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.

New Book Release: The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen

Many congrats to Rhys Bowen’s book publication of, “The Venice Sketchbook!”

About the Book:

Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper…Venice. Caroline’s quest: to scatter Juliet “Lettie” Browning’s ashes in the city she loved and to unlock the mysteries stored away for more than sixty years.

It’s 1938 when art teacher Juliet Browning arrives in romantic Venice. For her students, it’s a wealth of history, art, and beauty. For Juliet, it’s poignant memories and a chance to reconnect with Leonardo Da Rossi, the man she loves whose future is already determined by his noble family. However star-crossed, nothing can come between them. Until the threat of war closes in on Venice and they’re forced to fight, survive, and protect a secret that will bind them forever.

Key by key, Lettie’s life of impossible love, loss, and courage unfolds. It’s one that Caroline can now make right again as her own journey of self-discovery begins. 

**********

“Juliet “Lettie” Browning, an English woman, is a woman of strength and courage. The life she experienced and saw during her stay in Venice were during uncertain times. Her will to behave uprightly puts her in many dangers but her resilience is an example to us all…read more of my review at this post link.” -Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: The Silent Girl by Kelly Heard

Published April 9th 2021 by Bookouture

I wake in a bed, with a stranger leaning over me. She asks my name and I realise I don’t know what it is. I don’t know who I am or why I’m here…

I’m grateful to the police who found me on the remote stretch of highway, covered in blood, with crimson flowers in my hair. To the doctors, too, who brought me back from the brink of death.

But I see the suspicion in their eyes.

They don’t believe me when I say I don’t remember who I am. They are unsure if I can be trusted.

Am I the innocent victim? Or guilty of a terrible crime?

No one has reported me missing or come looking for me. But today, a bouquet of blood-red roses has been delivered to my room.

Am I in danger? Or is someone trying to help me?

Searching for anything in this town that might seem familiar, I’m cornered by a woman with wild eyes who calls me I name I don’t know. She tells me my brother is in danger and only I can save him.

But how do I know if I can trust her, if I can’t even trust myself?

My thoughts:

Imagine being found on the side of the road with flowers in your hair, beaten badly and a few days later, you wake up with no memory of who you are. That is what happened to Sophie and it becomes apparent, rather quickly, that she is in danger. She starts to remember things from her childhood and she knows she has a brother named Miles and she has strong emotions about him.  After the doctors and police give her permission to leave the hospital, she must find food and shelter. Sophie lands a job at an historic home, that is known to be haunted, as a landscaper. She develops a relationship of sorts with the overseer and his son. As the chapters continue, she slowly gains more memories and her continued thoughts of her brother become stronger. She is certain that she needs to find him and that he will resolve everything.

For someone who woke up with that kind-of trauma and not knowing you are, I thought Sophie would be a bit more disturbed and concerned about her well-being. She wasn’t and I found that to be strange for this type of story. The reader is shown glimpses of her apparent personality as the story unfolds but you’re still not sure who she really is and what she has gotten herself involved with.  

I did like many of the aspects of the story but felt things weren’t fleshed out at a good pace throughout book and the whole “haunted house” part seemed contrived. Twist and turns in a thriller are important but sometimes those can take too many turns before you start to totally veer off in the wrong different. There were times, I began to wonder if that was happening. But then everything falls in your lap at the conclusion.

Despite those issues, I kept on reading because I needed to know what was going on and who she really was!

Stephanie Hopkins

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

New Book Release: The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

Congrats to Jennifer McMahon’s book publication of, “The Drowning Kind!”

About the book:

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

A haunting, twisty, and compulsively readable thrill ride from the author who Chris Bohjalian has dubbed the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson,” The Drowning Kind is a modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us

“A good mystery writer needs to know how to build dramatic tension and suspense that flows evenly through their stories. McMahon certainly knows how to balance those elements and more… She shows, brilliantly, how her characters work through complex situations in their lives and has a unique way of drawing the reader in as if they were experiencing the conflicts for themselves. She most certainly holds a special place in the mystery genre.” You can read more of my review at this post link. -Stephanie Hopkins

Emily’s House by Amy Belding Brown

Historical Fiction

Berkley Publishing Group

Pub Date: Aug 03, 2021 

I started reading this book last night and so far, so good! Check out the book description below. A big thank you to Berkley Publishing Group for a copy. Happy weekend! -Stephanie Hopkins

Massachusetts, 1869. Margaret Maher has never been one to settle down. At twenty-seven, she’s never met a man who has tempted her enough to relinquish her independence to a matrimonial fate, and she hasn’t stayed in one place for long since her family fled the potato famine a decade ago.

When Maggie accepts a temporary position at the illustrious Dickinson family home in Amherst, it’s only to save up enough for a ticket west to join her brothers in California. Maggie never imagines she will form a life-altering friendship with the eccentric, brilliant Miss Emily or that she’ll stay at the Homestead for the next thirty years.

In this richly drawn novel, Amy Belding Brown explores what it is to be an outsider looking in, and she sheds light on one of Dickinson’s closest confidantes–perhaps the person who knew the mysterious poet best–whose quiet act changed history and continues to influence literature to this very day.

