not too difficult to imagine a political world similar to the one created here; in truth we’re close enough already. On top of that the internet and the world of gaming are advancing so rapidly that the fantasy governments of the novel don’t feel like too much of a stretch. And, goodness knows, there is enough frustration at the political system and lame politicians to fuel the motivations of people like Jay Weise.

So there is a very cool idea as a foundation, and Mark Pedriani (the real author) adds to it a nice writing style, a good pace, some humor and big dollops of twisty, intriguing plot. There are some pretty neat characters too. Weise and all of his main cabinet members are well structured and have some depth. I think the technique of using Bartels as the author and voice of the story also works well. All in all, a fun read that I blew through in two days. I’d rate this book 4 stars. If you like somewhat futuristic political thrillers, or get a kick out of regular folks (ok – somewhat nerdy folks) winning out over Big Brother, then I’d most definitely recommend this book.

Amazon purchasing links for US|UK- Kindle only; Hardcover: 320 pages; Bancroft Press (November 15, 2010)

If you are interested in reviewing this book yourself it is available on Net Galley. This book was sent to John for review from Bancroft Press. Thanks Harrison!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Midwinter’s Eve Giveaway Hop ~ December 21 till 22



Welcome to the Midwinter’s Eve Giveaway Hop! ~  Its a “quickie” since there will only be 48 hours to enter all the giveaways for the participating blogs. At last count there were 125. (Badge above links the host site – I’m A Reader, Not A Writer).

We know its such a busy time of year, but what a way to relieve stress – winning books!  Here is your chance to hop to a variety of blogs to enter contests for books and more. Layers of Thought’s books for this hop are listed below. So to enter our contests click on the covers and follow the instructions on each of the pages.

Please do not leave your entries on this post. With that being said the easiest and quickest way to enter our contests is to leave your email address on the designated post for the book(s) that you wish to win. Just click on the covers to the post and leave your email address there.  For more points and to increase your chances, follow the ways you can get those extra points. Please remember you do not have to be “a reader” to win, anyone can enter.

We have two different giveaways for this Hop. Click on the cover to enter the book(s) of your choice.


To Win this Series click on Cover!

A three book series: The Instrumentalities of the Night ~ by Glen Cook

  • Surrender to the Will of the Night (book three)US|UK|Canada.
  • Lord of the Silent Kingdom (book two) ~ US|UK|Canada.
  • The Tyranny of the Night (book one) ~ US|UK|Canada.

This contest is for a US address only. It is epic fantasy so the themes will include some deeper pondering about the nature existence.



To Win this Book click on Cover!

Dayling ~ by Gabriel Madison

Gabriel Madison’s second book, which I am excited about, is a young adult vampire novel with an interesting twist to the theme.

This book is available internationally in ebook format, and softbound for a US shipping address.

Amazon  ~ US[Kindle] ~ UK[Kindle] and Smashwords (for other formats and to print).



Then of course you can link to the other blogs within this hop via the “Mr. Linky” below, with its listing of 125 other blogs too. Most of all have fun good luck!

War Through the Generations Challenge ~ U. S. Civil War 2011



US Civil War 2011 ~ from January 1, 2011, through December 31, 2011 (purple badge links to challenge site).

The hosts state:

Rules:   This year you have options when reading your fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, etc. with the US Civil War as the primary or secondary theme. Books can take place before, during, or after the war. Books from other challenges count so long as they meet the above criteria.

  • Dip: Read 3-5 books
  • Wade: Read 6-10 books
  • Swim: Read 11 or more books

Additionally, we’ve decided that since there are so many great movies out there about U.S. Civil War, that you US Civil War 2011can substitute or add a movie or two to your list this year and have it count toward your totals.

We will be dipping into this challenge (3-5 books). Our books will be taken from Shellie’s Goodread US Civil War shelf.

This is a wonderful challenge. Serena and Anna work very hard and are extremely organized. They host some great features, such as giveaways as well as interviews.

Please note I created these badges from photographs by David Ohmer, for the challenge.

Come and join!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Speculative Previews: Blue ~ by Lou Aronica; Polyxena ~ by H. Allenger; Me and Bobby McGee ~ by Chad Coenson


Never Ending book collection

The Never Ending Book Collection in our “speculative preview” format  ~ linking newly acquired books for review.

This is our last listing of previews for the year. Can you believe it is almost 2011?

