Thursday, September 30, 2010

Interview with Crystal ~ Blogger and NaNoWriMo 2009 Participant



NaNoWriMo is coming very soon!

What the heck is it? ~ (That is what I thought last year so I have done some research).  Its National Novel Writing Month and from November 1st until the 30th, a ton of would be authors take to their computers or to the writing implement of choice, to try and achieve a goal of completing a novel of 50,000 words within 30 days! 

A true challenge in my opinion, but for any one who has ever wanted to create a novel, here is your chance. Starting tomorrow you have a month to plan.

In addition, I decided to go straight to a knowledgeable source and ask a 2009 participant a few questions. Crystal has kindly agreed to let me “pick her brains” to share with our readers.

Crystal is a blogger at The Crystal Perspective where she has been blogging for a little over a year. Although very busy with real life, she writes excellent reviews and has some interesting personal posts to peruse. Here are her experiences around NaNoWriMo and some advice to share.



Tell us about yourself and how long have your been writing?

I'm an accountant and I live in Seattle. I've been blogging for just over a year. I started writing in the 4th grade and remember entering stories into every writing contest I heard about. I also won a school contest to attend a Young Writers Conference.

Why write, what is your motivation? What types of things have you written - length and genre? Has any of your work been published? If not is this something that you would like to happen?

The passion for writing is my motivation, and I write mainly fictional short stories.  Sadly, none of my fictional work has been published. I do have a blog where I post book reviews, but I've never posted any of my work.

I would love to have my writing published and probably pursue publishing in the future.

Tell us about NaNoWriMo - what is it? How does it work?

NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - is a personal challenge to authors to write 50,000 words from November 1 to November 30. There are no prizes, just the satisfaction of participating. If you do reach the 50k words mark, you do get to print out a certificate.

Starting at midnight November 1, authors begin a story from scratch. You have until midnight November 30 to write 50,000 words (or more!). For your novel to be counted, you submit your work to the NaNoWriMo website, which officially counts the words. If you meet the goal, congratulations!!

I know you were part of the program last year, was that your first year?

Yes, 2009 was the first year I participated. 

What was your process for the program? Outlines? Characters already defined? Start from scratch?  Or did you just start writing?

I created an outline of the story first, with notes about main characters. Following my outline, I set aside time to let creativity flow. I typed the first ideas that came to my head. I wasn't too concerned with editing, there's time for that when NaNoWriMo is over.

Are you worried about someone copying your work or using your idea(s)?

I'm not too concerned with people stealing my ideas. When you upload your work to the NaNoWriMo website, they use software to count your words, then they delete your work.

What did you get out of your NaNoWriMo experience? Will you do it again? What will you do differently?

I learned that writing 50,000 words is a lot harder than I thought! I was also surprised with how easily ideas flowed once I did started writing.

I would definitely do NaNoWriMo again!  It's a great way for any author to challenge themselves. I did not meet the 50,000 word goal last year, so I want to participate again just so I can complete the challenge.

As for advice I would set aside more time to work on my story.

Any tips or suggestions for “newbies” and participants?

Even if you don't think you have enough time, I highly recommend writers to participate in NaNoWriMo. It's a great way to challenge yourself and get that story that's been bouncing around inside your head written down. Don't stress about meeting the 50,000 word deadline, just start writing and see what happens!

Thanks Crystal for sharing.


Here are some links: 

Please let us know if you plan to participate in this event, so I can follow and support your efforts. If any one has any tips, suggestions, or links, it would be great to include them in this post. 

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned and Challenged Books ~ with Nancy Pearl and Rick Wartzmen



To Help Support Banned Books Week we have four audio broadcasts about banned and challenged books.  A bit about the how and why books are challenged or banned.

Penguin Classics ~ On Air radio series has four clips around Banned and Challenged Books as the discussion topic for its latest broadcast. Hosted by Penguin Classics Editorial Director, Elda Rotor, this engaging episode will coincide with Banned Books Week, happening this week from September 25th – October 2nd.

This broadcast is available at their website and through iTunes – which can be found by linking on the top right on the text “View More By This Publisher” and bring up itunes on your screen. Subscribe to Penguin Classic on Air. You can tune into SIRIUS channel 117 and XM channel 163, or listen to the imbedded section at the bottom of this post.

It features the unparalleled perspective of Nancy Pearl, librarian extraordinaire and author of the critically acclaimed Book Lust, More Book Lust, and Book Crush (links to recent review here at Layers of Thought.)  This first episode focuses on several talking points, including the difference between a banned and challenged book, and guides the listener through the process of how a book comes to be banned or challenged. Drawing from years of experience, Nancy also gives great insight to the invaluable relationship between a library and its community.

Nancy and Elda also discuss famously banned books such as Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and J.K. Rowling’s highly challenged modern classics—the Harry Potter series.

Also featured in this four part audio is Rick Wartzmen, author of Obscene in the Extreme: the Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. In his fascinating interview, Wartzman describes the crucial impact politics and reader climate have on why some books turn into scandals, paying particular attention to the nationwide uproar surrounding Grapes of Wrath and Gretchen Knief, the lone librarian who stood up against its banning and burning in the 1930s.

