Weekend Reading: So many books…

Me III was going to read The Visitors by Catherine Burns this weekend and I started it but couldn’t get into it after the first chapter. I put the book aside and started reading The Woman on the Orient Express and I’m quite enjoying the story. I will probably post a review for it this week sometime. Now, I’m not giving up reading The Visitors. I just think my mood wasn’t right for it at the time and I want to give the book a chance. The premise really intrigues me. -Stephanie M. Hopkins

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The Woman On the Orient Express by Lindsay AshfordBook Description of The Woman on the Orient Express:

Hoping to make a clean break from a fractured marriage, Agatha Christie boards the Orient Express in disguise. But unlike her famous detective Hercule Poirot, she can’t neatly unravel the mysteries she encounters on this fateful journey.

Agatha isn’t the only passenger on board with secrets. Her cabinmate Katharine Keeling’s first marriage ended in tragedy, propelling her toward a second relationship mired in deceit. Nancy Nelson—newly married but carrying another man’s child—is desperate to conceal the pregnancy and teeters on the brink of utter despair. Each woman hides her past from the others, ferociously guarding her secrets. But as the train bound for the Middle East speeds down the track, the parallel courses of their lives shift to intersect—with lasting repercussions.

Filled with evocative imagery, suspense, and emotional complexity, The Woman on the Orient Express explores the bonds of sisterhood forged by shared pain and the power of secrets.

The VisitorsBook Description of The Visitors by Catherine Burns/ Pub Date 26 Sep 2017

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother John in a crumbling mansion on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to live by John’s rules, even if it means turning a blind eye to the noises she hears coming from behind the cellar door…and turning a blind eye to the women’s laundry in the hamper that isn’t hers. For years, she’s buried the signs of John’s devastating secret into the deep recesses of her mind—until the day John is crippled by a heart attack, and Marion becomes the only one whose shoulders are fit to bear his secret. Forced to go down to the cellar and face what her brother has kept hidden, Marion discovers more about herself than she ever thought possible. As the truth is slowly unraveled, we finally begin to understand: maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side….

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Cover Crush: Pillars of Light by Jane Johnson

Cover Crush banner

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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Pillars of LightIn the Syrian city of Akka, Nathanael, a young Jewish doctor, and a Muslim girl called Zohra are about to fall in love, unaware that Jerusalem has just been taken by Saladin’s army and that their city will soon be engulfed by war.

Meanwhile in England, John Savage, a foundling boy, runs away from his cruel life in a priory with The Moor, a mysterious man driven by a dream of perfection.
John and The Moor become members of a band of conmen travelling through the English countryside faking religious miracles for cash, until they are recruited in Richard the Lionheart’s drive to regain the Latin Kingdom from the infidel. Akka awaits. It will be the site of the greatest–and cruellest–siege of its time. But even in the midst of war, lovers find ways to make transactions of beauty.
Pillars of Light is a powerful and moving novel about the triumph of the human spirit against all the odds. It will delight fans of Philippa Gregory, Ken Follett and Diana Gabaldon.

My thoughts:

I love everything about this cover! The colors, design and the dramatic way the mysterious beautiful woman is turned looking off into the distance. The flourishes to the left of the cover are exquisite. The title and the premise sounds intriguing!

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

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!

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Bookish Happenings: What is your Reading Pleasure?

Me IIThis week is going to be a great week at Layered Pages. I have two award winning author interviews, a B.R.A.G. Book Spotlight and a cover crush. Hopefully I will get my latest review up that I promised. I meant to do it last week, then I said over the weekend and here we are at a knew week and no posted review. My excuse is that I have been extremely busy. Busier than I thought I would be. Alas, I am still reading the book in question. Still, it bothers me I failed to produce a review for my audience when I said I would. On the bright side, things are looking up in my reading world as you can see below and I assure you, that review will come soon.

I started Dragon Teeth Friday night to mix things up a bit in my ready world. Okay, the real reason was I bought the book Saturday and I just HAD to read the first three chapters to see…

I am almost done reading I, Eliza Hamilton and that review is coming. I have most of it written up.

Dragon TeethDragon Teeth

Michael Crichton’s recently discovered novel—an adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting.

The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate America’s western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars.

Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition.  But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions.  With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and William’s newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the West’s most notorious characters.