A note about our previews:  With these three interesting  titles we have included publisher’s or author’s blurb, an author bio, and Amazon purchasing links. Our opinions will be coming in the personal reviews of each of the books.

Today we have three books included in this preview and listed below:

  • Blue: a novel ~ by Lou Aronica
  • Polyxena: a story of Troy  ~  by H. Allenger
  • Me and Bobby McGee ~ by Chad Coenson


Blue: a novel ~ by Lou Aronica

About:  Chris Astor is a man in his early forties who is going through the toughest stretch of his life. Not long before, Chris' world sparkled - he was doing significant work, he had a good home, and his young daughter brought him more joy than he ever could have imagined. Now, divorce and estrangement have left him confused and all too often alone.

Becky is Chris' fourteen-year-old daughter, a girl who overcame enormous challenges in her early years to become a vibrant, vital young woman. Her parents' divorce has left its mark, though, most significantly in her relationship with her father. Once, they told remarkable stories together. Now, they barely speak. Emotional detachment from Chris is not Becky's biggest concern, though.

Miea is the young queen of a fantasy land that Becky and Chris created when Becky was little - a fantasy land that has developed a life of its own. Miea knows nothing of Becky and Chris. She only knows that her beautiful kingdom - a place of remarkably varied flora, dignified and distinctive fauna, and an ecology that works in symphonic majesty - is in terrible, maybe fatal trouble.

At the most challenging junctures of their lives, Becky and Miea discover each other and Miea shares this discovery with Chris. For Becky, it is nearly inconceivable that a place she created has come into existence. For Miea, it is nearly inconceivable that a child created her land. For Chris, it is beyond inconceivable that he is again sharing something important in his daughter's life. For all of them, it as though a world of opportunity has opened up before them.

But time is not on their side. In fact, time might be running out. 

Amazon pre purchasing links for US|UK|Canada; Paperback: 400 pages; The Fiction Studio (January 16, 2011)

author photoAbout the Author:  Lou Aronica is the author of several novels and works of nonfiction, including a New York Times bestseller. He lives in Southern Connecticut with his wife and four children. Two places to link with the author/publisher are at his website and on Goodreads.

Layers of Thought:   I am particularly excited about this book since this is the début title for Lou Aronica’s new publishing endeavor – The Fiction Studio. He has years of editing experience for award winning titles like The Healer’s War (links to the recent review) a Nebula Award winning novel.


Polyxena: A Story of Troy  ~  by H. Allenger

About:  A moving story of forbidden love, about a young woman who is an integral part of the romantic legacy surrounding Troy.

After Troy falls, Neoptolemus claims Polyxena as his prize, but she rejects his advances. In a fit of rage, Neoptolemus contrives a story that dooms the ill-fated Polyxena. As the daughter of King Priam of Troy, she knows her misfortune has been to have Neoptolemus fall in love with her. As she prepares to die at the commemoration rites for Neoptolemus's father, Polyxena reflects over her past year, relating her thoughts to Aphrodite, the Goddess she believes is responsible for orchestrating the events that have beset her. She knows what she mustmedusa do to survive, but she cannot change her destiny.

Amazon links for US|UK|Canada; Paperback: 412 pages; iUniverse (July 31, 2009)

Author Bio:   H. Allenger earned a BA in Public Administration and a MA in International Relations. After thirty-one years with the Seattle School District, he is now retired and pursuing his true passions which include mythology, archeology, and writing. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington, and enjoys traveling the world. For more information see the author’s web page.

Layers of Thought:   This book was specifically chosen for the Read a Myth Challenge; the badge to the left links to more details about it.


Me and Bobby McGee ~ by Chad Coerson

About:  A thrilling comedic adventure seen through the booze-blurred eyes of Keesey Cypher, a government-trained killer with an ill-fated abundance of classified memories who has since resigned himself to a regrettable existence, sipping away his tainted past.

Cypher's hunger for games of chance  lead him to New Orleans' coziest dive-bar the day after Fat Tuesday where one night of seeming misfortune leads to a frighteningly funny reality of subversive politics, corporate greed, backwards logic, and star (double)-crossed romance.

A gripping social satire of modern times, Me and Bobby McGee pokes fun at the inane absurdities ingrained in our society, proving that freedom is truly subjective and karma is not just a philosophy, but a fate that is unwavering.

Amazon links for US|UK|Canada; Paperback: 282 pages; Inkwater Press (September 17, 2010)

About the Author:   Chad Coenson has a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, and a home in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two dogs.

