Book Review: Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

Berkley Publishing Group

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 09 Mar 2021

About the book:

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.

My thoughts:

The Steamship Pulaski disaster is a true historic story. In 1838, there was an explosion on board at eleven pm at night and two-thirds of the lives were lost. The ship was about 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina and the ship sank within 45 minutes after the explosion. Can you image the utter chaos and the fight for survival? The utter fear of the women, men and children experienced was beyond horrific. As the story goes, through time, the fate of the lives lost were forgotten.

The historical story of Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth was fascinating to follow. The plight that was handed to them and having to deal with it in life altering ways was extraordinary and powerful to read about. This story truly explores how life can change in an instance and the outcome is uncertain but one must never give up hope. Lily is a person I would love to read more about. Not only that but what the other families were going through during those fateful hours on the Pulaski and in the ocean.

Divers reported that they are believed to have found the wreckage of Pulaski from recovered items they salvaged from the wreck. Savannah professor Everly Winthrop was asked to study the artifacts and of that fateful period leading up to the disaster and afterwards. While she is working on the project, she was dealing with her own tragedy affecting her life in more ways than one.

This story is told in a dual time-line and I enjoyed many of the history elements throughout the story but felt at times the writing of the modern part was contrived. Also, Everly’s personal tragedy -where she eventually found closure- was too drawn out and I became irritated. I felt that part did not carry the overall modern day story well and it lacked structure and seemed forced, for a lack of better word. I found it hard to empathizes with her, but don’t misunderstand me, I’m fully aware that people grieve in different ways.

I did enjoy reading about Everly’s surroundings in Savannah because the city is known to me and her search for the artifacts, and finding out more about the families on the ship was intriguing.

I do love dual story-lines but I found myself thinking that I would have just preferred reading the historic aspects of the story without the modern part. Both need to be equally strong and it wasn’t which makes it difficult to follow the flow of the story with ease.

Despite a few of my misgivings, it is a good story and I’m confident that many readers will enjoy learning about the Pulaski through Surviving Savannah.

Stephanie Hopkins

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

Meet Me by the Moonlight

2021 Abstract Painting by Stephanie Hopkins

Poem

Meet me by the moonlight

Where our love shines bright as the moon is illuminated by the sun

Meet me by the moonlight

Where its’ shadow forms us invisible from the barriers longing to separate us

Meet me by the moonlight

Where the moon phase shapes us as one

Meet me by the moonlight

Where our love orbits the gravitational pull

Meet me by the Moonlight…

by Stephanie Hopkins

You may also enjoy this poem: The Lonely Stark Tree

The partial poems I share at Layered Pages are date stamped and part of a collection of poems that are being compiled into publish works.

Copy Right 2021

Images and poems are subjected to copyright.

In order to use any images or any written content on Layered Pages platform, you must seek permission from Stephanie Hopkins

Book Review: The Sign of the Gallows (A Lucy Campion Mysteries, #5) by Susanna Calkins

About the book:

London, 1667. On her way to a new market to peddle her True Accounts and Strange News, printer’s apprentice Lucy Campion quickly regrets her decision to take the northwestern road. Dark and desolate, the path leads her to the crossroads – and to the old hanging tree. She doesn’t believe in ghosts, but she’s not sure ghosts don’t believe in her. But before she even reaches the crossroads, she’s knocked off her feet by two men in a hurry. What were they running from? To her dismay, she soon discovers for herself: there, dangling from the tree, is the body of a man. Did he commit self-murder, or is there something darker afoot? The more Lucy learns, the more determined she is to uncover the truth. But this time, even the help and protection of magistrate’s son Adam, and steadfast Constable Duncan, may not be enough to keep her safe from harm . . .

My thoughts:

Seventeenth Century, London was a calamity to say the least! With the century brought the Great fire of London, the plague and co-conspirators plotting to blow up the Houses of Parliament including the King. My word, I’d say that in itself is brutal enough. However, there are other dark forces at work.

