The Dust Needs to Settle

We had quite the storm this past Saturday evening of heavy rain, strong wind and lightning. On the back screened porch Sunday morning, everything was damp and the southern humidity didn’t help matters. At least the birds were in song and the coffee was strong. I was sitting on the back porch, not sure how long that was going to last, to write letters, organize to-do lists and to jot down thoughts about, The Four Winds by Kristen Hannah. In the picture, you see John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, you say. “Where’s, The Four Winds?” I bought this copy of The Grapes of Wrath back in 92′ and yes, it’s still in great condition. Gosh, saying that makes me feel old.

To answer your question, assuming you’re asking it, I’m re-visiting The Grapes of Wrath because The Four Winds is a good companion and the stories are still relevant today. They both give you a fountain of information to think about and I have so much to say about both of them. The Four Winds is resting on one of my bookshelves. I will be un-shelving the book soon to gather some marked passages and discuss both books with its contrasts and similarities.

This will be a rather ongoing project and perhaps will share in bits and pieces at Layered Pages. Each post will be linked, so you many keep up with this project, if you wish.

Stephanie Hopkins

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Published April 10th 2014 by Viking (first published April 14th 1939)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized—and sometimes outraged—millions of readers.

First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity. A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America. At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Published February 2nd 2021 by St. Martin’s Press

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

Cover Crush: Take What You Can Carry by Gian Sardar

About the Cover: The beautifully stark landscape and the contract of the flowers caught my attention. The shades of colors draw your eyes to the depth of the mountains. I do love the title but I feel the size of the font overwhelms the layout and takes away from the depiction of the mountains in the background.  

Thoughts about the story: I noticed that readers are shelving this book as Historical Fiction. Despite the history of the Iraqi–Kurdish conflict, this particular story does not take place fifty years ago and the genre is generally considered historical when fifty years has passed.

The premise of this story is something I want to explore in-depth. The conflict in Iraqi is prevalent to our time and history. To experience the period in the eyes of an aspiring photographer, Olivia Murray and her Kurdish boyfriend, Delan will be fascinating and gripping to say the least. I’ve added this book to my to-read pile. -Stephanie Hopkins

About the Book: Published May 1st 2021 by Lake Union Publishing

An aspiring photographer follows her dreams and faces her fears in a poignant novel about finding beauty, promise, and love amid the chaos of war-torn Kurdistan.

It’s 1979. Olivia Murray, a secretary at a Los Angeles newspaper, is determined to become a photojournalist and make a difference with her work. When opportunity arrives, she seizes it, accompanying her Kurdish boyfriend, Delan, to northern Iraq for a family wedding, hoping to capture an image that lands her a job in the photo department. More important, though, the trip is a chance to understand Delan’s childhood and bridge the differences of their pasts. Yet when the return home proves less safe than Delan believed, Olivia is confronted with a reality she had not expected, and is awakened to the dangers of a town patrolled by Iraqi military under curfew and constant threat.

But in this world torn apart by war, there are intoxicating sights and scents, Delan’s loving family, innocence not yet compromised, and small acts of kindness that flourish unexpectedly. All of it will be tested when Olivia captures a shattering, tragic moment on film, one that upends all their lives and proves that true bravery begins with an open heart.

New Book Release: The Nine by Gwen Strauss

Congrats to Gwen Strauss’s book publication of, “The Nine”

(The True Story of a Band of Women Who Survived the Worst of Nazi Germany!”)

About the book:

St. Martin’s Press

History

Pub Date 04 May 2021

“This haunting account provides yet more evidence not only of the power of female friendship but that the often-unrecorded courage and resilience of ordinary women must be honoured and celebrated. It’s a most inspiring read…Utterly gripping.” —Anne Sebba, author of Les Parisiennes

The Nine follows the true story of the author’s great aunt Helene Podliasky, who led a band of nine female resistance fighters as they escaped a German forced labor camp and made a ten-day journey across the front lines of WWII from Germany back to Paris.

