Educated by Tara Westover

For those if you who follow my blog posts, you will know my first reactions to Educated by Tara Westover. I’m slowly working my way through this story while reading another book and have, in the last couple of days, introduced another book to my reading pile. My thoughts on the story unfolding vary and a few things have really stuck with me. For instance, how is it possible for Tara, without a high-school degree, to able to take the ACT and go to college? Maybe I am missing something here and she got her GED or High School Diploma. I’m not entirely sure and perhaps I should go back and reread a few passages. This is what I get for not taking notes this time around. Hmm… Maybe, it will be revealed how she was able to do so further on in the story. I’m still in the early stages of her study.

In my next blog post, I will be discussing two family members of Tara’s and an interesting theme in the story. -Stephanie Hopkins

About the book:

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter, she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

What I’m Reading and Pondering

Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson

My thoughts so far:

I am deeply fascinated with Southern Gothic stories and I decided to give Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson a go. This is more of a young adult book, which I don’t normally read, but still find it compelling. I do have a few complaints but will reserve sharing those thoughts at a later time since I’m not quite at the half way mark.

About the book:

Dovey learns that demons lurk in places other than the dark corners of her mind in this southern gothic fantasy from the author of the Blud series.

A year ago, Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction—and taking the life of Dovey’s best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her.

But recently she’s started to believe she’s seeing things that can’t be real…including Carly at their favorite café. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined.

As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah—where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk—she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.

Educated by Tara Westover

My thoughts so far:  

I find this story fascinating and find Tara’s father to be sorely misguided in the fact that you can have your beliefs about Government, know the tools of survival, live off the land (which is important) or almost completely off grid in this case and still be educated, well-read and knowledgeable in the ways of the world through literature and self-learning without compromising your beliefs. After-all, education in many different areas gives one an advantage. Not allowing his children to learn how to read is heart breaking in my opinion. Now, I don’t believe everything I read, see or hear and that is where my critical thinking comes into play but I still need to know what is out there. I firmly believe that is a major part in our survival and it does sharpen the mind.

A few of Mark Twain’s quotes about education comes to mind.

“The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man that cannot read them.”

“It is noble to teach oneself, but still nobler to teach others – and less trouble.”

“I never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

While I believe our school system is failing and lacking in many ways, I discovered that if I wanted to be “educated” by my own terms and definitions of the word, that I needed to read as many books as I can, try new things, listen to as many people’s outlook as I can and their experiences on life. I also, look at things with a critical mind, while keeping an open mind. That is important. I consider school a jump start into one’s education. Learn the tools that are given to you and branch out from there. You should never stop learning. Tara’s parents could have home schooled their children if they did not believe in the public education system, while holding to their beliefs!

I am still in the early stages of this story and Tara is still living with her family. With the thoughts I’ve already formed about the story, I look forward to discovering more. -Stephanie Hopkins

About the book:

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter, she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

Book Review: The Resting Place by Camilla Sten

Hardcover, 336 pages

Expected publication: March 29th 2022 by Minotaur Books

More times than not, truth of the past tragically dies with people. This is one of those stories.

Eleanor, a woman who has a neurological condition, called prosopagnosia, that torments her with the inability to recognize the faces of familiar people, arrives on the scene of her hard-hearted Grandmother Vivianne’s murder. Before Eleanor realizes what has happened, she comes face to face with the murderer but can’t make any sense of their face. The aftermath of her Grandmother’s death leaves her in a state of anxiety and devastating  emotions of not being able to identify the killer.

Months later, a lawyer calls Eleanor to tell her that her grandmother leaves her and her Aunt Veronika an estate situated deep in the Swedish forests, and they must take inventory of the house and grounds.

Eleanor and her boyfriend, Sebastian, arrives to the estate along with the lawyer and her Aunt looking for buried secrets and answers that takes them on a treacherous journey they wish they have never taken.

The Resting Place is an intense dual time line that slowly builds while deliberating leaving clues to the mysteries of Eleanor’s family in such a way, you’re not quite sure you know how the story is going to play out. About half way through, I was sure I had most the mystery figured out despite the twisty turns the story takes you on. I was pleasantly surprised with a few details I didn’t see coming.

There were a couple details about two characters that needed to be fleshed out but that said, Sten does a marvelous job casting doubt on the people in surrounding Eleanor and having you second guess yourself on their realities and intentions. Nothing is what it appears and everyone has motives.

I enjoyed reading about the old estate with its great house, out- buildings, lake and woods. You don’t know much about the history of the house or land per say but you get enough to leave up to your imagination.

