Monday, April 30, 2012

Giveaway: Spring Fling Hop ~ Lucky Bastard by S. G. Browne

spring fling

Welcome to the Spring Fling Giveaway Hop ~ May 1st till the 7th!  Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (badge above links the site and giveaway post) and Eve's Fan Garden

We have one book for one Canadian or US address offered kindly by the publicist. Please be a reader or follower of Layers of Thought to enter this giveaway, then fill out our Google form completely for your entry to count.

Have fun with the hop and good luck!


lucky bastard 2

Now for a bit about the Book on offer to Win!

Lucky Bastard ~ by S. G. Browne

There’s an old saying about making your own luck, but what if you can steal and then sell it? 

In his anticipated third novel, critically-acclaimed author of Breathers and Fated, S. G. Brown introduces San Francisco Private Investigator Nick Monday who possesses more than just the luck of the Irish in LUCKY BASTARD (Gallery Books; April 2012).

As a private detective Nick shares more in common with television detective blundering Columbo and handsome Magnum PI rather than his classical literary and noir counterparts Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. But there’s a twist to Nick’s talents that no other private investigator has: Nick has the ability to poach other people’s luck with a mere handshake.

Fans of crime fiction, mystery, fantasy and even paranormal will be intrigued and laugh of how Nick manages this unique talent, how the rich and famous yearn for his abundant stash and will pay the price for the most powerful, addictive and dangerous drug of all. But it’s not always hobnobbing with the elite or with Lady Luck. Nick’s procurement can either be a blessing or a curse as he takes from those with a charmed life and sells it to the addicted and desperate.

However, when a lucrative $100,000 offer is made by the mayor’s daughter, Tuesday Knight, to retrieve her father’s stolen luck will the caffeine-addicted luck purveyor’s own good fortune run out when he tangles with a Chinese mafia warlord, gets blackmailed by the government, and has his head turned by an attractive competitor?

LUCKY BASTARD is S.G. Browne’s sharp, gritty and noir tale that will keep readers chuckling at this happy-go-lucky hero’s fast-paced exploits.


Requirements are:

  1. Be a reader/follower to enter this contest.
  2. Fill out the Google form completely.

You have several options:

  1. Google: via the blog’s side bar (I will follow back if I can find your blog.) or
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Other optional ways of “following/friending” or keeping up to date:

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Please enter via the Google document:

This blog hop and giveaway is now closed. Please stop by soon for our next giveaway on offer.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: White Horse ~ by Alex Adams

white horse

Review by Shellie for: White Horse ~ by Alex Adams

The first in a planned trilogy, it’s a stream of consciousness styled apocalyptic tale with alternating timeframes. The novel features an illness that horrifically decimates and changes the human population, and an intriguing mythic thread with a heroine’s journey - where a young survivor travels on a heartfelt mission to find the father of her unborn child.

About:   Zoe is strong, intelligent and reflective. In transition, she is working at a local research facility where she does janitorial work while trying to figure out what she will do with her life. In the process she visits a male therapist in an attempt to find herself and to figure out what appears to be a slight problem she is having around a jar that has “magically” appeared in her apartment - which the therapist thinks is in her imagination. She is at once scared, curious and concerned, about this metaphoric Pandora's box.

When everyone starts becoming ill and dying from similar symptoms, with the survivors changing bizarrely, Zoe remains unaffected physically. Yet emotionally she struggles to contain some part of a greater humanity while many that are left are loosing theirs. She is left with one option, which is to head out on a heroic journey to Greece to find her unborn child’s father. During her journey she finds the most animalistic, insane, dark yet conversely self-sacrificing aspects of human nature.

Thoughts:   Although I really do not like to compare new novels to older very popular ones, this was very reminiscent of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. You can’t have the world fall apart without loosing your mind, however strong the character, which both books exemplify. However, White Horse has a strong female heroine (which I really liked and could relate to), rather than a male, a fabulous mythic thread that McCarthy’s book did not, and some interesting insight into human nature - which is a key aspect to any good apocalyptic fiction and an element of both books.

Thinking about the author’s writing, it’s insightful and has unusual language. However, its “stream of consciousness” style and alternating timeframes sometimes made it feel choppy and confusing. I had to struggle to keep track of events and puzzled over whether what was happening was Zoe’s “stream of consciousness” delusional dream experiences and imaginings or if it was actually happening. Though I should mention that my version was an ARC so this “choppiness” may have been edited out; or perhaps it’s a trope used to create a surreal feel. I am thinking the later, since at the end of the world even the strong are going to loose their minds, even if it’s only partially.

Beyond my quibble, the best part of the novel and one which I really really liked was a spectacular thread that contained myth. I would have loved to see more of a discernable link in the first three quarters of the novel to the disease and its name, but then perhaps the book would have become trite? However, this is a terrific story with some exceptional elements. If you enjoy good apocalyptic stories and/or have an interest in mythology, this will be great read for you. In fact I think it may be one of those books which will be a perfect book club selection and that is probably worth a second read. I am curious what Alex Adams will do with the mythic element in the next two planned books for the series – Red Horse and Pale Horse. Despite my small concerns I enjoyed the novel and think it deserves a 4 star rating – definitely recommended.


White Horse by Alex Adams; (ARC); Atria/Emily Bestler Books; April 17th, 2012.  It’s the first book in a planned trilogy.

Alex Adams is from New Zealand but now resides in Oregon, US. This is her first book.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Questions and Answer with: Alyx Dellamonica author of ~ Blue Magic

alyx dellamonica

Question and answer with ~ Alyx Dellamonica.

I am pleased to welcome the author of Blue Magic (just released by Tor) and it’s predecessor Indigo Springs, to answer a few things I think about when reading a book:

Why she chose urban fantasy as a genre when writing; where her creative sources for this intriguing two book series came from; and what was her publishing process like, particularly in relationship with Tor. I am sure many of the writer/readers who read our blog are just bubbling to know.