Below you can watch and listen to this series with each being about 6 minutes long. 



If you’re interested in banned or challenged books take a few minutes to listen to these informative discussions.

Penguin has sent this information to Layers of Thought to share with you all. Thank you Elaine.

Let us leave you with a small challenge:  Find a favorite challenged or banned book and let us know in the comments. If you can tell us why it was challenged or banned, great. Better yet, link your review(s) so we can share them with our readers. I will link them at the bottom of this post.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Previews and Give Away: Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance ~ by H.P. Mallory


Fire Purchase

We have a couple of ebooks up for giveaway; perfect for the fall ~ Halloween season. (Aren’t the covers adorable?)

Here is a little about each:

Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble: A self-deprecating witch with the unique ability to reanimate the dead. A dangerously handsome warlock torn between being her boss and her would-be lover. A six hundred year old English vampire with his own agenda; one that includes an appetite for witches. The Underworld in a state of chaos. Let the games begin.

Life isn’t bad for psychic Jolie Wilkins. True, she doesn’t have a love life to speak of, but she has a cute house in the suburbs of Los Angeles , a cat and a quirky best friend.

Enter Rand Balfour, a sinfully attractive warlock who insists she’s a witch and who just might turn her life upside down. Rand hires her to help him solve a mystery regarding the death of his client who also happens to be a ghost. Jolie not only uncovers the cause of the ghost’s demise but, in the process, she brings him back to life!

Word of Jolie’s incredible ability to bring back the dead spreads like wildfire, putting her at the top of the Underworld’s most wanted list. Consequently, she finds herself at the center of a custody battle between a villainous witch, a dangerous but oh-so-sexy vampire, and her warlock boss, Rand.

To purchase this book via SmashWords. Amazon Kindle links for US/UK.

These books are amazingly inexpensive, at $2.99 and available in a variety of formats making them a screaming deal. Smash Words also includes an option for a printable version for those who do not have an ereader or other electronic means to read the novels.


To Kill A Warlock:  The murder of a dark arts warlock. A shape-shifting, ravenous creature on the loose. A devilishly handsome stranger sent to investigate. Sometimes working law enforcement for the Netherworld is a real bitch.

Dulcie O’Neil is a fairy. And not the type to frolic in gardens. She’s a Regulator—a law-enforcement agent who monitors the creatures of the Netherworld to keep them from wreaking havoc in the mortal world.  

When a warlock is murdered and Dulcie was the last person to see him alive, she must uncover the truth before she’s either deported back to the Netherworld, or she becomes the next victim. 

Enter Knight Vander, a sinfully attractive investigator sent from the Netherworld to work the case with Dulcie. Between battling her attraction to her self-appointed partner, keeping a sadomasochistic demon in check, and fending off the advances of a sexy and powerful vampire, Dulcie’s got her hands full. 

As the body count increases, Dulcie finds herself battling dark magic, reconnoitering in S&M clubs and suffering the greatest of all betrayals.

To purchase this book via SmashWords. Amazon Kindle purchasing links for US/UK.




Author Bio:  H.P. Mallory is an author of Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance. Instead of publishing the traditional way she has gone the self publishing route. She did live in England, and then Scotland, but once again resides in the US with her husband and new baby. For more info you can connect with her at her website, her blog, twitter, and facebook.

Please stay tuned for a guest post and excerpt from the author and one of her novels.



Now for 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 and it is international!

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, none, 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 international.

Contest ends Sunday October 31, 2010 at 12 pm US Pacific time. Winner will be posted and notified on Friday November 8, 2010.

Please note that unlike for 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, September 27, 2010

Series Review by Shellie: Book Lust; More Book Lust; Book Crush; and (almost released) Book Lust to Go ~ by Nancy Pearl


If you love books and lists, and are an eclectic reader, you will adore this series. Each recommends books which are organized into themes, with great little descriptions; all are softbound, small and easy to read.

Books reviewed:

  • Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason  ~ by Nancy Pearl
  • More Book Lust:  Reading Recommendations for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason
  • Book Crush: For Kids and Teens

Not included in review ~  soon to be released:

  • Book Lust to Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers  (available for purchase Oct 2, 2010)

My Thoughts:  Nancy Pearl, librarian extraordinaire, has created this series of books (with the fourth to be released in a few days) which contain organized collections of book recommendations, labeled under catchy little categories. Inside the categories are enticing snippets of the books in a very readable format.

The books are small and easy to handle with a soft cover. With her “lust” of reading, Pearl shares with the reader the books she loves and those which she knows about, creating more desire and adding to your ever expanding book list. I spent hours perusing these books, enjoying her fun and interesting recommendations.

