Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review by JD: Where Men Win Glory – The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer




A true story with fascinating characters, and a disturbing expose.

John’s Thoughts:    This is an enlightening book about a fascinating character, while at the same time being a disturbing expose on how the Army and the Government hid the truth, lied and spun a tale to help promote their unpopular foreign policies.

Tillman was a good-looking, intelligent, charismatic and exceptionally gifted athlete who was winning fame for himself as a professional American Football player. However, deeply moved by the events of 9/11, he turned his back on a multi-million dollar contract to enlist in the army as a regular soldier. He was a man with a strong moral code who did things because he believed they were right. Once he’d made his decision he refused to talk to the press despite the huge media interest; he wanted to be treated just the same as all other army recruits.

Two years later Tillman and the platoon he was a member of found themselves on patrol in a remote mountainous area of Afghanistan, in Taliban territory. After a bewildering and asinine order from their superiors back at base, the platoon is forced to split into two halves and go off in different directions, much against the better judgment of the platoon leaders on the ground. Shortly after they separate, one of the two groups comes under attack from local fighters. In the confusion while trying to escape the ambush, some of the soldiers inadvertently fire at their comrades and Tillman is killed by “friendly fire”.

Most of the platoon members know immediately that Tillman was shot by his own side - the fact is never in doubt. However, they are given firm orders not to share that fact with anyone else. So begins a sorry tale of a cover up, destroyed evidence, obfuscation, falsified documents and a refusal to share the truth with Tillman’s family or the outside world; much of this driven by a desire to somehow generate some positive PR.

It is only after the funeral and after some of the press attention has died down that some of the sad facts start to leak out. It then takes several years and several investigations before the story is pieced together – and still it is not known who ordered the cover up or was responsible for the deliberate deceit. None of this would have come to light if it hadn’t been for the determination of the Tillman family to uncover the truth. As one of the member of the troop in Tillman’s platoon points out, standards and codes of conduct are ruthlessly drilled into regular soldiers, and yet those same standards are totally ignored by their leaders whenever it suits them.

Krakauer includes a wonderful quote from the ancient Greek writer Aeschylus –“In war, truth is the first casualty”.

While this all made for a good read, the most interesting parts of the book were the insights into Tillman himself. He was a successful professional athlete but a long way removed from the archetypal sports jockey; despite being a tough and driven person, he was also gentle, thoughtful, kind and curious; he was a smart guy with a mind of his own and a strong sense of what was right and wrong (for example, while he agreed with the war in Afghanistan, he thought the war in Iraq was a sham and immoral); and while there were a lot of things about his time in the army that drove him crazy, he turned down the opportunity of an early discharge and a return to football. Tillman had committed himself to three years in the army and there was no way that he would renege on that commitment.

Regarding the book itself, I did enjoy the read a lot. In places it felt a bit like a cut-and-paste job and it bounced around quite a bit. Krakauer also dwelt on some topics which were interesting background but didn’t really add to the story itself. But this is the second book by Krakauer that I’ve read, and one thing I do like about him is that he tells things the way that he sees them. If he thinks that someone has done something wrong he’ll say so in no uncertain terms. If you want to read some untarnished material about what war is like, this will be a good book for you. If you like biographical books, this is also recommended. I’d rate it 3.5 stars

  • Where Men Win Glory – The Odyssey of Pat Tillman
  • by Jon Krakauer
  • ISBN: 978-0-385-52226-7
  • Pages 292: hardback
  • Doubleday, 2009
  • Genre: Biography

Amazon purchasing and pre-purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

Apparently the movie version of this book will be coming out in the next month or so.

As always John/JD will be addressing your comments, so don’t forget to click the follow up box. He loves to hear from you.

Thanks for reading Layers of Thought!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Preview: You Can’t Always Get What You Want – My Life with The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, and other wonderful reprobates by Sam Cutler


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This is our Preview of You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Which contains publisher’s blurb, author info, and purchasing links. No opinions yet, but will be coming soon in John’s personal Review.

About the Book:   An exhilarating, all-access rock memoir from someone who has seen and done it all, this telling recounts the many experiences of Sam Cutler, the former tour manager of the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead. With intimate portraits of other stars of the psychedelic circus that was the music industry in the 1960s and 1970s—including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Band, the Allman Brothers, Pink Floyd, and Eric Clapton - this account is an ideal resource for any music fan.

A detailed explanation of the infamous Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, where a man in the crowd was killed by the Hells Angels, is also included.

As the rotors created an ungodly racket above us, I sat there crammed into the helicopter with the Stones, their management and various hangers-on. The free concert at Altamont was intended to be a celebration of not just the music, but the thriving peace and love counter-culture of the sixties. Rather it had descended into a bloody chaotic mess of violence, death and despair. And we were on the run.

There has never been an official investigation into events at Altamont and those involved have never before spoken on record. SAM CUTLER has decided that it is time to put to rest the myths and legends that have grown up around this infamous event in rock history and for the first time reveal the truth. 

This is an exhilarating, access-all-areas rock memoir from someone who has seen - and done - it all. 

Cutler, Sam

Bio:   SAM CUTLER was tour manager for the Rolling Stones at some of their major gigs in the late sixties, including the free California concert at which a man was murdered by a Hell's Angel in front of the stage while the Stones played on. After the show, Sam was left behind to make peace with the Hell's Angels, the various mobsters and organizations who had taken an overt interest in the event, and the people of America.

