Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Preview and Giveaway ~ Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin


We have a preview  and a giveaway for Hothouse Flower  ~ Its apparently romantic with a slight paranormal edge with perhaps a bit of magical realism? It sounds fluffy and fun and what a gorgeous girly cover.

About:  Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire is one woman’s journey from the modeling and advertising world of New York City to the rain forests of the Yucatan Peninsula. From the hot and steamy plant dealers in the Union Square Green Market, to the curanderos, herbalists and shamans of Southern Mexico.

Lila Nova is a 32-year-old advertising copywriter who lives alone in a plain white box of an apartment. Recovering from a heartbreaking divorce, Lila has a simple mantra: no pets, no plants, no people, no problems. But when she meets David Exley, a ruggedly handsome plant dealer, a country-sexual, as she calls him, her lonely life turns into something far more colorful. From the harsh streets of Manhattan to the verdant jungles of the Yucatan, Hothouse Flower is the story of a woman who travels beyond sense and comfort to find out what she really wants.

To purchase via Amazon ~ US/UK/Canada.


margot berwin

Author Bio: MARGOT BERWIN won a merit scholarship for creative writing from the New School and earned her MFA in 2005.

Her stories have appeared on Nerve.com, essaysandfictions.com, The New York Press, and in the Anthology The Future of Misbehavior. She lives in New York City.

To connect with Margot here are a few links:




This book is part of a blog tour from TLC Book Tours. For reviews, guest posts, other giveaways, and more information on Hothouse Flower and more please click on the badge for current links.


The Giveaway:

Since the book will be sent by the publisher - 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 October 3, 2010 at 12 pm US Pacific time. Winner will be posted and notified on Friday October 8, 2010.

Review coming on September 22. If in the case you cannot wait - here is the purchasing info for Hothouse Flower from Amazon ~ US/UK/Canada.

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

Thanks for entering and good luck!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Abandoned by Shellie ~ Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen



I tried this in audio with two formats, and read a bit. In the first the reader did not have a pleasant voice - stuffy and with a nasal sound. Very annoying. The second reader's narration was much more pleasant but after listening for a few hours I know now that I will become very annoyed and frustrated with the conversations and what appears to be petty manipulations and suppositions by the characters.

I am not a big romance fan, had enough Victoriana as a kid (mom dragged us to antiques stores for hours on end) and I am fairly certain that “reading it” will also produce the same feeling, since I did read several chapters as well. Perhaps I will try again in a few years?  Probably not.

I do think Nancy Pearl has a great philosophy - the older you get the less time you should spend on books you don't enjoy. She even has a mathematical formula for it. Here is her quote:

If you're 50 years old or younger, give every book about 50 pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it, or give it up. If you're over 50, which is when time gets shorter, subtract your age from 100 - the result is the number of pages you should read before deciding whether or not to quit. If you're 100 or over you get to judge the book by its cover, despite the dangers in doing so.

— Nancy Pearl

I have read more than 50 pages of this book, parts twice. I quit!  1 star.

  • MP3 Book
  • Published March 10th 2005 (first published 1813)
  • by Blackstone Audio, Inc.

After Thoughts:   Even though I have chosen to stop reading this book I do value it as a literary classic. I know that it is also considered to be a feminist work (thanks to Linds). I also decided that since I did not want to finish it I would at least like to know its plot. So I went to Wikipedia.

Beyond the plot line, listed there are a large number of books which are linked to the novel.  Modern movies such as Bridget Jones (which I enjoyed in movie format), speculative fiction off shoots, and a number of other interesting flotsam. One non fiction book in particular attempts to hypothesize that Mr. Darcy had  Autism - albeit on the lower end of the spectrum. I found this interesting when considering his lack of social skills exhibited in the beginning of the novel.

In summary, I now can watch the movie, since I generally will not read a book after watching the movie. However, I have been informed that the movie has left some key bits out (thanks to Logan). We shall see if I make it through one of the movie or TV versions.

This book will be included in the challenge Fill in the Gaps as part of its 25% forgiveness element.


Beyond this book abandonment, for this week we have:

Goodness knows what else will manifest as the week progresses.

I am working on the England trip post for all our anglophile friends, residents, and vicarious travelers, as well as a software preview to help one write a novel. Where the last one sounds very intriguing.

