Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween ~ 2011!


It’s finally here and will be over in a flash – so here is a quick wish for a fun time and great memories on one of our favorite holidays. Have a blast, be sane and safe, and enjoy this seasonal “witchy” 1970’s music clip (courtesy of John’s ancient record collection and slightly questionable taste).

Jethro Tull ~ Witches Promise

Happy Halloween – 2011!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Review and Guest Post: Low Town ~ by Daniel Polansky

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Review by John for: Low Town ~ by Daniel Polansky

A dystopian fantasy novel rolled up with a hard boiled, crime thriller; with a huge dollop of noir thrown in for good measure. Set in an alternate world that is a cross between medieval times and a drug-infested 21st century slum, the story features drug dealers, hustlers, corrupt cops, dirty politics, a plague…..and sorcery.

About:   Low Town is a beaten up, downtrodden, brutal, squalid slum, peopled by the unfortunate and those who exploit them. Rife with drugs, gangs and corrupt officials, Low Town is also the home of the Warden – our “hero” – who is a disgraced detective-cum-intelligence agent, an ex-war hero, and a current independent drug dealer who likes sampling his own products.

Neither wholly good nor wholly bad, the Warden definitely comes in several shades of gray. But when he happens upon a young girl who has been brutally murdered, he is thrust on a quest to find the perpetrators and to rid Low Town of some unspeakable evil. The trouble is, he doesn’t know who he can trust andPolansky UK Jacket he seems to make more enemies at every turn.

When he realizes that the murder (which is just the first of several) somehow revolves around some bad magic and demons, he turns to the Blue Crane, his old mentor who is an ancient sorcerer charged with trying to keep the city plague-free.

John’s thoughts: I’m not usually big on fantasy as a genre, but the unusual (unique?) mixture of fantasy and noir thriller looked interesting so I decided to give this one a go. Come to think of it, I’m not usually a big fan of noir either, so there was definitely something appealing about the content and the book blurb.

And I’m glad that I did give it a go - this is an entertaining and clever story. Well-written, imaginative, darkly humorous and with lots of plot twists, the book pulls you along at a brisk pace. There are also lots of interesting characters, the main one being the Warden himself. Very much an anti-hero, he is a million miles removed from being squeaky clean, but you root for him nonetheless and somehow his dark side is kind of acceptable and almost forgivable. At the end of the story everything is wrapped up neatly, but the things which were neither black nor white remain as various shades of gray. (By the way – do you ever wonder why the genre is known as “noir”? I suppose I can see why, but I often think that gray is a more relevant color!)

It is also notable that this is Polansky’s first full-length novel. It’s darned good. And I do like his sense of humor. I saw an interview with him in which he was asked where the idea for Low Town came from. He responded “Honestly I sat down to write something a little more in line with the typical fantasy norms, but as it turns out I hate elves so I realized I needed to do something different. I guess I liked the idea of introducing a faster pace to a genre that tends to bloat a little, and Low Town seemed like one way to do it”.

Overall, I’d rate this 3.5 stars and I’d recommend it to readers with lots of different tastes. If you like any or all of fantasy, noir, crime thriller or earthy urban tales, you should try this book. I’ll be looking out for more from Mr. Polansky.


Guest Post ~ Slums of the Shire

Occasionally you'll be with a group of people and they'll get to talking about their favorite historical epochs, nostalgic for lives they never led. One person will talk up their childhood love of the Wild West, another reveal a penchant for Victorian England. This last one just has a thing for corsets, but it's better not to call them on it.

When my turn rolls round I take a sip of whatever we're drinking and look at my shoes. “The mid 90's were pretty good,” I say lamely. “Slower internet and everything, but at least we had penicillin.”

Perhaps it's my being a history buff, but the past sucked. For about a millennium and a half after the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe just seems like a real shit place to reside. Lots of rooting in filth until you die at thirty a half mile from where you born. Nominally the nobles had it better, but still, your fever would haPolansky German Jacketve been treated with the application of leaches and your pretty young bride had like a one in two chance of surviving child birth.

This probably is why I don't understand fantasy—that is to say that collection of high medieval tropes collected by Tolkien and gleefully reproduced by two generations of descendants.

Take elves for instance—though perfectly capable of imagining a world where higher intelligence evolved in a species separate from humanity, my powers of make believe fail when positing that the relation between said species would be anything beyond unceasing warfare. Even a cursory glance at human history reveals our collective willingness to commit genocide on fellow homo sapiens—how much quicker would we have been to eradicate a separate species competing for identical resources? If elves existed, our ancestors would have hunted them down to extinction and erected a monument to the accomplishment.

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But I digress.

Even when nestled comfortably in a quest to kill a dragon or overthrow a dark lord or what have you, strange thoughts plague me. What does the shady side of Gondor look like? How many platinum coins would a dime bag set me back? What is the point of hobbits? They're just short, fat people. People are plenty fat as it is.

Low Town is sort of my attempt to answer some of those questions (not the last one). It's the story of the Warden, a former intelligence agent and current drug dealer, whose gradual slide into self-destruction is briefly checked by the discovery of a dead body in the neighborhood he runs. An ill-timed bout of conscience rattles the easy cage of venality he's built for himself, and leads him on a collision course with the life he'd left behind. The Warden is a guy trying to survive the next few days, and not particularly squeamish as to what that requires—the sort of person more likely to populate a classic crime novel than to be found stocking the fantasy section of your local Borders (RIP).