Better yet, Nancy has a variety of philosophies which she labels “Pearlisms”. One is the “rule of fifty” which I have used recently when an abandoning a book (Pride and Prejudice – sorry Jane). What I love is that she gives you permission to stop reading a book when you are not enjoying it. It’s a free “get out of guilt card”. Here is her rule:

If you’re fifty years of age or younger, give a book fifty pages before you decide to commit to reading it or give it up.  If you’re over fifty, which is when time gets even shorter, subtract your age from 100—the result is the number of pages you should read before making your decision to stay with it or quit.  Since that number gets smaller and smaller as we get older and older, our big reward is that when we turn 100, we can judge a book by its cover!

I loved these little books and will be purchasing every one for my personal collection. 4 stars for Book Lust and Book Crush, and 4.5 stars for More Book Lust – since it has so many books I had never heard of.  Highly recommend resources for teachers, librarians, and book lovers within every genre.


Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason ~ Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

  • Paperback: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Sasquatch Books; annotated edition edition (August 18, 2003)  



More Book Lust:  Reading Recommendations for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason ~ Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sasquatch Books (April 13, 2005)




Book Crush: For Kids and Teens ~ Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sasquatch Books (March 7, 2007)





To be Released in 3 days!

Book Lust to Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers ~ pre purchasing Amazon links for US/UK/Canada.

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sasquatch Books; Original edition (October 1, 2010)


Author Bio: In Detroit, Nancy spent her childhood and most of her adolescence at the local public library. When she was ten years old, she knew she wanted to become a children’s librarian. And she did just that.

To connect with Nancy Pearl you can link to her Goodread’s author page – where she is a Goodread’s author - her blog, and her podcast site.

If you’re interested in checking out my choices from Nancy Pearl’s books, link to Shellie’s Goodreads account and add yourself as a friend. I will be adding close to 100 books from her recommendations.


A small reminder for the busy - It is Banned Book Week!

To support our freedom to read what we choose (and not books moderated by someone else's belief system) please read a banned book of your choice and go to Banned Book Week - (September 25th through October 2nd). This link takes you to badges and info from the ALA’s page for the event. The following links to a list of banned books from the American Library Association’s - Think for Yourself and Let Others do the Same

Did you realize that The Twilight Series was placed on a list by group of concerned parents?

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Previews for Non Fiction ~ Thumbing Through Thoreau; Corn Flakes with John Lennon: The Twisted Path Home; and The Acid Christ



A note on previews:  They include information on books received for review with publisher’s blurb, a bit about the author, and purchasing links. All collected here for your convenience. Coming reviews will contain personal thoughts and opinions about each.

This preview contains the following Non Fiction books:

  • Thumbing Through Thoreau: A Book of Quotations ~ by Kenny Luck and Henry David Thoreau
  • Corn Flakes with John Lennon: and Other Tales from a Rock ‘N’ Roll Life ~ by Robert Hilburn
  • The Twisted Path Home ~ by Fae Bidgoli
  • Acid Christ: Ken Kesey, LSD, and the Last Great Gurus of American Dissent ~ by Mark Christensen


Thumbing Through Thoreau: A Book of Quotations ~ by Kenny Luck and Henry David Thoreau

Blurb:  On July 4, 1845, when Henry David Thoreau moved into his cabin on the shores of Walden Pond, he was probably unaware that his abode in the woods, and the impact and influence of that endeavor, would forever echo through time. Thoreau was an uncompromising idealist; an ardent maverick who criticized his fellow man. He urged that men and women ought to live more simply, and more deliberately. "The mass of men," he famously wrote, "lead lives of quiet desperation." Yet the scope of Thoreau's message is much wider than social criticism. He speaks of spiritual transcendence in Nature and the unbounded potential of the individual. Thoreau is a dreamer and he speaks to dreamers. In a word, shun dogmatism and demagoguery; see beyond the immediate conventional religious explanations to reap a higher understanding. In our commodified contemporary American society, with the rise of religious intolerance and fundamentalism, materialism and mass consumerism, Thoreau's message is needed now more than ever.

About the Authors:  Kenny Luck has thumbed through Thoreau's voluminous journals, correspondences and other publications to make this the most comprehensive collection of Thoreau aphorisms available.

Henry David Thoreau (born David Henry Thoreau) was an American author, naturalist, transcendentalist, tax resister, development critic, philosopher, and abolitionist who is best known for Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state. (info taken from wikipedia)

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tribute Books (April 19, 2010)

    Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada 

    Layers of Thought: This book also includes black and white drawings to go along with the quotes. Making the book very reflective and meditative.

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    Corn Flakes with John Lennon: and Other Tales from a Rock ‘N’ Roll Life  ~ by Robert Hilburn

    Blurb:  Robert Hilburn’s storied career as a rock critic has allowed him a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of some of the most iconic figures of our time. He was the only music critic to visit Folsom Prison with Johnny Cash. He met John Lennon during his lost weekend period in Los Angeles and they became friends. Bob Dylan granted him his only interviews during his "born-again" period and the occasion of his 50th birthday. Michael Jackson invited Hilburn to watch cartoons with him in his bedroom. When Springsteen took to playing only old hits, Hilburn scolded him for turning his legendary concerts into oldies revues, and Springsteen changed his set list.

