Bookish Happenings: I’m alive!

Me at orange beach 2017I haven’t read a single line in a book this week nor have I been on social media a whole lot lately. I know, shocker. I have been extremely busy working on new projects that I am looking forward to sharing with you all soon. These two projects will be effective in optimizing authors, readers, artists and photographer’s social media experience. Meanwhile, I hope to get a little reading in this weekend because I have several reviews that are due. Let’s check out what I need to finish reading soon:

 

 

 

Heartbreak HotelHeartbreak Hotel (Alex Delaware #32) by Jonathan Kellerman
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 14th 2017 by Ballantine Books

At nearly one hundred years old, Thalia Mars is a far cry from the patients that child psychologist Alex Delaware normally treats. But the charming, witty woman convinces Alex to meet with her in a suite at the Aventura, a luxury hotel with a checkered history.

What Thalia wants from Alex are answers to unsettling questions—about guilt, patterns of criminal behavior, victim selection. When Alex asks the reason for her morbid fascination, Thalia promises to tell all during their next session. But when he shows up the following morning, he is met with silence: Thalia is dead in her room.

When questions arise about how Thalia perished, Alex and homicide detective Milo Sturgis must peel back the layers of a fascinating but elusive woman’s life and embark on one of the most baffling investigations either of them has ever experienced. For Thalia Mars is a victim like no other, an enigma who harbored nearly a century of secrets and whose life and death draw those around her into a vortex of violence.

Heartbreak Hotel is classic Delaware and classic Kellerman.

Unraveling OliverUnraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published August 22nd 2017 by Gallery/Scout Press
“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”

So begins Liz Nugent’s astonishing debut novel—a chilling, elegantly crafted, and psychologically astute exploration of the nature of evil.

Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children’s books; their life together one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma.

In the aftermath of such an unthinkable event, as Alice hovers between life and death, the couple’s friends, neighbors, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act. As his story unfolds, layers are peeled away to reveal a life of shame, envy, deception, and masterful manipulation.

The Orphan of FlorenceThe Orphan of Florence by Jeanne Kalogridis
Pub Date 03 Oct 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

Giulia has been an orphan all her life. Raised in Florence’s famous Ospedale degli Innocenti, her probing questions and insubordinate behavior made her an unwelcome presence, and at the age of fifteen, she was given an awful choice: become a nun, or be married off to a man she didn’t love. She chose neither, and after refusing an elderly suitor, Guilia escaped onto the streets of Florence.
Now, after spending two years as a successful pickpocket, an old man catches her about to make off with his purse, and rather than having her carted off to prison he offers her a business proposition. The man claims to be a cabalist, a student of Jewish mysticism and ritual magic, who works for the most powerful families in Florence. But his identity is secret—he is known only as “the Magician of Florence”—and he is in need of an assistant. She accepts the job and begins smuggling his talismans throughout the city.

But the talismans are not what they seem, and neither is the Magician. When Giulia’s involvement with him ends with his murder, she’s drawn into a treacherous web of espionage and deceit involving the forces of Rome, Naples, and a man known as Lorenzo the Magnificent. Accused of the Magician’s murder, Giulia is pursued by the handsome policeman Niccolo, Lorenzo’s henchmen, and foreign spies, and in order to survive, she must not only solve the mystery of the mystery of the Magician’s murder, but that of her own past.

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I hope you all have a fantastic weekend! Happy reading.
Stephanie M. Hopkins

Stay calm and support book bloggers

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DNF: Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

Girl in SnowGirl in Snow

by Danya Kukafka

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.

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My thoughts:

I was excited about starting this book over Labor Day weekend. I wasn’t working and had carefully chosen the books I wanted to read. Girl in Snow was second on my list. When I first started reading this book, I really found the characters interesting except for Lucinda. The story starts off with her being dead but you really don’t connect to her and you don’t feel sympathy-at least I didn’t.

As I got further in the story it started to fizzle and fizzle quick. I got about 20% in and realized this probably won’t be a finish read for me but I rallied on a little longer to see if it got better. Half way through the book, I gave up. When a person writes a thriller and there is nothing thrilling about it…ahem, go back to revisions! I know that sounds really harsh but it needed to be said. Don’t get me wrong, the premise is great and the characterization had potential for a physiological thriller but it missed its mark.

Another thing, I needed more dialogue and action coming from the characters! Showing in is very important in story-telling.

I am not rating this book since I did not finish it.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers through NetGalley. I feel bad for not liking this story but felt necessary to give my honest opinions why I did not finish the book.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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

Stay calm and support book bloggers

Book Review: Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

Golden HillGolden Hill

A Novel of Old New York

by Francis Spufford

Scribner

General Fiction (Adult)

New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan island, 1746. One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat arrives at a counting house door on Golden Hill Street: this is Mr. Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion shimmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge sum, and he won’t explain why, or where he comes from, or what he is planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money. Should the New York merchants trust him? Should they risk their credit and refuse to pay? Should they befriend him, seduce him, arrest him; maybe even kill him?