Author Susanna Calkins brings the century to life through her Campion series of murder, mayhem and intrigue. Lucy, finds herself in the center of another murder investigation and the search for the murderer reveals that there are darker forces at work.

Lucy is an apprentice-of sorts for a printer and bookseller, Master Aubrey. While all his staff are important to his business, I find Lucy to be the most spirited and undoubtedly clever at telling stories and selling book. I believe Aubrey know Lucy’s value and its why I think he gives her a pass quite to bit to aid in the investigation.  She is quite the social warrior and truly cares for people.

I’m really pleased with the support system Lucy’s has among her friends and formal employees, the Hardgraves. I admire the Hargraves respect and affection they have for Lucy despite their class distinction. What lively, caring and intelligent people.

Banner and painting by Stephanie Hopkins

Every single character in the story is fascinating and fun to read about, even the villains. Calkins does a marvelous job in showing the reasons people act on things due to their own situations in life. Regardless if we agree with them or not, its important to know the reasons. The human mind is an extortionary and often times, dark place. We can learn much from it.   

The investigation in the murder at the crossroads had lots of great twist and turns and it was an enjoyable read and one feels caught in trying to figure out who done it right along Lucy and the others.

The two men she ran into before making her way to the crossroads are something else. While their actions are suspicious at best, their grievance is understandable as the story unfolds.

I appreciate the story-line of Aubrey’s print shop and the reading material he sells. It has inspired me to look further into how books were printed during the 17th century.

I started this series at book four because I agreed to review it and find myself wanting to go back and read the first book and on…Despite that, I believe from the two books I’ve read, they are good stand-alone stories.

Calkins is a creative and imaginative story-teller and she weaves a story marvelously at a wonderful pace that keeps you engrossed. -Stephanie Hopkins

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

Review: A Death Along the River Fleet (Lucy Campion Mysteries #4) by Susanna Calkins

Book Review: The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

As the story-line of the past and present are interwoven, McHahon introduces us to Jax, present day, and Ethel Monroe-early 20th Century. Jax receives numerous missed calls from her troubled sister, Lexie, who lives on their grandmother’s estate. Jax soon discovers Lexie has drowned in the pool and when she arrives at the estate, it is apparent that Lexie has been researching the history of their family’s past.. As Jax unravels the mystery of her sister’s drowning, she realizes that maybe she was wrong about a few things…

In the early 20th Century, Ethel Monroe longs for a child. She and her Husband’s efforts to conceive haven’t come to reality-one might say. When her husband takes her on a trip to Vermont, to ease Ethel’s-stress-to a newly built Hotel, they find out that the area claims the natural springs holds a special power. Ethel’s deep longing to have a child because so strong, she succumbs to the temptation of the water’s powers. As the story unfolds, Ethel soon realizes the reality of what you wish for in this life comes with a price…

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.

McMahon’s stories capture the essence of the human spirit. Every single character in,”The Drowning Kind,” are complex and fascinating. She touches on how fragile relationships of family members and other people in your life or past can be and how many things tend to not be what they seem. Even though the hurt we may experience from others, regrets, and broken bonds can be healed. In short, the character development is outstanding!

The eeriness vibe of the story has you on pins and needles at times. You quickly become involed with the plot and begin to imagine all sorts of scenarios that might happen or did happen. Atmospheric, engrossing and a heck of a lot of, “Oh my word!” holding your breath moments. If you like a good mystery and a well-balanced blend of genres, this book is for you! This is a story I would definitely want to re-visit again.

I rated this book five stars and obtained a galley copy from the Publishers through NetGalley.

Stephanie Hopkins

The Dust Settles

House 4

Landscape Art Journal Page

Off Day in The Garden Oasis-Life Lesson

House 1I started working this journal page on August 10th-I believe- and I really didn’t have a set plan on where I wanted it to take me. I knew I wanted to paint abstract flowers in a field. It was a rocky start so I put the pages aside for a bit to get back to center. We all have days like that.