I, Eliza Hamilton III, Eliza Hamilton

by Susan Holloway Scott

In this beautifully written novel of historical fiction, bestselling author Susan Holloway Scott tells the story of Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza—a fascinating, strong-willed heroine in her own right and a key figure in one of the most gripping periods in American history.

“Love is not easy with a man chosen by Fate for greatness . . .”

As the daughter of a respected general, Elizabeth Schuyler is accustomed to socializing with dignitaries and soldiers. But no visitor to her parents’ home has affected her so strongly as Alexander Hamilton, a charismatic, ambitious aide to George Washington. They marry quickly, and despite the tumult of the American Revolution, Eliza is confident in her brilliant husband and in her role as his helpmate. But it is in the aftermath of war, as Hamilton becomes one of the country’s most important figures, that she truly comes into her own.

In the new capital, Eliza becomes an adored member of society, respected for her fierce devotion to Hamilton as well as her grace. Behind closed doors, she astutely manages their expanding household, and assists her husband with his political writings. Yet some challenges are impossible to prepare for. Through public scandal, betrayal, personal heartbreak, and tragedy, she is tested again and again. In the end, it will be Eliza’s indomitable strength that makes her not only Hamilton’s most crucial ally in life, but his most loyal advocate after his death, determined to preserve his legacy while pursuing her own extraordinary path through the nation they helped shape together.

What are you currently reading? Do share!

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indiebrag so easy to vote

 

indieBRAG is conducting their 2017 Cover Contest and is currently in the voting stage. If you haven’t voted yet for your favorite cover, please do! This contest helps support indie authors and gives notice to great covers! -Thank you!

Click HERE to vote.

Thank you for visiting Layered Pages today and please come back tomorrow for the first award winning author interview of the week.

Book Spotlight: Close To Shore by Michael Capuzza

Me IIMy daughter and I are going to the beach soon before she starts school back and I have been looking for book to read at the beach. I am determined not to read books for review while I am there. I came across this book Early Bird Books via email. Can you imagine reading this story while at the beach? Ha-ha. It is currently $1.99 on the Amazon Kindle and I must day it actually doesn’t look half bad.

Combining rich historical detail and a harrowing, pulse-pounding narrative, Close to Shorebrilliantly re-creates the summer of 1916, when a rogue Great White shark attacked swimmers along the New Jersey shore, triggering mass hysteria and launching the most extensive shark hunt in history. 

Close to ShoreIn July 1916 a lone Great White left its usual deep-ocean habitat and headed in the direction of the New Jersey shoreline. There, near the towns of Beach Haven and Spring Lake–and, incredibly, a farming community eleven miles inland–the most ferocious and unpredictable of predators began a deadly rampage: the first shark attacks on swimmers in U.S. history.

Capuzzo interweaves a vivid portrait of the era and meticulously drawn characters with chilling accounts of the shark’s five attacks and the frenzied hunt that ensued. From the unnerving inevitability of the first attack on the esteemed son of a prosperous Philadelphia physician to the spine-tingling moment when a farm boy swimming in Matawan Creek feels the sandpaper-like skin of the passing shark, Close to Shore is an undeniably gripping saga.

Heightening the drama are stories of the resulting panic in the citizenry, press and politicians, and of colorful personalities such as Herman Oelrichs, a flamboyant millionaire who made a bet that a shark was no match for a man (and set out to prove it); Museum of Natural History ichthyologist John Treadwell Nichols, faced with the challenge of stopping a mythic sea creature about which little was known; and, most memorable, the rogue Great White itself moving through a world that couldn’t conceive of either its destructive power or its moral right to destroy.

Scrupulously researched and superbly written, Close to Shore brings to life a breathtaking, pivotal moment in American history. Masterfully written and suffused with fascinating period detail and insights into the science and behavior of sharks, Close to Shore recounts a breathtaking, pivotal moment in American history with startling immediacy.

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 I was going to post a book review today but that isn’t happening. I’m still reading the book. I hop to have it up by Monday. We will see…

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you all have a marvelous weekend!

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Bookish Happenings and Sound Advice in The World of Book Reviews

Me III have been picking up on my reading lately seeing as I have a lot of reviews to get through. One of my favorite publishers to review for is Severn House Publishing. I have several form them I hope to crank our reviews for in the next few weeks. Be sure to be on the lookout for those. Currently I am reading, I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott and I hope to post a review on Layered Pages by the end of the week. It is a big read but totally absorbing. There, I gave you a little teaser of how I’m progressing with the story.

