Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Promises to Keep ~ by Charles De Lint

promises to keep pb

Review by Shellie for:  Promises to Keep ~ by Charles De Lint

An accessible and life-affirming novella which takes the reader on a trip from the dark stages of addiction and abuse to a kind of whole-ness; set in a realistic and magical setting.

About:  Young Jilly Coppercorn, our story's narrator, has not had an easy life. The victim of abuse of various kinds – much of it at the hands of family members - it has been a struggle to stay alive, let alone clean and drug free. Now off the drugs she is turning her life around. Then a good friend, one of her best, turns up and invites her to a concert of sorts. She is a bit worried as this friend is from her old life – her addicted life.

As she steps over doorway into the party she has an unsettling feeling akin to an elevator ride; unbeknownst to her she enters a netherworld. It is very much like our world but in many ways not - as Jilly soon discovers. There she must make a choice to stay in this other realm or to go back to her “real life”.  It’s a decision that may help her find and reconcile the darker aspects of herself, the parts she has no desire in accepting.

Thoughts:   This is a story occurs in and around Newford – it is also a realistic fantasy series. The 13th in the set, it is a standalone which features Jilly, one of the Newford series readers’ favorite characters. I can understand why. Jilly is wonderful. She is strong and struggling and imperfect. She isn’t tall, beautiful and waifish but artistic, small and messy. I like that, a lot.

Promises to Keep is dark at times, violent at others, it examines many of the issues experienced by young people (adults too) when trying to get and remain clean, as well as dealing with all sorts of toxic childhood experiences. It is also light and life affirming with a believable perspective from the point of view of a female character, which is impressive. I liked that our main character was more concerned with doing positive things like volunteering at a soup kitchen and a nursing home rather than fixing her hair or boyfriend drama.

This is my second Charles De Lint novel. My first was Yarrow, written in 1986 and read some time in the 90’s, which I count as one of my all time favorites. It was read at a time when I could not digest any fiction at all, which tells you something.  In Promises to Keep I had damp eyes at times, laughed too, and said I just loved this book out loud more than once. Highly recommended for anyone who is looking for a change from some of the “kick bottom” urban fantasy out there. It is perfect for those looking for lots of realism in their fantasy, but with a more than a touch of the magical. Perfect for artists, musicians, healers and, most of all, those healing themselves. I give this story a 4.5 stars. Perfect for someone like myself who has not read any of the Newford novels; an excellent introduction I’d say.

Charles De Lint:  A multiple award winning (Nebula and World Fantasy) writer and musician, he lives in Canada with his life partner. He has been writing stories that contain “mythic” elements for many years. He is considered to be one of the creators or stepping stones in the making of modern urban fantasy and “mythic fiction”. You can find out more via Wikipedia -

What is mythic fiction? - It is literature that is rooted in, inspired by, or that in some way draws from the tropes, themes and symbolism of myth, folklore, and fairy tales. (Via Wikipedia.)

The Newford series currently has 23 books. The first is Dreams Underfoot, published in 1993, and the latest Muse and Reverie published in 2009. The latter is a collection of short stories. Promises to Keep was published originally in 2007 in hard cover; this review is from its recently published paperback version. For more information see Wikipedia’s page for the series.

Promises to Keep ~ by Charles De Lint US|UK|Canada. 192 pages; Tachyon Publications (May 15, 2011).

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned Books Week ~ September 24 till October 1st


Celebrate Banned Books ~ and our freedom in having a choice!

What I love about Banned Books Week is that it reminds me of one of our most important rights – Freedom of Speech. We can read or write or speak almost anything we dream or wish in the US, unlike many countries and times in the past. It helps us remember that banning can be a slippery slope to lesser freedoms. I want be able to choose, and although some books are not appropriate for everyone we should still have a choice. 

Several books reviewed on Layers of Thought have been challenged and/or banned in the past several years. The following is extracted from the website of the ALA – the American Library Association:speak audio

Speak ~ by Laurie Halse Anderson;  Why and When:  Challenged in the Republic, Mo. schools (2010) because it is “soft-pornography” and “glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex.”  Source: Nov. 2010, pp. 243–44.

mark haddon -curious dog

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time ~ by Mark Haddon;   Why and When:  Removed from the Lake Fenton, Mich. summer reading program (2010) after parents complained about its “foul language.” The book is about an autistic child who investigates the death of a neighborhood dog. It was a joint winner of the 2004 Booker Prize and won the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year award. Source: Sept. 2010, p. 200.

lolita audio random house 2005

Lolita ~ by Vladimir Nabokov (The quintessential classic banned book – review coming real soon!)   Why and When:   Banned as obscene in France (1956-1959), in England (1955-59), in Argentina (1959), and in New Zealand (1960). The South African Directorate of Publications announced on November 27, 1982, that Lolita has been taken off the banned list, eight years after a request for permission to market the novel in paperback had been refused.  Challenged at the Marion-Levy Public Library System in Ocala, FL (2006).  The Marion County commissioners voted to have the county attorney review the novel that addresses the themes of pedophilia and incest, to determine if it meets the state law’s definition of “unsuitable for minors.” 

Whys and whens are taken from the ALA’s website; use the badge at the top of the blog to link to more information. Titles link to our actual reviews for the books.

Here is a list of the top 97 commonly banned or challenged ~ Classics:

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald  SN 
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger  SN
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck  SN*
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker  SN
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison   SN
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding   JD
9. 1984, by George Orwell    JD**  SN
11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov   SN*
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck  SN
15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller   JD**
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley   JD** SN
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell   JD**
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell   SN
27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut    JD
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London 
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
38. All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
40. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
45. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
48. Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess  JD
50. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
53. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
55. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
57. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
64. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
66. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
73. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
80. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
84. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
88. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
97. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

Books we have read are labeled:

  • SN for Shellie (10 read – 2 favorites)
  • JD for John (7 read – 4 favorites) 
  • Asterisks ** are for favorites!

