Current Read: The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

About the Book:

An enchanting historical epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India’s most controversial empresses — a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal Empire. Skillfully blending the textures of historical reality with the rich and sensual imaginings of a timeless fairy tale, The Twentieth Wife sweeps readers up in Mehrunnisa’s embattled love with Prince Salim, and in the bedazzling destiny of a woman — a legend in her own time — who was all but lost to history until now.

My thoughts:

I picked up this novel a few days ago and at first, I was completely immersed in Sundaresan’s world of India and the Mughal Empire. I didn’t want to pull away from the pages and as I became acquitted with the characters lives, I began to feel their inner struggles were not quite fleshed out to reflect their actions. I’m not entirely sure it’s because of culture standards or if it’s a flaw in the writing. That said, it is often that our inner feelings don’t meet the decisions we make in life. As you can see, I’m torn with these emotions about the characters. Maybe it is because I haven’t quite put my figure on it yet despite knowing something is missing.

Despite my misgivings about the characters, I quite like the story thus far, and I’m fully invested in the final outcome. I’m delighted to have chosen to read, The Twentieth Wife. What are you currently reading? Do share!

Stephanie Hopkins

Disclaimer: I do not support, control or endorse the adds that are showing on my blog.

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Ebay and Etsy Shop Update

I have lots of lovely items in my shop at Etsy and Ebay! These items make great gifts and are perfect for paper crafting, journal writing, happy mail and the fabric packs are great for various mixed media projects!

Shop Inventory: Journals, Journal Tags, Embellishments, Ephemera Packs, Fabric packs, and Mini Paintings.

I offer discount shipping and a free gift 

“The starting point of discovering who you are, your gifts, your talents, your dreams, is being comfortable with yourself. Spend time alone. Write in a journal.”

— Robin Sharma

My wish is for you to be encouraged and to try something new.

Thank you for your support!

Stephanie Hopkins

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First Impressions: Embers on the Wind by Lisa Williamson Rosenberg

The majority of us can come to an agreement that first impressions of a book is important to spark the readers attention. Marketing strategy and all… In this, I had the idea of sharing my thoughts on some of the ways I’m wanting to be more diligent in how I choose what stories to read regarding the supernatural. Many times, it can be an unexpected element to a story or vaguely mentioned in the book description. I must confess I fully understand why it can be tricky on how much information to reveal without giving spoilers. That in itself leads to much discussion.

Often times, more times than not, the readers are left having to consider more carefully about the premise before investing money spent and time.

First Impressions of Embers on the Wind.

About the book:

The past and the present converge in this enthralling, serpentine tale of women connected by motherhood, slavery’s legacy, and histories that span centuries.

In 1850 in Massachusetts, Whittaker House stood as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It’s where two freedom seekers, Little Annie and Clementine, hid and perished. Whittaker House still stands, and Little Annie and Clementine still linger, their dreams of freedom unfulfilled.

Now a fashionably distressed vacation rental in the Berkshires, Whittaker House draws seekers of another kind: Black women who only appear to be free. Among them are Dominique, a single mother following her grand-mère’s stories to Whittaker House in search of an ancestor; Michelle, Dominique’s lover, who has journeyed to the Berkshire Mountains to heal her own traumas; and Kaye, Michelle’s sister, a seer whose visions reveal the past and future secrets of the former safehouse―along with her own.

For each of them, true liberation can come only from uncovering their connection to history―and to the spirits awaiting peace and redemption within the walls of Whittaker House.

My Thoughts:

While many aspects of the history told in the description is of great interest to me, there is a detail that I read that has made me pause.

My faith in God tells believers not to follow the abominable practices such as, practice of divination or tell fortunes or interpret omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead and so on… Which compels me to be better at discerning in what I read, should I read it and why or why not. Not knowing enough about one of the author’s character- who is a seer- I’ve decided to refrain from reading this story at present until I know more. Especially because of late when I made a mistake in a purchase of a book that entailed extreme darkness and evil spirits and there was not a conclusion of good triumphing over evil in my view. I was uneasy to say the least.

