Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Off Again ~ Across the Pond to the UK



We are off again! 

Our house and pet sitters are all prepared and John is excitedly waiting for the flight. Me not so much. I’m not a “flying in a tin can at almost the speed of sound” fan.  With a few Tylenol PM I should be out cold on this all night flight.

With family in England and California, John and I are a lonesome pair in the AZ desert – aka “Hotsdale”. So we are very happy to visit family and friends on our trips. Better yet we have a new baby boy – just a month old, our grand baby number four to see for the first time. We are so so excited!

The pics below are essentially what we will be seeing – green lush hills, stone walls, sheep standing, and of course the water that keeps it that way. Lots of water and in its summer form – rain!  As John says “you don’t visit England for the weather”.

122085733_5edd66ac5e_m5933152_ba6bcee842_m 2918399820_93a7bed891_m

We have our “brollies” and a rain jacket, or at least I do. Since John’s a native he just wears a sweat shirt. Me, I will be bundled up like Earnest Shackleton, according to John.729284391_e08382ba36_m Yes, even in summer!

We will be mostly staying in and around Skipton (hence the Skipton railway sign), an ancient market town in the North Yorkshire Dales. It boasts a castle which dates back to Norman times.

For our newer readers we usually have some pictures to post when we return, which everyone seems to enjoy. I think it to be “a badly needed book break”.

If interested link to see the post from our trip in January – Our Magical Mystery Tour. While there we visited Stonehenge, Avebury (another older and less busy stone circle), Exeter, and Glastonbury (the purported burial place of King Arthur). It was a blast from the past, with a slight paranormal twist.

This trip may be a little less magical; we will be taking in Exeter, and Windsor, and maybe we will see the Queen at her castle in Winsor? (Pic. below). We do have a little side trip planned which will remain a surprise until our return post. For a little hint they involve cheese and Romans.


As with our past travels, posting will be at a minimum; almost a complete hiatus. I will be attempting a few posts and have one definite review at the end of August. As well, email will be sketchy since the internet access is dodgy in the hills. So please bear with us for the next while or so and we will come home with some lovely photos and a few stories to tell. Hopefully around food, fun, family, and we can’t forget those pubs!

I can’t wait for some fish and chips, a good old fashioned “carvery” (there is one at the Craven Heifer pub which is absolutely brilliant), an English curry, and of course an ale or two. Goodness my stomach is growling!

So cheers my dears - as my lovely mother law says in her North Yorkshire accent – Have a wonderful rest of the summer since it will almost be fall when we get back. Until we return!

M.J. Rose author of The Reincarnationist Series ~ Guest Post and Giveaway



A giveaway and guest post from M. J. Rose ~ author of The Hyptnotist. It is the third in her Reincarnationist series and the book offered today.

The series is within the thriller genre, but with a few other elements in the mix such as historical fiction, and a lot of the paranormal – reincarnation.

Here M. J. tells about her very interesting experience around why she wrote the series. Love it!

At the Museum ~ by M.J. Rose

Growing up, I didn’t want to be a writer; I wanted to be an artist. We lived a block away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and I started taking Saturday morning art classes there when I was just seven years old.

I’ve often felt art is my religion and that museums in general but the Met specifically is my temple of choice. It’s where I go to be renewed, refreshed and inspired. I don’t think I’ve ever gone longer than a month without visiting there.

So its not all that surprising that sooner or later I’d write a novel with a museum as one of my main characters and that I’d pick the museum that was in my backyard when I was a kid.

But how I got idea for the Hypnotist is surprising, at least to me. 41fY-ToRTgL

One day about three and a half years ago, on one of my regular pilgrimages to the Met, I headed straight for one of my favorite spots. The Mastaba Tomb of Perneb is a tiny bit of 5th Dynasty Egypt transplanted to Manhattan. A gift from Edward S. Harkness to the museum in 1913.

You can enter the limestone tomb from the left or the right. One doorway leads to the main offering chapel. I took the other, which leads to a second ritual chamber. The space is very small and only three or four people can fit at the same time. I was lucky to be in the intimate ritual chamber alone and looking through the slot in the wall at a wooden statue of Perneb in the room beyond known as a serdab. In ancient times this passage way allowed for family and priests to offer up incense and chants to the deceased.

I heard footsteps. A little girl about seven or eight had entered and came up beside me to look through the slot. She had long blonde hair and was wearing a school uniform. I watched her examine the space, giving every section careful attention.

“It hasn’t changed much at all,” she said finally in a wistful voice.

I asked her what she meant.

“Since the last time I was here,” she said.

Something about the way she said it made me curious. “When was that?” I asked.

“When I lived in Egypt.”

“You know this tomb has been on display in this museum since 1916.” I said.

“I lived in Egypt way before that,” she said and smiled. She was about to say something else when from outside the chamber an older woman’s voice called out.

“Veronica, it’s time to go. Now. Please.”

The little girl ran off, quickly, without looking back, without giving me a chance to ask her anything else.

Even though I write about reincarnation, I haven’t had any meaningful reincarnation episodes of my own. I don’t get visitations. I’ve never seen a ghost. But I’m not sure what happened that afternoon.

I can picture Veronica in her navy jumper and white blouse that had a dark smudge on the collar. She had a one-inch scratch on her left hand. Her hair was pulled off her face with a silver barrette. A lot of curls had escaped. She had a child’s voice but it was so charged with adult emotion.

It was that emotion which sparked the idea for my novel, The Hypnotist. And the paintings and sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum that fueled it.

If you go the Met, please go visit Perneb’s tomb. And if you see a little girl there with long blonde hair and a blue school uniform… ask her if her name is Veronica… and if it is, thank her for me.


For more in depth information on the series please see Layers of Thought’s Preview for the Reincarnationist series.

Author Bio:  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.