    In this totally unique account of the symbiotic relationship between critic and musical artist, Hilburn reflects on the ways in which he has changed and been changed by the subjects he’s covered; Bono weighs in with an introduction about how Hilburn’s criticism influenced and altered his own development as a musician.

    Corn Flakes with John Lennon is more than about one man’s adventures in rock and roll: It’s the gripping and untold story of how popular music reshapes the way we think about the world and helps to define the modern American character.

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (October 13, 2009)

    Amazon pre purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.


    The Twisted Path Home ~ by Fae Bidgoli

    About:  It is 1991. Arezoo, an Iranian woman is living in Berkeley, California with her second husband, Robert, and working as a university professor. Recurring, terrifying dreams of eminent death lead her into therapy with a widely respected psychotherapist. As her memories unfold during therapy sessions, she flashes back to painful memories of her first marriage to Afshin, an Iranian man.

    Arezoo's life takes an unexpected turn under hypnosis and she begins to channel the dramatic life story of Sogand, a woman who lived in a village in Persia (now Iran) in the late 1800's. This seemingly inexplicable experience, and her sudden, intimate knowledge of Sogand's identity leads Arezoo back to Iran after many years in America. Through this woman's history Arezoo makes some life changing discoveries - key to both her past and her ex-husband's tortured, secret life.

    About the Author:  Fae Bidgoli, author of The Cracked Pomegranate, once again displays her intimate understanding of the power of redemption. In The Twisted Path Home, Fae shows how by releasing judgment and fear, and releasing generational, cultural, and self-abuse, we find our purpose in life and become joy.

    Inspired by her experiences growing up in a small Iranian village where child marriage was a common practice, Bidgoli is dedicated to spreading awareness of human rights issues such as child brides, stonings and honor killings in Middle Eastern countries. The pain and suffering she witnessed during her childhood in Iran compels her to write stories to bring hope to battered and repressed women around the world. Visit Fae Bidgoli’s web page for more information. 

    Paperback: 248 pages
    Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing, LLC (September 3, 2010)

    Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.


      Acid Christ: Ken Kesey, LSD, and the Last Great Gurus of American Dissent ~ by Mark Christensen

      Blurb: From the literary wonder boy to the countercultural guru whose cross-country bus trip inspired The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, this candid biography chronicles the life and times of cultural icon Ken Kesey from the 1960s through the 1980s. Presenting an incisive analysis of the author who described himself as "too young to be a beatnik, and too old to be a hippie," this account conducts a mesmerizing journey from the perspective of Mark Christensen, an eventual member of the Kesey "flock."

      Featuring interviews with those within his inner circle, this exploration reveals the bestselling author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in his many forms, placing him within the framework of his time, his generation, and the zeitgeist of the psychedelic era.

      For more information about the book and the author Mark Christensen please see the web page for Acid Christ.

    • Hardcover: 440 pages
    • Publisher: Schaffner Press, Inc. (October 1, 2010)

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


      These books have been received from a variety of source. Please see Layers of Thought’s list of publishers and publicists we review for - which is still under construction. A big thanks to each for the copies of these titles!

      Which of these titles interests you the most?

    • Thursday, September 23, 2010

      Review by JD: Children of Dust ~ A Memoir of Pakistan by Ali Eteraz


      An extremely interesting book that sheds light on many aspects of Islam and on the complex country of Pakistan.

      Etaraz was brought up in rural Pakistan, where he was given the name Abir ul Islam, meaning perfume of Islam. Despite their lowly status, his parents tell him that his destiny in life is to become a leader and servant of Islam; he was born to spread Islam as if it were a beautiful fragrance. And so his journey begins - taking him from a poor village in Pakistan; to school, college and life in the United States; interspersed with a difficult trip back to his native Pakistan and a sojourn in the Middle East, where he is forced to re-assess his driving ambitions.

      It’s not an easy journey for him. Along the way he has to attend a strict madrassa, tries to maintain his strong Islamic principles while living in the United Sates, tries to cope with his parents becoming fundamentalists, becomes a fundamentalist himself, explores anti-Islamic ideas, and becomes an activist seeking to reform Islam. There are various turning points for him, one of the most difficult being a trip back to Pakistan where he finds that much has changed in the country, including the rising influence of the Taliban in the rural villages. Eventually, in common with many Muslims, he is horrified at what terrorists are doing, supposedly in the name of Islam. This helps to drive his reformist zeal, but he remains conflicted on many issues.

      I too am a little conflicted about this book. I found many parts of it fascinating, particularly his description of life growing up in Pakistan. Some of it was humorous, especially reading about the conflicts of being a strict Muslim teenager in the liberal United Sates and how he dealt with it. I found much of it educational and I learned a lot about Islam and the competing ideologies within it. Some of the material is important, particularly as it differentiates between truly Muslim ideals and the twisted views of terrorists who abuse and debase Islam. However, this isn’t always the easiest read - Eteraz is a religious scholar, and some of the more intellectual discussions on Islam left me a bit cold.