We also have more info about Alyx, including social media links, a blurb for the novels, and links for excerpts too. I just started Indigo Springs and think that what’s inside its pages feels as promising and fun as the irresistible covers that are so notorious at Tor books.

Let’s welcome Alyx!


First, my favorite question: why write urban fantasy? 

I write in a number of genres: science fiction, alternate history, horror, and even mystery and literary fiction, but most of my work has been fantasy of one stripe or another. It suits my imagination, I think: I like to start stories with images like girls eating grocery carts or guys seeing their dead lovers' ghosts in an array of festive balloons.

I haven't got the science chops to sell those sorts of visions as scientifically plausible, and I rarely want to in any case. What's cool about magic is that it *is* magic, as far as I'm concerned: I like to write stories where the impossible falls within some ordinary individual's grasp.

blue magic

Always thinking about the reasons for the creative ideas when creating a novel: where did your idea for this two book series come from?     

I found many sources of inspiration for differing parts of the Indigo Springs story--everything from seeing my partner edit a book on river repatriation to an up-close look into the soul of someone much like the character who is arguably the story's villainess, Sahara Knax--but I can recall a fair stretch of time where I was trying to start a piece about a source of raw magic oozing out of a crack in the earth. It was an image that wouldn't let go. To this day I don't know why.

Those early story attempts didn't work out all that well, though, until I figured out what could be done with the magic. That element came from a series of short stories I'd written about magical items called 'chantments,' little oddities that could each contain a limited mystical power, contained powers a person could safely wield.

As I wrote more about vitagua and began to understand its more dangerous effects--it's magical, but also acts as something of an environmental toxin, akin to radioactive waste--I came upon a house in Vancouver whose chimney had been painted up to the roof. The owners had slapped a layer of green paint on the house and just hadn't bothered to avoid the bricks. That gave me another little piece of the puzzle, and the house in Indigo Springs has the same slapdash paint job... but this time, it's for a reason.

And: what was your publishing experience like? (We have a number or writers, who read the blog and dream of working with Tor, who would love to know.)               

I've only ever sold novels to Jim Frenkel at Tor, so to start I have to say I have no basis for comparison with other publishers, big or small. And like those readers of yours, Tor was my dream too, my first choice of market for Indigo Springs. They have such a fantastic reputation and so maIndigo Springsny writers I love are Tor authors, and back when I finished the book they were also running a thing called the Tor Women in Fantasy program that I quite admired. So getting picked up by them was an out and out thrill.

What's especially fantastic about Tor now is that they have made their web site a real showcase for writers and speculative fiction. Tor.com is like a goodie bag crammed full of neat fannish things, and they let writers play along. I'm currently rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer (http://www.tor.com/features/series/buffy-the-vampire-slayer-on-torcom) and writing an article every week about that; last summer, I read some of my favorite Eighties horror novels, everything from Stephen King's It to V.C. Andrews's Flowers in the Attic. They've published some of my fiction, including a story set on Stormwrack, the world where my *next* three books will take place--it's called "Among the Silvering Herd" (http://www.tor.com/stories/2012/02/among-the-silvering-herd) –and this summer they're going to print a different story, "Wild Things," that ties into Indigo Springs and Blue Magic.

What I want, as a writer, is quite simply to reach people: readers, of course, and other writers, too. The Tor site creates this glorious synergy that lets me engage in conversations with the awesome, creative, fiction-loving people at Tor, with Buffy fans, with people who are into my books, with other Tor writers... it's the equivalent of a big noisy club. It's a veritable scene.

But that doesn't answer the 'what's it like' question, does it?

The part of publishing these two books that didn't involve my sitting at a desk writing them, happened at punctuated intervals. A lot of the time, I was busily writing other things in Vancouver while the books moved through the publication process in New York. Other people do so much for a novel--you can't imagine how much work it is to create a gorgeous platform for your story until you try it yourself.

So from Vancouver the process felt like this: most days, I'd get up each morning and  write other things. Which is a big win as far as I'm concerned, because writing's what I love to do with my time. Every so often, I'd check in with Jim Frenkel or he'd check in with me about some aspect of where we were. He sent me editorial suggestions, for example, and I set the other stories aside and made changes to the book. Later he sent me copy edits, which for both books were handled by the meticulous and fantastic Eliani Torres. More time passed, and then there were page proofs. Since these were my first books and I hadn't worked with a four hundred page copy-edited manuscript before, there was some extremely patient teaching--hey, Alyx, this is how you copy edit, and this is how you correct a page proof. This happened twice, because enough time lapsed between the two novels that I'd forgotten a lot... and it's not an area where I learn fast anyway.

As for the gorgeous covers on both books, with which I'm entirely delighted, here's a link to an article I wrote for Tor about those. (http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/02/covering-blue-magic)

What I'm trying to convey here is that I didn't have to do any of the things that I would have been terrible at: visual design, copy-editing, and proofreading are not my strong suits. But I did always feel included and consulted.

Gosh, I'm really happy with my publishing lot right now, aren't I?

Something that can get to people is that you wait for things, in publishing. You sell a piece and you wait for a contract. You get the contract done and wait for a cheque. You send the book in, and wait for editorial notes. Lather, rinse, repeat.

(And people who live outside the writing bubble don't always get this. I do a fair amount of fiction writing in a cafe, and three weeks ago one of the other regulars said to me: "Putting on the final touches?" He thought I was polishing up Blue Magic, even though he knew it was due to hit bookstores a week later.) So there's waiting. Then one day--at least if you're me--your shiny Tor novel's been out for three days and it's gorgeous, and people are Tweeting about it and reviewing it and OMG, you've got a launch to plan and wonderful publicists to work with (publicists plural, yes, because I have one on either side of the Canada-U.S. border) and total strangers are sending you lovely notes about appreciating story elements you worked really hard on... and it's amazing.

