Cover Crush: The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

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I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

The Conspiracy of UsHardcover, 330 pages

Published January 13th 2015 by Putnam Juvenile

A fast-paced international escapade, laced with adrenaline, glamour, and romance–perfect for fans of Ally Carter

Avery West’s newfound family can shut down Prada when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war. Part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle, they believe Avery is the key to an ancient prophecy. Some want to use her as a pawn. Some want her dead.

To unravel the mystery putting her life in danger, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the monuments of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul with two boys who work for the Circle—beautiful, volatile Stellan and mysterious, magnetic Jack. But as the clues expose a stunning conspiracy that might plunge the world into World War 3, she discovers that both boys are hiding secrets of their own. Now she will have to choose not only between freedom and family–but between the boy who might help her save the world, and the one she’s falling in love with.

My thoughts:

I love everything about this book cover. The colors, detail and layout is superb! Kudos to the designer.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. Erin’s latest cover crush HERE 

Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Meghan @ Of Quills & Vellum

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Book Spotlight: The Hostage Heart by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Hostage HeartThe Hostage Heart by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Publisher:  Severn House Publishers

Pub Date: November 1, 2017

Pages: 193

Available on Amazon

Emotionally hurt in the past, a job in a large country house seems to be Emma’s best option for staying single and safe… 

When Emma Ruskin becomes governess to 10-year-old Poppy Ackroyd, the haughty Ackroyd family all treat her with contempt – particularly Gavin, the effortlessly superior eldest son.

Yet Emma realises that Gavin alone genuinely cares for Poppy and their unexpected rapport flatters and alarms her – surely he is out of her league?

But then disaster strikes when Emma and Poppy are snatched by kidnappers. Imprisoned and terrified, Emma knows they will be killed if the ransom isn’t paid – unless Gavin can get to them first…

First published as Dangerous Love, and originally under a pseudonym, this is a new edition with a new introduction from the author.

Audible Review: The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

The Weight of LiesIn this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty­-year­-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies.

Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.

Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.

Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed listening to this story on Audible. The cover and premise intrigued me and I like the idea of a woman writing a tell-all of her famous author mother and the dark secrets she holds. Meg soon finds out not everything is what it seems and there is a crazy twist to the story-line at the end. I thought it was great!

I also like the idea of the story taking place on a privately-owned island off the Georgia Coast. Lots of good description of island life. All the characters were great and had their own unique personality. That is very important in storytelling.

Meg’s investigation of a murder that took place on the island long ago was fascinating to read about and made the story chilling and tragic. I’ve rated this story four stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Excerpt Review: Origin by Dan Brown

Steph Pic retakeDan Brown is the author of best-selling book The DaVinci Code among others and I believe he prides himself on writing fiction that has stirred numerous debates on his premises. His works-while fiction-has an intellectual ideology of science and religion and I think that is what fascinates me most about his work. Or maybe how he portrays his settings and characters? Either way, they do draw people in and I admire that in an author.

However, earlier I did make up my mind not to read anymore of his books. Alas, this latest one and considering Brown’s reputation has sparked my interest yet again in this controversy subject of science and religion. Before I start sounds too repetitive, let me tell you what I think of the prologue and the first chapter I was given by the publishers through NetGalley to read and review.

Brief summary of prologue and first chapter-Edmond Kirsch a man of accomplished science, a former student of Robert Langdon, journeys to Spain to speak with religious scholars about a vital secret of his scientific discovery that will shake the foundations of the religious world-if you will. One of the men he speaks to is Bishop Antonia Valdespino-a formidable figure in Spain. A man-I can already tell-of great wisdom and intellect.

In the prologue, it is not told what the secret is and in the first chapter Langdon goes to meet Kirsch to hear what he has discovered. Of what little interaction I read between the two men, I found to be utterly interesting and I wanted to continue with the story…. Dan Brown has succeeded in capturing my attention in this excerpt and I am anxiously awaiting to read more. One other thing, Brown is great with character development and descriptive language.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

About the book:

Origin

A Novel by Dan Brown

Doubleday Books

Doubleday

General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & ThrillersPub Date 03 Oct 2017

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself . . . and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery . . . and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

Book Spotlight: Blitz Pams by John Orton

Blitz PAMs bragB.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

Synopsis

Britain in September 1940 has seen the retreat from Dunkirk, and the entry of Italy into the War. The RAF has withstood all that the Luftwaffe could throw at it in the Battle of Britain, but the German Blitzkrieg is just starting. The first bombing raids have hit South Shields and the town prepares for worse to come.