Which of these classics have you read?  Which are your favorites?

Happy reading everyone – lets celebrate our freedom to choose.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guest Post Question and Answer ~ Alex Bledsoe author of The Hum and The Shiver


Alex Bledsoe author photo credt Valette Piper-Bledsoe (2)

Guest Post Question and Answer from ~ Alex Bledsoe

It’s all about his latest novel – The Hum and The Shiver US|UK|Canada.  Which will be released in the US tomorrow. In case you would like to win a copy link to our giveaway post.

It’s such a pleasure to have this guest post to share with our readers. Welcome Alex!   What inspired your book, The Hum and the Shiver?      

It was a conjunction of three things: Appalachian folk music, Celtic faery folklore, and the stories of the Melungeons of East Tennessee. Briefly, the Melungeons are an isolated ethnic group who legend says were already here when the first Europeans arrived in Appalachia. No one knows for sure where they came from or how they got here, although DNA evidence has gone a long way toward solving the “where” question. I thought, “what if they were a secret race of faeries hiding from history and minding their own business?” So I created my own isolated society, the Tufa.

the hum and shiver

You grew up in the Tennessee area, how did your childhood determine the setting of the story?    

Since two of the three major inspirations came from Appalachia, I couldn’t imagine setting it anywhere else. The beauty, mystery and magic of the Smoky Mountain setting seemed so appropriate that I kept it, and the rhythms of Southern speech are second nature to me. And while the issues that the characters face are universal, they’re expressed in a uniquely Southern way.

What special research was involved in creating the story line?    

I listened to a lot of music, the real old stuff that was sung in the mountains for generations before anyone ever thought to write it down: “Shady Grove,” “Barbara Allen,” and so on. I also listened to the music being made in that area today, because it’s a thriving tradition. I read about musicians, and how they felt about music and what it meant in their lives. I researched faery folklore and discovered that they were far from the harmless little sprites we think of today. And I thought a lot about how “family” and “religion” are defined in the South, and how they affect every aspect of life.

Who are the main characters in the story?    

The protagonist is Bronwyn Hyatt, a twenty-year-old Iraq War vet who was injured in combat and rescued on live TV. Now she’s back home in the mountains among her people, the Tufa, confronting both her recovery and all the issues that led her to leave home in the first place. There’s also a ghost waiting to talk to her, omens of death that seem to be targeting her mother, and her dangerous ex-boyfriend lurking around.

Craig Chess is a newly-graduated Methodist minister trying, in his easy-going way, to make some inroads in the Tufa community. When he meets Bronwyn, unexpected sparks fly. Don Swayback is a part-Tufa reporter who’s lost enthusiasm for his job, marriage, and pretty much everything else; his assignment to get an exclusive interview with Bronwyn causes him to reconnect with his Tufa heritage.

The antagonists include Bronwyn’s old boyfriend Dwayne Gitterman, a devilish old man named Rockhouse, and brutal state trooper Bob Pafford.

The main character, Browyn, is a strong, attractive heroine. Did you rely upon an actual person to develop the character and why? 

Her ordeal was inspired by the experiences of Jessica Lynch at the beginning of the Gulf War. But the character herself is entirely drawn from scratch. I wanted her to be someone who had endured a lot, but never let herself be a victim; as a teenage hellraiser she’d been nicknamed “The Bronwynator,” and deep down that’s who she remains. Now she faces a bunch of decisions she tried to avoid, and must figure out a way to be true both to her people, and herself.

You describe your book genre as “gravel-road fantasy”. Can you provide additional information surrounding the genre?      

It’s “urban fantasy” in a rural setting. In UF, the magical elements appear in the mundane world of cars, skyscrapers and crowded nightclubs. In my book the setting is still modern, but it involves tractors, small-town convenience stores and barn dances.

Who do you think would enjoy The Hum and the Shiver and why?     

It’s “urban fantasy,” but in the country instead of the city. So if you can conceive of a world where Charles de Lint and Rick Bragg co-exist, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Anyone who ponders what faeries would be like if they lived among us, understands the magic found in songs and music, and/or likes stories of people trying to do the right thing in a situation where “the right thing” isn’t always clear, will enjoy it.

What is the reception you've gotten to the book so far?    

The pre-publication reviews have been excellent; Publishers Weekly even called it a “masterpiece of world-building.” But more importantly, I’ve gotten e-mails from readers who received advance copies and who explained, in detail, how much the book meant to them. I’ve never gotten that kind of response before.

Thank you Alex! John has just finished reading The Hum and The Shiver and really enjoyed it, so a review is in the works. 

Bio:  ALEX BLEDSOE grew up in West Tennessee, but now lives in Wisconsin. Find more about him at his Website/Blog; Facebook; Twitter; Goodreads; and Google+The Hum and The Shiver ~ by Alex Bledsoe; Tor Books US|UK|Canada.  It will be available in all the usual online and brick-and-mortar locations, and for all the popular e-readers. There will also be an unabridged audio version.

Thanks for reading.

Review: Outpost ~ by Adam Baker


Review by John for: Outpost ~ by Adam Baker

An apocalyptic “zombiesque” thriller for lovers of B-movie horror.

About:   A skeleton crew has been left aboard a gigantic dormant oil refinery platform that is moored deep in the Arctic circle. Bored with life so far removed from civilization, they look forward to being relieved. But the relief ship is delayed and something is going awfully wrong back home. The world has been hit by a deadly pandemic, and gradually all TV channels and all communications with the outside world die.

Totally cut off, the crew have no choice but to try to make it through the Arctic winter, with the hope of somehow finding a way home in the spring. But deadly cold and dwindling rations are not their only enemy – the horrific contagion seems to be heading their way.

John’s thoughts:   I’ve stayed away from zombie-themed books so far, but decided to give this one a go – you have to try different things sometimes and I thought the set-up of the plot looked interesting. But for me this turned out to be one of those books which is sort of enjoyable as long as you can suspend disbelief and ignore things in the plot which seem to make little or no sense; kind of like watching a B movie where you can still get a kick out of it despite some fundamental flaws.