So that's what it's like, at least today as I write this. Which is a longwinded way of saying: seriously, it's great.


Alyx Dellamonica lives in Vancouver, Canada, where she sings in a community choir and takes thousands of digital photographs. In 2003, soon after finishing her first novel, Indigo Springs, the Supreme Court of B.C. ruled in favor of legalized same-sex marriage. A month later, she achieved a lifelong dream by marrying her long-term partner, writer and wine critic Kelly Robson, at one of their favorite places, the UBC Botanical Gardens. She also has a fabulous “Buffy Rewatch” series on Tor.com.

To find out more about Alyx link to her Official Site: http://alyxdellamonica.com; Blog:  http://planetalyx.livejournal.com; Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AlyxDellamonica
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/AlyxDellamonica; and G+: https://plus.google.com/106086459950640246872/posts


Here are links for excerpts for these two latest novels located via the titles: Blue Magic (April 10, 2012), the sequel to the critically-acclaimed, Sunburst Award–winning contemporary fantasy debut, Indigo Springs (November 2, 2012.)  

Here is a bit about – Blue Magic:   This powerful sequel starts in the small town in Oregon where Astrid Lethewood discovered an underground river of blue liquid—Vitagua—that is pure magic. Everything it touches is changed. The secret is out—and the world will never be the same. Astrid’s best friend, Sahara, has been corrupted by the blue magic, and now leads a cult that seeks to rule the world. Astrid, on the other hand, tries to heal the world.

Conflicting ambitions, star-crossed lovers, and those who fear and hate magic combine in a terrible conflagration, pitting friend against friend, magic against magic, and the power of nations against a small band of zealots, with the fate of the world at stake. Blue Magic is a powerful story of private lives changed by earthshaking events that will ensnare readers in its poignant tale of a world touched by magic and plagued by its consequences.

Thanks once again for reading!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wisteria and Jasmine Courtesy of Mother Nature ~ Napa, CA

Shellie's Camera 2010 till June 2012 363

Let’s Celebrate Earth Day ~ with some pictures from our new garden! 

All courtesy of Mother Nature, some great gardeners, and the fertile soil near the Napa river - there is a reason why such wonderful wines are grown and produced here. However, these pictures do not do these Wisteria, Jasmine, and Apple Blossom justice, since the aroma is part of this package, and let me tell you the scent is mind blowing!

Taken from the second story window looking over our small yard, it’s a glorious house warming gift, since they were at the height of their bloom last week when we moved into our new home. It just does not get better than this!

Shellie's Camera 2010 till June 2012 362Shellie's Camera 2010 till June 2012 359

More Napa pictures coming, since we are hiking this weekend and the weather is just in the 80’s. You should see the profusion of California poppies everywhere. Hopefully we can capture their beauty in a picture to share with you.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Incoming Books ~ April 21st, 2012

Several thick hardcover books stacked on top of each other

Incoming Books ~ April 21st, 2012.

Books, books, and more books! Boxes and boxes, packed and unpacked. Can anyone ever have enough books? We say a resounding “NO WAY”! Ask us how many boxes of books we packed and unpacked in our recent move. (approximately 25 boxes – okay small boxes but still.) 

What’s even better is we have some more here to share, in our - Incoming Books feature. And the most fun part is hearing which ones you, our friends and readers want the most. So please tell us:

Which of these not so new, new, or soon to be published books you would pick up and read first?


Macmillan | Tor

blue magic

Blue Magic (Blue Magic Series, #2) ~ by A.M. Dellamonica; Tor Books; 4/10/2012

This powerful sequel to A.M. Dellamonica's Sunburst Award–winning contemporary fantasy Indigo Springs starts in the small town in Oregon where Astrid Lethewood discovered an underground river of blue liquid—Vitagua—that is pure magic. Everything it touches is changed. The secret is out—and the world will never be the same. Astrid’s best friend, Sahara, has been corrupted by the blue magic, and now leads a cult that seeks to rule the world. Astrid, on the other hand, tries to heal the world.

Conflicting ambitions, star-crossed lovers, and those who fear and hate magic combine in a terrible conflagration, pitting friend against friend, magic against magic, and the power of nations against a small band of zealots, with the fate of the world at stake.

Indigo Springs

Indigo Springs (Blue Magic Series, #1) ~ A.M. Dellamonica; Tor Books; 10/27/2009

Indigo Springs is a sleepy town where things seem pretty normal . . . until Astrid’s father dies and she moves into his house. She discovers that for many years her father had been accessing the magic that flowed, literally, in a blue stream beneath the earth, leaking into his house. When she starts to use the liquid "vitagua" to enchant everyday items, the results seem innocent enough: a “’chanted” watch becomes a charm that means you're always in the right place at the right time; a “’chanted” pendant enables the wearer to convince anyone of anything . . .

Also, we have Alyx Dellamonica for guest post/question and answer coming up in a few days and it’s a terrific post. She has one heck of an imagination. So check it out!

siege

Seige (As the World Dies, #3) ~ by Rhiannon Frater; Tor Books; 4/24/2012

Siege is the conclusion to Rhiannon Frater’s As the World Dies trilogy, which should appeal to fans of The Walking Dead. Both The First Days and Fighting to Survive won the Dead Letter Award from Mail Order Zombie. The First Days was named one of the Best Zombie Books of the Decade by the Harrisburg Book Examiner.

The zombie illness has shattered civilization. The survivors who have found tenuous safety in Texas defend their fort against the walking dead and living bandits.

the first days

Katie has made peace with the death of her wife and is pregnant and married to Travis, who has been elected Mayor. Jenni, her stepson, Jason; and Juan—Travis’s righthand man—are a happy family, though Jenni suffers from PTSD. Both women are deadly zombie killers.