Book Review: The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker

Published February 16th 2021 by Level Best Books

About the book: Set during the darkest days of the American Revolution, The Turncoat’s Widow tells the fictional story of General Washington’s most reluctant spy, a young widow who races times and traitors in New York City and Morristown circa 1780 to uncover a plot that threatens the new nation’s future. With elements of romance and suspense, this historical mystery also explores themes of resilience, loss, and the courage needed to leave the past behind.

My thoughts:

The American Revolutionary era is one of my favorite periods to read about. I have been hard pressed lately to find good and unique fictional stories about the subject. When I first saw The Turncoat’s Widow’s book cover and read the description, I knew I found solid gold.

Becker brilliantly captures the mindsets of people’s opinions about the war and what was happening around them. She takes us on a journey to a prison war ship, espionage, mingling with notable historical figures, blended with romance and friendships developing in the most extraordinary circumstances.

Becker is a compelling story writer and she deftly places her readers at the edge of their seat with this adventurous read.

I was impressed with how impeccably the story flowed and the author’s attention to historical detail. I’m trusting we will get to read more of these fascinating character’s adventures? I certainly hope so.

An outstanding debut novel!

Stephanie Hopkins  

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

March: Book Round-Up

Stephanie Hopkins

Well, in my Books Aplenty: March Reading Forecast post, I discussed ten books I selected to read in March. I was I am hoping to read ten books if other projects didn’t get in the way. Umm…other projects got in the way. In the back of my mind, I knew this would happen. Around March is when I tend to feverishly get the crafting bug! There is so much to be inspired by the spring season. Yup, I got my art on. However, I did read six books and that is pretty darn good considering how much time I spent on art.  

Despite not reading all the books I had projected, I’m quite pleased that I’m still reading an average of one to two books per week. That is the point. To read and keep reading. Also, it really helped me be less indecisive in which book to chose next. There really is something to say about being organized and making a list. -Stephanie Hopkins

Number of pages read in March: 1,998

Lots of book reviews coming up soon! How many books did you read for March? Do share!

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

A New York Secret (Daughters of New York Book 1) by Ella Carey – -My book review HERE

The Turncoat’s Widow by Mally Becker – Book review on April 1st

Finding Napoleon by Margaret Rodenbery -Book review on April 5th

The Family Plot by Megan Collins – Book review on August 12th

The Silent Girl by Kelly Heard- Book review on April 9th

The Necklace by Matt Witten – Book review on September 6th

Be sure to check out my art journey on Instagram and at my Mixed Media Art gallery here at Layered Pages! My wish is for you to be inspired and encouraged.

New Book Release: The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

Congrats to Camilla Sten book publication of, “The Lost Village!”

Published March 23rd 2021 by Minotaur Books

About the book:

Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of the old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in this mysterious tragedy, and ever since, the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people who were left—a woman stoned to death in the town center and an abandoned newborn—have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.

But there will be no turning back.

Not long after they’ve set up camp, mysterious things begin to happen. Equipment is destroyed. People go missing. As doubt breeds fear and their very minds begin to crack, one thing becomes startlingly clear to Alice:

They are not alone.

They’re looking for the truth…
But what if it finds them first?

“First, I must mention that I chose this story for two reasons. The story takes place in Sweden. Perfect setting for a story such as this.” You can read more of my review at this post link. -Stephanie Hopkins

Cover Crush: The Road Trip Survival Guide by Rob Taylor

About the Cover:

I like the simplicity of this cover and the composition. There is nothing fancy about the layout but the road on the rolling hills evokes adventure.

About the Book:

Roads trips have always been popular. Though, it is safe to say more and more people are using this form of travel other than flying. Which means, this book is relevant and I will be looking out for what people have to say about it. -Stephanie Hopkins

Tips and Tricks for Planning Routes, Packing Up, and Preparing for Any Unexpected Encounter Along the Way

Cooking, Food & Wine | Parenting & Families | Travel

Tiller Press/ Pub Date 25 May 2021

Description

Make the most of your next road trip with these essential tips and tricks for planning the ultimate epic adventure.

During COVID-19, we’ve all had to find different ways to travel. From the disruptions of airlines to the possibility of many travel restrictions at your destination, the car has become a more attractive (and safer) option.

One-part Bushcraft 101- and one-part vacation planning workbook, The Road Trip Survival Guide provides guidance for new road trippers as well as essential tips and tricks for even the most experienced roadsters including:

-How to organize your car for trips

-Packing lists for different types of vacations, from city breaks to outdoor adventures

-How to develop the perfect road trip itinerary that will suit the whole family

-Recipes and recommendations for the best car snacks (easy access and less mess!)

-Tips and tricks for making your trip more eco-friendly

-How to reroute a road trip gone wrong

-And more!

The Road Trip Survival Guide is a must-have for anyone planning a vacation. Perfectly designed to fit in a glove box or back-seat pocket, you can now stop dreaming, hit the open road, and start experiencing the perfect road trip.