The nine women were all under thirty when they joined the resistance. They smuggled arms through Europe, harbored parachuting agents, coordinated communications between regional sectors, trekked escape routes to Spain and hid Jewish children in scattered apartments. They were arrested by French police, interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo. They were subjected to a series of French prisons and deported to Germany. The group formed along the way, meeting at different points, in prison, in transit, and at Ravensbrück. By the time they were enslaved at the labor camp in Leipzig, they were a close-knit group of friends. During the final days of the war, forced onto a death march, the nine chose their moment and made a daring escape.

Drawing on incredible research, this powerful, heart-stopping narrative is a moving tribute to the power of humanity and friendship in the darkest of times.

A Week of Regrouping

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook

I am taking the week off of blogging and to work on bringing you more creative content for future posts. Please be sure to check out my art journey on Instagram and at my Mixed Media Art Gallery here at Layered Pages! I will continue to post new pictures on those media platforms. My wish is for you to be inspired and encouraged. Have a beautiful week!

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: The Child Finder (Naomi Cottle #1) by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder was a quick read and I found myself fully absorbed in the story. I must admit, I chose the book because of the cover and title. I’ve had it on my bookshelf for quite sometime and decided to pick it up this weekend. This story is fascinating and sad at the same time. Yet, beautifully written and there’s descriptive scenery throughout.

Madison captured my heart. As a little girl, she was taken and missing for three years, she quickly creates a world of her own based on a fairytale story she loves, for survival.

Naomi, is a woman who was abducted herself when she was younger and is called to find Madison. At all odds, her discovery of the girl’s whereabouts reveals memories of her own past.

The Child Finder is a uniquely told story, that takes you into the world of a highly imaginative and clever mind of a child, whose self-preservation is astounding.

Stephanie Hopkins

About the book:

Hardcover, 274 pages

Published September 5th 2017 by Harper

“Where are you, Madison Culver? Flying with the angels, a silver speck on a wing? Are you dreaming, buried under snow? Or—is it possible—you are still alive?”

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

April: Book Round-Up

This month’s reading was an adventure to say the least. I wasn’t sure how much time I would have for ready considering the amount of time I have been putting in to creating art and other pursuits. I found myself reading at odd times. I’m quite pleased that I read a book a week. After reading The Four Winds, I was going to start on Heart of the Frontier by Brittany Larsen, Jen Geigle Johnson, Jennie Hansen and Carolyn Twede Frankmm but I felt like reading a modern-day story and read Home by Harlan Coben instead. I enjoyed every single book I read this month and excited about May’s reading forecast. -Stephanie Hopkins

Number of pages read in April: 1,570

Here are the titles I’ve read for March and the review post dates:

Home (Myron Bolitar #11) by Harlan Coben

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Emily’s House by Amy Belding Brown

Love Story (The Baxter Family #1) by Karen Kingsbury

Weekend Musings

Floral Painting (ATC) by Stephanie Hopkins

This morning I woke up feeling the coolness of the morning air and sounds of rain and wind. My first thought was to stay snuggled under the covers for a bit longer. As my thoughts wondered to holding a hot cup of coffee while looking out the window, and my morning painting, I got out of bed with anticipation of starting my day.

Lately, I haven’t thought much about the weekend during the week. The days seem to blur together while time continues to pass. I have to admit, I don’t mind it so much. But today is different. Last night, I looked forward to Saturday. Why, I asked myself. I couldn’t explain it really. It was just a feeling. Then this morning it came to me. I haven’t spent a lot of time reading as I had been and I wanted to finish my current book and read at least one more book before the month is up. The weekend allows for such opportunities.

Saturday Morning Abstract Painting by Stephanie Hopkins

I’m currently reading The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah and want to start Heart of the Frontier by Brittany Larsen, Jen Geigle Johnson, Jennie Hansen and Carolyn Twede Frank. The Four Winds is absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend it. I will share more of my thoughts about the story in the near future.

