Image of the Month: Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Proserpine

Dante Gabriel Rossetti-Proserpine (1874)

This month, I re-visited a book called, That Summer by Lauren Willig and quite a few memories of reading her story beforehand and previously studying the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood came flooding back. Then it hit me, Rossetti’s Proserpine painting (1874) is among my favorites! I quickly did an on-line search and found the picture with some information. What is extraordinary is that, before the second sleep recommended via email that I might consider featuring a painting from the Pre-Raphaelites, the very weekend I read Willig’s book. Isn’t it funny how things work out sometimes?

Victorians are known for their dramatic romantic notions, take on mortality and among other things…For instance, death was on their mind quite often to say the least. How they died and the afterlife was extremely important to them. Rightly so during that era both in England and America.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti often created his art based on his own experiences in life and love. In this painting, Proserpina is the queen of the underworld and the wife of Pluto. She was abducted by Pluto and her mother Ceres cast a famine on earth until her daughter was returned. The fruit Proserpina holds represents death. Anyone who ate it had to stay in the underworld for the rest of their life. Imagine that! As the story goes, Pluto made an agreement to release Proserpine back to her mother, once a year.

Rossetti founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 along with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. A group of English painters, poets and art critics who showed extraordinary talent. They formed the Brotherhood that was inspired by a rejection of the essence of art that the Royal Academy, London was promoting at the time.The members included William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner. Am I leaving anyone out?

They are widely known for turning back to lavish detail (such as using props), vibrant color and complex compositions. What really stands out to me are the themes and characters drawn from of literature in history, folklore and Greek mythology. You will also find these artists believed a return to nature was paramount.

Many renown authors such as Dante, Spenser, Shakespeare, Keats and Scott inspired their art. To this day these artist’s paintings are still well-known. Many of you will be familiar with Edward Burne-Jones-The Beguiling of Merlin-which is on the book cover of Possession by A.S. Byatt. The story happens to have set in a dual time-line of 19th and 20th Century. “A novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist séances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany—what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.” There was also a movie made in 2002 based on this book starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Anne Ehl, Game of Thrones Lena Headey and other notable actors. There is a particular scene where Jennifer Anne Ehl (Christabel Lamotte) is modeling for Lena Headey’s (Blanche Glover) painting and she is in a medieval custom. Very Pre-Raphaelite feel. I highly recommend both book and movie.

One can seriously go down a rabbit hole exploring Classic Literature and Art History. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface!

Stephanie Hopkins

The sources come from Wikipedia, Wikimedia (Image: Proserpine painting) the free encyclopedia and my own independent studies. The description of Possession by A.S. Byatt is from goodreads.

Be sure to take a look at January’s Image of the Month: By the Water’s Edge. I include half of a poem I have written.

Books Aplenty: March Reading Forecast

Normally, I do my best not to discuss which books I will read on any particular month because I believe I did that in December and I did not end up reading, The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel. Which irked me to say the least. That said, I’m thrilled with the selection of titles below and wanted to share them with you. Heck, us book bloggers love talking about books and sharing our excitement of what is to come. The year is still young and the reading forecast has been terrific thus far. I’m confident the pace will keep up.

There are thirty-one days in March, and I am hoping to read 10 books. You can find all these titles on goodreads, Amazon and at other booksellers. Lets’ take a look at the covers in this slideshow. -Stephanie Hopkins

Projected March Reads

A New York Secret (Daughters of New York Book 1) by Ella Carey

The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker

The Steel Beneath the Silk by Patricia Bracewell

The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel

The Thin Place by C.D. Major

Finding Napoleon by Margaret Rodenbery

The Abduction of Pretty Penny by Leonard Goldberg

The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable

The Family Plot by Megan Collins

The Necklace by Matt Witten

Book Review: Heartbreak Hotel (Alex Delaware #32) by Jonathan Kellerman

Published February 14th 2017 by Ballantine Books

About the book:

At nearly one hundred years old, Thalia Mars is a far cry from the patients that child psychologist Alex Delaware normally treats. But the charming, witty woman convinces Alex to meet with her in a suite at the Aventura, a luxury hotel with a checkered history.