In Siege, the people of Ashley Oaks are stunned to discover that the vice president of the United States is alive and commanding the remnants of the fighting to surviveUS military. What’s left of the US government has plans for this group of determined survivors.

The First Days (#1) – July 2011; (Link to Shellie’s review for the book.)

Fighting to Survive (# 2) - November 2011; (Link to our Incoming Books post with this book.)

 

 royal street

Royal Street ~ by Suzanne Johnson; Tor Books; 4/10/2012

Book one of a planned series:  As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ's boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.
To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.

shadow blizzard

Shadow Blizzard (book 3) ~ by Alexey Perhov; Tor Books; 4/24/2012

Shadow Blizzard is the third book by the international bestselling fantasy author Alexey Pehov. Like Shadow Prowler and Shadow Chaser, Shadow Blizzard is epic fantasy at its best; this is the third book in a trilogy that follows Shadow Harold, Siala's master thief, on his quest for the magic Horn that will restore peace to his world. After the loss of friends and comrades, after betrayal and battle, after capture by fearsome orcs, Harold finally reaches the dreaded Hrad Spein. But before he can complete his quest by stealing the magic horn, he will have to brave the most fearsome obstacles yet—obstacles that have destroyed everyone before him...and Harolshadow prowlerd must do so alone.

Shadow Prowler (#1) February 2011

After centuries of calm, the Nameless One is stirring. By next spring, or perhaps sooner, the Nameless One and his forces will be at the walls of the great city of Avendoom.  Unless Shadow Harold, master thief, can find some way to stop them.

But Harold isn’t alone.  An Elfin princess, Miralissa, her entourage, ten Wild Hearts, the most experienced and dangerous fighters in their world, and the king’s court jester all join him in his quest. These comshadow chaserpanions will form a bond of friendship and honor that must carry them over a series of frightful obstacles before they can reach their goal: Hrad Spein, the mysterious Palaces of the Bones.  Only there will they find the key to undoing the ancient curse that hangs over their world and ridding the land of the Nameless One forever.
Reminiscent of Moorcock's Elric series, Shadow Prowler is the first work to be translated into English from Russian by the bestselling, new generation fantasy author Alexey Pehov. 

Shadow Chaser (#2) February 2012; (See the incoming books including this second in the series.)

Misc. Indie Authors:

Broken Time 3

Broken Time ~ by Emily Devenport; July 22, 2011

This now self published book was originally published traditionally under one of the author’s pen names. It was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and can be purchased in ebook format at Smashwords for 99 cents. It’s a science fiction novel with romantic elements. Here is what it’s all about:

They say Time can't stand still. They're wrong.

Siggy Lindquist was looking for something better than the life she left behind. What she found is a job at the Institute for the Criminally Insane, home to the galaxy's deadliest criminals -- human monsters caged for the rest of their unnatural lives.

Now all Siggy wants to do is get through each day with her safety and sanity intact. But when two of the Institute's most dangerous inmates take an interest in her, for their own twisted reasons, she is caught up in a potential war between two races -- a war that only a forgotten secret from her past can prevent. Desperate to avert disaster, Siggy finds herself in a galaxy-spanning race against time -- and time stands still for no one. Or does it?

wood

Wood ~ by Robert Dunbar; Uninvited Books: 2/23/2012

Blessed is the Creature that knows its purpose.

Woods surround a blighted section of a nameless city, and at night something creeps forth into the streets, something that preys upon humans ... and may ultimately replace them.

This is literary horror at its best. Highly recommended for those wanting an intelligent scare which is tasteful and thought provoking but will also scare your socks off too. It’s a novella by the author of Willy – link to Shellie’s recent review of Robert Dunbar’s previous novel. Great stuff!   

General Fiction:

the cove

The Cove ~ by Ron Rash; Harper Collins; 4/10/2012

Deep in the rugged Appalachians of North Carolina lies the cove, a dark, forbidding place where spirits and fetches wander, and even the light fears to travel. Or so the townsfolk of Mars Hill believe–just as they know that Laurel Shelton, the lonely young woman who lives within its shadows, is a witch. Alone except for her brother, Hank, newly returned from the trenches of France, she aches for her life to begin.

Then it happens–a stranger appears, carrying nothing but a beautiful silver flute and a note explaining that his name is Walter, he is mute, and is bound for New York. Laurel finds him in the woods, nearly stung to death by yellow jackets, and nurses him back to health. As the days pass, Walter slips easily into life in the cove and into Laurel's heart, bringing her the only real happiness she has ever known.

But Walter harbors a secret that could destroy everything–and danger is closer than they know. Though the war in Europe is near its end, patriotic fervor flourishes thanks to the likes of Chauncey Feith, an ambitious young army recruiter who stokes fear and outrage throughout the county. In a time of uncertainty, when fear and ignorance reign, Laurel and Walter will discover that love may not be enough to protect them.


That’s it folks. So please do tell: which of these incredible books would you read first?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Children’s Choice Book Awards 2012 ~ Vote for your Favorites!

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Share the joy of reading during Children’s Book Week ~  May 7th to the 13th.

You can support this fun and important week NOW with a vote for your favorites in the Children’s Choice Book Awards

For more information here is a clip taken from the Book Week Online web site:

 

 

One hallmark of Children's Book Week is the Children's Choice Book Awards, the only national child-chosen book awards program! The awards celebrate books, authors, and illustrators that capture the interest and imaginations of kids and teens.