Some additional links around the series and the author:

This guest post and giveaway are associated with TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of bloggers on the tour link through the badge to the right.


The 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 book is only available for mailing inside the US and Canada.

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 of the below for 1 entry point each. All entries may be included in one single comment.

  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 the US and Canada only.

Contest ends Sunday September 5, 2010 at 12 pm US Pacific time. Winner will be posted and notified on Wednesday September 8, 2010.


In case you cannot wait - here is the purchasing info from Amazon:

I loved The Reincarnationist, am really enjoying The Memorist, and hopefully will get The Hypnotist finished for a combo review to be posted on August 18th.

*We do not respond to comments for our giveaways unlike other posts. If you do have a question you can email me/Shellie through my profile. Additionally posting of comments will be delayed due to travel. Please bear with us.

Good luck and thanks for entering! 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Review by JD: Blind Descent by James M. Tabor



A fascinating true-life tale of extreme “scientist explorers” trying to discover the world’s deepest cave. Though that simple description really doesn’t do justice to what these people have to endure.

This kind of caving is like a strange upside-down version of mountaineering, combined with extreme diving and with a huge dose of intense psychological pressure thrown in for good measure. The leading exponents in the field have to master a whole range of climbing skills, have to be able to be able to dive through dangerous murky water-filled stretches of intestinal cave, and have to be able to do all of this miles underground where there is absolute darkness, totally cut off from the rest of the world. No matter how skilled and disciplined they may be, it remains frighteningly dangerous. And when bad accidents happen the chances of being rescued are virtually zero.

The book follows the lives and exploits of two very different expedition leaders on two different continents, each determined to expand the frontiers of what has been achieved in caving. Bill Stone is an American who is focused on extreme caves in Mexico; Alexander Klimchouk is a Ukrainian who is focused on supercaves in the Republic of Georgia. Because of the nature of the local geologies, these two locations both have the potential to have the deepest caves in the world.

The two men are very different and yet do share some common characteristics. Both had been caving for some 30 years and had various pioneering feats to their names before leading 2004 expeditions to Cheve Cave and Krubera Cave (links to National Geographic and some amazing data a pics). Both were determined to break through the 2,000 meter vertical depth barrier (that’s just the vertical depth; they have to work their way through many miles of caves to get there). Who would get there first? You get to read about the grueling nature of exploring supercaves and you find out who came away with the new world record.

I’ve always been intrigued by mountains and mountaineering and by grand explorations, so for me this book was big hit. It is absolutely fascinating to read about what these people put themselves through and what they manage to achieve. It is intense, scary, edge-of-the-seat stuff, and all the more so for being real-life.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the book I do have some quibbles about it. Top of the list is that the book was crying out for maps of the caves systems, so you could get a better idea of what was happening and where. While the writing was detailed and of good quality, some visual aids would have helped greatly. In a similar vein, I was surprised that there weren’t more and better quality photos included in the book. I checked out National Geographic online after I finished the book, and it had an excellent map of the Krubera Cave and some tremendous photos. Something similar would have added greatly to the enjoyment of this book. Finally, I found the “race to the finishing line” set-up of the book a little contrived and some of the writing a little over-hyped in ways that weren’t necessary. The facts were amazing enough without having to over-embellish them.

Nonetheless, it was a fascinating book and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading about exploration and man’s ability to endure physical duress in expanding the boundaries of human experience. I’d rate it 3½ stars.

Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

  • Blind Descent: the quest to discover the deepest place on Earth
  • by James M. Tabor
  • ISBN: 978-1-4000-6767-1
  • Pages 256: hardback
  • Random House, 2010
  • Genre: Non Fiction

We rented this book from our local library. We love our library!

As always John (aka JD) will be addressing your comments around this book. So please don’t forget to click your follow up box to see his response.

Have a great Monday!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Spotlight Series ~ Review by Shellie: Rainy Lake by Mary Francois Rockcastle


This is a lovely and heart stirring novel which addresses issues around race, class, and war.

A note on spoilers – there are quotes in this review which may be considered as spoilers for some. However, the main story line and its drama are not disclosed.

Rainy Lake is a coming of age novel set during the 1960’s and the early 70’s, with the author giving some insight into the time around the Vietnam war. Many families vacationed on and around this summer resort lake, called Rainy Lake, near New York. The novel’s main character is Danny, and her family purchases a summer home near the lake.  She, her architect dad, artist mom, and her older brother spend their summers enjoying its water, private activities, and social life. But events are brewing.

As the family experiences the lake as upper middle class whites, with its algae green veneer, we begin to see Rainy lake in contrast to another parallel lake, appropriately called Disappointment. This is a place where the lower class locals and person’s of color live. Here, Danny and her friends give us insight into their feelings around the race and class differences apparent in the area, and their feelings while visiting the “other” lake. 

The houses themselves were small and patchy, a few nothing more than shacks.  We knew some of the kids who lived along there – Trish Foster and her brother Dale, the Goethalls twins – poor white families whose parents worked in the cement plant near Sparta or in the many diners and vegetable stands scattered along the highway. Through the trees I could see a sparkle of lake beyond the piles of stacked firewood, discarded appliances, and the carcasses of cars mounted on concrete blocks.

“What a bunch of slobs,” Terese said, pointing to one house.

The novel occurs during a time when racism and its associated difficulties are apparent. We can see the main character’s thoughts about the situation in a continuation of the above quote, where Danny questions her feelings about race and contrasts them to those of her friends and original sin:

Was it like this for me? Did my feelings for Billy give me an innocence other white people lacked? I can’t answer even now. Maybe the truth is that way down deep in each one of us there is a stain as stubborn as original sin that makes it impossible to look at kids like Billy except through a window of colored glass. Me believing I was totally colorblind, Terese and Carline so governed by color they couldn’t see anything else.

