Friday, May 28, 2010

Charlie Interviews a “Bookie” - this is amazing!

 

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Charlie’s Thoughts:

I read 72 books during the year 2009. I’ll admit that 72 is a goodly number, especially since I’m a slow reader, but I instantly thought of someone who is a Master Reader—or a Bookie, as I like to call her.

Her name is Stasia (STAH-shuh), and she is a friend of mine on LibraryThing (LT).  I asked if I could interview her for this blog. She agreed.  Here, then, is my first-ever interview:

Me (M): Hola, Stasia.

Stasia (S): Hi, Charlie Brain. [BrainFlakes is my non de plumage on LT, but Stasia changed it a bit.]

M: So how many books did you read during 2009?

S: 542.

M: And so far in 2010, which I believe is the current year?

S: I post my weekly reads on my LT thread on Sundays, and through today, 271.

M: During the past year and not quite five months, you’ve read 813 books. It seems obvious that you’re a speed reader.

S: No. I have never taken any kind of speed reading course. I read a book about it once, but I didn’t really like the way it was done. I don’t speed read, but rather spend time reading—in the middle of the night, when distractions are at a minimum.
My mother taught me to read at age 3, and being a great reader herself, always encouraged me to read. The last time I was tested—and this was 30 or so years ago—I read about 1,000 words a minute.

M: You are a very fast reader, then, as opposed to me being a very slow reader. By the way, I didn’t take any courses in slow reading—it just comes naturally to me because I have a tendency to dawdle or read with my eyes closed in the napping position.

Do you retain most of what you read or, like the rest of us, do story lines and characters eventually become fuzzy and fade away?

S: I think retention depends a lot on the book itself. The books that have made a big impact on me tend to stay with me longer. Some books, I just read them and walk away—those are the ones that really fade from memory, almost as soon as I’ve read them. I will tell you, though, there is no way I’ve retained everything about every book I’ve read.

M: What do you do with quotes or passages that affect you emotionally? Do you keep a notebook?

S: I do the majority of reading at my computer, so I have an MS Word file that I keep as a “Commonplace Book.” I also keep track of favorite quotations—or the most meaningful ones to the text—in my book journal.

M: How about characters or situations that make you cry? You must take a time out to weep and feel pitiful.

S: Oh, I am terrible about getting emotionally wrapped up in characters. I admit that I’m more of a crier when it comes to books than I am in real life.

M: Do you have any reading preferences? Fiction, non-fiction, genres?

S: About the only genre I will not read is horror; I just have too active an imagination for it. I really enjoy mysteries and romantic suspense, although since LibraryThing I read less in those genres than I did even five years ago. I’ve always been a big non-fiction reader—I just find truth stranger than fiction for the most part, plus I have an innate curiosity about everything. I try to read at least 100 non-fiction books a year; it was a challenge that Louis L’Amour presented in his autobiography Education of a Wandering Man, and I’ve tried to do it ever since I read his book.

M: Judging by the number of books you read, I suspect that you don’t purchase all of them. I mean, you’d have to be Queen Midas to buy a dozen books a week.

S: I do participate in LibraryThing’s ER [Early Reader] program, although I’m notorious for taking months to get the books read because I have so many library books that take precedence. I have anywhere from 80-99 library books out at any given time. Last week, I had 94.

M: Finally, there is a quote I like from Alan Bennett’s An Uncommon Reader: "You don’t put your life into books. You find it there.” Your thoughts?

S: I see it both ways. As a reader, I bring to any book my life experiences. The same book will never be the same for any two readers because of what we bring to it. For that matter, that same book will not be the same to me twenty years from now because my life experiences will have changed in the meantime.

I can also see how we find life in books: I can live vicariously the life I do not have. I just finished Walter Bonatti’s The Mountains of My Life. I am a forty-eight-year-old overweight woman who will never climb a mountain—but through his words, I can feel like I was up on The Central Pillar of Freney when the temperature was four below zero!

M: Stasia, thank you so much for doing this interview. I truly believe you are one of the kindest, friendliest, and most gracious ladies I know. So do many others: I know you are constantly in trouble with the LT Thread Police because your threads run to 300 messages.

S: **blushes**

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Two views of Stasia's bookcases, made by her beloved. ('Tis a good thing they don't have earthquakes in Texas.)

[Unlike myself, Stasia has a real life. She works a 40 hour job at night. She has a family, so there are housekeeping jobs and errands to be done. She home schools her youngest, who will graduate in June. She spends her evenings with her husband. Depending on her work schedule, she goes to bed between 6 and 8 a.m. She sleeps very little.]

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We hope you all enjoyed this interview. Lets extend a big thanks to Stasia! 

This was written by Charlie and posted by Shellie. All the material for this post should not be copied unless expressed permission is given by Charlie via Shellie. As with all of his posts he will be addressing comments.

Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Review by Shellie: Audio version of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

 

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About the book:    Set near London around the mid-1800’s, an artist is traveling to his latest work assignment. On his way he sees a disturbing woman in white on the highway. He attempts to help her but is mystified when she disappears. Her connection with his life becomes apparent over time after he arrives at his destination. There he falls in love with one of the nieces of the household owner. She however is to be married shortly to a man who appear less than genial, creating conflict and angst. Things become convoluted as the plot is conveyed by different individuals that are involved in the happenings in this tale of deceit, murder, and apparent madness.

My Thoughts:    I did not realize that this edition was abridged until after finishing it, and perhaps would not have chosen this version if I had realized. I really enjoy listening to classics when exercising since they are often difficult for me to focus on when actually reading.

The audio version was lovely nonetheless. The narration was excellent - done by various speakers that had the gender, age, and class accents appropriate to the teller of each section; and they were of course done with wonderful English accents.

I was out of breath and shocked at some of the scenes, thought about the book between listens, and I did not guess what was going to happen next which is always a good sign. I also did not feel that the book was edited. I give this audio book 3.5 stars.  I recommend it as a great way to get into classics which may otherwise be difficult to read.

This audio book was rented from the local digital library and listened to on an iPod.

Audio Book Data:

  • Audio CD:
  • Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks; Abridged edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9626348631
  • ISBN-13: 978-9626348635
  • Genre: Classic Mystery

    Amazon purchasing information for the audio version, which I listened to are US/UK/Canada.

    This book was read for The Fill in the Gaps Challenge, The Woman Unbound Challenge, and The New Author Challenge.

    This book’s significance for The Woman Unbound Challenge is that it is an example of how UK law was set up so that woman could not hold title to property, only men – fathers, husbands, sons, or other family members. Also the power of men over women was not unlike those of a child. Crazy making stuff, yet we’ve come a long way!

    Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

  • Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    ARC Review by Shellie: The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight – A Novel by Gina Ochsner

     

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    Synopsis:    Within a current day setting in Russia, with all its difficult economics and  “shell shocked” population, a number of diverse individuals relay their lives via an omnipresent narrator in separate yet interrelated chapters. They all live in the same dilapidated building where the plumbing has been non existent for several months. They are coping, but it seems there is nothing they can do about the situation. Most significantly the group experiences a death of one of their fellow residents via suicide. Because the “dead guy” is not buried properly in contravention of the demands of his Muslim tradition, he haunts the others with hilarious, heart wrenching, and smelly results.

    Layered within this story are the difficult and sadly comical experiences of each of the individuals. Each leading lives with a shared, conflicted yet accepting, desperation. All with differing perspectives due to varying ethnicity, age, and gender. Each are both thoughtful and dark.

    As the characters are developed, the story starts to revolve around several American museum facilitators of “Russian Extraction” who will visit and determine if they are to help the Russian group and their local “handmade” museum. It is a promise of a monetary donation, but as the residents try to meet the Americans’ exacting standards and try and plan out a reasonable way of showing the donators that their museum is worthy of support, that they lead normal and sane lives, havoc ensues.

    My Thoughts:   The above description of this book unjustly simplifies it, since there is so much more complexity within the book than can be described within three paragraphs. There were so may wonderful examples of complex and unusual word usage. I found myself laughing and amazed. The most fun aspect of the book is the way that the author seamlessly incorporates folktales, knowledge and tradition from each of the respective religious backgrounds. “Magical realism” melded with the reality of life - heartbreaking yet hopeful. The book is a linguistic mix of metaphor and imagery.

    Key concepts which I found interesting within the book are the nature of truth and how cultures define what they choose to relay to the population through the media, what they hide, and who it is that decides what is shared. It is here that we see that Russians as indirect by cultural default. But we also see how frustrated and powerless they feel about their country’s conflicts. Here is a wonderful example where the main character Olga struggles with her job of translating for a local newspaper, where she is required to create euphemisms for the public to read:

    Through the snow Olga trudged, dimly aware that in faraway places people spoke with purer words of unvarnished meaning. Or maybe not. Maybe at other news agencies in other countries people simply told more palatable lies. And as she rounded the corner and climbed over the remains of the broken stone archway that marked the entrance to the courtyard, she felt despair sliding down her throat, setting up quick residence in her stomach. Language was, after all, just word shaped stains, simply another way to evade and obscure the truth.

    As I read, I felt the cultural angst. It was a fascinating glimpse into the Soviet psyche which I now understand is more complex than many of us realize. We find that the country has residents of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian background – all with their generalized terms and stagnant beliefs about themselves and others, not unlike the US or any other country for that matter. Here the author sums up human character via Olga:

    Olga wagged her head slowly from side to side. It never ceased to amaze her what the human animal was capable of. What great great acts of generosity and cruelty. And how a human could harbor the inclination for both within the same heart! She wished she could say it was beyond her. But it wasn’t, because she felt it, too: compassion and rage, love and hate. Even good people could – and did – commit acts of cruelty. Even people like Olga.  How many times had she wished Afghanistan and everyone in it would simply fall off the map?

    There are many other examples in the book which exemplify its wonderful language as well as its important concepts. It is a lovely and complex book which was originally published in Great Britain in 2009. The version I read had language appropriate for the area, and will be changed for the American audience. The quotes reflect the UK version. It did feel like a translation, however I could find no evidence of it being one.

    I loved this book, and recommend it for people who enjoy unusual and creative language, metaphor and imagery, slipstream/magical realism, as well as art, art history, and cultural perspectives. I rate it at 4.5 stars. I will be looking for a hard copy of this book for my personal collection and I have also included Gina Ochsner on my list of authors to watch.

    For more information on the book, the author, as well as purchasing links please see Layers of Thought's preview for The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight.

    Here is a link for an article I recently found regarding the lack of complete information disclosure within Russia - here.

    This book will be included into several challenges – New Author Challenge 2010, The Speculative Fiction Challenge, Woman Unbound Challenge, and Once Upon a Time IV Challenge.

    Thanks for reading Layers of Thought!

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Update – Gremlins in the Computer?

     

    Damn Gremlins! –   We are thinking the 2540110066_f250c0728c_mcomputer has a nasty  case of the gremlins. They are fiddling with the graphics card, and boy are they noisy! So normal postings, correspondence, and commenting will most likely be affected. I will be attempting to publish until the card arrives via the post (they said up to 7 days) so things are a bit dodgy here. Normal posting should resume soon. Thanks for your understanding.

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Want to Go to the BEA but can’t? The Armchair BEA Can Help – Albeit Vicariously May 25th - 28th

     

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    Here you can join in the fun:

    This is a site where book bloggers who are not attending the BEA can join activities and get updates. (Badge links to the site that is hosting this event.)

    In case you have not heard of the BEA (Book Expo America) - Here is the BEA site for more information on the event.

     

    “Armchair Event” info via the host site:

    Welcome to the nerve center of Armchair BEA! If you're a book blogger who can't attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention in New York this May (May 25-28), you don't have to miss all the fun - this virtual convention is the place to be! Watch this space for all the news about daily blogging themes, discussions, giveaways and more!

    We'll be using the hashtag #ArmchairBEA on Twitter, so watch for that - and please be sure to bookmark this site or subscribe to our feed, so you don't miss any important updates!

    The Schedule for the Week of Arm Chair BEA:

    • Tues. May 25th - BEA Related Posts
    • Wed. May 26th - Blogger Interviews (Sorry Sign-ups for these are already closed and assignments will be posted very very soon!)
    • Thurs. May 27th - BEA Related Posts & Giveaways on Participating Sites
    • Friday May 28th - BBC Roundtables

    We're so excited to have you on board! Still want to sign up as a participant? You can still join us.

    *************************************

    If planning on using twitter try Tweetchat, which is recommended by Follow the Reader for real time tweets using hashtags.

    I will be lurking, and tweeting (@layersofthought) and hope to see you there!

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    Review by JD: The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave

     

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    Book Stats:

    • The Death of Bunny Munro
    • by Nick Cave
    • ISBN: 978-0-86547-910-4
    • Pages 278: hardback
    • Faber and Faber, 2009
    • Genre: General Fiction

    (There are a variety of interesting covers for this book. One with a little boy holding an automatic. I liked this one - it does not correspond with the ISBN number.)

    John’s Thoughts:    An odd book – and perhaps one mainly for Nick Cave aficionados. He has made some really cool music, and for anyone familiar with it or him, you certainly wouldn’t be expecting a straightforward “normal” story. And you’d be right.