In the past, I made mistakes in books I accepted to review and wish I hadn’t if I had more information about the content. This is not to disrespect or dismiss the authors ability to write a good story, to say the story is bad or if it should have been written.

Despite my discernment of Embers on the Wind, I still wanted to highlight the book cover and title. The graphics both in design and composition of the floating embers by definition, strikes a chord of malicious intent or, quiet possibly, an accident or some sort of natural disaster. The profile of the female in the background is a wonderful addition. These elements lead one to want to discover more about the content of the story and the likelihood of wanting acquire the book. I certainly wanted to find out more.

Stephanie Hopkins

Disclaimer: I do not support, control or endorse the adds that are showing on my blog.

Wish-List 5: Recommended Reading

In the last few years, I’ve been going through cycles of reading slumps-for various reasons- or just wanting to listen to stories rather than reading a physical copy. That said, despite by fiction genre reading slump, I’ve stayed the course with my non-fiction reading.

In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten back to reading more fiction regularly and selecting paperbacks and hardbacks from my personal library. Turning back and reading fiction I’ve already read helped me get my groove back. What a wonderful feeling of rediscovering your passion for stories all over again.

Four out of five of these books listed were recommend to me by a friend who is a fellow book blogger. She had texted me pictures of her latest book piles and I was so intrigued by the titles; I quickly did a search on the descriptions on a few of them and knew they are what I would intent on reading.

Which one stands out to you? Have you read any of these titles yet? I can’t wait to get acquire these books!

Disclaimer: I do not support, control or endorse the adds that are showing on my blog.

Stephanie Hopkins  

The Immortals of Tehran by Ali Araghi

A sweeping, multigenerational epic, this stunning debut heralds the arrival of a unique new literary voice.

As a child living in his family’s apple orchard, Ahmad Torkash-Vand treasures his great-great-great-great grandfather’s every mesmerizing word. On the day of his father’s death, Ahmad listens closely as the seemingly immortal elder tells him the tale of a centuries-old family curse . . . and the boy’s own fated role in the story.

Ahmad grows up to suspect that something must be interfering with his family, as he struggles to hold them together through decades of famine, loss, and political turmoil in Iran. As the world transforms around him, each turn of Ahmad’s life is a surprise: from street brawler, to father of two unusually gifted daughters; from radical poet, to politician with a target on his back. These lives, and the many unforgettable stories alongside his, converge and catch fire at the center of the Revolution.

Exploring the brutality of history while conjuring the astonishment of magical realism, The Immortals of Tehran is a novel about the incantatory power of words and the revolutionary sparks of love, family, and poetry–set against the indifferent, relentless march of time.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson 

A woman inherits a beloved bookstore and sets forth on a journey of self-discovery in this poignant debut about family, forgiveness and a love of reading.

Miranda Brooks grew up in the stacks of her eccentric Uncle Billy’s bookstore, solving the inventive scavenger hunts he created just for her. But on Miranda’s twelfth birthday, Billy has a mysterious falling-out with her mother and suddenly disappears from Miranda’s life. She doesn’t hear from him again until sixteen years later when she receives unexpected news: Billy has died and left her Prospero Books, which is teetering on bankruptcy—and one final scavenger hunt.

When Miranda returns home to Los Angeles and to Prospero Books—now as its owner—she finds clues that Billy has hidden for her inside novels on the store’s shelves, in locked drawers of his apartment upstairs, in the name of the store itself. Miranda becomes determined to save Prospero Books and to solve Billy’s last scavenger hunt. She soon finds herself drawn into a journey where she meets people from Billy’s past, people whose stories reveal a history that Miranda’s mother has kept hidden—and the terrible secret that tore her family apart.

Bighearted and trenchantly observant, The Bookshop of Yesterdays is a lyrical story of family, love and the healing power of community. It’s a love letter to reading and bookstores, and a testament to how our histories shape who we become.