More broadly, Low Town is an attempt to meld the best aspects of noir with a low fantasy setting—a meeting of tastes which I think complement each other nicely. The spare language and fast pace of good noir offers a pleasant counterpoint to the sprawling—one might even say bloated—length of much modern fantasy. On a somewhat broader level, the tendency of fantasy to focus on world shaking events often renders it irrelevant to the average reader, whose life relatively rarely devolves into single combat against vaguely satanic analogs. By contrast, noir is concerned with the individual, with greed and lust, sins all of us can comprehend to some degree. Low Town centers on the conceit that a world with magic wouldn't be altogether different from a world without it. People are still (on the whole) selfish, stupid creatures, focused almost exclusively on the immediate satisfaction of their basic desires, only now some of them can shoot fire out of their hands.

That's the idea at least. The English edition is now in stores throughout the world, and translations are coming soon in twelve other languages. I hope you check it out and see if I've succeeded, or if I'm just a pretentious clown. Or both.

As always John will be addressing comments for his review – so please remember to check the follow up box to get his reply.

One more day! What fun stuff do you have planned for Halloween?


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (audio) ~ by Susanna Clarke

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Review by Shellie for:  Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (in audio) ~ by Susanna Clarke;  read by Simon Prebble

There is a reason why some novels win multiple awards; this historical fantasy is one example of a book that deserves all the accolades it has received. An incredible tome which is a grand meandering adventure into the historical, magical, and darkly hilarious. It is a perfect read for fall.

About:  Set in the early 1800’s during the end of the Napoleonic wars in an England where magic and fairies exist; the story begins with Mr. Norrell as the self proclaimed “magician” of the age. He has delegated himself the task of re-establishing an order to English magic so that it can become as highly valued and respected as it once was. So in a twisted effort he eradicates every other magician/practitioner in the land.

Enter Jonathan Strange, a younger and more socially adept individual, who becomes Norrell’s student, learning what the older magician deems important to his acolyte. Sadly Norrell also hordes and hides all the most important information. Still his student develops, as Jonathan Strange is everything Norrell is not - possessing a natural ability for creating spells and magic.

This natural conflict is mixed together with an “evil fairy” and well developed characters. Woven into the mix are interesting historical facts, fantastic fairy history and a make-believe history of English magic. The result is a multi-layered, complex, dryly funny and wonderfully meandering story.

Thoughts:  As mentioned there are many well developed and intriguing characters in this huge book (900 or so pages or 32 hours of listening time). It has human sized fairies (not the fluffy kind) and a mix of curious and down to earth servants -including appropriate roles for men and women during this historical period. It has a writing style which has an old fashioned English feel; quite proper and appropriate for a pre-Victorian historical era.

This book was so much fun and I learned some actual history (which I am completely inept at), as a lot of the detail is actually grounded in fact. But the best part is the intriguing amount of imaginary fairy and magic history included, which is entertaining and wonderful. A perfect historical book for those who don’t like history.

Listened to in audio, the male narrator did an excellent job of moderating his voice for each of the characters, classes, and genders. I was even surprised that the footnotes worked well in the audio version - as there are many. Here are two short and fun examples of magical spells which the author included in one of the many footnotes, which I could imagine using at one time or another:

Chauntlucet: a mysterious and ancient spell which encourages the moon to sing. The song the moon knows is apparently very beautiful and can cure leprosy or sadness in anyone who hears it.

Stokesey’s Vitrification turns objects – and people – to glass.

I loved this wonderful book and give it 5 stars. Highly recommended if you enjoy historical fiction and/or fantasy; also for non fantasy readers who may be interested in reading something with magical elements. This was a fabulous and complex tale!

Audio Book Data: Unabridged; 32 hours, 29 minutes; Macmillan Audio (May 28, 2006) ; it has won several awards - Audio Award Nominee; Listen Up Award; Hugo Award; World Fantasy Award; and more.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Let Us Tell You a Scary Story ~ Horrific Book Reviews Linked Up

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It’s always great to have someone tell you a story.  Especially if it’s a zombie librarian during the Halloween season.

However, we are not zombies or librarians, but would love to share anyway. So here are our stories – the scary ones at least. Those that we have read in the past several years that we are dying to re-share.  (Titles link to our reviews for each book here on Layers of Thought.)

Literary and Classics

The Metamorphosis ~ by Franz Kafka (audio):  As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. ~ Franz Kafka

Wuthering Heights ~ by Emily Bronte (audio):  A classic masterpiece that is an incredible work of horrific and tragic fiction. It is a shocking “page turner” that I could not put down.

Dracula ~ by Bram Stoker (audio)An enduring classic with an extremely charming, truly evil, yet almost human monster. I suggest leaving the lights on.

Frankenstein ~ by Mary Shelley (audio): A classic literary horror novel which is more angst than gore.

Willy ~ by Robert Dunbar: A disturbing and poignant coming of age story with elements of suspense and psychological terror which on the paranormal.