Today I received an ARC through NetGalley by the publishers of Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli and I am delighted! Great cover by the way…

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Freedom's RingAbout the book:

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Christian, General Fiction (Adult)

Pub Date 08 Aug 2017

Boston, 2015
Two years after nearly losing her life in the Boston Marathon bombing, Annie David is still far from “Boston strong.” Instead she remains isolated and defeated—plagued by guilt over her niece, crippled in the blast, and by an antique ring alongside a hazy hero’s face. But when she learns the identity of her rescuer, will he be the hero she’s imagined? And can the long-past history of the woman behind the ring set her free from the guilt and fears of the present?

Boston, 1770
As a woman alone in a rebellious town, Liberty Caldwell finds herself in a dangerous predicament. When a British lieutenant, Alexander Smythe, comes to her rescue and offers her employment, Liberty accepts. As months go by, Alexander not only begins to share his love of poetry with her, but protects Liberty from the advances of a lecherous captain living in the officers’ house where she works.

Mounting tensions explode in the Boston Massacre, and Liberty’s world is shattered as her brother, with whom she has just reunited, is killed in the fray. Desperate and alone, she returns home, only to be assaulted by the captain. Afraid and furious toward redcoats, Liberty leaves the officers’ home, taking with her a ring that belonged to Alexander.

Two women, separated by centuries, must learn to face their fears. And when they feel they must be strong, they learn that sometimes true strength is found in surrender.

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Now on to something that is on my mind of late and I have talked about this many times before but I think it needs a refresher. As a book reviewer it’s my policy to be honest how I feel about a story. I know there are authors out there who don’t like that and they do what they can to make themselves the victims to the reviewer in question by posting “poor me” on their social media sites. They even try to declare that person who reviewed the book is not qualified to make opinions other than, praise worthy comments, about their stories. Or they try to get their friends and supporters to vote down the review as “not helpful” on Amazon. If that is the case, then a writer shouldn’t publish at all. How is doing all that putting the writer in a good light and expanding on their fan base? Better yet, how does one grow in their craft of writing? Think about it. Is it really worth taking that risk in losing your reader base or potential ones by responding to reviews like that on social media or on your blog?

I do realize there are REALLY nasty reviews out there but one must take those with a grain of salt and realize that not everyone is going to be at least respectful. The best thing to do is too not reply to those or bring your complaint to even your friends on social media. Some of the best writers I know in the book industry do not say a word about reviews regardless of the reviewer’s opinion whether it is praise worthy or not. They are truly right and smart in not doing so. Now they might privately rant, in their homes or on the phone to their friends or via emails to their fellow colleagues. Or drink large quantities of wine. I get that and that is okay. I would probably do the same as an author if someone didn’t like my book.

I completely understand it hurts to see someone not enjoying the story you wrote like you want. You put your heart and soul into your craft. I totally get it. However, once you have published your work, it belongs to the reader-as an experienced and seasoned writer has said to me on my Facebook wall.

You control how it is going to affect your response and how you deal with it. Be strong, be courageous and know that you are always going to be working on growing as a writer. Don’t give up. Another thing, negative reviews actually help your sales believe it or not. I know, a shocker!

Regardless of what people think of my opinions about stories, they are valid because they are what I came away with the story. They are my experiences alone. You don’t have to agree with them but they are mine. I will never bully authors or insult them but I will always be honest. If one feels a less than praise worthy review is insulting to a writer, then the author’s craft in writing stories is not being honestly portrayed.

Yes, there are different ways I receive book to review but my process does not change. If I did, then no one would respect me as a book reviewer. I receive books to review from authors, publishers, and NetGalley-both indie and mainstream. For my honesty, I get daily requests to review people’s work. I even have authors on a daily basis wanting to talk about their WIPs with me and they are often times inspired by some of the suggestions I give them. That is truly an honor and joy. Another reason why I conduct many authors series on the craft of writing.

Authors, please know I am in awe of your courageous efforts, and that fact alone that you published is remarkable in itself. Yes, I know anyone can publish these days, but it still takes guts. So continue that bravery when it comes to people’s reviews and keep writing your stories! Readers need you.