The best part of this book is undoubtedly the infected human creatures. They’re actually a really neat idea. However, I found it tough to get away from some illogical leaps in the plot, key things that were left unexplained, silly action sequences, a main character that simply wasn’t believable, and a supporting cast of wafer-thin two-dimensional characters. The biggest barrier for me was that some developments in the plot just didn’t make too much sense.

Overall I did enjoy some things about the book and it was an ok read. I’m sure that many horror fans will love it; personally it’s not really my cup of tea and I’d rate it 2 stars.

Outpost ~ by Adam Baker; 400 pages; Hodder Pb (August 4, 2011) US|UK|Canada.  Apocalyptic Zombie Horror

Although John designated the book as okay (which equals 2 stars in our book-rating scheme, many readers may enjoy this type of read as Zombies are hot right now and it is the Halloween season. So if interested link to the book’s preview in our incoming books section to find out more.

Fall is falling upon us even in the desert (it’s only 105 and it cooling off at night to around 65 degrees) so in an effort for “scary thoughts” this book certainly fits! 

Have a great Monday!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blog Hop: Banned Books Week ~ September 24th till October 1st


Banned Books Week Hop ~ 9/24 till 10/1

It’s Banned Books Week and we have a blog hop to help celebrate. Although the book we are offering is not banned  it is never the less up for grabs for Canadian and US addresses.

What is a blog hop?  It is a way to link up a bundle of blogs for one purpose so it’s easier for readers to find ways to win books. Hosted by I Read Banned Books and I Am A Reader, Not a Writer (badge above links to the blog site for our hosts). With 250+ additional blogs you can link to at the bottom of this page offering bookish giveaways.Hum and Shiver

Our giveaway is:

The Hum and The Shiver ~ by Alex Bledsoe;  Tor Books (9/27/2011 - 11/1 for the UK)  US|UK|Canada.

A first in a series it is perfect for the fall season since it has dark elements.

There are:

  • 3 copies available
  • for US|Canadian addresses.

Click on the Book Cover to the left - to link to the designate blog page where you can enter our contest with the -Google form.

You don’t have to “follow”  but are encouraged to do so for future updates and contests!

This contest and hop are now closed. Please stay tuned for our next giveaway and blog hop. Giveaway coming next week and blog hop at the end of October!

Reviews: A Trio of Graphic Novels ~ Electric Ant; The Dream Hunters; and The Hobbit


gn2 button

Reviews by Shellie: Three Graphic Novels ~  Electric Ant; The Dream Hunters; and The Hobbit.

To complete a challenge of three books for the Graphic Novels 2011 challenge (badge links to host’s site), while in England I borrowed three from their small local library. With baggage fees exploding I had allowed myself only two novels and my nook to take with us in my carry on, so the trio were a great find - we do not have them at our local library and the last two will be difficult to find for US readers.

The books included: Top two are for mature readers and one is for any and all ages. 

electric ant

Electric Ant ~ by Philip K. Dick (adapted by David Mack; illustrated by Pascal Aline)  US|UK|Canada. 128 pages; Marvel (June 1, 2011)

With gorgeous graphics, this is a sci fi novella for adults or mature and older teens. It is a metaphor for an existential trip that most of us unexpectedly take at one time or another - like the main character.

About:   It’s a graphic take on Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novella The Electric Ant, which was first published in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine in October 1969. It’s based around an android questioning his reason for existing after he discovers that he is not actually a human as he has believed. His shocking discovery leads to questions about who he is, his purpose, who created him, and if his behaviors are his own or programed by someone else. By opening himself up and examining his “pre-programed tapes” heelectricant_02 takes a trip into the past via some type of a time-warp. As he digs around inside his inner workings, it can be seen as a metaphor for an examination of his “psychological self”. Psycho-babble for sure but never the less a key concept.

Thoughts:   Definitely an adult novel as there are some very adult themes and images, sexual scenes and nudity (although the rude bits are glossed over). Three artists contributed to the novel but the main images displayed are by Pascal Aline.

The one thing that bothered me about the book was that the main character’s diggings and his apparent time travel felt unclear to me. I found myself wanting more and think I would like to read the actual version of Dick’s novella to compare. Hopefully Dick’s writing of the android’s existential experiences will be clearer in the original story. With that said, the graphics are completely wonderful, most of the story is darn good, the ending was one that I really liked and is completely appropriate as it reflects the time in which is was written - the late sixties. So on balance it’s a 3.5 stars.

Extra Info:   Marvel Comics adapted "The Electric Ant" as a limited series, in 2010. Produced by writer David Mack; French artist Pascal Alixe; and with covers provided by artist Paul Pope.  Also for an interesting indie short film based around the story which is about 6 minutes long link below. Cool but I was not crazy about the ending. Its called All Gates Open -

dream hunters 2

The Sandman - The Dream Hunters ~ by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Yoshitak Amano US ~ UK|Canada.  128 pages; Titan Books Ltd; New edition edition (22 Sep 2000)

An awarding winning novella, that has a dark and lovely rendition of a number of combined ancient fables. It’s gorgeously illustrated and celebrates Japanese mythology.

About:  A young Buddhist monk who is at peace with his life is in charge of a small temple set in some beautiful mountains in Japan. While attending to his his daily rituals and household maintenance he is emotionally accosted by two animals/spirits who want to live in his place. In their attempt to finagle the little church from the Zen priest, the fox falls in love with him. Later when his life is in danger from another selfish faction who would like to live his life, the fox spirit has no choice but to attempt to save him.the dream hunter

Thoughts:  This is a stand alone story from the Sandman series which I am only just learning about, it was apparently written after the series had been “retired”. Technically not a graphic novel, this is really a story with a lot of illustrations. Happily they are gorgeous – I love Japanese art. The text is incredible too – complex and yet very easy to read, which is a big favorite style for me.

the dream hunter 2It won several awards in 2000 including a Bram Stoker and a Hugo. In my research I also became aware that several other versions of the book have been printed and are using other artists in a more traditional comic book format, including a very recent version.  A warning for parents is that it is adult in nature with some very dark themes, so I would not give this book to children or immature teens. The story contains “dream hunters” which are particularly menacing – very cool but scary. I am thinking nightmares here.