    This is the tale of a sex-addicted hedonist by the name of Bunny Munro, and what happens after his wife commits suicide. He has a unique view of life, and of course absolutely everything revolves around him and his personal desires. He fails to grasp that he is the prime cause of his wife’s demise, and is instead much more concerned about how her absence will affect his lifestyle. Or at least it starts out that way, but he begins to believe that she may be haunting him and starts to go a little crazy. Or crazier.

    The main logistical challenge for Bunny is their young son, Bunny Junior. He is a very smart kid who loves his dad deeply despite everything that he has done and continues to do. Bunny’s short-term solution is to take Bunny Junior on the road with him on a sales trip – the sleazy Bunny being a moderately successful seller of cheapo beauty products thanks to his gift of being able to charm women. So begins a strange little odyssey involving sex, violence, copious quantities of alcohol, needy people and the spirit of Bunny’s wife. The book builds to a climax with Bunny’s behavior getting ever more outrageous, and the weight of his wrong-doings tipping the balance towards some fateful judgment day.

    If that sounds like an interesting plot, well, it is. The problem for me is that Bunny is such a thoroughly awful, despicable person that it’s tough to actually enjoy the book. There are many nice touches, and a fair amount of humor; Bunny Junior is a great character that you root for; and Cave certainly has a great way with words. Try this for his description of a cheap and nasty hotel room:

    “The room is a riot of psychedelic wallpaper and blood-coloured paisley carpet that appears to be designed around the ghosted, Technicolor nightmares of an Australian back-street abortionist. The scarlet curtains hang like strips of uncooked meat …..”

    If you are a Nick Cave fan, you’ll probably love it. If you’re curious, give it a go – it is a short and “easy” read. For me, this gets 3 stars.

    Author Mini Bio:

    Nicholas Edward Cave is an Australian musician, songwriter, author, screenwriter, and occasional actor. He is best known for his work in the rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and his fascination with American music and its roots. He has a reputation, which he disowns, for singing dark, brooding songs which some listeners regard as depressing. His music is characterized by intensity, high energy and a wide variety of influences. He currently lives in Brighton Hove in England.

     

    A Song to Share by Cave via YouTube:
     
     
     

    Amazon purchasing links US/UK/Canada.

    This book was rented from the local library. The review was written by John and posted by Shellie. As always John/JD will be addressing any comments made around this post.

    Cheers everyone have a wonderful weekend! 

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    ARC Review by Shellie: Keeper by Kathi Appelt

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    Mini Synopsys:   This is a children’s and pre-teen book where the main character is Keeper. She is an almost ten year old girl who lives on the beach by the gulf of Mexico in Texas. There are a menagerie of animals in her life - two dogs, a cat, and a seagull, but what is special is that she can hear them talk.

    She is well loved and cared for by Signe, her mom by default, their friend Dogie (a healing war veteran turned local surf board rental guy), and an old Russian sailor named Mr. Beauchamp. Keeper is like many young girls of that age, still believing in the magical, which includes ghosts and “merfolk”.

    One particularly bad day she gets herself into very hot water, or should I say ocean water, in an attempt to find her “real mother” whom she believes to be a mermaid. We can only imagine what can happen here, as myth and folklore are combined and fantasy seamlessly blends into reality in this sweet and heart wrenching tale.

    My Thoughts:   I loved this little book because it is a wonderful introduction to multicultural mermaid lore for a youngster (and in my case, adult). The author includes “merfolk” from different cultures within the story including characters whom are multicultural as well; their ethnicity is not completely defined. Because of these elements and more I believe Keeper will be an excellent teaching tool. It can be used as a spin-off for lessons on water safety, myth/fairytales/folklore and their definitions and differences, some science based lessons on geology and marine biology, as well as the defining of reality and make believe. All are important concepts in a growing mind, and if I remember correctly are included in many state curriculums.

    Examining things further with the theme of adult “joint or supervised read”, the book has a number of time shifts where the author goes back and forth between the present and the past giving the story a complexity which some younger readers may struggle with, if not explained by or discussed with an adult. The story also includes  issues around abandonment, as well as the importance of creating family ritual, which a younger reader may not completely understand unless they are discussed. These all can be very good things if the book is moderated.

    In addition the book contains illustrations which are simple that will interest a younger reader transitioning into more wordy books. The author also has a way of creating simple yet very deep and meaningful language which cuts to one’s heart and which is lovely for both children and adults. I think that the most special aspect of the story is that it contains several wonderful and key GLBT characters. Lastly, the ending is the type which I prefer, not completely that of a fairytale but with a slight tweak making one think, feel, and remember.

    Highly recommended reading for adults who like myth and folklore mixed with realism, and for those who read to and teach children. As for children I would say all but a few will love it. I am rating this a 4 stars. I imagine that this story will be nominated for a variety or children’s book award.

    I feel very fortunate to have received this copy of this special book. I believe it has only just been published so should be available for purchase now. For more information on the book, the author, as well as purchasing links see Layers of Thought's preview for Keeper.

    This book will be included in a variety of challenges - New Author Challenge, The Speculative Fiction Challenge, The Basics Challenge, The GLBT Challenge, and The Once Upon a Time Challenge.

    Thanks for reading Layers of Thought!

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Literary Links and Alliterations Galore - and a bit more

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    *No apologies folks for the funky rhymes and alliterations. Its fun, and that's the point so I’m sticking to it!*

    Misc Literary Links of Interest:

    • Stop feeling guilty about your stacks of unread book and read this article – its about the joy of unread books. Lovely!
    • Not sure what's going on here, but new technology is always intriguing and who knows where it will go.  So check out where Wikipedia is going to make books via Google.
    • Do authors have a second novel slump? You decide with this interesting series of two articles linked here.

    SFWA announces the 2010 Nebula Award Winners:

    • Novel: The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade Books, Sept. 2009)
    • Novella: The Women of Nell Gwynne’s – Kage Baker (Subterranean Press, June 2009)
    • Novelette: “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,”
      Eugie Foster (Interzone, Feb. 2009)
    • Short Story: “Spar,” Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Oct. 2009)
    • Ray Bradbury Award: District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (Tri-Star, Aug. 2009)
    • Andre Norton Award: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making,
      Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente, June 2009) –Go to Valente’s site to read the book which is free”ish” here. The novel is not complete since she is hoping to publish it soon.

    Transatlantic Bookish Links:

    • Ever wonder why the covers for books are different in other countries? I do, the Guardian asks and answers the question here.
    • I adore translated fiction. If you do as well, an event called the PEN helps to create further interest in books written in languages other than English. Here is a link to an interesting article about the event Publishing Perspectives.