The Afflicted Girls ~ by Suzy Witten:  When two young friends, both orphans, arrive in Salem MA in 1692, the litigious and imbalanced nature of a community sets in motion a horrific series of events. The author uses a unique perspective around why she thinks this may have occurred.

Award Nominated & Winners

Haunted Legends ~ edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas: A diverse collection of ghost stories based on actual legends, making it all the more interesting, fun, and just plain scary.

One Bloody Thing After Another ~ by Joey ComeauA very dark and hilarious horror story with an ending that will gross you out, blow you away, and leave you smirking.

Cursed ~ by Jeremy Shipp:  Bizarro - which is defined, as it’s name suggests, as just a bit weird and entirely funny. The main character tells his story and thinks in lists - he just may be cursed. I think he’s right.

Tender Morsels ~ by Margo Lanagan: A very dark fairytale re-telling for older teens and adults.

Serena ~ by Ron Rash:  One of my favorite books, it is realistic fiction set in turn of the century Appalachia. It has an environmental thread and a main character that is so very dark and intriguing I was amazed.

The Road ~ by Cormac McCarthy: Post-apocalypse at its best. It doesn’t get more terrifying than this.

Young Adult

Neverland ~ by Douglas Clegg:  What happens when the horrors of family relationships cause innocent boys to seek refuge in a dark, dank place which has its own secrets and a terrible past? A nice creepy southern gothic tale of innocence lost.

Warm Bodies ~ by Isaac Marion: A darkly funny yet introspective and mildly gory novel about a zombie who becomes emotionally human and falls in love. And it has a great cover!

Moon Series ~ by Susan Beth Pfeffer: A page turning apocalyptic series which is heart wrenching and realistic.

Werewolves, Zombies and Vamps

Changeling Moon ~ by Dani HarperA well written, intelligent paranormal novel with a very sexy thread. All set within a modern world, including a special kind of “werewolf” - a changeling.

Outpost ~ by Adam Baker:  An apocalyptic “zombiesque” thriller for lovers of B-movie horror.

The Passage ~ by Justin Cronin: Tired of vampires? Well not so fast. This is a different kind of vampire. Definitely not fluffy, these are termed “Virals” and they are very scary.

RELEASE ~ by Nicole Hadaway: Historical horror is the genre for this complex novel set during WWII by an indie author and small publisher.

Alone ~ by Marissa Farrar:  A romantic and emotional journey of an abused woman and her path towards healing - all within a vampire urban fantasy.

Scary Interviews

Interview with Robert Dunbar ~ author of  Willy;  Interview with Jeremy C. Shipp ~ author of Cursed;  Guest post with Nicole Hadaway ~ author of RELEASE; Interview and excerpt with Sandy Deluca ~ author of DESCENT.

Chilling Posts

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Take your pick since we have some great reads and more here. Other wise have a thrilling and chilling day!

Not sure what happened to this post it’s like the html went wild and replicated – all fixed now!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Interview and Excerpt: Sandy Deluca, author of ~ DESCENT


Author interview and excerpt ~ with Sandy DeLuca and her book DESCENT.

Sandy DeLuca is here to share a bit about herself and her process, as well as an excerpt from her recent book. Perfect for adults during the Halloween season - as many may need some respite from the “candy fixation” of the celebration.

Lets welcome Sandy!

So tell us - why write horror?  Why read horror?       Well, I don't consider myself solely a "Horror Writer". I've written nonfiction articles, mainstream fiction and poetry as well.

I suggest reading all genres. There's always something to learn and works to be inspired by. I also suggest checking out what Uninvited Books is doing. Rob Dunbar is publishing a rare blend of horror and literary fiction and he's producing some amazing books.

However with that in mind life isn't all white lights and giggles. Most of us experience darkness, so why not embellish that aspect of our lives, probe into the depths of imagination and produce work that resonates with readers?

Your book is one of psychological terror, madness, and demons - what sort of research did you do to create this in your main character?     My main character evolved without any research. However, I did pick up some books on Italian witchcraft and demons in my travels.

What prompted you to write a novel about this subject?     Years ago, on a road trip from Rhode Island to Florida, a friend of mine commented about a truck filled with drunken men, veering from left to right in front of us, during a trek down a country road: "Somebody could run them off the road, kill them, and bury them out here--and no one would ever know." Of course the comment was in jest and SandyDe1everyone forgot about it once we hit the heat of Miami, but that comment stayed with me for years, and ultimately inspired Descent.

You have been nominated for the 2000 Stoker poetry award – tell us a bit about this?      I was nominated for the 2000 Stoker for poetry award; for my poetry book Burial Plot in Sagittarius. Oddly enough, there's a poem called Descent in the book--a little tease for the novel.

You are currently editing or judging for this same upcoming horror award – would you tell us about this?    I am on the Stoker Novel committee and the Stoker poetry committee for 2011. I've had the opportunity to read lots of new fiction and it's interesting to learn what publishers are putting out there these days.

How about any of your other novels? Favorite’s perhaps?     I wrote Settling in Nazareth years ago. It was my first novel and received very little attention. The main character, Ruby, is one of my favorites, and I plan to bring her back in another novel at some point in the future. I also hope one day that a publisher would reprint SIN. It's a great read and I'd love more people to realize that.