As stated above, this is our last post of previews for the year or 2010. We have some amazing titles coming up for the new year, several of which are promising to be very popular books.

Have a great Saturday! 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Want a better blog? ~ Bloggiesta is Coming!



Bloggiesta Ole! ~ January 21st, 22nd, and 23rd

What is it? ~ It’s a three day challenge where you, as a blogger, set some goals and attempt to meet them all in a plan to create a better blog. There are tons of suggestions from some very experienced bloggers and you can win stuff too!

Layers of Thought did not always look like it does now. It was awkward and clumsy (it sometimes still is).  If you’re in doubt take a look at my first few posts, and my past Bloggiesta events – #1, #2. I was enlightened quite a bit (especially about the 250 dead links – goodness)!

The event is hosted by a very organized book blogger  – Maw Books Blog. You do not have to blog about books either; any type of blogger can join in the activities, or if you’re really shy, just lurk.

Below are just some examples of  What you can do during the Bloggiesta? (this list has been shortened by me – a lot!)

  • Write backup posts for a rainy day.
  • Clean up your tags, archives, books reviewed list, etc.
  • Improve your blog template, clean up sidebars, add a favicon, install those plugins that you’ve been meaning to do.
  • Add or edit your about me page, review policy, disclosure policy, privacy policy, create landing pages (for example – an about me for Twitter readers page) or any other pages you might have.
  • Analyze and re-evaluate your blog.
  • Back up your blog.
  • Make sure you have properly copyrighted your blog and know what to do when somebody reposts your material.
  • The sky’s the limit!

Our current plan is to join in the fun – if we are home in time from our post Christmas travels. Even so, I highly recommend that you join too for the work, fun and most of all the community!

Review: The Christmas Knot ~ by William Bentrim (illustrations by Christi Schofield)


cover Knot 300dpi

The Christmas Knot ~ by William G. Bentrim  (illustrations by Christi Schofield)

A young Hardy Belch, his cousin Mardi and his dog Tiny discover even problems can end up beautifully at Christmas.

Shellie’s thoughts:  A self published book, it is a short story with cute illustrations that helps children to realize that no matter how hard we try, at times things don’t always work out as planned. But even if they don’t, it is not always a bad thing. With a slightly Christian theme in the story, which includes the Nativity scene, it is a pleasant story for the season that children and parents will love. I liked this cute light story with a positive message and would give it 3.5 stars.

Unfortunately the cover pictured here does not do The Christmas Knot justice, and is not very clear. However, you can see how nice it is from a YouTube review which the author has created about the book. It only lasts a little over two minutes and is quite funny with a little skunk giving the review that children will love.

Amazon purchasing links for US|UK|Canada; Ages 9-12; Paperback: 30 pages;  CreateSpace (July 10, 2010)

Bill’s other children’s books reviewed here:


I loved the above books, with their difficult subject matter and sweet yet sad illustrations. They are important additions to homes and families in transition, as well for professionals who work with families.

Previewed here:


Reviews for the above books coming soon!

William G. Benetrim is our friend. He has several blogs where he does short and interesting reviews in a variety of genres – mostly mystery, science fiction and fantasy. To contact him you can link to one of his personal blogs ~ Pick of the Literate, The Azure Dwarf, Money Saving Tech Tips, his professional website, or his author’s page on Goodreads.

The holiday stuffing (for the turkey and yourself), family fun, and partying is almost here. Do you have all your shopping done?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Giveaway and Excerpt: Dayling ~ by Gabriel Madison (a young adult vampire novel)



Today we have a giveaway and chapter excerpt ~ for the newly released young adult vampire novel:

Dayling ~ by Gabriel Madison

Here is a bit about the book:

Times were a lot simpler for Haven before she stepped out of the shadows… and into the eternal night.

Turning eighteen is an exciting time for most girls. It means finally being considered a legal adult, having more freedom and a wild birthday party. For Haven Vigano, it means no longer being able to move around in the daytime, immortality and a craving for human blood. Haven is a Dayling, but in three weeks she will ‘Cross Over’ into the world of Nightlings.

Most Daylings live their lives as humans for as long as they can, which means they attend school, make normal friends and indulge in all the pleasures of being mortal… most Daylings except for Haven.