    Bookish Links for the Nookish – Ipad”ish”,  Kindle”ish” or… (fill in your type of reader”ish” here:)

    • E reader readers beware!  Do you have an e reader? Thinking about getting one? Concerned about your privacy? – look at this.
    • Interested in some FREE scary urban fantasy – Vicki Pettersson’s first in the series A Scent of Shadows is available in ebook format. It also contains an excerpt to the newest in the series – Cheat the Grave. For the free down load at Amazon link here, and for all other retailer's links.
    • Google is thinking of joining the ranks with Verizon by creating an e reader too. Link here.
    • Although May is almost over, did you know that it is short story month? – I didn’t. Considering that, here’s a link that talks about a potential for  short stories for your iPhone. (Which would be perfect if needing something to do for just a minute here and there.)

    Bookish Audio Links:

    • One of my few five star reviews for 2009 was Serena by Ron Rash (title links to review). So I am naturally hot on Rash’s trail for new (and old) books. Here, via audio, he is interviewed and reads an excerpt from his newest collection Burning Bright. If you enjoy American historical fiction and have a penchant for dark literature he is incredible.
    • Do you like Utopian and Dystopian fiction? How about those written in a foreign language and translated? Here is an hour and 15 minute long video where several authors discuss some social thought around the subgenre(s). 
    • Are you interested in working within publishing – Ann and Michael from Books on the Nightstand answer a few questions here.

    Links from Layers of Thought’s Readers:

    • Via Anna and Serena from the War Through the Generations blog, I became aware of a twitter discussion going on around the book The Matterhorn – A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes. Which is getting rave reviews. Check out their post here.
    • Literary horror interest? Then look at Teresa Frohock’s blog, where she interviews Lisa Mannetti, whose book The Gentling Box won the Bram Stoker Award for best first novel in 2008. I am dying to read this one.
    • Preetham Grandhi has just won The Nautilus Book Award  for visionary fiction in the Silver category for 2010. One of the first books reviewed here on Layers of Thought was the winner A Circle of Souls, which I loved (book title links to review.)

    Non-Book related Links of Interest:

    Well that's all folks. Till the next link up for the loquacious and literary minded, please feel free to post any others you would like to share in the comments.

    Thanks for linking lazily *wink* at Layers of Thought.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Book Giveaway: The Army of the Republic by Stuart Archer Cohen – plus interview and guest post

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    Book Blurb:

    CEO and Washington D.C. insider James Sands has made billions by privatizing bankrupt municipal water supplies, but his command of a dwindling resource infuriates citizen and environmental groups. When his partner is assassinated by the shadowy Army of the Republic, Sands begins to lose control of his company and his life. Desperate to save his empire, he turns to Whitehall Security, the massive private intelligence firm with far-reaching political connections. For a steep monthly fee, Whitehall will hunt down and destroy the enemies of Sands’ enterprise, and disrupt any civil organizations that still oppose him.

    Meanwhile, in Seattle, a guerilla named Lando leads The Army of the Republic on a dangerous campaign against the alliance of big business and government. Charismatic, cunning, and driven, Lando is obsessed with the idea of saving the country from itself, no matter what.

    Lando’s reluctant ally is savvy political organizer Emily Cortwright, coordinator of a network of civil action groups that seek to inspire a mass movement powerful enough to overthrow the corrupt ruling party. But when peaceful public protests quickly give way to violence, Lando, Emily, and James Sands become lost in a welter of assumed identities and conflicting loyalties. With increasing intensity, rife with secret lives, deadly compromises, and false identities, all of them struggle to both redeem and destroy the people they love most.

    Powerful, disturbing, and unforgettable, The Army of the Republic is a brilliant novel about what it means to live in a democracy.

    **************************************************************************************

    John really enjoyed The Army of the Republic and gave the book a 4.5 star rating (title links to John’s review.) So naturally when offered the chance to ask a few question of the author, as well as including a guest post and a giveaway, we jumped at the chance. It is a pleasure to share our favorite books to Layers of Thought’s readers. Below John asks Stuart Archer Cohen a few questions.

    Interview

    Lets welcome the author – Thank you Stuart!

    1. The America you create in your novel seems far-fetched and yet plausible. Were you prompted to write the story by a real fear that America truly could become the extreme authoritarian state that you describe?

    Yes, though I don’t think of the authoritarian state being portrayed in the book as being particularly extreme. Extreme is like El Salvador or Argentina, where tens of thousands of people are being systematically murdered by the state. The America of The Army of the Republic is a corporate cornucopia that’s run dry, and where a moderate degree of violence and the threat of violence is required to keep the system going and to keep funneling the remaining money to the top. I don’t think that’s far-fetched at all. I think we were close to it with Bush/Cheney, and I think if the Far Right is successful in taking power again, we could get there fairly quickly.

    2. Reading The Army of the Republic, I was struck by how media manipulation can be such a powerful tool of unscrupulous governments. As a novelist, what do you think is the role of creative writers in getting alternative messages across to the public?

    One of the primary things that motivated me to write the book was a fascination with propaganda. It amazed me to see people believing things that were obviously untrue, and I was interested in what that said about human nature. That brought in all those themes about the Bible and sacred text, because I think it’s all related. Anything that happens on a social level has to happen in people’s minds first, and in my book I try to trace that all the way through.

    I can’t say that novelists have an obligation to write about social and political issues, but I personally seem to be drawn more and more in that direction. Politics is so intricately involved with how people see themselves and their place in the world, and the degree of fantasy involved just leaves endless fodder for fiction. Also, as a person, I just can’t turn my back on the decline of a great Republic.

    Novels can explore ideas with a certain degree of freedom and get people to try on viewpoints they wouldn’t otherwise consider. I had hoped to do that with AOR, and I tried to write it in a way that wouldn’t tag it as either Left or Right. I just tried to make it human. I’ve had some degree of success with that, especially in the Libertarian community, though there are certain people you just can’t reach, because their world-view is completely different

    Do novelists get alternative ideas out to the public? To some degree, but it doesn’t compare to the massive propaganda efforts being undertaken daily.

    3. One of the things I really liked about your book was the way that political tensions within the country were paralleled by personal tensions within a single family. I’ve also seen you state that revolutions often pit one generation against another. Do you have a radically different view of the world than your parents? Or your sons?

    I think I share a lot of my parents’ world-view. My father always distrusted authority. In WW2 he was busted back to Private twice. He understood that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and that it’s not an accident. At the same time, my parents generation believed that for all its flaws, the government was of the people and was competent to address the nation’s problems. After all, the US Government had saved the world from Fascism. That’s why they bought Bush’s Iraq war WMD argument hook, line and sinker: they couldn’t conceive that their government would make up lies out of whole cloth to pursue what was essentially an imperial business deal.