The Police need younger PAMs (Police Auxiliary Messengers) to be ready to take messages on their bikes in the event of a raid and if the phone lines are down. Mossie Hamed, grocery delivery boy, is one of the volunteers who become the Blitz PAMs. Although, in his own words ‘not ower clever’, Mossie tells how the next eighteen months change the lives of him and his ‘marras’ and of the many other unsung heroes on the home front.

“Blitz Pams tells with astonishing vividness and compelling verve a story from a forgotten world – a North Eastern town during the Blitz. John Orton makes this lost world real again. Through the voice of the narrator, he succeeds in recreating the life and struggles of young people in conditions where they could feel they were making a difference. Anyone who wants a fresh look into what it means to live in a time of crisis will enjoy this arrestingly well written book.”

John Gray – (Author of ‘Straw Dogs: thoughts on humans and other animals’)

About Author

John Orton II

John was born in 1949 in South Shields, England and after reading Law at Oxford University followed a career as a Solicitor in local Government.

Married with three children John, now retired, lives in Portishead, near Bristol where he divides his time between writing, playing old style piano and gardening.

Tracing his family history led John into a growing interest into the social history of his home town, South Shields – he now enjoys writing ‘faction’ – ficiton based on fact – in his series ‘Tales from Old South Shields.’

John’s first book ‘The Five Stone Steps’ is also a BRAG Medallion winner.

Bookish Happenings: Lots of reading going on!

Steph Pic retakeThis week has been a great week for reading. I’ve posted two reviews and have started drafting another. My goal is to work up to posting two to three book reviews a week. I am wanting to knock out my review pile because I am focusing more on my own writing and hope to publish in the near future. Alas, I have accepted more book to review this week! Yes, I know! It is madness! After I got them I was like, “What the heck is the matter with you, Stephanie? You’re supposed to stop that nonsense!” I do have a perfectly good excuse. No, really, I do. You see, reading helps writers grow in their craft of writing. Seriously. Though I know I should tone it down a bit as much as that sounds boring too. Sigh. My love for reading knows no bounds. The written word is my muse. Let’s not forget the characters. I love a compelling character. They drive the plot so you have to have good strong characters. Currently I am working on a post about that and will share it soon the indieBRAG Blog. Meanwhile, I want to share with you the books I received to review this week.

One more thing before we get started, last night an idea came to me for a story so I quickly grabbed a notebook and started writing before I would forget the story-line and it turned into a nice flash fiction that I think I will expand into either a novella or full-blown novel. I couldn’t believe how fast the story came to me and how it came out of nowhere! It was an exhilarating experience. If that ever happens to you, please share! I would love to hear about your experience. Okay, let’s talk books:

A Mortal LikenessA Mortal Likeness (A Victorian Mystery) by Laura Joh Rowland

Crooked Lane Books

Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date 09 Jan 2018

Description

A photographer in Whitechapel, London, Sarah Bain is also a private detective—skilled at capturing others’ dark secrets, and expert at keeping her own. When a wealthy banker, Sir Gerald Mariner, posts a handsome reward for finding his missing infant, all of London joins in, hoping to win that money for themselves. Usually discouraged by a saturated market, Sarah is instead curiously allured as she realizes the case hits much closer to home than she first thought.

As she dives in, she discovers a photograph of baby Robin Mariner and his mother. But it eerily resembles the post-mortem photographs Sarah, herself, takes of deceased children posed to look as if they were alive. Now it’s unclear whether the kidnapping is a cover-up to hide the reality of his disappearance, or if it’s truly a cry for help.

The clock is ticking and Sarah must uncover the truth before her past catches up to her in A Mortal Likeness, the gripping follow-up to bestselling author Laura Joh Rowland’s The Ripper’s Shadow.

Why I chose this book to review:

In the discription the words: photographer, Whitechapel, London, private detective, and  post-mortem photographs stood out to me and I knew that yes, I had to get my hands on a copy of this book! Now, don’t think I am being morbid and all. Okay, maybe just a little but still, those combinations make up for an interesting premise, don’t you think? I like the cover too.