Stem brilliantly weaves Eleanor’s prosopagnosia and it certainly adds to the creep vibe of the story!

There is so much more to this story that can’t be mentioned and my wish is for readers who enjoy thrillers and mysteries to jump on this book when it is release to the public.

Atmospheric, twisty, hauntingly good story.

Stephanie Hopkins

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

Vintage Haul for Journaling and Crafting

Crafters and collectors who hunt for vintage photos, books, and magazines are historians in their way. They’re the memory keepers of these treasures that were either discarded, lost or simply the families or people who held these treasures are no longer with us.

I am one of those people who has a passion for preserving these items and reflecting moments of history and those who lived long ago. To ponder their story as what it may have been like. We may not know who they were but the love of using their images and belongings in my journals and art keeps their memory alive.

By a wonderful and beautiful chance, I discovered Marie on Instagram who hunts these cherished memories and gives us mere mortal souls an opportunity to acquire these gifts from the past.

Marie’s passion and understanding for the historical value in preserving eras gone by is the inspiration for her endeavors of reselling original vintage photos, books and paper on Instagram and Etsy. Not only does this aid in saving cultures and identity, they are perfect for collectors and crafters to give new life to these precious momentos.  

Marie is also a journal maker and her unique vintage Gothic Victorian style of creating inspires timeless journals.

Today on YouTube, I am sharing a haul video showcasing part of the treasures I have acquired from Marie. To find her weekly sales, follow Marie on Instagram and Etsy.

Link: Haul Video on YouTube  

Marie’s Shop Links:

Instagram

Etsy

December 2021: Book Round-Up

I am a bit late in the game of posting my December book round-up! The Holidays, lots of work, painting, and crafting put this post on the back burner to say the least. Better late than never!  

In the year 2021, I’ve enjoyed listening to books more than I’ve enjoyed reading physical ones. That is not to say that physical books have ceased to be my favorite medium of story-telling. I got through 75 stories for the entire year and there were a few I got half way through and put aside because they weren’t for me.

For the month of December, I listened to five audio books. I really enjoyed listening to these ones and I do believe you can find all of them on YouTube. There are as follows:

Coming soon, I will be posting my favorite stories of 2021!

Stephanie Hopkins

Cover Crush: The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

About the Cover: I can’t decide what I like more. The cover or the book title. The thought of an Island of missing trees is unique. I like it! As far as the cover goes, it is not extraordinary but it is cute and I like the colors.

About the Book: I must confess that I haven’t read any books by this author before. I plan on researching her work a bit more extensively and have added this book to my wish-list. I have heard that Reese Witherspoon has selected this book for the November Book Club pick.

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Description:

Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. The taverna is the only place that Kostas and Defne can meet in secret, hidden beneath the blackened beams from which hang garlands of garlic and chilli peppers, creeping honeysuckle, and in the centre, growing through a cavity in the roof, a fig tree. The fig tree witnesses their hushed, happy meetings; their silent, surreptitious departures. The fig tree is there, too, when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns—a botanist, looking for native species—looking, really, for Defne. The two lovers return to the taverna to take a clipping from the fig tree and smuggle it into their suitcase, bound for London. Years later, the fig tree in the garden is their daughter Ada’s only knowledge of a home she has never visited, as she seeks to untangle years of secrets and silence, and find her place in the world.

Cover Crush: Heard It In A Love Song by Tracey Garvis Graves

About the Cover: I discovered this book on Instagram and the title and cover drew me in with fascination. There is a song with that title by The Marshall Tucker Band. Highly recommend listening to it. The song has great lyrics and instrumental poetry…

The book cover showcases wonderful imagery. There are many mixed media artists who take faces and create florals above and around the heads and the affect expands on visual attention. I love the choice of colors as well and when a cover and title sparks this much interest, it makes one even more curious about what is inside.

About the Book: I have a feeling if I read this book, I would be in tears throughout the story. Or maybe I’m clinging to that old feeling for way too long and could handle the premise. Despite my mixed emotions, I’m curious about how this story is told and what the author offers in the conclusion. -Stephanie Hopkins

Side Note: I’m moving my cover crush series to Wednesday’s!

Description:

From Tracey Garvis Graves, the bestselling author of The Girl He Used to Know comes a love song of a story about starting over and second chances in Heard It in a Love Song.

Love doesn’t always wait until you’re ready.

Layla Hilding is thirty-five and recently divorced. Struggling to break free from the past―her glory days as the lead singer in a band and a ten-year marriage to a man who never put her first―Layla’s newly found independence feels a lot like loneliness.