With the Vietnam war looming in the atmosphere and in the character’s minds and psyches, there was an internal and philosophical conflict which is a key part of the story. Here we see the war through the eyes of Danny’s brother Bryan, who was strongly against the war:

Bryan turned on the TV.  He couldn’t get through the day without tallying up the latest casualty figures and worrying over the new “search and destroy” missions that were supposed to kill as many Vietcong as possible. From what we could see on the news, it looked like whole families were getting killed.  Already there were over half a million refuges, peasants who had no where to go.

“Here we are, going to the fireworks when just this week Johnson sent bombers over Hanoi.  It just doesn’t seem right.” he said.

While reading I experienced the emotions, listened to the conversations, and smelled the water and warm salty French fries. It felt like a special place with its fishing and family parties, yet there were contrasting ingrained beliefs about what the world is - an important glimpse of how things were 40-50 years ago.

As Danny’s character develops and grows from a skinny awkward child into a young adult and later into her early twenties, her perspective and experiences are shown through the lovely, often sparse, and sometimes unusual language which the author uses. All of which cut to my soul. Here are the two most significant quotes from the novel, both involving her awareness and race:

It would have been natural then to talk about me being white and Billy mixed, but we didn’t. I’d inherited the problem faced by most adults who can’t easily talk about race, not when one’s white and the other isn’t.  White liberals get the words stuck in our throats, as if to say them – black, Negro – will betray something bad about us. We’ll say them the wrong way maybe, exposing our ignorance, or we’ll say too much, pretending to know things we can’t possibly know. So we skirt the issue entirely, pretending it doesn’t exist.  For me it didn’t….

and the most powerful:

“I am not sure I understand what’s happening with Billy.”

“What do you want to know?”

I hesitated.  “He talks a lot about being black or white. I keep thinking he’s trying to tell me something but I’m not sure what it is. I just don’t think that way about Billy.”

“What way?”

“About what color he is.”

“Maybe he wants you to think about it.”


She lay her hands out flat on the oak table and studied them; her fingers were long and tapered like Billy’s. “ Being white you don’t have to think about it. That’s a privilege most white folks don’t understand.  Billy doesn’t have a choice. I think he wants you to see that.”

I’m obviously a fan of this book and I loved it on many different levels. Highly recommended for anyone who would like a journey into the 1960’s and early 1970’s from the perspective of a young white girl as she is coming of age amid all the complexities from the time. We have blatant racism, the ill-fated war in Vietnam and, of course, the natural flow of becoming mature, falling in love, the inescapable nature of life itself and its loss. This is 4.5 stars in my eyes.


Thank you to Missy from Missy’s Book Nook for the copy of this book.

For a link - click to purchase Rainy Lake at Graywolf Press, as well as to see discussion questions around the novel, an excerpt, as well as an author interview. Also, look out for the logo. It’s a group of wolves which move around on the right top corner of the page; link there if only to see them.


Spotlight Series hosts tours featuring the reviews of books printed by small and independent presses. This issue is supporting Graywolf Press, the publisher of Rainy Lake.

If you would like to participate or to read other reviews for more books, link to the challenge site and the direct post listing the other participants via the badge on the right. If their book choices are as wonderful as mine turned out to be, this should be a treasure trove for any reader interested in literary fiction.

This book will also be included in the challenges – War Across the Generations, New Author Challenge, as well as Women Unbound.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Preview: What About Me? by William G. Bentrim (illustrated by Christi Schofield)



Previews are a way to share a bit about the book via author’s blurb, an author bio with contact and purchasing links. Opinions and thoughts around the book, will be coming soon in a personal review.

About:    A sick or injured child can disrupt the best of families. Parents are frequently so focused on the sick child that well siblings may feel abandoned. In spite of the love they feel for their sibling, a well child may be annoyed with all the attention their sick sibling receives. The well child may feel guilty about their anger or annoyance. Conflicting emotions can overwhelm the healthiest child. This book hopes to demonstrate to the healthy child that their feelings are normal, acceptable and guilt is not necessary. The book also hopes to alleviate any of the well child's feelings of alienation and loneliness by reassuring them of their parents love.


Author Bio:    I am currently working hard to become an author, my 4th career. I owned and operated a computer networking company for 25 years. I was a school teacher and counselor with 10 years of experience in the public schools. I owned and operated a convenience store for 10 years. I am a proud husband, father and grandfather. I am someone who cares about the people around me, who wants to improve the society we all live in, who hopes on a daily basis to leave the planet a little better than it was the previous day.

To contact William Bentrim 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.

  • Paperback: 26 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace (April 8, 2010)
  • Amazon purchasing links for What About Me in US/UK/Canada.

Here are links to William Bentrim’s other wonderful self published books which are highly recommended here on Layers of Thought are now available in the UK and Canada:

Have a great Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Giveaway, Excerpt and More ~ The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby



Only a day after its release, we have a giveaway for the “magical realism” novel ~ The Language of Trees  by Ilie Ruby.

For a little taste of Ilie’s writing, and a tease for the book,  there is a sample below. (For more information - please see our preview for The Language of Trees.)

Excerpt from: THE LANGUAGE OF TREES ~ by Ilie Ruby

PROLOGUE ~ May 1988

The silken hair of the three children glows bone white in the moonlight as they paddle the stolen canoe out into the icy waters of Canandaigua Lake. The May wind is like a rabid wolf howling in the darkness, darting this way and that, biting at the rain as it sweeps across the surface in blustery sheets, hitting the children's flushed faces. The children know that on nights like this, the spirits of the Seneca Indians are weeping. Some are buried out on Squaw Island, a few miles away, and the children know if they put an ear close to the water's surface, they will hear the spirits calling, inviting them under.