I loved this book at 4 stars and I am now a fan of Neil Gaiman. Believe it or not this is the first of his books that I’ve read. So what’s next? Perhaps American Gods before the movie comes out? I better get cracking here!

Please note that the version I read is not available at Amazon in the US so links for purchase are for the most recent which is pictured above left. 144 pages; Vertigo; Reprint edition (October 5, 2010). It is however available in the UK and Canada. For more information link to Wikipedia's page for - The Dream Hunters

the hobbit GN1

The Hobbit ~ by J.R.R. Tolkien; adapted by David Wenzel US ~ UK|Canada. 133 pages;  Imprint unknown

An epic story, with cute and colorful drawings about the famous Tolkien hobbit, who finds one of the fabled rings which become an important part of the continuing saga of The Lord of the Rings.

About:  Bilbo Baggins is happy with his quiet life in his little cottage when the wizard Gandalf and a group of dwarves invite themselves for tea and drag him along on an incredible adventure. Unbeknown to him, he is to play an important role in its success and become the story's reluctant hero.

Thoughts:   Recommended for all ages, this is a wonderful introduction to Tolkien for anyone who is daunted by his books. I know I had difficulties accessing them as a youngster (and as an adult too) and thought this would be a perfect substitute. I loved the cute and colorful pictures golemand the text was so pleasant and easy to digest. It would be wonderful for children of almost any age. Including kids of the ancient variety!

The particular version, which I read in the UK, was apparently written for the local population; some of the wording and references may be difficult for a US reader. So be aware of your version and don’t let anyone tell you that books don’t need to be translated from UK English to US English. It was a fun and lovely read at  3.5 stars. I can now say I have finally read – The Hobbit.

The version shown above is out of print for the US and its cover art is not the same: 144 pages; Harper Collins (1991). For the UK this version is also out of print but is available used. In Canada there are new copies and it looks like one is available in French.

I recommend that everyone pick up a graphic novel as soon as possible - they are so much fun and such a different experience. Use them as an excuse to read a book that you wouldn’t normally read or get through – like myself with The Hobbit. I am now thinking perhaps I will get through Pride and Prejudice this way …. or not. *grin*

These three books will also be included in a bundle of other challenges: The 42 - Sci Fi; The Basics; and Fill in the Gaps. 

Have a great day since it’s Friday. Its fish and chips night for us here in the desert, so we can dream we are in England!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

“On the Broomstick” and the Ten Days of Halloween Blog Party ~ October 21 through 31


purple sorceress cropped 5

On the Broomstick ~ has a new header which I created for her!  Stop by and say hello to Dana and take a look. It looks swell –  we think so any way; artwork is definitively subjective.



Haunted House 1 - button

I also wanted to let you know she has a couple of events going on. The one I am sharing today is ~ The 10 days of Halloween Blog Party!  It will be happening from October 21 to 31st and will include some antics and fun such as:

Contests ~ Music  ~ Author Interviews  ~ Giveaways ~ Recipes ~  and best of all, Lots of Fun!

Don’t forget the “Witches Tea Party” on October 29th!

Snag a button/badge and link it to her blog:    [right click save as add a link to Dana’s blog – On the Broomstick.]    We hope your preparing for your own special scare fest?  We are!    *evil grin and giggle*

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Guest Post: Gabriel Madison ~ artist and indie author

jade with towel over head

A Guest Post: from Gabriel Madison

We have talented artist, creative wordsmith and prolific indie author/writer Gabriel Madison here today to share with us.

Gabriel uses several different mediums when creating his artistic works of fiction. (In addition to his numerous writings he has made some incredible movie shorts). In honor of his latest book released recently ~ Ariel ~  we have his perspective on changing a genre to fit a new audience. Here he begs the questions: Is it necessary or do we as readers and writers mold ourselves or find new interests?   I do have to admit I like Gabriel's attitude quite a lot.   *Side note: Since Gabriel “doesn’t do pictures” we have a picture of his cute dog, Jade, with a towel on her head. Contrary to my thoughts Gabriel refuses to admit how handsome he really is!**

Let’s welcome Gabriel as he addresses the intriguing question:  Should a Genre Change to Fit a New Audience?

A little while ago I came across an article suggesting that sci-fi fantasy should change how women are portrayed because of the large amount of women that like that genre now. In the comment section, people were going back and forth (mainly women and men were arguing with each other) about if the genre should change to be more female friendly. Now, we all know that the majority of sci-fi fantasy is geared towards teenage boys. I didn’t want to get involved with the back and forth in the comment section of the article, so I’ll give my opinion now. I don’t think it should change. Ariel

I’m a black male from the south, and my favorite TV show of all time is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Most of the shows I watch now come on ABC Family and the CW, and let me tell you, none of that is geared towards me. To be truthful, most sci-fi fantasy isn’t geared towards me. I remember the first time I went to a sci-fi convention, my college professor, who is also a sci-fi geek like me, looked at me with complete shock on his face after finding out I’m a sci-fi geek.

I think the cool thing about women liking sci-fi, is that it’s not geared towards them. I think it’s interesting when people are into things that aren’t really meant for them. I knew Buffy wasn’t written for me to like, and I knew there would be a lot of things in it that wasn’t for me, but I didn’t want it to change to include me, just like I don’t want any of the shows on ABC Family or the CW to change.

When Game of Thrones was being promoted, I saw a lot of women offended on twitter because it was being deemed a show geared towards men. Well, it is a show geared towards men, which is why the large female following of the show and books are so cool.

Yes, there are a lot of women and girls that like video games, sci-fi fantasy, graphic novels, tricked out cars and many other things that most people consider to be male centric, but I don’t think any of that should change to be more inclusive.