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The King of Bones and AshesThe King of Bones and Ashes (Witches of New Orleans, Book 1) by J. D. Horn

47North

General Fiction (Adult), Sci Fi & Fantasy

Pub Date 23 Jan 2018

Description

From the bestselling author of the Witching Savannah series comes the first book in a fascinating trilogy following the quest of a young witch to uncover her family’s terrifying secret history…

Magic is seeping out of the world, leaving the witches who’ve relied on it for countless centuries increasingly hopeless. While some see an inevitable end of their era, others are courting madness—willing to sacrifice former allies, friends, and family to retain the power they covet. While the other witches watch their reality unravel, young Alice Marin is using magic’s waning days to delve into the mystery of numerous disappearances in the occult circles of New Orleans. Alice disappeared once, too—caged in an asylum by blood relatives. Recently freed, she fears her family may be more involved with the growing crisis than she ever dared imagine.

Yet the more she seeks the truth about her family’s troubled history, the more she realizes her already-fragile psyche may be at risk. Discovering the cause of the vanishings, though, could be the only way to escape her mother’s reach while determining the future of all witches.

Why I chose this book to review:

I hope you are not starting to see a trend here. It just happened that I picked these sorts of books to review right now. Maybe because fall time is near? This story does look good and it’s important to read lots of different sorts of story-lines. Honest.

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The Family Next DoorThe Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

St. Martin’s Press

Women’s Fiction

Pub Date 13 Mar 2018

Description

A novel about desperate mothers, secrets among neighbors, and things women keep hidden in a suburban drama from the author of The Mother’s Promise.

Small, perfect towns often hold the deepest secrets. Such is the case for Essie and her family. Essie is a new mother, but few of her friends know that in a moment of maternal despair: she once walked away from her newborn, asleep in her carriage in a park. Disaster was avoided and Essie got better. But she still fears what lurks inside her, even as her daughter gets older and she has a second baby. When a new woman moves next door to Essie, she is an immediate object of curiosity in this neighborhood. Why single, when everyone else is married, with kids? Why renting, when everyone else owns? What mysterious job does she have? And why is she so fascinated with Essie? As the two women grow closer and Essie’s friends disapprove, it starts to become clear that Isabelle’s choice of neighborhood was no accident. And that her presence might bring even more secrets to light.

Why I chose this book to review:

St. Martin is one of my favorite publishers to review for and they have great authors. Lately I have been on a real thriller kick and this story fits that bill. I love reading about small towns and hold deep, dark secrets.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and do be sure to come back and visit with me at Layered Pages again! You will always find interesting, honest and fun posts here.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 

 

Cover Crush: The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley

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I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

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The Lavender GardenThe Lavender Garden: A Novel Paperback – June 11, 2013

by Lucinda Riley

An aristocratic French family, a legendary château, and buried secrets with the power to destroy two generations torn between duty and desire.

La Côte d’Azur, 1998: In the sun-dappled south of France, Emilie de la Martinières, the last of her gilded line, inherits her childhood home, a magnificent château and vineyard. With the property comes a mountain of debt—and almost as many questions…

Paris, 1944: A bright, young British office clerk, Constance Carruthers, is sent undercover to Paris to be part of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive during the climax of the Nazi occupation. Separated from her contacts in the Resistance, she soon stumbles into the heart of a prominent family who regularly entertain elite members of the German military even as they plot to liberate France. But in a city rife with collaborators and rebels, Constance’s most difficult decision may be determining whom to trust with her heart.

As Emilie discovers what really happened to her family during the war and finds a connection to Constance much closer than she suspects, the château itself may provide the clues that unlock the mysteries of her past, present, and future. Here is a dazzling novel of intrigue and passion from one of the world’s most beloved storytellers.

My thoughts about the cover:

At first, I wasn’t sure about the colors in the cover. The strong tones of the yellow stands out a bit too bright. But after looking at it for a few more minutes I got past that and I really have come to like this cover.  However, I think it would be better with an actual Lavender Garden for the layout.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. Her latest cover crush HERE

Other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Meghan @ Of Quills & Vellum