What is your next project? Just a little tease would be wonderful.     I'm working on a new novella. It takes place in an offbeat city where the dead reside.

What advice would you give for the aspiring writer?    Strive for perfection, not for instant gratification. There are many readers who don't have the patience to appreciate good literary fiction. They want cheap thrills instantly and toss aside works that have been crafted and rewritten until the author is satisfied. Many of those readers seem offended by good and solid writing and will publically post their contempt on fiction boards. Don't write to please those readers--write to please yourself--and write until your work is perfect.

If you could attempt anything and know you wouldn’t fail, what would you do?    Run for Congress.

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, what is your chosen weapon?   My two pet cats. Fangs and claws always win against zombies.

Thank you for sharing Sandy! I am look forward to finishing your book.

Excerpt from ~ DESCENT

It all happened so fast.

Sammy had been sitting there with me, drumming his fingers on the table and calmly taking the place in, when suddenly, in one fluid motion, he stood up, pulled a rifle from under his coat and began firing. Jake had his back turned and was pushing open the door, more than likely on his way to his office to make the call. But a bullet hit him low in the back, near his kidneys before he even got through the doorway. Blood exploded across his white tee-shirt and he collapsed
face-down over the grill. His hands fell flat against onions and green peppers and the burger I’d ordered.Crimson swirled with cooking oil, grease popped and splattered, and I smelled a rancid, sickly sweet odor I later realized was the stench of burning human flesh.

It all happened so quickly that by the time everyone realized what had happened it was too late.

Marla stood looking at us, stunned and frozen, her mind trying to make sense of what she’d just witnessed, when Sammy swung the rifle in her direction and shot her in the head. Her head snapped back and blood and brain tissue sprayed the wall behind her as her body collapsed. 

The two men at the counter ducked and started to run for the door. They never made it. Sammy shot them both with the same calm precision with which he’d murdered Jake and Marla.

I stood there trembling and trying to convince myself what I had just seen was real, because it all seemed so unreal. Like something on TV or in some movie only…only this wasn’t make-believe. Marla and Jake and the others weren’t actors. They weren’t going to get up and brush themselves off. Sammy was real. I was real. The blood was real. Death was real. The ringing in my ears was real. The smell of a discharged rifle was real. His laughter was real. The evil all around us was real.

“Sammy,” I gasped, choking back tears, “my God. Why?”

Still holding the rifle in one hand, he reached out for me with the other, pulled me into him and kissed me hard on the lips. “’Cause they wanted to separate us,” he said softly. “Nobody can ever do that, babe—ever.”

I felt like a rag doll in his arm, my body limp but still unable to pull my eyes from the carnage before us.

“And I’ll kill any motherfucker who tries,” he said, laughing lightly and slowly sweeping his hand across the room to indicate the dead. “See?”

I watched as Jake’s hands turned brown from the grill. The thin hair on his head caught fire, singed. I felt his fingers on my chin. He turned my head so I was looking into his eyes: Dark and smoldering portals to Hell. “I’d hunt you down and kill you if you ever leave me,” he said.

It wasn’t a question, but I felt myself nod anyway.

He smiled, released me and strode across the room to the cash register. He pulled all the cash free and stuffed it into his pocket. “About five hundred bucks. Cool, we need to get rid of the Mustang anyway. This’ll come in handy if the car dealer won’t do an even trade. We won’t have to dip into our stash.”

I looked down at Marla as Sammy pushed me toward the door. Her eyes were open—dead eyes that knew so much, that had once been kind. But like the others, she’d been no match for pure evil.

I looked at Sammy. The Devil looked back.

DESCENT (about):  SLEEPING IN THE DEVIL'S BED?  A beautiful young painter falls in love with a dangerously sexy man who may be in league with the Devil ... who may even be a devil. So begins her Descent into a world of violence and horror, a world of rituals and madness and unspeakable cruelty. Can she retain her soul despite the things he does to her, the things he forces her to witness ... the things he forces her to do? When you dance with the Devil, can you ever make it stop? 

Bio:   Sandy DeLucas is a mutli-talented person. She is a novelist, poet, and artist. She has six novels to her credit, several novellas, oodles of short stories as well a  poetry book, Burial Plot in Sagittarius which was nominated for the Bram Stoker award in 2000. In addition, she has been a painter for over twenty years. Her work has been exhibited in galleries, and various other venues. Connect with Sandy via her Website; Twitter; Facebook; and Fine Arts of American.

We hope this interview and excerpt tingled your backbone with a little scare for the season. It did ours. Thanks for reading!


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Monday, October 24, 2011

Real Horror ~ Be Prepared for a “Zombie Attack”!

Get A Kit,    Make A Plan, Be Prepared.

In honor of Halloween we ask a very important question:  Are you prepared for a “Zombie Attack”?

Amanda at Imagination Run Amok  has this badge linked on her blog. I liked it and think it’s an incredible idea which makes good common sense. According to the CDC – the Center for Disease Control: if you are prepared for a “zombie attack” you are prepared for many real emergencies which may include biological hazard and more. Click on the badge above for instructions on how start your “zombie attack” kit or to see if you’re prepared.