Not every art project starts out the way it was envisioned or they lead us in other directions. This gave me more determination to keep pushing on and learn from this experience. I was not giving up! When I came back to the pages and started painting, I knew there was a story here. House 2

I envisioned a family living on this land at times battling nature’s unpredictability and what their daily lives must be like living on a farm. The struggles, sadness, working the land, traditions they pass down through the generations and joys they face.

 

House 3I decided not to put windows on the lower part of the house nor the back fields or detail to the gazebo. I wanted some quirky feel to it. To open the mind to a story of one’s own imagination. The sky and back fields represent a dust storm settling and draws your attention to the front fields of abstract flowers. This piece has inspired a much larger abstract I want to paint on canvas.

House 5This is the most paint I’ve ever put on book pages before. The paper held up great! I wish you could see these pages in person. I couldn’t quote seem to capture the vibrant colors with my phone camera. All in all, I’m pleased with the pages and this project  turned out to be an eye-opening experience in painting abstract flowers. I’m used to just drawing life-like ones then painting or coloring them. A new art journey begins…

Stephanie Hopkins

 

 

 

Cover Crush: The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh by Molly Greeley

The HeiressThe Cover: The blue bottle caught my eye at first. I’m really drawn to the color of blue at present. I do like the flowers in the background and the design gives them a feeling of movement. Really cool.

The Story: While I’m particular about my Austen stories-based books, this one looks mighty interesting! I wonder if it will be as good as the last one, I read? Hmm… Anne has always been at the back of my mind. I will be keeping my eye on what readers get out of this one!

-Stephanie Hopkins

About the Book:

As a fussy baby, Anne de Bourgh’s doctor prescribed laudanum to quiet her, and now the young woman must take the opium-heavy tincture every day. Growing up sheltered and confined, removed from sunshine and fresh air, the pale and overly slender Anne grew up with few companions except her cousins, including Fitzwilliam Darcy. Throughout their childhoods, it was understood that Darcy and Anne would marry and combine their vast estates of Pemberley and Rosings. But Darcy does not love Anne or want her.

After her father dies unexpectedly, leaving her his vast fortune, Anne has a moment of clarity: what if her life of fragility and illness isn’t truly real? What if she could free herself from the medicine that clouds her sharp mind and leaves her body weak and lethargic? Might there be a better life without the medicine she has been told she cannot live without?

In a frenzy of desperation, Anne discards her laudanum and flees to the London home of her cousin, Colonel John Fitzwilliam, who helps her through her painful recovery. Yet once she returns to health, new challenges await. Shy and utterly inexperienced, the wealthy heiress must forge a new identity for herself, learning to navigate a “season” in society and the complexities of love and passion. The once wan, passive Anne gives way to a braver woman with a keen edge—leading to a powerful reckoning with the domineering mother determined to control Anne’s fortune . . . and her life.

An extraordinary tale of one woman’s liberation, The Heiress reveals both the darkness and light in Austen’s world, with wit, sensuality, and a deeply compassionate understanding of the human heart.

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Art In The Making

This past Saturday I shared my first post in the Index Card Art Challenge 2020. I have to say that this effort is a pleasure to be exploring. The challenge is really giving me the opportunity to be more creative and to expand on my techniques and ideas.

The whole weekend was a time of creating, reflecting and just being in the present moment of my art and self. Sunday evening as I looked backed at what I had been working on, I noticed a color theme happening.

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I made three new journal pages in one of my art journals, created and doodled with my painted collage papers, made a jute art and worked on the index card challenge. My desk remained a big mess the entire time!

I was asked what I listen to when I’m crafting. Sometimes I’m listening to a movie or book. Mostly I listen to sounds like rain or the sound of ocean. I discovered this ambiance yesterday and it is my new favorite! Try it out. Here is the link.