I hope you have a beautiful weekend and God bless. -Stephanie

Be sure to check out my Mixed Media Art Gallery and Instagram to see more of my art journey!

Original Artwork by Stephanie Hopkins

(Images are subjected to copyright. All book reviews, interviews, guest posts, art work and promotions are originals. In order to use any text or pictures from Layered Pages, please ask for permission from Stephanie Hopkins.)

Cover Crush: You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon

About the cover: I love when a layout shows the persons face! The rain and colors of grey and to lighter colors on the bottom of the layout, really makes it stand out. That said, it is a simple cover but nonetheless, the cover made me want to find out more about the story.

About the book: I discovered this book from Margaret with Just One More Chapter. She had posted about it on social media and discussed a little about how it went with a theme for her latest Kindle read. You Will Remember Me is mystery thriller and with the cover and premise combined, it looks like a great book to curl up with on a stormy night! -Stephanie Hopkins

Book Description:

Forget the truth.

Remember the lies.

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can’t remember who he is. Everything–his identity, his life, his loved ones–has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?

Shared fates intertwine in a twisty, explosive novel of suspense, where unearthing the past might just mean being buried beneath it.

Cover Crush: The Well by Stephanie Landsem

About the cover: I’ve examined this cover so much that I’m second guessing myself on if I have shared this one already or not. If so, refreshers are good.

If I were to rate the book cover, I’d give it five stars, maybe more. You can see the woman’s face! Well, her profile but that is a lot better than seeing her back. The landscape is stunning and the colors vibrant and evoking. I love everything about this cover design. Including the title, oh, and the author has a beautiful name. Hint, hint.

About the book: I have mixed feelings about Biblical re-telling’s and Christian fiction in general. Often times they are unrealistic water-downed (no pun intended) and one must always remember that these re-telling’s are fictional that draw from details and facts from the Bible. Or the reader hopes so… If you’re not certain, it’s best to go straight to the source. As I said above, I have mixed feelings about this medium of story- telling, however, as a story enthusiast, person of faith and my love for history, I’m highly interested in this one.

If you are a reader of the Bible, you will know the story of Jacob’s well in the New Testament. If I recall, the passage is in the book of John. The well and where it is situated is a notable and historic site today. The story of Jacob goes all the way back to the Old Testament.

As The Well goes, Landsem takes us to the Samaritan Village and introduces us to a woman and her family who is shunned for their mother’s sins. Then one day, two men arrive to their village, one of them is Jesus. His teachings of faith and belief in God sending His son to save us, service, love, forgiveness, kindness and hope are about Christian life.

Not everything turns out the way we want them to and bad things happen but I firmly believe in redemption and a higher purpose to our strife in life. I look forward to reading this story. – Stephanie Hopkins

Grungy abstract inspired by the landscape in the background of the book cover. -by Stephanie Hopkins

More about the story:

Paperback, 304 pages

Published June 4th 2013 by Howard Books

In the rich tradition of Francine Rivers’s Lineage of Grace series, comes a beautiful retelling of the biblical story of the woman at the well—bringing to life this poignant young woman struggling to survive love and heartbreak.

For the women of the Samaritan village of Sychar, the well is a place of blessing—the place where they gather to draw their water and share their lives—but not for Mara and her family. Shunned for the many sins of her mother, Mara struggles against the constant threats of starvation or exile.

But Mara and her mother, Nava’s lives are forever changed with the arrival of two men: Shem, a mysterious and wealthy young man from Caesarea, and Jesus, a Jewish teacher. Nava is transformed by Jesus, with his talk of forgiveness, but his teachings come too late and she is stoned by the villagers for her past sins. Desperate to save her mother, Mara and Shem embark on a journey to seek Jesus’ help—a journey that brings unexpected love and hope, despite great difficulties.

In The Well, debut novelist Stephanie Landsem brings to life the culture and people of Jesus’ day, skillfully demonstrating how redemption can bring about the life-changing effects of forgiveness and love. 