What Thalia wants from Alex are answers to unsettling questions—about guilt, patterns of criminal behavior, victim selection. When Alex asks the reason for her morbid fascination, Thalia promises to tell all during their next session. But when he shows up the following morning, he is met with silence: Thalia is dead in her room.

When questions arise about how Thalia perished, Alex and homicide detective Milo Sturgis must peel back the layers of a fascinating but elusive woman’s life and embark on one of the most baffling investigations either of them has ever experienced. For Thalia Mars is a victim like no other, an enigma who harbored nearly a century of secrets and whose life and death draw those around her into a vortex of violence.

Heartbreak Hotel is classic Delaware and classic Kellerman. 

My thoughts:

The subject of human behavior has been the driving force of Alex Delaware series and Kellerman has made a name for himself. Like many others, his interest in psychology brings detective work to the forefront. Criminal Psychologists study the moral compass-or lack of-of the human mind. They strive to understand the motivations, reactions and actions of people who commit various levels of crimes.

Thirty-two books in a series is quite a feat to say the least. I appreciate and respect writers who take on the task of writing such stories. It cannot not be easy and there definitely is an art to the process. This particular genre’s depth is widely known. Some prefer to read about the subject without becoming too uncomfortable. While others want to read stories that delve deeper and darker into people’s behaviors. Kellerman’s stories are among the very few books in this genre that I began with when I was a younger reader.

I rather enjoyed the beginning of Heartbreak Hotel. With the brief yet cryptic conversation about psychopaths between Alex and Thalia that is meant to grab the reader’s attention. That in itself was nicely executed and absorbing. I liked Alex and Milo’s interviews and interactions with witnesses and suspects. Those scenes were entertaining to say the least.

Alex and Milo both likable and they work well together. Almost as they are conjoined. I guess that happens when you work closely with a person long enough. If you’ve read the other books in the series, you will know that Alex has seen far more than his fair share of tragedy that any person could fathom. How he maintains his cool is quite impressive. Alex’s every thought seems to be measured before uttering a word. To anyone. His principled and intellectual mind makes for an intriguing person but I found myself wanting more from him

While Kellerman takes us in-depth into human behavior, I felt the background story of the characters needed to be fleshed out and over half way through the book, I found it difficult to maintain my interest and remain objective. The mystery is captivating but you find the elements of the investigating and characters-in this case- Alex and Milo become all too formulaic. I swear I could almost predict what their next plan of action was going to be and what they would say next.

There was a time-several books back now-where I looked forward to reading an Alex Delaware story. But the main characters have become too comfortable in their roles. Perpetual dilly-dallying comes to mind when I read this book. Heartbreak Hotel is a vague remembrance of what was once a great series, in my opinion. I feel the series has long run its course for me to remain a fan.

Don’t allow my experience with this story sway you. Heartbreak Hotel is a good story for readers who want to stay safely in their comfort zone. No wrong in that. If you’ve never read the any of the books in the series, might I suggest you start with his earlier books?

I obtained a copy from the Publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Spotlight: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

A secluded island mansion deep in the woods and a missing teen. Years after a death in the family, they make a gruesome discovery. I would say this family has been through it and then some!

Mystery/thriller stories are among my favorite genres to read! With the right elements, or pieces like a puzzle, you watch the mystery unfold and develop to the very end. Or would it be, develop and then unfold? Either way, along with other fellow readers and bloggers, I’m excited about this book coming out! Thank you, Atria Books for a copy.

Now it’s time to go grab that second cup of coffee. It is going to be a reading marathon the next two days! What are your bookish plans this weekend? Happy reading! -Stephanie Hopkins

The Family Plot by Megan Collins

Atria Books

Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date 17 Aug 2021  

Description

When a family obsessed with true crime gathers to bury their patriarch, horrifying secrets are exposed upon the discovery of another body in his grave in this chilling novel from the author of Behind the Red Door and The Winter Sister.

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse remains haunted by her upbringing. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has been unable to move beyond the disappearance of her twin brother, Andy, when they were sixteen.

After several years away and following her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house where the family soon makes a gruesome discovery: buried in their father’s plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Dahlia is quick to blame Andy’s murder on the serial killer who terrorized the island for decades, while the rest of the Lighthouses react to the revelation in unsettling ways. Her brother, Charlie, pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister, Tate, forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic facade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.