All in all, it was a great weekend! -Stephanie Hopkins

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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

Index Card Art Challenge 2020: Part 1

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“The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.” — Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Last week I saw pictures of index card art on Instagram as I see many amazing ideas on there. I was really intrigued after I saw a lady complete the challenge and all her beautiful cards. I then knew I had to do this challenge. There are several challenge days you can choose and I chose 100 days. I believe that this will really help with my creativity and at the end of the challenge I will have lots of ways to create more art with the cards.

Every week I will post picture of several days worth of card making and I will be sure to include a link to the weeks before post. A few of my designs will be available for purchase in the near future. Have a bless weekend! -Stephanie Hopkins

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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

 

 

Cover Crush: Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton

Glory RoadThe Cover: Such a beautiful cover! Makes one want to walk down that dirt road amongst the flowers and trees over hanging.

The Story: What a great title and fitting to the cover design. I do love reading southern stories and about generations of people’s lives. I’m not really into heavy romance so I hope this one fits the bill for me as far as my reading taste goes. The story sounds great and I am adding this one to my to-read pile! -Stephanie Hopkins

Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton

Paperback, 368 pages

Published March 19th 2019 by Thomas Nelson

Written in Lauren Denton’s signature Southern style, Glory Road tells the story of three generations of women navigating the uncertain pathways of their hearts during a summer that promises to bring change–whether they’re ready for it or not.

At thirty-eight, garden shop owner Jessie McBride thinks her chances for romance are years behind her and, after her failed marriage, she’s fine with that. She lives contentedly with her fiery mother and her quiet, headstrong daughter. But the unexpected arrival of two men on Glory Road make her question if she’s really happy with the status quo. Handsome, wealthy Sumner Tate asks her to arrange flowers for his daughter’s wedding, and Jessie finds herself drawn to his continued attention. And Ben Bradley, her lingering what-could-have-been from high school days who’s known her better than anyone and whom she hasn’t seen in years, moves back to the red dirt road. Jessie finds her heart being pulled in directions she never expected.

Meanwhile, Jessie’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Evan, is approaching the start of high school and trying to navigate a new world of identity and emotions–particularly as they relate to the cute new guy who’s moved in just down the road. At the same time, Jessie’s mother, Gus, increasingly finds herself forgetful and faces a potentially frightening future.

As all three women navigate the uncertain paths of their hearts and futures, one summer promises to bring change–whether they’re ready for it or not.

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All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

All the Devils Are HereNot only is this a great cover, the series is fantastic! One of my favorites around. This particular format I’m spotlighting today is on audio and available for request for NetGalley Members. -Stephanie Hopkins

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

Narrated by Robert Bathurst

Macmillan Audio

Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date 01 Sep 2020

Description

In All the Devils Are Here, the 16th novel by #1 bestselling author Louise Penny finds Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec investigating a sinister plot in the City of Light.

On their first night in Paris, the Gamaches gather as a family for a bistro dinner with Armand’s godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. Walking home together after the meal, they watch in horror as Stephen is knocked down and critically injured in what Gamache knows is no accident, but a deliberate attempt on the elderly man’s life.

When a strange key is found in Stephen’s possession it sends Armand, his wife Reine-Marie, and his former second-in-command at the Sûreté, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, from the top of the Tour d’Eiffel, to the bowels of the Paris Archives, from luxury hotels to odd, coded, works of art.

It sends them deep into the secrets Armand’s godfather has kept for decades.

A gruesome discovery in Stephen’s Paris apartment makes it clear the secrets are more rancid, the danger far greater and more imminent, than they realized.

Soon the whole family is caught up in a web of lies and deceit. In order to find the truth, Gamache will have to decide whether he can trust his friends, his colleagues, his instincts, his own past. His own family.

For even the City of Light casts long shadows. And in that darkness devils hide.

A Macmillan Audio production from Minotaur Books