The Good Wife of Bath by Karen Brooks

In the middle ages, a famous poet told a story that mocked a strong woman. It became a literary classic. But what if the woman in question had a chance to tell her own version?

England, 1364: When married off at aged twelve to an elderly farmer, brazen redheaded Eleanor quickly realizes it won’t matter what she says or does, God is not on her side—or any poor women for that matter. But then again, Eleanor was born under the joint signs of Venus and Mars, making her both a lover and a fighter.

Aided by a head for business (and a surprisingly kind husband), Eleanor manages to turn her first marriage into success, and she rises through society from a cast-off farm girl to a woman of fortune who becomes a trusted friend of the social-climbing poet Geoffrey Chaucer. But more marriages follow—some happy, some not—several pilgrimages, many lovers, murder, mayhem, and many turns of fortune’s wheel as Eleanor pursues the one thing that all women want: control of their own lives.

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

Widower Mukesh lives a quiet life in Wembley, in West London after losing his beloved wife. He shops every Wednesday, goes to Temple, and worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who hides in her room reading while he spends his evenings watching nature documentaries.

Aleisha is a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library for the summer when she discovers a crumpled-up piece of paper in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a list of novels that she’s never heard of before. Intrigued, and a little bored with her slow job at the checkout desk, she impulsively decides to read every book on the list, one after the other. As each story gives up its magic, the books transport Aleisha from the painful realities she’s facing at home.

When Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to forge a connection with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha passes along the reading list…hoping that it will be a lifeline for him too. Slowly, the shared books create a connection between two lonely souls, as fiction helps them escape their grief and everyday troubles and find joy again. 

Her Lost Words by Stephanie Marie Thornton

From A Vindication of the Rights of Woman to Frankenstein, a tale of two literary legends–a mother and daughter–discovering each other and finding themselves along the way, from USA Today bestselling author Stephanie Marie Thornton.

1792. As a child, Mary Wollstonecraft longed to disappear during her father’s violent rages. Instead, she transforms herself into the radical author of the landmark volume A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which she dares to propose that women are equal to men. From conservative England to the blood-drenched streets of revolutionary France, Mary refuses to bow to society’s conventions and instead supports herself with her pen until an illicit love affair challenges her every belief about romance and marriage. When she gives birth to a daughter and is stricken with childbed fever, Mary fears it will be her many critics who recount her life’s extraordinary odyssey…

1815. The daughter of infamous political philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, passionate Mary Shelley learned to read by tracing the letters of her mother’s tombstone. As a young woman, she desperately misses her mother’s guidance, especially following her scandalous elopement with dashing poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary struggles to balance an ever-complicated marriage with motherhood while nursing twin hopes that she might write something of her own one day and also discover the truth of her mother’s unconventional life. Mary’s journey will unlock her mother’s secrets, all while leading to her own destiny as the groundbreaking author of Frankenstein.

Blog and Shop Updates

I have sorely neglected updating Layered Pages but there are reasons The break has certainly given me precious time to reflect and regroup. I have so many new ideas for blog posts and hoping to get started on them in the near future. Meanwhile, I have been working a little on stocking up my etsy shop. I do hope you all visit my shop and I thank you for your support.

My wish is for you to be encouraged and to try something new.

Stephanie Hopkins

Visit my shops by clicking on each shop.

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Christian Theology

It has been quite a while since I’ve last read books on Christian Theology and I feel even more compelled today to come back to this genre. I have several reasons in mind to study theology and one of them is the concerning stronghold that progressive Christianity is taking in America and around the world. This has been happening for a while now, but I’m seeing an alarming increase in this lifestyle. A whole generation is being preached on self, feelings and emotions rather that the law of God, repentance, turning away from sin, and the Gospels. Their lukewarm, feel good, false preaching, and worldly concert like performances are leading people away from God. Progressive Christians are conforming to the world rather than God. -Stephanie Hopkins

I’m curious about the books I have listed below and will be reading them-of course-with discernment, and have my Bible open and ready. -Stephanie Hopkins