    The big difference between my parents and I is that their generation didn’t recognize the power of the global corporation. They were coming out of WW2, when the only global power left was the governments of the US and the Soviet Union. My generation has seen Corporations rise to challenge the power of elected government itself, from within (Hank Paulson, Dick Cheney, Robert Rubin) and without (Fox News, billionaires Olin and Scaife, US Chamber of Commerce). While I share my parents’ belief that our government is essentially well-meaning, my generation realizes, from Left or Right, that the top tiers of government have become corrupted to the point where it is in danger of becoming something fundamentally different than what we inherited. That struggle between corporate and citizen power has been around since the 1890’s, but we citizens have been losing pretty steadily since the 1980’s.

    My children are 12 and 14. I think they’ll have the same faith in the potential of government, but they realize that they’ve had a ton of shit dumped on their plate. Much worse, though, is that many other people’s children will likely grow up hating and distrusting the government on a knee-jerk level, due to the concerted anti-government campaign being waged since Ronald Reagan first attacked the government in his1980 presidential campaign. I think that’s really sad, and the consequences will be significant.

    4. You’ve said that The Army of the Republic was a difficult and time-consuming novel to write. Are you planning a follow up or a similarly themed book?

    After The Army of the Republic I was exhausted by politics and big social issues, and I just wanted to write something more intimate, like my first novel, Invisible World. My new book is about a faded rock star who’s lost all his money, a fugitive American financier living large in Shanghai, and a middle-aged carpenter in Alaska who, one afternoon, goes on an epic heroic quest. It’s about alternate lives: the ones we could have lived, think we should have lived. Nevertheless, you see some of the same issues of AOR in the lives of the characters: right wing propaganda seeping in at the job site, diminished lives, untouchable elites. It’s not what the book is really about, though.

    Besides that, I wrote a very inappropriate children’s book about dinosaurs on a crime spree. Nothing like watching a couple of 12 year olds pulling off an armored car heist!

    5. I just love the book covers – especially the one with a masked character and a Molotov cocktail. Did you play any part in creating or choosing the covers?

    St. Martins was great and they did run the covers by me. That being said, the artist deserves all the credit. I worship the guy!

    Thanks so much Stuart for answering John’s questions.

    ****************************************************************************************

    PHOTO-Cohen (2)

    Guest Post

    Why I Wrote The Army of the Republic.

    Like a lot of novelists, I usually write about things that won’t leave me alone. You have to really be interested in something to spend a few years with it every day, pursuing it around a dozen curves and into a hundred dead ends, only to have it disappear just when you think you’ve got it.

    The idea of revolution had been kicking around in my head and my journals ever since my first trip to Central and South America in 1984, a fact that wasn’t looked on very kindly by the Salvadoran military when they arrested me and translated everything I had on my first eventful trip south.  I remember that incident clearly, especially being blindfolded and interrogated for eight hours at the San Salvador jail, and thinking, “This guy with the black shoes . . . ” (I could see a tiny slit of the floor through the bottom of the blindfold) “He seems nice, just a cop doing his job, but that one with the brown loafers, he’s bad news.  He’s one of those death-squad guys.” And that perception, correct or incorrect, of the mixture of perfectly decent people and rather evil people, thrown together by a bad situation, stayed with me. 

    A lot of other questions from my early South American trips stayed with me. Was it ever justified to kill for a better world? And how in the world did a bunch of college students and young professionals, which is what revolutionaries usually are, ever acquire the will and the skills to take on their own country? As I watched the drift of our country towards an authoritarian Corporate state that reminded me of some of the governments I’d seen in Latin America, I felt a deeper and deeper urgency to address those questions for an American audience. I began the rough draft in 2004, finishing the book in about three years.

    The research was much more difficult than I’d anticipated.  I accumulated a shelf full of interesting books: how to form a new identity, improvised explosives, surveillance and body guarding.  Also many thick books in Spanish about Argentine urban guerrillas of the 70’s, which I rounded out with interviews in Buenos Aires.  In addition to that, I talked to organizers of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, student activists, 1960’s activists, CIA people and assorted others.  Unlike the research for my previous novel, which came together in a few exhilarating weeks, the research for AOR was difficult and, at times, disturbing.

    I heard a CIA “janitor” describing his disposal of a rogue death-squad leader in Central America, as well as an Argentine revolutionary recounting his part in a legendary prison break in Patagonia, which culminated in his freedom and his wife’s execution by the military. When the subject is Revolution, heroism is invariably mixed with pain, and it’s hard to ask people to recount some of the most fearsome moments of their lives. Some simply don’t want to talk about it, some revel in the past. For others, the past is never quite past. I chanced into a Montonero memorial service in Buenos Aires for a comrade who’d been murdered by the military 30 years before. All the people were in their 50s, or older, and there was a feeling of great sadness there, even after all that time. I remember them doing a little invocation I’d read about, where they said his name, then “Presente! Para ahora, y para siempre!” and it was deeply moving, just as a simple human cry of idealism and loss.

    There’s another, deeper element than politics in The Army of the Republic, though. What struck me about revolution is the way it so often pits on generation against another. For that reason, the book became not simply about ideas, but about a family divided against itself. At the book’s heart is the Sands family, fabulously wealthy and deeply dysfunctional. James Sands, Regime crony and billionaire, revels in the brilliance and entrepreneurship that has enabled him to build a massive corporation. His wife, Ann, is appalled at his vanished idealism, while his son is outraged at his corruption and determined to bring him back to his earlier roots, by destroying him, if necessary. The Sands family is a metaphor for the American family in the 21st century, pitted Conservative vs. Liberal, Right vs. Left, Corporate vs. Citizen, confused and angry and wondering how things went so wrong.

    I’m not sure how many of the questions I began with in 2004 I ever really answered. Is it justified to kill for a better world? Maybe, sometimes. Not very often. I did finish the book with a new sense of America, of the fragility of its dreams and of a certain nobility beneath its coarse, superficial surface. In the end, that’s what the book is really about, rather than revolution or politics or the love that holds it together. I suppose that’s what I was trying to understand when I began writing it.

    Author Bio:

    Stuart Archer Cohen lives in Juneau, Alaska, where he owns Invisible World, an international company dealing in wool, silk, alpaca and cashmere in Asia and South America.  His previous two novels, Invisible World and 17 Stone Angels, have been translated into 10 languages.

    Connect with the author on Goodreads, and his blog. Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada, The Book Depository in Euros and AUD

    ********************************************************************************************

    Now for the Giveaway:

    You do not have to be a “follower/reader” for this giveaway. Anyone can enter, you however must have a US address to have the book shipped to.