Sam survived Altamont and went on to live the ultimate rock and roll dream. This is his own account of the high ol' times he had managing tours for San Francisco band the Grateful Dead - who went on to become the world's most successful live act. Along the way Sam draws intimate portraits of other stars of the psychedelic circus that was the music industry in the sixties and seventies.

He has been at the centre of some of the most exciting developments in the music industry, and has worked with the two largest grossing live artists in the world, the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead. He briefly owned the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has tour and stage managed across different continents and sounds. Sam now lives and works in the Pacific area with a particular interest in Australian and New Zealand artists.

More on Sam Cutler can be found at several sources – Wikipedia; his website; and another website, and Random House.

Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: ECW Press; Review Copy edition (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155022932X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1550229325
  • Genre: Memoir/Non Fiction

    This copy was received by ECW Press. A big thanks to Simon since John is such a huge music buff and the copy is signed!

    Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

  • Monday, June 28, 2010

    Tomorrow is National Library Advocacy Day – June 29, 2010




    We luv, luv, luv our local library!

    I bet you do too! Its a place of respite, entertainment, and joy.

    Conversely, Brave New World blog writes a sad post called Library Budget Cuts And Challenges Are Global.

    As you can see, a casualty of our global economic decline is the cutting of funding for local libraries, and its not just in the US. So for our American readers  - the ALA – American Library Association has created Library Advocacy Day.   But what can we do?

    There are many ways you can get involved - A link for the general public’s web page from the ALA to find ways to support your local library –

    So get your self a badge, post it on your blog. Or better yet go to the legislative action center and contact your state or local representative to make sure your branch or those of your neighbors will stay accessible to you. For our global readers I will keep my eyes peeled for information for you too!

    Have a great Monday!

    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    Review by Shellie: Post –Human by David Simpson



    *David is hosting a giveaway of his book but it ends today – Saturday, June 26th. To enter see the bottom of this post!*


    In this future world humans are not aging, there is no disease, and their IQs have been enhanced - but at what cost?

    Mini Synopsis:  Set within a future dystopian world where nanotechnology has cured aging, death, and disease. All humans are dependent upon the main computer: AI – Artificial Intelligence, for everything including daily downloads, as well as for food, and increased IQ for everyone. Humans and robots are beginning to terra form other planets within the Solar System to house the inevitable population explosion. 

    Which brings us to the main character, whom is an extra ordinary natural genius at 25 years old. His name is James Keats, and as the planet’s youngest genius, he is attempting to transform the Venusian landscape for habitation. When doing so, he and his crew escape their latest infected nano technology download, due to some apparent electrical malfunction. After that its a fight for their lives, in this combo dystopian/apocalyptic fantastical sci-fi novel.

    My Thoughts:  This is a short book, with a lot of big ideas. It has a fun and action imbued plot, with some very interesting ideas about a future world for our planet. A very fun, action packed read.

    My thought is that, although I believe it was created as an adult novel, it felt more like a young adult novel but with some adult themes and language. Which is why I am so glad to hear David Simpson has created a graphic novel based upon the story. I do think Post -Human will be an incredible adult, or older teen graphic novel.

    I also believe that if the book could be extended and fleshed out to include more character development, enhanced dialogue, more scientific explanations of his grand ideas, and a bit more world building (which I was really craving with all the action and technology) it would truly make this book outstanding.

    Since this is David Simpson’s first novel, I would say it is an excellent effort for a self published author. With editing errors at a minimum, a great story line, and some interesting scientific concepts, I really enjoyed it. I am hoping to see it in graphic format and can’t wait to see what this creative author/entrepreneur will do next. I say 3.5 stars. Great first self published novel effort!


    For more information on the book and the author please see Layers of Thought's preview for Post –Human. Links for purchasing Post -Human are only available through Amazon: US/UK/Canada.

    David’s latest contact information is – Facebook, Website, Blogtwitter, and 

    *If you would like to try your luck, David is currently hosting a  giveaway for Post -Human, so if your interested in a signed copy of the book please go to Facebook.  It ends today Saturday, June 26th so hurry.*

    Have a wonderful Saturday everyone and thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Review by Shellie: Mommy’s Black Eye by William G. Bentrim and Illustrations by Christi Shofield



    Domestic violence is not an easy topic, but it is nevertheless a very  real and important one.

    My Review:  This is a wonderful little children’s book with illustrations that are both sweet and sad. It tells the story of two children who, after a very noisy night, find that their mommy has a black eye when they come home from school.

    As Mommy talks with the two children, a boy and a girl, in a realistic tone, she tells them how they are not responsible for this problem and that she and Daddy both love them. She tells them that things will be different for a while, and that Daddy will not be staying with them for the time being.

    All these elements are important for children to see and hear when faced with a difficult event such as this.

    This book ends on a positive note when Mommy stands her ground by setting limits with her partner, requiring him to leave the household and to get badly needed counseling. This is not always the case. Women are often caught up in a cycle and return to their abuser, where more often than not the violence escalates. This can be lethal for women and innocent children; at times some loose their lives. This book deserves a 4.5 star rating. Highly recommended.

    Below William Bentrim, speaks about the realities around this issue in the notes  taken directly from the book, where there is help and information below:

    Author’s Note:   Domestic violence exists. That is a simple disturbing fact. It isn’t something that should be ignored or swept under the rug. It is imperative to face this problem, acknowledge it’s existence and do our best to aid those who are exposed to it. Children, all too often, are susceptible to accepting responsibility for their parents bad behavior. They need to understand that they are not responsible for the violence. This book attempts to explain a very complicated issue to young children. It is focused on pre-school to middle school children. It is not designed as a panacea, merely an attempt to help them understand what is going on in their lives.