I remember when I went to an event in Atlanta Ga. with a black author, whose books were geared towards young black readers. I mean the books were written with so much intercity slang, I found myself lost a few times trying to read the first one. I gave the book to a black friend of mine, and she was lost reading it also, because the book was completely geared towards the intercity New York hip-hop crowd. Anyway, at the event, there were middle aged white women scattered around the audience. Even the author looked shocked to see them. And they were asking questions and it was obvious they had fallen in love with the characters and had followed the story better than I had. But like I said, I’m a middle aged black man and I can almost recite everyone’s line in every episode of Buffy.

All I’m saying, in my opinion, to change something to be more inclusive, would take away from the beauty of people outside of the targeted audience falling in love with it just the way it is.

What a refreshing perspective. Thank you for sharing Gabriel!

Ariel ~ is Gabriel’s newest young adult novel about a fallen angel. It has some diverse and well thought out characters:

About ~  Angel Santos just wants to be an average seventeen year-old girl. That's kind of hard for a reincarnated Archangel who's hiding her powers. It gets even harder when God vanishes from Heaven and her old friends turn to her to find the last angel to see Him. Now all she has to do is stop the impending apocalypse and fend off her best friend's attempts to make her popular. All in a week's work.

Related Links:  Audio Excerpt/Interview with Gabriel; and to buy the ebook via – Smashwords; and Ariel’s Blog with more ebook purchasing links.

About Gabriel:   Gabriel loves anything British and Vampire, not necessarily combined or in that order. An avid TV aficionado due to his screenwriting experience he enjoys everything from Roswell to his top favorite Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Beginning his foray as a writer in high school with short stories, poetry, and then screenplays, he later attended a private University in Atlanta, GA for Media Production Arts. He began writing script and film making, creating several screenplays and a few short movies- one of which is a twelve-minute vampire flick adapted from a short story called “Midnight Diner”.  Recently he has shifted toward writing stories again and lives in Albany, GA which he considers home. To find out more and to connect with him try his Blog; Newer Blog; Twitter; and Goodreads. Say hello; he is a very nice guy!

Gabriel will be responding to questions or responses that you may have so don’t forget to check the follow up box.

So we ask you all:     Should a genre change to fit a new audience?  Do you  read books or watch movies or TV shows that would be considered outside of “your” type casted genre?

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review: The Devil All the Time ~ by Donald Ray Pollock

The Devil of all Time

Review by John for The Devil All the Time ~ by Donald Ray Pollock (ARC edition)

A powerful gothic Americana tale that follows the gradually interlocking lives (and deaths) of a strange cast of raw characters. Not a light read.

About:   Following some truly horrific experiences in the second world war, a troubled Willard Russell returns to his mother’s home in rural America. He eventually marries a waitress and they live a hard-scrabble life trying to get by and to bring up their son, Arvin. Willard is driven to the depths of despair as he seems powerless to stop his wife’s long agonizing death by cancer. Arvin is drawn into the twisted and desperate measures Willard undertakes to try and save his beloved partner.

Meanwhile a variety of troubled characters are introduced with their own stories as lives gradually converge. These include a husband-and-wife team of serial killers that drive the rural highways during their “holidays” looking for innocent hitch-hikers to become their next victims; an outrageous spider-wielding preacher and his crippled sidekick that go on the run after a gruesome murder; a preacher that sexually preys on a string of teenage girls; and a crooked sheriff striving to stay clean enough to win the next election, not helped by his sister turning tricks at the local diner.

In the middle of it all is Arvin – he’s growing up to be a decent young man and protective of his remaining family, but he has some violent tendencies that he’s picked up from his troubled father. The characters are all linked by a series of events and relationships, and as the story builds to a brutal climax, you know that in this world there can be few winners.

John’s thoughts:   I’m not usually a fan of novels based around hard lives and a cast of troubled characters, but this one draws you in and keeps you reading. It certainly has more than its fair share of nasty people and loathsome events, but through it all you’re willing for some good things to happen. And in truth it’s difficult not to be fascinated by some of the appalling horrors in the story.

Whether good or bad (and it’s mostly the latter), Pollock has created many interesting personalities in this book. Arvin is a product of his tough upbringing, raw experiences and harsh life. He certainly has some rough edges but you do want things to turn out well for him. Of the others in the book, perhaps the serial killers were the most fascinating. It’s tough to imagine two more awful people, but they are well-constructed and I couldn’t help avidly following developments in their bizarre relationship, wondering how things were going to end up for them. In their cases, you don’t want things to turn out so well!

Despite the many gothic horrors in the story, it does have a lot of gritty realism. You do get a good sense of what it must have been like living a hard life in rural America through the 1940s and 1950s. Not all of America was the land of plenty. It’s a tough, twisting, brutal novel, and it’s one of those that you feel kind of guilty for liking. But like it I certainly did. I’d rate this 4 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of gruesome, gothic, Americana horror.

The Devil All The Time ~ by Donald Ray Pollock (July 12, 2011)  US|UK|Canada;

Link to access our incoming books post including the novel.

As always John will be answering any comments for this book, and looks forward to your thoughts. A perfect book for this time of year the Halloween Spirit is descending and we are so excited. Aren’t you?

Have a grand Sunday!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Giveaway: The Hum and The Shiver ~ by Alex Bledsoe

the hum and shiver

We have a Giveaway for the soon to be released:  

The Hum and The Shiver ~ by Alex Bledsoe; Tor Books (9/27/2011 - 11/1 for the UK) US|UK|Canada.

The first in a series it is perfect for Halloween since it has dark elements. There are 3 copies available for US|Canadian addresses.

We are delighted to have a guest post from the author coming up on September 26th. It’s a great write up which will clue potential readers in, as it’s different from his other novels with Americana folklore woven into the fantasy.