Be sure to check out my Mixed Media Art Gallery and Instagram to see more of my art journey!

Book Review: Finding Napoleon by Margaret Rodenberg

Published April 6th 2021 by She Writes Press

Margaret Rodenberg brings us a story of Emperor Napoleon’s defeat and his exile on the Island of Helena in what is still, consider to this day, one of the most remote Island on earth. Finding Napoleon is about his final years and his plot to escape the Island and rescue his son. While on the Island, trust in the people surrounding him is quite the skill to say the least.

In the beginning, I felt as if the characters were moving parts in a play. Told where to stand, what to say and when to say it. I’m not sure that makes much sense but, in better words, I felt very little for them and that very well may be the point. Napoleon was using them and they were using him. We aren’t meant to have warm and fuzzy feelings for these people. They weren’t exactly pillars of society in terms of being moral and honest people. In my opinion, they were opportunist. As for the people of the Island, Tobyson, Hercules and Betsy were good people and despite Napoleon’s faults, they held him in high regard.

While Napoloen’s love affair with Albine wasn’t particularly “romantic”, I felt the author’s portrayal of their relationship realistic. That said, I still haven’t completely decided how I feel about Albine or her relations with Napoleon for that matter. Afterall, she was a married woman and I don’t say this with naivety. I’m well aware of the culture during that time. Maybe she felt she had to do what she did for survival.

Albine is a complex woman and people considered her a liar and a loose woman. Though many of the very people who said those things about her, were no better. In the end, she made good on a promise to Napoleon and I had to admire her for that. I would like to believe that leaving that Island and her changed circumstances in life, made her a better person in the end.

I feel Rosenberg depicted Napoleon’s ego as how I have always imagined it to be. Napoleon is intelligent and he very well knows it. He is always scheming and, in my opinion, using people for his own purpose and pleasures. He is a master manipulator. Despite his thirst for his own glory or survival-if you will-I found his interest in the world and how things worked intriguing to read about. He is a good listener and you do see a softer side to him in this story but I remain-rightfully so- suspicious of his motives.

I’ve read many novels about Napoleon but very little of his time on St. Helena or the end of his life in-depth such as this one. Nor was I familiar with the fact he began to write a story that was unfinished. That was exciting to learn and it intrigued me enough to read this book and wanting to know the author’s take on the history. I can’t help but wonder what his life would have been life if he had chosen a different path. He could have possibly done so much good with his intellect and charismatic personality.

You are reading two different stories with Finding Napoleon and how Rosenberg beautifully weaves Napoleon’s writing efforts into the time line and expanding on the story, is close to brilliant.

I appreciate the author’s obvious fascination with Napoleon. He is definitely a hot topic for discussion and this fact certainly shows in this book.

I recommend Finding Napoleon to readers who are already familiar with Napoleon’s life before his stay on the Island.

Stephanie Hopkins

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

More about the book:

With its delightful adaptation of Napoleon Bonaparte’s real attempt to write a novel, Finding Napoleon offers a fresh take on Europe’s most powerful man after he’s lost everything. A forgotten woman of history–Napoleon’s last love, the audacious Albine de Montholon–narrates their tale of intrigue, passion, and betrayal.

After the defeated Emperor Napoleon goes into exile on tiny St. Helena Island in the remote South Atlantic, he and his lover, Albine de Montholon, plot to escape and rescue his young son. Banding together African slaves, British sympathizers, a Jewish merchant, a Corsican rogue, and French followers, they confront British opposition–as well as treachery within their own ranks–with sometimes subtle, sometimes bold, but always desperate action.
When Napoleon and Albine break faith with one another, ambition and Albine’s husband threaten their reconciliation. To succeed, Napoleon must learn whom to trust. To survive, Albine must decide whom to betray.

Two hundred years after Napoleon’s death, this elegant, richly researched novel reveals a relationship history conceals.