    Using a battered mother as an example is not ignoring the fact that men too are abused. Statistics indicate far more mothers are abused than fathers. The gender of the victim is relevant as women are normally the care givers and this greatly limits their alternatives in a domestic violence situation.

    This book is not intended to be light hearted but equally I have tried to address domestic violence with a sensitive touch. It is frequently far more disturbing that what is portrayed here. I did not feel that a more graphic portrayal was suitable for the target audience.

    Dedicated to all the victims of domestic violence, may they survive the experience and help to eradicate the problem.

    Domestic Abuse Resources:  If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation please take action. The following resources should be able to direct you to someone in your own community that can help you, a friend or a loved one. Domestic abuse does not just stop on it’s own accord. If you are abused or an abuser, you must take immediate action to remedy the situation.

    National Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/ Sexual Abuse 24-hour-a-day

    800-799-SAFE = 800-799-7233
    800-787-3224 TDD
    800-942-6908 Spanish Speaking

    Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-829-1122
    USA National Telephone Hotlines: 1-800-4-A-CHILD = 1-800-422-4453

    ChildHelp USA: Assists any child or teen with any problem including, but not limited to: running away, physical abuse, sexual abuse. Referrals for children, teens, as well as adults. 24 hours. Web site:

    A Clearing House Web Site with a wide variety of resources. 

    A big thank you to William Bentrim for providing parents and educators with this book, as well for his permission to include parts of his book in this post.

    For more information about the book, the author please see the Layers of Thought’s Preview of Mommy’s Black Eye.

    Amazon purchasing links for US|UK|Canada.

    For another important book by William Bentrim, please see Shellie’s review/preview combo for Daddy Goes on a Trip. It is also a wonderful book based on the loss and confusion children feel when a parent in the military is deployed for service to their country or has to travel on an extended trip.

    Have a wonderful weekend and take care. Thanks for reading Layers of Thought

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    Review by JD: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins



    This is a clever and intriguing story with a strong character that you really root for

    John’s Thoughts:  With a little prompting by Shellie I read my first Young Adult novel, a dystopian story by a New York Times bestselling author – and I must say that I enjoyed the read.

    It is set in some undisclosed time in the future, a long time after America (and the world?) has been beset by some catastrophic events. The specific cause and nature of the catastrophic events are not disclosed, but what we do know is that in the remnants of the land that used to be America, there now exists the nation of Panem – an autocratic Capital city with twelve distant districts that it rules with a rod of iron.

    There used to be a thirteenth district, but after they staged an unsuccessful rebellion against the rule of the Capital, the thirteenth district was totally destroyed to teach them all a lesson. Furthermore, to serve as a constant reminder of the social structure and to help keep the districts in their place, the Hunger Games are initiated. Each year every district has to send one boy and one girl to the Capital, to take part in a televised fight to the death. The competition takes part in a different arena each year, and the Gamemakers ensure the game takes several days and is full of surprises to keep the viewers entertained. The last living competitor wins personal fame and relative fortune, not to mention kudos and prizes for their district. The Games are the social and entertainment highlight of the year, and no efforts are spared in the buildup to each year’s event.

    Katniss is a young teenage girl who lives in the downtrodden twelfth district, which specializes in coal mining. Her father died in a mining accident and she has become the main breadwinner for the family, leading to a life of illegal hunting in the woods surrounding the district. This makes her tough and resilient and she feels particularly protective of her weak younger sister, Prim. When Prim has the misfortune of being chosen as district twelve’s girl competitor in the Games, Katniss has no hesitation in volunteering to take her place. And so begins the strange process leading up to the Game and the desperate struggle to stay alive. The story builds to a climax, where the competitors try to maintain some dignity and pride and even start to rebel against the Gamemakers.

    This is a clever and intriguing story line and Katniss is a strong character that you really root for. While she has some strengths and skills that can help her, Collins makes her a very human and believable figure, and she clearly has weaknesses too. Katniss doesn’t believe that she has any real chance of winning, but she keeps on plugging away. Importantly, she learns two lessons. While she hates doing it, she has to play to the camera which can result in some small assists to help give her an edge. She also realizes that the only way to keep progressing is to team up with other smaller/weaker competitors – despite the fact that only one person can ultimately survive.

    This is a strong book that I think many people will relate to – either young adults or older adults. It’s a powerful story that certainly makes you think. And however outrageous the Hunger Games may sound, you can look at what has happened to reality TV over the last twenty years and you can’t help but fear what it might be like twenty years on from now.

    On the downside, there are one or two key characters that didn’t quite feel right, and the book ended with some irritating loose ends that were not tied up. It wasn’t until I got to the end that I realized this was the first book in a series. Even if a book is part of a series, its always nice if the book stands on its own and you don’t feel pressured to have to read the next one.

    Overall I’d rate this 3.5 stars. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes dystopian fiction. I’d also recommend it to anyone who likes a strong female lead – Katniss is a great character.

    • The Hunger Games
    • by Suzanne Collins
    • ISBN-13: 978-0-439-02349-1
    • Pages 374: hardback
    • Scholastic Press, 2008

    Links for purchasing:

    • Amazon purchasing links for The Hunger Games #1 are US/UK/Canada.
    • Purchasing links for Catching Fire #2 are US/UK/Canada.
    • Purchasing links for Mockingjay #3 are US/UK/Canada.