Please note: I do realize there are trolls out there that do nothing but post negative reviews on everything! Best thing to do is ignore those. People should be smart enough to spot those and not take their reviews seriously.

Have a lovely Wednesday and see you all back here tomorrow for my latest cover crush!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Book Spotlight: The Stars Are Fire: A novel by Anita Shreve

It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything by Anita Shreve. -This looks like something I might read! You can enter to win this book in a book giveaway on goodreads!

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The Stars Are FireThe Stars Are Fire: A novel by Anita Shreve

Publisher: Knopf (April 18, 2017)

Publication Date: April 18, 2017

Sold by: Random House LLC

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot’s Wife (an Oprah’s Book Club selection): an exquisitely suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath–based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine’s history

In October 1947, after a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands’ fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms–joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain–and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens–and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.

My Book Addiction Never Stops

I add books to my reading list none-stop. I’m a book addict. Well, these three have caught my attention and I look forward to reading and reviewing them! Now, I must stop requesting books for a time and catch up on my reviews. I say this with all seriousness but I doubt I will be able to control myself. We will see, won’t we? Ha! Enjoy!

Smoke and MirrorsSmoke and Mirrors

by Casey Daniels

Severn House

Pub Date 01 Nov 2017

Introducing museum curator and amateur sleuth Miss Evie Barnum in the first of a deliciously quirky new historical mystery series.

Evie Barnum is in charge of her brother’s museum, a place teeming with scientific specimens and “human prodigies” including a bearded woman and the lizard man. In this weird and whacky workplace, Evie hopes she can bury her secrets.

But when an old friend shows up and begs for her help, she does all she can to stay away. The next time she sees him, he is dead in front of the exhibit of the Feejee Mermaid. Suspicion for the murder falls on Jeffrey, known as the Lizard Man, but Evie knows it isn’t possible.

When Jeffrey also goes missing, Evie becomes determined to solve the mystery of her friend’s murder, even if it brings her face to face with her past…

Mr. Campion's AbdicationMr. Campion’s Abdication

by Mike Ripley

Severn House

Margery Allingham’s Mr Campion finds himself masquerading as technical advisor to a very suspicious but glamorous Italian film producer and her crew hunting for buried treasure that never was in the Suffolk village of Heronhoe near Pontisbright which used to host trysts between Edward VIII and Mrs Wallis Simpson.

‘When it came to the Abdication Crisis in ’36 those dirty week-ends in Heronhoe were quickly forgotten, except not by the Prince. The story goes – that when he married Mrs Simpson, in 1937 that would be, he actually sent a valuable thank you gift to Heronhoe. That was what became known as the Abdication Treasure although there’s no record of anything going to Heronhoe Hall, or of anybody ever receiving anything from the Duke of Windsor and nobody anywhere claims to have actually seen anything resembling treasure.’

‘So how is Albert Campion involved? You said the treasure doesn’t exist.’

‘It doesn’t,’ Lord Breeze said firmly, ‘and I have been instructed to tell you to tell Campion, that unless he wants to risk embarrassing Buckingham Palace, he’d better lay off. There’s no such thing as the Abdication Treasure, so there’s nothing to find and Campion had better make sure he doesn’t find it!’

A Murder Too SoonA Murder Too Soon

A Tudor mystery

by Michael Jecks

Severn House

Pub Date 01 Sep 2017

Jack Blackjack is ordered to eliminate a spy in Princess Elizabeth’s household in this engaging Tudor mystery.

June, 1554. Former cutpurse and now professional assassin Jack Blackjack has deep misgivings about his latest assignment. He has been dispatched to the Palace of Woodstock, where Queen Mary’s half-sister Princess Elizabeth is being kept under close guard. Jack’s employer has reason to believe that a spy has been installed within the princess’s household, and Jack has been ordered to kill her.

Jack has no choice but to agree. But he arrives at Woodstock to discover that a murder has already been committed.

As he sets out to prove his innocence by uncovering the real killer, Jack finds the palace to be a place steeped in misery and deceit; a hotbed of illicit love affairs, seething resentments, clashing egos and bitter jealousies. But who among Woodstock’s residents is hiding a deadly secret – and will Jack survive long enough to find out?

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