Awards are given in six categories:

  • Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year
  • Third to Fourth Grade Book of the Year
  • Fifth to Sixth Grade Book of the Year
  • Teen Choice Book of the Year
  • Author of the Year
  • Illustrator of the Year

Finalists for the younger readers are determined through the Children's Choices program, a joint project of the CBC and the International Reading Association since the 1970s. Teen Choice finalists are voted on by teen readers at TeenReads.com, an online home for teens to learn about new books and share their thoughts about what they read. Author of the Year and Illustrator of the Year finalists are compiled by the CBC from Bookscan, New York Times bestseller lists, and USA Today bestseller lists.


Vote for your favorites at www.BookWeekOnline.com by May 3!

Here are the choices:

Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year

  • Bailey by Harry Bliss (Scholastic)
  • Dot by Patricia Intriago (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan)
  • Pirates Don’t Take Baths by John Segal (Philomel/Penguin)
  • Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester L. Laminack, illustrated by Henry Cole (Peachtree)
  • Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Scott Campbell (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster)

Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of the Year

  • Bad Kitty Meets the Baby by Nick Bruel (Roaring Brook/Macmillan)
  • A Funeral in the Bathroom: And Other School Bathroom Poems by KalliDakos, illustrated by Mark Beech (Albert Whitman)
  • The Monstrous Book of Monsters by Libby Hamilton, illustrated by Jonny Duddle and AlekseiBitskoff (Templar/Candlewick)
  • Sidekicks by Dan Santat (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)
  • Squish #1: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House)

Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year

  • Bad Island by Doug TenNapel (GRAPHIX/Scholastic)
  • How to Survive Anything by Rachel Buchholz,illustrated by Chris Philpot (National Geographic)
  • Lost & Found by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)
  • Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog by Garth Stein (HarperCollins)

Teen Book of the Year

  • Clockwork Prince: The Infernal Devices, Book Two by Cassandra Clare (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster)
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown)
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins)
  • Passion: A Fallen Novel by Lauren Kate (Delacorte/Random House)
  • Perfect by Ellen Hopkins (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster)

Author of the Year

  • Jeff Kinney for Diary of a Wimpy Kid 6: Cabin Fever (Amulet Books/Abrams)
  • Christopher Paolini for Inheritance (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
  • James Patterson for Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life (Little, Brown)
  • Rick Riordan for The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 2) (Disney Hyperion)
  • Rachel RenĂ©e Russell for Dork Diaries 3: Tales from a Not-So-Talented Pop Starz (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster)

Illustrator of the Year

  • Felicia Bond for If You Give a Dog a Donut (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
  • Eric Carle for The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse (Philomel/Penguin)
  • Anna Dewdney for Llama Llama Home With Mama (Viking/Penguin)
  • Victoria Kann for Silverlicious (HarperCollins)
  • Brian Selznick for Wonderstruck (Scholastic)

There are some great books here, go on and vote for your favorites!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Giveaway Hop: Showers of Books ~ April 20th to 25th

showers blog hop

Welcome to the Showers of Books Giveaway Hop!  Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & One A Day Y.A. 

We have one book on offer for giveaway for a US address. This is short story collection for literary fiction lovers. You do not need to be a reader or follow to enter this giveaway, just fill our the Google form completely and you’re set to go!


TigersEyeCover

The Tiger’s Eye: New & Selected Stories ~ by Gladys Swan.

Stories have been selected from the six previous collections of short fiction I have published written over the past four decades. The collection deals with characters who stand at the edge of or outside the social order, wrestling with their various predicaments, trying to find a place for themselves, a way to live.

About the Author:   Swan is the author of three novels and six short story collections. The stories in this collection represent the work of over thirty years of writing and include the very best of this writer and visual artist’s stories.

She has published two novels, two which were nominated for the PEN Faulkner. The Tiger’s Eye: New & Selected Stories is the most recent of her seven collections of short fiction. Her paintings have been used for the covers of three of her books and for those of other writers as well as for several literary magazines.

Praise for Gladys Swan

“Gladys Swan’s stories feel as though they were written in a different time, when words mattered more than they do now, and stories were made to last and made to live. I have been an ardent fan of her work for many years now, and this collection proves yet again what an incredible gift she is to the land of letters.”—Brett Lott, author of Ancient Highway

“I’ve long been an admirer of her work, and now, in The Tiger’s Eye, we have her best and richest stories. There’s gentle humor in her writing, bittersweet honesty, and the hard-won wisdom that only the finest fiction achieves. The American short story has no finer practitioner.”—W. D. Wetherell, author of A Century of November

“A wide variety of settings adds brilliance to important themes: the irresistible powers of memory, the confusions of exile, genuineness and falsity in art, the integrity of loneliness. Every situation is seen in an ironic light, yet every character is fully respected. Each paragraph is rewarding and the whole of the collection is a rich trove. Such precision of observation, such fineness of intonation! Uncannily good.—Fred Chappell, author of Ancestors and Others: New and Selected Stories


You do not need to be a follower/reader to enter this giveaway but just in case you would like to keep up to date on future offers here are some optional ways of following Layers of Thought.

Your several options:

  1. Google: via the blog’s side bar (I will follow back if I can find your blog)
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Please enter via the Google document:

 

This hop is now closed. Come back soon for our next offer and blog hop coming at the beginning of May!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Guest Post from Kristen Wolf author of ~ The Way

K-Wolf-photo-web-256x300

Guest post from Kristen Wolf author of ~ The Way.

Kristen Wolf is here to share with us why she decided to write this historical novel. With its unusual and controversial premise I was curious how she came up with the idea.

Take a look at a shortened summary for The Way which will illustrate its intrigue:

Anna is a tomboy living in ancient Palestine whose androgynous appearance provokes the people around her and doubt within her heart. When tragedy strikes her family, and Anna's father sells her to a band of shepherds, she is captured by a mystical and secret society of women. At first Anna is tempted to escape, but she soon finds that the sisterhood's teachings and healing abilities, wrapped in an ancient philosophy they call "The Way," have unleashed power within her.