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Halloween is getting closer *evil grin*!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blog Hop: Spooktacular Giveaway Hop ~ Oct 24th till 31st!

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Welcome to the ~ Spooktacular Giveaway Hop: Oct 24th till the 31st!

Hosted by:  I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and co-hosted by The Diary of a Bookworm.  Badge above links to our host’s website and the hop’s giveaway page.

What is a giveaway hop?  Each participating blog hosts a giveaway and it is linked up with others - allowing entrants to hop easily from one giveaway to another.  For readers this means a ton of chances to win. For blogs hosting a giveaway it means new visitors. It's fun and you just may win!

Now our two books on offer!

You must be a follower/reader/friend to win either of these books. There are two ways to follow:

  1. Google: via the blog’s side bar (I will follow back if I can find your blog.) or
  2. Facebook:  for updates in your feed - add me as a friend.

Then - enter the Google forms below each book blurb for your chance to win!

eyes to seeBook #1 ~  Just released October 11, 2011 this book is a dark urban fantasy for US|Canadian addresses.  

Eyes to See ~ by Joseph Nassise;   Jeremiah Hunt has been broken by a malevolent force that has taken his young daughter and everything else of value in his life: his marriage, his career, his reputation. Desperate to reclaim what he has lost, Hunt finally turns to the supernatural for justice.

Abandoning all hope for a normal life, he enters the world of ghosts and even more dangerous entities from beyond the grave. Sacrificing his normal sight so that he can see the souls of the dead and the powers that stalk his worst nightmares, Hunt embarks upon a strange new career--a pariah among the living; a scourge among the dead; doomed to walk between the light of day and the deepest darkness beyond night.

His love for his departed daughter sustains him when all is most hopeless, but Hunt is cursed by something more evil than he can possibly imagine. As he descends into the maelstrom of his terrifying quest, he discovers that even his deepest fears are but prelude to yet darker deeds by a powerful entity from beyond the grave...that will not let him go until it has used him for its own nefarious purposes.



Book #2 ~ Released last year, this is a first in the series for this vampire paranormal/urban fantasy.

It is available for international readers and is to be shipped anywhere on the planet and sent by yours truly. 

Blood Song ~ by Cat Adams;    Bodyguard Celia Graves has definitely accepted her share of weird assignments, both human and supernatural. But her newest job takes the cake. Guarding a Prince from terrorists and religious fundamentalists is hard enough, but it seems like the entire supernatural world is after this guy too. When she is betrayed by those she is employed to help, and everything goes horribly wrong, Celia wakes to find herself transformed.

Neither human nor vampire, Celia has become an Abomination—something that should not exist—and now both human and supernatural alike want her dead. With the help of a few loyal friends—a sexy mage, a powerful werewolf, and a psychic cop—Celia does her best to stay alive. On the run from her enemies, Celia must try to discover who is behind her transformation…before it’s too late. 

Other optional ways of “following/friending” or keeping up to date:

  1. Twitter (I will follow back, if your account is not protected.)
  2. Your Email Box.
  3. Feed Reader.

This Contest in Now Closed – More Coming Soon!

This contest ends on October 31st and winners will be announced November 4th, 2011.  Have fun and good luck!

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: Eddie (The Lost Youth of Edgar Allan Poe) ~ by Scott Gustafson


Review by Shellie for:  Eddie - The Lost Youth of Edgar Allan Poe ~ written and illustrated by Scott Gustafson

An adorable mystery for middle grade readers – especially boys! It has incredible black and white line drawn illustrations. It can be seen as a book for literary minded and reluctant readers and as an introduction to this fine American author.

About:  Eddie is the nick name for Edgar Allen Poe and the story is based upon the author’s humble beginnings, as we find out more about how he was born, raised, and lived.

Young Eddie attempts to get himself out of trouble when a powerful next door neighbor’s prized rooster and the local tom cat are hung on a weather vein in a bag during the middle of the night. Eddie is blamed for creating the ruckus by the entire neighborhood and especially by his father.

Thoughts:  I just loved this cute short story, the drawings are lovely black lined and delicately done and will break up the reading for younger or reluctant readers. The story is cute and has a deeper appropriate age level message – which states “if you know who you are and are honest and truthful that is what matters most - even if others do not believe you”. 

The story has a touch of the speculative. Our young hero has his own personal imp - which is based upon one of Poe’s stories “The Imp of the Perverse” (actual story is linked via the text). Eddie experiences the human conundrum where one often chooses to follow an internal voice (called by Poe the “imp”) rather than a better and more reasonable form of logic, therefore creating many human problems. Poe believed that it is human nature to follow this “imp” which persuades us to wait until the last minute to accomplish important responsibilities.

This book can be seen as a roll model for children, as well as for youngsters whose interest are literary rather than athletic or social. An important story about one of my favorite classic authors. 3.5 stars for this perfect Halloween “treat” rather than a bag full of candy – or in addition too!


Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)  was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts; he was orphaned young when his mother died shortly after his father abandoned the family. Poe was taken in by John and Frances Allan. His publishing career began humbly, with an anonymous collection of poems, Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827).

In January 1845 Poe published his poem, "The Raven", to instant success. On October 7, 1849, at age 40, Poe died in Baltimore; the cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other agents. Poe and his works influenced literature in the United States and around the world, and his work appears throughout popular culture in literature, music, films, and television. A number of his homes are dedicated museums today.