    As always John/JD will be addressing your comments. He almost always responds,  so please remember to check the follow up box.

    Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    Winner: The Army of the Republic – A Novel by Stuart Archer Cohen



    We have a winner for The Army of the Republic by Stuart Archer Cohen a JD 4.5 star review.

    For more information on this book - the cover links to the guest/giveaway post.





    And the lucky winner - via is……..

    Linda from  BookVisions

    Congrats Linda!


    Linda, I will be contacting you via email. Please respond within 72 hours - t3637712921_c1cd32d347_mo this post and get back to me via email. I will then forward your contact info to the publicist.

    A big thanks to all the entrants, and Tricia from Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc. for supplying this book for this give away and to review!

    If you would like to purchase a copy:

    Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada, The Book Depository in Euros and AUD.

    I’ve also seen a copy at our local library - so its out there to read for free.

    Please stay tuned for the winner of By Fire, By Water by Mitchell Kaplan - the contest is still open. As well as more up and coming giveaways, including The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose, and more. I have a pile of books (a few signed copies) here on the shelf for giveaways. Just have to get my act together.

    Have a great Wednesday everyone!

    Triple Preview: Never Let You Go by Erin Healy; Finding Marco by Kenneth Cancellara; and Saving Max (ARC) by Antoinette van Heugten



    • Never Let You Go
    • by Erin Healy
    • Paperback: 352 pages
    • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 4, 2010)
    • Language: English
    • Genre: Paranormal Fiction

    Blurb:  Losing everything has made Lexi hold those she loves tightly. Hell is determined to loosen her grip.

    Lexi lives in the shadow of choices her husband made. Especially Grant's choice to leave seven years ago, without a word. Her relationship with their daughter, Molly, is now the most important thing in her life. Lexi will do anything-work grueling hours, attend church on her only day off, sacrifice financially-just to see Molly smile.

    When Grant shows up declaring his intent to re-enter their daughter's life, Lexi is skeptical of his motives. She soon determines not to let him near Molly. Then a drug dealer named Warden arrives on Lexi's doorstep, demanding payment of Grant's old debts.

    But that's just the earthly perspective. Staggering supernatural events are spilling into her world in real and shocking ways. Hell's fury is great, but Heaven's power is greater still. In a novel that defies easy categorization, this has all the early buzz of the breakthrough read of 2010.

    About the Author:   Erin Healy is an award-winning fiction editor who has worked with talented novelists. Erin is the owner of WordWright Editorial Services, a consulting firm specializing in fiction book development.

    Healy currently resides in Colorado Springs, Colo., with her husband, Tim, and two children. Visit and link here where Erin Healy is a Goodread’s author.

    Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.




    • Finding Marco - A Novel
    • by Kenneth C. Cancellara
    • Hardcover: 213 pages
    • Publisher: Synergy Books (June 15, 2010)
    • Language: English
    • Genre: General Fiction

    Blurb:   As a young boy, running through the mountain valleys of Italy, Mark Gentile dreams of success-the kind of success that happens in a boardroom, far away from the country life. So after graduating from law school, Mark quickly climbs the corporate and legal ladder, eventually becoming CEO of a leading auto manufacturer. But after butting heads with company leaders, Mark fears he has compromised his ethics. With his wife's blessing, Mark returns to Acerenza, his birthplace in southern Italy. While enjoying the leisurely pace of the new life he's found in his old home, however, Mark must make a decision: Should he abandon his roots for a second time and satisfy his innate hunger for the struggles and rewards of corporate life? Or should he embrace his native land and create a more balanced life for himself and his family?

    About the Author:  Kenneth Cancellara was born in Acerenza, Italy and now resides in Toronto. Prior to his current position as legal counsel with Ricketts, Harris, LLP, he was named Managing Partner and Chairman of Cassel Brocks, LLP, and served as Chief Legal Officer at Biovail Corporation, a pharmaceutical company, and Executive Chairman of Veridien Corporation, a health care company. He enjoys writing poetry and is working on the sequel to Finding Marco. For more information, please visit

    Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada. Giveaway coming soon!



    • Saving Max (ARC)
    • by Antoinette van Heugten
    • Paperback: 400 pages
    • Publisher: Mira; Original edition (September 28, 2010)
    • Language: English
    • Genre: Suspense

    Blurb:  What would a loving mother not do for her child?

    Lawyer Danielle Parkman is at her wits' end. Her son Max, a whip-smart teen with high-functioning autism, has always been a handful. But lately he's shutting down, using drugs and lashing out - violently.

    Desperate, Danielle brings Max to a top-flight psychiatric facility for a full assessment. But rather than reassurance, Danielle receives an agonizing diagnosis describing a deeply damaged, dangerous boy - one she's never met.

    Then Danielle finds Max unconscious and bloodied at the feet of a patient who has been brutally stabbed to death. A fiercely protective mother instinct rears its head - and Danielle is arrested as an accessory to the heinous crime. 

    In a baffling netherworld of doubt and fear, barred from contacting her son, Danielle clings to the thought of Max's innocence. But has she, too, lost touch with reality? Is her baby boy really a killer?

    With the justice system bearing down on them both, Danielle steels herself to discover the truth - no matter how horrifying. It's a path well on the wrong side of the law. But only finding the true killer will absolve her from having to choose between her son and her soul.

    About the Author:   Antoinette van Heugten is familiar with the challenges that come with raising autistic children. A mother of three, two with autism, van Heugten has always been an advocate for her children in a world where few people understood their disorder.