Publisher’s Blurb:    No one knows where the Tufa came from, or how they ended up in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, yet when the first Europeans arrived, they were already there. Dark-haired, enigmatic, and suspicious of outsiders, the Tufa live quiet lives in the hills and valleys of Cloud County. While their origins may be lost to history, there are clues in their music—hints of their true nature buried in the songs they have passed down for generations.

Private Bronwyn Hyatt returns from Iraq wounded in body and in spirit, only to face the very things that drove her away in the first place: her family, her obligations to the Tufa, and her dangerous ex-boyfriend. But more trouble lurks in the mountains and hollows of her childhood home. Cryptic omens warn of impending tragedy, and a restless “haint” lurks nearby, waiting to reveal Bronwyn’s darkest secrets. Worst of all, Bronwyn has lost touch with the music that was once a vital part of her identity. With death stalking her family, Bronwyn will need to summon the strength to take her place among the true Tufa and once again fly on the night winds. . . .

Bio:   Alex Bledsoe grew up in West Tennessee but now lives in Wisconsin. Connect with him via his new Website; Goodreads; Facebook; and Twitter.

Now for the Giveaway!

Lets make this very simple!   

  • You do not have to be a follower to win.
  • But you must leave your name, mailing address, and email address in the Google form so I can contact you if you win.

Optional ~  Keep up to date on giveaways, reviews, interviews, quirky humor and general geeky nonsense with a subscription to Layers of Thought:

  1. Google: via the blog’s side bar (I will follow back if I can find your blog.)
  2. Facebook: for updates in your feed - add me as a friend.
  3. Twitter (I will follow back, if your account is not protected.)

(If you’re reading this in an email or a reader you probably will have to link to the blog to view and use the entry forms.)

This contest offers ends Saturday October 1st at 12 pm US Pacific time. Winners will be posted and notified on Monday October 3rd, 2011. We use to determine our winners. If you have a question or a concern (a typo or bad link or a problem with the form) please email me via my profile – Shellie

Good luck!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review: The American Book of the Dead ~ by Henry Baum

american book of the dead

Review by John for The American Book of the Dead ~ by Henry Baum

An odd time-bending story about a man-made apocalypse (that may or may not have happened) and the start of the next stage in the evolution of the human race; with a failed writer both predicting and chronicling the earth-shattering events.

About:   It is the year 2020 and Eugene Myers is a struggling writer – struggling to write something meaningful, struggling to be successful, struggling to keep his failing marriage together, and struggling to deal with the discovery of an online pornographic video that features his 18 year old daughter. Meanwhile he starts to have explicit dreams about a variety of strangers and gathers a list of names and addresses that he is convinced are real. He starts to seek them out and is stunned to find out that each of his dreamed-about characters is indeed a real person. Could it be that aspects of the novel he is currently working on are real as well? His evolving dreams suggest that they are - which is worrying; the novel is about the apocalyptic destruction of the world, driven by a demented US president.

In the real world, events are rapidly going from bad to worse. Violence and pornography are endemic, terrorism and international strife have become facts of life, the world’s climate is being destroyed, and politicians have appeared powerless to improve things. Now, however, the recently elected US president is a religious zealot who promises to change everything; he is directed and backed by his father, an all-powerful diplomat who secretly claims that UFOs and aliens are real and who says that the world’s deterioration is all part of a grand plan. Apocalypse will be followed by a rebirth.

Via his dreams, Myers sees behind the scenes and knows what is happening and why; he has a growing network of followers that are connected by dreams but he appears powerless to change anything. Or is he? Perhaps in writing his novel he is ordaining what will happen. And then he finds out that he (or an alternative “he”) actually wrote and completed the novel many years previously. The ending of the story is already known.

John’s thoughts:     Hmmmm. A difficult one to review. Ten pages in I almost ditched the book – it seemed overly complicated, difficult to follow, and even a smidgeon pretentious. But it was a relaxing holiday weekend and I stuck with it for a few more pages; and within 24 hours I’d finished the whole book and I’d have to say that I did enjoy it. But it is a complex plot that stretches credulity to the limit.

I certainly liked some of the themes in the book, and it does manage to cover an awful lot of ground – politics, religious extremism, UFOs, aliens, alienation, secret societies and human evolution to name a few. It’s tough to argue with some of the messages that are coming through about the need to better manage our world, the nonsense of politics, the abuse of religion and the general abuse of power. For sure, some of the targets Myers aims at in this book do need to be targeted. I also liked the main character – deeply flawed but very believable; certainly no archetypal hero. And the ending? You’ll probably either groan or smile. Actually, I did both.

Overall I’d rate this 3 stars. If you like quirky, satirical, fantastical novels about how humans are screwing up the world, this one is for you.

The American Book of the Dead ~ by Henry Baum; 248 pages; Backword Books (November 1, 2009)  US|UK|Canada.  Winner: Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival; Winner: The Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction.

About Henry Baum:  He is the author of the novels The Golden Calf, North of Sunset, and The American Book of the Dead. He also writes and records music under the name Ash Tree. Born in New York City, raised in L.A., with stints in many other places, he now live in Los Angeles. For more about the author check out his Website; the book’s Website; Facebook; Twitter; and where you can read the book for FREE in ebook format.

As always all comments will be answered by John, so don’t forget to click the follow up box so you can get his response.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Our Scary Seasonal Header is Live ~ 2011

scary seasonal header

“The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously!” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s live!  ~  It’s scary!  ~  It’s creepy!  ~  It’s our newest seasonal header!

Just in case you visit Layers of Thought – we don’t want you to run and hide or have a panic attack. It’s only the season and our “dead harvest grim reaper” header. We say it doesn’t get more bone chilling than this without the gore. Perhaps some of you remember last year’s? 

Finished image created by Shellie from a picture whose attribution is: SCAREcrow ~ by chiaralily; under

So we begin one of the best times of the year (though they are all good aren’t they?) with a post that says it’s ~ Party Time!

Release Day: Spellbound (book 2) ~ by Blake Charlton



It’s release day for:   Spellbound ~ by Blake Charlton; 416 pages; Tor Books; (September 13, 2011) US|UK|Canada.