There is a new movie coming out in 2012 with John Cusack as Poe – article and trailer here via Criminal Element dot com.

Are we all getting that wonderful chilling feeling that is so perfect for the season? Have a great day!

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EAP picture source and bio info – Wikipedia

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Ten Days of Halloween ~ Celebrations!

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In honor of the first day of – “The Ten Days of Halloween” - October 21st till 31st (and to help support Dana’s efforts at On the Broomstick) we have a number of scare related posts coming up:   A giveaway hop with two books to win that may create some chills: some reviews; several guest posts (one with a blood chilling excerpt); a post around real life horror –, zombies; a link up of some of the scream and scare related reads we have reviewed here on Layers of Thought over the last several years; and more.

The badge above links to On the Broomstick where there are some incredible giveaways, interviews and loads of fun, for the next ten days - so hop on by, say hi and that we sent you on by.

Also please be aware that we are operating “away from home” on the funky laptop (yep, traveling again) so comment moderation will be slower than normal and errors will most likely increase – a lot. Thanks for your patience.

Happy almost Halloween!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Release Day for The Shattered Vine; and Winner of a three book “Vineart War” series!


It is release day for ~ The Shattered Vine by Laura Anne Gilman!

Vineart Jerzy is on a quest  accompanied by the three people in the world he trusts: a trader crippled by a sea monster’s attack, a young woman with no place in the world, and a prince who abandoned his people. They have their enemy’s name, and they know his plan. What they don’t know is how to stop him.

It is the third in the series of this fantasy written around wine, the first of which was nominated for a Nebula award.


Better yet we have one winner for the 3 books: 

  • Flesh and Fire (#1)
  • Weight of Stone (#2)
  • and The Shattered Vine (#3)

The winner is:

April @ Ramblings and Adventures with April

Congrats ~  April!

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April - please comment on this post and respond to the email that I have sent you. Then I will forward your information onto the publicist at Simon and Schuster, who we owe a big thank you!

The gorgeous book cover at the top of this post links to the giveaway post for the series which has more information on each book and the author.

Stay tuned for the next set of giveaways coming in a few days for the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop. The badge below links to our host’s site and includes over 400 blogs offering bookish giveaways.


Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reviews: Two Cookbooks ~ Vegan Family Meals and Eat Vegan on $4 a Day


Now for something a bit on the wild side ~ vegan food!   

So what the heck is a vegan anyway?   Vegans do not eat any animal products – no meat, fish, or dairy.  Some do not use or wear any kind of animal based products either. It is a committed live style and takes a lot of discipline.

How is a vegan different from a vegetarian?   Vegetarians have varying levels of commitment and may eat dairy or fish in different combinations depending on the person’s affiliations and choices. Vegans eat no animal products.

How can someone not eat any meat, let alone live without cheese, milk, butter, and eggs?   It’s not easy, as our western diet is based upon these items. But these two cookbooks will show you where to start. Both use no animal products and explain what to use as substitute. It is a shift in thinking, but it is easier on your pocket book, your body, and believe it or not - it can be just plain delicious. One thing is for sure, you do not have to go completely vegan or change right away even if it is proven to be better for our health. Here is a quote from Ann Gentry’s Vegan Family Meals book blurb supporting some health benefits:

Large-scale studies have shown that mortality from ischemic heart disease was 30% lower among vegetarian and vegan men and 20% lower among vegetarian and vegan women. Additionally, those following a meatless diet tend to have lower body mass index, lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and fewer incidences of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, renal disease, osteoporosis, and dementias such as Alzheimer's disease and other disorders.

Are John and I vegan?   No, but we like eating less meat and dairy and are transitioning into eating them even less. Just a small change in diet can reap a ton of benefits – health wise, planet wise, and pocketbook-wise.

Two reviews by Shellie for:

  1. Eat Vegan on $4 a Day ~ by Ellen Jaffe Jones
  2. Vegan Family Meals ~ by Ann Gentry

Two cookbooks for different levels of cooking experience. Both are good places to start when looking to begin a plant-based eating program, depending on the amount of time you would like to commit.

As a new way of thinking about food (which this is for most people) and for those who cook (such as myself) it is difficult to get one’s head around. It has taken me some time to know what vegan food actually is let alone how to cook it. But it can be so delicious. Some sample recipes from Ann Gentry’s book are:

Tofu Benedict with Roasted Corn Hollandaise, Herb Zucchini Soup for lunch, Lasagna Rolls for dinner, and decadent Chocolate Silk Pie with Cashew Crust.

If that doesn’t stimulate your appetite, or you want additional more, I encourage you to try a meal or two at a local vegan restaurant. One of our very favorite local restaurants is Vegan.

Thoughts about each:vegan

Eat Vegan on $4.00 a Day ~ This is a thin paper bound book with black and white illustrations and down to earth, concise advice on how to eat a plant-based diet – cheaply! It has menu planning and budgeting information, as well as some very nice recipes and detailed instructions on how to cook them. All this information definitely helps, as eating in this manner is a new way of thinking for omnivores. At 3.5 stars, it is an excellent place to start when cooking and eating without meat or dairy.