The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (Biblical Theology for Life) by Christopher J. H. Wright

In, The Mission of God’s People, Wright shows how God’s big-picture plan directs the purpose of God’s people, the church. Wright emphasizes what the Old Testament teaches Christians about being the people of God. He addresses questions of both ecclesiology and missiology with topics like “called to care for creation,” “called to bless the nations,” “sending and being sent,” and “rejecting false gods.” As part of the Biblical Theology for Life Series, this book provides pastors, teachers, and lay learners with first-rate biblical study while at the same time addressing the practical concerns of contemporary ministry. The Mission of God’s People promises to enliven and refocus the study, teaching, and ministry of those truly committed to joining God’s work in the world.

Far as the Curse Is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption by Michael D. Williams

God’s covenant with his people is an unfolding historical drama with personal and earthly dimensions that are often overlooked. In this study of the meaning and scope of the covenant, Michael D. Williams highlights the goodness of the physical realm and God’s redemptive intentions for his creation.

The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink

This classic work of Arthur W. Pink invites readers to discover the truth about seventeen attributes of God, including his sovereignty, immutability, patience, love, faithfulness, and much more.

More about The Attributes of God:

Bible scholar Arthur W. Pink became a prolific and highly influential evangelical author over the course of the twentieth century, beginning with his monthly magazine Studies in Scriptures. Many of his books began as articles in this small publication, including The Attributes of God. In this work, Pink sets out to reveal the true character of God. He believes that in order to truly know God, we must first submit to God and follow in his footsteps. The people that do know their God shall be strong (Dan. 11:32).

It is the author’s hope that those who listen to these words shall be blessed and see their lives transformed by the power of God.

Writing Exercise

 “Journal writing, when it becomes a ritual for transformation, is not only life-changing but life-expanding.”
– Jen Williamson.

A little writing warm-up is just the ticket to get you started. When you open your journal or notebook to a blank page, oftentimes you feel as if that blank page is like not knowing a destination to choose. Quite frankly, writing takes you on unexpected destinations. One of the best ways to get started -there are many- is by practicing with questions.

Grab your paper/notebook and preferred writing tool and let’s get started. First, begin writing the words below. Be sure to allow enough space to write your sentences.

Book

City

Mountain

Restaurant

Person

Movie

Start with the first word in the column, which is book. Write the title of the book you last read and your general thoughts on the story or the information you read. Then move on to, city. What was the last city you visited other than the one you live in? What did you do? Below is the selection of questions to answer for each word in the column.

Mountain: What is the name of a mountain you visited and explored? Write your experience.

Restaurant: What is the name of the last restaurant you ate at and were you with anyone? Write about that and what you ate. Was the restaurant busy? Describe the atmosphere.

Person: Who was the person you last talked to and what was the conversation about and feeling?

Movie: What was the title of the last movie you saw? Who were the actors who starred in the show? What was the movie about? Did you like it?

You can have a lot of fun with this writing exercise and there are endless basic topics like these to get you started. Whether you are a beginner writer or a seasoned one, this exercise is great for any level of writing. Who knows, you might find a story idea for a book inspired by the warm-up.

My wish is for you to be encouraged and inspired!

Stephanie

Discovering Lost Lists

Today’s List Not Lost, Yet

Lists are fun to write. Especially, lists about what you want to write about. My lists normally contain stories I want to write, blog posts, books I want to read, books to review, daily or weekly to-dos and so on… I try my best to keep the list updated, but not always. I actually skip a day or two. Okay, I’ve been known to skip a week or even a month. Yikes! I know. Is it unreasonable for me to say that we’ve all probably done that? Afterall, writers are known for their procrastination’s. I like to journal in the morning to start my day and sometimes I compile my list there. Not always, mind you. Months, even years down the road, I will find loose sheets of paper with lists on them scattered in odd places. I love organization but it is not my strong suite in a couple areas. Did I just write that out loud? Finding lists, you write years later in odd places is actually fun. When you read them, you’re either eye rolling, laughing or thinking how far you’ve come in your writing. Same goes for reading journals you’ve kept over the years. They’re always full of surprises.