My thoughts:

I was thrilled when I picked up this book to read and review. It seemed to have everything I have been looking for in a story. Male protagonist, an early New York setting, intrigue, and a mystery of a man no one knows and everyone is talking about him. When people meet him he is intelligent and speaks eloquently but gives very little of himself away. Meanwhile, as he waits for his “thousand pounds” to be legitimized-if you will-he meets many interesting people and gets himself into some trouble.

The major points in the story for me was the beautiful prose, brilliantly drawn characters and time and place of the story. However, I will have to say as I got further into the book the prose was getting to be too much and it seemed to take away from the plot and my eyes started to gaze over somewhat.  To me there are too many unnecessary prose in the book that did not enhance the story-line however “literary” people might find Golden Hill.

Overall the plot needed to have more substance and to be fleshed out more. Having said all this, I am rating this book three stars and five stars for the cover.

I obtained a review copy of Golden Hill through NetGalley from the publishers for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Bookish Happenings: Summer Reading

me-iiMy reading is going a bit slow this week so far. I am still reading books from last week and I did not post a review last week like I said I would. However, I will get through the books I started two weeks ago and get to the ones below next. I am determined to knock out my summer reading list. These three books below I just acquired on NetGalley to read and review for the publishers and I am looking forward to reading them very soon.

Tomorrow I have a cover crush-which I am looking forward to sharing with you all. On Friday I have a guest author visiting Layered Pages and on Saturday I should have a review ready to post and I have an article I have been working on that will be posted as well. Very busy as you can see. I hope you add these books below to your reading pile! Enjoy!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Before We Were YoursBefore We Were Yours by LISA WINGATE

Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine

Pub Date 06 Jun 2017

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aitken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation . . . or redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

The Property of Lies (A 1930s_ historical mystery) by Marjorie EcclesThe Property of Lies (A 1930s’ historical mystery) by Marjorie Eccles

Severn House

Pub Date 01 Sep 2017

DI Herbert Reardon is drawn into a world of secrets and lies when a body is discovered at a girls’ boarding school. 

1930. When a body is discovered on the premises of the newly-established Maxstead Court School for Girls, Detective Inspector Herbert Reardon is called in to investigate. His wife Ellen having just accepted a job as French teacher, Reardon is alarmed to find the school a hotbed of scandalous secrets, suppressed passions, petty jealousies and wanton schoolgirl cruelty. As he pursues his enquiries, it becomes clear that the dead woman was not who – or what – she claimed to be. Who was she really – and why is Reardon convinced that more than one member of staff is not telling him the whole truth?

Then a pupil goes missing – and the case takes a disturbing new twist …

The Vengeance of MothersThe Vengeance of Mothers by Jim Fergus

St. Martin’s Press

Pub Date 12 Sep 2017

9 March 1876

My name is Meggie Kelly and I take up this pencil with my twin sister, Susie. We have nothing left, less than nothing. The village of our People has been destroyed. Empty of human feeling, half-dead ourselves, all that remains of us intact are hearts turned to stone. We curse the U.S. government, we curse the Army, we curse the savagery of mankind, white and Indian alike. We curse God in his heaven. Do not underestimate the power of a mother’s vengeance…

So begins the journal of Margaret Kelly, a woman who participated in the government’s “Brides for Indians” program in 1873, a program whose conceit was that the way to peace between the United States and the Cheyenne Nation was for One Thousand White Women to be given as brides in exchange for three hundred horses. Mostly fallen women, the brides themselves thought it was simply a chance at freedom. But many fell in love with the Cheyennes spouses and had children with them…and became Cheyenne themselves.

THE VENGEANCE OF MOTHERS explores what happens to the bonds between wives and husbands, children and mothers, when society sees them as “unspeakable.” Jim Fergus brings to light a time and place and fills it with unforgettable characters who live and breathe with a passion we can relate to even today.

Bookish Happenings: Rambling Wednesday

me-iiThis week has been interesting so far. What I mean by that is, I haven’t really had much time for reading but been collecting books and adding new ones to my reading pile. I know I keep saying I will catch up and post reviews soon. “Yeah, right!” Ha! Yes, I will when I get my brain on straight again. Anyhow, my sister is in town this week so at least I can use that excuse right now. We are having a great time! Going to an Atlanta Braves Game this evening in the new Stadium. It’s always good to see her. We are always up to something. We are even planning a big week long beach for the end of September. The whole family is going this time I think. Although we don’t live in Florida anymore, we are Florida Natives and the beaches are calling us yet again. One day I hope to go back. Until then, we visit, a lot. Okay, enough of my ramblings. You could care less. Let’s get down to book business!

I opened my emails this morning like I do everyday morning and discovered I have been approved for another book to review through NetGalley for Penguin Group Publishing. How is it possible that publishers keep sending me books to review when I’m so behind!  I ask myself this often but hey, I’m not stopping them. Keep it rolling publishers! I will catch up one of these days.

