Cover Crush: Painting the Light by Sally Cabot Gunning

About the Cover:

About the book:

Book Description

William Morrow and Custom House

William Morrow

General Fiction (Adult) | Historical Fiction | Literary Fiction

Pub Date 01 Jun 2021

From the critically acclaimed author of Monticello and The Widow’s War comes a vividly rendered historical novel of love, loss, and reinvention, set on Martha’s Vineyard at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Martha’s Vineyard, 1898. In her first life, Ida Russell had been a painter. Five years ago, she had confidently walked the halls of Boston’s renowned Museum School, enrolling in art courses that were once deemed “unthinkable” for women to take, and showing a budding talent for watercolors.

But no more. Ida Russell is now Ida Pease, resident of a seaside farm on Vineyard Haven, and wife to Ezra, a once-charming man who has become an inattentive and altogether unreliable husband. Ezra runs a salvage company in town with his business partner Mose Barstow, but he much prefers their nightly card games at the local pub to his work in their Boston office, not to mention filling haystacks and tending sheep on the farm at home—duties that have fallen to Ida and their part-time farmhand Lem. Ida, meanwhile, has left her love for painting behind.

It comes as no surprise to Ida when Ezra is hours late for a Thanksgiving dinner, only to leave abruptly for another supposedly urgent business trip to Boston. But then something truly unthinkable happens: a storm strikes, and the Portland sinks. Ezra and Mose are presumed dead.

In the wake of this shocking tragedy, Ida must settle the affairs of Ezra’s estate, a task that brings her to a familiar face from her past—Henry Barstow, Mose’s brother and executor. As she joins Henry in sifting through the remnants of her husband’s life and work, Ida must learn to separate truth from lies and what matters from what doesn’t.

Painting the Light is an arresting portrait of a woman, and a considered meditation on loss and love.

Be sure to follow and check out more of my art at my Instagram!

before the second sleep cover crush

Stephanie Hopkins

Layered Pages Top 2020 Reads

Favorite Books Read in 2020

Last year my Goodreads challenge was to read twenty fiction books. I surpassed that goal and read thirty. However, I read more than thirty books. Beyond that was research books for my writing project and other research projects. I did not count those on goodreads because I’m continually referring to them.

The fiction books below are my top favorite reads, though not in a particular order. This year’s reading goal is much bigger. I will be talking about that more a little later on. What were your favorite 202 reads? -Stephanie Hopkins

Top Favorites

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

Be sure to check these titles out on Goodreads and Amazon!

Favorite Covers:

Here are my favorite covers out of the bunch. Which covers do you like?

New Book Release: Madam C.J. Walker by Erica L. Ball

Congrats to Erica L. Ball’s

book publication of, “Madam C.J. Walker

The Making of an American Icon!”

I discovered Madam C.J. Walker a few years ago during my in-depth study of 19th Century Post Civil War. I thought at the time that it would be wonderful to watch a movie or read a book based on her life. I wanted to know more about this woman. Her story needs to be told. To my delight, I learned that Author Erica L. Ball wrote about Walker and have added the book to my reading list. I have not read any of Ball’s published works but have learned that she is a professor of History and Black Studies. Very cool.  -Stephanie Hopkins

About the book:

Rowman & Littlefield

Biographies & Memoirs | History | Nonfiction (Adult)

Pub Date 15 Jan 2021

Description

Madam C. J. Walker—reputed to be America’s first self-made woman millionaire—has long been celebrated for her rags-to-riches story. Born to former slaves in the Louisiana Delta in the aftermath of the Civil War, married at fourteen, and widowed at twenty, Walker spent the first decades of her life as a laundress, laboring in conditions that paralleled the lives of countless poor and working-class African American women. By the time of her death in 1919, however, Walker had refashioned herself into one of the most famous African American figures in the nation: the owner and president of a hair-care empire and a philanthropist wealthy enough to own a country estate near the Rockefellers…

In this biography, Erica Ball places this remarkable and largely forgotten life story in the context of Walker’s times.

Learning to Speak Southern

What are you up to now, Stephanie?

On NetGalley, often times, book reviewers can, “wish-for,” books to review. When I spotted, “Learning to Speak Southern,” I knew this one was for me. Ha!

Why?

For several reasons really. I’m a southern girl, I love journaling, writing and family is very important to me. Oh, and I love the cover of this book!

Did the publishers grant your wish?