Past written lists can even spark forgotten memories and give you more material to write about. Like this blog post for example. The list I found was one I write last September on a pink notepad and it contained blog post topics I want to write about. Did I accomplish those tasks? Err… not exactly but in my defense, I was busy making books to use as journals and paper-crafting. No time like the present to tackle that forgotten list. What is on that list, you ask. Well, I wrote about regular blog posts I used to post and new ones I wanted to start. For example, cover crushes. I loved writing about book covers that catch my eye and I’ve sorely neglected that series. I’m still in the thinking stages about bring that back and if there are any changes, I want to make to it. Other items on the list mentions daily blog posts, regular monthly themes of writing and crafting. I’ve also added to that list! I want to write more about my journey of continual education and what I discover on that-at times-rocky road. I have to remind myself to pace myself. There is so much material and I want to read and study it all at once! I want to know everything about everything. An impossible undertaking, I know. I digress.

Lists are important to me. Are they important to you? Do you relate to my thoughts on the subject? Have you found forgotten lists from years past?

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Titles that Stand Out

Not only does the design of a book help catch a reader’s eye but the title does as well. I’m drawn to clever book titles and how the writer decides what to caption the story. Often times, when I’m reading a book, I look for the phrase in the story or a situation that the writer was inspired to use to create the title.

Titles matter in the scheme of things when it comes to not only selling a book, but by giving a reader’s imagination of what is inside. What and how the story is weaved and so begins the world building.

In this post, I’m sharing three book titles I came across recently that has captured my interest. -Stephanie Hopkins

The Lost Chapter by Caroline Bishop

Pub Date May 3rd 2022 

England, present day.

At eighty years old, Florence Carter is content with her life. A widow in her twilight years, she spends her days making intricate lino prints in the company of her dog and cat, and her neighbors’ daughter Alice, a shy young woman troubled by a recent trauma. But when ​Flo learns that a long-lost friend has written a novel based on their time at finishing school, she’s forced to confront a secret from her past…

France, 1957.

In post-war Lyon, Florence and Lilli meet at a strict finishing school for girls. Florence—or Flo as she’s known—is a demure young Englishwoman who is expected to enter society and make a good marriage. Lilli, meanwhile, is a brash American with an independent spirit and thirst for adventure. Despite their differences, they forge a firm friendship that promises to last a lifetime—until a terrible betrayal tears them apart.
Now, as Flo reads Lilli’s book, she struggles to separate fact from fiction. Desperate for answers, she decides to take a road trip to France to find Lilli, and she invites Alice and her mother Carla to join her, in hopes the change of scenery will lift their spirits. But when they reach Lyon, it’s Flo who needs help as the buried truth from long ago threatens to overwhelm her.

The Lost Chapter is a poignant novel about the power of friendship and a beautiful reminder that it’s never too late to start writing a different story.

Hook Them or Lose Them (An Author’s Guide to Catching Readers on Page One) by D. Leitao

Pub Date 25 Apr 2022 

Description

Yes, you can hook your readers from page one.

This book is based on a workshop I gave a while ago. Even as I was preparing the workshop, trying to distill the essence of crafting hooky stories in simple, easy-to-understand concepts, I was amazed.

Nobody had ever explained this to me.

Most of the books and courses on writing and structure don’t really touch on that. Truly. You could do all the steps in Save the Cat and totally miss how to hook readers because this information simply isn’t there.

I realized I had found something special; an easy way to help writers identify what works and doesn’t for their beginning paragraphs, and how to get the readers hooked in their stories. And that’s why I’m putting it in this book; because I think my explanation can help writers.

When I say help, I truly mean help, I don’t mean tying writers down with another concept that might stifle their creativity. This book is not about sticking your writing into a box or following rigid rules. While it provides tips and techniques to help you craft stories that readers won’t quit, the advice is simple, easy, and flexible enough not to hinder your writing style or dampen your inspiration. Still, it should quench many of your doubts on whether your writing is hooky or not, so that you can spend more time creating and less time worrying.