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Preview: ZAN-GAH ~ Book One and Two by A. R. Shickman


A note on previews:  This is a series preview for two young adult books. It contains publisher data, author bio, and purchasing links. A review is coming with personal opinions and thoughts.

About:  In book one - the hero, Zan-Gah seeks his lost twin in a savage prehistoric world, encountering suffering, captivity, conflict, love, and triumph. In three years, Zan-Gah passes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a position of leadership among his people.

This book includes themes on - survival, cultures, gender roles, psychological trauma, nature's wonders and terrors


About:  In book two - the prehistoric saga continues in Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, the sequel to the award winning Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure. In this story, Zan s troubled twin brother, Dael, having suffered greatly during his earlier captivity, receives a ruinous new shock when his wife suddenly dies. Disturbed and traumatized, all of his manic energies explode into acts of hostility and bloodshed. His obsession is the destruction of the wasp men, his first captors, who dwell in the Beautiful Country. When he, Zan-Gah, and a band of adventurers trek to their bountiful home, they find that all of the wasp people have died in war or of disease. The Beautiful Country is empty for the taking, and Zan s people, the Ba-Coro, decide to migrate and resettle there. But the Noi, Dael s cruelest enemies and former tormentors, make the same migration from their desert home, and the possibility develops of contention and war over this rich and lovely new land.  portrait

Bio: ZAN-GAH  author Allan Richard Shickman conceived Zan's adventure after thousands of miles of travel through mountains, deserts and forest land.  The idea for this exciting story was born in a cave deep beneath the earth— in the company of hundreds of bats.

Allan is an artist, teacher, actor, author, historian, gardener, and former Boy Scout.  He has published articles in The Art Bulletin, Art History, English Literary Renaissance, Studies in English Literature: 1500-1900, Notes and Queries, and Colby Quarterly.  He was also Art and Music Bibliographer for Shakespeare Quarterly.  He has had many letters in various newspapers, including a dozen in The New York Times.  Allan taught the history of art at the University of Northern Iowa for three decades.  He now lives and writes in St. Louis.

For more information about the author and his books go to the website for ZAN-GAH.

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 160 pages

A Prehistoric Adventure:

  • Publisher: Earthshaker Books (July 15, 2007)
  • Amazon purchasing link in US/UK/Canada

And the Beautiful Country:

  • Publisher: Earthshaker Books (September 26, 2009)
  • Amazon purchasing link in US/UK/Canada

These books were sent by Earth Shaker Books for review. Thank you Bonnie!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Review by JD: The Kindness of Strangers ~ by Kate Adie



A fascinating autobiography from a top BBC reporter who has been “on the frontline” of the world’s trouble spots over the last 30 years.

John’s Thoughts:  While she is probably little known outside of the UK, Kate Adie has become something of an institution in the UK where she has often been the face of the BBC, reporting from the field on some of the most dangerous and tumultuous events of recent history. A down-to-earth and courageous person, she has now been wounded no less than four times while reporting from places such as Northern Ireland, Libya, Lebanon, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq and Tiananmen Square. She has witnessed cruelty and “human” behavior at its very worst, but at the same time she has experienced acts of great kindness from people and places where it might least be expected – hence the title of the book.

As well as including great stories and insights about some of the most important news events, the book is equally entertaining when covering her younger years and time spent working for local radio before she became a TV reporter. She came from a comfortable background and her initial naivety about the world made for many humorous learning experiences, which she does a good job of recounting. She also debunks the notion that being a reporter is a glamorous profession; while she has travelled to a multitude of countries as part of her job, the schedule is punishing, the work swings from arduous to boring, and the ability to maintain a normal social life is greatly strained. And as she strives to report on war and social strife, she has spent large parts of her working life in extremely dangerous situations.

I found this a great read. She has lots of stories to tell and she tells them well, with a light touch and a lot of humor. I also learned a lot while reading it. For me at least, I found her coverage of Tiananmen Square, Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Colonel Gaddafi particularly enlightening.

On the down side, I found the structure of the book a bit fragmented and the jumping around in time unnecessary. The book also seems to end abruptly rather than building to a logical conclusion. But these are minor quibbles. I’d rate this book 4 stars and I’d thoroughly recommend it, particularly if you like biographies or current affairs. 


  • The Kindness of Strangers
  • by Kate Adie
  • ISBN: 0-7553-1073-X
  • Pages 425: paperback
  • Headline Book Publishing, 2002

Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

The Kindness of Strangers was borrowed from the holiday cottage where we stayed while in England. Don’t you just love books you find like that?