Weird Wednesday: An Exploration of Our Quirky World

Facts of Daily Life in the 19th-Century England.

We are delighted to welcome you to “Weird Wednesday,” a joint series, partnered with our friends at before the second sleep, that explores the quirky side of our universe.

We live in an extraordinary quirky world that often times we forget to pause in our busy lives to notice. During these times many cannot venture outside-another great reason to pick up a book-so we are bringing our explorations to you.

As many of you already know, I’m obsessed with history and cultures from all walks of like. Today, I’m exploring, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens knew by Daniel Pool. A book on the facts of daily life in the 19th-Century England. The book as a whole is mighty interesting but we are going to examine some of the information in its glossary. Needless to say, there are a little over a couple hundred pages but we won’t be covering it all. Let’s get started.

Quirky Meanings:

Abigail: A Lady’s maid.

Carking: Having the ability to worry someone or make them careworn.

Sounds about right.

Chine: A term applied to the spin of animals like pigs when they were being chopped up for cooking.

Gross.

Fly: A horse and carriage that was rented, usually by the day.

Who would have thought.

Glee: In music, the glee was a vocal piece for three people or more. In Jane Eyre, singers gather around the piano while Jane” the solo over, a duet followed and then a glee.”  and her pupil listen:

Jane Eyre was written by Charlotte Bronte and published in 1847.

Ha-ha: A landscaping device that consisted of a trench dug at some point in the view where it could not be seen unless one were very close to it. Also, called a sunken fence.

Ha ha! Too funny!

Ladybird: Not a bird at all but what we call the ladybug. Also, called a lady clock.

Had no idea that Ladybugs where ever refereed as that.

Milch cow: One that was giving milk.

Nob: Someone with a good deal of status. Used often in conjunction with “snob” in the sense snob initially had of someone of no status or pretensions.

Huh.

Rasher: A not very slice of ham or bacon.

I love the way this is worded.

Sell-out: To leave the army by selling the commission one had purchased to someone.

Skittles: Basically, bowling. One set up nine skittles or pins and then tried to knock them down with a ball.

When I hear the word “Skittles” I think of candy. Ha!

Snipe: A bird with a long bill that lives in marshes.

Is this the type of bird that is hard to hunt? Hmm… I wonder if this is the same name that referred to as Snipers? Or where it partly originated? I do believe Sniper was coined by the British Military in the 1700s? Need to look more into this. Can’t wait!

Stewpond: A special fishpond kept by manor houses in medieval days so as to have a supply of fresh fish.

That is actually a good idea. I wonder if people still actually do that?

Twelfth cakes: Cakes made for Twelfth Night. They contained a coin or bean that made the finder the “King” or “queen” of celebration.

I get the coin part but not entirely sure why a bean is used for this. Maybe it is explained in the book and I messed it. I haven’t read this book on quite sometime.

Whiting: A good-tasting small fish. Also, pulverized fine chalk used for cleaning or whitewashing.

Talk about two different meanings altogether!

This post was fun to but together. I highly recommend adding this book to your to-read list.

Stephanie Hopkins

About the book:

A “delightful reader’s companion”; (The New York Times) to the great nineteenth-century British novels of Austen, Dickens, Trollope, the Brontës, and more, this lively guide clarifies the sometimes bizarre maze of rules and customs that governed life in Victorian England.

For anyone who has ever wondered whether a duke outranked an earl, when to yell “Tally Ho!” at a fox hunt, or how one landed in “debtor’s prison”; this book serves as an indispensable historical and literary resource. Author Daniel Pool provides countless intriguing details (did you know that the “plums” in Christmas plum pudding were actually raisins?) on the Church of England, sex, Parliament, dinner parties, country house visiting, and a host of other aspects of nineteenth-century English life—both “upstairs” and “downstairs.”

An illuminating glossary gives at a glance the meaning and significance of terms ranging from “ague” to “wainscoting,” the specifics of the currency system, and a lively host of other details and curiosities of the day.

Weird Wednesday: An Exploration of Our Quirky World

Weird Wednesday: Butterflies

Book Review: The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

HARLEQUIN – Graydon House Books (U.S. & Canada)

Mystery & Thrillers | Women’s Fiction

Pub Date 02 Oct 2018 

Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.

Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences but those around you, as well.

New Oldbury, 1821

In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia, and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall. The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.

All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…

Catching up:

This is the year for catching up on projects and chisel at my back-list of books that I either, need to write the review or read from my own shelves at home. Of course, with a few ARC’s thrown in. I read The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox back in 2018 and I could have sworn, I wrote a review for it. Oops, it turns out-to my shame-I did not. No time like the present one might say.Thank goodness, I keep notes.

My thoughts:

These days, I normally I do my best to stay away from stories that involve witchcraft. That said, this story caught my attention for several reasons. The time period location, premise and book cover intrigued me. Interestingly enough, Lydia doesn’t realize she is a witch, even though things keep happening… Though, while reading this story, I began to realize that it’s not centered on witchcraft-thank goodness!

There are many intriguing aspects to the story, including, an atmospheric estate, mystery, romance, and good character development. Overall, great world-building and it had the creep vibe factor-which helped drive the story and kept one’s attention.

A fabulous Gothic story with all the right elements to entertain you!

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy of this book from the publishers through NetGalley.

Cheers to the Week Ahead

This weekend was strange and I didn’t have anything planned to blog about today. Do you ever have days like that? When even your favorite pastimes need a rest. If that makes any sense. I kind-of like that, “Pastimes need a rest.” That said, the weather has been really off that last few days and I haven’t been able to go for my strolls. I woke up this morning and looked out the window to discover the weather isn’t any better.

Yesterday was more productive and I created a page in my bullet journal and started another art project. Oh, and of course, got some reading time in. I definitely think my mind and soul need a rest and refuel.

“Weekends are days to refuel your soul and to be grateful for the blessings that you have.” — Unknown

Do you read multiple books at once? I know some people can’t and some people can’t only just read one at a time. Normally, I have several books going and spread them out during my day. Currently, I’m reading two books and listening to one through audible. Though, I must mention, that it took me quite a few years to program my brain to read more than just one book at a time.

Two of the books I’m currently reading are two that I’ve already read before. One I’m actually listening too and want to re-write my review. The third one is an ARC and it is quite a long read! I do have lots to say about that one already. Looking forward to the reading forecast ahead!

I want to wish you all a beautiful and adventurous week!

Stephanie Hopkins

Cover Crush: The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake

About the Cover: I love the lady’s reflection in the water and how her red dress and bad contrast with the blue. I do wish we could see more of her face. One can tell her walk shows determination. If you look closely, you’ll notice medical instruments on either side of the book title. I do like the flourishes in the corners of the layout. It does give the image a bit of a mirror affect. Which compliments the reflection scene.

About the Book: Clearly the story takes place in the 19th century but the description of the story does not state that. I believe that needs to be added so it won’t leave readers guessing until they read the book. Another issue I have is that it doesn’t mention where the story takes place. I’m guessing, England because of the doctor’s name. Though many Americans have English names. Most likely, I could find out the time and period by seeing if there are any reviews written that state the information, but I rather wait to see if I am able to get a copy of the book for review.

I did, however, do a little digging on the name Croft. Did you know that the surname Croft, has pre 6th century origins and emerged as a notable English name? From what I read; the name originates from English northern counties

I’m really interested in the premise and I will definitely be reading this book one way or another.

Stephanie Hopkins.

Sourcebooks Landmark

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 04 May 2021

Description

The story of one woman who believed in scientific medicine before the world believed in her

Raised by the eccentric surgeon Dr. Horace Croft after losing her parents to a deadly pandemic, the orphan Nora Beady knows little about conventional life. While other young ladies were raised to busy themselves with needlework and watercolors, Nora was trained to perfect her suturing and anatomical illustrations of dissections.

Women face dire consequences if caught practicing medicine, but in Croft’s private clinic Nora is his most trusted—and secret—assistant. That is until the new surgical resident Dr. Daniel Gibson arrives. Dr. Gibson has no idea that Horace’s bright and quiet young ward is a surgeon more qualified and ingenuitive than even himself. In order to protect Dr. Croft and his practice from scandal and collapse Nora must learn to play a new and uncomfortable role—that of a proper young lady.