I’ll also provide you with advice for beginnings and examples of efficient first paragraphs so that you’ll never again freak out wondering how to start your book. Instead, you’ll feel confident that you can hook your reader from the first page.

The Shell and the Octopus – A Memoir by Rebecca Stirling

Pub Date 26 Jul 2022

Description

This is the story of Rebecca Stirling’s childhood: a young girl raised by the sea, by men, and by literature. Circumnavigating the world on a thirty-foot sailboat, the Stirling’s spend weeks at a time on the open ocean, surviving storms and visiting uncharted islands and villages. Ushered through her young life by a father who loves adventure, women, and extremes, Rebecca befriends “working girls” in the ports they visit (as they are often the only other females present in the bars that they end up in) and, on the boat, falls in love with her crewmate and learns to live like the men around her. But her driven nature and the role models in the books she reads make her determined to be a lady, continue her education, begin a career, live in a real home, and begin a family of her own. Once she finally gets away from the boat and her dad and sets to work upon making her own dream a reality, however, Rebecca begins to realize life is not what she thought it would be—and when her father dies in a tragic accident, she must return to her old life to sift through the mess and magic he has left behind.

My Journey of Continual Education

My current reads and for the next few years, my main reading focus is nonfiction and studying diverse cultures-how they evolve in-depth- government entities, world history and economics.

I’ve studied and read quite a few books on American history (particular 19th Century) but lately I’ve discovered so much I’ve sorely missed out on. That said, one’s education should be a life long journey. I’m looking forward to reading and studying these books.

The Americans, Vol 1: The Colonial Experience

(The Americans #1) by Daniel J. Boorstin

Winner of the Bancroft Prize. “A superb panorama of life in America from the first settlements on through the white-hot days of the Revolution.” – Bruce Lancaster, Saturday Review

The Americans, Vol 2: The National Experience Paperback – by Daniel J. Boorstin

This second volume in “The Americans” trilogy deals with the crucial period of American history from the Revolution to the Civil War. Here we meet the people who shaped, and were shaped by, the American experience—the versatile New Englanders, the Transients and the Boosters.  Winner of the Francis Parkman Prize.

The Americans, Vol 3: The Democratic Experience Paperback by Daniel J. Boorstin

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. A study of the last 100 years of American history.

A History of the American People by Paul Johnson

“The creation of the United States of America is the greatest of all human adventures,” begins Paul Johnson. “No other national story holds such tremendous lessons, for the American people themselves and for the rest of mankind.”

In his prize-winning classic, Johnson presents an in-depth portrait of American history from the first colonial settlements to the Clinton administration. This is the story of the men and women who shaped and led the nation and the ordinary people who collectively created its unique character. Littered with letters, diaries, and recorded conversations, it details the origins of their struggles for independence and nationhood, their heroic efforts and sacrifices to deal with the ‘organic sin’ of slavery and the preservation of the Union to its explosive economic growth and emergence as a world power. Johnson discusses contemporary topics such as the politics of racism, education, the power of the press, political correctness, the growth of litigation, and the influence of women throughout history. He sees Americans as a problem-solving people and the story of their country as “essentially one of difficulties being overcome by intelligence and skill, by faith and strength of purpose, by courage and persistence… Looking back on its past, and forward to its future, the auguries are that it will not disappoint humanity.”

Sometimes controversial and always provocative, A HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE is one author’s challenging and unique interpretation of American history. Johnson’s views of individuals, events, themes, and issues are original, critical, and in the end admiring, for he is, above all, a strong believer in the history and the destiny of the American people.

Other recent relevant posts:

Cultural Nonfiction Books

A Better Understanding of Political and Social Controversies of Our Times

I’m looking forward to sharing more books I’ve discovered and as I read them, I will be writing down my thoughts on them in future posts.

Stephanie Hopkins