Yes! I was quite surprised really. I usually old my breath when I wish for a book. So delighted and thankful.

I thought you are trying to catch up on your back-list? What are you thinking?

Err…I am. I promise. This one looked too good to pass up. I know, I know…I can’t keep doing this. In my defense, Sourcebooks rarely disappoints in their reading selection and looking at my back-list, I’ve realized I’ve put myself in a corner of-sorts with my selection. One needs options so you don’t get burned out. That is my story and I’m sticking to it.

Thank you, Sourcebooks Landmark for a galley copy of this story! Looking forward to diving in very soon. -Stephanie Hopkins   

Learning to Speak Southern

by Lindsey Rogers Cook

SOURCEBOOKS Landmark

General Fiction (Adult) | Women’s Fiction

Pub Date 01 Jun 2021 

Description

A searing Southern story about confronting the difference between the family you’re born into and the family you choose, from the acclaimed author of How to Bury Your Brother

Lex fled Memphis years ago, making ends meet with odd jobs teaching English around the world. She only returns when she has no choice, when her godmother presents her with a bargain she can’t refuse. Lex has never understood her mother, who died tragically right before Lex’s college graduation, but now she’s got a chance to read her journals, to try and figure out what sent her mother spiraling all those years ago.

The Memphis that Lex inhabits is more bourbon and bbq joint than sweet tea on front porches, and as she pieces together the Memphis her mother knew, seeing the lure of the world through her mother’s lush writing, she must confront more of her own past and the people she left behind. Once all is laid bare, Lex must decide for herself: What is the true meaning of family?

Weird Wednesday: An Exploration of Our Quirky World

Nineteenth Century Slang, Phrases and Meanings

19th Century Family Heirloom

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.

I’m obsessed with history and cultures from all walks of like. A particular favorite of mine-because I read and write stories in the time period-is nineteenth century history in America. Did you know that many of our expressions and slang come from what many considered forgotten or overlooked? Today we are taking a look at a few quirky slang words and phrases from the nineteenth century and perhaps, we will find a few similar to our modern-day slang. But before we do, and without going too much in-depth on this subject, lets’ look at its definition and a minuscule of the development.

Many slang words and phrases were brought to America from other countries and thus been adopted. Subcultures blending and becoming our main culture-if you will. Slang is ingrained in Americans’ and many don’t realize they are using it or where it comes from or how it evolves. Truth be told, it is difficult to say where exactly it all originated from.Often times, the meaning of the words change or the word can be used for different purposes.. For example: In the American Civil War Era, the word, “Dictator,” means: “The nickname of a 13-inch seacoast MORTAR mounted on a railroad flatcar and utilized during the siege of Petersburg. A.k.a the Petersburg Express.” In today’s society, “Dictator,” is commonly known as a country governed by a Dictator. Another example is, “Dresser,” The usage of this word during the American Civil War Era meant: “A volunteer or medical student assigned the task of dressing wounds. Today we associate the word as a piece of furniture that has drawers to hold clothing, house items and etc…

19th Century Family Heirloom

According to Britannica: “Slang, unconventional words or phrases that express either something new or something old in a new way. It is flippant, irreverent, indecorous; it may be indecent or obscene. Its colorful metaphors are generally directed at respectability, and it is this succinct, sometimes witty, frequently impertinent social criticism that gives slang its characteristic flavor. Slang, then, includes not just words but words used in a special way in a certain social context. The origin of the word slang itself is obscure; it first appeared in print around 1800, applied to the speech of disreputable and criminal classes in London. The term, however, was probably used much earlier. The term, however, was probably used much earlier.” Click on the Britannica site to read more about it their interpretation.  

19th Century Family Heirloom

19th Century Slang and phrases used in America

Here are a few quirky slang and phrases you probably have never heard of:

Hornswoggling, Honey-fuggling, Give me jesse, Bottom fact, Hang up one’s fiddle, To give up, See the elephant, gallnipper, Go the whole hog: to go all the way, Acknowledge the corn, and I’ll Hang up my fiddle.  

Here are a few that you might know:

Humbug, Dad-blame it, You can sass me, You cussed scalawag, How came you so, they’re “Fixin’ to” do it, Carryings-on, Crazy as a loon, Almighty, grit, Bad egg, balderdash, dude (a dandy), and Over yonder.

19th Century Family Heirloom

Meanings of a few:  

Grit: guts; courage; toughness.

Hang up one’s fiddle: to give up.