Here is what I got this morning. I am really diggin’ the cover.

The Address IIThe Address

A Novel

by Fiona Davis

PENGUIN GROUP Dutton

Dutton

Pub Date 01 Aug 2017

Historical Fiction

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Fiona Davis, author of The Dollhouse, returns with a compelling novel about the thin lines between love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness, all hidden behind the walls of The Dakota, New York City’s most famous residence.

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages–for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City–and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich–and often tragic–as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden–and the woman who killed him–on its head….

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Looks good, right? It has the whole past and present thing going on. As far as what I’m currently reading at the moment, that is slow going but getting there. Enjoy your Wednesday and happy reading! Stay cool. Oh, I almost forget. I’m reading Tennyson this week. I do often when I’m in one of my poetry moods. Which is happening a lot lately. Check out, But Were I Loved.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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An Epic & Gritty Historical Fiction Series by Melissa Lenhardt

me-iiYesterday I posted about a series I discovered and how starting a series for me is a big commitment due to the overload of books I have to review. As you know, I stumbled across The Journals of Matthew Quinton Series. It looks so inviting and adventurous. Alas, after posting about it I jumped over to my Amazon account to check a few things and I saw that two more books have been written about a story I read and reviewed called, Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt. I absolutely enjoyed the story! I rated it five stars and gave it a glowing review. I actually cheered when I saw that there were two more books and at the same time, sighed in a bit of frustration. I want more time in the day to get through all the books I want to read! Gah! *laughing* Dare I rearrange my reading priorities or stick to what I have and if I get through the ones I need to review first and read two books from the series I mentioned yesterday, then I can reward myself with the next two books following Sawbones? *Phew, that was a long sentience* Yes, that sounds like a good plan to me.  Meanwhile, take a look at my review of Sawbones and check out the other two books that follow it. By the way…I LOVE the covers!

Sawbones IISawbones (Laura Elliston #1)

Wrongfully accused of murder, Dr. Catherine Bennett is destined to hang… unless she can disappear.
With the untamed territory of Colorado as her most likely refuge, she packs her physician’s kit and heads West. But even with a new life and name, a female doctor with a bounty on her head can hide for only so long.

My Review:

I am really not all that interested in reading westerns. I never have been but when I saw this book and the title, it grabbed my attention. It really struck a cord with me.

Now, I feel the book description needs to be expanded on. Though even with writing this review, I was trying to work out how to pull what was not mentioned into my review without giving spoilers.

SAWBONES is a story you can talk about in several different ways. That is how diverse the themes are in the story. Having said that, those themes all come together and in such a dramatic way. The author did an incredible job with that. I was spell bounded.

First I’d like to mention a notable historical character in the story. William Tecumseh Sherman served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War. After burning everything in Georgia and the burning of Atlanta, I really didn’t care learning much about him after that particular information in our history. Though many people found him as an outstanding commander, I found his policies and actions deplorable. Though he plays a small roll in SAWBONES, his larger-than-life presence makes a big impression on me. Also, it was really interesting because I did not know anything about his tours of the Texas Forts after the Civil War. Now, I would like to find out more about that and I have the author of this book to thank for this.

As you will read in the book description, Catherine Bennett is wrongly accused of murder and flees out west to the untamed territories of Colorado and on that journal she experiences yet another life altering moment. Catherine paralyzed with fear, witnesses the massacre of the companions she is traveling with. The author does not shy away from describing the carnage done by the Comanche. This is only the beginning of the tragedies that struck her and the people she loves and conflicts she will witness and endure.

As a female doctor-rare of her time and not widely accepted, she is determined to prove her value and intelligence in a man’s world. I was particular drawn to her achievements of becoming a doctor and how the author portrayal Catherine’s moments of practicing medicine. They are empowering and defining.

There are many other wonderful characters in this story and the author has such a discerning writing style for their value to enrich a story.

SAWBONES had me emotionally invested, and ignited my imagination. The author is truly a gifted story-teller and I look forward to reading more of her work.

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Blood OathBlood Oath (Laura Elliston #2)

Outlander meets post-Civil War unrest in this action-packed follow up to Sawbones.

Laura Elliston and William Kindle are on the run — from the Army and from every miscreant in the West eager to claim the $500 bounty for Laura’s capture as their own. But the danger isn’t just from those pursuing them. Laura and Kindle have demons of their own and a past that won’t stay dead. Exhausted, scared, scarred and surrounded by enemies, neither realize the greatest danger is yet to come

 

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BadlandsBadlands (Laura Elliston #3)

Laura’s worst fears have been realized: Kindle has been taken into custody and she is once again on the run. The noose awaits her in New York, but Laura is realizing that there are some things worse than death. Finally running out of places to hide, it may be time for Dr. Catherine Bennett to face her past.