Melanie Ellis, the eldest, sets her heavy wooden paddle down at the9780062006554 stern, and leans her thin body over the side of the canoe to listen for their whispers. Her long blond hair trails over the water, making large ripples. Her purple cotton dress billows up, revealing two bruised knees. Maya, just eight, jostles the boat as she pounds her fists and drums on the canoe’s seat. Little Luke sits precariously on the canoe’s edge, his head of blond curls tossed in the wind. Luke can withstand a thing like the foul weather, even if he is only seven, even if his body is so light, his skin so pale under the glowy moon, his sisters tease him that he looks like a ghost.

The sky becomes a deep pearl gray as the fog thickens around the coast of Squaw Island, a mystical and forbidden place that the children have only dreamed of visiting. Surrounded by a man-made barrier of large granite rocks, it is the only place on earth where rare white lime deposits known as Water Biscuits exist. Illuminated by moonlight, they cling to its shores.

The island is too far out to swim, but not to row.

Melanie plunges the paddle into the icy water. Squinting toward the hazy distance, she can see the island encircled by feather trees brushing the sky, the edges of its shoreline vanishing into the lake. The high water level has swallowed up the land bridge that once connected it to the mainland. Long ago, the island was so large one could get lost in the trees. During a war in 1779, Indian women and children escaped to safety across this bridge to hide in the droves of trees that covered the island and Melanie has always imagined them seeking shelter in the knees of trees and praying silently, sitting still as stone, and breathing so quietly that even the wind wouldn’t notice them. Just as she, herself, has done on nights when her father drinks too much and the smartest thing to do is sneak out of the house and hide, and breathe without making a sound, and imagine that she is disappearing.

The drops of rain are coming harder now, not soft marbles that roll down her face, but drops that feel like a million needles. Everything going on at home is distant now, pushed into darkness by the clamoring rain and the scent of restless spirits.

The storm is kicking up.

Thunder wracks the sky as Melanie forces the paddle against the waves. The wind howls, rolling the water like a serpent under the canoe. The lake begins to buck and push. The waves splash up against the sides of the boat, drenching the children in icy water. Maya and Luke have started to cry, begging her to go back. Melanie pushes her wet hair out of her eyes and glances behind her toward the Shongo’s property. For a moment, unmoving, she is captivated by the sight of the Diamond Trees, the two great willows whose flickering leaves, when caught in the moonlight, create diamonds of light scattered across the water. These trees light the way for those who are lost. She quickly turns back toward the island, trying to gauge the distance ahead. She can see it out there in the mist, floating toward her.

The waves are pushing the canoe toward the island.

The heavy paddle slips from Melanie’s hands, the waves wrestling it away. She crawls toward the front of the canoe, straining to retrieve it, but the paddle is quickly disappearing into the darkness. The boat is tossed aimlessly, caught halfway between the mainland and the island. The children cry out for help, their voices lost in the fog as they hold on to each other. Icy water surges up, filling the boat. Melanie must think fast. She edges toward the middle of the canoe, takes a deep breath, and plunges her hands into the numbing water to paddle. Luke reaches out for her, but she pushes him back, trying to keep the island in view. As the waves pull the boat closer, Melanie suddenly sees something: a figure moving on the island. Through the moonlit mist, her eyes can just make out the shimmering silhouette of a man so tall storm clouds rest on his shoulders. His body is so large that when he bends over with his shovel, he carries the moon on his back. He is digging furiously.

Trembling, Melanie calls out to him but her voice disappears into the crashing waves. She hears her siblings whimpering, and looks at their small bodies huddled against the seat, frozen, wide-eyed, watching her. Bracing her feet against the sides of the canoe for balance, she waves one arm at the giant as she struggles to stand. The island is closer now but the giant does not hear her. As the waves tip the canoe back and forth, she leans her weight from side to side, yelling to the giant again and again. Then there is a sudden roar of thunder followed by a whip of lightning that cracks the surface of the lake. In the flash, Melanie can see the giant more clearly, his wide face and black hair. She watches now as he throws down his shovel and picks up a large axe. Her eyes focus on the shadows as he lifts the axe into the air and down again, over and over, as though smashing the moonlight.

Maya catches the shock on her sister’s face as Melanie panics, tipping the canoe, her feet slipping out from underneath her. Melanie falls, her cheek slamming against the seat, her arms and legs scraping and sliding against the cold wet floor. Her vision blurs. And as she begins to black out, she can see Maya moving near the edge of the boat, the red of her dress darkening into the sky’s gray. She can hear the sound of her name being called through the wind.

Small cries are wrestled into a deadening quiet. Rain stops. Then there is nothing but the swishing of the boat.

Near dawn, the sky is hushed pink. Wisps of clouds rise from the chalky white shoreline of Squaw Island. Melanie is awakened by the soft scrape of white stones against the canoe’s floor. Peeking out from the island’s thin trees is the rusted door of an old boy scout cabin. Where there once was a giant, now only his imprint is left in the trees, his dark shadow clinging to the leaves and branches.

Floating in a lucent pool, Melanie trembles as she pushes herself up, despite the piercing pain that weighs her head down. She whispers Luke’s name as her eyes search for him.

Melanie feels her heart quicken when she doesn’t see Luke in the canoe. Only Maya, who is staring at her, her arms wrapped around herself, her dress, torn at the shoulder.

Melanie scans the horizon. On the island, she can see a shovel stuck in a pile of dirt.

A heavy curtain of mist slowly lifts off the water.

The lake still reflects each star, as though it were holding on, unwilling to let them fade.

“It’s all your fault,” Maya whispers, with pale eyes.



The Giveaway:

Since the book will be sent by the publisher - to enter you do not need to be a “reader” for this giveaway. Anyone can enter, but the book is only available for a US address.

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 of the below for 1 entry point each. All entries may be included in one single comment.

  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 only available for a US address.