As always John/JD will be addressing your comments, so please don’t forget to click the follow up box to get his reply.

Happy Thursday. Its good to be home.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reading Challenge ~ Understand My Sorrow


Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder – We are all connected to these afflictions in some way, directly or not. Perhaps through a friend or co-worker, a loved one or within ourselves.

Lilly from Reading Extravaganza is hosting this important although difficult challenge. You may be surprised what is on your reading list which have characters which would be considered to have these mental and emotional challenges.

Since the challenge is still small, it remains intimate. To join or find reviews link to the challenge post via the badge.

Rules - read a minimum of one book on each of the following:

  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Four (4) books total, with a time limit which has not been specified.

On Goodread’s I have created a shelf labeled – disabilities and mental illness which is where I will be pulling books for this challenge. If anyone has any recommendations within speculative fiction, it would be greatly appreciated.

All reviews will be linked below:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review by Shellie: The Reincarnationist Series ~ by M. J. Rose



A page turning paranormal thriller series with historical fiction and an ancient religious belief system imbedded in the stories.

Mini Synopsizes ~  The Reincarnationist:  Some precious stones with paranormal properties have been stolen from a newly discovered pre-Christian archeological site in Rome, dating around 400 AD. The stones purportedly can help one to remember past lives.

The story is primarily set in the present but moves back in time to the 1800s and to 400 AD - with linking story lines through the past lives of several of the main characters.


The Memorist:  The second book has music at its core, where another antiquity is found which also purportedly helps one to remember past lives. It is called a memory flute.

This story is set primarily in Vienna where the flute has connections to Beethoven and ancient Hindu reincarnation beliefs. Also included are a few key characters from The Reincarnationist, making the first book an important first read.


The Hypnotist:  This third in the series, is a story based around an ancient statue of the god Hypnos. However, this artifact has powers which are more mystical and powerful than the above two antiquities.

Within The Hypnotist are connections to The Metropolitan Museum of Art – in New York, so the story revolves around art as well as some of the legal issues around US ownership of foreign artifacts.  To complicate things there are Islamic factions wishing to claim the statue as a lost national treasure.

All three connected books have people and groups vying for these paranormal items for nefarious and pure reasons. All mixed up with murder, drama, historical and factual data, as well as the paranormal - making the books, at times, heart pounding reads.

My thoughts:   This is an excellent series combining historical fiction, paranormal, ancient religious belief, and cultural information all within page turning thrillers. The books can be seen as an interesting way to begin to understand reincarnation through a variety of religions - Kabbalahism, Pre-Christian Paganism, pre 400 AD Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and more.

Here is a key quote  from the first book, The Reincarnationist, which describes the religious fears around reincarnation regardless of the author’s manufactured stones; these fears are at the heart of the series:

Weren’t the highest echelons of the church worried about the magic stones? And for good reason. If man discovered that Nirvana was within his reach – if it was in his own hands, not in the hand of God – What authority would the church hold over him?

This is interesting when looking at if from the perspective that various religions through the centuries have been extinguished for reasons as suggested above – fear of loss of power, and control of their adherents. (The books include much of this type of insight).

As for the actual writing – Rose has a style that flows so easily that one may think it would be easy to replicate.  However, it is often the experts who appear to make their art look simple. I am thinking that this is the case with this author.

I also like that the books have been written with short and exciting chapters so they are easy to pick up and put down, but one could carry on and complete each of the books in a couple of sittings. Also included at the end of the books are listings for further reading, for those so inclined.

I hope that the latest of the series, The Hypnotist, which I have yet to complete, is not the last of the collection. I am looking forward to reading more about the other “memory tools” which she has mentioned in the last two books.

I give this series a 4 star, with parts of the book reaching a 4.5 star. Its a great series which I completely enjoyed. A highly recommended escapist story, as well as insightful reading.



For more information on the series, other reviews of The Hypnotist - via TLC Book Tours, as well as purchasing links please see Layers of Thought’s preview of The Reincarnationist Series.

Additionally, for a very intriguing and short guest post from the author as well as for current give away information for The Hypnotist, please see the give away guest post combo.

Thanks for reading, and please note that comment moderation will still be slow since we are still traveling. Have a great Wednesday!

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