    A former trial lawyer specializing in international law, van Heugten's 15-year career has  taken her all over the globe from Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands to Houston, her hometown. She is currently working on her second novel for Mira Books, a psychological thriller. She currently makes her home in Fredericksburg, Texas, where she lives with her husband.

    Amazon pre-purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.


    These titles have been supplied by Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for review. Please stay tuned for a giveaway for Finding Marco.

    Thanks for reading Layers of Thought

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    Bookish Links Galore!

    Links, Links, Links and more Links!

    Happy second day of summer!  Its heating up here nicely in “hotsdale” in the valley of the sun. With the temps reaching around 106 degrees, its really not too hot by desert standards.
    Here is yet another literary linkup post so that you will never get any work done, and never be bored – well at least not today.
    Up Coming Events:
    • Book Blogger Appreciation Week is coming up fast. To sign up,  go to the information page via the badge above, but be prepared to take some time with the process, if you want to be part of this event. I would say a good 45 minutes or more, so check it out and plan ahead. I didn’t!
    • Looking for some in-depth discussions on thinking and expanding awareness through Literature? The Hay Festival has a number of festivals occurring all over the world. Although the UK tours have ended there are still a number which are about to happen, as well as numerous links for information on expanding your bookish consciousness beyond the mainstream presses.
    • Readercon 21 is happening July 8-11th in MA, if you would like a little of the speculative in a book conference.
    • Bouchercon by the Bay is happening in San Francisco October 11-14th. It is a book oriented event, and you can check it out at the Bouchercon Blog and the event site.
    Misc Bookish Stuffs:
    Recent Award Nominations within the Speculative and more:
    Submissions and Stuffs for Writers:
    Book Giveaways and Freebees:
    Beyond Books:
    Personal and more Updates:
    • John and I welcomed our number 4 grand baby into the world early this morning. Little JD (like his grand dad) and mom are doing well. We are so excited and will get to see them all at the end of July since we will be heading over the pond - to England.
    • Charlie at Professor B. Worm is very ill and in for an extended stay at the hospital. We love him, his comic and cranky spirit, and his darkly funny yet down to earth blog. He lives for comments so if you could stop by and say hello it would boost his spirits.
    I apologize if I missed anyone so please feel free to add any links of interest or giveaways in the comments. Life has been a bit crazy, the true question is when is it not?
    Cheers my dears, have a wonderful day!

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Short Story Review: “John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner” from Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu – plus Inquiries into The Raven King


    This is a review of a short story, some miscellaneous finds around the story subject,  and a summary post for the Once Upon a Time Challenge. (Badge links to the beginning post for the challenge) 

    Mini Synopsys:     This short story, “John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner”  is apparently based upon an ancient fable about the Raven King/Fairy King/John Uskglass/Oberon/and more – all being one and the same name. The theme of the fable and this story is a king being fooled by a common man.

    This common man, a charcoal burner, is unaware that the man hunting near his home is in fact the Raven King. He becomes outraged when his home, garden, and supper are ruined by the king’s hunting party. This creates indignation in the charcoal burner, where he then takes some extreme measures to get back at the Fairy King.

    Thoughts:    This is the second story that I have read in this collection by Susanna Clarke. It is actually a light and slightly humorous story, and I would say although I enjoyed it, I did not quite as much as “Antickes and Frets” (see my review and misc info post). However, it has intrigued me more, as you will see from the research and links below. 

    The Intriguing Bit:   I have never really been a big fairy fan, although recently I am finding current retellings of  some classic stories, especially those of a dark ilk, especially fascinating.  As a child fairies always felt too frilly, and fluffy. I preferred aliens, mythic gods or goddesses, other legends such as Nessie, big foot, or trolls. So my adult knowledge of fairies is very limited.

    Now in my 40s, for some reason fairy tales have come into my interest orbit. The name the Raven King intrigued me, amazingly so. So as any self respecting computer addict would do I “Googled” it. Expecting loads of information around the search, I found very few pages with substantial stuff regarding him. I did, however, find that he has a variety of names, like the names mentioned above - Fairy King, Oberon… and that he is linked to King Author and Camelot. Some legends even say that King Author was the Raven King.

    Here is the information that I found which is of substance. This quote was taken from an online encyclopedia at The live links in the text are Wikipedia links for more information on the particulars for the subject word.

    Oberon, also Auberon, King of the Fairies, is most well-known as a character in William Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, written in the mid-1590s. Oberon gives his wife, Titania, a potion that causes her to fall in love with Bottom - in order to get the changeling, who was given to Titania by her dying maid.

    And an interesting bit, via this same source:

    ..the medieval concept of the character Oberon arose from a multitude of earlier sources.

    Susanna Clarke specifically  tells readers her thoughts around this character, which she molded for her story. He plays a role in her award winning book Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. This excerpt is taken from an interview on her website:

    The Raven King had an odd genesis. Ursula Le Guin has a magician in the Earthsea trilogy who has no name: the Grey Mage of Paln, whose magic was so dubious, his name was forgotten. And there’s a magician in The Lord of the Rings, right at the very end, who comes out of Mordor to do battle against our heroes, and no one knows his name because he himself has forgotten it. I thought this was rather cool, and when I was developing my magicians, I wanted one without a name.

    Unfortunately I hadn’t quite understood what would happen if I had a major character without a name. The consequence has been that he has acquired more names than most people: the Raven King, John Uskglass, the Black King, the King of the North and a fairy name that no one can pronounce.