Ellen Jaffe Jones’ bio:  At 58 she is a certified personal trainer, running coach, author, and is a cooking instructor with The Cancer Project, a program of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. She spent eighteen years in TV news as an investigative reporter, morning anchor, and producer for network affiliates around the country, winning two Emmys among other awards. Find out more from her blog – The VegCoach; and Website.

vegan family meals

Vegan Family Meals ~ This is a gorgeous cookbook that is well designed, organized and concise. It is a gourmet cookbook and is recommended for those who have experience cooking or who want to spend time preparing plant-based meals. The colorful pictures and descriptions in this book makes it a real treasure; the author has years of experience cooking and eating within the vegan lifestyle. 4 stars.  For more information on Vegan Family Meals check out the book’s website.

Ann Gentry’s bio: Creator, founder, and operating owner of - Real Food Daily, the only restaurant in the Los Angeles area that serves a 100% vegan menu using zero animal by-products and foods grown exclusively with organic farming methods. She is the author of The Real Food Daily Cookbook. She lives in Los Angeles with her family. For more information link to her restaurant's website - Real Food Daily.

In summary: As mentioned these two cookbooks are for two different levels of cooks. Eat Vegan on $4 a Day is for those who want an easy and cheap introduction to this method of eating and cooking. Ellen Jaffe Brown has simpler recipes that look delicious. However if you don’t mind spending hours cooking, want gorgeous color pictures, and in-depth yet accessible explanations you may want to chose Vegan Family Meals.

So which would I purchase?   Both. If I wanted full color picture and gourmet instructions it would be Vegan Family Meals. If I were just starting out and wanted to save money Eat Vegan on $4 a Day would be my choice.

Which book would you choose?

top photo credit:  By joe grimaldi

Friday, October 14, 2011

Incoming Books ~ October 14th, 2011


Incoming Books ~ October 14, 2011;  More books to add to our wonderful and ever expanding pile – it’s our Incoming Books feature. Key books (corny I know, but I liked the picture) for your enjoyment, all listed with shortened snippets for your perusal to help you answer our question for the day:     Which book would you read first? 

Scary Books for the Season

eyes to see

Eyes to See ~ by Joseph Nassise; 320 pages; Tor Books; First Edition edition (October 11, 2011)  Jeremiah Hunt has been broken by a malevolent force that has taken his young daughter and everything else of value in his life: Abandoning all hope for a normal life, he enters the world of ghosts and dangerous entities from beyond the grave. Sacrificing his normal sight so that he can see the souls of the dead, Hunt embarks on a strange new career: chasing away wayward spirits that torment the living.

ghost trackers

Ghost Trackers ~ by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson; 384 pages; Pocket Books (September 27, 2011)   For fifteen years, Amber, Drew, and Trevor have barely been able to recall—let alone explain—what happened the terrifying night they decided to explore the old, abandoned Lowry House. Now, on the eve of their high school reunion, they have gathered to reopen their investigation and figure out, once and for all, what took place that fateful night . . . before the supernatural entity they escaped threatens to overtake them again. (A novel.)

ghost files

Ghost Files ~ by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson;  560 pages; Gallery Books; Original edition (September 13, 2011) In this hair-raising omnibus, Hawes and Wilson, founders of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (T.A.P.S.), reveal the memorable and spine-tingling cases featured in their smash-hit collections, Ghost Hunting and Seeking Spirits. (Non-fiction)

Simon & Schuster ~ Fantasy Trilogies

ashes of black frost

Ashes of a Black Frost (#3 in the “Iron Elves” trilogy) ~ by Chris Evens; 448 pages;  Gallery Books (October 18, 2011)   The third novel in the acclaimed epic fantasy series following The Light of Burning Shadows - Musket and cannon, bow and arrow, and magic and diplomacy vie for supremacy once again in this all-new epic adventure from acclaimed author Chris Evans. As the human-dominated Calahrian Empire struggles to maintain its hold on power in the face of armed rebellion from within, the Iron Elves’ perilous quest to defeat the power-hungry elf witch, the Shadow Monarch, now takes on greater urgency....

A Darkness Forged in Fire (#2) and The Light of Burning Shadows (#1)

a darkeness forged in firethe light of shadow 


The Shattered Vine (# 3 from “Vineart War” trilogy) ~ by Laura Anne Gilman;  352 pages; Gallery Books (October 18, 2011)    An island nation has vanished. Men of honor and magic have died unnatural deaths. Slaves flee in terror. . . . Are the silent gods beginning to speak? Or is another force at work in the Lands Vin?

Weight of Stone (#2)  and Flesh and Fire (#1)

vineart2vineart 1

**Don’t forget! We have this series for giveaway until October 17th – its linked in the side bar on the blog.

Historical Fiction promise the night

Promise the Night ~ by Machela MacColl;  Young Adult;  256 pages; Chronicle Books (December 21, 2011)    A carefully researched work of historical fiction introduces young readers to the childhood of the famous yet elusive Beryl Markham, the first person to fly solo from England to North America. A multilayered story with an unforgettable heroine and evocative language that brings the backdrop of colonial British East Africa to life. A fascinating read for anyone with a thirst for adventure.