To make matters worst, a friend from her past, another Dayling named Sébastien, arrives in Tallahassee with the news that an ancient group of Nightling hunters called The Holy Sect of Mântuitors are hunting down and killing her kind. Now Haven must deal with her growing attraction to Philip, plus understand Sébastien’s jealousy towards her human crush, and oh yeah, help deal with the threat of the Mântuitors.

Times were a lot simpler for Haven when she felt indifferent towards everything and everyone.

To find out more about or to connect with Gabriel Madison ~ link to his webpage, or blog, and Goodreads. Also to a review of his first book Three Seeds here on Layers of Thought.

To purchase from Amazon US[Kindle] ~ UK[Kindle] ~ Canada and Smashwords (for other e-formats and to print).

An excerpt from chapter one:

The thought of my upcoming birth day wouldn’t leave my mind. I placed my arms behind my head as I closed my eyes and focused on pleasant memories. Most of them were of me alone with a good book, but a few were of being around family and friends. None had to do with being around people outside of my world. Being on my families estate, only dealing with the people closest to me, would be all I needed
after my eighteenth birthday.

I must have dozed off for a moment, because she was standing over me when I opened my eyes, and the moon reflected behind her. Angela still lay beside me on her back, obviously asleep. But she didn’t seem to care about her kid sister at the moment; instead she stared directly at me, “time to wake up pequeña
princesa. You need to get ready for a party.”

Slowly I sat up on my elbows. “I know you’re insane Sophia, but are you also delusional?”

She kneeled down beside me. “Since my little sister is starting real school soon, Nigel and I are going to take her to this party we heard about. Give her and opportunity to check out the locals at play.” Sophia leaned in closer to me, causing my entire body to uncontrollably shiver as she whispered. “You don’t have a choice in this chica.” She reached over and shook Angela awake while continually staring at me. I hated Sophia thinking she scared me, even though she did scare the crap out of me, but it was a major blow to my pride how much she knew she scared me. Angela looked over to her sister. Finally, Sophia turned to face Angela. “Time to go party with your soon to be class mates. Get up, take a quick shower, get dressed in something slutty, and let’s go introduce the students of Lexington High School to their future queen.” She smiled at both of us, before she stood up and walked away.

Angela groggily looked over to me. “What?”

The fear finally left my body. A frown covered my face as I looked in the direction Sophia had walked away in. “Hell! She is dragging us to hell!” Angela gave me a confused look. “We’re going to a high school party.” Why couldn’t I have simply died from a heat stroke while I slept? Because I’m Haven Vigano, and my luck doesn’t work like that.

A few hours later we were making our way up a long driveway towards the party, and I was thinking about making a run for it. I was fast enough, not to mention the only real light source came from a half moon looming above us in a starless night sky. On top of that, Sophia wore her favorite high heels; the ones that formed a thin spike at the end, and made it seem as if she walked on her tiptoes. I felt that those god-forsaken shoes gave me a good chance of getting away before she caught me, and I would have taken that chance, if my other cousin Nigel, hadn’t kept glancing back at me every time I thought about dashing towards our estate.

We stopped at the front door of Eliot Little’s two-days-until-back-to-school-party. I could hear music pulsating out of the den, a type of techno hip-hop blend. Glimpses of blue and red lights flashed out of a window. My body tensed. Every cell inside of me screamed for an escape route. I couldn’t believe the jock had disco lights for his house party.

Sophia knocked on the door, a moment later the door opened with a short, muscular guy standing in the entrance.

The jock stumbled a little as he tried to gather himself. His eyes were barely open, and he reeked of  alcohol. His short, black hair hung disheveled over his forehead. He held a beer can in one hand, while using the other to gain balance on the side of the doorframe.

“Yo, haven’t seen you around here before.” He slurred out as he gazed at Sophia. Her black eyes gleamed as she stared at the inebriated jock. A playful half smile slowly crept across her smooth, innocent-looking face. I’d seen that look before. It had gotten us into as much trouble as it had gotten us out of. But, it never failed in achieving whatever task Sophia conjured it up for. “We’ve lived up the block for a little over two years. Never made the time to make the rounds. Making the time now.” Sophia moved her long black hair behind her ears. She allowed her seductive gaze to fully light up her beautiful Spanish face. “You’re Eliot right? The man of the house?” She spoke with a slow rhythm.

Eliot almost fell over with excitement. His eyes became glazed with longing. His entire body stiffened. He had no idea the game being played on him. Nigel knew, which is why he quietly laughed at the enthralled football jock. Personally, I just wanted to get this over with so I could go home.