The “back-story” for this book is an interesting one. Let’s welcome Kristen.


How THE WAY Came to Be

I wrote The Way because I had no choice. Its roots are deep and stretch all the way back to my childhood. In some ways I feel like I've been entertaining the story of Anna in my imagination since I was a very little girl.

As a child, I was raised in the Christian tradition. An eager and ready participant, I loved learning about the great and powerful mysteries I could feel all around and abovthe waye me. And I loved the drama and sensuality of church and our celebrations. Yet as time went on, I began to feel a definite sense of being somehow excluded from the whole enterprise. After all, church leaders could only be male, our God was male, and the main player was the Father's only son.

Was there no place for me in all this? I remember wondering.

So one day, at age six, I did something to fix the situation: I carried my desk into the driveway, covered it with a white sheet, adorned the front with a red felt cross and, upon this makeshift altar, held "church" for a gathering of neighborhood children.

My impersonation of a priest caused quite a stir, as you can imagine. Yet, however amusing, this story encapsulates a child's powerful longing to carve a place for herself in the world of spirituality.

But guess what? It didn't work.

Life went back to the status quo. And for the next decade or so, I lived a kind of double life. In the first, I was a young person thrilled by the miraculous power of the world around me, inspired to seek the deeper meaning and purpose of things. Yet in the second, I was an apathetic practitioner of my religion. Just going through the motions.

Over time, I grew more and more bothered by what felt like a "boys club" to which I could not be admitted. And I vividly remember thinking it wrong that the people who seemed to most innately embody the ideals that Jesus upheld -- forgiveness, compassion, cooperation, nonviolence, respect for life -- were not being included, nor honored, in our endeavors.

(The same disparity holds true today. Survey any of our major religions and you'll find half of the world's population excluded from its imagery and leadership.)

For years, I didn't question the way things were. But when I entered college my youthful discontent would mix with a variety of influences: personal experiences, college studies with Jesuits, independent study of prehistoric cultures, mythology, ancient and modern spiritual traditions,and the leading-edge scholarship that had uncovered efforts throughout history to remove the feminine from the spiritual domain.

Having felt first-hand the negative effects of living under a religion that sets the male higher than the female, I decided to try and instigate change.

The Way, then, is my adult version of holding church in the driveway. It's my second attempt at offering up a tangible vision of spirituality that is more balanced and inclusive. One that includes and honors the true value of women and girls, in its imagery, leadership, and practice. And one where we might dare to imagine the possibility that a great spiritual leader could be a woman.

I'm hopeful that someday the possibility of this new spiritual world will arise. And while it's too late for the little girl in the driveway, it's not too late for my child. Or for the children yet to come.

© 2012 Kristen Wolf, author of The Way



Kristen Wolf is a mother, writer, and filmmaker living in the Rocky Mountains. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Georgetown University and holds an M.A. in creative writing from Hollins University. This is her first novel. For more information please visit http://www.kristenwolf.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

The Way was recommended by Oprah in her fall reading list for 2011. Also if you have a moment, link here to check out the book’s trailer.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Jamrach’s Menagerie ~ by Carol Birch

jamrach's menagerie

Review by Shellie for: Jamrach’s Menagerie ~ by Carol Birch (Audio)

A literary coming of age tale that catalogs a historical journey of a sailing ship’s trip to the South Seas. Set in Victorian times, and told in first person by its main protagonist, a boy called Jaffy, the ship voyages to exotic isles to capture wild animals. When the ship becomes lost at sea, the story addresses some of the darkest aspects of human need and survival.

About:  Jaffy Brown, is a street urchin who lives in London with his working class mother. His adventures start when he accidently attains star-like status due to being taken up by a lion in its jowls, and surviving.  So he is offered a job working for the man named Jamrach (an exotic animal dealer) because it is now believed he possess powers with wild animals. When later he is given the opportunity to travel on a whaling ship to the South Seas in order to capture more animals for Jamrach’s Menagerie, one of which is a “dragon”, Jaffy jumps at the chance. 

A mistake aboard the ship creates a catastrophe and what’s left of the crew are forced upon two much smaller boats. Fending for themselves on the open sea for an extended period of time, it’s here where the nightmarish adventures begin and the reader gets a glimpse into the darkest and most sacrificing aspects of human nature and what men may and must do to survive.

Thoughts:  Listened to in audio, this book has meandering and lovely language. The smooth voice from the reader also lends to the story telling. Although it’s often long winded, it’s done in a calm and English accented voice. Where the reader varies his accents well for each of the diverse characters. I would say that the audio for the book is well done.

Definitely a literary tale with some horrific aspects, where men are left to survive with little sustenance on the open sea, leaving some room for delusional experiences due to lack of water and food and with nothing but sea and sun for months. Because of this, and the characters’ natural descent into madness, the book has been designated fantasy. For me I am not sure I would classify it as fantastical.

I enjoyed this story, and at times felt like I was actually traveling to the ports, Islands and countries of the South Seas. However, the entire novel did not capture me completely, since I kept waiting for the author to get on with the story line. Also the horrific scenes went on more than I felt was needed. In the end, beyond my personal preferences, I think that many readers will enjoy this book. I recommend it for literary fiction lovers, those who are interested in settings within the Victorian era, readers who want to travel vicariously to foreign areas on a sailing ship, and those who enjoy descriptive language. I give this book a 3 star.


Reader: Steve West; Books on Tape; 11 hours, 43 minutes; Jun 2011. Awards: Man Booker Prize for Fiction (nominee).

I received this book in its ARC format from the publisher and used it in tandem with the audio book which I borrowed from our local library. Sort of a combo read and listen thing. This in no way has influenced my opinions stated in this review.