Contest ends Wednesday September 1, 2010 at 12 pm US Pacific time. Winner will be posted and notified on Friday September 3, 2010.

If you cannot wait - here are the purchasing links for Amazon in the US/UK/Canada.

Good luck and thanks for entering!

*Please stay tuned for a guest post and giveaway from M.J. Rose and her latest ~ The Hypnotist. The third in her reincarnation based thriller trilogy. I loved the first in the series and am working on number two. (Live link takes you to the group preview for the books.)*

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review by JD: You Can’t Always Get What You Want by Sam Cutler


Layout 1

The inside story on the craziness of a major rock and roll tour, and specifically the Rolling Stones.

John’s Thoughts:   The book’s subtitle, “my life with the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and other wonderful reprobates”, pretty much says it all. This is an account of Cutler’s time working as the tour manager for two of the greatest bands of the 1960s and 1970s. The book’s centerpiece is the fateful Altamont concert – often cited as the event that epitomized the death of the peace and love movement.

After a few pages devoted to Cutler’s childhood and adolescence, the book quickly moves on to him becoming ever more involved in music and the music scene, in and around London in the 1960s. He ends up helping to arrange the Hyde Park free concert for the Rolling Stones in 1969 and after a successful event he is invited to be tour manager for their 1969 tour of America.

You get the inside story on the craziness of a major rock and roll tour, and specifically the Rolling Stones. It’s an interesting mix of organization and chaos, attention to detail and freewheeling, as the Stones gather an ever-growing crowd of hangers-on. Into this mix is thrown some hippie idealism and naivety, and one result of all that chaos was the Altamont free concert in California’s Bay Area. “Organized” by a loose cabal of people, most of whom didn’t know what they were doing, this was the event where the idealism of the 1960s came crashing to earth. Held just four months after Woodstock, this nightmare event couldn’t have been any more different. While supposedly a celebration of the best the 1960s had to offer, it was instead fraught, edgy and extremely violent. It culminated in someone being killed by a Hells Angel right in front of the stage as the Stones were playing. Three other people died at the event, and hundreds were injured. Hundreds more suffered from the effects of bad LSD.

It is totally fascinating to get Cutler’s take on all of this. In many ways he was in the eye of the storm; in theory he should have been able to ensure the event was well organized, but in practice so many things were totally out of his control. Many of the key characters involved were either scary, greedy, repugnant, amateurish, naïve, or just totally out of their depth.  

In the aftermath of Altamont Cutler stays in America, and quickly becomes involved with the Grateful Dead. After a few twists and turns he becomes their tour manager and remains heavily involved with them for four years. The group couldn’t be more different than the Stones. The Grateful Dead “family” is so easy-going and haphazard it drives Cutler to distraction, but a strong bond forms and he mostly loves working with them.

I’m a music nut, so a book like this is manna from heaven for me. It was a fascinating period in music with many interesting characters, and Cutler met or was somehow involved with many of them. Apart from the Stones and the Dead you get to read about Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Pink Floyd, Alexis Korner, Buddy Guy, the Band and many more. Equally interesting were the insights into many of the people working for or around the groups – including managers, agents, equipment guys, drug dealers, security and the Hells Angels.

This was a very easy read for me. Cutler is a good story teller and he has a nice light style. At times it feels like he is dong some ferocious name-dropping, but he was there and has earned that right. With a tragic event like Altamont, you know that there are people out there with different views on what happened, but he was heavily involved and what he says has the ring of authenticity about it. It’s very interesting and I’d highly recommend this to any music lovers or to anyone who likes to read about the 1960s. I’d rate this book 3.5 stars.

  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  • by Sam Cutler
  • ISBN: 978-1-55022-932-5
  • Pages 323: paperback
  • ECW Press, 2010

For more information on this book and the author - link to the preview page for You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

For Amazon purchasing links in US/UK/Canada.

As always JD will be addressing any comments, so please don’t forget to click the follow up box.

Have a great Tuesday! 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Previews ~ Red Hook Road; Love and Other Impossible Pursuits; Adam & Eve; I’d Know You Anywhere; and Dracula in Love



This is a group preview for a number of pre-published ARCs which contain publisher blurbs, author info, and purchasing links. Reviews with personal opinions coming soon!

Books included in this preview:

  • Red Hook Road ~ by Ayelet Waldman
  • Love and Other Impossible Pursuits ~ by Ayelet Waldman (not an ARC)
  • Adam & Eve ~ by Sena Jeter Naslund
  • I’d Know You Anywhere ~ by Laura Lippman
  • Dracula in Love ~ by Karen Essex


Red Hook Road ~ by Ayelet Waldman9780385517867_thumb2

Book Info:   As lyrical as a sonata, Ayelet Waldman’s follow-up novel to Love and Other Impossible Pursuits explores the aftermath of a family tragedy. Set on the coast of Maine over the course of four summers, Red Hook Road tells the story of two families, the Tetherlys and the Copakens, and of the ways in which their lives are unraveled and stitched together by misfortune, by good intentions and failure, and by love and calamity.

A marriage collapses under the strain of a daughter’s death; two bereaved siblings find comfort in one another; and an adopted young girl breathes new life into her family with her prodigious talent for the violin. As she writes with obvious affection for these unforgettable characters, Ayelet Waldman skillfully interweaves life’s finer pleasures—music and literature—with the more mundane joys of living. Within these resonant pages, a vase filled with wildflowers or a cold beer on a hot summer day serve as constant reminders that it’s often the little things that make life so precious.

In this moving, wry, and candid novel, widely acclaimed novelist Ayelet Waldman takes us through one woman’s passage through love, loss, and the strange absurdities of modern life.

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385517866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385517867

    Amazon purchasing links for Red Hook Road  - US/UK/Canada.


