Layered Pages Top 2020 Reads

Favorite Books Read in 2020

Last year my Goodreads challenge was to read twenty fiction books. I surpassed that goal and read thirty. However, I read more than thirty books. Beyond that was research books for my writing project and other research projects. I did not count those on goodreads because I’m continually referring to them.

The fiction books below are my top favorite reads, though not in a particular order. This year’s reading goal is much bigger. I will be talking about that more a little later on. What were your favorite 202 reads? -Stephanie Hopkins

Top Favorites

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

Be sure to check these titles out on Goodreads and Amazon!

Favorite Covers:

Here are my favorite covers out of the bunch. Which covers do you like?

Learning to Speak Southern

What are you up to now, Stephanie?

On NetGalley, often times, book reviewers can, “wish-for,” books to review. When I spotted, “Learning to Speak Southern,” I knew this one was for me. Ha!

Why?

For several reasons really. I’m a southern girl, I love journaling, writing and family is very important to me. Oh, and I love the cover of this book!

Did the publishers grant your wish?

Yes! I was quite surprised really. I usually old my breath when I wish for a book. So delighted and thankful.

I thought you are trying to catch up on your back-list? What are you thinking?

Err…I am. I promise. This one looked too good to pass up. I know, I know…I can’t keep doing this. In my defense, Sourcebooks rarely disappoints in their reading selection and looking at my back-list, I’ve realized I’ve put myself in a corner of-sorts with my selection. One needs options so you don’t get burned out. That is my story and I’m sticking to it.

Thank you, Sourcebooks Landmark for a galley copy of this story! Looking forward to diving in very soon. -Stephanie Hopkins   

Learning to Speak Southern

by Lindsey Rogers Cook

SOURCEBOOKS Landmark

General Fiction (Adult) | Women’s Fiction

Pub Date 01 Jun 2021 

Description

A searing Southern story about confronting the difference between the family you’re born into and the family you choose, from the acclaimed author of How to Bury Your Brother

Lex fled Memphis years ago, making ends meet with odd jobs teaching English around the world. She only returns when she has no choice, when her godmother presents her with a bargain she can’t refuse. Lex has never understood her mother, who died tragically right before Lex’s college graduation, but now she’s got a chance to read her journals, to try and figure out what sent her mother spiraling all those years ago.

The Memphis that Lex inhabits is more bourbon and bbq joint than sweet tea on front porches, and as she pieces together the Memphis her mother knew, seeing the lure of the world through her mother’s lush writing, she must confront more of her own past and the people she left behind. Once all is laid bare, Lex must decide for herself: What is the true meaning of family?

Feeding the Creative Soul

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope the holiday was a special one despite the tough times we are experiencing across the globe. Today I want to talk a little about what art supply I ordered this weekend and why. I’ve also started a new book to read that I have been enjoying so much that I’m wanting to take my time with. First, let’s talk art.

A few years ago, I developed my own technique in creating painted papers without the use of Gelli Plates. I didn’t want to spend the money and I wanted to be as original as possible. I created a masking technique of sorts and use my abstract painting style to create these papers. I knew one day that I wanted to invest in the Gel Press Plate. This weekend I decide to bite the bullet and order a plate. I can’t wait to see what I create with it and how much it differs from my painted papers “Masking” technique. I’ve even ordered a new soft brayer for this project. I look forward to sharing with you all what I come up with!

This weekend I started Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan and I’m really enjoying the story so far. I’m about half way through. Callahan is a talented story-teller and when I saw this one available for reviewers, I had to read it! Savannah Georgia is in my State and its history is among my favorites to study and read about. -Stephanie

Expected publication: March 9th 2021 by Berkley

About the book:

It was called “The Titanic of the South.” The luxury steamship sank in 1838 with Savannah’s elite on board; through time, their fates were forgotten–until the wreck was found, and now their story is finally being told in this breathtaking novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis.

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.

Should Speed Reading be Your Objective?

Introduction to exploring why we read and what methods we use.

The topic of speed reading has been around a long time. For a while now I’ve been meaning to explore why it is even a consideration.

The concept of speed reading according to Wikipedia is to improve one’s ability to read quickly. Reading further on the subject, I discovered that the term was coined by Evelyn Wood in the late 1950’s. She was a school teacher who wanted to understand why some people read faster, and to create a method to increase speed. Wood claimed her intentions were also to improve comprehension.