Thanks for reading our first post from the Napa Valley.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

We’re Moving House ~ California Here We Come!

movers

California Here We Come!

So it’s finally happened – John and I are moving house. Out of the beautiful (but often very hot) Arizona desert back to my native home - the temperate Napa Valley, California. 

We are excited, nervous and sad all at the same time, since we love our desert home and are very comfortable here. Believe it or not we have become acclimated to the incredible 115 plus degree summer-time temperatures; and of course the cacti – we are going to miss them. I won’t go into detail about how both of us are drying up like spotted prunes as the dry air and sun are taking their inevitable toll, so we are looking forward to a moister and cooler climate, and certainly are not going to complain about the area.

Except that moving out of state is a BIG job. So we will be on intermittent blog hiatus during the packing, moving, and unpacking. Things should settle down within a few weeks. We hope. As usual when crazy stuff happens: posts will be at a minimum, comment moderation and email will be slower than its usual snail-ish pace, and all social media like Twitter, Google+, and Facebook will all be at a standstill.

I am thinking the worst part of our move will be driving our screaming terrified cat (Ziggy) over 800 miles to our new home. Anyone want a furry grey kitty – he’s very sweet?

By the way we are not actually going to use - Meathead Movers, but we liked the picture.

Our next post will be from California – until then!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Giveaway: Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Hop ~ April 6th - 12th

hoppy easter

Welcome to the:  Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop ~ April 6th to 12th. Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Once Upon A Twilight. Badge above links to our host’s site.

What better way to celebrate Easter time but to enter a few contests! There are 250+ blogs linked for this giveaway listed below. Good luck and have fun!


the wayNow for our Giveaway:

We have one copy for one US address.

The Way ~ by Kristen Wolf; Crown Publishers; July 12, 2011.

It’s a book that is quite appropriate for this hop. It’s also special because The Way was recommended by Oprah in her Fall reading list for 2011. Here is what it’s about:

What if one of the world's greatest spiritual healers was not who we thought he was?

Anna is a fiery tomboy living in ancient Palestine whose androgynous appearance provokes ridicule from the people around her and doubt within her own heart. When tragedy strikes her family, and Anna's father -- disguising her as a boy -- sells her to a band of shepherds, she is captured by a mystical and secret society of women hiding in the desert. At first Anna is tempted to escape, but she soon finds that the sisterhood's teachings and healing abilities, wrapped in an ancient philosophy they call "The Way," have unleashed an unexpected power within her.

When danger befalls the caves in which the sisters have made their home, Anna embarks on a hazardous mission to preserve the wisdom of her mentors by proclaiming it among ordinary people. Her daring quest and newfound destiny reveal, at last, the full truth of her identity -- a shocking revelation that will spark as much controversy as it does celebration.

Anna's story is one of transformation, betrayal, love, loss, deception, and above all, redemption. Readers will cheer for this unforgettable protagonist -- and for debut novelist Kristen Wolf, whose beautifully written book both provokes and inspires. A compelling mix of history, myth, and fantasy, The Way is a fascinating exploration of the foundations and possibilities of human spirituality.


Kristen Wolf, author of The Way, is a mother, writer, and filmmaker living in the Rocky Mountains. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Georgetown University and holds an M.A. in creative writing from Hollins University. This is her first novel. For more information please visit http://www.kristenwolf.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

"Sure to be a book club darling."  ~ Booklist

"The Way is a unique and ambitious debut novel, certain to provoke passionate discussions."  ~ John Shors, bestselling author of Beneath a Marble Sky

"Wolf's voice, vision, and verve combine to make The Way an emotional and action-packed debut." ~ Alice Peck, author of Bread, Body, Spirit: Finding the Sacred in Food and Next to Godliness: Finding the Sacred in Housekeeping

Also coming up, is an interesting guest post from the author which will tell us why she wrote The Way.


How to Enter:

Requirements:

  1. Be a reader/follower to enter this contest.
  2. Fill out the Google form completely.

You have several options:

  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. or
  3. Your Email Box.

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

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

Please enter via the Google document:

This hop is now closed. Come back soon for the newest giveaway – coming very soon!

A “Lost Fragrance” Guest Post from: M.J. Rose author of ~ The Book of Lost Fragrances

M J  Rose

A guest post by M.J. Rose author of ~ The Book of Lost Fragrances

The 4th standalone book in her thrilling and popular Reincarnationist series, it was just published last week.

Each of the other books in her series includes a related theme, where a special medium helps facilitate the characters to access knowledge from prior incarnations. In this latest book the substance is a fragrance – a “lost fragrance”.

M.J. Rose has completed several years of research on perfumes for this latest book – it became a labor of love. Below is an in-depth description of one scent from her research. The historical and lost perfume called: Paquin – Goya.


M.J. Rose:  I've been fascinated with lost fragrances since long before I started writing The Book of Lost Fragrances... since I found a bottle of perfume on my great grandmother's dresser that had belonged to her mother in Russia. Here is one of those lost fragrances that stirs the senses and the imagination...

(researched and described with the help of the perfume writer Dimitrios Dimitriadis)

11 Goya

PAQUIN – GOYA The fashion house of Jeanne Paquin flourished on Paris' fashionable Rue de la Paix, but unfortunately closed in 1956. Prior to its closure, Paquin was responsible for creating a handful of perfumes, one of the most notable being Goya, presented in a weighty, ribbed Baccarat flacon. A lavish floral with soft aldehydes and ambery notes, Goya would have been quite the head-turner in its day. An enduring trail of light woods and mosses slowly fade on the skin, and - much like the perfume itself - simply become but a distant memory.


About the book: The Book of Lost Fragrances: 

The Book of Lost Fragrances

A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra--and lost for 2,000 years.

The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra's Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet's battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris.

Take a look at Shellie’s review for the book.