    Love and Other Impossible Pursuits ~ by Ayelet Waldman

    (This is the first book in this series.)

    Book Info:   Emilia Greenleaf believed that she had found her soulmate, the man she was meant to spend her life with. But life seems a lot less rosy when Emilia has to deal with the most neurotic and sheltered five-year-old in New York City: her new stepson William. Now Emilia finds herself trying to flag down taxis with a giant, industrial-strength car seat, looking for perfect, strawberry-flavored, lactose-free cupcakes, receiving corrections on her French pronunciation from her supercilious stepson – and attempting to find balance in a new family that’s both larger, and smaller, than she bargained for. In Love and Other Impossible Pursuits Ayelet Waldman has created a novel rich with humor and truth, perfectly characterizing one woman’s search for answers in a crazily uncertain world.

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (January 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400095131
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400095131

    Amazon purchasing link for Love and Other Impossible Pursuits - US/UK/Canada.

    For more info on Ayelet Waldman go to her website, twitter, facebook.

    Apparently this one has a movie in the works.


    Adam & Eve ~ by Sena Jeter Naslund9780061579271_thumb1

    Book Info:  Hours before his untimely—and highly suspicious—death, world-renowned astrophysicist Thom Bergmann shares his discovery of extraterrestrial life with his wife, Lucy. Feeling that the warring world is not ready to learn of—or accept—proof of life elsewhere in the universe, Thom entrusts Lucy with his computer flash drive, which holds the keys to his secret work.

    Devastated by Thom's death, Lucy keeps the secret, but Thom's friend, anthropologist Pierre Saad, contacts Lucy with an unusual and dangerous request about another sensitive matter. Pierre needs Lucy to help him smuggle a newly discovered artifact out of Egypt: an ancient codex concerning the human authorship of the Book of Genesis. Offering a reinterpretation of the creation story, the document is sure to threaten the foundation of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions . . . and there are those who will stop at nothing to suppress it.

    Midway through the daring journey, Lucy's small plane goes down on a slip of verdant land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East. Burned in the crash landing, she is rescued by Adam, a delusional American soldier whose search for both spiritual and carnal knowledge has led to madness. Blessed with youth, beauty, and an unsettling innocence, Adam gently tends to Lucy's wounds, and in this quiet, solitary paradise, a bond between the unlikely pair grows. Ultimately, Lucy and Adam forsake their half-mythical Eden and make their way back toward civilization, where members of an ultraconservative religious cult are determined to deprive the world of the knowledge Lucy carries.

    Set in 2020 it asks the question - What Happened To Eden?  The New York Times bestselling author of Ahab's Wife, Four Spirits, and Abundance returns with a daring and provocative novel that envisions a world where science and faith contend for the allegiance of a new Adam & Eve.

    • Hardcover: 352 pages
    • Publisher: William Morrow (September 28, 2010)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0061579270
    • ISBN-13: 978-0061579271

    Author Bio:  New York Times bestselling author Sena Jeter Naslund's most recent novel is Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette; she has published six previous books of fiction. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, and has a daughter, Flora Naslund, who is a student in the Bachelor of Fine Arts Program at the University of Louisville. For more information link to the publisher’s website.

    Amazon pre-purchasing link for Adam & EveUS/UK/Canada.

    **********************************************************************************  knowyou_thumb2 

    I’d Know You Anywhere ~ by Laura Lippman

    Book Info:   Eliza Benedict cherishes her peaceful, ordinary suburban life with her successful husband and children, thirteen-year-old Iso and eight-year-old Albie. But her tranquility is shattered when she receives a letter from the last person she ever expects - or wants - to hear from: Walter Bowman. There was your photo, in a magazine. Of course, you are older now. Still, I'd know you anywhere.

    In the summer of 1985 when she was fifteen, Eliza was kidnapped by Walter Bowman and held hostage for almost six weeks. He had killed at least one girl and Eliza always suspected he had other victims as well. Now on death row in Virginia for the rape and murder of his final victim, Walter seems to be making a heartfelt act of contrition as his execution nears. Though Eliza wants nothing to do with him, she's never forgotten that Walter was most unpredictable when ignored. Desperate to shelter her children from this undisclosed trauma in her past, she cautiously makes contact with Walter. She's always wondered why Walter let her live, and perhaps now he'll tell her - and share the truth about his other victims.

    Yet as Walter presses her for more and deeper contact, it becomes clear that he is after something greater than forgiveness. He wants Eliza to remember what really happened that long-ago summer. He wants her to save his life. And eliza, who has worked hard for her comfortable, cocooned life, will do anything to protect it - even if it means facing the events of that horrifying summer and the terrible truth she's kept buried inside.

    • Hardcover: 384 pages
    • Publisher: William Morrow (August 17, 2010)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0061706558
    • ISBN-13: 978-0061706554

    Mini Bio:   Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years and has been nominated and won a variety of awards. She currently lives in Baltimore. For more information on the author link to her website.

    Amazon pre-purchasing link for I’d Know You AnywhereUS/UK/Canada.



    Dracula in Love ~ by Karen Essex

    Book Info:   From the shadowy banks of the River Thames to the wild and windswept coast of Yorkshire, the quintessential Victorian virgin Mina Murray vividly recounts in the pages of her private diary the intimate details of what transpired between her and Count Dracula—the joys and terrors of a pas­sionate affair and her rebellion against a force of evil that has pursued her through time.

    Mina’s version of this timeless gothic vampire tale is a visceral journey into the dimly lit bedrooms, mist-filled cemeteries, and locked asylum chambers where she led a secret life, far from the chaste and polite lifestyle the defenders of her purity, and even her fiancé, Jonathan Harker, expected of her.