Go the whole hog: to go all the way.

Almighty: huge

Bad egg: a bad person; a good-for-nothing person.

My personal favorites (Southerners Use):

A-hootin’ and a-hollerin’, Bless your heart, Fixin’ to, I reckon, Hold your horses, Well, I declare, Heavens to Betsy, and Hush your mouth, Water under the bridge, Hogwash, Stuff and nonsense.

Mind your own beeswax – started as a retort in the 1700’s. I remember using that phrases often as a child. Ha!

I’ve only scratched the surface of this fascinating and quirky topic and what a subject to explore! One can go down a rabbit hole with this. What are a few quirky slang words and phrases from the nineteenth century that you know? -Stephanie Hopkins

Images may be subjected to copyright. In order to use art images or any content on Layered Pages platform, please ask permission from Stephanie Hopkins

Life’s Simple Pleasures

2020 Journal Overview

Life has its ups and downs and it is vital for one to find the simple things in daily tasks to keep moving forward. One of my pleasures in life is journaling. Whether it be art journaling, creating a new DIY journal or just writing an entry, brings me peace.  

Whenever I sit at my desk or reading chair to journal, I’m reminded of the time I was gifted my first diary at a young age. The memory is forever cherished in my heart and with it brings an appreciation for the pastime of writing my thoughts down. When you express your thoughts and feelings on paper, it is an extraordinary record of moments in your life.

My first diary was an Anne Of Green Gables Journal filled with Anne’s saying and little passages of her story written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Lucy’s beloved story is inspired by notes she wrote as a young girl in rural Canada.  I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched the first adaption growing up. Looking back at what I wrote, I filled that diary with such strong emotions for one so young. Those were certainly captivating times…

Completed Journals

Last year I completed several journals shown above.  I really grew in my craft with these journals and making them, I was encouraged to keep writing and create art throughout the troubled year.

The journals shown below are my on-going ones that I write in from time to time. The earliest ones were started in 2014 and 2017. If you’ve never kept a journal before, I want to encourage you to start. You’ll learn, and grow mentally while providing yourself with valuable insight of your surroundings and your inner-self through life’s journey. -Stephanie Hopkins

On-going Journals

Images may be subjected to copyright. In order to use art images or any content on Layered Pages platform, please ask permission from Stephanie Hopkins

The Power of Words

Words are a sequence of letters. They evoke expression, meaning and language. Words build sentences that form into paragraphs that lead you to numerous writing mediums. In short, words are powerful. They are a language that is a part of what defines our world. They bring people together to form a common ground. Often times, they can even divide people. How one chooses to use their words makes all the difference.

Imagine a collector of words and the knowledge they hold in their grasps. I’ve always been fascinated with people who collect them. Are you a collector of words?

I’m really looking forward to reading The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams and sharing my thoughts about it. Thank you, Ballantine Books for a copy. -Stephanie Hopkins

Be sure to check out before the second sleep’s cover crush and thoughts of this book! Her thoughts are really insightful.

Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 06 Apr 2021

Description

In this remarkable debut based on actual events, as a team of male scholars compiles the first Oxford English Dictionary, one of their daughters decides to collect the “objectionable” words they omit.

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Young Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word bondmaid flutters beneath the table. She rescues the slip, and when she learns that the word means “slave girl,” she begins to collect other words that have been discarded or neglected by the dictionary men.

As she grows up, Esme realizes that words and meanings relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences often go unrecorded. And so, she begins in earnest to search out words for her own dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words. To do so she must leave the sheltered world of the university and venture out to meet the people whose words will fill those pages.

Set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement and with the Great War looming, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. Inspired by actual events, author Pip Williams has delved into the archives of the Oxford English Dictionary to tell this highly original story. The Dictionary of Lost Words is a delightful, lyrical, and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words and the power of language to shape the world.

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

The 1906 earthquake in San Francisco has been an interest of mine for quite some time. The earthquake only lasted less than minute but the devastation was complete. The fires that broke out due to the quake were disastrous, leaving half the cities’ residence homeless and thousands, dead. I’m looking forward to seeing how Meissner weaves this unfortunate historic event into her story. Thank you, Berkley and NetGalley for a copy of this powerful story. -Stephanie

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Berkley Publishing Group

Historical Fiction | Women’s Fiction

Pub Date 02 Feb 2021  

Description

April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin’s silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin’s odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn’t right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War and As Bright as Heaven comes a gripping novel about the bonds of friendship and mother love, and the power of female solidarity.