DAEL and the Painted People (book 3) ~ by Allan Richard Shickman; Young Adult; 168 pages; Earthshaker Books (August 30, 2011)   A prehistoric adventure, this is the third of the Zan-Gah young adult books. When Dael, guilty and tormented, came to live with the tribe of the painted people, he longed for peace and restoration; but without knowing it, he made a powerful enemy.  It has received ”The Mom's Choice Gold Seal for Excellence” in a family-friendly book series.


The Time in Between ~ Maria Duenas (translated from Spanish by Daniel Hahn);  624 pages;  Atria Books (November 8, 2011) Suddenly left abandoned and penniless in Algiers by her lover, Sira Quiroga forges a new identity. Against all odds she becomes the most sought-after couture designer for the socialite wives of German Nazi officers. But she is soon embroiled in a dangerous political conspiracy as she passes information to the British Secret Service through a code stitched into the hems of her dresses.

sand queen_thumb[1]

Sand Queen ~ by Helen Benedict; 312 pages; Soho Press (August 2, 2011)   Nineteen-year-old Kate Brady joined the army to bring honor to her family and democracy to the Middle East. Instead, she finds herself in a forgotten corner of the Iraq desert in 2003, guarding a makeshift American prison. Culled from real life stories of female soldiers and Iraqis, Sand Queen offers a story of hope, courage and struggle from the rare perspective of women at war.

Non – Fiction


Eat Vegan on $4.00 a Day ~ by Ellen Jaffe Jones;  160 pages; Book Publishing (June 7, 2011) Not only can a plant-based diet be good for health, it can also be easy on the pocketbook. At a time when many people are looking for a way to cut costs, Vegan on $4 a Day will show readers how to forgo expensive processed foods and get the most flavor out of delicious, high-quality basic ingredients.


Shea Vaughn’s Breakthrough ~ by Shea Vaughn; 240 pages; HCI; (October 3, 2011)  Many women believe that once they reach a certain milestone, they should look a certain way or have accomplished certain goals;  In this illuminating book, this noted health and wellness expert offers a holistic way to help women achieve their own personal breakthroughs and experience dramatic improvements in their relationships, career, creativity, and fitness levels, and to find fulfillment in their lives. 

Which book(s) would you choose to read first?

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: Spellwright ~ by Blake Charlton


Review by Shellie for Spellwright ~ by Blake Charlton

An epic young adult fantasy with a modern and creative twist. A humorous and mildly scary hero’s journey, this book is perfect for smart youngsters from tween-age into ancient adulthood.

About:   In a fantastical world where spells are created from magical languages, the main character Nicodermis is a trainee in the skills needed to create these spells. He believes himself to be an insignificant part of a bigger picture. There is a big problem with his spelling (he can’t), so his teachers place him with a variety of other “marginal” acolytes with various disabilities. Here he becomes a leader (of sorts) in a world which does other than appreciate them.

In this mountainous and almost medieval world, Nicodermis’ connection to his greater purpose is not quite clear and all is not well. Evil powers are bent on keeping everything as it is or worse - imbalanced and dark. They will do anything to stop the fates in motions of which Nicodermis is key.

My Thoughts:     Fresh and inclusive of a wide variety of diverse types of characters, this is a fun read. Nary a bad word, or sexual reference, it’s a perfect read for young adults and those looking for a “clean” fantasy setting. The author has some interesting swaps for cursing which are in fact quite hilarious. Here are examples:

“Splattering spud”;  “Ooo, you dirty son of a rat-eating butt dog!”  And an example of a curse as bad as it gets - “Drink goat piss, you slimy pigeon penis”.

Kids of all ages will have to laugh at this. I did.

The characters are wonderful and loveable and Nicodermis is a very relate-able main character. A humble hero who is on his journey and refuses to admit that he may just be the one to save his world. There are also several flawed and interesting supporting characters - a blind old wise man with dreadlocks and magic gargoyles that are created from the written spells, a wonderful talking bird named Azure that loves to be scratched on its head (gosh darn cute and I want one), a dream dragon, and elemental ghosts. But don’t worry there are exciting and dark bits too involving a scary and ancient evil; also a clay Golem housing an amazing monster which is frightening and imaginative. This is definitely the beginning of an epic series.

An impressive first novel - the book has an easy to read style that is imbued with a subtle humor, a characteristic which is apparent on Blake Charlton’s blog and in his interviews. I cannot say one negative thing about this debut novel and am expecting some amazing fiction from this new and talented author. I can’t wait to read the next in this series, Spellbound, which I understand is even better than this first novel. 4 stars for this fun, creative and giggly debut novel.

Spellwright HC UKspellwright sb ukSpellbound UK

Spellbound HC US

Cover Love! ~  Shown above are the three UK covers for Spellwright and Spellbound; its US format to the right below. Fun stuff.

For more information on Spellwright please see our incoming post for it. Also check out its sequel Spellbound’s release day. For more information on Blake Charlton check out my fun interview with him that is especially for “the girls”. For a more recent snippet about him link to a video interview at with Blake Charlton.

Please note that this is my second written review of Spellwright as the first was lost in – “The Gremlin Attack” – where everything was pilfered by the little monster via the computer hard drive crash.

Thanks for reading.

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