    Bram Stoker’s classic novel was only one side of the story. Now, for the first time, Dracula’s eternal muse reveals all. What she has to say is more sensual, more devious, and more enthralling than ever imagined. The result is a scintillating gothic novel that reinvents the tragic heroine Mina as a modern woman tor­tured by desire.

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (August 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385528914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385528917



    Mini Bio:   Karen Essex is an award-winning novelist, as well as a journalist and a screenwriter.  She is the author of Stealing Athena, Leonardo's Swans, Kleopatra, Pharaoh, and Bettie Page: Life of a Pin Up Legend. Her books are used in many college courses ranging from creative writing, history, and women’s studies. She was born in New Orleans and currently lives in Los Angeles.  

    Connect with the author on Goodreads, the book’s website, blog, Twitter, and a link for the prologue to get a taste of Dracula in Love.

    Amazon pre-purchasing link for Dracula in Love - US/UK/Canada.


    A big thank you to the publishers and Shelf Awareness for these copies for review.

    Until the next set of previews for you to peruse - thanks for reading Layers of Thought!

  • Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Review by Shellie: One Bloody Thing After Another by Joey Comeau



    A very dark and hilarious horror story with an ending that will gross you out, blow you away, and leave you smirking.

    Set Up:   There are several main character in this layered story. One is a teenager, Jackie, who is experiencing a variety of life stresses, one of which is that her favorite tree has been cut down. She loves trees. Worse yet is that she is also in love with her best friend Ann, whom has yet to acknowledge or disagree with her own feelings on the matter.

    Ann and her sister Margaret are dealing with some life difficulties of their own – their mom is very ill and it seems that she has “gone off her rocker”. In fact they are beginning to realize that she needs live flesh for food.

    Then we have two older neighbors living in a common apartment complex - the man, Charlie, and his cute, blind, fat and old dog Mitchie. They are being haunted daily by a headless dead girl whose connection to his neighbor, Mrs. Richards, becomes gradually clear as the story progresses.

    As we fumble along with each person and their little horrors, it becomes apparent they are all connected. Even better still, it has a twist, dry dark humor, and a hilariously sick ending.

    Thoughts:   This is a story I do not think all people are going to enjoy. I would even go so far as to say most people, since it has some truly horrific elements. We have some bizarre connections, dark themes, blood, what appears to be mental illness, as well as some fairly thick angst from the all the characters. This book is wonderfully uncomfortable. 

    For those that are not scared away yet, I recommended it for readers who are interested in a  twisted coming of age story, horror, stories with LGBT elements, and those who enjoy dark humor. I do, so I give this great little horror book a 3.5 stars.

    This book was recommended by Julie at kittyism is. Thanks Julie!

    Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

    For more information on the book and the author  please see Layers of Thought's preview for One Bloody Thing After Another.

    This review will be included in the Basics Challenge, The Speculative Fiction Challenge, The GLBT Challenge 2010, and the New Author Challenge.

    Have a great Saturday everyone!

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    Review by Shellie: Alone ~ by Marissa Farrar



    A romantic and emotional journey of an abused woman and her path towards healing -  all within a vampire urban fantasy.

    Synopsis:   Set in a present day Los Angeles, a young woman named Serenity is in a difficult and very abusive marriage. Her self esteem is poor and she questions whether she deserves her nightly beatings and emotional abuse from her creepy and jobless husband.

    When she stumbles upon a very compelling and gorgeous stranger named Sebastian, all her feelings rearrange.  As she begins to question her relationship with her husband, his abuse, and herself  - the inevitable relationship develops.  When Serenity  realizes Sebastian is something other than human there is the inevitable conflict, some evil meddling, and ensuing drama.

    Thoughts:    This is a romantic, mildly horrific, urban fantasy – with some important real life aspects and concerns. Some are based upon domestic violence and the inevitable emotional journey into the experiences of an abused woman. Additionally there is the internal conflict which one can only imagine a monster must feel when needing to kill to exist. With much angst within the pages one sees into the emotional travails; caring and empathizing with some characters while loathing others. Marissa Farrar does a fine job of showing the reader her character’s complexities in a easy and readable and page-turning manner.

    My only very small quibble around the book is that although the book was set in the US with the main character being American, the language is distinctly from the UK and British in nature, creating a mild internal conflict for me. I would say that some American readers may have  a slight lag in the reading flow with  a few small bits of the language. Thinking it would not be a detriment for most, especially if you like the Brits, I give this romantic and redemptive vampire novel a 4 stars. It was grand!


    Alone is available for purchase at B&N, and Smashwords. Both are under 5 US dollars. I also believe that Vamplit/EbookUndead is planning to publish its books in paperback? For basic information about Alone and Marissa - please see Layers of Thought's preview for Alone, and to download a sample of Alone - link to EbookUndead.com.

    To connect with Marissa Farrar link to her blog, where she has a lot going on, as well as on twitter, and facebook!

    Alone will be included in several reading challenges: The Speculative Fiction Challenge, New Author Challenge, Woman Unbound, The Basics Challenge, and Frightening Fiction Review Blog Hop.

    Happy Friday everyone!

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Preview: The Throwaway Piece ~ by Jo Ann Hernandez


    The Throwaway Piece ~ By Jo Ann Hernandez

    As a way to support authors, we create previews for their titles, which has publisher, author, and purchasing information. Skim, skip, or read at your leisure. Opinions will come later in our personal review.

    Book Info:  A dramatic novel for young adults about a teenage girl forced to live with foster families.  Jewel is shuttled from one foster home to another. But Jewel wasn’t always a "State Kid." Her mother Angela’s constant search for happiness through a steady stream of unsavory boyfriends leads to the state’s intervention in Jewel’s life.