Stumbling again, Eliot quickly re-gathered himself. “Yeah I’m the man of the house. And you and your friends are invited to my party.” He moved out of the way for us to enter; never once taking his eyes from Sophia’s as he closed the door behind us.

Teenage kids grinding against each other filled the first floor of the house. I’d never gone to a teenage party before. I’d only read about them and seen them on TV or in movies. I thought Hollywood exaggerated what went on at these events, I had no idea how tamed the Hollywood versions were compared to the real thing.

A few kids were scattered around making out. I saw an area where belly shots were taking place. And of course, no party would be complete without the triple-kiss being performed in front of a crowd of cheering onlookers. I’d learned about the triple-kiss from Angela, who swore she’d never participated in one, but saw them on MTV Spring Break. 

“Okay, I’m ready to leave now. I came, I saw,” I quickly shook my body, “I danced. See you guys back home.”

Sophia stepped in front of me. The flashing lights bounced off her face, giving her skin a slightly unnatural porcelain glow. She locked her shimmering black eyes onto mine. Unlike Eliot, she wasn’t trying to seduce me. Instead she tried to intimidate me. And as much as I hated to admit it, it worked. “You’re going to stay here with us, mingle, and have some fun. In a few weeks, Haven, you’ll be like me. But for now, you’re more like them. So enjoy it while you can chica.”

I stared back into Sophia’s eyes, trying not to show the fear building inside me. “I’m nothing like them. And I’m never going to be like you Sophia.”

“Three weeks until your eighteenth b-day. Looks like someone has already started Crossing Over. Are we getting a little feisty there Haven?” Nigel said with a lopsided smile.

I turned from Sophia to face him. His skin also had a slightly porcelain glow to it. His frosty blond hair sat perfectly on top of his head. His light blue eyes gleamed with playfulness. He seemed as relaxed as always. I gave him a frown before I turned back to Sophia.

“Why am I here anyway? I thought this was supposed to be about Angela?”

She placed her left arm around her kid sister’s shoulder, pulling her in closer to her body. If I hadn’t known any better, the embrace would have seemed comforting, almost loving. However, the malice in Sophia’s eyes always gave her true nature away. “It is about me mamacita. And she wants you to stay. Isn’t that right Angela?”

I looked at Angela hoping for her to say the words to excuse me from this torment. Instead, I got the top of her head as she stared at the floor; her telltale sign when she’s about to say something you don’t want to hear.

“It’s true. I’d feel better if you were here with me Haven.” Angela mumbled. Sophia kissed Angela on the jaw before she released her.

Sophia stalked up to me, only stopping inches from my face. I could feel her slightly cool breath, and taste her unnatural scent as a chill gradually entered my body, leaving me frozen in place. “While Nigel and I check out this place for some after party fun, I want you to take Angela around for some introductions.” As she spoke, Sophia slowly leaned towards me, bearing her perfect white teeth while gazing longingly at my exposed neck. I tried to move. The fear flooding inside of me left me petrified in place. Sophia giggled before kissing me on the jaw, and then disappearing into the swarm of dancing teenagers with Nigel.

International Giveaway:

Since the book will be sent by the author - you do not need to be a “reader” for this giveaway. Anyone can enter, but the hard copy of the book is only available for mailing inside the US, for international readers there is an ecopy.

Contest Info:

To enter you must:

  • comment
  • include in the post your email so that I can contact you

For optional extra points you can do any, or all or none of the below for 1 entry point each: (All entries separately please!)

  1. Be a subscriber of Layers of Thought – google or facebook. (I need to be able to see you! – to get updates in facebook feed and add me as a friend otherwise it does not count.)
  2. Blog it - side bars are great - please provide links
  3. Tweet it – provide links please
  4. Friend on Twitter
  5. Friend on Goodreads
  6. Friend on Book Blogs
  7. Friend on Glue  - new to glue? have questions? let me know.

As stated above, this giveaway is International for an ecopy and US for hard copy.

Contest ends Wednesday December 29, 2010 at 12 pm US Pacific time. Winner will be posted and notified on Tuesday January 18, 2011. 

Please note unlike other posts we do not respond to comments for giveaways. If you have a question or concern (like a typo or bad link) please email me via my profile – Shellie.

Thanks for entering and good luck! 

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