    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 – and to get updates in facebook feed add me (Shellie) 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 state above, this giveaway is to US addresses only.

    Contest ends Thursday June 17, 2010 at 12 pm US Pacific time. Winner will be posted and notified on Monday June 21, 2010.

    Good luck everyone and thanks for reading Layers of Thought!

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Review by Charlie: The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

    charlies logo

    We would like to introduce and welcome Charlie who will be doing reviews for Layers of Thought from time to time. He is exceptionally funny and does very thoughtful posts. 

    His first review here will revolve around the recently published young adult novel - The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. He is also the author of Angel’s Game and The Shadow of the Wind. Please note, Charlie is wonderful about not including spoilers in his reviews.

    Lets welcome Charlie!

    The Review:

    The Story:    The year is 1943 and the place, although never mentioned in the book, appears to be a small town in the south of England. The Carver family moves there to escape the war and purchase a long unused but stately home. There is something very odd about both the town and the house, however. Max Carver, age thirteen, notices that the town clock runs backward. The house has fleeting cold drafts where cold drafts in August should not be, and an overgrown and locked garden is “peopled” with statues of circus characters. 7128341

    Max and his sister Alicia, fifteen, meet Roland, seventeen, a likeable local boy whom they quickly befriend. Roland is in love with the sea and lives on the beach in a hut he cobbled together, just below the lighthouse his grandfather built. He proudly shows the Carvers the wreck of the freighter Orpheus in the shallow water, broken in half when it ran aground during a storm. Roland’s grandfather was the only survivor and, twenty-five years later, still mans the lighthouse every night. Is he watching for other ships, or could it be something else that keeps his eyes on the water?

    Max is a curious boy, and he finds a box of old films left behind by the previous owner in a storeroom. Very strange films indeed of Jacob, a little boy who drowned, of the garden with the statues in different positions and postures, and of a diabolical entity—the Prince of Mist—who can play tricks with time even on film.

    There is a sense of urgency that something evil is about to happen, and it is up to the trio of friends to stop it. Do they? That is for the reader to find out . . .

    Charlie’s Thoughts:    This is the same Carlos Ruiz Zafón of the adult sensation The Angel’s Game, but The Prince of Mist was the first book he wrote in 1993 and specifically for young readers. Tied up in legalities for fifteen years, the wait was worth it; this is a spectacular book for its intended audience—as well as for me, an older adult who raced through it. Zafón was smart to feature the teens for teen readers to identify with. The only adult who figures in the story is the grandfather, who reminded me of Boy Scout camp and listening to ghost stories around the campfire.

    Zafón’s writing is not as polished as it is now and he “loses” characters for his convenience, but neither of these things bothered me. This is not classic literature, but a good read with plenty of mystery, non-graphic horror, and an unexpected ending. I give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

    Amazon Book Stats:

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316044776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316044776

    Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

    Posted by Shellie but written by Charlie, where he reviews his choice of books which he has purchased. All thoughts and views are his own, and may not be copied unless expressed permission is given by him via Shellie. He will be addressing all the comments for the review – and he lives for comments!

    Thanks for reading Layers of Thought!

  • Friday, May 14, 2010

    Review by JD: Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry

    9780805089271

    • Britten and Brϋlightly
    • by Hannah Berry
    • ISBN: 978-0-8050-8927-1
    • Pages: quite a few - paperback
    • Metropolitan Book/Henry Holt and Company, 2008 (first U.S. Edition 2009)
    • Genre: Mystery (Graphic Novel)

    John’s Thoughts:

    This was only my second ever graphic novel, and it is a delightful book. For those who think graphic novels are just comics for not-quite-grown-ups (a group which would have included me until very recently), this book will come as a big surprise; it has great depth and complexity, and just oozes pathos.

    The description on the cover says it all – “A gorgeously drawn, strikingly original graphic novel murder mystery”. Apart from which you just have to love a book that starts “As it did every morning with spiteful inevitability, the sun rose”.

    The story is about Fernandez Britten, a private detective who has built a reputation uncovering the dark truths behind suspicious partners and broken relationships. It is a reputation and a role that brings him no comfort at all. Quite the contrary he yearns for the time when uncovering the truth will bring joy to people; but his nickname, the Heartbreaker, says it all. He finds himself in a mid-life crisis and deeply depressed.

    He takes on a new case that is brought to him by a young woman. Her fiancée has died and the official verdict is suicide, but she is convinced that there is much more to it. Britten, with the help of his extremely unconventional partner, digs into the case and uncovers a sordid tale of dark family secrets, blackmail, revenge and murder. Finally he comes to realize that some truths are best left untold, but for some it is too late.

    The story is convoluted and clever, and oh so black. In some ways it conjures up classic murder mystery writers, but this has a style all of i410SD7hexuL._SL500_AA300_ts own. The mood is lifted just a touch by some marvelous wry humor, and the book is quite brilliantly illustrated.

    It’s tough to believe that this is her first novel, and even harder to believe that she illustrated it herself. I’ve got to give this 4.5 stars. If you’ve never read a graphic novel and feel put off by them – you shouldn’t be. This would be a fabulous place to start.

    ************************

    Here is the cover for the UK version, and is available in both versions in Canada - to the right.

    We borrowed this book from our very well loved local library. Amazon purchasing links are as follows - US/UK/Canada.

    This review was written by John/JD and posted by Shellie. As always John will be addressing your comments.

    I am going to add John as a participant in the Graphic Novel Challenge too, as a beginner (3 novels.) He's loving them. Just before I posted this he said “it’s a really good book” and laughed.

    Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for reading Layers of Thought!

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Book Previews – in a multiple format

    This post starts a few changes to regular occurring previews for incoming books for review. For ease and brevity we have decided to do a group preview of books which are not sent directly by the publisher, publicist, or author. I am thinking every several weeks or once a month? The information will be a bit less than the usual preview and will include publisher’s/Amazon’s book blurb, book stats, purchasing links, and perhaps some info and links for the author. Each group preview will also be linked to our personal review in case readers would like some more information about the book, or to purchase one that particularly interests you.