    Listening to her new foster mother’s list of "nos"—no drugs, no lying, no stealing, no skipping school, no boys in or out of the house, no being late—Jewel realizes that her mother said "yes" a lot. Probably too much. She remembers saving Angela's life when one of many boyfriends beat her, trying to hide another boyfriend's attempts to rape her when she was fourteen, and being sent to a foster home to please the latest boyfriend. But still, Jewel worries about her mother and knows that she will once again pick up the pieces when the latest jerk leaves.

    Bit by bit Jewel’s life begins to change for the better after her latest move to a new foster home and school. Although most people can’t see past her tough "State Kid" façade—spray-painted hair, heavy make-up, ripped clothing and unlaced shoes—her English teacher realizes there’s more to Jewel than meets the eye. He convinces her to tutor a fellow student who needs help with math, and gradually she learns how to make friends. In the process, she touches the lives of many people around her, including her social worker, teachers who believe in her, her new-found, tentative friends, and even their parents.

    But when she’s forced to choose between her life-long job—taking care of her mother—and doing what’s right for herself, old habits and loyalties are hard to break. Jewel is sure that this time, she can save her mom. But will she be able to save herself?


    Author Bio:  JO ANN YOLANDA HERNÁNDEZ is the author of White Bread Competition (Piñata Books, 1997), which received recognition as the second place winner of the University of California at Irvine’s Chicano / Latino Literary Prize in 1996, and The Throwaway Piece (Piñata Books, 2006). Her work has been published in various journals.

    Jo Ann is also the founder of BronzeWord Latino Virtual Book Tours, which is a company devoted to promoting Latino authors and literature through virtual book tours. To learn more, visit www.latinobooktours.com, and the author's web site.

    Amazon purchasing links for The Throwaway Piece - US/UK/Canada.

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Pinata Books (May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558853537
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558853539
  • Genre: Fiction

    A copy of this book was sent for review  by Carmen Peña Abrego, Publicity Coordinator, www.artepublicopress.com and www.latinoteca.com - Recovering the past, creating the future.  Thank you Carmen!

    Have a great Thursday everyone!

  • Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Not so Hot off the Press ~ Bookish Links for the Bored and Busy


    hot off the press

    Are you in need of getting away from the boredom of everyday life?    Then take a break, since we have some interesting stuff for your surfing pleasure. I have scoured the web and picked out a few favorites so you don't have to - just don’t tell your boss you found them at Layers of Thought!


    E-reader News:

    Artsy and Interesting Bookish Links:

    For the Writers:

    Giveaways and Challenges:

    Free Reads – Gotta love Them!

    Beyond the Bookish:

    If I missed your link, please feel free to add it in the comments. I do my best, but still have to eat, shower, and feed the cats. (And give my husband some attention now and then!).

    Happy surfing!

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Review by JD: The City & The City by China Mieville



    This is a splendid hard-boiled detective novel set in a most bizarre and fantastic location.

    John’s Thoughts:   A murdered woman is found in Beszel, a crumbling city located somewhere around the edges of Eastern Europe, and it falls to Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad to solve the case. As he starts to investigate, it soon becomes apparent that this is no simple murder and he gets drawn ever deeper into politics, nationalism and possible conspiracies. You’re also gradually made aware of the “neighboring” city of Ul Qoma, though it’s unlike any neighborhood you’ve come across before.

    Beszel and Ul Qoma essentially occupy the same space, but with borders defined more by personal perceptions than by concrete or wire. The citizens of each of the two cities steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the presence of the other, and they go to extreme lengths to ensure they “unsee” and “unhear” each other. Indeed, it is a serious crime (known as a breach) to communicate with or even to observe people in the other city. There is a secretive and all-powerful force (known as the Breach) which very strictly enforces these laws.

    This might not be quite so bad but for the fact that the boundary between the two cities is intestinal and often buildings which are next to each other are in fact in different cities. Then there are “crosshatched” areas which are neither total Beszel nor total Ul Qoma; people from both places may walk or drive through such areas, but under no circumstances must they commit a breach. Impossible? Well, right from birth the customs, laws and behavior are drilled into people.

    Unfortunately for Inspector Borlu, it soon becomes apparent that the woman was murdered in Ul Qoma and her body dumped in Beszel. Eventually he has to navigate the respective bureaucracies and cross the border in order to work with his Ul Qoman counterpart. The Ul Qomans may be living on some identical streets to the Besz, but they have a different culture, dress differently, think differently and have a different language. What they do have in common is a distrust of their neighbors and a fear of incurring the wrath of the Breach.

    The murder case quickly gets even more complicated. Borlu’s dogged determination to find the truth and to hunt down the murderer starts to put his and others’ lives at risk.

    This is an interesting and unique plot. Kudos to Mieville for having a great imagination and for bringing this strange world to life. On one level this is a straightforward detective story that just happens to be set in an odd location. On another level? Well, I guess it’s easy to draw parallels between the two cities and man’s inability to live peacefully with neighbors or to mix gracefully with different cultures. Once you refuse to see and accept people for what they are, bad things inevitably happen.

    I enjoyed this book a lot. I have to say that due to the complex story and the plethora of strange names it wasn’t the easiest of reads. I frequently found myself re-reading sections or referring back to earlier pages to try and make sense of things, but it was well worth the effort. I’d rate the book 4 stars, and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good crime story or a bit of urban fantasy.


    This book has been nominated for and has won a variety of recent awards (data via Goodreads):

    • Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2010)
    • Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009)
    • Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel (2010)
    • Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel (2010)
    • British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel (2010)

    Book Data:

    • The City & The City (ARC copy)
    • by China Mieville
    • ISBN: 978-0-345-49751-2
    • Pages 312: paperback
    • Del Rey Books, 2009

    Purchasing links from Amazon are US/UK/Canada.

    This book will be included in a number of challenges ~ Mind Voyages, 42 Challenge, and New Authors.

    As always John will be addressing all your comments, so don’t forget to click the follow up box. Have a great Tuesday!

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...