It is safe to say that most have heard of the speed reading. Does the method over shadow the main objective that comes with reading? Or should it even be something you try? How will it benefit you? Does it really improve comprehension? Is there value in the method? Would speed reading decrease your ability to be a critical thinker? Will there be important details you might miss? Do you speed read just to see how many books you can read within a limited time? Or to reduce your ever-growing pile of books? Those are a lot of questions to ponder.

I’ve looked at this from different angels and I’ve come to the conclusion that you might as well not read if speed reading is your main objective. The point of reading is broad and a matter to explore further. One of the points of reading is to expand your knowledge. I realize that everyone learns differently. What one method might work for some; it might not work for others.

When we take the time to appreciate and reflect upon the material we are reading, we add value. Especially if you apply it. Let’s face it, you’ll enjoy a book more or get more out of it by slowing down your pace. Of course, if you incorporate reading in your daily routine, you’ll find yourself consuming books faster.

I’m still wanting to write about this subject in more depth and to discuss the many important points of reading. Looking forward to it. Who knows where this might lead us?

Stephanie Hopkins

The Bullet Journal Method

On November 11th, I discussed forming positive reading habits and I mentioned a few steps I was taking to incorporate reading every day. One of the topics, was to use better system on organizing my notes and using the Bullet Journal method for that purpose.

In my research about this style of journaling, I soon discovered a writer who wrote a book on this very subject. Ryder Carroll’s, “The Bullet Journal Method”, explores what it means to live an intentional life. The journal is to help you develop mindfulness and use the Bullet Journal as a medium for productivity. I’ve added Carroll’s book to my to-read list and I’m looking forward to delving in the practice.

Why the the method is important for me to improve on a number of activities.

  1. Accountability.
  2. To strengthen my organization skills.
  3. To encourage daily reading and writing.
  4. To help me remember details in stories that have made an impression on me and that I feel are important to focus on in my reviews, or to further research.
  5. To keep learning and growing intellectually.

The five steps I mentioned are just a few of habits I want my focus to be on with my reading and writing. I’m confident that Carroll’s book will be helpful with my journey.

I’m still not entirely certain what medium I will use for my journal. I’m leaning towards altering a book. That way I can create art pages and add images as well that relate to the story. Of course, you can do that with a blank notebook or an actual journal. I prefer to use what I have on hand to limit my spending. I’m really looking forward to this worth-while endeavor and sharing my progress with you all.

Be sure to read, before the second sleep’s post on, Bullet Journaling 101. There are wonderful insights on the art of using the Bullet Journal method and how you can utilize the journal in other ways.

Help support Layered Pages to keep providing great content by donating to our PayPal Tip Jar. Thank you! -Stephanie Hopkins

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Stephanie Hopkins

Two in One Talk About Books

Today I’m doing a two in one post about titles that stand out to me and a cover crush. I know. Usual for Layered Pages but fun! When browsing books to choose to read, one can’t help but be drawn in by unique books titles. There are times I feel that the title alone is what draws my interest and want to discover its meaning. Strong titles are important to the story as are the cover designs.

Several of these books could easily be my cover crush choice but I need to pick just one for today. Hmm… I’m going to go with, “The Venice Sketchbook” by Rhys Bowen. I love the blend of colors and the romantic feel to the landscape. The title immediately caught my attention because of the mention of a sketchbook. That word alone draws in intrigue, stories, imagery, a window to the owner’s mind and secrets captured on paper. I obtained a copy from the publishers through NetGalley and I can’t wait to dive into the story!

About the book:

The Venice Sketchbook

Lake Union Publishing

Pub Date 13 Apr 2021

Love and secrets collide in Venice during WWII in an enthralling novel of brief encounters and lasting romance by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and Above the Bay of Angels.

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.

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Other titles that stand-out and in the coming weeks I will be talking a bit about why I’m interested in them. Each title is linked to Amazon.

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

A Betting Woman (A Novel of Madame Moustache)

by Jenni L. Walsh

The Straits of Treachery by Richard Hopton

Be sure to follow and check out more of my art at my Instagram!

before the second sleep cover crush

Stephanie Hopkins

Images may be subjected to copyright. In order to use art images or any content on Layered Pages platform, please ask permission from Stephanie Hopkins

On the Book Trail

I’ve recently added these books to my to-read list. Definitely worth checking out. -Stephanie

The Man Called Red: An Autobiography of a Guide and Outfitter in Northern British Columbia by N.B. Sorensen

“Red” Sorensen tells his life in The Man Called Red with the characteristic reserve and understated humor typical of men seduced by the great outdoors. One likes him almost immediately, both for his character, his honesty, and integrity and for his singular, unbending self-accountability.