    All very interesting and leading to a number of wonderful links, and misc connections.  One in particular is from a creative new blog called Celestial Elf; Machinima. Here Celestial Elf (the blog owner) put together a short video within the online game Second Life. It’s based upon a poem he wrote about the Raven King, where he reads it with an English accent within the video. 



    You can read a portion of the short story online - “John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner”. 

    If you know anything about the Raven King, have books you recommend, or links about this subject, sharing them in the comments would be wonderful!

    For your convenience purchasing links from Amazon for the books mentioned in the post are linked below:

    • Amazon purchasing links for The Ladies of Grace Adieu - US/UK/Canada.
    • Amazon purchasing links for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - US/UK/Canada.


    Challenge Conclusion:  This is the last short story, and post, for this year’s Once Upon a Time Challenge. I will have completed three shorts and three books. To see my thoughts about them see the links below. All are excellent stories. 

    Short Stories:

    1. “Antickes and Frets”  by Susanna Clarke from The Ladies of Grace Adieu.


    1. Keeper by Kathi Appelt  (young adult/tween, mythic – slipstream)
    2. The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight by Gina Ochsner  (slip stream, literary)
    3. The Song of the Whales –  by Uri Orlev  (translated children’s fable, slip stream/magical realism)

    I would like to thank Carl V. from Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting this fun challenge.

    Have a great Monday!

    Review by Shellie: The Song of the Whales by Uri Orlev


    A sweet and mostly realistic tale, with touches of the magical. The story  addresses connections to loved ones after death.

    Mini Synopsys:    This is a translated work which is a sweet and fantastic tale about a young boy whose family moves to Israel from New York to care for his aging and dying grandfather. Michael, his American name, is a loner of a child and prefers adult company to that of children. He is comfortable with this move since he does speak fluent Hebrew.

    Upon arrival to Israel, he meets his grandfather and they become very close. Over their time together his grandfather shares his knowledge of his special gift, that Michael also possess. Only Michael doesn’t realize how special he really is.

    My Thoughts:   I enjoyed this tale with its many interesting themes, such as addressing dreams, death, respect for the old, thinking about rebirth, reincarnation, sharing past lives, vegetarianism, morality and recognizing special gifts.

    Several problems I had with the book is that it did not feel completely translated in a few small areas; there were bits which could be confusing for an American reader. I imagine that this was remedied since the copy that I read was an ARC – advanced read copy.  Another is that one of the characters, Michael’s grandfather’s housekeeper/girlfriend, was portrayed as a difficult person. My problem was that although she cared for his grandfather, his grandfather’s home, did all the cooking, and after a move did these things for Michael's family as well, she was treated with disrespect by the entire family. Not a great role model for a child.

    All in all, I adore translations and when looking beyond the annoyances mentioned above, I give this book 3.5 stars. I liked it a lot.

    For more information about this title, the author, purchasing links from Amazon - it was released in April, please see Layers of Thought’s preview for The Song of the Whales.

    This review is for the Once Upon a Time Challenge. It will also be included in a number of other challenges; The New Author Challenge, The Basics Challenge, and The Speculative Fiction Challenge.

    Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    Trilogy Preview: The Reincarnationist - #1, The Memorist - #2, and The Hypnotist - #3 by M. J. Rose


    Book Tour, Author Guest Post and Giveaway Announcement:

    • The Reincarnationist (The Reincarnationist #1)
    • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
    • Publisher: Mira; Reprint edition (March 1, 2010)
    • Language: English
    • Genre: Paranormal Thriller/Historical Fiction

    Book Blurb:   A bomb in Rome, a flash of bluish-white light, and photojournalist Josh Ryder's world exploded. From that instant nothing would ever be the same.

    As Josh recovers, his mind is increasingly invaded with thoughts that have the emotion, the intensity, the intimacy of memories. But they are not his memories. They are ancient . . . and violent. A battery of medical and psychological tests can't explain Josh's baffling symptoms. And the memories have an urgency he can't ignore -- pulling him to save a woman named Sabina . . . and the treasures she is protecting.

    But who is Sabina?

    Desperate for answers, Josh turns to the world-renowned Phoenix Foundation -- a research facility that scientifically documents cases of past life experiences. His findings there lead him to an archaeological dig and to Professor Gabriella Chase, who has discovered an ancient tomb -- a tomb with a powerful secret that threatens to merge the past with the present. Here, the dead call out to the living, and murders of the past become murders of the present.

    Amazon purchasing links are for US/UK/Canada.



    • The Memorist (The Reincarnationist #2)
    • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
    • Publisher: Mira; Reprint edition (April 1, 2010)
    • Language: English

    Book Blurb:    The dreads are back. As a child, Meers Logan was haunted by memories of another time and place, always accompanied by the faint strains of elusive music. Now the hand of the past has reached out again. An envelope addressed to her and delivered to the Phoenix Foundation--an institute dedicated to the recovery of past life memories--contains a childhood drawing of an elaborate box that Meers recognizes...and a sheet from an auction catalog identifying the object--which she spent years imagining--as an eighteenth-century gaming box.