Bio:  M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her latest novel The Book of Lost Fragrances  was published March 29, 2012. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine.

Rose lives in CT with her husband, the musician and composer Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka. For more information on the author and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE. You can also find her on Facebook.


TBOLF Button - Copy

This guest post is part of a blog tour hosted by Virtual Book Tours. To see other reviews and  more lost fragrance descriptions in the author’s other guest posts, please link to M.J. Rose’s schedule for the tour via the tour badge on the right.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review: The Last Storyteller ~ by Frank Delany

last storyteller

Review by Shellie for: The Last Storyteller ~ by Frank Delaney

“Do you have room in your mind for a tale of life itself, a tale of wonder, wisdom, and delight?” (page 331)

This is a book for story-tellers and story readers. It’s the third stand alone book in Frank Delaney’s “Novel of Ireland” series. It includes Irish history, myth, and lore layered with its 1956 setting. It’s a book that will please those who wish a vicarious trip to Ireland and the oral traditions of its past.

About:  This is a multi-layered story which is the third book of the series starting with Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show and then The Matchmaker of Kenmare. In this latest novel, the main character Ben travels about Ireland recording the oral myths, stories, legends, paranormal sightings, and cures of the local residents to archive for the country.

He is emotionally battered and reeling from the loss of his enigmatic wife Venetia, who left him years before. Blaming himself, he tries to forget by burying himself in his important work. While doing so he is inadvertently caught between the police and the IRA, becoming indirectly sucked into extreme violence and narrowly escaping several horrific incidents. Combined with the drama and emotional upheaval, what evolves is a thriller of sorts where the reader is left wondering what heartbreaking event will happen next – whether emotional from Ben’s dramatic relationships or due to the warring sides.

Most importantly, interlaced through the realistic story are the tales which Ben records, and that mirror the “real life” incidences occurring for the characters. This creates a novel which has a special quality, affirming the importance of story telling and myth through the ages and their modern relevance.

Thoughts:  This novel has a “magical realism” flavor which I liked a lot. I giggled, I cried, I wanted to skim quickly ahead to see what the next event in the continuing drama would be. But with this literary novel reading slowly is the best way to experience the subtle truisms and humor the author has hidden there.

The only niggle I had was that I found it hard to relate to Ben in the first 2/3rds of the novel. He is emotionally lost, depressed even, and pines for his lost love Venetia, who loves him still. Yet he lacks the gumption to step up and to win her back. It was difficult for me to deal with his vacillation. However, from reading other reviews of the previous novels in the series I know now that Ben’s attitude is built upon years of events which have affected him. I am thinking that it is important to read the other two books prior to this novel in order to completely “get” Ben.

Regardless, as a stand alone it does work. The story is well written, jammed packed with interesting events, and contains advanced writing techniques. I enjoyed this book a lot and think that many parts are exceptional. Highly recommend for anyone who tells or writes stories; and for literary fiction readers definitely. It has the trick of pushing the reader to work for the prize of each juicy dilemma and attests to the importance of the art of telling a good story. I give this novel 4 stars.


A big thank you to Tara for providing a copy of this book to review. I have wanted to read a book by Frank Delany for some time, and so jumped at the chance. Next one up is his book Ireland. I have it in audio. 

Also, I highly recommend following Frank Delany on twitter, his tweets are thoughtful, with some interesting and helpful suggestions for writers.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Review: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall ~ by Nancy Kress

AfterTheFall_Bookpge

John’s review of: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall (ARC edition) ~ by Nancy Kress

A twisted science fiction morality tale set in the near future containing a strong ecological theme – or maybe it should be considered an ecological warning.

About:   The world has been devastated by a series of ecological catastrophes and in the year 2035 the last few surviving humans are living in a Shell - having been placed there by strange aliens with unknown motives. This Shell is seemingly for protective purposes, but is so constrictive it feels more like a prison.

The survivors try to boost their meager population, but the few children that are born are sickly, defective and infertile. With their numbers dwindling, the aliens introduce a machine into the Shell which allows the survivors to briefly open up time portals, enabling one of them to travel into the recent past to grab babies. The machine cannot be controlled by the humans and the trips are random and fraught with danger; but gradually more and more children are transported into the Shell.

Back in the year 2013, a brilliant mathematician is helping the FBI to investigate a series of strange kidnappings. She is convinced that the kidnappings are not random but follow a complex pattern and she strives to predict when and where the next ones will take place. But as she gets nearer to a solution, a chain of odd natural events start happening that seem to be leading the world towards disaster.

As the mathematician and the Shell dwellers from the future start to converge on a single point in time. The question is: who or what is causing theses odd natural events and how do they link the people from the different eras?

John’s thoughts:   This short novel is creative and has an interesting plot which also benefits from some well-developed characters – thankfully with no stereotypical heroes. These characters are believable, even if their circumstances are fantastic and set in a futuristic world.

I like the way that Kress captures the stresses and strains of the trapped individuals trying to survive in the Shell, and also like how she has them justify their extreme actions in trying to build a future. The question is: can child kidnapping ever be morally acceptable - even if survival of a the human race is in question? I am not sure it is, but there’s some good food for thought and discussion in that question.

As the story builds to a climax, there are some surprises. I’m not sure I actually liked the ending, but I certainly didn’t predict it – and it does leave you pondering some interesting questions. All in all I say this is an imaginative, enjoyable, and easy read. I’d rate it 3.5 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes near-future science fiction or eco-thrillers.


Tachyon Publications; March 2012.

Nancy Kress has written 26 books mostly within science fiction. She has ben awarded four Nebulas and one Hugo for various works. For more about the author see her home page http://www.sff.net/people/nankress/; for her science and science fiction oriented posts see her blog http://nancykress.blogspot.com/

Thanks for reading.

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