Book Review: The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander

Kindle Edition, 305 pagesPublished December 27th 2016 by Kensington

About the story:

Dublin, 1962. Within the gated grounds of the convent of The Sisters of the Holy Redemption lies one of the city’s Magdalen Laundries. Once places of refuge, the laundries have evolved into grim workhouses. Some inmates are “fallen” women—unwed mothers, prostitutes, or petty criminals. Most are ordinary girls whose only sin lies in being too pretty, too independent, or tempting the wrong man. Among them is sixteen-year-old Teagan Tiernan, sent by her family when her beauty provokes a lustful revelation from a young priest.

Teagan soon befriends Nora Craven, a new arrival who thought nothing could be worse than living in a squalid tenement flat. Stripped of their freedom and dignity, the girls are given new names and denied contact with the outside world. The Mother Superior, Sister Anne, who has secrets of her own, inflicts cruel, dehumanizing punishments—but always in the name of love. Finally, Nora and Teagan find an ally in the reclusive Lea, who helps them endure—and plot an escape. But as they will discover, the outside world has dangers too, especially for young women with soiled reputations.

Told with candor, compassion, and vivid historical detail, The Magdalen Girls is a masterfully written novel of life within the era’s notorious institutions—and an inspiring story of friendship, hope, and unyielding courage. 

A few of my thoughts:

Recently I discovered that my family has ancestry in Dublin Ireland and this book came to my mind. Strange how the mind works. I requested, “The Magdalen Girls” to review some time ago and to be honest, I’m not sure why I chose it because it wasn’t a subject, I was ready-mentally-to look in-depth. The Catholic Church has an extremely dark history and I don’t believe their theology/doctrine is entirely in line with the Holy Bible.

The story introduces three young girls, Teagan, Nora and Lea. Leading up to the moment Teagan and Nora were cast out of their homes and into the “care” of The Sister of the Holy Redemption. The cruelty of Mother Ann and the Nuns who carries out her orders is a clear reflection of the abuse, neglect, death, exploitation and forced, cruel hard labor that are not the teachings of Christ. These young girls’ situation there and of the others, lay heavily on my mind.

There are two priest that are front and center to Teagan’s “down fall”. Father Mark and Father Matthew. In short, I found Father Matthew not living up to his higher responsibility that God has commanded and instead he seceded the position to a mostly matriarchal attitude that was counterproductive to Christian life. His inability to counsel Father Mark and do right by the situation at hand really reflects my opinion above. They laid full responsibility of Mark’s sin on Teagan. That is not Christ like.

My main focus of this review is Tegan’s downfall because of the bold example the author shows of how the Priests influence its congregation and community. My focus on Teagan’s story- in no way- diminishes the others girls experience in that toxic environment.

I would have liked to have read a better build-up of the girl’s life before they entered, The Sister of the Holy Redemption. Other than that, it was a powerful premise, though a sad one.

Was there redemption in the story for the girls? That is for you to find out by reading the story.

I rated this book three stars and obtained a galley copy from the publishers through NetGalley.

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

My thoughts:

“Libraries are lungs, […] books the fresh air breathed in to keep the heart beating, to keep the brain imagining, to keep hope alive.” ― Janet Skeslien Charles, The Paris Library

The Paris Library is truly an unforgettable story. My favorite books are usually told in dual timelines. This story is without a doubt, my new favorite. If you are a lover of books and libraries, you must read, The Paris Library. I was completely spirited with abounding emotions. I laughed, cried, cheered, was enraged at injustice, and was thoroughly in my element with the librarians. I wanted-so much-to have tea with them and discuss literature and humanity. I wanted to be in their world surrounded with so many wonderful stories.

Not all is wonderful because of the war and personal struggles. That is what happens in life and this story portrays that in such a way, you realize that we all can learn from each other. Even so, it carries the narrative to great heights, shows you how deeply impacted the librarians were during the dark time of Word War II, and the lengths they went to keep reading alive.  

I actually leaned about a few authors and books I am not familiar with and want to read them because of the people’s experience with them in this book.

The author’s style of writing appealed to me and there are countless of passages that I marked so that I can make a record of them in my journal. That is how much this story affected me.

Stories like this are what brings us together and forever changes our impressions on life and humanity.

A must read!

I rated this book five stars and obtained a copy of this book from the publishers for an honest review.

Stephanie Hopkins