    Determined to unlock the mystery of who she once was, she travels to Vienna to find the box. With each step, she comes closer to remembering the connections between a clandestine reincarnationist society, the lost Memory Flute linked to Ludwig van Beethoven and rumored to open the door to the past, and to David Yalom, a journalist who knows all too well how the past affects the future. Haunted by the murder of his lover — a beautiful young painter — Lucian Glass keeps his dark memories at bay by focusing on his work with the FBI’s Art Crime Team. Currently investigating a crazed art collector destroying priceless masterpieces, he becomes involved in a bizarre hostage negotiation that takes him undercover at the Phoenix Foundation. Under hypnosis he travels back to ancient Greece and nineteenth-century Persia, past life while the case takes him New York to Paris and the movie capital of the world. These combined journeys will shatter his understanding of reality. force him to question his sanity and lead him into the center of an intricate plan to break in to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and steal Hypnos, the 1,500 year old sculpture of the Greek God of sleep, said to hold a secret that many would literally kill to uncover.

    Amazon purchasing links are for US/UK/Canada.


    Featured Book for the Tour


    • The Hypnotist (The Reincarnationist #3)
    • Hardcover: 416 pages
    • Publisher: Mira; 1 edition (May 1, 2010)
    • Language: English

    Book Blurb:   Haunted by a twenty-year-old murder of a beautiful young painter, Lucian Glass keeps his demons at bay through his fascinating work as a special agent with the FBI’s Art Crime Team. Currently investigating a crazed art collector who has begun destroying prized masterworks, Glass is thrust into a bizarre hostage negotiation that takes him undercover at the Phoenix Foundation — dedicated to the science of past-life study — where, in order to maintain his cover, he agrees to submit to the treatment of a hypnotist.

    Under hypnosis, Glass travels from ancient Greece to nineteenth-century Persia, while the case takes him from New York to Paris and the movie capital of the world. These journeys will change his very understanding of reality, lead him to question his own sanity and land him at the center of perhaps the most audacious art heist in history — the theft of a 1,500-year-old sculpture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Amazon purchasing links are for US/UK/Canada.



    (picture credit Doug Scofield)

    About M. J. Rose:  M. J. Rose is the internationally bestselling author of several novels and two non-fiction books on marketing.

    Her 11 novels are -  Lip Service, In Fidelity, Flesh Tones, Sheet Music, Lying in Bed, The Halo Effect, The Delilah Complex, The Venus Fix, The Reincarnationist, and The Memorist. The Hypnotist was published May 1, 2010. The FoxTV show Past Life,  was based on her Reincarnationist series. Rose is also the co-author with with Doug Clegg of Buzz Your Book.

    She lives in Connecticut with Doug Scofield , a composer, and their very spoiled dog, Winka.  Connect with the author on her website, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.




    The Hypnotist is a part of a book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours.

    Coming Soon: Author guest post and GIVEAWAY for The Hypnotist (the latest in the series), and review of The Reincarcationist and perhaps more!

    Current Tour Dates (for up to date tour host links and dates click on TLC badge) 

    Please stay tuned!

    Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Want a Better Blog? Links from Bloggiesta! and Armchair BEA that may just help



    This is a dual post. Finishing posts for both events which also includes links that may help you build a better blog.  Both are slightly overdue.



    (Badge above links to Layers of Thought’s beginning post for this event.)

    Summary:  Considering I “unplugged” for most of the weekend it was a fairly successful Bloggiesta #3.  Accomplishing a lot, I did not, however, quite finish the list.  But life's a journey not a destination. So I tell myself.

    What was completed:

    1. Started the new blogroll request and announcement post – it is still in its infancy.
    2. I revamped the categories list and have a few ideas for next session.
    3. I updated the review policy page.
    4. Credited the artist for the new header.
    5. Completed several mini challenges, which were commenting on  ten plus Bloggiesta! posts, and updating your review policy page.
    6. Ate burritos and had a margarita made with fresh grapefruit from our tree. The best part!
    7. Found a number of new blogs to read.

    In any event I will be more prepared for yet another set of challenges. Bring on Bloggiesta #4!  This will include a dead link hunt. Yes I am going to attempt it!  Link to see my horrific revelation!  *Oh No! 250 dead links - gasp*

    Helpful Posts and Links of note to Share:

    A  huge Gracias to all the mini challenge hosts and MAW (Natasha is a wealth of knowledge and blogging support connections – highly recommended even if she does not read your preferred genre.)


    Armchair BEA and BEA



    (Badge links to event site.)

    Listed below are links from fellow non BEA attendees whose posts and I thought helpful and thought to share with everyone who did not attend these events.


    Links of interest for better blogging:

    Links to posts from Bloggers who attended the BEA – live vicariously!

    A big thanks to the Armchair BEA hosts and the bloggers who posted about the BEA. I apologize if I missed anyone.

    Happy Thursday, its almost Friday!

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Review by Shellie: Thirsty – a novel by Kristin Bair O’Keeffe


    This is a historical fiction novel with a theme revolving around faith and domestic violence.

    About Thirsty:    The setting is the late 1800’s. Klara is a young Croatian woman whom meets her would be husband on the front door step or her father’s home. At once the two are linked. A chemistry of sorts, which is much deeper than it seems.

    Driven by their intense attraction, and as a way to leave her abusive father’s home and the care of her many sisters and brothers (her mother is dead), Klara returns to America with her new husband to a town called Thirsty.

    Thirsty is your typical factory centered town of the period. It is a place rife with racism, extreme social class distinctions, as well as smoke and greasy ash from the local foundry. This factory is the city’s economic engine providing a glimpse into the era; a time when hungry workers were essentially treated as a commodity and where their lives were as expendable as animals and very often lost.

    As the story progresses we see Klara’s perspective, feel her strength, and hear her voice through her complex emotions as her life continues. As she becomes settled into the community and her life stumbles on, she realizes more and more, that her husband is very much like her father.