    This Group Preview Contains:

    1. The Lovers – A Novel  by Vendela Vida
    2. The Lonely Polygamist – A Novel  by Brady Udal
    3. The Dark End of the Street - New Stories of Sex and Crime by Today’s Authors   Edited by Jonathan Santlofer and S. J. Rozen
    4. One Bloody Thing After Another  by Joey Cameau
    5. The Song of the Whales  by Uri Orlev
    6. The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors – A Novel  by Michelle Young Stone
    7. Alison’s Wonderland  by Alison Tyler

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    Amazon Book Stats:

  • The Lovers – A Novel
  • by Vendela Vida
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (June 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060828390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060828394
  • Genre: General Fiction

      About the Book:  Yvonne, recently widowed and the mother of grown twins, returns to Datça, the coastal village in Turkey where she and her husband honeymooned 24 years ago. She hopes to immerse herself in the warm sand and sea, and in memories of a better time in her life. But her plans are quickly complicated. Her Turkish landlord and his bold and intriguing wife have a curious marital agreement and are constant visitors to the home. And rather than being comforted by her memories, they begin to trouble her. Overwhelmed by her past and her environment, Yvonne clings to her newfound friendship with Ahmet, a young Turkish boy who sells shells at the local beach. With the boy as her guide, Yvonne gains new insight into her own grown children and begins to enjoy the shimmering sea and the relaxed pace of the Turkish coast. But a terrible accident throws her life into chaos, and her own sense of self into turmoil.

      With the crystalline voice, mordant humor, and depth of feeling for which her work has been so celebrated, Vendela Vida has crafted another unforgettable heroine in a beautiful and mysterious landscape.

      Author info link to Harper Collins; Amazon pre-purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

      ********************************************************************************

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      Amazon Book Stats:

      • The Lonely Polygamist – A Novel (ARC copy)
      • by Brady Udall
      • Hardcover: 602 pages
      • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (May 3, 2010)
      • Language: English
      • ISBN-10: 0393062627
      • ISBN-13: 978-0393062625
      • Genre: General Fiction/Humor 

      About the Book:   Golden Richards, husband to four wives, father to twenty-eight children, is having the mother of all midlife crises. His construction business is failing, his family has grown into an overpopulated mini-dukedom beset with insurrection and rivalry, and he is done in with grief: due to the accidental death of a daughter and the stillbirth of a son, he has c51rj0ryGEWL._SL160_ome to doubt the capacity of his own heart. Brady Udall, one of our finest American fiction writers, tells a tragicomic story of a deeply faithful man who, crippled by grief and the demands of work and family, becomes entangled in an affair that threatens to destroy his family’s future. Like John Irving and Richard Yates, Udall creates characters that engage us to the fullest as they grapple with the nature of need, love, and belonging.

      Beautifully written, keenly observed, and ultimately redemptive, The Lonely Polygamist is an unforgettable story of an American family—with its inevitable dysfunctionality, heartbreak, and comedy—pushed to its outer limits.

      Author Links – his website, and facebook page.   Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

      Cover to the left is for the UK and Canada.

      **************************************************************************

      51tzR6IPkeL

      Amazon Book Stats:

      • The Dark End of The Street – New Stories of Sex and Crime by Today’s Authors
      • Edited by Jonathan Santlofer and S. J. Rozen
      • Paperback: 304 pages
      • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Original edition (May 11, 2010)
      • Language: English
      • ISBN-10: 1596916834
      • ISBN-13: 978-1596916838
      • Genre: Mystery/Short Stories/Dark Fiction 

      About the Book:   In one fast-paced story, a strong and aggravated man considers the pretty woman at the bar while he fingers the knife in his pocket. But what becomes of his prey when they move to the bedroom? In another tale, a man remembers the victim of a ghastly murder who visited the same hair salon as he does. And a Don Juan of a protagonist has a hobby of marrying vulnerable women, getting access to their bank accounts, and then robbing them blind.

      But there is much more to this collection than dark-haired vixens and crimes of passion. Some stories are brooding, some twisted; some bring righteous satisfaction, some linger in the back of your mind. What is truly on display is an impressive collection of literary talent: a group of some of the best writers we have, weaving fresh and memorable stories from a pair of classic themes. Taken as a whole, they are a rare treat for fans of great fiction, whether it's high literature, good old-fashioned suspense, or anything in between. Original black-and-white art by artist/author Jonathan Santlofer completes this innovative, exciting, and irresistibly intriguing book.

      This collection features brand new fiction by: Madison Smart Bell, Lawrence Block, Stephen L. Carter, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Lynn Freed, James Grady, Amy Hempel,  Janice Y.K. Lee,  Jonathan Lethem,  Laura Lippman.  Patrick McCabe,  Val McDermid,  Joyce Carol Oates,  Francine Prose,  Abraham Rodriguez, Jr.,  S.J. Rozan,  Jonathan Santlofer, and  Edmund White.

      This is a great line up of authors within the genre.

      Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.  

      (A big thanks to Shelf Awareness and the publishers of each of the three previous books for the review copies!)

      ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      1550229168.main

      Amazon Book Stats:

      • One Bloody Thing After Another
      • by Joey Comeau
      • Paperback: 160 pages
      • Publisher: Ecw Press (March 22, 2010)
      • Language: English
      • ISBN-10: 1550229168
      • ISBN-13: 978-1550229165
      • Genre: Horror/Ghost Story

      About the Book:   Jackie has a map of the city on the wall of her bedroom, with a green pin for each of her trees. She has a first-kiss tree and a broken-arm tree. She has a car-accident tree. There is a tree at the hospital where Jackie’s mother passed away into the long good night. When one of them gets cut down, Jackie doesn't know what to do but she doesn't let that stop her. She picks up the biggest rock she can carry and puts it through the window of a car. Smash. She intends to leave before the police arrive, but they're early.

      Ann is Jackie’s best friend, but she’s got problems of her own. Her mother is chained up in the basement. How do you bring that up in casual conversation? "Oh, sorry I've been so distant, Jackie. My mother has more teeth than she’s supposed to, and she won't eat anything that’s already dead." Ann and her sister Margaret don't have much of a choice here. Their mother needs to be fed. It isn't easy but this is family. It’s not supposed to be easy. It'll be okay as long as Margaret and Ann still have each other.

      Add in a cantankerous old man, his powerfully stupid dog, a headless ghost, a lesbian crush and a few unsettling visits from Jackie’s own dead mother, and you'll find that One Bloody Thing After Another is a different sort of horror novel from the ones you're used to. It’s as sad and funny as it is frightening, and it is as much about the way families rely on each other as it is about blood being drooled on the carpet. Though, to be honest, there is a lot of blood being drooled on the carpet.

      Author Mini Bio: Joey Comeau is the author of Lockpick Pornography, Overqualified, and Too Late to Say I'm Sorry, as well as the popular web comic A Softer World. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.

      This book was recommended by Julie at kittyism is. (she and her blog are very cute – stop by and say hello.) Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

      *****************************************************************************

      51TiVnUJfzL

      Amazon Book Stats:

      • The Song of The Whales
      • by Uri Orlev
      • Hardcover: 112 pages
      • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children; 1 edition (April 12, 2010)
      • Language: English
      • ISBN-10: 054725752X
      • ISBN-13: 978-0547257525
      • Genre: Children’s Fantasy - Ages 9-12

      About the Book:   Michael’s grandfather has a secret—a secret that’s almost too strange to share . .