      Nonetheless, this was an interesting book and I’m glad that I read it. I’d rate it 4 stars. I’d highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys finding out about different cultures. I’d also recommend it to anyone seeking a more balanced view of Islam than the one that is all too often found in Western media.

      • Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan
      • by Ali Eteraz
      • 352 pages
      • HarperOne (October 13, 2009)

      For more information link to Layers of Thought’s preview post of Children of Dust. And for purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

      As always John/JD will be addressing your comments for this book. Please don’t forget to check the follow up box to get his response. 

      Thanks for reading!

      Wednesday, September 22, 2010

      Review by Shellie: Hothouse Flower ~ by Margot Berwin



      A “trip” into the realistic yet magical where an urbanite discovers herself in the rain forest of Mexico. It’s city girl goes jungle Jane with consciousness altering plants.

      About:  Lila is from NYC. She is in her thirties and cynical as well as wounded from her recent divorce. She has sworn off men and most attachments - “no pets, no  plants, no people, no problems”.  However she breaks her rule when she decides to buy herself a bird of paradise plant from the hunky greenery vendor around the corner from her studio. This starts her adventures and discovery about the mythical 9 plants of desire.

      This humorous story, with its self- depreciating main character, takes the reader to the rain forests of Mexico. Where Lila is propelled by her quirky yet mystically oriented friend Armand to search for the illusive plants in order to repay a debt. As they enter into foreign territory into a place where fantastical elements are the norm, Lila herself makes a mildly hallucinogenic ride into self discovery and more.

      Thoughts:  Funny, fluffy and a very easy read, it was a needed break from the heavier stuff I have been recently reading. It was a foray into the magical. A chick lit escapist read with some mild romance which includes a gorgeous Huichol Indian from the mountains of Mexico.

      As Lila gets to know these plants with their anthropomorphic attributes, we get an interesting mix of fact and fun fiction about each, where all of the short chapters are headed with a plant (and a few critters) and their description. I think my favorite section was on the chocolate plant, native to Southern America, where the author includes a recipe on how to make chocolate from the actual pods. Fun stuff!

      I think this book will be perfect for any woman recovering from a recent break up or for anyone needing a light yet magical read. My mom is going to love this book being a plant person extraordinaire – me, the black thumb of the family killing cactus in the desert, enjoyed it just as much. I even found a few new books to add to my tbr list within the text of the novel - The Sheltering Sky by Philip Bowles and one by Carlos Castaneda. I love that. I give this fun book 3.5 stars. It was a blast.


      For more information on the book please see the preview and giveaway post for Hothouse Flower. This giveaway is available in the US or Canada until October 3rd.

      There are more reviews on Hothouse Flower, giveaways, interviews and guest posts so take a look at the tour host list from TLC Book Tours. A big thanks to Trish for including Layers of Thought in this tour!

      Tuesday, September 21, 2010

      Book Signing and Winners for The Language of Trees ~ by Ilie Ruby


      9780062006554We have winners and pictures!

      I bet you’ve been wondering who the winner for Ilie Ruby’s The Language of Trees is? *wink* Having put it off, it was all for a very good reason since we now have a signed edition of the book to include in the giveaway.

      We attended Ilie Ruby’s book signing at our independent book store in Tempe Arizona – Changing Hands. We also took a few pictures, got some insight into her first novel, (link on the book cover to see the guest post for The Language of Trees) and a bit about Ilie’s writing process.


      But first here are a couple of pictures.

      DSCN17649(2) DSCN1765

      To the left was from a request for a smile. To the right is her signing our books with her girl standing in front. You can see my over exposed arm to the right (thanks John!).

      So what did Ilie say about her debut novel?

      She mentioned that her writing influences are Alice Hoffman and Isabel Allende  who write within the “magical realism” genre - a realistic setting with a touch of the otherworldly or magical. One of several themes she mentioned that are part of this book are that of motherless children and childless mothers (Ilie has recently adopted 3 children from Africa).  She also talked a bit about her writing process and mentioned that she would write for about 14 hours per day but that has changed since she has become a mom. Now she writes at night or fitting it in when ever she can.

      Now for our Winners!

      Our lucky winners are…..

      For the signed copy of The Language of Trees - (for Layers of Thought’s readers only)  is …….

      Indigo from Shattered Prose

      Yeah Indigo!

      For the copy which will be sent by the publisher - (for all who entered)  is……


      Yeah Audrey!

      Congrats to the Winners!


      I will email a request for the winners full name and an address within the US or Canada. Please comment on this post and respond back to my email with in 72 hours.

      To all those who entered this giveaway, thank you! More giveaways are coming soon. We still have the announcement for MJ Rose’s The Hypnotist (Reincarnationist #3) winner, and another book giveaway for Hothouse Flower, which also has a magical realism theme and is quite funny. It will be available to enter until October 3rd.

      Misc Information:

      A note on our personal giveaways ~ If you want to win signed copies then make sure you are a Layers of Thought “reader”.  It will get you the privileged of being able to be included in these special giveaways.