    My Thoughts:    This historical fiction is at once heartbreaking yet lyrical. It looks at a person’s beliefs and patterns which are exchanged from generation to generation. In this case it is based on domestic violence and from my understanding is called “the cycle of abuse”. It is exemplified by the main character who watches as her mother is beaten by her father, and she in turn, by default chooses a man who is also of this nature. So this cycle continues -  sadly passing onto her daughter as well.

    I enjoyed this little book. It is descriptive of this time and has a touch of the magical; several spectacular natural events, one of which is pictured on the cover (butterflies being my favorite). The author also has a sweet and easy to read writing style almost like poetry.

    However, being a mostly secular person, I did have a tough time dealing with a complete page detailing “God’s Will”, where every other phrase contains the words “God’s Will”.  I see where this may appeal to those whom are passionate about their faith. My biggest problem with this, however, is that an abused women cannot wait on the “Will of God” to intervene. Those whom are being abused need to take the steps necessary to walk away from their abusers.

    It is my hope that this is what the author intended, as a jumping place for a discussion around this scary and life threatening issue. To facilitate women into taking the life saving steps that are needed, beyond their religious beliefs. Other than my above concerns, I enjoyed this book. I give it 3 stars.

    It is also important to note that the book contains graphic violence and that there is also strong sexual scenes running through its pages.

    For more information on this book, purchasing links, as well as data about the author please see Layers of Thought’s preview for Thirsty.

    A couple of other books which deal with Domestic Violence and are previewed here  on Layers of Thought are:

    • Mommy’s Black Eye by William Bentrim (links to preview) is an important book for anyone whom is experiencing domestic violence where children are involved.
    • Alone by Marrisa Farrar (title links to preview) is a vampire themed book where the main character is being abused by her partner.

    Reviews for these two books are coming very soon.

    *Please note that the Wikipedia reference for the cycle of abuse, linked in the body of the review above, needs attention from a professional whom is well addressed with the issue.*

    Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Review by JD: By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

      Kaplan_By Fire By Water

     A very moving historical novel set in 15th Century Spain.

    John’s Thoughts:   Set in fifteenth century Spain, this is a very moving and illuminating novel which is based on a solid foundation of historical facts. Apart from being a good read, it prompted me to dig a bit more into the history of that time, which turned out to be both interesting and rather surprising – to me at least.

    Essentially four major events happened in Spain at the same time – the Spanish Inquisition came to a head (though it actually lasted for over 350 years); the Spanish finally defeated the Moors and returned the whole Iberian peninsula to Christianity; there was a mass expulsion of Jews from the country; and Christopher Columbus set sail across the Atlantic and reached the Americas.

    Kaplan does a fine job of weaving these four events together and making them revolve around a central character, Luis de Santangel, who is a powerful chancellor and a friend of King Ferdinand. Despite being wealthy, powerful and well connected, Santangel becomes a target of the Inquisition. In a quest for religious purity the Inquisition employs truly horrific methods to help achieve their goals. They are particularly zealous in targeting “Conversos”, people who have converted from Judaism to Christianity or whose forefathers converted. They believe that many Conversos are either playacting or are at risk of being tempted back to Judaism. Santangel himself is a third generation Christian and the Inquisitor General, Tomas de Torquemada, is determined to bring him down. Initially frustrated by Santangel’s position of power, Torquemada gets at him by attacking his family and friends.

    Meanwhile, once the last Moorish stronghold in Granada is defeated, the Inquisition finally convinces King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel to expel every single Jew from the country, unless they agree to be baptized and to adopt the Christian religion. Given that there was little doubt that new Conversos would continue to be targeted by the Inquisition, countless thousands of Jews chose expulsion and were forced to leave most of their wealth behind.

    To help tie the historic threads together, Kaplan has Santangel develop a love interest with a beautiful Jewish woman living in Granada. While he knows that public knowledge of any relationship with a Jewish woman would put him at the mercy of the Inquisition, his disgust at their activities finally pushes him to overcome his paranoia. But can he reconnect with her before she flees the country?

    And what of Christopher Columbus? He is a long-time friend of Santangel and has been trying to persuade him to use his royal connections to get funding for an expedition to find the new world. What at first seems like a crazy idea might just turn out to the best way for Santangel to strengthen his position at the royal court and protect him from the Inquisition.

    Not only was this an enjoyable read, but I learnt a lot about historic events that I’d only been dimly aware of. Previously I’d had no idea that the Spanish Inquisition, in its first decades, was primarily targeting conversos accused of practicing Judaism, and I knew nothing of the Jewish expulsion from Spain. I suppose I’d have to say that the story is a little contrived in the way that it brings together the four major historic events, but Kaplan carries it off well. I was dying for something bad to happen to Torquemada, but I guess history just didn’t work out that way. I’d also have liked to read more about Columbus and his expedition. I’m not sure how much of the character is factual and how much is Kaplan’s invention, but he comes across as an intriguing person. Maybe that is being saved up for another novel.

    Overall I’d rate this 4 stars and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.


    • By Fire, By Water
    • by Mitchell James Kaplan
    • ISBN: 978-1-59051-352-1
    • Pages 277: paperback
    • Other Press, 2010

    For more information on this title as well as a GIVE AWAY of this gorgeous book please link to the preview giveaway post for By Fire, By Water. Please stay tuned for the giveaway announcement combined with an author guest post where Mitchell Kaplan tells of the amazing process about how he came to write this intriguing story.

    As always all comments for this review will be addressed by John aka JD. So don’t forget to check the follow up box.

    Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

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