It’s book two in the trilogy for this newly published author, which I’m seeing on trusted SFF sites is even better than his first. Which is pretty darned impressive!  No second book slag for this talented author.

The Blurb:   In a world where one’s magical prowess is determined by one’s skill with words and ability to spell, Nicodemus is a wizardly apprentice afflicted by a curse that causes him to misspell magical texts.  Now, the demon who cursed him has hatched a conspiracy to force Nicodemus to change language and ultimately use it to destroy all human life. Spellbound UK

As Nico tries to thwart the demon’s plan, he faces challenges from all sides. But his biggest challenge is his own disability, which causes him to create chaos wherever he goes. And the chaos surrounding Nico is affecting the world so profoundly that the kingdom to which he has fled to gather strength is on the brink of civil war, and he suspects that his closest allies—even Francesca, whom he loves more than life itself—may be subject to the demon’s vast powers. As Nico tries to forestall the apocalypse, he realizes that he doesn’t know if he can fully trust anyone, not even the woman he loves. And if he makes one wrong move, not only will his life be forfeit, he may end up destroying all mortal life as well.

Top cover copy for hardbound version in US and Canada; blue cover is for softbound UK.


Bio:  Blake Charlton is currently a medical student at Stanford University. An active, engaging presence online, he lives in the San Francisco Bay area.  Blog; Website; Facebook; Goodreads; LinkedIn; Twitter.

Last year; in 2010 Blake Charlton agreed to allow me to interview him here on Layers of Thought which I thoroughly enjoyed. Just a warning it will have specific interest and content for our female readers. Tee hee!

We also have a hilarious guest post that is a fun and short from last year. As in his book he blends the serious, mundane, and wry accessible humor in sspellwrightuch a way that it is intelligent and fun. 

For those of you who have not read Spellwright. - Blake’s first novel; it is now available in paperback format; I found a copy at our local library. So perhaps there will be one at yours?

US|UK|Canada;  Book Depository AUD|Euro; 352 pages; Tor Books (March 2, 2010)

The third in the series is purportedly named Disjunction and is planned to be released in 2012.

If you stop by Blake’s networking sites to say hello, tell him Layers of Thought sent you. He may just respond back since he's that kind of guy.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 12, 2011

We Have Book Winners ~ Four of Them!


What's better than one winner? Four winners!

We’re just giving books away, but do have to credit the publicists for these wonderful books on offer. So a BIG thank you to them!

deamons tread chong


One winner for ~

Where Demons Fear to Tread

Cathy M ~  from CA




half made world



Three winners for ~

The Half-Made World

    Linda K ~ from CA
    Debbie P ~  from MI
    Michael F ~ from MI


Yay! ~ Congrats!

As always I will email the winners. Please respond to this post within 72 hours, and to my email then I can forward your contact details on so that you can get your book very soon!

Stay tuned for our next giveaway hop at the end of this month. Just a hint – it’s brand new and its from Tor!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Review: Mr. Chartwell ~ by Rebecca Hunt



Review by John for Mr. Chartwell ~ by Rebecca Hunt (ARC edition)

A wonderfully original and entertaining debut novel that pits Winston Churchill and a humble librarian against a most unusual common enemy.

About:    Winston Churchill has been a brilliant leader, orator and statesman. At 89 years of age he is about to announce his retirement from the British Parliament after a long and illustrious career. Esther Hammerhans is a young librarian in the House of Commons, struggling to cope after losing her husband. For many years Churchill has known Black Pat; and now on the eve of Churchill’s retirement Black Pat turns up at Esther’s door and wants to become her new lodgmr chartwell ca2er.

Despite being charismatic, clever, funny and seductive, Black Pat is not Churchill’s friend. He is a huge black dog that is the very embodiment of depression and he is determined to make Churchill’s life a misery. The two continuously spar with each other, both being armed with inordinate determination and barbed wits. But what does Black Pat want from Esther? At first she is unaware of Black Pat’s true nature. He is at once scary and weirdly charming, and he quickly insinuates himself into her life. Can she resist his advances? It seems that Churchill, Esther and Black Pat are being drawn together into a strangmr chartwell cae “folie à trois”.

John’s thoughts:    This was one of those occasions when you read something that is totally unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Full of wit, charm and no small degree of melancholy, this is a clever and entertaining read. If you think the notion of Winston Churchill and an educated librarian having serious conversations with a huge dog is outrageous, you should read the book – it all seems to make perfect sense! And Black Pat is such a wonderful character.

You also get some great insights into Churchill (who really did fight a long battle with the “black dog” of depression). While he has a mmr chartwell ukomentous struggle on his hands, you know that he’s been strong enough to pull through so far; but you can’t help but root for Esther and will her to do the right thing. She seems to be so weak and vulnerable and yet she’s so likeable. You also meet some other interesting characters, including Churchill’s wife Clementine, and the odd bunch who work at the House of Commons library.

How does it all end up? You’ll have to read the book of course; and I hope than many of you do. This is a great debut novel and I’d rate it 4 stars. Very highly recommended for anyone who likes black humor, historical fiction, or refreshingly different subject matter.

Mr. Chartwell ~ by Rebecca Hunt; 256 pages; The Dial Press (February 8, 2011) US|UK|Canada.

The top cover is for the US, the one below is for Canada, the next is UK and the bottom is a paperback edition for the UK. Which cover do you prefer?

For more information you can check out our incoming books post which includes this book.

As always John will be addressing any of your thoughts or questions around his review. So don’t forget to check the follow up box. He loves your responses since it gives him a break to take his brain outside of his immense data collecting spreadsheets. You should see these things!

Have a fun Friday.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Review: The Knowledge of Good and Evil ~ by Glenn Kleier

knowledge or good and evil

Review by John for The Knowledge of Good and Evil ~ by Glenn Kleier  (ARC edition)

A fast-paced theological thriller that challenges the concepts of good, evil, God, religion and the afterlife.