He gets on well with almost everyone he meets – becoming the bane of those who cheat and lie and steal – and marries a woman he deserves and appreciates as much as he does the land that he explores and worships.

From the early 1900s until the present day, “Red” Sorensen recounts with exquisitely detailed descriptiveness his wilderness adventures and all-too-frequent brushes with mortal danger, whether from ubiquitous mountain predators, natural catastrophes, foolish fellow men, or his planes that seem to crash too often.

I find myself in awe of this man, and I admire his wife who kept up with him; It takes a special kind of women to love a man extraordinary as Red. If you sign up for his ride, prepare to be awestruck by the country he guides you through, and the quality of this man called simple “Red.

Rescued from the Ashes: The Diary of Leokadia Schmidt, Survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto

by Leokadia Schmidt

The diary of a young Jewish housewife who, together with her husband and five-month-old baby, fled the Warsaw ghetto at the last possible moment and survived the Holocaust hidden on the “Aryan” side of town in the loft of a run-down tinsmith’s shed.

A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman

From the author of the acclaimed 97 Orchard and her husband, a culinary historian, an in-depth exploration of the greatest food crisis the nation has ever faced—the Great Depression—and how it transformed America’s culinary culture.

The decade-long Great Depression, a period of shifts in the country’s political and social landscape, forever changed the way America eats. Before 1929, America’s relationship with food was defined by abundance. But the collapse the economy, in both urban and rural America, left a quarter of all Americans out of work and undernourished—shattering long-held assumptions about the limitlessness of the national larder.

In 1933, as women struggled to feed their families, President Roosevelt reversed longstanding biases toward government sponsored “food charity.” For the first time in American history, the federal government assumed, for a while, responsibility for feeding its citizens. The effects were widespread. Championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, “home economists” who had long fought to bring science into the kitchen rose to national stature. Tapping into America’s longstanding ambivalence toward culinary enjoyment, they imposed their vision of a sturdy, utilitarian cuisine on the American dinner table.

Through the Bureau of Home Economics, these women led a sweeping campaign to instill dietary recommendations, the forerunners of today’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. At the same time, rising food conglomerates introduced packaged and processed foods that gave rise to a new American cuisine based on speed and convenience. This movement toward a homogenized national cuisine sparked a revival of American regional cooking. In the ensuing decades, this tension between local traditions and culinary science have defined our national cuisine—a battle that continues today.

A Square Meal examines the impact of economic contraction and environmental disaster on how Americans ate then—and the lessons and insights those experiences may hold for us today.

Cover Crush: Little Deadly Secrets by Pamela Crane

The Cover: I like the blend of the different shades of pinks and the way the flower is positioned on the cover gives a dramatic feel. One may ask, “How did the flower come to be laid out that way and why?” Interesting color choices for such a premise! Maybe that is the point…

The Story: Everyone holds secrets. Some secrets are more serious than others. In this story it looks like the unimaginable secret between even the best of friendships. Sounds like a good thriller to me! -Stephanie Hopkins

About the Book:

Little Deadly Secrets by Pamela Crane

Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 18th 2020 by William Morrow Paperbacks
From USA Today bestselling author Pamela Crane comes an addictively readable domestic suspense novel…

Mackenzie, Robin, and Lily have been inseparable forever, sharing life’s ups and downs and growing even closer as the years have gone by. They know everything about each other. Or so they believe.

Nothing could come between these three best friends . . .

Except for a betrayal.

Nothing could turn them against each other . . .

Except for a terrible past mistake.

Nothing could tear them apart . . .

Except for murder.

Previous Cover Crush

Wish-List Goodness

I’ve added a few bookish and art items to my wish-list and today I thought I’d share them with you! I hope everyone had a wonderful filled weekend and let’s get into this! As you all know, I’m into history big time. Always have been and I read a lot of material from different sources. I also read a lot of historical fiction for a variety of reasons I’ve blogged before about. Down below are three books I have recently added and hope to get to them in the near future.

The Essential Lewis & ClarkThe Essential Lewis and Clark by Meriwether Lewis, William Clark

Published March 8th 2018 by National Geographic

With nuanced observations from the star author and historian, here are the celebrated journals documenting Lewis and Clark’s legendary expedition into the uncharted American West, abridged into a single volume and translated into modern English.