Then there’s Josh, the single dad whose daughter attends the elementary school where Layla teaches music. Recently separated, he’s still processing the end of his twenty-year marriage to his high school sweetheart. He chats with Layla every morning at school and finds himself thinking about her more and more.

Equally cautious and confused about dating in a world that favors apps over meeting organically, Layla and Josh decide to be friends with the potential for something more. Sounds sensible and way too simple―but when two people are on the rebound, is it heartbreak or happiness that’s a love song away?

October: Book Round-Up

If you follow my blog, you might have noticed I haven’t posted as much lately. I’ve taken a bit of time of because one needs to refresh and regroup every once in a while. That isn’t to say, I haven’t thought of you all and I’ve been wondering how everyone is doing, and what you’re reading or creating. I have been posting on Instagram regularly, however. That seems to be simplifier sometimes and that is what I need at the moment. Without getting too personal, we’ve had a death in the family early this month. When someone we love passes on, it really makes us pause to reflect on the person we lost and to celebrate their life at the same moment.

This month I haven’t been able to read all that much. I read one book and listened to a book and now listening to another one. I just seem can’t concentrate long enough to read a physical book. I know this too shall pass and I will get in the grove again. Below are the books I’ve spent time with. I do have a blog post that I have been working on and it was meant to go live today for Halloween, but I’m still working on it. I want it to be just right and it is a powerful subject.

I hope to rally on again soon and bring you all regular posts. My wish is for you to be encouraged and inspired. -Stephanie Hopkins

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Pub Date 15 Mar 2022

Description

A true crime blogger gets more than she bargained for while interviewing the woman acquitted of two cold case slayings in this chilling new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Sun Down Motel.

In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect—a rich, eccentric twenty-three-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

 Oregon, 2017. Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases—a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?

Find Me by Anne Frasier

A bone-chilling family history is unearthed in a heart-stopping thriller by New York Times best-selling author Anne Frasier.

Convicted serial killer Benjamin Fisher has finally offered to lead San Bernardino detective Daniel Ellis to the isolated graves of his victims. One catch: He’ll only do it if FBI profiler Reni Fisher, his estranged daughter, accompanies them. As hard as it is to exhume her traumatic childhood, Reni can’t say no. She still feels complicit in her father’s crimes.

Perfect to play a lost little girl, Reni was the bait to lure unsuspecting women to their deaths. It’s time for closure. For her. For the families. And for Daniel. He shares Reni’s obsession with the past. Ever since he was a boy, he’s been convinced that his mother was one of Fisher’s victims.

Thirty years of bad memories are flooding back. A master manipulator has gained their trust. For Reni and Daniel, this isn’t the end of a nightmare. It’s only the beginning.

Currently listening to, House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

In a manor by the sea, 12 sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there were 12, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last – the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge – and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods. 

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that her sister’s deaths were no accidents. The girls have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who – or what – are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family – before it claims her next. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Get ready to be swept away.

Insightful Quotes About Characters

“Writing is a time-honored moment. When the writer breathes life into the characters and gives them a place in the reader’s heart. Characters capture us in their embrace and we take refuge in their lives in a world of uncertainties.” My perspective as a reader.

My niche expands in several areas that influences my overall creativity. They consist of creating art, crafting, sewing, reading, exploring nature, blogging and journaling. Discovering quotes about these endeavors inspire and encourage one to rally on when one is feeling less than inspired for whatever reason. I like writing them and include them in my journals and often times, use quotes from other artists. Besides, they are fun to read, to inspire and you learn so much! Above is one I wrote years ago about the writer breathing life into characters.

Today, I’m sharing quotes from other artists about characters in stories. There are so many and I’ve compiled my top ten favorites. Which one do you favor? – Stephanie Hopkins

“You mean Piglet. The little fellow with the excited ears. That’s Piglet.” ― A.A. Milne, Christopher Robin Gives Pooh a Party

“I think all writers are always collecting characters as we go along. Not just characters of course, we’re collecting EVERYTHING. Bits and pieces of story. An interesting dynamic between people. A theme. A great character back story. A cool occupation. The look of someone’s eyes. A burning ambition. Hundreds of thousands of bits of flotsam and jetsam that we stick in the back of our minds like the shelves full of buttons and ribbons and fabrics and threads and beads in a costumer’s shop.” — Alexandra Sokoloff

“Whether a character is good or evil depends on your perspective.” ― Steve Jones Snr