About:   Over forty years ago a renowned Catholic theologian mysteriously died, just as he was about to reveal great secrets he had learned after discovering a backdoor into Heaven. He said that the revelation would help bring to an end wars and the seemingly never-ending antagonism between different religions, races and cultures. It seems that his secret may have survived in a long-lost journal.

In the current day, Ian Baringer is a traumatized former priest, struggling to overcome the aftermath of a horrific accident in which his parents died horribly in order to save his life. He struggles with the Divine Paradox – how could a just God allow great evil in the world? With his faith ebbing, he spends his time obsessively trying to find concrete proof that miracles have happened and that there is a God and an afterlife. Through a near-death experience, he believes that he may have found a gateway into the afterlife that might allow him to find some answers; perhaps it’s the same gateway the dead theologian uncovered many years previously? But the journey is fraught with great danger, and to make matters worse an obscure ancient religious Order will stop at nothing to prevent secrets of the afterlife from being divulged.

Baringer and his lover, an agnostic psychiatrist, embark on a frenetic worldwide chase to track down the long-lost journal, striving to stay one step ahead of the deadly Order who seem to know of their every move. But tension is also growing between Baringer and his partner, as his mental torment pushes him to ever more extreme measures in order to find answers.

John’s thoughts:  I was a little torn by this book. On the one hand I have little (or no) interest in religious matters, so I had difficulty resonating with some of the details and the content of the story. Yet on the other hand this is a very well written and exciting story which pulls the reader along. On balance the latter won out and I certainly enjoyed the read.

The story is well structured, has a good pace, and asks some big questions – which it then does a pretty good job of answering. I can imagine that many people who have set ideas about faith and their own religion might have a hard time with the book as Kleier’s answers will challenge their beliefs (and it does go into some detail describing Hell, Heaven and their inhabitants). However, as I’m a bit of a “blank canvas” in that respect I enjoyed the big ideas and the general direction that the book takes. It is very thought provoking; and Kleier does have a great imagination.

I’d rate this book 3.5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys thrillers with a religious or spiritual bent.

The Knowledge of Good and Evil ~ by Glenn Kleier US|UK|Canada. 416 pages: Tor Books; (July 19, 2011)glenn kleier full body shot

For more information on the book take a look at our preview page where it is featured.

About Glenn Kleier:  An English major intent on a career as a novelist, who upon graduation found no positions available for aspiring authors. Earning his living in an alternative field of fiction - advertising - he never lost his initial passion. After seven years working on the side, he produced The Last Day. Now, after many years of research and writing, he presents a second effort, the first in a trilogy, The Knowledge of Good & Evil. Kleier resides in Louisville, KY.  Goodreads; Twitter; Website; Facebook.

As always John will be addressing any questions around this review, so please don’t forget to check the follow up box to get his reply.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Guest Post: Stephanie Chong ~ Where Demons Fear to Tread


Guest Post ~ Stephanie Chong

We have a short snippet to share from this new author around her process in creating her paranormal romance novel’s mythology. It is the just released – Where Demons Fear to Tread [US|UK|Canada] and is also offered for giveaway until September 7th here on Layers of Thought.

Lets welcome Stephanie!  Intelligent, extremely educated, pretty, and funny too; Stephanie is an attorney turned novelist. Wow what a combo!

So Stephanie how did you develop the “mythology” in Where Demons Fear to Tread? What kind of research did you do to build this world?

In other interviews, I’ve talked about how this book came out of my love for yoga. There’s another side to the story. I wrote it for (*gasp*) fun.

When I started Where Demons Fear to Tread in January 2009, it was the week I prepared to defend my Ph.D. in Comparative Literature. After years of intensive research, I needed a mental break. During the last fifteen months of my Ph.D., I also did a master’s in creative writing. The project for that was part of a literary novel based on a friend who died from breast cancer.*

Writing an angel romance was my break from research and emotional heaviness.

where angels fear to tread 2

I did consider concepts of angels in world cultures. Most cultures have angels. Many cultures describe hierarchies of angels. Angels go by many names. Deva. Malaikah. Boddhisatva.

But ultimately, the angels in Where Demons Fear to Tread are pulled straight from my own imagination. The world in the “Company of Angels” series is as speculative as you can get. My Guardian angels are very close to humans – they’re basically my imagined version of the next step in human evolution. They’re far from perfect. The new ones are still learning. They’re guided by Archangels, who are the closest thing to an evolved being that appears in the book.

The novel’s heroine, Serena St. Clair, is a yoga teacher who died young. As a fledgling angel, she now works for an organization called the Company of Angels. Archdemon Julian Ascher owns a nightclub, and lures the heroine into his demon underworld.

At the core of the novel is a struggle between good and evil. There are various demons at work against the Company. But their organizations are more loosely structured and volatile. The demons butt heads with each other as much as they do with the angels.

My greatest wish for this book is that readers will be able to immerse themselves in the world of Where Demons Fear to Tread. And have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.

*On a side note, yes, I overlapped two separate grad degrees at two separate schools. No wonder I ended up writing a novel that explores concepts of hell. I am totally joking – I loved every minute of my grad studies. And with all kidding aside, one day soon I hope to finish that literary novel about my friend’s journey with breast cancer.

Thank you for sharing with us Stephanie! 

For a bit about the book link to our giveaway, and if you can’t wait to win we have links for purchasing Where Demons Fear to Tread ~ 368 pages; Mira (August 23, 2011) US|UK|Canada.

Also watch for book #2 in the “Company of Angels” series coming in 2012!

About the author:   Stephanie worked as a lawyer at a top-tier Canadian firm and completed five university degrees before landing her dream job: romance novelist. Her degrees include a J.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, and a Master’s in Creative Writing from Oxford University. When she’s not writing, Stephanie enjoys yoga, traveling and outdoor adventures. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and their pug, Dexter. Website; Goodreads; Twitter; Facebook.

Have an awesome and safe Labor Day weekend, and thanks for reading!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...