At the start of the 19th century, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark embarked on an unprecedented voyage of discovery. Their assignment was to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory and record the geography, flora, fauna, and people they encountered along the way. This updated edition of the captains’ journals combines historical insight from editor Anthony Brandt with the rich detail of Lewis and Clark’s original writing, as well as archival maps and artwork. An enthralling portrait of the unspoiled West, this true-life adventure story is a window to the dawning of America–from encounters with grizzly bears to councils with tribal leaders and perilous mountain crossings.

The GeneralsThe Generals: Patton, MacArthur, Marshall, and the Winning of World War II

by Winston Groom

Celebrated historian Winston Groom tells the intertwined and uniquely American tales of George Patton, Douglas MacArthur, and George Marshall – from the World War I battle that shaped them to their greatest victory: leading the allies to victory in World War II. These three remarkable men-of-arms who rose from the gruesome hell of the First World War to become the finest generals of their generation during World War II redefined America’s ideas of military leadership and brought forth a new generation of American soldier. Their efforts revealed to the world the grit and determination that would become synonymous with America in the post-war years.

Filled with novel-worthy twists and turns, and set against the backdrop of the most dramatic moments of the twentieth century, The Generals is a powerful, action-packed book filled with marvelous surprises and insights into the lives of America’s most celebrated warriors

Where the Lost WanderWhere the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon

In this epic and haunting love story set on the Oregon Trail, a family and their unlikely protector find their way through peril, uncertainty, and loss.

The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West. On the trail, she forms an instant connection with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man straddling two worlds and a stranger in both.

But life in a wagon train is fraught with hardship, fear, and death. Even as John and Naomi are drawn to each other, the trials of the journey and their disparate pasts work to keep them apart. John’s heritage gains them safe passage through hostile territory only to come between them as they seek to build a life together.

When a horrific tragedy strikes, decimating Naomi’s family and separating her from John, the promises they made are all they have left. Ripped apart, they can’t turn back, they can’t go on, and they can’t let go. Both will have to make terrible sacrifices to find each other, save each other, and eventually… make peace with who they are.

 Here are three crafty supplies I have on my never-ending wish-list and it’s hard to believe I don’t have every single mixed media supply by Tim Holtz! Ha! I use his supplies a lot in my journals.

I have added Dina Wakley Media supplies to my list because have never used her mediums before and I am very interested in her Scribble Sticks. If you have used them before. Let me know what you think of them!

This weekend I made faux postage stamps and had so much fun creating them I decided I need to invest on MaGuo US Postage and Stamps Clear Stamps. I have one rubber post stamp and a clear stamp but they are both Holiday Themed. Having said that, they did do the trick for my project this weekend. I will be sharing more about the stamps I made soon! They are part of another project I worked on and want to wait to blog about them when its’ completed.

Stephanie Hopkins

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I’ve Got My Eye On You

World War II affected every aspect of life worldwide and one couldn’t possibly learn everything there is to know about the war experience. There are so many extraordinary stories out there that Historical Fiction writers have written on the subject.

There are countless stories about women during the war and their involvement.  While I have read a number of those stories, I have to say that I’m a bit burned out on these novels at present. Having said that, I’ve got my eye on, “The Invisible Woman” by Erika Robuck, and hope to discover material I haven’t come across before.

Where is my current interest in the era, you might ask? I’m captivated with the Medieval Strongholds aka Castles in Germany during World War II and the roles they played. Are there any Historical Fiction books that focus on this very topic? If you know of any, please comment below! -Stephanie Hopkins

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The Invisible WomanThe Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck

Berkley Publishing Group

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 09 Feb 2021

Description

“An extraordinary profile of immense courage and daring.”—Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Left Cuba

“If you only read one WWII book this year, make it this one.”—Natasha Lester, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Orphans

In the depths of war, she would defy the odds to help liberate a nation…a gripping historical novel based on the remarkable true story of World War II heroine Virginia Hall, from the bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl

France, March 1944. Virginia Hall wasn’t like the other young society women back home in Baltimore—she never wanted the debutante ball or silk gloves. Instead, she traded a safe life for adventure in Europe, and when her beloved second home is thrust into the dark days of war, she leaps in headfirst.

Once she’s recruited as an Allied spy, subverting the Nazis becomes her calling. But even the most cunning agent can be bested, and in wartime trusting the wrong person can prove fatal. Virginia is haunted every day by the betrayal that ravaged her first operation, and will do everything in her power to avenge the brave people she lost.

While her future is anything but certain, this time more than ever Virginia knows that failure is not an option. Especially when she discovers what—and whom—she’s truly protecting.