“You cannot have an effective protagonist who simply responds to events happening around him or her. Your protagonist must act, not just react.” — Rachelle Gardner

“She had a way about her that spoke of homemade bread, and caring for people, and the kind of patience that women have when they help a ewe birth a lamb, or stay up in the night with a baby calf bawling for its momma.” ― James Aura, When Saigon Surrendered: A Kentucky Mystery

“Even if you find the bad guy generally repulsive, you need to be able to put yourself so thoroughly into his shoes while you’re writing him that, just for those moments, you almost believe his slant yourself.” — K.M. Weiland

“Usually, we combine internal and external conflicts for a richer story. That means we have to understand how our characters approach and resolve conflict.” — Jami Gold

“Developing a character with genuine depth requires a focus on not just desire but how the character deals with frustration of her desires, as well as her vulnerabilities, her secrets, and especially her contradictions. This development needs to be forged in scenes, the better to employ your intuition rather than your intellect.” — David Corbett

“How can you take characters out of their elements and still convey who they are and why they are the way they are? Their dialogue, their goals and their motivations move the plot and give us a glimpse. But how can we punch it up and create memorable characters without their usual surroundings? With the things they carry.”— Jessica Topper

“People—and characters—are made up of their past experiences. When crafting a character, one of the most important aspects we consider is her past.”—Skye Fairwin,

Be sure to check out my post: Insightful Quotes About Reading

September: Book Round-Up

This month has been tough to get reading time in and I listened to more books rather than reading physical ones. I didn’t use to be able to listen to audio stories at all and it is something I’ve been training myself to do more of. Overall, I enjoyed what I read with a few minor hiccups.

I read The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane years ago and it is one of my favorites. I decided to revisit the story again but this time, to listen to it. I must say, my experience with the story was better reading it than listening to it. Though, I wonder if maybe I’m examining the story differently. Has that ever happened to you? You know, as readers, we grow and our taste can change.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (The Physick Book #1) by Katherine Howe

Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest–to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance’s harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem’s dark past then she could have ever imagined.

I listened to this book and it took me a while to get through it. I really enjoyed the story but I felt it dragged on in certain parts, which made me struggled to keep up at times. I will say that Mary’s character development was fantastic! I would still rate this book high.

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

Mary, the bookish ugly duckling of Pride and Prejudice’s five Bennet sisters, emerges from the shadows and transforms into a desired woman with choices of her own.

What if Mary Bennet’s life took a different path from that laid out for her in Pride and Prejudice? What if the frustrated intellectual of the Bennet family, the marginalized middle daughter, the plain girl who takes refuge in her books, eventually found the fulfillment enjoyed by her prettier, more confident sisters? This is the plot of The Other Bennet Sister, a debut novel with exactly the affection and authority to satisfy Austen fans.

Ultimately, Mary’s journey is like that taken by every Austen heroine. She learns that she can only expect joy when she has accepted who she really is. She must throw off the false expectations and wrong ideas that have combined to obscure her true nature and prevented her from what makes her happy. Only when she undergoes this evolution does she have a chance at finding fulfillment; only then does she have the clarity to recognize her partner when he presents himself—and only at that moment is she genuinely worthy of love.

Mary’s destiny diverges from that of her sisters. It does not involve broad acres or landed gentry. But it does include a man; and, as in all Austen novels, Mary must decide whether he is the truly the one for her. In The Other Bennet Sister, Mary is a fully rounded character—complex, conflicted, and often uncertain; but also vulnerable, supremely sympathetic, and ultimately the protagonist of an uncommonly satisfying debut novel.

I read this book for review and won’t post it until January.

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

When Kayla Carter’s husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It’s clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area…and a connection to Kayla herself. Kayla’s elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it’s clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key? Told in dual time periods, The Last House on the Street is a novel of shocking prejudice and violence, forbidden love, the search for justice, and the tangled vines of two families.

I read this book for review. It did take me a while to get through the story but glad I pushed on.

The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman

A woman has gone missing

But did she ever really exist?

Mia Eliot has travelled from London to LA for pilot season. This is her big chance to make it as an actor in Hollywood, and she is ready to do whatever it takes. At an audition she meets Emily, and what starts as a simple favour takes a dark turn when Emily goes missing and Mia is the last person to see her.

Then a woman turns up, claiming to be Emily, but she is nothing like Mia remembers. Why would someone pretend to be Emily? Starting to question her own sanity, she goes on a desperate and dangerous search for answers, knowing something is very, very wrong.

In an industry where everything is about creating illusions, how do you know what is real? And how much would you risk to find out?