      Changing Hand Book Store ~ is  based in Tempe AZ, and is a wonderful place to get used and new books. They have lots of  fun bookish paraphernalia, and numerous author speaking and signing events.

      Happy Tuesday ~ life is short. Do something fun!

      Monday, September 20, 2010

      Review by Shellie: Chasing Stardust ~ by Laurel-Rain Snow



      About a persistent woman who holds onto her dreams. It is about her life during the sexual revolution, developing feminism, and the war in Vietnam.

      About:   A contemporary story about the life of  Merrilee Hennessy, a woman born in the US during the late 1950’s. It extends through her life experiences into the early 2000’s. With an omnipresent narration we see her life and what she feels and thinks, as a strong and driven woman, at first in her late teens and then into her middle age. With the historical back drop of the Vietnam war, the sexual revolution and the growth of feminism, it is a look inside a woman, her beliefs and the myths of her life and the generation.

      Thoughts:   Chasing Stardust starts out slowly, almost like a diary, with the issues being resolved through the main character’s ability to hold on to her dreams through pure perseverance and positive thinking - an important perspective for understanding the character and her life during that time. As she struggles with her dreams of a romantic ideal, akin to the romance novels she devours, she is strengthened by the ideals (held internally and supported culturally) of the perfect home and family. While things are not quite right for her, she perseveres by pushing the acknowledgment of her difficulties out of her consciousness; a key element for the story.

      Some significant themes within the novel are - contrary to our internalized myths about motherhood, at times and even with a woman’s best efforts, bonding with one’s child is not a possibility; the love of a woman’s life is not necessarily a romantic love, but can be the love of a child; issues related to drug and alcohol abuse; the US legal system and its methodology for placing children from neglected and abusive homes.

      My recommendation for the reader is to be aware that the first part of the novel moves along with Merrilee with her ups and downs just a bit slowly – as readers we are sometimes accustomed to the “drama and trauma” contained in the very beginning of books. It is, however, important for understanding this character. The story significantly picks up about a third of the way through and becomes heart wrenching and insightful where the consequences of the main character’s choices are made clear.

      Highly recommended if you enjoy women’s fiction, strong female characters, this recent era in period fiction, and/or if you like stories with addiction and recovery as a theme. It is a wonderful self published and edited novel, amazingly without any errors in syntax as well as spelling. I give this excellent effort and book 4 stars.


      For more information about the book and the author – please see the preview of Chasing Stardust, and for an interview with Laurel around her experiences about writing a self published novel click on the live links within the text. Also coming next week will be a guest post about the Laurel’s take on her main character - Merrilee.

      This review will be included in a number of challenges - New Author, Woman Unbound, and War Through the Generations.

      Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

      Saturday, September 18, 2010

      Scary Halloween Header!


      Don’t be shocked if you stop by and don’t recognize Layers of Thought. To honor Halloween and this fun time of year, there’s a seasonal header up. This is what it looks like:


      Please stay tuned for more scary stuff since I am working on a few horrific guest posts and giveaways.  Just don’t forget to leave the lights on ~ *evil laugh*.

      Friday, September 17, 2010

      Loads of Literary Links ~ for the Busy, Bored, or Both

        hot off the press

      Its Friday ~ so take a break and peruse some links!

      Honestly, this is slightly “Cold Off  the Press” but should still be fun.



      General Bookish Bits:

       The Speculative List:

      For Writers and Authors:

      Give Away:


      Beyond Books - Courtesy of John:

      Please feel free to link your giveaway(s) or interesting link in the comments.

      Hopefully this linkup will make your day bit more fun. Have a great weekend!

      Wednesday, September 15, 2010

      Review by JD: Dante’s Journey ~ by JC Marino


      51EVfFeV2XLA creative and interesting fantasy novel that is set in Hell. But this isn’t just any old Hell; this is Hell modeled on the classic Dante’s Inferno.

      For me Dante’s Inferno was always an intriguing proposition, but I was put off reading it – convinced that it was going to be a very hard (and boring) read. Now I don’t have to try and read it, as I’ve just read this novel instead!  Apparently it follows Dante’s Inferno very closely, with an identically structured Hell that has nine circles, in each of which different types of sinners are tormented by eternal punishments that closely match their own sins. It’s the ultimate poetic justice. The main character, Dante, has to somehow navigate through all nine circles if he is to have any chance of escaping Hell.

      And so it is in Marino’s book too. The main character is Joe Dante, a tough Boston cop who has seen his family killed by a drug gang.  He relentlessly pursues the drug baron, and after a final showdown that he can only partially remember, he finds himself in a strange place.  A very strange place indeed. Given the book’s title I’m not exactly spoiling the plot by telling you he has ended up in Hell, though at first Joe Dante doesn’t realize it.  All he can think about is tracking down the person responsible for his family’s death, and wherever Joe is and whatever happens, he will not be deterred.

      Right from the outset he encounters totally bizarre things and creatures, but only slowly does he start to comprehend that he may have died. For a long time his mind refuses to accept the obvious truth, but even after it does he remains undaunted. Obviously the killer is here, and he will find him.  It is also obvious to Joe that he doesn’t really belong here; after all, he is a good man.