      When Michael moves to Israel, he leaves loneliness behind and steps into the light of his grandfather’s magic. Like a sorcerer’s apprentice, Michael learns how to blur the lines between dreams and reality when his grandfather hands down the most precious of gifts—a gift that allows Michael passage into his grandfather’s dreams.

      Written with a quiet simplicity that wins the reader over at once Uri Orlev writes in a style so sure and yet so unassuming that it is certain to linger in reader’s minds long after turning the last page.

      About the Author:  Uri Orlev (born Jerzy Henryk Orlowski in 1931) is an award-winning Israeli children's author and translator of Polish-Jewish origin. Born in Warsaw, Poland, he survived the war years in the Warsaw Ghetto and the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp (where he was sent after his mother was shot by the Nazis). After the war he moved to Israel. He began writing children's literature in 1976 and has since published over 30 books, which are often biographical. His books have been translated from Hebrew into 25 languages, while he himself has also translated Polish literature into Hebrew. One of his most famous books, which was also adapted as a play and as a film, is the semi-autobiographical The Island on Bird Street. In 1996 Orlev received the Hans Christian Andersen Award for children's literature.

      This books is a translation and I added the author’s information since it is pertinent to the book.

      Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

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      10919780307464477

      Amazon Book Stats:

      • The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors – A Novel
      • by Michelle Young Stone
      • Hardcover: 384 pages
      • Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books (April 13, 2010)
      • Language: English ISBN-10: 0307464474 ISBN-13: 978-0307464477
      • Genre: General Fiction

      Book Blurb:   On a sunny day in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1977, Becca Burke, flame-haired daughter of Mary and Rowan Burke, was struck by lightning. She was eight years old. No one believed her, even when her Winnie-the-Pooh watch kept losing time and a spooky halo of light appeared over her head in every photograph taken after the strike. She was hit again when she was 16. Becca survived, but over time she would learn that out smarting lightning was the least of her concerns.

      Buckley R. Pitank never knew his real father, but his mother was the love of his life--until the day she was struck and killed by lightning on a boat in Galveston, Texas, just as they were making a new home far away from their troubled past. Reeling from the loss of the one person who truly understood him, Buckley returns to Mont Blanc, Arkansas, to live at the mercy of his mother's estranged husband, the Reverend John Whitehouse.When he finally escapes, Buckley's quest to understand the power of lightning will lead him around the country and into the heart of a young woman who once thought she was alone in the world.

      Author Info:  MICHELE YOUNG-STONE earned her MFA in fiction writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. Once, many years ago, she was struck by lightning in her driveway. She survived. Visit her at her blog, website.

      Purchasing links from Amazon for the US/UK/Canada.

      ***********************************************************************

       Amazon Book Stats: front-1

      • Alison’s Wonderland
      • By Alison Tyler
      • Paperback: 416 pages
      • Publisher: Spice; Original edition (July 1, 2010)
      • Language: English
      • ISBN-10: 0373605455 ISBN-13: 978-0373605453
      • Genre: Erotic Fairy Tale Retellings

      About Alison Tyler and her Book:   Over the past fifteen years, Alison Tyler has curated some of the genre's most sizzling collections of erotic fiction, proving herself to be the ultimate naughty librarian. With Alison's Wonderland, she has compiled a treasury of naughty tales based on fable and fairy tale, myth and legend: some ubiquitous, some obscure - all of them delightfully dirty.

      From a perverse prince to a vampire-esque Sleeping Beauty, the stars of these reimagined tales are - like the original protagonists - chafing at desire unfulfilled. From Cinderella to Sisyphus, mermaids to werewolves, this realm of fantasy is limitless and so very satisfying.

      Penned by such erotica luminaries as Shanna Germain, Rachel Kramer Bussel, N.T. Morley, Elspeth Potter, T.C. Calligari, D.L. King, Portia Da Costa and Tsaurah Litzsky, these bawdy bedtime stories are sure to bring you (and a friend) to your own happily-ever-after.

      Alison Tyler’s site is adorable – link here, her blogspot blog (but it is for adults only!)

      Pre purchasing links from Amazon for US/UK/Canada.

      (Thanks to Net Galley and the publishers whom have given access to the e-copies of each of the 4 above books for review – I do believe each are ARC – advanced review copies.)

      *********************************************************

      What do you think of the new combined preview format? any questions, suggestions, or thoughts? Most importantly which titles interest you most?

      Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

    • Tuesday, May 11, 2010

      Review by Shellie: Searching for Whitopia by Rich Benjamin

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      Mini Synopsis:

      By the year 2042 white people will be a minority in the United States. With this in mind, Rich Benjamin takes a trip around the country where he explores the areas of the US where the majority of the population, curiously, is not a blend of color. He then strives to define these enclaves, which he terms “Whitopias”. They are popping up in spots all over the country for reasons which he questions in his book. As he does his personal research in this sort of “reverse ethnography”, he boldly goes into the territory to interview, live with, and experience the life style which defines these areas and the population.

      My Thoughts:

      Rich Benjamin is a very intelligent, highly educated, and extremely articulate individual. His writing is lyrical, satirically humorous and sensitive, and he has a very advanced fashion sense which adds some levity to the book. He is thorough and backs up his findings with statistics and references - be aware this book is somewhat academic in nature. But most significantly he’s brave, and goes into areas which for me as a white person would even be scary; areas where there are known connections with extremists who may threaten violence to people of color and/or their supporters.

      He is welcomed warmly within these “white enclaves”, and what he finds is interesting, enlightening, and often quite difficult to swallow. It was for me. Although Benjamin specifically states that as a culture we have moved mostly beyond blatant personal racial discrimination, racism still exists within most static bureaucratic structures within the country. He also supports the adage that classism and racism are intimate partners. Knowing that both also exist among these “Whitopias” he further supports their link within the text.

      This is a great book. My only negative thoughts around it is that it is so information packed it will probably not be a quick or easy read for most. It wasn’t for me. More importantly the subject matter is emotional and difficult, and one which many people do not want to deal with. Although the author does a brilliant job of attempting to making light of some situations, how can it be? Sadly, and most significantly, I also do not believe it will actually reach his intended audience. Considering myself for example, although white, to me I believe he is “preaching to the choir” - albeit I am the white kid in the back, who doesn’t quite know the words, and whom annoyingly sings a bit off key, but I certainly won’t stop singing. I give this excellent yet difficult book 4.5 stars.

      For more information on the book, the author, as well as purchasing links please see Layers of Thought's preview for Searching for Whitopia.

      Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

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