But pretense has its limits. Nora cannot turn away and ignore the suffering of patients even if it means giving Gibson the power to ruin everything she’s worked for. And when she makes a discovery that could change the field forever, Nora faces an impossible choice. Remain invisible and let the men around her take credit for her work, or let the world see her for what she is—even if it means being destroyed by her own legacy.

Meet Me by the Moonlight

2021 Abstract Painting by Stephanie Hopkins

Poem

Meet me by the moonlight

Where our love shines bright as the moon is illuminated by the sun

Meet me by the moonlight

Where its’ shadow forms us invisible from the barriers longing to separate us

Meet me by the moonlight

Where the moon phase shapes us as one

Meet me by the moonlight

Where our love orbits the gravitational pull

Meet me by the Moonlight…

by Stephanie Hopkins

You may also enjoy this poem: The Lonely Stark Tree

The partial poems I share at Layered Pages are date stamped and part of a collection of poems that are being compiled into publish works.

Copy Right 2021

Images and poems are subjected to copyright.

In order to use any images or any written content on Layered Pages platform, you must seek permission from Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: The Princess Spy: The True Story of World War II Spy Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones by Larry Loftis

Published February 9th 2021 by Atria Books

When Aline Griffith was born in a quiet suburban New York hamlet, no one had any idea that she would go on to live “a life of glamour and danger that Ingrid Bergman only played at in Notorious” (Time). As the US enters the Second World War, the young college graduate is desperate to aid in the war effort, but no one is interested in a bright-eyed young woman whose only career experience is modeling clothes.

Aline’s life changes when, at a dinner party, she meets a man named Frank Ryan and reveals how desperately she wants to do her part for her country. Within a few weeks, he helps her join the Office of Strategic Services—forerunner of the CIA. With a code name and expert training under her belt, she is sent to Spain to be a coder, but is soon given the additional assignment of infiltrating the upper echelons of society, mingling with high-ranking officials, diplomats, and titled Europeans, any of whom could be an enemy agent. Against this glamorous backdrop of galas and dinner parties, she recruits sub-agents and engages in deep-cover espionage to counter Nazi tactics in Madrid.

Even after marrying the Count of Romanones, one of the wealthiest men in Spain, Aline secretly continues her covert activities, being given special assignments when abroad that would benefit from her impeccable pedigree and social connections.

Filled with twists, romance, and plenty of white-knuckled adventures fit for a James Bond film, The Princess Spy brings to vivid life the dazzling adventures of a remarkable American woman who risked everything to serve her country.

My thoughts:

I’ve read a lot of World War II stories but I must say, The Princess Spy is the first book I’ve read, that really delves into the espionage world. The research alone that went into this book is impressive! I obtained a physical copy and enjoyed marking lots of details I want to go back and read and do a bit of my own research. I also enjoyed the images throughout the book. That was a nice touch and really helped bring it all to reality.

I don’t think I’ve paid attention to just how many different government agencies had spies in Europe during World War II until reading about it in these pages. Absoultuly fascinating and absorbing. I found it all incredible, really, because I’m still trying to wrap my head around the ins and outs of how it all worked. Could anyone? That said, Loftis does a marvelous job with drawing you in and gives you an understanding how much of it operated.

I’m impressed with Loftis taking on this project and telling Aline’s role during the war. Too often, throughout our history, women’s roles were largely ignored. She lived an astonishing life, and went from your average American girl to being a spy, and becoming friends with and related to the elitist society. I was amazed with how many people she knew and her, “schedule,” to say the least. The energy she had, I’m sure, is part of what made her a great spy. What a brave woman.

I immensely enjoyed reading about her friendship with Juanito Belmonte. He was a Spaniard and a wealthy Matader-Bullfighter who spotted Aline when she first arrived to Madrid and sought her out.

Before reading about Bullfighting in this book, I was turned off by the sport-if you will. Well, I’ve changed my mind and found the details of Bullfighting to being an art and intriguing.

Be sure to read the epilogue and notes at the back of the book. You’ll get more insight into the people Loftis wrote about and what he had left out.

A must read!

Stephanie Hopkins

My thanks to Artria Books for providing me with an ARC.