      Joe may be the pursuer, but he quickly becomes the pursued too. The trouble is that he is pursued by all manner of evil demons which are intent on stopping him. As he works his way through the nightmare landscapes and encounters unspeakable horrors, he gradually pieces together the events leading up to his death.  Slowly he is forced to reassess his life, his enemies, his mission, and himself. 

      Does that sound like a great storyline?  Well, it is, though having said that I didn’t quite enjoy the book as much as I thought I would.  Part of the trouble was the Joe Dante character.  He is a stubborn “wise-ass”, but when he wise-assess himself through every page of the book it starts to wear a bit thin.  I also think the book could be shortened quite a bit.  I know Dante’s Inferno was an epic poem, but this book could do with some “un-epic-ing”.  You read about loads of different sinners and torments, but more just keep on coming.  In this case I feel that less might have been better than more.  I also found the religious theme a bit over-the-top, though that’s a bit of a dumb comment from me.  What did I expect in a book that is based in Hell?

      Nonetheless this was an enjoyable and an easy read.  The strong points are the storyline and the imagination (and kudos to the original Dante too, of course), and they far outweigh my quibbles.  If you like fantasy novels with a Hellish bent, I’d strongly recommend this novel.  I’d rate the book 3 stars.  

      • Dante’s Journey
      • by JC Marino
      • Pages 366: paperback
      • Star Publish, 2010

      For more information on the book as well as the author, please link to Layers of Thought’s preview of Dante’s Journey.

      JC Marino is hosting a give away on Goodreads for his book. It is international and ends October 7th.

      As always John will be addressing all the comments for this post. He almost always responds. Especially if I bug him every five minutes. So please don’t for get to check the follow up box.

      This book will be included in two challenges: RIP V and New Author.

      Stay tuned for more horror “ish” reads to celebrate the season!

      Tuesday, September 14, 2010

      Preview of Novel Writing Software and Book: The Marshall Plan® ~ a structured approach to writing fiction and narrative nonfiction



      A note on previews: They include basic information collected on books and/or products to be reviewed. I do the research so it will be less work for you. A coming review will contain personal thoughts and opinions.


      *Disclaimer: Having no affiliation with this product or its authors, no compensation will be received for its review.


      What is it?

      The Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software is an adaptation of the bestselling Marshall Plan® book series. Which is designed to help writers with fiction and memoirs. The book series which this software is based upon:

      • The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing - US/UK/Canada
      • The Marshall Plan® Workbook - US/UK/Canada
      • The Marshall Plan® For Getting Your Novel Published: 90 Strategies And Techniques For Selling Your Fiction - US/UK/Canada

      *More book info included at the bottom of this post

      The Software Package includes: The program, the book - The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing, and a variety of other supporting items. The collection can be viewed and purchased on the page for Software Purchasing, and has a 30 day guarantee.

      Blurb: It is a structured approach to writing fiction and narrative nonfiction. Combining more than 60 years of experience as authors, editors and literary agents, Evan and Martha created innovative resources for writers that break down each writing project into its core components, making the writing process manageable. They also provide refinements which include tightly focused topics, highly differentiated formats, and the skillful use of narrative fiction techniques and narrative nonfiction writing modes.

      But Wait There's More -  Stuff for Free!

      To sample some practical advice by the authors here are several Free Mini Ebooks:

      1. Fiction Make Over Guide – emailed and accessed on the top right hand corner of the site


      Both authors are established editors and writers themselves.

      Author Bios:    Evan Marshall and Martha Jewett are the creators of The Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software, an adaptation of the bestselling Marshall Plan® series of writing guides. Evan is an internationally recognized expert on fiction writing and author of the Hidden Manhattan and Jane Stuart and Winky mystery series. A former book editor, for 27 years he has been a leading literary agent specializing in fiction. He is the president of The Evan Marshall Agency, a leading literary management firm that represents a number of New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors. Martha is a former award-winning business book editor at McGraw-Hill, John Wiley & Sons, and HarperBusiness. She is currently a literary agent and editorial consultant specializing in business books. An avid memoirist, she blogs at

      To connect with the Authors:  WebsiteWrite A Novel Fast; Write Your Memoir; Software Purchasing; Writer’s Forum – to ask questions;  Facebook; Twitter; and Psychology Today – a literary blog.



      • The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing
      • Paperback: 240 pages
      • Publisher: Writers Digest Books  (April 1, 2001)
      • Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.





      • The Marshall Plan® Workbook
      • Paperback: 250 pages
      • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; illustrated edition edition (February 2001)
      • Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.





      • The Marshall Plan® For Getting Your Novel Published: 90 Strategies And Techniques For Selling Your Fiction
      • Paperback: 246 pages
      • Publisher: Writers Digest Books; New edition edition (October 2004)
      • Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.





      Layers of Thought: Each of the books above has received great reviews on Amazon. You will receive the first in the series when you purchase the software program. Note, I did find the first two of the books available at our public library.

      Having started the book The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing, and taken a look at the program, a first thought is that the book is accessible and clear. I had one technical difficulty with the program, but did receive a solution back from the author - Evan Marshall - within 24 hours.


      Stay tuned for an article on “writing for pleasure” by the authors which is a key component of their program; also a book preview and giveaway for one of Evan Marshall’s mystery novels - City in Shadow.

      The software and book were sent to Layers of Thought for review from FSB Associates. Thank you Anna!

      Have a wonderful day!

      Monday, September 13, 2010

      Review by Shellie: The Bat Scientists ~ by Mary Kay Carson


      A great book with incredible pictures. It is perfect for the Halloween and fall season.

      Synopsis:  A preteen and children’s book based upon a group of people whose aim is to educate children (and adults too) about our fellow planetary inhabitants - bats.  It is written by scientists with a love of this special but ugly animal.

      Bats are an umbrella species –  if they are protected then it naturally extends to the protection of other species, helping them to thrive and survive. Sadly many species of bats in the US and around the world are in danger of extinction due to habitat loss, incorrect beliefs and myths, as well as a mysterious disease called white nose syndrome which is addressed in the book.

      This book helps to teach by giving children and young adults science- based information about the importance of  bats to local ecosystems. It also includes some disgusting and buggy scatological information which children love.

      My Thoughts:  I love love love bats. They are so cute – ugly cute.  Most with faces only a mother could love. They are also an indicator species. Their health is an indication of our planet’s health, our warning – the figurative “canary in the coal mine”.  You can’t help asking the question, if bats are dying, what’s next?

      This book is simple and intriguing, with some incredible pictures, and a bunch of enlightening facts that everyone should know. Its a great fall read for the classroom and a trick or treat gift instead of candy or sweets. And besides, did I mention that I love bats - 4 stars


      Amazon purchasing links are for US/UK/Canada. This book has just been released.

      For more information on the book and the authors please see Layers of Thought's preview for The Bat Scientists. Its the 4th book down on the post.

      Some additional interesting links to peruse – Bat Conservation Trust in the UK, Organization for Bat Conservation in the US. Please feel free to link any other organizations for bats in the comments and I will add them to this list.

      This book was requested for review from NetGalley, and then granted access by the publisher. Its a great place to go if you have an ereader to find interesting and eclectic books for review.

      Don’t you just love this time of year? We do, waiting all year long for the cooler weather here in the AZ desert. Have a lovely day!

      Friday, September 10, 2010

      Review by Shellie: The Unit ~ by Ninni Holmqvist


      A translated novel set in a futuristic and twisted democracy, it borders on horror with a realistic feel making it all the more terrifying.

      Set Up:  A story taking place in Sweden at some undisclosed time in the future, where there has developed a truly warped social system.

      The main character is a single women turning fifty. She has no family connections and is struggling financially. Dorit is required to enter a governmentally mandated enclave called “the unit”.  A place where all persons – men of sixty years and women of fifty - move to if they are deemed “dispensable”. That is if they do not have anything which is considered of economic value to give. In turn they live a life of luxury yet must submit to medical testing and donate vital organs.

      My Thoughts:  I really enjoy dystopian novels and this one appeared to have an unusual twist with a character to whom I could easily relate – a middle aged women with bohemian tendencies. There are a number of things that I liked about the book.

      It felt like a translation and I love translations. You can explore the locale and psyche of another country through the text with its unusual language nuances. This book was no exception with its lovely description of the local plants, landscape, and weather, as well as subtle differences in its cultural perspective.

      There is a secondary plot line which could be described as a romance. I particularly liked that the few unusual sex scenes included are not like your standard fare, which I usually skip over or laugh at.

      There are a few political topics which come up in the novel such as ageism and a subtly twisted version of feminism, which make for great for discussion topics.

      The novels I enjoy the most leave me with questions, and The Unit poses a few good ones. What kind of a democracy would value economic growth so much that it would sacrifice its older members? Is the nature of democracy only about growth?  How could a political system purportedly concerned with freedom develop like the one which is represented in this book? 

      A fairly short novel it starts out slowly yet picks up considerably where it becomes both illuminating and heart wrenching. It summarizes a few subtle elements of human experience in enlightening and relatable ways. And the best part is that it was just plain scary. It is because of these things it will be placed in my favorite’s list - on balance 4.5 stars.

      • The Unit
      • by Ninni Holmqvist  (translated by Marlaine Delargy)
      • Paperback: 272 pages
      • Publisher: Other Press (June 9, 2009)

      Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.


      For more information about the author, translator, The Unit, and other titles please link to the publisher - Other Press.

      This particular book was read in digital format and rented from our local library. It is my second novel published by Other Press.  I have enjoyed both immensely.  A Map of Home by Rhanda Jarrar was the first.  John also highly recommends Mitchell Kaplan’s By Fire, By Water which is also published by this small press.

      This novel will be included in the following challenges: Woman Unbound, The Speculative Fiction Challenge, The 42, New Author Challenge, and The Basics.

      We love Fridays – Have a great weekend! 

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